Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/53

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the alternative of resorting to a pious fraud or of relinquishing all the results which he has previously attained. At the outset of his career he turned to the Jews, imagining that, as he claimed to restore the original religion of Abraham, and appealed to the Jewish scriptures for confirmation of his teaching, they would support him. Disappointed in this quarter, he treated them with more bitter hostility than any other of his opponents.

In the latter part of his career he took but little notice either of the Jews or Christians, and when he does mention the latter it is without any of the conciliatory spirit which he at first displayed to them, and they are not only sharply reproved for their errors, but are included in the general mass of infidels against whom the true believers are to fight.

Mohammed styles himself in the Qurʼân En Nebîy elʼummîy (Chap. Ⅶ, vers. 156 and 158), which may be interpreted either 'the illiterate prophet' or 'the prophet of the Gentiles,' as the word ʼUmmiyûn in Chap. Ⅱ, ver. 73 means rather 'those who have no scriptures.'

Mohammedans themselves differ very much as to whether the prophet could read or write, the Sunnîs denying it and the Shîʿahs declaring that he was able to do both. The evidence of the fact, though, is very untrustworthy, and in the traditional accounts of the occasions on which he is said to have written, the words may mean nothing more than that he dictated the documents in question. In the Qurʼân, ⅩⅩⅨ, 47, it is merely said that he never 'recited a book before this,' and the passages in Chap. ⅩⅭⅥ, vers. 1-6, which begin 'Read,' and in which the angel Gabriel is supposed to exhibit the Umm al Kitâb (see p. 2, note 2) and to command him to read it, the act implied may be nothing more than an intuitive perception of the contents of the book thus mysteriously shown to him.

It is probable that he could neither read nor write, and it is almost certain that he could not have done so sufficiently to have made use of any of the Jewish or Christian scriptures.

The oral Jewish and Christian traditions incorporated in the Qurʼân were, no doubt, current among the Jewish and