Muslim Prophets and the Muslim Take on Abraham, Noah, Moses, Mary and Jesus

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Muhammad Meets David and Solomon
Prophets in the biblical and Qur’anic sense are looked upon as intermediaries of God who convey his revelations not people who predict the future. The Hebrew word for prophet comes from a root meaning "to well up, to gush forth." Prophets are mortal men. In the Bible prophets were generally men who condemned hypocrisy and spoke the word of God after being summoned by God to speak his message. Muslims believe that all the prophets were human and with the exception of Muhammad they were all rejected, persecuted or killed.

According to the “New Catholic Encyclopedia”: Muslims distinguish prophets from "messengers"; the latter are believed to be holy men sent by God to teach specific peoples. Muhammad is thus regarded both as the "seal" of the prophets and as the messenger to the Arabs. The Qur’an mentions 8 messengers and 24 prophets, 4 of them Arabs and the rest Hebrews. [Source: J. Kritzeck, C. Wilde, “New Catholic Encyclopedia”, 1990,]

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jacob, Joseph, Job, John the Baptist and Jesus are all regarded as prophets in Islam. Moses, Noah, Abraham and Jesus are regarded as the five mightiest prophets along with Muhammad. Muhammad has a special status because he was the last of these great prophets. The biblical story of Jonah is found in the Qur’an. According to Islam, the whale that swallowed Jonah is one of 10 animals that will go to heaven. The prophets include most of the major figures in the early history of the Hebrews, but exclude Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all of the minor prophets but Jonah.

The Qur’an also mentions other prophets — Hud, Salih, Shu'ayb, Luqman and others — that are not in the Bible or the Torah. Muslims believe that there never has been a people without a prophet and some Muslim scholars counted 124,000 prophets in the history of the world.

The Qur’an reads: “Say: "We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Ibrahim, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in the books given to Musa, Isa, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will in Islam. “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost all spiritual good. |::|

The Qur’an reads: “And when they listen to the revelation received by the messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth. They pray: "Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses." |::|

Websites and Resources: Islam IslamOnline ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; ; Islamic City ; BBC article ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam ; Islam at Project Gutenberg ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary frontline

Human Character of the Prophets

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad wrote: “According to the Holy Quran, the institution of prophethood is universal and timeless. There are two terms used to indicate the same office, each with slightly different connotations. The term An-Nabi has the connotation of prophecy. Those whom God chooses to represent Him are implanted with the knowledge of certain important events regarding the future. They are also told of things past which were unknown to the people, and his knowledge of them stands as a sign of his being informed by an All-Knowing Being. The prophecy as such establishes the truth of the prophets so that people may submit to them and accept their message. [Source: Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (1928–2003), Khalifatul Masih IV]

Job the Prophet
“The second term used in connection with prophets, is Al-Rasool or Messenger. This refers to such contents of the prophet’s revelation as deal with important messages to be delivered to mankind on God’s behalf. Those messages could be speaking of a new code of law, or they could simply be admonishing people for their past lapses in reference to previous revealed laws. Both these functions unite in a single person, and as such all prophets can be termed as messengers and all messengers as prophets.

“According to Islam, all prophets are human beings and none bear superhuman characteristics. Wherever some miracles are attributed to prophets, who are understood to indicate their superhuman character, the categorical and clear statements of the Quran reject such a notion. Raising of the dead is one of such miracles attributed to certain prophets. Although similar descriptions are found in many divine scriptures or religious books, according to the Quran they are not meant to be taken literally, but have a metaphorical connotation. For instance, it is attributed to Jesus(as) that he raised the dead into a new life. But the Holy Quran speaks of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) in the same terms, with the same words being applied to his miracle of spiritual revival. Similar is the case of creating birds out of clay and causing them to fly in the name of God. These birds are only human beings who are bestowed with the faculty of spiritual flight, as against the earthly people.

“No prophet is granted an exceptionally long term of life which makes him distinctly different and above the brotherhood of prophets to which he belongs. Nor is any prophet mentioned as having risen bodily to remote recesses of the universe. Wherever there is such mention, it is spiritual ascent which is meant, not bodily ascent, which the Quran categorically declares is against the character of prophets. When the Holy Founder of Islam was required by the People of the Book to physically ascend to heaven and bring back a book, the answer which God taught him was simply this:

The Quran states: “Say to them: ‘My Lord is far above (such childish conduct). I am no more than a human being and a prophet.’” (Quran 17:94) “This answer rejects all claims about other prophets who are understood to have ascended physically to heaven. The argument implied in this answer is that no human being and no prophet can rise bodily to heaven, otherwise the Prophet Muhammad(sa) could also have repeated the same miracle. The emphasis on the human characteristics of prophets and their human limitations is one of the most beautiful features of fundamental Islamic teachings. Prophets rise above their fellow human beings not because they were gifted with superhuman qualities, but only because they gave a better account of the qualities that they had been gifted with. They remained human despite having ascended to great spiritual heights, and their conduct as such is inimitable by other human beings.

Averroes on the Advent of the Prophets

Averroës (also called Ibn Rushd, b. 1126, Córdoba — d. 1198, Marrakech) was an influential Islamic religious philosopher who integrated Islamic traditions and Greek thought. In “Problem Second: The Advent of the Prophets”, he wrote in “On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy” (1190): “If we admit the existence of the prophetic mission, by putting the idea of possibility, which is in fact ignorance, in place of certainty, and make miracles a proof of the truth of man who claims to be a prophet it becomes necessary that they should not be used by a person, who says that they can be performed by others than prophets, as the Mutakallimun do. They think that the miracles can be performed by the magicians and saints. The condition which they attach with them is that miracles prove a man to be a prophet, when he at the same time claims to be so, for the true prophet can perform them as opposed to the false ones.

This is an argument without any proof, for it can be understood either by hearing or reason That is, it is said that one whose claims to prophecy are wrong, cannot perform miracles, but as we have already said, when they cannot be performed by a liar, then they can only be done by the good people, whom God has meant for this purpose. These people, if they speak a lie, are not good, and hence cannot perform the miracles. But this does not satisfy the people who think miracles to be possible from the magicians, for they certainly are not good men. It is here that the weakness of the argument lies. Hence some people have thought that the best thing is to believe that they cannot be performed but by the prophets. [Source: “Ibn Rushd: On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy, in Arabic Kitab fasl al-maqal, with its appendix (Damina). Appended is an extract from Kitab al-kashfan manahij al-adilla, published and translated as: “Averröes, The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes, trans. Muhammad Jamil-al-Rahman (Baroda: A. G. Widgery, 1921), pp. 14-19, 122-131, 204-229, 242-249, 260-283, 300-308. A more recent edition is edited by George Hourani, (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1959).]

The condition which they attach with them is that miracles prove a man to be a prophet, when he at the same time claims to be so, for the true prophet can perform them as opposed to the false ones. This is an argument without any proof, for it can be understood either by hearing or reason That is, it is said that one whose claims to prophecy are wrong, cannot perform miracles, but as we have already said, when they cannot be performed by a liar, then they can only be done by the good people, whom God has meant for this purpose. These people, if they speak a lie, are not good, and hence cannot perform the miracles. But this does not satisfy the people who think miracles to be possible from the magicians, for they certainly are not good men. It is here that the weakness of the argument lies. Hence some people have thought that the best thing is to believe that they cannot be performed but by the prophets.


medieval Persian manuscript with Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses and Jesus

Abraham is perhaps the world’s most revered religious figure. He is regarded as the ancient patriarch of Islam, the first patriarch of Judaism and an ancestor of Jesus. He was the first man to preach the existence of only one God, and that is why he is revered so deeply by Jews, Christians and Muslims, which together make more than three billion people, more than half of all of humanity. [Source: David Van Biema, Time, September 2002; Tad Szulc, National Geographic, December, 2001; Kenneth MacLeish, National Geographic, December 1966 ♪]

Abraham is known as Ibrahim to Muslims. He was a tribal chief who God promised would be a "father of many nations" and whose children would inherit Canaan as "an everlasting promise." The Semitic tribes, of which both Jews and Arabs belong, believe they are descended from Abraham. Abraham is regarded as the Father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob are referred to as Patriarchs by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Ishmael, Abraham’s other son in the eyes of Muslims, is regarded as a Patriarch by Muslims . Despite all this Abraham was not a pure monotheist. He never suggested that other gods didn’t exist. But he did abandon the other gods and devote himself to the God of the Bible. He is regarded as a revolutionary figure in that he worshiped one god and he chose to do.

According to Muslim tradition, Abraham left Ur because his father Terah sold idols. In the Qur’an young Abraham smashes the idols in his father shop, an early sign of his fealty to one God. Late Abraham asks for God’s forgiveness. In another episode in the Qur’an Abraham escaped from a fiery furnace to which he been sent for expressing his devotion to Allah.

Muslims believe that both Sarah and Hagar were Abraham's wives. After Ishmael was born, Sarah demanded that he and Hagar be banished from the tribes. According to the Qur’an, Ishmael went to Mecca. Muhammad is believed to be one of his descendants.

Book:”Abraham: A Journey in the Heart of Three Faith” by Bruce Feiler (William Morrow, 2002)

Ibrahim - the Muslim View of Abraham

Abraham is called Ibrahim by Muslims. They see him as the father of the Arab people as well as the Jewish people through his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael (Isma'il in Arabic). Dr. Mona Siddiqui, a lecturer in Islamic Studies, wrote for the BBC: “Abraham is a very interesting figure because he is depicted in the Qur'an as somebody who, from a very early age, had problems trying to understand God and trying to discover God; being restless, knowing that perhaps the Pagan environment which he was in did not have the answers. That, ultimately, God was not the star or the sun or the wind or the moon - all these forces that he saw - God was in something else. And so from that perspective, Abraham is considered to be neither a Jewish person, nor a Christian person nor a Muslim, but somebody who is a hernif - somebody who essentially and intrinsically knows that there is really only one God. And he is praised for this essential and innate yearning to discover the unity of God. [Source: Dr. Mona Siddiqui, senior lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Glasgow University, BBC, April 9, 2009 |::|]

Abraham's tomb

“There have been thousands of prophets and numbers of messengers but there are only four or five that have been designated a specific title according to Islam: Jesus is one, Moses is one and the Prophet Muhammad is one but also Abraham, who is known as a friend of God. Abraham had a specific allocation given to him by God, which is that from his progeny will be all the prophets and from them - for Muslims - comes Muhammad. But he does have a relationship with God: first of all he is baffled as to how he has a son at such a late stage through Hagar and then through Sarah. |::|

“The tradition of God testing Abraham's devotion to him by asking him to sacrifice Ishmael is the heart of the Abrahamic tradition and the Abrahamic stories. Abraham was the first Prophet who was asked for the ultimate sacrifice: "I want you to sacrifice your own flesh and blood for me". And he passed the test because he was prepared to do it, in his submission and devotion to God. |Many of the stories in the Qur'an that relate to Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael are about their flights from Sarah and also about Abraham trying to set up another dwelling, another place with Hagar and his son Ishmael. |::|

“Much of what Islamic tradition is about - and even some of the rituals such as the Hajj - stem from the pre-Islamic era and are translated into Islamic rituals through Abraham. Hagar looked for water and ran between two hills, which is enacted in the Hajj ceremony as a symbolic gesture of what Hagar was doing - looking for water - and pilgrims do that. God says to Abraham, "I'd like you to build my house for me..." - that is a Kaaba - " on this mound of earth, in this sacred place and I'd like you to erect the walls and I want you to purify this place." Part of this purification is what we see today in the Kaaba. The Islamic tradition has restricted this purity ritual to Muslims only. However the second ambulation that pilgrims do in praise of God is actually a legacy left from pre-Islamic days when pilgrims also came to the Kaaba - not to worship the one God, but to worship idols. There are various things that are part of the Abrahamic story, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice which is carried out on the last day of Hajj. As a symbolic gesture, Muslims re-enact what Abraham was going to do with Ishmael by sacrificing a lamb or sheep.” |::|

Abraham in the Qur’an

Abraham Sends Hagar
and Ishmael Away
Eliazear Segal wrote: “Interestingly, the descriptions of Abraham's life as found in the Qur’an are strongly influenced by Jewish traditions. They incorporate many events not mentioned in the biblical accounts, such as Abraham's disputes with his idol-worshipping father and his conflict with the wicked king Nimrod who cast him into a fiery furnace. All this provides ample proof that Muhammad had Jewish teachers. The story of the akedah also found its way into the Qur’an (37:103), where the story conforms in most respects with the biblical version. Later Islamic tradition took it for granted that the sacrificed son was actually Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs. [Source: Eliazear Segal: “Abraham, Our Father and Theirs,” University of Calgary |+|]

“Yet another aspect of the complex inter-relationships between Judaism, Christianity and Islam is demonstrated by the following example. The covenant between God and Abraham, as described in Genesis 15, is accompanied by a queer ceremony of splitting the carcasses of various animals into pieces. Verse 11 relates, "And the birds of prey came down upon the carcases, and Abraham drove them away." A medieval Yemenite midrashic anthology, the Midrash Ha-Gadol, explains this as meaning that "when Abraham laid the halves of the pieces over against each other, they became alive and flew away," this being God's way of demonstrating to him the doctrine of Resurrection of the Dead. This detail is not mentioned, as far as I am aware, by any talmudic source, though it is alluded to in the Arabic translation of the great 10th Century scholar Rav Saadya Ga'on, who interpreted the Hebrew phrase vayashev otam Avram, normally rendered as "Abram drove [the birds] away," as "Abraham revived them." |+|

“The earliest attested version of the legend seems to be the following: And when Abraham said: "Lord show me how you will revive the dead," He said, "What, do you not yet believe?" Said he, "Yea, but that my heart may be quieted." He said, "Then take four birds, and take them close to yourself; then put a part of them on every mountain; then call them, and they will come to you in haste; and know that God is mighty, wise."|+|

“The source for this midrash? It is found in the Qur’an (2:260)! It would appear possible that later Jewish commentators were making free use of an Islamic tradition that provided corroboration for the Jewish belief in resurrection. The desire to find biblical support for the crucial doctrine of resurrection had long preoccupied the talmudic Rabbis, and Muhammad's exegesis offered a convenient proof-text. The interpretation sounded so "orthodox" that its true origin was eventually forgotten. The possibility should not however be discounted that Muhammad himself may have been citing an originally Jewish teaching which was not preserved in our own sources.” |+|

Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael

Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness

Afterwards Isaac was born, Hagar and Ishmael were cast out by Sarah, who wanted to make sure that the younger Isaac became Abraham’s heir. Throughout the sections in Genesis about Abraham, Sarah demonstrates that she was no pushover and that she was a partner of Abraham. One rabbi told National Geographic she was the first great feminist.

God took Sarah’s side this time on the Hagar issue but promised to make a great nation out of Ishmael. He told Abraham “through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slave girl’s son, too I will make a nation, for he is your seed.” Arabs later embraced the reference to a “nation” to mean them and a reference to 12 sons to be 12 Arab tribes. Some trace the animosity between Jews and Muslims back to this legendary act.

Hagar and Ishmael moved to the desert, where they were protected by God. Genesis says little else about them other than that Ishmael “became a seasoned bowman.” According to Muslim, tradition, Hagar and Ishmael moved to Mecca, where they lived in a small house. Abraham came often to visit. Ishmael was buried next to the Kaaba.

In the 1970s, archaeologists working in Beersheba claimed they had found a well that could have been used by Hagar after she was banished into the desert. Later it was revealed that the well was dated only to the second century B.C.

Abraham Nearly Sacrifices His Son

In Beersheba, Abraham had a vision in which God told him to take Isaac “to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on the mountains,” meaning Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, the precious heir to God’s promise. Abraham obeyed the first part of the order and took his son to Mount Moriah (later the site of Solomon’s Temple and the present-day Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem.

On Mount Moriah, Abraham erected an altar. He tied up Isaac and placed him on a pile of wood. Just as Abraham raised his knife to kill his son, according to Genesis 22:4, God sent an angel to tell Abraham: “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad and do nothing to him. Now I know thou fearest God...Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore.” Instead of Isaac a ram was grabbed from a nearby thicket and offered to God as a sacrifice.

20120509-Safricce isaace Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_035.jpg
Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt
Christians tend to see the idea of a sacrificial son as a hint of what will happen later with Jesus; Jews tend to view the event as a parable of the suffering of the chosen people. The story of Abraham and his son also shows that human sacrifice was a real possibility in Biblical times. Jewish scholar Isaac Elchanan of New York's Yeshia University told Time, "Why did God test Abraham? So the world would know that if anyone tells you, "I am committing murder in the name of God, he's a liar."

The sacrifice has been topic of discussion among intellectuals and scholars and even pop singers. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “Though Abraham aroused my admiration, he at the same time appalls me.” Bob Dylan wrote: “Abe says, “Where do you want the killin’ done? God says, Out on Highway 61.'”

Muslim Perspective of Abraham’s Near Sacrifice of His Son

Muslims tend to see the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son as a test of obedience. To commemorate the event all Muslims who can afford to must sacrifice a sheep, goat, camel or cow in memory of the great sacrifice and Abraham's submission to the will of God.

Muslims believe that Ishmael not Isaac was nearly sacrificed. The Qur’an mentions the sacrifice but doesn’t mention which son or the place it took place. According to Sura 37:102, 112, Abraham said, “Oh my son! I see in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice. When Abraham showed his willingness to comply, God promised another son, Isaac.” Because Isaac was mentioned here, Muslim scholars a few decades after Muhammad’s death reasoned that the son who was nearly sacrificed had to be Ishmael. Many Muslims believe the aborted sacrifice took place in Mecca.

In the Qur’anic version of the sacrifice, Abraham tell his son of God’s plan and his son replies: “O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast.” The Korean then says “they has both surrendered.” After the aborted sacrifice is over Allah tells Abraham. “Lo. I have appointed thee a leader for mankind.”

Muslims believe Abraham and Ishmael were commanded by God to build the Kaaba — the most revered object in Islami. The Qur’an states that “Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the House. The “House” is the Kaaba. Abraham and Ishmael dug it from the sands in the desert. See the Kaaba Under Muslims and Islam.

Noah in the Qur’an

The Qur’an story of Noah goes: “Prophets are the messengers of Allah who came from time to time to guide mankind to the way of Allah, the path of righteousness. Amongst the many who came as guides and warners to the people, Prophet Noah (Alaihisalam) was one of them. He lived long before the time of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alaihi wasalam), the last of the prophets. God appointed Noah as the prophet for his people, so as to guide them to the right path and turn them away from their evil ways. The Holy Qur’an tells us the story of Prophet Noah and his people in a number of suras [3], namely sura 57 (Nuh), sura 11 (Hud), and sura 23 (al-Mu’minun), and many ayats [4] therein. It tells us of the strong faith which the Prophet had in Almighty God and about the final destruction of those who ignored the Divine Message. [Sources: Holy Qur’an with narritive filled in by Jehangir A. Merchant,, October 4, 2011 |~|]

“Commanding Prophet Noah to warn his people, God said: “Warn your people before there comes upon them a grievous penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 57:61 Obeying the command of God, Prophet Noah went to his people and said: “I have come to you with a clear warning that you worship none but God. Verily I fear for you the penalty of a grievous day.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:25-26. |~|

Noah in a 16th century Muslim Mogul painting

The chiefs fearing they would lose their power and authority over the people they ruled, did not approve of what Prophet Noah was preaching and sought to detract the people from the True Path. They argued with the Prophet saying: “We see nothing special in you except as a man like ourselves. Nor do we see any who have followed you but those who are the meanest amongst us and immature in judgment. Nor do we see in you any excellence over us; in fact we think you are a liar.” —Holy Qur’an, 11:27 |~|

Prophet Noah was not perturbed by their derogatory remarks and continued his divine mission purposefully. He called upon his people in a very polite and loving manner to mend their ways. He also warned them of the grievous consequences which would follow if they continued to worship the false gods and lead an immoral life. Assuring them that he was not seeking any wealth or power or favours from them, he said: “And O my people! I ask you for no wealth in return: my reward is from none but God.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:29 |~|

But the chiefs continued to hinder Prophet Noah in his mission by instigating doubts about Noah. They would say to the people: “He is no more than a man like yourselves. His wish is to assert superiority over you. If God had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down Angels. Never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:24. The chiefs would then turn in anger towards the Prophet and challenge him arrogantly: “O Noah! Indeed you have disputed with us and you have prolonged the dispute: now bring upon us what you have threatened us with, if you are of the Truthful Ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:32 |~|

“Prophet Noah would then remind them that it was not in his but God’s power to punish them for their evil ways. “Truly God will bring it on you if He wills, — and then, you will not be able to frustrate it.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:33 But all his warnings, his good advices and counsels seemed to fall on deaf ears. Except for a very few who had followed his guidance, others continued to worship the idols of stone with different names as attested in the following verse: “And they have said (to each other) ‘Abandon not your gods: abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa, neither Yaguth nor Yauq, nor Nasr.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:23 |~|

Prophet Noah re-doubled his efforts but all to no avail. He would then cry out to his Lord: “O my Lord! I have called to my people by night and by day, but my call only (increases their) flight (from the True Path). And every time I have called to them, that You may forgive them, they have thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, grown obstinate and given themselves up to arrogance. So, I have called to them aloud: further I have spoken to them in public and secretly in private.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:5-9 |~|

Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an

Muslim painting of Noah's Ark

The Qur’an story of Noah goes: “As the people became more obstinate and refused to accept God’s message accusing Prophet Noah of falsehood, God decided to bring down His punishment upon the unbelievers. To Prophet Noah, God commanded: “Construct the Ark within Our sight and under Our guidance. Then when comes Our command, and the fountains of the earth gush forth, take on board pairs of every species, male and female, and your people except those of them against whom the Word has already been issued: and address Me not in respect of those who are unjust; for verily they shall be drowned (in the flood).” — Holy Qur’an, 23:27 [Sources: Holy Qur’an with narritive filled in by Jehangir A. Merchant,, October 4, 2011 |~|]

As commanded, Prophet Noah now set upon the task of building the Ark with the help of the small group of believers. The sight of Prophet Noah and his men constructing the Ark seemed to amuse the chiefs and unbelievers. They did not realise the seriousness of the situation but only laughed and jeered. “Whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they mocked at him…” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38 |~|

Prophet Noah would now answer back to their mocking comments in a very bold and straight-forward manner: “…If you ridicule us now, verily we too shall mock at you, even as you mock (at us). But soon will you know who it is on whom will descend a penalty which will cover them with shame and upon whom will fall a lasting penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38-39 |~|

Noah and the Flood in the Holy Qur’an

The Qur’an story of Noah goes: “When the Ark was completed, Prophet Noah took with him his family and the believers, and a pair of every creature that was found on the land around him. Now God’s warning to the people that He would send floods upon them came to pass. “At length, behold! there came our Command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:40 [Sources: Holy Qur’an with narritive filled in by Jehangir A. Merchant,, October 4, 2011 |~|]

The flood waters began to rise. Believers who had so far suffered at the hands of the chiefs and idol worshippers found themselves safe in Noah’s Ark. They offered their prayers and prostration to Almighty God as thanksgiving for the Mercy He had bestowed upon them. The unbelievers who had ignored God’s guidance were in a grievous state. All was lost to them. The heavy downpour of rain, the strong winds, the deafening thunder and the blinding lightning created confusion in their minds and fear in their hearts. They ran helter-skelter in search for safety. They climbed the roof-tops and the trees but nothing could save them now as the waters rose higher and higher. |~|

Amongst the unbelievers was Prophet Noah’s own son, and he too was desperately trying to save himself from the flood waters. Prophet Noah’s Ark with all aboard was sailing safely on the waters and just when the Prophet saw his son he called out to him and said: ‘O my son! embark with us and be not with the unbelievers’. The son replied: ‘I will betake myself to some mountain, it will save me from the flood’. And Noah said: ‘This day nothing can save you from what God has decreed, for only those on whom He has Mercy will be saved’. And the waves came between them and the son was among the drowned ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:42-43 |~|

Finally, when all the unbelievers were drowned in the flood, God commanded: “O Earth! swallow up your water, and O Sky! withhold your rain! and the water abated and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:44. As the ark rested on Mount Judi, Prophet Noah prayed: “O my Lord! enable me to disembark with Your Blessings, for You are the Best of all to enable us to disembark.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:29 |~|

Al Biruni on Noah and the Flood

16th century Mogul Noah's Ark

Al Biruni (973-1048 CE), one of the earlist Arabic historians, wrote in “The Existing Monuments or Chronology” (c. 1030): “The next following era is the era of the great deluge, in which everything perished at the time of Noah. Here, too, there is such a difference of opinions, and such a confusion, that you have no chance of deciding as to the correctness of the matter, and do not even feel inclined to investigate thoroughly its historical truth. The reason is, in the first instance, the difference regarding the period between the Era of Adam and the Deluge, which we have mentioned already; and secondly, that difference, which we shall have to mention, regarding the period between the Deluge and the Era of Alexander. For the Jews derive from the Torah, and the following books, for this latter period 1,792 years, whilst the Christians derive from their Torah for the same period 2,938 years. [Source: Al Biruni (973-1048): “The Existing Monuments or Chronology” (c. 1030),Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 92-96., Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

“The Persians, and the great mass of the Magians, deny the Deluge altogether; they believe that the rule of the world has remained with them without any interruption ever since Gayomard Gilshah, who was, according to them, the first man. In denying the Deluge, the Indians, Chinese, and the various nations of the East, concur with them. Some, however, of the Persians admit the fact of the Deluge, but they describe it in a different way from what it is described in the books of the prophets. They say, a partial deluge occurred in Syria and the West at the time of Tahmurath, but it did not extend over the whole of the then civilized world and only a few nations were drowned in it; it did not extend beyond the peak of Hulwan, and did not reach the empires of the East. Further, they relate, that the inhabitants of the West, when they were warned by their sages, constructed buildings of the kind of the two pyramids that have been built in Egypt, saying: "If the disaster comes from heaven we shall go into them; if it comes from the earth, we shall ascend above them." People are of opinion that the traces of the water of the Deluge, and the efforts of the waves, are still visible on these two pyramids half-way up, above which the water did not rise. Another report says, that Joseph had made them a magazine where he deposited the bread and victuals for the years of drought.

“It is related that Tahmurath on receiving the warning of the Deluge—231 years before the Deluge — ordered his people to select a place of good air and soil in his realm. Now they did not find a place that answered better to this description than Ispahan. Thereupon, he ordered all scientific books to be preserved for posterity and to be buried in a part of that place least exposed to obnoxious influences. In favor of this report we may state that in our time in Jay, the city of Ispahan, there have been discovered hills, which, on being excavated, disclosed houses, filled with many loads of that tree-bark with which arrows and shields are covered and which is called Tuz, bearing inscriptions, of which no one was able to say what they are and what they mean.

“These discrepancies in their reports inspire doubts in the student, and make him inclined to believe what is related in some books, that Gayomard was not the first man, but that he was Gomer ben Yaphet ben Noah, that he was a prince to whom a long life was given, that he settled on the Mount Dumbawand, where he founded an empire, and that finally his power became very great, whilst mankind was still living in elementary conditions, similar to those at the time of creation and of the first stage of the development of the world. Then he, and some of his children, took control of the guidance of the world. Toward the end of his life, he be came tyrannical, and called himself Adam, saying: "If anybody calls me by another name than this, I shall cut off his head."

Asiya finds Moses from the Muslim Moses story

Qur’an on Mary, Moses and Jonah

The Qur’an reads: “Relate in the book the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then we sent to her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. |::|

The Qur’an reads: “And before this, was the Book of Musa as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms it in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as glad tidings to those who do right. |::|

The Qur’an reads: “So also was Jonah among those sent by Us. When he ran away like a slave from captivity to the ship fully laden, he agreed to cast lots, and he was condemned: Then the big fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame. |::|

Muslim Moses

Despite the honor in which Abraham is held, the predominant figure in the Qur’an is Moses. He is mentioned more than 100 times in the chapters from the Meccan period alone. The angels refer to the Qur’an in one passage as "a Scripture revealed since the time of Moses, confirming previous Scriptures" (46.30).

Moses (known as “Musa” to Muslims) is mentioned in 73 passages in the Qur’an and is referred to by name more than Muhammad. Sura 19:51 says that he was “specifically chosen” by Good and Sura 28:14 states that God gave Moses “wisdom and knowledge.” The Book of Moses is described as a “Light and Guide.” Two miracles performed by Moses — the turning of a staff into a serpent and making a hand glow when placed under his arm — are offered as proof of his status as prophet. The Qur’an describes the Biblical stories of golden calf and plagues of Egypt. The parting of the Red Sea is mentioned twice.

Not all the stories about Moses in the Qur’an are found in the Bible. When Muhammad takes his night journey after his death from Medina to Jerusalem to heaven it is Moses that suggests the daily number of prayers be reduced from 50 to five. Also while traveling in the Sinai Moses meets with a “servant of God” who instructs Moses about the knowledge of God.

A fisherman showed journalist Harvey Edwards two flat flounderlike fish. "He slapped two of the fish together in sandwich fashion. Since each looked rather like half a fish, both of its eyes being on one side, the two together looked remarkably like a sing fish. 'Called “samal Musa” , Musa fish!' he announced. 'When Musa split the waters, these fish get cut in two. Now that way forever."☼

Muslim Jesus

Jesus (known to Muslims as Isa or Issa) is regarded as a major prophet and a highly esteemed messenger of God. He mentioned by name in the Qur’an six times as much as Muhammad himself. The sayings of Muhammad and other Islamic literature are full of references to Jesus and sayings attributed to him. Sura 19-33 in the Chapter of Mary: “Peace be upon Jesus Christ who says: “peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected.”

Muslims believe Jesus was “the Messiah...the Messenger of God, and His Word...a Spirit from Him” but do not recognize him as the son of God. The Qur’an condemns the view that he is the son of God as blasphemous and rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and polytheistic. Sura 4:171 reads: “So believe in God and God’s messengers. And do not speak of a trinity; it is best for you to refrain. God is one sole divinity, too transcendent to have a son, in possession of all in the heavens and in Earth. And God is a good enough patron.”

Muslim version of the Annuncation (the annoucement of the coming birth fo Christ)

In the Qur’an, Jesus is portrayed as a prophet who, like Muhammad, preaches the word of God and is rejected by his people (the Jews). He predicts that he will be succeeded by Muhammad; he doesn’t die after he is crucified (he is rescued by Allah and taken directly to heaven, with a phantom taking his place on the cross at Cavalry); and like the other prophets is scheduled to return to earth in the final days before the Last Judgement. Sura 4:157-158 reads: “They did not kill him, they did not crucify him although it was made to seem thus to them...They surely not kill him: rather God raised him yo yo the Divine Presence: and God is almighty, most wise.”

In the New Testament Jesus rises to Heaven to be with God after his crucifixion during the Ascension. During the Muslim version of the Ascension, extrapolated from a verse in the Qur’an, Muhammad ascends to the throne of God. There is nothing like a crucifixion for Muhammad because Muslims regard it as inconceivable for Allah to let one his prophets to be executed as a criminal. Sura 4:157-8 reads: the Jews “did not kill him or crucify him, but it appeared so them...but God raised him to himself.”

Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet not divine. In the Qur’an, he is born in an oasis under a palm tree. Some Muslims think he ascended to heaven just before the Roman soldiers came to take him away and Judas, the disciple who betrayed him, is transformed into his likeness and crucified rather Jesus. According to Islamic tradition, Jesus is alive and will return to defeat evil.

Many Muslim scholars recognize the Jesus story told in the Gospel of Barnabas, a gospel not included in the canon of the early Christian church and ascribed to Barnabas, a friend of Paul. It overlaps with parts of the gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John but does not present Jesus as the Son of God. Muslims like the account because it supports the Qur’anic teaching that Jesus, though born to a virgin, was not divine but one of he last great prophets.

In the late 2000s, a $5-million, Iranian-made film called “Jesus, the Spirit” was widely seen in the Muslim world. Edited down from 1,000-minute-long series that aired on Iranian television, it was made by the Iranian director Nader Talebzadeh based on the Barnabas Gospel account of Jesus’s life. The Mel Gibson film about Jesus’s final hours, “The Passion” was also widely seen in the Muslim world.

See Qur’an and Bible, Views of Jesus by Other Religions, Christianity

Islamic Mary

Mary and Jesus in an old Persian miniature

Mary, who is known to Muslims as Miriam, is greatly revered in Islam. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. An entire Qur’anic Sura (chapter) is devoted to her. The Qur’an states that God “accepted her with gracious reception and caused her to grow beautifully” (3;37). She is described as a “woman of truth” and an ideal believer. Her father “guarded her chastity” and the angels told here: “God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you over the woman of all peoples.”

A Muslim story on the birth of Mary has her mother saying: “My Lord, I devote what is in my womb exclusively to the service of God, so accept this from me, for You are the all-hearing, the all-knowing.” Mary’s mother said she was expecting to have a boy, whom she would dedicate to the priesthood at the Temple in Jerusalem. When she gave birth to a girl Mary’s mother said, “My Lord, I have given birth to a girl...And I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her progeny to Your protection from Satan the accursed.”

Mary’s gender, the Muslim story, continues, prevented he from becoming a priest but she found a place for herself in the Temple and decided to devote herself to God. God rewarded her by choosing her to give birth a special prophet, Jesus. An early Arab source described the prophet Muhammad using an image of Mary to protect himself while the pagan images were being cast out of the Kaaba.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: ; Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art,, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

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