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The Quran & Stories of Non-Semitic Prophets

Question and answer details
AK
2012/12/24
 1. Salam dear scholars. Thanks for your great efforts and may Allah best reward you all. It's not something new to your eyes to read this saying: Stories in Quran are just pure symbolic stories to tell lessons and wisdom, but I have read the classical replies and defending.I found myself pushed further to inquire about these points: - why can't we find any historical and/or archaeological evidence for the existence of prophets .. Specialists in the Pharoahnic history for example, emphasize that there is no single evidence that  prophet Musa (AS) lived and met and had that encounter with the Pharaoh! There are no historical evidences of any kind (though many other details of that period were recorded). Big and miraculous events like the splitting of the sea had gone through history without any note or remark.  2. Is it true that after seven years of poverty and the nation was starving, a wise Minister through clever planning made history by making his country an exporter of food? This is not mentioned in history books at all.  And can we claim that historians/archaeologists are all biased and anti-religions and thus they deliberately ignored or hid the evidences? 3. The Quran states that there was no nation to which a messenger was not sent. If so, why don't we find any messenger from any of the Asian/ European/ African/ South American nations? For example, the Chinese civilization was very well-organized and well-documented. (Historians now doubt about Marco Polo's visit to China, because he is not mentioned in their official and well-kept records). They have recorded the annals of all kinds of their philosophers /thinkers/schools of thought/ sects/ revolutions etc. How come a prophet was sent to them and lived there for, say 60 years, and was a significantly different influence from the mainstream thought and yet he is not mentioned at all?   Why is it that we cannot trace any trace or remnant of a divine message or prophetic mission in any part outside the Middle East? Why are the other nations and their prophets not mentioned in the Quran? Were they less important? Didn't their stories have any lessons to learn from?   Is this a sign that this book concerns only you in that region (i.e. Muslims)?These are some of the wonders I have encountered about the Quran and it will be great if you can kindly clarify these for me.   Jazakum Allah khairan. Best Regards. Salam
Shahul Hameed
Answer
Salam Brother,

 

Thank you for your questions.

 

Concerning the first question, you can find the answer in the following link:

 

Did Moses and Jesus Exist?

 

Recording History

 

Your second question is about the historicity of the seven-year period of plenty followed by seven years of famine, mentioned in the story of Prophet Yusuf  (Joseph) (peace be upon him) given in the Quran.

 

You point out that contemporary historians are silent about those tremendous events. Is there any sense in alleging that they were biased or anti-religious as to black out such remarkable events from their books of history? 

 

We need to understand that keeping record of important events for the benefit of future generations was not a set practice in those ancient days, when the events narrated in the story of Prophet Yusuf took place.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Joseph must have lived in the period about 1562-1452 BC. Indeed during those days, people who knew reading and writing were quite few. 

 

Therefore, it is no wonder that there were no regular historians as in more enlightened days of a later period. So, it is not surprising that historic events like the ones recounted in Joseph's story, are not to be found in the books of history or chronicles we now have.   

 

Non-Arab Prophets

 

Your third question is about the prophetic missions to lands outside the Middle East.


That the Chinese are credited with well-documented histories of their philosophies and religions is essentially true; but at the same time we have no reason to suppose that they were free from prejudice.

 

It was Ibn Khaldun who wrote that history is a discipline that has a great number of approaches. To a great extent, history is influenced by one's own bias. This is especially true in the matter of the history of a religion, as religion relates to a very sensitive area of human knowledge.

 

What I mean is that we cannot rule out the possibility that even the Chinese could have ignored or possibly blacked out the stories of their prophets out of bias.   

 

The question about the Quran not mentioning prophets outside the Middle East, arises mainly owing to a misunderstanding about the prophetic missions in general. And one may mention the bias discernible among the classical interpreters and scholars towards the Semitic tradition and history as represented by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

 

The Quran addresses the whole of humanity and is meant for all time. In fact, this is one of the most noticeable aspects of the Quran; that its Message is for all people and for all time.

 

Consider these two verses, among others: 

 

*{O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).}*  (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

 

*{Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongs the  dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That gives both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.}* (Al-A`raf 7:158)

 

At the same time, the Quran has clearly stated in several places that there never was a people to whom a messenger had not been sent. Consider just one verse:


*{Verily We have sent thee in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).}* (Fatir 35:24)

 

In the case of any particular prophet sent to any community, we need to understand that he was chosen from among his people who lived at some point in history. He was never an outsider to his people; he was one among them: For instance, Allah in the Quran mentions Hud as a brother of the Ad people:

 

*{To the Ad people, (We sent) Hud, one of their (own) brethren: He said: O my people! worship Allah. You have no other god but Him, will you not fear Allah?}* (Al-A`raf 7:65)

 

During the mission, a prophet becomes a noticeable person among his people when he starts admonishing his people or inviting them to the Path of Allah. His work becomes controversial and creates tension among them when he questions or challenges the prevailing beliefs and traditions.

 

Then, he faces a lot of opposition and eventually he is persecuted or even killed. And only in a few cases, he manages to get a large following and becomes successful in the worldly sense. This is the typical story of a prophet and this has been narrated in the case of several prophets over and over again in the Quran.

 

We must know that any Book of God — including the Final Book — is revealed to one prophet living in the midst of his people in a certain point in history. The Book is in a language understandable to that prophet's community and its first addressees are the community of the prophet living at that time.

 

Even though God is the God of all humans transcending the limitations of place and time, He must address a specific group of people living at a specific time when He reveals His message.

 

For this reason, it is only natural that the Quran is in the Arabic language focusing on the Prophet and his people. It is neither necessary nor desirable for a Book of Guidance to go on narrating ad nauseam the histories of all the prophets who lived among different peoples in different ages.

 

It is sufficient to say that the Divine Message has come to all those communities; especially after typical cases have been recounted.

 

It is also understandable from the Quran that God chose the Middle Eastern region as the place for the conclusion of His Divine Guidance to humanity. Accordingly, the three prophets – Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) representing the 'three Semitic religions' (to borrow a common phrase) lived in the Middle East.

 

These prophets and their predecessors in the Middle East, thus get a special significance in the history of Divine Guidance.

 

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

 

Salam.

 

Useful Links:

 

Non-Arab Prophets

 

Is Islam a Religion for Arabs Only?

 

Were Prophets Only From Arabia?

 

Stories of the Prophets in the Quran

 

The Death of Solomon

 

The Story of John (Yahya)

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