the Corân by Ali and his party, the antagonists of the unfortunate Othmân, is the surest guarantee of its genuineness. It is possible that some of the earlier and of the more ephemeral fragments which proceeded from Mahomet may have before his death become obsolete, and thus escaped collection; but the pious veneration with which the whole body of the Mussulmans from the first regarded the Revelation as the Word of God, the devotion with which they committed it to memory, and the evidence that transcripts existed even from an early period of Mahomet's ministry, combined with the fact that Zeid's collection came into immediate and unquestioned use,—all this leaves no doubt in the mind that the Corân as we read it now contains the very words delivered by the Prophet.*

But the Corân has this drawback, that we are never sure of the context. While some Suras, especially the shorter chapters, the lyrics, and narrative portions, are more or less complete, and presumably in the form in which they were first promulgated, there prevails throughout the great body of the work an utter disregard of chronological sequence. There are not only startling breaks and gaps, but later passages not unfrequently precede the earlier. The fragments have been set with artless simplicity. The materials were too sacred to be dressed by human hand, and so we have this tangled mass—a mosaic of which the parts are so rudely and fortuitously put together that the design is often marred and unintelligible.

* The subject is followed out in greater detail in the first chapter of the Introduction to the " Life of Mahomet," reproduced as an Appendix in the second edition.


In a work extending over so many years, based upon the changing incidents of the day, and bearing so manifestly the impress of an impulsive mind, discrepancies were to be looked for; and they certainly are not wanting in the Corân. Inconsistency and contradiction are incompatible with the idea of a Divine revelation, although a positive command may be, cancelled or amended. When, therefore, two passages are opposed to one another, expositors hold that the earlier is abrogated by the later, in accordance 

Sura II. 100.

with the text: "Whatever verses We cancel or Cause thee to forget, We give thee better in their stead, or the like thereof."

While the component parts of each Sura are thus often wanting in connection, whether as to time or subject, the several Suras or chapters follow one another upon no principle whatever, excepting it be that of length; for the longest are placed first, then the shorter, and so on till the smallest of all come at the close of the volume. And since the shorter Suras belong, as a rule, to the early period of Mahomet's ministry, and the longer to the later period, the arrangement is a direct inversion of the natural order, insomuch that the reader who would begin at the end of the Corân and read backwards to the beginning, would have a much truer conception of the teaching with which Mahomet commenced his ministry, and the stages by which it advanced to the fully developed Islâm, than if he had begun at the beginning.

Any attempt to arrange the Suras in true chronological order can at the best be approximate; but there are guides which, within certain limits, may be