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
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