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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Korányi, Friedrich
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The sacred scriptures of Islam. According to Mohammedan belief, based upon the testimony of the book itself, the Koran consists of separate revelations vouchsafed by God to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel (sura 2:91, 25:34). These were delivered in Arabic (26:195) and were thus first of all for the Arabs, who had previously received no manifestation of the will of God (34:43). They were designed, also, to confirm the older books of the Torah and the Gospels, and to lead mankind in the right way (3:2, et al.). Mohammed is, therefore, the messenger of God (98:2, etc.) and the seal of the Prophets (33:40). In the prime of life this remarkable man, whose developmentis traced in no authentic records, voluntarily retired to solitude. There, through vigils and fasting, he fell into religious trances, in which he felt himself inspired to warn his fellows of an impending judgment.

Form of Revelation.

The oldest portions of the Koran represent the material result of this inspiration. They reflect an extraordinary degree of excitement in their language—in their short, abrupt sentences and in their sudden transitions, but none the less they carefully maintain the rimed form, like the oracles and magic formulas of the pagan Arab priests (Al-A'sha, in Ibn Hisham). This form is preserved in the later sections also, in some of which the movement is calm and the style expository. The book, which is about equal to the New Testament in size, was put together long after the prophet's death; and its 114 sections were arranged without any regard for chronological sequence.

Quotations from the Koran are found as early as the period of Mohammed's activity in Mecca (Ibn Hisham, ib. p. 226). The oldest fragments may have been recited by the prophet himself before a band of followers, though probably a small one, who could more easily preserve them, either orally or in writing. The following extracts, referring to the most important articles of faith taught in the Koran, will give an approximate idea of its language and mode of thought:

Allah and Creation.

"Allah is the Creator of the heavens and the earth; when He says 'Be,' it is" (2:111; 3:42,52). "With Him are the keys of the unseen. None knows it save Him; His is the understanding of all that is in the land and in the sea; and no leaf falls without His knowledge" (6:59). "Should God touch thee with harm, there is none to remove it save Him; and if He wish thee well, there is none to restrain His bounty" (10:107). "Do not the unbelieving see that the heavens and the earth were one until We clove them asunder and made every living thing from water" (21:31). "He it is who appointed the sun for brightness; He established the moon for light and ordained her stations, that ye may know the number of the years and the reckoning of them" (10:5). "The cattle, likewise, have We created for you; in them are warmth and much profit, and of them ye eat. In them is there beauty for you when ye fetch them from their pastures, and when ye drive them forth to graze. They bear your heavy burdens to towns which ye could not otherwise reach, save with great wretchedness of soul: verily, your Lord is gracious and merciful!" "Horses, too, has He created, and mules, and asses, for you to ride upon and for an ornament" (16:5-8). "He it is that sends rain from heaven, whereof ye drink; from which grow the trees whereby ye feed your flocks." "He makes the corn to grow, and the olives, and the palms, and the grapes, and all manner of fruit: verily, herein is a sign unto them that reflect" (16:10,11). "He it is that subjected the sea unto you, that ye may eat fresh meat therefrom and bring forth from it the ornaments which ye wear; and thou mayest see the ships that sail upon it" (16:14). "He it is that created you of dust, then of a drop, then of clotted blood, and then brought you forth as children; then ye attain your full strength; then ye become old men—though some of you are taken sooner—and then ye reach the time appointed for you" ( 69).

Last Judgment; Resurrection.

"O ye men! fear your Lord! Verily the earthquake of the Hour is a mighty thing!" "On the day ye shall see it, every suckling woman shall forget her sucking babe; and every woman with child shall cast forth her burden; and thou shalt see men drunken, though they have drunk naught" (22:1,2). "And the day when We shall move the mountains, and thou shalt see the earth a level plain; and We shall gather all men together, and leave no one of them behind: then shall they be brought before thy Lord in ranks. Now are ye come to Us as we created you at first! Nay, but ye thought that we would never make Our promise good! And each shall receive his book, and thou shalt see the sinners in alarm at that which is therein; and they shall say, 'Alas for us! what a book is this, leaving neither small nor great unnumbered!' And they shall find therein what they have done; and thy Lord shall deal unjustly with none" (18:45-47). "We shall set just balances for the Day of Resurrection, and no soul shall be wrong; even though it be the weight of a grain of mustard-seed, We shall bring it" (48). "Verily, those that believe, and those that are Jews, and the Sabeans, and the Christians, and the Magians, and those that join other gods with God—verily, God will decide between them on the Day of Resurrection" (22:17).

Hell and Paradise.

"Verily, We have prepared for the evil-doers a fire, the smoke whereof shall encompass them; and if they cry for help they shall be helped with water like molten brass, which shall scald their faces" (18:28). "But for those that misbelieve, for them are cut out garments of fire; there shall be poured over their heads boiling water; what is in their bellies, and their skins, shall be dissolved; and for them are maces of iron. Whenever in their pain they shall come forth, they shall be thrust back into it" (22:20-22). "Nay, when the earth shall be crushed with crushing on crushing, and thy Lord shall come, and the angels, rank on rank, and hell on that day shall be brought nigh—on that day man shall be reminded! But how shall he have a reminder? He will say, 'Would that I had prepared in my life for this!' But on that day none shall be punished with a punishment like his, and none shall be bound with chains like his!" (89:22-27).

"On that day shall there be joyous faces, well pleased with their past deeds, in a lofty garden where they shall hear no vain discourse; wherein is a flowing fountain; wherein are high couches and goblets set, and cushions laid in order, and carpets spread!" (88:8-16). "Verily, the righteous shall dwell among delights; seated on couches they shall gaze about them; thou mayest recognize in their faces the brightness of delight; they shall be given to drink wine that is sealed, whose seal is musk; for that let the aspirants aspire! And it shall be tempered with Tasnim, a spring from which thosethat draw nigh to God shall drink" (83:22-28). "O thou soul that art at rest! return unto thy Lord, well pleased and pleasing him! And enter among my servants, and enter my paradise" (89:27-30).

Old and New Testament Stories.

Although the passages here quoted contain many original phrases and figures, they are frequently reminiscent of similar passages in the Old and New Testaments. These points of contact are the more numerous because Mohammed repeats many Biblical narratives. These are found especially in the later suras, which have all the characteristics of sermons. The chief subjects taken from the Old Testament are: the Creation; Cain and Abel; Noah; Abraham and his sons; Jacob and his sons; Moses and Aaron; Saul; David and Solomon; Job and Jonah; but from the New Testament, besides Jesus and Mary, only John is mentioned. In the Old Testament narratives the Koran frequently follows the legends of the Jewish Haggadah rather than the Biblical accounts, as Geiger pointed out in his "Was Hat Muhammad aus dem Judenthume Aufgenommen?" (Bonn, 1834; 2d. ed. Berlin, 1902). Thus, the story of Abraham's destruction of the idols in his father's house, and his answer to those that asked who had done it (21:58-64), agree with Gen. R.; the sign that restrained Joseph from sin (12:24) corresponds to Soṭah 36b; the refusal of Moses to accept food from the Egyptian women (28:11) parallels Soṭah 12b; and the account of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba () harmonizes with the commentary of Targum Sheni to Esther 1:13.

For many of these borrowed narratives the sources are unknown. Thus, for instance, the story in the "Sefer ha-Yashar" of the Egyptian women that cut their fingers in bewilderment at Joseph's beauty (12:31) is based on the Mohammedan narrative, and no older Jewish source thereof is known. For the legend of Samiri, comp. "Z. D. M. G." 56:73.

In its version of the story of Jesus the Koran shows more dependence on the apocryphal than on the canonical Gospels. Thus the story of the giving of life to the bird of clay (3:43, 5:110) is found in the Gospel of Thomas (ed. Tischendorf, 2:2). The account of Mary's marvelous food (3:32) is given in the Protevangelium Jacob, , as well as the casting of lots for the care of her (ch. ), found in 3:39.

Furthermore, there are many variations, especially in the case of proper names, which are due to confusion on the part of Mohammed himself. Thus, Pharaoh desires to build a tower (28:38), the story being based on the account of Nimrod (Josephus, "Ant." 1:4, §§ 2-3); by a confusion with Miriam, Mary is called the sister of Aaron (19:29); Haman is the servant of Pharaoh (28:38); and Azar becomes the father of Abraham (6:74)—a reminiscence in Mohammed's mind of the name of Eliezer (comp. also, for the account of Idris [19:57], Nöldeke in "Zeit. für Assyr." 17:83).

Application of Quotations and References.

There are frequent anachronisms in the teachings of Mohammed. Thus, the regulation concerning prayer and almsgiving is mentioned in connection with God's compact with Israel (5:15); God commanded Moses and Aaron to provide places of prayer in Egypt (10:87); and the destruction of Lot's wife was foreordained by God (15:60). Other additions were made to suit Arabic conditions, such as the description of Moses' staff (20:19); the reason assigned for his approach to the burning bush ("I will bring you a blazing brand from it"; 27:7); crucifixion on palm-trees as a punishment (20:74); and Joseph as guardian of his brothers' baggage (12:17; comp. Wellhausen, "Skizzen," 4:157; for the description of Solomon's glory, "dishes as large as cisterns"; comp. Al-A'sha, in Al-Mubarrad, 4, 14).

A fundamental alteration, which has a direct bearing on the Arabs and on Mecca, is found in the story of Abraham and his sons, the Koran representing the Biblical patriarch as the founder of the sanctuary at Mecca. Ishmael is not mentioned with him until the later suras, whereas, according to the earlier ones, Isaac and Jacob are the sons of Abraham: probably a confusion in Mohammed's own mind (comp. Snouck Hurgronje, "Het Mekkaansche Feest," p. 32).

In all the Biblical narratives which are found in the Koran the words placed in the mouths of the speakers are intended to convey Mohammed's opinions and beliefs. The relation of Mohammed to the Meccans is but thinly disguised under the warnings of individual prophets to a sinful people, and in the answers of the latter. Noteworthy in this connection are the words of Adam and Eve (7:22); of Abel (5:32); of Noah (7:57,59; 11:27); of the unbelievers in Noah's time (7:58; 11:34,45,48); of Jacob (12:99); of Joseph (12:33,37); of Moses (7:103, 28:15); of the Egyptian magicians (20:75); and of Jesus (19:31).

A few legends, in addition to the Biblical narratives, have been taken into the Koran, such as the legend of Alexander the Great, with "the two horns" (18:82 et seq.), which is derived from a Syriac source (Nöldeke, "Beiträge zur Gesch. des Alexanderromans," p. 32); the legend of the Seven Sleepers (18:8 et seq.; comp. Koch, "Die Siebenschläfer Legende," Leipsic, 1883; Guidi, "Testi Orientali Inediti Sopra i Sette Dormienti di Efeso," Rome, 1885); the legend of Moses and the servant of God (18:64 et seq.); and the story of the one hundred years' sleep (2:261; comp. the story of Ḥoni ha-Me'aggel, Yer. Ta'an. 3:66d; Guidi, "Sette Dormienti," p. 103).

The Koran contains also native Arabic legends, apparently somewhat altered in form, which are included for the moral they convey. To this class belong the stories of the destruction of the Thamud (the Θαμουδῆνοι of Diodorus Siculus, 3:44; Ptolemy, 6:7,21; "Notitia Dignitatum," ed. Seeck, pp. 58, 59, 73), on account of their disobedience to their prophet (7:71, et al.); of the Madyan (7:83, et al.; the of the Bible and the Mαδιάμα of Ptolemy, 6:7,27); and of the 'Ad (11:62, et al.), a general term for a mythological, prehistoric people (comp. Nöldeke, "Fünf Mu'allakat," 3:31, in "Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie," 1903). Here, also, belong the story of the breaking of the dam in Yemen (33:14) and the speeches placed in the mouth of Luḳman (31:12 et seq.), who is mentionedlikewise in old Arabic poems. The Koran, in addition, includes many passages of a legislative character and of later date. These contain regulations concerning the pilgrimage (2:185); fasting (2:181); almsgiving (2:273 et seq., 64:17 et seq.); the spoils of war (); marriage (4:23, et al.); inheritance (4:2, et al.); and the like. In these portions, also, the typical expressions of the earlier passages relating to articles of faith recur as interpolations in the text itself.

The language of the Koran is held by the Mohammedans to be a peerless model of perfection. An impartial observer, however, finds many peculiarities in it. Especially noteworthy is the fact that a sentence in which something is said concerning Allah is sometimes followed immediately by another in which Allah is the speaker; examples of this are suras 16:81, 27:61, 31:9, and 43:10 (comp. also 16:70). Many peculiarities in the positions of words are due to the necessities of rime (69:31, 74:3), while the use of many rare words and new forms may be traced to the same cause (comp. especially 19:8,9,11,16). See also Islam; MOHAMMED.

  • Flügel, Corani Textus Arabicus, Leipsic, 1869;
  • Concordantiœ Corani Arabicœ, ib. 1842;
  • H. O. Fleischer, Beidhawii Commentarius in Coranum, , , ib. 1846-48;
  • Wherry, A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran, with additional notes and emendations, 4 vols., London, 1883-86;
  • Ullmann, Der Koran aus dem Arabischen Uebersetzt, 6th ed., Bielefeld, 1862;
  • Kasimirski, Le Koran, Traduction Nouvelle, Paris, 1864;
  • E. H. Palmer, Translation of the Quran, in S. B. E. vols. and , Oxford, 1880;
  • Th. Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, Göttingen, 1860.

S. Fr.

The dependence of Mohammed upon his Jewish teachers or upon what he heard of the Jewish Haggadah and Jewish practises is now generally conceded. The subject was first treated from a general point of view by David Mill, in his "Oratio Inauguralis de Mohammedanismo e Veterum Hebræorum Scriptis Magna ex Parte Composita" (Utrecht, 1718); and by H. Lyth in his "Quo Successu Davidicos Hymnos Imitatus Sit Muhammed" (Upsala, 1806-1807). Geiger's epoch-making work laid the foundation for the study of the Koran in its relation to Jewish writings. J. Gastfreund, in his "Mohamed nach Talmud und Midrasch" (, Berlin, 1875; , Vienna, 1877; , Leipsic, 1880), has attempted to show the parallels, also, in later Mohammedan literature; though not always with success, as Sprenger has pointed out ("Z. D. M. G." 29:654). Further parallels are given by Grünbaum (ib. 43:4 et seq.). The subject has received an exhaustive treatment at the hands of Hartwig Hirschfeld, in his "Jüdische Elemente im Ḳoran" (1878), in his "Beiträge zur Erklärung des Ḳoran" (Leipsic, 1886), and more especially in his "New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran" (London, 1902; comp. the remarks of August Müller in "Theologische Literaturzeitung," 1887, No. 12, cols. 278 et seq.).

Hebrew Translations.

Hebrew translations of the Koran were not unknown, and fragments of these may lie buried in Oriental genizahs. Before such translations were made a simple transliteration into Hebrew characters sufficed. Portions of such a transliteration are to be found in Bodleian Manuscript No. 1221 (= Hunt No. 529), the first parts of which are even punctuated; on the margin are Hebrew translations of some passages and references to the Bible and the haggadic literature; the manuscript is in a modern Spanish rabbinical script. Additional fragments of such manuscripts are in the libraries of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (from the Crimea; see Rödiger in "Z. D. M. G." 14:485), the Vatican (Cod. 357, 2), and the Vienna bet ha-midrash (Pinsker, No. 17). In a bookseller's list cited in "J. Q. R." 15:77 is mentioned a volume containing the Torah, the Targum, and the Koran bound together (). A translation into Hebrew from the Latin was made in the seventeenth century by Jacob b. Israel ha-Levi, rabbi of Zante (d. 1634; see Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 2207); and, in modern times, by Herrman Reckendorf (, Leipsic, 1857). A translation into Spanish of sura 70 ("Al-Mi'raj") was made in the thirteenth century, at the behest of Alfonso X., by the physician of Toledo, Don Abraham; a French rendering of this was afterward made by Bonaventura de Seve. Koran citations, either for polemical purposes or in translations from the Arabic, are occasionally found in Hebrew writings (e.g., in those of Saadia and Hai Gaon). Simon Duran (1423), in his critique of the Koran (see "Ḳeshet u-Magen," ed. Steinschneider, in "Oẓar Ṭob," 1881), quotes the Koran; but he mixes such quotations with others from the Sunnah, and probably takes them from translations of Averroes' works. In some translations from the Arabic, the citations from the Koran were occasionally replaced by quotations from the Bible (e.g., in Al-Bataljusi, and in Judah Nathan's translations of Ghazali's "Maḳaṣid al-Falasifah").

  • Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. pp. 309, 339, 591, 854;
  • Z. D. M. G. 15:381, 48:354;
  • J. Q. R. 12:499;
  • Polemische Literatur, pp. 313-316.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Koran'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​k/koran.html. 1901.
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