The Qiṣaṣ al-‘Anbiyā’ (Arabic: قصص الأنبياء) or Stories of the Prophets is any of various collections of stories adapted from the Quran and other Islamic literature, closely related to exegesis of the Qur’an. One of the best-known is a work composed by the Persian author Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm bin Mansūr bin Khalaf of Neyshābūr (A city located in Khorasan, Northeast Iran) the 12th century (AH 5th century); another was composed by Muhammad al-Kisai in the 8th century (AH2th century); others include the Ara’is al-Majalis by al-Tha’alabi (d. 1035, AH 427) and the Qisas al-Anbiya by Ibn Kathir(d. 1372, AH 774).
Because the lives of biblical figures — the Muslim prophets or أنبياء ‘anbiya’ — were covered only briefly in the Qur’an, 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, and Europe. Many of these scholars were also authors of commentaries on the Qur’an; unlike Qur’an commentaries, however, which follow the order and structure of the Qur’an itself, the Qiṣaṣ told its stories of the prophets in chronological order – which makes them similar to the Jewish and Christian versions of the Bible.
The Qiṣaṣ thus usually begins 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, Nuh, Shem, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Ismail and his mother Hajar, Lut, Ishaq, Jacob and Esau, Yousuf, Shuaib, Musa and his brother Aaron, Khidr, Joshua, Josephus, Eleazar, Elijah, Samuel, Saul, Dawud, Sulaiman, Yunus, Dhul-Kifl and Dhul-Qarnayn all the way up to and including Yahya and Isa son of Mariam. Sometimes the author incorporated related local folklore or oral traditions, and many of the Qiṣaṣ al-‘Anbiyā”s tales echo medieval Christian and Jewish stories.
During the mid-16th century, several gorgeously illuminated versions of the Qiṣaṣ 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.”
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