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Page:Early Christianity in Arabia.djvu/178

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EARLY CHRISTIANITY

of Muhammed, by reading a single passage out of the second Sura of the Koran. He had suspended his own poem in the Kaaba to challenge competition; on his return he found the passage from the Koran which Muhammed had placed by the side of it; he read it, instantly withdrew his own, and declared that no one was able to write such elegant language without divine inspiration. The passage is still extant, and is considered one of the most beautiful in the Koran, but it does not answer the expectations which we might be led to form, and speaks less to the credit of Muhammed, than it evinces the bad taste of Lebid.[1] The language of these vaunted revelations is not more calculated to strike with conviction than the matter they contain. Had the people been more civilized, the clumsiness of Muhammed's miracles must in themselves have frustrated his purposes. But the monks, who in this kind of argument were not inferior to himself, had paved the way, the angel Gabriel most providentially forbade discussion or controversy, and the swords of his associates effected the rest. He knew that his religion was weak in spiritual strength, and he called upon his people to defend it with the strength of their arms.

  1. The language of the Koran, and the history of Lebid, is discussed at length by Michaelis, in the Vorrede to his German edition of the Arabic Grammar of Erpenius.