Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Koran by John Newton Brown 1844

The Koran, by John Newton Brown 1844

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KORAN, or with the article, Al-koran, (Alcoran,) i.e. the Koran, which originally means the reading, or that which is to be read, is the Bible, or religious code of the Mohammedans, written in Arabic by Mohammed. It is also called Al-Forkun, either from its division into distinct portions, or because it is regarded as that which divides right from wrong; Al-Moshaf, the volume; and Al-Kitab, the book.

It is the common opinion, that Mohammed, assisted by one Sergius, a monk, com-posed this book. The Koran, while Mohammed lived, was only kept in loose sheets: his successor, Abubeker, first collected them into a volume, and committed the keeping of it to Haphsa, the widow of Mohammed, in order to be consulted as an original; and there being a good deal of diversity between the several copies already dispersed throughout the provinces, Ottoman, successor of Abubeker, procured a great number of copies to be taken from that of Haphsa, at the same time suppressing all the others not conformable to the original. There are seven principal editions of the Koran; two at Medina, one at Mecca, one at Cufa, one at Bassora, one in Syria, and the common, or vulgar edition. The first contains six thousand verses, the others surpassing this number by two hundred or two hundred and thirty-six verses; but the number of words and letters is the same in all; viz. seventy-seven thousand six hundred and thirty-nine words, and three hundred and twenty-three thousand and fifteen letters. The number of commentaries on the Koran is so large, that the bare titles would make a huge volume. Ben Oschair has written the history of them, entitled Tarikh Ben Oschair. The principal among them are, Reidhari, Thaalebi, Zamalchschari, and Bacai. The Mohammedans have a positive theology built on the Koran and tradition, as well as a scholastical one built on reason. They have likewise their casuists, and a kind of canon law, wherein they distinguish what is of divine and what of positive right, They have their beneficiaries, too, chaplains, almoners, and canons, who read a chapter every day out of the Koran in their mosques, and have prebends annexed to their office. The katib of the mosque is what we call the parson of the parish; and the scheiks are the preachers, who take their texts out of the Koran.

It is the general belief among the Mohammedans that the Koran is of divine original; nay, that it is eternal and uncreated; remaining, as some express it, in the very essence of God, and the first transcript has been from everlasting, by God's throne, written on a table of vast bigness, called the preserved table, in which are also recorded the divine decrees, past and future; that a copy from this table, in one volume, upon paper, was, by the ministry of the angel Gabriel, sent down to the lowest heaven, in the month of Ramadan, on the night of power, from whence Gabriel revealed it to Mohammed in parcels, some at Mecca, and some at Medina, at different times, during the space of twenty-three years, as the exigency of affairs required; giving him, however, the consolation to show him the whole (which they tell us was bound in silk, and adorned with gold and precious stones of paradise) once a year; but in the last year of his life he had the favor to see it twice. In fine, the book of the Koran is held in the highest esteem and reverence among the Mussulmen. They dare not so much as touch the Koran without being first washed, or legally purified; to prevent which an inscription is put on the cover or label,—"Let none touch but they who are clean." It is read with great care and respect, being never held below the girdle. They swear by it; take omens from it on all weighty occasions; carry it with them to war; write sentences of it on their banners; adorn it with gold and precious stones; end knowingly suffer it not to be in the possession of any of a different religion. Some say that it is punishable even with death, in a Christian, even to touch it; others, that the veneration of the Mussulmen leads them to condemn the translating it into any other language as a profanation: but these seem to be exaggerations. The Mohammedans have taken care to have their Scripture translated into the Persian, the Javan, the Malayan, and other languages; though out of respect to the original, these versions are generally, if not always, interlineated.

The praise of all the productions of genius is invention; that quality of the mind, which, by the extent and quickness of its views, is capable of the largest conceptions, and of forming new combinations of objects the most distant and unusual. But the Koran bears little impression of this transcendent character. Its materials are wholly borrowed from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, from the Talmudical legends and apocryphal gospels then current in the East, and from the traditions and fables which abounded in Arabia. The materials collected from these several sources are here heaped together with perpetual and heedless repetitions, without any settled principle or visible connexion. When a great part of the life of Mohammed had been spent in preparatory meditation on the system he was about to establish, its chapters were dealt out slowly and separately during the long period of twenty-three years. Yet, thus defective in its structure, and no less objectionable in its doctrines, was the work which Mohammed delivered to his followers as the oracles of God. The most prominent feature of the Koran, that point of excellency in which the partiality of its admirers has ever delighted to view it, is the sublime notion it generally impresses of the nature and attributes of God. If its author had really derived these just conceptions from the inspiration of that Being whom they attempt to describe, they would not have been surrounded, as they now are, on every side, with error and absurdity. But it might be easily proved, that whatever it justly defines of the divine attributes, was borrowed from our Holy Scripture; which even from its first promulgation, but especially from the completion of the New Testament, has extended the views and enlightened the understandings of mankind; and thus furnished them with arms which have too often been effectually turned against itself by its ungenerous enemies. In this instance, particularly, the copy is far below the great original, both in the propriety of its images and the force of its descriptions.

It is, therefore, abundantly apparent, that no miracle was either externally performed for the support, or is internally involved in the composition of the Mohammedan revelation.

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