The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an
THE FOREIGN VOCABULARY OF THE QURAN By ARTHUB JEFFEBY. Originally published in 1938. FOREWOKD: Little further advance can be made in our interpretation of the Quran or of the life of Muhammad, until an exhaustive study has bee n made of the vocabulary of the Quran. It is interesting to note how recent work at Islamic origins, such as that done by the late Professor Horovitz and his pupils at Frankfurt, and in the books of Tor Andrae and Karl Ahrens, has tended to run to a discussion of vocabulary. The Quran is the first Arabic book, for though there was earlier poetry, it was not written down till much later, and some doubts have been raised as to the genuineness of what did get written down. For the interpretation of this first Arabic book, we have been content until recently to turn to the classical commentaries, but the tendency of the commentators is to interpret the book in the light of the Arabic language of their own day, and with few exceptions their philological lucubrations are of more interest for the study of the development of Muslim thought about the Quran, than they are for settling the meaning the words must have had for the Prophet and for those who listened to his utterances. Some day, it is to be hoped, we shall have a Glossary to the Quran comparable with the great Worterbucher we have to the Old and New Testaments, in which all the resources of philology, epigraphy, and textual criticism will be utilized for a thorough investigation of the vocabulary of the Quran. Meanwhile this present Essay attempts to make one small contribution to the subject by studying a number of the non-Arabic elements in the Quranic vocabulary. Emphasis has been placed in recent years on the too long forgotten fact that Arabia at the time of Muhammad was not isolated from the rest of the world, as Muslim authors would have us believe. There was at that time, as indeed for long before, full and constant contact with the surrounding peoples of Syria, Persia, and Abyssinia, and through intercourse there was a natural interchange of vocabulary. Where the Arabs came in contact with higher religion and higher civilization, they borrowed religious and cultural terms. This fact was fully recognized by the earliest circle of Muslim exegetes, who show no hesitation in noting words as of Jewish, Christian, or Iranian origin. Later, under the influence of the great divines, especially of ash-Shafi this was pushed into the background, and an orthodox doctrine was elaborated to the effect that the Quran was a unique production of the Arabic language. The modern Muslim savant, indeed, IB as a rule seriously distressed by any discussion of the foreign origin of words in the Qurart. To the Western student the Jewish or Christian origin of many of the technical terms in the Quran is obvious at the first glance, and a little investigation makes it possible to identify many others. These identifications have been made by many scholars whose work is scattered in many periodicals in many languages. The present Essay is an attempt to gather them up and present them in a form convenient for the study of interested scholars both in the East and the West. The Essay was originally written in 1926, and in its original form was roughly four times the size of the present volume. It would have been ideal to have published it in that form, but the publishing costs of such a work with full discussion and illustrative quotation, would have been prohibitive...
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