Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/64

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the qurʼân

of the Qur′ân, which did not probably differ greatly from that which we now possess. As we have already seen, the whole was strung together without any reference to the chronological order, and with very little regard to the logical connection of various passages. The longer Sûrahs were placed at the beginning and the short ones at the end, although the order of their revelation was for the most part just the reverse. And, lastly, many odd verses appear to have been inserted into various Surahs for no other reason than that they suit the rhyme.

The text was so far fixed by Zâid, but not the reading of it. In the first place, the vowel points, which make often a very great difference in the meaning of a word, were probably hardly ever, if at all, used; again, many persons were still alive who themselves remembered portions of the Qur′ân by heart, but who did not agree as to individual words, or who remembering the sense only substituted some of the locutions of their own tribe for the actual words of Mohammed.

These tribal dialects often differed diametrically in the use of particular words; thus i‘hfa′un means ‘to conceal’ in the dialect of one tribe and ‘to display’ in that of another; when such words occurred, as they often do, in the Qur′ân, they could not fail to give rise to disputes as to their interpretation.

In the present recension of the Qur′ân there are comparatively few various readings recognised, but it is clear that great variations existed from the very first. On more than one occasion Mohammed himself dictated the same passage to different persons with different readings; and the ‘traditional saying’ ascribed to him, that ‘the Qur′ân was revealed according to seven modes of reading,’ shows what latitute he himself allowed. The other interpretation of this tradition, namely, that ‘the Qur′ân may be read according to the seven Arabic dialects,’ was obviously invented to check the tendency to perversion of the text according to individual fancy, and is plainly refuted by the fact that the persons to whom the saying was uttered,