The Koran/The Q'uran

Part 1 out of 14

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The Koran





1 96 Thick Blood or Clots of Blood
2 74 The Enwrapped
3 73 The Enfolded
4 93 The Brightness
5 94 The Opening
6 113 The Daybreak
7 114 Men
8 1 Sura I.
9 109 Unbelievers
10 112 The Unity
11 111 Abu Lahab
12 108 The Abundance
13 104 The Backbiter
14 107 Religion
15 102 Desire
16 92 The Night
17 68 The Pen
18 90 The Soil
19 105 The Elephant
20 106 The Koreisch
21 97 Power
22 86 The Night-Comer
23 91 The Sun
24 80 He Frowned
25 87 The Most High
26 95 The Fig
27 103 The Afternoon
28 85 The Starry
29 101 The Blow
30 99 The Earthquake
31 82 The Cleaving
32 81 The Folded Up
33 84 The Splitting Asunder
34 100 The Chargers
35 79 Those Who Drag Forth
36 77 The Sent
37 78 The News
38 88 The Overshadowing
39 89 The Daybreak
40 75 The Resurrection
41 83 Those Who Stint
42 69 The Inevitable
43 51 The Scattering
44 52 The Mountain
45 56 The Inevitable
46 53 The Star
47 70 The Steps or Ascents
48 55 The Merciful
49 54 The Moon
50 37 The Ranks
51 71 Noah
52 76 Man
53 44 Smoke
54 50 Kaf
55 20 Ta. Ha.
56 26 The Poets
57 15 Hedjr
58 19 Mary
59 38 Sad
60 36 Ya. Sin
61 43 Ornaments of GoldSura Number (this edition)
Sura Number (Arabic text)
62 72 Djinn
63 67 The Kingdom
64 23 The Believers
65 21 The Prophets
66 25 Al Furkan
67 17 The Night Journey
68 27 The Ant
69 18 The Cave
70 32 Adoration
71 41 The Made Plain
72 45 The Kneeling
73 16 The Bee
74 30 The Greeks
75 11 Houd
76 14 Abraham, On Whom Be Peace
77 12 Joseph, Peace Be On Him
78 40 The Believer
79 28 The Story
80 39 The Troops
81 29 The Spider
82 31 Lokman
83 42 Counsel
84 10 Jonah, Peace Be On Him!
85 34 Saba
86 35 The Creator, or The Angels
87 7 Al Araf
88 46 Al Ahkaf
89 6 Cattle
90 13 Thunder
91 2 The Cow
92 98 Clear Evidence
93 64 Mutual Deceit
94 62 The Assembly
95 8 The Spoils
96 47 Muhammad
97 3 The Family of Imran
98 61 Battle Array
99 57 Iron
100 4 Women
101 65 Divorce
102 59 The Emigration
103 33 The Confederates
104 63 The Hypocrites
105 24 Light
106 58 She Who Pleaded
107 22 The Pilgrimage
108 48 The Victory
109 66 The Forbidding
110 60 She Who Is Tried
111 110 HELP
112 49 The Apartments
113 9 Immunity
114 5 The Table


The Koran admittedly occupies an important position among the
great religious books of the world. Though the youngest of the
epoch-making works belonging to this class of literature, it yields
to hardly any in the wonderful effect which it has produced on
large masses of men. It has created an all but new phase of human
thought and a fresh type of character. It first transformed a number
of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a
nation of heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast
politico-religious organisations of the Muhammedan world which
are one of the great forces with which Europe and the East have to
reckon to-day.

The secret of the power exercised by the book, of course, lay in the
mind which produced it. It was, in fact, at first not a book, but a
strong living voice, a kind of wild authoritative proclamation, a
series of admonitions, promises, threats, and instructions
addressed to turbulent and largely hostile assemblies of untutored
Arabs. As a book it was published after the prophet's death. In
Muhammed's life-time there were only disjointed notes, speeches,
and the retentive memories of those who listened to them. To
speak of the Koran is, therefore, practically the same as speaking
of Muhammed, and in trying to appraise the religious value of the
book one is at the same time attempting to form an opinion of the
prophet himself. It would indeed be difficult to find another case
in which there is such a complete identity between the literary
work and the mind of the man who produced it.

That widely different estimates have been formed of Muhammed
is well-known. To Moslems he is, of course, the prophet par
excellence, and the Koran is regarded by the orthodox as nothing
less than the eternal utterance of Allah. The eulogy pronounced by
Carlyle on Muhammed in Heroes and Hero Worship will probably
be endorsed by not a few at the present day. The extreme contrary
opinion, which in a fresh form has recently been revived by an
able writer, is hardly likely to find much lasting support. The
correct view very probably lies between the two extremes. The
relative value of any given system of religious thought must
depend on the amount of truth which it embodies as well as on the
ethical standard which its adherents are bidden to follow. Another
important test is the degree of originality that is to be assigned to
it, for it can manifestly only claim credit for that which is new in
it, not for that which it borrowed from other systems.

With regard to the first-named criterion, there is a growing opinion
among students of religious history that Muhammed may in a real
sense be regarded as a prophet of certain truths, though by no
means of truth in the absolute meaning of the term. The
shortcomings of the moral teaching contained in the Koran are
striking enough if judged from the highest ethical standpoint with
which we are acquainted; but a much more favourable view is
arrived at if a comparison is made between the ethics of the Koran
and the moral tenets of Arabian and other forms of heathenism
which it supplanted.

The method followed by Muhammed in the promulgation of the
Koran also requires to be treated with discrimination. From the
first flash of prophetic inspiration which is clearly discernible in
the earlier portions of the book he, later on, frequently descended
to deliberate invention and artful rhetoric. He, in fact,
accommodated his moral sense to the circumstances in which the
r\oc\le he had to play involved him.

On the question of originality there can hardly be two opinions
now that the Koran has been thoroughly compared with the
Christian and Jewish traditions of the time; and it is, besides some
original Arabian legends, to those only that the book stands in any
close relationship. The matter is for the most part borrowed, but
the manner is all the prophet's own. This is emphatically a case in
which originality consists not so much in the creation of new
materials of thought as in the manner in which existing traditions
of various kinds are utilised and freshly blended to suit the special
exigencies of the occasion. Biblical reminiscences, Rabbinic
legends, Christian traditions mostly drawn from distorted
apocryphal sources, and native heathen stories, all first pass
through the prophet's fervid mind, and thence issue in strange new
forms, tinged with poetry and enthusiasm, and well adapted to
enforce his own view of life and duty, to serve as an
encouragement to his faithful adherents, and to strike terror into
the hearts of his opponents.

There is, however, apart from its religious value, a more general
view from which the book should be considered. The Koran enjoys
the distinction of having been the starting-point of a new literary
and philosophical movement which has powerfully affected the
finest and most cultivated minds among both Jews and Christians
in the Middle Ages. This general progress of the Muhammedan
world has somehow been arrested, but research has shown that
what European scholars knew of Greek philosophy, of
mathematics, astronomy, and like sciences, for several centuries
before the Renaissance, was, roughly speaking, all derived from
Latin treatises ultimately based on Arabic originals; and it was the
Koran which, though indirectly, gave the first impetus to these
studies among the Arabs and their allies. Linguistic investigations,
poetry, and other branches of literature, also made their
appearance soon after or simultaneously with the publication of
the Koran; and the literary movement thus initiated has resulted in
some of the finest products of genius and learning.

The style in which the Koran is written requires some special
attention in this introduction. The literary form is for the most part
different from anything else we know. In its finest passages we
indeed seem to hear a voice akin to that of the ancient Hebrew
prophets, but there is much in the book which Europeans usually
regard as faulty. The tendency to repetition which is an inherent
characteristic of the Semitic mind appears here in an exaggerated
form, and there is in addition much in the Koran which strikes us
as wild and fantastic. The most unfavourable criticism ever passed
on Muhammed's style has in fact been penned by the prophet's
greatest British admirer, Carlyle himself; and there are probably
many now who find themselves in the same dilemma with that
great writer.

The fault appears, however, to lie partly in our difficulty to
appreciate the psychology of the Arab prophet. We must, in order
to do him justice, give full consideration to his temperament and to
the condition of things around him. We are here in touch with an
untutored but fervent mind, trying to realise itself and to assimilate
certain great truths which have been powerfully borne in upon
him, in order to impart them in a convincing form to his
fellow-tribesmen. He is surrounded by obstacles of every kind, yet
he manfully struggles on with the message that is within him.
Learning he has none, or next to none. His chief objects of
knowledge are floating stories and traditions largely picked up
from hearsay, and his over-wrought mind is his only teacher. The
literary compositions to which he had ever listened were the
half-cultured, yet often wildly powerful rhapsodies of early
Arabian minstrels, akin to Ossian rather than to anything else
within our knowledge. What wonder then that his Koran took a
form which to our colder temperaments sounds strange,
unbalanced, and fantastic?

Yet the Moslems themselves consider the book the finest that ever
appeared among men. They find no incongruity in the style. To
them the matter is all true and the manner all perfect. Their eastern
temperament responds readily to the crude, strong, and wild appeal
which its cadences make to them, and the jingling rhyme in which
the sentences of a discourse generally end adds to the charm of the
whole. The Koran, even if viewed from the point of view of style
alone, was to them from the first nothing less than a miracle, as
great a miracle as ever was wrought.

But to return to our own view of the case. Our difficulty in
appreciating the style of the Koran even moderately is, of course,
increased if, instead of the original, we have a translation before
us. But one is happy to be able to say that Rodwell's rendering is
one of the best that have as yet been produced. It seems to a great
extent to carry with it the atmosphere in which Muhammed lived,
and its sentences are imbued with the flavour of the East. The
quasi-verse form, with its unfettered and irregular rhythmic flow
of the lines, which has in suitable cases been adopted, helps to
bring out much of the wild charm of the Arabic. Not the least
among its recommendations is, perhaps, that it is scholarly without
being pedantic that is to say, that it aims at correctness without
sacrificing the right effect of the whole to over-insistence on small

Another important merit of Rodwell's edition is its chronological
arrangement of the Suras or chapters. As he tells us himself in his
preface, it is now in a number of cases impossible to ascertain the
exact occasion on which a discourse, or part of a discourse, was
delivered, so that the system could not be carried through with
entire consistency. But the sequence adopted is in the main based
on the best available historical and literary evidence; and in
following the order of the chapters as here printed, the reader will
be able to trace the development of the prophet's mind as he
gradually advanced from the early flush of inspiration to the less
spiritual and more equivocal r\oc\le of warrior, politician, and
founder of an empire.

G. Margoliouth.

The following is a list of the English translations:

From the original Arabic by G. Sale, 1734, 1764, 1795, 1801;
many later editions, which include a memoir of the translator by R.
A. Davenport, and notes from Savary's version of the Koran; an
edition issued by E. M. Wherry, with additional notes and
commentary (Tr\du\ubner's Oriental Series), 1882, etc.; Sale's
translation has also been edited in the Chandos Classics, and
among Lubbock's Hundred Books (No. 22). The Holy Qur\da\an,
translated by Dr. Mohammad Abdul Hakim Khan, with short
notes, 1905; Translation by J. M. Rodwell, with notes and index
(the Suras arranged in chronological order), 1861, 2nd ed., 1876;
by E. H. Palmer (Sacred Books of the East, vols. vi., ix.).

Selections: Chiefly from Sale's edition, by E. W. Lane, 1843;
revised and enlarged with introduction by S. Lane-Poole.
(Tr\du\ubner's Oriental Series), 1879; The Speeches and
Table-Talk of the Prophet Mohammad, etc., chosen and translated,
with introduction and notes by S. Lane-Poole, 1882 (Golden
Treasury Series); Selections with introduction and explanatory
notes (from Sale and other writers), by J. Murdock (Sacred Books
of the East), 2nd ed., 1902; The Religion of the Koran, selections
with an introduction by A. N. Wollaston (The Wisdom of the
East), 1904.


BY The Translator.


It is necessary that some brief explanation should be given with
reference to the arrangement of the Suras, or chapters, adopted in
this translation of the Koran. It should be premised that their order
as it stands in all Arabic manuscripts, and in all hitherto printed
editions, whether Arabic or European, is not chronological, neither
is there any authentic tradition to shew that it rests upon the
authority of Muhammad himself. The scattered fragments of the
Koran were in the first instance collected by his immediate
successor Abu Bekr, about a year after the Prophet's death, at the
suggestion of Omar, who foresaw that, as the Muslim warriors,
whose memories were the sole depositaries of large portions of the
revelations, died off or were slain, as had been the case with many
in the battle of Yemma, A.H. 12, the loss of the greater part, or
even of the whole, was imminent. Zaid Ibn Thbit, a native of
Medina, and one of the Ansars, or helpers, who had been
Muhammad's amanuensis, was the person fixed upon to carry out
the task, and we are told that he "gathered together" the fragments
of the Koran from every quarter, "from date leaves and tablets of
white stone, and from the breasts of men." The copy thus formed
by Zaid probably remained in the possession of Abu Bekr during
the remainder of his brief caliphate, who committed it to the
custody of Haphsa, one of Muhammad's widows, and this text
continued during the ten years of Omar's caliphate to be the
standard. In the copies made from it, various readings naturally
and necessarily sprung up; and these, under the caliphate of
Othman, led to such serious disputes between the faithful, that it
became necessary to interpose, and in accordance with the warning
of Hodzeifa, "to stop the people, before they should differ
regarding their scriptures, as did the Jews and Christians." In
accordance with this advice, Othman determined to establish a text
which should be the sole standard, and entrusted the redaction to
the Zaid already mentioned, with whom he associated as
colleagues, three, according to others, twelve of the Koreisch, in
order to secure the purity of that Meccan idiom in which
Muhammad had spoken, should any occasions arise in which the
collators might have to decide upon various readings. Copies of
the text formed were thus forwarded to several of the chief
military stations in the new empire, and all previously existing
copies were committed to the flames.

Zaid and his coadjutors, however, do not appear to have arranged
the materials which came into their hands upon any system more
definite than that of placing the longest and best known Suras first,
immediately after the Fatthah, or opening chapter (the eighth in
this edition); although even this rule, artless and unscientific as it
is, has not been adhered to with strictness. Anything approaching
to a chronological arrangement was entirely lost sight of. Late
Medina Suras are often placed before early Meccan Suras; the
short Suras at the end of the Koran are its earliest portions; while,
as will be seen from the notes, verses of Meccan origin are to be
found embedded in Medina Suras, and verses promulged at
Medina scattered up and down in the Meccan Suras. It would seem
as if Zaid had to a great extent put his materials together just as
they came to hand, and often with entire disregard to continuity of
subject and uniformity of style. The text, therefore, as hitherto
arranged, necessarily assumes the form of a most unreadable and
incongruous patchwork; "une assemblage," says M. Kasimirski in
his Preface, "informe et incohrent de prceptes moraux, religieux,
civils et politiques, mls d'exhortations, de promesses, et de
menaces" and conveys no idea whatever of the development and
growth of any plan in the mind of the founder of Islam, or of the
circumstances by which he was surrounded and influenced. It is
true that the manner in which Zaid contented himself with simply
bringing together his materials and transcribing them, without any
attempt to mould them into shape or sequence, and without any
effort to supply connecting links between adjacent verses, to fill up
obvious chasms, or to suppress details of a nature discreditable to
the founder of Islam, proves his scrupulous honesty as a compiler,
as well as his reverence for the sacred text, and to a certain extent
guarantees the genuineness and authenticity of the entire volume.
But it is deeply to be regretted that he did not combine some
measure of historical criticism with that simplicity and honesty of
purpose which forbade him, as it certainly did, in any way to
tamper with the sacred text, to suppress contradictory, and exclude
or soften down inaccurate, statements.

The arrangement of the Suras in this translation is based partly
upon the traditions of the Muhammadans themselves, with
reference especially to the ancient chronological list printed by
Weil in his Mohammed der Prophet, as well as upon a careful
consideration of the subject matter of each separate Sura and its
probable connection with the sequence of events in the life of
Muhammad. Great attention has been paid to this subject by Dr.
Weil in the work just mentioned; by Mr. Muir in his Life of
Mahomet, who also publishes a chronological list of Suras, 21
however of which he admits have "not yet been carefully fixed;"
and especially by Nldeke, in his Geschichte des Qrans, a work to
which public honours were awarded in 1859 by the Paris Academy
of Inscriptions. From the arrangement of this author I see no
reason to depart in regard to the later Suras. It is based upon a
searching criticism and minute analysis of the component verses of
each, and may be safely taken as a standard, which ought not to be
departed from without weighty reasons. I have, however, placed
the earlier and more fragmentary Suras, after the two first, in an
order which has reference rather to their subject matter than to
points of historical allusion, which in these Suras are very few;
whilst on the other hand, they are mainly couched in the language
of self-communion, of aspirations after truth, and of mental
struggle, are vivid pictures of Heaven and Hell, or descriptions of
natural objects, and refer also largely to the opposition met with by
Muhammad from his townsmen of Mecca at the outset of his
public career. This remark applies to what Nldeke terms "the
Suras of the First Period."

The contrast between the earlier, middle, and later Suras is very
striking and interesting, and will be at once apparent from the
arrangement here adopted. In the Suras as far as the 54th, p. 76, we
cannot but notice the entire predominance of the poetical element,
a deep appreciation (as in Sura xci. p. 38) of the beauty of natural
objects, brief fragmentary and impassioned utterances,
denunciations of woe and punishment, expressed for the most part
in lines of extreme brevity. With a change, however, in the
position of Muhammad when he openly assumes the office of
"public warner," the Suras begin to assume a more prosaic and
didactic tone, though the poetical ornament of rhyme is preserved
throughout. We gradually lose the Poet in the missionary aiming to
convert, the warm asserter of dogmatic truths; the descriptions of
natural objects, of the judgment, of Heaven and Hell, make way
for gradually increasing historical statements, first from Jewish,
and subsequently from Christian histories; while, in the 29 Suras
revealed at Medina, we no longer listen to vague words, often as it
would seem without positive aim, but to the earnest disputant with
the enemies of his faith, the Apostle pleading the cause of what he
believes to be the Truth of God. He who at Mecca is the
admonisher and persuader, at Medina is the legislator and the
warrior, who dictates obedience, and uses other weapons than the
pen of the Poet and the Scribe. When business pressed, as at
Medina, Poetry makes way for Prose, and although touches of the
Poetical element occasionally break forth, and he has to defend
himself up to a very late period against the charge of being merely
a Poet, yet this is rarely the case in the Medina Suras; and we are
startled by finding obedience to God and the Apostle, God's gifts
and the Apostle's, God's pleasure and the Apostle's, spoken of in
the same breath, and epithets and attributes elsewhere applied to
Allah openly applied to himself as in Sura ix., 118, 129.

The Suras, viewed as a whole, strike me as being the work of one
who began his career as a thoughtful enquirer after truth, and an
earnest asserter of it in such rhetorical and poetical forms as he
deemed most likely to win and attract his countrymen, and who
gradually proceeded from the dogmatic teacher to the politic
founder of a system for which laws and regulations had to be
provided as occasions arose. And of all the Suras it must be
remarked that they were intended not for readers but for hearers
that they were all promulgated by public recital and that much was
left, as the imperfect sentences shew, to the manner and suggestive
action of the reciter. It would be impossible, and indeed it is
unnecessary, to attempt a detailed life of Muhammad within the
narrow limits of a Preface. The main events thereof with which the
Suras of the Koran stand in connection, are The visions of Gabriel,
seen, or said to have been seen, at the outset of his career in his
40th year, during one of his seasons of annual monthly retirement,
for devotion and meditation to Mount Hir, near Mecca, the period
of mental depression and re-assurance previous to the assumption
of the office of public teacher the Fatrah or pause (see n. p. 20)
during which he probably waited for a repetition of the angelic
vision his labours in comparative privacy for three years, issuing in
about 40 converts, of whom his wife Chadijah was the first, and
Abu Bekr the most important: (for it is to him and to Abu Jahl the
Sura xcii. p. 32, refers) struggles with Meccan unbelief and
idolatry followed by a period during which probably he had the
second vision, Sura liii. p. 69, and was listened to and respected as
a person "possessed" (Sura lxix. 42, p. 60, lii. 29, p. 64) the first
emigration to Abyssinia in A.D. 616, in consequence of the
Meccan persecutions brought on by his now open attacks upon
idolatry (Taghout) increasing reference to Jewish and Christian
histories, shewing that much time had been devoted to their study
the conversion of Omar in 617 the journey to the Thaquifites at
Taief in A.D. 620 the intercourse with pilgrims from Medina, who
believed in Islam, and spread the knowledge thereof in their native
town, in the same year the vision of the midnight journey to
Jerusalem and the Heavens the meetings by night at Acaba, a
mountain near Mecca, in the 11th year of his mission, and the
pledges of fealty there given to him the command given to the
believers to emigrate to Yathrib, henceforth Medinat-en-nabi (the
city of the Prophet) or El-Medina (the city), in April of A.D. 622
the escape of Muhammad and Abu Bekr from Mecca to the cave
of Thaur the FLIGHT to Medina in June 20, A.D. 622 treaties
made with Christian tribes increasing, but still very imperfect
acquaintance with Christian doctrines the Battle of Bedr in Hej. 2,
and of Ohod the coalition formed against Muhammad by the Jews
and idolatrous Arabians, issuing in the siege of Medina, Hej. 5
(A.D. 627) the convention, with reference to the liberty of making
the pilgrimage, of Hudaibiya, Hej. 6 the embassy to Chosroes King
of Persia in the same year, to the Governor of Egypt and to the
King of Abyssinia, desiring them to embrace Islam the conquest of
several Jewish tribes, the most important of which was that of
Chaibar in Hej. 7, a year marked by the embassy sent to Heraclius,
then in Syria, on his return from the Persian campaign, and by a
solemn and peaceful pilgrimage to Mecca the triumphant entry
into Mecca in Hej. 8 (A.D. 630), and the demolition of the idols of
the Caaba the submission of the Christians of Nedjran, of Aila on
the Red Sea, and of Taief, etc., in Hej. 9, called "the year of
embassies or deputations," from the numerous deputations which
flocked to Mecca proffering submission and lastly in Hej. 10, the
submission of Hadramont, Yemen, the greater part of the southern
and eastern provinces of Arabia and the final solemn pilgrimage to

While, however, there is no great difficulty in ascertaining the
Suras which stand in connection with the more salient features of
Muhammad's life, it is a much more arduous, and often
impracticable task, to point out the precise events to which
individual verses refer, and out of which they sprung. It is quite
possible that Muhammad himself, in a later period of his career,
designedly mixed up later with earlier revelations in the same
Suras not for the sake of producing that mysterious style which
seems so pleasing to the mind of those who value truth least when
it is most clear and obvious but for the purpose of softening down
some of the earlier statements which represent the last hour and
awful judgment as imminent; and thus leading his followers to
continue still in the attitude of expectation, and to see in his later
successes the truth of his earlier predictions. If after-thoughts of
this kind are to be traced, and they will often strike the attentive
reader, it then follows that the perplexed state of the text in
individual Suras is to be considered as due to Muhammad himself,
and we are furnished with a series of constant hints for attaining to
chronological accuracy. And it may be remarked in passing, that a
belief that the end of all things was at hand, may have tended to
promote the earlier successes of Islam at Mecca, as it
unquestionably was an argument with the Apostles, to flee from
"the wrath to come." It must be borne in mind that the allusions to
contemporary minor events, and to the local efforts made by the
new religion to gain the ascendant are very few, and often couched
in terms so vague and general, that we are forced to interpret the
Koran solely by the Koran itself. And for this, the frequent
repetitions of the same histories and the same sentiments, afford
much facility: and the peculiar manner in which the details of each
history are increased by fresh traits at each recurrence, enables us
to trace their growth in the author's mind, and to ascertain the
manner in which a part of the Koran was composed. The absence
of the historical element from the Koran as regards the details of
Muhammad's daily life, may be judged of by the fact, that only two
of his contemporaries are mentioned in the entire volume, and that
Muhammad's name occurs but five times, although he is all the
way through addressed by the Angel Gabriel as the recipient of the
divine revelations, with the word SAY. Perhaps such passages as
Sura ii. 15, p. 339, and v. 246, p. 365, and the constant mention of
guidance, direction, wandering, may have been suggested by
reminiscences of his mercantile journeys in his earlier years.

It may be considered quite certain that it was not customary to
reduce to writing any traditions concerning Muhammad himself
for at least the greater part of a century. They rested entirely on the
memory of those who have handed them down, and must
necessarily have been coloured by their prejudices and
convictions, to say nothing of the tendency to the formation of
myths and to actual fabrication, which early shews itself,
especially in interpretations of the Koran, to subserve the purposes
of the contending factions of the Ommeyads and Abbsides. It was
under the 5th Caliph, Al-Mmn, that three writers (mentioned
below) on whom we mainly depend for all really reliable
information, flourished: and even their writings are necessarily
coloured by the theological tendencies of their master and patron,
who was a decided partizan of the divine right of Ali and of his
descendants. The incidents mentioned in the Koran itself, for the
interpretation of which early tradition is available, are
comparatively few, and there are many passages with which it is
totally at variance; as, for instance, that Muhammad worked
miracles, which the Koran expressly disclaims. Traditions can
never be considered as at all reliable, unless they are traceable to
some common origin, have descended to us by independent
witnesses, and correspond with the statements of the Koran itself
always of course deducting such texts as (which is not
unfrequently the case) have themselves given rise to the tradition.
It soon becomes obvious to the reader of Muslim traditions and
commentators that both miracles and historical events have been
invented for the sake of expounding a dark and perplexing text;
and that even the earlier traditions are largely tinged with the
mythical element.

The first biographer of Muhammad of whom we have any
information was Zohri, who died A.H. 124, aged 72; but his works,
though abundantly quoted by later writers, are no longer extant.
Much of his information was derived from Orwa, who died A.H.
94, and was a near relative of Ayesha, the prophet's favourite wife.

Ibn Ishaq, who died in A.H. 151, and who had been a hearer of
Zohri, composed a Biography of Muhammad for the use of the
Caliph Al M nsr. On this work, considerable remains of which
have come down to us, Ibn Hisham, who died A.H. 213, based his
Life of Muhammad.

Waquidi of Medina, who died A.H. 207, composed a biographical
work, which has reached us in an abbreviated form through his
secretary (Katib). It is composed entirely of traditions.

Tabari, "the Livy of the Arabians" (Gibbon, 51, n. 1), who died at
Baghdad A.H. 310, composed annals of Muhammad's life and of
the progress of Islam.

These ancient writers are the principal sources whence anything
like authentic information as to the life of Muhammad has been
derived. And it may be safely concluded that after the diligent
investigations carried on by the professed collectors of traditions
in the second century after the Hejira, that little or nothing remains
to be added to our stores of information relative to the details of
Muhammad's life, or to facts which may further illustrate the text
of the Koran. But however this may be, no records which are
posterior in date to these authorities can be considered as at all
deserving of dependance. "To consider," says Dr. Sprenger, "late
historians like Abulfeda as authorities, and to suppose that an
account gains in certainty because it is mentioned by several of
them, is highly uncritical." Life of Mohammad, p. 73.

The sources whence Muhammad derived the materials of his
Koran are, over and above the more poetical parts, which are his
own creation, the legends of his time and country, Jewish
traditions based upon the Talmud, or perverted to suit his own
purposes, and the floating Christian traditions of Arabia and of S.
Syria. At a later period of his career no one would venture to doubt
the divine origin of the entire book. But at its commencement the
case was different. The people of Mecca spoke openly and
tauntingly of it as the work of a poet, as a collection of antiquated
or fabulous legends, or as palpable sorcery. They accused him of
having confederates, and even specified foreigners who had been
his coadjutors. Such were Salman the Persian, to whom he may
have owed the descriptions of Heaven and Hell, which are
analogous to those of the Zendavesta; and the Christian monk
Sergius, or as the Muhammadans term him, Boheira. From the
latter, and perhaps from other Christians, especially slaves
naturalised at Mecca, Muhammad obtained access to the teaching
of the Apocryphal Gospels, and to many popular traditions of
which those Gospels are the concrete expression. His wife
Chadijah, as well as her cousin Waraka, a reputed convert to
Christianity, and Muhammad's intimate friend, are said to have
been well acquainted with the doctrines and sacred books both of
Jews and Christians. And not only were several Arab tribes in the
neighbourhood of Mecca converts to the Christian faith, but on
two occasions Muhammad had travelled with his uncle, Abu Talib,
as far as Bostra, where he must have had opportunities of learning
the general outlines of Oriental Christian doctrine, and perhaps of
witnessing the ceremonial of their worship. And it appears
tolerably certain that previous to and at the period of his entering
into public life, there was a large number of enquirers at Mecca,
who like Zaid, Omayah of Taief, Waraka, etc., were dissatisfied
equally with the religion of their fathers, the Judaism and the
Christianity which they saw around them, and were anxiously
enquiring for some better way. The names and details of the lives
of twelve of the "companions" of Muhammad who lived in Mecca,
Medina, and Taief, are recorded, who previous to his assumption
of the Prophetic office, called themselves Hanyfs, i.e., converts,
puritans, and were believers in one God, and regarded Abraham as
the founder of their religion. Muhammad publicly acknowledged
that he was a Hanyf and this sect of the Hanyfites (who are in no
way to be confounded with the later sect of the same name) were
among his Meccan precursors. See n. pp. 209, 387. Their history is
to be found in the Fihrist MS. Paris, anc. fonds, nr. 874 (and in
other treatises) which Dr. Sprenger believes to have been in the
library of the Caliph El-Mmn. In this treatise, the Hanyfs are
termed Sabeites, and said to have received the Volumes (Sohof) or
Books of Abraham, mentioned in Sura lxxxvii. 19, p. 40, 41,
which most commentators affirm to have been borrowed from
them, as is also the case with the latter part of Sura liii. 37, ad f. p.
71; so that from these "Books" Muhammad derived the legends of
Ad and Themoud, whose downfall, recent as it was (see note p.
300), he throws back to a period previous to that of Moses, who is
made to ask (Sura xiv. 9, p. 226) "whether their history had
reached his hearers." Muhammad is said to have discovered these
"Books" to be a recent forgery, and that this is the reason why no
mention of them occurs after the fourth year of his Prophetic
function, A.D. 616. Hence too, possibly, the title Hanyf was so
soon dropped and exchanged for that of Muslim, one who
surrenders or resigns himself to God. The Waraka above
mentioned, and cousin of Chadijah, is said to have believed on
Muhammad as long as he continued true to the principles of the
Hanyfs, but to have quitted him in disgust at his subsequent
proceedings, and to have died an orthodox Christian.

It has been supposed that Muhammad derived many of his notions
concerning Christianity from Gnosticism, and that it is to the
numerous gnostic sects the Koran alludes when it reproaches the
Christians with having "split up their religion into parties." But for
Muhammad thus to have confounded Gnosticism with Christianity
itself, its prevalence in Arabia must have been far more universal
than we have any reason to believe it really was. In fact, we have
no historical authority for supposing that the doctrines of these
heretics were taught or professed in Arabia at all. It is certain, on
the other hand, that the Basilidans, Valentinians, and other gnostic
sects had either died out, or been reabsorbed into the orthodox
Church, towards the middle of the fifth century, and had
disappeared from Egypt before the sixth. It is nevertheless possible
that the gnostic doctrine concerning the Crucifixion was adopted
by Muhammad as likely to reconcile the Jews to Islam, as a
religion embracing both Judaism and Christianity, if they might
believe that Jesus had not been put to death, and thus find the
stumbling-block of the atonement removed out of their path. The
Jews would in this case have simply been called upon to believe in
Jesus as being what the Koran represents him, a holy teacher, who,
like the patriarch Enoch or the prophet Elijah, had been
miraculously taken from the earth. But, in all other respects, the
sober and matter-of-fact statements of the Koran relative to the
family and history of Jesus, are altogether opposed to the wild and
fantastic doctrines of Gnostic emanations, and especially to the
manner in which they supposed Jesus, at his Baptism, to have been
brought into union with a higher nature. It is quite clear that
Muhammad borrowed in several points from the doctrines of the
Ebionites, Essenes, and Sabeites. Epiphanius (Hr. x.) describes
the notions of the Ebionites of Nabatha, Moabitis, and Basanitis
with regard to Adam and Jesus, almost in the very words of Sura
iii. 52. He tells us that they observed circumcision, were opposed
to celibacy, forbad turning to the sunrise, but enjoined Jerusalem
as their Kebla (as did Muhammad during twelve years), that they
prescribed (as did the Sabeites), washings, very similar to those
enjoined in the Koran, and allowed oaths (by certain natural
objects, as clouds, signs of the Zodiac, oil, the winds, etc.), which
we find adopted in the Koran. These points of contact with Islam,
knowing as we do Muhammad's eclecticism, can hardly be

We have no evidence that Muhammad had access to the Christian
Scriptures, though it is just possible that fragments of the Old or
New Testament may have reached him through Chadijah or
Waraka, or other Meccan Christians, possessing MSS. of the
sacred volume. There is but one direct quotation (Sura xxi. 105) in
the whole Koran from the Scriptures; and though there are a few
passages, as where alms are said to be given to be seen of men,
and as, none forgiveth sins but God only, which might seem to be
identical with texts of the New Testament, yet this similarity is
probably merely accidental. It is, however, curious to compare
such passages as Deut. xxvi. 14, 17; 1 Peter v. 2, with Sura xxiv.
50, p. 448, and x. 73, p. 281 John vii. 15, with the "illiterate"
Prophet Matt. xxiv. 36, and John xii. 27, with the use of the word
hour as meaning any judgment or crisis, and The last judgment the
voice of the Son of God which the dead are to hear, with the
exterminating or awakening cry of Gabriel, etc. The passages of
this kind, with which the Koran abounds, result from Muhammad's
general acquaintance with Scriptural phraseology, partly through
the popular legends, partly from personal intercourse with Jews
and Christians. And we may be quite certain that whatever
materials Muhammad may have derived from our Scriptures,
directly or indirectly, were carefully recast. He did not even use its
words without due consideration. For instance, except in the
phrase "the Lord of the worlds," he seems carefully to have
avoided the expression the Lord, probably because it was applied
by the Christians to Christ, or to God the Father.

It should also be borne in mind that we have no traces of the
existence of Arabic versions of the Old or New Testament
previous to the time of Muhammad. The passage of St. Jerome
"Hc autem translatio nullum de veteribus sequitur interpretem;
sed ex ipso Hebraico, Arabicoque sermone, et interdum Syro, nunc
verba, nunc sensum, nunc simul utrumque resonabit," (Prol. Gal.)
obviously does not refer to versions, but to idiom. The earliest Ar.
version of the Old Testament, of which we have any knowledge, is
that of R. Saadias Gaon, A.D. 900; and the oldest Ar. version of
the New Testament, is that published by Erpenius in 1616, and
transcribed in the Thebais, in the year 1171, by a Coptic Bishop,
from a copy made by a person whose name is known, but whose
date is uncertain. Michaelis thinks that the Arabic versions of the
New Testament were made between the Saracen conquests in the
seventh century, and the Crusades in the eleventh century an
opinion in which he follows, or coincides with, Walton (Prol. in
Polygl.  xiv.) who remarks "Plane constat versionem Arabicam
apud eas (ecclesias orientales) factam esse postquam lingua
Arabica per victorias et religionem Muhammedanicam per
Orientem propagata fuerat, et in multis locis facta esset
vernacula." If, indeed, in these comparatively late versions, the
general phraseology, especially in the histories common to the
Scriptures and to the Koran, bore any similarity to each other, and
if the orthography of the proper names had been the same in each,
it might have been fair to suppose that such versions had been
made, more or less, upon the basis of others, which, though now
lost, existed in the ages prior to Muhammad, and influenced, if
they did not directly form, his sources of information. But this
does not appear to be the case. The phraseology of our existing
versions is not that of the Koran and these versions appear to have
been made from the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and
Greek; the four Gospels, says Tischendorf originem mixtam
habere videntur.

From the Arab Jews, Muhammad would be enabled to derive an
abundant, though most distorted, knowledge of the Scripture
histories. The secrecy in which he received his instructions from
them, and from his Christian informants, enabled him boldly to
declare to the ignorant pagan Meccans that God had revealed those
Biblical histories to him. But there can be no doubt, from the
constant identity between the Talmudic perversions of Scripture
histories and Rabbinic moral precepts, that the Rabbins of the
Hejaz communicated their legends to Muhammad. And it should
be remembered that the Talmud was completed a century previous
to the era of Muhammad, and cannot fail to have extensively
influenced the religious creed of all the Jews of the Arabian
peninsula. In one passage, Muhammad speaks of an individual Jew
perhaps some one of note among his professed followers, as a
witness to his mission; and there can be no doubt that his relations
with the Jews were, at one time, those of friendship and intimacy,
when we find him speak of their recognising him as they do their
own children, and hear him blaming their most colloquial
expressions. It is impossible, however, for us at this distance of
time to penetrate the mystery in which this subject is involved. Yet
certain it is, that, although their testimony against Muhammad was
speedily silenced, the Koreisch knew enough of his private history
to disbelieve and to disprove his pretensions of being the recipient
of a divine revelation, and that they accused him of writing from
the dictation of teachers morning and evening. And it is equally
certain, that all the information received by Muhammad was
embellished and recast in his own mind and with his own words.
There is a unity of thought, a directness and simplicity of purpose,
a peculiar and laboured style, a uniformity of diction, coupled with
a certain deficiency of imaginative power, which proves the ayats
(signs or verses) of the Koran at least to be the product of a single
pen. The longer narratives were, probably, elaborated in his leisure
hours, while the shorter verses, each claiming to be a sign or
miracle, were promulgated as occasion required them. And,
whatever Muhammad may himself profess in the Koran as to his
ignorance, even of reading and writing, and however strongly
modern Muhammadans may insist upon the same point an
assertion by the way contradicted by many good authors there can
be no doubt that to assimilate and work up his materials, to fashion
them into elaborate Suras, to fit them for public recital, must have
been a work requiring much time, study, and meditation, and
presumes a far greater degree of general culture than any orthodox
Muslim will be disposed to admit.

In close connection with the above remarks, stands the question of
Muhammad's sincerity and honesty of purpose in coming forward
as a messenger from God. For if he was indeed the illiterate person
the Muslims represent him to have been, then it will be hard to
escape their inference that the Koran is, as they assert it to be, a
standing miracle. But if, on the other hand, it was a Book carefully
concocted from various sources, and with much extraneous aid,
and published as a divine oracle, then it would seem that the
author is at once open to the charge of the grossest imposture, and
even of impious blasphemy. The evidence rather shews, that in all
he did and wrote, Muhammad was actuated by a sincere desire to
deliver his countrymen from the grossness of its debasing
idolatries that he was urged on by an intense desire to proclaim
that great truth of the Unity of the Godhead which had taken full
possession of his own soul that the end to be attained justified to
his mind the means he adopted in the production of his Suras that
he worked himself up into a belief that he had received a divine
call and that he was carried on by the force of circumstances, and
by gradually increasing successes, to believe himself the
accredited messenger of Heaven. The earnestness of those
convictions which at Mecca sustained him under persecution, and
which perhaps led him, at any price as it were, and by any means,
not even excluding deceit and falsehood, to endeavour to rescue
his countrymen from idolatry, naturally stiffened at Medina into
tyranny and unscrupulous violence. At the same time, he was
probably, more or less, throughout his whole career, the victim of
a certain amount of self-deception. A cataleptic subject from his
early youth, born according to the traditions of a highly nervous
and excitable mother, he would be peculiarly liable to morbid and
fantastic hallucinations, and alternations of excitement and
depression, which would win for him, in the eyes of his ignorant
countrymen, the credit of being inspired. It would be easy for him
to persuade himself that he was "the seal of the Prophets," the
proclaimer of a doctrine of the Divine Unity, held and taught by
the Patriarchs, especially by Abraham a doctrine that should
present to mankind Judaism divested of its Mosaic ceremonial,
and Christianity divested of the Atonement and the Trinity
doctrine, as he might have believed, fitted and destined to absorb
Judaism, Christianity, and Idolatry; and this persuasion, once
admitted into his mind as a conviction, retained possession of it,
and carried him on, though often in the use of means, towards the
end of his career, far different from those with which he
commenced it, to a victorious consummation. It is true that the
state of Arabia previous to the time of Muhammad was one of
preparedness for a new religion that the scattered elements were
there, and wanted only the mind of a master to harmonise and
enforce them and that Islam was, so to speak, a necessity of the
time. Still Muhammad's career is a wonderful instance of the force
and life that resides in him who possesses an intense Faith in God
and in the unseen world; and whatever deductions may be made
and they are many and serious from the noble and truthful in his
character, he will always be regarded as one of those who have had
that influence over the faith, morals, and whole earthly life of their
fellow-men, which none but a really great man ever did, or can,
exercise; and as one of those, whose efforts to propagate some
great verity will prosper, in spite of manifold personal errors and
defects, both of principle and character.

The more insight we obtain, from undoubted historical sources,
into the actual character of Muhammad, the less reason do we find
to justify the strong vituperative language poured out upon his
head by Maracci, Prideaux, and others, in recent days, one of
whom has found, in the Byzantine "Maometis," the number of the
Beast (Rev. xii)! It is nearer to the truth to say that he was a great
though imperfect character, an earnest though mistaken teacher,
and that many of his mistakes and imperfections were the result of
circumstances, of temperament, and constitution; and that there
must be elements both of truth and goodness in the system of
which he was the main author, to account for the world-wide
phenomenon, that whatever may be the intellectual inferiority (if
such is, indeed, the fact) of the Muslim races, the influence of his
teaching, aided, it is true, by the vast impulse given to it by the
victorious arms of his followers, has now lasted for nearly thirteen
centuries, and embraces more than one hundred millions of our
race more than one-tenth part of the inhabitants of the globe.

It must be acknowledged, too, that the Koran deserves the highest
praise for its conceptions of the Divine nature, in reference to the
attributes of Power, Knowledge, and universal Providence and
Unity that its belief and trust in the One God of Heaven and Earth
is deep and fervent and that, though it contains fantastic visions
and legends, teaches a childish ceremonial, and justifies
bloodshedding, persecution, slavery, and polygamy, yet that at the
same time it embodies much of a noble and deep moral
earnestness, and sententious oracular wisdom, and has proved that
there are elements in it on which mighty nations, and conquering
though not, perhaps, durable empires can be built up. It is due to
the Koran, that the occupants in the sixth century of an arid
peninsula, whose poverty was only equalled by their ignorance,
become not only the fervent and sincere votaries of a new creed,
but, like Amru and many more, its warlike propagators. Impelled
possibly by drought and famine, actuated partly by desire of
conquest, partly by religious convictions, they had conquered
Persia in the seventh century, the northern coasts of Africa, and a
large portion of Spain in the eighth, the Punjaub and nearly the
whole of India in the ninth. The simple shepherds and wandering
Bedouins of Arabia, are transformed, as if by a magician's wand,
into the founders of empires, the builders of cities, the collectors
of more libraries than they at first destroyed, while cities like
Fostt, Baghdad, Cordova, and Delhi, attest the power at which
Christian Europe trembled. And thus, while the Koran, which
underlays this vast energy and contains the principles which are its
springs of action, reflects to a great extent the mixed character of
its author, its merits as a code of laws, and as a system of religious
teaching, must always be estimated by the changes which it
introduced into the customs and beliefs of those who willingly or
by compulsion embraced it. In the suppression of their idolatries,
in the substitution of the worship of Allah for that of the powers of
nature and genii with Him, in the abolition of child murder, in the
extinction of manifold superstitious usages, in the reduction of the
number of wives to a fixed standard, it was to the Arabians an
unquestionable blessing, and an accession, though not in the
Christian sense a Revelation, of Truth; and while every Christian
must deplore the overthrow of so many flourishing Eastern
churches by the arms of the victorious Muslims, it must not be
forgotten that Europe, in the middle ages, owed much of her
knowledge of dialectic philosophy, of medicine, and architecture,
to Arabian writers, and that Muslims formed the connecting link
between the West and the East for the importation of numerous
articles of luxury and use. That an immense mass of fable and silly
legend has been built up upon the basis of the Koran is beyond a
doubt, but for this Muhammad is not answerable, any more than he
is for the wild and bloodthirsty excesses of his followers in after
ages. I agree with Sale in thinking that, "how criminal soever
Muhammad may have been in imposing a false religion on
mankind, the praises due to his real virtues ought not to be denied
him" (Preface), and venture to think that no one can rise from the
perusal of his Koran without argeeing with that motto from St.
Augustin, which Sale has prefixed to his title page, "Nulla falsa
doctrina est, qu non aliquid veri permisceat." Qust. Evang. ii.

The Arabic text from which this translation has been made is that
of Fluegel. Leips. 1841. The translations of Sale, Ullmann, Wahl,
Hammer von Purgstall in the Fundgruben des Orients, and M.
Kasimirski, have been collated throughout; and above all, the great
work of Father Maracci, to whose accuracy and research search
Sale's work mainly owes its merits. Sale has, however, followed
Maracci too closely, especially by introducing his paraphrastic
comments into the body of the text, as well as by his constant use
of Latinised instead of Saxon words. But to Sale's "Preliminary
Discourse" the reader is referred, as to a storehouse of valuable
information; as well as to the works of Geiger, Gerock, and
Freytag, and to the lives of Muhammad by Dr. Weil, Mr. Muir, and
that of Dr. Sprenger now issuing from the press, in German. The
more brief and poetical verses of the earlier Suras are translated
with a freedom from which I have altogether abstained in the
historical and prosaic portions; but I have endeavoured nowhere to
use a greater amount of paraphrase than is necessary to convey the
sense of the original. "Vel verbum e verbo," says S. Jerome (Prf.
in Jobum) of versions, "vel sensum e sensu, vel ex utroque
commixtum, et medie temperatum genus translationis." The proper
names are usually given as in our Scriptures: the English reader
would not easily recognise Noah as Nh, Lot as Lt, Moses as
Musa, Abraham as Ibrahym, Pharaoh as Firaun, Aaron as Harun,
Jesus as Isa, John as Yahia, etc.; and it has been thought best to
give different renderings of the same constantly recurring words
and phrases, in order more fully to convey their meaning. For
instance, the Arabic words which mean Companions of the fire,
are also rendered inmates of, etc., given up to, etc.; the People of
the Book, i.e. Jews, Christians and Sabeites, is sometimes retained,
sometimes paraphrased. This remark applies to such words as
tanzyl, lit. downsending or Revelation; zikr, the remembrance or
constant repetition or mention of God's name as an act of devotion;
saha, the Hour of present or final judgment; and various epithets of

I have nowhere attempted to represent the rhymes of the original.
The "Proben" of H. v. Purgstall, in the Fundgruben des Orients,
excellent as they are in many respects, shew that this can only be
done with a sacrifice of literal translation. I subjoin as a specimen
Lieut. Burton's version of the Fatthah, or opening chapter of
previous editions. See Sura [viii.] p. 28.

"I have endeavoured," he adds, "in this translation to imitate the
imperfect rhyme of the original Arabic. Such an attempt, however,
is full of difficulties. The Arabic is a language in which, like
Italian, it is almost impossible not to rhyme." Pilgr. ii. 78. SURA1

Mecca. 19 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful2

RECITE3 thou, in the name of thy Lord who created;

Created man from CLOTS OF BLOOD:

Recite thou! For thy Lord is the most Beneficent,

Who hath taught the use of the pen;

Hath taught Man that which he knoweth not.

Nay, verily,4 Man is insolent,

Because he seeth himself possessed of riches.

Verily, to thy Lord is the return of all.

What thinkest thou of him that holdeth back

A servant5 of God when he prayeth?

What thinkest thou?6 Hath he followed the true Guidance, or
enjoined Piety?

What thinkest thou? Hath he treated the truth as a lie and turned
his back?

What! doth he not know how that God seeth?

Nay, verily, if he desist not, We shall seize him by the forelock,

The lying sinful forelock!

Then let him summon his associates;7

We too will summon the guards of Hell:

Nay! obey him not; but adore, and draw nigh to God.8


1 The word Sura occurs nine times in the Koran, viz. Sur. ix. 65,
87, 125, 128; xxiv. 1; xlvii. 22 (twice); ii. 21; x. 39; but it is not
easy to determine whether it means a whole chapter, or part only
of a chapter, or is used in the sense of "revelation." See Weil's
Mohammed der Prophet, pp. 361-363. It is understood by the
Muhammadan commentators to have a primary reference to the
succession of subjects or parts, like the rows of bricks in a wall.
The titles of the Suras are generally taken from some word
occurring in each, which is printed in large type throughout, where

2 This formula Bismillahi 'rrahmani 'rrahim is of Jewish
origin. It was in the first instance taught to the Koreisch by
Omayah of Taief, the poet, who was a contemporary with, but
somewhat older than, Muhammad; and who, during his mercantile
journeys into Arabia Petra and Syria, had made himself
acquainted with the sacred books and doctrines of Jews and
Christians. (Kitab al-Aghni, 16. Delhi.) Muhammad adopted and
constantly used it, and it is prefixed to each Sura except the ninth.
The former of the two epithets implies that the mercy of God is
exercised as occasions arise, towards all his creatures; the latter
that the quality of mercy is inherent in God and permanent, so
that there is only a shade of difference between the two words.
Maracci well renders, In Nomine Dei Miseratoris, Misericordis.
The rendering I have adopted is that of Mr. Lane in his extracts
from the Koran. See also Freytag's Lex. ii. p. 133. Perhaps, In the
name of Allah, the God of Mercy, the Merciful, would more fully
express the original Arabic. The first five verses of this Sura are, in
the opinion of nearly all commentators, ancient and modern, the
earliest revelations made to Muhammad, in the 40th year of his
life, and the starting point of El-Islam. (See the authorities quoted
in detail in Nldeke's Geschichte des Qorns, p. 62, n.)

3 The usual rendering is read. But the word qaraa, which is the
root of the word Koran, analogous to the Rabbinic mikra, rather
means to address, recite; and with regard to its etymology and use
in the kindred dialects to call, cry aloud, proclaim. Compare Isai.
lviii. 1; 1 Kings xviii. 37; and Gesen. Thesaur. on the Hebrew root.
I understand this passage to mean, "Preach to thy fellow men what
thou believest to be true of thy Lord who has created man from the
meanest materials, and can in like manner prosper the truth which
thou proclaimest. He has taught man the art of writing (recently
introduced at Mecca) and in this thou wilt find a powerful help
for propagating the knowledge of the divine Unity." The speaker
in this, as in all the Suras, is Gabriel, of whom Muhammad had, as
he believed, a vision on the mountain Hir, near Mecca. See note 1
on the next page. The details of the vision are quite unhistorical.

4 This, and the following verses, may have been added at a later
period, though previous to the Flight, and with special reference, if
we are to believe the commentators Beidhawi, etc., to the
opposition which Muhammad experienced at the hands of his
opponent, Abu Jahl, who had threatened to set his foot on the
Prophet's neck when prostrate in prayer. But the whole passage
admits of application to mankind in general.

5 That is Muhammad. Nldeke, however, proposes to render "a
slave." And it is certain that the doctrines of Islam were in the first
instance embraced by slaves, many of whom had been carried
away from Christian homes, or born of Christian parents at Mecca.
"Men of this description," says Dr. Sprenger (Life of Mohammad.
Allahabad. p. 159), "no doubt prepared the way for the Islam by
inculcating purer notions respecting God upon their masters and
their brethren. These men saw in Mohammad their liberator; and
being superstitious enough to consider his fits as the consequence
of an inspiration, they were among the first who acknowledged
him as a prophet. Many of them suffered torture for their faith in
him, and two of them died as martyrs. The excitement among the
slaves when Mohammad first assumed his office was so great, that
Abd Allah bin Jod'an, who had one hundred of these sufferers,
found it necessary to remove them from Makkah, lest they should
all turn converts." See Sura xvi. 105, 111; ii. 220.

6 Lit. hast thou seen if he be upon the guidance.

7 The principal men of the Koreisch who adhered to Abu Jahl.

8 During a period variously estimated from six months to three
years from the revelation of this Sura, or of its earliest verses, the
prophetic inspiration and the revelation of fresh Suras is said to
have been suspended. This interval is called the Fatrah or
intermission; and the Meccan Suras delivered at its close show
that at or during this period Muhammad had gained an increasing
and more intimate acquaintance with the Jewish and Christian
Scriptures. "The accounts, however," says Mr. Muir (vol. ii. 86)
"are throughout confused, if not contradictory; and we can only
gather with certainty that there was a time during which his mind
hung in suspense, and doubted the divine mission." The idea of
any supernatural influence is of course to be entirely excluded;
although there is no doubt that Muhammad himself had a full
belief in the personality and influence of Satans and Djinn.
Profound meditation, the struggles of an earnest mind anxious to
attain to truth, the morbid excitability of an epileptic subject,
visions seen in epileptic swoons, disgust at Meccan idolatry, and a
desire to teach his countrymen the divine Unity will sufficiently
account for the period of indecision termed the Fatrah, and for the
determination which led Muhammad, in all sincerity, but still
self-deceived, to take upon himself the office and work of a
Messenger from God. We may perhaps infer from such passages as
Sura ii. 123, what had ever been the leading idea in Muhammad's



In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.

O thou who art enwrapped! rise by night except a little the half,
or deduct therefrom a little, or add thereto, and chant the Qurn
chanting. Verily, we will cast on thee a heavy speech.

Verily, the early part of the night is stronger in impressions and
more upright in speech!

Verily, thou hast by day a long employment; but mention the name of
thy Lord and devote thyself thoroughly to Him, the Lord of the east
and the west; there is no god but He; then take Him for a guardian!

And endure patiently what they say, and flee from them with a decorous

And leave me and those who say it is a lie, who are possessed of
comfort; and let them bide for a while.

Verily, with us are heavy fetters and hell-fire, and food that chokes,
and mighty woe!

On the day when the earth and the mountains shall tremble and the earth
shall be as a crumbling sand-hill!

Verily, we have sent unto you an apostle bearing witness against you,
as we sent an apostle unto Pharaoh.

But Pharaoh rebelled against the apostle, and we seized him with an
overpowering punishment.

Then how will ye shield yourselves if ye misbelieve from the day which
shall make children grey-headed, whereon the heaven cleaves--its promise
shall be fulfilled!

Verily, this is a memorial, and whoso will, let him take unto his Lord
a way.1

Verily, thy Lord knows that thou dost stand up to pray nearly two-thirds
of the night, or the half of it or the third of it, as do part of those
who are with thee; for God measures the night and the day; He knows that
ye cannot calculate it, and He turns relentant towards you.

So read what is easy of the Qurn. He knows that there will be of you
some who are sick and others who beat about in the earth craving the grace
of God, and others who are fighting in the cause of God. Then read what
is easy of it and be steadfast in prayer, and give alms, and lend to God
a goodly loan, for what ye send forward for yourselves of good ye will
find it with God. It is better and a greater hire; and ask ye pardon of God;
verily, God is forgiving, merciful!

Note 1. From verse 20 the rest of the srah seems from its style to belong
to the Madnah period; and there is a tradition ascribed to Ayeshah that
it was revealed a year later than the earlier part of the chapter.


MECCA. 20 Verses.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
O THOU ENFOLDED in thy mantle,
Stand up all night, except a small portion of it, for prayer:
Half; or curtail the half a little,
Or add to it: And with measured tone intone the Koran,2
For we shall devolve on thee weighty words.
Verily, at the oncoming of night are devout impressions strongest,
and words are most collected;3
But in the day time thou hast continual employ
And commemorate the name of thy Lord, and devote thyself to
Him with entire devotion.
Lord of the East and of the West! No God is there but
He! Take Him for thy protector,
And endure what they say with patience, and depart from them
with a decorous departure.
And let Me alone with the gainsayers, rich in the pleasures of this
life; and bear thou with them yet a little while:
For with Us are strong fetters, and a flaming fire,
And food that choketh, and a sore torment.

The day cometh when the earth and the mountains shall be shaken;
and the mountains shall become a loose sand heap.

Verily, we have sent you an Apostle to witness against you, even
as we sent an Apostle to Pharaoh:

But Pharaoh rebelled against the Apostle, and we therefore laid
hold on him with a severe chastisement.

And how, if ye believe not, will you screen yourselves from the
day that shall turn children greyheaded?

The very heaven shall be reft asunder by it: this threat shall be
carried into effect.

Lo! this is a warning. Let him then who will, take the way to his

Of a truth,4 thy Lord knoweth that thou prayest almost two-thirds,
or half, or a third of the night, as do a part of thy followers. But
God measureth the night and the day: He knoweth that ye cannot
count its hours aright, and therefore, turneth to you mercifully.
Recite then so much of the Koran as may be easy to you. He
knoweth that there will be some among you sick, while others
travel through the earth in quest of the bounties of God; and others
do battle in his cause. Recite therefore so much of it as may be
easy. And observe the Prayers and pay the legal Alms,5 and lend
God a liberal loan: for whatever good works ye send on before for
your own behoof, ye shall find with God. This will be best and
richest in the recompense. And seek the forgiveness of God: verily,
God is forgiving, Merciful.


1 From the first line of this Sura, and its expressions concerning
the Koran, Prayer, and Future Punishment: from the similarity of
the tradition with regard to its having been preceded by a vision of
Gabriel (Beidh., etc.), it seems to belong to, or at least to describe,
a period, perhaps immediately succeeding the Fatrah, during which
the hours of night were spent by Muhammad in devotion and in the
labour of working up his materials in rhythmical and rhyming
Suras, and in preparation for the public assumption of the
prophetic office. Comp. especially verses 11, 19, 20, at the end,
with 11, 54, 55, of the preceding Sura.

2 Singe den Koran laut. H.v.P. Psalle Alcoranum psallendo. Mar.
Singe den Koran mit singender und lauter Stimme ab. Ullm.

3 Lit. most firm, perhaps, distinct.

4 This verse, according to a tradition of Ayesha, was revealed one
year later than the previous part of the Sura. Nldeke says it is
"offenbar ein Medinischer."

5 The reader will not be surprised to find in the very outset of
Muhammad's career a frequent mention of Alms, Prayer, Heaven,
Hell, Judgment, Apostles, etc., in their usual sense, when he
remembers that Judaism was extensively naturalised in Arabia,
and Christianity, also, although to a smaller extent. The words and
phrases of these religions were doubtless familiar to the Meccans,
especially to that numerous body who were anxiously searching
after some better religion than the idolatries of their fathers (v. on
Sura iii. 19, 60), and provided Muhammad with a copious fund
from which to draw.


MECCA. 11 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

BY the noon-day BRIGHTNESS,
And by the night when it darkeneth!
Thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither hath he been displeased.
And surely the Future shall be better for thee than the Past,
And in the end shall thy Lord be bounteous to thee and thou be
Did he not find thee an orphan2 and gave thee a home?
And found thee erring and guided thee,3
And found thee needy and enriched thee.
As to the orphan therefore wrong him not;
And as to him that asketh of thee, chide him not away;
And as for the favours of thy Lord tell them abroad.


1 This and the six following Suras are expressions of a state of
deep mental anxiety and depression, in which Muhammad seeks to
reassure himself by calling to mind the past favours of God, and by
fixing his mind steadfastly on the Divine Unity. They belong to a
period either before the public commencement of his ministry or
when his success was very dubious, and his future career by no
means clearly marked out.

2 The charge of the orphaned Muhammad was undertaken by
Abd-al-Mutalib, his grandfather, A.D. 576. Hishami, p. 35; Kitab
al Wakidi, p. 22, have preserved traditions of the fondness with
which the old man of fourscore years treated the child, spreading a
rug for him under the shadow of the Kaaba, protecting him from
the rudeness of his own sons, etc.

3 Up to his 40th year Muhammad followed the religion of his
countrymen. Waq. Tabari says that when he first entered on his
office of Prophet, even his wife Chadijah had read the Scriptures,
and was acquainted with the History of the Prophets. Spreng. p.
100. But his conformity can only have been partial.


MECCA. 8 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

HAVE we not OPENED thine heart for thee?
And taken off from thee thy burden,
Which galled thy back?
And have we not raised thy name for thee?
Then verily along with trouble cometh ease.
Verily along with trouble cometh ease.
But when thou art set at liberty, then prosecute thy toil.
And seek thy Lord with fervour.



In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

SAY: I betake me for refuge to the Lord of the DAY BREAK
Against the mischiefs of his creation;
And against the mischief of the night when it overtaketh me;
And against the mischief of weird women;1
And against the mischief of the envier when he envieth.


1 Lit. who blow on knots. According to some commentators an
allusion to a species of charm. Comp. Virg.Ec. vi. But the
reference more probably is to women in general, who disconcert
schemes as thread is disentangled by blowing upon it. Suras cxiii.
are called the el mouwwidhetani, or preservative chapters, are
engraved on amulets,etc.



In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

SAY: I betake me for refuge to the Lord of MEN,
The King of men,
The God of men,
Against the mischief of the stealthily withdrawing whisperer,1
Who whispereth in man's breast
Against djinn and men.


1 Satan.


MECCA 7 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

PRAISE be to God, Lord of the worlds!
The compassionate, the merciful!
King on the day of reckoning!
Thee only do we worship, and to Thee do we cry for help.
Guide Thou us on the straight path,2
The path of those to whom Thou hast been gracious; with whom
thou art not angry, and who go not astray.3


1 This Sura, which Nldeke places last, and Muir sixth, in the
earliest class of Meccan Suras, must at least have been composed
prior to Sura xxxvii. 182,where it is quoted, and to Sura xv. 87,
which refers to it. And it can scarcely be an accidental
circumstance that the words of the first, second, and fifth verses do
not occur in any other Suras of the first Meccan period as given by
Nldeke, but frequently in those of the second, which it therefore,
in Nldeke, opinion, immediately precedes. But this may be
accounted for by its having been recast for the purposes of private
and public devotion by Muhammad himself, which is the meaning
probably of the Muhammadan tradition that it was revealed twice.
It should also be observed that, including the auspicatory formula,
there are the same number of petitions in this Sura as in the Lord's
Prayer. It is recited several times in each of the five daily prayers,
and on many other occassions, as in concluding a bargain, etc. It is
termed "the Opening of the Book," "the Completion," "the
Sufficing Sura," the Sura of Praise, Thanks, and Prayer," "the
Healer," "the Remedy," "the Basis," "the Treasure," "the Mother
of the Book," "the Seven Verses of Repetition." The
Muhammadans always say "Amen" after this prayer, Muhammad
having been instructed, says the Sonna, to do so by the Angel

2 Islam

3 The following transfer of this Sura from the Arabic into the
corresponding English characters may give some idea of the
rhyming prose in which the Koran is written:

Bismillahi 'rahhmani 'rrahheem.
El-hamdoo lillahi rabi 'lalameen.
Arrahhmani raheem.
Maliki yowmi-d-deen.
Eyaka naboodoo, wayaka nest aeen.
Ihdina 'ssirat almostakeem.
Sirat alezeena anhamta aleihim, gheiri-'l mughdoobi aleihim, wala
dsaleen. Ameen.


MECCA. 6 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I worship not that which ye worship,
And ye do not worship that which I worship;
I shall never worship that which ye worship,
Neither will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your religion; to me my religion.1


1 This Sura is said to have been revealed when Wald urged
Muhammad to consent that his God should be worshipped at the
same time with the old Meccan deities, or alternately every year.
Hishmi, p. 79; Tabari, p. 139. It is a distinct renunciation of
Meccan idolatry, as the following Sura is a distinct recognition of
the Divine Unity.


MECCA. 4 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

SAY: He is God alone:
God the eternal!
He begetteth not, and He is not begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.


MECCA. 5 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

LET the hands of ABU LAHAB1 perish,and let himself perish!
His wealth and his gains shall avail him not.
Burned shall he be at the fiery flame,2
And his wife laden with fire wood,
On her neck a rope of palm fibre.


1 Undoubtedly one of the earliest Suras, and refers to the rejection
of Muhammad's claim to the prophetic office by his uncle, Abu
Lahab, at the instigation of his wife, Omm Djemil, who is said to
have strewn the path of Muhammad on one occasion with thorns.
The following six Suras, like the two first, have special reference
to the difficulties which the Prophet met with the outset of his
career, especially from the rich.

2 In allusion to the meaning of Abu Lahab, father of flame.


MECCA. 3 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

TRULY we have given thee an ABUNDANCE;
Pray therefore to the Lord, and slay the victims
Verily whose hateth thee shall be childless.1


1 A reply to those who had taunted Muhammad with the death of
his sons, as a mark of the divine displeasure.


MECCA. 9 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Woe to every BACKBITER, Defamer!
Who amasseth wealth and storeth it against the future!
He thinketh surely that his wealth shall be with him for ever.
Nay! for verily he shall be flung into the Crushing Fire;
And who shall teach thee what the Crushing Fire is?
It is God's kindled fire,
Which shall mount above the hearts of the damned;
It shall verily rise over them like a vault,
On outstretched columns.


MECCA. 7 Verses

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

WHAT thinkest thou of him who treateth our RELIGION as a lie?
He it is who trusteth away the orphan,
And stirreth not others up to feed the poor.
Woe to those who pray,
But in their prayer are careless;
Who make a shew of devotion,
But refuse help to the needy.


MECCA. 8 Verses

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

THE DESIRE of increasing riches occupieth you,
Till ye come to the grave.
Nay! but in the end ye shall know
Nay! once more,in the end ye shall know your folly.
Nay! would that ye knew it with knowledge of certainty!
Surely ye shall see hell-fire.
Then shall ye surely see it with the eye of certainty;
Then shall ye on that day be taken to task concerning pleasures.



In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.

By the night when it veils!

And the day when it is displayed!

And by what created male and female!

Verily, your efforts are diverse!

But as for him who gives alms and fears God,

And believes in the best,

We will send him easily to ease!

But as for him who is niggardly,

And longs for wealth,

And calls the good a lie,

We will send him easily to difficulty!

And his wealth shall not avail him

When he falls down (into hell)!

Verily, it is for us to guide;

And, verily, ours are the hereafter and the former life!

And I have warned you of a fire that flames!

None shall broil thereon, but the most wretched, who says it
is a lie and turns his back.

But the pious shall be kept away from it, he who gives his
wealth in alms, and who gives no favour to any one for the sake
of reward, but only craving the face of his Lord most High; in
the end he shall be well pleased!


Mecca. 52 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Nun.1 By the PEN2 and by what they write,Thou, O Prophet; by
the grace of thy Lord art not possessed!3

And truly a boundless recompense doth await thee,
For thou art of a noble nature.4
But thou shalt see and they shall see
Which of you is the demented.

Now thy Lord! well knoweth He the man who erreth from his path,
and well doth he know those who have yielded to Guidance;

Give not place, therefore, to those who treat thee as a liar:

They desire thee to deal smoothly with them: then would they be
smooth as oil with thee:

But yield not to the man of oaths, a despicable person,
Defamer, going about with slander,
Hinderer of the good, transgressor, criminal,
Harsh beside this, impure by birth,
Though a man of riches and blessed with sons.

Who when our wondrous verses are recited to him saith "Fables
of the ancients."

We will brand him on the nostrils.

Verily, we have proved them (the Meccans) as we proved the
owners of the garden, when they swore that at morn they would cut
its fruits;

But added no reserve.5

Wherefore an encircling desolation from thy Lord swept round it
while they slumbered,

And in the morning it was like a garden whose fruits had all been

Then at dawn they called to each other,

"Go out early to your field, if ye would cut your dates."

So on they went whispering to each other,

"No poor man shall set foot this day within your garden;"

And they went out at daybreak with this settled purpose.

But when they beheld it, they said, "Truly we have been in fault:

Yes! we are forbidden our fruits."

The most rightminded of them said, "Did I not say to you, Will ye
not give praise to God?"

They said, "Glory to our Lord! Truly we have done amiss."

And they fell to blaming one another:

They said, "Oh woe to us! we have indeed transgressed!

Haply our Lord will give us in exchange a better garden than this:
verily we crave it of our Lord."

Such hath been our chastisement but heavier shall be the
chastisement of the next world. Ah! did they but know it.

Verily, for the God-fearing are gardens of delight in the presence
of their Lord.

Shall we then deal with those who have surrendered themselves to
God, as with those who offend him?

What hath befallen you that ye thus judge?
Have ye a Scripture wherein ye can search out
That ye shall have the things ye choose?
Or have ye received oaths which shall bind Us even until the day
of the resurrection, that ye shall have what yourselves judge right?

Ask them which of them will guarantee this?

Or is it that they have joined gods with God? let them produce
those associate-gods of theirs, if they speak truth.

On the day when men's legs shall be bared,6 and they shall be
called upon to bow in adoration, they shall not be able:

Their looks shall be downcast: shame shall cover them: because,
while yet in safety, they were invited to bow in worship, but would
not obey.

Leave me alone therefore with him who chargeth this revelation
with imposture. We will lead them by degrees to their ruin; by
ways which they know not;

Yet will I bear long with them; for my plan is sure.

Askest thou any recompense from them? But they are burdened
with debt.

Are the secret things within their ken? Do they copy them from the
Book of God?

Patiently then await the judgment of thy Lord, and be not like him
who was in the fish,7 when in deep distress he cried to God.

Had not favour from his Lord reached him, cast forth would he
have been on the naked shore, overwhelmed with shame:

But his Lord chose him and made him of the just.

Almost would the infidels strike thee down with their very looks
when they hear the warning of the Koran. And they say, "He is
certainly possessed."

Yet is it nothing less than a warning for all creatures.


1 It has been conjectured that as the word Nun means fish, there
may be a reference to the fish which swallowed Jonas (v. 48). The
fact, however, is that the meaning of this and of the similar
symbols, throughout the Koran, was unknown to the
Muhammadans themselves even in the first century. Possibly the
letters Ha, Mim, which are prefixed to numerous successive Suras
were private marks, or initial letters, attached by their proprietor to
the copies furnished to Said when effecting his recension of the
text under Othman. In the same way, the letters prefixed to other
Suras may be monograms, or abbreviations, or initial letters of the
names of the persons to whom the copies of the respective Suras

2 This Sura has been supposed by ancient Muslim authorities to
be, if not the oldest, the second revelation, and to have followed
Sura xcvi. But this opinion probably originated from the
expression in v. 1 compared with Sura xcvi. 4. Verses 17-33 read
like a later addition, and this passage, as well as verse 48-50, has
been classed with the Medina revelations. In the absence of any
reliable criterion for fixing the date, I have placed this Sura with
those which detail the opposition encountered by the Prophet at

3 By djinn. Comp. Sur. xxxiv. 45.

4 In bearing the taunts of the unbelievers with patience.

5 They did not add the restriction, if God will.

6 An expression implying a grievous calamity; borrowed probably
from the action of stripping previous to wrestling, swimming, etc.

7 Lit. the companion of the fish. Comp. on Jonah Sura xxxvii.
139-148, and Sura xxi. 87.


MECCA. 20 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I NEED not to swear by this SOIL,
This soil on which thou dost dwell,
Or by sire and offspring!1
Surely in trouble have we created man.
What! thinketh he that no one hath power over him?
"I have wasted," saith he, "enormous riches!"
What! thinketh he that no one regardeth him?
What! have we not made him eyes,
And tongue, and lips,
And guided him to the two highways?2
Yet he attempted not the steep.
And who shall teach thee what the steep is?
It is to ransom the captive,3
Or to feed in the day of famine,
The orphan who is near of kin, or the poor that lieth in the dust;
Beside this, to be of those who believe, and enjoin stedfastness on
each other, and enjoin compassion on each other.
These shall be the people of the right hand:
While they who disbelieve our signs,
Shall be the people of the left.
Around them the fire shall close.


1 Lit. and begetter and what he hath begotten.
2 Of good and evil.

3 Thus we read in Hilchoth Matt'noth Aniim, c. 8, "The ransoming
of captives takes precedence of the feeding and clothing of the
poor, and there is no commandment so great as this."

MECCA. 5 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

HAST thou not seen1 how thy Lord dealt with the army of the

Did he not cause their stratagem to miscarry?
And he sent against them birds in flocks (ababils),
Claystones did they hurl down upon them,
And he made them like stubble eaten down!


1 This Sura is probably Muhammad's appeal to the Meccans,
intended at the same time for his own encouragement, on the
ground of their deliverance from the army of Abraha, the Christian
King of Abyssinia and Arabia Felix, said to have been lost in the
year of Muhammad's birth in an expedition against Mecca for the
purpose of destroying the Caaba. This army was cut off by
small-pox (Wakidi; Hishami), and there is no doubt, as the Arabic
word for small-pox also means "small stones," in reference to the
hard gravelly feeling of the pustules, what is the true interpretation
of the fourth line of this Sura, which, like many other poetical
passages in the Koran, has formed the starting point for the most
puerile and extravagant legends. Vide Gibbon's Decline and Fall,
c. 1. The small-pox first shewed itself in Arabia at the time of the
invasion by Abraha. M. de Hammer Gemaldesaal, i. 24. Reiske
opusc. Med. Arabum. Hal, 1776, p. 8.


MECCA. 4 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

For the union of the KOREISCH:
Their union in equipping caravans winter and summer.
And let them worship the Lord of this house, who hath provided
them with food against hunger,
And secured them against alarm.1


1 In allusion to the ancient inviolability of the Haram, or precinct
round Mecca. See Sura, xcv. n. p. 41. This Sura, therefore, like the
preceding, is a brief appeal to the Meccans on the ground of their
peculiar privileges.


MECCA. 5 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

VERILY, we have caused It1 to descend on the night of POWER.

And who shall teach thee what the night of power is?

The night of power excelleth a thousand months:

Therein descend the angels and the spirit by permission of their
Lord for every matter;2

And all is peace till the breaking of the morn.


1 The Koran, which is now pressed on the Meccans with increased
prominence, as will be seen in many succeeding Suras of this

2 The night of Al Kadr is one of the last ten nights of Ramadhan,
and as is commonly believed the seventh of those nights reckoning
backward. See Sura xliv. 2. "Three books are opened on the New
Year's Day, one of the perfectly righteous, one of the perfectly
wicked, one of the intermediate. The perfectly righteous are
inscribed and sealed for life," etc. Bab. Talm. Rosh. Hash.,  1.


MECCA. 17 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

BY the heaven, and by the NIGHT-COMER!
But who shall teach thee what the night-comer is?
'Tis the star of piercing radiance.
Over every soul is set a guardian.
Let man then reflect out of what he was created.
He was created of the poured-forth germs,
Which issue from the loins and breastbones:
Well able then is God to restore him to life,
On the day when all secrets shall be searched out,
And he shall have no other might or helper.
I swear by the heaven which accomplisheth its cycle,
And by the earth which openeth her bosom,
That this Koran is a discriminating discourse,
And that it is not frivolous.
They plot a plot against thee,
And I will plot a plot against them.
Deal calmly therefore with the infidels; leave them awhile alone.


MECCA. 15 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

BY the SUN and his noonday brightness!
By the Moon when she followeth him!
By the Day when it revealeth his glory!
By the Night when it enshroudeth him!
By the Heaven and Him who built it!
By the Earth and Him who spread it forth!
By a Soul and Him who balanced it,
And breathed into it its wickedness and its piety,
Blessed now is he who hath kept it pure,
And undone is he who hath corrupted it!
Themoud1 in his impiety rejected the message of the Lord,
When the greatest wretch among them rushed up:
Said the Apostle of God to them, "The Camel of God! let her
But they treated him as an impostor and hamstrung her.
So their Lord destroyed them for their crime, and visited all alike:
Nor feared he the issue.


1 See Sura vii. 33, for the story of Themoud.


MECCA. 42 Verses

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

HE FROWNED, and he turned his back,1
Because the blind man came to him!


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