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CHAPTER III.

SOME ACCOUNT OF THE KORAN, CITATIONS ILLUSTRATIVE

OF ITS DISTINGUISHING TENETS AND STYLE: ITS LITERARY CHARACTER AND MERITS DISCUSSED.

The Koran, or book of Mohammedan Insti-. tutes, Civil and Religious, of the same authority among the Moslems as the canonical Scriptures among Christians, is written in prose, interspersed with occasional rhymes in the Arabic language of the tribe of Koreish, which is a dialect of the Hebrew, and accounted, by judges, to be the richest, most energetic and copious in the world, except perhaps the Sanscrit. This singular piece of composition exhibits much of that unconnected, desultory manner, so observable in

Eastern writings; as to the style, there is a rhythmical or natural harmony or modulation, elegant and well-turned cadences, some vivid description and pleasing imagery, which, with its pretensions to a divine original, render it the standard of excellence among the Arabians, and in their opinion inimitable”.

Before we proceed in our delineation, it should be premised, that a variety of conjectures has been formed respecting the real author of the Koran, and the subject is still enveloped in impenetrable mystery. Some assert, that Mohammed was assisted by Abdia Ben Salen, a Jew, and a Christian Monk, known by the name of Sergius, in the Western, and Bahira, in the Eastern Churches :

* Professor Lee observes, “That some of the Arabs have confessed, that the Koran could not only be equalled, but surpassed in elegance."-See Maracci di Alcorano, p. 44, 5,

And that this has been done, no one will doubt, who can read the Makamát of Hamadani and Hariri." Persian Controversies, p. 18. . See Koran, chap. 16, note, and chap. 25.

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this has, however, been controverted by his followers, who, in order to enhance the reputation of the Prophet, and the merits of the Koran, maintain that he could neither read nor write, and that the Koran is eternal and uncreated, remaining, as some express it, in the very essence of God. It is of no importance, in the present stage of the argument, who or whether any were his coadjutors, and their respective contributions, or whether he might have formed the outlines of his plan during his journies into Syria, because his statements are found to correspond remarkably with those of Ephremo, the Syrian,

C « The learned Author above referred to traces various coincidences between the Koran and the works of Ephrem, the Syrian, which were read publicly in the Churches, and to which Mohammed might have had access during his journies into Syria. The 18th chapter of the Koran contains the substance of a story beautifully told in Parnel's Hermit, and found in the Spectator, No. 237. The original draught of the story appears in the works of Ephrem, given with a view of illustrating the mysterious ways of Providence. Other coincidences are noted in chapter 2, where Moses struck the

ana

whose writings were read publicly in the Churches along with the Scriptures, for, as it is allowed substantially to be Mohammed's work, that is sufficient for the

purpose

of lytical investigation.

This extraordinary performance is a compilation from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, apocryphal writings, the reveries of the Talmud, and traditional superstitions of his country: it was not communicated all at once, but by portions, or piece-meal, during a period of about twenty-three years, according as the angel Gabriel furnished matter: the Commentators say, that the Koran was taken from the preserved table near God's throne, entire, and in one volume, to the lowest Heaven, from whence Gabriel revealed it to Mohammed in detached portions, as occasions required, giving him, however, the consolation to shew him the whole, (which, they say, 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 favour to see it twice a.

rock, and there gushed out twelve fountains; and in chapter 12, a manifest similarity of style and sentiment in the History of Joseph; the account in chapter 2, of Mount Sinai having been lift over the Israelites, and some remarkable agreements between the Koran and the works of Ephrem, in the description both give of Paradise, Adam's ejection and residence on earth : to this may be added the expulsion of Satan from Heaven, and a variety of particulars relating to the rhythmical style of Ephrem, together with the words and phrases peculiar to Mohammed and Ephrem, which have every appearance of being borrowed from the latter."-Persian Controversies, p. 124, &c.

The length of time employed in its publication, enabled Mohammed to adapt his doctrines better to contingencies, though, after all, various alterations and discrepancies still adhere to it, which the Musulmans justify by the law of abrogation ; asserting that God commanded several things, which were afterwards for good reasons revoked or annulled. Each portion is supposed to have been dic

d See Sale,

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