Mary exhibited in so gross a form as to leave the impression upon the mind of Muhammad that she was held to be a goddess, if not the third Person and consort of the Deity. It must surely have been by such blasphemous extravagances that Muhammad was repelled from the true doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God, and led to regard Him only as ‘Jesus, son of Mary,’ the sole title by which He is spoken of in the Qur'an."

We must not therefore forget that Muhammad was never brought into contact with pure Gospel Christianity; and it is largely to the false forms which the faith had then almost universally assumed that the rise of Islam is really due, since repulsion from these prevented Muhammad from ever really seeking to discover the truth contained in the Gospel, and thus impelled him to found a new and anti-Christian religion.

There seems to be no satisfactory proof that an Arabic version of the New Testament existed in Muhammad's time. Even in the "Orthodox" Church the Gospel was neglected in favour of legends of Saints, which appealed more to the popular taste for the marvellous. Arabia was a refuge for not a few heretics of different sects; and it is clear from the Qur'an (as we shall see) that, whether in written form or not, many of the mythical stories which are contained in the apocryphal Gospels and other similar works, together with certain heretical views on various subjects,


must have reached Muhammad and have been accepted by him as true. That he should have believed these to form part of the Gospel, the name of which is so often mentioned in the Qur'an, is somewhat surprising: and the fact proves that none of his converts were earnest and well-taught Christians, and also that he must have felt far less interest in Christianity than he did in Talmudic Judaism. Those passages of the Qur'an which deal at all fully with what Muhammad supposed to be the doctrines of Christianity date "from a period when his system was already, in great part, matured; and they were founded on information meagre, fabulous and crude ... We do not find a single ceremony or doctrine of Islam in any degree moulded, or even tinged, by the peculiar tenets of Christianity; while, on the contrary, Judaism has given its colour to the whole system, and lent to it the shape and type, if not the actual substance, of many ordinances 1."

Yet at the same time Muhammad desired to win over Christians as well as Jews to his faith. If they were far less numerous and powerful in Arabia than were the Jews, yet the established religion of the great Byzantine Empire must have possessed some importance in Muhammad's eyes, especially because, unless the Arabian Christians could be won over, political complications might arise. To what extent this latter feeling may have

1 Life of Mahomet, pp. 143, 144.