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RIGHT AON. JOHN LORD CARTERET.
ONE OF THE LORDS OF HIS MAJESTY'S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL
NOTWITHSTANDING the great honour and respect generally and deservedly paid to the memories of those who have founded states, or obliged a people by the institution of laws which have made them prosperous and considerable in the world, yet the legislator of the Arabs has been treated in so very different a manner by all who acknowledge not his claim to a divine mission, and by Christians especially, that were not your lordship's just discernment sufficiently known, I should think myself under a necessity of making an apology for presenting the following translation.
The remembrance of the calamities brought on so many nations by the conquests of the Arabians may possibly raise some indignation against him who formed them to empire; but this being equally applicable to all conquerors, could not, of itself, occasion all the detestation with which the name of Mohammed is loaded. He has given a new system of religion, which has had still greater success than the arms of his followers, and to establish this religion made use of an imposture; and on this account it is supposed that he must of necessity have been a most abandoned villain, and his memory is become infamous. But as Mohammed gave his Arabs the best religion he could, as well as the best laws, preferable. at least, to those of the ancient pagan lawgivers, I confess I cannot see why he deserves not equal respect—though not with Moses or Jesus Christ, whose laws came really from Heaven, yet, with Minos or Numa, notwithstanding the distinction of a learned writer, who seems to think it a greater crime to make use of an imposture to set up a new religion, founded on the acknowledgment of one true God, and to destroy idolatry, than to use the same means to gain reception to rules and regulations for the more orderly practice of heathenism already established.
To be acquainted with the various laws and constitutions 01 civilized nations, especially of those who flourish in our own time, is, perhaps, the most useful part of knowledge: wherein though your lordship, who shines with so much distinction in the noblest assembly in the world, peculiarly excels; yet as the law of Mohammed, by reason of the odium it lies under, and the strangeness of the language in which it is written, has been so much neglected, I flatter myself some things in the following sheets may be new even to a person of your lordship’s extensive learning; and if what I have written may be any way entertaining or acceptable to your lordship, I shall not regret the pains it has cost me.
I join with the general voice in wishing your lordship all the honour and happiness your known virtues and merit deserve, and am with perfect respect,
And most obedient servant,
I IMAGINE it almost needless either to make an apology for publishing the following translation, or to go about to prove it a work of use as well as curiosity. They must have a mean opinion of the Christian religion, or be but ill grounded therein, who can apprehend any danger from so manifest a forgery: and if the religious and civil institutions of foreign nations are worth our knowledge, those of Mohammed, the lawgiver of the Arabians, and founder of an empire which, in less than a century, spread itself over a greater part of the world than the Romans were ever masters of, must needs be so; whether we consider their extensive obtaining, or our frequent intercourse with those who are governed thereby. I shall not here inquire into the reasons why the law of Mohammed has met with so unexampled a reception in the world (for they are greatly deceived who imagine it to have been propagated by the sword alone), or by what means it came to be embraced by nations which never felt the force of the Mohammedan arms, and even by those which stripped the Arabians of their conquests, and put an end to the sovereignty and very being of their Khalífs : yet it seems as if there was something more than what is vulgarly imagined, in a religion which has made so surprising a progress. But whatever use an impartial version of the Korân may be of in other respects, it is absolutely necessary to undeceive those who, from the ignorant or unfair translations which have appeared, have entertained too favourable an opinion of the origival, and also to enable us effectually to expose the imposture : none of those who have hitherto undertaken that province, not excepting Dr. Prideaux himself, having succeeded to the satisfaction of the judicious, for want of being complete masters of the controversy. The writers of the Romish communion, in particular, are so far from having done any service in their refutations of Mohammedism, that by endeavouring to defend their idolatry and other superstitions, they have rather contributed to the increase of that aversion which the Mohammedans in general have to the Christian religion, and given them great advantages in the dispute. The protestants alone are able to attack the Korân with success; and for them, I trust, Providence has reserved the glory of its overthrow. In the mean time, if I might presume to lay down rules to be observed by those who attempt the conversion of the Mohammedans, they should be the same which the learned and worthy bishop Kidder* has prescribed for the conversion of the Jews, and which may, mutatis mutandis, be equally applied to the former, notwithstanding the despicable opinion that writer, for want of being better acquainted with them, entertained of those people, judging them scarce fit to be argued with. The first of these rules is, To avoid compulsion ; which though it be not in our power to employ at present, I hope will not be made use of when it is. The second is, To avoid teaching doctrines against common sense; the Mohammedans not being such fools (whatever we may think of them) as to be gained over in this case. The worshipping of images and the doctrine of transubstantiation are great stumbling-blocks
* In his Demonstr. of the Messias, part 3, chap. 2.
to the Mohammedans, and the church which teacheth them is very unfit to
Of the several translations of the Korân now extant, there is but one which tolerably represents the sense of the original; and that being in Latin, a new version became necessary, at least to an English reader. What Bibliander published for a Latin translation of that book
* Id certum, naturalibus egregiè dotibus instructum Mohammedem, formâ præstanti, ingenio callido, moribus facetis, ac præ se ferentem liberalitatem in egenos, comitatem in singulos, fortitudinem in hostes, ac præ cæteris reverentiam divini nominis.-Severus fuit in perjuros, adulteros, homicidas, obtrectatores, prodigos, avaros, falsos testes, &c. Magnus idem patientiæ, charitatis, misericordiæ, beneficentiæ, gratitudinis, honoris in parentes ac superiores præco, ut et divinarum laudum.-Hist. Eccles. sec. 7, c. 7, lem. 5, et 7.