Friday, 1 May 2015

The Qur'an as Scripture, Part IIIa

Arthur Jeffery
Once a pattern of the nature of the prophetic mission had begun to form in Muhammad's mind, based on what he had learned from the People of the Book, it was but natural that he should develop his thought of his own mission in terms of this pattern of the prophetic succession. As they were warners, so is he a warner (mundhir, LXXIX.45; XIII.7/8; XXXVIII.4/3: nadhir, LI.50,51; LIII. 56/57; VII.188). As they were preachers of good tidings, so is he a mubashshir (XXV.56/58; XVII.105/106; XXXIII.45/44) and a bashir (XI.2; V.19/22; VII.188). As they have the office of witness (shahid), so is he a witness from Allah (XI.17/20; XXXIII.45/44). As their coming was a mercy from Allah to mankind, so he is sent as a mercy (XXI.107). As they were sent in the language of the people to whom their mission was, so he is sent with a message in Arabic (XLIV.58; XVI.103/105). As they were told that their responsibility was to proclaim clearly their message, he is told the same thing (III.20/19; V.92/93; XIII.40; LXIV.12). As they brought Allah's commands, so did he (LXV.5). As they pointed to the dread of the coming Day of Judgment, so did he (XXXIX.71; VI.130). As men made mock of them and called them impostors, so they made mock of him (XV.95; XXI.41/42; XXV.41/43; V.57/62), and treated him as an impostor (VI.147/148; III.184/181; XXII.42/43). As men disputed with them about their mission, so did they dispute with him (XXII.3,8,68/67; VI.25; VIII.6), and as men sought to lay violent hands on them, just so did they seek to do to him (XXII.72/71).

What, however, is of more interest to our present study is that the stories of the previous prophets, in whose succession he claims to stand, come to be accommodated to that same pattern. Vague and indefinite figures in the early Meccan passages, their stories gradually take form and as they appear in his later preaching, they tend more and more to fall into a stylized pattern, viz. the pattern which he has as the background of his thought of his own mission.

The Prophets are chosen (XXII.75/74; XXVII.59/60), and so we read that Adam was chosen (XX.122/120), also Noah (III.33/30), Abraham (XVI.121/122; II.130/124), Jacob (XXXVIII.47), Joseph (XIL.6), Jonah (LXVIII.50) and Moses (XX.13), while in the passage VI.84-87 Isaac, David, Solomon, Job, Aaron, Ishmael, Lot, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, John Baptist and his father Zechariah are also enumerated as among those whom Allah chose.1 Muhammad is, of course, par excellence al-Mustafa. In a very special sense the Prophets are guided (XXXVI.21/20), and so we read of how Adam was guided (XX.122/120), as were Noah (VI.84), Abraham (XXVI.78; VI.80), Moses (XL.53/56), Isaac and Jacob (VI.84), and Jesus (V.46/50). To these the passage VI.84-86 adds Lot, David, Solomon, Job, Aaron, Ishmael, Jonah, Elijah, Elisha, John Baptist and his father Zechariah as those whom Allah guided to a straight path. Muhammad also has this special guidance (XXXIV.50/49; XCIII.7).

As Allah's messengers they were given, as a special grace from their Lord, bayyinat (evidentiary signs) (III.183/180), and so we read how Noah had a bayyina (XI.28/30), as did Shu'aib (XI.88/90; VIII.85/83), and Hud (IX.70/71), Salih (VII.73/71), Abraham and Lot (IX.70/71), Joseph (XL.34/36), Moses (XVII.101/103; II. 92/86) and Jesus (II.87/81, 253/254). Muhammad, likewise came with bayyinat (LXI.6).

The Prophets were faithful, so we find this said of Noah (XXVI.107), of Hud (VII.68/66; XXVI.125), of Abraham (LIII.37/38), of Lot (XXVI.162), of Elijah (XXXVII.132), of Salih (XXVI.143) and Shu'aib (XXVI.178), of Joseph (XII.54) and of Moses (XLIV. 18/17; XXVIII.26). In the Sira we read how Muhammad was familiarly called by his fellow townsmen al-Amin, "the Faithful" (Ibn Hisham, Sira, p.125).

In a peculiar sense the Prophets are the "righteous ones" (Salihun),2 (XXVII.19; XXXVII.100/98; XII.101/102), so this title is found in connection with the stories of Idris (XXI.86), Noah (LXVI. 10), Abraham (II.130/124; XVI.122/123); Lot (XXI.75; LXVI.10),3 Ishmael (XXI.86), Isaac (XXXVII.112), Jacob (XXI.72), Joseph (XII.101/102), Jethro (XXVIII.27), Elijah (VI.85), Dhu 'l-Kifl (XXI.86), Jonah (LXVIII.50), Solomon (XXVII.19), Jesus (VI.85; III.46/41), John Baptist (III.39/34) and his father Zechariah (VI.85).

The messengers come bi'lhaqq, "with the truth,"4 (II.213/209; VII.43/41), an expression which is often used of Allah's revelation (XLV29/28; XLII.17/16; XXXIX.41/42, II.213/209), and which we find in connection with the mission of Abraham (XXI.55/56), Moses (II.71/66; XL.25/26) and David (XXXVIII.26/25). So Muhammad is sent bi'l-haqq (II.119/113; IV.170/168; XXIII.70/72; XXXV.24/22; XXXVI1.37/36).

That Prophets were sent as "warners" to warn their contemporaries, we have already seen (XLVI.21/20; LIV.5; XXXV.24/22). In particular this is said of Hud (XXVI.136), of Salih (LIV.24 25), of Noah (LXXI.2), of Lot (LIV.33), and of course of Muhammad (X.2; VI.51; LXXIV.2). That they were bringers of good tidings is asserted in II.213/209; VI.48, and this is said in particular to have been the mission of Jesus (LXI.6) and of Muhammad (XXV.56/58; XLVIII.8).

As Allah's messengers they can claim obedience, so we find Salih claiming such obedience (XXVI.144, 150), as do Hud (XXVI.126, 131), Noah (LXXI.3; XXVI.110), Shu'aib (XXVI.179), Lot (XXVI.163), Jesus (XL1II.63; III.50/44) and the anonymous messenger of XXIII.34/36. Similarly Muhammad is to be obeyed (LXIV.12; VIII.1,20,46/48; XLVII.33/35; III.32/29). But they are to ask no reward from men, an injunction that is laid on Salih (XXVI.145), Hud (XI.-51/53; XXVI.127), Noah (X1.29/31; XXVI.109), Shu'aib (XXVI.180) and Lot (XXVI.164), just as Muhammad is to ask no reward of men (XXXVIII.86; XXIII.72/74; XXV.57/59; XII.104; XLII.23/22).

The Prophets were taunted with being merely men (XXXVI.15/14; LXIV.6; XIV.10/12) and this occurred to Salih (XXVI.154) to Hud (VII.69/67), to Noah (XI.27/29), to Shu'aih (XXVI.186), to Moses and Aaron (XXII.47/49) and to the anonymous messenger in XXIII.33/34,38/40. So this taunt was levelled against Muhammad (XXI.3). It is not surprising, therefore, that the common experience of the Prophets was to be rejected by their people.5 This was the experience of Noah (LIV.9; LXXI.5), of Salih (XCI.11), of Hud (XI.-53/56), of Abraham (VI.80 ff.), of Lot (LIV.33, 36), of Moses (LXI.5), of the anonymous messenger (XXIII.33/34 ff.) and of Jesus (III.52/45). That it was the experience of Muhammad when he preached at Mecca needs no elaboration.

The commonest charge against them was that they were impostors who must be given the lie (L.12, 13). This was the experience of Noah (LIV.9), of Hud (XXVI.123,139), of Shu'aib (XXIX.37/36), of Abraham (XXIX.18/17) and Lot (XXVI.160), of Moses and Aaron (XXIII.48/50), of Elijah (XXXVII.127) and of the anonymous messenger (XXIII.38/40). It was what happened to Muhammad also (VI.147/148; III.184/184; XXII.42/43). Sometimes they were considered as men bewitched. This was what they said of Noah (LIV.9; XXIII.25) of Salih (XXVI.153) of Shu'aib (XXVI.185) of Moses (XVII.101/103) and it was said of Muhammad (XVII.47/50; XXV.8/9). Sometimes they deemed them mad (LI.52), as they did Noah (LIV.9), Hud (XI.54/57; VII.66/64) and Moses (LI.39), or accused them of sorcery (LI.52), as they did both Moses (LI.39) and Jesus (V.110) and also Muhammad (XXXVIII.4/3). Sometimes their people go even further and plot against them to their harm, (XL.5; III.183/180). This they did to Salih (XXVII.48/49 ff.); to Abraham (XXIX.24/23), to Moses (XL.26/27) and to Jesus (III.54/47; IV.157/156; V.110). In like fashion they plotted against Muhammad (XXII.72/71). Yet Allah's peace is with them, (XXXVII.181; XXVII.59/60). It was with Abraham (XXXVII.l09) with Noah (XI.48/50; XXXVII.79/77), with Moses and Aaron (XXXVII.120), with Elijah (XXXVII.130), with Jesus (XIX.33/34) and with John Baptist (XIX.15). So the message of Muhammad guides to the way of peace (V.15/18).
Allah's aid was ever available to assist His messengers. When they called on Him in their distress He answered them. He answered the call of Noah (XI.45/47; XXI.76), of Moses (XX.25/26), of Job (XXI.83; XXXVIII.41/40), of Jonah (XXI.87; LXVIII.48) of Zechariah (XIX.2; XXI.89), while Sura XCIII recounts how Allah had come to the assistance of Muhammad in his need. It is Allah also who grants them their gift of miracles when they are challenged to produce a sign in evidence of their calling. Salih was so challenged (XXVI.154), as were Hud (XI.53/56), Shu'aib (XXVI.187) and Moses (VII.106/103), while Muhammad was constantly so challenged (XXI.5; XX.133; XVII.90/92 ff.). So Salih was given his miraculous she-camel (XVII.59/61), Moses was given nine special signs (XVII.101/103) besides the signs of his rod and his hand (XX.17/18ff.), the fire became cool so as not to burn Abraham (XXI.69), for David iron became tractable (XXXIV.10) to Solomon the winds were subject (XXXVIII.36/35) and also the birds (XXVII.16). Jesus miraculously healed the born blind and the leper and even raised the dead (III.49/43; V.100). Muhammad's miracle is his Scripture, the Qur'an.

It will already have been noticed that this pattern of the Lives of the Prophets draws its details almost as much from later legendary material as from the Scriptures of the People of the Book, though its general plan is Biblical. It is because Muhammad is in their succession that he is bidden recount their stories (XV.51; X1X.16,41/42,51/52,54/55,56/57; XXXVIII.17/16,41/40,45,48; X.71/72), and his claim is that Allah Himself recited to him their stories (XX.99; XI.120/121; XII.3; XXVIII.3/2; VII.10l/99; III.58/51), for it was Allah who had given the stories that were in the Scriptures of the Ahl a1-kitab. That is, his Scripture was by revelation as earlier Scripture had been by revelation.

The outstanding feature in the mission of the Prophets, indeed, was that Allah had spoken to them by revelation. This is said of Adam (II.37/35), of Noah (XXIII.27) of Abraham (XXI.51/52; IV.163/161), of Ishmael (II.136/130; III.81/78; IV.163/161), of Isaac (XXI.73; IV.163/161), of Jacob (XXI.73; IV.163/161), of Job (IV.163/161), of Joseph (XII.15), of Moses (XX.13), of David (XXXVIII.29/28), of Solomon (IV.163/161), of Jesus (IV.163/16l) and of John Baptist (XIX.12/13). In precisely similar fashion He is represented as speaking by revelation to Muhammad (XXXVIII.70; XLIII.43/42; LXXII.1; XXI.45/46,108; XVII.39/41,73/75,86/88; XVIII.27/26,110; XII.102/103).

The two significant technical words in this connection are nazzala "to send down" (with its cognate anzala and its verbal noun tanzil), and awha "to reveal," with the related noun wahy "revelation."

The nazzala series offers no problem. Since the gods inhabit the heavens above any message from them to creatures on earth has obviously to be "sent down." So in ancient Mesopotamia a dream, an oracle or a commandment was "sent down" from gods to men.6 In the Old Testament prophetic inspiration is by a coming down of Yahweh or His Spirit. The Lord "came down" to the place where Moses was to meet with Him and receive divine instructions (Numb. XI.17), but it was the spirit which "came upon" Baalam so that he prophesied (Numb. XXIV.2), upon Eldad and Modad to cause them to prophesy in the camp (Numb. XI.26-29), and upon Saul at his unexpected experience recorded in I Sam. X.6,10. The visions whereby Enoch had his revelations of the unseen "fell down" upon him (Eth.Enoch XIII.8). In the New Testament also it was the "descent of the Spirit" on the day of Pentecost which gave the apostles utterance (Acts II.1-4). In both Jewish and Christian literature of later times there is constant reference to this concept of "descent" in connection with revelation, but the notion was not confined to these two religions, for in Yasna, XLIV.1 we read the prayer of Zoroaster -

"so may the kindly Right his timely succour bring. And with heaven's Good Thought to upsward in his gracious power descend."

When, therefore, we read in the Qur'an that the Meccans deny that anything has been "sent down" by Allah (VI.91), we may assume that they were familiar, from their contacts with the people of the Book, with what Muhammad meant when he referred to his message as a "missive" (tanzil),7 or as something sent down (VI.114, munazzal). Indeed we find this same verb used in the stories of the ancient Arab poets whose verses are likewise said to be "sent down" to them. Hassan b. Thabit, for example, tells how verses of weighty import were sent down to him from heaven in the night season. (Diwan, ed. al. Barquqi, Cairo, 1929, p.335).

The situation with regard to the second term is somewhat more complicated; awha is Form IV of a verb waha "to indicate," "to signify," cognate with the Ethiopic wahaya. Muhammad does not use the simple form of the verb though his common word for "revelation," wahy, is properly the verbal noun of this simple form.

Awha is used in this primitive sense of "indicate" in XIX.11/12, where the afflicted Zechariah, who has been stricken dumb and cannot speak with his tongue, has to indicate by signs what is on his mind to say. Closely related to this is the meaning "to prompt," i.e., to give direction by an indication from within.8 Thus Allah prompts Moses to cast down his staff that it may become a serpent (VII.117/114), prompts him to strike the rock to produce water (VII.160), prompts him to lead out the Israelites by night (XX.77/79; XXVI.52), prompts him to smite the sea with his rod (XXVI.63), and prompts him and Aaron to make a qibla and appoint the prayer ritual (X.87). Likewise He prompted the mother of Moses to suckle the child (XXVIII.6), and later to send him forth in the ark (XX.38). Earlier He had prompted Isaac and Jacob to the doing of good deeds (XXI.73), and had prompted Noah to build the ark (XXIII.27). On the Day of Judgment He will prompt the Day to declare its news (XCIX.5). But it is not only Allah who thus directs by prompting from within, for Satans among Jinn and men may prompt each other to "tinsel speech" (VI.112). In the light of this we should probably interpret such a passage as XVI.123/124 as meaning that Allah prompted Muhammad to follow the creed of Abraham, i.e., it was not so much an express revelation as an inner prompting such as those felt by Noah or Isaac and Jacob.

A little further development of this notion of an indication from within is that in which Allah is said to have taught the bee in this manner where to build its house (XVI.68/70), and at the creation of the seven heavens and seven earths, He indicated to each what its 'amr should be (XLI.12/l1). From this it is but one step further to the more technical meaning of "revelation." Allah indicates His will in this way of revelation to the angels (VIII.12) and angel messengers mediate His revealed will to men (XLII.51). This was the case with all His human messengers (XIV.13/16) so that these messengers are characterized as those to whom Allah has given revelation (XII.109; XVI.43/45; XXI.7). This was so distinguished an honor that it led to imitation, some to whom Allah had not spoken falsely claiming to have had divine revelation granted them (VI.93).9 In IV.163/161 we have the statement that Allah spoke in this way to Noah and the prophets after him, to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob the Patriarchs (the Twelve) Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon, as well as to Muhammad himself. Besides these we read of such revelation being given to Joseph (XII.15), to Moses (XX.77/79; XXVI.63; VIII 117/114), and to the disciples of Jesus (V.111).

That Allah is the source of this wahy both to Muhammad and to the various messengers who preceded him is expressly stated in XLII.3/1, and is implied in the claim of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh to have received such a revelation (XX.48/50). Yet Allah is not the only source of wahy. The Satans in precisely the same way give revelations to their clients by this implication from within (VI.121), though in their case it is probably thought of as on the level of prompting from within rather than on the higher level where revelation is connected with a mission from the Unseen and is involved with Scripture.10

When Muhammad refers to his own reception of wahy it is quite clear that he places his experience in this matter on the same level as that of those previous messengers whom he mentions in his preaching, (XXXIX.65; XLII.3/1; IV.163/161). Yet it is equally clear that his experience of wah belongs to both levels, that of prompting from within and that of revelation from without. When he feels the prompting to follow the creed of Abraham (XVI.123/124), when he is inspired by a spirit of new religious interest (XLII.52) when he feels guided by what his Lord suggests to him (XXXIV.50/49; cf.VI.50,106; XLIII.43/42; X.109; XXXIII.2), when he fears lest he may be neglecting somewhat of that to which he feels the prompting (XI.12/15), when he is under the urge of the call to become one of the "warners" (XXXVIII.70; cf.XLVI. 9/8), this seems to be nothing particularly different from the inner prompting felt by the mother of Moses (XX.38; XXVIII.7/6), nor indeed from that instruction from within which directed the bee where to set up its house (XVI.68/70). When, however, he speaks of his particular messages as the product of wahy (XXI.45/46; LIII.4; VII.203/202; VI.50; XLII.13/11; XVII.73/75; XIII.30/29; X.2), in particular the message concerning the limitlessness of Allah (XLI.6/5; XXI.108; XVIII.110), that message of monotheism which he says was revealed to each of the Prophets (XXI.25; XXXIX.65); when he asserts that it is a message that he cannot alter (X.15/16) seeing that it is God-given; when he learns by wahy that the Jinn listened and believed (LXXII.1 ff.) and feels that he has to be on his guard lest he be tempted to invent on his own (XVII.73/75), and run the risk of having Allah take away the gift of wahy (XVII.86/88) then we are dealing with something not prompted from within but given from without.

On this second level awha is practically identical with nazzala (anzala), and it is in this sense of the word that revelation is associated with Scripture. He says of it that it is some of the eternal Wisdom which Allah has been pleased to reveal to him (XVII.39/41), so that the regulations he lays down for the religious life of his community he can claim are revealed to him from the "Book", i.e., the heavenly archetype of Scripture (XXIX.45/44; cf. VI.145/146). Similarly the stories about ancient worthies and about Allah's judgment which he tells in his preaching. and says were given him by revelation (XI.49/51; XII.102/103; III.44/39), are doubtless meant to be understood as taken from the same source (XXXV.31/28). It is in this sense that he speaks of "Qur'an" being given to him by wahy.

"We shall narrate to thee the best of narratives in revealing to thee this Qur'an, even though thou wert before this one of the negligent" (XII.3).

"And thus we have revealed to thee an Arabic Qur'an11 that thou mightest warn the Mother of Cities and those around it, and mightest warn of the Day of Assembling, about which there is no doubt. One party (will be) in the Garden and one party in the Blazing Fire" (XLII.7/5). "Say: Allah is a witness between me and you. And this Qur'an has been revealed to me that by it I might warn you and whom-soever it may reach" (VI.19).

So he is bidden recite what has been put into his mind of the Book of his Lord (XVIII.27/26), and warned not to be too hasty in speaking till the revelation that is being given him is completed (XX.114/113).

When we ask, therefore, what was Muhammad's conception of the mechanism whereby the material of Scripture was revealed, we have to deal with two conceptions which, for convenience of reference, we may label inspiration and revelation, the former being concerned with a prompting from within, and the latter with a bestowal from without. The former conception belongs mainly to the earlier stages of his prophetic activity and the latter to his later years.

The environment in which he spent his early years was one in which inspiration, as above defined; was well understood. Both poets and soothsayers (kahin) in the Arabia of that day were known to produce their rhymed rhythmical utterances in response to an inner prompting. The popular explanation of this was that they were "possessed," and because of being possessed by a jinni or a Shaitan who forced them to utter their proclamations they were considered to be more or less mad.12 The interesting thing is that when Muhammad came forward with his earliest public pronouncements his contemporaries immediately recognized them as akin to those of the soothsayers and poets (LII.29,30; XXI.5; LXIX.41,42) judging him to be Jinn-possessed, and therefore somewhat mad (LXVIII.51; LXXXI.22; XV.6; XXXVII.36/35; XLIV.14/13). It is not strange that they should have so judged. The saj' style of rhymed rhythmical prose used in Muhammad's early pronouncements is hardly to be distinguished from that which we find preserved in the books of the later antiquarians as specimens of the pronouncements said to have come from the mouths of the ancient Arabian kahins.13 Moreover, the story preserved in the Sira and the Hadith telling of his "first revelation," pictures him as experiencing precisely what a poet was thought to experience when inspiration seized him. We read there how the angel came unexpectedly upon him, bidding him proclaim what is dictated to him. He resisted, so the angel seized him and choked him14 till he thought he would expire. This happened three times, till finally he submitted and recited at the angel's dictation (Ibn Hisham, Sira, pp.152,153). Now we read of the poet Hassan b. Thabit, who later became a sort of Court poet to Muhammad himself, that in his youth he had no thought of becoming a poet, but one day, in the streets of Madina, a female Si'lat-demon cast herself upon him, knelt on his chest, struggling with him and threatening to kill him, till she finally forced three verses out of him and started him on his career as a poet. (Suyuti, al-Muzhir, II, 247).

Ibn Hisham was writing when the theory of angel mediation of all revelation was the orthodox theory, and so the choking is done in his story by an angel. Muhammad himself, however, would seem at first to have feared that his experience was a case of Jinn possession which had come upon him as suddenly and as unexpectedly as the coming of the Si'lat-demon on Hassan b. Thabit. In the earliest account we have of this experience of his15 (...) we read that it left him in a terror of apprehension lest it should mean that he was possessed, so that he even contemplated suicide - by casting himself down from the mountain side. Hurrying home to Khadija he buried his head in her lap, and to her inquiry as to what had happened he said: "He of whom no one would ever have believed it has become a poet or one Jinn-possessed." But Khadija comforted him, assuring him that Allah would never permit such a thing to happen to a person of his reputation one who ever spoke the truth, returned not evil for evil, kept faith with his fellows, lived a good life and was always kind to relatives and friends. She then questioned him more closely, the story goes on to say, about the portentous thing which had terrified him, and when he told her about it she first gave him a word of cheer, suggesting that this experience might be something quite other than what he feared, and then sought counsel from her cousin Waraqa b. Naufal. This Waraqa who was well acquainted with the People of the Book and with their Scriptures, immediately recognized that this experience of Muhammad was the same as was told of in those Books in connection with the descent of the Namus which came down upon Moses.

Though the tendential character of this story about Waraqa is quite obvious it may well embody a memory of the transition in Muhammad's own thought from the concept of inspiration to that of revelation. The idea of inspiration belonged to the environment of his childhood and youth, the idea of revelation was something learned from fuller contact with the People of the Book. The Qur'an itself shows how he needed assurance that he was not mad (LXVIII.2). Perhaps those biographers are right who think that Muhammad had begun to produce "effusions" such as those we now have in Suras CVI; CV; LXXXVI.1-10; LXXXVII.1-9; C; XCIII; XCIV; CIII etc., before the great experience that gave him his call to his mission.17 That would mean that he had two experiences,18 the first which was much the same as the experience of a poet or a kahin, and then the great experience which convinced him that he had something more than just the message of a kahin. It is then that he insists that his message is not something spoken but of mere impulse (LIII.3). He knows well that the Satans inspire wicked, lying persons and poets (XXVI.221-224), but declares that this message of his is not the word of a poet (LXIX.41), is not something the Satans have heard and have brought down (XXVI.210-212). It was from contact with the People of the Book that he had learned the distinction, so that the story about Waraqa may preserve a memory of this fact. Muhammad knows that other messengers before him among the communities known to the People of the Book had been considered by their contemporaries as Jinn possessed madmen. In particular he refers to this charge as levelled against Noah (LIV.9), and against Moses (XXVI.27/26; LI.39), just as the Rabbinic tales tell of the mockery made of Noah's madness in building such a thing as the Ark,19 and of the three occasions when the Israelites made protest at the madness of Moses' command to them,20 when he led them into the waters of the Red Sea, when he took them into the waterless wilderness, and when, in spite of the report of the spies, he insisted that they march into the land of Canaan. In LI.52 he says that no messenger had ever come to any people in earlier times without their having called him either a madman or a sorcerer, which reminds one of the popular judgment on the prophets in Hos. IX.7:

"the prophet is a fool: the man of the spirit is mad."

It will be remembered how Sheinaiah the Nehelemite wrote to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest reminding him of his duty to punish with prison and the stocks "every man that is mad and maketh himself a prophet" (Jer. XXIX.25-27). Likewise in the New Testament we find that the contemporaries of Jesus reacted to his preaching by saying: "He hath a devil and is mad. Why hear ye him?" (Jno. X.20), and even his friends are represented as having at one time thought that he was (...) "beside himself" (Mk. III.21 ff.).21

But not all prophetic experience was on this level. In every case it was concerned with a breaking through of the Unseen with a message to be delivered. That message might be nothing more than information about the whereabouts of someone's stray asses (I Sam. IX.6 ff.), or it might be a matter of oracles of blessing and cursing (Numb. XXIII,XXIV), or a prediction of coming woe (Jonah III.4), but it might be on the level of the impassioned utterances of an Amos or a Jeremiah. If the Prophet were a true prophet it was always a message from God, however humble a matter it might seem in our judgment. It might be the Holy One Himself who broke through from the Unseen and without any intermediary gave the message. He spoke with Adam in the earthly Paradise (Gen. III.8 ff.). He spoke personally to Abraham when He called him to go out on his great venture of faith (Gen. XXIV.7). He spoke with Moses at the bush (Ex. III.4 ff.), with Samuel at Shiloh (I Sam. III.4-14), and with David about the Jerusalem temple (I Ki. V.5). More commonly, however, it was by the Spirit as intermediary that He spoke. It was the spirit which came upon Gideon to give him guidance in the days of the struggle against the Midianites and the Amalekites (Judg. VI.34), which came upon Samson to move him (Judg. XIII.25; XIV.6,19), and upon Saul to make him prophesy (1 Sam. X.6,10; XVIII.10), just as later it came upon the writing prophets to give them their message (Isa. LXI.1; Ezek. XI.5). This spirit is the Holy Spirit which the Psalmist pleads may not be taken away (Ps. LI.11), and which inspired Moses during the carrying out of his mission (Isa. LXIII.10,11). That it was the special agent of prophecy appears quite clearly in the story of how Moses appointed the seventy elders (Numb. XI.25), where we read how the Lord took of the Spirit which was already upon Moses and gave it to these seventy elders whom Moses had chosen, whereupon, as soon as it rested upon them, they began to prophesy.22

Muhammad knows that it is the Spirit who is the agent of revelation. He tells his audience that Allah sends down His Spirit upon whom He wills among His servants that he may undertake the task of warning (XL.15; XVI.2). Consequently it is this Spirit who brings down Muhammad's message from the Lord (XVI.102/104; XXVI.193ff.; XLII.52), that he also may warn (XXVI.194).

The word he uses here for "Spirit" is ruh, which, of course, is the Heb. ruah, Aram. Ruha of the Old Testament and the Rabbinic writings, which like the Syr. ruha, representing the (...) of the New Testament, is the word that is always used of the spirit which is active in connection with the inspiration of men of God. In XL.15; XVI.2 and XLII.52 this spirit is said to be min'amrihi (or min'amrina), which may mean no more than that it is connected with Allah's affairs, as Bell translates it. If, however, as has been more than once suggested,23 it represents the Rabbinic memra, it is curious to note, i) that in IV.171/169 Jesus is referred to as "a spirit from Him (minhu),"24 ii) that on the Day the Spirit will stand25 apart from, yet with, the angels (LXXVIII.38); iii) that the Spirit along with the angels is concerned with every 'amr "affair" (XCVII.4).

In his Meccan period Muhammad is conscious that he knows very little about the Spirit (XVII.85/87) save that it has some connection with Allah's 'amr, and is angelic in nature. Later on he identifies it with the Holy Spirit (ruh al-Qudus, XVI.102/104) which (or who) was the strengthener of Jesus (II.87/81,253/254; V.110/109). The reason is clear. In the Old Testament it is, as we have seen, the "spirit" which is the agent in mediating the prophetic message. Yet often enough in the Old Testament it is a special angelic visitant who speaks with the prophets. It was such an angel of the Lord who spoke with Hagar and the child Ishmael in the wilderness (Gen. XVI), who spoke with Abraham at the test of sacrificing Isaac (Gen. XXII.11ff.), who spoke to Balaam (Numb. XXII.35),26 to Gad (I Chron. XXI.18), to Elijah (II Ki. I.3) and to Zechariah (Zech. I.9ff.). In the Book of Daniel this angel is identified with Gabriel (IX.21ff.), and it is Gabriel who in the Gospel is the messenger from the Lord to announce the birth both of John the Baptist and of Jesus (Lk. I.19,26). In Sura XIX.17 it was Allah's Spirit who made the announcement to Mary, so that we have the ground for the identification of the Spirit with Gabriel, and are prepared for II.97/91 where it is Gabriel who brings down the message to Muhammad's heart,27 and LXVI.4 where he is Muhammad's angelic patron.

In the later theological tractates it is Gabriel who, as the angel of revelation, is entrusted with the task of transmitting from the heavenly archetype of Scripture the message that was given to each Prophet as he appeared to undertake his mission, and it was Gabriel who for the twenty odd years of Muhammad's prophetic activity visited him from time to time to transmit to him the "words of Allah" he was to proclaim in his preaching and leave as his Scripture for his community. This particular association of Gabriel with the matter of revelation is peculiar to Islam,28 but there can be little doubt that it was suggested by the activity of Gabriel in delivering messages from heaven as pictured in the Book of Daniel and the Gospel of Luke. Some steps in this direction had been taken already in the Rabbinic writings, where pious fancy had seen Gabriel in the messenger who in Gen. XXVII.15 showed the way to Joseph,29 taught him the seventy languages (Sota 36b), and cared for and instructed Moses in Egypt (Exod. R.i,67b).

Continues on Part IIIb



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