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New researches into the composition and exegesis of the Qoran (Hartwig HIRSCHFELD)

New researches into the composition and exegesis of the Qoran (Hartwig (…)

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HIRSCHFELD (Hartwig), New researches into the composition and exegesis of the Qoran, London, Royal Asiatic Society, 1902, II+155 p.


Hartwig Hirschfeld était un spécialiste des langues sémitiques et se consacra notamment à l’étude des interactions entre les cultures juive et arabe au Moyen âge.


The critical study of the Qurân has advanced but little since Professor Nöldeke, forty years ago, published his book which combines leraning, acumen, and judgement in rare perfection. Its authority has been such, tahat many of the most important questions of Qorân criticism were regarded as finally settled in its pages. (Preface H. Hirschfeld)

Préface (p. I-II)

The critical study of the Qor’an has advanced but little since Professor Noldeke, forty
years ago, published his book which combines learning, acumen, and judgment in rare perfection. Its authority has been such, that many of the most important questions of Qor’an
criticism were regarded as finally settled in its pages.

There is, I hope, no arrogance in the assertion that in matters of research no such thing as
a final decision of every disputable point exists. Each fresh attempt that promises to bring us
a step nearer the truth, therefore, deserves encouragement. As regards the beginnings of the
Qordn, it is probable that the truth will never be completely revealed, and the seeker must be
satisfied with attaining a certain degree of probability. One thing cannot be denied that,
in spite of the splendid efforts of Weil, Noldeke, Sprenger, Sir William Muir, and others, new-
questions and difliculties crop up in the old fields, whilst the most important episodes in the
career of the founder of Islam absorb the student’s search-light rather than reflect it. For
instance, students as well as others, by a kind of tacit agreement, are content to look upon the chief factor in the missionary power of the Arab prophet as a frenzy or nervous affection,
which assumed the form of fits. The historical evidence for this belief is, however, exceed-
ingly slender.

What is the interest we take in the history of Islam ? If the dawn of a new religion is an
event of importance, that of a monotheistic one demands the closest attention. The chief
questions are whether it arose spontaneously, or whether we can follow up its development
from its very beginnings. These doubts are only too often set aside with the phrase : " Islam
arose in the light of history, and its importance for our recognition of the origin of religion is
therefore very great." Thisis, however, a double delusion. Islam is not an entirely spontaneous growth, and though it came to life in historical times (and in not very remote ones either), the circumstances accompanying its birth are hidden in impenetrable darkness. Of the mass of material handed down by professional Moslim makers of history only a very small quantity is of any scientific value.

Another favourite idea is that the prophetship of Muhammad furnishes us with a reliable
image of Biblical prophetism, and allows ns to peep into the inner working of their calling.
This is true to a certain extent. If we place the characteristic features of both side by side,
the points they have in common, as well as the differences, will soon become apparent. The
main point is enthusiasm, with which were combined moral courage and self-denial. The first
difference is that of degree. Whilst with the prophets these qualities remained stationary
during the whole of their careers, they diminished in Muhammad in proportion to his increasing influence. Biblical prophets had no policy of their own, whilst Muliammad’s attitude
during the Medlnian period of his life was largely political. " Obedience to Allah and His
Prophet" is the watchword of all those years, but since the former was only present in abstracto, this meant obedience to the Prophet alone. And he was very exacting in this matter. Finally, in contradiction to his predecessors he did not trouble about the nature of the means he employed, so long as they enabled him to achieve his aim, and in several cases did he not flinch from distorting the truth.

In spite of all this, Muhammad is a most interesting personage, and probably the most
suitable man his country could have produced for this great monotheistic reaction against a
decaying paganism. This is the main reason why we study the work of his life. Wecan do him
more justice, if we measure him according to the moral standard of his age and country. There is absolutely nothing superhuman in him. The important lesson to be derived from Islam is to see how the great teachings of the Bible worked themselves through a channel of very ordinai-y clay into a broad and living stream. The Qordn, the text-book of Islam, is in reality nothing but a counterfeit of the Bible. Its chaotic condition is in some way indicative of its contents. It is full of points not yet used for the study of the life of its author, and of problems as yet undiscussed, and which I by no means claim to have exhausted. Future students of the Qor’an will no doubt unearth more interesting matter.

In concluding these brief preliminary remarks 1 desire to express my gratitude to the
authorities of the British Museum and India Office Libraries for the loan of their books
and MSS., to the Council of the Royal Asiatic Society for the distinction conferred on th«
work by their publication of it, and to Prof, T. "VV. Rhys Davids for the kindly interest he
took in the same.

London, 11th December 1901. H. HIRSCHFELD.

Table des matières

I. General Character of the Qurân, Appendic (note I. Islâm, II. The Terms for Logos in the Qoran, Ibn Hazm on the I’jaz of the Qoran), II. The First Proclamation (Note : The Legend of the cleansing of the heart), III. The confirmatory Revelations, IV. The Declamatory Revelations, V. The Narrative Revelations, VI. The Descriptive Revelations, V. The Legislative Revelations, The Parable in the Qorân (Appendix : the Mathal in Tradition, IX. Medinian Revelations up till the Battle of Badr, X. Political Speeches, XI. Revelations on Muhammad’s Domestic Affairs, XII. Preparations for the Pilgrimage to Mecca. Renewal of Allegiance, XIII. Interpolations. Initials. Names of Sûra(s), (Approximately) Chronological Arrangement of the Revelations, Indices.

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