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there being mistakes in every page, besides frequent transpositions, omissions, and additions*: faults unpardonable in a work of this nature. And what renders it still more incomplete is, the want of Notes to explain a vast number of passages, some of which are difficult, and others impossible to be understood, without proper explications, were they translated ever so exactly; which the author is so sensible of, that he often refers the reader to the Arabic commentators.
The English version is no other than a translation of Du Ryer's, and that a very bad one; for Alexander Ross, who did it, being utterly unacquainted with the Arabic, and no great master of the French, has added a number of fresh mistakes of his own to those of Du Ryer; not to mention the meanness of his language, which would make a better book ridiculous.
In 1698, a Latin translation of the Korân, made by father Lewis Marracci, who had been confessor to pope Innocent XI. was published at Padua, together with the original text, accompanied by explanatory notes and a refutation. This translation of Marracci's generally speaking, is very exact; but adheres to the Arabic idiom too literally to be easily understood, unless I am much deceived, by those who are not versed in the Mohammedan learning. The notes he has added are indeed of great use; but his refutations, which swell the work to a large volume, are of little or none at all, being often un
* V. Windet. de vita functorum statu, Sect. 9.
satisfactory, and sometimes impertinent. The work, however, with all its faults, is very valuable; and I should be guilty of ingratitude, did I not acknowledge myself much obliged thereto; but still, being in Latin, it can be of no use to those who understand not that tongue.
Having, therefore, undertaken a new translation, I have endeavoured to do the original impartial justice; not having, to the best of my knowledge, represented it, in any one instance, either better or worse than it really is. I have thought myself obliged, indeed, in a piece which pretends to be the Word of God, to keep somewhat scrupulously close to the text: by which means the language may, in some places, seem to express the Arabic a little too literally to be elegant English: but this, I hope, has not happened often ; and, I flatter myself, that the style I have made use of will not only give a more genuine idea of the original, than if I had taken more liberty, (which would have been much more for my ease,) but will soon become familiar: for we must not expect to read a version of so extraordinary a book with the same ease and pleasure as a modern composition.
In the Notes my view has been briefly to explain the text, and especially the difficult and obscure passages, from the most approved commentators, and that generally in their own words; for whose opinions, or expressions, where liable to censure, I am not answerable; my province being only fairly to represent their expositions; and the little I have added of my own, or from European writers, being easily discernible. Where I met with any circumstance which I
imagined might be curious or entertaining, I have not failed to produce it.
The Preliminary Discourse will acquaint the reader with the most material particulars proper to be known previously to the entering on the Korân itself, and which could not so conveniently have been thrown into the notes. And I have taken care, both in the Preliminary Discourse and the notes, constantly to quote my authorities and the writers to whom I have been beholden; but to none have I been more so, than to the learned Dr. Pocock, whose Specimen Historiæ Arabum, is the most useful and accurate work that has been hitherto published concerning the antiquities of that nation, and ought to be read by every curious inquirer into them.
As I have had no opportunity of consulting public libraries, the manuscripts of which I have made use throughout the whole work, have been such as I had in my own study, except only the Commentary of al Beidâwi, and the Gospel of S. Barnabas. The first belongs to the library of the Dutch church in Austin Friars, and for the use of it I have been chiefly indebted to the Rev. Dr. Bolton, one of the ministers of that church: the other was very obligingly lent me by the Rev. Dr. Holme, rector of Hedley, in Hampshire: and I take this opportunity of returning both those gentlemen my thanks for their favours. The merit of al Beidâwi's commentary will appear from the frequent quotations I have made thence; but of the Gospel of S. Barnabas, (which I had not seen when the little I have said of it in the
Preliminary Discourse*, and the extract I had borrowed from Mr. de la Monnoye and Mr. Toland †, were printed off,) I must beg leave to give some further account.
The book is a moderate quarto, in Spanish, written in a very legible hand, but a little damaged towards the latter end. It contains two hundred and twenty-two chapters of unequal length, and four hundred and twenty pages; and is said, in the front, to be translated from the Italian, by an Arragonian Moslem, named Mostafa de Aranda. There is a preface prefixed to it, wherein the discoverer of the original MS. who was a Christian monk, called Fra Marino, tells us, that having accidentally met with a writing of Irenæus, (among others,) wherein he speaks against S. Paul, alleging, for his authority, the Gospel of S. Barnabas, he became exceeding desirous to find this Gospel; and that GOD, of his mercy, having made him very intimate with pope Sixtus V., one day, as they were together in that pope's library, his holiness fell asleep, and he, to employ himself, reaching down a book to read, the first he laid his hand on proved to be the very gospel he wanted. Overjoyed at the discovery, he scrupled not to hide his prize in his sleeve; and, on the pope's awaking, took leave of him, carrying with him that celestial treasure, by reading of which he became a convert to Mohammedism.
This Gospel of Barnabas contains a complete
* Sect. IV. p. 74.
† In not. ad
history of Jesus Christ, from his birth to his ascension; and most of the circumstances in the four real Gospels are to be found therein; but many of them turned, and some of them artfully enough, to favour the Mohammedan system. From the design of the whole, and the frequent interpolations of stories and passages wherein Mohammed is spoken of, and foretold by name, as the messenger of GOD, and the great prophet who was to perfect the dispensation of Jesus, it appears to be a most barefaced forgery. One particular I observe therein, induces me to believe it to have been dressed up by a renegade Christian, slightly instructed in his new religion, and not educated a Mohammedan, (unless the fault be imputed to the Spanish, or, perhaps, the Italian translator, and not to the original compiler;) I mean the giving to Mohammed the title of Messiah, and that not once or twice only, but in several places; whereas the title of the Messiah, or as the Arabs write it, al Masîh, i. e. Christ, is appropriated to Jesus in the Korân, and is constantly applied by the Mohammedans to him, and never to their own prophet. The passages produced from the Italian MS. by Mr. de la Monnoye, are to be seen in this Spanish version almost word for word.
But to return to the following work. Though I have freely censured the former translations of the Korân, I would not, therefore, be suspected of a design to make my own pass as free from faults; I am very sensible it is not: and I make no doubt but the few who are able to discern them, and know the difficulty of the undertaking, will give me fair quarter.