History of Islam

Islam came into existance since prophet Adam(as) to prophet Muhammad(saw).
In or about the year 570 the child who would be named Muhammad and who would become the Prophet of one of the world's great religions, Islam, was born into a family belonging to a clan of Quraysh, the ruling tribe of Mecca, a city in the Hijaz region of northwestern Arabia.

Originally the site of the Ka'bah, a shrine of ancient origins, Mecca had with the decline of southern Arabia (see Chapter l ) become an important center of sixth-century trade with such powers as the Sassanians, Byzantines, and Ethiopians. As a result the city was dominated by powerful merchant families among whom the men of Quraysh were preeminent.

Muhammad's father, 'Abd Allah ibn'Abd al-Muttalib, died before the boy was born; his mother, Aminah, died when he was six. The orphan was consigned to the care of his grandfather, the head of the clan of Hashim. After the death of his grandfather, Muhammad was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. As was customary, Muhammad as a child was sent to live for a year or two with a Bedouin family. This custom, followed until recently by noble families of Mecca, Medina, Tayif, and other towns of the Hijaz, had important implications for Muhammad. In addition to enduring the hardships of desert life, he acquired a taste for the rich language so loved by the Arabs, whose speech was their proudest art, and learned the patience and forbearance of the herdsmen, whose life of solitude he first shared and then came to understand and appreciate.

About the year 590, Muhammad, then in his twenties, entered the service of a widow named Khadijah as a merchant actively engaged with trading caravans to the north. Sometime later Muhammad married Khadijah, by whom he had two sons - who did not survive - and four daughters.

During this period of his life Muhammad traveled widely. Then, in his forties he began to retire to meditate in a cave on Mount Hira outside of Mecca, where the first of the great events of Islam took place. One day, as he sat in the cave, he heard a voice, later identified as that of the Angel Gabriel, which ordered him to:

Recite: In the name of thy Lord who created, Created man from a clot of blood.

Three times Muhammad pleaded his inability to do so, but each time the command was repeated. Finally, Muhammad recited the words of what are now the first five verses of the 96th surah or chapter of the Quran - words which proclaim God the Creator of man and the Source of all knowledge.

At first Muhammad divulged his experience only to his wife and his immediate circle. But as more revelations enjoined him to proclaim the oneness of God universally, his following grew, at first among the poor and the slaves, but later also among the most prominent men of Mecca. The revelations he received at this time and those he did so later are all incorporated in the Quran, the Scripture of Islam.

Photo: The sun rises over Jabal al-Rahmah, the Mount of Mercy, where Muhammad in his farewell sermon told the assembled Muslims, "I have delivered God's message to you and left you with a clear command: the Book of God and the practice of His Prophet. If you hold fast to this you will never go astray."

Not everyone accepted God's message transmitted through Muhammad. Even in his own clan there were those who rejected his teachings, and many merchants actively opposed the message. The opposition, however, merely served to sharpen Muhammad's sense of mission and his understanding of exactly how Islam differed from paganism. The belief in the unity of God was paramount in Islam; from this all else followed. The verses of the Quran stress God's uniqueness, warn those who deny it of impending punishment, and proclaim His unbounded compassion to those who submit to His will. They affirm the Last Judgment, when God, the Judge, will weigh in the balance the faith and works of each man, rewarding the faithful and punishing the transgressor. Because the Quran rejected polytheism and emphasized man's moral responsibility, in powerful images, it presented a grave challenge to the worldly Meccans.

After Muhammad had preached publicly for more than a decade, the opposition to him reached such a high pitch that, fearful for their safety, he sent some of his adherents to Ethiopia, where the Christian ruler extended protection to them, the memory of which has been cherished by Muslims ever since. But in Mecca the persecution worsened. Muhammad's followers were harassed, abused, and even tortured. At last, therefore, Muhammad sent seventy of his followers off to the northern town of Yathrib, which was later to be renamed Medina ("The City"). Later, in the early fall of 622, he learned of a plot to murder him and, with his closest friend, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, set off to join the emigrants.

In Mecca the plotters arrived at Muhammad's home to find that his cousin, 'Ali, had taken his place in bed. Enraged, the Meccans set a price on Muhammad's head and set off in pursuit. Muhammad and Abu Bakr, however, had taken refuge in a cave where, as they hid from their pursuers, a spider spun its web across the cave's mouth. When they saw that the web was unbroken, the Meccans passed by and Muhammad and Abu Bakr went on to Medina, where they were joyously welcomed by a throng of Medinans as well as the Meccans who had gone ahead to prepare the way.

This was the Hijrah - anglicized as Hegira - usually, but inaccurately, translated as "Flight" - from which the Muslim era is dated. In fact, the Hijrah was not a flight but a carefully planned migration which marks not only a break in history - the beginning of the Islamic era- but also, for Muhammad and the Muslims, a new way of life. Henceforth, the organizational principle of the community was not to be mere blood kinship, but the greater brotherhood of all Muslims. The men who accompanied Muhammad on the Hijrah were called the Muhajirun - "those that made the Hijrah" or the "Emigrants" - while those in Medina who became Muslims were called the Ansar or "Helpers."

Muhammad was well acquainted with the situation in Medina. Earlier, before the Hijrah, the city had sent envoys to Mecca asking Muhammad to mediate a dispute between two powerful tribes. What the envoys saw and heard had impressed them and they had invited Muhammad to settle in Medina. After the Hijrah, Muhammad's exceptional qualities so impressed the Medinans that the rival tribes and their allies temporarily closed ranks as, on March 15, 624, Muhammad and his supporters moved against the pagans of Mecca.

Photo: A colonnade of lofty arches surrounds the courtyard at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, after Mecca the second holiest city of Islam.

The first battle, which took place near Badr, now a small town southwest of Medina, had several important effects. In the first place, the Muslim forces, outnumbered three to one, routed the Meccans. Secondly, the discipline displayed by the Muslims brought home to the Meccans, perhaps for the first time, the abilities of the man they had driven from their city. Thirdly, one of the allied tribes which had pledged support to the Muslims in the Battle of Badr, but had then proved lukewarm when the fighting started, was expelled from Medina one month after the battle. Those who claimed to be allies of the Muslims, but tacitly opposed them, were thus served warning: membership in the community imposed the obligation of total support.

A year later the Meccans struck back. Assembling an army of three thousand men, they met the Muslims at Uhud, a ridge outside Medina. After an initial success the Muslims were driven back and the Prophet himself was wounded. As the Muslims were not completely defeated, the Meccans, with an army of ten thousand, attacked Medina again two years later but with quite different results. At the Battle of the Trench, also known as the Battle of the Confederates, the Muslims scored a signal victory by introducing a new defense. On the side of Medina from which attack was expected they dug a trench too deep for the Meccan cavalry to clear without exposing itself to the archers posted behind earthworks on the Medina side. After an inconclusive siege, the Meccans were forced to retire. Thereafter Medina was entirely in the hands of the Muslims.

The Constitution of Medina - under which the clans accepting Muhammad as the Prophet of God formed an alliance, or federation - dates from this period. It showed that the political consciousness of the Muslim community had reached an important point; its members defined themselves as a community separate from all others. The Constitution also defined the role of non-Muslims in the community. Jews, for example, were part of the community; they were dhimmis, that is, protected people, as long as they conformed to its laws. This established a precedent for the treatment of subject peoples during the later conquests. Christians and Jews, upon payment of a yearly tax, were allowed religious freedom and, while maintaining their status as non-Muslims, were associate members of the Muslim state. This status did not apply to polytheists, who could not be tolerated within a community that worshipped the One God.

Photo: The Ka'bah, spiritual axis of the Muslim world, stands in the courtyard of Mecca's Sacred Mosque.

Ibn Ishaq, one of the earliest biographers of the Prophet, says it was at about this time that Muhammad sent letters to the rulers of the earth - the King of Persia, the Emperor of Byzantium, the Negus of Abyssinia, and the Governor of Egypt among others - inviting them to submit to Islam. Nothing more fully illustrates the confidence of the small community, as its military power, despite the battle of the Trench, was still negligible. But its confidence was not misplaced. Muhammad so effectively built up a series of alliances among the tribes his early years with the Bedouins must have stood him in good stead here- that by 628 he and fifteen hundred followers were able to demand access to the Ka'bah during negotiations with the Meccans. This was a milestone in the history of the Muslims. Just a short time before, Muhammad had to leave the city of his birth in fear of his life. Now he was being treated by his former enemies as a leader in his own right. A year later, in 629, he reentered and, in effect, conquered Mecca without bloodshed and in a spirit of tolerance which established an ideal for future conquests. He also destroyed the idols in the Ka'bah, to put an end forever to pagan practices there. At the same time Muhammad won the allegiance of 'Amr ibn al-'As, the future conqueror of Egypt, and Khalid ibn al-Walid, the future "Sword of God," both of whom embraced Islam and joined Muhammad. Their conversion was especially noteworthy because these men had been among Muhammad's bitterest opponents only a short time before.

In one sense Muhammad's return to Mecca was the climax of his mission. In 632, just three years later, he was suddenly taken ill and on June 8 of that year, with his third wife 'Aishah in attendance, the Messenger of God "died with the heat of noon."

Photo: Devout Muslims from all over the world gather for the pilgrimage to Mecca, for nearly fourteen centuries one of the most impressive religious gatherings in the world.

The death of Muhammad was a profound loss. To his followers this simple man from Mecca was far more than a beloved friend, far more than a gifted administrator, far more than the revered leader who had forged a new state from clusters of warring tribes. Muhammad was also the exemplar of the teachings he had brought them from God: the teachings of the Quran, which, for centuries, have guided the thought and action, the faith and conduct, of innumerable men and women, and which ushered in a distinctive era in the history of mankind. His death, nevertheless, had little effect on the dynamic society he had created in Arabia, and no effect at all on his central mission: to transmit the Quran to the world. As Abu Bakr put it: "Whoever worshipped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped God, let him know that God lives and dies not."

With the death of Muhammad, the Muslim community was faced with the problem of succession. Who would be its leader? There were four persons obviously marked for leadership: Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, who had not only accompanied Muhammad to Medina ten years before, but had been appointed to take the place of the Prophet as leader of public prayer during Muhammad's last illness; 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, an able and trusted Companion of the Prophet; 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, a respected early convert; and 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law. To avoid contention among various groups, 'Umar suddenly grasped Abu Bakr's hand, the traditional sign of recognition of a new leader. Soon everyone concurred and before dusk Abu Bakr had been recognized as the khalifah of Muhammad. Khalifah- anglicized as caliph - is a word meaning "successor" but also suggesting what his historical role would be: to govern according to the Quran and the practice of the Prophet.

Abu Bakr's caliphate was short but important. An exemplary leader, he lived simply, assiduously fulfilled his religious obligations, and was accessible and sympathetic to his people. But he also stood firm when, in the wake of the Prophet's death, some tribes renounced Islam; in what was a major accomplishment, Abu Bakr swiftly disciplined them. Later, he consolidated the support of the tribes within the Arabian Peninsula and subsequently funnelled their energies against the powerful empires of the East: the Sassanians in Persia and the Byzantines in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. In short, he demonstrated the viability of the Muslim state.

The second caliph, 'Umar- appointed by Abu Bakr in a written testament - continued to demonstrate that viability. Adopting the title Amir al-Muminin, "Commander of the Believers," 'Umar extended Islam's temporal rule over Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Persia in what from a purely military standpoint were astonishing victories. Within four years after the death of the Prophet the Muslim state had extended its sway over all of Syria and had, at a famous battle fought during a sandstorm near the River Yarmuk, blunted the power of the Byzantines - whose ruler Heraclius had shortly before disdainfully rejected the letter from the unknown Prophet of Arabia.

Even more astonishingly, the Muslim state administered the conquered territories with a tolerance almost unheard of in that age. At Damascus, for example, the Muslim leader Khalid ibn al-Walid signed a treaty which read as follows:

This is what Khalid ibn al-Walid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus if he enters therein: he promises to give them security for their lives, property and churches. Their city wall shall not be demolished, neither shall any Muslim be quartered in their houses. Thereunto we give them the pact of Allah and the protection of His Prophet, the caliphs and the believers. So long as they pay the poll tax, nothing but good shall befall them.

This tolerance was typical of Islam. A year after Yarmuk, 'Umar, in the military camp of al-Jabiyah on the Golan Heights, received word that the Byzantines were ready to surrender Jerusalem and rode there to accept the surrender in person. According to one account, he entered the city alone and clad in a simple cloak, astounding a populace accustomed to the sumptuous garb and court ceremonials of the Byzantines and Persians. He astounded them still further when he set their fears at rest by negotiating a generous treaty in which he told them:

In the name of God ... you have complete security for your churches which shall not be occupied by the Muslims or destroyed.

This policy was to prove successful everywhere. In Syria, for example, many Christians who had been involved in bitter theological disputes with Byzantine authorities- and persecuted for it- welcomed the coming of Islam as an end to tyranny. And in Egypt, which 'Amr ibn al-'As took from the Byzantines after a daring march across the Sinai Peninsula, the Coptic Christians not only welcomed the Arabs, but enthusiastically assisted them.

This pattern was repeated throughout the Byzantine Empire. Conflict among Greek Orthodox, Syrian Monophysites, Copts, and Nestorian Christians contributed to the failure of the Byzantines - always regarded as intruders - to develop popular support, while the tolerance which Muslims showed toward Christians and Jews removed the primary cause for opposing them.

'Umar adopted this attitude in administrative matters as well. Although he assigned Muslim governors to the new provinces, existing Byzantine and Persian administrations were retained wherever possible. For fifty years, in fact, Greek remained the chancery language of Syria, Egypt, and Palestine, while Pahlavi, the chancery language of the Sassanians, continued to be used in Mesopotamia and Persia.

'Umar, who served as caliph for ten years, ended his rule with a significant victory over the Persian Empire. The struggle with the Sassanid realm had opened in 687 at al-Qadisiyah, near Ctesiphon in Iraq, where Muslim cavalry had successfully coped with elephants used by the Persians as a kind of primitive tank. Now with the Battle of Nihavand, called the "Conquest of Conquests," 'Umar sealed the fate of Persia; henceforth it was to be one of the most important provinces in the Muslim Empire.

His caliphate was a high point in early Islamic history. He was noted for his justice, social ideals, administration, and statesmanship. His innovations left all enduring imprint on social welfare, taxation, and the financial and administrative fabric of the growing empire.

After the death of 'Umar an advisory council composed of Companions of the Prophet selected as the third caliph 'Uthman, during whose rule the first serious strains on Islamic unity would appear. 'Uthman achieved much during his reign. He pushed forward with the pacification of Persia, continued to defend the Muslim state against the Byzantines, added what is now Libya to the empire, and subjugated most of Armenia. 'Uthman also, through his cousin Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, the governor of Syria, established an Arab navy which fought a series of important engagements with the Byzantines.

Of much greater importance to Islam, however, was 'Uthman's compilation of the text of the Quran as revealed to the Prophet. Realizing that the original message from God might be inadvertently distorted by textual variants, he appointed a committee to collect the canonical verses and destroy the variant recensions. The result was the text that is accepted to this day throughout the Muslim world.

Photo: This eighth century manuscript from Mecca or Medina is one of the two oldest known existing copies of the Quran.

These successes, however, were qualified by serious administrative weaknesses. 'Uthman was accused of favoritism to members of his family - the clan of Umayyah. Negotiations over such grievances were opened by representatives from Egypt but soon collapsed and 'Uthman was killed - an act that caused a rift in the community of Islam that has never entirely been closed.

This rift widened almost as soon as 'Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was chosen to be the fourth caliph. At issue, essentially, was the legitimacy of 'Ali's caliphate. 'Uthman's relatives - in particular Mu'awiyah, the powerful governor of Syria, where 'Ali's election had not been recognized - believed 'Ali's caliphate was invalid because his election had been supported by those responsible for 'Uthman's unavenged death. The conflict came to a climax in 657 at Siffin, near the Euphrates, and eventually resulted in a major division between the Sunnis or Sunnites and the Shi'is (also called Shi'ites or Shi'ah), the "Partisans" of 'Ali- a division that was to color the subsequent history of Islam.

Actually the Sunnis and the Shi'is are agreed upon almost all the essentials of Islam. Both believe in the Quran and the Prophet, both follow the same principles of religion and both observe the same rituals. However, there is one prominent difference, which is essentially political rather than religious, and concerns the choice of the caliph or successor of Muhammad.

The majority of Muslims support the elective principle which led to the choice of Abu Bakr as the first caliph. This group is known as ahl alsunnah wa-l-jama'ah, "the people of custom and community," or Sunnis, who consider the caliph to be Muhammad's successor only in his capacity as ruler of the community. The main body of the Shi'is, on the other hand, believes that the caliphate - which they call the imamate or "leadership" - is nonelective. The caliphate, they say, must remain within the family of the Prophet - with 'Ali the first valid caliph. And while Sunnis consider the caliph a guardian of the shari'ah, the religious law, the Shi'is see the imam as a trustee inheriting and interpreting the Prophet's spiritual knowledge.

After the battle of Siffin, 'Ali - whose chief strength was in Iraq, with his capital at Kufa - began to lose the support of many of his more uncompromising followers and in 661 he was murdered by a former supporter. His son Hasan was proclaimed caliph at Kufa but soon afterward deferred to Muiawiyah, who had already been proclaimed caliph in Jerusalem in the previous year and who now was recognized and accepted as caliph in all the Muslim territories - thus inaugurating the Umayyad dynasty which would rule for the next ninety years.

The division between the Sunnis and the Shi'is continued to develop in 680 when Ali's son Husayn along with his followers was brutally killed at Karbala in Iraq by the forces of the Umayyad ruler Yazid. His death is still commemorated every year during the Islamic month of Muharram.

The shift in power to Damascus, the Umayyad capital city, was to have profound effects on the development of Islamic history. For one thing, it was a tacit recognition of the end of an era. The first four caliphs had been without exception Companions of the Prophet - pious, sincere men who had lived no differently from their neighbors and who preserved the simple habits of their ancestors despite the massive influx of wealth from the conquered territories. Even 'Uthman, whose policies had such a divisive effect, was essentially dedicated more to the concerns of the next world than of this. With the shift to Damascus much was changed.

In the early days of Islam, the extension of Islamic rule had been based on an uncomplicated desire to spread the Word of God. Although the Muslims used force when they met resistance they did not compel their enemies to accept Islam. On the contrary, the Muslims permitted Christians and Jews to practice their own faith and numerous conversions to Islam were the result of exposure to a faith that was simple and inspiring.

Photo: Medieval Muslims regarded the Great Mosque built by the Umayyads in Damascus as one of the wonders of the world.

With the advent of the Umayyads, how ever, secular concerns and the problems inherent in the administration of what, by then, was a large empire began to dominate the attention of the caliphs, often at the expense of religious concerns - a development that disturbed many devout Muslims. This is not to say that religious values were ignored; on the contrary, they grew in strength for centuries. But they were not always at the forefront and from the time of Mu'awiyah the caliph's role as "Defender of the Faith" increasingly required him to devote attention to the purely secular concerns which dominate so much of every nation's history.

Muiawiyah was an able administrator, and even his critics concede that he possessed to a high degree the much-valued quality of hilm - a quality which may be defined as "civilized restraint" and which he himself once described in these words:

I apply not my sword where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellowmen, I do not let it break: when they pull I loosen, and if they loosen I pull.

Nevertheless, Mu'awiyah was never able to reconcile the opposition to his rule nor solve the conflict with the Shi'is. These problems were not unmanageable while Mu'awiyah was alive, but after he died in 680 the partisans of 'Ali resumed a complicated but persistent struggle that plagued the Umayyads at home for most of the next seventy years and in time spread into North Africa and Spain.

Photo: Facing al-Gharbiyah, the western minaret, a muezzin at the Umayyad Mosque calls believers to prayer.

The Umayyads, however, did manage to achieve a degree of stability, particularly after 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan succeeded to the caliphate in 685. Like the Umayyads who preceded him, 'Abd al-Malik was forced to devote a substantial part of his reign to political problems. But he also introduced much needed reforms. He directed the cleaning and reopening of the canals that irrigated the Tigris-Euphrates Valley - a key to the prosperity of Mesopotamia since the time of the Sumerians - introduced the use of the Indian water buffalo in the riverine marshes, and minted a standard coinage which replaced the Byzantine and Sassanid coins, until then the sole currencies in circulation. 'Abd al-Malik's organization of government agencies was also important; it established a model for the later elaborate bureaucracies of the 'Abbasids and their successor states. There were specific agencies charged with keeping pay records; others concerned themselves with the collection of taxes. 'Abd al-Malik established a system of postal routes to expedite his communications throughout the far flung empire. Most important of all, he introduced Arabic as the language of administration, replacing Greek and Pahlavi.

Under 'Abd al-Malik, the Umayyads expanded Islamic power still further. To the east they extended their influence into Transoxania, an area north of the Oxus River in today's Soviet Union, and went on to reach the borders of China. To the west, they took North Africa, in a continuation of the campaign led by 'Uqbah ibn Nafi' who founded the city of Kairouan - in what is now Tunisia - and from there rode all the way to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

These territorial acquisitions brought the Arabs into contact with previously unknown ethnic groups who embraced Islam and would later influence the course of Islamic history. The Berbers of North Africa, for example, who resisted Arab rule but willingly embraced Islam, later joined Musa ibn Nusayr and his general, Tariq ibn Ziyad, when they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain. The Berbers later also launched reform movements in North Africa which greatly influenced the Islamic civilization. In the East, Umayyad rule in Transoxania brought the Arabs into contact with the Turks who, like the Berbers, embraced Islam and, in the course of time, became its staunch defenders. Umayyad expansion also reached the ancient civilization of India, whose literature and science greatly enriched Islamic culture.

Photo: The minaret of the Great Mosque at Kairouan in Tunisia became the prototype for the majority of North African minarets.

In Europe, meanwhile, the Arabs had passed into Spain, defeated the Visigoths, and by 713 had reached Narbonne in France. In the next decades, raiding parties continually made forays into France and in 732 reached as far as the Loire Valley, only 170 miles from Paris. There, at the Battle of Tours, or Poitiers, the Arabs were finally turned back by Charles Martel.

One of the Umayyad caliphs who attained greatness was 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, a man very different from his predecessors. Although a member of the Umayyad family, 'Umar had been born and raised in Medina, where his early contact with devout men had given him a concern for spiritual as well as political values. The criticisms that religious men in Medina and elsewhere had voiced of Umayyad policy - particularly the pursuit of worldly goals - were not lost on 'Umar who, reversing the policy of his predecessors, discontinued the levy of a poll tax on converts.

This move reduced state income substantially, but as there was clear precedent in the practice of the great 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, and as 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz was determined to bring government policy more in line with the practice of the Prophet, even enemies of his regime had nothing but praise for this pious man.

The last great Umayyad caliph was Hisham, the fourth son of 'Abd al-Malik to succeed to the caliphate. His reign was long - from 724 to 743 - and during it the Arab empire reached its greatest extent. But neither he nor the four caliphs who succeeded him were the statesmen the times demanded when, in 747, revolutionaries in Khorasan unfurled the black flag of rebellion that would bring the Umayyad Dynasty to an end.

Although the Umayyads favored their own region of Syria, their rule was not without accomplishments. Some of the most beautiful existing buildings in the Muslim world were constructed at their instigation - buildings such as the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the lovely country palaces in the deserts of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. They also organized a bureaucracy able to cope with the complex problems of a vast and diverse empire, and made Arabic the language of government. The Umayyads, furthermore, encouraged such writers as 'Abd Allah ibn al-Muqaffa' and 'Abd al-Hamid ibn Yahya al-Katib, whose clear, expository Arabic prose has rarely been surpassed.

Photo: The shrine of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, built in an area revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike covers the rock from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven with the Angel Gabriel.

For all that, the Umayyads, during the ninety years of their leadership, rarely shook off their empire's reputation as a mulk - that is, a worldly kingdom - and in the last years of the dynasty their opponents formed a secret organization devoted to pressing the claims to the caliphate put forward by a descendant of al-'Abbas ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib, an uncle of the Prophet. By skillful preparation, this organization rallied to its cause many mutually hostile groups in Khorasan and Iraq and proclaimed Abu al-'Abbas caliph. Marwan ibn Muhammad, the last Umayyad caliph, was defeated and the Syrians, still loyal to the Umayyads, were put to rout. Only one man of importance escaped the disaster - 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Mu'awiyah al-Dakhil, a young prince who with a loyal servant fled to Spain and in 756 set up an Umayyad Dynasty there.

By the time 'Abd al-Rahman reached Spain, the Arabs from North Africa were already entrenched on the Iberian Peninsula and had begun to write one of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history.

After their forays into France were blunted by Charles Martel, the Muslims in Spain had begun to focus their whole attention on what they called al-Andalus, southern Spain (Andalusia), and to build there a civilization far superior to anything Spain had ever known. Reigning with wisdom and justice, they treated Christians and Jews with tolerance, with the result that many embraced Islam. They also improved trade and agriculture, patronized the arts, made valuable contributions to science, and established Cordoba as the most sophisticated city in Europe.

By the tenth century, Cordoba could boast of a population of some 500,000, compared to about 38,000 in Paris. According to the chronicles of the day, the city had 700 mosques, some 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries - one reportedly housing 500,000 manuscripts and employing a staff of researchers, illuminators, and book binders. Cordoba also had some 900 public baths, Europe's first street lights and, five miles outside the city, the caliphal residence, Madinat al-Zahra. A complex of marble, stucco, ivory, and onyx, Madinat al-Zahra took forty years to build, cost close to one-third of Cordoba's revenue, and was, until destroyed in the eleventh century, one of the wonders of the age. Its restoration, begun in the early years of this century, is still under way.

Photo: A forest of eight hundred and fifty pillars connected by Moorish arches lines the great mosque of Cordoba.

By the eleventh century, however, a small pocket of Christian resistance had begun to grow, and under Alfonso VI Christian forces retook Toledo. It was the beginning of the period the Christians called the Reconquest, and it underlined a serious problem that marred this refined, graceful, and charming era: the inability of the numerous rulers of Islamic Spain to maintain their unity. This so weakened them that when the various Christian kingdoms began to pose a serious threat, the Muslim rulers in Spain had to ask the Almoravids, a North African Berber dynasty, to come to their aid. The Almoravids came and crushed the Christian uprising, but eventually seized control themselves. In 1147, the Almoravids were in turn defeated by another coalition of Berber tribes, the Almohads.

Although such internal conflict was by no means uncommon- the Christian kingdoms also warred incessantly among themselves- it did divert Muslim strength at a time when the Christians were beginning to negotiate strong alliances, form powerful armies, and launch the campaigns that would later bring an end to Arab rule.

The Arabs did not surrender easily; al-Andalus was their land too. But, bit by bit, they had to retreat, first from northern Spain, then from central Spain. By the thirteenth century their once extensive domains were reduced to a few scattered kingdoms deep in the mountains of Andalusia - where, for some two hundred years longer, they would not only survive but flourish.

It is both odd and poignant that it was then, in the last two centuries of their rule, that the Arabs created that extravagantly lovely kingdom for which they are most famous: Granada. It seems as if, in their slow retreat to the south, they suddenly realized that they were, as Washington Irving wrote, a people without a country, and set about building a memorial: the Alhambra, the citadel above Granada that one writer has called "the glory and the wonder of the civilized world."

The Alhambra was begun in 1238 by Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar who, to buy safety for his people when King Ferdinand of Aragon laid siege to Granada, once rode to Ferdinand's tent and humbly offered to become the king's vassal in return for peace.

Photo: Pool in the Patio de los Arrayanes reflects the grandeur of the incomparable Alhambra.

It was a necessary move, but also difficult - particularly when Ferdinand called on him to implement the agreement by providing troops to help the Christians against Muslims in the siege of Seville in 1248. True to his pledge, Ibn al-Ahmar complied and Seville fell to the Christians. But returning to Granada, where cheering crowds hailed him as a victor, he disclosed his turmoil in that short, sad reply that he inscribed over and over on the walls of the Alhambra: "There is no victor but God."

Over the years, what started as a fortress slowly evolved under Ibn al-Ahmar's successors into a remarkable series of delicately lovely buildings, quiet courtyards, limpid pools, and hidden gardens. Later, after Ibn al-Ahmar's death, Granada itself was rebuilt and became, as one Arab visitor wrote, "as a silver vase filled with emeralds."

Meanwhile, outside Granada, the Christian kings waited. In relentless succession they had retaken Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville. Only Granada survived. Then, in 1482, in a trivial quarrel, the Muslim kingdom split into two hostile factions and, simultaneously, two strong Christian sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, married and merged their kingdoms. As a result, Granada fell ten years later. On January 2, 1492 - the year they sent Columbus to America - Ferdinand and Isabella hoisted the banner of Christian Spain above the Alhambra and Boabdil, the last Muslim king, rode weeping into exile with the bitter envoi from his aged mother, "Weep like a woman for the city you would not defend like a man!"

Photo: A Moorish-built tower soars above Guadalquivir River in Seville.

In describing the fate of Islam in Spain, Irving suggested that the Muslims were then swiftly and thoroughly wiped out. Never, he wrote, was the annihilation of a people more complete. In fact, by emigration to North Africa and elsewhere, many Muslims carried remnants of the Spanish era with them and were thus able to make important contributions to the material and cultural life of their adopted lands.

Much of the emigration, however, came later. At first, most Muslims simply stayed in Spain; cut off from their original roots by time and distance they quite simply had no other place to go. Until the Inquisition, furthermore, conditions in Spain were not intolerable. The Christians permitted Muslims to work, serve in the army, own land, and even practice their religion - all concessions to the importance of Muslims in Spain's still prosperous economy. But then, in the period of the Inquisition, all the rights of the Muslims were withdrawn, their lives became difficult, and more began to emigrate. Finally, in the early seventeenth century, most of the survivors were forcibly expelled.

In the Middle East, during these centuries, the 'Abbasids, after their victory over the Umayyads, had transformed the Umayyads' Arab empire into a multinational Muslim empire. They moved the capital of the empire from Syria to Iraq, where they built a new capital, Baghdad, from which, during the next five centuries, they would influence many of the main events of Islamic history.

In the early period of 'Abbasid rule, al-Mansur, the second caliph of the dynasty, continued the reorganization of the administration of the empire along the lines that had been laid down by his Umayyad predecessor, 'Abd al-Malik. Much of the 'Abbasid administration, for example, was left in the hands of well-educated Persian civil servants, many of whom came from families that had traditionally served the Sassanid kings. The important office of wazir or vizier, chief counselor, may well have developed from Sassanid models. The vizier was much more than an advisor; indeed, when the caliph was weak, a capable vizier became the most powerful man in the empire.

Photo: Astride the Tigris, present day Baghdad stands in the vicinity of the 'Abbasid capital, a fabulous city of mosques, mansions and libraries.

The creation of the office of the vizier was only one of the innovations the 'Abbasids brought to statecraft. Another was the development of the Umayyad postal system into an efficient intelligence service; postmasters in outlying provinces were the eyes and ears of the government and regular reports were filed with the central government on everything from the state of the harvest to the doings of dissident sects. Under the 'Abbasids too a whole literature was created for the use and training of the clerical classes that had come into being. Since all government business was by now transacted in Arabic, manuals of correct usage were written for the instruction of non-Arabic speakers who had found government employment. There was also a vast literature on the correct deportment of princes, as well as anthologies of witty sayings and anecdotes with which to enliven one's epistolary style.

Photo: The Great Mosque of the Umayyads in Damascus dates from the early eighth century and numerous works of rebuilding have not changed its fundamental character.

In some ways the 'Abbasids were more fortunate than the Umayyads. When, for example, al-Mansur died in 775 after a reign of twenty years, his son, al-Mahdi, inherited a full treasury and an empire that was more devoted to trade than war.

The developments in trade, indeed, are among the achievements of the 'Abbasids that are too often overlooked. Because Islamic rule unified much of the Eastern world, thus abolishing many boundaries, trade was freer, safer, and more extensive than it had been since the time of Alexander the Great. Muslim traders, consequently, established trading posts as far away as India, the Philippines, Malaya, the East Indies, and China.

Photo: Golden domes and gold topped minarets highlight the mosque of al-Kazimayn in Baghdad, built in the early sixteenth century.

From the eighth to the eleventh centuries this trade was largely concerned with finding and importing basic necessities- grain, metals, and wood. To obtain them, of course, the Muslims had to export too, often using the imports from one region as exports to another: pearls from the Gulf, livestock from the Arabian Peninsula (particularly Arabian horses and camels), and - one of the chief products - cloth. The Muslims also traded medicines, an offshoot of 'Abbasid advances in medical science, as well as paper and sugar.

Photo: The mosque of Bibi Khanum named for Tamerlane's favorite wife, was once the most imposing building of Samarkand.

This expansion of commercial activity led to other developments too. One was a system of banking and exchange so sophisticated that a letter of credit issued in Baghdad could be honored in Samarkand in Central Asia or Kairouan in North Africa. The demands on trade also generated development of crafts. From Baghdad's large urban population, for example, came craftsmen of every conceivable sort: metalworkers, leatherworkers, bookbinders, papermakers, jewelers, weavers, druggists, bakers, and many more. As they grew in importance to the economy these craftsmen eventually organized themselves into mutual-benefit societies which in some ways were similar to later Western guilds and which offered many social services: lodging travelers, engaging in pious works such as caring for orphans, and endowing schools. Because of this growth in commerce the 'Abbasids also developed a system by which a muhtasib, an inspector made sure that proper weights and measures were given and that dishonest practices of all sorts were avoided.

The early 'Abbasids were also fortunate in the caliber of their caliphs, especially after Harun al-Rashid came to the caliphate in 786. His reign is now the most famous in the annals of the 'Abbasids - partly because of the fictional role given him in The Thousand and One Nights (portions of which probably date from his reign), but also because his reign and those of his immediate successors marked the high point of the 'Abbasid period. As the Arab chronicles put it, Harun al-Rashid ruled when the world was young, a felicitous description of what in later times has come to be called the Golden Age of Islam.

The Golden Age was a period of unrivaled intellectual activity in all fields: science, technology, and (as a result of intensive study of the Islamic faith) literature - particularly biography, history, and linguistics. Scholars, for example, in collecting and reexamining the hadith, or "traditions" - the sayings and actions of the Prophet - compiled immense biographical detail about the Prophet and other information, historic and linguistic, about the Prophet's era. This led to such memorable works as Sirat Rasul Allah, the "Life of the Messenger of God," by Ibn Ishaq, later revised by Ibn Hisham; one of the earliest Arabic historical works, it was a key source of information about the Prophet's life and also a model for other important works of history such as al-Tabari's Annals of the Apostles and the Kings and his massive commentary on the Quran.

Photo: Persian miniature depicts students with a teacher of astronomy - one of the sciences to which scholars of the Golden Age made great contributions.

'Abbasid writers also developed new a genres of literature such as adab, the embodiment of sensible counsel, sometimes in the form of animal fables; a typical example is Kalilah wa-Dimnah, translated by Ibn al-Muqaffa' from a Pahlavi version of an Indian work. Writers of this period also studied tribal traditions and wrote the first systematic Arabic grammars.

During the Golden Age Muslim scholars also made important and original contributions to mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry. They collected and corrected previous astronomical data, built the world's first observatory, and developed the astrolabe, an instrument that was once called "a mathematical jewel." In medicine they experimented with diet, drugs, surgery, and anatomy, and in chemistry, an outgrowth of alchemy, isolated and studied a wide variety of minerals and compounds.

Important advances in agriculture were also made in the Golden Age. The 'Abbasids preserved and improved the ancient network of wells, underground canals, and waterwheels, introduced new breeds of livestock, hastened the spread of cotton, and, from the Chinese, learned the art of making paper, a key to the revival of learning in Europe in the Middle Ages.

The Golden Age also, little by little, transformed the diet of medieval Europe by introducing such plants as plums, artichokes, apricots, cauliflower, celery, fennel, squash, pumpkins, and eggplant, as well as rice, sorghum, new strains of wheat, the date palm, and sugarcane.

Photo: Muslim scientists developed the astrolabe, an instrument used long before the invention of the sextant to observe the position of celestial bodies.

Many of the advances in science, literature, and trade which took place during the Golden Age of the 'Abbasids and which would provide the impetus for the European Renaissance reached their flowering during the caliphate of al-Mamun, son of Harun al-Rashid and perhaps the greatest of all the 'Abbasids. But politically the signs of decay were already becoming evident. The province of Ifriqiyah - North Africa west of Libya and east of Morocco - had fallen away from 'Abbasid control during the reign of Harun al-Rashid, and under al-Mamun other provinces soon broke loose also. When, for example, al-Mamun marched from Khorasan to Baghdad, he left a trusted general named Tahir ibn al-Husayn in charge of the eastern province. Tahir asserted his independence of the central government by omitting mention of the caliph's name in the mosque on Friday and by striking his own coins - acts which became the standard ways of expressing political independence. From 821 onward Tahir and his descendants ruled Khorasan as an independent state, with the tacit consent of the 'Abbasids.

Al-Mamun died in 833, in the town of Tarsus, and was succeeded by his brother, al-Mu'tasim, under whose rule the symptoms of decline that had manifested themselves earlier grew steadily worse. As he could no longer rely on the loyalty of his army, al-Mu'tasim recruited an army of Turks from Transoxania and Turkestan. It was a necessary step, but its outcome was dominance of the caliphate by its own praetorian guard. In the years following 861, the Turks made and unmade rulers at will, a trend that accelerated the decline of the central authority. Although the religious authority of the 'Abbasid caliphate remained unchallenged, the next four centuries saw political power dispersed among a large number of independent states: Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids, Buwayhids, Ziyarids, and Ghaznavids in the east; Hamdanids in Syria and northern Mesopotamia; and Tulunids, Ikhshidids, and Fatimids in Egypt.

Photo: Books of fables, often illustrated, served a dual purpose to instruct and to entertain.

Some of these states made important contributions to Islamic culture. Under the Samanids, the Persian language, written in the Arabic alphabet, first reached the level of a literary language and poets like Rudaki, Daqiqi, and Firdausi flourished. The Ghaznavids patronized al-Biruni, one of the greatest and most original scholars of medival Islam, and the Hamdanids, a purely Arab dynasty, patronized such poets as al-Mutanabbi and philosophers like the great al-Farabi, whose work kept the flame of Arab culture alive in a difficult period. But in historical terms, only the Fatimids rivaled the preceding dynasties.

The most stable of the successor dynasties founded in the ninth and tenth centuries was that of the Fatimids, a branch of Shi'is. The Fatimids won their first success in North Africa, where they established a rival caliphate at Raqqadah near Kairouan and, in 952, embarked on a period of expansion that within a few years took them to Egypt.

Photo: Founded in 970, the mosque of al-Azhar in Cairo is one of the earliest and finest examples of the Egyptian style in Islamic architecture.

For a time the Fatimids aspired to be rulers of the whole Islamic world, and their achievements were impressive. At their peak they ruled North Africa, the Red Sea coast, Yemen, Palestine, and parts of Syria. The Fatimids built the Mosque of al-Azhar in Cairo - from which developed al-Azhar University, now the oldest university in the world and perhaps the most influential Islamic school of higher learning. Fatimid merchants traded with Afghanistan and China and tried to divert some of Baghdad's Arabian Gulf shipping to the Red Sea.

But the Fatimids' dreams of gaining control of the Islamic heartland came to nothing, partly because many other independent states refused to support them and partly because they, like the 'Abbasids in Baghdad, lost effective control of their own mercenaries. Such developments weakened the Fatimids, but thanks to a family of viziers of Armenian origin they were able to endure until the Ayyubid succession in the second half of the twelfth century - even in the face of the eleventh-century invasion by the Seljuk Turks.

Although individual Turkish generals had already gained considerable, and at times decisive, power in Mesopotamia and Egypt during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the coming of the Seljuks signaled the first large-scale penetration of the Turkish elements into the Middle East. Descended from a tribal chief named Seljuk, whose homeland lay beyond the Oxus River near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks not only developed a highly effective fighting force but also, through their close contacts with Persian court life in Khorasan and Transoxania, attracted a body of able administrators. Extending from Central Asia to the Byzantine marches in Asia Minor, the Seljuk state under its first three sultans- Tughril Beg, Alp-Arslan, and Malikshah- established a highly cohesive, well-administered Sunni state under the nominal authority of the 'Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad.

One of the administrators, the Persian Nizam-al-Mulk, became one of the greatest statesmen of medieval Islam. For twenty years, especially during the rule of Sultan Malikshah, he was the true custodian of the Seljuk state. In addition to having administrative abilities, he was an accomplished stylist whose book on statecraft, Siyasat-Namah, is a valuable source for the political thought of the time. In it he stresses the responsibilities of the ruler: for example, if a man is killed because a bridge is in disrepair, it is the fault of the ruler, for he should make it his business to apprise himself of the smallest negligences of his underlings. Nizam-al-Mulk, furthermore, was a devout and orthodox Muslim who established a system of madrasahs or theological seminaries (called nizamiyah after the first element of his name) to provide students with free education in the religious sciences of Islam, as well as in the most advanced scientific and philosophical thought of the time. The famous theologian al-Ghazali whose greatest work, the Revival of the Sciences of Religion, was a triumph of Sunni theology taught for a time at the nizamiyah schools at Baghdad and at Nishapur. Nizam-al-Mulk was the patron of the poet and astronomer 'Umar al-Khayyam (Omar Khayyam), whose verses, as translated by Edward FitzGerald in the nineteenth century, have become as familiar to English readers as the sonnets of Shakespeare.

After the death of Malikshah in 1092, internal conflict among the young heirs led to the fragmentation of the Seljuks' central authority into smaller Seljuk states led by various members of the family, and still smaller units led by regional chieftains, no one of whom was able to unite the Muslim world as still another force appeared in the Middle East: the Crusaders.

The most imposing of the many fortresses built by the Crusaders the elegant Krak des Chevaliers in Syria (top) held out against the Muslims for over a century and a half. The Crusader castle at Sidon in Lebanon (below) was abandoned after the final defeat of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

To Arab historians, the Crusaders were a minor irritant, their invasion one more barbarian incursion, not nearly as serious a threat as the Mongols were to prove in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The First Crusade began in 1095 after the Byzantines - threatened by Seljuk power- appealed to Pope Urban II for military aid. Pope Urban, hoping to divert the Christian kings and princes from their struggles with each other, and perhaps also seeing an opportunity to reunite the Eastern and Western churches, called for a "Truce of God" among the rulers of Europe and urged them to take the Holy Land from the Muslims.

Photo: The most impossing of the many fortresses built by the crusaders, the elegant krak des Chevailers in Syria held out against the Muslims for over a century and a half.

Considered dispassionately, the venture was impossible. The volunteers - a mixed assemblage of kings, nobles, mercenaries, and adventurers - had to cross thousands of miles of unfamiliar and hostile country and conquer lands of whose strength they had no conception. Yet so great was their fervor that in 1099 they took Jerusalem, establishing along the way principalities in Antioch, Edessa, and Tripoli. Although unable to fend off the Crusaders at first - even offering the Crusaders access to Jerusalem if they would come as pilgrims rather than invaders - the Muslims eventually began to mount effective counterattacks. They recaptured Aleppo and besieged Edessa, thus bringing on the unsuccessful Second Crusade.

In the meantime the Crusaders - or Franks, the Arabs called them - had extended their reach to the borders of Egypt, where the Fatimids had fallen after two hundred years. There they faced a young man called Salah al-Din (Saladin) who had founded still another new dynasty, the Ayyubids, and who was destined to blunt the thrust of the Crusaders' attack. In 1187 Saladin counterattacked, eventually recapturing Jerusalem. The Europeans mounted a series of further crusading expeditions against the Muslims over the next hundred years or so, but the Crusaders never again recovered the initiative. Confined to the coast, they ruled small areas until their final defeat at the hands of the Egyptian Mamluks at the end of the thirteenth century.

Photo: The Crusader castle at Sidon in Lebanon was abandoned after the final defeat of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Although the Crusades achieved no lasting results in terms of military conquest, they were important in the development of trade, and their long-range effects on Western society - on everything from feudalism to fashion - are inestimable. Ironically, they also put an end to the centuries-old rivalry between the Arabs and Byzantines. By occupying Constantinople, the capital of their Christian allies, in the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders achieved what the Arabs had been trying to do from the early days of Islam. Although the Byzantine Empire continued until 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, it never recovered its former power after the Fourth Crusade, and subsisted only in the half-light of history during its remaining years.

For the West, however, the Crusaders' greatest achievement was the opening of the eastern Mediterranean to European shipping. The Venetians and Genoese established trading colonies in Egypt, and luxury goods of the East found their way to European markets. In the history of the Middle Ages, this was far more important than ephemeral conquests. Control of the Eastern trade became a constantly recurring theme in later relations between the European countries and the East, and in the nineteenth century was to lead to widespread Western intervention.

Next : THE MON
In the thirteenth century still another threat to the Muslim world appeared in the land beyond the Oxus: the Mongols. Led by Genghis Khan, a confederation of nomadic tribes which had already conquered China now attacked the Muslims. In 1220 they took Samarkand and Bukhara. By mid-century they had taken Russia, Central Europe, northern Iran, and the Caucuses, and in 1258, under Hulagu Khan, they invaded Baghdad and put an end to the remnants of the once-glorious 'Abbasid Empire. The ancient systems of irrigation were destroyed and the devastation was so extensive that agricultural recovery, even in the twentieth century, is still incomplete. Because a minor scion of the dynasty took refuge with the Mamluks in Egypt, the 'Abbasid caliphate continued in name into the sixteenth century. In effect, however, it expired with the Mongols and the capture of Baghdad. From Iraq the Mongols pressed forward into Syria and then toward Egypt where, for the first time, they faced adversaries who refused to quail before their vaunted power. These were the Mamluks, soldier-slaves from the Turkish steppe area north of the Black and Caspian Seas with a later infusion of Circassians from the region of the Caucuses Mountains.

The Mamluks had been recruited by the Ayyubids and then, like the Turkish mercenaries of the 'Abbasid caliphs, had usurped power from their enfeebled masters. Unlike their predecessors, however, they were able to maintain their power, and they retained control of Egypt until the Ottoman conquest in 1517. Militarily formidable, they were also the first power to defeat the Mongols in open combat when, in 1260, the Mongols moved against Palestine and Egypt. Alerted by a chain of signal fires stretching from Iraq to Egypt, the Mamluks were able to marshal their forces in time to meet, and crush, the Mongols at 'Ayn Jalut near Nazareth in Palestine.

Photo: The Mamluks, originally a class of soldier slaves, seized power in Egypt in the thirteenth century and stood fast against the Mongols.

In the meantime, the Mongols, like so many of the peoples who had come into contact with Islam, had begun to embrace it. At the dawn of the fourteenth century, Ghazan Khan Mahmud officially adopted Islam as the religion of the state, and for a time peace descended on the eastern portion of the Mongol empire. During this period the Mongols built mosques and schools and patronized scholarship of all sorts. But then, in 1380, a new Turko-Mongol confederation was hammered together by another world conqueror: Tamerlane, who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. Under Tamerlane, the Mongol forces swept down on Central Asia, India, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, occupying Aleppo and Damascus and threatening - but not defeating - the Mamluks. Once again, however, the Muslims survived their invaders. Tamerlane died on his way to conquer China, and his empire melted away.

Politically and economically, the Mongol invasions were disastrous. Some regions never fully recovered and the Muslim empire, already weakened by internal pressures, never fully regained its previous power. The Mongol invasions, in fact, were a major cause of the subsequent decline that set in throughout the heartland of the Arab East. In their sweep through the Islamic world the Mongols killed or deported numerous scholars and scientists and destroyed libraries with their irreplaceable works. The result was to wipe out much of the priceless cultural, scientific, and technological legacy that Muslim scholars had been preserving and enlarging for some five hundred years.

The foundation of this legacy was the astonishing achievements of Muslim scholars, scientists, craftsmen, and traders during the two hundred years or so that are called the Golden Age. During this period, from 750 to 950, the territory of the Muslim Empire encompassed present-day Iran, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, North Africa, Spain, and parts of Turkey and drew to Baghdad peoples of all those lands in an unparalleled cross-fertilization of once isolated intellectual traditions.

Geographical unity, however, was but one factor. Another was the development of Arabic, by the ninth century, into the language of international scholarship as well as the language of the Divine Truth. This was one of the most significant events in the history of ideas.

A third important factor was the establishment in Baghdad of a paper mill. The introduction of paper, replacing parchment and papyrus, was a pivotal advance which had effects on education and scholarship as far reaching as the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. It made it possible to put books within the reach of everyone.

Unlike the Byzantines, with their suspicion of classical science and philosophy, the Muslims were enjoined by the Prophet to "seek learning as far as China" - as, eventually, they did. In the eighth century, however, they had a more convenient source: the works of Greek scientists stored in libraries in Constantinople and other centers of the Byzantine empire. In the ninth century the Caliph al-Mamun, son of the famous Harun al-Rashid, began to tap that invaluable source. With the approval of the Byzantine emperor, he dispatched scholars to select and bring back to Baghdad Greek scientific manuscripts for translation into Arabic at Bayt al-Hikmah, "the House of Wisdom."

Bayt al-Hikmah was a remarkable assemblage of scholar-translators who undertook a Herculean task: to translate into Arabic all of what had survived of the philosophical and scientific tradition of the ancient world and incorporate it into the conceptual framework of Islam.

As the early scholars in the Islamic world agreed with Aristotle that mathematics was the basis of all science, the scholars of the House of Wisdom first focused on mathematics. Ishaq ibn Hunayn and Thabit ibn Qurrah, for example, prepared a critical edition of Euclid's Elements, while other scholars translated a commentary on Euclid originally written by a mathematician and inventor from Egypt, and still others translated at least eleven major works by Archimedes, including a treatise on the construction of a water clock. Other translations included a book On mathematical theory by Nichomachus of Gerasa, and works by mathematicians like Theodosius of Tripoli, Apollonius Pergacus, Theon, and Menelaus, all basic to the great age of Islamic mathematical speculation that followed.

The first great advance on the inherited mathematical tradition was the introduction of "Arabic" numerals, which actually originated in India and which simplified calculation of all sorts and made possible the development of algebra. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwaraznli seems to have been the first to explore their use systematically, and wrote the famous Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabalah, the first book on algebra, a name derived from the second word in his title. One of the basic meanings of jabr in Arabic is "bonesetting," and al-Khwarazmi used it as a graphic description of one of the two operations he uses for the solution of quadratic equations.

The scholars at Bayt al-Hikmah also contributed to geometry, a study recommended by Ibn Khaldun, the great North African historian, because "it enlightens the intelligence of the man who cultivates it and gives him the habit of thinking exactly." The men most responsible for encouraging the study of geometry were the sons of Musa ibn Shakir, al-Mamurl's court astronomer. Called Banu Musa - "the sons of Musa" - these three men, Muhammad, Ahmad, and al-Hasan, devoted their lives and fortunes to the quest for knowledge. They not only sponsored translations of Greek works, but wrote a series of important original studies of their own, one bearing the impressive title The Measurement of the Sphere, Trisection of the Angle, and Determination of Two Mean Proportionals to Form a Single Division between Two Given Quantities.

The Banu Musa also contributed works on celestial mechanics and the atom, helped with such practical projects as canal construction, and in addition recruited one of the greatest of the ninth-century scholars, Thabit ibn Qurrah.

During a trip to Byzantium in search of manuscripts, Muhammad ibn Musa happened to meet Thabit ibn Qurrah, then a money changer but also a scholar in Syriac, Greek, and Arabic. Impressed by Thabit's learning, Muhammad personally presented him to the caliph, who was in turn so impressed that he appointed Thabit court astrologer. As Thabit's knowledge of Greek and Syriac was unrivaled, he contributed enormously to the translation of Greek scientific writing and also produced some seventy original works - in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, ethics, mechanics, music, medicine, physics, philosophy, and the construction of scientific instruments.

Although the House of Wisdom originally concentrated on mathematics, it did not exclude other subjects. One of its most famous scholars was Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Ishaq's father - known to the West as Joanitius - who eventually translated the entire canon of Greek medical works into Arabic, including the Hippocratic oath. Later a director of the House of Wisdom, Hunayn also wrote at least twenty-nine original treatises of his own on medical topics, and a collection of ten essays on ophthalmology which covered, in systematic fashion, the anatomy and physiology of the eye and the treatment of various diseases which afflict vision. The first known medical work to include anatomical drawings, the book was translated into Latin and for centuries was the authoritative treatment of the subject in both Western and Eastern universities.

Others prominent in Islamic medicine were Yuhanna ibn Masawayh, a specialist in gynecology and the famous Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi - known to the West as Rhazes. According to a bibliography of his writings al-Razi wrote 184 works, including a huge compendium of his experiments, observations, and diagnoses with the title al-Hawi, "The All-Encompassing."

A fountainhead of medical wisdom during the Islamic era, al-Razi, according to one contemporary account, was also a fine teacher and a compassionate physician, who brought rations to the poor and provided nursing for them. He was also a man devoted to common sense, as the titles of two of his works suggest. The Reason Why Some Persons and the Common People Leave a Physician Even If He Is Clever, and A Clever Physician Does Not Have the Power to Heal All Diseases, for That is Not within the Realm of Possibility.

The scholars at the House of Wisdom, unlike their modern counterparts, did not "specialize." Al-Razi, for example, was a philosopher and a mathematician as well as a physician and al-Kindi, the first Muslim philosopher to use Aristotelian logic to support Islamic dogma, also wrote on logic, philosophy, geometry, calculation, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. Among his works were such titles as An Introduction to the Art of Music, The Reason Why Rain Rarely Falls in Certain Places, The Cause of Vertigo, and Crossbreeding the Dove.

Another major figure in the Islamic Golden Age was al-Farabi, who wrestled with many of the same philosophical problems as al-Kindi and wrote The Perfect City, which illustrates to what degree Islam had assimilated Greek ideas and then impressed them with its own indelible stamp. This work proposed that the ideal city be founded on moral and religious principles from which would flow the physical infrastructure. The Muslim legacy included advances in technology too. Ibn al-Haytham, for example, wrote The Book of Optics, in which he gives a detailed treatment of the anatomy of the eye, correctly deducing that the eye receives light from the object perceived and laying the foundation for modern photography. In the tenth century he proposed a plan to dam the Nile. It was by no means theoretical speculation; many of the dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts constructed at this time throughout the Islamic world still survive.

Photo: At Hama in Syria, antique wooden wheels still lift the waters of the Orontes to gardens, baths, and cooling fountains.

Muslim engineers also perfected the waterwheel and constructed elaborate underground water channels called qanats. Requiring a high degree of engineering skill, qanats were built some fifty feet underground with a very slight inclination over long distances to tap underground water and were provided with manholes so that they could be cleaned and repaired.

Agricultural advances are also part of the Muslim legacy. Important books were written on soil analysis, water, and what kinds of crops were suited to what soil. Because there was considerable interest in new varieties - for nutritive and medicinal purposes - many new plants were introduced: sorghum, for example, which had recently been discovered in Africa.

The introduction of numerous varieties of fruits and vegetables and other plants to the West via the Islamic empire was, however, largely the result of the vast expansion of trade during the Golden Age. This trade was vital; in the central lands of the 'Abbasid empire natural resources such as metals and wood were scarce, and increases in urban populations had outstripped the capacity of the agricultural system to support them. The 'Abbasids, therefore, were forced to develop extensive and complicated patterns of trade. To obtain food, for example, Baghdad had to import wheat from Syria and Egypt, rice from the Fayyum in Egypt, southern Morocco, and Spain, and olive oil from Tunisia. Called "a forest of olive trees," Tunisia exported so much olive oil that its port of Sfax was called "the port of oil."

To obtain scarce metals the 'Abbasids had to turn elsewhere. They imported the technologically advanced "ondanique" steel from India, for example, and then processed it at such famous centers of weapons manufacture as Damascus and Toledo, both of which cities won fame for their blades. The 'Abbasids also imported iron from Europe, tin from the British Isles and Malaya, and silver from northern Iran, Afghanistan, and the Caucuses. For gold, once the vast quantities in the treasuries of the conquered countries were exhausted, they turned to several sources. One was the gold mines of the Hijaz which were reopened around 750, reworked for about four hundred years, and then, in 1931, explored again by Karl Twitchell, who was searching for minerals in that area on behalf of King 'Abd al-'Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

For these necessities the 'Abbasid traders exchanged a wide variety of products: pearls, livestock, paper, sugar, and (a specialty of the Islamic world) luxurious cloth. The traditional cloths were wool and linen - the latter an Egyptian specialty since ancient times - but cotton, which was introduced into upper Iraq about the time of the Prophet, later spread with Islam around the Mediterranean, to Syria, North Africa, Spain, Sicily, Cyprus, and Crete.

The cloth trade produced a number of auxiliary exports: gold and silver thread for embroidery, gum from the Sudan for glazing, and needles, looms, and dyestuffs. Closely connected with the trade in dyestuffs was the trade in medicines, an offshoot of 'Abbasid advances in medicine and the spread of hospitals in all major Islamic cities. As scientific research and translation of medical texts from India and possibly even China expanded the earlier pharmacopoeia, ingredients for medicines were brought from all over the known world and also reexported.

Because the religious, political, and military achievements of the Islamic period loom so large in the history of the world, the extraordinary cultural, scientific, technological, and commercial achievements are frequently obscured or overlooked. Yet these advances were, in fact, of enduring significance to mankind as a whole. The destruction by the Mongols of many of these achievements and of much of what the Muslims had accomplished by the end of the Golden Age was a tragic loss for the world as a whole.

Architectural monuments spanning a thousand years bear witness to the spread of Islam.

Photo: Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, built in 691-692.

Photo: Purity of line characterizes the late twelfth century Kutubiyah Mosque of the Berbers in Marrakesh.

Photo: Water courses and fountains make an oasis of the Alhambra palace built at Granada in the fourteenth century Here incredibly light and elegant elements of Islamic decoration find their highest realization.

Photo: Sixteenth century Sultan Selim Mosque at Edirne is the apogee of Ottoman Turkish architecture, soaring space enclosed with a massive dome.

Photo: Persia's greatest contribution to ornament, gloriously colored enameled tile, faces the dome and stalactite portal of Shaykh Lutf Allah Mosque, built in the early 1600s on Isfahan's vast royal plaza.

Photo: The peak of Mogul architecture and possibly the most famous work of all times and cultures is the dazzling Taj Mahal mausoleum built at Agra in 1629.

During the second Mongol invasion, Tamerlane had met and very nearly annihilated another rising power: the Ottomans. Under a minor chieftain named Othman, groups of Turkish-speaking peoples in Anatolia were united in the Ottoman confederation which, by the second half of the fourteenth century, had conquered much of present-day Greece and Turkey and was threatening Constantinople.

The Ottoman state was born on the frontier between Islam and the Byzantine Empire. Turkish tribes, driven from their homeland in the steppes of Central Asia by the Mongols, had embraced Islam and settled in Anatolia on the battle lines of the Islamic world, where they formed the Ottoman confederation. They were called ghazis, warriors for the faith, and their highest ambition was to die in battle for their adopted religion.

In addition to their military abilities the Turks seem to have been endowed with a special talent for organization. Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, this talent fossilized into bureaucracy - and a moribund bureaucracy at that. But at the beginning, when its institutions were responsive to the needs of the people and the state, the Ottoman Empire was a model of administrative efficiency. This, together with a series of brilliant sultans - culminating in the redoubtable Suleiman the Magnificent - established the foundations of an empire that at its height was comparable to that of the Romans.

The first important step in the establishment of this empire was taken in 1326 when the Ottoman leader Orhan captured the town of Bursa, south of the Sea of Marmara, and made it his capital.

It was probably during the reign of Orhan that the famous institution of the Janissaries, a word derived from the Turkish yeni cheri ("new troops"), was formed. An elite corps of slave soldiers conscripted from the subject population of the empire, they were carefully selected on the basis of physique and intelligence, educated, trained, introduced to Islam, and formed into one of the most formidable military corps ever known. At a later period the Janissaries became so powerful that they made and unmade sultans at their will, and membership in the corps was a sure road to advancement.

Photo: The mosque at Kyustendi in Bulgaria was founded during Ottoman rule.

Orhan's successor, Murad I, who launched naval attacks upon the Aegean coasts of Europe, established himself on the European shores of the Bosporus, and crushed a Balkan coalition. The next Ottoman leader was Bayazid I, who besieged Constantinople and routed the armies dispatched by an alarmed Europe to raise the siege.

It was at this point in history that Tamerlane and his Mongols advanced into Anatolia and very nearly crushed the Ottomans forever. They recovered, however, and later, under the leadership of a new sultan, Murad II, besieged Constantinople for the second time. They were repulsed, but by 1444 they had advanced into Greece and Albania, leaving Constantinople isolated though unconquered. Murad II was succeeded by Mehmed (Muhammad) II, called "The Conqueror" because on May 29, 1453, after his artillery finally breached Constantinople's massive walls, the city fell.

After the fall of Constantinople, and during the sixteenth century, the Ottoman system evolved the centralized administrative framework by which the sultans maintained effective control over the extraordinarily diverse peoples in the vast empire.

An important part of this framework was the millet system - essentially a division of the empire into a communal system based upon religious affiliation. Each millet was relatively autonomous, was ruled by its own religious leader, and retained its own laws and customs. The religious leader, in turn, was responsible to the sultan or his representatives for such details as the payment of taxes. There were also, however, organizations which united the diverse peoples. Particularly important were the guilds of artisans which often cut across the divisions of religion and location.

There was also a territorial organization of the empire, at the upper levels of which was a unit called the muqata'ah under the control of a noble or administrator who could keep some portion of the state revenues derived from it. The amount varied with the importance of the individual noble or administrator, and he could use it as he saw fit. Such rights were also given to some administrators or governors in place of, or in addition to, salaries, thus insuring a regular collection of revenues and reducing record keeping.

The Ottoman Empire reached its peak in size and splendor under the sultan called Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled from 1520 to 1566 and was known to the Turks as Suleiman the Law-Giver. But from the middle of the sixteenth century on the empire began to decline. This process got under way as the office of the Grand Vizier gradually assumed more power and indifferent sultans began to neglect administration. Another factor was that the Janissaries became too strong for the sultans to control The sultans were further weakened when it became customary to bring them up and educate them in isolation and without the skills necessary to rule effectively.

Some sultans later regained power through political maneuvering and by playing off factions against one another, but as a result administration was paralyzed. When Europe found a new route to India - thus eliminating the traditional transshipment of goods through the Arab regions of the empire, revenues began to fall, triggering inflation, corruption, administrative inefficiency, and fragmentation of authority.

Temporary reforms under various sultans, and the still formidable, if weakened, military prowess of the Ottomans helped maintain their empire. As late as 1683, for example, they besieged Vienna. Nevertheless, the decline continued. Because of the increasingly disruptive part played by the Janissaries, the empire, in a series of eighteenth-century wars, slowly lost territory. Because of administrative paralysis, local governors became increasingly independent and, eventually, revolts broke out. Even the various reform movements were balked, and with the invasion of Egypt in 1798 by France it became obvious that the once powerful empire was weakening.

In 1824 Mahmud II finally broke the power of the Janissaries, brought in German advisers to restructure the army, and launched a modernization program. He also brought the semi-autonomous rulers in various provinces under control, with the exception of the defiant and able Muhammad 'Ali in Egypt. On the death of Mahmud, his sons continued his efforts with a series of reforms called the tanzimat. Some of these were no more than efforts to placate European powers - which by then had great influence on the empire's policies - but others, in education and law, were important. Again, however, the effects were temporary and the empire continued to lose territory through rebellion or foreign intervention.

By the early years of the twentieth century the Ottoman Empire was clearly in decline and was referred to as the "Sick Man of Europe." There were, however, some positive accomplishments in this period, such as the Hijaz Railway. Building the railway was undertaken in 1900 by Sultan Abdul-Hamid, as a pan-Islamic project. Completed in 1908, it permitted thousands of Muslims to make the pilgrimage in relative comfort and safety. It also helped to give the Ottoman government more effective control over its territories in western Arabia.

Photo: The Hijaz Railway, completed by the Turks in 1908, linked Damascus with Medina, eight hundred miles to the south.

During the early twentieth century too, a group called the Young Turks forced the restoration of the constitution (which had been suspended by Abdul-Hamid), eventually deposed the sultan, and again attempted to modernize the Ottoman state. The Turkish defeat in the First World War (in which the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and the Central Powers) finally discredited the Young Turks, however, and paved the way for the success of a new nationalist movement under the leadership of an army officer named Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk or "Father of the Turks." The nationalist government under Ataturk, dedicated to leading Turkey in the direction of secularism and Westernization, abolished the sultanate, declared a republic, and eventually (in 1924) abolished the caliphate as well.

The Western world had for centuries been gradually penetrating most of the areas that had once been part of the Muslim empire, and in the latter part of the nineteenth century, in the vacuum left by the long decay and decline of the Ottoman Empire, European powers came to dominate the Middle East.

Among the first Europeans to gain a foothold in the Middle East were the Venetians who, as early as the thirteenth century, had established trading posts in what are now Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, and who controlled much of the shipping between Arab and European ports. Then, in 1497, five years after Ferdinand and Isabella ended Islamic rule in Spain, Vasco da Gama led a fleet of four Portuguese ships around Africa and in 1498 found a new sea route to India from Europe. Dutch, British, and French frigates and merchantmen followed and began establishing trading outposts along the shores of the Indian Ocean, eventually undercutting both Venetian shipping and the Mediterranean trade on which the Middle East had thrived for millennia.

The process of European penetration was gradual and complex; but there were, nevertheless, clearly identifiable turning points. In the sixteenth century, for example, the Ottoman Empire voluntarily granted a series of concessions called the "Capitulations" to European powers - concessions which gave the Europeans decided advantages in foreign trade in the empire. Another turning point was the invasion of Egypt in 1798 by Napoleon Bonaparte. Hoping to cut Britain's lines to India and cripple its maritime and economic power, Napoleon crushed the Mamluks (who governed Egypt under Ottoman suzerainty) and briefly occupied the country. By defeating Egypt, then still part of the Ottoman Empire, Napoleon exposed the inner weaknesses, both military and administrative, of the sultans, shattered the myth of Ottoman power, and inaugurated more than 150 years of direct political intervention by the West.

Europe's worldwide nineteenth-century search for raw materials, markets, military bases, and colonies eventually touched most of what had been the Arab empire. In 1820 Great Britain imposed a pact on Arab tribes on the coast of the Arabian Gulf; in the 1830s France occupied Algeria; in 1839 Britain occupied Aden, at the strategic entrance to the Red Sea; and in 1869 Ferdinand de Lesseps, with the backing of the French emperor, completed what would become, and still is, one of the key shipping arteries of the world, the Suez Canal.

Western culture spread with Western economic and political control. In Lebanon missionaries from several countries founded a network of schools and universities. By introducing modern Western ideas these fostered the growth of Arab nationalism, contributed to the revival of Arabic literature, and provided a powerful impulse toward modernization. In addition to education, contact with the West led to improvements in medical care and the introduction of Western techniques in agriculture, commerce, and industry. For the most part, however, Western domination tended to benefit the nations of Europe at the expense of the Arab world. Although the Suez Canal, for example, has been of immense value to Egypt, the profits for nearly a century went to European shareholders in the company that managed the canal. Western and Western stimulated efforts to modernize parts of the Middle East, moreover, often led Middle Eastern rulers to incur debts which led to European financial control and then to European political domination. It was such a series of steps that ended with France occupying Tunisia in 1881 and Britain taking control of Egypt in 1882. Later, in emulation, Italy in 1911 seized Libya.

Resistance to European penetration took several forms. In the cities, Arab intellectuals debated whether modernization or a return to their roots would be the more effective path to the removal of foreign dominance and, consequently, to independence. Elsewhere, Muslim leaders such as the Mahdi in the Sudan and 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jazairi in Algeria took direct action. These struggles were later romanticized and distorted in a wave of books and films on, for example, Gordon of Khartoum and the French Foreign Legion. Still other intellectuals, such as the Egyptian Muhammad 'Abduh and his Syrian disciple Rashid Rida, undertook to reform the Muslim educational system and to restate Islamic values in terms of modern concepts - needs deeply felt by most Muslim thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Western penetration also drew the Middle East into the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire sided with (Germany, and Great Britain, in response, encouraged and supported the Arab Revolt against the Turks. By promising aid - and ultimate independence from the Ottomans - Great Britain encouraged the Arabs to launch a daring guerrilla campaign against Turkish forces, a campaign widely publicized in press coverage of T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") and in Lawrence's own writings.

By diverting Turkish strength and blocking the Turkish-German route to the Red Sea and India, the Arab Revolt contributed substantially to the Allied victory, but it did not result in full independence for the Arab lands. Instead, France and Great Britain secretly agreed to partition most of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire between them and eventually obtained mandates from the League of Nations: Britain over Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan; France over Syria and Lebanon. The mandates were inconsistent with British promises to the Arabs and, furthermore, contrary to the recommendations of President Wilson's King-Crane Commission, a group sent to the Middle East in 1919 specifically to ascertain the wishes of the Arab peoples.

The mandates, however, were granted, thus extending Western control of the Middle East and also setting the stage for one of the most tragic and intractable conflicts of modern times: the conflict over Palestine which has, since 1948, ignited four wars, sent masses of Palestinian Arabs into exile, contributed to the energy crisis of 1973, and, from 1975 on, fueled the civil war in Lebanon.

The conflict over Palestine actually goes back to 1896, when Theodor Herzl published a pamphlet called Der Judenstaat ("The Jewish State"), in which he advocated British-backed Jewish colonization in Argentina or Palestine - with the hope of eventually creating a sovereign Jewish state. Herzl's writings and personal advocacy led to the formal development of Zionism, a political movement dedicated to the creation of such a state, and eventually focusing on Palestine. The Zionist claim to Palestine was mainly based on the fact that there had been periods of Hebrew rule in Canaan and the land west of the Jordan River between 1300 B.C. and A.D. 70.

The Arabs considered this claim to be without substance. Palestine, they pointed out, had been part of the Islamic world almost continually for twelve centuries; from 636 to the First World War. In 1917, however, Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued the Baltour Declaration, which promised British support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine providing that "nothing shall he done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities" - a reference to the Arabs, who then were 92 percent of the population. The declaration was interpreted by key Zionist leaders as support for a sovereign Jewish state, but this interpretation has been disputed. Both Winston Churchill and Lord Balfour himself later said publicly that "a national home" meant a cultural or religious center, a view that America's King-Crane Commission independently presented. Establishment of a national home did not imply a Jewish state, the commission said.

In the wake of the Balfour Declaration, and during the British mandate, Jewish immigration increased. So, in proportion did sporadic strife between Arabs and Jews. Immigration nevertheless continued and in the 1930s - with the rise of Adolf Hitler - and after World War II, Jewish immigration increased still further. As British efforts to control it generated widespread disapproval in the West and stimulated underground warfare by militant Zionist units against British forces, Britain eventually placed the problem in the hands of the United Nations, which in 1947 voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab States.

Fighting then flared up in Palestine. Six months later, when Britain withdrew and formation of the State of Israel was proclaimed, the Arabs went to war against the newly declared nation. As Jewish forces were victorious - and as stories spread that some 250 Arab civilians had been massacred in a village called Deir Yassin - thousands of Palestinians fled, among the first of today's 3.4 million refugees and exiles. Eventually the United Nations negotiated a truce, but fighting became endemic and war broke out again in 1956, 1967, and 1973. The 1967 war triggered underground warfare by Palestinian militants, whose attacks were primarily aimed at Israel, but also included strikes in Europe and hijackings on international air routes.

In order to settle the conflict, numerous United Nations Resolutions have been passed calling for peace, the return of the refugees to their homes, Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories, and the establishment of permanent boundaries. Several Western nations have attempted mediation, a Palestinian spokesman has argued the matter before the General Assembly of the UN, and in 1977 President Sadat of Egypt traveled to Jerusalem and appeared before the Israeli parliament in an unprecedented peace initiative. President Carter of the United States brought the leaders of Egypt and Israel together in the United States and himself traveled to the Middle East in an attempt to persuade at least these two countries to conclude a peace treaty, and in March 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a treaty to which the United States was also a signatory. Although it led to an improvement in Egyptian-Israeli relations which resulted in Israeli evacuation of some occupied Egyptian territory and the opening of the Suez Canal to Israeli ships, however, this separate peace treaty did nothing to bring about withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights of Syria and left untouched the root cause of the entire problem- that is, the status of the Palestinians. The immediate net result of the treaty, in fact, was a general increase in tension in the Middle East which manifested itself in an apparent increase in Israeli intransigence in the occupied territories and the isolation of Egypt from the rest of the Arab world, including those countries on which it has been most heavily dependent for economic and political backing and which were opposed to the separate treaty because it failed to achieve a permanent and comprehensive peace.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, meanwhile, the last vestiges of European political dominance were being eliminated. Egypt, for example, after ousting in 1952 a royal dynasty going back to the 1800s and installing Gamal Abdel Nasser as president, forced the British to relinquish control of the Suez Canal and withdraw from the country. Algeria, ten years later, won its independence from France after six years of bitter warfare. Even earlier, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon had broken their ties with Britain and France.

This tumultuous period also saw an increase in the influence of the United States and the Soviet Union in the Middle East. Neither power had played a major role in the early phases of penetration, but this changed as they developed conflicting interests with regard to the Arab-Israeli dispute, the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt, the rise of a number of radical governments in the area, and the emergence of the Arab world as a pivotal supplier of oil to the world.

In the same period, the Arab countries themselves, voluntarily and pragmatically, continued to adopt Western techniques, forms, and to some extent concepts. Most Arab countries, for example, have embraced the concept of the sovereign nation-state and Western patterns of political administration: parliaments, political parties, and constitutions. Many, too, have adopted Western legal codes, have accepted international and regional organizations and international courts as means of dealing with other nations, and have organized and equipped their armed forces along Western lines. In recent years, most Arab countries have also adopted the modern industrial economy as a national goal and introduced modern techniques of agriculture and modern methods of transport and mass communications, and invested vast sums in education. Even in recreation and amusement, Western influences are strong.

If Western influences are important in the Middle East, however, they are by no means paramount. Western forms have been adapted as much as they have been adopted, and healthy hybrid forms and concepts abound. More importantly, traditional values are still deeply cherished and promoted. In sum, modernization has not been entirely synonymous with Westernization. By the end of the 1970s the Arabs, having assumed control of their own destinies, had emerged as full and independent participants in the affairs of the world. In the forefront was Saudi Arabia, the heartland of Islam, and the site of the momentous events which initiated Islamic history fourteen centuries ago.

In the sixteenth century three Muslim empires are at or close to the pinnacle of their power and brilliance: the Ottomans under Suleiman the Magnificent, Safavid Persia under Shah Abbas the Great, and Mogul India under Akbar the Great. The Ottoman Turks have conquered and maintain effective control over diverse peoples in a vast empire stretching from Persia almost to the gates of Vienna and along the north coast of Africa to Algiers. In the Arabian Peninsula the Ottomans penetrate to al-Hasa on the Arabian Gulf and to Mocha on the Red Sea. However, the sharifs of Mecca and Medina are virtually independent. Throughout this period the Ottomans contest control of the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea with the Portuguese, who establish themselves in Bahrain, Muscat, and Hormuz and assist Ethiopia in repulsing the Turks from the coast of East Africa.

Islam numbers many millions of adherents outside the Middle Eastern countries:

Photo: Sunset silhouettes a minaret in Sarajevo, a city of some eighty mosques that bear witness to the long Islamic heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Photo: The Mopti Mosque in the West African Republic of Mali.

Photo: A Taiwanese religious teacher.

Photo: A mosque in Washington, D.C., a landmark for millions of Muslims in North America

Photo: One of the largest mosques of the Far East is in Bandar Seri Bagawan, capital of the Sultanate of Brunei in Southeast Asia.

These pages were incorporated from "ARAMCO and Its World: Arabia And The Middle East", Edited by Ismail I. Nawwab, Peter C. Speers & Paul F. Hoye, Islam and Islamic History Section, published in 1980 by Arabian American Oil Company, Washington D.C.

Islam sets effective laws to protect health and bodyby keeping it soundand apt from illness, impurities and filth. it gives stress on hygine, and in order to keep body and soul in a healthy state. On the other hand, it forbids al kinds of self destruction as adultry, sodomy, eating pork,drinking wine and blood and etc.The quotes from Qur,an:"Allah is beautiful and loves beauty and loves to see the signs of being welloff on His servants.But of course this does not mean false pride or arrogance, nor such a short dressing, which is offensive to a healthy society.The messenger of Allah is quotes to have said:Teach your sons swimming, archery and horsemanship." "Your body has the right upon you to take care of it."

Upon the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, the friend of the Prophet and the first adult male to embrace Islam, became caliph. Abu Bakr ruled for two years to be succeeded by 'Umar who was caliph for a decade and during whose rule Islam spread extensively east and west conquering the Persian empire, Syria and Egypt. It was 'Umar who marched on foot at the end of the Muslim army into Jerusalem and ordered the protection of Christian sites. 'Umar also established the first public treasury and a sophisticated financial administration. He established many of the basic practices of Islamic government.

'Umar was succeeded by 'Uthman who ruled for some twelve years during which time the Islamic expansion continued. He is also known as the caliph who had the definitive text of the Noble Quran copied and sent to the four corners of the Islamic world. He was in turn succeeded by 'Ali who is known to this day for his eloquent sermons and letters, and also for his bravery. With his death the rule of the "rightly guided" caliphs, who hold a special place of respect in the hearts of Muslims, came to an end.

It is almost impossible to generalize about American Muslims: converts, immigrants, factory workers, doctors; all are making their own contribution to America's future.

This complex community is unified by a common faith, underpinned by a countrywide network of a thousand mosques.
Muslims were early arrivals in North America. By the eighteenth century there were many thousands of them, working as slaves on plantations. These early communities, cut off from their heritage and families, inevitably lost their Islamic identity as time went by. Today many Afro-American Muslims play an important role in the Islamic community.

The nineteenth century, however, saw the beginnings of an influx of Arab Muslims, most of whom settled in the major industrial centers where they worshipped in hired rooms. The early twentieth century witnessed the arrival of several hundred thousand Muslims from Eastem Europe: the first Albanian mosque was opened in Maine in 1915; others soon followed, and a group of Polish Muslims opened a mosque in Brooklyn in 1928.

In 1947 the Washington Islamic Center was founded during the term of President Truman, and several nationwide organizations were set up in the fifties. The same period saw the establishment of other communities whose lives were in many ways modelled after Islam. More recently, numerous members of these groups have entered the fold of Muslim orthodoxy. Today there are about five million Muslims in America.

As for India, Islam entered into the land east of the Indus River peacefully. Gradually Muslims gained political power beginning in the early 13th century.

But this period which marked the expansion of both Islam and Islamic culture came to an end with the conquest of much of India in 1526 by Babur, one of the Timurid princes. He established the powerful Mogul empire which produced such famous rulers as Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan and which lasted, despite the gradual rise of British power in India, until 1857 when it was officially abolished.

In India Muslims participated in the freedom movement against British rule along with Hindus and when independence finally came in 1947, they were able to create their own homeland, Pakistan, which came into being for the sake of Islam and became the most populated Muslim state although many Muslims remained in India. In 1971, however, the two parts of the state broke up, East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh.

Farther east in the Malay world, Islam began to spread in the 12th century in northem Sumatra and soon Muslim kingdoms were establishd in Java, Sumatra and mainland Malaysia.

Despite the colonization of the Malay world, Islam spread in that area covering present day Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Phililppines and southern Thailand, and is still continuing in islands farther east.

While the Ottomans were concerned mostly with the westem front of their empire, to the east in Persia a new dynasty called the Safavids came to power in 1502.

The Safavids established a powerful state of their own which flourished for over two centuries and became known for the flowering of the arts. Their capital, Isfahan, became one of the most beautiful cities with its blue tiled mosques and exquisite houses.

The Afghan invasion of 1736 put an end to Safavid rule and prepared the independence of Afghanistan which occured fommally in the 19th century. Persia itself fell into tummoil until Nader Shah, the last Oriental conqueror, reunited the country and even conquered India.

But the rule of the dynasty established by him was short-lived. The Zand dynasty soon took over to be overthrown by the Qajars in 1779 who made Tehran their capital and ruled until 1921 when they were in turn replaced by the Pahlavis.

Farther east still, the Indonesians finally gained their independence from the Dutch and the Malays theirs from Britain. At first Singapore was part of Malaysia but it separated in 1963 to become an independent state. Small colonies still persisted in the area and continued to seek their independence, the kingdom of Brunei becoming independent as recently as 1984.

Stories of the Prophets

# A



a - 001 Story of Adam (Adam) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details
The Story of Adam
(Peace be upon him)

Allah the Almighty revealed: "And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: 'Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.'" They said. "Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You." He (Allah ) said. "I know that which you do not know."

And He taught Adam all the names (of everything), then He showed them to the angels and said. "Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful." They (angels) said: "Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise."

He said: "O Adam! Inform them of their names," and when he had informed them of their names, He said: "Did I not tell you that I know the Ghaib (unseen) in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing?"

And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam." And they prostrated except Iblis, he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers (disobedient to Allah )."

And We said: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimeen (wrong-doers)."

Then the Satan made them slip there from (the Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. We said: "Get you down, all, with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment for a time."

Then Adam received from his Lord Words. And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.

We said: "Get down all of you from this place (the Paradise), then whenever there comes to you Guidance from Me, and whoever follows My Guidance, there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve. But those who disbelieve and belie Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) such are the dwellers of the Fire, they shall abide therein forever." (Surah 2: 30-39)

Almighty Allah also revealed: "And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being), then We told the angels, 'Prostrate to Adam,' and they prostrated, except Iblis, he refused to be of those who prostrate."

(Allah ) said: "What prevented you (O Iblis) that you did not prostrate, when I commanded you?"

(Iblis) said. "I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay."

(Allah ) said. "O Iblis, get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced."

(Iblis) said: "Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (i.e. The Day of Resurrection)."

(Allah ) said. "You are of those allowed respite." (Iblis) said, "Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path. Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You)."

(Allah ) said (to Iblis): "Get out from this (Paradise) disgraced and expelled. Whoever of them (mankind) will follow you, then surely I will fill Hell with you all."

"And O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise, and eat thereof as you both wish, but approach not this tree otherwise you both will be of the Zalimeen (unjust and wrong-doers)."

Then Satan whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts (before); he said: "Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals." And he (Satan) swore by Allah to them both (saying): "Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both."

So he misled them with deception. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame (private parts) became manifest to them and they began to stick together the leaves of Paradise over themselves (in order to cover their shame). And their Lord called out to them (saying): "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: Verily, Satan is an open enemy unto you?"

They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers." Allah said: "Get down, one of you an enemy to the other (i.e. Adam, Eve, and Satan, etc.). On earth will be a dwelling-place for you and an enjoyment, for a time." He said: "Therein you shall live, and therein you shall die, and from it you shall be brought out (i.e., resurrected)." (Surah 7: 11-25)

We imagine when Allah the Almighty decided to create Adam: He addressed His angels and told them to prostrate before him. He did not mean to ask their opinion or take their advice, for He is above that. Allah the Exalted told them that He was going to create a vicegerent on the earth who would have children and grandchildren who would corrupt the earth and shed each other’s blood. That is why the angels said to Allah the Almighty: "Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood!" (Surah 2: 30)

There are old traditions about the angels before the creation of Adam. According to Ibn Qatadah, it was said that the angels were informed about the creation of Adam and his progeny by the jinn who lived before Adam. Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar said that the jinn had existed for about two thousand years before Adam and then shed blood. Therefore, Allah sent on them an army of angels that drove them out to the depths of the seas. Ibn Abi Hatim narrated from Ali Ja’far Al-Baqer that the angels were informed that man would cause wickedness and shed blood on earth. It was also said that they knew that no one would be created on earth who would not be wicked and shed blood.

Whether or not these traditions are correct, the angels did understand that Allah would create a vicegerent on earth. Allah the Almighty announced that He was going to create a human being out of clay, that He would mold him and blow His spirit into him, and then the angels should prostrate before him.

Abi Musa Al-Sha’ara’i narrated that Prophet Muhammad said: "Allah created Adam from a handful of dust taken from different lands so the children of Adam have been created according to the composition of the land. Therefore, from mankind we have white, red, black and yellow ones; we have good and evil, ease and sorrow, and what comes in between them." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Ibn Mas’ud and other companions of the Prophet said that Allah the Almighty sent Gabriel onto the earth to get Him clay there from. The earth said: "I seek refuge in Allah from your decreasing my quantity or disfiguring me." So Gabriel returned and did not take anything. And he said: "My Lord, the land sought refuge in You, and it was granted."

So Allah sent Michael for the same purpose, and the land sought refuge with Allah and it was granted. So he went back and said to Allah what Gabriel had said before him.

Then Allah sent the Angel of Death, and the land sought refuge in Allah . The angel said: "I also seek refuge with Allah from returning without carrying out His command." So he took clay from the face of the earth and mixed it. He did not take from one particular place, but rather he took white, red, and black clay (from different places).

The Angel of Death ascended with it, and He (Allah ) soaked the clay till it became sticky. Then Allah said to the angels: "Truly, I am going to create man from clay. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by Me, then you fall down prostrate to him." (Surah 38: 71-72)

So Allah shaped Adam into a human being, but he remained a figure of clay for forty years. The angels went past him. They were seized with fear by what they saw, and Iblis felt this fear most. He used to pass by the figure of Adam, buffeting it, which would make a sound like pottery. Allah told us: "He created man (Adam) from sounding clay like the clay of pottery." (Surah 55: 14)

When the time drew near to breathe the spirit into Adam, as Allah the Almighty decreed, He commanded the angels: "When I breathe My spirit into him prostrate before him." Allah breathed His spirit into Adam and when it reached his head Adam sneezed. The angels said: "All praise belongs to Allah." Adam repeated: "All praise belongs to Allah." Allah said to him: "Your Lord has granted you mercy." When the spirit reached his eyes, Adam looked at the fruits of Paradise. When it reached his abdomen Adam felt an appetite for food. He jumped hurriedly before the spirit could reach his legs, so that he could eat from the fruits of Paradise. Allah , therefore, said: "Man is created of haste." (Surah 21: 37). And then: "The angels prostrated themselves all of them together. Except Iblis -- he refused to be among the prostrators." (Surah 15: 31-32).

Abu Hurairah narrated that Prophet Muhammad said: "Allah created Adam from dust after He mixed the clay and left him for sometime until it became sticky mud, after which Allah shaped him. After that Allah left him till it became like potter’s clay. Iblis used to go past him saying: "You have been created for a great purpose." After that Allah breathed His spirit into him. The first thing in to which the spirit passed was his eye and then his nose. He sneezed. Allah said: ‘May your Lord have mercy upon you, O Adam! Go to those angels and see what they would say.’ So Adam went and greeted them. They replied saying: ‘Peace be upon you and the mercy and blessings of Allah.’ Allah said: ‘O Adam! This is your greeting and that of your off spring.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Allah the Almighty revealed: "And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam’s loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): 'Am I not your Lord?' They said: 'Yes! We testify, lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: 'Verily, we have been unaware of this.' Or lest you should say: 'It was only our fathers aforetime who took others as partners in worship along with Allah, and we were (merely their) descendants after them; will you then destroy us because of the deeds of men who practiced Al-Batil (i.e. polytheism and committing crimes and sins, invoking and worshiping others besides Allah )?' Thus do We explain the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail, so that they may turn (unto the truth)." (Surah 7: 172-174)

Adam’s progeny declared: "Our Lord, we bear witness that You are our Lord; we have no other Lord but Allah." Allah raised their father Adam, and he looked at them and saw those of them who were rich, those who were poor, those who had good forms and those who did not. Adam said: "O Allah! I wish You to make Your servants equal." Allah replied: "I love being thanked." Adam saw among the prophets like lamps among his progeny.

Almighty Allah declared: "And (remember) when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (O Muhammad), and from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus son of Mary. We took from them a strong covenant." (Surah 33: 7)

In another verse Allah the exalted commanded: "So set you (O Muhammad) your face towards the religion of pure Islamic Monotheism Hanifan (worship none but Allah Alone) Allah’s Fitrah (i.e. Allah’s Islamic Monotheism), with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in khalqillah (i.e. the Religion of Allah ; Islamic Monotheism), that is the straight religion, but most men know not" (Surah 30: 30)

Another version of the story relates that Allah took a handful of the dust of the earth and mixed into it the colors white, black, yellow, and red. That is the reason why men are born different colors. When Allah mixed the dust with water, it turned into potter’s clay that makes a sound. It was fermented and had a smell. Iblis passed by, wondering what was going to be made of that clay. From the clay Allah created Adam. He molded his form with His own hands and blew His spirit into him. Adam’s body quivered as life was imbued into it. "Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, 'Be!' -- and it is!" (Surah 37: 82 )

Allah the Almighty declared: "Verily, the likeness of Jesus, in Allah’s Sight is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust then (He) said to him: 'Be!' -- and he was." (Surah 3: 59)

Adam opened his eyes and saw all the angels prostrating before him except one being who was standing at a distance.

Adam did not know what kind of creature it was that did not prostrate before him, nor did he know its name. Iblis was standing with the angels so as to be included in the command given to them, but he was not one of them. He was a jinn, and, as such he was supposed to be inferior to the angels. What is clear is that this prostration was to show respect and did not mean that the angels were worshiping Adam. Prostrating, in worship is done only for Allah .

Almighty Allah recounted the story of Iblis’s refusal to prostrate before Adam: "And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: 'I am going to create a man (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him, then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him.' So, the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together. Except Iblis -- he refused to be among the prostrators. (Allah ) said: 'O Iblis! What is your reason for not being among the prostrators?' (Iblis) said: 'I am not the one to prostrate myself to a human being, whom You created from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.' (Allah ) said: 'Then, get out from here, for verily, you are Rajim (an outcast or a cursed one). And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)." (Surah 3: 59)

In another Surah Almighty Allah recounted it thus: "And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being), then We told the angels, Prostrate to Adam and they prostrated, except Iblis, he refused to be of those who prostrate. (Allah ) said: "What prevented you (O Iblis) that you did not prostrate, when I commanded you?" Iblis said: "I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay." Allah said. "(0 Iblis) get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced." (Iblis) said. "Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (i.e. The Day of Resurrection)." Allah said: "You are of those allowed respite." (Surah 7: 11-15)


a - 002 Story of Enoch (ldris) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details
The Story of Enoch (ldris)
(Peace be upon him)

Allah has praised Enoch, describing him as being a prophet and truthful: "And mention in the Book (the Quran) Idris (Enoch). Verily! He was a man of truth, (and) a prophet. And We raised him to a high station." (Surah 19: 58-57)

Enoch was born and raised in Babylon following the teachings and religion of Prophet Adam and his son Seth. Enoch was the fifth generation of the Prophet Adam. He called the people back to his forefathers’ religion, but only a few listened to him, while the majority turned away.

Prophet Enoch and his followers left Babylon for Egypt. There he carried on his mission, calling people to what is just and fair, teaching them certain prayers and instructing them to fast on certain days and to give a portion of their wealth to the poor.

He was the first of the Children of Adam to be given prophethood after Adam and Seth (PBUT), (Peace be upon them). It is reported that he was the first to invent the basic form of writing. Some of his wise sayings are:

"Happy is he who looks at his own deeds and appoints them as pleaders to his Lord."

"None can show better gratitude for Allah’s favors than he who shares them with others."

"Do not envy people for what they have, as they will only enjoy it for a short while."

"He who indulges in excess will not benefit from it."

"The real joy of life is to have wisdom."

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn
Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.


a - 003 Story of Noah (Nuh) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details
The Story of Noah (Nuh)
(Peace be upon him)

He was Noah Ibn Lamik, Ibn Mitoshilkh, Ibn Enoch, Ibn Yard, Ibn Mahlabeel, Ibn Qinan, Ibn Anoush, Ibn Seth, Ibn Adam the Father of Mankind (PBUH).

According to the history of the People of the Book, ("People of the Book" refers to the Jews and Christians, so-called by Allah because they received Revealed Books, the Taurat, Zabur, and Injeel. These names are translated "Torah", "Psalms", and "Gospels", respectively, but the books that are extant are corrupt. Of the Revealed Books, only the Qur’an remains exactly as it was revealed) the period between the birth of Noah and the death of Adam was one hundred forty-six years (According to Genesis 5 (New Revised Standard Version), Noah was born one hundred twenty six years after the death of Adam). Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that Prophet Muhammad said: "The period between Adam and Noah was ten centuries." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

(According to Genesis 5 (New Revised Standard Version), Noah was born 1056 years after Adam’s creation (or after he left the Garden of Eden). Thus, this hadith does not contradict the previous statement from the People of the Book, as it may first appear to do. The reader should keep in mind, however, that any statements or narratives taken from the People of the Book are not necessarily credible).

For many generations Noah’s people had been worshiping statues that they called gods. They believed that these gods would bring them good, protect them from evil, and provide all their needs. They gave their idols names such as Waddan, Suwa’an, Yaghutha, Ya’auga, and Nasran. These Idols represented, respectively, manly power; mutability, beauty; brute strength; swiftness; sharp sight, insight. (Source: A. Yusuf Ali, The Holy garlan: Translation and Commentary, Appendix XIII.)

Allah the Almighty revealed: "And they [idolaters] have said: "You shall not leave your gods, nor shall you leave Wadd, nor Suwa’, nor Yaghuth, nor Ya’uq nor Nasr (names of the idols)." (Surah 71; 23)

Originally these were the names of good people who had lived among them. After their deaths, statues of them were erected to keep their memories alive. After some time, however, people began to worship these statues. Later generations did not even know why they had been erected; they only knew their parents had prayed to them. That is how idol worshiping developed. Since they had no understanding of Allah the Almighty Who would punish them for their evil deeds, they became cruel and immoral.

I’bn ‘Abbas explained: "Following upon the death of those righteous men, Satan inspired their people to erect statues in the places where they used to sit. They did this, but these statues were not worshiped until the coming generations deviated from the right way of life. Then they worshiped them as their idols."

In his version, Ibn Jarir narrated: "There were righteous people who lived in the period between Adam and Noah and who had followers who held them as models. After their death, their friends who used to emulate them said: ‘If we make statues of them, it will be more pleasing to us in our worship and will remind us of them.’ So they built statues of them, and, after they had died and others came after them, Iblis crept into their minds saying: ‘Your forefathers used to worship them, and through that worship they got rain.’ So they worshiped them."

Ibn Abi Hatim related this story: "Waddan was a righteous man who was loved by his people. When he died, they withdrew to his grave in the land of Babylonia and were overwhelmed by sadness. When Iblis saw their sorrow caused by his death, he disguised himself in the form of a man saying: ‘I have seen your sorrow because of this man’s death; can I make a statue like him which could be put in our meeting place to make you remember him?’ They said: ‘Yes.’ So he made the statue like him. They put it in their meeting place in order to be reminded of him. When Iblis saw their interest in remembering him, he said: ‘Can I build a statue of him in the home of each one of you so that he would be in everyone’s house and you could remember him?’ They agreed. Their children learned about and saw what they were doing. They also learned about their remembrance of him, until they took him to be a deity and worshiped him instead of Allah. So the first to be worshiped instead of Allah was Waddan, the idol which they named thus."

The essence of this point is that every idol from those earlier mentioned was worshiped by a certain group of people. It was mentioned that people made pictures and as the ages passed they made these pictures into statues, so that their forms could be fully recognized; afterwards they were worshiped instead of Allah .

It was narrated that’Umm Salmah and’Umm Habibah told Allah’s Prophet Muhammad about the church called "Maria" which they had seen in the land of Abyssinia. They described its beauty and the pictures therein. He said: "Those are the people who build places of worship on the grave of every dead man who was righteous and then make therein those pictures. Those are the worst of creation unto Allah." (Sahih Al-Bukhari).

Worshiping anything other than Allah is a tragedy that results not only in the loss of freedom; its serious effect reaches man’s mind and destroys it as well. Almighty Allah created man and his mind with its purpose set on achieving knowledge, the most important of which is that Allah alone is the Creator and all the rest are worshipers (slaves). Therefore, disbelief in Allah , or polytheism, results in the loss of freedom, the destruction of the mind, and the absence of a noble target in life (By worshiping anything other than Allah , man becomes enslaved to Satan, who Is himself a creature, and becomes harnessed to his own baser qualities).

Into this environment Allah sent Noah with His message to his people. Noah was the only intellectual not caught in the whirlpool of man’s destruction which was caused by polytheism.

Allah in His mercy sent His messenger Noah to guide his people. Noah was an excellent speaker and a very patient man. He pointed out to his people the mysteries of life and the wonders of the universe. He pointed out how the night is regularly followed by the day and that the balance between these opposites was designed by Allah the Almighty for our good. The night gives coolness and rest while the day gives warmth and awakens activity. The sun encourages growth, keeping all plants and animals alive, while the moon and stars assist in the reckoning of time, direction and seasons. He pointed out that the ownership of the heavens and the earth belongs only to the Divine Creator.

Therefore, he explained to his people, there cannot have been more than one deity. He clarified to them how the devil had deceived them for so long and that the time had come for this deceit to stop. Noah spoke to them of Allah’s glorification of man, how He had created him and provided him with sustenance and the blessings of a mind. He told them that idol worshiping was a suffocating injustice to the mind. He warned them not to worship anyone but Allah and described the terrible punishment Allah would mete out if they continued in their evil ways.

The people listened to him in silence. His words were a shock to their stagnating minds, as it is a shock to a person who is asleep under a wall which is about to fall and who is vigorously awakened. This person may be alarmed and may even become angry although the aim was to save him.

Noah’s people were divided into two groups after his warning. His words touched the hearts of the weak, the poor, and the miserable and soothed their wounds with its mercy. As for the rich, the strong, the mighty and the rulers, they looked upon the warning with cold distrust. They believed they would be better off if things stayed as they were. Therefore, they started their war of words against Noah.

First they accused Noah of being only human like themselves. The chiefs of the disbelievers among his people said: "We see you but a man like ourselves." (Surah 11: 27) He, however, had never said anything other than that. He asserted that, indeed, he was only a human being: Allah had sent a human messenger because the earth was inhabited by humans. If it had been inhabited by angels Allah would have sent an angelic messenger.

The contest between the polytheists and Noah continued. The rulers had thought at first that Noah’s call would soon fade on its own. When they found that his call attracted the poor, the helpless, and common laborers, they started to verbally attack and taunt him: "You are only followed by the poor, the meek, and the worthless."

Allah the Almighty told us: "And indeed We sent Noah to his people (and he said): "I have come to you as a plain warner, that you worship none but Allah, surely, I fear for you the torment of a painful Day. The chiefs of the disbelievers among his people said: ‘We see you but a man like ourselves, nor do we see any follow you but the meanest among us and they (too) followed you without thinking. And we do not see in you any merit above us, in fact, we think you are liars." (Surah 11: 25-27)

Thus the conflict between Noah and the heads of his people intensified. The disbelievers tried to bargain: "Listen, Noah, if you want us to believe in you, then dismiss your believers. They are meek and poor, while we are elite and rich; no faith can include us both." Noah listened to the heathens of his community and realized they were being obstinate. However, he was gentle in his response. He explained to his people that he could not dismiss the believers, as they were not his guests but Allah’s .

Noah appealed to them: "And O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but Allah. I am not going to drive away those who have believed. Surely, they are going to meet their Lord, but I see that you are a people that are ignorant. And O my people! Who will help me against Allah, if I drove them away? Will you not then give a thought? And I do not say to you that with me are the Treasures of Allah nor that I know the Ghaib (unseen), nor do say I am an angel, and I do not say of those whom your eyes look down upon that Allah will not bestow any good on them. Allah knows what is in their inner-selves (as regards Belief etc.). In that case, I should, indeed be one of the Zalimeen (wrong-doers, oppressors, etc.)." (Surah 11: 29-31)

Noah refuted the arguments of the disbelievers with the noble knowledge of the prophets. It is the logic of intellect that rids itself of personal pride and interests.

The rulers were tired of Noah’s arguments. Allah the Exalted related their attitude: "They said: 'O Noah! You have disputed with us and much have you prolonged the dispute with us, now bring upon us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful.' He said: 'Only Allah will bring it (the punishment) on you, if He will, and then you will escape not. And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you counsel, if Allah’s Will is to keep you astray. He is your Lord! And to Him you shall return.'" (Surah 11: 32-34)

The battle continued; the arguments between the disbelievers and Noah became prolonged. When all the refutations of the disbelievers collapsed and they had no more to say, they began to be rude and insulted Allah’s prophet. The leaders of his people said: "Verily, we see you in plain error." (Surah 7: 60)

Noah responded in the manner of the prophets: "O my people! There is no error in me, but I am a Messenger from the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)! I convey unto you the Messages of my Lord and give sincere advice to you. And I know from Allah what you know not." (Surah 7: 61-62)

Noah continued appealing to his people to believe in Allah hour after hour, day after day, year after year. He admonished his people and called them to Allah day and night, in secret and openly. He gave them examples, explained Allah’s signs and illustrated Allah’s ability in the formation of His creatures. But whenever he called them to Allah , they ran away from him. Whenever he urged them to ask Allah to forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears and became too proud to listen to the truth.

Allah the Almighty related what Noah faced: "Verily, We sent Noah to his people (saying): ‘Warn your people before there comes to them a painful torment."

He said. "O my people! Verily, I am a plain warner to you, that you should worship Allah (Alone), be dutiful to Him, and obey me. He (Allah) will forgive you ofyour sins and respite you to an appointed term. Verily, the term of Allah when it comes, cannot be delayed, if you but knew."

He said: "O my Lord! Verily, I have called my people night and day (i.e. secretly and openly to accept the doctrine of Islamic Monotheism), but all my calling added nothing but to (their) flight (from the truth). And verily! Every time I called unto them that You might forgive them, they thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, and persisted (in their refusal), and magnified themselves in pride. Then verily I called to them openly (aloud); then verily, I proclaimed to them in public, and I have appealed to them in private, I said (to them): 'Ask forgiveness from your Lord; Verily, He is Oft-Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance; and give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers. What is the matter with you, [that you fear not Allah (His Punishment), and] you hope not for reward (from Allah or you believe not in His Oneness). While He has created you in (different) stages. [i.e. first Nutfah, then ‘Alaqa and then Mudgha, (see Surah 23: 13-14) ]

See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, and has made the moon a light therein, and made the sun a lamp? And Allah has brought you forth from the (dust of) earth. Afterwards He will return you into it (the earth), and bring you forth (again on the Day of Resurrection). And Allah has made for you the earth wide spread (an expanse) that you may go about therein in broad roads.

Noah said: "My Lord! They have disobeyed me, and followed one whose wealth and children give him no increase but only loss. And they have plotted a mighty plot. And they have said: ‘You shall not leave your gods, nor shall you leave Wadd, nor Suwa, nor Yaghuth, nor Yauq nor Nasr (names of the idols).’ And indeed they have led many astray. And (O Allah)! Grant no increase to the Zalimeen (polytheists, wrong-doers, and disbelievers, etc.) save error. Because of their sins they were drowned, then were made to enter the Fire, and they found none to help them instead of Allah." (Surah 71: 1-25)

Noah continued to call his people to believe in Allah for nine hundred fifty years. Allah the Almighty said: "And indeed We sent Noah to his people, and he stayed among them a thousand years less fifty years [inviting them to believe in the Oneness of Allah (Monotheism), and discard the false gods and other deities]." (Surah 29: 14)

It happened that every passing generation admonished the succeeding one not to believe Noah and to wage war against him. The father used to teach his child about the matter that was between himself and Noah and counsel him to reject his call when he reached adulthood. Their natural disposition rejected believing and following the truth.

Noah saw that the number of believers was not increasing, while that of the disbelievers was. He was sad for his people, but he never reached the point of despair.

There came a day when Allah revealed to Noah that no others would believe. Allah inspired him not to grieve for them, at which point Noah prayed that the disbelievers be destroyed. He said: "My Lord! Leave not one of the disbelievers on the earth. If you leave them, they will mislead Your slaves, and they will beget none but wicked disbelievers." (Surah 71: 27)

Allah accepted Noah’s prayer. The case was closed, and He passed His judgment on the disbelievers in the form of a flood. Allah the Exalted ordered His worshiper Noah to build an ark with His knowledge and instructions, and with the help of angels. Almighty Allah commanded: "And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our Inspiration, and address Me not on behalf of those who did wrong, they are surely to be drowned." (Surah 11: 37)

Noah chose a place outside the city, far from the sea. He collected wood and tools and began to work day and night to build the ark. The people’s mockery continued: "O Noah! Does carpentry appeal to you more than prophethood? Why are you building an ark so far from the sea? Are you going to drag it to the water or is the wind going to carry it for you?" Noah replied: "You will come to know who will be put to shame and suffer."

Allah the Almighty narrated: "And as he was constructing the ship, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they made a mockery of him. He said: "If you mock at us, so do we mock at you likewise for your mocking. And you will know who it is on whom will come a torment that will cover him with disgrace and on whom will fall a lasting torment. " (Surah 11: SS-39)

The ship was constructed, and Noah sat waiting Allah’s command. Allah revealed to him that when water miraculously gushed forth from the oven at Noah’s house, that would be the sign of the start of the flood, the sign for Noah to act.

The terrible day arrived when the oven at Noah’s house overflowed. Noah hurried to open the ark and summon the believers. He also took with him a pair, male and female, of every type of animal, bird and insect. Seeing him taking these creatures to the ark, the people laughed loudly: "Noah must have gone out of his head! What is he going to do with the animals?"

Almighty Allah narrated: "(So it was) till then there came Our Command and the oven gushed forth (water like fountains from the earth). We said. 'Embark therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your family, except him against whom the Word has already gone forth, and those who believe.' And none believed him, except a few." (Surah 11: 40)

Noah’s wife was not a believer with him, so she did not join him; neither did one of Noah’s sons, who was secretly a disbeliever but had pretended faith in front of Noah. Likewise most of the people were disbelievers and did not go on board.

The scholars (‘Ulama) hold different opinions on the number of those who were with Noah on the ship. Ibn ‘Abbas stated that there were eighty believers, while Ka’ab Al-Ahbar held that there were seventy-two. Others claimed that there were ten believers with Noah.

Water rose from the cracks in the earth; there was not a crack from which water did not rise. Rain poured from the sky in quantities never seen before on the earth. Water continued pouring from the sky and rising from the cracks; hour after hour the level rose. The seas and waves invaded the land. The interior of the earth moved in a strange way, and the ocean floors lifted suddenly, flooding the dry land. The earth, for the first time, was submerged.

Allah told the story thus: "And he (Noah) said: 'Embark therein, in the Name of Allah will be its moving course and its resting anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst the waves like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart), 'O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers.' The son replied. 'I will betake myself to a mountain, it will save me from the water.' Noah said: 'This day there is no savior from the Decree of Allah except him on whom He has mercy.' And a wave came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned. And it was said: 'O earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withhold (your rain).' And the water was diminished (made to subside) and the Decree (of Allah) was fulfilled (i.e. the destruction of the people of Noah). And it (the ship) rested on Mount Judi, and it was said: 'Away with the people who are Zalimeen (polytheists and wrong-doing)!’ And Noah called upon his Lord and said, 'O my Lord! Verily, my son is of my family! And certainly, Your Promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges.' He said: 'O Noah! Surely, he is not of your family, verily, his work is unrighteous, so ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge! I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorant. ' Noah said: 'O my Lord! I seek refuge with You from asking You that of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have Mercy on me, I would indeed be one of the losers.' It was said: 'O Noah! Come down (from the ship) with peace from Us and blessings on you and on the people who are with you (and on some of their offspring), but (there will be other) people to whom We shall grant their pleasures (for a time), but in the end a painful torment will reach them from Us.' " (Surah 11: 41-48)

With the issue of the divine command, calm returned to earth, the water retreated, and the dry land shone once again in the rays of the sun. The flood had cleansed the earth of the disbelievers and polytheists.

Noah released the birds and the beasts, which scattered over the earth. After that the believers disembarked. Noah put his forehead to the ground in prostration. The survivors kindled a fire and sat around it. Lighting a fire had been prohibited on board so as not to ignite the ship’s wood and burn it up. None of them had eaten hot food during the entire period of the flood. Following the disembarkation there was a day of fasting in thanks to Allah .

The Qur’an draws the curtain on Noah’s story. We do not know how his affairs with his people continued. All we know or can ascertain is that on his deathbed, he requested his son to worship Allah alone. Noah then passed away.

Abdullah Ibn ‘Amru Ibn Al’aas narrated that Prophet Muhammad said: "When the death of the Messenger of Allah Noah approached, he admonished his sons: ‘Indeed I would give you far-reaching advice, commanding you to do two things, and warning you against doing two as well. I charge you (to believe) that there is no god but Allah and that if the seven heavens and the seven earths were put on one side of a scale and the words 'There is no god but Allah' were put on the other, the latter would outweigh the former. And I warn you against associating partners with Allah and against pride." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Some traditions said that his grave is in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca (Makkah), while others said that he was buried in Baalabak, a city in Iraq.

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.


a - 004 Story of Hud (Hud) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details


a - 005 Story of Salih (Salih) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details

The Story of Salih
(Peace be upon him)

After the destruction of the ‘Ad, the tribe of Thamud succeeded them in power and glory. They also fell to idol worshiping. As their material wealth increased so, too, did their evil ways while their virtue decreased. Like the people of ‘Ad, they erected huge buildings on the plains and hewed beautiful homes out of the hills. Tyranny and oppression became prevalent as evil men ruled the land.

So Allah sent unto them His Prophet Salih (PBUH), a man from among them. His name was Salih Ibn ‘Ubeid, Ibn Maseh, Ibn ‘Ubeid, Ibn Hader, Ibn Thamud, Ibn ‘Ather, Ibn Eram, Ibn Noah. He called his people to worship Allah alone, and to not associate partners with Him. While some of them believed in him, the majority of them disbelieved and harmed him by both words and deeds. Salih directed them: "O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other Ilah (god) but Him." (Surah 11: 61)

Salih was known for his wisdom, purity and goodness and had been greatly respected by his people before Allah’s revelation came to him. Salih’s people said to him: "O Salih! You have been among us as a figure of good hope (and we wished for you to be our chief), till this [new thing which you have brought, that we leave our gods and worship your God (Allah) alone]! Do you (now) forbid us the worship of what our fathers have worshiped? But we are really in grave doubt as to that which you invite us to (monotheism)." (Surah 11: 62)

They merely wanted to worship the same gods as their fathers had, with no reason, no proof, no thought. The proof of Salih’s (PBUH) message was evident, but despite this it was obvious that most of his people did not believe him. They doubted his words, thinking he was charmed, and they saw that he would not stop preaching. Fearing that his followers would increase, they tried to put him off by assigning him an important task: to prove that he was a messenger of Allah by performing a miracle. Let a unique she-camel issue from the mountains.

Allah granted Salih this miracle and a huge, unique she camel appeared from the direction of the mountain. The Qur’anic commentators said that the people of Thamud gathered on a certain day at their meeting place, and the prophet Salih (PBUH) came and addressed them to believe in Allah , reminding them of the favors Allah had granted them.

Then, pointing at a rock, they demanded: "Ask your Lord to make a she-camel -- which must be ten months pregnant, tall and attractive -- issue from the rock for us." Salih replied: "Look now! If Allah sends you what you have requested, just as you have described, will you believe in that which I have come to you with, and have faith in the message I have been sent with?"

They answered: "Yes."

So he took a vow from them on this, then prayed to Allah the Almighty to grant their request. Allah ordered the distant rock to split asunder, bringing forth a great ten-month pregnant she-camel. When they set eyes on it, they were amazed. They saw a great thing, a wonderful sight, dazzling power, clear evidence!

A number of Salih’s people believed, yet most of them continued in their disbelief, stubbornness and going astray. Allah the Almighty said: "And We sent the she-camel to Thamud as a clear sign, but they did her wrong." (Surah 17: 59) and also: "And verily, the dwellers of Al-Hijr (the rocky tract) denied the Messengers. And We gave them Our Signs, but they were averse to them." (Surah 15: 80-81)

There are a number of ancient accounts of this camel and its miraculous nature. It was said that the she-camel was miraculous because a rock in the mountain split open and it came forth from it, followed by its young offspring. Other accounts said that the she-camel used to drink all the water in the wells in one day, and no other animals could approach the water. Still others claimed that the she-camel produced milk sufficient for all the people to drink, on the same day that it drank all the water, leaving none for them.

At first, the people of Thamud were greatly surprised when the she-camel issued from the mountain rocks. It was a blessed camel, its milk sufficient for thousands of men, women and children. If it slept in a place, that place was abandoned by other animals. Thus it was obvious that it was not an ordinary camel, but one of Allah’s signs. It lived among Salih’s people, some of whom believed in Allah while the majority continued in their obstinacy and disbelief.

Their hatred of Salih turned towards the blessed she-camel and became centered on it. A conspiracy started to be hatched against the camel by the disbelievers, and they secretly plotted against it.

Salih feared that they might kill the camel, so he warned them: "O my people! This she-camel of Allah is a sign to you, leave her to feed on Allah’s earth, and touch her not with evil, lest a near torment will seize you." (Surah 11: 64)

For a while, Salih’s people let the camel graze and drink freely, but in their hearts they hated it. However, the miraculous appearance of the unique camel caused many to become Salih’s followers, and they clung to their belief in Allah .

The disbelievers now began complaining that this huge she camel with its unusual qualities drank most of the water and frightened their cattle. They laid a plot to kill the camel, and sought the help of their women-folk to tempt the men to carry out their commands. Saduq Bint of Mahya, who was from a rich and noble family, offered herself to a young man named Masra’i Ibn Mahraj on condition that he hamstring the camel. ‘Aniza, an old woman, offered one of her daughters to a young man, Qudar Ibn Saluf, in return for killing the camel. Naturally these young men were tempted and set about finding seven others to assist them.

They watched the camel closely, observing all its movements. As the she-camel came to drink at the well, Masra’i shot it in the leg with an arrow. It tried to escape but was hampered by the arrow. Qudar followed the camel and struck it with a sword in the other leg. As it fell to the ground, he pierced it with his sword.

The killers were given a hero’s welcome, cheered with songs and poetry composed in their praise. In their arrogance they mocked Salih, but he warned them: "Enjoy life for three more days then the punishment will descend upon you." Salih was hoping that they would see the folly of their ways and change their attitude before the three days were out.

"Why three days?" they asked. "Let the punishment come as quickly as possible."

He pleaded with them: "My people, why do you hasten to evil rather than good? Why do you not ask pardon of Allah so that you may receive mercy?"

They replied: "We see your presence and that of your followers as bringing evil on us."

Almighty Allah related their story: "And indeed We sent to Thamud their brother Salih, saying, ‘Worship Allah (Alone and none else).' Then look! They became two parties (believers and disbelievers) quarreling with each other. He said. 'O my people! Why do you seek to hasten the evil (torment) before the good (Allah’s Mercy)? Why seek you not the Forgiveness of Allah, that you may receive mercy?" They said: ‘We augur ill omen from you and those with you.' He said. 'Your ill omen is with Allah; nay, but you are a people that are being tested.' And there were in the city nine men (from the sons of their chiefs), who made mischief in the land, and would not reform. They said, 'Swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household, and afterwards we will surely say to his near relatives: We witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily! We are telling the truth.' So they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not. Then see how was the end of their plot! Verily! We destroyed them and their nation, all together. These are their houses in utter ruin, for they did wrong. Verily, in this is indeed an Ayah (a lesson or a sign) for people who know. And We saved those who believed, and used to fear and obey Allah." (Surah 27: 45-53)

They also plotted to kill Salih and his household as Almighty Allah stated: "So they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not." (Surah 27: 50) Allah saved Salih and his followers from their wicked plans. Heavy-hearted, they left the evil-doers and moved to another place.

Three days after Salih’s warning, thunderbolts filled the air, followed by severe earthquakes which destroyed the entire tribe and its homeland. The land was violently shaken, destroying all living creatures in it. There was one terrific cry which had hardly ended when the disbelievers of Salih’s people were struck dead, one and all, at the same time. Neither their strong buildings nor their rock-hewn homes could protect them.

Allah the Exalted said: "And to Thamud (people We sent) their brother Salih. He said: 'O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other Ilah (god) but Him (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah). Indeed there has come to you a clear sign (the miracle of the coming out of a huge she-camel from the midst of a rock) from your Lord. This she-camel of Allah is a sign unto you; so you leave her to graze in Allah’s earth, and touch her not with harm, lest a painful torment should seize you. And remember when He made you successors after ‘Ad (people) and gave you habitations in the land, you build for yourselves palaces in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains. So remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allah, and do not go about making mischief on the earth.' "

The leaders of those who were arrogant among his people said to those who were counted weak -- to such of them as believed, "Know you that Salih is one sent from his Lord." They said: "We indeed believe in that with which he has been sent." Those who were arrogant said: "Verily, we disbelieve in that which you believe in." So they killed the she-camel and insolently defied the Commandment of their Lord, and said: "O Salih! Bring about your threats if you are indeed one of the Messengers (of Allah)." So the earthquake seized them, and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes. Then he (Salih) turned from them, and said, "O my people! I have indeed conveyed to you the Message of my Lord, and have given you good advice but you like not good advisers." (Surah 7: 73-79)

All were destroyed before they realized what was happening. As for the people who believed in the message of Salih (PBUH), they were saved because they had left the place.

Ibn ‘Umar narrated that while the Prophet Muhammad was passing by Thamud’s houses on his way to the battle of Tabuk, he stopped together with the people there. The people fetched water from the wells from which the people of Thamud used to drink. They prepared their dough (for baking) and filled their water-skins from it (the water from the wells). The Prophet of Allah ordered them to empty the water-skins and give the prepared dough to the camels. Then he went away with them until they stopped at the well from which the she-camel (of Salih) used to drink. He warned them against entering upon the people that had been punished, saying: "I fear that you may be affected by what afflicted them; so do not enter upon them."

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.


a - 006 Story of Abraham (Ibrahim) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details
The Story of Abraham (Ibrahim), Ishmael (Isma’il), Isaac (Ishaaq), and Jacob (Yaqub)
(Peace be upon them)

Section One The Story of Abraham (Peace be upon him)
Some of the People of the Book stated that his name was Abraham Ibn Tarikh, Ibn Nahur, Ibn Sarough, Ibn Raghu, Ibn Phaligh, Ibn ‘Aher, Ibn Shalih, Ibn Arfghshand, Ibn Sam, Ibn Noah.

They said that when Tarikh was seventy five years old, he had Abraham, Nahor (Nohour) and Haran. Haran had a son named Lot (Lut). They also said that Abraham was the middle child and that Haran died in the lifetime of his father in the land where he was born, the land of the Chaldeans (Al-Kaldanieen), also known as Babylonia. At that time some people worshiped idols of stone and wood; others worshiped the planets, stars, sun and moon; still others worshiped their kings and rulers.

Abraham was born into that atmosphere, into a typical family of that ancient time. The head of the family was not even an ordinary idolater, but was one who totally rejected Allah and who used to make the idols with his own hands. Some traditions claimed that Abraham’s father died before his birth and that he was raised by an uncle whom Abraham called father. Other traditions said that his father was alive and was named Azer.

Into that family Abraham was born, destined to stand against his own family, against the entire system of his community. In brief, he stood against all kinds of polytheism.

He was endowed with spiritual understanding from an early age. Allah enlightened his heart and mind and gave him wisdom from childhood. Allah the Almighty stated: "And indeed We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his (portion of) guidance, and We were Well-Acquainted with him (as to his Belief in the Oneness of Allah , etc.)." (Surah 21: 52)

During his early childhood Abraham realized that his father made strange statues. One day, he asked him about what it was he made. His father replied that he made statues of gods. Abraham was astonished and he spontaneously rejected the idea. Being a child, he played with such statues, sitting on their backs as people sit on the backs of donkeys and mules.

One day, his father saw him riding the statue of Mardukh and he became furious. He ordered his son not to play with it again.

Abraham asked: "What is this statue, father? It has big ears, bigger than ours."

His father answered: "It is Mardukh, the god of gods, son! These big ears show his deep knowledge."

This made Abraham laugh. He was only seven years old at that time.

Years passed and Abraham grew. Since his childhood his heart had been full of hatred for these idols. He could not understand how a sane person could make a statue and then worship what he had made. He noticed that these idols did not eat, drink, or talk, and that they could not even turn themselves right-side-up if someone turned them upside down. How, then, could people believe that such statues could harm or benefit them?

Abraham’s people had a big temple full of idols, in the middle of which was a niche accommodating the biggest gods which were of different kinds, qualities, and shapes. Abraham, who used to go to the temple with his father when he was a child, greatly despised all that wood and stone. What surprised him was the way his people behaved when they entered the temple: they bowed and started to cry, begging and imploring their gods for help as if the idols could hear or understand these requests!

At first, such a sight seemed funny to Abraham, but later he began to feel angry. Was it not astonishing that all those people could be deceived? What added to the problem was that his father wanted him to be a priest when he was grown. He wanted nothing more from his son than that he revere those statues, yet Abraham never stopped displaying his hatred and disdain of them.

One night Abraham left his house to go to a mountain. He walked alone in the dark until he chose a cave in the mountain, where he sat resting his back against its wall. He looked at the sky. He had hardly seen it when he remembered that he was looking at planets and stars which were worshiped by some people on earth. His young heart was filled with tremendous pain. He considered what was beyond the moon, the stars and the planets [i.e. Allah ] and was astonished that these celestial bodies were worshiped by men when they had been created to worship and obey their Creator, appearing and disappearing at His command.

Therefore, Abraham addressed his people who worshiped celestial bodies, as Almighty Allah revealed: "Thus did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth that he be one of those who have Faith with certainty. When the night covered him over with darkness he saw a star. He said: "This is my lord." But when it set, he said: "I like not those that set." When he saw the moon rising up he said: "This is my lord." But when it set he said: "Unless my Lord guides me, I shall surely be among the erring people." When he saw the sun rising up, he said: "This is my lord. This is greater." But when it set, he said, "O my people! I am indeed free from all that you join as partners in worship with Allah. Verily, I have turned my face towards Him Who has created the heavens and the earth Hanifan (Islamic Monotheism, i.e., worshiping none but Allah Alone) and I am not of Al-Mushrikeen (those who worship others besides Allah )."

His people disputed with him. He said: "Do you dispute with me concerning Allah while He has guided me and I fear not those whom you associate with Allah in worship. (Nothing can happen to me) except when my Lord (Allah ) wills something. My Lord comprehends in His Knowledge all things. Will you not then remember? And how should I fear those whom you associate in worship with Allah (though they can neither benefit nor harm), while you fear not that you have joined in worship with Allah things for which He has not sent down to you any authority. (So) which of the two parties has more right to be in security?... If you but know."

It is those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah and worship none but Him Alone) and confuse not their belief with Zulm (wrong, i.e., by worshiping others besides Allah ), for them (Only) there is security and they are the guided. And that was Our Proof which We gave Abraham against his people. We raise whom We will in degrees. Certainly your Lord is All Wise, All-Knowing." (Surah 6: 75-83)

In that debate, Abraham clarified to his people that these celestial bodies do not serve as deities and cannot be worshiped as partners with Allah the Almighty. Indeed, these bodies are created things, fashioned, controlled, managed and made to serve. They appear sometimes and disappear at others, going out of sight from our world. However, Allah the Almighty does not lose sight of anything, and nothing can be hidden from Him. He is without end, everlasting without disappearance. There is no other deity but Allah .

Abraham made clear to them, first, that the celestial bodies are unworthy of worship and, second, that they are among the signs of Allah . Almighty Allah commanded: "And from among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you (really) worship Him." (Surah 41: 37)

Abraham’s reasoning helped to reveal the truth, and then the conflict between him and his people began, for the worshipers of the stars and planets did not stand mute. They began arguing and threatening Abraham.

Abraham replied: "Do you dispute with me concerning Allah while He has guided me, and I fear not those whom you associate with Allah in worship. (Nothing can happen to me) except when my Lord (Allah ) wills something. My Lord comprehends in His Knowledge all things. Will you not then remember? And how should I fear those whom you associate in worship with Allah (though they can neither benefit nor harm), while you fear not that you have joined in worship with Allah things for which He has not sent down to you any authority. (So) which of the two parties has more right to be in security? . . . if you but know! It is those who believe (in the oneness of Allah and worship none but Him Alone) and confuse not their belief with Zulm (wrong i.e. by worshiping others besides Allah), for them (only) there is security and they are the guided." (Surah 6: 80-82)

The curtains are drawn on the first category of people , those who were worshiping celestial bodies. The next situation reveals the second group, those who were practicing idolatry.

Allah gave Abraham (PBUH) the reasoning he needed the first time and every time he argued with his people. Almighty Allah declared: "And that was Our Proof which We gave Abraham against his people. We raise whom We will in degrees. Certainly your Lord is All-Wise All-Knowing." (Surah 6: 83)

Abraham did his best to make his people heedful to the belief in the oneness of Almighty Allah and to the worship of Him alone. He bade them to firmly renounce the worship of idols. He said to his father and his people: "What are these images, to which you are devoted?" They said "We found our fathers worshiping them." He said. "Indeed you and your fathers have been in manifest error." They said, "Have you brought us the truth, or are you one of those who play about?" He said, "Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who created them and of that I am one of the witnesses." (Surah 21: 52-56)

All was finished between Abraham and his people and the struggle began. The most amazed and furious was his father (or his uncle who had raised him), for, as it is well known, he not only worshiped idols but sculptured and sold them as well. Abraham felt that it was his duty as a good son to advise his father against this evil so that he could be saved from Allah’s punishment.

Being a wise son, he did not make his father feel foolish nor did he openly laugh at his conduct. He told him that he loved him, thereby hoping to generate fatherly love. Then he gently asked him why he worshiped lifeless idols who could not hear, see, or protect him. Before his father could become angry he hastily added: "O my father! Verily! There has come to me of knowledge that which came not unto you. So follow me. I will guide you to a Straight Path. O my father! Worship not Satan. Verily! Satan has been a rebel against the Most Beneficent (Allah ). O my father! Verily! I fear lest a torment from the Most Beneficent (Allah ) overtake you, so that you become a companion of Satan (in the Hell-Fire)."

He (the father) said: "Do you reject my gods, O Abraham? If you stop not (this), I will indeed stone you. So get away from me safely before I punish you." Abraham said: "Peace be on you! I will ask Forgiveness of my Lord for you. Verily! He is unto me Ever Most Gracious. And I shall turn away from you and from those whom you invoke besides Allah." (Surah 19: 43-48)

His father’s harsh treatment did not stop Abraham from delivering the message of truth. Angry and sad to see people prostrate before idols, he was determined to stamp out these practices and went to the town to debate with the people, knowing full well that he might suffer harm.

Like a wise doctor searching for the cause of a sickness so as to prescribe the proper cure, or like a judge who questions the accused sharply so that he might detect the truth, Abraham asked them: "Do the idols see you when you prostrate before them? Do they benefit you in any way?" They quickly tried to defend their beliefs. They argued that they knew their idols were lifeless but that their forefathers had worshiped them; to them this was proof enough for their belief.

Abraham explained that their forefathers had been wrong. This angered them and they retorted: "Are you condemning our gods and our forefathers? Or are you just joking?"

Abraham showed no fear as he replied: "I am serious. I come to you with a true religion. I have been sent with guidance from our Lord Who alone is worthy of worship, Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and Who regulates all affairs of life, unlike the dumb idols which are just stone and wood."

To convince them that the idols could not harm him, he challenged: "I have already condemned them; if they had any power they would have harmed me by now!"

Almighty Allah recounted: "And recite to them the story of Abraham. When he said to his father and his people: "[who] do you worship?" They said. ‘We worship idols, and to them we are ever devoted." He said, "Do they hear you, when you call (on them)? Or do they benefit you or do they harm (you)?" They said, "Nay, but we found our fathers doing so.’

He said, "Do you observe that which you been worshiping, you and your ancient fathers? Verily! They are enemies to me, save the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn, and all that exists); Who has created me, and it is He Who guides me, and it is He Who feeds me and gives me to drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me; and Who will cause me to die and then will bring me to life (again); and Who, I hope will forgive me my faults on the Day of Recompense, (the Day of Resurrection)." (Surah 26: 69-82)

In another Surah The Almighty revealed: "And (remember) Abraham when he said to his people: ‘Worship Allah (Alone), and fear Him, that is better for you if you did but know. You worship besides Allah only idols, and you only invent falsehood. Verily, those whom you worship besides Allah have no power to give you provision, so seek your provision from Allah (Alone), and worship Him (Alone), and be grateful to Him. To Him (Alone) you will be brought back. And if you deny, then nations before you have denied (their Messengers). And the duty of the Messenger is only to convey (the Message) plainly." See they not how Allah originates creation, then will repeat it. Verily, that is easy for Allah. Say: "Travel in the land and see how (Allah) originated creation, and then Allah will bring forth (resurrect) the creation of the Hereafter (i.e., resurrection after death). Verily, Allah is Able to do all things.’ He punishes whom He wills, and shows mercy to whom He wills, and to Him you will be returned. And you cannot escape in the earth or in the heaven. And besides Allah you have neither any Wali (Protector or Guardian) nor any Helper. And those who disbelieve in the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah and the Meeting with Him, it is they who have no hope of My Mercy, and it is they who will have a painful torment." (Surah 22: 16-23)

He explained to them the beauty of Allah’s creation, His power and wisdom. Idol worship is detested by Allah , for Allah is the Lord of the universe ) Who created mankind, guided him, provided him with food and drink, and cured him when he was sick, and Who will cause him to die and be raised up again. It was He to Whom Abraham prayed and Who would forgive his sins on the Day of Judgment. However, they would not give up but clung fast to idolatry.

Abraham left his father’s house and abandoned his people and what they worshiped. He decided to do something about their state of disbelief, but did not reveal it. He knew that there was going to be a great celebration on the other bank of the river which would be attended by all the people. Abraham waited until the city was empty, then came out cautiously, directing his steps towards the temple. The streets leading to it were empty and the temple itself was deserted, for the priests had also gone to the festival outside the city.

Abraham went there carrying a sharp ax. He looked at the stone and wood statues of the gods and at the food laid in front of them as offerings. He approached one of the statues and asked: "The food in front of you is getting cold. Why don’t you eat?" The statue kept silent and rigid. Abraham asked the other statues around him: "Will you not eat (of the offering before you)?" (Surah 37: 91)

He was mocking them for he knew they would not eat. He once again asked then: "What is the matter with you that you do speak not?" (Surah 37: 92)

He then raised his ax and started smashing the false gods worshiped by the people. He destroyed them all except one, on whose neck he hung the ax. After this his anger subsided and he felt at peace. He left the temple. He had fulfilled his vow to show his people a practical proof of their foolishness in worshiping something other than Allah .

When the people returned, they were shocked to see their gods smashed to pieces, lying scattered all over the temple. They began to guess who had done that to their idols, and Abraham’s name came to their minds.

Allah the Almighty said: "They said: 'Who has done this to our ‘aliah (gods)? He must indeed be one of the wrongdoers.' They said: 'We heard a young man talking (against) them who is called Abraham.' They said: 'Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may testify.' They said: 'Are you the one who has done this to our gods, O Abraham?’ (Abraham) said: 'Nay, this one, the biggest of them (idols) did it. Ask them, if they can speak!' So they turned to themselves and said: 'Verily, you are the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).' Then they turned to themselves (their first thought and said): 'Indeed you (Abraham) know well that these (idols) speak not!' (Abraham) said: 'Do you then worship besides Allah, things that can neither profit you, nor harm you? Fie upon you, and upon that which you worship besides Allah! Have you then no sense?' " (Surah 21: 59-67)

Furious, they demanded that Abraham be arrested and tried. Abraham did not resist. This was precisely what he had been aiming for, so that he could show them up in public for their foolish beliefs.

At the trial they asked him if he was responsible for breaking the idols. Smiling, he told them to ask the biggest idol, which was still whole. He told them that he must be the culprit! They replied that he knew well that the idol could not speak or move, which gave Abraham the chance to prove the foolishness of worshiping these lifeless objects.

They then realized the senselessness of their beliefs; however, their arrogance would not allow them to admit their foolishness. All they could do was use their power of authority -- as tyrants usually do -- to punish Abraham. They kept him in chains and planned their revenge.

Anger was burning in their hearts. They decided to throw Abraham into the biggest fire they could build. All the citizens were ordered to gather wood as a service to their gods. Ignorant, sick women vowed that if they were cured they would donate so much wood to burn Abraham. For several days they collected fuel.

They dug a deep pit, filled it with firewood and ignited it. They brought a catapult with which to cast Abraham into the fire. Abraham was put on the catapult, his hands and feet tied. The fire was ready with its flames reaching the sky. The people stood away from the pit because of the great heat. Then the chief priest gave his order to cast Abraham into the fire.

The angel Gabriel came near Abraham’s head and asked him: "O Abraham, do you wish for anything?" Abraham replied: "Nothing from you."

The catapult was shot, and Abraham was cast into the fire, but his descent into the blaze was as a descent on steps in a cool garden. The flames were still there, but they did not burn, for Allah the Almighty had issued His command: "O fire! Be you coolness and safety for Abraham." (Surah 21: 69)

The fire submitted to the will of Allah , becoming cool and safe for Abraham. It only burned his bonds, and he sat in the midst of the fire as if he were sitting in a garden. He glorified and praised Allah the Almighty, with a heart that contained only his love for Allah . There was not any vacant space therein for fear, awe, or worry. It was filled with love only.

Fear and awe were dead, and the fire was turned into coolness, making the air pleasant. Those who love Allah as Abraham did do not fear.

Almighty Allah declared: "Those (i.e., believers) unto whom the people (hypocrites) said: 'Verily, the people (pagans) have gathered against you (a great army), therefore, fear them.' But it (only) increased them in Faith, and they said: 'Allah (Alone) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us).' So they returned with Grace and Bounty from Allah. No harm touched them; and they followed the good Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty. It is only Satan that suggests to you the fear of his Auliya’ [supporters and friends (polytheists, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad )], so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are (true) believers.' " (Surah 3: 173-175)

The throng, the chiefs, and the priests sat watching the fire from a distance. It was burning their faces and nearly suffocating them. It kept burning for such a long time that the disbelievers thought it would never be extinguished.

When it did burn out, they were greatly amazed to find Abraham coming out of the pit untouched by the fire. Their faces were black from the smoke, but his was bright with the light and grace of Allah . The raging fire had become cool for Abraham and had only charred the ropes which held him. He walked out of the fire as if he were walking out of a garden. Cries of astonishment were heard from the heathens. "They wanted to harm him, but We made them the worst losers." (Surah 21: 70)

This miracle shamed the tyrants, but it did not cool the flame of anger in their hearts. However, after this event many of the people followed Abraham, although some kept their belief a secret for fear of harm or death at the hands of the rulers.

Abraham had established a definite reasoning against idolaters. Nothing was left for him except to reason against the people who proclaimed themselves gods.

When the king, Namrud, heard of Abraham’s safe exit from the fire he became very angry. He feared that the status of godhead he had proclaimed for himself was now challenged by an ordinary human being. He summoned Abraham to the palace and held a dialogue with him, which Allah the Almighty recounted: "Have you not thought about him who disputed with Abraham about his Lord (Allah ), because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Abraham said (to him), "My Lord (Allah ) is He Who gives life and causes death." He said: "I give life and cause death." Abraham said: "Verily! Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, then cause it you to rise from the west." So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. And Allah guides not the people who are Zalimeen (wrongdoers, etc.)." (Surah 2: 258)

Abraham’s fame spread throughout the entire kingdom. People talked about how he had been saved from the blazing fire and how he had debated with the king and left him speechless. In the meantime, Abraham continued calling people to believe in Allah , exerting a great effort to guide his people to the right path.

He tried every means to convince them. However, in spite of his love and care for his people, they felt angry and deserted him. Only one woman and one man of his people shared his belief in Allah . The woman’s name was Sarah and she became his wife. The man’s name was Lot (Lut), and he became a prophet.

When Abraham realized that no one else was going to believe in his call, he decided to emigrate. He left his people and traveled with his wife and Lot to a city called Ur, then to another called Haran, and then to Palestine.

Allah the Almighty told us: "So Lot believed in him (Abraham’s message of Islamic Monotheism). He (Abraham) said. 'I will emigrate for the sake of my Lord. Verily, He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.' " (Surah 29: 26)

After Palestine, Abraham traveled to Egypt, calling people to believe in Allah wherever he traveled, judging fairly between people, and guiding them to truth and righteousness.

Abu Hurairah narrated that Abraham (PBUH) did not tell a lie except on three occasions, twice for the sake of Allah (Exalted and Almighty) when he said: "I am sick," {When his people were holding a festival in honor of their gods, Abraham excused himself by saying he was sick (See Surah 37: 89)} and when he said: "(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it." The (third was) that while Abraham and Sarah (his wife) were going (on a journey), they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant: "This man (i.e., Abraham (PBUH)) is accompanied by a very charming lady." So, he sent for Abraham and asked him about Sarah saying: "Who is this lady?" Abraham said: "She is my sister." Abraham went to Sarah and said: "O Sarah! There are no believers on the surface of the earth except you and me. This man asked me about you and I have told him that you are my sister, do not contradict my statement." The tyrant then called Sarah, and when she went to him, he tried to take hold of her with his hand, but (his hand got stiff and) he was confounded. He asked Sarah: "Pray to Allah for me, and I shall not harm you." So Sarah asked Allah to cure him and he got cured. He tried to take hold of her for the second time, but (his hand got as stiff as or stiffer than before and) he was more confounded. He again requested Sarah: "Pray to Allah for me, and I will not harm you." Sarah asked Allah again, and he became all right. He then called one of his guards (who had brought her) and said: "You have not brought me a human being but have brought me a devil." The tyrant then gave Hajar as a maid servant to Sarah. Sarah came back (to Abraham) while he was praying. Abraham, gesturing with his hand, asked: "What has happened?" She replied: "Allah has spoiled the evil plot of the infidel (or immoral person) and gave me Hajar for service." Abu Hurairah then addressed his listeners saying: "That (Hajar) was your mother, O Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e., the Arab, the descendants of Ishmael, Hajar’s son)."

Abraham’s wife Sarah was sterile. She had been given an Egyptian woman, Hajar, as a servant. Abraham had aged, and his hair was gray after many years spent in calling people to Allah . Sarah thought that she and Abraham were lonely because she could not have a child. Therefore, she offered her husband her servant Hajar in marriage. Hajar gave birth to her first son Ishmael (Isma’il) when Abraham was an old man.

Abraham lived on earth worshiping Allah and calling people to monotheism, but he was journeying to Allah , knowing that his days on earth were limited and that they would be followed by death, and finally, resurrection. The knowledge of life after death filled Abraham with peace, love, and certitude.

One day, he begged Allah to show him how He brought the dead back to life. Allah commanded Abraham to take four birds, cut them up, mingle their body parts, divide them into four portions, and place them on top of four different hills, then call back the birds in Allah’s name. Abraham did as he was told. Immediately the mingled parts of the birds separated to join their original bodies in different places, and the birds flew back to Abraham.

Almighty Allah revealed: "And (remember) when Abraham said, "My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead." Allah said, "Do you not believe?" Abraham said: "Yes (I believe), but to be stronger in Faith." He said. "Take four birds, then cause them to incline towards you (then slaughter them, cut them into pieces), and then put a portion of them on every hill, and call them, they will come to you in haste. And know that Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise." (Surah 2: 260)

Section Two - The Story of Ishmael (Peace be upon him)
One day, Abraham woke up and asked his wife Hajar to get her son and prepare for a long journey. In a few days, Abraham started out with his wife Hajar and their son Ishmael. The child was still nursing and not yet weaned.

Abraham walked through cultivated land, desert, and mountains until he reached the desert of the Arabian Peninsula and came to an uncultivated valley having no fruit, no trees, no food, no water. The valley had no sign of life. After Abraham had helped his wife and child to dismount, he left them with a small amount of food and water which was hardly enough for two days. He turned around and walked away. His wife hurried after him asking: "Where are you going, Abraham, leaving us in this barren valley?"

Abraham did not answer her, but continued walking. She repeated what she had said, but he remained silent. Finally, she understood that he was not acting on his own initiative. She realized that Allah had commanded him to do this. She asked him: "Did Allah command you to do so?" He replied: "Yes." Then his great wife said: "We are not going to be lost, since Allah, Who has commanded you, is with us."

Abraham invoked Almighty Allah thus: "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House (the Ka’ba at Mecca); in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayers perfectly (Iqamat-as-Salat), so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah ) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. O our Lord! Certainly, You know what we conceal and what we reveal. Nothing on the earth or in the heaven is hidden from Allah." (Surah 14: 37-38)

Ibn ‘Abbas narrated: "The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah [by dragging it]. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael, while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-Zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water so he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates and a small water-skin containing some water and set out homeward. Ishmael’s mother followed him saying: 'O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?' She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him: 'Has Allah ordered you to do so?' He said: 'Yes.' She said: 'Then He will not neglect us,' and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards. On reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka’ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers: "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring [dwell] in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Ka’ba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer Prayers perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah ) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks." (Surah 14: 37)

Ibn ‘Abbas narration continued: "Ishmael’s mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony. She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of As-Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from As-Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the mountain of Al-Marwa. There she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."

The Prophet Muhammad said: "This is the source of the tradition of the Saiy (One of the rituals of the hajj. pilgrimage), the going of people between them (i.e. As-Safa and Al-Marwa). When she reached Al- Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said: 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?’ And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-Zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing) till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."

The Prophet (PBUH) added: "May Allah bestow mercy on Ishmael’s mother! Had she let the Zam-Zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water to fill her water-holder), Zam-Zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth."

The Prophet (PBUH) continued: "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her: ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ " The House (i.e. Ka’ba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left.

"She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said: ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’ They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water). Ishmael’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her: ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?’ She replied: ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ They agreed to that. Ishmael’s mother was pleased with the whole situation, as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families, who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learned Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them."

The Prophet (PBUH) continued: "After Ishmael’s mother had died, Abraham came after Ishmael’s marriage in order to see his family that he had left before, but he did not find Ishmael there. When he asked Ishmael’s wife about him, she replied: ‘He has gone in search of our livelihood.’ Then he asked her about their way of living and their condition, and she replied: ‘We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution,’ complaining to him. He said, When your husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house).’

"When Ishmael came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife: ‘Has anyone visited you?’ She replied: ‘Yes, an old man of such-and-such description came and asked me about you, and I informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him that we were living in a hardship and poverty.’ On that Ishmael said: ‘Did he advise you anything?’ She replied: ‘Yes, he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate.’ Ishmael said: ‘It was my father, and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family.’ So, Ishmael divorced her and married another woman from among them (i.e. Jurhum).

"Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Ishmael. So he came to Ishmael’s wife and asked her about Ishmael. She said: ‘He has gone in search of our livelihood.’ Abraham asked her: ‘How are you getting on?’ asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied: 'We are prosperous and well-off (i.e. we have everything in abundance).’ Then she thanked Allah . Abraham said: ‘What kind of food do you eat?’ She said: ‘Meat.’ He said: ‘What do you drink?’ She said: ‘Water.’ He said: ‘O Allah! Bless their meat and water.'"

The Prophet (PBUH) added: "At that time they did not have grain, and if they had had grain, he would have also invoked Allah to bless it. If somebody has only these two things as his sustenance, his health and disposition will be badly affected, unless he lives in Mecca."

The Prophet (PBUH) continued: "Then Abraham said to Ishmael’s wife: ‘When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.’ When Ishmael came back, he asked his wife: ‘Did anyone call on you?’ She replied: ‘Yes, a good-looking old man came to me,’ so she praised him and added: ‘He asked about you and I informed him, and he asked about our livelihood and I told him that we were in a good condition.’ Ishmael asked her: ‘Did he give you any piece of advice?’ She said: ‘Yes, he told me to give his regards to you and ordered that you should keep firm the threshold of your gate. On that Ishmael said: ‘It was my father, and you are the threshold (of the gate). He has ordered me to keep you with me.’

"Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them afterwards. He saw Ishmael under a tree near Zam-Zam, sharpening his arrows.

When he saw Abraham, he rose up to welcome him (and greeted each other as a father does with his son or a son with his father). Abraham said: ‘O Ishmael! Allah has given me an order.’ Ishmael said: ‘Do what your Lord ordered you to do.’ Abraham asked: 'Will you help me?' Ishmael said: ‘I will help you.’ Abraham said: ‘Allah ordered me to build a house here,’ pointing to a higher than the land surrounding it.

"Then they raised the foundations of the House (i.e.Ka’ba)... While Ishmael was handing him the stone both of them were saying: "O our Lord! Accept this service from us, verily, You are the All-Hearer, the Knower." (Surah 2: 127) The Prophet (PBUH) added: "Then both of them went on building and going round the Ka’ba saying: "O our Lord! Accept (this service) from us, verily, You are (the All-Hearer, the All-Knower." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Allah the All Mighty told us of Abraham's affliction with his beloved son: "And he said (after his rescue from the fire). "Verily, I am going to my Lord. He will guide me! My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous." So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy.

And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said. "O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah ), so look what do you think!" He said. "O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha’Allah (if Allah wills ), you shall find me of the patient."

Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah ) and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering); and We called out to him: "O Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!" Verily! Thus do We reward those who perform good deeds totally for Allah’s sake only. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial -- and We ransomed him with a great sacrifice (i.e. a ram); and We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among generations (to come) in later times. "Salaamun (peace) be upon Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward the Muhsineen (good-doers). Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves." (Surah 37: 99-111)

Time passed. One day Abraham was sitting outside his tent, thinking of his son Ishmael and Allah’s sacrifice. His heart was filled with awe and love for Allah for His countless blessings. A big tear dropped from his eyes and reminded him of Ishmael.

In the meantime, three angels descended to the earth: Gabriel, Israphael, and Michael. They came in human shape and saluted Abraham. Abraham arose and welcomed them. He took them inside his tent, thinking they were strangers and guests. He seated them and made sure that they were comfortable, then excused himself to go to his people.

His wife Sarah arose when he entered. She had become old and white-haired. Abraham said to her: ‘We have three strangers in the house." "Who are they?" she asked. "I do not know any of them," he answered. "What food have we got?" Abraham asked. "Half a sheep," she replied. "Half a sheep! Slaughter a fat calf for them; they are strangers and guest," he ordered while leaving.

The servants roasted and served a calf. Abraham invited the angels to eat, and he started eating so as to encourage them. He continued, but when he glanced at his guests to assure they were eating, he noticed that none of them had touched the food. He said to them: "Are you not going to eat?" He resumed eating, but when he glanced at them again he found that they were still not eating. Their hands did not reach out for the food. He began to fear them.

Abraham’s fears increased. The angels, however, were reading his inner thoughts and one of them said: "Do not fear." Abraham raised his head and replied: "Indeed, I am in fear. I have asked you to eat food, but you do not stretch out your hands to eat. Do you intend me evil?"

One of the angels smiled and said: "We do not eat. We are Allah’s angels." One of them then turned towards his wife and conveyed the glad tidings about Isaac (Ishaaq).

Almighty Allah revealed: "And verily, there came Our Messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said. "Salaam (greetings or peace)!’ He answered "Salaam (greetings or peace)" and he hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf. But when he saw their hands went not towards it (the meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: "Fear not, we have been sent against the people of Lot." And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed (either, because the Messengers did not eat their food or for being glad for the destruction of the people of Lot). But We gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.

She said (in astonishment), ‘Woe unto me! Shall I bear a child while I am an old woman, and here is my husband, an old man? Verily! This is a strange thing!' They said: 'Do you wonder at the Decree of Allah? The Mercy of Allah and His Blessings be on you, O the family (of Abraham). Surely, He (Allah ) is All-Praiseworthy, All-Glorious.' " (Surah 11: 69-73)

Section Three - The Story of Isaac (Ishaaq) and Jacob (Yaqub) (Peace be upon them)
The Qur’an does not give details of Isaac’s life (PBUH), but reliable Qur’anic commentators mentioned that when Abraham felt that his life was drawing to a close, he wished to see Issac married. He did not want Isaac to marry one of the Canaanites, who were pagans, so he sent a trustworthy servant to Haran in Iraq to choose a bride for Isaac. The servant’s choice fell on Rebekah Bint Bethuel, Ibn Nahor, who was a brother of Abraham. Isaac married her and she gave birth to a set of twins, Esau (Al-Eis) and Jacob (Yaqub).

Ill feelings developed between the two brothers when they grew into manhood. Esau disliked the fact that Jacob was favored by his father and by Allah with prophethood. This ill-feeling became so serious that Esau threatened to kill his brother. Fearing for his life, Jacob fled the country.

The People of the Book said that when Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, Bint Bethuel, during his father’s life. They said she was sterile, so Isaac prayed to Allah and then she became pregnant. She gave birth to twin boys. The first one was called Esau whom the Arabs call Al-Eis. He became the father of Rum. The second one was called Jacob, which means Israel (belonging to the people of Israel).

The People of the Book claimed that when Isaac (PBUH) grew old and his eye-sight had weakened, he had a desire for food, so he asked his son Esau to go hunting and bring him some cooked game. Esau asked him to bless the food and pray for him. Esau, a hunter, went out to get his father the meat. Rebekah, overhearing this, ordered her son Jacob to slaughter two goats of his best flock and cook them as his father liked and bring it to him before his brother returned. She dressed Jacob in his brother’s clothes and put goat skin on his arms and neck, for Esau was hairy while Jacob was not.

When he approached his father with the food, his father asked: "Who are you?" Jacob answered: "I am your son." When his father finished eating, he prayed for his son to be the more blessed brother and to prevail over them and all people, and for Allah to sustain him and his children.

When he left his father, his brother Esau, who had carried out his father’s command, entered. Isaac asked him: "What is this, my son?" He answered: "This is the food you like." Isaac said: "Did you bring it an hour ago and ask me to pray for you?" Esau answered: "No, I swear I did not," and he knew his brother had preceded him in this matter and he was sick at heart.

The People of the Book said that Esau threatened to kill his brother when their father was dead. They also said that he asked his father to pray for him that Allah make the earth good for his offspring and multiply his sustenance and fruits.

When their mother knew that Esau threatened his brother Jacob, she commanded her son Jacob to go to her brother Laban in the land of Haran and abide with him for a time until his brother’s anger had abated, and to marry one of Laban’s daughters. She told her husband Isaac to command him with that advice and pray for him, and he did.

Jacob (PBUH) left his family. When night came he found a place to rest. He took a stone and put it under his head and slept. He dreamed of a ladder from heaven to earth. Angels were ascending and descending and the Lord addressed him and said to him: "I will bless you and your offspring and make this land for you and for those who come after you."

When he awoke he felt joyful from what he had seen in his dream and vowed, for Allah’s sake, that if he returned to his family safely, he would build here a temple for Allah the Almighty. He also vowed to give one tenth of his property for the sake of Allah . He poured oil on the stone so as to recognize it and called the place "Ayle’s House" (Bethel), which means "House of Allah." It was to be the location of Jerusalem later.

The People of the Book also said that when Jacob came to his maternal uncle in the land of Haran, his uncle had two daughters. The elder one was called Leah (Lia) and the younger one was Rachel (Rahil). The latter was the better and lovelier of the two. His uncle agreed to marry his daughter to him on the condition that Jacob pasture his sheep for seven years.

After a period of time, his uncle prepared a feast and gathered people for the wedding. He married Leah, his elder daughter, to him at night. She was weak-sighted and ugly. When morning came, Jacob discovered that she was Leah and he complained to his uncle: "You deceived me; I was engaged to Rachel and you married me to Leah." His uncle said: "It is not our tradition to marry the younger daughter before the elder daughter. However, if you love her sister, work another seven years and I will marry you to both of them."

Jacob worked for seven years and then married Rachel. It was acceptable in their time, as described in the Torah, for a man to marry two sisters. Laban gave a female slave to each daughter. Leah’s slave was called Zilpah and Rachel’s slave was called Bilha.

Almighty Allah compensated Leah’s weakness by giving her sons. The first one was named Reuben (Robel), after whom there were Simeon (Shamun), Levi (Lawi), and Judah (Yahudh). Rachel felt jealous of Leah’s having sons, as she was barren. She gave her slave Bilha to her husband and he had relations with her until she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and named him Naphtali.

Leah was vexed that Rachel’s slave had given birth to a son, so she, in turn, gave her slave Zilpah to Jacob (PBUH). Zilpah gave birth to two sons, Gad and Asher. Then Leah got pregnant and gave birth to her fifth son, Isssachar, and later she gave birth to a sixth son, Zebulun. After this Leah gave birth to a daughter named Dinah. Thus, Leah had seven sons from Jacob.

Then Rachel prayed to Allah to give her a son from Jacob. Allah heard her call and responded to her prayer. She gave birth to a son, great, honorable, and beautiful. She named him Joseph (Yusuf).

All of this happened when they were in the land of Haran and Jacob (PBUH) was pasturing his uncle’s sheep, which he did for a period of twenty years.

Jacob then asked his uncle Laban to let him go and visit his family. His uncle said to him: "I have been blessed because of you; ask for whatever money you need." Jacob said: "Give me each spotted and speckled goat born this year and each black lamb."

But at Laban’s command his sons removed their father’s goats that were striped, spotted or speckled, and the black lambs, lest others should be born with those traits. They walked for three days with their father’s goats and sheep while Jacob tended the remaining flock.

The People of the Book said that Jacob (PBUH) took fresh rods of poplar, almond and plane. He peeled streaks in them and cast them into the water troughs for the goats to look at. The young inside their abdomens were terrified and moved and they were born striped, spotted, or speckled. When the sheep were breeding, he set their faces towards the black sheep in Laban’s flock and put the rods among them. Their lambs were born black. This was considered an example of supernatural powers, a miracle. Jacob had many goats, sheep, beast and slaves. His uncle and his sons faces changed as if they (the sheep and goats) had been stolen from them.

Allah the Almighty inspired Jacob to return to the country of his father and people, and He promised to stand by him. Jacob told his family that, and they responded and obeyed him. Jacob did not tell Laban of his plans, however, and left without bidding farewell.

Upon leaving, Rachel stole her father’s idols. After Jacob and his people had fled for his country, Laban and his people followed them. When Laban met with Jacob, he blamed him for leaving him without his knowledge. He would have liked to know so that he could have made them leave with celebration and joy, with drums and songs, and so that he could have bidden his daughters and sons farewell. And why had they taken his idols with them?

Jacob had no knowledge of his idols, so he denied that he had taken them from him. Then Laban entered the tents of his daughters and slaves to search, but he found nothing, for Rachel had put the idols in the camel saddle under her. She did not get up, apologizing that she had her menses. Thus, he could not perceive what they had done.

Then they sat on a hill called Galeed and made a covenant there. Jacob would not ill-treat Laban’s daughters nor marry others. Neither Laban nor Jacob would pass the hill into the other’s country. They cooked food and their people ate with them. Each bade the other farewell as they departed, each returning to his own country.

When Jacob approached the land of Seir, the angels greeted him. He sent a messenger ahead with greetings to his brother Esau, asking forgiveness and humbling himself before him. The messenger returned greetings and told Jacob that Esau was riding towards him with four hundred men.

This made Jacob afraid and he entreated and prayed to Allah Almighty. He prostrated in humiliation and asked Him to fulfill His promise which He had made before. He asked Him to stop the evil of his brother Esau. Then Jacob (PBUH) prepared a great present for his brother: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milch camels, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.

He commanded his slaves to take the animals, each drove by itself, and pass on ahead of him with a space between the droves. He instructed them: "When you meet my brother Esau he will ask you, ‘To whom do you belong.? Where are you going.’ You shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present to my master Esau. Moreover, he is behind us.'"

Jacob stayed behind with his two wives, his slaves and his children for two nights, then continued walking by night and resting by day.

When the dawn of the second day came one of the angels appeared in the shape of a man. Jacob began to wrestle with him. They were neck and neck until the angel injured his thigh and Jacob became lame. When the day was breaking, the angel said to him: "What is your name?" He answered: "Jacob." The angel said : "After today you shall not be called (anything) but Israel." Jacob asked: "And who are you? What is your name?" He vanished. Then Jacob knew that he was one of the angels. Jacob was lame, and for this reason the children of Israel do not eat the thigh muscle on the hip socket.

Jacob raised his eyes and saw his brother Esau coming. Jacob prostrated seven times before him, for it was their salutation in that time. It was lawful for them just as the angels had prostrated in salutation to Adam.

When Esau saw him, he ran towards him, embraced and kissed him and wept. When Esau raised his eyes and saw the women and children, he asked: "Who are these with you?" Jacob answered: "Those whom Allah has given me, your servant." Leah, Rachel, their slaves, and all the children approached and prostrated before him. Jacob asked Esau to accept his gift and insisted until he did so.

Esau returned and went in advance before him. Jacob and his family followed with the flocks and herds and slaves to the mountains (Seir).

When he came to Succoth (Sahur), he built a house for himself and shades for his beasts. Then he passed by Jerusalem, the village of Shechem, and camped before the village. He bought a farm from Shechem Ibn Hamor with one hundred goats and built an altar, which he called Ayl, as Allah commanded him. He built the altar where Jerusalem stands today and later Solomon son of David (PBUT) rebuilt it. It is in the place of the stone which he had earlier anointed with oil, as was mentioned before.

The People of the Book tell a story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah. Shechem Ibn Hamor seized her and lay with her by force. Then he asked her father and brothers to let him marry her. Her brothers said: "Circumcise, all of you, and we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves; but we do not marry with uncircumcised people." They (the men of the city) agreed to that, and all of them were circumcised. When the third day came and the pain from the circumcision had increased, Jacob’s sons approached and killed them till the last one. They killed Shechem and his father for the evil they had committed against them and for their worship of idols. That is why Jacob’s sons killed them and seized their money as spoils.

Then Rachel got pregnant and gave birth to a son, Benjamin, but she had a hard labor and died after delivery. Jacob buried her in Ephrath (Afrath). The tomb of Rachel is there till the present day.

Jacob’s sons were twelve men. From Leah there were Reuben (Robil), Simeon (Shamun), Levi (Lawi), Judah (Yahudh), Issachar (Isakher), and Zebulun (Zablun). From Rachel there were Joseph (PBUH) and Benjamin. From Rachel’s slave there were Dan and Naphtali (Neftali), and from Leah’s slave there were Gad and Asher.

Jacob came to his father Isaac and settled with him in the village of Hebron which lies in the land of Canaan where Abraham had lived. Then Isaac fell ill and died when he was one hundred eighty years old. His sons Esau and Jacob, buried him with his father Abraham Al-Khalil in a cave which he had bought. It was said that Abraham died at the age of one hundred seventy-five.

Allah the Almighty declared in the Glorious Qur’an: "And who turns away from the religion of Abraham (i.e. Islamic Monotheism) except him who befools himself? Truly, We chose him in this world and verily, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous.

When his Lord said to him: "Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!" He said: "I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)."

And this (submission to Allah , Islam) was enjoined by Abraham upon his sons and by Jacob, (saying). "O my sons! Allah has chosen for you the (true) religion, then die not except in the Faith of Islam (as Muslims Islamic Monotheism)."

Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob? When he said unto his sons: ‘What will you worship after me?’ They said. ‘We shall worship you Ilah (God - Allah ) the Ilah (God) of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, One Ilah (God), and to Him we submit (in Islam)."

That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do.

And they say: "Be Jews or Christians, then you will be guided." Say (to them, O Muhammad): "Nay, (we follow) only the religion of Abraham, Hanifan [Islamic Monotheism, i.e. to worship none but Allah (Alone)] and he was not of Al-Mushrikeen (those who worshiped others along with Allah .)"

Say (O Muslims), 'We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to Al-Asbat (the twelve sons of Jacob), and that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam).’

So if they believe in the like of that which you believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition. So Allah will suffice you against them. And he is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.

[Our Sibghah (religion) is] the Sibghah (religion) of Allah (Islam) and which Sibghah (religion) can be better than Allah’s . And we are His worshipers.

Say (O Muhammad, to the Jews and Christians). "Dispute you with us about Allah while He is our Lord and your Lord? And we are to be rewarded for our deeds and you for your deeds. And we are sincere to Him in worship and obedience (i.e. we worship Him Alone and none else, and we obey His Orders)." Or say you that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and Al-Asbat (the twelve sons of Jacob) were Jews or Christians? Say: "Do you know better or does Allah (know better ... that they all were Muslims)? And who is more unjust than he who conceals the testimony [i.e. to believe in Prophet Muhammad when he comes, written in their books] he has from Allah? And Allah is not unaware of what you do." (Surah 2: 130-140)

In another Surah Almighty Allah declared: "O People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Why do you dispute about Abraham, while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have you then no sense? Verily, you are those who have disputed about that of which you have knowledge. Why do you then dispute concerning that which you have no knowledge? It is Allah Who knows, and you know not."

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanifan (Islamic Monotheism, - to worship none but Allah Alone) and he was not of the polytheists (i.e. he joined none in worship with Allah ).

Verily, among mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him and this Prophet (Muhammad ) and those who have believed (Muslims). And Allah is the Wali (Protector and Helper) of the believers." (Surah 3: 65-68)

Verily, Abraham was an Ummah (a leader having all the good righteous qualities, or a nation), obedient to Allah , Hanifan (i.e. to worship none but Allah ), and he was not one of those who were Al-Mushrikeen (polytheists, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah , and those whojoined partners with Allah ). (He was) thankful for His (Allah’s ) Graces. He (Allah ) chose him (as an intimate friend) and guided him to a Straight Path (Islamic Monotheism, neither Judaism or Christianity). And We gave him good in this world, and in the Hereafter he shall be of the righteous. Then, We have inspired you (O Muhammad saying): "Follow the religion of Abraham Hanifan (Islamic Monotheism - to worship none but Allah ) and he was not of the Mushrikeen [i.e. polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad, those who worship others along with Allah or set up rivals with (or partners to) Allah.]" (Surah 16: 119-123)

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.


a - 007 Story of Lot (Lut) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details


a - 008 Story of Shuaib p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details
The Story of Shu’aib
(Peace be upon him)

Allah the Almighty revealed the story of Shu’aib (PBUH): "And to (the people of) Madyan (Madian) (We sent) their brother Shu’aib. He said. 'O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other Ilah (God) but Him. Verily, a clear proof (sign) from your Lord has come unto you; so give full measure and full weight and wrong not men in their things, and do not mischief on the earth after it has been set in order, that will be better for you, if you are believers. And sit not on every road, threatening, and hindering from the Path of Allah those who believe in Him, and seeking to make it crooked. And remember when you were but few, and He multiplied you. And see what was the end of the Mufsideen (mischief-makers, corrupts, liars). And if there is a party of you who believes in that which I have been sent and a party who do not believe, so be patient until Allah judges between us, and He is the Best of judges.' The chiefs of those who were arrogant among his people said: 'We shall certainly drive you out, O Shu’aib, and those who have believed with you from our town, or else you (all) shall return to our religion.' He said: 'Even though we hate it! We should have invented a lie against Allah if we returned to your religion, after Allah has rescued us from it. And it is not for us to return to it unless Allah, our Lord, should will. Our Lord comprehends all things in His Knowledge. In Allah (Alone) we put our trust. Our Lord! Judge between us and our people in truth, for You are the Best of those Who give judgment.' The chiefs of those who disbelieved among his people said (to their people): 'If you follow Shu’aib, be sure then you will be the losers!' So the earthquake seized them and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes. Those who belied Shu’aib, became as if they had never dwelt there (in their homes). Those who belied Shu’aib, they were the losers. Then he (Shu’aib) turned from them and said: 'O my people! I have indeed conveyed my Lord’s Messages unto you and I have given you good advice. Then how can I sorrow for the disbelieving people’s (destruction).'" (Surah 7: 85-93)

The people of Madyan were Arabs who lived in the country of Ma’an, part of which today is greater Syria. They were a greedy people who did not believe that Allah existed and who led wicked lives. They gave short measure, praised their goods beyond their worth, and hid their defects. They lied to their customers, thereby cheating them.

Allah sent His Prophet Shu’aib (PBUH) armed with many miracles. Shu’aib preached to them, begging them to be mindful of Allah’s favors and warning them of the consequences of their evil ways, but they only mocked him. Shu’aib remained calm as he reminded them of his kinship to them and that what he was doing was not for his personal gain.

They seized the belongings of Shu’aib and his followers, then drove them out of the city. The Messenger turned to his Lord for help, and his plea was answered. Allah sent down on them scorching heat, and they suffered terribly. On seeing a cloud gathering in the sky, they thought it would bring cool, refreshing rain, and rushed outside in the hope of enjoying the rainfall. Instead, the cloud burst, hurling thunderbolts and fire. They heard a thunderous sound from above, which caused the earth under their feet to tremble. The evil-doers perished in this state of horror.

Allah the Exalted stated: "The dwellers of Al-Aiyka (near Madyan) belied the Messengers. When Shu’aib said to them: 'Will you not fear Allah (and obey Him)? I am a trustworthy Messenger to you. So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it (my Message of Islamic Monotheism), my reward is only from the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists). Give full measure, and cause no loss (to others). And weigh with the true and straight balance. And defraud not people by reducing their things, nor do evil, making corruption and mischief in the land. And fear, Him Who created you and the generations of the men of old.' They said: 'You are only one of those bewitched! You are but a human being like us and verily, we think that you are one of the liars! So cause a piece of the heaven to fall on us, if you are of the truthful!' He said: 'My Lord is the Best Knowledge of what you do.' But they belied him, so the torment of the day of shadow (a gloomy cloud) seized them, indeed that was the torment of a Great Day. Verily, in this is a sign, yet most of them are not believers. And verily! Your Lord, He is indeed the All Mighty, the Most Merciful." (Surah 26: 176-191)

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.


a - 009 Story of Joseph (Yusuf) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More Details

The Story of Joseph (Yusuf)
(Peace be upon him)

This is the most detailed and fascinating story in the Qur’an, involving both human weaknesses such as jealousy, hatred, pride, passion, deception, intrigue, cruelty, terror as well as noble qualities such as patience, loyalty, bravery, nobility, and compassion.

It is related that among the reasons for its revelation is that the Jews asked the Prophet Muhammad to tell them about Joseph (PBUH), who was one of their old prophets. His story had been distorted in parts and marred in others with interpolations and exclusions. Therefore it was revealed in the Book of Allah (Qur’an), complete in its minute and careful details.

Allah the Almighty declared: "We relate unto you (Muhammad) the best of stories through Our Revelations unto you, of this Quran. And before this (i.e. before the coming of Divine Inspiration to you), you were among those who knew nothing about it (the Quran)." (Surah 12: 3)

Almighty Allah also decreed: "Thus We relate to you (O Muhammad) some information of what happened before. And indeed We have given you from Us a Reminder (this Qur’an). Whoever turns away from it (this Quran - i.e. does not believe in it, nor acts on its orders), verily, they will bear a heavy burden (of sins) on the Day of Resurrection. They will abide in that (state in the Fire of Hell), and evil indeed will it be that load for them on the Day of Resurrection." (Surah 20: 99-101)

The story of Joseph (PBUH) moves in a stream from beginning to end; its substance and form are equally coherent. It inspires you with a feeling for the depth of Allah’s power and supremacy and the execution of His rulings despite the challenge of human intervention. "And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not." (Surah 12: 21)

This is what the story of Joseph (PBUH), confirms categorically, for it ends with comfort and marvels.

Joseph lived all his life confronting schemes made by the people closest to him. His brothers plotted to kill him, but they amended it to exiling him. This happened to him while he was a boy. He was sold into the slave market in Egypt, where he was bought for a nominal sum. Then he fell victim to the attempted seduction by a great man’s wife who, when her wish was foiled, sent him to prison, where he remained for some time. In spite of all this, he at length approached close to the Egyptian throne and became the king’s chief minister. He then began his call to Allah from the position of the ruling authority.

Allah’s plans were carried out, and the matter ended. This is the substance (theme) of the story. As for the form (style) in which it is presented, it is a landmark of wonder.

The story is presented in a sequence of episodes. It gives you scene after scene and the transition is inspiring, informative, and stirring to the imagination. There are also artistic loopholes which leave it to the imagination of the reader to complete the sense, as well as the depth of the picture, the like of which no human artist can bring forth.

The story begins with a dream and ends with its interpretation. As the sun appeared over the horizon, bathing the earth in its morning glory, Joseph (PBUH), son of the Prophet Jacob (PBUH), awoke from his sleep, delighted by a pleasant dream he had had. Filled with excitement, he ran to his father and related it. "O my father! Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves to me." (Surah 12: 4)

His father’s face lit up. He foresaw that Joseph would be the one through whom the prophecy of his grandfather, Prophet Abraham (PBUH), would be fulfilled, in that his offspring would keep the light of Abraham’s house alive and spread Allah’s message to mankind.

Therefore, it was narrated that Allah’s Messenger Muhammad was asked: "Who is the most honorable amongst the people?" He replied: "The most God-fearing." The people said: "We do not want to ask you about this." He said: "The most honorable person is Joseph Allah’s prophet, the son of Allah’s prophet, the son of the faithful friend of Allah (Abraham)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

However, the father was well aware of the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, so he warned him against telling his dream to his brothers: "O my son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they arrange a plot against you. Verily! Satan is to man an open enemy! Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams (and other things) and perfect His Favor on you and on the offspring of Jacob, as He perfected it on your fathers, Abraham and Isaac aforetime! Verify your Lord is All-Knowing All-Wise." (Surah 12: 5-6)

Joseph heeded is father’s warning. He did not tell his brothers what he had seen. It is well known that they hated him so much that it was difficult for him to feel secure telling them what was in his heart and in his dreams.

Joseph was eighteen years old, very handsome and robust, with a gentle temperament. He was respectful, kind, and considerate. His brother Benjamin was equally pleasant. Both were from one mother, Rachel. Because of their refined qualities, the father loved the two more than his other children, and would not let them out of his sight. To protect them, he kept them busy with work in the house garden.

The scene of Jacob and his son closes. Another opens on Joseph’s brothers plotting against him. "Truly, Joseph and his brother (Benjamin) are loved more by our father than we, but we are ‘Usbah (a strong group). Really, our father is in a plain error. Kill Joseph or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favor of your father may be given to you alone, and after that you will be righteous folk (by intending repentance before committing the sin)." One from among them said. "Kill not Joseph, but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of a well, he will be picked up by some caravan of travelers." (Surah 12: 8-10)

The pages of the Old Testament say that Joseph told them his dream, whereas the Qur’an does not say that that happened. Had it been so, the brothers would have said so themselves. The Old Testament claims they had lost their own rights by him, and so they would kill him. Indeed Joseph kept his father’s order and did not tell his brothers about his vision.

In spite of this, his brothers sat down to conspire against him. One of them asked: "Why does our father love Joseph more than us?"

Another answered: "Perhaps because of his beauty."

A third said: "Joseph and his brother occupied our father’s heart."

The first complained: "Our father has gone all astray."

One of them suggested a solution to the matter: kill Joseph.

"Where should we kill him?"

"We should banish him away from these grounds."

"We will send him to a distant land."

"Why should we not kill him and have rest so that the favor of your father may be given to you alone?"

However, Judah (Yahudh), the eldest and most intelligent among them, said: "There is no need to kill him when all you want is to get rid of him. Look here, let us throw him into a well and he will be picked up by a passing caravan. They will take him with them to a distant land. He will disappear from your father’s sight and our purpose will be served with his exile. Then after that we shall repent for our crime and become good people once again."

The discussion continued on the idea of dropping Joseph into a well, as it was seen as the safest solution. The plan to kill him was defeated; kidnap into a distant land was approved. It was the cleverest of ideas.

Their next movement opened the scene between them and their father Jacob (PBUH): "They said: 'O our father! Why do you not trust us with Joseph, when we are indeed his well-wishers? Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and verily, we will take care of him.' He (Jacob) said: 'Truly, it saddens me that you should take him away. I fear lest a wolf should devour him, while you are careless of him.' They said: 'If a wolf devours him, while we are ‘Usbah (a strong group) (to guard him), then surely, we are the losers.'" (Surah 12: 11-14)

Jacob suggested a point which had not occurred to them in their discussion: he feared that desert wolves would eat him! Did he imply the wolves within them, or did he mean the wild wolves? No one but Allah knows. They coaxed their father to send Joseph with them; he agreed under their pressure.

They were excited that they could now get rid of Joseph for after this they could stand a better chance of receiving their father’s affection. On leaving home, they went directly to the well, as they had planned, on the pretext of drinking water. One of them put his arms around Joseph and held him tightly. Startled by this unusual behavior, Joseph struggled to free himself. More brothers rushed to hold him. One of them removed his shirt. Some more joined in to lift Joseph up and cast him into the deep well. Joseph’s piteous pleas made no difference to their cruel hearts.

Then Allah revealed to Joseph that he was safe and should not fear, for he would meet them again some day to remind them of what they had done.

There was water in the well which buoyed Joseph’s body, so he was not harmed. He sat lonely in the water, then clung to a rock ledge overhead and climbed on top of it. His brothers left him in this desolate place.

Then they killed a sheep and soaked Joseph’s shirt in its blood. One brother said that they should swear to keep their deed a close secret. All of them took the oath. And they came to their father in the early part of the night weeping." (Surah 12: 16)

The scene here is dark night, broken by the crying of ten men. The father is sitting in his house when the sons enter, the darkness of night covering the darkness of their hearts and the darkness of their lies struggling to come out. Jacob wondered aloud: "Why this weeping. Has anything happened to the flock?" They answered crying: "O our father! We went racing with one another, and left Joseph by our belongings and a wolf devoured him; but you will never believe us even when we speak the truth." (Surah 12: 17)

"We were surprised after returning from the race that Joseph was in the belly of the wolf."

"We did not see him!"

"You will not believe us even though we are truthful, but we are telling you what happened!"

"The wolf has eaten Joseph!"

"This is Joseph’s shirt. We found it soiled with blood, and did not find Joseph!"

"And they brought his shirt stained with false blood." (Surah 12: 18)

Deep down in his heart Jacob knew that his beloved son was still alive and that his other sons were lying. He held the blood-stained shirt in his hands, spread it out and remarked: "What a merciful wolf! He ate up my beloved son without tearing his shirt!" Their faces turned red when he demanded more information, but each one swore by Allah that he was telling the truth. The broken hearted father burst into tears: "Nay, but your own selves have made up a tale. So (for me) patience is most fitting. And it is Allah (Alone) whose Help can be sought against that which you assert." (Surah 12: 18)

The father acted wisely by praying for mighty patience which is free of doubt and by trusting in Allah for help against what they had plotted against him and his son. This scene dims, and the scene opens in the well with which Joseph had been thrown.

In the dark well Joseph managed to find a stone ledge to hold onto. Around him was total darkness and an eerie silence. Fearful thoughts entered his mind: what would happen to him? where would he find food? why had his own brothers turned against him? would his father know of his plight? His father’s smile flashed before him, recalling the love and affection he had always shown him. Joseph began to pray earnestly, pleading to Allah for salvation. Gradually his fear began to subside. His Creator was testing the young man with a great misfortune in order to infuse in him a spirit of patience and courage. Joseph surrendered himself to the will of his Lord.

The next scene shows the wide desert. At the horizon is a long line of camels, horses, and men: a caravan on its way to Egypt. The caravan of merchants halted at this famous well for water. A man lowered in his bucket. Joseph was startled by the bucket hurtling down and grabbed hold of it before it could land in the water. As the man began to haul he felt the load unusually heavy, so he peeped into the well. What he saw shocked him: a man was clinging to the rope! He held the rope tightly and shouted to his friends: "Better give me a hand fellows! Looks like I found real treasure in the well!"

His companions rushed to the well and helped him to pull out the stranger holding onto the rope. Standing before them was a healthy, handsome youth, beaming with an angelic smile. They saw in him a handsome prize, for money was all that mattered to them. Immediately, they clapped iron shackles on his feet and took him along to Egypt, far away from his beloved homeland of Canaan.

All over the Egyptian city the news spread that an unusually handsome, robust young slave was on sale. People gathered by the hundreds at the slave market. Some were spectators, others were bidders the elite and the rich, each one craning his neck to view the handsome specimen. The auctioneer had a field day as the bidding went wild, each buyer trying to outbid the other. Eventually, the ‘Aziz, the chief minister of Egypt, outbid all the others and took Joseph to his mansion.

The Qur’an describes this scene as follows: "And there came a caravan of travelers; they sent their water-drawer, and he let down his bucket (into the well). He said: 'What a good news! Here is a boy.' So they hid him as merchandise (a slave). And Allah was the All-Knower of what they did."

And they sold him for a low price, for a few Dirhams (i.e. for a few silver coins). And they were of those who regarded him insignificant.

And he (the man) from Egypt who bought him, said to his wife: "Make his stay comfortable, maybe he will profit us or we shall adopt him as a son." Thus did We establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of events. (Surah 12: 19-21)

See how Allah the Almighty reveals the substance of this long story from its beginning: "And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not." (Surah 12: 21)

The chains of slavery have closed on Joseph. He was cast into the well, deprived of his father, picked from the well, made a slave, sold at the market, and made the property of this man, the ‘Aziz, the chief minister. The hazards followed in quick succession, leaving Joseph helpless.

What we see as hazards and slander is the first step of the ladder on Joseph’s way to greatness. Allah is decisive in His action. His plan is carried out despite the plans of others and while theirs are still being made. So He spoils their plan, and Allah’s promise is realized. Allah had promised Joseph prophethood. Love for Joseph was thrust into the heart of the man who bought him, and he was a man of no mean position. He was an important personage, one of the ruling class of Egypt.

Therefore, Joseph was pleasantly surprised when the chief minister of Egypt ordered his men to remove the heavy shackles from his swollen feet. He was also surprised when he told Joseph not to betray his trust; he would not be ill treated if he behaved himself. Joseph smiled at his benefactor, thanked him, and promised to be loyal.

Joseph felt at ease, for at last he was sheltered and would be well cared for. He thanked Allah over and over and wondered at the mysteries of life. Not so long ago he had been cast into a deep, dark well with no hope of ever coming out alive. Next he was rescued, then enslaved in iron shackles, and now he was moving freely in a luxurious mansion, with enough food to enjoy. However, his heart ached with longing for his parents and brother Benjamin, and he shed tears daily.

Joseph was made the personal attendant of the chief minister’s wife. He was obedient and ever-obliging. With his pleasant manners and charming behavior, he won everybody’s heart.

Joseph’s handsomeness became the talk of the town. People referred to him as the most attractive man they had ever seen and wrote poetry about him. His face carried immaculate beauty. The purity of his inner soul and his heart showed in his face, increasing his beauty. People from afar came to the city to have a glimpse of him. The prettiest of maidens and the richest of ladies nursed the desire to possess him, but not once did he show haughtiness. He was always humble and polite.

The days passed and Joseph grew. Almighty Allah said: "And when he (Joseph) attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge (the Prophethood), thus We reward the doers of good." (Surah 12: 22)

He was given wisdom in affairs and knowledge of life and its ions. He was given the art of conversation, captivating who heard him. He was given nobility, which made him an irresistible personality. The chief minister soon knew that Allah had graced him with Joseph. He understood that Joseph was the most honest, straight forward and noble person he had met in his life. He put Joseph in charge of his household, honored him and treated him as a son.

The wife of the chief minister, Zulaikha, watched Joseph day to day. She sat with him, talked with him, listened and her wonder increased over the passage of time.

Joseph was soon confronted (with his second trial). The chief’s wife, Zulaikha, could not resist the handsome Joseph and her obsession with him caused her sleepless. She fell in love with him, and it was painful for her to be so close to a man, yet be unable to hold him. Yet, she was not a wayward woman, for in her position she could get any man she desired. By all accounts she must have been a pretty and intelligent lady, or why would the chief minister have chosen her of all the pretty women in the kingdom? Although she bore him no child, he would not take another wife, as he loved her passionately.

The Qur’an raises the curtain on the scene of this fierce and devouring love on the part of the lady. Allah the Almighty told us: "And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: 'Come on, O you.' He said: 'I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)! Truly, he (your husband) is my master! He made my stay agreeable! (So I will never betray him). Verily, the Zalimun (wrong and evil-doers) will never be successful.' And indeed she did desire him and he would have inclined to her desire, had he not seen the evidence of his Lord. Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our chosen, guided slaves." (Surah 12: 23-24)

Commentators are unanimous about her intention of disobedience but disagree about his own intention. There are those who say that she tempted him and he tempted her to sin, although he did not follow through with his intent. Others say that she merely wanted him to kiss her, and he attempted to strike her. Yet others say that this anxiety had been there before this incident. There was a psychological disturbance in Joseph when he reached adolescence, which Almighty Allah rid him of.

The safest commentary for us is that there is temptation and resistance in the verse, for He Most High stated: "And indeed she did desire him and he would have inclined to her desire ... " (Surah 12: 24)

Abu 'Ubaidah said that this is a temptation and resistance meaning that she had tried to seduce him; had he not seen the proof of Allah , he would have been seduced. This is in keeping with the infallibility of prophets, as it suits the words which immediately follow: "Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our chosen, guided slaves." (Surah 12: 24)

This verse proves that Joseph was an upright worshiper of Allah ; it also testifies to his rescue from the authority of Satan. The Almighty said to the devil (Iblis) on the Day of Creation, "Certainly, you shall have no authority over my slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghawiii (Mushrikeen and those who go astray, criminals, polytheist, and evil-doers, etc.)" (Surah 15: 42)

Joseph's refusal only heightened her passion. As he moved to the door to escape, she ran after him and caught hold of his shirt, like a drowning person clinging to the boat. In her tugging she tore his shirt and held the torn piece in her hand. They reached the door together. It opened suddenly; there stood her husband and a relative of hers.

Almighty Allah said: "So they raced with one another to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back. They both found her lord (i.e. her husband) at the door." (Surah 12: 25)

As he opened the door, he saw her husband standing in front of him. The sly woman immediately changed her tone to anger and, showing the torn piece of the shirt in her hand, asked her husband: "What is the recompense (punishment) for him who intended an evil design against your wife, except that he be put in prison or a painful torment?" (Surah 12: 25)

She was now accusing Joseph of molesting her, to give the impression that she was innocent and a victim of Joseph's sexual desire. Though bewildered Joseph denied it: "It was she that sought to seduce me." (Surah 12: 26)

After the husband had questioned his wife and Joseph, he consulted Zulaikha's cousin. He was an honest, wise man who listened to both accounts and gave his opinion. He said the proof was in the shirt. If it was torn at the front it meant that he had tried to seduce her, as the torn shirt would then be a proof of self-defense. The husband asked: "And if the shirt is torn at the back?" The relative said: "Then it would mean that she was the one who tempted him."

The shirt was passed from hand to hand, while she watched. The witness (her cousin) looked at it and found that it was torn at the back. The evidence clearly showed that she was guilty. The disappointed husband remarked to his wife: "Surely, it is a plot of you women! Certainly mighty is your plot!" (Surah 12: 28)

The wise and just 'Aziz apologized to Joseph for his wife's indecency. He also instructed her to beg Joseph's forgiveness for accusing him falsely. Allah the Almighty narrated this incident thus: "He (Joseph) said: 'It was she that sought to seduce me.' And a witness of her household bore witness (saying): 'If it be that his shirt is torn from the front, then her tale is true and he is a liar! But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then she has told a lie and he is speaking the truth!' So when he (her husband) saw his (Joseph's) shirt torn at the back, (her husband) said: 'Surely, it is a plot of you women! Certainly mighty is your plot! O Joseph! Turn away from this! (O woman!) Ask forgiveness for your sin. Verily, you were of the sinful.'" (Surah 12: 26-29)

An incident like this cannot remain a secret in a house filled with servants, and the story spread. Women began to see her behavior as scandalous. They remarked: "The wife of Al-'Aziz is seeking to seduce her (slave) young man, indeed she loves him violently; verily, we see her in plain error." (Surah 12:30)

Naturally their gossip distressed Zulaikha. She honestly believed that it was not easy for any woman to resist a man as handsome as Joseph. To prove her helplessness, she planned to subject the women to the same temptation she faced. She invited them to a lavish banquet. No one so invited would want to miss the honor of dining with the chief minister's wife; besides, they secretly harbored the desire to meet the handsome Joseph face to face. Some of her close friends jokingly said they would come only if she introduced them to Joseph.

The invitation was restricted to ladies. The banquet began, laughter and mirth abounded. Etiquette dictated that the ladies not mention the topic of Joseph. They were shocked, therefore, when Zulaikha opened the topic. "I have heard of those who say I have fallen in love with the young Hebrew man, Joseph." Silence fell upon the banquet. At once all the guests' hands stopped, and all eyes fell on the chief minister's wife. She said, while giving orders for the fruit to be served: "I admit that he is a charming fellow. I do not deny that I love him. I have loved him for a long time."

The confession of the chief minister's wife removed the tension among the ladies. After finishing their dinner, the guests began cutting their fruit. At that very moment she summoned Joseph to make his appearance. He entered the hall gracefully, his gaze lowered. Zulaikha called him by his name and he raised his head. The guests were astonished and dumbfounded. His face was shining and full of manliness and angelic beauty. It reflected complete innocence, so much so that one could feel the peace of mind in the depth of his soul.

They exclaimed in astonishment while continuing to cut the fruit. All their eyes were on Joseph. So it was that the women began to cut their palms absentmindedly without feeling that they had cut them.

The presence of Joseph at the scene of drama was so effective that blood flowed without their feeling pain. One of the ladies gasped: "Good gracious!" Another whispered: "This is not a mortal being!" Another stammered, patting her hair: "This is but a noble angel."

Then the chief minister's wife stood up and announced: "This is the one for whom I have been blamed. I do not deny that I tempted him. You have been enchanted by Joseph, and see what has happened to your hands. I have tempted him, and if he does not do what I want of him he shall be imprisoned."

Almighty Allah related the scene of the banquet in His words: "So when she heard of their accusation, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them; she gave each one of them a knife (to cut the foodstuff with), and she said (to Joseph): 'Come out before them.' Then, when they saw him, they exalted him (at his beauty) and (in their astonishment) cut their hands. They said, 'How perfect is Allah (or Allah forbid)! No man is this! This is none other than a noble angel!' She said: 'This is he (the young man) about whom you did blame me (for his love), and I did seek to seduce him, but he refused. And now if he refuses to obey my order, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and will be one of those who are disgraced.' He said: "O my Lord! Prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one (of those who commit sin and deserve blame or those who do deeds) of the ignorant." So his Lord answered his invocation and turned away from him their plot. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All Knower." (Surah 12: 31-34)

That evening, Zulaikha convinced her husband that the only way to save her honor was to put Joseph in prison; otherwise she would not be able to control herself or to safeguard his prestige. The chief minister knew Joseph was absolutely innocent, that he was a young man of honor, a loyal servant, and he loved him for these reasons. It was not an easy decision for him to put an innocent man behind bars. However, he was left with no choice. He reasoned that Joseph's honor would also be safeguarded if he was kept out of Zulaikha's sight. That night, with a heavy heart, the chief minister sent Joseph to prison.

Prison was Joseph's third test. During this period Allah blessed him with an extraordinary gift: the ability to interpret dreams. At about the same time two other men landed in the prison. One was the cupbearer of the king; the other was the king's cook. The two men sensed that Joseph was not a common criminal, for an aura of piety glowed on his face. Both men had vivid dreams, and they were anxious to have them explained. The king's cook dreamed that he stood in a place with bread on his head, and two birds were eating the bread. The cupbearer dreamed that he was serving the king wine. The two went to Joseph and told him their dreams, asking him to give them their meaning.

First, Joseph called them to Allah . Then he said that the cook would be crucified until he died and that the cupbearer would return to the service of the king. Joseph told the cupbearer to remember him to the king and to say that there was a wronged soul called Joseph in the prison. What Joseph predicted did happen; the cook was crucified and the cupbearer returned to the palace.

After the cupbearer returned to service, Satan made him forget to mention Joseph's name to the king. Therefore, Joseph remained in prison for a few years, but he made patience his own, praying to Allah .

Almighty Allah narrated: "And there entered with him two young men in the prison. One of them said: 'Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) pressing wine.' The other said: 'Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) carrying bread on my head and birds were eating thereof.' (They said): 'Inform us of the interpretation of this. Verily, we think you are one of the Muhsineen (doers of good).' He said: 'No food will come to you (in wakefulness or in dream) as your provision, but I will inform (in wakefulness) its interpretation before it (the food) comes. This is of that which my Lord has taught me. Verily, I have abandoned the religion of a people that believe not in Allah and are disbelievers in the Hereafter. And I have followed the religion of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the Grace of Allah to us and to mankind, but most men thank not (i.e. they neither believe in Allah, nor worship Him). O two companions of the prison! Are many different lords (gods) better or Allah, the One, the Irresistible? You do not worship besides Him but only names which you have named (forged), you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. The command (or the judgment) is for none but Allah. He has commanded (i.e. His Monotheism), that is the (true) straight religion, but most men know not. O two companions of the prison! As for one of you, he (as a servant) will pour out wine for his lord (King or master) to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire.' And he said to the one whom he knew to be saved: 'Mention me to your lord (i.e. your King, so as to get me out of the prison).' But Satan made him forget to mention it to his lord [or Satan made (Joseph) to forget the remembrance of his Lord (Allah) as to ask for His Help, instead of others]. So (Joseph) stayed in prison a few (more) years." (Surah 12: 36-42)

The scene in the prison closes; a new scene opens in the bed chamber of the king. The king is asleep. He sees himself on the banks of the Nile river. The water is receding before him, becoming mere mud. The fish begin to skip and jump in the mud. Seven fat cows come out of the river followed by seven lean cows. The seven lean ones devour the seven fat ones. The king is terrified. Then seven ears of green grain grow on the river banks and disappear in the mud. On the same spot grow seven dry ears of grain.

The king awoke frightened, shocked, and depressed, not knowing what all this meant. He sent for the sorcerers, priests and ministers, and told them his dream.

The sorcerers said: "This is a mixed up dream. How can any of that be? It is a nightmare."

The priests said: "Perhaps his majesty had a heavy supper."

The chief minister said: "Could it be that his majesty was exposed and did not draw the blanket up at night?"

The king's jester said, jokingly: "His majesty is beginning to grow old, and so his dreams are confused."

They reached a unanimous conclusion that it was only a nightmare.

The news reached the cupbearer. He recollected the dream he had had in prison and compared it to the king's dream, and, therefore Joseph came to mind. He ran to the king to tell him about Joseph, who was the only one capable of interpreting the dream. The cupbearer said: "He had asked me to remember him to you, but I forgot." The king sent the cupbearer to ask Joseph about the dream.

Joseph interpreted it to him. "There will be seven years of abundance. If the land is properly cultivated, there will be an excess of good harvest, more than the people will need. This should be stored. Thereafter, seven years of famine will follow, during which time the excess grain could be used."

He also advised that during the famine they should save some grain to be used for seed for the next harvest. Joseph then added: "After seven years of drought, there will be a year during which water will be plentiful. If the water is properly used, grapevines and olive trees will grow in abundance, providing plenty of grapes and olive oil."

The cupbearer hurried back with the good news. The king was fascinated by Joseph's interpretation. Almighty Allah narrated this incident thus: "And the king (of Egypt) said: 'Verily, I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean cows were devouring, and (seven) green ears of corn, and seven others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.' They said: 'Mixed up false dreams and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.' Then the man who was released (one of the two who were in prison), now at length remembered and said: 'I will tell you its interpretation, so send me forth.' (He said): 'O Joseph, the man of truth! Explain to us (the dream) of seven fat cows whom seven lean ones were devouring, and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry, that I may return to the people, and that they may know.' (Joseph) said: 'For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that (the harvest) which you reap you shall leave in ears, (all) except a little of it which you may eat. Then will come after that seven hard (years), which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, (all) except a little of that which you have guarded (stored). Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press (wine and oil).'" (Surah 12: 43-49)

The king was greatly astonished. Who could this person be? He commanded that Joseph to be set free from prison and presented to him at once. The king's envoy went to fetch him immediately, but Joseph refused to leave the prison unless his innocence was proven. Perhaps they accused him of cutting the ladies' hands, or of trying to rape them. Perhaps any other false accusation was made.

We do not know exactly what was said to the people to justify Joseph's sentence to prison. The envoy returned to the king. The kings asked him: "Where is Joseph? Did I not command you to fetch him?"

The envoy replied: "He refused to leave until his innocence is established regarding the ladies who cut their hands."

The king ordered: "Bring the wives of the ministers and the wife of the chief minister at once." The king felt that Joseph had been harmed unfairly but he did not know exactly how.

The wife of the chief minister came with the other ministers' wives. The king asked: "What is the story of Joseph? What do you know about him? Is it true that ... ?"

One of the ladies interrupted the king exclaiming: "Allah forbid!"

A second said: 'We know of no evil he has done."

A third said: "He enjoys the innocence of angels."

The eyes of everyone turned to the wife of the chief minister. She now wore a wrinkled face and had lost weight. She had been overwhelmed by sorrow over Joseph while he was in prison. She boldly confessed that she had lied and he had told the truth. "I tempted him; but he refused." She confirmed what she said, not out of fear of the king or the other ladies, but for Joseph to know that she had never betrayed him during his absence, for he was still in her mind and soul. Of all creation he was the only one she cared for, so she confirmed his innocence before all.

Almighty Allah said: "And the king said: 'Bring him to me.' But when the messenger came to him (Joseph) said: 'Return to your lord and ask him, what happened to the women who cut their hands? Surely, my Lord (Allah ) is well aware of their plot.' (The king) said (to the women): 'What was your affair when you did seek to seduce Joseph?' The women said: 'Allah forbid! No evil know we against him!' The wife of Al-'Aziz said: 'Now the truth is manifest (to all), it was I who sought to seduce him, and he is surely of the truthful.' (Then Joseph said: 'I asked for this enquiry in order that he (Al-'Aziz) may know that I betrayed him not in secret. And, verily! Allah guides not the plot of the betrayers. And I free not myself (from the blame). Verily, the (human) self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills). Verily, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'" (Surah 12: 50-53)

Reflecting on these verses suggests that she had turned to Joseph's religion, monotheism. His imprisonment was a great turning point in her life.

After this, the Qur'anic style neglects the story of the chief minister's wife completely. We do not know what happened to her after she gave her clear evidence. Yet still, there are legends about her. It has been said that after her husband died she married Joseph, and, behold, she was a virgin. She confessed that her husband had been old and had never touched women. Other legends said that she lost her sight, weeping for Joseph. She abandoned her palace and wandered in the streets of the city.

However, the lady disappeared from the Qur'anic narrative at a suitable stage, at the climax of her trouble. Perhaps she lingers in memory longer than if we had known the ending.

The king informed Joseph that his innocence was established and ordered him to come to the palace for an interview. The king recognized his noble qualities. When Joseph came, the king spoke to him in his tongue. Joseph's replies astonished the king with his cultural refinement and wide knowledge.

Then the conversation turned to the dream. Joseph advised the king to start planning for years of famine ahead. He informed him that the famine would affect not only Egypt but the neighboring countries as well. The king offered him a high position. Joseph asked to be made controller of the granaries, so that he could guard the nation's harvest and thereby safeguard it during the anticipated drought. By this Joseph did not mean to seize an opportunity or personal gain; he merely wanted to rescue hungry nations for a period of seven years. It was a sheer self-sacrifice on his part.

Almighty Allah said: "And the king said: 'Bring him to me that I may attach him to my person.' Then, when he spoke to him, he said: 'Verily, this day, you are with us high in rank and fully trusted.' (Joseph) said: 'Set me over the store-houses of the land; I will indeed guard them with full knowledge (as a minister of finance in Egypt, in place of Al-Aziz who was dead at that time).' Thus did We give full authority to Joseph in the land, to take possession therein, as when or where he likes. We bestow of Our Mercy on whom We please, and We make not to be lost the reward of Al-Muhsineen (the good-doers)." (Surah 12: 54-57)

The wheels of time turned. During the seven good years, Joseph had full control over the cultivation, harvesting, and storage of crops. During the following seven years, drought followed and famine spread throughout the region, including Canaan, the homeland of Joseph. Joseph advised the king that as his kingdom was blessed with reserved grain, he should sell grain to the needy nations at a fair price. The king agreed, and the good news spread all over the region.

Jacob sent ten of his sons, all except Benjamin, to Egypt to purchase provisions. Joseph heard of the ten brothers who had come from afar and who could not speak the language of the Egyptians. When they called on him to purchase their needs, Joseph immediately recognized his brothers, but they did not know him. How could they? To them Joseph no longer existed; he had been thrown into the deep, dark well many years ago!

Joseph received them warmly. After supplying them with provisions, he asked where they had come from. They explained: "We are eleven brothers, the children of a noble prophet. The youngest is at home tending to the needs of our aging father."

On hearing this, Joseph's eyes filled with tears; his longing for home swelled up in his heart, as well as his longing for his beloved parents and his loving brother Benjamin. "Are you truthful people?" Joseph asked them.

Perturbed, they replied: "What reason should we have to state an untruth?"

"If what you say is true then bring your brother as proof and I will reward you with double rations. But if you do not bring him to me, it would be better if you did not return," Joseph warned them.

They assured him that they would gladly fulfill his command but that they would have to get their father's permission. As an inducement to return with their brother, Joseph ordered his servant to secretly place the purse, with the money they had paid, into one of their grain sacks.

Allah the Almighty said: "And Joseph's brethren came and they entered unto him, and he recognized them, but they recognized him not. And when he had furnished them forth with provisions (according to their need), he said: 'Bring me a brother of yours from your father; (he meant Benjamin). See you not that I give full measure, and that I am the best of the hosts? But if you bring him not to me, there shall be no measure (of corn) for you with me, nor shall you come near me.' They said: 'We shall try to get permission (for him) from his father, and verily, we shall do it.' And (Joseph) told his servants to put their money (with which they had bought the corn) into their bags, so that they might know it when they go back to their people, in order that they might come back." (Surah 12: 58-62)

The scene dims in Egypt and lights in Canaan. The brothers returned to their father. Before they could unload the camels, they greeted him, then reproved him: "We were denied some supplies because you did not let your son go with us. They would not give us food for absentees. Why would you not entrust him with us? Please, send him with us, and we shall take care of him." Jacob became sad and told them: "I will not permit Benjamin to travel with you. I will not part with him, for I entrusted Joseph to you and you failed me."

Later, when they opened their grain sacks, they were surprised to find the money purse returned intact. They rushed to their father: "Look, father! The noble official has returned our money; this is surely proof that he would not harm our brother and it can only benefit us." But Jacob refused to send Benjamin with them.

After some time, when they had no more grain, Jacob asked them to travel to Egypt for more. They reminded him of the warning the Egyptian official had given them. They could not return without Benjamin. Jacob agreed, but not before he extracted a pledge from them. "I will not send him with you unless you give me a pledge in Allah's name that you shall bring him back to me as safely as you take him." They gave their solemn pledge. He reminded them: "Allah is witness to your pledge." He then advised them to enter the city through several different gates.

Almighty Allah narrated: "So, when they returned to their father, they said: 'O our father! No more measure of grain shall we get (unless we take our brother). So send our brother with us, and we shall get our measure and truly we will guard him.' He said: 'Can I entrust him to you except as I entrusted his brother (Joseph) to you aforetime? But Allah is the best to guard, and He is the Most Merciful of those Who show mercy.' And when the opened their bags, they found their money had been returned to them. They said 'O our father! What (more) can we desire? This, our money has been returned to us, so we shall get (more) food for our family, and we shall guard our brother and add one more measure of a camel's load. This quantity is easy (for the king to give).' He (Jacob) said: 'I will not send him with you until you swear a solemn oath to me in Allah's name, that you will bring him back to me unless you are yourselves surrounded (by enemies, etc.).' And when they had sworn their solemn oath, he said: 'Allah is the Witness over what we have said.' And he said: 'O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but by different gates, and I cannot avail you against Allah at all. Verily! The decision rests only with Allah. In Him, I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him.'" (Surah 12: 63-67)

Jacob blessed them on their departure and prayed to Allah for their protection. The brothers undertook the long journey to Egypt, taking good care of Benjamin.

Joseph welcomed them heartily, although, with difficulty, he suppressed the desire to embrace Benjamin that arose within him. He prepared a feast for them and seated them in pairs. Joseph arranged to sit next to his beloved brother Benjamin, who began to weep. Joseph asked him why he was crying. He replied: "If my brother Joseph had been here, I would have sat next to him."

That night, when Joseph and Benjamin were alone in the room, Joseph asked whether he would have him for a brother. Benjamin respectfully answered that he regarded his host as a wonderful person, but he could never take the place of his brother. Joseph broke down, and amidst flowing tears, said: "My loving brother, I am the brother who was lost and whose name you are constantly repeating. Fate has brought us together after many years of separation. This is Allah's favor. But let it be a secret between us for the time being." Benjamin flung his arms around Joseph and both brothers shed tears of joy.

The next day, while their bags were being filled with grain to load onto the camels, Joseph ordered one of his attendants to place the king's gold cup which was used for measuring the grain into Benjamin's saddlebag. When the brothers were ready to set out, the gates were locked, and the court crier shouted: "O you travelers, you are thieves!" The accusation was most unusual, and the people gathered around Joseph's brothers.

"What have you lost?" his brothers inquired.

A soldier said: "The king's golden cup. Whoever can trace it we will give a beast-load of grain."

Joseph's brothers said with all innocence: "We have not come here to corrupt the land and steal."

Joseph's officers said (as he had instructed them): "What punishment should you choose for the thief?"

The brothers answered: "According to our law, whoever steals becomes a slave to the owner of the property."

The officers agreed: "We shall apply your law instead of the Egyptian law, which provides for imprisonment."

The chief officer ordered his soldiers to start searching the caravan. Joseph was watching the incident from high upon his throne. He had given instructions for Benjamin's bag to be the last to be searched. When they did not find the cup in the bags of the ten older brothers, the brothers sighed in relief. There remained only the bag of their youngest brother.

Joseph said, intervening for the first time, that there was no need to search his saddle, as he did not look like a thief.

His brothers affirmed: "We will not move an inch unless his saddle is searched as well. We are the sons of a noble man, not thieves."

The soldiers reached in their hands and pulled out the king's cup. The brothers exclaimed: "If he steals now, a brother of his has stolen before." They strayed from the present issue in order to blame a particular group of the children of Jacob.

Joseph heard their resentment with his own ears and was filled with regret. Yet, he swallowed his own resentment, keeping it within. He said to himself. "You went further and fared worse; it shall go bad with you and worse hereafter, and Allah knows your intention."

Silence fell upon them after these remarks by the brothers. Then they forgot their secret satisfaction and thought of Jacob; they had taken an oath with him that they would not betray his son.

They began to beg Joseph for mercy. "Joseph, O minister! Take one of us in his stead. He is the son of a good man, and we can see you are a good man."

Joseph answered calmly: "How can you want to set free the man who has stolen the king's cup? It would be sinful." The brothers went on pleading for mercy. However, the guards said that the king had spoken and his word was law.

Judah, the eldest, was much worried and told the others: "We promised our father in the name of Allah not to fail him. I will, therefore, stay behind and will only return if my father permits me to do so."

Regarding this scene, Almighty Allah said: "And when they entered according to their father's advice, it did not avail them in the least against (the Will of) Allah, it was but a need of Jacob's inner-self which he discharged. And verily, he was endowed with knowledge because We had taught him, but most men know not. And when they went in before Joseph, he betook his brother (Benjamin) to himself and said: 'Verily! I am your brother, so grieve not for what they used to do.' So when he had furnished them forthwith their provisions, he put the (golden) bowl into his brother's bag. Then a crier cried: 'O you (in) the caravan! Surely, you are thieves.' They, turning towards them, said: 'What is it that you have missed?' They said: 'We have missed the (golden) bowl of the king and for him who produces it is (the reward of) a camel load; I will be bound by it.' They said: 'By Allah! Indeed you know that we came not to make mischief in the land, and we are no thieves!' They (Joseph's brothers) said. 'The penalty should be that he, in whose bag it is found, should be held for the punishment (of the crime). Thus we punish the Zalimeen (wrong-doers, etc.)!' So he (Joseph) began (the search) in their bags before the bag of his brother. Then he brought it out of his brother's bag. Thus did We plan for Joseph. He could not take his brother by the law of the king (as a slave), except that Allah willed it. (So Allah made the brothers to bind themselves with their way of punishment, i.e. enslaving of a thief). We raise to degrees whom We please, but over all those endowed with knowledge is the All-Knowing (Allah). They (Joseph's brothers) said: 'If he steals, there was a brother of his (Joseph) who did steal before (him).' But these things did Joseph keep in himself, revealing not the secrets to them. He said (within himself): 'You are in worst case, and Allah knows best the truth of what you assert!' They said: 'O ruler of the land! Verily, he has an old father (who will grieve for him), so take one of us in his place. Indeed we think that you are one of the good-doers.' He said: "Allah forbid, that we should take anyone but him with whom we found our property. Indeed (if we did so), we shall be Zalimun (wrong-doers).' So, when they despaired of him, they held a conference in private. The eldest among them said: 'Know you not that your father did take an oath from you in Allah's name, and before this you did fail in your duty with Joseph? Therefore I will not leave this land until my father permits me, or Allah decides my case (by releasing Benjamin) and He is the Best of the judges.'" ( Surah 12: 68-80)

The brothers left enough provisions behind for Judah, who was at a tavern awaiting the fate of Benjamin. In the end, Joseph kept Benjamin in his house as his guest and told him how he had devised the plot to king's cup in his bag, in order to keep him behind, so as to protect him. He was also glad that Judah had stayed as he was a good-hearted brother. Joseph secretly had to watch over Judah's well-being.

Joseph’s plan in sending the others back was to see if they would come back for the two brothers left behind.

When they arrived home, they entered upon their father, "O our father! Your son has stolen!"

He was puzzled, scarcely believing the news. He was overwhelmed with sorrow and his eyes wept tears. "Patience be with me; perhaps Allah will return all of them to me. He Knowing, Most Wise." A pall of lonesomeness closed yet he found consolation in patience and trusted in Allah .

Allah revealed to us what happened at their meeting with their father: [Judah said:] "Return to our father and say: 'O our father! Verily, your son (Benjamin) has stolen, and we testify not except according to what we know, and we are not guardians of the unseen! And ask (the people of) the town where we have been, and the caravan in which we returned and indeed we are telling the truth.' He (Jacob) said: 'Nay, but your own selves have beguiled you into something. So patience is most fitting (for me). Maybe Allah will bring them (back) all to me. Truly He! Only He is All-Knowing, All-Wise.' And he turned away from them and said: 'Alas, my grief for Joseph!' And he lost his sight because of the sorrow that he was suppressing." (Surah 12: 81-84)

The father was deeply hurt. Only prayer could comfort him and strengthen his faith and patience. Weeping all those years for his beloved son Joseph -- and now one more of his best sons had been snatched from him -- Jacob almost lost his sight.

The other sons pleaded with him: "O father, you are a noble prophet and a great messenger of Allah. Unto you descended revelation and people received guidance and faith from you. Why are you destroying yourself in this way?"

Jacob replied: "Rebuking me will not lessen my grief. Only the return of my sons will comfort me. My sons, go in search of Joseph and his brother; do not despair of Allah's mercy."

Allah , the Almighty told us: "They said: 'By Allah! You will never cease remembering Joseph until you become weak with old age, or until you be of the dead.' He said: 'I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you know not. O my sons! Go you and enquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah's Mercy. Certainly no one despairs of Allah's Mercy, except the people who disbelieve." (Surah 12: 85-87)

The caravan set out for Egypt. The brothers -- on their way to see the chief minister (Joseph) -- were poor and depressed.

On reaching Egypt they collected Judah and called on Joseph, to whom they pleaded: "O ruler of the land! A hard time has hit us and our family, and we have brought but poor capital, so pay us full measure and be charitable to us. Truly, Allah does reward the charitable." ( Surah 12: 88)

At the end, they begged Joseph. They asked alms of him, appealing to his heart, reminding him that Allah rewards alms givers. At this moment, in the midst of their plight, Joseph spoke to them in their native tongue saying: "Do you know what you did with Joseph and his brother, when you were ignorant?"

They said: "Are you indeed Joseph?"

He said: "I am Joseph, and this is my brother (Benjamin). Allah has indeed been Gracious to us. Verily, he who fears Allah with obedience to Him (by abstaining from sins and evil deeds, and by performing righteous good deeds), and is patient, then surely, Allah makes not the reward of the good doers to be lost."

They said: "By Allah! Indeed Allah has preferred you above us, and we certainly have been sinners." (Surah12: 89-91)

The brothers began to tremble with fear, but Joseph comforted them: "No reproach on you this day, may Allah forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!" (Surah 12: 92)

Joseph embraced them, and together they wept with joy. It was not possible for Joseph to leave his responsible office without proper replacement, so he advised his brothers: "Go with this shirt of mine, and cast it over the face of my father, he will become clear-sighted, and bring to me all your family." (Surah 12: 93)

And so the caravan headed back for Palestine. We leave the scene in Egypt and return to Palestine and the house of Jacob. The old man is sitting in his room; tears have been flowing down his cheeks. He stands up all of a sudden, dresses and goes out to his sons' wives. Then he lifts up his face to Heaven and sniffs the air.

The wife of the eldest son remarked: "Jacob has come out of his room today." The women inquired about what was amiss. There was a hint of a smile on his face. The others asked him: "How do you feel today?"

He answered: "I can smell Joseph in the air."

The wives left him alone, saying to one another that there was no hope for the old man. "He will die of weeping over Joseph."

"Did he talk about Joseph's shirt?"

"I do not know. He said he could smell him; perhaps he has gone mad."

That day the old man wanted a cup of milk to break his fast, for he had been fasting. At night he changed his clothes. The caravan was traveling in the desert with Joseph's shirt hidden among the grain. It neared the old man's estate. He gesticulated in his room, and then he prayed along time, lifting his hands to heaven and sniffing the air. He was weeping as the shirt was nearing him.

"And when the caravan departed, their father said: 'I do indeed feel the smell of Joseph, if only you think me not a dotard (a person who has weakness of mind because of old age).' They said: 'By Allah! Certainly, you are in your old error.' Then, when the bearer of the glad tidings arrived, he placed it (the shirt) over his face, and he became clear-sighted. He said: 'Did I not say to you, 'I know from Allah that which you know not.' They said: 'O our father! Ask Forgiveness (from Allah) for our sins, indeed we have been sinners.'" (Surah 12: 94-97)

The story began with a dream and it ends with the interpretation of the dream. Almighty Allah narrated: "He, said: 'I will ask my Lord for forgiveness for you. Lo! Only He is the Oft-forgiving, the Most Merciful.' Then, when they entered unto Joseph, he betook his parents to himself and said: 'Enter Egypt, if Allah will, in security.' And he raised his parents to the throne and they fell down before him prostrate. And he said: 'O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream of old! My Lord has made it come true! He was indeed good to me, when He took me out of the prison, and brought you (all here) out of the Bedouin life, after Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will. Truly He! Only He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.'" (Surah 12: 98-100)

Consider his feelings now that his dream has come true. He prays to Allah : "My Lord! You have indeed bestowed on me of the sovereignty, and taught me the interpretation of dreams; the (only) Creator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Wali (Protector, Helper, Supporter, Guardian, etc.) in this world and in the Hereafter, cause me to die as a Muslim (the one submitting to Your Will), and join me with the righteous." (Surah 12: 101)

Joseph arranged an audience with the king for himself and his family, to ask the king's permission for them to settle in Egypt. Joseph was an asset to the kingdom, and the king was happy to have him remain with his household. Joseph prostrated to Allah in gratitude.

Before he died, Jacob (PBUH) advised his children to adhere to the teachings of Islam, the religion of all of Allah's prophets. Allah the Almighty revealed: "Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob? When he said unto his sons: 'What will you worship after me?' They said: 'We shall worship your Ilah (God - Allah); the Ilah (God) of your fathers. Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, one Ilah (God), and to Him we submit (in Islam).'" (Surah 2: 133)

Joseph (PBUH), at the moment of his death, asked his brothers to bury him beside his forefathers if they were to leave Egypt. So when Joseph (PBUH) passed away, he was mummified and placed in a coffin until such a time as he could be taken out of Egypt and buried beside his forefathers, as he had requested. It was said that he died at the age of one hundred ten.

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.


a - 010 Story of Job (Ayoub) p.b.u.h.
Meaning: More DetailsThe Story of Job (Ayoub)
(Peace be upon him)

Ibn Ishaaq stated that he was a man of Rum. His name was Job, Ibn Mose, Ibn Razeh, Ibn Esau, Ibn Isaac (PBUH), Ibn Abraham (PBUH). Someone else said he was Job, Ibn Mose, Ibn R’imil, Ibn Esau, Ibn Isaac, Ibn Jacob. There have also been other statements on his lineage. Ibn ‘Asaker narrated that his mother was a daughter of Lot (PBUH). It was said, also, that his father was one who believed in Abraham (PBUH) when he was cast into the fire.

The first opinion is the most plausible, because he was a descendant of Abraham’s offspring as Allah Almighty declared: "And that was Our proof which We gave Abraham against his people. We raise whom We will in degrees. Certainly your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing. And We bestowed upon him Isaac and Jacob, each of them We guided, and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron. Thus do We reward the good-doers." (Surah 6: 83-84)

Allah the Almighty praised His worshiper Job in His Glorious Qur’an: "Truly! We found him patient. How excellent (a) slave! Verily, he was ever oft-returning in repentance (to Us)!" (Surah 38: 44)

Job (PBUH) was repentant, remembering Allah with thankfulness, patience, and steadfastness. This was the cause of his rescue and the secret of Allah’s praising him.

A group of angels were discussing Allah’s other human creatures, how those who were humble earned Allah’s pleasure, while those who were arrogant incurred His displeasure. One of the angels remarked: "The best creature on earth today is Job, a man of noble character who displays great patience and always remembers his Generous Lord. He is an excellent model for the worshipers of Allah. In return, his Lord has blessed him with a long life and plenty of riches, yet he is never haughty or selfish. His family, his servants, as well as the needy and the poor share in his good fortune; he feeds and clothes the poor and buys slaves to set them free. He makes those who receive his charity feel as if they are favoring him, so kind and gentle is he."

Iblis, overhearing all this, became annoyed. He planned to tempt Job to corruption and disbelief, so he hastened to him. He tried to distract Job from his prayers by whispering to him about the good things in life, but Job was a true believer and would not let evil thoughts tempt him. This disturbed Iblis more; thus he began to hate Job even more.

Iblis complained to Allah about Job. He said that although he was continuously glorifying Allah, he was not doing so out of his sincerity but to satisfy Allah so that his wealth should not be taken away. It was all a show, all out of greed. "If You remove his wealth then You will find that his tongue will no longer mention Your name and his praying will stop.

Allah told Iblis that Job was one of His most sincere devotees. He did not worship Him because of the favors; his worship stemmed from his heart and had nothing to do with material things. But to prove to Iblis the depth of Job’s sincerity and patience, Allah allowed him to do whatever he and his helpers wished with Job’s wealth.

Iblis was very happy. He gathered his helpers and set about destroying Job’s cattle, servants, and farms until he was left with no possessions. Rubbing his hands in glee, Iblis appeared before Job in the guise of a wise old man and said to him: "All your wealth is lost. Some people say that it is because you gave too much charity and that you are wasting your time with your continuous prayers to Allah. Others say that Allah has brought this upon you in order to please your enemies. If Allah had the capacity to prevent harm, then He would have protected your wealth."

True to his belief, Job replied: "What Allah has taken away from me belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills." With these words, Job again prostrated to his Lord.

When Iblis saw this, he felt frustrated, so he again addressed Allah: "I have stripped Job of all his possessions, but he still remains grateful to You. However, he is only hiding his disappointment, for he places great store by his many children. The real test of a parent is through his children. You will then see how Job will reject You."

Allah granted Iblis authority, but warned him that it would not reduce Job’s faith in his Lord nor his patience.

Iblis again gathered his helpers and set about his evil deeds. He shook the foundation of the house in which Job’s children were living and sent the building crashing, killing all of them. Then he went to Job disguised as a man who had come to sympathize with him. In a comforting tone he said to Job: "The circumstances under which your children died were sad. Surely, your Lord is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers." Having said this, Iblis waited anxiously, hoping Job was now ready to reject Allah.

But again Job disappointed him by replying: "Allah sometimes gives and sometimes takes. He is sometimes pleased and sometimes displeased with our deeds. Whether a thing is beneficial or harmful to me, I will remain firm in my belief and remain thankful to my Creator." Then Job prostrated to his Lord. At this Iblis was extremely vexed.

Iblis again called on Allah. "O my Lord, Job’s wealth is gone, his children are dead, but he is still healthy in body, and as long as he enjoys good health he will continue to worship You in the hope of regaining his wealth and producing more children. Grant me authority over his body so that I may weaken it. He will surely neglect worshiping You and will thus become disobedient."

Allah wanted to teach Iblis a lesson that Job was a devoted servant of his Lord, so He granted Iblis his third request but placed a condition: "I give you authority over his body but not over his soul, intellect, or heart, for in these places reside the knowledge of Me and My religion."

Armed with this new authority, Iblis began to take revenge on Job’s body and filled it with disease until it was reduced to mere skin and bone and he suffered severe pain. But through all the suffering Job remained strong in his faith, patiently bearing all the hardships without complaining. Allah’s righteous servant did not despair or turn to others for help but remained hopeful of Allah’s mercy. Even close relatives and friends deserted him. Only his kind, loving wife stayed with him. In his hour of need, she showered her kindness on him and cared for him. She remained his sole companion and comforter through the many years of his suffering.

Ibn ‘Asaker narrated: "Job was a man having much wealth of all kinds: beasts, slaves, sheep, vast lands of Haran and many children. All those favors were taken from him and he was physically afflicted as well. Never a single organ was sound except his heart and tongue, with both of which he glorified Allah, the Almighty all the time day and night. His disease lasted for a long time until his visitors felt disgusted with him. His friends kept away from him, and people abstained from visiting him. No one felt sympathy for him except his wife. She took good care of him, knowing his former charity and pity for her."

Therefore, Iblis became desperate. He consulted his helpers, but they could not advise him. They asked: "How is it that your cleverness cannot work against Job, yet you succeeded in misleading Adam, the father of man, out of Paradise?"

Iblis went to Job’s wife in the form of a man. "Where is your husband?" he asked her.

She pointed to an almost lifeless form crumpled on the bed and said: "There he is, suspended between life and death."

Iblis reminded her of the days when Job had good health, wealth and children. Suddenly, the painful memory of years of hardship overcame her, and she burst into tears. She said to Job: "How long are you going to bear this torture from our Lord? Are we to remain without wealth, children or friends forever? Why don’t you call upon Allah to remove this suffering?"

Job sighed, and in a soft voice replied: "Iblis must have whispered to you and made you dissatisfied. Tell me, how long did I enjoy good health and riches?"

She replied: "For eighty years."

Then Job asked: "How long am I suffering like this?"

She said: "For seven years."

Job then told her: "In that case I am ashamed to call on my Lord to remove the hardship, for I have not suffered longer than the years of good health and plenty. It seems your faith has weakened and you are dissatisfied with the fate of Allah. If I ever regain health, I swear I will punish you with a hundred strokes! From this day onward, I forbid myself to eat or drink anything from your hand. Leave me alone and let my Lord do with me as He pleases."

Crying bitterly and with a heavy heart, she had no choice but to leave him and seek shelter elsewhere. In this helpless state, Job turned to Allah, not to complain but to seek His mercy: "Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy."

So We answered his call, and We removed the distress that was on him, and We restored his family to him (that he had lost), and the like thereof along with them, as a mercy from Ourselves and a Reminder for all who worship Us." ( Surah 21: 83-84)

Almighty Allah also instructed: "And remember Our slave Job, when he invoked his Lord (saying): 'Verily! Satan has touched me with distress (by losing my health) and torment (by losing my wealth)!' Allah said to him: 'Strike the ground with your foot: This is a spring of water to wash in, cool and a (refreshing) drink.' And We gave him (back) his family, and along with them the like thereof, as a Mercy from Us, and a reminder for those who understand." (Surah 38: 41-43)

Job obeyed, and almost immediately his good health was restored. Meanwhile, his faithful wife could no longer bear to be parted from her husband and returned to him to beg his forgiveness, desiring to serve him. On entering her house, she was amazed at the sudden change: Job was again healthy! She embraced him and thanked Allah for His mercy.

Job was now worried, for he had taken an oath to punish her with a hundred strokes if he regained health, but he had no desire to hurt her. He knew if he did not fulfill the oath, he would be guilty of breaking a promise to Allah. Therefore, in His wisdom and mercy, Allah came to the assistance of His faithful servant, and advised him: "'And take in your hand a bundle of thin grass and strike therewith (your wife), and break not your oath.' Truly! We found him patient. How excellent (a) slave! Verily, he was ever oft-returning in repentance (to Us)!" ( Surah 38: 44)

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad said: 'While Job was naked, taking a bath, a swarm of gold locusts fell on him, and he started collecting them in his garment. His Lord called him: 'O Job! Have I not made you too rich to need what you see?' He said: 'Yes, O Lord! But I cannot shun Your Blessings.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

These stories are based on the book, "Stories of the prophets", by Ibn Kathir. Translation is by Sheikh Muhammad Gemeiah. The book was edited by Aelfwine Acelas Mischler.

No comments:

Post a Comment