Sura v. 91.
is near at hand, and not far off, as I will show thee. The disclosure may be bitter, but it will be wholesome in the end." He then proceeds to give a lengthy account of the origin of the Coran.1 His story in short is this. "Sergius, a Nestorian monk, was excommunicated for a certain offence. To expiate it, he set out on a mission to Arabia, and reached Mecca, which he found inhabited by Jews and idolaters. There he met Mahomet, with whom he had intimate converse, and persuaded him, after being instructed in the faith of Nestorius, to abandon heathenism, and become his disciple. This, while it excited the hatred of the Jews, was the reason of the favourable mention of the Christians in the Coran, to wit, that 'they are the nighest unto believers in friendship; and that because there are amongst them priests and monks, and because the are not haughty.' And so the matter prospered, and the Christian faith was near to being adopted by Mahomet, when Sergius died. Thereupon two Jewish doctors, Abdallah and Kab, seized the opportunity, and ingratiated themselves with thy Master, professing deceitfully to share his views and be his followers. Thus they concealed their object and bided their time. Then upon the

1  This long digression about the Coran is strongly coloured by Abbasside and Alyite tradition. Much of it is mere romance, resting on no historical evidence whatever. But it was no doubt the kind of talk popular at the court of Al Māmūn (where any argument impugning the eternity of the Coran would be well received); and, indeed, our Author here and there implies as much.


Sura ii. 113.

Suras xvi,
and xxix.
Prophet's death, when Aly kept aloof and refused to swear allegiance to Abu Bekr, the two Jews sought him out, and tried to persuade him to assume the prophetic office, for which they declared him fit, and promised to instruct him, as Sergius had instructed Mahomet. Aly, yet young and inexperienced, listened to them, and was instructed secretly.1 Before they had fully gained their object, Abu Bekr heard of it and sent for Aly, who finding opposition useless, abandoned his ambitious claim. But the Jews had already succeeded in tampering with the text of the Coran which Mahomet had left in Aly's hands, that namely which was based upon the Gospel. It was then that these Jews interpolated the Coran with histories from the Old Testament, and portions of the Mosaic law, and introduced such passages as this:—'The Christians say that the Jews are founded upon nothing, and the Jews say that the Christians are founded upon nothing; and yet they read the book. Thus did the ignorant people aforetime speak as they do. Wherefore the Lord will judge between them in the day of the Resurrection as to that concerning which they differ.' Hence also arose inconsistencies in the Coran,—passages proceeding from one source differing from passages that proceeded from another; as in Chapters, the Bee, the Ant, the Spider. Now when Aly despaired of succeding to the Caliphate, he at the last presented himself before

1  Hardly young and inexperienced, being then over six-and-twenty years.