Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
418
MAHOMMEDAN RELIGION


2. Judaism had long been known in Arabia at the time of theProphet. Whether Hebrews settled in Arabia as early as the time of David (cf. R. Dozy, Die Israeliten zu Mecca, Leipzig, 1864), or not, is of little importance here as Judaism cannot be said to have existed until the end of the 5th century B.C. The Seleucid persecutions and the political troubles that ended with the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) probably sent many Jews to Arabia. In the 5th and 6th centuries the history of south Arabia and of Nejrān is largely that of the strife between Jews and Christians. In the north-west the Jews possessed Temā, Khaibar, Yathrib (Medina), Fadak, and other smaller settlements. In these they lived as self-contained communities, not seeking to proselytize but working at their trades, especially concerned with money and jewelry. Mahomet seems to have expected their help in his proclamation of monotheism, and his first qibla was Jerusalem. It was only when they refused to accept him as prophet that he turned in anger against them. They had, however, supplied him with much material from the Old Testament, and the stories of creation, the patriarchs and early kings and prophets occur continually in the Koran, told evidently as they were recited by the common people and with many mistakes caused by his own misunderstanding.

3. Christianity, though later than Judaism, had a sure footing in Arabia. It had suffered persecution in Nejran and had been supported in the south by the Abyssinian invasions. The kingdom of Hira was largely Christian; the same is true of the north Arabian tribes of Bakr and Taghlib, and east of the Jordan and on the Syrian boundary as well as in Yemāma Christianity had made progress. Pre-Islamic literature contains many allusions to the teaching and practices of Christianity. Of the time of its introduction little is known; little also of the form in which it was taught, save that it came from the Eastern Church and probably to a large extent through Monophysite and Nestorian sects. Tradition says that Mahomet heard Christian preaching at the fair of Ukaz, and he probably heard more when he conducted the caravans of Khadija. Gospel stories derived apparently, from uncanonical works, such as the Gospel of the Nativity, occur in the Koran. The asceticism of the monks attracted his admiration. A mistaken notion of the Trinity was sharply attacked by him. It is curious that his followers in the earliest times were called by the heathen Arabs, Sabians (q.v.), this being the name of a semi-Christian sect. In the time of the Omayyads Christianity led to some of the earliest theological sects of Islam (see below).

4. Zoroastrianism was known to the Arab tribes in the north-east, but does not seem to have exercised any influence in Mecca or Medina except indirectly through Judaism in its angelology. As soon, however, as the armies of Islam conquered Mesopotamia it began to penetrate the thought and practices of Islam (see below).

Sources of Authority.—Islam, as we have said, is founded on: (1) the Koran; (2) the tradition or rather the sunna (manner of life of Mahomet) contained in the tradition (Ḥadith); (3) ijmā'; the universal agreement; (4) qiyās (analogy).

1. The Koran[1] (properly Qur'an from qara'a to collect, or to read, recite) is the copy of an uncreated original preserved by God (see below), sent down from the seventh heaven to Gabriel in the first heaven, and revealed to Mahomet in sections as occasion required. These revelations were recited by the Prophet and in many cases written down at once, though from ii. 100 it would seem that this was not always the case. God is the speaker throughout the revelations. It seems probable that the whole Koran was written in Mahomet's lifetime, but not brought together as a whole or arranged in order.

As it exists now the Koran consists of 114 chapters called suras (from sura, a row of bricks in a wall, a degree or step). The first is the Fāṭiḥa (opening), which occupies the place of the Lord's Prayer in Christianity. The others are arranged generally in order of length, the longest coming first, the shortest (often the earliest in date) coming at the end. Certain groups, however, indicated by initial unvowelled letters, seem to have been kept together from the time of the Prophet. At the head of each sura is a title, the place of its origin (Mecca or Medina) and the number of its verses (āyāt) together with the formula, “In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate” (except in sura 9). For liturgical purposes the whole book is divided into 60 sections (aḥzāb) or into 30 divisions (ajzā), each subdivided into a number of prostrations (ruk'a or sajda). The origin of the collected and written Koran is due to Omar, who in the caliphate of Abū Bekr pointed out that many possessors of suras were being slain in the battles of Islam and their property lost, that there was a danger in this way that much of the revelation might disappear, and that men were uncertain what was to be accepted as genuine revelation. Accordingly Zaid ibn Thābit who had been secretary to Mahomet, was commissioned to collect all he could find of the revelation. His work seems to have been simply that of a collector. He seems to have done his work thoroughly and made a copy of the whole for Abū Bekr. The collection was thus chiefly a private matter, and this copy passed after Abū Bekr's death into the hands of Omar, and after his death to Ḥafṣa, daughter of Omar, a widow of Mahomet. In the caliphate of Othman it was discovered that there were serious differences between the readings of the Koran possessed by the Syrian troops and those of the Eastern soldiers, and Othman was urged to have a copy prepared which should be authoritative for the Moslem world. He appointed Zaid ibn Thābit and three members of the tribe of Koreish (Quraish) to do the work. Each of these made a copy of Abū Bekr's collection, carefully preserving Koreishite forms of words. How far the text was amended by the help of other copies is doubtful; in any case the mode of procedure was undoubtedly very conservative. The four similar manuscripts were sent, one each to Medina, Cufa (Kufa), Basra and Damascus, and an order was issued that all differing copies should be destroyed. In spite of the personal unpopularity of Othman this recension was adopted by the Moslem world and remains the only standard text. A few variant readings and differences of order of the suras in the collections of Ubay ibn Ka'b and of Ibn Mas'ūd were, however, known to later commentators. The only variants after the time of Othman were owing to different possible ways of pronouncing the consonantal text. These are usually of little importance for the meaning. As the text is now always vowelled, variations are found in the vowels of different copies, and the opinions of seven leading “readers” are regarded as worthy of respect by commentators (see Th. Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorāns, pp. 279 seq., Göttingen, 1860). Various characteristics enable one to establish with more or less certainty the relative chronological order of the suras in the Koran, at any rate so far as to place them in the first or second Meccan period or that of Medina. The form of the sentences is a guide, for the earliest parts are usually written in the saj' form (see Arabia: Literature). The expressions used also help; thus the “O ye people” of the Meccan period is replaced in the Medina suras by “O ye who believe.” The oaths in the first Meccan period are longer, in the second shorter, and are absent in the Medinan. In the earliest period the style is more elevated and passionate. Occasionally the time of origin is determined by reference to historical events. In accordance with such principles of criticism two leading scholars, Nöldeke (loc. cit.) and H. Grimme (in his Mohammed Zweiter Teil. Einleitung in den Koran. System der koranischen Theologie, Münster, 1895), have arranged the suras as follows:—

Order of Suras in Koran.

 Nöldeke.
  Mecca.
1st to 5th yr. (a). 96. 74. 111. 106. 108. 104. 107. 102. 105. 92. 90. 94. 93. 97. 86. 91. 80. 68. 87. 95. 103. 85. 73. 101. 99. 82. 81. 53. 84. 100. 79. 77. 78. 88. 89. 75. 83. 69. 51. 52. 56. 70. 55. 112. 109. 113. 114. 1.
5th and 6th yr. (b). 54. 37. 71. 76. 44. 50. 20. 26. 15. 19. 38. 36. 43. 72. 67. 23. 21. 25. 17. 27. 18.
7th yr. to Flight (c). 32. 41. 45. 16. 30. 11. 14. 12. 40. 28. 39. 29. 31. 42. 10. 34. 35. 7. 46. 6. 13.
  Medina. 2. 98. 64. 62. 8. 47. 3. 61. 57. 4. 65. 59. 33. 63. 24. 58. 22. 48. 66. 60. 110. 49. 9. 5.
 Grimme.
  Mecca. (1). [2] In old saj‘ form: 111. 107. 106. 105. 104. 103. 102. 101. 100. 99. 108. 96. 95. 94. 93. 92. 91. 90. 89. 88. 87. 86. 85. 84. 83. 82. 81. 80. 79. 78. 77. 76. 75. 74. 73. 70. 69. 68. 114. 113. 36. 55. 54. 53. 52. 51. 50. 15. 22. 14.
  Mecca.  (2). In loosened saj‘ form: 46. 72. 45. 44. 41. 97. 40. 39. 38. 37. 36. 35. 34. 32. 31. 67. 30. 29. 28. 27. 26. 71. 25. 20. 23. 43. 21. 19. 1. 42. 18. 17. 16. 13. 12. 11. 10. 7. 6. 98. (112. 109).
  Medina. 
From the Flight to Badr. 2. 62. 515.88.108-120. 47 and some interpolations in Meccan suras.
From Badr to Ohod 8. 24. 59.
From Ohod to capture of Mecca. 3. 291-12. 4. 57. 64. 61. 60. 58. 65. 33. 63. 49. 110. 48. 51-14. 66. 91-24.
After capture of Mecca. 925-124.

On the supposition that the arrangements given above are at any rate approximately correct, it is possible to trace a certain development in the teaching of the Koran on some of the chief dogmas.Theology It must, however, be borne in mind that orthodox Islam recognizes the Koran as the work not of Mahomet but of God. Yet Moslem theologians recognize that some revelations are inconsistent with others, and so have developed the doctrine of nāsikh and mansūkh (“abrogating” and “abrogated”), whereby it is taught that in certain definite cases a later revelation supersedes an earlier. A critical study of the Koran shows in the earlier revelations the marks of a reflective mind trained under the influence of Arabian education that the arrangements given above are

  1. See also Koran.
  2. Underlined = with interpolations.