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RIGHT HON. JOHN LORD CARTERET,
ONE OF THE LORDS OF HIS MAJESTY S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL.
Notwithstanding the great honour and respect generally and deservedly paid to the memories of those who have founded states, or obliged a people by the institution of laws which have made them prosperous and considerable in the world, yet the legislator of the Arabs has been treated in so very different a manner by all who acknowledge not his claim to a divine mission, and by Christians especially, that were not your lordship's just discernment sufficiently known, I should think myself under a necessity of making an apology for presenting the following translation.
The remembrance of the calamities brought on so many nations by the conquests of the Arabians may possibly raise some indignation against him who formed them to empire; but this being equally applicable to all conquerors, could not, of itself, occasion all the detestation with which the name of Mohammed is loaded. He has given a new system of religion, which has had still greater success than the arms of his followers, and to establish this religion made use of an imposture; and on this account it is supposed that he must of necessity have been a most abandoned villain, and his memory is become infamous. But as Mohammed gave his Arabs the best religion he could, as well as the best laws, preferable, at least, to those of the ancient pagan lawgivers, I confess I cannot see why he deserves not equal respect, though not with Moses or Jesus Christ, whose laws came really from heaven, yet with Minos or Numa, notwithstanding the distinction of a learned writer, who seems to think it a greater crime to make use of an imposture to set up a new religion, founded on the acknowledgment of one true God, and to destroy idolatry, than to use the same means to gain reception to rules and regulations for the more orderly practice of heathenism already established.
To be acquainted with the various laws and constitutions of civilized nations, especially of those who flourish in our own time, is, perhaps, the most useful part of knowledge: wherein though your lordship, who shines with so much distinction in the noblest assembly in the world, peculiarly excels; yet as the law of Mohammed, by reason of the odium it lies under, and the strangeness of the language in which it is written, has been so much neglected, I flatter myself some things in the following sheets may be new even to a person of your lordship's extensive learning; and if what I have written may be any way entertaining or acceptable to your lordship, I shall not regret the pains it has cost me.
I join with the general voice in wishing your lordship all the honour and happiness your known virtues and merit deserve, and am with perfect respect,
Your lordship's most humble
Your lordship's most humble
TO THE READER.
I Imagine it almost needless either to make an apology for publishing the following translation, or to go about to prove it a work of use as well as curiosity. They must have a mean opinion of the Christian religion, or be but ill grounded therein, who can apprehend any danger from so manifest a forgery: and if the religious and civil institutions of foreign nations are worth our knowledge, those of Mohammed, the lawgiver of the Arabians, and founder of an empire which in less than a century spread itself over a greater part of the world than the Romans were ever masters of, must needs be so; whether we consider their extensive obtaining, or our frequent intercourse with those who are governed thereby. I shall not here inquire into the reasons why the law of Mohammed has met with so unexampled a reception in the world (for they are greatly deceived who imagine it to have been propagated by the sword alone), or by what means it came to be embraced by nations which never felt the force of the Mohammedan arms, and even by those which stripped the Arabians of their conquests, and put an end to the sovereignty and very being of their Khalifs: yet it seems as if there was something more than what is vulgarly imagined, in a religion which has made so surprising a progress. But whatever use an impartial version of the Koran may be of in other respects, it is absolutely necessary to undeceive those who, from the ignorant or unfair translations which have appeared, have entertained too favourable an opinion of the original, and also to enable us effectually to expose the imposture: none of those who have hitherto undertaken that province, not excepting Dr. Prideaux himself, having succeeded to the satisfaction of the judicious, for want of being complete masters of the controversy. The writers of the Romish communion, in particular, are so far from having done any service in their refutations of Mohammedism, that by endeavouring to defend their idolatry and other superstitions, they have rather contributed to the increase of that aversion which the Mohammedans in general have to the Christian religion, and given them great advantages in the dispute. The protestants alone are able to attack tho Koran with success; and for them, I trust, Providence has reserved the glory of its overthrow. In the mean time, if I might presume to lay down rules to be observed by those who attempt the conversion of the Mohammedans, they should be the same which the learned and worthy bishop Kidder* has prescribed for the conversion of the Jews, and which may, mutatis mutandis [by changing those things which need to be changed], be equally applied to the former, notwithstanding the despicable opinion that writer, for want of being better acquainted with them, entertained of those people, judging them scarce fit to be argued with. The first of these rules is, To avoid compulsion; which though it be not in our power to employ at present, I hope will not be made use of when it is. The second is, To avoid teaching doctrines against common sense; the Mohammedans not being such fools (whatever we may think of them) as to be gained over in this case. The worshipping of images and the doctrine of transubstantiation are great stumbling-blocks
* In his Demonstr. of the Messias, part 3, chap. 2. to the Mohammedans, and the church which teacheth them is very unfit to bring those people over. The third is, To avoid weak arguments: for the Mohammedans are not to be converted with these, or hard words. We must use them with humanity, and dispute against them with arguments that are proper and cogent. It is certain that many Christians, who have written against them, have been very defective this way: many have used arguments that have no force, and advanced propositions that are void of truth. This method is so far from convincing that it rather serves to harden them. The Mohammedans will be apt to conclude we have little to say, when we urge them with arguments that are trifling or untrue. We do but lose ground when we do this; and instead of gaining them, we expose ourselves and our cause also. We must not give them ill words neither; but must avoid all reproachful language, all that is sarcastical and biting: this never did good from pulpit or press. The softest words will make the deepest impression; and if we think it a fault in them to give ill language, we cannot be excused when we imitate them. The fourth rule is, Not to quit any article of the Christian faith to gain the Mohammedans. It is a fond conceit of the Socinians, that we shall upon their principles be most like to prevail upon the Mohammedans: it is not true in matter of fact. We must not give up any article to gain them: but then the church of Rome ought to part with many practices and some doctrines. We are not to design to gain the Mohammedans over to a system of dogmas, but to the ancient and primitive faith. I believe nobody will deny but that the rules here laid down are just: the latter part of the third, which alone my design has given me occasion to practise, I think so reasonable, that I have not, in speaking of Mohammed or his Koran, allowed myself to use those opprobrious appellations, and unmannerly expressions, which seem to be the strongest arguments of several who have written against them. On the contrary, I have thought myself obliged to treat both with common decency, and even to approve such particulars as seemed to me to deserve approbation: for how criminal soever Mohammed may have been in imposing a false religion on mankind, the praises due to his real virtues ought not to be denied him; nor can I do otherwise than applaud the candour of the pious and learned Spanhemius, who, though he owned him to have been a wicked impostor, yet acknowledged him to have been richly furnished with natural endowments, beautiful in his person, of a subtle wit, agreeable behaviour, showing liberality to the poor, courtesy to every one, fortitude against his enemies, and above all a high reverence for the name of God; severe against the perjured, adulterers, murderers, slanderers, prodigals, covetous, false witnesses, &c, a great preacher of patience, charity, mercy, beneficence, gratitude, honouring of parents and superiors, and a frequent celebrator of the divine praises.*
Of the several translations of the Koran now extant, there is but one which tolerably represents the sense of the original; and that being in Latin, a new version became necessary, at least to an English reader. What Bibliander published for a Latin translation of that book
* Id certum, naturalibus cgrcgie' dotibus instruct um Muhammedem, forma prsestanti, ingenio callido, moribus facetis, ae pne se ferentem liberalitatem in egenos, comitatem in singulos, fortitudinem in bostes, ac prw csetpris reverentiam divini mimmis—Severus fuitin perjuros, adulteros, homicidas, obtrectatores, prodigos, avaros, falsos testes, &c. .Magnus idem patientiie, charitatis, misericorditr, beneficentise, gratitudinis, honoris in parentrs ac superiores proeco, ut et divinarum laudum—Hist. Eccles. sec. 7, c. 7, lem. 5, et 7.
deserves not the name of a translation; the unaccountable liberties therein taken, and the numberless faults, both of omission and commission, leaving scarce any resemblance of the original. It was made near six hundred years ago, being finished in 1143, by Robertus Retenensis, an Englishman, with the assistance of Hermannus Dalmato, at the request of Peter, abbot of Clugny, who paid them well for their pains.
From this Latin version was taken the Italian of Andrea Arrivabene, notwithstanding the pretences in his dedication of its being done immediately from the Arabic;* wherefore it is no wonder if the transcript be yet more faulty and absurd than the copy.-)"
About the end of the fifteenth century, Johannes Andreas, a native of Xativa in the kingdom of Valencia, who from a Mohammedan doctor became a Christian priest, translated not only the Koran, but also its glosses, and the seven books of the Sonna, out of Arabic into the Arragonian tongue, at the command of Martin Garcia, J bishop of Barcelona, and inquisitor of Arragon. Whether this translation were ever published or not I am wholly ignorant; but it may be presumed to have been the better done for being the work of one bred up in the Mohammedan religion and learning; though his refutation of that religion, which has had several editions, gives no great idea of his abilities.
Some years within the last century, Andrew du Ryer, who had been consul of the French nation in Egypt, and was tolerably skilled in the Turkish and Arabic languages, took the pains to translate the Koran into his own tongue: but his performance, though it be beyond comparison preferable to that of Retenensis, is far from being a just translation; there being mistakes in every page, besides frequent transpositions, omissions, and additions,§ faults unpardonable in a work of this nature. And what renders it still more incomplete is, the want of notes to explain a vast number of passages, some of which are difficult, and others impossible to be understood, without proper explications, were they translated ever so exactly; which the author is so sensible of that he often refers his reader to the Arabic commentators. ||
The English version is no other than a translation of Du Ryer's and that a very bad one; for Alexander Ross, who did it, being utterly unacquainted with the Arabic, and no great master of the French, has added a number of fresh mistakes of his own to those of Du Ryer; not to mention the meanness of his language, which would make a better book ridiculous.
* His words are: "Questo libro, che gii havevo a commune ntilita di molti fatto dal proprio testo Arabo tradurro nella nostra volgar lingua Italiana," &c. And afterwards: "Questo e l'Alcorano di Macometto, il quale, come ho gia dctto, ho fatto dal suo idioma tradurre," &c.t Vide Joseph. Scalig. Epist. 361 ct 362; et Selden. dc Success. ad Leges Ebra;or. p. 9.1 J. Andreas, in Prref. ad Tractat. suum de Confusione Sectai Mahometan:*;.§ Vide Windet. de Vita l'unctorum statu, sect. 9.
"If," says Savary, "the Koran, which is extolled throughout the East for the perfection of its style, and the magnificence of its imagery, seems, under the pen of Du Ryer, to be only a dull and tiresome rhapsody, the blame must be laid on his manner of translating. This book is divided into verses, like two Psalms of David. This kind of writing, which was adopted by the prophets, enables prose to make use of the bold terms and the figurative expressions of poetry. Du Ryer, paying no respect whatever to tho text, has connected the verses together, and made of them a continuous discourse. To accomplish this misshapen assemblage, he has had recourse to frigid conjunctions, and to trivial phrases, which, destroying the dignity of the ideas, and the charm of the diction, render it impossible to recognize the original. While reading his translation, no one could ever imagine that the Koran is the masterpiece of the Arabic language, which is fertile in fine writers; yet this is the judgment which antiquity has passed on it."
In 1698, a Latin translation of the Koran, made by Father Lewis Marracci, who had been confessor to Pope Innocent XL, was published at Padua, together with the original text, accompanied by explanatory notes and a refutation. This translation of Marracci's, generally speaking, is very exact; but adheres to the Arabic idiom too literally to be easily understood, unless I am much deceived, by those who are not versed in the Mohammedan learning.* The notes he has added are indeed of great use; but his refutations, which swell the work to a large volume, are of little or none at all, being often unsatisfactory, and sometimes impertinent. The work, however, with all its faults, is very valuable, and I should be guilty of ingratitude, did I not acknowledge myself much obliged thereto; but still, being in Latin, it can be of no use to those who understand not that tongue.
Having therefore undertaken a new translation, I have endeavoured to do the original impartial justice, not having, to the best of my knowledge, represented it, in any one instance, either better or worse than it really is. I have thought myself obliged, indeed, in a piece which pretends to be the Word of God, to keep somewhat scrupulously close to the text; by which means the language may, in some places, seem to express the Arabic a little too literally to be elegant English: but this, I hope, has not happened often; and I flatter myself that the style I have made use of will not only give a more genuine idea of the original than if I had taken more liberty (which would have been much more for my ease), but will soon become familiar; for we must not expect to read a version of so extraordinary a book with the same ease and pleasure as a modern composition.
In the notes my view has been briefly to explain the text, and especially the difficult and obscure passages, from the most approved commentators, and that generally in their own words, for whose opinions or expressions, where liable to censure, I am not answerable; my province being only fairly to represent their expositions, and the little I have added of my own, or from European writers, being easily discernible. Where I met with any circumstance which I imagined might be curious or entertaining, I have not failed to produce it.
The Preliminary Discourse will acquaint the reader with the most material particulars proper to be known previously to the entering on the Koran itself, and which could not so conveniently have been thrown into the notes. And I have taken care, both in the Preliminary Discourse and the notes, constantly to quote my authorities and the writers to whom I have been beholden; but to none have I been more so than to the learned Dr. Pocock, whose Specimen Historia; Arabum is the most useful and accurate work that has been hitherto published concerning the antiquities of that nation, and ought to be read by every curious inquirer into them.
As I have had no opportunity of consulting public libraries, the manuscripts of which I have made use throughout the whole work have been such as I had in my own study, except only the Commentary of al Beidawi, and the Gospel of St. Barnabas. The first belongs to the library of the Dutch church in Austin Friars, and for the use of it I have been chiefly
* Of Marracci's translation Savary says: "Marracci, that learned monk, who spent forty years in translating and refuting the Koran, proceeded on the right system. He divided it into verses, according to the text; but, neglecting the precepts of a great master, 'Nee vcrbum verbo curabis reddere, fidus Interpres,' &c. he translated it literally. He has not expressed the ideas of the Koran, but travestied the words of it into barbarous Latin. Yet, though all the beauties of the original are lost in this translation, it is preferable to that by Du Ryer."
indebted to the Rev. Dr. Bolton, one of the ministers of that church: the other was very obligingly lent me by the Rev. Dr. Holme, rector of Hedley in Hampshire; and I take this opportunity of returning both those gentlemen my thanks for their favours. The merit of al Beidawi's Commentary will appear from the frequent quotations I have made thence; but of the gospel of St. Barnabas (which I had not seen when the little I have said of it in the Preliminary Discourse,* and the extract I had borrowed from M. de la Monnoye and Mr. Toland, ✝ were printed off), I must beg leave to give some further account.
The book is a moderate quarto, in Spanish, written in a very legible hand, but a little damaged towards the latter end. It contains two hundred and twenty-two chapters of unequal length, and four hundred and twenty pages; and is said, in the front, to be translated from the Italian, by an Arragonian Moslem, named Mostafa de Aranda. There is a preface prefixed to it, wherein the discoverer of the original MS., who was a Christian monk, called Fra Marino, tells us, that having accidentally met with a writing of Irena;us (among others), wherein he speaks against St. Paul, alleging for his authority the gospel of St. Barnabas, he became exceedingly desirous to find this gospel; and that God, of his mercy, having made him very intimate with Pope Sixtus V., one day, as they were together in that Pope's library, his holiness fell asleep, and he, to employ himself, reaching down a book to read, the first he laid his hand on proved to be the very gospel he wanted; overjoyed at the discovery, he scrupled not to hide his prize in his sleeve, and on the Pope's awaking, took leave of him, carrying with him that celestial treasure, by reading of which he became a convert to Mohainmedism.
This gospel of Barnabas contains a complete history of Jesus Christ from his birth to his ascension; and most of the circumstances of the four real gospels are to be found therein, but many of them turned, and some artfully enough, to favour the Mohammedan system. From the design of the whole, and the frequent interpolations of stories and passages wherein Mohammed is spoken of and foretold by name, as the messenger of God, and the great prophet who was to perfect the dispensation of Jesus, it appears to be a most barefaced forgery. One particular I observe therein induces me to believe it to have been dressed up by a renegade Christian, slightly instructed in his new religion, and not educated a Mohammedan (unless the fault be imputed to the Spanish, or perhaps the Italian translator, and not to the original compiler), I mean the giving to Mohammed the title of Messiah, and that not once or twice only, but in several places ; whereas the title of the Messiah, or, as the Arabs write it, al Masih, i.e. Christ, is appropriated to Jesus in the Koran, and is constantly applied by the Mohammedans to him, and never to their own prophet. The passages produced from the Italian MS. by M. de la Monnoye are to be seen in this Spanish version almost word for word.
But to return to the following work. Though I have freely censured the former translations of the Koran, I would not therefore be suspected of a design to make my own pass as free from faults: I am very sensible it is not; and I make no doubt but the few who are able to discern them, and know the difficulty of the undertaking, will give me fair quarter. I likewise flatter myself that they, and all considerate persons, will excuse the delay which has happened in the publication of this work, when they are informed that it was carried on at leisure times only, and amidst the necessary avocations of a troublesome profession.