Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

thereby produced the springing buds of all things, and have thereout produced the green things, from which we produce the grain, growing in rows, and palm trees, from whose branches proceed clusters of dates, hanging close together; and gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, both like and unlike to one another. Look on their fruits, when they have fruit, and their growing to maturity: verily herein are signs unto people who believe. **** This is God, your Lord ! there is no God but he, the Creator of all things—therefore serve him, for he taketh care of all things—the sight comprehendeth him not, but he comprehendeth the sight-he is the gracious, the wise.”— chap 6.

“ Say, who provideth you food from heaven and earth? or who hath the absolute power over the hearing and the sight? and who bringeth forth the living from the dead, and bringeth forth the dead from the living, and who governeth all things?

“ They will surely answer-God. Say, will ye not therefore fear him? This is therefore God, your true God, and what remaineth there after truth, except error? How therefore are ye turned aside from the truth? Thus is the word of thy Lord verified upon them who do wickedness; that they believe not. ****

“ Say, is there any of your companions, who directeth unto the truth?

“ Say, God directeth unto the truth.

“ Whether is he, therefore, who directeth unto the truth, more worthy to be followed, or he who directeth not, unless he be directed ? What aileth you, therefore, that ye judge as ye do?-chap. 10.

“ Whatsoever is in heaven and earth singeth praise unto God; he is mighty and wise—his is the kingdom of heaven and earth—he giveth life, and he putteth to death, and he is Almighty-he is the first and the last; the manifest and the hidden; and he knoweth all things-it is he who created the heavens and earth in six days, and then ascended the throne. He knoweth that which entereth into the earth, and that which issueth out of the same; and that which descendeth from heaven, and that which ascendeth thereto; and he is with you wheresoever ye be ; for God seeth that which ye do: his is the kingdom of heaven and earth; and unto God shall all things return. He causeth the night to succeed the day, and he causeth the day to succeed the night, and he knoweth the innermost parts of men's hearts.-chap. 57.

The following chapter has always appeared to us peculiarly interesting, for the beauty and truth of the moral feeling, and for its expressing strongly those emotions which we may suppose to have influenced the mind of the author in the early period of his career, when Providence had called him into a more prosperous station than the dawn of his existence had promised, and when his projects of religious reform were ripening into maturity.

“By the brightness of the morning, and by the night when it groweth dark, thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither doth he hate thee. Verily the life to come shall be better for thee than this present life, and thy Lord shall give thee a reward, wherewith thou shalt be well pleased. Did he not find thee an orphan, and hath he not taken care of thee? and did he not find thee wandering in error, and hath he not guided thee into the truth? and did he not find thee needy, and hath he not enriched thee? wherefore, oppress not the orphan, neither repulse the beggar; but declare the goodness of thy Lord.”chap. 93.

We have ventured to arrange the following passage in a rhythmical form, as a specimen of the poetic parts of the Koran.

By the sun, and its rising brightness;
By the moon, when she followeth him;
By the day, when it sheweth his splendor:
By the night, when it covereth him with darkness;
By the heaven, and him who built it;
By the earth, and him who spread it forth;
By the soul, and him who completely formed it,
And inspired into the same its faculty of distinguishing,
And power of choosing wickedness and piety;
Now is he, who hath purified the same, happy;
But he, who hath corrupted the same, miserable.

cap. 91. We may not think very highly of this extract, but there are some ornamental passages which will less stand the test of criticism, particularly such figures as the following, very fit to be associated with some more modern concetti.

“If the sea were ink to write the words of my Lord, verily the sea would fail, before the words of my Lord would fail; although we added another sea like unto it as a further supply."--chap. 18.

The certainty of a future state of retributive justice is powerfully announced in several impressive passages.

“ Who fulfil the covenant of God, and break not their contracts, and who join that which God hath commanded to be joined (belief with practice) and who fear their Lord, and dread an ill account; and who persevere out of a sincere desire to please their Lord, and observe the stated times of prayer, and give alms out of what we have bestowed on them, in secret and openly, and who turn away evil with good ; the reward of these shall be Paradise, gardens of eternal abode; which they shall enter, and also whoever shall have acted uprightly, of their fathers, of their wives, and their posterity: and the angels shall go in unto them by every gate, saying, Peace be unto you, because ye have endured with patience! How excellent a reward is Paradise !”-chap. 13.

Reversing the picture, he exclaims;

“The day will come, when the earth shall be changed into another earth, and the heavens into other heavens; and men shall come forth from their graves to appear before the only, the mighty God.And thou shalt see the wicked bound together in fetters; their inner garments shall be of pitch, and fire shall cover their faces; that God may reward every soul according to what it shall have deserved; for God is swift in taking an account.'

“Know that this present life is only a toy and a vain amusement; and worldly pomp, and the affectation of glory among you, and the multiplying of riches and children, are as the plants nourished by the rain, the springing up whereof delighteth the husbandmen-afterwards they wither, so that thou seest the same turned yellow, and at length they become dry stubble.—And in the life to come will be a severe punishment for those who covet worldly grandeur; and pardon from God, and favor from those who renounce it: for this present life is no other than a deceitful provision.”chap. 57.

We did not mean to have gone to such length of quota, tions from a work so easy of access, but we must still find room for the only favorable specimen we recollect, of quite a different sort of composition; the attempts at which, in the Koran, are generally unsuccessful. The story, which follows, is doubtless borrowed from some original now inaccessible, but which probably had extensive circulation in the East, and from thence made its way westward, with many other materials for European tales of fiction, through the legends of the Greek church and other channels. It appears among the Contes Dévots circulating in France, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, under the title De l'Hermite qu'un ange conduisit dans le Siècle-in the Gesta Romanorum-Howell's Letters-Dr. More's Dialogues—in Voltaire's Zadigand lastly in the beautiful poem of Parnell.

Moses is introduced, in his conduct of the children of Israel through the wilderness, as joining company at the meeting of two seas, with a prophet, whom he addresses thus :

“Shall I follow thee, that thou mayest teach me part of that which thou hast been taught, for a direction unto me? He answered, verily thou canst not bear with me: for how canst thou patiently suffer those things, the knowledge whereof thou dost not comprehend ? Moses replied, thou shalt find me patient, if God please; neither will I be disobedient unto thee in any thing. He said, if thou follow me, therefore, ask me not concerning any thing, until I shall declare the meaning thereof unto thee. So they both went on by the sea-shore, until they went up into a ship: and he made a hole therein. And Moses said unto him, hast thou made a hole therein, that thou mightest drown those who are on board ? Now hast thou done a strange thing. He answered, did I not tell thee that thou couldest not bear with me? Moses said, rebuke me not, because I did forget; and impose not on me a difficulty in what I am commanded. Wherefore they left the ship, and proceeded, until they met with a youth; and he slew him. Moses said, hast thou slain an innocent person, without his having killed another? Now hast thou committed an unjust action. He answered, did I not tell thee that thou couldest not bear with me? Moses said, if I ask thee concerning any thing hereafter, suffer me not to accompany thee: now hast thou received an excuse from me. They went forward, therefore, until they came to the inhabitants of a certain city, and they asked food of the inhabitants thereof; but they refused to receive them. And they found therein a wall, which was ready to fall down; and he set it upright. Whereupon Moses said unto him, if thou wouldest, thou mightest doubtless have received a reward for it. He answered, this shall be a separation between me and thee: but I will first declare unto thee the signification of that which thou couldest not bear with patience. The vessel belonged to certain poor men, who did their business in the sea : and I was minded to render it unserviceable, because there was a king behind them, who took every sound ship by force. As to the youth, his parents were true believers; and we feared lest he, being an unbeliever, should oblige them to suffer his perverseness and ingratitude: wherefore we desired that their Lord might give them a more righteous child in exchange for him, and one more affectionate towards them. And the wall belonged to two orphan youths in the city, and under it was a treasure hidden which belonged to them; and their father was a righteous man: and thy Lord was pleased that they should attain their full age, and take forth their treasure, through the mercy of thy Lord. And I did not what thou hast seen of my own will, but by God's direction. This is the interpretation of that which thou couldest not bear with patience.chap. 18.

We are inclined to give full credit to the idea, that the Koran is indebted to several hands for its present contents; and, perhaps, the encomiums which it lavishes so bountifully upon itself, may be considered as supporting this theory.-We should attribute to one of Mahomet's co-adjutors, the studied art and ornament with which these sermons are embellished; and it is not surprising that an illiterate man, feeling their effect on his own mind, (an effect much stronger than they could have produced if that mind had been their parent) should reckon, not injudiciously, on a similar power over his ignorant countrymen, and appeal to it as the proof of superhuman inspiration.-Speculating, as we are sometimes inclined to do, on the component parts of the work and their probable authors, we endeavour to try the question by our estimate of the prophet's general character and design. The governing and primary feeling, we conceive, to have been an ardent zeal for the restoration of a purer system of theology; and to this we add, as secondary

principles, an assumption (whether founded in the first instance on fraud or enthusiasm is not clear) that he was divinely commissioned to the accomplishment of this grand object, and that he was justified, nay, bound in duty, to use force in its inculcation—and a cool calculating policy, which led him, after ambition had taken deep root in his breast, to stoop to any compromise or conciliation on matters not fundamental or essential to his system, as one of reform.-We should accordingly assign to the master spirit, the burning indignation against the corruptions which disgraced the age, the rigorous and undeviating assertion of the unity and supremacy of the Divine Being, the strong devotional feeling, the lofty tone of general morality, the proud assumption of his high calling, the original feelings of charity and liberality gradually giving way to and finally absorbed in the desire of power; and we would consign to others the ornamental parts, the tricks of jingle and cadence, and the mere editorial arts of stringing together and piecing into the new structure odd ends and scraps of rabbinical and pseudo Christian tradition, with which he is not at all likely to have had intimate acquaintance, till it became expedient to conciliate differ ent parties, and to seek of some apostate assistance and information, as to the most specious way of baiting a trap for the unwary. How else can we account for the singular circumstance, that whatever has the character of originality is bold and often sublime; while an entire want of any kind of feeling, of beauty, and good taste, appears in what is borrowed from sources that, one would have thought, could not fail to captivate and stimulate to emulation?

What part of the Old Testament history is more calculated to affect and interest the best feelings of the heart, than the history of Joseph, as there narrated ?-the same facts are told in the twelfth chapter of the Koran, without one spark of feeling, one symptom that the plagiarist was at all sensible of the beauty of his original : and this remark might be extended to many other similar instances.

We would lastly find room for a third class of materials in the revisions and pretended restorations of Mahomet's successors, after they had become the heads of a powerful empire; and to them we look with strong suspicion, as the natural enemies of all that was humble or charitable, and the introducers of a much stronger leaven of authoritative dogmatism and fanaticism. We may, perhaps, be considered as exercising rather too freely even the liberty of conjectural criticism, but, we must say, we have always entertained great doubts of the genuineness of the beginning of chap. 17, as it now stands; and we only hesitate in expressing our opinion more decisively, because we think it not at all necessary to interpret the expression, as refer

VOL. III. PART I.

« AnteriorContinuar »