Richard Bell, The Qur’ān. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs (1939)

The translation goes frankly on the assumption that the Qur’ān was in written form when the redactors started their work, whether actually written by Muhammad himself, as I personally believe, or by others at his dictation. This conclusion also has been forced upon me in the course of my work. The translation itself must furnish the proof. If, by the hypothesis that the present form of the Qur’ān rests upon a careful reproduction of a confusion of written documents, that confusion has been in any considerable number of passages cleared up, the hypothesis will have justified itself. All the possibilities of confusion in written documents have had to be considered — corrections, interlinear additions, additions on the margin, deletions and substitutions, pieces cut off from a passage and wrongly placed, passages written on the back of others and then read continuously, front and back following each other. It is to this, rather than to textual defects, or to confusion in Muhammad’s own thought and style that the dreary welter of the Qur’ān so often deplored by Western writers is due. It arises also from the fact that the Qur’ān was delivered for the most part in short pieces, which were afterwards put together in surahs — again I incline to believe by Muhammad himself, to some extent at least — so that one finds the most diverse subjects treated of in the same surah, just as they forced themselves upon the prophet’s attention. Where the historical circumstances of Muhammad’s deliverances can be recovered, they are for the most part clear and forcible. They make intelligible the unquestioned ascendancy which he gained and held amongst his people. Un- fortunately, the historical circumstances are often obscure, even in the later and better known part of his career. For the Meccan portions of the Qur’ān, we are generally, in spite of tradition, left to guess what were the particular circumstances to which they had reference and what was their special purpose. By prefixing headings, I have sought to indicate what seems to me the main point dealt with in each section. Some indication of date has also usually been given. But it has to be understood that these datings are for the most part provisional merely. The thorough arrangement of the Qur’ān in chronological order remains a complicated problem which must be left to others to solve. My main object has been to unravel the composition of the separate surahs, and if it be found that this has contributed to the solution of the larger problem and to the understanding of the Qur’ān, I shall be content. I may add, however, that (provisionally) I regard

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Richard Bell, The Qur’ān. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, Consulted online at “Quran Archive - Texts and Studies on the Quran” on 16 Jan. 2022: http://quran-archive.org/explorer/richard-bell/1939?page=5