The Prophets of Islam
According to tradition there were 24,000 prophets and 315 messengers (Mishkat book 24, chapter 1 part 3) sent with a special commission to reclaim the world from infidelity and superstition. Only a minority of individuals called prophets (ambiya) in the Quran are so described in the Bible. The following twenty two biblical characters are designated as prophets in the Quran namely. Adam; Idris (Enoch); Noah; Methusaleh; Abraham; Ishmael; Isaac; Jacob; Joseph; Lot; Moses Aaron; Zacharias; John the Baptist; Jesus; David; Solomon; Elias; Elisha; Job; Ezra and Jonah (the only literary prophet mentioned in the Quran). They are almost exclusively from the Old Testament and the majority are found in the lists provided in Al-Ana’am 6:83-87 and An-Nisa’ 4:163. Muhammad’s enumeration as to name and chronological order, is exceedingly confused. Three women are said to be prophetesses: Sarah because she was inspired to receive revelation of the news of Isaac’s birth; the mother of Moses who received by revelation the news of the birth of Moses; and Mary who received the news of Christ’s birth.
Muhammad seems to have derived his knowledge of the events of the Old Testament from the numerous and powerful Jews who lived in the Hijaz at the time. His teaching is derived from the rabbinical traditions and the Talmud rather than the scriptures themselves. He had no access to the Arabic translation of the Bible and so was dependent upon oral communication and therefore frequently got names wrong for example Goliath is called Jalut; Korah is Karun; Saul is Talut; Enoch is Idris; John the Baptist is Yahya and Jonah is Yunus. The same reason accounts for the confusion of some events and chronology.
Luqman-i.Hakim (possibly Aesop) and Alexander the Great are also considered by Muslim commentators to have been prophets. Luqman is the title of the thirty-first sura, and Zulqurnain, “the two-horned” (probably Alexander), is found in Al-Khaf, the eighteenth sura; but it is not clear as to what position the author of the Quran intended to assign to these worthies.
The Quran states “We make no distinction between one and another among them (prophets)” (Al-Imran 3:84) but there does however, seem to be degrees of rank among the prophets for “We did bestow on some prophets more gifts than on others” (Al-Isra’ 17:55). Muhammad, it is claimed, is the highest, last and best of all prophets “(he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets” (Al-Azhab 33:40). Muslim Book 4, Number 1062 gives a report from Muhammad that he said “ I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning; I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies): spoils have been made lawful to me: the earth has been made for me clean and a place of worship; I have been sent to all mankind and the line of prophets is closed with me.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1062)
Ten qualities which governed the prophets
’Ayesha relates that Muhammad said that there were ten qualities which governed the prophets according to fitra (a natural and innate condition): clipping the moustache, letting the beard grow, using the tooth-stick, snuffing water in the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving the pubes and cleaning one’s private parts with water. The narrator forgot the tenth but thought it may have been rinsing the mouth. (Muslim Book 2, Number 502)
Muslim theologians observe a distinction between one who is a prophet (nabi) and one who is an apostle (rasul). A prophet receives the highest form of inspiration (wahi), but is not necessarily required to deliver the message. An apostle, having received this same form of inspiration, is commanded by God to deliver the message to men. The apostles (rasul), then, were messengers of God who had been sent to peoples (ummah) of the past; to each ummah Allah sends only one apostle (Yunus 10:47; An-Nahl 16:36 c/f Al-Mu’minum). Muhammad was sent to the Arab people to whom Allah had not yet sent an apostle (Al-Qasas 28:46; As-Sajdah 32:3; Saba’ 34:44). The Arabian prophets Salih and Hud are in contradiction to this (28:46; 32:3; 34:44; 36:6) as many believe they should be included amongst the apostles (rasul).
There are said to be nine special messengers (rasul): Nuh, Ibrahim, Daud, Yaqub, Yusuf, Ayyub, Musa, ‘Isa and Muhammad – they were said to bring new laws which successively abrogated the preceding revelation. Six have special titles: Adam (Safiyu’llah) The Chosen of God; Nuh (Nabiyu’llah) – The preacher of God; Ibrahim (khililu’llah) – The friend of God; Musa (Kalimu’llah) – The converser with God; ‘Isa (Ruhuu’llah) – The Spirit of God – of whom it was said “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah” (4:171) and finally Muhammad (Rususlu’llah) – The Messenger of God. The difference between rasul and nabi is not always clear it is possible that the prophets (nabi) are preachers sent to their people but they are not the head of an ummah like the rasul. Later writers make no difference between rasul and nabi yet the rasul in contrast to the nabi is a law-giver and provided with a book.
Sins of the Prophets
‘Isma in dogmatics is the teaching of immunity from error and sin. That the prophets are free from mortal sin is a doctrinal teaching of Sunni Islam while the Shia’ ascribe the same doctrine to their imams. There is not agreement on certain points such as whether immunity against sin existed before or only after their prophetic calling or whether it includes immunity from all kinds of sin or only applies to minor slips. Many Muslim commentators insist that the prophets faced serious trials that overwhelmed them and that this led them occasionally to lapses and slips which caused these men to repent of their behaviour and ask Allah to forgive them. It is applied in unlimited fashion to Muhammad but this seems contrary to his own conviction as seen throughout the Quran and hadith for example Bukhari Volume 8, Book 75, Number 319 insists “I heard Allah’s Apostle saying.” By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.”
Muslims complain that Christians exaggerate the sins of the Biblical prophets. It is not true that every prophet in the Bible is found to be involved in some sort of sin like adultery or lying. Such prophets as Enoch, Elijah Joseph and Daniel have no such aspersions made against them however, it remains true that deficiency resides in mankind, God alone is perfect. Man by contrast has short-comings and he who has virtues still has sinful tendencies. God chose certain prophets to convey his message and guided them by the Holy Spirit in truth (2 Peter 1:20,21).
Muhammad’s identification with the prophets
Muhammad is fond of seeing himself reflected in the earlier prophets who preached monotheism and opposed all forms of idolatry. It seems likely that he created the dialogue of the prophets he admired from his own personal experience. He regards Musa as his predecessor, his model, and he believed that he had been foretold by Musa (Al-Ar’af 7:157). He believed his religion was the same as Musa’s (Ash-Shu’ra 42:13). They had similar charges brought against them; both were accused of bringing sorcery and turning ones away from the religion of their fathers (Yunus 10:77,78). Just as Moses received revelation (the Criterion) for those who did not do right (Al Baqarrah 2:53; Al-Anbiya 21:48) so did Muhammad.
Nuh is seen functioning in the same work as Muhammad as he attempts to persuade the people to whom he was sent to give up their idols (Nuh 71: 23-25). He like Muhammad is given the title of being a warner (Nuh 71:1, 2); he uses the same language “Ask forgiveness from your Lord; for He is Oft-Forgiving” (Nuh 71:10) and has the same hope (Nuh 71: 13); Muhammad’s preaching is re-produced (Nuh 71: 15-20); the same judgement is threatened (Nuh 71: 26, 27) and he seeks forgiveness for himself and his parents (Nuh 71:28).
The Quran emphasizes the differences between the prophets and the unbelievers; the people of Sodom accused Lot of lying so the Quarraish accused Muhammad in the same way. The preaching of the Arab prophets Salih and Hud are found in the early Meccan suras and they too are depicted bringing signs and warnings in the style of Muhammad; Salih demanded that his countrymen should turn to him and pray to Allah alone (7:73; 11:61; 26:141); he called their attention to the benefits received from Allah (7:74; 51:43) but they rejected him abruptly calling him bewitched (21:153); Salih is accused of being a man like themselves who could make no claim to revelations (54:24) and they would not surrender the religion of their fathers (11:62) while scorning the idea of a day of Judgement (69:4). Hud is given the same agenda and like every warner he is represented in the same position as Muhammad was in Mecca when he found only infidelity and pride among the people and his followers were few.
The story of Adam in the Quran does not present us with the fall of man into sin or of the entrance of sin into the world but rather of the first prophet to whom ten portions of scripture were given. He stands at the head of the antediluvian patriarchs and the primogenitor of the human race who acted disobediently and was cast out of Paradise (the seventh heaven) but his repentance was accepted by Allah (Al Araf 7:19-23; Ta-Ha 20:115-122). Tradition states that after having been cast out Eve arrived at Arafat, Adam at Ceylon (Sarandib). Seeking his wife, Adam travelled many years until he recognised her at the Mountain of Mercy, then he returned to Ceylon.
Although clearly Adam slipped, disobeyed and sought God’s forgiveness, in Islam this did not affect the remainder of the human race. His fall was said to have occurred before he received his prophetic commission, so the sinlessness of the prophets is maintained. Al-Baidawi says, “He strayed from the path of duty and despaired, or wandered away from what he was commanded to do, or deviated from the right direction because he was deceived by the enemy.” There does however, seem to be a sense of guilt retained in the tradition of Bukhari Volume 9 Book 93 Number 607; here Adam admits he is not able to act as an interceeder for “I am not fit for that, and he will mention to them his mistake which he has committed.” The Bible mentions that Adam sinned and was expelled from Paradise, because he ate from the forbidden tree. No other sin is ascribed to him. Yet through him sin entered the world.
Some translations of Al-Baqarrah 2:30 make him Allah’s viceroy and state that he was taught the names of all things (Al-Baqarrah 2:31-33 c/f Bukhari Volume 6 hadith number 3. The source of the Quran may well be the Talmud (Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus, Parashah 19; and Genesis, Parashah 8; and Sanhedrin, 38) which develops the creation account in the following way: “When God “brought before them cattle, animals, and birds, and asked for their names, they knew it not. After man was created, He caused them to pass before Him, and asked for their names and he answered, This is an ox, that an ass, this a horse, and that a camel.”
Then, there is the matter of Iblis refusing to obey Allah’s command of not prostrating himself before Adam, as did the other angels likewise appropriated from Talmudic writings (Al-A’raf 7:11-18; Al-Hijr 15:28-35). Some Jewish fables record that the angels contemplated worshiping man, but they were prevented by God; others precisely agree with the Quran (Midrash of Rabbi Moses, examined by Zuns, p. 296), that God commanded the angels to worship man, and that they obeyed with the exception of Satan.
Tradition informs us that Adam was sixty cubits tall (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543) this would make him 90 feet tall; the same hadith states “Any person who will enter Paradise will resemble Adam (in appearance and figure).” Rabbinical fables make him extend from one end of the world to the other; but upon the angels esteeming him a second deity, God put His hand upon him and reduced him to a thousand yards! (Eisenmenger, Judenthum, Vol 1. p. 365). Tradition in praising Friday claimed “Adam was created on it he was made to enter Paradise, on it he was expelled from it.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1857).
Noah – Nuh
According to the Bible Noah is not a prophet but a preacher of righteousness; he was a man who had close communion with God and ‘perfect in his generations’ (Genesis 6:9). He preached against the low moral level of his generation but finding no repentance God judged the world at that time with the Flood; all but Noah, his wife, their three sons and their four wives were destroyed (Genesis 7:7).
The Quran insists he received inspiration and he is the first prophet of punishment followed later by Hud, Salih, Lut, Shu’aib and Musa. Allah enters into covenant with Nuh just as with Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa ( Al-Ahzab 33:7) and sent his peace upon him (As-Saffat 37:79). Nuh is further represented as bringing proofs and evidences (Yunus10:71-73) but he is rejected for being a mere human when Allah should have sent an angel (Al-Mu’minun 23:24). He is accused of being wrong (Al-A’raf 7:60,61), a liar with only the lowest joining him (Hud 11:27, Ash-Shu’ara 26:111)
The events in th life of Nuh according to the Quran are: Allah sends him to a sinful people; his preaching consists of threatening punishment; the people scorn him; Allah commands him to build an ark; the waters gushed forth (Hud11:40, 23:27); the waters drown everything except two of every living kind of creature; Nuh takes believers, of whom there were few into the ark; his appeals to his son are in vain for he takes himself off to the mountains and is drowned (Hud 11:25-48); not only Nuh’s son but also his wife are classified as sinners (At-Tahrim 66:10) The Bible however, records that she entered the ark and gives no indication of unbelief; the ark landed on Mount Judi (Hud 11:44).
The Quran does not record the post-flood incident of Noah when he, after probably becoming a farmer, planted a vineyard. He became drunk (perhaps not realising the potency of wine) and committed a breach of modesty which invoked a curse on Canaan, one of Noah’s grandsons (Genesis 9:20-27). The Muslim exegetes however say that Noah sought forgiveness for invoking evil upon the ungodly indicating that he had not made the wisest choice; the infallibility of Noah is thus preserved in Islam and his ction is accounted for as a lapse in judgement.
Abraham (Ibrahim) – Ishmael and Hagar
Ten sacred books were said to have been given to Ibrahim. The Quran states the name of his father was Azar (Al-An’am 6:74) seemingly confusing this name with that of his servant Eleazor (Genesis 15:2). The name of Abraham’s father in the Bible is Terah (Genesis 11:26). The Quran and hadith state that Ibrahim lived in the valley of Mecca (Al-Baqarrah 2:125-127 c/f Bukhari Volume 3 Book 34 Number 339). The Bible states he lived in Hebron (Genesis 13:6-12). Apart from two lies where Abraham gave in to the weakness of his human flesh in order to save himself from the tyranny of the Egyptian Pharaoh the Bible speaks of his great piety, strong faith and trust in the Lord.
Along with Ishmael Abraham laid the foundations of the Ka’aba and prayed that Allah might make it ‘a City of Peace’ (Al-Baqarrah 2:125-127 c/f Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 653). The Traditions relate that when the Ka’aba was being reformed pictures of Abraham and Ishmael were found and removed. They had been depicted by the pagans as practising divination by arrows (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 671 and Volume 4, Book 55, Number 570).
In respect of the command to sacrifice Isaac Muslim commentators say it took three visions for Abraham to understand that the instruction to sacrifice his son was not from the devil. The commentators add that Abraham had the knife ready across the throat of his son but was miraculously hindered: The Muslim account is as follows: When Ibrahim founded Mecca Allah desired him to make a feast for Him. The sacrifice was to be Ishmael. So Ibrahim took him to the Ka’aba for sacrifice. Ibrahim took the knife but because of his love for Ishmael the wounds on the throat were ineffectual. Ishmael suggested that Ibrahim should blindfold himself with his turban which he did so. He repeated Bismi’llaahi allahu akbar (in the name of God, God is great) and struck the knife across the neck. However, Gabriel had substituted a broad-tailed sheep for the youth (Qisasu’l Anbiya — Ibn Kathir d. 1372). Muslims allege that Ishmael was the only son at that time as the future promise of Isaac is referred to later, yet on the whole the Quran is hardly chronological in its presentation! The Quran and Tradition add that Ishmael received revelation (Al-Baqarrah 2:136; Al-‘Imran 3:84: An-Nisa 4:163) but they do not give us any details.
According to the Bible Ishmael is not in the prophetic line and he gradually disappears from the picture as the covenant with Abraham is continued through Isaac. The Bible gives great detail of the life of Ishmael in its historical context. Great promises were given to Ishmael but not the elect nation through whom the promises, blessings and prophets and Christ would come (Genesis 17:20-22). Apart from this promise there was no promise that through the Ishmaelites there would be a prophet. Hagar (Hajar) was sent away from Abraham following a dispute with his wife Sarah (Sarai). Muslims believe that Allah provided for Hagar and her son Ishmael at the spring Zamzam (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583).
Muslim commentators claim that Muhammad is descended from Ishmael’s second son Kedar (Qaidar) – Genesis 25:12. Their historians can trace his descent back to a certain ’Adnan but admit that to go back further is uncertain. Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 578 states Abu Huraira then addressed his listeners saying, “That (Hajar) was your mother, O Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e. the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, Hajar’s son).”
Lut is numbered with the Messengers (rasul) (Ash-Shu’ara 26:160,162; As-Saffat 37:133). The term muraslin is used and this title is equally applied to Muhammad (Al-Baqarrah 2:252). Lut in the Quran attains an importance which he does not have in the Bible and he becomes, in Islam a prophet of punishment. He believes the monotheistic message of Ibrahim (Maryam 19:26) and they are both rescued and go into the blessed land (Al-Anbiya 21:71). The Quran follows the Bible quite closely and has Lut living in Sodom from where he is rescued by the angels and the city is destroyed. The commentators add to the story-line by informing us that Lut takes its name from latta “to attach oneself” i.e. Ibrahim’s heart was affectionately attached to Lut; his wife is called Halsaka’ or Wa’ila; his older daughter Rith, while the younger is given a number of different names.
Muslims say that the charge that the two daughters of Lot committed the sin of making their father drunk and sleeping with him while he was unaware of what was happening is a dreadful conspiracy. The circumstances described in the Bible are as follows: Lot was secluded on a mountain and his two daughters thought that they would never bear children from men because the Lord had obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah with all their inhabitants. With the aid of alcohol the daughters did their terrible act (Genesis 19:30-38).
Joseph – Yusuf
Muhammad deals with the whole story of Yusuf in sura twelve which is described as the most beautiful of stories. Apart from this sura Yusuf is mentioned only twice in the Quran (Al-Anam 6:84 and Ghafir 40:34). Sura Yusuf gives the following account: Jacob tells Yusuf not to make known his dreams – the Bible says that Joseph related his dreams to his brothers and father (Genesis 37: 5, 10); Yusuf’s brothers ask that he be placed in their care – the Bible says that Jacob sent Joseph of his own freewill, and that he sent him not with his brothers but in search of them, so that he could have news of his sons and the flocks (Genesis 37:12 -14); Yusuf is put in a well, but it is reported that he has been killed by a wolf while they were having running races – the Bible says nothing about running races the brothers sent Joseph’s coat dipped in blood to their father, simply saying, that they had found it, and asking whether it was Joseph’s coat (Genesis 37:32, 33); Yusus is said to have been found by travellers and Muslims add that when the travellers let down a bucket to draw water, he seized it, and was drawn up – The Bible says that the brothers took Joseph out of the well and sold him, and that the well was dry (Genesis 37:23, 24, 28); Jacob’s sight is restored when Yusuf’s inner garment is thrown over his face – the Muslim legend is that, the inner garment was given by Gabriel to Yusuf when in the well. It retained the smell of heaven, and could be perceived at a long distance.
Variations in the story of Yusuf between the Quran and the Bible
In summarising the whole story of Yusuf we see a number of additions have been made to the biblical story (some may have been based on the Talmud): 1) Yusuf is warned by Jacob not to tell his dream to his brothers; 2) The brothers ask their father to confine Yusuf into their care; 3) The brothers lie, saying that they had gone off to run a race and left Yusuf near the baggage when in their absence a wolf had torn him to pieces; 4) Jacob is blinded by his weeping; 5) The Egyptian who buys Yusuf proposes to his wife that they should adopt him; 6) When this woman makes advances to Yusuf his shirt is torn from behind proving his innocence; 7) When Yusuf enters a banquet ladies are dazzled by his beaut; 8) Yusuf interprets Pharaohs dreams while he is still in prison; 9) Yusuf makes himself known to his brothers and sends his father a shirt, which is to restore his eyesight; 10) Jacob’s sons ask for forgiveness and Jacob prays to Allah for them.
There are also at least four omissions from the biblical story: 1). There is no description of the character of Joseph; 2) is no mention of the sheaves which bow down to Joseph; 3) No one is named apart from Joseph, not Jacob, nor even the brothers; ‘Aziz (Potipher) is said to be his rank not his proper name; 4) The number of his brothers is not mentioned.
Moses – Musa
The picture of Moses in the Quran is made up of Biblical, Haggadic and legends. The preliminary history of Musa is covered in Al-Qassas 28: 1-28. Here Musa is watched over by his sister; refuses the milk of other wet-nurses and is suckled by his own mother; coming to the assistance of a hard-pressed Israelite he is tempted by Satan to kill his Egyptian persecutor – it was not an accident but a deliberate action of hostility. He repented confessing it was a work of Satan, yet once again the Muslim exegetes say this act was performed before he had begun his role as a prophet (Al-Qasas 28:14-21); He is pursued and escapes to Madyan; at a well there he waters the flocks of two daughters of a sheikh. He marries one of them after a period of 8-10 years service.
From the burning bush (Al-Qasas 28:29) in the valley of Tuwa Moses is ordered to take off his shoes (Ta-Ha 20:12) and commanded to go to Pharaoh with accompanying signs (An-Nazi’at 79:16ff) – Musa and Harun seem to be sent to the stubborn Pharaoh rather than the believing Israelites; the Quran also records that Musa needed to repent after he had cast down the divine tablets and laid hold of his brother’s hair and dragged him along (Al-‘Araf 7:148-150); his speech is difficult to understand and he can scarcely express himself clearly (Az-Zukhruf 43:52) – The Bible mentions that the wrath of God burned against Moses when he asked the Lord to send someone else to speak to the Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 4:14) but this is excluded in the Quran as it is abhorrent to the innocence of the prophets (Ash-Shu’ara 26:10-12); Pharaoh accuses Moses of ingratitude for he had been brought up by the Egyptians (Ash-Shu’ara 26:18); Pharaoh assembles his magicians but their rods are devoured by Moses’; the magicians believe in Allah and are mutilated as a punishment (Al-Ar’af 7:107-124; Ta-Ha 20:60-72, Ash-Shu’ara 26:9-50); Pharaoh wishes prayers to be said to him as Allah so orders Haman to build a tower so that he can reach the God of Musa (Al Qasas 28:38); Moses then performs nine miracles (new feature there were ten plagues) (Al-Isra’ 17:101; Ta-Ha 20:57-76, An-Naml 27:12); Musa then spends 40 nights with Allah (Al-A’raf 7:142); while he is absent Samiri makes the lowing calf (Al-A’raf 7:148); Musa desires to see Allah he breaks the tablets and Allah crumples the hill to dust (Al-A’raf 7:143); Israel hesitated to accept the Torah so Allah tilted Sinai over them (Al-Baqarrah 2:63, 93); Israel is fearful of war and has to wander in the desert for 40 years (Al-Maidah 5:21-26); The enemies of Musa – Korah, Pharaoh and Haman all perish (Al-‘Ankabut 29:39).
Variations in the story of Musa between the Quran and the Bible
There are considerable differences between the Quran and the Biblical story.: 1) Instead of Pharaohs daughter, it is his wife who rescues the infant (Al-Qasas 28:9 c/f Exodus 1:5-10; 2) instead of seven shepherdesses Musa assists two (Exodus 2:16); 3) Instead of ten plagues the Quran speaks of nine (Exodus 7:14 – Exodus 12:36); 4) Musa strikes twelve springs out of the rock, one for each tribe (Al-Baqarrah 2:60) in confusion with the twelve springs of Elim (Exodus 15:27); 5) Haman is made minister to Pharaoh in Egypt (Al-Qasas 28:38) – the biblical Book of Esther records Haman’s activities taking place in Persia as he served Ahasuerus; 6) Musa repents of having slain the Egyptian; 7) Musa sees the burning bush at night and desires to take a brand from its fire for his house (20:9; 28:29); 8) Pharaohs magicians die for their belief in God.
Some features seem to have originated in the Haggada (the non-legal part of the Jewish Talmud) for he we find 1) God forbids the infant to be suckled by an Egyptian foster mother (Al-Qasas 28:12); 2) God tilts Sinai over the Israelite’s (Al-Baqarrah 2:63, 93); 3) the turning of the Sabbath breakers into apes (2:65; 4:53;5:60; 7:166) – in the Haggada the builders of the tower of Babel became apes (Sanhedrin 109); 4) Karun is represented as a very rich man whose treasure can hardly be carried by many strong men (Al-Qasas 28:76, 79) – the Haggada says that Korah found a hidden Egyptian treasure and 300 mules carried it (Pessachim,119).
Musa in the hadith
Additional information has been formulated in the hadith: 1) the story of Musa accompanying a wise-man on a journey (Al-Kahf 18:60-82); he loses his patience because of the actions of the wiser (Al-Khadir); Eventually Moses is satisfied when the reasons for his companion’s actions are explained (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 570); 2) Musa is physically described as having brown curly hair or its opposite lank hair, which is called so because it is straight and thin (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 72, Number 795 and Volume 4, Book 55, Number 647); 3) The story of Musa and the runaway stone (Muslim Book 3, Number 669) states that the men of the Israel bathed together but Musa bathed alone. It was rumoured that he had a scrotal hernia and one day, when bathing, the stone on which Musa placed his clothes ran away so Banu Israel had opportunity to see him naked. They then saw there was no imperfection in Musa. Islam believes that the prophets are perfect in body and soul and the attitude of Israel towards Musa was deemed slanderous. The runaway stone was struck by Moses six or seven times. 4) The high respect given to Musa is recorded where Muhammad states that on the Day of Resurrection “all the people will fall unconscious and I will be one of them, but I will be the first to gain consciousness and will see Moses standing and holding the side of the throne. I will not know whether (Moses) has also fallen unconscious and got up before me, or Allah has exempted him from that stroke.”(Bukhari Volume 3, Book 41, Number 594
David – Daud
The accounts of Daud in the Quran and hadith are very brief. Apart from receiving the zabur (psalms) he had no special title and was given no law. He was placed as a viceroy (successor) on the earth in order to judge in truth and justice (Sa’d 38:26). Along with Sulaiman he shared the gift of wisdom (2:251; 27:15) and together, on one occasion they deliver a remarkable judgement. On another occasion (Sa’d 38:21-25) while attending to his devotions two disputants entered his private dwelling claiming they needed David’s counsel in a controversy. The two litigants actually came to reproach Daud with a fault and dressed-up the story in order to get him to deliver a judgement. The controversy concerns ninety-nine ewes and is no other than a confused narration of the prophet Nathan’s rebuke to David (2 Samuel 12); the narration led to David seeking repentance. The commentator Al-Baidawi recognises this and turns to the Bible to acknowledge that the matter which David had to repent over was the taking of Uriah’s wife and the ordering of her husband to be slain on the battle front. Many Muslims object to the fact that David married the wife of Uriah the Hittite and that she bore him a child and that afterwards he deviously destroyed her spouse as recorded in 2 Samuel 11. However, Al-Thalabi whose authority was Anas b. Malik Baghawi confirmed “how the spouse of the woman was killed” and Al-Naafi ( Madarik al-Tanzil fi Haqqaiq al-Tawil) affirms the act of adultery. In the Bible the sin of David is accompanied with a firm rebuke from Nathan the prophet and certainly there was a need for repentance. This seems to be recognised by the Quran for we read Daud repented and sought forgiveness over this matter. We also read that it was the habit of Daud to turn to Allah in repentance (Sa’d 38:17).
Daud slew Goliath (calling him Jalut Al-Baqarrah 2:249) and he is thought to have been the inventor of coats of mail for iron seemed so pliable in his hands (Al-Anbiya 21:80, Saba’ 34:10). Muslims believe that Daud divided his life into parts: one day he served Allah, another day he rendered justice to the people, another day was for preaching, and another was for his own personal matters. Hadith, Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 200 states “he used to fast on alternate days and would never flee from the battle field, on meeting the enemy.”
Daud is recognised as having the gift of song but the Quran gives the impression that the mountains and birds were literally ordered to join him (Sa’d 38:18-19; Al-Anbiya 21:79; Saba’ 34:10). It seems Muhammad believed the literal Talmudists who said that when David was fatigued with singing psalms, the mountains, birds, and other parts of creation, both animate and inanimate, relieved him in chanting praises. The Talmudists drew their concepts from such psalms as Psalm 148. Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 628 informs the reader that the reciting of the zabur was made easy for David: “He used to order that his riding animals be saddled, and would finish reciting the Zabur before they were saddled.” In prostration Muhammad is said to have followed the prophet Daud “Daud prostrated, so Allah’s Apostle performed this prostration too” (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 331).
Islamic commentators claim that in the days of Daud when he and others were at Elath, on the Red Sea, fish came in great numbers on the night of the Sabbath, to tempt them. Some fell and Daud cursed the Sabbath-breakers and Allah transformed them into apes. They remained in this state for three days until they were destroyed by a wind which swept them all into the sea (Abul Fi’da 1273-1331 and Al-Qurtabi‘s commentary on Al Baqarrah 2:265 c/f Al-Maidah 5:78)
Solomon – Sulaiman
Arab historians point to two outstanding believing rulers namely, Alexander the Great and Sulaiman. The latter is enshrined with wonderful powers of magic and divination. Along with being gifted in understanding the most puzzling riddles he was full of wisdom and knowledge and acted justly.
In the Quran he is designated as a true apostle of Allah and prototype of Muhammad. He surpassed his father Daud in skilful administration of justice (Al-Anbiya 21:78,79; An-Naml 27:15,16); he was acquainted with the speech of birds and animals (An-Naml 27:16,19); a strong wind was subject to him (Al-Anbiya 21:81; Sa’d 38:36); a fountain of molten brass flowed for him and the jinn worked in front of him (Saba’ 34:12,13); satans’ worked for him in diving for pearls (Al-Anbiya 21:82; Sa’d 38:37); jinn who disobeyed were threatened with the torments of hell (Saba’ 34:12); his armies consisted of men, jinn and birds with the hoopoe giving him news of the most illustrious Queen of Sheba who eventually submitted to Islam through the preaching of Sulaiman (An-Naml 27: 20-44); because of his great interest in horses he failed to observe his religious duties and sought atonement by breaking the legs and necks of these fine creatures (Sa’d 38:30-33) – commentators argue as to whether he slew the horses but it is clear that he turned to Allah in repentance; like his father Daud he often turned in repentance to Allah (Sa’d 38:30);
Muslims object to the teaching of 1 Kings 11 that Solomon turned apostate and lapsed into idolatry however, there must have been a reason why he was punished and lost his kingdom and why with his throne was occupied by someone of the same likeness, he was restored to his place by asking forgiveness (Sa’d 38:34,35). When he died he was resting on his staff and so no-one knew of his death until a worm bored its way through the prop and the body collapsed (Saba’ 34:14).
The many legendary stories of Sulaiman, also found in the hadith are rabbinic in origin and are a mixture of truth and error. One such hadith legend states that Solomon decided that one night he would have sexual relations with his one hundred (or sixty) wives so that each would deliver a male child who would fight in Allah’s Cause. Because he did not say “if Allah will’ none of them delivered any child except one who delivered a half person. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 169; Volume 9, Book 93, Number 561). The Biblical story of two harlots who came to Solomon for justice (1 Kings 3:16-28) is found to recorded briefly in Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 637.
By Allah’s permission, the devils tempted Solomon without success, they made use of magic to blast his character. They wrote several books of magic, and hid them under his throne and after his death they told the chief men that if they wanted to know by what means Solomon had obtained absolute power they should dig under his throne; they did so and found books of magical superstitions. The priests published these scandalous stories about Sulaiman. When Muhammad came he declared that the stories were false and that he was no idolater (Yahya Jallalo’ddin).
Yunus – Jonah
He is mentioned four times in the Quran known principally as ‘he of the fish” (Al-Haqqah 68:48,49) but also Dhu ‘l-Nun (Al-Anbiya 21:87). He fled on to a ship that was overloaded was condemned by lot and swallowed by a fish – if he had not praised Allah he would have remained in the fish’s belly (Al-Anbiya 21:87-88). He was thrown on to a barren shore where a gourd grew over him; He was sent to a hundred thousand people who believed (As-Saffat 37:139-148). The Quran states Dhun-Nun went off in a spate of anger but the reason is not given. Some suppose it was because he preached without reward for such a long time but the Bible states that his anger was against God because he had threatened the people with judgment but God graciously forgave them; making him out to be a liar (Al-Beidawi). He is included amongst the apostles (An-Nisa 4:163; Al-Ana’m 6:86). Sura ten bears his name and tells of the town to whom Yunus went and how they came to believe and averted its fate of judgment. He is the only one of the major and minor prophets mentioned in the Quran.
Yahya – John the Baptist
He is mentioned three times in the Quran being included in a list of prophets who believed in the oneness of Allah (Al-Ana’am 6:82, 85); his miraculous birth to the aged Zacarias and Elisabeth is mentioned twice (Al-Imran 3:38-40, Maryam 19:1-15). His characteristic qualities are gentleness and chastity. The Quran does not mention his role as a baptizer, nor does it tell of his death.
Job – Ayyub
In the Quran Ayyub is a ‘servant of Allah’ and represented as a patient man. It is briefly related that Allah put him to the test but after his prayers he was restored back to his former state (Al-Anbiya 21:83,84). We have the unusual feature of Job stamping his foot at Allah’s command so that he could bathe and drink from the water that came forth. Masudi testifies that the mosque of Ayyub together with the spring, were to be found a short distance from Nawa in the province of Urdunn (c/f Yakut Mu’djam 2:640) – The mosque of Ayyub in Ash Shaykh Sa’d, Syria was previously a church of Ayyub.
Then equally obscure is action of Ayyub taking of a bundle of grass or straw and beating with it. The latter is explained by the Muslim commentators (e.g. Tafsir Al-Qurtabi Volume 15 page 212 ) as referring to Ayyub’s wife who Allah commanded him to beat with a hundred blows. The story goes, that during Ayyub’s ailment his wife used to beg for him, and Satan told her to persuade him to a path of unbelief. When she attempted to do this her husband became so angry with her that he took an oath to strike her with 100 lashes. Allah ordered Ayyub to fulfil his oath by striking her with the bundle of thin grass (Sa’d 38:41-44). Muslim writers have considerably developed the life of Ayyub by basing it on the Jewish Haggadah. They add such details as he was a descendent of Esau (Testament of Job) and called his wife Rahma, daughter of Ephraim, son of Joseph.
The Muslim Traditionalists have reproduced literally Job 1:6 -2:7 in the manner in which Ayyub was tested. They assert that it was envy that drove Iblis against Ayyub. When Allah had finally given Iblis full power over his body Iblis blew in his nostrils causing him severe inflammation so that his body smelt so terrible that he had to leave town and live in a dunghill (Abot R. Natan p. 164 Testament of Job). The majority of the commentators believe he was 70 years old when the infliction began (Bereshit Rabba 58:3,61:4, Testament of Job 12); the duration of his affliction differs.