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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 quotations 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 Zadig—and 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.
ing to and vouching for the long story which traditionary historians have told the world, concerning the journey of Mahomet to heaven. The chapter begins thus : • “Praise be unto him who transported his servant by night from the sacred temple of Mecca to the farther temple of Jerusalem, the circuit of which we have blessed, that we might show him some of our signs, for God is he who heareth and seeth; and he gave unto Moses the book of the law, &c.”
. Now it is certainly very singular, that so extraordinary a revelation as the one in question, forming at present so important a feature in a Mussulman's creed, and so much wanted in a system which claims scarcely any other supernatural testimonial, should be only obscurely hinted at by the principal agent in it, and left to be told in detail by vague and traditionary records.- The soundest rule of criticism undoubtedly is to abstain from assigning a marvellous construction to expressions, if they do not positively require it, and the legend may have been artfully fitted on to take its chance for whatever support this passage might be able to give it; but if we are constrained to take it as literally asserting the actual transportation of the prophet to Jerusalem, (which after all, by the bye, is a long way short of the destination which the fable assigns him) we should certainly, looking at the whole context of the volume and the probabilities of the case, be much inclined to treat the allusion as a forgery, contrived to give some sort of authenticity to the strong dose of the marvellous, which it was found politic to administer to the credulous faithful by their Commanders.
The prophet's claim to literary merit, in the ornamental part of the Koran, is thus, upon our system, placed on no higher a station than that of a patron and adopter of a certain style of composition, which does not in truth rank very high; and surely nothing can be more absurd than to place it in any way in comparison with those noble beauties of diction and expression, which every where adorn and sanctify the writings of the Old Testament.
The best part of his work is the animated and dignified assertion of the unity and perfections of the deity, the enforcement of sound precepts of moral duty, and the developement of the simple principles which originally roused the energy of his character, and formed the basis of his system. It degenerates where policy and the love of power lead him into tinsel ornament and absurd legend, and, perhaps, the worst part of all is that which arises from the final assumption of characters, for which he was least of all qualified, those of the monarch and legislator.-We do not mean, however, to rate his abilities even
here so low as many have done; on the contrary, we admit that his code in many respects displays very great humanity, judgment, and foresight.-Of the first quality there are several striking instances.—The European lawgiver will be surprised at being able to find scarcely one capital punishment, except those denounced in wholesale warfare against unbelievers, as in the Mosaic code.—The retaliation of blood for blood is softened into a money compensation.—Civil offences merely affecting property are not heavily punished and towards the unfortunate debtor the law is strikingly lenient;
“ If there be any debtor under a difficulty of paying his debt, let his creditor wait till it be easy for him to do it.”
If we were lawyers, we should be inclined, in the margin of a well-known statute (usually known among them by no very appropriate name, “ The Statute of Frauds") to fix a memorandum, that an eastern barbarian had anticipated this monument of Lord Hale's wisdom, (the object of the encomium of Lord Kenyon, as one of the wisest laws in our statute book), in most of its provisions as well as the reasons of the enactment.
“Oh, true believers, when ye bind yourselves one to the other in a debt for a certain time, write it down—and disdain not to write it down, be it a large debt or be it a small one, until its time of payment.This will be more just in the sight of God, and more right for bearing witness, and more easy, that ye may not doubt.—But if it be for a present bargain, which you transact between yourselves, it shall be no crime in you, if ye write it not down.”—Koran, chap. 2.
In bringing these remarks to a close, we can only shortly advert to a subject on which Sale's preliminary dissertation furnishes ample materials and information: we allude to the history and peculiarities of the various sects to which the system has given birth.-Having become the basis of political power, we might very naturally expect to find it debased from whatever purity it originally possessed, by the traditions and mystifications of officious interpreters, and by a weight of ceremonial observances and abuses, protected by the state to gratify the avarice and bigotry of its servants. Our expectations will be fully accomplished, by the perusal of the list of sectaries and rival creeds which Sale's learned Essay laboriously classifies, and to him we must beg leave to refer, not seeing much interest in endeavouring to reconcile the rival interpreters of the law, to understand their logomachies touching free-will and predestination, to determine the relative absurdity or orthodoxy of a Shiite or Sonnite, or even to ascertain whether the prophet's steed Borak really and truly had or had not a peacock's tail and a