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According to Muslim interpretation of the Qur˒an, the prophet Muhammad is considered to be the "seal of the prophets," the culmination of a line of prophets stretching back through Jesus, Moses, and Abraham to Adam. Many but not all of the prophets preceding Muhammad are mentioned in the Qur˒an, and later Muslim traditions attach great importance to certain beliefs and practices associated with all the prophets.

The Qur˒an itself (2:136, 3:84, 4:136, 42:13) and later Muslim creeds stipulate belief in all the prophets and the books revealed to them without making distinctions among them. The Fiqh al-akbar (art. 8), traditionally attributed to the jurist Abu Hanifa, states that Muslims should believe that Moses and Jesus were prophets, perhaps in reference to 2:285 and 4:152. The so-called Fiqh al-akbar II (art. 20), the Wasiyat Abi Hanifa (art. 25) and the ˓Aqida of Ahmad b. Ja˓far al-Tahawi (art. 5) all state the belief in the intercession of the prophets for their followers on the Day of Judgment.

Some Muslim scholars distinguish between a generic "prophet" (nabi) and a "messenger" or "apostle" (rasul), maintaining that only a select few of the many prophets were messengers, supposed to have brought a revealed book to their people. Within the Qur˒an, other terms are used to refer to prophets, including "messiah" or "Christ" (masih) with reference exclusively to Jesus. Ibn Sa˓d (d. 230) reports that the number of rasul including the prophet Muhammad is 315, and the total number of prophets is one thousand. Other Muslim sources list the total number of prophets as 224,000.

The stories of the prophets make up a significant portion of the Qur˒an, but the Qur˒an does not mention the names of all the prophets claimed by some Muslim scholars. By name there are twenty-five prophets mentioned in the Qur˒an, though there are some disagreements concerning the individual identities of all these. Among those mentioned by name are: Adam (mentioned 25 times by name), Idris (1), Nah (Noah; 43), Hud (7), Salih (10), Ibrahim (Abraham; 69), Isma˓il (Ishmael; 12), Ishaq (Isaac; 17), Ya˓qub (Jacob; 16), Lut (Lot; 27), Yusuf (Joseph; 27), Shu˓ayb (11), Ayyub (Job; 4), Dhu-l-Kifl (2), Musa (Moses; 137), Harun (Aaron; 20), Dawud (David; 16), Sulayman (Solomon; 17), Ilyas (Elijah; 1), Alisa (Elisha; 2), Yunus (Jonah; 4), Zakariyya (Zechariah; 7), Yahya (John; 5), ˓Issa (Jesus; 25), and Muhammad (4).

Other passages in the Qur˒an refer to prophets without mentioning names, but Muslim tradition identifies the prophets by name such as: Khidr, Ezekiel, Samuel, Jeremiah, and Daniel. In some cases, such as the case of the prophet sent to the People of the Well (25:38, 50:12) and to the People of the City mentioned in Sura Ya-Sin (36:13–29), the prophets are not identified by name in the Qur˒an, and the names given to the prophets are not well known outside of Muslim exegesis. There are also important characters, mentioned by name in the Qur˒an, such as Luqman and Dhu al-Qarnayn, who are not considered prophets but whose stories are nevertheless included in the later Muslim stories of the prophets.

The Qur˒an mentions scriptures revealed to Abraham (53:36–37, 87:18–19), and specifies the Torah and Gospel (3:3, 3:48, 3:60, 5:43–46, 5:66), Psalms of David (4:163, 17:55), and Qur˒an (12:1–3, 20:2, 27:19, 56:77–80, 76:23) as revealed books. A hadith report given on the authority of Abu Dharr states that scriptures were revealed to Adam, Seth, Idris, and Abraham in addition to the revelation of the Torah to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Gospel to Jesus, and the Qur˒an to Muhammad. According to al-Tabari, the "first scriptures" mentioned in Q 20:133 and 87:18 are the scriptures revealed to Seth and Idris.

Muslim tradition also mentions the relics of prophets, some of which are venerated in shrines and are the focus of seasonal rituals. Muslims perform pilgrimages to the tombs of certain prophets such as that of Hud in the Hadramawt and Shu˓ayb in Yemen. According to the Arab geographer Yaqut, the tomb of Adam is said to be in Mecca, and Muslim pilgrimages visit the tomb of Muhammad in Medina. Artifacts of the prophets are also attested such as the Ark of the Covenant, a mirror and ring that belonged to Solomon, the ring and book of Daniel, and a number of items closely associated with Muhammad including his hair and fingernails. The footprints of prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad, are also preserved in religious institutions and museums along with articles of clothing and weapons.

In addition to the standard Qur˒an commentaries that were written according to the order of the suras and verses in the Qur˒an, Muslim scholars also compiled "stories of the prophets," which excerpted and commented on the large parts of the Qur˒an concerned with the prophets leading up to Muhammad. These works organized the Qur˒an passages in narrative order beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad, roughly paralleling the biblical chronology of these same figures. Best known for their stories of the prophets were Tha˓labi and Ibn Kathir, and stories of the prophets made up significant parts of universal histories such as those compiled by Tabari, Ya˓qubi, Ibn al-Athir, and in the biography of the prophet Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq.

The prophet-by-prophet and overall chronological structure of these story collections contributed to a more accessible and less piecemeal interpretation of the Qur˒an. The genre of "stories of the prophets" has been more closely associated with sermons and popular Qur˒an interpretation, and it is likely that some of the earliest Qur˒an interpretations, like those attributed to Wahb b. Munabbih, Ka˓b al-Ahbar, and Ibn ˓Abbas, originated as sermons or stories of the prophets. Later works devoted to the stories of the prophets, especially in Persian, were richly illustrated, picturing the prophets in certain well-known scenes from the popular stories. In the Muslim world today, one of the most popular formats for presentation of the Qur˒an to children is through books and videos illustrating the stories of the prophets.

Most of the prophets in the Qur˒an as well as those mentioned by name in later Muslim interpretation parallel characters from the Bible and its interpretation in Jewish and Christian traditions. Muslim scholars have seen these parallels as evidence of the shared origins of these religions and their revealed scriptures, and largely embrace the diversity of the various "versions" of different stories focusing on the common veneration of certain recognized figures such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

See alsoIslam and Other Religions ; Muhammad ; Qur˒an .


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Brannon M. Wheeler