|11th Century North African Qur'an in the British Museum|
Chapters from the Koran
Vol. 45. pp. 908-913 of The Harvard Classics
The sacred book of the Moslems, the Koran, gives an account of the birth of Christ. The Koran gives Jesus a high position among the prophets but holds the first place for Mohammed.
(Beginning of Moslem era of time, July 16, 622 A. D.)
The Chapter of Mary
K. H. Y. ‘H. Z. The mention of thy Lord’s mercy to His servant Zachariah, when he called on his Lord with a secret calling. Said he, ‘My Lord! verily, my bones are weak, and my head flares with hoariness;—and I never was unfortunate in my prayers to Thee, my Lord! But I fear my heirs after me, and my wife is barren; then grant me from Thee a successor, to be my heir and the heir of the family of Jacob, and make him, my Lord! Acceptable.’
‘O Zachariah! verily, we give thee glad tidings of a son, whose name shall be John. We never made a namesake of his before.’ 1
Said he, ‘My Lord! how can I have a son, when my wife is barren, and I have reached through old age to decrepitude?’
He said, ‘Thus says thy Lord, It is easy for Me, for I created thee at first when yet thou wast nothing.’
Said he, ‘O my Lord! make for me a sign.’ He said, ‘Thy sign is that thou snait not speak to men for three nights (through) sound.’
Then he went forth unto his people from the chamber, and he made signs to them: ‘Celebrate (God’s) praises morning and evening!’
‘O John! take the Book with strength;’ and we gave him judgment when a boy, and grace from us, and purity; and he was pious and righteous to his parents, and was not a rebellious tyrant.
So peace upon him the day he was born, and the day he died, and the day he shall be raised up alive.
And mention, in the Book, Mary; when she retired from her family into an eastern place; and she took a veil (to screen herself) from them; and we sent unto her our spirit; and he took for her the semblance of a well-made man. Said she, ‘Verily, I take refuge in the Merciful One from thee, if thou art pious.’ Said he, ‘I am only a messenger of Thy Lord to bestow on thee a pure boy.’
Said she, ‘How can I have a boy when no man has touched me, and when I am no harlot?’ He said, ‘Thus says thy Lord, It is easy for Me! and we will make him a sign unto man, and a mercy from us; for it is a decided matter.’
So she conceived him, and she retired with him into a remote place. And the labour pains came upon her at the trunk of a palm tree, and she said ‘O that I had died before this, and been forgotten out of mind!’ and he called 2 to her from beneath her, ‘Grieve not, for thy Lord has placed a stream beneath thy feet; and shake towards thee the trunk of the palm tree, it will drop upon thee fresh dates fit to gather; so eat, and drink, and cheer thine eye; and if thou shouldst see any mortal say, “Verily, I have vowed to the Merciful One a fast, and I will not speak to-day with a human being.”’
Then she brought it to her people, carrying it; said they, ‘O Mary! thou hast done an extraordinary thing! O sister of Aaron! 3 thy father was not a bad man, nor was thy mother a harlot!’
And she pointed to him, and they said, ‘How are we to speak with one who is in the cradle a child?’ He said, ‘Verily, I am a servant of God; He has brought me the Book, and He has made me a prophet, and He has made me blessed wherever I be; and He has required of me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live, and piety towards my mother, and has not made me a miserable tyrant; and peace upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised up alive.’
That is, Jesus the son of Mary,—by the word of truth whereon ye do dispute!
God could not take to himself any son! celebrated be His praise! when He decrees a matter He only says to it ‘BE,’ and it is; and, verily, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him; this is the right way.
And the parties have disagreed amongst themselves, but woe to those who disbelieve, from the witnessing of the mighty day! they can hear and they can see, on the day when they shall come to us; but the evildoers are to-day in obvious error!
And warn them of the day of sighing, when the matter is decreed while they are heedless, and while they do not believe.
Verily, we will inherit the earth and all who are upon it, and unto us shall they return!
And mention, in the Book, Abraham; verily, he was a confessor,—a prophet. When he said to his father, ‘O my sire! why dost thou worship what can neither hear nor see nor avail thee aught? O my sire! verily, to me has come knowledge which has not come to thee; then follow me, and I will guide thee to a level way.
‘O my sire! serve not Satan; verily, Satan is ever a rebel against the Merciful. O my sire! verily, I fear that there may touch thee torment from the Merciful, and that thou mayest be a client of Satan.’
Said he, ‘What! art thou averse from my gods, O Abraham? verily, if thou dost not desist I will certainly stone thee; but get thee gone from me for a time!’
Said he, ‘Peace be upon thee! I will ask forgiveness for thee from my Lord; verily, He is very gracious to me: but I will part from you and what ye call on beside God, and will pray my Lord that I be not unfortunate in my prayer to my Lord.’
And when he had parted from them and what they served beside God, we granted him Isaac and Jacob, and each of them we made a prophet; and we granted them of our mercy, and we made the tongue of truth lofty for them. 4
And mention, in the Book, Moses; verily, he was sincere, and was an apostle,—a prophet. We called him from the right side of the mountain; and we made him draw nigh unto us to commune with him, and we granted him, of our mercy, his brother Aaron as a prophet.
And mention, in the Book, Ishmael; verily, he was true to his promise, and was an apostle,—a prophet; and he used to bid his people prayers and almsgiving, and was acceptable in the sight of his Lord.
And mention, in the Book, Idrîs 5; verily, he was a confessor,—a prophet; and we raised him to a lofty place.
These are those to whom God has been gracious, of the prophets of the seed of Adam, and of those whom we bore with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel, and of those we guided and elected; when the signs of the Merciful are read to them, they fall down adoring and weeping.
And successors succeeded them, who lost sight of prayer and followed lusts, but they shall at length find themselves going wrong, except such as repent and believe and act aright; for these shall enter Paradise, and shall not be wronged at all,—gardens of Eden, which the Merciful has promised to His servants in the unseen; verily, His promise ever comes to pass!
They shall hear no empty talk therein, but only ‘peace;’ and they shall have their provision therein, morning and evening; that is Paradise which we will give for an inheritance to those of our servants who are pious!
We do not descend 6 save at the bidding of thy Lord; His is what is before us, and what is behind us, and what is between those; for thy Lord is never forgetful,—the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and of what is between the two; then serve Him and persevere in His service. Dost thou know a namesake of His?
Man will say, ‘What! when I have died shall I then come forth alive? Does not man then remember that we created him before when he was naught?’
And by thy Lord! we will surely gather them together, and the devils too; then we will surely bring them forward around hell, on their knees!
Then we will drag off from every sect whichever of them has been most bold against the Merciful.
Then we know best which of them deserves most to be broiled therein.
There is not one of you who will not go down to it,—that is settled and decided by thy Lord. 7
Then we will save those who fear us; but we will leave the evildoers therein on their knees.
And when our signs are recited to them manifest, those who misbelieve say to those who believe, ‘Which of the two parties is best placed and in the best company?’
And how many generations before them have we destroyed who were better off in property and appearance?
Say, ‘Whosoever is in error, let the Merciful extend to him length of days!—until they see what they are threatened with, whether it be the torment or whether it be the Hour, then they shall know who is worse placed and weakest in forces!’
And those who are guided God will increase in guidance.
And enduring good works are best with thy Lord for a reward, and best for restoration.
Hast thou seen him who disbelieves in our signs, and says, ‘I shall surely be given wealth and children 8?’
Has he become acquainted with the unseen, or has he taken a compact with the Merciful? Not so! We will write down what he says, and we will extend to him a length of torment, and we will make him inherit what he says, and he shall come to us alone. They take other gods besides God to be their glory! Not so! They 9 shall deny their worship and shall be opponents of theirs!
Dost thou not see that we have sent the devils against the misbelievers, to drive them on to sin? but, be not thou hasty with them.
Verily, we will number them a number (of days),—the day when we will gather the pious to the Merciful as ambassadors, and we will drive the sinners to hell like (herds) to water! They shall not possess intercession, save he who has taken a compact with the Merciful.
They say, ‘The Merciful has taken to Himself a son:’—ye have brought a monstrous thing! The heavens well-nigh burst asunder thereat, and the earth is riven, and the mountains fall down broken, that they attribute to the Merciful a son! but it becomes not the Merciful to take to Himself a son! there is none in the heavens or the earth but comes to the Merciful as a servant; He counts them and numbers them by number, and they are all coming to Him on the resurrection day singly.
Verily, those who believe and act aright, to them the Merciful will give love.
We have only made it easy for thy tongue that thou mayest thereby give glad tidings to the pious, and warn thereby a contentious people.
How many a generation before them have we destroyed? Canst thou find any one of them, or hear a whisper of them?
Note 1. Cf. Luke i. 61, where, however, it is said that none of Zachariah’s kindred was ever before called by that name. Some commentators avoid the difficulty by interpreting the word samîyyun to mean ‘deserving of the name.’
Note 2. Either the infant himself or the angel Gabriel; or the expression ‘beneath her’ may be rendered ‘beneath it,’ and may refer to the palm tree.
Note 3. See note 4, Chapter of Imrân’s Family.
Note 4. That is, ‘gave them great renown.’
Note 5. Generally identified with Enoch.
Note 6. Amongst various conjectures the one most usually accepted by the Mohammedan commentators is, that these are the words of the angel Gabriel, in answer to Mohammed’s complaint of long intervals elapsing between the periods of revelation.
Note 7. This is interpreted by some to mean that all souls, good and bad, must pass through hell, but that the good will not be harmed. Others think it merely refers to the passage of the bridge of el Aarâaf.
Note 8. ’Hâsîy ibn Wâil, being indebted to ‘Habbâb, refused to pay him unless he renounced Mohammed. This ‘Habbâb said he would never do alive or dead, or when raised again at the last day. El ’Hâsîy told him to call for his money on the last day, as he should have wealth and children then.
Note 9. That is, the false gods.