Page:Koran - Rodwell - 2nd ed.djvu/24

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8
The Koran


died at Baghdad a.h. 310, composed annals of Muhammad's life and of the progress of Islam.

These ancient writers are the principal sources whence anything like authentic information as to the life of Muhammad has been derived. And it may be safely concluded that after the diligent investigations carried on by the professed collectors of traditions in the second century after the Hejira, that little or nothing remains to be added to our stores of information relative to the details of Muhammad's life, or to facts which may further illustrate the text of the Koran. But however this may be, no records which are posterior in date to these authorities can be considered as at all deserving of dependance. “To consider,” says Dr. Sprenger, “late historians like Abulfeda as authorities, and to suppose that an account gains in certainty because it is mentioned by several of them, is highly uncritical.” Life of Mohammad, p. 73.

The sources whence Muhammad derived the materials of his Koran are, over and above the more poetical parts, which are his own creation, the legends of his time and country, Jewish traditions based upon the Talmud, or perverted to suit his own purposes, and the floating Christian traditions of Arabia and of S. Syria. At a later period of his career no one would venture to doubt the divine origin of the entire book. But at its commencement the case was different. The people of Mecca spoke openly and tauntingly of it as the work of a poet, as a collection of antiquated or fabulous legends, or as palpable sorcery.[1] They accused him of having confederates, and even specified foreigners who had been his coadjutors. Such were Salman the Persian, to whom he may have owed the descriptions of Heaven and Hell, which are analogous to those of the Zendavesta; and the Christian monk Sergius, or as the Muhammadans term him, Boheira. From the latter, and perhaps from other Christians, especially slaves naturalised at Mecca, Muhammad obtained access to the teaching of the Apocryphal Gospels, and to many popular traditions of which those Gospels are the concrete expression. His wife Chadijah, as well as her cousin Waraka, a reputed convert to Christianity, and Muhammad's intimate friend, are said to have been well acquainted with the doctrines and sacred books both of Jews and Christians. And not only were several Arab tribes in the neighbourhood of Mecca converts to the Christian faith, but on two occasions Muhammad had travelled with his uncle, Abu Talib, as far as Bostra, where he must have had

  1. See Suras xxxvi. xxv, xvii.