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Qisas Al-Anbiya

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The "Qisas Al-Anbiya" (قصص الأنبياء) or Stories of the Prophets refers to various collections of tales adapted from the Quran. One of the best-known is that composed by al-Kisai in either the 6th or the 13th century; others include the Ara'is al-majalis by al-Tha'alabi (d. 427 AH) and the Qisas an-anbiya by Ibn Kathir (d. 774 AH).

Because the lives of biblical figures ("prophets," in the Muslim tradition) were covered only briefly in the Quran, scholars, poets, historians, and storytellers felt free to elaborate, clothing the bare bones with flesh and blood. Authors of these texts drew on many traditions available to medieval Islamic civilization such as those of Asia, Africa, China, Europe. Many of these scholars were also authors of commentaries on the Quran; unlike Quran commentaries, however, which follow the order and structure of the Quran itself, the Qisas told its stories of the prophets in chronological order.

The Qisas thus usually begin with the creation of the world and its various creatures including angels, and culminating in God's masterpiece, Adam, created by His own hand and given life from His own breath. Following the stories of the Prophet Adam and his family come the tales of Idris, Noah, Shem, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Ishmael and his mother Hagar, Lot, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, Shuayb, Moses and his brother Aaron, Khidr, Joshua, Josephus, Eleazar, Elijah, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, and Jonah all the way up to and including John the Baptist and Jesus son of Mary. Sometimes the author incorporated related local folklore or oral traditions, and many of the Qisas al-anbiya's tales echo medieval Christian and Jewish stories.

During the mid-16th century, several gorgeously illuminated versions of the Qisas were created by unnamed Ottoman Empire painters. According to Milstein et al, "iconographical study [of the texts] reveals ideological programs and cliché typical of the Ottoman polemical discourse with its Shi'ite rival in Iran, and its Christian neighbors in the West."[1]

References

  1. Stories of the Prophets

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