by Ibn Warraq (Nov. 2007)
[This is part two in a three-part series on Koranic exegesis. Part one is here]
Alphonse Mingana, surveying the writings of Christians of the seventh century, and referring to the colloquy between Amr b. al -As and the Monophysite patriarch of Antioch, John I, and Isho`yahb III patriarch of Seleucia and John Bar Penkaye, came to the conclusion that, “the Christian historians of the whole of the seventh century had no idea that the “Hagarian” conquerors had any sacred book; similar is the case among historians and theologians of the beginning of the eighth century.” Mingana further argues, “No disciple of Moses or of Christ wrote the respective oracles of these two religious leaders in their lifetime, and probably no such disciple did so in the case of the Prophet. A man did not become an acknowledged prophet in a short time; years elapsed before his teaching was considered worth preserving on parchment ….The story of the Quraishite scribes who were told by Uthman to write down the Revelation in the dialect of the Quraish ought to be discarded as half legendary. We all know how ill adapted was Arabic writing even of the eighth century to express all the phonetic niceties of the new philological schools; it is highly improbable, therefore, that it could express them in the first years of the Hijrah. Moreover, a very legitimate doubt can be entertained about the literary proficiency of all the collectors mentioned in the tardy Hadith of the ninth century. Most of them were more tribal chieftains than men of literature, and probably very few of them could even read or write; for this reason, the greater part of their work must have been accomplished by some skilled Christian or Jewish amanuensis, converted to Islam.”
“This last work of the Companions and Helpers,” continues Mingana, “does not seem to have been put into book form by Uthman , but was written on rolls of parchments, on suhufs, and it remained in that state till the time of Abdul Malik and Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. At this time, being more familiar with writing by their intercourse with Jews and Christians of the enlightened capital of Syria, and feeling more acutely the necessity of competing on even terms with them, the caliph [Abdul Malik] and his powerful lieutenant [al-Hajjaj] gave to those rolls the character and the continuity of a book, and very possibly added new material from oral reciters of the Prophet`s oracular sentences. At any rate, the incident of both Hajjaj and Uthman writing copies of the Koran and sending them to the head-provinces is very curious.”
Thus Mingana in emphasising the lack of seventh century confirmation of the existence of the Koran, the probable slow growth of Islam in a sectarian milieu after the time of Abd al-Malik anticipates in many ways the work of John Wansbrough, Gerald Hawting, Patricia Crone, and Michael Cook. And it is to the two latter scholars we now turn to see what use they make of the Christian sources.
Cook and Crone write, “On the Christian side, the monk of Bet Hale distinguishes pointedly between the Koran and the
“The earliest reference, “continue Cook and Crone, “from outside the Islamic literary tradition to a book called the Koran occurs in the late Umayyad dialogue between the Arab and the monk of Bet Hale; but as we have seen, it may have differed considerably in content from the Koran we now know. In any case, with the single exception of a passage in the dialogue between the patriarch and the emir which might be construed as an implicit reference to the Koranic law of inheritance, there is no indication of the existence of the Koran before the end of the seventh century. Now both Christian and Muslim sources attribute some kind of role to Hajjaj in the history of Muslim scripture. In the account attributed to Leo by Levond, Hajjaj is said to have collected and destroyed the old Hagarene writings, and replaced them with others composed according to his own tastes; the Muslim traditions are more restrained, though far from uniform. It is thus not unlikely that we have here the historical context in which the Koran was first put together as Muhammad’s scripture.”
European Attitudes To The Koran During The Middle Ages
While their Eastern brethren were trying to come to terms in both physical and intellectual ways to the rapid, aggressive even devastating emergence of the new religion of Islam in the seventh and eighth century, its founder and its holy book, it is unlikely that the Western Christians of Northern Europe had any precise idea of Islam, and not many had even heard of Muhammad before 1100 C.E., with the exception of Abbot Majolus of Cluny. Northern Europe was, of course, well-aware of the existence of the Saracens by the eighth century, for example we have the Ecclesiastical History of the Venerable Bede [673-735], who describes them without polemic or rancor as the descendants of Hagar and her son Ishmael, and is totally unperturbed by them. It is an entirely different matter with
After the First Crusade , the situation began to change slowly. However the three biographies of Muhammad that we know of in
Robert Of Ketton [died probably in the second half of the 12th Century]
The Abbot of Cluny, Peter the Venerable [1092/94-1156] “was a learned man who recognized frankly that little trustworthy information about Islam yet existed in Latin and blamed Christian ignorance on the general loss of zeal for the study of languages.”  Stimulated by his visits to Cluniac abbeys and priories in
Robert had already been translating scientific works from the Arabic in Spain, and is now known for his Latin translation, Liber algebrae et Almucabola, of al-Khwarazmi`s manual of algebra, al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa-al-muqabalah. The translation of the Koran was an entirely another matter, but he set about it in a dedicated manner. Robert completed his translation of the Koran in 1143, and was well-paid for his pains. Then he went back to his scientific translations. This was the first complete translation of the Koran in a Western language, and became a Mediaeval best-seller. Its accuracy has been attacked ever since. Juan de Segovia [c.1393-1458] objected to the cavalier way Robert had translated, and to his redivision of the Koran into more than the standard 114 suras. Furthermore, Robert “had moved what was at the beginning of many Quranic passages to the end, and vice versa; he had altered the meaning of Quranic terms as he translated them; he had often left out what was explicitly in the text, but incorporated into his Latin version what was only implicit in the Arabic original.”
Ludovico Marracci likewise found Robert’s effort more of a paraphrase than a faithful translation. In the eighteenth century, George Sale [1697-1736], in the preface to his own translation, wrote “the book deserves not the name of a translation; the unaccountable liberties therein taken and the numberless faults, both of omission and commission, leaving scarce any resemblance of the original.”
However, Thomas Burman in a series of lucid and convincing articles, conference papers and books has argued that Robert’s rendering is worthy of respect in its own right, and certainly stands comparison with, for example, the more literal translation of Mark of Toledo [fl.1193-1216]. Burman contends that, “[T]here is no denying that Robert was an exuberant paraphraser who simply could not leave well-alone, at least when it came to the Quran, and his paraphrasing certainly did do violence to the Arabic text at points. Rather, what I intend to quarrel with is the assertion that simply because his Lex Mahumet is a paraphrase it is therefore a poor and misleading translation. There are several grounds for disputing that assertion, not least because scholars of translation theory and practice – both ancient and modern – have long argued that in many cases literal translations are much less faithful to the original texts than well-constructed paraphrases. But the specific argument that I intend to make here is that Robert compensated for his elaborately paraphrasing approach in a very surprising way: at the same time as he was recasting nearly every sentence that he translated, Robert was also going to remarkable lengths to insure that his paraphrase nevertheless reflected what Muslims themselves thought to be the meaning of the Quran. The most vivid signs of this are the numerous passages in all parts of his Latin Quran where Robert has incorporated into his paraphrase glosses, explanations, and other exegetical material drawn from one or several Arabic Quranic tafsirs or commentaries.” In other words, Robert’s version often reflects accurately the Muslim understanding of their own holy book, more so than Mark of Toledo’s literal effort. Burman further shows that Mark of Toledo was also obliged sometimes to turn to Arabic exegetical literature to make sense of that opaque text that is the Koran.
It is also interesting to note that Robert re-arranged the order of the passages so that what was at the beginning of many Quranic passages he moved to the end, and vice versa. This is after all the same basic principle employed by Richard Bell nearly eight hundred years later in his famous translation of the Koran that came out between 1937 and 1939, and which I shall discuss below.
It is undeniable that the Koran is a difficult text, and all translators have had recourse to tafsirs or commentaries not to mention lexicons and manuals of rare and difficult words. Even
” …sometimes he [Muhammad] speaks like a crazy man, sometimes however like one who is lifeless, now inveighing against the idolators, now menacing them with death, occasionally indeed promising eternal life to converts, but in a confused and unconnected style….”[ Emphasis added ]
Riccoldo Da Monte Croce  [1243-1320]
Riccoldo was born in 1243 in Florence, joined the Dominican Order at the age of twenty four, travelled in the Middle East as a missionary, living for a while in Baghdad, where he learnt Arabic and witnessed the sale of Christian slaves after the Fall of Acre in 1291. On his return to
Riccoldo recounts the story of the different recensions of the Koran and all the ensuing quarrels among the Muslims and states there was no Koran at the death of Muhammad. He also argues that the Koran is a most haphazard collection of very human documents collected together after the Prophet’s death. The Koran itself, Riccoldo found irrational, repetitive and obscene. Like Mark of Toledo, Riccoldo found the Koran extremely disorderly, illogical, shifting from one historical period to another, from one argument to another, and full of contradictions.
Martin Luther translated Riccoldo’s book in 1542. He had read it a long time before and had thought Riccoldo was exaggerating until Luther read the Koran in Latin translation and realized that Riccoldo had been speaking the truth.
John of Segovia began his career as a professor at
Juan found one Muslim scholar called
Nicholas of Cusa [1401-1464]
Nicholas was born at Cues, present-day Bernkastel on the
Nicholas’ Cribratio Alkorani  was written after his visit to
Here Nicholas seems perfectly aware of the Sectarian Milieu out of which the Koran must have come, not to mention both the Judaic and Christian elements present in the Muslim scripture. Scholars have been debating ever since which elements predominate, the Christian or Jewish as we shall see when covering the works of Geiger, Torrey, Wellhausen and others in the nineteenth century. Interestingly enough, Nicholas seems to suggest that it is Nestorian Christianity that is the predominant influence as far as the Gospels and Christ are concerned. It should be perhaps mentioned here that according to Christoph Luxenberg it is Eastern (Nestorian) Syriac that is the predominant influence on the language of the Koran.
Koranic Criticism in Medieval
European attitudes to Islam and the Koran in particular in the period between 1140 and 1540 were far more complex, ambiguous and subtle than what certain scholars such as Norman Daniel have argued. Thomas E. Burman shows clearly Latin Christendom’s admiration for the Arab-Islamic world, including the Arabic language. Though sometimes scandalized by it, Christians were also intrigued by the Koran, and wrestled intellectually with Arabic syntax and usage, often turning to Arab Koran commentaries to make sense of an opaque text. Burman has drawn attention to a number of manuscripts of Latin translations of the Koran which have extensive interlinear or marginal philological notes, the anonymous authors showing a profound knowledge of the Koranic exegetical tradition.
Ludovico Marracci  [1612-1700]
By a strange coincidence while a certain Iranian jurisconsult, Khatun Abadi was presenting his Persian translation of the Four Gospels to the Shah in Isfahan in 1697, Father Ludovico Marracci was preparing in Padua, Italy, his Latin translation of the Koran, which was published the following year, 1698.
Ludovico Marracci was born in 1612, and began his studies at an early age, pursuing them in
Though he was the author of countless other works, Marracci’s masterpiece remains Alcorani textus universus, to which he devoted nearly forty years of his life. The first part contains a life of Muhammad, a discussion of the origins of the Koran, theological arguments to show that Islam was not prophesized in the Christian scriptures, and that unlike Christianity, Islam did not have any miracles to its credit, how the Christian dogmas are the truth whereas the Muslim ones are not, and arguments to show the moral superiority of Christianity compared to the decadence of Islam. The second part of this work comprises a Latin translation and a fully vowelled Arabic text of the Koran, and quotes from many Muslim commentators. Marracci’s decision to go to the original Arabic texts laid the foundation of a scientific examination of Islam in general, and the Koran in particular. He had access to the commentaries of Baydawi [d.1286], Jalal al-din al-Suyuti [d.1505], Ibn Abi Zamanyn [d.1008 or 1009], al-Thalabi [d.1035] and al-Zamakhshari [d.1144]. He further consulted the hadith collections of al-Bukhari [d.870], and al-Bakri [d. end of 13th century] and his Kitab al-anwar [the Book of Lights], and al-Qummi [ ] and his A`lam al-huda [Signs of the Right way]. For his polemics, Marracci referred to Ibn Taymiyya [d.1328] and his al-Jawab al-sahih li-man baddala din al-Masih [the authentic reply to those who have changed the religion of the Messiah], also to al-Qarafi [d.1285 ] and his al-Ajwiba l-fakhira an al-asila l-fajira [Glorious answers to perverse questions] and Bab shariat al-islam [the Gate of Islamic Law], and to al-Raqili [15th century] and his Tayid al-Milla [Confirmation of the Religion]. For Islamic jurisprudence, Marracci used the writings of al-Quduri [d.1036] and for history he had recourse to al-Masudi [d.956], and Abu l-Fida [d.1331] and his Mukhtasar fi akhbar al-bashar [Compendium of Universal History].
Before he undertakes to refute Islam, Marracci reconstructs the religion of Islam and its tenets, all the while treating his subject with respect, critical but appreciative at the same time. He was aware that the Koran was an object of reverence for the Muslims who saw it as of divine origin even though he was ready to criticise its origins and contents. Marracci reveals an astonishing grasp of even the smallest details of Islamic history, law and theology, of its rites and rituals, its dogma concerning Jesus and Christianity, and of the influence of Talmudic and Rabbinic Judaism on Islamic religious literature. The Arabic text is beautifully printed, and Marracci is meticulous in his translation and commentary, often quoting the Arab commentators in Arabic.
Maurice Borrmans in his brilliant analysis of Marracci’s skills as a translator finds him far more consistent and coherent than many modern translators, when, for example, Marracci translates the Bismillah as In nomine Dei Miseratoris Misericordis, thus recognizing that we are not dealing with two different concepts in the root word rahma. Marracci respects the tenses of the original, (the passive, the present participles) and even the rhythm of the Arabic words.
When it comes to the actual refutation of Islam and the Koran, however, Marracci is very aggressive and even offensive. In this, Marracci was very much of his time.
Yet, the scientific importance of Ludovico Marracci cannot over-emphasized, and has been recognized by many scholars since. He showed the way by first learning Arabic, and then by going to the original Arabic and Islamic sources to inform himself of the religion at first hand, a truly scientific attitude. George Sale in the preface to his own translation of the Koran into English found Marracci`s translation “very exact,” but too literal, and his notes are “of great use,” and “[t]he work, however, with all its faults, is very valuable, and I should be guilty of ingratitude, did I not acknowledge myself much obliged thereto.…” Marracci can truly be called the first Islamologist of modern times, who brought scientific rigour, and intellectual curiosity to the study of the Koran, and whose translation remains the fundamental work to which all later translations are indebted .
George Sale [1697(?)-1736]
P. M. Holt has rightly called the publication of
Apart from Sale, the pioneering essay by Ignaz Goldziher, and the two works by St. Clair Tisdall, I am not aware of any further research on the Zoroastrian elements in the Koran.
Reflecting on the Muslim belief that Jesus did not die on the Cross but someone else died in his place, Sale notes, “It is supposed by several that this story was an original invention of Mohammed’s; but they are certainly mistaken; for several sectaries held the same opinion, long before his time. The Basilidians in the very beginning of Christianity, denied that Christ himself suffered, but that Simon the Cyrenean was crucified in his place. The Cerinthians before them, and the Carpocratians next …”
Nineteenth Century European Koranic Scholarship
The scientific study of Islam, Arabic, and the Koran grew and blossomed dramatically during the nineteenth century. A surprising number of mainly German but also British and Swedish Islamologists emerged from the Old Testament branch of Protestant theological faculties as well as from Jewish rabbinical schools, much influenced by Enlightenment values. Some, such as Julius Wellhausen [1844-1918] and Friedrich Schwally [1863-1919], passed from Protestant theology faculties to the Arabic branch of the newly created faculties of philology when they got into trouble with their superiors because of their liberal dogma-critical viewpoints. Wellhausen left theology to study Arabic and Islam in 1882 as he did not wish to upset his students with his radical views since many of them were destined for the church. Schwally was rejected for the chair of Old Testament Studies when his thesis, that “the eschatology and the expectation of a Messiah have their origin in the old Israelite tribal religion at the bamot, that is, in the religion of the High Places,” proved too much for the conservative faculty. These scholars, perhaps particularly the Jewish ones, brought not only a deep knowledge of Semitic languages but a sympathetic attitude towards a sister religion free of rancor and polemics. Of course with the gradual secularisation of European society, the study of Islam and the Koran was transformed into a philological discipline.
As Lawrence Conrad argues, the beginning of the nineteenth century saw the increasing professionalisation of Orientalist scholarship centred in
“As a document susceptible of analysis by the instruments and techniques if Biblical criticism [the Koran] is virtually unknown. The doctrinal obstacles that have traditionally impeded such investigation are, on the other hand, very well known. Not merely dogmas such as those defining scripture as the uncreated Word of God and acknowledging its formal and substantive inimitability, but also the entire corpus of Islamic historiography, by providing a more or less coherent and plausible report of the circumstances of the Quranic revelation, have discouraged examination of the document as representative of a traditional literary type.”
Andrew Rippin endorses Wansbrough’s frustration: “…I have often encountered individuals who come to the study of Islam with a background in the historical study of the Hebrew Bible or early Christianity, and who express surprise at the lack of critical thought that appears in introductory textbooks on Islam. The notion that ‘Islam was born in the clear light of history’ still seems to be assumed by a great many writers of such texts. While the need to reconcile varying historical traditions is generally recognized, usually this seems to pose no greater problem to the authors than having to determine ‘what makes sense’ in a given situation. To students acquainted with approaches such as source criticism, oral formulaic composition, literary analysis and structuralism, all quite commonly employed in the study of Judaism and Christianity, such naive historical study seems to suggest that Islam is being approached with less than academic candour.”
Finally, James A. Bellamy makes the following pertinent remarks, “A curious feature of studies on the Koran in the West over the last 150 years is the scant attention paid by scholars to the Koranic text as such. Orientalism has many excellent works on the Koran to its credfit, but one one seeks in vain for a systematic application of the techniques of textual criticism to the textual problems of the Koran, although classicists and Biblical scholars have for centuries made continuous efforts to improve the quality of the texts that are the bases of their disciplines…. Whatever the reasons, Western scholarship, with very few exceptions has chosen to follow the Muslim commentators in not emending the text. When faced with a problem, the Westerners have resorted to etymologizing and hunting for foreign words and foreign influences. They have produced a great deal of valuable scholarship important for our study of the Koran and the origins of Islam, but where they exercised their skill on corrupt texts, they, of course, produced only fantasies.’’
I have taken some examples from Gunter Luling’s partial list of scholars of Islam with a background in either Christian or Talmudic theology, concentrating on those who have written works relevant to Koranic studies, adding a few lines on each. On the Christian side we have:
i) Heinrich Fleischer [1801-1888] who studied theology in
ii) Heinrich Ewald [1803-1875] who studied theology, classical philology, and Semitic languages at
iii) Ferdinand Wustenfeld [1808-1899] who studied Oriental languages at
iv) William Robertson Smith [1846-1894] who studied theology at
v) Karl Vollers [1857-1909] who studied theology and Oriental languages at
vi) Friedrich Schultess [1868-1922] who studied theology and Oriental languages at
vii) Tor Andrae [1885-1947] who studied Semitic languages and the history of religion at
On the Jewish side, we may mention:
i) Gustav Weil [1808-1889] who was educated at the Ecole Talmudique in
ii) Abraham Geiger [1810-1874] who is discussed below.
iii) Karl Paul Caspari [1814-1892] who studied Semitic languages at
iv) Moritz Steinschneider [1816-1907] who studied philosophy and languages at
v) Jacob Barth [1851-1914] who studied at the Rabbiner-Seminar zu
vi) Hermann Reckendorf [1863-1923] who began his studies at the Rabbiner-Seminar zu
vii) Josef Horovitz [1874-1931] who was descended from a family of well-known Orthodox rabbis. He grew up in Frankfurt, studied in
Abraham Geiger [1810-1874]
Encouraged by his teacher Georg Freytag [1788-1861], a young student in his early twenties, Abraham Geiger entered a competition sponsored by the Philosophical faculty of the University of Bonn, which called for a study of those themes of the Koran that were derived from Judaism. Geiger won the prize, and presented his study for the doctorate at the
Geiger’s study is not merely descriptive but analytical, and he had, as he himself explains, “the advantage of having an unbiased mind; not, on the one hand, seeing the passages through the spectacles of the Arabian commentators, nor on the other finding in the Quran the views of the Arabian dogmatists, and the narratives of their historians.”
Geiger relied on such works as Edward Pococke’s Speciae Historiae Arabum, Ludovico Marracci’s Alcorani Textus Universus, D`Herbelot’s Bibliotheque Orientale,  Baydawi’s commentary on Sura 10, the histories of Abu`l-Fida [1273-1331], and the mysterious Elpherar who turns out to be Al-Baghawi [died 1122 or 1117]. As for the Jewish writings, he relied, on the whole, on the Bible, the Talmud and the Midrashim since Geiger wished to reject all Jewish writings later than Muhammad’s times.
Geiger begins with a discussion of the conceptions borrowed from Judaism, and does so by first enumerating and discussing fourteen words that have passed from rabbinical Hebrew into the Koran: Tabut, ark; Taurat, the Law; Jannatu`Adn, paradise ; Jahannum,hell;Ahbar, teacher ;Darasa , exact research ; Rabbani , teacher; Sabt, day of rest; Sakinat, the presence of God; Taghut, error; FurqanMa`un, refuge; Masani, repetition; Malakut, government. As Geiger says, “These fourteen words, which are clearly derived from the later, or rabbinical Hebrew, show what very important religious conceptions passed from Judaism into Islam, namely, the idea of the divine guidance, sakinat, malakut; of revelation, furqan, masani; of judgment after death, jannatu`adn and jahannum, besides others ….”
Geiger then goes through the views borrowed from Judaism, doctrinal views such as seven heavens, judgment after death, eternal bliss, mode of revelation, and doctrine of spirits; moral and legal rules concerning prayer, women; and views of life. Furthermore there are numerous stories borrowed from Judaism concerning the Patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon. Indeed many of the stories as they stand in the Koran do not make full sense without one consulting the accompanying story from the Talmudic source from which they are ultimately derived.
Ever since Geiger, Western scholars have been eager to emphasize either the Jewish or the Christian influence on the Koran. I have already referred to scholars convinced that it is to Judaism that the Koran owes the most, here I shall briefly look at scholars certain that it is to Christianity that Muhammad, the Koran and Islam owes the greatest debt.
Julius Wellhausen [1844-1918] argued in favour of Christianity  as the main source of Muhammad’s inspiration. Wellhausen was particularly impressed by Koranic references to the Sabians, whom he identified as Mandaeans, a Gnostic sect that practiced baptism. Since Islam prescribed ritual ablutions, for Wellhausen this was a significant point of connection between the two creeds. He further thinks that the institution of five prayers also goes back to the Sabians. Goldziher [1860-1921] thinks that the practice of five prayers comes from the Zoroastrians, while Torrey contends that both the ablutions and five prayers are derived from Judaism. Nonetheless, Theodor Noldeke, Friedrich Schwally and Wilhelm Rudolph seem to accept Wellhausen’s arguments. Torrey and Wellhausen also clash over their interpretation of the much discussed term hanif. For Torrey it came from the Hebrew hanef, “and probably its employment by him [Muhammad] as a term of praise, rather than of reproach, indicates that in his mind it designated one who ‘turned away‘ from the surrounding paganism.” Whereas Wellhausen argues that hanif originally meant a Christian ascetic and sees it as a native Arab development.
Karl Ahrens, in an exhaustive study, finds Arian, Nestorian, Gnostic and Manichaean elements in the Koran with New Testament material taken from the Gospels, Acts, the Letters of Paul, and the Book of Revelation. Elsewhere Ahrens argues against Torrey on the Muslim practice of alms giving, sadaqa. For Ahrens, though the terms are of Jewish origin, the practice is taken from Christianity, whereas Torrey takes it that the terminology and practice are both of Jewish origin.
For Richard Bell  it is clear that “both Judaism and Christianity played a part in forming the doctrine of Islam and in preparing the spiritual soil of
All these accounts are working within a totally faulty chronology, faulty geography, and under false assumptions about the historicity of the various traditional accounts of the life of someone called Muhammad. If one begins with the assumption that Muhammad had something to do with the Koran and all the events associated with him in the Sira took place in the Hijaz, then we are bound to look for the presence of Jews and Christians in Arabia, we are bound to ask what Muhammad’s contact with and attitude to them was, and are bound to interpret each obscure passage in the Koran as having a bearing on the life of Muhammad. But if even only a few of the arguments of the revisionists are correct, then it is totally futile to look for the presence of Christians or Jews in Arabia; for revisionists Islam was not born in Arabia at all, but in the sectarian milieu of the Near East.
In any case, those scholars who have looked at the matter such as Spencer Trimingham have NOT found any significant number of Christians in
As to the presence of Judaism in
“Some scholars …have been excessively generous in their assessment of the documentary value of Islamic source materials for the existence and cultural significance (!) of Jewish communities in the Hijaz, about which Jewish sources are themselves silent. References in Rabbinic literature to
And if the putative biography of the Prophet is largely fictional, it is equally a waste of time to search for elusive peripatetic monks or wandering rabbis who may have whispered their respective scriptures into the ear of an untutored Arabian merchant; it is equally idle to speculate on how each passage of the Koran is related to the life of Muhammad. Indeed Henri Lammens, as we shall see later, has argued that large parts of the Koran were fabricated to explain obscure passages in the Koran.
Gustav Flugel [1802-1870]
Flugel was born in
At any rate, Flugels’s edition remained the standard one for reference for all of the nineteenth century.
Theodor Noldeke [1836-1930]
Noldeke was a great semiticist whose Geschichte des Qorans  is now considered a classic which set the agenda for all later Koranic scholarship. Rippin sums up admirably the history and importance of Noldeke’s work:
“Written originally in Latin, it was submitted in 1856 as a dissertation and awarded the winning prize in a Parisian competition for a study of the ‘critical history of the text of the Quran.’ The work was first published in an expanded German edition in 1860. A second edition of the work appeared in three volumes, with volumes 1 and 2 edited and rewritten by Friedrich Schwally (1909, 1919) and volume 3 written by Gotthelf Bergstrasser and Otto Pretzl (1938). Noldeke’s work has set the agenda for subsequent generations of Quranic scholarship by emphasizing concerns with chronology in the text and the text’s biblical background. As well, Noldeke’s philological insights provide much of lasting value; his treatment of language, his stress upon etymology, and his insights into grammar all provide the model for the philological study of the Quran, and the material he provided continues to be a valued source of reference for later scholarship.”
Noldeke`s first great contribution to Koranic studies is said to be his establishing of In Koranic chronology, when each sura was revealed, early ones being Meccan and later ones being Medinan, Noldeke saw “a progressive change of style from exalted poetical passages in the early years to long prosaic deliverances later.” Though he accepted the Islamic tradition’s divisions of suras into those revealed at
Finally, “the suras of the third Meccan period, which form a pretty large part of our present Koran, are almost entirely prosaic. Some of the revelations are of considerable extent, and the single verses also are much longer than in the older suras. Only now and then a gleam of poetic power flashes out. A sermonizing tone predominates.”
Watt thought the main weakness of Noldeke’s thesis was that he treated suras as unities, pointing out that later scholars have purported to see intrusions of later passages into earlier suras.
Noldeke thinks that Muhammad did not make use of written sources. The stories in the Koran are “chiefly about Scripture characters, especially those of the Old Testament. But the deviations from the biblical narratives are very marked. Many of the alterations are found in the legendary anecdotes of the Jewish Haggada and the New Testament Apocrypha; but many more are due to misconceptions such as only a listener (not the reader of a book) could fall into. The most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken Haman (the minister of Ahasuerus) for the minister of Pharaoh, or identified Miriam the sister of Moses with Mary (=Miriam) the mother of Christ.”
As for the style of the Koran, Noldeke had harsh words: “[The more extended narratives in the Koran] are vehement and abrupt…where they ought to be characterized by epic repose. Indispensable links, both in expression and in the sequence of events, are often omitted, so that to understand these histories is sometimes far easier for us than for those who heard them first, because we know most of them from better sources. Along with this, there is a great deal of superfluous verbiage; and nowhere do we find a steady advance in the narration….Similar faults are found in the non-narrative portions of the Koran. The connection of ideas is extremely loose, and even the syntax betrays great awkwardness. Anacolutha are of frequent occurrence, and cannot be explained as conscious literary devices. Many sentences begin with a ‘when’ or ‘on the day when,’ which seems to hover in the air, so that commentators are driven to supply a ‘think of this’ or some such ellipsis. Again there is no great literary skill evinced in the frequent and needless harping on the same words and phrases; in Sura XVIII, for example, ’till that’ occurs no fewer than eight times. Muhammad, in short, is not in any sense a master of style.”
As for the mysterious letters which stand at the head of twenty-nine of the suras, Noldeke at one time “suggested that these initials did not belong to Muhammad’s text, but might be the monograms of possessors of codices, which, through negligence on the part of the editors, were incorporated in the final form of the Koran.” Later Noldeke changed his mind and thought that “Muhammad seems to have meant these letters for a mystic reference to archetypal text in heaven.”
According to many scholars Noldeke had a totally negative influence on the development of Koranic Studies in the West precisely because his prestige was so great.
For example, Alfred von Kremer wrote that Noldeke was “the man who tries to monopolize the conversation, although one can demonstrate in every one of his publications dozens of blunders of the most awful kind,” and as “the scholar who, with great self-conceit, passes sentence upon things he does not understand.”
He was very conservative, and seems to have fatally accepted the traditional Muslim account of the compilation of the Koran, and insisted that the Koran was wholly authentic.  Any new theories of the nature of Koranic Arabic were summarily dismissed, as for example the original thesis of Carlo de Landeberg [1848-1927]. The Swedish Count was perhaps the first to argue that the language of everyday communication at the time of the Prophet Muhammad was an Arabic vernacular, without case –endings [irab, in Arabic], and not the Classical Arabic well-known from old Arabic poetry. The work of the Count was taken up by Karl Vollers [1857-1919], another scholar with a theological studies background, who contended that “the Koran must have been submitted to a fundamental editorial reworking to become that Classical Arabic book as it was finally understood to be by Islam’s growing orthodoxy.” But as Luling argues, to this day such is the influence of Noldeke that no one dare espouse the Landeberg/Vollers theory of the existence of a vernacular in the pre- and early Islamic periods. This fear inhibits any critical analysis of the Koran that does not judge its contents from the viewpoint of Classical Arabic grammar.
Other scholars since Vollers have also argued that the Koran shows signs of editing manipulation, and interpolation, and that we cannot understand the Koran unless we emend the text in the way it is quite common in Classical scholarship concerned with Greek and Latin texts. Fischer argued, for instance, that verses 7 and 8 of sura CI are interpolations, and what is more, “the possibility of interpolations in the Quran, even worse than that asserted by me here, absolutely must be admitted. And, if such interpolations have not been proven until now, this mainly because no one has undertaken a drastic detailed criticism of the Quran.” C. C. Torrey [1863-1956], J. Barth [1851-1914] and J. Bellamy [born 1925]  have all proposed emendations to the Koran text, while P. Casanova [1861-1926] has maintained, like Vollers, that the Koran shows abundant signs of manipulation and interpolation.
The extraordinary nineteenth century Orientalist scholarship also produced a number of works that dealt with the foreign vocabulary of the Koran. Aloys Sprenger [1812-3-1893] wrote an article in a Bengali journal as early as 1852 on the foreign words in the Koran, while Rudolf Dvorak [1860-1920] the founder of Czech orientalism wrote his thesis on the same subject. Given the importance of Luxenberg’s work , the study of Siegmund Fraenkel [1855-1909], Aramaische Fremdworter im Arabischen,1886, is still very relevant. Equally, Alphonse Mingana’s Syriac Influence on the Style of the Koran  is truly pioneering. Mingana wrote, “[T]aking the number 100 as a unit of the foreign influences on the style and terminology of the Quran, Ethiopic would represent about 5 per cent of the total; Hebrew, about 10 per cent; the Greco-Roman languages about 10 percent; Persian about 5 percent; and Syriac (including Aramaic and Palestinian Syriac) about 70 percent.” Arthur Jeffery wrote a synthesis taking into account the works referred to above, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran,
Given Mingana’s mastery of Syriac and his familiarity with Syriac literature, it is surprising that he did not come to the radical conclusions of Luxenberg by himself. That he did not is attributable in my opinion to his adherence to a faulty chronology which was of course the case with the entire nineteenth century Western scholarship. Time and again, scholars such as Vollers and Mingana, though their research and conclusions should have resulted in the profound questioning of the entire Muslim tradition concerning the redaction of the Koran, held back. As one very distinguished scholar once said to me, the Muslim tradition in general and the commentators in particular, have led us up the garden path for centuries, and we have yet to disentangle ourselves from the weeds in that traditional jungle. And until we look at the entire tradition with a critical eye we shall not arrive at the truth, and will not understand the conclusions that Luxenberg is about to divulge to the world.
To be continued.
 A. Mingana. The Transmission of the Koran. Originally published in The Journal of the Manchester Egyptian and Oriental Society (1916 ), and reprinted in Muslim World 7 (1917): 223-32; 402-14 , and also, Ibn Warraq , ed., The Origins of the Koran .Amherst: Prometheus Book , 1998, pp. 97-113.
 Ibid, in Ibn Warraq , ed., The Origins of the Koran .Amherst: Prometheus Books , 1998 pp.112-113.
 Michael Cook & Patricia Crone, Hagarism,
 Ibid., p.18
 R. W. Southern. Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages,
 Ibid., p18
 So lamented Paul Alvarus , a ninth century biographer of Eulogius, Bishop of Toledo. Quoted by Southern op.cit.p.21
 Southern, op.cit, p.35 and footnote 2 on the same page.
 James Kritzeck.Robert of Ketton`s Translation of the Qur`an, .Islamic Quarterly 2 (1955) Pp.309-312.
 Ibid., p.311
 Thomas E. Burman . “Tafsir and Translation: Traditional Qur’an Exegesis and the Latin Qur’ans of Robert of Ketton and Mark of Toledo,” Speculum 73 (1998): 703-32; see also by Thomas E. Burman .Juan de Segovia and Quran Reading in Europe, 1140-1560,at www.cishsydney2005.org/images/Burman_paper.doc.
Also Thomas E. Burman , Polemic, Philology, and Ambivalence: Reading the Quran in Latin Christendom in Journal of Islamic Studies 15 (2004): 181-209.
 Thomas E. Burman , Tafsir and Translation: Traditional Qur’an Exegesis and the Latin Qur’ans of Robert of Ketton and Mark of Toledo,” Speculum 73 (1998): p.705
 Ibid., p.705 Burman has this footnote on the same page “These criticisms appear in the remarkable preface to his now-lost Latin translation of the Quran (made from the Castilian version of Yca de Segovia ): Prefatio Johannis de Segobia …in translationem noviter ex Arabico in Latinum vulgareque Hyspanum libri Alchorani …,ed.D.Cabanelas Rodriguez in Juan de Segovia y el problema islamico (Madrid ,1952) pp.279-302, esp. pp.288,293,295-96. On these criticisms generally, see Cabanelas, Juan de Segovia, pp.131-36, and “Juan de Segovia y el primer Alcoran trilingue,” Al-Andalus 14 (1949) pp.157-61″.
 L.Marracci.Refutatio Alcorani in qua ad Mahumetanicae superstitionis radicem securis apponitur ;et Mahumetus ipse gladio suo jugulator , 2 .Padua , 1698, p.3.
 George Sale (trans.) The Koran
 See footnote 11 above, and Burman`s webpage at the University of Tennessee at: http://web.utk.edu/~history/f-burman.htm
 We do not know precisely which commentaries Robert and Mark consulted , but very probably, al-Tabari`s large and encyclopaedic Jami al-bayan an tawil ay al-Quran, and possibly those of the two contemporaries of Robert , al-Zamakhshari and his al-Kashshaf an haqaiq ghawanid al tanzil wa uyun al-aqawil fi wujuh al tawil ,and al-Tabarsi `s Majma al-bayan fi tafsir al-Quran.
 Thomas E. Burman, Tafsir and Translation: Traditional Qur’an Exegesis and the Latin Qur’ans of Robert of Ketton and Mark of Toledo,” Speculum 73 (1998): p.707
 Richard Bell,. The Quran Translated , with a Critical Re-arrangement of the Surahs .2 Vols.
 Quoted by Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, The Making of an Image.
 Sometimes spelt Ricoldo .
 Norman Daniel doubts the traditional idea that this text was written by an ex-Muslim, preferring to attribute it to a Christian, Mozarab. Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, The Making of an Image.
 Norman Daniel, op. cit., p.58
 Norman Daniel , op.cit.p.58ff
 Martin Luther , trans. Ricoldo da Montecroce .Verlegung des Alcoran. Wiitenberg :H.Lufft. 1542.
 R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages,
 Thomas E. Burman, Juan de Segovia and Quran Reading , Oct. 2004 found on the Internet at: www.cishsydney2005.org/images/Burman_paper.doc , summarizing his research to be published in Reading the Quran in Latin Christendom,1140-1560 [Perhaps by
 Thomas E. Burman, Juan de Segovia and Quran Reading, p.5
 Ibid., p.9
 Ibid, p.13
 Nicholas of Cusa, De Pace Fidei and Cribratio Alkorani, trans. by Jasper Hopkins, Minneapolis: The Arthur J. Banning Press, 1994, p.30 [in Ludwig Hagemann`s edition of Nicholas of Cusa , Nicolai de Cusa Opera Omnia , Vol.VIII: Cribratio Alkorani, Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1986 , p.980
 Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, The Making of an Image.
Maxime Rodinson has criticised Daniel for being an apologist of Islam, which would explain why Daniel often dismisses any criticism of the Koran as invalid since it arose in a polemical context and came from a Christian.
 Thomas E. Burman, Polemic, Philology, and Ambivalence: Reading the Quran in Latin Christendom., The Journal of Islamic Studies 15 (2004): 181-209.
 I have leaned heavily on Maurice Borrmans` excellent article: M.Borrmans, Ludovico Marracci et sa traduction latine du Coran. Pontificio Istitutio di Studi Arabi e d` Islamistica: Islamochristiana 28, (2002)
 This was achieved in 1650, but since a particular edition of the Bible had not been followed rigorously as they had been asked to do, the translators were asked to redo it, with Marracci in charge. It was eventually published by Propaganda Fide,
 Borrmans, op.cit. p.75 quoting from Marracci`s opuscule L`ebreo preso per le buone .
 Full Title: Alcorani textus universus, ex correctioribus Arabum exemplaribus summa fide, atque pulcherrimis characteribus descriptus, eademque fide, ac pari diligentia ex Arabico idiomate in latinum translatus. Appositis unicuique capiti notis, atque refutatione : His omnibus praemissus est Prodromus Totum priorem Tomum implens , In quo contenta indicantur pagina sequenti , Auctore Ludovico Marraccio E Congregatione Clericorum Regularium Matris Dei, Innocentii XI. Gloriosissimae memoriae olim Confessario (Patavi , MDCXCVIII ) [
 Cf. G. Gabrieli, “Gli studi orientali e gli ordini religiosi in Italia ” in Il pensiero missionario 3 (1931), pp.297-313, p.304, quoted by Borrmans, op. cit., p.83.
 P. M. Holt , The Treatment of Arab History in Prideaux , Ockley and
 Alexander Ross`s version was a shoddy translation from the French of du Ryer in 1649.
 I. Goldziher “Islam et Parsisme” In Actes du premier Congres International d`Histoire des religions, I (Paris, 1900), ,119ff. [ =Gesammelte Schriften , IV , 232ff ] ; Rev. W. St. Clair-Tisdall, The Sources of Islam: A Persian Treatise, translated and abridged by Sir William Muir, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, Scotland. 1901; Rev. W. St. Clair-Tisdall. The Original Sources of the Qur’an, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge,
 I have profited enormously from Gunter Luling`s fascinating memoir and history of German orientalism:
G. Luling, Preconditions for the Scholarly Criticism of the Koran and Islam, with some Autobiographical Remarks The Journal of Higher Criticism, Vol.3 Spring 1996, pp.73-109
 G. Luling op. cit. p.74 and footnote 2.
 Lawrence I. Conrad , Introduction to J. Horovitz, The Earliest Biographies of the Prophet and their Authors .Princeton: Darwin Press , 2002, pp.x-xi
 J. Wansbrough, Quranic Studies, Amherst: Prometheus Books ,2004 , p.xxi
 A. Rippin, Muslims.Their Religious Beliefs and Practice, Vol. 1: The Formative Period,
 J. Bellamy, Some Proposed Emendations to the Text of the Koran, in JAOS 13, (1993) pp.562-73., also in Ibn Warraq ed. What the Koran Really Says,
 H. Fleischer, Kleinere Schriften, 3 Vols,
 G. Weil, Muhammad der Prophet.Sein Leben und seine Lehre,
 G. Weil, Historisch-kritische Einleitung in den Koran,
 J. Horovitz, Jewish Proper Names and Derivatives in the Koran .HUCA 2 (1925) 145-227; Koranische Untersuchungen
 I have benefited considerably from two studies on Geiger: Jacob Lassner , Abraham Geiger: A Nineteenth Century Jewish Reformer on the Origins of Islam, in Martin Kramer , ed. The Jewish Discovery of Islam, Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and
 In Latin, “Inquiratur in fontes Alcorani seu legis Mohammedicae eas qui ex Judaismo derivandi sunt”
 T. Noldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, ed. F. Schwally, 2nd Edn.
 Hubert Grimme [1864-1942] in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 7 (1904): pp.226ff; J. Horovitz in Zeitschrift fur die hebraische Bibliographie 6 (1903): p.10
 For example, Max Grunbaum, Neue Beitrage zur semitischen Sagenkunde,
Harwig Hirschfeld ,Judische Elemente im Qoran Berlin, 1878; Israel Schapiro, Die haggadischen Elemente im erzahlenden Teil des Korans , Berlin: G.Fock , 1907 ; D.Sidersky , Les origines des legendes musulmanes dans le Coran , Paris: Geuthner , 1933; Abraham I. Katsh , Judaism in Islam, New York, 1954 [reprinted, New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1980], B. Heller, “Recits et personnages bibliques dans la legende mahometanen,” Revue des Etudes Juives, 85 (1928) pp.113-136, and “La legende biblique dans l`Islam,” Revue des Etudes Juives , 98 (1934), pp.1-18; P. Jensen .”Des leben Muhammads und die David-Sage,” Der Islam 12 (1922) pp.84-97; H. Schwarzbaum, “The Jewish and Moslem Versions of Some theodicy Legends, Fabula 3 (1959-60), pp.119-69; Claude Gilliot, “Les Informateurs juifs et chretiens de Muhammad Reprise d`un probleme traite par Aloys Sprenger et Theodor Noldeke,” JSAI 22 (1998) pp.84-126.
 Heinrich Speyer, Die biblischen Erzalungen im
 A. Geiger, Judaism and Islam, trans. by F .M. Young ,
 Edward Pococke [1604–91] ed. Specimen historiae Arabum (Oxford: Henry Hall, 1650) The latter was the first book using Arabic type., and is a short account of the history and customs of the Arabs, based on the chronicle of Bar Hebraeus, [Abu’l-Faraj (1226-1286)] a thirteenth-century Jewish scholar from Syria. Pococke worked as chaplain in
 L. Marracci [1612-1700] Alcorani Textus Universus, 1698, 2nd Ed., 1721 .Marracci`s translation was made directly from the Arabic, unlike many Mediaeval translations.
 Herbelot, Barthelemy d` [1625-1695] .Bibliotheque Oriental , ou Dictionnaire Universal contenant generalement tout ce qui regarde la Connaissance des Peuples de l`Orient .Paris: La Compagnie des Libraires, 1697 (Completed by Antoine Galland )
 Abu`l-Fida [1273-1331] Mukhtasar ta`rikh al-bashar was a universal history covering the pre-Islamic period and Islamic history down to 1329. It was the main source on Islamic history for eighteenth and even early nineteenth century European orientalists through the editions of J. Gagnier, De vita …Mohammedis ,
 His full name explains the derivation of Elpherar: Abu Muhammad al-Husayn b.Masud b.Muhammad al -Farra al-Baghawi (sometimes called Ibn Al-Farra ). His commentary on the Koran Ma`alim al-Tanzil was well-known in Europe (copies were to be found in
 A. Geiger, Judaism and Islam, trans. by F. M. Young,
 A. Geiger, What did Muhammad Borrow from Judaism? in I.Warraq ed. The Origins of the Koran, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1998. p172
 See footnote 1003 above.
 Julius Wellhausen, Reste arabischen
 Q.XXII:17; II: 59;V:73.
 I. Goldziher, “Islam et Parsisme ” In Actes du premier Congres International d`Histoire des religions, I (
 C C. Torrey, The Jewish Foundation of Islam,
 T .Noldeke-F,Schwally, Geschichte des Qorans,
 C. C. Torrey, The Jewish Foundation of Islam,
 Julius Wellhausen, Reste arabischen
 K. Ahrens. Christliches im Koran, ZDMG, LX (1930), pp 15-68, 148-190
 K.Ahrens, Muhammad als Religionsstifter,
 R .Bell, The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment,
 Ibn Rawandi in
quoting J. S. Spencer Trimingham, Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times,
 John Wansbrough, Quranic Studies, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2004 [ Ist edn.1977] pp. 50-51.
 A .Jeffery and I. Mendelsohn. The Orthography of the Samarkand Quran Codex .Journal of the American Oriental Society, 62 (1942 ) pp.180-181
 A. Rippin, in Foreword to John Wansbrough, Quranic Studies,
 R. Bell/ W. M. Watt .Introduction to the Quran, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1977, p.110.
 T. Noldeke, The Koran, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th Ed., vol.16 (1891) pp. 597ff; also in Ibn Warraq ed. The Origins of the Koran, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1998, p. 53
 Ibid., p.111
 T. Noldeke, The Koran, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th Ed., vol.16 (1891) pp.597ff ; also in Ibn Warraq ed. The Origins of the Koran, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1998, p.46
 T. Noldeke in Ibn Warraq ed. The Origins of the Koran, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1998, p.55.
 Quoted in G. Luling, Preconditions for the Scholarly Criticism of the Koran and Islam, with some Autobiographical Remarks, The Journal of Higher Criticism, Vol.3 Spring 1996, p. 78, referring to Kremer’s Geschichte der Herrschenden Ideen des Islams, Leipzig , 1868 [Reprint Hildesheim, 1961] last note
 T. Noldeke, Orientalische Skizzen
 See Noldeke’s review of Carlo de Landeberg, La langue arabe et ses dialectes Communication faite au XIVe Cogres international des Orientalistes a Alger,
 G. Luling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformatiom,
 G. Luling. Preconditions for the Scholarly Criticism of the Koran and Islam, with some Autobiographical Remarks, The Journal of Higher Criticism, Vol. 3 Spring 1996, p. 83
 A. Fischer, A Quranic Interpolation in Ibn Warraq ed., What the Koran Really Says, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 455, originally in Orientalischen Studien, Theodor Noldeke zum 70, Geburtstag , 1.Band (Giessen , 1906 ) pp.33-55.
 C. C. Torrey, Three Difficult Passages in the Koran, and A Strange Reading in the Quran, in Ibn Warraq, ed. What the Koran Really Says,
 J. Barth .Studies Contributing to Criricism and Exegesis of the Koran, in Ibn Warraq , ed. What the Koran Really Says .Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002, pp. 399-435
 J. Bellamy, Some Proposed Emendations to the Text of the Koran, in Ibn Warraq , ed. What the Koran Really Says .Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002, pp. 488-516.
 P. Casanova, Mohammed et la fin du monde,
 A Sprenger, Foreign words occurring in the Qoran, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 21 (1852) pp. 109-11
 R. Dvorak, Ein Beitrag zur Frage uber die Fremdworter im Koran, Munchen 1884; also R. Dvorak .Uber die Fremdworter im Koran, Wien, 1885
 A. Mingana, .Syriac Influence on the Style of the Koran, in Ibn Warraq , ed. What the Koran Really Says .Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002, pp. 171-192, originally in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 11 (1927) pp. 77-98
 A. Mingana, .Syriac Influence on the Style of the Koran, in Ibn Warraq , ed. What the Koran Really Says .Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002, pp. 174-175
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