Judaism and Islam: A Prize Essay

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CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, May 20, 2016 - 182 pages
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THIS essay is devoted to an examination of the interesting question whether and to what extent Muhammad, in the Koran, borrowed from Jewish sources. The author sets out with showing that there were reasons why Muhammad should have desired to borrow from Judaism ; that he was in a position to be able so to borrow, and that it was compatible with his general plan to do so. He then goes on to show by comparison that he actually borrowed conceptions, views, doctrinal, moral, and legal, and stories. The evidence, in most cases, is of a kind which would be conclusive enough if the supposition of derivation from old Arabian sources were excluded; but, in the absence of proof of this, it is far from convincing. Rabbi Geiger himself sees this difficulty; but he appears to us to underrate its importance. He says:-
"In the case of any single instance of borrowing, the proof that the passage is really of Jewish origin must rest on two grounds. First, it must be shown to exist in Judaism, and, to prove this, we have every facility. Secondly, in order to attain to certainty we must prove that it is really borrowed, i.e., that it is not founded on anything in old Arabian tradition, which Muhammad used largely as a foundation, though he disputed some points. Then, again, we must show that it had its origin in Judaism and not in Christianity. For the complete discussion of the last two points it would be necessary to write two treatises similar to the one on which I am now engaged, of which the respective subjects would be - (1) the points of contact between Islam and the ancient tradition of the Arabs, and (2) the points of contact between Islam and Christianity; and only in this way could certainty on these points be attained. But these investigations would, on the one hand, lead us too far away from our particular subject, and, on the other, they would require a much more exact treatment than could be given while handling our main subject. Then, too, they are made unnecessary by the means which we use in each individual case, and which will be shown in the different divisions of the work; so that on most points we can without them attain to a high degree of probability, practically sufficient for all scientific purposes."
We cannot admit that the probability attained is, in any but rare instances, "sufficient for all scientific purposes." Indeed, without a thorough examination of known Arabian sources, it is very difficult to form any estimate of the degree of probability attained.
The work is nevertheless full of interesting matter, and will well repay perusal.

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