INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY AND
of that character. Muhammad has, however, introduced
into it another element of error, the source of which
we must trace before entering upon the narrative itself.
In Surah XIX., Maryam, 28, 29, we are told that when
Mary came to her people after the birth of our Lord,
they said to her, "O Mary, truly thou hast done
a strange thing. O sister of Aaron, thy father
was not a man of wickedness, and thy mother was not
rebellious." From these words it is evident that,
in Muhammad's opinion, Mary was identical with Miriam,
the sister of Moses and Aaron !
This is made still more clear by Surah LVI., At Tahrim,
12, where Mary is styled "the daughter of 'Imran,"
the latter being the Arabic form of Amram, who in the
Pentateuch is called the father of "Aaron and Moses
and Miriam their sister" (Num. xxvi. 59).
The title "sister of Aaron" is given to Miriam
in Exod xv. 20, and it must be from this passage that
Muhammad borrowed the expression. The reason of the
mistake which identifies the Mother of our Saviour with
a woman who lived about one thousand five hundred and
seventy years before His birth is evidently the fact
that in Arabic both names, Mary and Miriam, are one
and the same in form, Maryam.
The chronological difficulty of the identification
does not seem to have occurred to Muhammad. It puts
us in mind of the tale in the Shahnameh, where Firdausi
tells us that when the hero Faridun had defeated Dahhak
(in Persian pronounced Zahhak), he found in the tyrant's
castle two sisters of Jamshid, who were kept in confinement
there. Faridun was, we are told, smitten with their
charms. This is an instance
of "bonus dormitat Homerus" on some one's
part, for from other parts of the poem we learn that
these fair damsels had remained in Dahhak's custody
from the beginning of the latter's reign, nearly one
thousand years before! Muhammad's error, however, is
chronologically far more serious even than this, which
may be permissible in a romance but not in Revelation."
Muhammadan commentators have in vain attempted to disprove
this charge of historical inaccuracy.
If it be necessary to adduce any other explanation
of Muhammad's blunder, it has been suggested
that it may be found in the Jewish tradition which asserts
regarding Miriam that "The Angel of Death did not
exercise dominion over her, but on the contrary she
died with a (Divine) kiss, and worms and insects did
not exercise dominion over her."