AN attempt to reply to the statements made and the proofs of them given in my book, 'The Sources of Islam', has recently been published in Lahore.1 Its author, Maulavi Muhammad 'All, M.A., has throughout acted on the advice tendered to his assistant by the leading counsel for the defence in a certain trial, when he found his client's case completely hopeless: 'We have no case, abuse the other side.' In discussions like the present such a line of conduct is hardly wise, because it is so discourteous to the Muslim community to which it appeals for a verdict in favour of the Qur'an and against the 'Sources of Islam'. All earnest and thoughtful members of that community will it once perceive that strength of language and abundance of vituperation on the Maulavi's part are made to take the place of argument, logic, and learning. Now such a tirade of abuse as that in which the Maulavi indulges may perhaps deceive the vulgar, ignorant, and thoughtless, but it cannot have any such effect upon the class of persons to whom an appeal for their decision should be made, and to whom I now very respectfully address my reply. Earnest and thoughtful men however much they may desire to find an adequate defence for their ancestral faith, will naturally feel springing up in their minds the doubt whether all is right with Islam, if such methods of defence are really as necessary as the Maulavi evidently deems them to be.
The Maulavi is good enough not only to use very abusive language towards myself and to accuse me of gross ignorance and deliberate falsehood, but also to bring the same charges against the late Sir William Muir, K.C.S.I., LL.D., D.C.L., PH.D., formerly Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces of India, and afterwards Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the ancient and justly famous University of Edinburgh, for approving of my book and stating his agreement with its arguments. Sir William Muir, as many in India are aware, distinguished himself not only as a great statesman but also as an eminent Arabic scholar and an able and learned writer. It is unnecessary to reply to such language as the Maulavi uses. Its effect can only be to prejudice the reader against the person who can be guilty of such discourtesy. This we regret, because we are anxious that our Muslim friends should give their due weight to the Maulavi's arguments, such as they are, for he has evidently tried to make the very best defence of Islam that he possibly could. But, if this is the best reply that can be given to my book, I need say little in return before leaving the case to the decision of each of my respected readers.
Passing then over the abuse, which, though it forms a very considerable part of the Maulavi's book, calls for no further notice from me, I now turn to the consideration of the arguments which he brings against the facts mentioned in the 'Sources of Islam'. These arguments, though often repeated, seem to be few, and to be fairly summed up under the following four heads, which, as arranged, show the Maulavi's whole system of special pleading, when stripped of such flowers of oratory as those to which we have already referred, in the use of which - whatever may be the case with such matters as logic and learning - we have no intention of denying the Maulavi's vast superiority to ourselves.
Here is his line of argument : -
(1) Even if we grant that the Qur'an contains teachings and narratives which, in the main, are found in other and earlier books also (especially in those of the heathen), that only confirms its claim to have come down from God to guard and corroborate previous Scriptures.
(2) In the 'Sources of Islam' (in the Maulavi's opinion) no convincing proof has been adduced that Muhammad borrowed any part of his teaching from Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians or from any others; on the contrary, it all came from God.
(3) The Christian Scriptures, including those accepted by the Jews, are hopelessly corrupt; and yet they may be implicitly depended on as containing clear prophecies regarding Muhammad.
(4) The Qur'an is absolutely unrivalled, and, no matter what proofs to the contrary may be adduced, the Maulavi is determined to believe that it came from God.
With the last two assertions-for they are not really arguments-we need not deal at any length. We have already considered them in the revision of the 'Mizanu'l-Haqq.2 and in my 'Manual of Muhammadan Objections '.3, which books may both be obtained in English. The latter has already appeared in Urdu, and the former, please God, will soon be translated into that and other languages. Moreover, as doubtless Arabic scholars know, a complete and detailed answer to Shaikh Hajf Rahmatu'lla'h's 'Izaru'l Haqq,' dealing at length with his carping criticism of the Holy Scriptures, has been published in Egypt, in five volumes in the Arabic language, entitled 'Al-Hidayah4. To these books and to other well-known works, in which the truth of the Bible is clearly proved, and the question of the alleged unrivalled style of the Qur'an discussed, we must refer our readers; for really on these points the Maulavi has not brought forward a single argument which has not been already refuted again and again, as probably all educated Muslims are well aware. Here, therefore, we need say no more regarding the Maulavi's third and fourth assertions, except that, even if we were grant them to be correct - and we deny them both - yet that would in no way invalidate the proofs brought forward in the 'Sources of Islam' to show that many Islamic doctrines and practices, and many of the narratives contained in the Qur'an, or at least briefly referred to there, are derived from previously existing books current among men of earlier religions, or are strikingly similar to doctrines, practices, and tales found elsewhere in works which existed in Muhammad's time.
As stated in the 'Sources of Islam' the question which every intelligent and earnest seeker after truth has to answer is, 'Did the Qur'an come directly from God in such a way that He is its only source; or is it largely compiled from materials borrowed from Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian and other human sources; if the latter, can its earthly sources in any degree be traced?'
Here it should be stated that the mere mention of the existence and the unity of God, the existence of angels and demons, of heaven and hell, of the resurrection and the final judgement in the Qur'an cannot be said to prove that Muhammad derived his belief in these matters from Christians, Jews, or Zoroastrians. The details which the Qur'an gives on these points, and certain of the foreign words used in it [e. g. jahannam , which is not a genuine Arabic word but is corrupted from the Hebrew ge"hinnom] may be discussed and their origin considered ; but the mere fact that the Qur'an teaches the existence of a place of future punishment, for example, may easily be accounted for without the hypothesis that such teaching was borrowed from any particular human source, for nearly all religions agree on this general fact. But the resemblances between Islamic beliefs and those held by men of certain other religions have been shown in the 'Sources of Islam' to be so very close, in many instances, that an inquiry was called for as to the reason of such resemblances. Our explanation of the problem is given in the book we have mentioned; but it rests with each attentive reader, with God's help, to draw a conclusion for himself, when he has read the evidence and weighed it carefully and prayerfully.
The Maulavi admits such resemblances, he could do no less. But, to avoid coming to the self-evident conclusion, he is compelled (1) to defend many heathen religions and assert that their founders were prophets sent by God, (2) to wrest many passages of the Qur'an from their obvious meaning, and (3) to contradict all the leading Islamic commentators in their explanation of these and other passages.
We feel confident that many of his Muslim readers will say regarding the first of these points, 'We take refuge in God from it.' If the 'Sources of Islam' can be answered and Islam defended only by such means as these, then the Maulavi's case is hopeless. Muslims have hitherto held themselves aloof in religion from polytheism, being taught in the Qur'an Al-Hidayah5 that ash-shirk is the unpardonable sin. We cannot believe that they will now endeavour to uphold their religion by professing belief in the teachings of Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, and other such persons, real or imaginary; for Zoroaster taught and practised polytheism; Buddha denied the existence of any divine influence over a man's conduct, and practically negatived the idea of a creator; while Krishna, one of the Hindu gods and not a prophet, probably never existed. The stories which the Hindus tell of him are full of impure conduct and absurdity. Yet the Maulavi says Al-Hidayah 6 'A Muslim regards Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, the rishis of ancient India, Confucius and other great teachers of the world as good men that were raised by God for the guidance of their respective people, just as Moses, Jesus and other prophets of Israel were raised by God to be the spiritual instructors of the children of Israel. A Muslim makes no distinction between Moses and Zoroaster, between Jesus and Krishna, for the Holy Qur'an says: 'We believe in God and what hath been sent down to us, and what hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to all the prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between them - And to Him are we resigned 7.
Let us consider this one verse, and we shall see in the Maulavi's use of it a fair specimen of the way in which be twists the clear meaning of the Qur'an to suit his own purposes. I cannot find a single commentator who agrees with the Maulavi in finding in this verse any sanction for the teaching given by Buddha or Zoroaster, still less for the doctrines which in the 'Bhagavadgita' the Hindus impute to Krishna. Certainly, neither Baidawi nor the two Jalals nor 'Abbasi ever thought of such a thing. The meaning of 'the tribes' is so clear that few commentators think it worth while to explain it, but 'Abbasi says, what every one knows, that it means 'the descendants of Jacob' . With reference to the words 'We make no difference' he adds, 'And it is said, We make no difference between them and God in prophecy and self-surrender 8.. The scriptures which the Qur'an claims to have been 'sent down' to confirm 9 and defend were not those of the heathen, whether Confucians, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Assyrians, Egyptians, or Sabians, but those of the Jews and the Christians, that is to say the Old and the New Testaments. In his notes on Sura (v) 48-52, Baidawi explains that 'the prophets' there mentioned are ' the prophets of the children of Israel', as indeed is clear from the context. The Maulavi's appeal to many other passages in the Qur'an to confirm his defence of heathen religions has no better foundation than the one which we have examined. We are so sure that all our Muslim readers, who are at all well acquainted with the Qur'an and its recognized commentators, will agree with us here, that we need not delay longer in discussing the matter. Almost the only passage which might in any degree seem at first sight to support the Maulavi's views is Suratu'l-Baqara (ii) 59; but commentators either explain it quite differently, or hold it to have been abrogated by later verses, such as Su' ratu Ah 'Imran (iii) 79: 'And whoso followeth any religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he in the next world shall be of the lost.' This is plain language enough, surely.
That certain truths are contained, or rather hidden and buried, in other religions is admitted by all Christians. But the Qur'an does not select these for quotation for the most part, nor are these the points dwelt upon in the 'Sources of Islam'. If it were so, no one could complain of the Qur'an for calling attention to them. But it is proved in the 'Sources of Islam' that such tales as those of Harut and Marut, the 'Companions of the Cave', the hudhud's report to Solomon about Balqis, and such descriptions as those of paradise, are actually borrowed in the Qur'an in all essential respects, not from the Jewish and Christian Holy Scriptures but from heathen, Jewish, and Christian books of no authority whatever.
The Maulavi is perhaps unacquainted with these, except possibly with the passages from them which we have quoted in the 'Sources of Islam'. This renders it possible for him to pose as their defenders. Among other books he takes up the cause of the Dasatir-i-Asmani'. On investigation he will find that no scholar now maintains its genuineness. If we compare it with the Avesta, which does contain much of the ancient Persian teaching, or even with the 'Arta-Viraf-Namak', the difference in language, teaching, and everything else, is at once evident. It is hard to believe that the Maulavi, if he knows the book, is really in earnest in undertaking its defence; but, if he is, be unconsciously shows how easy it was for illiterate Arabs of the seventh century to be misled by Apocryphal Gospels, Jewish fables, and other works of no authority, and to fancy them to be parts of 'the Book', if even a Muslim who has received an English education can be so led astray in the twentieth century.
The Maulavi has undertaken to prove the 'Divine Origin of the Holy Qur'an'. His impression seems to be that he can accomplish this somewhat arduous task by attacking the Bible and the 'Sources of Islam'. It ought to be evident to him that every assault on the Bible is a very serious blow levelled at the Qur'an, because the latter claims to attest the former scriptures. Were it possible to prove the latter untrustworthy, the authority of the Qur'an would be destroyed, just in the same way as the reputation of the Maulavi would suffer if he solemnly made himself surety for a man who was afterwards proved to be a thief. This is a matter which requires the attention of our Muslim friends. It has often been pointed out, but hitherto without much result. But, leaving the Bible out of account, if the Maulavi were successful in disproving the evidence contained in the 'Sources of Islam' against the usual Muslim view of the origin of the Qur'an 10, that would not prove the correctness of the Muslim contention that the Qur'an came from God. Other proofs, positive and not merely negative, would be needed. We do not think that the Maulavi has succeeded in adducing these. His praise of the Qur'an is beside the mark, for what his readers wish to know is, not what he thinks of the book, but what can be proved about its origin. His opinion on this latter point seems to vary. At first he admits, or seems ready to admit, that much of it is borrowed from earlier religions. For he writes thus: 'Does not the Holy Qur'an represent the Holy Prophet as saying, "I am no apostle of new doctrines"? Therefore the teachings of the Holy Prophet must be traceable to other systems' (p.6). Further on, however, he denies that this can be proved. He proceeds (p.18) to compare the Qur'an to milk. This may be a very beautiful simile, but it is not argument. Our appeal is to fact and logic, his to sentiment. Here again he acts like a lawyer defending a man in whose possession a large and varied assortment of articles of different kinds has been found, which articles have been shown to have belonged, and still to belong to other persons. The lawyer declares, without any proof but the man's word, that the goods were presented to his client by the king with his own royal hand. To shew how true this story must be, he asks the jury to notice how polished the language of the accused is and how tastefully he is dressed. All this may or may not be an appeal ad misericordiam (to pity), but it is hardly likely to secure a verdict of 'not guilty' from an unprejudiced jury.
The Qur'an actually quotes the Bible in more than one place. This is no argument against its divine origin, but it is a fact to which consideration is due. For instance, in Suratu'l-Ma'ida (v) 49, God is represented as saying: 'And We wrote concerning them in it (in the Taurat, as vv. 47 and 48 state), Life for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth.' This is a quotation from Exodus xxi. 23-5.' Again in Suratu'l-AnbiyA' (xxi) 105 11 , we read : 'And We have written in the Psalms after the Reminder, "As for the earth, My servants the righteous shall inherit it.", This passage actually mentions the Psalms as the source of the quotation, and it is found in Ps. xxxvii. 29. Baidawi gives two explanations of the verse. He says that by 'Az-Zabur' is meant ' the Book of David', though he tells us that some' thought that 'Az-Zabur' denoted the inspired books in general and the Reminder the 'Preserved Tablet'. He himself said it was the Taurat (Pentateuch). The Maulavi denies any quotation here, but in this he contradicts the clear statement of the Qur'an itself as well as Baidawi's opinion. In the Ahadith also occasional quotations from the Bible are attributed to Muhammad, though the fact that they are quotations is not mentioned. One example of this will suffice, a passage which the Maulavi himself admires, perhaps not knowing its source. In the 'Mishkatu'l-Masabih,' p. 487 of the edition of A. H. 1297, in the 'description of paradise and its people, the following tradition occurs on the authority of Abu Huraira: '' The Apostle of God said: "God most high hath 'said, I have prepared for My servants the righteous what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither bath it occurred to the heart of humanity."' This is a quotation from 1 Cor. ii. 9.
The greater the number of Biblical quotations - found in the Qur'an, and the more close its agreement with the teaching of ' the Book', which it professes to attest and defend, the greater probability would there be that the Qur'an was of divine origin. But what are we to think when we find that (1) in many matters it contradicts ' the Book', and (2) borrows from heathen and other valueless sources?
The Maulavi is very indignant with me for venturing to quote leading Muhammadan commentator's opinions as to the meaning of certain passages in the Qur'an. But in this his readers will hardly agree with him. To have given my own opinion as to the sense of the Qur'anic verses which I quoted would have been most presumptuous. I was unable to consult the Maulavi, because, among other reasons, I was quite unaware of his existence and of his readiness and ability to correct the leading commentators on the Qur'an. The commentators frequently explain the passages with which they are dealing by filling up gaps left in certain stories, such as that of Mary's life under the care of Zacharias in the temple. Whether they were justified in supplementing the Qur'anic account is quite 'another matter and one into which we need not enter. But their statements, explanations, and comments, have been accepted now for centuries by large portions of the Islamic community, and hence I was justified in endeavouring to explain the sources from which they drew. To take an example: the Maulavi admits that Jalalu'd-din, in commenting on Su' ratu Ali 'Imran (iii) 32-3, 'has drawn upon the Christian story of angels supplying Mary with food.'12 This is what I said in the 'Sources 'of Islam'. The Maulavi adds, 'But the verses in 'question do not contain even the remotest reference to the said story.' He tries to prove this, with indifferent success. But the quarrel here is between Jalalu'd-din and the Maulavi, and I have nothing to do with it. Let Muslims judge which is the greater authority. For myself I confess that I still prefer to rely upon Jalalu'd-din; and the Maulavi himself states, as we have seen, that Jalalu'd-din drew his information from the Christian (apocryphal) story, as I had urged in my book. Jalalu'd-din was evidently of opinion that the Qur'an referred to and confirmed this tale; the Maulavi thinks otherwise. I leave them to decide the matter between them. I have also roused the Maulavi's indignation by quoting the 'Qisasu'l-Anbiya' and other similar books as of authority among Muslims. Let us consider this one book as an example of its class, in order to see whether or not I was justified in appealing to it for information regarding what Muslims believe about the prophets and other important matters. The book is also entitled Araisu't-Tijan'13 it was composed by Ath-Tha'labi, who died A.H. 427 or 437, according to Ibn Khallikan. The latter in his 'Tarikh' writes of him thus: 'Abu Ishaq 14 Ahmad, son of Muhammad, son of Abraham, Ath-Tha'labiy- yu'n-Naisaburi, the famous commentator, was unique in his own time in the science of hermeneutics, and he composed the great commentary which excels the commentaries other than itself. And to him belongs the book ' Al-'Arais fi Qisasi'l-Anbiya', Ibn Khallikan further shows what was thought of Ath-Tha'labi's character by relating the following story from Abu'l-Qasimi'l-Qashiri : ' In sleep I saw the Lord of Glory (may He be glorified and honoured!), and he converses with me, and I converse with Him. Then, meanwhile it came to pass that the Lord (may His Name he exalted!) said, "The good man has drawn near." Accordingly I observed, and lo! Ahmadu'th-Tha'labi is approaching."
The Maulavi disapproves of Ath Tha'labi very much and says about one of his statements regarding Mount Qaf: 'The whole story is a lie, fabricated with no other purpose save to entertain wonder-loving people' (p.26); and about another (regarding the Light of Muhammad) : 'This story too, like the previous ones, is not founded on any authentic saying of the Holy Prophet, and is only one of the fables - invented by story-tellers for the entertainment of the unlettered masses' (p. 26). Here again the dispute is not between the Maulavi and myself but between him and Ath-Tha'labi. The latter is dead and cannot defend himself, and the Maulavi thinks erroneously that I am in the same position. Whether such a commentator and such a good man, as Ath-Tha'labi is said to have been, would fabricate 'lies' and also 'invent fables ', and then ascribe them to Muhammad, our Muslim friends must judge. There can be no doubt, however, that very large numbers of sober Muslim historians, commentators, and other writers, have accepted such tales as genuine. I quote only two examples. One is the Turkish work entitled ' Mir'atu'l-Kainat,' where many other similar tales are related and authorities quoted. The other is a modern defender of Islam in Persia, Imam Fakhru'l-Islam, who, in his book 'Bayanu'l-Haqq wa's Sidqu'l-Mutlaq', p. 41, (printed in Tehran, and composed A.H. 1321), write's thus of the Light of Muhammad
It would be an insult to the intelligence and learning of our readers to produce any further proof how generally Muslim writers accept as true and as part of their religion such teaching, e.g. about the Light of Muhammad, as is given by Ath-Tha'labi. The latter was not a Traditionist, but surely it is clear that a man of his renown would publish nothing which he had not good reason to believe to be supported by reliable evidence.
The Maulavi says: 'If these books (the 'Qisasu'l-Anbiya'' and other similar books quoted in the 'Sources of Islam') are trustworthy books and really represent the true spirit of Islam, and may be taken as giving the very teaching which the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Prophet gave to the world, then, indeed, Rev. Tisdall's book is a noble book, and he may be said to have been successful in the task he had undertaken' (p.30). Such an authority as the late Sir William Muir (as the Maulavi is never tired of repeating) thought I had succeeded; but this must be left to careful readers to decide, each for himself. If the Neo-Muslims of India reject the explanations of the Qur'an given by commentators, and the stories told in such books as the 'Qisasu'l-Anbiya', what do they put in their place? The old commentators in many cases seem to have found the Qur'an inexplicable except with the aid of such tales. Perhaps the Maulavi may succeed better than Ath-Tha'labi did; perhaps by casting overboard such tackling the ship may weather the storm. In any case it is hardly fair to Ath-Tha'labi to accuse him of lying.
I have endeavoured throughout my book to keep the Ahadith quite distinct from the Riwayat and the statements of commentators. If I have failed in this I regret it, but the learning of my readers will easily correct and excuse any such error. That no attempt to mislead any one is intended is clear from the fact that I give a list of the recognized books of Traditions (Ahadith), both Sunni and Shi'ah, and in addition give references to the special books from which each quotation is taken. The Maulavi contradicts statement after statement in the ' Sources of Islam', and declares that I have no proof of them to offer. As a matter of fact, the proof (or some of the proof) is given with every statement. To deal with each of the Maulavi's denials would he to copy the 'Sources' almost page by page, which it is not worth while to 'do, since for the most part it suffices to request our honoured readers to read the parts of the book which the Maulavi tries in vain to refute, and then judge for themselves. All we can now do in the short space, at our disposal is to take a few of the Maulavi's assertions and examine them, asking each reader to consider that the few facts we examine are dealt with merely as specimens of the Maulavi's method of arguing.
He says, for instance (pp. 52-3) : There is no evidence of his (Muhammad's), having made any inquiries from them (the Jews) ; on the other hand, there is every reason to believe that he 15 never turned to them for guidance.' The Maulavi would find it difficult to prove this latter assertion, hence he avoids giving any proof but his' own declaration. He says, 'Most of what the Holy Prophet is alleged, to have borrowed from the Jews was revealed to him at Mecca, where could not be found even a single Jewish soul. . . . And not only there was (sic !) no Jew or convert to Judaism at Mecca, but there is also no evidence of any Jews visiting him at the Holy city' (pp. 58-9). This is all very interesting, but it leads to a strange conclusion, for it seems to contradict the Qur'an itself, as well as the statements of Muslim historians and commentators of repute. In Suratu Yunas (x) 94 a command is given to Muhammad in these words: 'If then thou be in doubt of what We have caused to descend unto thee, then ask those who are reading the book before thee.' This is a Meccan Sura. If there were none of the 'People of the Book' in Mecca, what can have been the meaning of such an injunction? The commentary of the two Jalals renders the verse thus: 'If then thou be in doubt (O Muhammad) of what We have caused to descend unto thee '(of tales, for example), then ask those who are reading the book (the Taurat) before thee.' Baidawi's account agrees with this in the main, though he gives more explanations than one. Baidawi thinks that the book' here means ' the Holy Scriptures' and not merely the Taurat. Both commentators agree that Muhammad replied, 'I doubt not, nor will I ask', but this confirms the fact (implied in the command) that it was possible for him to make the inquiry, otherwise the natural reply would have been, 'In Mecca there cannot be found a single Jewish soul,' as the Maulavi would have us believe. 'Abbasi explains those who are 'reading the Book before thee' as 'Abdu'llah bin Salam and his friends. ' Su'ratu'l Ahqaf (xlvi), is also a Meccan Sura, yet 'a witness from among the children of Israel ' is there mentioned as testifying to the resemblance (between the Qur'an and his own books, apparently) and as therefore believing. If this statement of the author of the Qur'an is true - as every Muslim believes and must believe - then the Maulavi's denial of the presence of a single Jew in Mecca 16 can hardly be correct. 'Abbasi and the two Jalals say that the Jew here mentioned was 'Abdu'llah bin Salam. In another Meccan Sura, Suratu'l.Furqa'n (xxv) 5, it is stated that Muhammad's opponents asserted that he had received human help in writing down what they recognized as ' Tales of the Ancients '. These they said were dictated to him morning and evening by his accomplices. 'Abbasi informs us that the persons, who were supposed to help Muhammad at that 'period of his life in Mecca, were Jabr, a Christian slave, Yasar (otherwise known as Abu Fuqaibab), and a Greek named Abu Takbihah. When a similar charge is mentioned in a fourth Meccan Sura, Su'ratu'n-Nahl (xvi) 105, 'Abbasi says that Muhammad's supposed assistant was a Christian named Cain. The two Jalals mention Jabr and Yasar once more. Other writers suggest Salman, Suhaib, or Addas. We learn from Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham 17 that Waraqa, cousin of Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, in seeking 'the religion of Abraham ' became greatly interested in Christianity and inquired after the Books among those who professed it, until he acquired some knowledge from the People of the Book.' It is evident that every Christian would know something of the Old Testament, so that Waraqa could influence Muhammad without being or becoming a Jew. The fact that Waraqa died before Muhammad had gone very far in his prophetical claims does not, in the least, affect the matter. If Waraqa could learn from 'Jews and Christians, so could Muhammad. There must, therefore, have been ' People of the Book' in or near Mecca.
That it was not difficult for Muhammad to mistake Jewish works of no authority for parts of the canonical Scriptures of the Jews is strikingly illustrated by the fact that the Maulavi, though not professing to be an Ummi, falls into the very same error himself in the twentieth century. He says 'The following are the passages of the Jewish Scriptures which are said by Rev. Tisdall (sic !) and Professor Noldeke (sic!) to have been borrowed almost word for word by the Holy Prophet at Madina.18. He then proceeds to quote passages from the Mishnah (Tracts Sanhedrin and Bera'khoth). Most of his readers are doubtless aware that the Mishnah is not part of the 'Jewish Scriptures', as both Muhammad and the Maulavi seem to have fancied them to be.
As to the meaning of Ummi in the Qur'an, we notice that, in Suratu Ah 'Imran (iii) 19, Muhammad is thus addressed: 'And speak thou to those who have been brought the Book, and to the Ummiyyun.' Baidawi explains the last word by saying, Those who have no Book, like the polytheists of Arabia.' In Su'ratu'l-A'raf (vii) 156, Muhammad is spoken of as 'the Ummi prophet'. Here Baidawi says that Ummi means 'that does not write and does not read.' Of course, this may be correct, and many think it is. I am supported by Rabbi Abraham Geiger in supposing that in both passages the meaning of Ummi is 'Gentile' as distinguished from Jew. Certainly, in the former of these two Qur'anic passages the rendering, 'Speak thou to those who have been brought the Book (Jews and Christians) and to the Gentiles' seems at least as likely as 'to those who neither 'write nor read'. The matter is not of great importance. My reference to it is of value, however, 'in' obtaining for me a lesson in Arabic grammar from the Maulavi, who kindly says of me, 'His derivation 19 of the word Ummi from Ummat further shows that he has not the slightest acquaintance even with the rudiments of Arabic grammar.
Every person who has some (sic !) knowledge of Arabic will see that the adjective form of Ummat is Ummati and not Ummi.' In order to profit by this lesson I must ask the Maulavi in what Arabic lexicon he can find the adjective Ummati. Is he not thinking of Urdu and not of Arabic? What Arabic grammar justifies the formation of such a barbarism? If the Maulavi will consult the heading of any, either of the Mecca or of the Madina Suras, he will learn how adjectives are formed in Arabic from such words as Makkah , and Madinah therefore Ummah But, perhaps, he has undertaken to correct the Arabic grammarians, even when supported by the Qur'an itself, just as be does the most famous commentators. From such a learned man it is an undeserved honour for me to receive a lesson in Arabic grammar as well as in courtesy and veracity.
Before passing on to another subject we must say one last word about Muhammad's connexion with the Jews. It seems that in Mecca he was much drawn to them, that in Madina he at first to some degree imitated them in some things, but soon afterwards became alienated from them and turned more towards the customs of his own countrymen, at least in things which he did not deem important. As one among many proofs of this we may mention the changing of the Qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca 20. The Maulavi accepts some at least of the Ahadith, therefore I venture on the following quotation from the 'Sahih of Bukhari' with regard to what took place soon after Muhammad's arrival in Madina. 'When 21 the Prophet came to Madina, he found the Jews fasting during the 'Ashura. They were asked about it, and said, " It is the day on which God rendered Moses and the children of Israel victorious over Pharaoh, and we fast on it in honour thereof." Accordingly the Apostle of God said, " We are nearer to Moses than you," and he commanded to fast thereon.' Again, Bukhari giving the isnad in due form, writes: 'The Prophet used to let his hair hang loose, and the polytheists used to part their heads (hair), and the People of the Book used to let their hair (literally heads) hang loose: and the Prophet used to love to imitate the People of the Book in what he was given command about. Then the Prophet parted his hair (head) '22. The full meaning of this passage will be clear to every reader. Evidently in Mecca Muhammad used to imitate the Jews in the way in which he wore his hair (though the Maulavi assures us there were no Jews in Mecca); but in Madina he reverted to the custom of his countrymen in this respect, and in others also.
We now turn to the question whether Muhammad borrowed at all from the Christians. The evidence, or at least some of the evidence, for this is given in the ' Sources of Islam', and we fail to see that the Maulavi has refuted any part of it. He tries in vain to show that Sir William Muir and Nöldeke disagree with me here, but such is not the case. Sir William Muir in his old age had partly forgotten his Persian, he told me; but he agreed so thoroughly in the main with my views that he actually took the trouble to revive his knowledge of that language in order to read and publish an epitome of the 'Sources of Islam'. The Maulavi himself unconsciously admits the fact that Muhammad borrowed something from the New Testament, for he quotes (p. 47) a passage from the Ahadith ('Mishkatu'l-Masabih', p.487) in which Muhammad is stated, to have used almost the exact words that occur in 1. Cor. ii. 9. The passage in Suratu'l-A'raf (vii) 38, 'until the camel entereth in at the eye of the needle', is almost literally quoted from Luke xviii. 25. Quotations from a book are generally considered indisputable evidence of at least some knowledge of the book, whether that knowledge he obtained directly through reading or indirectly from hearing it cited. This phenomenon occurs in passage after passage of the Qur'an, though the references are generally not to the New Testament but to worthless apocryphal books, which were never received by any part of the Christian Church as inspired, and are never quoted as authoritative by any Christian writer of the very slightest importance. Evidence of this is given copiously in the 'Sources of Islam', and it would not be difficult to increase its amount. Some of Muhammad's informants were probably persons, whom we have already mentioned (on the authority of leading Muslim Commentators) as suspected of this conduct at the time in Mecca more than after the Hijra. Among these are Waraqa, Suhaib, Jabr, Abu Takbihah, Cain, Addas, perhaps Salman, and others. I have also suggested that Mary the Copt had possibly something to do with the matter. Of course this is only a suggestion, and it would be an absurd one to make if we had any proof that the whole of the Suratu Maryam (xix) in its present form had been composed before the emigration to Abyssinia, as truly a certain part of it is known to have been. But we have no such proof; on the contrary we know that occasionally Muhammad caused later verses to be added to earlier Suras. However, my suggestion about Mary the Copt is of no importance to the argument in the 'Sources of Islam', and hence the Maulavi has wasted his energy in refuting it with so much vigour and his own peculiar style of courtesy.23. Suhaib alone is quite enough to account for the passages in the Meccan Suras borrowed from Christian books, but he was not 'alone, as we have seen. There were other Christians (as well as Jews) in Mecca.
The Maulavi thinks it absurd to suggest that some one among Muhammad's friends knew a little Greek and confounded (periklytos - not Periclete : there is no such word in Greek, if the learned Maulavi will permit me to correct him here) with (paracletos). Perhaps the Maulavi was unaware that Greek was the polite language of the Byzantine empire in Muhammad's time, as all men of learning know, and that even in Syria and Palestine it was then widely spoken, more widely far than Syriac. I myself have a Greek book entitled 'The History of the Martyrdom of Anastasius the Persian', written in Palestine soon after the martyr's death. Anastasius was a Persian who came in Khusrau Parviz' army to conquer Palestine. Becoming a Christian, he was martyred by his fellow countrymen not long before Muhammad's Hijra. Arabs who traded with Syria and Palestine might not be great Greek scholars, and might not know such a word as paracletos, but they could hardly fail to know such a simple and common word as periklytos, just as it is quite possible for a European in India, at the present time, not to know the meaning of mu'awin though he can hardly be ignorant of ma'lum or mashhur . Yet the Maulavi in his courteous manner writes 24: 'Will not even a child laugh at the idea that there were among his (Muhammad's) followers, or among his contemporary Arabs, men who had a fairly good knowledge of Greek.' Possibly a very ignorant child might laugh at the fact, but it can afford no cause of merriment to such men as the Maulavi, of course. Suhaib, at least, and Waraqa must have known some colloquial Greek.
A great deal that the Maulavi says requires no answer whatever, but here and there a passage is found sufficiently plausible to need a short reply. Among these is his explanation of Deut. xviii. 20: 'But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in My name which I have not commanded him ... even that prophet shall die.' The Maulavi comments on this by saying: 'We are told here that God shall destroy any prophet who is presumptuous enough even to fabricate a single revelation.'25 Now the Maulavi may or may not have the right to act as a commentator on the Qur'an and to reject the explanations of such men as Baidawi, 'Abbasi, the two Jalals, Ath-Tha'labi, and others; but he has no right to pose as an infallible commentator on the Bible. The verse which he quotes is admitted to be a command to the Jews to put to death any false prophet. It is not a prediction regarding God's conduct, but an injunction concerning the duty of the Israelites. Taking it otherwise it would mean little, for all prophets except Enoch and Elijah have died. Muhammad, too was not immortal. The Maulavi argues that the success of Muhammad in getting many people to accept his claim, and his living for 'over three and twenty long years' after he professed to be a prophet, prove the truth of his claim. If so, what shall we say of Hakim, founder of the Druzes, or Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, or Baha'u'llah, founder of the Bahai sect? Muhammad did, indeed, succeed in founding a new religion, as these three men afterwards did. But when he had worked as a 'Warner' for nearly thirteen years in Mecca, he had made only about one hundred converts by peaceful methods. His success came after the Hijra, when he used less worthy means. All this I have dealt with in my revision of the 'Mizanu'l-Haqq,' part iii., chapter vii.
The Maulavi speaks of Muhammad's prophecies: let us briefly examine the supposed remarkable prediction in Suratu'r-Rum (xxx) 1. According to the usual reading of the verse, it runs thus: The Byzantines have been defeated in the nearest part of the land, and they shall conquer in a small number of years after their defeat, etc. We have dealt with this supposed prophecy also in the revision of the 'Mizanu'l-i-Haqq,' part iii, chapter iv 26. Here it must suffice to point 'out the fact that Baidawi shatters the Maulavi's argument in many ways, and especially by informing us that there are certain varied readings, such as instead of and for . The translation will then run thus ' The Byzantine's have conquered in the nearest part of the land, and they shall be defeated in a small number of years.' It is clearly impossible to found any tenable argument upon such a passage.
Only one other matter discussed by the Maulavi needs a passing reference here - the question of Zoroastrian influence. 'It is true that most of the Suras which deal with Paradise, for example, are held to have been written at Mecca before the Hijra; yet the Su'ratu'l-Baqara (ii); Suratu'n-Nisa' (iv), Su' ratu Muhammad (xlvii) are recognized as belonging to Madina 27, and the latter Sura mentions rivers of water, milk, wine, and honey. But we admit that it is clear that Muhammad had learnt at Mecca, and had written down there most of the passages, which (as we have proved in the 'Sources of Islam') show Zoroastrian influence, as well as those which are to a great degree founded on absolutely unreliable legends current among the more ignorant Jews and Christians. (Some of the statements in the Qur'an about these matters are not free from error, for example, the assertion in the Madina Suratu'l-Baqara (ii) 127 - compare also verses 130 and 134 - that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac were Jacob's fathers; and such errors cannot be credited to the Jews or the Christians.) What, however, has already been said regarding the fact that Christians and Jews had, consciously or unconsciously, contributed to the contents of the Qur'an in Mecca before the Hijra is true in reference to Persian influence also. We ask our readers to consider only two facts in this connexion. One is that there are Persian words, such as Sirat, Hur, and Jinn in the Qur'an. This is enough of itself to settle the question. The other is that the opponents of Muhammad in Mecca, among others Nadhir bin Hiritha who had been in Persia, recognized some of Muhammad's Qur'anic compositions as singularly like certain Persian tales, and said so rather forcibly. Here we should also mention, once for all, the opinions of certain Muslim commentators of known repute upon Suratu'n-Nahl (xvi) 105, which runs thus:, 'And truly We know that they say, "Verily a human being teacheth him." The tongue of him to whom they refer 28 is 'Ajami, and his is clear Arabic language.' Of course, no Muslim commentator can be expected to admit that Muhammad accepted instruction of this kind, but some of them inform us of what was said on the subject in Mecca by those who thought they had reason to suspect foreign influence on the mind of their fellow citizen. Baidawi, for example, says that the person referred to was Jabr, the Byzantine, servant of 'Amar ibnu'l-Hadrami. He mentions the opinions of others, however, as well as his own. Some said, 'Jabr and Yasar, who both made swords at Mecca, and who read the Taurat and the Injil, and Muhammad used to pass by and hear what they read. Others thought the person designated was 'Aisha, servant of Khuwaitib bin 'Abdi'l-'Uzza', who had become a Muslim and was acquainted with books; others, Salman the Persian.' The two Jalals say it was Cain a Christian, 'whom the Prophet was in the habit of visiting.' 'Abbasi has no doubt that Jabr and Yasar are meant. The Maulavi is wroth that any one should dare to suggest Salman, and declares that 'it was at Madina that Salman the Persian joined the Muslims' (p. 140). It is true that Ibn Ishaq represents Salman as stating that he met Muhammad on his way to Madina from Mecca during the Hijra. If this was their first meeting, and if the statement can in any way be relied upon, it follows that Muhammad did not owe anything he had written at Mecca to Salman's information. But there are obvious reasons for doubting the declaration. At any rate the Maulavi's indignation should be vented on the right object; not on Christians but on Muslims, for Baidawi is stating what some Muslims said when he informs us that Salman was mentioned by some people as the person referred to in Suratu'u Nahl (xvi) 105. I mentioned the opinion as possibly correct, and this possibility has not been disproved. Perhaps the use of the word 'Ajami in the verse may have led to the opinion among Muslims, since that word in both ancient and modern times (as all scholars know) has been used in Arabic with the meaning of 'Persian', besides its other meanings. Baidawi, however, does not take this view, preferring to render 'Ajami by 'indistinct', in contrast to mubayyan. It might, however, equally well be taken as opposed to Arabi: hence 'Abbasi explains it as here denoting Hebrew 29.'
We cannot at this distance of time decide the question either way, nor can we tell with certainty who the Persian was from whom Muhammad heard the mythology and the fanciful Persian tales which in some measure have left their mark upon the Qur'an. But the statements made by the commentators, whom we have quoted above, entirely refute the Maulavi's positive assertion, 'It is simply impossible . . . to show that the Holy Prophet had found means of communication with the Jews, the Christians, or the Zoroastrians, at Mecca 30. His readers turn to him for help in disproving the facts and arguments adduced in the 'Sources of Islam.' Instead thereof they find in his book much abuse and discourtesy (for which I, as the innocent cause, wish to apologize to them), a good deal of wresting of the Qur'an, contradiction of the statements of leading commentators, together with very strong assertions of the Maulavi's own opinions. Perhaps they may be satisfied that this attempt to refute the 'Sources of Islam' is successful, but we doubt whether any really learned and thoughtful Muslim readers will come to this conclusion. Such men are far more likely to perceive that the Maulavi finds himself on the horns of a dilemma: for he has (1) either to admit that the Qur'an did not come down from heaven but was composed on earth from various (mostly unreliable) sources, or (2) to maintain that these apparent sources themselves, including various books of the heathen, were in large measure inspired, and that at least the matters in which the Qur'an agrees with them are mentioned in the latter book to show their truth. In the early part of his work the Maulavi has chosen the latter view: further on he has perceived that this would lead to a dangerous approximation to approval of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., yet he has not been able to see any way of escaping from the dilemma. We cannot wonder, then, that he shows his discomfort by somewhat querulous language, which we readily pardon.
In concluding the first part of our address, we would respectfully remind our honoured readers of the vast importance of the inquiry instituted in the 'Sources of Islam.' It should not be hastily answered, nor should it be thrust aside without due thought. The question whether the author of the 'Sources of Islam' or that of 'The Divine Origin of the Holy Qur'an' is the abler controversialist is not of the slightest importance; but it is a matter of more than life or death to decide upon the inspiration or non-inspiration of the Qur'an. What a terrible thing it would be for any of you to find out when too late that, through prejudice or any other unworthy feeling, you had been led astray from the right way, and through want of earnestness and diligent search for the truth had rejected the Word of God , even Him who has said: 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me' (John xiv. 6).