THE word Quran is derived from the Arabic Qara, which occurs at the commencement of Sura xcv., which is said to have been the first chapter revealed to Muhammad ; and has the same meaning as the Hebrew kara, ” to read,” or to recite,” which is frequently used in Jeremiah xxxvi., as well as in other places in the Old Testament. It is, therefore, equivalent to the Hebrew ikra, rendered in Nehemiah viii. 18. ” the reading.” It is the title given to the Muhammadan Scriptures which are usually appealed to and quoted from as the ” Quran Majid,” or the ” Glorious Quran” , the Quran Sharif,”
THE earliest biographers of the Arabian Prophet, whose works are extant in Arabic, are Ibn-Ishaq (A.H. 151), Ibn-Hisham (A.H. 218), Waqidi (A.H. 207), and Tabari (A.H. 310). Ismail Abulfida, Prince of Hamah, in Syria (A.H. 733), compiled a Life of Muhammad in Arabic, which was translated by John Gragnier, Professor of Arabic at Oxford (A.D. 1723), and into English by the Rev. W. Murray, Episcopal clergyman at Duffus, in Scotland. Dr. Sprenger of Calcutta commenced a Life of Muhammad in English, and printed the first part of it at Allahabad (A.D. 1851); but it was never completed. The learned author afterwards published his work in German in 1869. The only Life of Muhammad in English, which has any pretension to original research, is that by Sir William Muir of the Bengal Civil Service. [Life of Mahomet. 4 vols. Svo. London, 1858-61. New Edition. 1 vol. Svo. London, 1877]
Muhammad (lit. the praised one], son of Abdul Muttalib, by his wife Amina, was born at Mecca, August 29th, A.D. 570. He assumed his prophetic office at the age of forty, fled from Mecca at the age of fifty-four, and died at Medinah, June 9th, A.D. 632, aged sixty -two.
The Hirat, or Hegira (the flight from Mecca), which is the Muhammadan era, dates from July 16th, A.D. 622.
The character of Muhammad is an historic problem, and many have been the conjectures as to his motives and designs. Was he an impostor, a fanatic, or an honest man ” a very prophet of God ? ” And the problem might have for ever remained unsolved had not the Prophet himself appealed to the Old and New Testament in proof of his mission. This is the crucial test, established by the Prophet himself. He claims to be weighed in the balance with the Divine Jesus. Having done so, we find him wanting.
Objection has often been made to the manner in which Christian divines have attacked the private character of Muhammad. Why reject the prophetic mission of Muhammad on account of his private vices, when yon receive as inspired the sayings of a Balaam, a David, or a Solomon ? We do not, as a rule, attack the character of Muhammad in dealing with Islam ; it rouses opposition, and is an offensive line of argument. Still, in forming an estimate of his prophetical pretensions, we contend that the character of Muhammad is an important item in our bill of indictment. We readily admit that bad men have sometimes been, like Balaam and others, the divinely appointed organs of inspiration ; but in the case of Muhammad his professed in spiration sanctioned and encouraged his own vices. That which ought to have been the foun tain of purity was, in fact, the cover of the Prophet s depravity. But how different it is in the case of the true prophet David, where, in the words of inspiration, he lays bare to public gaze the enormity of his own crimes.
The deep contrition of his inmost soul is manifest in every . line ” I acknowledge my transgression and my sin is ever before me : against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.” In forming an estimate of Muhammad s prophetical pretensions, it must be remembered that he did not claim to be the founder of a new religion, but merely of a new covenant. He is the last and greatest of all Gods prophets. He is sent to convert the world to the one true religion which God had before revealed to the five great lawgivers Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus! The creed of Muhammad, therefore, claims to supersede that of the Lord Jesus. And it is here that we take our stand. We give Muhammad credit as a warrior, as a legislator, as a poet, as a man of uncommon genius, raising himself amidst great opposition to a pinnacle of renown ; we admit that he is, without doubt, one of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen ; but when we consider his claims to supersede the mission of the Divine Jesus, we strip him of his borrowed plumes, and reduce him to the condition of an impostor!
” There are modern biographers of the Prophet who would have us believe that he was not conscious of false hood when making these assertions. He was under a hallucination, of course, but he believed what he said. This is to me incredible. The legends of the Koran are derived chiefly from Talmudic sources ; Muhammad must avowed his belief in the sacred books of the Jew and the Christian, and has given them all the stamp and currency which his authority and influence could impart, he has attempted to rob Christianity of every distinctive truth which it possesses its Divine Saviour, its Heavenly Comforter, its pure code of social morals, its spirit of love and truth and has written his own refutation and condemnation with his own hand, by professing to con firm the divine oracles which sap the very foundations of his prophetical pretensions.
To work them up in the form of rhymed Suras, to put his own peculiar doctrines in the mouths of Jewish patriarchs, the Virgin Mary, and the infant Jesus (who talks like a good Moslem from his birth), must have required time, thought, and labour. It is not possible that the man who had done all this could have forgotten all about it, and believed that these legends had been brought to him ready prepared by an angelic visitor. Muhammad was guilty of falsehood under circumstances where he deemed the end justified the means He was brought face to face with the question which every spi ritual reformer has to consider, against which so many noble spirits have gone to ruin, will not the end justify the means ? [ Islam under the Arabs,” by Major Durie Osborn, p. 21]
We follow the would-be prophet in his self- asserted mission from the cave of Hira to the closing scene, when he dies in the midst of the lamentations of his harem, and the contentions of his friends the visions of Gabriel, the period of mental depression, the contemplated suicide, the assumption of the prophetic office, his struggles with Meccan unbelief, his flight to Medina, his triumphant entry into Mecca and whilst we wonder at the genius of the hero, we pause at every stage and inquire, ” Is this the Apostle of God whose mission is to claim universal dominion to the suppression not merely of idolatry, but of Christianity itself? Then it is that the divine and holy character of Jesus rises to our view, and the inquiring mind sickens at the thought of the beloved, the pure, the lowly Jesus giving place to that of the ambitious, the sensual, the time-serving hero of Arabia. In the study of Islam the character of Muhammad needs an apology or a defence at every stage; but in the contemplation of the Christian system, whilst we everywhere read of Jesus, and see the reflection of His image in everything we read, the heart revels in the contemplation, the inner pulsations of our spi ritual life bound within us at the study of a character so divine, so pure.
We are not insensible to the beauties of the Quran as a literary production, although they have, without doubt, been overrated ; but as we admire its conceptions of the Divine nature, its deep and fervent trust in the power of God, its frequent deep moral earnestness, and its wisdom, we would gladly rid ourselves of our recollections of the Prophet, his licentious harem, his sanguinary battle-fields, his ambitious schemes; whilst as we peruse the Christian scriptures we find the grand central charm in the divine character of its founder. It is the divine character of Jesus which gives fragrance to his words ; it is the divine form of Jesus which shines through all He says or does; it is the divine life of Jesus which is the great central point in Gospel history. How then, we ask, can the creed of Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, supersede and abrogate that of Jesus, the son of God ? It is a remarkable coincidence that whilst the founder of Islam died feeling that he had but imperfectly fulfilled his mission, the founder of Christianity died in the full consciousness that his work was done. “It is finished.” It was in professing to produce a revelation which should supersede that of Jesus that Muhammad set the seal to his own refutation.
Waqidi relates that Muhammad shortly before his death called for a “shoulder blade” upon which to write another chapter of the Quran, which should prevent them going astray for ever.
ISLAM is the name given to the Muhammadan religion by its founder. Abdul Haqq (the commentator on the Mishkat) says it implies ” sub mission to the divine will.”
In the Dictionary of the Quran entitled Moghrab, Islam is explained as entering into peace (salm) with another,” alluding to the fact that he who embraces Islam in a Muhammadan state becomes free from all those penalities and disabilities which belong to one who does not embrace the faith.
In the Quran the word is used for doing homage to God. Islam is said to be the religion of all the prophets from the time of Abraham, as will appear from the following verses (Surat- ul-Imran, ver. 78, 79) : ” We believe in God and in what hath been sent down to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and in what was given to Moses, and Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between them, and to him are we resigned (i.e. Muslims). Whoso desireth any other religion than Islam, that religion shall never be accepted of him, and in the next world he shall be lost.”
There are three words used by Muhammadan writers for religion, namely, Din, Millat, and Mazhab ; and in the Kitab-ut-Tarifat the difference implied in these words is said to be as follows : Din as it stands in its relation to God, e.g. Din- Ullah, the religion of God ; Millat, as it stands in relation to a prophet or lawgiver, e.g. Millat-i-Ibrahim, the religion of Abraham ; and Mazhab as it stands in relation to the divines of Islam, e.g. Mazhab-i-Hanaji, the religion of Hanifa. The expression Din, however, is of general application.
Those who profess the religion of Islam are called Musalmans, Muslims, or Momins.
Ahl-i-Kitdb, “the people of the Book,” is used for Muhammadans, Jews, and Christians.