Sources of the Quran

By W. St. Clair-Tisdall




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Sources of the Quran

Chapter 1
Sources of Islam according to Islam

Chapter 2
Arabian Customs maintained in Islam

Chapter 3
Sabaeans & Jewish Commentators

Chapter 4
Tales from Heretical Christian Sects

Chapter 5
Zoroastrian Subjects

Chapter 6

The Hanefites



Sources of the Quran: Arab Customs



Some hold that these are its initial Source. When the desire arose in the mind of Mohammed to draw his people from the worship of idols to that of God Almighty; and when he remembered that their forefathers in the days of Abraham believed in the divine Unity; and further that they inherited many of the beliefs and customs of their pious forefathers; he was unwilling to force abandonment of them all, but desired rather to purify their faith, and to maintain such ancient practices as he thought good and reasonable. And so we find this passage in the Koran: Who is better than he that resigneth himself to God, and worketh righteousness, and followeth the religion of Abraham the faithful? and truly God took Abraham for his friend (Surah iv. 124). And again: Say, The Lord speaketh truth; follow ye, therefore, the faith of-Abraham the righteous; for he was no idolator (Surah iii. 89). And yet once more: Say, Verily my Lord hath directed me into the right way, the true faith, the religion of righteous Abraham, and he was no idolater (Surah vi. 89).

Hence it came to pass that (excepting the worship of idols, a plurality of gods, the killing of daughters and other such evil practices), many of the ideas and customs subsisting among the Arabs from the time of Abraham were retained by the Prophet, and form part of his religion. Although some of the Southern and Eastern tribes became mixed up with the children of Ham, yet we learn, as much from the Tourat as from Ibn Hisham, Tabari and others, that the North and West of the country was occupied by the progeny of Shem. Some tribes were descended from Joktan, others from Hagar, Ketura, and Ishmael. Among the latter was the tribe of the Qoresh, itself among the descendants of

Abraham. Now, although the children of Shem had greatly lost the purity of their faith from mixing with the tribes of Syria, yet when all the people of those parts, except the Jews, had altogether forgotten the Unity of God, still the dwellers in the North and West of the Peninsula retained a certain knowledge of the Unity divine. There is every reason to believe that in the days of Job, the stars, sun, and moon were worshipped in those parts of Arabia;[1]1. and Herodotus, more than four centuries before Christ, tells us that the Arabs of his day had only two gods, Orotal and Alitat,[2] 2. evidently meaning Allah-tall and Alit, though as a foreigner he was not exactly acquainted with the local form of the names. The term Allah Itself is repeatedly found in the seven Moallaqat, whose authors lived before the ministry of Mohammed, and also in the Dewan of Labid.

Still more, we know that the Kaaba was of old the holy Masjid of the Arab tribes at large; for we learn from Diodorus Siculus, sixty years before the Christian era, that it then existed (Bk. iii.). From the use of al (Or the) in Allah it is manifest that the Unity of God was never forgotten by the Arabs. The Koran, indeed, calls them idolators for giving other gods the worship due to Him alone. But they never held those other gods on an equality with the great God above, whom by their adoration they sought specially to propitiate. The following story from early Moslem writers makes this all the more clear: "Some of the Abyssinian Refugees returned to Mecca when Surah 53 was being read. Coming to the verse: What think ye of Allah and Al Uzza and Manat the other, the third? Satan cast these words into the reader's lips: 'These three noble ones whose intercession is to be hoped for.' When the Surah ended, the whole company bowed down in adoration; and the Idolators together with them, thinking that their gods had been thus graciously acknowledged. The strange episode was spread abroad by Satan, and the Refugees hastily returned to Mecca expecting to find the whole city converted." Beidhawi and others are the more inclined to believe this tale from the words in Surah 22: 51: Truly we have sent no Apostle or Prophet before thee, but when he read, Satan suggested some (error) in his reading; but God shall make void that which Satan suggested.

Along with the early spread of idolatry, there still survived throughout Arabia the consciousness of One true God. Shahristani tells us this, and gives a long list of the local deities, and also of the customs retained by the Prophet. Some denied a future life as well as a Creator, while Others admitted both 3.. ĎHe then mentions a variety of tribal gods, and gives the "name and place of eleven, including Ozza of the Qoresh, Hubal aloft on the Kaaba, etc.; also angels, genii, and heavenly bodies adored by the Sabaeans. We are then informed of a variety of local customs in vogue among the heathen Arabs, some retained in Islam, as family restrictions in marriage, Hajj to the Kaaba with its various practices, visiting Safa and Marwa, throwing stones in Wady Mina, ablution, and several minor matters. Very similar is the testimony of Ibn Ishac, and the Sirat al Rasul, that notwithstanding the idolatry into which the Arabs fell when they lost the faith Of Abraham and Isaac, yet throughout it all they never forgot the great God above all Other gods. Thus at the new moon, the Been Kinana and Qoresh would cry aloud "Labbeik, Allah Labbeik! Thou hast no Companion, but rules over all"; - acknowledging thus the oneness of Him they called upon; and while joining their idols in worship with the. Highest, they yet placed them all under his hand. Then the Unity is thus expressed in the Koran": Verily your Lord is God who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then ascended the throne to rule over all things. There is no intercession but by his permission. God is your (Lord wherefore serve him. Ah! will ye not consider? Surah 10:3)

From all this we perceive that while the Arabs up to the Prophet's time worshipped idols, they did so regarding them as intercessors with the

Notes 1.Job 31vs. 26-28.2 Bk. iii. 8. 3.'To these the Koran replies, Sarah 1. 14: Is our power exhausted by the first creation; for these are in perplexity as to a first creation.

great God whom they held supreme. 1 The truth was so well known in Mohammedís own household, that his father and uncle bore the names Abd-Allah and Obeid-Allah, - "Al," as we have seen, signifying The One. Hence we are sure that the Unity was acknowledged long before the Prophet's mission, as well as the various Meccan customs still in current use. Circumcision also was practiced from of old, as we learn from the Epistle of Barnabas written about two centuries after Christ. Multitudes of idols being all around Mecca, 2 certainly little inspiration was needed to show how false the system was, and the task was well carried out by Mohammed. While so many of the ancient places, rites, and customs were maintained, only one quasi-idolatrous practice has been kept up, namely, the Kissing of the Black Stone, which was then worshipped as of heavenly descent; the habit was so loved by the people, that it could not be forbidden, and indeed is still observed.

In conclusion, then, we find that the first "Source" of the Koran and Tradition consisted of the notions, customs, and religious beliefs, existing around Mohammed. And we know of no other answer as to the adoption of these, than they were assumed to exist in the time of Abraham, and therefore were continued by the Prophet. Now, although we are told in the Torah that the doctrine of the Unity, as well as circumcision, were of Abraham's time, yet in the Holy Scriptures we find no mention of Mecca, procession round the Kaaba, the Black Stone, the other Holy Places, etc.; nor can there be any doubt that all these things were the gradual creation of idol worshippers, and had no connection whatever with the faith and tenets of Father Abraham.

It is interesting also to note that some verses of the Koran have without doubt been taken from poems anterior to Mohammedís assumption of the prophetic office, in proof of which two passages in the Sabaa Moallaqat of Imra'ul Cays etc. are quoted, in which several verses of the Koran occur, such as, "The hour has come, and shattered is the moon." 1. was the custom of the time for poets and orators to hang up their compositions upon the Kaaba; and we know the Seven Moallaqat were so exposed. We are told that Fatima, the Prophet's daughter, was one day repeating as she went along, the above verse. Just then she met the daughter of Imra'ul Gays, who cried out: "O that'∑s what your father has taken from one of my father's poems, and calls it something that has come down to him out of heaven"; and the story is commonly told amongst the Arabs until now.

The connection between the poetry of Imra'ul Gays and the Koran is so obvious that the Moslem cannot but hold that they existed with the latter in the Heavenly Table from all eternity! What then will he answer? That the words were taken from the Koran and entered in the poem, -- an impossibility. Or that their writer was not really Imra'ul Cays, but some other who, after the appearance of the Koran, had the audacity to quote them there as they now appear; rather a difficult thing to prove'

In concluding this chapter we have no difficulty in asserting with every confidence that the customs, rites, and beliefs of the ancient Arabs, formed one of the most important Sources of the Koran.





[1] 1. Our Author pithily remarks that the Moslems of today who seek forgiveness through the intercession of their holy men are as much polytheists as these old Arabs were. 2 Some say there were 360 around the Kaaba. But Ibn Ishac gives authorities for only fifteen generations of idolators before the Prophet's time.


[2] 'The two passages given by our Author from the Sabaa Moallaqat contain several verses, more or less similar to the Koran: -- Surah (54. 1), (29:31,46) (37:59), (21 96),( 93:1); this last, -- By the brightness of the morning; and by the night when it groweth dark. The passages noted are the same in both, with occasionally a few verbal differences.