IT will be found, speaking generally of the whole sphere of human thought, whether we consider matters which have already become the clear and certain possession of mankind, or those which are left for the future to unveil and to determine with scientific precision, that almost always a correct intuition precedes scientific knowledge, so that a generally correct idea, though not yet supported by adequate evidence, obtains some hold on the minds of men. In this way the thesis of this treatise has long been recognised as probable, namely that Muhammad in his Quran has borrowed much from Judaism as it presented itself to him in his time, though for this opinion no sufficient grounds have hitherto been advanced. And the very endeavour to give this just conjecture its place among scientific certainties seems to have produced in the faculty the wish to see the subject accurately and thoroughly worked out by scholars, conversant with both the Quran and Judaism in their original sources; and to meet this wish I take up my present task, conscious indeed of feeble powers, but determined to use unsparing industry in the steadfast pursuit of my purpose. This is the end which we have in view, to wit, a scientific presentation, and not a mere list of apparent adaptations from Judaism, nor a statement of isolated facts dissevered from their historical connections. For this we must study the connection of the facts to be demonstrated with the whole life and work of Muhammad, as well as with those events of his time, which either
determined his actions or were determined by him. And so this treatise falls into two divisions, of which the first has to answer the following questions :-
Did Muhammad wish to borrow from Judaism? Could Muhammad borrow from Judaism? and if so, how was such borrowing possible for him? Was it compatible with his plan to borrow from Judaism? The second division must bring forward the facts to prove the borrowing, which has been stated on general grounds to have taken place. Only in this way can an individual proof of the kind referred to acquire scientific value, partly as throwing light upon the nature of Muhammad's plan, and partly as showing the intrinsic necessity of the fact and its actual importance by virtue of its connection with other facts of Muhammad's life and age. To this an appendix will be added, in which will be given a collection of those passages in which Muhammad seems not so much to have borrowed from Judaism, as to have reviewed it and that too in a hostile spirit.
It is not enough for us to give a dry meagre summary of the passages which appear to have some connection with Judaism, in order to show that Muhammad really possessed a certain knowledge of it, and used it in the establishment of his new religion, and that, further, a comparison with it makes clear many passages in the Quran. Rather is it our task to show how it was bound up with the spirit, the striving and the aims of Muhammad, with the mind of his time and the constitution of his surroundings, and thus to demonstrate the fact that, even were we deprived of all proofs which undeniably show Judaism to be a source of the Quran, the conjecture that a borrowing from Judaism had taken place would still have great probability. Thus it is necessary for us first to account for this as the philosophical development of a process, afterwards to be confirmed by historical evidence.
Three questions come prominently forward here: -
First: Did Muhammad really think he would gain any object by borrowing from Judaism? or, in other words, Did Muhammad of set purpose borrow from Judaism?
Second: Had Muhammad means, and what means had he, of attaining to a knowledge of Judaism? i.e., Could he thus borrow? and if so, how was it possible for him?
Third: Were there not other circumstances which militated against, or at all events limited such a borrowing?
Was it compatible with the rest of his plan so to borrow? Was it permissible for him, and if so on what grounds? These three enquiries form the different Sections of the first Division.
Did Muhammad wish to borrow from Judaism?
Although we may by no means ascribe to Muhammad a special liking for the Jews and for Judaism and indeed in his life, as well as in the writings which he left behind him as laws for posterity there are traces of hatred against both - still it is evident that, on the one hand, the power which the Jews had obtained in Arabia was important enough for him to wish to have them as adherents and, on the other, that they were, though themselves ignorant, far in advance of other religious bodies1 in that knowledge which Muhammad professed to have received by Divine revelation,2 as indeed he liked to assert of all his knowledge. The Jews, moreover, gave him so much trouble with witty and perplexing remarks that the wish to propitiate them must certainly have arisen in him.
That the Jews in Arabia at the time of Muhammad possessed considerable power is shown by the free life of many quite independent tribes, which sometimes met him in open battle. This fact is known especially of the Banu Qainuqa3 in the second or third year of the Hijra, also of the Bani Nadhir4 in the 4th year. The latter are spoken of by
Janab as a great family of the Jews.1 This fact is further known of the Jews in Khaibar2 with whom he fought in the 7th year. The Bani Nadhir are supposed to be referred to in Quran lix. 2. They are there described as so powerful that the Muslims despaired of their conquest, and the fastnesses which they possessed would have banished thoughts of a capture, if as Muhammad with probable exaggeration expresses it, they themselves had not destroyed their houses with their own hands, or as Abulfeda with greater historical probability asserts, they, fearing a long siege had not withdrawn themselves and turned to quieter regions. The want of settled civil life, which continued in Arabia till the rule of Muhammad, was very favourable to the Jews, who had fled to that country in large numbers after the Destruction of Jerusalem, inasmuch as it enabled them to gather together and to maintain their independence. A century before Muhammad, this independence had reached such a pitch that among the Himyarites the Jewish ruler actually had jurisdiction over those who were not Jews and it was only the mistaken zeal of the last Jewish Governor, Ibn Nawas3, which led him to a cruel attempt to suppress other creeds (which attempt is pictured for us with the very colours of a martyrologist), that brought about the fall of the Jewish throne by the coming of the Christian Abyssinian King.4 Although it seems to rue altogether improbable that the passage in Quran lxxxv. 4 refers to this event, partly because of the indefiniteness of the allusion and partly because on this supposition the Christians are called "the believers,"5 which is never the case elsewhere, though as a rule Muhammad's treatment
of the Christians was indulgent; and although I give an entirely different interpretation to this passage an interpretation borne out by every word,1 nevertheless this very mistake of the commentators shows the importance which the Arabs attached to this conquest of the Jewish ruler, and is a proof of the greatness of his former power. That the remains of such a power, even when shattered continued to be of importance is plain in itself, and is moreover clearly shown in a passage soon to be quoted,2 where the Himyarites are depicted as particularly unbelieving. An Arabian author3 mentions other tribes beside the Himyarites as adherents of Judaism, viz., the Banu Kinana Banu Hareth ben Kab, and Kinda.4
While this physical power of the Jews inspired partly fear, partly respect in Muhammad's mind, he was no less afraid of their mental superiority and of appearing to them as ignorant; and so his first object must have been to conciliate them by an apparent yielding to their views. That the Jewish system of belief was even then a fully developed one, which penetrated the life of each member of the community, is proved both by its antiquity and by the fact that the Talmud had already been completed. Though the Jews of that region were among the most ignorant, as is shown by the silence of the Talmud concerning them, and also by that which was borrowed from them and incorporated
in the Quran, yet very many traditions and pithy sayings survived in the mouth of the people, which doubtless gave to the Jews an appearance of intellectual superiority in those dark times and regions of ignorance and so gained for them honour in the sight of others. Thus it came about naturally that Muhammad wanted to learn their views and to include them in his community. It was not only the idea of swelling his society with these numbers of adherents1 that produced this wish in him, but also the way in which they defended their own cause and their mode of dealing with him. The fact that Muhammad very often came off second best in religious disputes is evident from several sayings, and particularly from the following very decided one : - "When thou seest those who busy themselves with cavilling at Our signs, depart from them until they busy themselves in some other subject; and if Satan cause thee to forgot this precept,2 do not sit with the ungodly people after recollection." This remarkably strong statement, in which he makes God declare it to be a work of the devil to be present at controversies about the truth of his mission shows how much Muhammad had to fear from argument. Intercourse with the Jews3 appeared to him to be dangerous for his Muslims also, and he warns them against too frequent communication or too close intimacy with the Jews. He naturally puts this forward on grounds, other than the right ones; but the real reason for the warning is obviously that Muhammad feared the power of the Jews to shake the faith of others in the religion revealed to him.4
Most characteristically, and doubtless quite in accordance with the intellectual manner of the Jews, this is shown in a witty and satirical play of question and answer, about which Muhammad complains bitterly, and which often gave him apparent weapons against the Jews, in that he regarded their utterances as bona fide expressions of opinion and not as mere teasing mockeries.
Thus, in order to gain reputation, and also because be was under the impression that, if some (he says ten) of the Jews would join him, all the rest would become his adherents,1 he made the attempt with some, who either had not have the courage to withstand him or else did not wish to enter upon a long dispute with him. They either got rid of him with an answer which he could not gainsay, or they mixed up the words which he required from them with others of similar sound, but of different and even contrary meaning. Thus they said to him once :- "we can do nothing for our unbelief, for our hearts are uncircumcised."2 On another occasion they advised him to go to Syria, as the only place where prophetic revelations were possible, according to the Jewish saying3 "Prophecy is not found out side the Holy Land." This is given by some expositors as the cause for the revelation in Sura XVII. 78 4, but others assign a different reason for the verse. Further the
commentators cheerily relate many anecdotes by way of explaining the reason for certain passages, which appear to the unprejudiced quite in the same light. As the occasion of Quran II. 91, Baidhawi relates the following tale:1 "It is said that Omar went once into a school2 of the Jews and asked them about Gabriel. They replied: 'He is our enemy, he reveals our secrets to Muhammad, he is also the messenger of wrath and punishment; Michael on the contrary brings us prosperity and plenty." Then Omar said: 'What is their position with regard to God?' and the Jews replied "Gabriel on His right and Michael on His left, but between these two there is enmity." But he said: 'God forbid that it should be as you say; they are not enemies, but you are more unbelieving than the Himyarites.3 'Whosoever is the enemy of either angel, he is the enemy of God.' Then Omar went away and found that Gabriel had preceded him with a revelation, and Muhammad said to him, 'Thy Lord has already agreed with thee, O Omar.'"
Although what is here brought forward is to some extent what is really held by the Jews, as e.g. that Gabriel is the messenger of punishment,4 and although accordingly there is much of truth in this narrative;
nevertheless even the quoted saying is perverted, for Gabriel is regarded as the messenger of God for the punishment of sinners only, and in another passage of the Talmud1 it's actually said of him that he is called2 the one who stops up, because he stops up the sins of Israel i.e., wipes them away, and therefore he could never be represented to the Israelites as their enemy.
Further, Muhammad's intentional misrepresentation3 is shown by his changing the order assigned by the Jews to the Angels. The Jews assert that Michael stands at God's right hand and Gabriel on His left.4 This position is reversed by Muhammad, it order to give the highest rank to Gabriel5 to whom he attributes all his revelations. This
is in spite of the fact that the other view is so fully in accord with the spirit of the doctrine about angels as accepted by the Jews, according to which the positions "on the right" and "on the left" mean only the decision to adopt either merciful or punitive measures. There can of course be no question of enmity between Gabriel and the Jews, or between Gabriel and Michael, and the speech is nothing but a repartee, which however to Muhammad's thinking justified him in making an accusation against the Jews. It is even more clearly shown in the following narrative related by a commentator on the words "God is poor"1. Thus spoke the Jews when they had heard :- 'Who is he that will lend unto God a goodly loan?' Quran ii.246. It is related that Muhammad with Abu Bakr had written to the Jews of the Banu Qainuqa calling them to Islam, to faithful observance of prayer, to offer free will offerings and to give God a good loan. Then Phineas the son of Azariah2 said: 'Then God is poor, that he desires a loan?' Abu Bakr boxed his ears and said: 'If there were not a truce
between us, I would have broken your neck.' He then took him bound to Muhammad, and Phineas denied having made the speech. Then came this revelation. The same thing is found in another passage1: "The Jews say the hand of God is tied up." The meaningless character of the sentence shows in itself that the Jews were not in earnest and if we take into consideration the occasion of the remark, and the way in which it was made, we shall see openly the teasing and scoffing tendency of the Jews in their dealings with Muhammad. It was an answer to an expression, which in its simple meaning "To lend to God" must have seemed to them ridiculous, and which might easily give rise to the retort, "if God now needs money, he must be poor." It was only by a certain amount of distortion and mutilation that Muhammad could twist this speech into an accusation against the Jews. A good story is preserved for us in Sunna 608 which runs as follows "After the conquest of Khaibar the Jews set a poisoned lamb before Muhammad. When he discovered this he had them called together, and putting them on oath to tell him the truth, he asked if they had poisoned the lamb. They confessed, and he then enquired, 'For what reason?' 'To rid ourselves of you, if you are a deceiver,' was their reply; 'for if you are a prophet, poison will do you no harm.'" Who can fail to see in this answer a desire to free themselves from the importunity of Muhammad by biting repartee?
At other times they changed his words, or used words of double meaning. In the prescribed salutation they said indeed "Ra'ina'," but not in the sense intended by Muhammad, viz., "look on us"; but either in the sense of count us guilty, or with a play on the Hebrew "ra" in
the sense of the evil one."1 So that he was obliged to substitute "andhurna," which also means "look on us."2. Further instead of hittat3 "forgiveness", they said probably "Khatiat"4 "Sin". Jalalu d-din5 gives another variation and says that instead of the required word "hubbat", love, the Jews said "habbat fi sh'airat" i.e., "A grain in an ear of barley." Then they changed the salutation "As-salam 'alaika"6 i.e., "Peace be upon thee", into "As-sam 'alaika"7 which means "Mischief on thee,"8 and this is the ground of Muhammad's complaint in Surah lviii. 9. Such occurrences, though they led later to a great hatred on his part towards the Jews, must at first, while he still had a hope of converting them, have induced him to try all possible means to conciliate them; for they
were not only important politically, but were also able to hold him up to derision by their intellect and wit. He was anxious therefore to persuade them that his views were on the whole the same as theirs with some few differences.
We have given sufficient reasons for Muhammad's treating the Jews with consideration, and we shall now give proofs that he actually made great efforts to win them over to his way of thinking. Besides the frequent religions controversies already alluded to, there are many passages in the Quran specially addressed to the Jews, in all of which they are admonished in a very friendly way that the Quran would serve as an arbitrator in their own disputes. Not only did he address them with gentleness and consideration, be actually did many things on purpose to please them. At first simply and solely on account of the Jews the Qibla or place towards which prayer was to he made, was changed by Muhammad to Jerusalem, from Mecca the spot which the ancient Arabs had always regarded as holy; and it was only when he recognised the fruitlessness of attempting to conciliate the Israelites that he changed back to the former direction.
The first change is not, it is true, stated in so many words in the Quran, only a complaint about the second alteration is given, but some commentators maintain that the allusion is to the former change.1 In disputes between Muslims and Jews he shewed himself at times perhaps too lenient. This is said to have given occasion to some believers to
refuse to submit to his judgement, of which he complains in Surah IV. 63. In another passage1 he guards himself against the accusation of giving wrong judgment by saying that he judges only according to the right; and again in another passage2 he asks, if they are afraid that God and His apostle will do them wrong, though the commentators relate another event as the occasion for this utterance. He advises his Muslims also to go gently in disputes with the Jews,3 as e.g. in the following passage: "Dispute not against those who have received the Scriptures, unless in the mildest manner; except against such of them as behave injuriously towards you: and say, 'We believe in the revelation which hath been sent down unto us, and unto you; our God and your God is one, and unto Him are we resigned'".4. A strong proof that Muhammad held the Jews
in great respect lies in the fact that in passages enumerating the different creeds1, he mentions the Jews immediately after the Muslims.
In two of these passages he even promises God fearing Jews absolute equality with Muslims; and though in the third and last he is not so lenient, and threatens that a distinction between them will be made, yet even in this passage it is very plain that precedence over other religious bodies is given to the Jews. In Muslim traditions it is said that the sinful among the Muslims will go into the first, the mildest of the seven hells,2 the Jews into the second, Christians3 into the third, and so on.4
In addition to all this, which produced in Muhammad the wish to adopt much from Judaism into his religious system, we must consider the fantastic development which the
Jewish traditions and history had reached in the mouth of the people, as certain to appeal powerfully to the poetic genius of the prophet and so we cannot doubt that in so far as he had the means to borrow from Judaism, and so long as the Jewish views were not in direct opposition to his own, Muhammad was anxious to incorporate much borrowed from Judaism into his Quran. Whether he had any such means will be discussed in the second section.