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Biblical narratives and the Quran

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Title: Biblical narratives and the Quran  
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Subject: Islamic view of miracles, Quran, List of people mentioned by name in the Quran, The verse of purification, Islamic views on slavery
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Biblical narratives and the Quran

The Qur'an, the central religious text of Islam, contains references to more than fifty people and events also found in the Bible. While the stories told in each book are generally comparable in most respects, important differences sometimes emerge. Anything in the Bible that agrees with the Qur'an is accepted by Muslims, and anything in the Bible that disagrees with the Qur'an is not accepted by Muslims. Many stories in the Bible are not mentioned at all in the Qur'an; with regard to such passages, Muslims are instructed to maintain neutral positions, but to read them and pass them on if they wish to do so.

Often, stories related in the Qur'an tend to concentrate on the Islamic moral or spiritual significance of events rather than the details.[1]

From a modern scholarly perspective, similarities between Biblical and Quranic accounts of the same person or event are evidence for the influence of pre-existing traditions on the composition of the Qur'an.[2] From a traditionalist Muslim perspective, such a discussion makes no sense, since Muslims believe that the Qur'an was sent from God through the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad in a series of revelations, and this divinely revealed text was then progressively dictated (word for word, and over and over again to make certain that there were no mistakes) by Muhammad to the followers of Islam. Moreover, Muslims believe that the Biblical tradition was corrupted over time, whereas the Qur'anic tradition was uncorrupted.

Torah narratives

Adam and Eve (آدم Adam and حواء Hawwaa)

According to one of the various Genesis creation narratives, God initially created the first human, a man named Adam, from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; thereafter God created a woman named Eve from one of Adam's ribs. God placed them in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden, telling them to eat any food there they wished, except that from a single tree, the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil", on the understanding that if they did eat from the tree, they would immediately die.[3] According to the story, a Serpent (often believed to be Satan) tempted them to partake of fruit from the tree, telling them that they would become like the Gods themselves by doing so; both then ate from it. Immediately thereafter, they became ashamed and covered their nakedness with leaves.[4] God questioned them concerning their actions, reminding them of His command to not eat of the tree.[5] He next put enmity between the woman and the serpent, and between humans and the 'tempter',[6] then forced Adam and Eve to leave the garden, following which these two humans then populated the earth.[7]

According to the Islamic creation narrative in the Qur'an, before creating Adam from clay by uttering the simple word "Be",[8] God informed the Angels of His divine plan to "create a vicegerent on earth". When they asked him "will You place therein one who will do harm and shed blood, while we, we hymn Your praise and sanctify You?" He said: "Surely I know that which you know not."[9] After creating Adam, God taught him the names of all things as well as those of the Angels, which Adam then repeated correctly after the Angels were unable to comply when God asked them to do so from their own knowledge.[10] God next commanded all of the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam, to honour God's new creation and to display obedience to God.[11][12][13] All of them did except for Iblis (thereafter known as Shaitaan), a jinn who was arrogant and refused to comply because he thought Adam was inferior to him because he was created from clay, while Iblis was create from fire. Shaitaan subsequently swore to mislead mankind from the "straight path of God",[14] and God responded to his arrogance and disobedience by expelling him from Paradise.

The Qur'an says that Adam and his wife were misled by Shaitaan, who tempted them with immortality and a kingdom that never decays,[15] saying: "Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live for ever".[16] Adam and Eve had been warned of Shaitaan's scheming against them,[17] and had been commanded by God to avoid the tree Shaitaan referred to. Although God had reminded them that there was enough provision for them "not to go hungry nor to go naked, nor to suffer from thirst, nor from the sun's heat",[18] they ultimately gave in to Shaitaan's temptation and partook of the tree anyway. Following this, their "nakedness appeared to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden",[19] and were subsequently sent down from Paradise onto the earth with "enmity one to another". However, God also gave them the assurance that "when there come unto you from Me a guidance, then whoso followeth My guidance, he will not go astray nor come to grief."[20]

Unlike Christianity, Islam believes that God thoroughly forgave Adam and Eve their transgression when they begged His mercy; thus, there was no "original sin" (as in Christian teaching) that was passed down from Adam to his descendants.[21]

Among the many significant differences between the stories are:

  • In the Bible, God tells the man to name the animals.[22] In the Qur'an, God teaches Adam the names "of all things" and Adam repeats them.[15]
  • In the second of the Bible's creation stories, the woman is created from the rib of the man. In the Qur'an, Eve is not mentioned by name, but it states that all mankind were created from one soul (Adam).[23][24] However, the Prophet Muhammad did confirm that Eve was created from Adam's rib (reported in a Hadith).
  • In the Bible, the forbidden tree named is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (3:5), and while its fruit is often depicted as an apple, the Bible does not describe the fruit.[25] In the Qur'an the forbidden tree is not named but Shaitaan calls it The Tree of Eternity to deceive Adam and his wife.[15]
  • In the Bible, God creates man in His own image.[26] In the Qur'an, God says "Surely the likeness of (Prophet) Isa (Jesus in Bible) is with God as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, Be, and he was."[8]
  • In the Qur'an, God tells the angels to prostrate before Adam (as a sign of respect and obedience), but Iblis (thereafter referred to as Shaitaan) refuses.[27] In the Bible, no such account is given.
  • According to the Bible, because of God's curse, serpents have to crawl and eat dust, women have to suffer in childbirth, and men have to sweat for a living. The Biblical story also states that women will suffer from periods and will bear pregnancy pain.[28] This apparently differentiates blessing and obedience from pain and sinning. According to the Qur'an, no such curse was issued. The difficulties of life on earth are what makes it different from life in paradise.

(See also: Bible: Book of Genesis:2:4,4:1, and Qur'an: Surah Al-Baqara:30-39,[29] Surah Al-A'raf:19-27,[30] and Surah Ta-Ha:115.[31]

Cain and Abel (Qābīl and Hābīl)

See Genesis 4:1-16 and Al-Ma'ida Quran 5:27–32.

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain, the eldest, and Abel, his brother. Each made sacrifices to God, but God only accepted Abel's sacrifice and offering, and not Cain's because Abel gave the best of his flocks, indicating that God came first in his heart. Cain, on the other hand, gave a sacrifice from the fruit of his ground, which shows that he was more focused upon only making a sacrifice rather than pleasing the Lord.(Gen. 4:1-7; see Al-Ma'ida Quran 5:30–32). Although God attempted to remonstrate with Cain about his attitude, Cain refused to listen and ultimately murdered his brother, Abel (see Al-Ma'ida Quran 5:30; Gen. 4:8). Cain was subsequently called to account by God, who condemned him to a lifetime of wandering and fruitless toil, while promising to take vengeance upon any who tried to avenge his brother's blood upon him. Abel, on the other hand was regarded by the Bible as righteous.

The Qu'ran relates a slightly different version:

Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to God): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: "Be sure I will slay thee." "Surely," said the former, "God doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear God, the cherisher of the worlds. For me, I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the companions of the fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong." The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones.Then God sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. "Woe is me!" said he; "Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?" then he became full of regrets. On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole mankind: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole mankind. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

Compare the last part with the Talmud Yerushalmi (Mishnayot), Mishnah Sanhedrin Tractate 4:5, and Folia 23a, and in the Talmud Bavli Folia 37a.

לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי ללמדך שכל המאבד נפש אחת [מישראל] מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו איבד עולם מלא וכל'המקיים נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קיים עולם

Therefore, humans were created singly, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul [of Israel], Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a full world; and whoever saves one soul of Israel, Scripture accounts it as if she had saved a full world. ([32])

Noah (نوح Nūḥ)

See Genesis 6:5-9:29 and mainly Hud 11:25–48 as well as Al-A'raf 7:59–64, Yunus 10:71–73, Al-Muminun 23:23–28, Ash-Shu'ara 26:105–121, Al-Qamar 54:9–16, and all of Nuh 71:1–28

Noah is described in the Bible as a righteous man who lived among a "wicked people". God decided to kill all the people through a vast flood, while saving the righteous Noah and his immediate family; so he commanded Noah to build an Ark, using God's own instructions. (Gen. 6:9-16; Hud 11:39) Noah did so and he, his family, seven pairs of birds and ″clean″ (hoofed) animals, and two of each other animal species (a female and a male) board the Ark (Gen. 6:19; Hud 11:42). Water gushes up from the ground and rains fall from the sky, flooding the earth and killing all the wicked. (Gen. 7:11-12; Al-Qamar 54:11–13). All aboard the Ark are safe until the waters retreat (Gen. 8:14 ; Hud 11:44). There is disagreement among Christians and Muslims concerning whether the flood was local or global.

There are several differences between the Biblical and Quranic versions of the story of Noah:

  • The Qur'an focuses on a dialogue between Noah and the wicked (Hud 11:32–37), in which Noah unsuccessfully attempts to remonstrate with his countrymen, who reject his message. The Bible mentions no such dialogue.
  • In the Qur'an, Noah's wife and one of his sons reject him (Hud 11:43) and die in the flood, while some people outside his family are faithful and join him (Hud 11:42). In the biblical narrative, Noah's wife together with his three sons and their wives all board the Ark, but no others.
  • In the Qur'an, the Ark is said to rest on the hills of Mount Judi (Hud 11:44); in the Bible, it is said to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4) The Al-Djoudi (Judi) is apparently a mount in the Biblical mountain range of Ararat. The Qur'an cites a particular mount in the Ararat Range, whereas the Bible just mentions the Ararat Range by name. There is a Mount Al-Djoudi in the present-day Ararat mountain range in Turkey. Thus there appears to be no conflict between the Bible and the Qur'an on this topic.

Abraham (Ibrāhīm ابراهيم)

Promised a son

See Genesis 18:1-15, 22:1-20 and Hud 11:69–74, Al-Hijr 15:51–56, As-Saaffat 37:102–109, and Adh-Dhariyat 51:24–30. Several messengers come to Abraham on their way to destroy the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham welcomes them into his tent and provides them with food. They then promise their host that Isaac (ʾIsḥāq إسحٰق) will soon be born to Abraham's wife, Sarah (Sārah سارة). Sarah laughs at the idea because she is far too old to bear children.

Genesis 18:12 "After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?"
Hud 11:72 (Yusuf Ali). “She said: "Alas for me! shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!"”

The angels rebuke her, telling her that by God's will she can bear a son. A conversation ensues in which Abraham admits that he wished God to have mercy on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sacrifices his son

In another narrative, Abraham receives a command (in his dream) from God to sacrifice his son. Abraham agrees to this and prepares to carry out the sacrifice. Before he can do so, however, God tells him to stop and gives him a replacement sacrifice. Abraham is subsequently honored for his faithfulness to God. (As-Saaffat 37:102–108; Genesis 22:2-18)

However, there are several differences between the Biblical and Qur'anic accounts:

  • In Genesis, the sacrificial son is Isaac, whereas in the Qur'an it is Ishmael (Ismā'īl إسماعيل), since it first narrates this story, followed by the account (mentioned above) of Abraham receiving the tidings of a son, Isaac (As-Saaffat 37:102–112. Therefore, Muslims believe the sacrificial son was Ishmael (Ismā'īl إسماعيل) and that this event happened prior to Isaac's birth.
  • While God seems to speak directly to Abraham in Genesis, He speaks through a vision in the Qur'an.
  • In the Qur'an, Abraham directly tells his son Ishmael (Ismā'īl إسماعيل) that he intends to sacrifice him. In Genesis, Abraham tells Isaac, that "God will provide the sacrifice."

Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah (Lūṭ لوط and "The People of Lot")

According to the Bible, after visiting Abraham, two angels go to the city of Sodom in which Abraham's nephew Lot is a foreigner. They tell him God will soon destroy the city because of the wickedness of the people. The men of the city, upon hearing that Lot is entertaining male visitors, converge upon his house and demand that the men be brought out so that they can have sex with them. Lot offers his daughters in their place, but the men insist upon raping the angels instead. After blinding the city's inhabitants, the angels tell Lot and his family to flee by night and to not look back. The following morning, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with a shower of fiery stones from the sky. Lot's wife looked back to see the burning city and was turned into a pillar of salt.[33]

The story continues further after the destruction of the twin cities, with Lot leaving Zoar (where he had fled for refuge) with his two daughters to live in a cave.[34] Fearing that all the men were dead, the daughters decided that in order to 'preserve the seed of their father' and procreate, they must have sexual intercourse with him;[35] they decide to get him into a drunken stupor so as to be able to 'lie with him' and obtain his seed.[36] And so they each sleep with their father (one each on successive nights), having intoxicated him to a point wherein he could 'perceive not',[37][38][39] and thus get impregnated by him. The Bible then continues "And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day".[40][41] The Biblical story of Lot ends here.

According to the Qur'an, Lot (or Lut, as he is called in the Qur'an) was a Prophet. He was also a nephew of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). A group of Angels visited Ibrahim as guests[42] and gave him glad tidings of a son "endowed with wisdom";[43][44] they told him that they had been sent by God to the "guilty people"[45] of Sodom,[46] to destroy them[47][48] with "a shower of stones of clay (brimstone)"[49] and deliver Lot and those who believed in him. However, Lot's wife was specifically excluded, with the angels saying "she is of those who lag behind".[50][51] The Qur'an draws upon Lot's wife as an "example for the unbelievers", as she was married to a righteous man but refused to believe in his words; hence, she was condemned to the Hellfire.[52]

According to the Qur'an, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, to which Lot had been sent with God's message, indulged in the abominable sin of homosexuality;[53][54] upon Lot's exhorting them to abandon their transgression against God, they ridiculed him,[55] threatening him with dire consequences.[54][56][57] Lot prayed to God to be saved from doing as they did;[58] when the Angels came to him, he became distressed. Knowing well the character of his people and feeling himself powerless to protect them, he said: "this is a distressful day."[59] When his people—overjoyed at the news of new visitors in the village—came to snatch them away from Lot,[60] he tried to convince them to refrain from practicing their lusts on the male visitors and offered the daughters of the world in marriage to them in exchange for the visitors release.[61][62] However, the men of Sodom were unrelenting and replied: "we have no need of thy daughters: indeed you know quite well what we want!"[63] The Qur'an describes the peoples' state then as "... they moved blindly in the frenzy of approaching death".[64] Seeing that Lot was powerless to protect them, the visitors revealed to him that they were angels sent by God to punish his people for their transgressions. They advised Lot to leave the place during the night and not look back, informing him that his wife would be left behind due to her sinful nature[65] and that they (the Angels) "...were about to bring down upon the folk of this township a fury from the sky because they are evil-doers". Keeping his faith in God, Lot left his home and the cities during the night with his family and others who believed in him;[66] only his wife stayed behind.[67]

When morning came,[68][69] God "turned the cities upside down, and rained down on them Brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer",[70][71][72] putting an end to the lives of the people and exclaiming: "so taste ye My Wrath and My Warning!" according to the Qur'an.[73] The Qur'an refers to the sites of Sodom and Gomorrah as "signs for those who understand by example", for those who "care to understand" and those who "fear a grievous penalty or a painful doom".[74][75][76] The story of Lot in the Qur'an ends after describing this event, and thereafter is used by God as an example stating "and most surely you pass by them (Sodom and Gomorrah) by the day, and at night; do you not then understand?"[77]

There are several differences between the Qur'an and Bible:

  • In the Qur'an, Lot is described a prophet, like his uncle Abraham. In Genesis (Genesis 19:1-29), Lot is not described as a prophet. In the New Testament, (2 Peter 2:7,8) Peter the Apostle describes Lot as a righteous man who was daily tormented by the lawless deeds he saw in Sodom.
  • In both the Bible and in the Qur'an, Abraham pleads for God to have mercy (Qur'an11:75; Gen. 18:24-33). In Genesis, God agrees to spare Sodom if just ten righteous men can be found there (but they are not found). In the Qur'an, God commands Abraham not to ask for mercy on them. 11:76
  • In Genesis, Lot's wife leaves with Lot but turns around briefly and God turns her into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26). In the Qur'an, there is no mention of her leaving; rather Lot and his followers were commanded by the angels not to turn, but Lot is informed that his wife will turn and look behind (quran hud 11:123), and thus be destroyed with the rest of the two cities. 11:81
  • Following the destruction of Sodom, the Bible describes an incestous event between Lot and his two daughters, at his daughters' behest, in Genesis 19:30-38. The Qur'an does not describe any such event, and Muslims reject any such occurrence .

Note that Muslims do not believe in what contradicts with the Qur'an.

(See Also: Bible: Genesis 19:1-26 . Qur'an: Surah Al-Hijr 57-77, Surah Hud 74-83, Surah Al-A'raf 80-84, Surah Ash-Shu'ara 160-174, Surah An-Naml 54-58, Surah Al-Ankabut 28-35, Surah As-Saaffat 133-138, Surah Adh-Dhariyat 31-37, and Surah Al-Qamar 36-39.)

Joseph (Yousuf يوسف)

The narratives of Joseph can be found in Genesis 37-45 and in the Qur'an 12.4-102.

In both the Bible and the Qur'an, Joseph has a vision of eleven stars and the sun and the moon all bowing to him which he shares with his family.

(Genesis 37:9) And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brothers, and said, "Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me."

(Yusuf|12.4) Behold! Joseph said to his father: "O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!"

Joseph's brothers became jealous that their father preferred Joseph over them, and so they form a plot to kill Joseph. However, one brother convinces them not to kill him but throw him down a well while they are alone. (Yusuf|12.8-10; Genesis 37:20-22) They agree. They subsequently lie to their father as to Joseph's whereabouts, covering his clothing in blood and asserting that a wild animal had attacked him. A caravan passing the well inspires the brothers to pull Joseph out of the well and to sell him as a slave to traders in the caravan. Later the traders sell him to a wealthy Egyptian. (Genesis 37:27-36; Yusuf|12.20-22)

Joseph grows up in the house of the Egyptian. When Joseph is a grown man, his master's wife tries to seduce him. Joseph resists and runs away, but is caught by other servants and reported to his master. The wife lies to her husband, saying that Joseph tried to rape her. (Yusuf|12.25; Gen. 39:12); At this point the two stories differ.

  • In the Bible, Joseph's master (named as Potiphar) refuses to believe Joseph's denial and imprisons him.
  • In the Qur'an, Joseph's master (who is only identified as "the Vizier") accepts the suggestion of another wise person to check Joseph's tunic. If it is torn from the front, the wise person asserts, it will prove Joseph a liar; but if it is torn from the back (as proves to be the case), Joseph will be vindicated and the master's wife proven a liar and an adulteress. The Vizier reprimands his wife, and permits Joseph to remain in his household. However, during a subsequent dinner party thrown by the Vizier's wife to prove the reason of her lust for Joseph, Joseph is commanded to appear before the wife and her ladyfriends; they cut their hands with knives out of lust for him, and although the Vizier again recognizes Joseph's innocence, he orders him imprisoned nevertheless.

In prison, Joseph meets two men. One has a dream of making wine and the other dreams of carrying a stack of breads that birds are eating. Joseph tells the first that he will serve the Pharaoh again and the second will be executed. Both things happen, precisely as Joseph foretold. Although Joseph asks the first man to bring his name and unjust imprisonment to the attention of the Pharaoh, (referred to in the Quran as only the King, not a Pharaoh) the first man quickly forgets about him once restored to the royal favor.

Sometime thereafter, Pharaoh had a dream:

(Genesis 41:17-24) "17.Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18.when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19.After them, seven other cows came up - scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the Land of Egypt. 20. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21.But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up." 22." In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23.After them, seven other heads sprouted - withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24.The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me."

(Quran: Yusuf|12.43) The king (of Egypt) said: "I do see (in a vision) seven fat kine, whom seven lean ones devour, and seven green ears of corn, and seven (others) withered. O ye chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that ye can interpret visions."

Pharaoh's cup-bearer, who had been previously imprisoned with Joseph, suddenly remembers his promise and tells Pharaoh about the man who foretold his own restoration to favor. Pharaoh sent to the prison, asking Joseph to interpret his dream.

In the Qur'anic account, Joseph insists that the Vizier's wife vindicate him before the king before Joseph will agree to do so (this is not mentioned in the Bible); Pharaoh summons the Vizier's wife, who admits her lies about Joseph and proclaims his innocence. The Qur'an now rejoins the Biblical narrative, where Joseph reveals the meaning of the king's dream: Egypt will have seven years of good crops followed by seven years of famine and the famine will be worse than the abundance. The king rewarded Joseph by giving him charge over the store houses and the entire land of Egypt.

During the famine, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to buy food, but the youngest was left with their father. While Joseph recognized them, they did not recognize him. He demanded that they return with the missing brother. The brothers return home and find that Joseph had hidden in their packs more than they paid for. They asked their father if they might return with the youngest brother. Reluctantly, their father allows this. They return, and after some further incidents Joseph ultimately reveals himself to his brothers. (Genesis 45:1; Yusuf| 12.90).

In both the Quran and the Bible, the missing brother is Benjamin, (Arabic: بن يامين‎) Joseph's only full blood brother. The others are half-brothers.

Moses (Mūsā موسى)

In the Bible, the narratives of Moses are in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The narratives here are mostly in Exodus 1-14 and 32. In the Qur'an, the Moses narratives are in the following passages: 2.49-61, 7.103-160, 10.75-93, 17.101-104, 20.9-97, 26.10-66, 27.7-14, 28.3-46, 40.23-30, 43.46-55, 44.17-31, and 79.15-25.

Pharaoh slew the young male children of the Israelites (II:46). Moses' mother cast Moses as an infant into a small ark. God protected him. Moses was found by the household of Pharaoh. They adopted him. Moses' sister, Miriam, had followed Moses. When he was found, she recommended that his own mother serve as nurse to him. When Moses became an adult, he saw an Egyptian fighting with an Israelite. Moses interceded and killed the Egyptian. The next day Moses saw the Israelite whom he saved. "Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" he asks. Pharaoh tried to have Moses killed and Moses fled. He went to a watering place in Midian. He met some sisters and watered their herd. When the women's father, Jethro, learned of Moses, he invited him to stay and gave him a daughter, Zipporah, to marry.

In Midian, Moses saw a fire and approached it. God spoke to him, and told him to remove his shoes. God said that he had chosen Moses. God said to throw down his staff and to stretch out his arm as signs. His staff turned into a serpent and then returned to the form of a staff. His arm became white although he was not sick. God commanded him to go to Pharaoh to deliver a message. Moses said that he could not speak well. So God provided Aaron, his brother, to help Moses speak.

God sent Moses to the court of Pharaoh. Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses. Moses threw down his staff and it became a serpent. Pharaoh's magicians also threw down their staffs which turned into snakes. But the snakes of Pharaoh's magicians were swallowed by Moses' serpent. God caused a famine. God sent plagues of locusts, frogs, blood, and destruction. God sent at least nine signs to Pharaoh but Pharaoh disregarded the first few signs and when he couldn't disregard them any longer, he agreed to let the Israelites go but after God allowed tranquility, Pharaoh still stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go so God made every first-born Egyptian son die and spared every Israelite (the first Passover). Pharaoh became hysterical and demanded that Moses and the Israelites leave at once only to pursue them with his army after their exit. Then God helped Moses lead the Israelites into a desert and across a sea. Moses struck the sea with his staff and the sea split in half exposing dry land (while creating a wall of water on each side) for the Israelites to walk through. Pharaoh and his army were catching up to the Israelites but the water returned to its original state. Pharaoh and his army drowned. (Exodus 14:7, II:47)

Moses left the Hebrews for forty nights. He put his brother Aaron in charge of the people (Al-Baqara|2.48) On a mountain, God gave Moses a revelation of precepts for Israel to follow. God made tablets with writing on them which Moses carried back to Israel.

Moses asked to see God. The people saw the fire and lightning and the mountain and are afraid. While Moses is gone, the Israelites demanded to worship an idol. They used the gold from their ornaments to construct a golden calf whom they said was the god who rescued them from Egypt. Aaron does not stop them. Then Moses returned and chastised them and Aaron. Many were killed for their action. God sent down manna and quail to eat but the Hebrews still rebelled against God, and complained about the food. Moses asked God for water and God answered him. Moses struck a stone with his staff and water came forth. The Israelites were divided into twelve tribes.

God gave the Israelites a bountiful land, but this occurred at different times in the two scriptures. Besides that and the many additional details in the Torah, there are other differences:

  • The Biblical Moses is reluctant to become a prophet and makes excuses. He eventually agrees and Aaron speaks and performs miracles at first until Moses is ready and takes over. In Quran, Aaron was made God's messenger on Moses' request to back him up in the difficult task. Moses asked God to give him human support from Family, then ask for Aaron (his brother) praising Aaron by saying that he (Aaron) is better speaker than him (Moses).
  • The sorcerers, in the Quranic story, repent after seeing Moses' signs and submit to God at the anger of Pharaoh.
  • In the Quran, Pharaoh didn't repent but tried to deceive Moses and God by saying that now he believes in one God, the God of Moses and Aaron (while drowning). But God didn't accept this because he sought repentance at the time of death after seeing the angels.
  • In the Bible, Moses first goes to Pharaoh without showing any signs.
  • In Exodus, Aaron helps make the golden calf. In the Quran, Aaron himself was a messenger of God and was representing Moses in his absences. He opposed that idea with all his might and warned the Israelites that God will be angry with them.
  • Pharaoh drowns in Exodus. In the Quran, Pharaoh drowned as well, and God said in the Qur'an that he kept pharaoh's body as an example for generations to come (or made an example for coming generations)

See also Aaron, Islamic view of Aaron, and Islamic view of Pharaoh.

Destruction of Korah (Qarun)

The story of the destruction of Korah appears in Numbers 16:1-50 in the Torah and in Al-Qasas 76-82 in the Quran. Korah was an Israelite living during the time of Moses. Because of his wickedness, God caused him to die by opening the ground and swallowing him and his home (Numbers 16:31-33; Al-Qasas|28.81). In the Qur'an, Karon is simply a rich man who is too arrogant. In the Torah, he leads a minor rebellion against Moses. God also kills the others who rebel with him and destroys their homes.

Later Hebrew Bible narratives


In the Bible, both Gideon and Saul are military leaders of Israel between the Exodus and Exile. In the Book of Judges in the Bible, Gideon is hesitant about leading the Hebrews to battle. To demonstrate God's power, God tells Gideon to observe when the troops reach a river and whoever drinks without his hands Gideon must send home. The Hebrews later have victory.

In the Qur'an, the same event happens to Saul on the way to meet Goliath. In the Biblical account of Saul and Goliath, Saul is also hesitant about the battle with Goliath's army but David wins the battle for Israel.

Saul, David and Goliath (Tālūt طالوت, Dāwūd داود and جالوت Jalut)

The story appears in 1 Samuel 8-12 and 17:1-58 and in Surah 2 246-248 and Surah 2 249-251.

A prophet of Israel appoints Saul as king after the Israelites petition the prophet for a king (Samuel 9:17; Al-Baqarah|2.247). At least a few people are not happy with Samuel's choice. Saul is going into battle with his army and is unsure about his victory. David kills Goliath, a significant warrior in the opposing army (Samuel 17:50; Al-Baqarah|2.251). In the Bible, Goliath is the champion of the Philistine army. In the Qur'an, he is the leader. The account also bears similarity to when Gideon led an army. See Mixed Similarities.

The Queen of Sheba

The story appears in 1 Kings 10:1-13 and 2 Chronicles 9: 1-13 and in verses Surah 27 20-44. The two stories have almost nothing in common. In each, the Queen of Sheba comes to visit Solomon and is impressed by his wisdom and riches. In the Bible, the visit is only diplomatic. In the Qur'an, the Queen becomes monotheist and peace is established in the kingdoms. Although not part of the Qur'an, Islamic tradition holds that the name of the Queen of Sheba is Bilqis or Balqis.

Jonah (Yunus يونس) and the "whale"

In both the Bible and the Qur'an, Jonah is swallowed by a "big fish", usually inferred to be a whale. The Book of Jonah in the Bible consists of four chapters about Jonah's mission to Nineveh. The story is referenced three times in the Qur'an: in verses 139–148 of Sura 37 (As-Saaffat) (Those who set the ranks), verses 87-88 of Sura 21: al-Anbiya' (The Prophets) and verses 48-50 of Sura 68: al-Qalam (The Pen)/Nun. It is mentioned in verse 98 of Sura 10: Yunus (Jonah) and verse 86 of Sura 6: al-An'am (The Cattle).

In the Qur'an, Jonah gets frustrated by his own people and abandons them to God's mercy, however without asking permission from God and thus going against his given responsibility. In the Quran, it is also mentioned that if Jonah had not prayed inside the belly of the fish he would have stayed in there until the Judgement day. In the Bible, Jonah pays a fare to sail to Tarshish. In both stories, he boards the ship loaded with passengers, lots are cast and Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a large fish (Jonah 1:17, As-Saaffat 37|142). After praying, he is cast out of the fish and washed ashore, and God causes a gourd to grow (37|146) or weeds (2:5). In the Bible, Jonah continues into Nineveh, and the city is spared by God. In both Bible and Quran, God causes the gourd to grow to comfort Jonah after he lies on the shore in a sickly state, Jonah (4:6), (As-Saaffat 37|145). According to an Islamic tradition however, the big fish gets frightened at first, fearing it might have swallowed a holy person as it heard prayers and supplications read in a wonderful voice from her stomach, hearing which numerous sea creatures had surrounded it. But she comforts herself later since it was God's order to swallow Jonah. After two days the fish casts him out the beach of an island and he is very weak. The gastric juices with the hot sunlight burned his skin till the point he was about to scream of pain. God causes a vine to grow over him and provide him fruit and shade. He recovers and goes back to his people who had become good after he left. According to the Quran, the number of the people he was sent towards as a prophet exceeded a hundred thousand. They believed in his message and God granted them prosperity for a long time. (As-Saaffat 37|147–148).


In the Bible, Haman was a Persian noble and vizier of the empire under Persian King Ahasuerus who desires to persecute the Jews. In the Qur'an, Haman is an adviser and builder under a Firaun(Pharaoh) of ancient Egypt whose narrative relationship with Moses is recounted in the Qur'an.

The structure which Firaun commands Haman to build is similar to the Tower of Babel in Genesis, unrelated to the narrative of Haman in the Bible. Both structures are made from burnt bricks for the purpose of ascending to the heavens.

However, it's also been suggested that these two are different individuals. The name "Haman" was in fact mentioned in old Egyptian tablets which now stand in the Hof Museum, Vienna (Walter Wreszinski, Ägyptische Inschriften aus dem K.K. Hof Museum in Wien, 1906, J. C. Hinrichs' sche Buchhandlung).

New Testament narratives

Zechariah and John (Zakariya (زكريا) and Yahya (يحيى))

The story of Zechariah is told in the Gospel of Luke 1:5-80 and Luke 3:1-22 and in the Qur'an 19.2-15. Zechariah and his wife reached an old age without bearing children. God spoke to Zechariah and told him his wife would conceive, despite her barrenness, and his name would be John. As a sign that this would happen, God struck Zechariah mute until John was born though he communicated using signs. John became a great and righteous prophet and came to confirm God's Word. Both accounts mention John's death.

The two accounts never directly disagree, but each have unique elements: In the Bible Zechariah is a priest. God speaks to him on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies. He doubts that God will act and his muteness is a sign and punishment. Muslims regard Zechariah as a Prophet and therefore claim he would never doubt God's omnipotence although in the Quranic narrative he does question how would it come about since he is an old man and his wife long barren. Upon which he is told that for God it is indeed very easy and that hasn't God created you already while you were naught. In the Quranic narrative Zechariah is also reminded that the sign he should seek for would be a muteness for three nights although without being restrained from speech, implying,[78] he simply would not find an occasion to talk to anyone. Zechariah, therefore, is found emerging from his chamber and reminding his people to celebrate the praises of the Lord through an inspirational gesture (Surah Maryam 19|1-11).

Mary ("Maryam" مريم)

Mary's story is told in the Gospel of Luke 1:26-37, 2:1-21, and Qur'an 19.16-35. In the Bible, in the sixth month after the conception of John the Baptist by Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to the Virgin Mary, at Nazareth. Mary was of the house of David, and was betrothed to Joseph, of the same royal family. And the angel having taken the figure and the form of man, came into the house and said to her: 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.' Mary having heard the greeting words did not speak; she was troubled in spirit, since she knew not the angel, nor the cause of his coming, nor the meaning of the salutation. And the angel continued and said: 'Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.' Not doubting the word of God, unlike Zachariah, but filled with fear and astonishment, she said: "How shall this be done, because I have not known a man?' The angel, to remove Mary's anxiety and to assure her that her virginity would be spared, answered: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.' In token of the truth of his word he made known to her the conception of John, the miraculous pregnancy of her relative now old and sterile: 'And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth; she also has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God.' Mary may not yet have fully understood the meaning of the heavenly message and how the maternity might be reconciled with her vow of virginity, but clinging to the first words of the angel and trusting to the omnipotence of God she said: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.'

In Luke, Mary is betrothed to Joseph but the Qur'an never mentions any man. In the Qur'an, 'her people' have a conversation with Mary accusing her of fornication. In the Bible, no such conversation happens but Joseph knows that people are thinking this.

The Quran states in the chapter named after Mary, verse 16-37: In the Book, tell the story of Maryam, when she went away from her family (for Prayer) to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to hide herself) from them; Then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her in the form of a man of respect in every way. She said: "Verily, I ask shelter from you with the Most Gracious (Allah):(Do not come near me) if you guard yourself against evil." He said: "I am a messenger from your Lord, only to announce to you, the gift of a righteous son." She said: "How shall I have a son, when no man has touched me, and I am not indecent?" He said: "It will be so: Your Lord says 'That is easy for Me: And (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign to men and a Mercy from Us': It is a thing (already) ordained." So she started to carry him (Jesus), and she went (to rest) with him to a far place. And the pains of childbirth took her to the trunk of a palm tree: She cried "Oh! If I had died before this! If I was a thing forgotten and not seen!" Then (a voice) cried to her from under the tree: "Do not feel sad! Because your Lord has made a stream underneath you; And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm tree: It will drop fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool (wet your) eye. And if you see any man, say, 'I have promised solemnly to the Most Gracious, and this day I will not enter into talk with any human being.'" At the end she brought the baby to her people, carrying baby Jesus in her arms. They said "O Maryam! Truly an amazing thing have you brought! O sister of Aaron! Your father was not an adulterous man, and your mother was not an immoral woman!" Then, she pointed to the baby. They said, "How can we talk to one who is only a child in the cradle?" He (Baby Jesus) said, "Indeed I am a servant of Allah: He has given me the Injeel (Gospel) and made me a prophet; and he has made me blessed where ever I be, and has commanded for me prayer and charity as long as I live; Allah has made me kind to my mother, and not arrogant or miserable;And Peace is on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I will be raised up alive!" Jesus, the son of Maryam was like this: It is a statement of truth, about which they dispute (uselessly). It is not suited for Almighty Allah that He should father a son. Glory to Him! When He determines anything, He only says to it, "Be", and it is. Jesus said: "And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him alone you therefore worship: That is the Straight Path." Then, the groups differed among themselves: so this is a warning to the disbelievers because of the Judgement on a great Day! (Translation: Syed Vickar Ahamed, 2007. Approved by Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy, Cairo, Egypt.)

Jesus (Isa عيسى)

Jesus takes up the whole of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the Bible, as well as being the focus of the subsequent books of the New Testament. He appears several times in the Qur'an: in verses 35-59 of Sura 3: al-Imran (The Family of Imran), verses 156-158 of Sura 4: an Nisa' (The Women), verses 109-120 of Sura 5: al-Ma'idah (The Repast), verses 16-35 of Sura 19: Maryam (Mary), verse 50 of Sura 23: al-Mu'minun (The Believers) verses 57-65 of Sura 43: az-Zukhruf (The Gold Adornments) and in verses 6 and 14 of Sura 61: as-Saff (The Battle Array). Reference is made to him several more times.

The Qur'an contains few narratives from Jesus' life, but does include many brief descriptions in common with the Bible:

  • Made the dead to live through God's help and will[79]
  • Is the Messiah (the Christ).[80]
  • Had disciples.[81]
  • His disciples were successful over disbelievers.[82]
  • Healed the blind and healed the lepers by God's will.[79]
  • Is alive in heaven now.[83]

In the Qur'an Jesus is said to have created a bird out of clay and blown life into it; and he is also said to have spoken as an infant in the cradle to defend his mother from the false accusations of fornication. These two narratives are not found in the Bible, but are in the Infancy Gospels (Non-Canonical Gospels).

The Qur'an rejects the Christian view of Jesus, specifically his divinity. According to the Qur'an, Jesus did not ask to be worshipped and Jesus asked people to worship God. Also, according to the Qur'an, God "has no partners" and believes that God never took physical form of a sin.

Other figures

The Qur'an and Bible have over 50 people in common, typically in the same narratives. The Qur'an identifies Enoch and Ishmael as prophets, but they are never given a story. In the Bible, all these men are identified as righteous people but not prophets — except Ishmael who is not written of favorably.

There is also one person mentioned in the Qur'an, Dhul-Qarnayn, who is not mentioned in the Bible by that name but whose story is similar to stories about Alexander the Great as mentioned in other Jewish and Christian writings (see Alexander the Great in the Qur'an). However Dhul-Qarnayn may also be Cyrus the Great who is mentioned in the Bible (see Cyrus (Bible) and Cyrus the Great in the Qur'an).

Mixed similarities

In several cases, the Qur'an and the Bible have common events but occur in different narrations.

Idol calf and Samaritan

In the Bible, in Moses' absence certain people who went out of Egypt with the Hebrews worship a golden calf saying "This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." Hundreds of years later, Samaria was founded and became the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam, its first king, also made two golden calves and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." Later, around 700 BC, another people group occupies Samaria called the Samaritans.

The Qur'an tells the story of a calf while Moses is gone. A man called "the Samari" Yusuf Ali or "the Samaritan" (Arberry) is blamed for protagonizing their idolatry.

A verse in Hosea 8:5-6 contains the same content as Ta-Ha|20.97 where Hosea refers to the Jeroboam calf and the Qur'an refers to the earlier calf. Both feature a prophet speaking to the Samaritan/Samaria promising to destroy the calf.

In the Qur'an, Moses' punishment that the Samari cannot be touched is the same as the modern Samaritan's punishment where no Jew was allowed to touch them because of their idolatry. In his commentary, Yusuf Ali claims that the Samari is not a Samaritan.

Miriam and Mary

In Arabic, both the names Mary and Miriam are called Maryam. Mary, mother of Jesus, is one of the females who has her name mentioned in the Quran. While speaking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Qur'an also calls her as the sister of Aaron. There is another Aaron in the Bible, namely Aaron the brother of Moses, who also had a sister Miriam. According to Muslim interpreters, this Aaron is different from the brother of Moses. Moses and Jesus were separated far apart in time, but it was a tradition to give people the names of prophets and pious persons who lived before them as mentioned in the following hadeeth:

Mughira b. Shu'ba reported: When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read" O sister of Harun" (i. e. Hadrat Maryam) in the Qur'an, whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) I asked him about that, whereupon he said: The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them. (Sheik Muslim - Adaaab Book)

Hannah and Hannah

In the Books of Samuel, Hannah is grateful that God gave her a son, Samuel. She dedicated him to God by letting him live with Eli the prophet and priest.

In the Qur'an, Mary's mother is grateful to God for Mary and dedicates her to God. Mary then lives in the household of Zechariah the prophet.

In the Bible, Zechariah is also a priest. Mary's mother has no name in the Qur'an.

See also


  1. ^ e.g. Gerald Hawting, interviewed for The Religion Report, Radio National (Australia), 26 June 2002.
  2. ^ The Orientalists,The Bible & The Qur'ân: A Brief Review Of The Bible Borrowing Theories (Islamic Awareness) - A Muslim review and critique of the notion that the Qur'an depends on earlier sources.
  3. ^ Genesis 2:17
  4. ^ Genesis 3:6-7
  5. ^ Genesis 3:9-13
  6. ^ Genesis 3:14-15
  7. ^ Genesis 5:4
  8. ^ a b [Quran 3:59]
  9. ^ [Quran 2:30]
  10. ^ [Quran 2:31-33]
  11. ^ [Quran 38:71]
  12. ^ [Quran 20:116]
  13. ^ [Quran 18:50]
  14. ^ [Quran 7:16]
  15. ^ a b c [Quran 20:120]
  16. ^ [Quran 7:20]
  17. ^ [Quran 20:117]
  18. ^ [Quran 20:118]
  19. ^ [Quran 20:121]
  20. ^ [Quran 20:123]
  21. ^ Lawrence E. Brown, M.D.,Original Sin.
  22. ^ Genesis 2:19
  23. ^ [Quran 4:1]
  24. ^ [Quran 7:189]
  25. ^ Genesis 2:9
  26. ^ Genesis 1:27
  27. ^ [Quran 7:10]
  28. ^ Genesis 3:16
  29. ^ [Quran 2:30]
  30. ^ [Quran 7:19]
  31. ^ [Quran 20:115]
  32. ^
  33. ^ (Genesis 19:5-26
  34. ^ Genesis19:30
  35. ^ Genesis19:31
  36. ^ Genesis19:32
  37. ^ Genesis19:33
  38. ^ Genesis19:34
  39. ^ Genesis19:35
  40. ^ Genesis19:37
  41. ^ Genesis19:38
  42. ^ [Quran 15:51]
  43. ^ [Quran 11:69]
  44. ^ [Quran 15:53]
  45. ^ [Quran 15:58]
  46. ^ [Quran 11:70]
  47. ^ [Quran 29:31]
  48. ^ [Quran 29:34]
  49. ^ [Quran 51:33]
  50. ^ [Quran 29:32]
  51. ^ [Quran 15:59]
  52. ^ [Quran 66:10]
  53. ^ [Quran 07:81]
  54. ^ a b [Quran 26:165]
  55. ^ [Quran 29:29]
  56. ^ [Quran 54:33]
  57. ^ [Quran 7:80]
  58. ^ [Quran 26:168]
  59. ^ [Quran 11:77]
  60. ^ [Quran 54:37]
  61. ^ [Quran 11:78]
  62. ^ [Quran 15:67]
  63. ^ [Quran 11:79]
  64. ^ [Quran 15:72]
  65. ^ [Quran 11:81]
  66. ^ [Quran 51:35]
  67. ^ [Quran 7:83]
  68. ^ [Quran 15:73]
  69. ^ [Quran 54:38]
  70. ^ [Quran 11:82]
  71. ^ [Quran 7:84]
  72. ^ [Quran 51:33]
  73. ^ [Quran 54:39]
  74. ^ [Quran 15:75]
  75. ^ [Quran 26:174]
  76. ^ [Quran 29:35]
  77. ^ [Quran 37:137]
  78. ^ [Quran 19:10]
  79. ^ a b Surah 5.110
  80. ^ Surah 3.45
  81. ^ Surah 3.52
  82. ^ Surah 3.55
  83. ^ Surah 4.158
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