Click to View






Imam Fakhru'l - Islam's Objections

The only other attempt to refute the ' Sources of Islam' which has as yet been brought to my notice is contained in Imam Fakhru'l-Islam's book entitled . In the first volume, pp. 103-111, he endeavours to prove that the Mi'raj of Muhammad really took place, and was neither a dream nor an allegory. In dealing with this matter he tries to reply to what I had written about the Mi'raj. We must now very briefly consider his arguments.

The Imam relies upon four main lines of argument: (1) Almost, of course, abuse of myself, of Christian clergy in general, of Sufis, and of all others who are not wise enough to agree with him. His discourtesy to myself, however, is considerably less persistent than that of Maulavi Muhammad 'Ali, M.A., and his vilest expression is used in connexion with the Muhammadan commentator Muhiyyu'd-din. (2) Then comes attack after attack upon the Holy Scriptures, in which the Imam seems to forget with what respect the Qur'an always speaks of them. In this matter the Imam acts like the man who, wishing to prevent the hunters from following the deer and killing him, drew a red herring across the deer's trail, hoping that, when the hounds came up, they would thereby be led to follow the wrong track, and would thus let their prey escape, and would lead astray the hunters who were behind them. But we trust that his readers and our own will not be led astray quite so easily as he thinks. It is not necessary to go out of our way to defend the Bible; that has been done successfully in the books quoted in the first part of this discourse, and in many others. If the Imam could utterly overthrow all belief in the Holy Scriptures, that would not in the very slightest degree confute the arguments in the 'Sources of Islam', which show whence much of the Qur'an was derived. Our present purpose is merely to consider his arguments in reply to what the 'Sources of Islam' says about the Mi'raj of Muhammad, and from that we shall not be turned aside to any other issue, though it may occasionally become our duty in passing to refer to some of his other statements. (3) The Imam's third argument is that, if certain Islamic injunctions do bear some resemblance to those contained in other Faiths, that is no ground for condemning Islam; for, he says, so are some precepts current among Christians. He fails to perceive that, in the, Sources of 'Islam', the resemblance spoken of is mostly between certain narratives not precepts, contained in the Qur'an and Ahadith, on the one hand, and those found in quite unreliable books of other religions, on the other. (4) The Imam maintains that what is said in the 'Sources of Islam' regarding the resemblance between the account of the Mi'raj of Muhammad and the narratives about the Mi'raj of Arta-Viraf and that of Zoroaster is of no weight, because there is no proof that the books entitled 'Arta-Vira'f-Namak' and 'Zaratusht Namak' are genuine. He overlooks the fact that this is one of my strongest arguments. There is no satisfactory proof whatever that either Arta-Viraf or Zoroaster ever did ascend into heaven and return to earth again. The stories are quite legendary no doubt. Then what are we to say about the Qur'anic statement of Muhammad's Mi'raj, and the much fuller accounts of it from tradition in the 'Mishkatu'l-Masabih' and other collections of Ahadith, both Shi'ite and Sunnite, for these seem in large measure to have been written in imitation of the fabulous account in the 'Arta-Viraf-Namak' ?

Having taken, in the first place, this hasty survey of the Imam's line of argument, we now proceed to consider those of his statements which require a reply.

Being unable to deny my statement ('Sources of Islam', p. 181) that there is considerable difference of opinion between commentators on the Qur'an regarding the meaning of the Qur'anic verses which refer to the Mi'raj [Su'ratu Bani Isra'il (xvii); Sura-tu'n-Najm (liii) 13-18] he tries, in accordance with his invariable but illogical custom, to get out of the difficulty by an attack on the Bible. He says: 'The Evangelists are inspired, according to the assertion of the Christians, yet in their accounts of 'Christ they entirely differ.' Now this remark has nothing whatever to do with the subject, but is calculated to throw dust in the eyes of the ignorant. We need not let it distract our attention, therefore, from the point at issue.

He then proceeds to consider the Traditions which I quoted from 'Ayesha and from Muhammad himself, as reported by the Arabic historian Ibn Ishaq. To show the weakness of the Imam's reply it will be sufficient to give the original passage in full: 'Ibn Ishaq said 1 , "And one of the family of Abu Bakr related to me that 'Ayesha, wife of the Prophet, used to say, the body of tbe Apostle of God did not disappear, but God caused his spirit to make the night journey." Ibn Ishaq said, "And Ya'qub bin 'Atiyya bin al-Mugaira bin al-Akhnas related to me that Mu'awiyya bin Abu Sufyan, when he was asked about the night journey of the Apostle of God, had said, It was a truthful vision from God most high. Nor does that assertion of them both contradict the statement of al-Hasan that this verse was sent down regarding that (the statement of 'God, may He be blessed and exalted!) "We ordained the vision which We showed thee, only for men to dispute of 2; and the statement of God (may He may be exalted!) in the tidings concerning Abraham, when he said to his son: "O my son, I have seen in a dream that I shall sacrifice3 thee." Then he passed over that, and I knew that inspiration from God comes to the Prophets waking and sleeping. Ibn Ishaq said and the Apostle of God used to say, "In what reached me, my eye is asleep and my heart is awake." And God knows best which that was that came to him: and he beheld in it what he beheld by God's command, in whichever of his two states he was, sleeping or waking: all of that is truth and certainty. " '4 The Imam's reply may be summed up thus

1. There is no chain of tradition to prove that 'Ayesha said what is hero stated.

2. The Mi'raj took place at Mecca, and 'Ayesha was married at Madina.

3. Muhammad had many a Mi'raj, perhaps one of them was spiritual, and that was the one mentioned by 'Ayesha. If so, that does not disprove the fact of a bodily Mi'raj.

4. 'Ayesha spoke in accordance with her own unreliable zeal5 and this cannot be allowed to have more weight than the text of the Qur'an.

5. Granted that her speech is really a hadith and is devoid of zeal and fancy, yet it is only one person's statement and cannot be allowed to contradict the Qur'an, and many people's statements and the 'necessity of the religion6.' (Here the Imam indulges in a little of the rude- ness, which so often shows the feebleness of the cause defended by the man who degrades himself by using abusive language.)

We leave our readers to weigh these arguments for themselves, merely remarking that Muhammad was married to 'Ayesha in Mecca in the year before the Hijra, though the marriage is said to have been consummated in Madina soon after the Hijra. But surely 'Ayesha, if she was not speaking from her own knowledge, would be stating what she had heard Muhammad say.

In reference to Muhammad's words, ' My eye is asleep and my heart is awake,' the Imam rebukes me for rendering the historical present by the past tense in Persian. The meaning is clear from the context. Because of the use of the present tense, the Imam says that the statement does not refer to the Mi'raj ; but a historical present has a past meaning, as every one knows; and the author of the 'Siratu'r-Rasul' understood the words of Muhammad to refer to the Mi'raj. I do not venture to contradict him.

The Imam adds that, though this saying does not refer to the Mi'raj, yet, even if it did, the words would suit a literal and bodily Mi'raj very well. His 7 blessed eye was asleep, and his enlightened heart was awake. Angels bore his noble body to the Mi'raj.' He proceeds to say, however, that many statements handed down in a continuous chain prove that the theory (that this saying of Muhammad refers to the Mi'raj) is wrong, even if it be a correct Tradition, which the Imam does not admit.

Muhiyyu'd-din's opinion is brushed aside with words of abuse, and the Imam informs us that the opinions of Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham are of no importance in his eyes and in the eyes of 'the people of the truth'. By this does he mean the whole Shi'ite party, or only that mysterious ; which each Muslim identifies with his own sect, denying the title to each of the other multitudinous sects of Islam?

But the Imam in his zeal omits to notice that all that he has said about matters so far is beside the mark. In the 'Sources of Islam' I have stated that there exists considerable difference of opinion among Muslim authorities regarding the Mi'raj. This, I think, I have proved. I, therefore, pass on to consider the Imam's answer to another statement of mine, namely, that, from the great amount of resemblance in details between the accounts of Muhammad's Mi'raj and the accounts of Arta-Viraf (especially) and others, it seems probable that the former were borrowed from or modelled on the latter. The extracts which I give from many ancient books enable the reader of the 'Sources of Islam' to decide this question for himself.

The Imam's answers are somewhat amusing. According to him I have proved my ignorance and folly by assailing separate parts of Islamic teaching. Be it so. He then, according to his custom, tries to lead his readers astray from the main question by an attack on the Old and the New Testaments. What has that to do with the matter in dispute? We are not, in the 'Sources of Islam', defending the Bible, but inquiring, among other things, how the story of the Mi'raj originated. Still we must deal briefly with his reply. He says that, if resemblance is a proof of copying, then the gospel is of no account, because certain European infidels have asserted that its ethics are copied from those taught by Confucius8. Now to prove this the Imam quotes the statements of a book called 'Ecce Homo'. There is a well-known book with that title; it is by Sir J. R. Seeley. In it there is not a single passage at all similar to those quoted by the Imam. Instead of these there are many such sayings as the following: 'Those9 who fix their eyes on the Sermon on the Mount, or rather on the naked propositions which it contains, and disregard Christ's life, His cross, and His resurrection, commit the same mistake in studying Chnstianity that the student of Socratic philosophy would commit if he studied only the dramatic story of his death.' This should he borne in mind by those who are always ready to imagine that some ethical passage in the New Testament has been borrowed from some early sage. A Buddhist in Ceylon was once asked what difference there was between Christian and Buddhist ethics? He said: In both Christianity and Buddhism, and probably in every other religion, there are good and noble precepts. But the great difference between the two seems to me to be, that Buddhism tells you what to do, but gives you no power to do it, while Christianity tells you what you should do and enables you to do so.' This is not in reality the greatest difference between Buddhism and Christianity, but it is a matter of very great practical importance, as this non-Christian saw.

But the question is, can we find in the ethics of Confucius even one of the precepts of Christ, and especially the Golden Rule, ' All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them10.' Now the Imam11 asserts on the authority of the book he quotes as 'Ecce Homo' (which is not the renowned work of that name, but an almost unknown book of no repute whatever), that Confucius said several things of much the same kind 'some 600 years B. C. 12 Among others he quotes these three sayings : (1) 'Act towards another as you desire that he should do to you: and ye need this moral precept alone, and this is the root of all moral precepts' (24th Moral Precept); (2) 'Desire not thine enemy's death, for that matter is vain and profitless, and his life is in God's power' (51st Moral Precept) ; (3) 'Do good to him who has done good to you, and do not ill to him who has done ill to you' (53rd Moral Precept). These Moral Precepts are not correctly translated; and, as correctness is here very important, I proceed to give them as recent scholars have rendered them. The first ('Analects', Book xii, Chapt 2) when correctly translated, runs thus-

'Chung-Kung asked about man's proper regard for his fellows. To him the Master replied thus Do not set before others what you do not desire yourself."'13

Or perhaps it is this (' Analects', Book xv, chapt 23): 'Tsz-Kung put to him the question, " Is there one word upon which the whole life may proceed?" The Master replied, "Is not Reciprocity such a word ? - what you do14 not yourself desire, do not put before others? "'15

The second quotation we must refer to further on.

The third quotation is probably intended to represent the following passage ('Analects', Book xiv, chapt 36): ' Some one asked, " What say you of remark, requite enmity with kindness ?" "How, then ", he answered, "would you requite kindness?" "Requite enmity with straightforwardness, and kindness with kindness" '16

In this last passage it is clear that Confucius, instead of teaching the Golden Rule, actually opposes it. With regard to the passages above given in connexion with the first of the Imam's Moral Precepts, it will be noted that they give the negative and not the positive form of the injunction. In not a few ancient writers we find this negative form, forbidding us to do to others that we should not like them to do to us: but nowhere is there found the positive form of the precept except in the New Testament. Our honoured readers must see what a vast difference there is between not returning evil for evil and actually doing good in return for evil. This latter, we learn from history, Christians have often been enabled by God's grace to do, in accordance with Christ's command. To take a single example: if the Imam were in danger of dying from a serious illness (which God forbid!), the follower of Confucius would be forbidden to do anything to hinder his recovery, but the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ would feel it his duty to risk his own life - as our doctors do in hospitals in Persia and other Muhammadan lands - in order, if possible, by God's help to restore the sick man to health. The difference between prohibiting evil and commanding good is as great as that between heaven and earth. Moreover, Christ did not merely utter noble precepts, He also carried them out in practice; while Confucius acknowledged that he himself had not attained to success in doing what he knew to be right: for he says: 'In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of which have I as yet attained'; and the fourth and last of these he thus defines'17. ' To set the example in behaving to a friend as I would require him to behave to me; to this I have not attained. ''18

A friend of mine, long resident in China and well acquainted with Confucius' writings, states that Confucius 'has never given the Golden Rule, and still less has lie held out the true motive which should rule all conduct, namely, the seeking of the glory of God. Of course, he was ignorant of the conception of the true God, confounding - as all Chinese philosophers do-God with heaven, or heaven and earth, or nature. You may be assured that the quotations from "Ecce Homo" never came from the mouth of Confucius .' 19

We may now examine the second of the Imam's quotations: 'Desire not thine enemy's death, for that matter is vain and profitless, and his life is in God's power. What the origin of this passage is we do not know, but two things are clear about it: (1) it does not teach the Golden Rule, but merely warns men against deadly hatred, and (2) it is not quoted from Confucius, but is directly contrary to his teaching on revenge. For20 in the second book of the Le Ke there occurs the following passage: 'With the slayer of his father a man may not live under the same heaven; against the slayer of his brother a man must never have to go home to fetch a weapon; with the slayer of his friend a man may not live in the same state.' His disciple Tsze Hea asked Confucius, ' What course is to be pursued in the murder of a father or mother?' He replied: 'The son must sleep upon a matting of grass with his shield for his pillow; he must decline to take office; he must not live under the same heaven with the slayer. When he meets him in the market-place or the court, he must have his weapon ready to strike him.' What is said about God in this third quotation is also quite contrary to Confucius' teaching. The ancient Chinese knew some thing of God, whom they styled Shang-ti, 'Supreme Lord'. But in reference to belief in God, Confucius ' departed from the higher faith of his ancestors21, and by sanctioning the worship of spirits, and omitting all mention of Shang-ti, he reduced that Deity to his position as one among the host of heaven. Once only does he speak of Shang-ti, and then it was only to state the fact that 'by the ceremonies of the sacrifices to heaven and earth the kings Wan and Woo served Shang-ti, and by the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, they sacrificed to their ancestors22. Thus, in the only passage in which Confucius mentions God at all, he sanctions worship and sacrifice being offered to heaven, earth, and men's ancestors. Hence it is clear that the Imam has been misled in fancying that his second quotation is really from any precept of Confucius.

We have dealt with this matter at some length, because we, Christians, endeavour to obey the injunction, ' Prove23 all things; hold fast that which is good.' As, therefore, no one before the Lord Jesus Christ ever uttered the Golden Rule or anything really like it, we can hardly grant that He borrowed it from Confucius or from any one else. How different this is from the case as regards Islam we have shown in the ' Sources of Islam.'

But, besides all this, moral precepts may resemble one another among different nations without any borrowing from one another, just as proverbs may: which is the reason we have not quoted and compared Islamic moral precepts and proverbs with any others. But it is quite otherwise with regard to the stories which abound in the Qur'an and Ahadith - among others that of the Mi'raj, with which the Imam deals. It is not the ethical teaching of the Qur'an which the ' Sources of Islam' shows to have been borrowed, but tales and ceremonies mostly.

The Imam states that he holds his argument about the resemblance between the precepts which he quotes and those of the gospel a sufficient answer 'to the24 whole of the "Sources of Islam" and the "Path of Life," 25 etc'. Perhaps we have now shown him the contrary.

He next proceeds to take refuge in another argument, as if not quite satisfied with the former. He writes26 : ' If there be a suspicion of theft on account of agreement in subject, you are before hand in robbery, for Zoroaster preceded Christ by 622 years. You have stolen His ascension from the Zoroastrians. For the sake of comparing the two matters, the Muslims will give precisely the same answer that you do, whatever it be.' The Imam gives no proof of his accusation, probably because he has none to give, but we must test his statement before accepting it; and we trust that our Muslim friends will consider the matter very carefully before taking up such a parrot-cry as the Imam suggests to them.

No one knows at all exactly when Zoroaster lived, but it was probably about 600 B.C. that he flourished. Only a very small part of the Avesta can possibly have been composed by him, even if any of it was. Most of it is much later and in a different dialect. In its present form it was put together in part in the reign of Ardashir-i-Babagan (A. D. 226-40), though scholars fancy that some of it is still later. In the Avesta itself no mention whatever is made of Zoroaster's ascension into heaven. This is, however, spoken of in the 'Zaratusht-Namah', composed by Zartusht Bahram in A. D. 1278. In verses 502-23 of that book an account of Zoroaster's ascent to Paradise and entrance into God's presence is given. Bahram tells us that he learnt what he wrote from an earlier book in Pahlavi (vv. 14-19):-

Babram's Pahlavi book was probably either the 'Zad Sparam' or the 'Dinkard'. The compilation of the latter began in the time of the Khalifa Al-Ma'mun, and the former was composed about A., D. 900. They are supposed to contain parts of the 'Chitradad Nosk' (the twelfth) and the 'Spend Nosk' (the thirteenth) especially the latter. Both these books have perished. The 'Dinkard' says that Zoroaster had seven interviews with Ormazd during the space of ten years, but apparently in seven different places on earth. In the Avesta (Vendidad) Zoroaster's conference with the Creator took place on earth, not in Paradise, apparently on Mount Alburz. Thus it is clear that the story of Zoroaster's ascent to heaven arose long after the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence it is difficult to see how the Christians who wrote down the four Gospels in the first century of the Christian era were clever enough to borrow their account from a Zoroastrian fable which did not then exist. But the Imam has no difficulty in asserting that they did so, trusting to his readers ignorance. Very wisely, however, he makes no attempt to prove his statement.

In the ' Sources of Islam', p.196, I said very little about the 'Zaratusht-Namah' and the fable of Zoroaster's ascension, because I knew how unreliable the book was, and I called it a forgery in consequence. The book is not forged but the story is.

The ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we learn from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, took place before the eyes of many of His disciples, and apparently during the day time. He has left us the promise of His return, in which our Muslim friends believe as well as we. All this is very different from the story of the ascent of ' Arta Viraf, who lived in the time of Ardashir-i-Babagan (A. D. 226-40), and who having taken hashish (called by the Indians bhang) became insensible, and in that state had a dream. When he recovered, he said that his spirit had been in Paradise, and related the wonderful things he had seen and heard. There were no witnesses to what he related. In the case of Muhammad's Mi'raj, it is said to have taken place at night, there is doubt as to whether it was a vision or a reality, there were no witnesses to his departure or to his return, and he related wonderful things as to what he had seen and heard. The 'Arta Viraf Namak in the Pahlavi language seems to have been written, as I have said in the 'Sources of Islam' long before Muhammad's time. Considering all these facts, how can my honoured readers, as men of intellect, be expected to accept the Imam's statement as in any way a sufficient answer to what I have pointed out in the 'Sources of Islam' as to the striking resemblance between the Ascent of Arta Viraf and the Mi'raj of Muhammad? It is true that, as the Imam says, agreement with people of other religions in what is good is not wrong; for example, in worshipping God, in kindness, justice, etc. No one ever said that this was wrong. Good cannot be bad. But this is not the question which we are discussing. The question is whether the resemblance between the accounts of Muhammad's Mi'raj and that of Arta Viraf is or is not so close as to make it extremely probable, or even certain; that the former is borrowed from the latter. We have given the evidence on the subject in the 'Sources of Islam', and we respectfully beg our readers to consider it and decide.

It is granted, of course, that the existence of resemblances between two narratives does not always prove that one is borrowed from the other. For example, in all lands stories are told of a great deluge by which almost all men were once destroyed. It would not be correct to say on this account that all nations had heard the history of Noah's Flood given in the Taurat, and bad borrowed from it. But it would be quite logical to conclude that these different accounts referred to the same great event, and had been handed down to each tribe from their ancestors.' When, however, we find a coin in an ancient city of Asia Minor, on which is a picture of the ark floating on the waters, and when we find inscribed on the ark in that picture the first two of the three letters which, in Greek as well as in Arabic and Hebrew, form Noah's name, we are justified in concluding that in that city the account of the Flood had been learnt from the Bible. Just in the same way we perceive that the references in the New Testament to the Flood are not independent of Genesis, and that those in the Qur'an depend more upon later Jewish accounts of it than upon what is taught regarding the matter in the Taurat. What we have said about the Mi'raj is in accordance with the same principle.

The Imam here again goes off at a tangent and tries to prove that Christians appeal in support of their doctrines to 'the statements and narratives and customs and books of preceding peoples, such as the polytheists of India, the idolaters of Greece, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the image-worshippers of Tibet, and other unclean peoples besides.'27 In passing we may remark how completely such a phrase as , contradicts Maulavi Muhammad 'Ali's assertion that the Muslims consider that divine inspiration underlies the religions of the heathen. 28 The Imam then gives his readers a long quotation from Dr. Pfander's 'Miftahu'l-Asra'r', and says that the author admits that the doctrine of the Trinity is borrowed from the polytheists of India. After expressing his surprise at such an admission, the Imam remarks: 'We have repeatedly said in our works that the religion of the Christians, and of the polytheists of India, and of the idolaters of Tibet and China and Japan, and of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and the sages of Greece (such as Plato, etc.), and the ancient idolaters of Syria, and the Sitfis of Islam are one and the same, and they do not differ at all from one another.'29

Now this last remark is of importance only in showing that the Imam has not devoted his attention to studying the religions and philosophies of which he speaks. If he had studied them, his intellect would so far have overcome his prejudice that he could not have made an assertion of this kind. Respect for his own reputation for learning would also have warned him not to say what would detract from the esteem in which his readers naturally desire to hold him. The difference between Christianity and these other religions is, of course, vital, and the religion of the ancient Egyptians was by no means the same as that of China, or as that of the Greek philosopher Plato. All men of learning know this, so we need not deal with the matter further.

Dr. Pfander's 'Miftahu'l-Asrar' is well known, and every careful reader is aware that the author makes no such false and absurd statement as that the doctrine of the Trinity in the Divine Unity is derived from the teachings of the heathen. On the contrary he proves the Christian doctrine from the Holy Scriptures. He adds the section, from which the Imam quotes, and its object is to remove the difficulties, which some readers might feel, by showing that reason or tradition had led some among the heathen, and especially their wisest men, to acknowledge that the existence of some kind of plurality in the divine unity was not inconsistent with that unity. This fact is undoubtedly correct. During the many years which have elapsed since the 'Miftahu'l-Asrar' was composed, we have learnt far more about ancient Hinduism, the religion of Ancient Egypt, the teaching of Confucius, and other such things, than was known in Dr. Pfander's time. Hence some of his statements in that section need revision. This has now been accomplished. The reader of the revised editions of the 'Miftahu'l-Asrar' and the 'Tarlqu'l-Hayat ' will find many difficulties removed, and it will be quite impossible for him to misunderstand these books, if he peruses them with due attention. Our honoured readers will now see that there is no force in the Imam's argument that what I have urged in the ' Sources of Islam' (about the resemblances between certain Islamic tales and ceremonies on the one hand and those found in ancient books on the other), if true, may be turned against Christianity. The doctrine of the Trinity is found nowhere else but among Christians. But, if it were, that would not weaken the proof of the derivation of the story of Muhammad's Mi'raj from thaat of Arta Viraf. This is the crucial point in the inquiry. The Imam, no doubt, feels it a painful subject and is continually trying to escape from its consideration. We do not in the least wonder at this, but we must respectfully refuse to be led away from the point.

The Imam's last argument is a very remarkable one. He inquires what proof there is that the book of Arta Viraf, the 'Zaratusht Namah', and the others to which I have referred, are genuine and reliable. He argues that there is no proof of this, that the books which now exist under these names are corrupt, and that the present Zoroastrians themselves do not place any reliance upon them. He points to the well-known fact that it does not follow that a book is really by a certain author, merely because it bears his name and is popularly ascribed to him. He illustrates this by instancing the case of (1) the Apocryphal Gospels and (2) the Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament, though he makes a serious mistake in asserting that the latter group of books 'for 1,500 years were used among all Christians, and up to our own day are considered inspired and divine by the Catholics. 30 ' The truth is that, in one sense, we still use these books, as we do all ancient writings, but we do not consider them inspired, because they were never so considered until the Council of Trent, on the eighth of April, A. D. 1546, decreed that they must be held to be part of the Bible. We Protestants do not believe that any human decree can justify us in accepting as inspired any books which the Christians of the early ages did not so accept. Nor did the Jews, to whom the Old Testament Scriptures were first committed, accept the Old Testament Apocryphal books. The very word 'Apocryphal' shows this, for it means 'hidden'. They were so called because, known only to a few, they were not received by the church at large. The Apocryphal Gospels were never accepted by any part of the Christian church, and are not now. The books attributed to Enoch and Abraham, and any except the Pentateuch which are ascribed to Moses, have never been accepted either by the Christian church or by the Jews. In this we see the wide difference which exists between the Holy Scriptures and the Apocryphal books to which the Imam refers. It is not necessary for us here to explain why we Christians accept the Holy Scriptures, and how we can prove that they have not been corrupted either before or since Muhammad's time, for this subject is dealt with in many books, as has been said above (pp.14 and 16). But it may be well to mention what a distinguished American lawyer says on the subject, dealing with the matter in accordance with the Law of Evidence which governs the acceptance or rejection of all legal documents at the present time in the courts of law of civilized countries. Dr. Simon Greenleaf, late Professor of Law at Harvard University in the United States of America, writes thus: 31 'Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves upon the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise.' A document of this kind 'is said to come from a proper repository when it is found in the place where, and under the care of persons with whom, such writings might naturally and reasonably be expected to be found, for it is this custody which gives authenticity to the documents found within it. . . . This is precisely the case with the Sacred Writings. They have been used in the church from time immemorial, and they are found in the place where alone they ought to be looked for. . . . They are found in familiar use in all the churches of Christendom, as the Sacred Books to which all denominations of Christians refer as the standard of their faith . . . These copies of the Holy Scriptures, having been thus in familiar use in the churches from the time when the text was committed to writing, having been watched with vigilance by so many sects opposed to each other in doctrine, yet all appealing to these same Scriptures for the correctness of their faith, and having in all ages, down to this day, been respected as the authoritative source of all ecclesiastical power and government, and submitted to, and acted under, in regard to so many claims of right, on the one hand, and so many obligations of duty on the other, it is quite erroneous to suppose that the Christian is bound to offer any further proof of their genuineness or authenticity.' This is the strictly legal view, and yet we Christians have offered many other proofs as well. It is not strange, therefore, that, when any one now attacks the Holy Scriptures, we suspect him of either bigotry or ignorance.

Returning now to what the Imam says 32 about the absence of proof of the authenticity and genuineness of the books ascribed to Zoroaster and to Arta Viraf, we fully admit it. We do not, for a moment, maintain that the 'Arta Viraf Namak', for instance, was written by that Dastur. It may or may not be genuine. We are quite sure that the Apocryphal Gospels, and many other such books quoted in the 'Sources of Islam', are forgeries. And that is one of the main reasons why we Christians wonder that Muslims of learning and intelligence should accept as inspired the Qur'an, which in so many places has clearly borrowed from such books. It is impossible to believe that the All-Wise God should have thus set His seal on forgeries destitute of proof. Muhammad, whether he could read or not, certainly had no large library to consult. But he was at one time undoubtedly a sincere seeker for the truth. He fancied that he could learn much from the Jews, and evidently thought that the Zoroastrians also might have something to teach him. It is very possible that in a dream he did make his Mi'raj, and thought he really saw and heard what the Ahadith relate on his authority. But, if so, the dream was coloured by such a tale as that told in the 'Arta Viraf Namak', for it is probable that he had heard it from some of his Persian friends (as we have already seen). This hypothesis explains the wonderfully great resemblance in details between the Muhammadan and the Zoroastrian story of a Mi'raj, which no other theory seems to do satisfactorily.

We now leave it with our honoured readers to decide aright by the grace of God Most Merciful whether the Qur'an has really come from God, or whether in the ' Sources of Islam ' we have in any way cast light on its origin.

Table of contents to A Word to the Wise

Click to View