Page:Koran - Rodwell - 2nd ed.djvu/19

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3
Preface


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 Nöldeke, in his Geschichte des Qôrans, 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 as 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 Nöldeke 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 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