Qisas al-Anbiya

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The Qaṣaṣ ul-Anbiyāʾ (Arabic: قصص الأنبياء) or Stories of the Prophets is any of various collections of stories adapted from the Quran and other Islamic literature, closely related to exegesis of the Qur'an. Similar to haggadic texts, the qusas are often didactical.[1] In early period of Islam, they were inseparable from tafsir, but developed into a distinct genre later.[1] One of the earliest to survive is the Kitāb badʾ al-khalq wa-qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ of Umara ibn Wathima (died 902).[2] One of the best-known is a work composed by the Persian author Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm bin Mansūr bin Khalaf of Neyshābūr (a city located in Khorasan, Northeast Iran) the 12th century AD (AH 5th century); another was composed by Muhammad al-Kisai сirca 1200 AD;[3] others include the Tarikh al-rusul wa-l-muluk by al-Tabari (839 - 923 CE),[4] the Ara'is al-Majalis by al-Tha'labi (d. 1035, AH 427) and the Qasas al-Anbiya by Ibn Kathir (d. 1372, AH 774).


Pharaoh watches a serpent devour a demon in the presence of Musa; from a manuscript of Qisas al-Anbiya, c. 1540.

Because the lives of biblical figures—the Muslim prophets or أنبياء anbiya—were covered only briefly in the Qur'an, scholars, poets, historians, and storytellers felt free to elaborate, clothing the bare bones with flesh and blood. Authors of these texts drew on many traditions available to medieval Islamic civilization such as those of Asia, Africa, China, and Europe. Many of these scholars were also authors of commentaries on the Qur'an; unlike Qur'an commentaries, however, which follow the order and structure of the Qur'an itself, the Qiṣaṣ told its stories of the prophets in chronological order – which makes them similar to the Jewish and Christian versions of the Bible. The narrations within the Qisas Al-Anbiya, are not about historical accuracy, but rather about wisdom and moral teachings.[5]

The Qiṣaṣ thus usually begins with the creation of the world and its various creatures including angels, and culminating in Adam. Following the stories of Adam and his family come the tales of Idris, Nuh, Shem, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Ismail and his mother Hajar, Lut, Ishaq, Yaqub and Esau, Yousuf, Shuaib, Musa and his brother Aaron, Khidr, Joshua, Josephus, Eleazar, Elijah, Samuel, Saul, Dawud, Sulaiman, Yunus, Dhul-Kifl and Dhul-Qarnayn all the way up to and including Yahya and Isa son of Maryam. Sometimes the author incorporated related local folklore or oral traditions, and many of the Qiṣaṣ al-'Anbiyā''s tales echo medieval Christian and Jewish stories.


In the Umayyad Caliphate, they paid story tellers to preach about religion to the people. Along with preachers during the Friday prayers, they were the first paid functionaries of Islamic religion. In the following epochs, they have not been paid anymore, became associated with folkloric preachers and have been disregarded by institutional scholars (ulama).[6]

Since the Medieval Age, Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ designated a distinct genre of Islamic literature.[7] However, they were never considered as binding or authoritative by theologians. Instead, the purpose of the Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ was to offer Muslims complementary material on the basis of the Quran, to explain the signs of God, and the reason for the advent of the prophets.[8]

During the mid-16th century, several gorgeously illuminated versions of the Qiṣaṣ - such as Zubdat al-Tawarikh and Siyer-i Nebi - were created by Ottoman authors and miniature painters. According to Milstein et al., "iconographical study [of the texts] reveals ideological programs and cliché typical of the Ottoman polemical discourse with its Shi‘ite rival in Iran, and its Christian neighbors in the West."[9]

Islamic scholars and theologians have consistently regarded the writings in Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ as undependable for studying the lives of Prophets or for historical research; viewing the work with disapproval.[10] Abdul Wahhab Najjar's (1862-1941) modern Qiṣaṣ explains the stories of the prophets solely based on Quranic sources, being diametrically opposed to the Medieval tractats of the same title. However, they share the chronological structure of earlier Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ and a summary of the prophetic moral lessons.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schöck, Cornelia (11 October 2021). Adam im Islam (in German). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 978-3-11-240112-5.
  2. ^ Khoury, Raif Georges (2000). "ʿUmāra b. Wat̲h̲īma". In Bearman, P. J.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. & Heinrichs, W. P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Volume X: T–U (2nd ed.). Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 835–836. ISBN 978-90-04-11211-7.
  3. ^ Kristen E. Kvam, Linda S. Schearing, Valarie H. Ziegler. Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender. — P. 191.
  4. ^ De Nicola, Bruno, Sara Nur Yıldız, and A. C. S. Peacock, eds. Islam and Christianity in medieval Anatolia. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015.
  5. ^ Itzchak Weismann, Mark Sedgwick, Ulrika Mårtensson Islamic Myths and Memories: Mediators of Globalization Routledge, 6 May 2016 ISBN 978-1-317-11221-1 p. 194
  6. ^ Lutz Berger "Islamische Theologie", Facultas Verlags- und Buchhandels AG 2010 isbn 978-3-8252-3303-7 p. 19
  7. ^ Andrew Rippin The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation isbn 9781351963626 p. 316
  8. ^ Andrew Rippin The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation isbn 9781351963626 p. 319
  9. ^ Stories of the Prophets Archived 3 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Rippin, Andrew; Pauliny, Jan (2017). "16: Some remarks on the Qisas al-Anbiya works in Arabic Literature". The Qur'an: Formative Interpretation. 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA: Routledge. pp. 320–321. ISBN 978-0-86078-701-3. Islamic theological circles have never considered qisas al-anbiya works of either type as a reliable source.. All Islamic theologians until the present day have maintained a negative attitude toward qisas al-anbiya works{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  11. ^ Andrew Rippin The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation isbn 9781351963626 p. 322


External links[edit]

Media related to Qisas Al-Anbiya at Wikimedia Commons