I undertook to translate this Prize Essay by the Rabbi Geiger at the request of the Rev. G. A. Lefroy, the Head of the Cambridge Mission at Delhi, who thought that an English translation of the book would be of use to him in his dealings with Muhammadans. The Rev. H. D. Griswold of the American Presbyterian Mission at Lahore has very kindly put in all the Hebrew and Arabic citations for me, and has also revised my translation.
F. M. YOUNG.
March 17th, 1896.
I venture to offer to the general public a work which was primarily undertaken with somewhat scanty materials. The question propounded by the Philosophical Faculty at Bonn, viz., "Inquiratur in fontes Alcorani seu Legis Mohammedicae eas, qui ex Judaismo derivandi sunt," served as an inducement to the undertaking. The point of view from which the subject was to be approached was left by the terms of the question entirely to the different workers; and that from which I have regarded it must be considered, in order that a right judgment upon my essay may be formed. It is assumed that Muhammad borrowed from Judaism, and this assumption, as will be shown later, is rightly based. In this connection everything of course is excluded which appears only in the later development of Islam, and of which no trace can be met with in the Quran; but on the other hand all such religious ideas and legends as are hinted at in the Quran, and are explained and developed at the hands of later writers, deserve and receive consideration. Secondly, a comparison between Jewish sayings, and those of the Quran, in the hope of setting forth the former as the source of the latter, can take place only on condition that the Jewish sayings are actually found in Jewish writings prior to Islam; or unless it is certain that such sayings, though only recently recorded, existed earlier in the synagogue.
But this certainty cannot easily be attained, and historical criticism must find its doubt as to this the more deeply rooted in proportion to the number of times in which the sayings are found among those of other creeds, from which there is probability that they were adopted. Thirdly, those who undertake this work must consider seriously the
question, whether a mere similarity in the tenets of two different religions sects establish the fact that an adoption from one into the other has taken place. There are so many general religious ideas that are common to several of the positive religions existent at the time of the rise of Muhammadanism, that we must be very careful not to assert rashly that any one idea found in the Quran is taken from Judaism.
I have therefore given in the different sections the marks and indications, and in the case of some points of greater difficulty, the reasons also, from which I believe myself justified in the conjecture that there has been such a borrowing.
For those three reasons many citations which I might have made from later Islam and later Judaism are excluded, and in like manner many statements also, which do not bear the impress of a borrowing.
On the other hand, the first division had to be added, in order to show the basis on which the probability of a general borrowing from Judaism rests. After I had once settled the subject in this way, the arrangement of the whole, and more especially of the many disconnected divisions and subdivisions, gave me no less trouble. The borrowings are of details not of anything comprehensive; they are fragmentary and occasional in that they were chosen according to what Muhammad's reporters knew, and according to what was agreeable to the prophet's individual opinion and aim, consequently there is no close connection. How far I have succeeded in reducing these details to order the reader may see and judge from the book itself.
The materials at my disposal, when I first undertook this work, were only the bare Arabic text of the Quran in Hinckelmann's edition from which the quotations are made [In the translation the quotations are made from Flügel's edition],
Wahl's Translation of the Quran, and an intimate acquaintance with Judaism and its writings. A transcript from Baidhawi's Commentary on the Quran on some passages in the second and third Surahs, which Professor Freytag made for himself and which he with his usual kindness allowed me to use, was the only help outside the Quran. I had thus the advantage of having an unbiased mind; not, on the one hand, seeing the passages through the spectacles of the Arabian commentators, nor on the other finding in the Quran the views of the Arabian dogmatists, and the narratives of their historians. I had besides the pleasure of finding out independently many obscure allusions, and explaining them correctly, as I afterwards learned from Arabic writings. In this form my work received the prize, and only after that had been gained was I able to collect more materials, and to use them for the remodelling of the work in German. To these belong especially the valuable Prodromi and Comments of Maraccius in his edition of the Quran, the Commentary of Baidhawi on the 10th Surah (in Henzel's Fragmenta Arabica), and two parts of an excellent unpublished Commentary by Elpherar which begins with the 7th Surah and was bought by the famous Seetzen at Cairo in 1807, and is now in the library at Gotha, whence I received it through the kind mediation of Professor Freytag at the expense of the University Library at Bonn. To these may be added Abulfedae Annales Maslemitici and Historia Anteislamica, the works of Pococke, D'Herbolot's Bibliothéque Orientale, and many other works which will be found quoted in the book itself. All observations drawn from writings to which I first obtained access while the work was in the press are given in an Appendix. The advantages of a threefold register, viz., of the explained Arabic and Rabbinical works, of the cited passages of the Quran, and of quotations from other Arabic authors (with the exception of the
constantly-quoted Elpherar and Maraccius) need not be dwelt upon in detail. The Jewish writings which I have used consist almost entirely of the Bible, the Talmud, and the Midrashim, and in accordance with my determination to reject all Jewish writings later than Muhammad's time, they had to be thus limited. The few passages which are taken from other writings, of which the age is not so exactly known, such as the sections of Rabbi Elieser, the Book Hayyashar, and the two differing recensions of the Jerusalem Targum on the Pentateuch (which are placed in a somewhat later period than that of the composition of the Quran by the learned Zunz in his latest valuable work Die Gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden historisch entwickelt: Berlin, 1832, A. Asher) are all of such a kind that one can generally point to some decided declaration in Holy Scripture itself from which such opinions and traditions may have arisen, and therefore their priority of existence in Judaism can be accepted without hesitation.
I must publicly offer my thanks to Professor Freytag for the many different kindnesses he has shown me in connection with this work, and also to my dear friends S. Frensdorf and S. Dernburg for their help in the correction of the proofs. Finally, I here express my heartfelt wish that this little work may be two to the spirit of our time, the striving after true knowledge, and that learned men may give me the benefit of their criticising upon it.
May 12th, 1833.