KORAN

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KORAN (AlKoran, i. e. the KORAN, which means originally the reading, or that which is to be read; also called al Forkan, because it is divided into 114 suras or chapters; also al Moshqf, the volume; al Kitah, the book; al Dhikr, the recollection) is the religious code of the Mohammedans, written in Arabic by Mohammed. The parts wTere collected into a volume by Mohammed's fatherinlaw and successor, Abubekir. According to the Moharnmedan doctrine, the prophet received the Koran from the angel Gabriel, written upon parchment made of the skin of the rani which Abraham sacrificed in the room of his son Isaac. The volume was ornamented with precious stones, gold and silver, from Paradise. According to other traditions, Mohammed is said to have drawn up the Koran with the assistance of a Persian Jew, rabbi Warada Ebn Nawsal, and a Nestorian monk, the abbot of the convent of Addol Kaisi, at Bosra, in Syria; but nothing certain is known respecting these two persons, though it appears beyond a doubt, less from the author's doctrines than from the expressions, his tales, and his mentioning several prophets, &c, that he was well acquainted with the Old and New Testament, though he himself cites only the Pentateuch and the Psalms. In the 21st chapter, he represents the Almighty as saying, " I have promised, in the books of Moses and in the Psalms, that my virtuous servants on earth shall have the earth for their inheritance." A number of passages might be quoted which prove his knowledge of the whole Bible; and not only was he acquainted with the religious systems of the Jews and Christians, but also with those of the Sabseans and Magians, from all of which he seems to have drawn materials which he incorporated into a system, after the .lews, Christians, Sabseans and Magians existed, had risen in his mind. He lived, as is well known, much in solitude, where he doubtless meditated on his doctrine, and the great mission which he thought himself called upon to accomplish. lie does not reject the doctrines of any sect, but takes from all. He asserts that he wishes to restore the true faith to its 1 urity. The unity of God is his fundamental doctrine, which is clearly laid down in the symbol of the Moslem" God is God, and Mohammed is his prophet." The unity of God is the very aim of his mission, and, according to him, had been the essence and the basis of all true religion, with which ceremonies and customs were < nly accidentally connected. Thus he pays, in the 11th chapter of the Koran, V'We make no difference between that which God has taught us, and that which Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, the twelve tribes, Moses and Jesus have learned from \ he Lord. We believe in God, and are Moslem." And, in the 4th chapter, it is said, " God commands thee to receive the ) eligion which he prescribed to Noah, which he has revealed unto thee, and which he imparted to Abraham, Moses i uid Jesus." Who can say whether it was I lie desire of establishing pure monotheism in his country, or ambition, which led ' dm to call himself a prophet ? But ^ven in the way in which he speaks of his \ aspirations, we may discern an endeavor \ iot to deviate from ideas already adopted, or, at least, the evidence of his being strongly influenced by them. He proiessed to have nocturnal intercourse with the angel Gabriel, who brought him the Koran precisely as it stands, verse for verse, chapter for chapter, from heaven, in the doctrine of the Magians, the angel Gabriel is the angel of revelation. Besides the fundamental doctrine of the i tnity of God, the Koran establishes several other articles of faith. Thus, in ^ hapters 4, 6, 7 and 48, the doctrine of ,'^ood and bad angels is set forth, which was general with the Arabians before Mohammed. Mohammed returns most frequently to the doctrine of the resurrection and the last judgment. The way in which he endeavors to set it forth has much similarity with that of St. Paul. He even borrows expressions from the Jewish and Christian scriptures, when he speaks of the last judgment. In chapter 43, it is said, " When the trumpet sounds i he second time, they shall rise quickly judgment will assemble all men before my throne, and every one shall there receive the reward of his deeds." In regard to the form of the last judgment, Mohammed followed the doctrines of the Jews and Magians; for instance, the passage of the narrow bridge AlSirat (q. v.), the book in which all the actions of men are set down, and the scale in which they are weighed. Mohammed's paradise, too, is quite Jewish and Magian. Another dogma is set forth in the Koran, yet not explicitly, that of the unchangeable decrees of God. Mohammed used the doctrine of predestination with great success, to infuse into his adherents undaunted courage, which elevated them above all perils. Probably he adopted, in this case, views already widely spread. With the Sabseans, the belief in predestination was firmly established, and founded on the unchangeable course of the stars, and their influence upon the life and actions of men and the course of events. With the Magians this doctrine followed from their system of the good and evil principles, and probably it had passed from both to the Arabians. In regard to religious exercises, too, Mohammed adopted such as he found, giving more universality and precision to those which were vague. The Koran prescribes prayer, fasting, alms, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. The first includes every thing relating to the purifications and ablutions, by which the faithful prepares himself for prayer. Mohammed considered this exercise of the greatest importance. Wrhen the Tayesites sent an embassy to the prophet to request him to absolve them from the troublesome observance of this exercise, his answer was, "Religion is nothing without prayer." In another passage he calls prayer the " key to paradise." He surpassed the severity of the rabbis, and prescribed prayer five times a day, with the face turned towards Mecca. Turning the face, during prayer, toward a certain point, is a common custom with Orientals. It was particularly so with the Jews, Sabeeans and Magians, who call the point to which they turn kebla. In the beginning, Mohammed adopted the same kebla with the Jews, i. e* the city of Jerusalem. In the second year, he changed ihe kebla to Mecca. The way which he prescribed for calling the people to prayer was at first that of the Jews and Christians, but he afterwards adopted another. To give alms, was always a particular trait of the Arabians, but Mohammed made it obligatory. The pilgrimage, or something similar, had existed with most sects before him. In respect to the civil laws, relating to polygamy, divorce, inheritance, &c, Mohammed followed, step for step, the laws of Moses and the decisions of the rabbis, only adapting them to the customs and prejudices of his countrymen. As for the propagation of his religion, Mohammed only requires from converts the pronunciation of the words of his fundamental doctrine; he enjoins no abjuration, no violent separation from a former faith. To the Jews he says, that he only comes to restore the faith of their fathers in its purity; to the Christians, that Jesus is the best of prophets, and sometimes he wishes to pass with them as the Paraclete. Excepting the worship of idols, which was positively against his fundamental doctrines, he attacks few old customs; and, though he prohibits the use of inebriating liquors, and requires fasting, yet he says, " God intended that his religion should be easy, else, as he well knew, you would only become hypocrites"a sentiment probably caused by the state of the Christian and Jewish sects, with which he was acquainted. The description of his paradise is voluptuous and glowing. The language of the Koran is considered the purest Arabic, and contains such charms of style and poetic beauties, that it remains inimitable. Its moral precepts are pure. A man who should observe them strictly, would lead a virtuous life. "From the Atlantic to the Ganges," says Gibbon," the Koran is acknowledged as the fundamental code, not only of theology, but of civil and criminal jurisprudence ; and the laws which regulate the actions and the property of mankind, are guarded by the infallible and immutable sanction of the will of God." The Koran repeatedly enjoins belief in one God, and implicit obedience towards him, charity, mildness, abstinence from spirituous liquors, toleration, and ascribes particular merit to death in the cause of religion. It is about equal in size to the New Testament. It differs greatly from the Bible by forming one whole, instead of being a collection of very different books, unconnected with each other. The divisions sometimes have strange inscriptions. Many elevated passages adorn the Koran, but it often becomes tedious by its repetitions. The Koran is daily read once through in the mosques of the sultan and the adjoining chapels. (See Islam, and Mohammed.) It was first printed by Alex, Pagani nus Brixiensis, at Venice, according to some about 1509, according to others in 1518, or as late as 1530. In Thtsei Ambr. Albonensii Introd. in Chaldaic. Linguam (Pavia, 1539), this edition is mentioned, and a passage cited, with reference to the sheet and the page; it has, therefore, certainly existed, but no copy is to be found in any library. The earliest edition, at present known, is by Abr. Hinkelmann (Hamb., 1694,4to.); another, with a Latin translation (Padua, 1698, fol.); still another was published by order of Catharine II, by Mollah Usman Ismael (Petersburg, 1787. small folio; new edition, 1790 and 1793 ; reprinted, Kasan, 1809, fol.; another ed., Kasan, 1803, large 4to.); Latin translations after that of RobertusRetinensis (Ketenensis) (Bale, 1543, fol.; new ed., Zurich, 1550, fol.); one also by Reineccius(Leipsic,1721); an Italian translation, made after the Latin (Venice, 1547, 4to.) ; French translations by And. clu Ryer (Paris, 1649; Leyden, 1672, 12mo., and the Hague, 1683 or 1684, 12mo.), with the introduction by Sales, (2 vols., Amsterdam, 1770 or 1775r 12mo.); bySavary, (Paris, 1782, 2 vols.; new ed., Ainst., 1786, 2 vols. ; and Paris 1798 (an VII); English versions, by Sale (London, 1734, 4to., 1764, 1801, and 1812.) The edition of London (1649 4to.; new edition, 1688) is merely translated from the French translation of Dr Ryer; German translation by Schweiggei (Nuremberg, 1616; 2d edit., 1623). The Italian translation has been followed ir that of Megerliu (Frankfort on thp Maine, 1772), that of Boysen (Halle 1775), and that of Augusti (Weissen fels and Leipsic, 1798). A Dutch trans lation of the Koran appeared at Hamburg (1641), (after Schweigger's German Koran) and another by Glazemaker (Rotterdam 1698). A vocabularium of the Koran waf published by Willimet and Nodockun ool Foorkan (Calcutta, 1811, 4to.)