IT is well-known that the Koran abounds in references to "the People of the Book."1 From the context in each case it is clear that the author thereby wished to denote the Jews specially, but also in a less degree that he associated the Christians too with them in the title. After the Moslem conquest of Persia, the Zoroastrians endeavoured in some measure to shelter themselves also under that appellation, for the "People of the Book" had the privilege of choosing between embracing Islam on the one hand, and being compelled to pay "the jizyah-tax out of hand and be brought low" on the other, while all other religious communities had the sword to dread. So far for "the People of the Book." But now comes the question: What was "the Book" itself so often mentioned in the Koran, both in connexion with Jews and Christians, and also in some measure independently?

In passing it may be mentioned that occasionally this title of "the Book" is given to the Koran itself. Thus in Surah iii., 2, we read: "In 2 truth hath He sent down to thee 'the Book,' which confirmeth those which precede it: for He had sent down the Law and the Evangel aforetime as man's guidance; and (now) hath He sent down the Furqân." But this title, "The Book," is given to the Koran comparatively rarely, and only (1) as being a continuation of previous inspired works, (2) as professing to come from the same Divine Author, and (3) as "confirming what preceded it" of "the Book": it being evidently Mohammed's conviction that what he taught in the Koran was in complete accordance with "the Book" then in the hands of "the People of the Book." The latter title is never given to Moslems in the Koran. Hence we return to our question: What is "the Book" mentioned or referred to in the Koran, from which "the People of the Book" derive this appellation?

It has generally been held that it is undoubtedly the Bible, and strong arguments have been adduced in favour of this view. But in the "Mélanges de la Faculté orientale" (Beyrout, Tome iv., pp. 33-56) the eminent Arabic scholar, P. L. Cheikho, S.J., in an article of which an English translation appeared in THE MOSLEM WORLD of January last, takes a different view. He brings evidence in support of his contention (if we understand him aright) that the Tourat, Injil and Zaboor, mentioned in the Koran as parts of "the Book," are not identical with the Pentateuch, Gospel and Psalms, as we have them, but "are altogether different books." He proceeds to inquire, "What are these 'Rolls of Abraham and Moses' referred to in the Koran, when Mohammed says, 'Verily this is in the early records, the records of Abraham and Moses,' and do we possess any remnant?"

This latter question is doubtless of interest, and I have dealt with it, as far as the "Records (As Suhuf)3 of Abraham" are concerned, in "The Original Sources of the Qur'an," and in an appendix to "The Religion of the Crescent." It is there pointed out that in what Tradition tells of Mohammed's "Night Journey" and what he saw as he passed through the Heavens, as well as in some other particulars, there is much to remind us of the apocryphal "Testament of Abraham." Any further light which can be thrown on this subject will be welcomed by all students of Islam. But this is distinct from the question of "the Book," for the "Records of Abraham" do not seem to be mentioned in the Koran as parts of "the Book," while the Tourat, the Injil and the Zaboor, are often referred to as such. Moreover, in the later parts of the Koran, Mohammed ceased to refer to the "Records of Abraham," possibly because he found that neither Jews nor Christians considered them genuine or as parts of "the Book."

The author of the article to which we have referred holds that Mohammed "had never heard of the entire Bible," and states that certain later Arabic writers give quotations from a work which they call the Tourat of Moses, which quotations bear no resemblance whatever to the genuine Pentateuch. He says the same about later Arabic quotations supposed to be from the Zaboor, but adds regarding the latter book that "Mohammed speaks about it, but we do not find anything in the Koran of its contents, not even a single passage." Now, it is very desirable indeed that any apocryphal Arabic work that may exist under the title of the "Zaboor" should be published and studied, but no such book can possibly be the work referred to in the Koran, for the simple reason that we do find in the Koran an actual quotation from the Zaboor, and that quotation is in the Psalms. Thus in Surah xxi., 105, we read: "And now, since the Law (Tourat) was given, have We written in the Psalms (Zaboor) that 'My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth.'" This is a direct and unmistakable quotation from Psalm xxxvii., 29, "The just shall inherit the earth." Surely no clearer proof could be desired that the book styled the Psalms (Zaboor) in the Koran is the Biblical Psalter, especially when we remember that the Koran, elsewhere associates the Zaboor with David, e.g. in Surah xvii., 57, "The Book of Psalms (Zaboor) We gave to David." A less evident quotation, but an unmistakable reference to Psalm cxlviii., 9, 10, is found in Surah xxxiv:, 10: "On David bestowed We from Ourself special boon: — 'O mountains, repeat ye (the praises of God) with him, and ye birds'": and similarly it is said of David in Surah xxxviii., 17, "Lo, we constrained the mountains to join with him in lauds at even and at sunrise."

The fact that the apocryphal Arabic, Zaboor agree with the Koran in the sensual view of Paradise which it contains is a proof that it is a Mohammedan forgery for no known Jewish apocryphal work describes Paradise in any such way. The Talmud's account of the final eating of Leviathan cannot be said to be an exception to this. M. Cheikho says that the Gospel (Injil) of which the Koran speaks cannot be one of the canonical Gospels. He thinks it should probably be identified, with the Protevangelion of James, or with some other extant or lost apocryphal Gospel. But the quotations from later Arabic writers and not from the Koran, which he adduces do not prove this to the full, though (as is shewn in "The Original Sources of the Qur'an") undoubtedly the Apocryphal Gospels have left far more trace on the Koran than have the genuine ones. Mohammed's knowledge of the New Testament was much slighter than of the Old, yet there are undoubted references to it. For example, in Surah vii., 38, we read: "Verily, they who charge Our signs with falsehood and turn away from them in their pride, Heaven's gates shall not be opened to them, nor shall they enter Paradise until the camel passeth through the eye of the needle" (cf. Matt. xix., 24; Mark x., 25; Luke xviii., 25.). This quotation is unmistakable, and no similar passage in any Apocryphal Gospel is known from which it could have been taken. Hardly less significant is the reference to Christ as "The Word of God" (Surah iii., 40; iv. 169), the Kalimatu 'llah, representing St. John's distinctive . Again, there can be little doubt that the promise of the Paraclete is intended to be referred to by what is said of our Lord's supposed prophecy of Mohammed in Surah lxi. 6: "And (remember) when Jesus the son of Mary said, 'O children of Israel, of a truth I am God's apostle to you to confirm the Law which was given before Me, and to announce an Apostle that shall come after Me, whose name shall be Ahmad.'" Here Mohammed has been misled into fancying that (cf. John xvi., 7, etc.) was equivalent to , which latter (if it occurred in the Gospel, which is not the case) might, not quite erroneously, have been rendered by Ahmad.

But if we turn to the direct evidence in proof that, though deluded into fancying that Rabbinical tales and the fables contained in the Testament of Abraham and the Apocryhal Gospels were really contained in the Jewish and Christian canonical Scriptures, Mohammed nevertheless (1) Knew of the existence of the Holy Scriptures of both Testaments, and (2) fully intended to refer to them, this evidence is sufficiently clear. In the first place Al Kitab, "the Book," is a clear reference to "the Bible." Then, again, we find that the parts of "the Book" are mentioned as the Taurât (which is the Arabic way of writing The Torah., the Hebrew name of the Pentateuch), the Zaboor (Psalms), and the Injil. The latter word is not genuine Arabic, but is an attempt to reproduce the Greek , deprived of its termination. That the books of the Old Testament are referred to by the first and second names is clear also from the fact that a whole string of Hebrew and Aramaic words occur in the Koran, words which have ever since puzzled Mohammedan commentators. This shews that Mohammed was not quoting from some apocryphal Arabic books bearing the same names. He speaks repeatedly of the Tourat and Zaboor as in the hands of the Jews of his own time, and the Injil as in those of the Christians (cf. Surahs v., 47, 72; ii., 107; x., 94; vii., 168; iii., 22, 87; and Baizawi's commentary.). Now, however much influence Talmudical fables and Apocryphal Gospels may have exercised over the minds of ignorant Jews and Christians respectively in Arabia in Mohammed's time, no one would venture to contend that any of these had been substituted for the canonical books, and had actually taken their names. One cannot imagine a Jewish community adopting another book in place of the Pentateuch and calling it the Torah.

Again, there is a quotation — one at least — from the Taurat in the Koran, taken from the Pentateuch, which is thus identified with the book that Mohammed is quoting. The passage in question is, "Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Ex. xxi., 23, 24; cf. Deut. xix., 21). To this the Koran refers thus: "Verily, We have set down the Law (Taurat), . . . And therein have We enacted for them, 'Life for life, an eye for an eye, and nose, for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth, and wound retaliation'" [Surah v. 48, 49]. Many of the stories in the Koran, as, for instance, that of Joseph, are directly taken from the Old Testament, though they shew traces of Talmudic additions as well as blunders made by Mohammed himself through some confusion of mind. Thus, for-instance, the Koran says that Haman was Pharaoh's wazir, evidently confounding Pharaoh with Ahasuerus; Two different kings are thus confused with one another, but both are Old Testament characters, as is Haman. Again, an undoubted reference to the Pentateuch is found in Surah iii, 87, where what is said, "All food was allowed to the Children of Israel, except what Jacob forbad himself ere the Law was sent down," requires for its explanation a knowledge of Genesis xxxii., 22-32, where it is stated that, after Jacob had received the name of Israel from God, his descendants deemed it forbidden them to eat "the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh" (R.V.).

The Jews then divided, and still divide, the Old Testament into three parts — the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms or Hagiographa (cf. Luke xxix., 4). This division can be traced back to about B.C. 130. We have seen that the Koran names and quotes "the Law" and "the Psalms" under those very titles. But we have signs that the existence of the other division, the Prophetical books, was known to Mohammad, for the Old Testament Prophets are often referred to as such collectively (besides being in many cases, e.g., in Jonah's, named separately). Thus in Surahs ii., 130, and iii., 78, we have the words: "We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord." Thus all three divisions of the Old Testament are distinctly mentioned by name in the Koran.

By the Injil or Gospel, the Koran very probably refers to the whole of the New Testament, since Christians then and now often use "the Gospel" in that sense, being justified by Mark xiii., 10, in doing so. In any case both the Gospel and the Epistles — if we divide the New Testament into these parts, — are quoted by Mohammed. One or two influences of this in connexion with the Gospel have already been noted. For any reference to the Epistles we have less evidence and only that of Tradition, but it seems to be generally admitted by Moslems that Mohammed once quoted 1 Cor. ii. 9, as an inspired dictum. This rests upon the Mishkatu'l Masabih (p. 487 of the edition of A.H. 1297), where, in the first section of the book on "The Description of Paradise and its People," Mohammed is reported to have spoken thus: "God, Most High hath said, 'I have prepared for My servants the righteous what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it occurred to the heart of. humanity.'"

It thus appears that Mohammed refers to all three of the main divisions of the Old Testament and both divisions of the New. Not only so, but "the Book" is always spoken of most respectfully. Among the titles given it, are: The Word of God (Surah ii., 70), the Furqan (Surahs ii., 50; xxi., 49), a Light and a Reminder (passim), and the Book of God (Surah ii., 95, — thus Baizawi and the two Jalals explain the verse, — cf. Surah iii., 22, and Surah v., 48). The Koran itself is several times stated to have been "sent down" for the purpose of "confirming" the Bible (Surahs iii., 2; ii., 38; v., 52).

We have given only an epitome of the evidence which proves that undoubtedly "the Book" of "the People of the Book" is intended in the Koran to denote the Bible, that is the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. No reference whatever seems to occur to the Old Testament Apocrypha, and this cannot be wondered at when we remember that these books were never declared to be part of the Bible until the Council of Trent made that unscholarly assertion. The Koran undoubtedly shews how little of the Bible Mohammed knew, and how often he fancied that Rabbinical fables and tales which he heard orally from ignorant Christians were parts of "the Book." But this renders the old conclusion not one whit the less certain, that "the Book" in the Koran, spoken of as in the hands of "the People of the Book," denotes our canonical Scriptures.



1 Cf. Surahs iii., 68, 109, 198; iv., 157; xxix., 45, etc., etc.

2 Throughout this article, the quotations from the Koran are given in Rodwell's version.

3 Surah lxxxvii., 19.

The Moslem World, Vol. 2, 1912, pp.164-170.

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