The Quran and Jewish Patriarchs and Prophets
The first time a Jew reads the Quran he is often surprised by the fact that the Quran does not focus on Muhammed, Ishmael or the Arab people. Instead the Quran focuses primarilly on the Jewish patriarchs and prophets. The Quran concerns itself primarily with the history and future of the Children of Israel. Thus the primary figures of the Quran are figures like Abraham, Joseph, Moses and King David. In fact the primary figure of the Quran is Moshe Aveynu (Moses our father) who is mentioned more than any other individual in the Quran. Many Jews are surprised to learn that one entire "Surah" (chapter) of the Quran (Surah 17) is titled "The Children of Israel".
The Father of Jews the mentioned most in Quran
Of all the Prophets cited in the Quran, our Prophet Moses is talked about the most, even more than Prophet Muhammad, within the Quran, his life, journies, and relationships with the children of Israel is spoken about more than other Prophets.
176 Verses in the Quran mention the name of Prophet Moses:
002.051 002.053 002.054 002.055 002.060 002.061 002.067 002.068 002.069 002.071 002.087 002.092 002.108 002.136 002.246 002.248 003.003 003.084 003.093 004.153 004.164 005.020 005.022 005.024 005.044 006.084 006.091 006.154 007.103 007.104 007.107 007.115 007.116 007.117 007.122 007.127 007.128 007.131 007.132 007.134 007.138 007.142 007.143 007.144 007.148 007.150 007.151 007.154 007.155 007.159 007.160 010.075 010.077 010.080 010.081 010.083 010.084 010.087 010.088 010.089 011.017 011.096 011.110 014.005 014.006 014.008 017.002 017.101 017.102 018.060 018.062 018.064 018.066 018.069 018.071 018.073 018.074 018.076 018.077 019.051 020.009 020.011 020.017 020.019 020.025 020.036 020.040 020.045 020.049 020.057 020.059 020.061 020.065 020.067 020.070 020.077 020.083 020.086 020.088 020.091 020.092 020.095 020.097 021.048 021.105 022.044 023.045 023.049 025.035 026.010 026.018 026.020 026.024 026.026 026.028 026.030 026.032 026.043 026.045 026.048 026.052 026.053 026.061 026.062 026.063 026.064 026.065 026.066 027.007 027.009 027.010 028.003 028.007 028.008 028.010 028.011 028.015 028.018 028.019 028.020 028.029 028.030 028.031 028.036 028.037 028.038 028.043 028.044 028.046 028.048 028.076 029.039 032.023 033.007 033.069 037.114 037.120 040.023 040.026 040.027 040.037 040.053 041.045 042.013 043.046 043.052 043.054 046.012 046.030 051.038 053.036 061.005 062.005 079.015 079.020 087.019
While only 4 mention the name of Prophet Muhammad.
The Quran teaches that the Jews are Elohim's Chosen People
Children of Israel! call to mind the favour which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all others. (Surah 2:47 repeated in 2:122)
Remember Moses said to his people: "O my people! Call in remembrance the favour of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples.(Surah 5:21)
We did deliver aforetime the Children of Israel from humiliating Punishment, Inflicted by Pharaoh, for he was arrogant (even) among inordinate transgressors. And We chose them aforetime above the nations, knowingly, (Surah 44:30-32)
We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel the Book the Power of Command, and Prophethood; We gave them, for Sustenance, things good and pure; and We favoured them above the nations. (Surah 45:16)
The Quran and Jewish Liturgy
The opening Surah of the Quran is very comparable to the traditional Jewish liturgy. Traditional Jewish blessings generally begin with:
Baruch Atta Adonai, Eloheynu Melech HaOlam
"Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the universe/world"
Surah 1:1 reads (in Hebrew):
Baruch L'Elohim, Ribon HaOlamim
"Blessing to Elohim, Master of the Worlds."
In fact there is nothing about Surah 1 (apart from its being part of the Quran) that would prevent it from being uttered as a Jewish prayer. It could easily appear in a Jewish prayer book if it were not for the fact that someone might say... "wait a minute this is from the Quran!".
The Talmuds, Midrashim, Targums and the Quran
Many Quran stories and sayings appear elsewhere only in the Mishnah, Talmud, Midrashim and Targums.
Islamic teachers have often, unfortunately taught that the extra-biblical traditions of Judaism are false and are of no value to the Believer. On the contrary however the Quran makes it clear that many of the extra-biblical Jewish traditions preserved in the Midrashim, Talmuds, Mishna etc. contain truth.
A primary example is that of the story of Abraham and his father the idol maker. The same basic story appears in the Talmud, the Midrash Rabbah and the Midrash Sefer Ha-Yashar. It also appears in the Quran but it does NOT appear in the Bible at all.
The story appears this way in Midrash Rabbah: Terah was an idolator once he went away and left Abraham to sell his idols. Whenever a buyer came, Abraham asked him his age. If he replied, I am fifty, or sixty years old, Abraham said 'Woe to the man of sixty who desires to worship the work of a day, so that the buyer went away ashamed.'1 Once a woman came, with a dish of wheat and said, 'Here, put this before them;' but Abraham took a stick and beat down all the idols, and put the stick into the hands of the largest idol when his father returned, he said, 'Who has done this?'
On which Abraham replied, 'Why should I deny it?, A woman came with a dish of wheat and bade me set it in front of them. I had scarcely done so when each wanted to eat before the other, and the greatest beat them all down with the stick which he had in his hand. Terah said: 'What art thou inventing for me?
Have they then understanding?' Abraham replied, 'Do thine ears not hear what thy month says?' Then Terah took him and gave him over to Nimrod, who said: 'We will worship fire.' Abraham said: 'Rather water, which extinguishes. ' Nimrod replied: 'Water then.' 'Rather the cloud which carries water.' 'The cloud then.' 'Rather the wind which scatters the cloud.' 'The wind then.' 'Rather men, who endure the wind. Nimrod at this became angry and said:
'Thou art only making a speech. I worship fire and will throw thee into it. The God whom thou dost worship may come and save thee out of it.' Abraham was then thrown into a glowing furnace, but was saved from it. (Midrash Rabbah on Gen. Paragraph 38)
A comparison of this story with the parallel story in the Quarn reveals unique similarities in the Qur'an and the Midrash which appear nowhere in the Bible.
The Qur'anic account of Abraham and the idols commences in Sura 6:74 where Abraham is quoted as saying "Takest thou idols for gods?" and this theme is then expanded in Sura 21:51-71. It is exactly the same theme as the Midrash where Abraham takes issue over the idols of his father.
The shared themes in the Midrashic account:
The Midrashic account is cited here and the Qur'anic equivalent can be found in the ayats in the brackets.
1. Abraham's father accused of being an idolater: "Terah (Abraham's father) was a manufacturer of idols" ie. He was an idolater. (52)
2. "He once went away somewhere and left Abraham..." (57)
3. Abraham breaks all the idols except the biggest: "So he took a stick, broke them, (the idols) and put the stick in the hand of the largest." (58)
4. "When his father returned he demanded, 'What have you done to them?'" (59)
(In the Qur'anic account this demand is made by his father and the people.) Abraham claims: "Thereupon the largest arose, took the stick, and broke them." (63)
6. Abraham is seized and delivered up for judgement: "Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod." (68)
The Qur'an does not mention by name who was to punish Abraham.
7. Abraham is saved from the fire:
"When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved..." (69)
All the above points are unique both to the Qur'anic and the Midrashic accounts.
They do not appear anywhere in the Bible.
Another example is the story of the Queen of Sheba (Surah 27:20-44) which appears elsewhere only in a Midrash interjected in a Targum to Esther:
Then the wild rooster replied before King Solomon, saying to him; 'Hear my words, My Lord, O king, incline your ear and listen (to) my utterances. Have not three months (passed) that I have given advice and counsel; my words are truth; I did not eat food, nor did I drink water before I flew throughout the whole world inspecting it, saying; Is there a country whose ruler is not subservient to my lord, O king? Whereupon I noticed a certain country in the land of the East, its name was the city of Qitor, whose dust is so precious and whose gold and silver exists like dung in the streets.
They do not know anything about waging war; they are unable to draw the bow; However, truly I have seen a single woman rule over them and her name is the Queen of Sheba.
Then the scribes of the king were summoned and they wrote a letter and tied the letter to the wing of the wild rooster, which proceeded to ascend heavenward and soared soaringly. It then flew among the birds which proceeded to follow it in flight; they went on to the city of Qitor to the land of Sheba. Towards morning the Queen of Sheba went out to worship the sea (? ) - when (suddenly) the birds obscured the sunlight, which caused her to take hold of her clothes and tear them. Whereupon she was very stunned. As she was in her very stunned state, the wild rooster descended towards her, and she observed a letter tied to is wing.
So she untied (it) and read it; and what was written in it? - From me, the kingdom of Solomon: Peace to you, peace to your princes.
As you know; the Holy One, Blessed be He, appointed me to reign over the wild beasts, over the fowl of the heavens and over demons and spirits.
Now all the kings of the East, the West, the South and the North come to greet me. Now if you wish to come and greet me, I will show you greater honour than all those whom I have hosted before me.
But if you do not wish to come and greet me, I will send kings and legions against you (which belong) to King Solomon.
The wild beasts are the kings, the fowl of the heavens are the raiders, the armies are the spirits, and the demons and the Liliths are the legions (who will) strangle you in your beds inside your houses; the wild beasts will kill you in the field; the fowl of the heavens (will) eat your flesh from you.
When the Queen of Sheba heard the words of the letter, she took hold of her clothes and tore them. She then summoned her elders and princes and said to them; 'Do you know what King Solomon told me?' They replied, saying: 'We do not know King Solomon nor do we recognise his kingdom.
' But she did not trust (them) and did not heed their words. She summoned all the ships of the sea and had them loaded with bracelets, pearls and precious gems. She then wrote a letter and sent it to King Solomon.......
'And now, with prayer and supplication which I will plead before you, I will come to you at the end of three years,' Now it came about at the end of three years that the Queen of Sheba came to King Solomon.
Now when King Solomon heard that she was coming to him, King Solomon arose and went to sit down in a bathhouse. When the Queen saw that the king was sitting in a bathhouse, she thought to herself the king must be sitting in water. So she raised her dress to wade across.
Whereupon he noticed the hair on her leg, to which King Solomon responded by saying: 'Your beauty is the beauty of women, but your hair is the hair of men. Now hair is beautiful for a man but shameful for a woman.' Whereupon the Queen of Sheba answered saying to him: O lord king 'I will cite you three riddles;
if you will solve them for me I will acknowledge that you are a wise man, but if not, (you are) like the rest of mankind....
Whereupon she commented, saying to him: 'I would not have believed it. Praiseworthy are these your servants.' Whereupon he brought her into the royal palace. Now when the Queen of Sheba saw the greatness and glory of King Solomon, she offered praise to the One Who created him, saying: 'Blessed be the Lord, your God who has chosen you to place you on the throne of His kingdom to do righteousness and justice.' She then gave the king a great deal of fine gold while the king gave her what she desired.
One final example is Sura 5:27-32 which is the Qur'anic story of Cain and Abel. Initially, the Torah and the Qur'an basically agree on the narrative, however in ayat 31, the two diverge.
Then God sent down a raven, which dug the earth to show him how to bury the naked corpse of his brother. (Sura 5:31)
We find a striking parallel between the Quran and a Jewish Midrash, the "Pirke Rabbi Eliezer". In Pirke Rabbi Eliezer we find this story:
Adam and his companion sat weeping and mourning for him (Abel) and did not know what to do with him as burial was unknown to them. Then came a raven, whose companion was dead, took its body, scratched in the earth, and hid it before their eyes;
then said Adam, "I shall do as this raven has done", and at once he took Abel's corpse, dug in the earth and hid it. The similarity is obvious. The only difference is that the Qur'an says Cain did the burying, the Midrash says Adam did the burying.
The next Qur'anic verse further illustrates the point:
That is why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be deemed as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be deemed as though he had saved all mankind. (Sura 5:32)
Initially, there appears to be no connection between verses 31 and 32. Why the life or death of one should be as the salvation or destruction of all mankind in not made clear in the Qur'an. When we turn to another Jewish record - the Mishnah, we find the link between the story and what follows:
We find it said in the case of Cain who murdered his brother, "The voice of thy brother's bloods crieth" (Gen. 4:10).
It is not said here blood in the singular, but bloods in the plural, that is, his own blood and the blood of his seed. Man was created single in order to show that to him who kills a single individual it shall be reckoned that he has slain the whole race, but to him who preserves the life of a single individual it is counted that he hath preserved the whole race. m.Sanhedrin 4:5
Because the word for blood is in the plural in Gen. 4:10 the Mishah teaches that all Abel's offspring had been killed with him which signified that any murder or life-saving act had universal implications.
Here is a clear instance where a study of the Mishnah sheds light and gives greater understanding to the Quran!