« السابقةمتابعة »
tions, of very unequal length, which we call chapters, but the Arabians Sowar, in the singular Súra ; a word rarely used on any other occasion, and properly signifying a row, order, or regular series; as a course of bricks, in building, or a rank of soldiers, in an army; and is the same, in use and import, with the Súra, or Tora, of the Jews; who also call the fifty-three sections of the Pentateuch, Sedárim, a word of the same signification. These chapters are not, in the manuscript copies, distinguished by their numerical order ; but, usually, from the first word of note : exactly in the same manner as the Jews have named their Sedarim.
Every chapter is subdivided into smaller portions, of very unequal length also ; which we customarily call verses; but the Arabic word is Ayát, the same with the Hebrew Ototh, and signifies signs or wonders; such as are the secrets of God, his attributes, works, judgments, and ordinances, delivered in these verses.
“The Mohammedans have in this, also, imitated the Jews, that they have superstitiously numbered the very words, and letters, of their law; nay, they have taken the pains to compute the number of times each particular letter of the alphabet is contained in the Korân.
“ Beside these unequal divisions of chapter
and verse, the Mohammedans have also divided their Korân into sixty equal portions, which they call Ahzháb, in the singular Hizb; each subdivided into four equal parts : which is also an imitation of the Jews; who have an ancient division of their Mishna, into sixty portions, called Massictoth.
“ Next after the title, at the head of every chapter, except only the ninth, is prefixed the following solemn form, by the Mohammedans called the Bismillah, IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD; which form they constantly place at the beginning of all their books and writings in general, as a peculiar mark, and distinguishing characteristic of their religion ; it being counted a sort of impiety to omit it. The Jews, for the same purpose, make use of the form, IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, or IN THE NAME OF THE GREAT GOD. And the eastern Christians, that of, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY Ghost."*
From the foregoing extracts it appears, that, in its several titles, divisions, and subdivisions, the volume of the Koran is constructed and distributed with the minutest attention to the titles, divisions, and subdivisions, which had been appropriated, by the Jewish church, to the sacred volume of the Old Testament.
* Prelim. Disc. Sect. iii. pp. 74–78.
The analogy which Mahometanism thus maintains with Judaism, through the medium of their respective sacred books, may be illustrated, in the next place, by a remarkable historical coincidence ; namely, the parallel questions raised by the Moslem doctors, and by the Jewish rabbins, respecting the creation, or the non-creation, of the Koran and of the Pentateuch.
Whether the Koran was created, in time, or had, from all eternity, existed in the essence of God, formed the subject of a celebrated Mahometan controversy ; which, under the Abasside dynasty, gave birth to fierce debates, and cruel persecutions, throughout the eastern empire of the Saracens. The more violent of the controversialists denied, altogether, the doctrine of its creation in time: the more moderate conceded that the Koran was created; but maintained that its creation took place at a prior date, and in a different and more excellent manner, than that of the heavens, and of the earth, and of all things contained therein. Thus Jahia, in his commentary, affirms, that, “two thousand
years ere he created the heavens and the earth, God wrote the Koran, and deposited it under his throne.” Now the very same claim is advanced by the tradition of the rabbins, with regard to the books of Moses; to which, rabbinical authority assigns a similar priority of date, and dignity of creation, before all the other works of God. Like the Mahometan, again, the Jewish doctors assert, that the Law, as promulgated in the time of Moses, had been created many ages previously to the creation of the world : and, according to the Gemara, it is styled “a good gift, laid up in the treasury of God; which was created by Him, nine hundred and seventy-four ages before the creation of the world.”*
Another tenet of Mahometans, relative to their Koran, may be noticed in connection with the notion of its pre-existence: I mean the doctrine that the Koran was not revealed to Mahomet, originally as a whole ; but that it was sent down from heaven in parts, and communicated to him piece-meal, as the occasion demanded.t This device of the Arabian impostor plainly appears to have been suggested by the rabbinical doctrine touching the Pentateuch: for the Gemara not only affirms, that the books of Moses were originally delivered to him in parts or sections, but defines, also, the several portions,
* Mill, pp. 363-365.
† “ We have dictated it gradually; and by distinct parcels.” Koran, chap. xxv.
and assigns the specific occasions of their delivery:*
The outward reverence manifested by the Jews for their Scriptures, is strongly marked, in their traditional law, by the solemn prohibitions, either to touch the volume of the Law with unwashen hands, or to handle it even with purified hands, without the intervention of a case or cover; the neglect of which precautions, the rabbins solemnly denounce as a heinous sacrilege, and imprecate curses on the heads of the offenders: now the very same prohibitions are enacted by Mahometan tradition; which, in like manner, proscribes the handling of the Koran with naked or unwashen hands; and enjoins that the copies of it shall be kept carefully covered with skins bearing this inscription, “ Let' none touch it except the pure." +
While, in its whole external history, it bears an affinity, thus circumstantial and peculiar, to the sacred volume of the Jews, the volume of the Mahometan pseudo-scriptures does not want for sufficient spurious marks of internal relation, also, both to the Old and New Testaments.
* Mill, pp. 365, 366.
t • This is the excellent Koran: none shall touch the same, except those who are clean." Koran, ch. lvi. ad fin. The sentiment appears to have been taken from the Greek philosophy. It was a maxim of Socrates, touching the reverence due to God, μη καθαρή καθαρου εφαπτεσθαι, μη ου Bemetov. Compare Mill, ut supr. pp. 366,367.