The foundation of Islam is the Quran. Muhammadans treat this book with the most profound respect, and give it many high titles. Chief amongst these may be mentioned the names “Furqan,” the Distinguisher; “Quran Majid,” the Glorious Quran; “Quran Sharif,” the Noble Quran; and “Al Kitab,” the Book. It is the universal belief of Muslims that the Quran is the uncreated word of God, which He sent down to His servant Muhammad through the medium of the angel Gabriel. Many hold the language of the Arabic Quran to be unequalled anywhere in literature, and Muhammad himself challenged the unbelievers to produce another like it in these words : –
“If ye be in doubt concerning that revelation which we have sent down unto our servant, produce a chapter like unto it, and call upon your witnesses besides God, if ye say truth.” (Sura Bakr, verse 23.)
There can be no doubt that the language of the Quran is in places exceedingly beautiful, and Muslims the world over love to recite it in a low monotonous chant. The feat of memorizing the whole is still regarded as both praiseworthy and meritorious.
The contents of the Quran are exceedingly varied; but it may be noted that the Jewish and Christian religions occupy a large amount of attention. The many references to these earlier faiths are instructive, and go to show that Muhammad did not so much represent himself as the founder of a new system as the promulgator of that faith which was held in the beginning by Abraham himself. Muhammad’s references to the Jewish and Christian scriptures also go to show that in the Quran he did not so much claim to supersede those books as to ‘confirm’ and substantiate them. Verses to this effect may he found all over the Quran; indeed the most extravagant praise is bestowed upon both Taurat and Injil, and these books are ever held up as worthy of faith and obedience. It thus becomes a matter for surprise that, in spite of this fact, modern Muslims almost invariably speak of the Jewish and Christian scriptures as ‘corrupted’, and therefore unworthy of serious attention to-day. The reason for this attitude is obvious; for careful comparison of the Christian and Muslim scriptures shows that the Quran, which claims to ‘confirm’ the preceding scriptures, in reality differs very much from them. Muhammadans have thus been driven to the expedient of denying the integrity of the Taurat and Injil in order to explain away this discrepancy. The question as to whether the Quran has been corrupted since the time when the prophet of Arabia captivated the Arabs by his eloquence, seems never to have been seriously considered by modern Muslims; yet the slightest acquaintance with Arabic history and literature reveals the fact that the present Quran is far indeed from being a complete and accurate copy of that Quran which Muhammad taught his followers. In the following pages we shall proceed to establish the fact from reliable Muslim authorities, and shall show that, fact, the present Quran has been so mutilated and corrupted since the time of Muhammad that it can no longer be relied upon as an accurate and complete record of what he taught.