Selections From The Kur-an (Illustrated) by Edward William Lane
There are several translations of the Ḳur-án in several languages; but there are very few people who have the strength of mind to read any of them through. The chaotic arrangement and frequent repetitions, and the obscurity of the language, are sufficient to deter the most persistent reader, whilst the nature of a part of its contents renders the Ḳur-án unfit for a woman’s eye.
Yet there always has been a wish to know something about the sacred book of the Mohammadans, and it was with the design of satisfying this wish, whilst avoiding the weariness and the disgust which a complete perusal of the Ḳur-án must produce, that Mr. Lane arranged the ‘Selections’ which were published in 1843. In spite of many printer’s errors, due to the author’s absence from England, the book was so far successful that the edition was exhausted, and it is now very difficult to obtain a copy. But partly owing to the obstructions to the reading offered by an interwoven native commentary, and partly by reason of the preference shown for the doctrinal over the poetical passages, the book went into scholars’ hands rather than into the libraries of [Pg vi] the general reading public. It has proved of considerable service to students of Arabic, who have found it the most accurate rendering in existence of a large part of the Ḳur-án; and even native Muslims of India, ignorant of Arabic, have used Lane’s ‘Selections’ as their Bible.
In this edition I have endeavoured rather to carry out the original intention of the translator. Experience has shown that the first plan was over-learned to commend itself to the average reader, for whom Mr. Lane had destined the book; in this edition I have therefore omitted many of the notes, which will not be missed by the reader for whom the book is intended, and for which the Arabic scholar has only to refer to the first edition, or to Sale’s Koran, whence most of them were derived. Again, the text of the first edition was obscured and interrupted by an interwoven commentary, which destroyed the pleasure of the language and often made the meaning less intelligible than before. This commentary has been thinned. Where it added nothing to the text, it has been erased; where it gave a curious or valuable explanation, it has been thrown into a footnote; where it merely supplied a necessary word to complete the sense, that word has been left in the text distinguished by a different type. Once more, the early and wilder soorahs were almost wholly omitted in the first edition, whilst the later more dogmatic and less poetical soorahs were perhaps too fully represented. I have endeavoured to establish the balance between the two.
In this edition the Selections are divided into two parts. The first is Islám; the second, other religions as regarded in Islám. In the first are grouped, under distinctive headings, the more important utterances of Moḥammad on what his followers must believe and do; in the second are his versions of the history of the patriarchs and other personages of the Jewish and Christian writings.
It is only in the First Part that I have made much alteration, either by adding fresh extracts (distinguished by a sign), or by making a few merely verbal alterations in the original extracts, or by the suppression or transposition of the commentary. Any alterations that go beyond this—new renderings, for instance—are duly recorded in the footnotes.
The Second Part is almost unchanged from the first edition. In this part the interwoven commentary is left entire, for the traditions of the commentators about Abraham and Moses and Christ are as curious as the traditions of Moḥammad, and about as credible; and the narrative style of the Second Part allows the introduction of parentheses more easily than the rhetorical form which many of the extracts in the First Part present.
Mr. Lane’s Introduction was abridged from Sale’s Preliminary Discourse, with but little addition from his own knowledge. Sale’s Discourse abounds in information, but it is too detailed and lengthy for the purpose of this volume. I have, then, substituted a short sketch of the beginnings of Islám. I have tried to bring home to the reader the little we know of the early Arabs; then to draw the picture of the great Arab prophet and his work; to [Pg viii] show what are the salient points of Islám; and finally to explain something of the history of the Ḳur-án and its contents. I am conscious of having drawn the picture with a weak hand, but I hope the sketch may serve as a not quite useless introduction to a volume of typical selections from a book which, in the peculiar character of its contents and the extraordinary power of its influence, has not its parallel in the world.
S. L. P.