is ably traced, and is important to the Christian advocate as accounting for
the otherwise marvellous purity of the text. But this is ground on which it is
not necessary for us here to enter. We proceed to describe Sprenger's account
of the nature and growth of the SUNNA, that is, of Tradition proper so far as
it relates to the practice and precepts of the Prophet;points that are
imperative, as laying down the law and ritual of Islam.
By Sunna, says Dr. Sprenger, is meant Usage, or the Law of custom.
There is, he thinks, among Oriental nations an irrepressible craving, unknown
to us in the West, after " the positive"; they must have, not only
their religious duties, but the law civil and criminal, and even the commonest
details of life-eating, drinking, dress, etc.-prescribed for them by Divine
command.1 The Coran failed to fully satisfy this need; and so
resort was had to the precepts and practice of the Prophet himself ; and hence
the authority of the Sunna, which professes to hand down the tradition of
Mahomet's utterances, habits, and actions.
We must pause for a moment to say, that the rationale here propounded
is quite insufficient to account for the growth of the vast ceremonial of the Sunna.
There exists, it is true, an enfeebling and deteriorating element in the human
mind, always prone to rites and ceremonies. But it is as strong in the Western
as in the Eastern nations; perhaps, indeed, stronger, for the Church of Rome
has gone far greater lengths in this direction than the Eastern Churches. Even
with Protestants, who had apparently clean escaped from subjection to human
ordinances, "touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish
with the using," we must sorrowfully confess how it needs but little to
turn multitudes "again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto they
desire again to be in bondage,"a mock and ossified counterfeit of the
Indeed, it was not the bent of the Asiatic mind, but the spirit