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THE ORIGINAL SOURCES

OF THE QUR'AN

CHAPTER V.

ZOROASTRIAN ELEMENTS IN THE QUR'AN AND TRADITIONS OF ISLAM

THE political influence which the Persians exercised over certain parts of the Arabian Peninsula and the neighbouring countries in and before Muhammad's time was very considerable; as we learn from Arabian and Greek writers alike. Abu'l Fida, for example, informs us that, early in the seventh century or the Christian era, Khusran (or, as the Arabs called him, Kisra') Anushiravan, the great Persian conqueror, invaded the kingdom of Hirah on the banks of the Euphrates, dethroned the king Hirah, and placed upon the throne in his stead a creature of his own, named Mundhir Mai's Sama. Not long afterwards Anushiravan sent an army into Yaman, under a general called Vahraz, to expel the Abyssinians who had taken possession of the country, and to restore the Yarnanite prince Aba's Saif to the throne of his ancestors1. But the Persian force remained in the country, and its general ultimately himself ascended the throne and handed it down to his descendants2. Abu'l Fida tells us 3 that the princes of the family of Mundhir who succeeded him in Hirah, and ruled also over the Arabian 'Iraq, were merely governors under the kings of Persia. He says with reference to Yaman that four Abyssinian rulers and eight Persian princes held sway there before it acknowledgec' Muamrnad's4 sovereignty. But even earlier than Muhammad's time there was mich intercourse between the North-West and West of Arabia and the Persian dominions. We are informed that Naufal and Muttalab (who were the brothers of Muhammad's great-grandfather), when they were the leading chiefs of the Quraish, which made a treaty with the Persians, by which the merchants of Mecca were permitted to trade with 'Iraq and Fars (the ancient Persia). In the year 606, or about that time, a party of merchants headed by Abu Sufyan reached the Persian capital and were received into the king's presence5.

When Muhammad laid claim to the prophetic office in 612 A. D., the Persians had overrun and held possession for a time of Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor. At the time of the Htjrah in A.D. 226 the Emperor Heraclius had began to retrieve the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire, and not long after the Persians were obliged to sue for peace In consequence of this, Badzan, the Persian governor of Yaman, deprived of the hope of support from home, was obliged to submit to Muhammad and agree to pay tribute (A.D.628). Within a few years of the Prophet's death the armies of Islam had overrun Persia and converted the great mass of its people by the sword.

Whenever two nations, the one highly advanced in civilization and the other in a state of comparative ignorance, are brought into close intercourse with one another, the former always exercises a very considerable influence over the other. All history teaches us this lesson. Now in Muhammad's time the Arabs were in a very unenlightened condition; in fact their own writers sleak of pre-Islamic ages as 'The Times of Ignorance." The Persians, on the other hand, as we learn from the Avesta, from the cuneiform inscriptions of Darius and Xerxes, from the still existing ruins of Persepolis, and from the evidence of Greek writers, had from at least very early times been highly civilized. It was but natural therefore that intercourse with them should leave its impress upon the Arabs. From Arabian historians and from the statements of the Qur'an and its commentators it is evident that the romantic legends and the poetry of the Persians had in Muhammad's time obtained a very considerable degree of popularity among the Arabs. So widely were some of these tales known among the Quraish that Muhammad was accused by his enemies of having borrowed or imitated them in the Qur'an. Ibn Hisham, for instance, says that one day when Muhammad "had gathered an assembly, then he summoned them to God Most High and read the Qur'an there, and warned them what would befall the nations that remained destitute of faith. Then Nadr bin Al Harith, who had followed him into his assembly, rose up and told them about Rustam the strong and about Isfandiyar and the kings of Persia. Then He said, 'By God! Muhammad is not a better story-teller than I am, and his discourse is nothing but the Tales of the Ancients. He has composed them just as I have composed them.' On his account therefore did God send down the verse: 'And 6 they have said, Tales of the Ancients hath he written down, and they are recited to him morning and evening. Say thou, He who knoweth what is secret in the heavens and the earth hath sent it down verily He is forgiving, merciful.' And on his account this also came down: 'When7 verses are recited to him, he hath said, Tales of the Ancients!' And this also descended for his benefit: 'Woe8 unto every sinfnl liar that heareth God's verses read to him; then he persisteth in being proud, as if he did not hear them! Therefore give him good news of a sore punishment9."

Muhammad's answer to the charge thus brought against him cannot have been altogether satisfactory to his audience, nor can we deem it sufficient to deter us from inquiring whether an examination of certain passages of the Qur'an does not bear out the assertion thus made by his early opponents.

The stories of "Rustarn and Isfandiyar and the Kings of Persia" which were referred to by Nadr are doubtless among those which, some generations later Firdausi, the most celebrated of the epic poets of Persia, learnt from the collection which he tells us a Persian villager had made, and which Firdausi has left us in poetic form in the Shahnameh. Doubtless all these tales are very ancient in some form, but we need not depend upon the Shahnameh for those which we should have to quote or refer to; and this is well, because the authority of a work, which, in its present poetical form, is later than Muhammad's time, might not be deemed sufficient. Fortunately in the Avesta and other books of the Parsis or Zoroastrians we have information which cannot be called in question on the ground of antiquity, and it is to these we shall appeal.

It may be safely concluded that, since the tales of the kings of Persia were of interest to the Arabs and they had heard of Rustam and Isfandiyar', they are unlikely to have been quite ignorant of the story of Jamshid. Nor is it probable that the Persian fables regarding the ascension to heaven of Arta Viraf and of Zoroaster before him, their descriptions of Paradise and the Bridge of Chinvat and tile tree Hvapah, the legend of Ahriman's coming up out of primaeval darkness, and many other such marvellous tales, had remained entirely unknown to the Arabs. If they were known, it was natural that Muhammad should have made some use of them, as he did of Christian and Jewish legends. We must therefore inquire whether such fancies have left any trace upon the Qur'an and the Traditions current among the Muslims. We shall see that not only is this the case, but that it' some instances these Persian tales are so indubitably of Aryan and not of Semitic origin that they are found in slightly modified forms in India also. In fact some of them were, so to speak, part of the religions and intellectual heritage of both nations; and when the Persians and the Hindus separated from one another, and, leaving their ancient common home - the Airyanem Vaejo10 near Herat, migrated to Persia and India respectively, were carried away in the minds of both peoples. Others of these ideas may very possibly have originated in Persia somewhat later, and have spread to India in process of time. We shall see that they had certainly reached Muhammad's ears, and they have not been without influence upon the Qur'an and the Traditions, which claim to have been handed down by his devoted followers, relating what they assert that they heard from his lips.

The Night Journey.

The first matter with which we shall here deal is the celebrated account of Muhammad's Night Journey. This is thus referred to in a verse which we have already11." quoted (Su rah XVII., Al Asra' - also called Surah Banu Israil' - 1) -

"Praise be to Him who caused His servant to journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farther Mosque, whose enclosure We have blessed, that We might show him of Our signs. it is well known that commentators on the Qur'an are by no means agreed with regard to this verse, some thinking that Muhammad merely dreamt that he made the journey mentioned in it, others taking it in a literal sense and adding many details from Tradition, and others again explaining it in a mystical or figurative sense. Ibn lshaq for example, informs us, giving his traditional authority, that Muhammad's favourite wife 'Ayishah used to say, "The body of the Apostle of God did not disappear, but God took his spirit on the journey by night." Another Tradition reports that Muhammad himself said, "My12 eye was sleeping and my heart was awake." The celebrated mystical commentator Muhiyyu'd Din accepted the whole account only in a metaphorical sense13. As, however, we are not concerned seriously to discuss the question of the occurrence of this "Night Journey," we need not deal further with this view. It is certain that the great mass of Muhammadan commentators and Traditionalists believe that Muhammad actually went from Mecca to Jerusalem and also visited the heavens, and they give long accounts, of deep and abiding interest to Muslims, regarding what he did and what he saw. It is with this Tradition that we have to deal, and we shall see that it is easy to trace the origin of its main features to earlier legends, and especially to Zoroastrian sources. This is true, whether we believe with the vast mass of Muhammadans that Muhammad himself gave such an account of his Miraj as the ones we now proceed to translate, or infer that the whole legend is the production of somewhat later times14. We quote Ibn Ishaq's account first, because it is the earliest that has reached us. It is given by Ibn Hisham, his editor and continuator, in the following manner. Muhammad, we are informed, asserted that Gabriel came and awoke him twice to go on the "Night Journey," but he fell asleep again- Then he continues: -

"Accordingly he (Gabriel) came to me the third time: then he touched me with his foot, and I sat up. He seized me by my arm, and I stood up with him. He then sent forth to the door of the Mosque: and lo! a white animal, (in appearance) between a mule and an ass; on its flanks were two wings, with which it rules both its hind feet its fore-foot it sets down at the limit of its glance. He mounted me upon it, then he went forth with me, (in such a way that) he does not precede me and I do not precede him When I approached it (the animal) to mount it, it reared. Accordingly Gabriel placed his hand upon its mane: then he said, 'O Buraq, art thou not ashamed of what thou art doing I (I swear) by God, O Buraq, there never mounted thee before Muhammad a servant of God more honoured with God than he is.' Accordingly (Buraq) became so much ashamed that he poured forth sweat Then he stood still till I mounted him." "Al Hasan in his Tradition has said, 'The Apostle 0f God went, and Gabriel went with him, until he reached the Holy House (Jerusalem) with him. There he found Abraham and Moses and Jesus amid a band of the prophets. Accordingly the Apostle of God acted as their leader (Imam) in worship, and prayed with them, thereupon (Gabriel) brought two vessels, in one of which there was wine and in the other milk. Accordingly the Apostle of God took the vessel of milk and drank of it, and left the vessel of wine. Therefore Gabriel said to him, 'Thou hast been guided to Nature and thy people have been guided to Nature, O Muhammad, and wine is forbidden you.' Then the Apostle of God departed, and when it was morning he went to the Quraish and gave them this information. Then said very many people, 'By God! this matter is clear: by God! a caravan takes a month from Mecca to Syria, and a month in returning, and does that fellow Muhammad go in one night times15 and come back to Mecca ?'"

According to this narrative, Muhammad went only from Mecca to Jerusalem and back in one night. Later traditions amplify the journey considerably, all, however, professing to give the account which the reciter declared came from Muhammad himself. In the Mishkatu'l Masabih the following story is given, with the usual string of names of those through whom the tradition was handed down: -

"The Prophet16 of God related, - . . While I was asleep, . . lo! a comer came to me: then he opened what is between this and this . . ., and he took out my heart. Then I was brought a golden cup full of faith. My heart was washed, then it was replaced, then I came to myself.... Then I was brought an animal smaller than a mule and taller than a donkey, and white: it is called Buraq, and places its front feet at the far end of its range of sight. Then I was set upon it and Gabriel carried me off until I came to the lowest heaven. He demanded admittance. I was said, 'Who is that?' He said, 'Gabriel' It was said, 'And who is with thee?' He said 'Muhammad.' It was said, 'And was he sent for?' He said, 'Yes.' It was said, Welcome to him, and very good is his coming.' Then one opened. Accordingly, when I entered, lo! Adam was there. Gabriel said, 'This is thy father Adam, therefore salute him.' Accordingly I saluted him and he returned the salute. Then he said, 'Welcome to the good son and the good prophet.''. The story goes on with wearisome repetition of much the same account, telling us how Gabriel took Muhammad from heaven to heaven, being asked the same questions at each door: and answering them in precisely the same way. In the second heaven Muhammad was introduced to John the Baptist and Jesus, in the third to Joseph, in the fourth to Idris, in the fifth to Aaron, in the sixth to Moses. The latter wept, aud when asked why, replied that the cause of his tears was the knowledge that more of Muhammad's followers than of his own people would enter Paradise. In the seventh heaven Muhammad met Abraham, and the usual greeting took place. "Afterwards I was carried aloft to the Sidratu'l Muntahatimes17, and lo its fruits were like the pots of a potter, and lo its leaves were like the ears of an elephant. He said, 'This is the Lotus or the Boundary.' Then lo! four - rivers, two interior rivers and two exterior livers. I said, 'What are these two, O Gabriel? He said, 'The two interior ones are two rivers in Paradise, but the two exterior ones are the Nile and the Euphrates."

The passage goes on to mention many other particulars of the journey, among others the incident of Adam's weeping, which we have 18 already spoken of; but it is unnecessary to mention them all.

In the popular works 19 from which the great mass of modern Muslims obtain their knowledge of their prophet's life, the account of the Mi'raj is far more full of marvels. When he had reached the Lotus of the Boundary, beyond which Gabriel dared not advance with him, the angel Israfil took charge of Muhammad and led him to his own realm, whence the prophet advanced to the very Throne of God, being bidden by God's own Voice not to remove his sandals, since their touch 20 would honour even the court of God. After a few more details, which to ordinary minds seem both puerile arid blasphemous, we are told that Muhammad entered behind the veil 21, and that God said to him, "Peace be upon thee, and the mercy of God, and His blessing, O Prophet." In these later narratives of the Miraj we find mythology unrestrained by any regard for reason or truth.

We must now inquire what was the source from which the idea of this night journey of Muhammad was derived. It is very possible that the legend as first of all related by Muhammad himself was based upon a dream, and it does not seem to have contained any account of an ascension, if we consider Surah LIII., 13-18, to be of later date. But we have to deal with the narrative contained in the Traditions, and these enter into very precise details regarding the Miraj or ascent." We shall see that there is good reason to believe that the legend in this form was invented in order to show that, in this respect as well as in all others, Muhammad was more highly privileged than any other prophet. The story may have incorporated elements from many quarters, but it seems to have been in the main based upon the account of the ascension of Arta Viraf contained in a Pahlavi book called "The Book 22 of Arta Viraf," which was composed in the days of Ardashir Babagan, King of Persia, some 400 years before Muhammad's Hijrah, if we may believe Zoroastrian accounts.

In that work we are informed that, finding that the Zoroastrian faith had to a great extent lost its hold upon the minds of the people of the Persian Empire, the Magian priests determined to support by fresh proofs the restoration of the faith which the zeal of Ardashir had undertaken to carry out. Therefore they selected a young priest of saintly life, and prepared him by various ceremonial purifications for an ascent into the heavens, in order that he might see what was there and bring back word whether it agreed or not with the account contained in their religions books. It is related that, when this young Arta Viraf was in a trance, his spirit ascended into - the heavens under the guidance of an archangel named Sarosh, and passed from one storey to another, gradually ascending until he reached the presence of Ormazd 23 himself. When Arta Viraf had thus beheld everything in the heavens and seen the happy state of their inhabitants, Ormazd commanded him to return to the earth as His messenger and to tell the Zoroastrians what he had seen. All his visions are fully related in the book which bears his name. It is unnecessary to quote it at length, but a few quotations will serve to show how evidently it served as a model for the Muhammadan legend of the ascent of Muhammad.

In the Arta' Viraf Namak (cap. vii, 4 1-4) we read: 'And I take the first step forward unto the Storey of the Stars, in Humat . . . And I see the souls of those holy ones, from whom light spreads out like a bright star. And there is a throne and a seat, very bright and lofty and exalted. Then I inquired of holy Sarosh and the angel Adhar, What place is this, and who are these persons?'"

In explanation of this passage it should be mentioned that the " Storey of the Stars "is the first or lowest " court" of the Zoroastrian Paradise Adhar is the angel who presides over fire. Sarosh is the angel of obedience, and is one of the "Eternal Holy Ones" (Amesha-spentas later Amshaspands) or archangels of the Zoroastrian faith. He guides Arta Viraf through the different heavens, just as Gabriel does Muhammad.

The narrative goes on to relate how Arta Viraf reached the Storey of the Moon, or the second, and then the Storey of the Sun, which is the third of tile celestial mans,ons. In the same way he was led on and on through every one of the heavens, until he was introduced into Ormazd's presence, and had the inteiwiew which is detailed in cap. xi in these words: -

"And finally up rose from his throne overlaid with gold the archangel Bahman: and he took my hand and brought me to Humat and Hukht and Hurast 24, amid Ormazd and the archangels and the other holy ones and the Essence of Zoroaster the pure-minded..... and the other faithful ones and chiefs of the faith, than whom I have never seen anything brighter and better. And Bahman [said]. 'This is Ormazd.' And I wished to offer a salutation before Him. And he said to me, 'Salutation to thee, O Arta Viraf! Welcome! Thou hast come from that perishable world to this undefiled bright place.' And he commanded holy Sarosh and the angel Adhar 'Carry off Arta Viraf and show him the throne and the reward of the holy ones and also the punishment of the wicked'. And finally holy Sarosh and the angel Adhar took my hand, and I was carried forward by them from place to place and I have seen those archangels and I have seen the other angels."

We are then told at considerable length how Arta Viraf visited Paradise and hell, and what he saw in each. After his visit to hell the tale goes on: -

"At 25 last holy Sarosh and the angel Adhar took my hand and brought me forth from that dark, dreadful and terrible place, and they bore me I that place of brightness and the assembly of Ormazd and the archangels. Then I wished offer a salutation berate Ormazd. And He was kind. He said, 'O faithful servant, holy Arta Viraf, apostle of the worshippers of Ormazd, thou to the material world, speak with truth the creatures, according as thou hast seen and known, since I, who am Ormazd, am here. Whosoever speaks rightly and truly, I hear and know. Speak thou to the wise ones.' And when Ormazd spake thus, I remained astounded, for I saw a light and did not see a body, and I heard a voice, I knew that 'this is Ormazd.'

It is unnecessary to point out how great is the resemblance between all this and the Muhammadan legend of Muhammad's Miraj.

In the Zardusht-Namak, a work which was probably composed in the thirteenth century of the Christian era, there is related a legend that Zoroaster himself, centuries earlier than Arta Viraf, ascended up to heaven, and afterwards obtained permission to visit hell also. There we are told he saw Ahriman, who closely corresponds with the Iblis of the Qur'an.

Nor are such legends confined to the Persian portion of the Aryan world. In Sanskrit also we have similar tales, among which may be mentioned the Indralokagamanam, or 'Journey to the World of Indra' the god of the atmosphere. There we are told that the hero Arjuna made a journey through the heavens, where he saw Indra's heavenly palace, named Vaivanti, which stands in the garden called Nandanam. The Hindu books tell us that ever-flowing streams water the fresh, green plants that grow in that beautiful place, and in its midst there stands a tree called Pakshajati, bearing a fruit styled Amrita or Immortality, the Click to View of Greek poets, of which whoever eats never dies. Beautiful flowers of varied hues adorn that tree; and whoever rests under its shade is granted the fulfilment of whatever desire he may conceive in his heart.

The Zoroastrians have also an account of the existence of a marvellous tree, called if, Hvap in the Ayesta and Humaya in Pahlavi, the meaning in each ease being "possessed of good water," 'well watered." In the Vendidad it is described in these words.- " In 26 purity do the waters flow from the sea of Puitika into the sea of Vourukasha, to the tree Hvapa: there grow all plants and of all kinds." Hvapa and Pakshajati are identical with the Tuba' or tree of "goodness" of the Muhammadan paradise, which is too well known to need description here.

It must, however, be noted that very similar legends are found in certain Christian apocryphal works also, especially in the " Visio Pauli " and the "Testament of Abraham," to the latter of which we have already had to refer more than once. In the "Visio Pauli" we are told that Paul ascended to the heavens and beheld the four rivers of Paradise and Abraham also viewed the wonders of the heavens in his legendary "Testament," each returning to earth to relate what he had seen, just as Arta Viraf and Muhammad are said to have done. Of Abraham it is said: 'And 27 the archange Michael descended and took Abraham up upon a cherubic chariot, and he raised him aloft into the ether of the sky, and brought him and sixty angels upon the cloud and Abraham was travelling over the whole inhabited earth upon a conveyance."

This "cherubic chariot" assumes another for in the Muhammadan legend, for Muhammad rides upon an animal called Buraq, riding being more in accordance with Arabian ideas than driving. The. word Buraq is probably derived from the Hebrew baraq, "lightning," which in Arabic is barq, though a Pahlavi derivation is also possible.

Before passing on to consider other points, it should be noticed that the Book of Enoch contains a long account of the wonders of earth, hell and sky which Enoch saw in his 28 vision Click to View. This apocryphal work no doubt had its influence on the legends contained in the "Visio Pauli" and the "Testatment of Abraham" and thus upon the Muhammadan fable; but we can hardly suppose that the Arta Viraf was affected, except perhaps indirectly, by these works. However, that is a question which does not affect our present inquiry.

Now regarding the Tree of life in the Garden of Eden the Jews have many marvellous 29 legends, which may have been borrowed from the Accadian tales about the ' Sacred Tree of Eritu," mentioned in some of the earliest inscriptions found at Nippur by Dr. Hilprecht. Into these we need not now enter at any length,. merely observing how great a contrast there is between all such legends and the simple narrative of fact contained in Genesis. The Jewish legends have affected the Muhammadan account of the heavenly Paradise, because the Muslim belief is that the Garden of Eden was situated in heaven. They therefore transfer to the heavenly Paradise much that the Jews have related about the earthly. In this respect they may have been led into error by the Christian apocryphal books, for the description of the four rivers, &c., given in the Visio Pauli " (cap. xlv) evidently springs from the same strange fancy. It is hardly necessary to say that these apocryphal books were never accepted by any section of the Christian Church as of any weight or authority, though some of them had at one time a considerable degree of popularity with the ignorant multitude. Some of them have long been known, others have only recently been recovered after having been lost for centuries. Whether the Muhammadans derived their account of the tree Tuba' from the Zoroastrians or from Jewish fables, or whether both the latter (being of common origin) have not had some influence on the story, we need not inquire. The four rivers that Muhammad saw are those of the Visio Pauli," and these latter are identical with the rivers of Eden, owing to the error which we have noticed above. It may be asked whether the biblical account of the ascension of Enoch, Elijah, our Lord, and the "catching 30 up to the third heaven" of the person whom some have supposed to be St. Paul, have not been the original sources of all the fables which we have met with 31. It is somewhat difficult and quite unnecessary to suppose this with reference to the Persian and Indian tales to which we have referred, though it may be true of the others. But if it be so, we find that the Muslim legend of Muhammad's ascent, like so many other legends8 about Muhammad, has been invented, on the model of other accounts like that contained in the Arta Viraf Namak, with the object of making it appear that he was in certain respects similar, though superior, to Christ and the other prophets who preceded him.

2. The Muhammadan Paradise with Huris

With these we may couple the Ghilman, the Angel of Death; and the Dharratu'l Kainat.

As examples of the descriptions which the Qur'an gives, of Paradise, we may quote the following passages 33 : -

Surah LV., Ar Rahman, 46 sqq. "And for him who feareth the tribunal of his Lord there are two gardens, dowered with branches. In each of them two fountains flow. In each of them there are of every fruit two kinds. They recline upon couches of which the inner lining is of brocade; and the fruit of the two gardens hangs low. In them are [maidens] restraining their glances, whom neither man nor demon hath approached before them. They are as it were rubies and pearls. Is the recompense for kindness other than kindness?

And besides these two there are two [other] gardens, dark green. In each of them are two fountains, flowing abundantly. In each of them are fruits and palms and pomegranates. In each are [maidens] good, beauteous, Huris enclosed in pavilions, whom neither man nor demon hath approached before them.. [The Just] recline on green pillows and beautiful carpets."

Again, in Surah LVI., Al Warqi'ah, II sqq., we find a similar account of the delights reserved in Paradise for the "Companions of the Right Hand," - that is, the saved on the Resurrection Day :-

"These are those who are brought nigh, in gardens of delight . . . upon bejewelled couches, reclining upon them, facing one another. Upon them wait immortal youths" (the Ghilman), "with goblets and beakers and a cup from a spring [of wine]34. They do not suffer headache from it, nor do they become intoxicated. And with fruit of whatever kind they choose, and birds' flesh of whatever sort they desire. And there are large-eyed Huris like hidden pearls, a recompense for what they used to do. They do not hear in it any vain discourse, nor any charge of crime, only the word 'Peace, Peace.' And the Companions of the Right Hand - what of the Companions of the Right Hand? In a thornless Lotus tree and a flower-bedecked Acacia and widespread shade and streaming water, and with abundant fruit not cut off and not forbidden, and in raised couches. Verily We have produced them" (these damsels) "by a [peculiar] creation. Therefore have We made them virgins, beloved, of an equal age [with their spouses] for the Companions of the Right Hand 35."

We shall see that much of this description is derived from Persian and Hindu ideas of Paradise, though most of the more unpleasant details and conceptions are doubtless the offspring of Muhammad's own sensual nature.

The idea of the Huris is derived from the ancient Persian legends about the Pairakas, called by the modern people of Iran Paris. These the Zoroastrians describe as female spirits living in the air and closely connected with the stars and light. So beautiful are they that they captivate men's hearts. The word Hur, by which these damsels of Paradise are spoken of in the Qur'an, is generally supposed to be of Arabic derivation, and to mean "black-eyed." This is quite possible. But it is perhaps more probably a Persian word, derived from the word which in Avestic is hvare, in Pahlavi hur, and in modern Persian khur, originally denoting "light," "brightness," "sunshine," and finally "the sun." When the Arabs borrowed the conception of these bright and "sunny" maidens from the Persians, they also perhaps borrowed the word which best described them. It was natural for the Arabs to find a meaning in their own language for the word, just as in a similar way asparagus has become "sparrow-grass," renegade "runagate," the girasole a "Jerusalem" artichoke, or in Greek the Arabic word wadi, having become Hellenized under the form Click to View, was supposed to come from Click to View doubtless on the lucus a non Incendo principle. Firdaus itself, one of the words in the Qur'an for Paradise," is a Persian word; and several words from that 36 language occur in the passages which we have translated above. It is not, however, of any real importance to ascertain the derivation of the word Hur. The beings whom the word is intended to express are of distinctly Aryan origin, as are the Ghilman. The Hindus believe in the existence of both, calling the Huris in Sanskrit Apsarasas, and the Ghilmaan Gandharvas. They were supposed to dwell principally in the sky, though often visiting the earth.

Muslim historians relate many tales which show how much the prospect of receiving a welcome from the Huris in Paradise cheered many an ardent young Muhammadan warrior to rush boldly to his death in battle. This belief is very similar to the ancient Aryan idea as to the reward of those who died on the field with all their wounds in front. For Manu says in his Dharmasastra :

"Earth-lords 37 contending in battles, mutually desirous of killing one another, not averting their faces, thereafter through their prowess go to heaven." So also in the Nalopakhyanam we find Indra saying to the hero Nala: "Just 38 guardians of the earth (i.e. kings), warriors who have abandoned (all hope of) life, who in due time by means of a weapon go to destruction without averting their faces-theirs is this imperishable world "- the heaven of Indra. Nor were such ideas confined to India, for our own northern ancestors used in heathen days to believe that the heavenly Valkyries, or "Selectors of the Slain," would visit 39 the field of battle and bear thence to the heaven of Odhin, to Valhalla, the "Hall of the Slain," the spirits of brave warriors who fell in the strife.

The ,"Jinns are a kind of evil and malicious spirits which have great power and are a source of terror in many parts of the Muslim world. We have already seen 40 that they are said to have been subject to Solomon, and they are not unfrequently mentioned in the Qur'an 41, where we are told that they were made of fire,42 as were the angels and the demons. The word itself seems to be Persian, for the singular Jinni is the Avestic Jaini43, a wicked (female) spirit.

In examining the question of the origin of the Muhammadan legend regarding the "Balance," we saw that it is stated in the Traditions that in his Mi'raj Muhammad saw Adam weeping in heaven when he looked at 44 the "Black Figures" (al aswidah) on his left hand, but rejoicing when his glance rested on those which stood at his right.

These black figures were the spirits of his descendants as yet unborn. They are generally termed "The Existent Atoms" (adu dharratu'l kainat). They differ from the beings mentioned in the "Testament of Abraham" (from which the main features of that portion of the tale are borrowed) in the fact that, in the latter book, Abraham sees the spirits of his descendants who had died, while in the Muhammadan tradition he sees those of men not yet born, in the form of "Existent Atoms." The name by which these beings are known in Muhammadan religious works is undoubtedly a purely Arabic one. But the idea seems to have been derived from the Zoroastrians, among whom these beings were called fravashis45 in Avestic and feruhars in Pahlavi. Some have fancied that possibly the Persians adopted this idea from the ancient Egyptians, but this hardly seems probable. Whether it be so or not, the Muslims are indebted for their belief in the preexistence of men's spirits to the Zoroastrians.

The Muslims speak of the Angel of Death very much as the Jews do, though the latter say that his name is Sammael, while the former call him 'Azrail. But this latter name is not Arabic but Hebrew, once more showing the extent of the influence exercised by the Jews upon nascent Islam. As this angel's name is not mentioned in the Bible, it is evident that what the Jews and the Muslims say about him must be borrowed from some other source. This is probably Persian, for the Avesta tells us of an angel called Astovidhotus or Vidhatus, "the divider," whose duty it is to separate body and spirit. If a man fell into fire or water and was burnt to death or drowned, the Zoroastrians held that his death could not be due to the fire or to the water-for these "elements" were supposed to be good and not injurious to man. It was the Angel of Death, Vidhatus 46.

3. The Ascent of 'Azrazil from Hell.

'Azazil, according to the Muslim tradition, was the original name of Satan or Iblis. The name is Hebrew and occurs in the original text of Leviticus (xvi. 8, 10, 26). But the tale of his origin is not at all Jewish but almost if not quite Zoroastrian, as a comparison between the Muslim and the Zoroastrian legends proves.

In the Qifasu'1 Anbiya (p. 9), we read: "God Most High created 'Azazil. 'Azazil worshipped God Most High for a thousand years in Sijjin47. Then he came up to the earth. On each story 48 he worshipped God Most High for a thousand years until he came up upon the surface," the highest story, on which men dwell. God then gave him a pair of wings made of emerald, with which he mounted up to the first heaven. There he worshipped for a thousand years, and thus was enabled to reach the second heaven, and so on, worshipping for a thousand years at each stage of his ascent, and receiving from the angelic inhabitants of each heaven a special name. In the fifth heaven he was for the first time - according to this form of the legend - called 'Azazil. He thus ascended to the sixth and the seventh heaven, and then had performed so much adoration that he had not left in earth or heaven a single spot as large as the palm of a man's hand on which he had not prostrated himself in worship. Afterwards we are told that for the sin of refusing to worship Adam he was cast out of Paradise 49. The 'Araisu'l Majalis50 tells us that, being then called Iblis, he remained for three thousand years at the gate of Paradise in the hope of being able to inflict some injury on Adam and Eve, since his heart was full of envy and ill-will towards them.

Now let us see what account the Zoroastrians give of what is evidently the same matter in the Bundahishnih, a Pahlavi work the name of which means "Creation." It must be noted that in Pahlavi the Evil Spirit is called Ahriman, which is derived from Auro Mainyus ("the destroying mind"), the name by which he is known in the Avesta.

In the first and second chapters of the Bundahishnih we read : -

"Ahriman was and is in darkness and after- knowledge 51 and the desire of inflicting injury, and in the ....... . And that injuriousness and that darkness too are a place which they call the dark region. Ormazd in his omniscience knew that Ahriman existed, because he "-that is, Ahriman - "excites himself and intermingles himself with the desire of envy even unto the end. . . . They" (Ormazd and Ahriman) "were for three thousand years in spirit, that is, they were without change and motion. . . . The injurious spirit, on account of his after- knowledge, was not aware of the existence of Ormazd. At last he rises from that abyss, and he came to the bright place; and, since he saw that brightness of Ormazd, . . . because of his injurious desire and his envious disposition he became busied in destroying."

We necessarily find a certain difference in form between the legend as it arose among the dualistic Zoroastrians and the aspect it assumed among the Monotheistic Muslims. Hence in the former the Evil Principle is not a creature of Ormazd, and does not at first know of His existence, whereas in the latter be is, of course, one of the creatures of God. In the Muhammadan legend he gradually ascends higher and higher by his piety, while in the Zoroastrian account piety can have nothing to do with the matter. But in both cases the Evil Spirit at first dwells in darkness and ignorance and comes up to the light, and in both cases he sets himself to work to destroy God's creatures through envy and ill-will. The twelve thousand years during which, according to Zoroastrian ideas, the contest between good and evil goes on is divided into four periods of three thousand years each. A reference to this is probably to be found in the three thousand years during which, as we have seen, 'Azazil (Iblis) lies in wait for Adam's destruction.

Before leaving this subject it may be of interest to point out that the Peacock has some connexion with the Evil Spirit both in the Muhammadan and in the Zoroastrian legend. In the Qisasu'l Anbiya we are told that when Iblis was seated in ambush before the gate of Paradise, watching for an opportunity to enter and tempt Adam and Eve to sin, the Peacock was sitting on the wall, on top of one of the battlements, and saw him most piously engaged in repeating the loftiest names of God Most High. Struck with admiration for so much piety, the Peacock inquired who this ardent devotee might be. Iblis replied, "I am one of the angels of God; may He be honoured and glorified!" When asked why he sat there, he replied, "I am looking at Paradise, and I wish to enter it." The Peacock was acting as watchman, so he replied, "I have no orders to admit any one to Paradise while Adam is in it." But Iblis bribed him to grant him admission by promising to teach him a prayer, the repetition of which would keep him from ever growing old, from rebelling against God, and from ever being driven forth from Paradise. On this the Peacock flew down from the battlement and told the Serpent what he had heard. This led to the fall of Eve and afterwards of Adam. When, therefore, God Most High cast Adam, Eve, the Tempter and the Serpent down from Paradise to the earth, lie hurled down the Peacock knowledge 52 with them.

It is noteworthy that the Zoroastrians also believed in a connexion between Ahriman and the Peacock. The Armenian writer Ezniq. whom we have already quoted in a different connexion, informs us of the Zoroastrians of his day that They knowledge 53 say that Ahriman said, 'It is not that I cannot make anything good, but I will not.' And, in order to prove what he said, he made the Peacock."

If the Peacock in the Zoroastrian legend is a creature of Ahriman, we are not surprised at its helping Iblis in the Muhammadan one, and being expelled from Paradise along with him.

4. Legend of the "Light of Muhammad."

Though not mentioned in the Qur'an, the story of the Light of Muhammad, which shone on his forehead and was his pre-existent essence, so to speak, occupies a very important place in the Traditions. Whole pages are filled with such traditions in such books as the Raudatu'l Ahbab. There we read that "When Adam was created, God placed that light upon his forehead, and said, 'O Adam, this light which I have placed upon thy forehead is the light of the noblest and best son [of thine], and it is the light of the chief of the prophets who shall be sent.'" Then the narrative goes on to say that the light passed on from Adam to Seth, and from Seth to the noblest of his descendants in each generation, until in due course it reached 'Abdu'llah ibn Al Muttalab. From him it passed to Aminah when she conceived Muhammad 54. It maybe that Muhammadans have intended in their account of this light of Muhammad to exalt their master so as to match what is said of Christ in John i. 4, 5 (cf. xii. 41), and that there is a confusion in their minds between the first of these passages and Gen. i. 3. At the same time it will be seen from the passages which we now proceed to quote that the details, though with marvellous exaggeration and invention, are, in their main outline, borrowed from Zoroastrian legend.

In the Pahlavi Minukhirad, which was composed in the days of the early Sasanian kings of Persia, we read that Ormazd created this world and all His creatures, and the archangels, and the Heavenly Reason, out of His own special light, with the praise of Zarva I Akarana or "Endless Time." But in a work far more ancient than this the fable of the light is found existent in Persia. In the Avesta it is mentioned in connexion with the great Yima Khshaeta or Yima "the Brilliant," who from its possession derived his name, afterwards corrupted into the modern Persian Jamshid. He is identical with the Sanskrit Yama, who in the Rig Veda is spoken of as the first of men, as in vain tempted to sin by his twin sister Yami, and as after death ruling the shades of the dead. Yima, in Persian tradition on the other hand, is the founder of Persian civilization. His father's name, is the same as the Vivanhvat of the Indian legend, who is the Sun, and is father of Yama. On Yima's brow shone the Kavaem Ilvareno or "Royal Brightness," an emanation from the Divine glory, until through sin he lost it. Of this the following description is given in the 56 Avesta: -

The mighty Royal Brightness for a long time adhered to Jamshid, master of the good herd, while he reigned on the seven-climed earth, over divs and men, magicians and Paris, evil spirits and soothsayers and wizards. . . . Then, when he conceived in mind that false and worthless word, the visible brightness departed from him in the form of a bird.... He who is Jamshid, master of the good herd, Jam, no longer seeing that brightness, became sorrowful; and he, having become troubled, engaged in working hostility upon earth. The first time that brightness departed, that brightness [departed] from Jamshid, that brightness departed from Jam, son of Vivanhvat, like 57 a fluttering bird. . . . Mithra took that brightness. When the second time that brightness departed from Jamshid, that brightness (departed) from Jam, son of Vivanhvat, it went away like a fluttering bird: Faridun, offspring of the Athwiyani tribe, the brave tribe, took that brightness, since he was the most victorious man among victorious men. When the third time that brightness departed from Jamshid, that brightness departed from Jam. son of Vivanhvat, like a fluttering bird: Keresa spa the manly took that brightness, since he was the mightiest among mighty men."

Here we see that, just as in the Muhammadan legend, the light passes on from generation to generation, to the most worthy man in each. It was natural for the offspring of the Sun to possess this light in the first place, and its transmission marked the handing down of the sovereignty. There seems no special suitability in the legend that it was handed down from Adam to Muhammad, unless to magnify the prophet in the same way in which the ancient legend glorified these various old Persian heroes.

Moreover, we notice that Jamshid ruled "over divs and men, magicians and Paris, evil spirits and soothsayers and wizards," just as the Jewish and Muhammadan legends spoken of in an earlier chapter 58 represent Solomon as doing. Doubtless the Jews borrowed this story from the Zoroastrians and passed it on to the Muslims, as we have said in Chapter III.

What the Muslim Tradition says of the dividing up of the "Light of Muhammad," when first created, into various parts, out of which other things were made, is very similar to the story concerning Zoroaster in the old Persian book entitled Dasatir I Asmani, whence it was very possibly derived, especially as the same idea is found also in older Zoroastrian writings, as in the Minukhirad quoted above.

5. The Bridge of the Dead.

This is called in the Muhammadan Traditions As-S irat or "The Way." There are many details given about this marvellous bridge, which is said to be finer than a hair and sharper than a sword. It stretches right over the abyss of hell, and is the only way of passing from earth to heaven on the Judgment Day. All will be commanded to cross it. The pious Muslim will do so without difficulty, guided by the angels; but the unbeliever, unable to cross, will fall headlong into hell fire.

Though the word Siraat is used in the Qur'an in the metaphorical sense of a way, as in the phrase At Siratu'l Mustaqim ("the Right Way," Surah I., Al Fatihah, et passim), yet it is not properly an Arabic word at all. Its derivation shows the origin of the legend about the bridge of that name. The word comes from no Arabic or indeed Semitic root, but is the Persian Chinvat in Arabic letters, since the Arabic language, not having any character to represent the sound ch' (as in church), replaces it by the letter Click to View, the first letter in Sirat. Chinvat in Persian means a collector, one that sums up or assembles (cf. Sanskrit Click to View) or takes account. Hence it is only by contraction that the Arabic Sirat gets its meaning, for the Avesta speaks, not of Chinvat 59 but of Chinvato-peretus, "The bridge of him that reckons up" good deeds and bad. This bridge extends from Mount Alburz to the Chakat Daitih, reaching over hell. Each man's spirit, as soon as certain funeral ceremonies have been performed, reaches the bridge and has to cross it in order to enter Paradise. When he has crossed the bridge, he is judged by Mithra, Rashnu, and Sraosha in accordance with the account of his deeds, good and bad 60 Only if his good deeds exceed his evil ones can tile gate of Paradise be opened to admit him. If his deeds are preponderatingly evil, he is cast into hell: but if the good are equal to the bad, the spirit of the dead has to await 61 the last judgment (vulaiti), which will take place at the close or the final struggle between Ormazd and Ahriman.

To show the origin not only of the word Sirat of the Muhammadan doctrine on the subject, it is sufficient to translate the following short passage from the Pahlavi book called the Dinkart: -

"I flee 62 from much sin, and I keep pure my conduct by keeping pure the six powers of life - act and speech and thought and intellect and mind and understanding-by thy desire, O mighty Causer of good deeds. In justice do I perform it, that worship of thine, in good thought and speech and deed, in order that I may remain in the bright way, that I may not arrive at the severe punishment of hell, but may cross over Chinvat and may attain to that blessed abode which is full of perfume, wholly pleasant, always brilliant." In the Avesta also we find many references to the same belief, among others the passage in which it is said of good men and women: "Whom 63 too I shall lead through the prayer of such as you: with all blessings shall I guide them to the bridge of Chinvat."

A further proof of the Aryan origin of this belief is found in the fact that the ancient Scandinavian mythology contains mention of Bifrost, generally styled "the bridge of the gods," by which they cross over from their abode in Asgardh (in heaven) to the earth. It is the rainbow. This at once explains the natural basis upon which the legend of the bridge is founded, and shows how ancient it is, as the Scandinavians brought the idea with them to Europe. It must therefore have been common to them and the Persians in very ancient times. In Greece the rainbow becomes the messenger of the gods (Iris) in the Iliad, but the idea of a bridge connecting heaven and earth seems to have been lost.

6. Other Persian Ideas Borrowed.

There are, no doubt, many other matters in which Persian ideas have influenced Islam, but what has been said is sufficient for our purpose. We must not conclude this part of our inquiry, however, without a reference to two other points of some little importance.

One of these is the Muslim belief that every prophet before his death gave notice of the coming of his successor. This idea finds no support in the Bible, where we find prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, but nothing to give rise to the Muhammadan theory. It is probably borrowed from a Zoroastrian work called the Dasatir i Asmani. This work claims to be of very great antiquity, and (owing doubtless to the difficulty of making any sense out of the original 64 text is believed by many of the modern Parsis to be "composed in the language of heaven"! An interlinear translation into the old Dari dialect of Persian, however, accompanies the text, which is said to have been discovered in Persia early in the last century, and was edited by Mulla Firuz of Bombay. It consists of fifteen tractates which are supposed to have been revealed to fifteen successive prophets, the first of whom is styled Mahabad and the last Sasan, from whom probably the Sasanian dynasty may be supposed to trace their descent. The Dari translation is said to date from the time of Khusrau Parviz (A.D. 590-5), so that the original must be of some antiquity 65. Near the conclusion of each tractate but the last there is what purports to be a prophecy of the coming of the next prophet in succession. The object of this is very evident. Many Parsis reject the book, but the idea seems to have pleased the Muslims so much that it has found an entrance into their ordinary belief.

Secondly, it is worthy of note that the secona verse of every one of these tractates runs thus: "In the name of God, the Giver, the Forgiver, the Merciful, the Just." It is evident that these words are closely related to those which form the introduction to every Surah of the Qur'an except the ninth: "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." Probably the Qur'an has borrowed from the Zoroastrian book and not conversely: for the Bundahishnih has the similar clause, "In the Name of Ormazd the Creator." 'Jewish Origin. Tradition says that one of the Hanifs, whom we shall deal with in our next chapter, Ummiyyah, a poet belonging to Taif, taught this formula to the Quraish 66, having learnt it from his intercourse with Jews and Christians during his journeys in Syria and elsewhere as a merchant. If Muhammad heard it in this way and adopted it, he doubtless altered it somewhat, as he always did whatever he borrowed. But it is more probably of Zoroastrian origin than of Jewish, and Ummiyyah might have learnt it from the Persians whom he met on his mercantile expeditions.


We have seen how extensive Persian influence was in Arabia in Muhammad's time, and there is therefore no a priori difficulty in accepting the conclusion which must be drawn from all the coincidences mentioned in the present chapter - that Zoroastrian ideas and legends are one of the sources from which Islam has derived very much of what is contained in certain parts of the Qur'an and the Traditions. Tradition itself proves the possibility of this, for the Raudatu'l Ahbab tells us that it was Muhammad's habit to speak 67 a few words in their own language to people that came to him from different nations, and that, since on one or two occasions he spoke Persian to such visitors, a few Persian words in this way found an entrance into the Arabic language. Of course there is a good deal of the legendary in this statement, but it is important in its way because it clearly testifies to the fact that Muhammad had at least some slight acquaintance with Persian, if with no other foreign tongue. Again, among other Persian converts, the Siratu'r Rasul of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham informs us that there was one called Salman, who must have been a man of some education and ability, since it was by his advice and in accordance with his military experience that Muhammad, when the Quraish and their allies were besieging Medina in February, A.D. 627, defended the city with the celebrated ditch 68, a method of fortification which the Arabs are said not to have previously used. By Salman's advice Muhammad is also said to have used a catapult at the time of his campaign against Taif (A. D. 630). Some say that Salman, though always known as "the Persian," was originally a Christian 69 carried away captive from Mesopotamia. This may or may not be true, though the appellation which he received does not support it. If it is untrue, he was very probably the person whom Muhammad's enemies are said to have accused the Prophet of using as his assistant in the composition of certain parts of the Qur'an; for in Surah XVI., An Nahl, 105, we read: "Truly we know that they say, 'Verily a human being teacheth him.' The tongue of him at whom they aim is Persian 70, and this [book] is Arabic, clear." If Salman was not a native of Persia, then the language of the verse suffices to prove that there was some Persian in Muhammad's company who was believed to "teach" him a certain portion of what he was then inserting in the Qur'an. We see then that Persian fables were well enough known 71 in Arabia to be recognized by some at least of the Arabs when incorporated into the supposed Divine Revelation. Nor was Muhammad able to give a satisfactory answer to the charge, for no one supposed that the foreigner was teaching him to improve his Arabic style. The charge affected the matter and not the language of the Qur'an. Moreover, as we have proved that Muhammad borrowed legends from the heathen Arabs and from the Jews, there is no reason why he should not be ready and willing to adopt others from Zoroastrian sources. In fact the instances which we have produced in this chapter prove conclusively that he did so, and that these Persian legends, many of which have been shown to be common to the Persians with other branches of the Aryan family of nations, form another of the original sources of Islam.



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