Page:Koran - Rodwell - 2nd ed.djvu/20

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4
The Koran


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 fruit of God. He who at Mecca is the admonisher 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 attribute 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 his seasons of annual monthly retirement, for devotion meditation to Mount Hira, near Mecca,—the period of mental depression and re-assurance previous to the assumptions 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