Page:Koran - Rodwell - 2nd ed.djvu/17

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PREFACE


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 hithertho 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 Yemâma, a.h. 12, the loss of the greater part, or even of the whole, was imminent. Zaid Ibn Thâbit, 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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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,

  1. Mishcât, vol. i. p. 524. E. Trans. B. viii. 3, 3.
  2. Mishcât, as above. Muir, i. p. xiii. Freyt. Einl., p. 384. Memoires de l'Acad. T. 50, p. 426. Nöld. p. 205.