Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/85

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introduction.

mean ‘ he directed himself by his will to the heaven’ (Lane), and in others to mean ‘ he stood straight or erect’ (Lane). The expression occurs often in the Qurʼân as descriptive of God’s taking up a certain position with regard to the throne or highest heaven, and Muslim theologians have never ceased to debate concerning the exact nature of this position. El Ghazzâlî says that He ‘ istawâ ’ upon the throne in the manner he has himself described, and in the sense He himself means, but not by actual contact or local situation, while the throne itself is sustained by Him. To render it then by ‘ sitting ’ or ‘ ascending ’ would be to adopt a particular view of a very debatable question, and to give to the Arabic word a precision of meaning which it does not possess. The root of the word contains the notions of ‘ equality of surface ’ or ‘ uniformity,’ of ‘ making ’ or ‘ fashioning,’ and of ‘ being or going straight.’ I have, therefore, adopted a rendering which has a similar confusion of significations, and translated it ‘ made for,’ as in Chapter II, ver. 27, ‘ He made for the heavens.’ Where no question can arise concerning its interpretation, as, for instance, when it is used of a rider balancing himself on the back of his camel, I have rendered it simply ‘ settled[1].’

The notes that I have appended are only such as are absolutely necessary for understanding the text; for a full account of all the historical allusions, Arabic, Jewish, and Magian legends, with which the native commentators illustrate the Qurʼân, the reader is referred to the notes in Sale′s translation. The version of that eminent scholar fully deserves the consideration it has so long enjoyed, but from the large amount of exegetical matter which he has incorporated in his text, and from the style of language employed, which differs widely from the nervous energy and rugged simplicity of the original, his work can scarcely be regarded as a fair representation of the Qurʼân.

Rodwell’s version approaches nearer to the Arabic, but even in that there is too much assumption of the literary