The Bible and Islam/Revelation and Prophecy

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THE present lecture will examine conceptions funda mental to all religions, at least to all the higher relig ions. Granted the existence of a God, how is His will made known to man ? It is obvious that He does not speak audibly to all men. Although He makes Him self known in nature, the majority of mankind are too blind or too heedless to attend to this word. If men are to know God they must have a more distinct message. And this message is given by the voice of men to whom God has communicated it, and whom He calls to the office of His heralds. The doctrine of such a message is fully adopted in Islam. Along-side of the declaration that there is no God but Allah, we hear the equally emphatic declaration that Mohammed is the Apostle of Allah. Mohammed so described himself, having borrowed the title, as well as the idea, from the earlier revealed religions.

The conception of prophecy is, in the case of Mo hammed, complicated by the further idea that the revelations given by a prophet constitute a book. The two do not necessarity go together. Take the earlier prophets of Israel. Elijah and Elisha seem to have felt no impulse to put their utterances into per manent form. Their expectation was probably the



samo to which the Book of Deuteronomy gives ex pression that God would provide a succession of prophets for His people. Their guidance would be continuous and constant ; the people would always be able to appeal to a living organ of revelation. God would always be in touch with them and they with Him.

Curiously enough the publication of the very Book which formulated this expectation of a constant suc cession of prophets, introduced another conception, which has now displaced the former both in Judaism and in Christianity. Instead of looking to the man of God and inquiring : what saith the Lord ? we now open the pages of the Book of God and inquire : what do we find written ? The spoken word of God has become the recorded Book of God. Mohammed re ceived the idea in this form. With him revelation and Scripture belonged together. Allow me to show this in a few words.

In the first place, it is very doubtful whether Mo hammed himself could read or write. The question has been debated more fully than its importance war rants. The zealous Moslem is very willing to argue that he could not, because the miracle of the Koran seems thereby to be made the greater. Modern scholars, whose culture is inseparably connected with books, cannot conceive of a man of such influence being ig norant. All that we know is, that when Mohammed had occasion to write, he employed an amanuensis, and that in one place in the Koran he is addressed thus : " Thou wast not accustomed before this to read a book nor to write with thy right hand then the deceivers


were in doubt." As in the immediate context he is speaking of sacred books, he may mean no more than that he had not been a reader of such books ; though the general terms which he uses naturally imply that he had no acquaintance with any books.

But if we hesitate to draw this conclusion, and so leave the general question undecided, we may yet ac cept the plain statement of the passage : Until a time when he was fairly launched upon his career, Moham med had not read the Bible.

This conclusion is confirmed by the contents of the Koran. Although (as we have seen) a large part of this book is derived ultimately from the Bible, yet in no instance does it show, on the part of the author, such exact knowledge as would come from the study, or even the reading, of its text. He makes but one or two quotations from it. Even when he professes to give the substance of certain parts of it as the covenant between God and Israel he reproduces them very imperfectly. The stories he takes from it, vary in a multitude of details from their originals. He makes gross chronological blunders, as where he identifies the Virgin Mary with the Old Testament Miriam. He so misunderstood Judaism that he says the Jews make Ezra the son of God something which even superficial acquaintance with the Old Testament would have prevented. In a tradition it is related that when he built his mosque at Medina, he was asked

  • Koran, 29 T . Those who wish to sec a fuller discussion of Mo

hammed s literary attainments may consult Noldeke, Geschichte des Korans, p. 8 ; Goldziher, Die Zahiriten, p. 171 ; Sprenger, Leben des Muhammed, II., p. 3U8.


why lie did not make it of more substantial materials. He replied : " My temple shall be like the tabernacle of Moses, which was made of wood and straw." *

All the evidence, then, goes to show that Moham med s acquaintance with the Bible came from oral communication with Jews and Christians. Although our knowledge of Mecca during Mohammed s early life is very imperfect we are tolerably certain that there was no considerable number of either Jews or Christians there. Of the Jews at Medina we have ample knowledge, and if there had been either syna gogue or church at Mecca the fact would doubtless have been preserved by tradition. All that tradition tells us is that there were a very few Christians at Mecca, the most of them slaves. It speaks also of Waraka, a cousin of Chadija, Mohammed s first wife, who was a Christian " and accustomed to write the Gospels in Hebrew " by which, no doubt, Syriac is meant. This Waraka is made by tradition to recog nize Mohammed as a prophet at the very beginning of his career ; and it is possible that such a man ex isted, and that he influenced Mohammed, f But the desire of tradition to secure Christian recognition and endorsement for Mohammed is so strong, that we are obliged to be cautious in receiving this account as though it was a historic fact. More weight may be allowed to the assertion that there were Christian slaves ^ at Mecca to whom Mohammed s attention was called by their chanting of the Scriptures.

  • Sprenger, III., p. 14. Cf. Koran 2", 9<.

f On Waraka, cf. Bochari, I. p. 3.

JMuir refers to three such slaves all of whom became Moslems,


Let us imagine a religious inquirer led to converse with sucli slaves. We may assume that they had no Arabic translation of the Bible. Their Bible was probably in Syriac. Besides this, it is extremely un likely that they had any books, even Syriac books, in their possession. Books were a rare commodity and not owned by slaves. But Christian slaves would have some knowledge of the Bible, especially of those parts of the Bible most frequently used in the public service. This would include the Psalms and Gospels quite certainly, for these were used in the churches from very early times. Let us suppose their knowl edge to bo limited in amount and crude in quality. The question with us is : What effect would their use of Scripture have upon an inquirer like Mohammed ?

For one thing it would satisfy a want of his soul. We can hardly help supposing that he was already religiously awakened. He was dissatisfied with the ancestral religion and longing for something better. This desire would lead him to inquire for a wor thy service of God. Liturgy is an important part of every religion. Mohammed is dissatisfied with heathenism ; he is seeking a way in which to serve God. He comes across these young men and hears their chant. Asking what it means, lie is told that they are celebrating the praises of God. On further inquiry he is told that the words they use are forms supplied by God Himself from His holy Book. It seems to me that he would recognize in this service

Life of Mahomet, II., p. 122. It is interesting to note that Zaid, who may be called a forerunner of Mohammed, was exercised about the right way to worship God. lln Hischam^ I., p. 108.


just what he was looking for ; that he would find this an entirely worthy service, and would have a great desire to adopt such a service for himself.

Now tradition assures us that for some time before his call, Mohammed used to retire to a cave near Mecca, and give himself, for days at a time, to exer cises of devotion. It does not seem fanciful to sup pose that he was endeavoring to serve God after the manner just described. In this endeavor we can see that he would meet with some perplexities. The ser vice of Jews and Christians, he had learned, is based upon a divine book. This book was inaccessible to him. If he could get a copy it would be useless to him because in a foreign language. The broken Arabic of his Christian friends would be inadequate in form. In this perplexity, he would naturally throw himself upon God. If God in His mercy would only send him portions of His Book, as He had sent por tions to the prophets, how gladly would he receive them and use them in a service of praise !

Such desires would raise the further question why may not God send an Arabic prophet ? To Moham med all the world was organized in tribes like those of Arabia. The tribe of the Jews had been favored by God with more than one prophet. The tribe of the Christians had had Jesus. It would not be strange if Arabia should be visited by the divine grace. If such a prophet were to arise he would be furnished with such divinely appointed liturgical compositions as the Psalms. Not that Mohammed would lay any special stress upon their being written down. His conception of a book was not like ours. We think of


a book as something to be read in a quiet corner, and studied, and pondered over. To him a book was a repository of words that were to be read aloud or re cited. If its contents were known by heart, the writ ten document was unnecessary.

As we well know, Mohammed called his revelations Koran. A single chapter is a Koran, and the whole collection is the Koran. The verb from which this name is derived does not mean to read in our sense, but to read aloud, to recite, or to chant precisely the act which is performed in the public service of the Church, the Synagogue, and the Mosque. The pres ence or absence of a written exemplar makes no dif ference. The recitation is a qur an just the same. The words recited may be called a book, even although they are not committed to paper. Mohammed makes the infant Jesus in the cradle speak and describe himself thus : " I am the servant of God, He has given me the Book and made me a prophet." It would be absurd to suppose the new-born babe holding a ma terial book in his hand. What is meant is that the infant prophet had the truth in his heart. With this agrees the description of the Koran as " clear verses in the breasts of those who have received knowledge " ; and in another passage the revelation is sent upon the heart of the Prophet himself that he should become one of the warners.f

Let us look now at the tradition of the call of Mo hammed. We must use it with a certain reserve, for Ayesha, from whom it is received, was only eighteen years old at the time of her husband s death, and the

  • Koran, 19 31 . f 29 18 , 2G 91 .


event of which she speaks took place before her birth. All she could have heard was Mohammed s recollec tions of his call ; and whether she was capable of un derstanding clearly what he attempted to describe, or of repeating his account without additions sug gested by her own lively imagination, is a question. However, the information is the best we have, and we must make the best we can out of it. It reads as follows :

"The first of the revelations which came to the Apostle of Allah was a good dream ; and he did not have a dream without there coming something like the break of day. Then he liked to be alone and he used to go to the cave of Hira and purify himself this [purification] was a performance of religious ex ercises several nights until he desired [to return to] his family. And he used to provide himself with food for these periods and did so again and again, until [finally] the truth came to him. And he was in the cave of Hira, and the angel came to him and said : Recite! He replied: I cannot recite.* Then, said he [that is, Mohammed] he took hold of me and squeezed me to the utmost of my endurance. Then he let me go and said again : Recite ! " The same answer was given and the same action repeated a second and a third time. At the last the angel re peated these verses, which now constitute a part of the Koran :

Recite in the name of thy Lord who created, Created man from a clot of blood ; Reeite! Thy Lord is bountiful ;

  • Literally : I am not a reciter.


He who has taught man by the pen :

Taught him what he did not know.

But man is rebellious

As soon as he sees himself becoming rich ;

Yet verily to thy Lord they shall return ! " *

The verses are in rhymed prose a form which ex tends throughout the Koran. We should note how ever that in the earlier suras we have a much nearer approach to a regular metre than in the later com positions. In the revelation before us, the verses are nearly equal in length and also short, so that the rhyme and the rhythm strike the ear at once. These early suras are all well adopted for the cantillation or intonation which prevails in the public service of the Oriental Church as well as in that of the Synagogue.

It must be confessed that the account of Moham med s call is not altogether clear. But the main facts seem worthy of credence. The first of these is that Mohammed was deeply concerned on the subject of religion. This is evidenced by his frequent and pro longed visits to the lonely cave. There is a tradition which even affirms that his religious anxiety brought him to the verge of suicide. If this be true, it only shows more clearly the depth of his emotion. The next fact indicated is that he had a vision of the night. This is not the only indication that his early revela tions were received in the night. For the present it is sufficient to note that tradition brings his earliest experience of this kind into connection with a vivid dream. Lastly we notice that the vision brings him something which we suppose he would greatly desire,

  • Koran, 9G - 8 .


that is, a form which he could use for the worship of God.

The endeavor to make the experiences of a religious mind psychologically intelligible is one frequently made but rarely successful. It is doubtful whether if we could cross-question Mohammed himself, we could explain all his experiences. But tentatively we may be allowed to construct from the data before us a story such as he would tell us, and which would be logically consistent. We suppose him anxious on the subject of religion, convinced that the one true God does reveal Himself to His servants, and possessed by a strong desire to know His way more perfectly. With this on his mind Mohammed spends days in his cave, meditating on these things and calling upon God. At last in the midst of the little sleep he allows himself, he has a vivid dream. A bright light seems to break upon him. He sees a radiant form, which speaks and gives him what he has sought. The evidence of the truth of the vision is the stanza which remains in his memory after he awakes, a form of words which he can use in the praise of his Lord. If this were Mo hammed s experience it was an experience which brings him into the company of many others. For many seekers after truth and beauty have confessed that after long striving a striving which has brought them to despair the object of their search has come to them suddenly like the rising of the dawn.

The next sura in point of time is said to be one that begins : " O Thou who art wrapped in a gar ment ! " Tradition has fastened on these words, and has invented a situation for them. It tells us that


Mohammed was subject to epileptic fits, and that, when he felt these coming on, he would have Chadija wrap him in a covering so that he would be protected from the air, or from the gaze of curious -visitors. On the basis of this tradition a modern scholar * has built up an elaborate theory of Mohammed s epileptic or hysterical disease. But the foundation is insuffi cient. The tradition is built upon the single phrase just quoted which describes the one addressed as wrapped in a garment. But every oriental wraps himself in a garment when he lies down to sleep. All that we can legitimately conclude from the words is that the revelation came to the Prophet when he was asleep. " Awake, thou that sleepest ! " is the nat ural meaning of the address, and we have here an other evidence that these earlier revelations came as visions of the night. The famous night journey to Jerusalem is evidence in the same direction.f

Because his first visions were visions of the night, it does not follow that all the later ones were of the same kind. The statements are many to the effect that the Prophet had visions also in his waking hours. He would become apparently unconscious ; breathed heavily ; the perspiration broke out upon him even in a wintry day. $ After such a fit, he would give an answer to a question that had perplexed him, or would recount a vision that he had seen. How far

  • Sprenger in his Leben und Lelire des Muhammed.

t The night visit is alluded to 17 1 . It should be noted that two suras (73 and 74) begin with an address to the one wrapped in a garment.

J Bochari, I., p. 3, II., pp. 117, 132, 186; Vakidi ("Wellhausen), p. 181.


he was subject to physical disease, and how far these extraordinary states may be explained as the result of mental excitement, is difficult to say. We can readily see the strong emotion which any one would feel at the approach of a heavenly messenger. Any man of ordinary sensibility, if convinced that he was about to receive a superhuman revelation, would become ex cited, and his emotion might produce physical effects such as are here described for us. In order to ac count for them, it is not necessary to suppose either that Mohammed was epileptic or that he was playing a part.

It is to our present purpose to point out that, both in the matter of dreams and of waking visions, Mo hammed s experience was similar to that of the Bibli cal organs of revelation. The importance of dreams is evident upon the face of the Old Testament narra tive. Jacob has a decisive revelation in a dream. Joseph s dreams foreshadowed God s dealings with him. The author of the Book of Job assumes that God speaks to men " in thoughts from the visions of the night when deep sleep falleth on men." So in the New Testament ; the angel which encouraged Paul stood by him in the night, the most natural in terpretation of the words being that he appeared in a dream. Without laying stress upon the cases where the dream is sent to startle the unbeliever (as Pharaoh or Nebuchadrezzar) it is clearly made out that, to tho Old Testament writers, the dream was one method of revelation. Jeremiah, to be sure, speaks slighting ly of dreams and seems to contrast them with the voice which came to the prophet. But this we must 12


explain as a reaction against the abuse of dreams by the prophets of his time.

And if the waking vision produced extraordinary physical manifestations, or was accompanied by ex traordinary physical manifestations in Mohammed, the same is seen in the Old Testament prophets. Balaam speaks of himself as falling down when he had the vision of the Almighty. Ezekiel fell upon his face when he saw the chariot of glory. So did Daniel at the appearance of Gabriel ; and John, when ke had a revelation of the Son of Man, fell at his feet like one dead. The phenomena are strikingly alike, though a direct connection does not seem to exist.

But it is time to look beyond these externals to the substance of Mohammed s revelations. What was it to which he w r as called ? To answer this question we may look at one or two of these early chapters. One has been already quoted. Another, to which allusion has been made, reads as follows :

" O, tliou who art wrapped in a garment ; Rise and warn ! And magnify thy Lord, And cleanse thy garments, And flee iniquity !

And do not spend with the desire of gain ; And wait patiently for thy Lord ! When a blast is blown upon the trumpet That will be a distressful day, Not easy for the unbelievers. " *

  • Koran, 74 M0 . The rhyme changes in the next verse, so that

this section is probably a revelation by itself.


The message is evidently a command to preach. " Arise and warn " is its key-note. The rest is inter preted by this. In order to warn, he must himself bo an example of faith. That is, he must worship in an acceptable manner, purifying his garments and call ing upon the name of his Lord. It is this which was emphasized in the first revelation. The Prophet is there called upon to recite the praises of God, that is, to spend the time in worship. In both, the com mand is motived by the thought of the approaching judgment. Man is rebellious and will be brought to an account. The trumpet will be blown and a dis tressful day ensue. These are evidently reasons for the command to warn men of their danger. In this respect, the call of Mohammed is like the call to the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the prophets in general, are sent to rebuke a sinful nation, to declare the wrath of God, and to threaten approaching calamity.

If we desire further light upon what Mohammed felt called to do, we may examine others of his early compositions, for we may be sure that hi them he tries to carry out the command of God. What we find on such examination is, that some of these are forms of prayer. Thus :

" Praise be to God, Lord of the Ages, The Compassionate, the Merciful, King of the Day of Judgment : Thee we serve and to Thee we cry for help, Lead us in the straight path, The path of those to whom Thou art gracious, Upon whom is no wrath and who do not stray. *

  • Koran, 1, the well known Fatiha.


A profession of faith is a part of worship, so that we put here the following :

" God is one, The Self-existent ; He begets not and is not begotten, And none is equal to Him." *

Evidently designed to be used in worship are some others, as the fifty-fifth, which with its recurring re frain reminds us of Psalm 136. Far more numerous are the addresses designed to warn men of their dan ger. For example :

" The desire of gain absorbs you, Until you visit the tomb. Yet you shall certainly know, Then shall you certainly know ! Nay ! If you knew with clear knowledge You would certainly see the flame ; Then would you see it with clear eye, In that day you shall be asked concerning your pleasures."!

This one is somewhat vague in its description of the expected punishment, though it is interesting for its accusation of covetousness as the root of men s evil actions. Usually the judgment is depicted with vividness, as in the following :

" When the heavens shall open, And shall hear their Lord and obey ; When the earth shall be laid flat, And shall cast away what is in it and be empty, And shall hear its Lord and obey

  • Koran, 112. f 102 -


O, man though them strive hard against thy Lord, yet

shalt thou meet Him.

And he who receives his book in his right hand Shall be judged leniently, And shall return to his friends with joy. But he who receives his book behind his back Shall wish for annihilation, And shall suffer the Fire. Once he rejoiced amid his friends He thought he should not be moved. Yet verily, thy Lord was observing him.

But what ails them, that they do not believe ? And, when the Scripture is recited, do not bow ? The unbelievers even accuse it of being false ! But God knoweth their secret thought. Therefore bring them tidings of a severe punishment, But those who believe and do well receive an unstinted reward."*

These citations are enough to show what Mohammed understood to be his mission. He had received a call to worship God and to preach. This call he obeyed to the best of his ability. Doubtless he had some shrinking before appearing in public, as is indicated in the tradition where the angel uses force before he secures obedience. In this also he will be found in line with the Biblical prophets. Moses seeks to be excused from the work to which he is called, on the ground of inability to speak, and Jeremiah pleads his youth as a reason why he should not be sent to Judah. This is, of course, a natural experience ; we can hardly suppose that Mohammed was influenced here by his Biblical knowledge.

  • Koran, 84.


In his later life, however, he elaborated the theory of revelation more distinctly, and in the additional details we can clearly trace Biblical ideas. Up to this point we have had only tradition to go upon, for the mode of revelation. For the later period we have more positive assertions in the Koran. As to the objective reality of w r hat he saw he never had any doubt. But he was sometimes obliged to assure his followers of it. So we have a description of his ex periences in the following :

" By the Pleiades when they set ! Your fellow-citizen is not astray or erring. He does not speak his own fancy. [What he speaks] is a revelation sent to him. The Mighty in power taught it to him The Possessor of strength. He stood erect In the upper horizon ; Then he drew near and condescended, And was two bows lengths [from him] or nearer. And he made known to his servant what he made known. The heart did not deceive concerning what it saw ; And will you dispute concerning what he saw? He saw him another time, By the sidra tree of the border, Near which is the garden of abode ; Then covered the sidra tree that which covered it, The eye did not turn aside nor refuse [to look], And he saw the greatest of the signs of his Lord." *

The language is obscure in places and is made more so, rather than less, by the commentators. These suppose the sidra tree spoken of, to bo located in heaven. It seems to me, on the contrary, to be on

  • Koran, 53 1 18 .


earth, in fact to be a well-known tree at Mecca, men tioned for the purpose of locating the experience of which the Prophet speaks. He saw this tree covered with something he purposely does not describe it more exactly probably a bright light such as was spoken of in tradition and compared to the daybreak. This miracle, upon which his eye was able to look steadfastly, was one of the theophanies in his experi ence. It is impossible not to see in it a reminiscence of the burning bush in Exodus. At another time, the Prophet tells us, he saw a figure appear in the horizon which descended to the place where he himself was, and talked with him. So in Israel the angel of Yah weh calls out of heaven,* or descends thence, as is evidenced by his ascending in the flame of the sacri fice when his errand is performed. f These analogies would lead us to suppose the nameless being of Mo hammed s vision also to be an angel. So he is called by the interpreters, and later by Mohammed himself. But I suspect that in the original meaning of this sura, the one Mighty in power is Allah Himself. If, however, Mohammed did not clearly distinguish be tween Allah and His Angel, we have another Biblical resemblance. For, as we know, the Old Testament presents the Angel of Yahweh speaking and acting like Yahweh Himself.

In his later revelations Mohammed speaks dis tinctly of the angel who is sent to him. In one in stance only is this angel called Gabriel : " Say to them : Who is the enemy of Gabriel ? It is he who brought down [the revelation] to thy heart by the

  • Gcn. 22 11 - 15 . fjudg. 13 M .


command of Grod, to confirm what was before re vealed, a guidance and good tidings to the believ ers." * We recall that Gabriel is the messenger of God both in the Old Testament and in the New. That it was New Testament influence, rather than Old, which led Mohammed to adopt him is evident from this very passage. The Jews had the theory that Gabriel was the angel sent with bad tidings to Israel, while the briuger of good tidings was Michael. They therefore refused to accept Mohammed, or rather made this the ostensible ground of their refusal. Had he been under Jewish influence he would have called the an gel Michael rather than Gabriel.

We must note again that Mohammed in some cases attributes his revelations to the Spirit : " This is a revelation of the Lord of the Ages with which the faithful spirit came down into thy heart that thou shouklst be one of the warners ; " " The spirit of holiness brought it down from thy Lord in truth to strengthen those who believe." f As Mohammed re fused to adopt the doctrine of the Trinity, he could have no idea of the Spirit as a distinct person of the Godhead. He seems to have wavered between the conception that the Spirit is one of the angels, and the conception that it is an influence carried by the angels to the prophets. The variations in his doctrine do not concern us here. All that we need to bear in mind is, that he had adopted the Biblical teaching that the Spirit is the Revealer so far as this doc trine agreed with his theology in general.

The fact once established in his mind that he was

  • Koran, 2 11 . t2 J : J - f , 1C 104 ,


commissioned as a Prophet, Mohammed drew certain inferences, which became important parts of his sys tem, and which we canno t ignore in treating his doc trine of revelation. The first of these was that by his call he became one in the line of prophets and religious leaders, of which the world had already seen several. This point has been already touched upon in our discussion of the narrative material in the Koran. As we there saw, the characters most prom inently in his mind were the great founders of relig ion, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. These formed the chain of which now, by his election, he became the concluding link. It went with this that his relig ion was not new. He only claimed to reproduce what had been revealed to his predecessors. Every relig ious movement seems naturally to seek itself in the past. Thus the Hebrews saw faith exemplified in Noah and Abraham ; Judaism claimed Moses as its founder ; the Apostles pointed back to David and Isaiah; the Reformers renewed the Christianity of the Apostles. Mohammed s course is parallel with these. And, like them, he tried to link his religion with earlier ones not only by his renewal of their principles, but by their supposed prophecies of him. This claim that he was predicted in the earlier Scriptures is unmistakably, though not very fre quently, put forward in the Koran. In a compara tively late sura we find : " Jesus the son of Mary said : O, Children of Israel, verily I am the Apostle of God to you confirming the Tora which you already have, and bringing tidings of an Apostle to come after me whose name is Ahmed." * In another place he is

  • Kornn, fil 6 .


spoken of as " the vernacular * prophet whom they find described in their own [books], in the Tora and the Gospel." What predictions Mohammed himself had in mind in these declarations seems impossible to make out. The Arabic commentators do not hesi tate to refer to him all the Messianic passages of the Old Testament. The Messianic hope, as we know, did not cease with the coming of Christ, and we can scarcely wonder that Mohammed applied it to him self. For the words of Jesus which lie claims in the passage quoted, tradition points to the promise of the Paraclete in the Gospel of John. It is significant that this promise had already been appropriated by Mani,^ for there are some indications that Moham med got his Christianity from a heretical source. What interests us here is not the particular passage in the Prophet s mind, but the general claim that he was not only the legitimate successor of the earlier Messengers of God, but was also foreseen and expect ed by them as the " seal " or culmination of their mission.

Another inference from the firmly held belief that he was a prophet, is prominently put forward in the

  • The translation is only probable. Mohammed elsewhere em

phasizes the fact that he brings an Arabic revelation. The refer ence here is 7 156 . For a discussion of the passages of Scripture ap plied by Moslems to Mohammed cf . Brockelmann, " Muhammed- anische Weissagungen im Alten Testament," Z.A.T.W., XV. pp. 138 ff., 312, with remarks by Bacher, Hid., p. 309; also Goldziher, Z.D.M.G., XLII., and Revue des Etudes Juires, XXX., pp. 1-23. One Mohammedan author finds no less than fifty-one prophecies of Islam in the Bible.

t Cf. Ilerzog, P.R.E. 2 , IX., p. 231. The passage in John is cited by Ibn Ishnk, cf. Weil s Ibn Hiscliam, I., p. 112.


Koran, to wit : that his revelation, as embodied in the Koran, is the same in substance with the sacred books which had preceded. Remember that he made the Book an abstraction. He made it at least an in tellectual and spiritual entity, not a material thing of paper and ink. His revelations were generally writ ten down, to be sure ; they were collected at last from fragments of papyrus and parchment and bones, but also from the breasts of men. The record upon which Mohammed relied however was the memory of his followers. Nevertheless he regarded his detached fragments as parts of a transcendental unity which he called the Book, and whose real existence was in heaven.

Looking more narrowly at what he says of this Book, we discover that he has combined two concep tions originally separate. In connection with the great thought of the judgment, he had adopted the theory of a book of record kept in heaven. In the early suras there are several references to this book, which seems to be either a record of actions or a record of names.* It needed only a little expansion of this to make the book a book of fate containing the whole of God s will for all history. But a book of God was also revealed to the Jews and Christians. They meant by it, to be sure, an earthly codex. Yet the earthly codex might be but the transcript of a heavenly orig inal. According to Jewish tradition,f the Tora was created before the creation of the heavens and the

  • Koran, 78" 2J , 83 4 - 9 - 18 - !t >.

f Midrasch Bereschith RaUba (Wiinsche), p. 31. And cf. Weber, Altsynagogale Theologie, p. 14.


earth. Indeed we see that the natural implication of the phrase Book of God is that the original is writ ten in heaven. The inference was made by Moham med : " This is a noble Koran, in a carefully guarded book, touched only by the pure, a revelation from the Lord of the Ages." *

Mohammed s conception therefore may be defined as follows : there is a great book of God s decrees, written in heaven. From this book, portions are sent down to the successive prophets. These are the parts of the Book fitted for the guidance of men into true faith, true worship, and right conduct. The Pentateuch, the Gospel, and the Koran, are all ex tracts from this original. They are therefore identical in substance, and one corroborates the other. One of the earliest of Mohammed s revelations alludes to the rolls of Abraham and Moses, as containing a warning similar to the one just delivered by him self. It is unnecessary to suppose, with Spreuger, that there is a reference here to pseudepigrapha which circulated under these titles. The Pentateuch might well be described under the name of the roll of Abraham or the roll of Moses. In later passages we find it distinctly said that the Koran confirms the preceding revelations : " Before this was the Book of Moses, a guide and a gift of grace, and this [Koran] is a book which asserts the truth [of the other] in Arabic, that it may warn the evil-doers." f The atti tude of the Prophet is well brought out in what he is commanded to say to the Jews of Medina who per-

  • Koran. 5G 7 "- 73 , uf. 8o~- f ., SO 13 f .

f 4G", cf. 2 <:! , G- - 1 , 12 n , 35- 8f .


sisted in asking him troublesome questions about the Tora : " Say to them : We believe in God and what is revealed to us, and in what was revealed to Abra ham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the [twelve] tribes, and in what Moses and Jesus and the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no difference between them and we are resigned to Him." * Al though Koran was the proper name of the portion revealed to him, he seems in one instance to call the whole body of revealed books by this name. This is where he denounces the dividers who make the Koran parts. The most natural explanation of the words is that they refer to the Jews and Christians who, by rejecting the later while accepting the earlier revela tion, put asunder what Mohammed joined together.

The theory of Mohammed is a perfectly consistent one, and when he had formulated it, he did not waver. The Jews, we may well believe, made strenuous ef forts to convict him of error, in that he represented their Tora to be identical with his revelations. The only effect on his mind was to strengthen the convic tion of their obstinacy and deceit. We wonder a little that he did not take more pains to acquaint himself with the exact contents of Tora and Gospel. Yet not a few theologians, before his time and since, have been willing to rest in their a priori system, and have ignored or denied those facts which conflicted with it. The attitude of Mohammed is seen in the anecdote that Omar brought a Pentateuch to Mo hammed and offered to read out of it. The anger of the Prophet appeared in his face and Omar desisted,

  • Koran, 3 7R .


saying : " God protect me from the anger of God and His Apostle ! It suffices me that God is my Cherisher, and Islam my religion, and Mohammed my prophet." Then Mohammed said: "If Moses were alive and knew my prophecy he would follow me." The posi tion of Mohammed is quite intelligible. The princi ples of Islam were established ; for the faith of its disciples the confirmation of these principles from the Bible was unnecessary. On the other hand the facts might be inconvenient. On either view, it was best to let well enough alone.

It was not the facts of the older Scriptures alone that were troublesome. The Koran itself did not al ways seem to bear out the character given it. It could not be expected that a collection of occasional leaflets, published at intervals during more than twenty years, should be free from inconsistencies or even contra dictions. Such inconsistencies were admitted by Mohammed himself. Some of them he removed by erasure. In some cases he laid the blame on his own memory, and once ho confessed that Satan had mis led him. Finally he declared that God abrogated some regulations by later enactments.f It is possible that the theory of abrogation was at first invented to account for discrepancies between the Bible and the Koran. Two of the passages which state the theory are in a context which has to do with the Jews ; and the thought in Mohammed s mind seems to have been something like this : " Should the Jews object that

  • Mishcat, I., p. 53.

t The theory, with a list of the abrogated verses, is given in Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, p. 520.


this revelation does not agree with theirs, we reply that God is able to erase parts of His revelation He may do what He will with His own." The theory once accepted was a welcome recourse, when dis crepancies came to light in the Koran itself.*

It seems strange to us that Mohammed made no forecast of the future. One would suppose that the experience which led him to abrogate regulations only a few years old, would show hirn that other laws vvould need to be modified after his death. But this seems not to have occurred to him. The necessities of the hour absorbed his thoughts. In the main, no doubt, he felt that the principles laid down by him would be a sufficient guide for all time to come. It must be remembered also that he gave tradition a part in the regulation of his community. In this re spect he never took the Protestant position which makes the Scriptures the exclusive arbiter in matters of faith and life. He would have accepted, rather, the rule of the early Church in which Apostolic tradition had so large a part.

Koran and tradition together make up the infallible rule of faith and practice in the Moslem Church. Of the two parts, the Koran must always have the first place a clear sentence in the Koran, unless it is one

  • The Koran passages are 2 100 , 13 39 f , both of which are in con

nection with allusions to the earlier revelations. A tradition gives a Koran verse which was not only abrogated but obliterated Bo- chari, III., p. 190. The fact that the Tora did not contain some things which ought to be in it on his theory, Mohammed explains by saying that the Jews concealed them from the Moslems; " Our Apostle has come to you revealing a great part of what you arc ac customed to conceal of the Book." 5 18 .


that has been abrogated by another sentence in the Koran, is decisive. This position of arbiter is parallel to what is asserted of the older revelation : " We sent down the Tora as a guide and a light ; by it the pious prophets judged the Jews ; and the "Rabbis and the Scribes [still] judge by what is committed to them of the Book of God, and are witnesses concerning it." Mohammed goes on to give a summary of the Old Testament lex talionis and adds : " And whoever does not judge by what God has revealed, these are the wicked." * A little later in the same chapter Jesus is said to have received the Gospel "that the peo ple of the Gospel should judge by what God re vealed." Then comes Mohammed, who also has re- ceived a book and who is exhorted thus : " Then judge between them by what God has revealed, and do not follow their desires, turning away from what has come to thee of the truth. To each of you we have given a law and a plain path." f

This declaration puts the Koran into the same po sition of supreme law for the Moslem which the Tora occupies for the Jew, and which the Gospel occupies for the Christian. The conception of the revelation as law becomes especially prominent in the later period of Mohammed s life. We can readily account for this. At Medina the simple warner and bringer of tidings had become the theocratic ruler and judge over a small but heterogeneous community, unused to a settled form of government. His decisions, there fore, became precedents and his regulations became laws. These were embodied in the Koran, which,

  • Koran, o 1? f . t 5 lJ .


in this period differs materially in character from the earlier revelations. The later suras are in a sense the archives of the infant state. " The con duct of the disaffected, the treatment of allies, the formation of treaties, the acceptance of terms and other political matters [now] found a place among the divine messages. Liberality in contributing toward the expenses of war the only object requiring a public purse is continually inculcated. The elements of a code both criminal and civil are also introduced. Pun ishments for certain offences are specified, and a mass of legislation [is] laid down for the tutelage of orphans, for marriage, divorce, sales, bargains, wills, evidence, usury, and other similar concerns. Further, there are copious instructions for the guidance of the be liever in his private life and special provisions . . . regulating the intercourse of Mahomet with his sub jects and with his own family." * This occasional character of the Koran is most conspicuous in its al lusions to the experiences of Mohammed himself. Many of these are interesting for the glimpse they give us into the heart of the speaker ; as where he betrays his great anxiety to work a miracle. Some of them are comical ; as where he teaches etiquette to the too familiar or too noisy Bedawin : " O, Believers, do not lift your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not shout at him as you shout at each other ; else your deeds are of no avail, though you know it not. They who speak low in the presence of the Apostle of God, these are they whose hearts God has disposed toward piety." f And again : " O,

  • Muir, Life of Mahomet, III., 295. t Koran, 49- f .



Believers, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except he invite you to eat with him ; and do so without looking at his furniture. But when you are invited, then enter ; and when you have eaten, then go your ways, and do not be familiar in your con versation. This pains the Prophet, though he is ashamed to tell you ; but God is not ashamed of the truth. And when you ask anything of them [that is, his wives], ask it from the other side of a curtain this is more innocent for your hearts and for theirs. It is not becoming in you to pain the Prophet, nor to marry his wives after his death. This were in the sight of God a great sin."* To bring in a divine revelation in order to ease the jealous heart of a fond old man, seems to us to border on blasphemy. And when the same method is taken to justify him in violating the rule which he had himself made on the subject of marriage,t and again to vindicate his fa vorite wife when she was the subject of scandal, we are shocked and disgusted.

  • Koran, 33 53 The houses of the Prophet were a row of huts

around a court. Each wife had one, and Mohammed dwelt with them by turns.

t Mohammed had ordered his followers to take not more than four wives. He increased his own hareem to nine or more and justified himself by a revelation (33 49 ). He was seized with a pas sion for the wife of his adopted son Zaid. Zaid divorced her, but it was against customary morals for a man to marry the divorced wife of an adopted son. After some wavering, Mohammed com manded himself (in a revelation) to take her; and of course he thus set aside the old law (33 :i7 ). In forbidding remarriage on the part of the widows he might leave, he possibly had Jewish precedent in mind, according to Sale, Prelim. Dis , who cites Mishna SanhedHn, to prove that the widow of a prince should not remarry


In view of such exhibitions of selfish weakness, our impulse is to set down their author as a vulgar im postor, whose aim from the beginning was to secure enjoyment and influence by a forged and fraudulent revelation. In doing this we should easily do him an injustice. Even these exhibitions of weakness may be explained as the defect of a quality. Mo hammed had placed his trust in Allah, and he was convinced that Allah had distinguished him by his favor. It is of the essence of faith to believe that God loves us and cares for us individually. One of the most pleasing suras of the Koran is the expres sion of this faith :

By the morning ; By the night when it grows dark ; Thy Lord has not forsaken nor rejected thee ; And the future shall be better than the past. Thy Lord will give thee and thou shalt be satisfied. Did He not find thee an orphan and adopt thee ? And find thee poor and enrich thee ? Then do not oppress the orphan ; And do not repulse the one who asks ; And recount the mercies of thy Lord. *

In a mind whose early moral training has been de fective we can see that such a faith may lead to self- deception. It is to be feared that not a few Chris tians have taken virtually the position of Mohammed that God so loves them as to indulge their weak nesses even as an earthly father indulges a favorite child.

To pursue this subject would take us beyond the

  • Sura 93, and of. 94.


proper limits of this inquiry. We are here investi gating the nature of the influence exerted by the Bible on the religion of Mohammed. For the sub ject of this lecture we may describe this influence as follows :

1. Mohammed s general doctrine of revelation was undoubtedly derived from the Bible. The doctrine is that God reveals His will to chosen men Avho are commanded to speak for Him, and who are called prophets or apostles.

2. The revelation which the prophet receives is brought by an angel. This method of revelation, which is only occasional in the Bible, is made the rule by Mohammed, for he identifies revelation by the Spirit with this, because he makes the Spirit to be an angel. In some cases he so completely adopts the Biblical view that he gives the angel of revela tion the name Gabriel.

3. He speaks always (when delivering the message revealed to him) for God, using the pronoun of the first person, not to express his own mind, but to ex press the mind of God. In this also he follows Bibli cal precedent, where, in the height of prophetic speech, the ego of the prophet disappears before the Higher Ego.* Here also, what is occasional in the Old Testament has become the rule with Mohammed. That the cause of God is identified with the cause of the prophet, is the natural consequence of this view.

And in this connection we must not shut our eyes to the fact that God s care for His cause is, in the Old Testament, extended to the personal affairs of the

  • Eu ald, Propheten des Alien Bundes -, p. 33.


prophet. Jeremiah was informed by revelation of the intended treachery of his fellow-townsmen. Sam uel was directed by revelation in making use of a sub terfuge to deceive Saul, and thus to relieve his own fear. God identifies Elisha s honor with His own, and where the prophet relieves his feelings with a curse, God makes the curse effective in avenging the insult. Such examples show that Mohammed s pre sumption is not altogether without precedent.

4. The revelation received by the prophet is re garded by Mohammed as a transcript from a heavenly original. In this he has gone farther than any ex press declaration of the Bible, but it is not unfair to say that the general thought is Biblical. Besides what has already been said, we may notice that when Ezekiel received his revelation, a roll was given him by a heavenly hand. When he had eaten the book (devoured its contents we should say) he was prepared to speak to Israel.* The meaning is that his proph ecy was the communication of a heavenly original. The author of the Apocalypse has a similar experi ence in vision. On the basis of these passages the idea of a heavenly original, of which revealed books are transcripts, had arisen before Mohammed. Thus Enoch has the heavenly tablets shown him in which he reads "all the deeds of men to the latest genera tions, "f He is then able to embody these in his own

  • Ezek. 2 , 3 1 - 4 .

t Das Bucli Henoch, von Dillmann (1853), Kap. 81, p. 51. In the Book of Jubilees the Bible itself seems to be described as the heavenly tablets. Cf. Das Bucli der Jubilaen, Ewald, JahrMcher, II., pp. 237, 256.


book. But as Mohammed s idea of prophecy is more distinctly Biblical than that found in the Book of Enoch, there is probably no direct influence here to be discovered.

5. The sum of the revelations received by the prophet makes up a rule of faith and life. This idea is also Biblical ; at least, this is the point of view from which the New Testament regards the Old Tes tament, though it at the same time formulates a theory of abrogation similar to the one forced upon Mohammed.

Mohammed, therefore, held substantially Biblical views of Revelation and Prophecy.