Mysterious places, persons and events ...
The present paper is a continuation of our article series documenting that the Quran is an incomplete and incoherent text, contrary to its own claims of being fully detailed:
Here, we want to focus on certain places, persons and events which the Quran mentions without giving us enough information about them. We begin with the story of Job.
And remember Our servant Ayyub, when he called upon his Lord: The Shaitan has afflicted me with toil and torment. Urge with your foot; here is a cool washing-place and a drink. And We gave him his family and the like of them with them, as a mercy from Us, and as a reminder to those possessed of understanding. And take in your hand a green branch and beat her with it and do not break your oath; surely We found him patient; most excellent the servant! Surely he was frequent in returning (to Allah). S. 38:41-44 Shakir
Using only the Quran can Muslims explain this story to us? What cool washing-place is the Quran referring to? What oath did Job make? More importantly, why is God commanding Job to strike something with a green branch, which Shakir interprets to mean that Job was to beat an unspecified female (i.e., "her")? Yusuf Ali translates the verse as:
"And take in thy hand a little grass, and strike therewith: and break not (thy oath)" ...
What exactly was Job suppose to strike? An object or a person? If a person, was he to beat a man or a woman? If a man, was he supposed to beat his brother? His son? His nephew? His grandson? An enemy or a stranger etc.? If Shakir is correct, then who was the "her" that Job was commanded to beat? His wife? His daughter? His niece? His granddaughter? His sister? A female cousin? A stranger etc.? And if it is a woman that Job was to beat, does this mean that Allah condones domestic violence? Can any Muslim answer these questions from the Quran alone?
Finally, why don't we find this story in the OT book of Job which is written closer to the time these events took place and hence more historically accurate?
We next turn to names of places:
And the Companions of the Wood were also wrong-doers; S. 15:78 Y. Ali
And Ad and Samood and the dwellers of the Rass and many generations between them. S. 25:38 Shakir
The Companions of the Wood rejected the apostles. Behold, Shu'aib said to them: "Will ye not fear (God)? I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust. So fear God and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds. Give just measure, and cause no loss (to others by fraud). And weigh with scales true and upright. And withhold not things justly due to men, nor do evil in the land, working mischief. And fear Him Who created you and (who created) the generations before (you)" They said: "Thou art only one of those bewitched! Thou art no more than a mortal like us, and indeed we think thou art a liar! Now cause a piece of the sky to fall on us, if thou art truthful!" He said: "My Lord knows best what ye do." But they rejected him. Then the punishment of a day of overshadowing gloom seized them, and that was the Penalty of a Great Day. Verily in that is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. S. 26:176-190 Y. Ali
Before them too the people of Noah, and the tribe of Ad and Pharaoh, the Lord of stakes, rejected the Messengers as liars; And the tribe of Thamud, and the People of Lot, and the dwellers of the Wood - these were the confederates too. Not one of them but treated their Messengers as liars, so MY punishment justly overtook them. S. 38:12-14 Sher Ali
What! Are they better than the people of Tubba and those who were before them? We destroyed them because they were guilty of sin. S. 44:37 Y. Ali
Before them was denied (the Hereafter) by the People of Noah, the Companions of the Rass, the Thamud, The 'Ad, Pharaoh, the brethren of Lut, The Companions of the Wood, and the People of Tubba'; each one (of them) rejected the apostles, and My warning was duly fulfilled (in them). S. 50:12-14 Y. Ali
Who were the people of Rass and Tubba? Who were the Companions of the Wood? Who were the apostles sent to these people, and why did Allah warn them? What sins did they commit which necessitated the sending of messengers to them? Were they idolaters, murderers, lovers of money or of lustful pleasures? Can a Muslim answer these questions by consulting the Quran alone?
The late Maulana Muhammad Ali says of 15:78 and the Companions of the Wood:
78a. The dwellers of the grove were Shu'aib's people. But whether they are the same as the people of Midian is not agreed upon. (Ali, Holy Qur'an - Arabic Text, English Translation & Commentary [Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at Islam Lahore Inc. USA 1995], p. 532; source)
Shu'aib is the name of a so-called prophet sent to Midian (Cf. 7:85ff.; 11:84ff.; 29:36). But, as Ali noted, this doesn't tell us whether the Companions of the Wood are the same as the Midians. In fact, a better question to ask is, who in the world is Shu'aib? What was his background and where did he come from? Trying to find these answers from the Quran only leads to frustration since it says very little about Shu'aib.
In regards to 25:38, the Maulana says:
According to Zj, Rass was a country in which a part of the tribe of Thamud resided; others say that Rass is the name of a town in Yamamah (T). Rass also means a well, and it is said that they were a people who threw their prophet into the well (JB). (Ibid., p. 723; source)
The conflicting opinions of the Muslim scholars regarding Rass are just further evidence of the incompleteness and incoherence of the Quran.
The Quran mentions a beast which will emerge in the last days:
And when the Word is fulfilled against them (the unjust), we shall produce from the earth A BEAST to (face) them: He will speak to them, for that mankind did not believe with assurance in Our Signs. S. 27:82 Y. Ali
The late T.B. Irving provides a rather interesting translation:
... We shall bring forth A MONSTER from the earth for them who will speak to them ...
It seems that a talking beast was a hard pill to swallow for some Muslims as can be seen in the following translations:
... WE shall bring forth for them AN INSECT out of the earth which shall wound them ... Sher Ali
... We shall bring forth for them a creature from the earth that shall wound them ... Shakir
Khalifa and Pickthall omit any mention of a beast or creature of any kind:
... The day will come when we summon from every community some of those who did not believe in our proofs, forcibly. Khalifa
And (remind them of) the Day when We shall gather out of every nation a host of those who denied Our revelations... Pickthall
In light of the foregoing, can a Muslim tell us what or who this beast is without consulting any other source besides the Quran? In fact, can a Muslim tell us whether this verse is speaking of a beast, a monster, a creature, or an insect? And will this beast/monster/creature/insect speak or not?
The ahadith provide some embarrassing and fantastic details about this beast:
Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded from Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah said...
<A beast will emerge from the earth, and with it will be the staff of Musa and the ring of Sulayman, peace be upon them both. It will strike the nose of the disbelievers with the staff, and it will make the face of the believer bright with the ring, until when people gather to eat, they will be able to recognize the believers from the disbelievers.> It also was recorded by Imam Ahmad, with the wording...
<It will strike the nose of the disbelievers with the ring, and will make the face of the believer bright with the staff, until when people gather for a meal, they will say to one another, O believer, or O disbeliever.> It was also recorded by Ibn Majah. Ibn Jurayj reported that Ibn Az-Zubayr described the beast and said, "Its head is like the head of a bull, its eyes are like the eyes of a pig, its ears are like the ears of an elephant, its horns are like the horns of a stag, its neck is like the neck of an ostrich, its chest is like the chest of a lion, its color is like the colour of a tiger, its haunches are like the haunches of a cat, its tail is like the tail of a ram, and its legs are like the legs of a camel. Between each pair of its joints is a distance of twelve cubits. It will bring out with it the staff of Musa and the ring of Sulayman. There will be no believer left without it making a white spot on his face, which will spread until all his face is shining white as a result; and there will be no disbeliever left without it making a black spot on his face, which will spread until all his face is black as a result, then when the people trade with one another in the marketplace, they will say, `How much is this, O believer' `How much is this, O disbeliever' And when the members of one household sit down together to eat, they will know who is a believer and who is a disbeliever. Then the beast will say: `O so-and-so, enjoy yourself, for you are among the people of Paradise.' And it will say: `O so-and-so, you are among the people of Hell,' This is what Allah says...
<And when the Word is fulfilled against them, We shall bring out from the earth a beast for them, to speak to them because mankind believed not with certainty in Our Ayat.> (Tafsir Ibn Kathir on 27:82; online edition)
Such fantastic details speak for themselves and really need no comments from us. For more on this point please consult this article.
The Quran also refers to certain prophets and individuals mentioned in no other known source:
And certainly We gave wisdom to Luqman, saying: Be grateful to Allah. And whoever is grateful, he is only grateful for his own soul; and whoever is ungrateful, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, Praised. And when Luqman said to his son while he admonished him: O my son! do not associate aught with Allah; most surely polytheism is a grievous iniquity -- And We have enjoined man in respect of his parents -- his mother bears him with faintings upon faintings and his weaning takes two years -- saying: Be grateful to Me and to both your parents; to Me is the eventual coming. And if they contend with you that you should associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them, and keep company with them in this world kindly, and follow the way of him who turns to Me, then to Me is your return, then will I inform you of what you did -- O my son! surely if it is the very weight of the grain of a mustard-seed, even though it is in (the heart of) rock, or (high above) in the heaven or (deep down) in the earth, Allah will bring it (to light); surely Allah is Knower of subtleties, Aware; O my son! keep up prayer and enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and bear patiently that which befalls you; surely these acts require courage; And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster; And pursue the right course in your going about and lower your voice; surely the most hateful of voices is braying of the asses. Do you not see that Allah has made what is in the heavens and what is in the earth subservient to you, and made complete to you His favors outwardly and inwardly? And among men is he who disputes in respect of Allah though having no knowledge nor guidance, nor a book giving light. S. 31:12-20 Shakir
Who is Luqman? What makes him so important that the entire chapter of Sura 31 is named after him? Who was his son? Where were they from? Were they Arabs, Israelites, Persians etc.? When did they live? Did they live before, during, or after Moses? Did they live before or after Christ? And just using the Quran alone how can anyone know?
Something worth mentioning at this point is that there have been some who have actually identified Luqman with Aesop of Aesop's Fables fame! M. Ali writes:
12a. From what is stated about him, Luqman seems to have been an Ethiopian. It is very probable that the Greek "AEsop" is a corruption of "Ethiopian" and is identical with Luqman. The Qur'an accepts many prophets besides those mentioned in the Bible. (Ibid, p. 812; source)
Yusuf Ali, although disagreeing with this claim, nonetheless admits:
3593. The sage Luqman, after whom this Sura is called, belongs to Arab tradition. Very little is known of his life... Many instructive apologues are credited to him, similar to AEsop's fables in Greek tradition. The identification of Luqman and AEsop has no historical foundation, though it is true that the traditions about them have influenced each other. (Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation & Commentary [Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an Inc., New York, US Edition 2001], p. 1082; online edition; underline emphasis ours)
Asad unashamedly calls the Luqman story a legend and admits that he has been identified with AEsop, even though he (much like Y. Ali) doesn't believe it:
12 Popularly (though without sufficient justification) identified with Aesop, Luqman is a LEGENDARY figure firmly established in ancient Arabian tradition as a prototype of the sage who disdains worldly honours or benefits and strives for inner perfection. Celebrated in a poem by Ziyad ibn Mu'awiyah better known under his pen-name Nabighah adh-Dhubyani), who lived in the sixth century of the Christian era, the person of Luqman had become, long before the advent of Islam, a focal point of INNUMERABLE LEGENDS, stories and parables expressive of wisdom and spiritual maturity: and it is for this reason that the Qur'an uses THIS MYTHICAL FIGURE - as it uses the EQUALLY MYTHICAL FIGURE of Al-Khidr in surah 18 - as a vehicle for some of its admonitions bearing upon the manner in which man ought to behave. (Asad, p. 628; online source; capital emphasis ours)
We will have more to say about al-Khidr shortly.
We are told in J.M. Rodwell's translation:
1 Nothing certain is known concerning the history of this fabulist and philosopher. The opinion most generally received is that Lokman is the same person whom the Greeks, not knowing his real name, have called ∆sop, i.e., ∆thiops... (The Koran Translated From the Arabic by J.M. Rodwell, Foreword and Introduction by Alan Jones [Phoenix Paperback, 2001; ISBN: 1 84212 609 1], p. 474; online source)
And in Pickthall's translation:
Luqman takes its name from v. 12ff., which contain mention of the wisdom of Luqman, a sage whose memory the Arabs reverenced, but who is unknown to Jewish Scripture. He is said to have been a negro slave and the fables associated with his name are like those of Aesop that the USUAL identification seems justified. (The Meanings of the Glorious Koran: An Explanatory Translation by Marmaduke Pickthall with an Introduction by William Montgomery Watt [Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, Toronto, 1992; ISBN: 0-679-41736-2], p. 419; capital and underline emphasis ours)
The late T.P. Hughes, in his monumental work, A Dictionary of Islam, wrote:
ESOP. The Luqman of the Qur'an is generally supposed by European writers to be Esop. Sale is of opinion that Maximus Planudes borrowed the greater part of his life of Esop from the traditions he met with in the East concerning Luqman. [LUQMAN.] (Source)
In an internet article, writer Paul Lunde highlights the similarities between Luqman and AEsop which seem to strongly suggest that the two are actually one and the same:
Perhaps the most famous story told about Luqman is this one. Luqman, while he was still a serf, was summoned by his master and ordered to slaughter a sheep. He did so, and his master said, "Now give me the best part of it." So Luqman removed the tongue and the heart and prepared them for his master's supper. The next evening he was again summoned by his master and ordered to slaughter a sheep. He did so, and his master commanded, "Now give me the worst parts." Again Luqman prepared the heart and tongue of the sheep for his master's supper. His master grew angry and said, "When I ordered you to prepare the best parts of the sheep for me, you gave me the tongue and heart, and now when I order you to give me the worst parts of the sheep you again serve me the tongue and hear!" Luqman responded: "There is nothing better than them when they are good, and nothing worse when they are bad."
If this last story sounds familiar, it should. The same story is told about Aesop by the Greeks. Both Aesop and Luqman are described as having originally been Abyssinian and ugly. The story about Luqman and the seven vultures seems to be purely Arab, but both Aesop and Luqman are credited with having composed animal fables. In Arabic literature, 49 animal fables are attributed to Luqman, all but two identical to fables in the collection of Aesop. It is obvious that either the Greek fables are translations from the Arabic or that the Arabic fables, are translations from the Greek.
The latter alternative is the more likely, as the Aesopian fables are older than their Arabic counterparts, but it is perfectly possible that the animal fable was originally an oriental literary genre and that both Aesop and Luqman adapted it from the same Babylonian source. It says much for the basic identity of Classical and Islamic culture that the story of the tortoise and the hare, the wily fox, the proud but rather stupid lion are equally at home in Greek and Arabic. No matter how far Eastern and Western cultures have subsequently diverged they both have their roots in a common East-Mediterranean culture of great antiquity.
In fact, the Greeks' Life of Aesop, a late work by the Byzantine litterateur Planudes, is in reality a version of the Arabic, and earlier the Aramaic, Life of Ahiqar. Ahiqar had a son, who in Arabic is called either Mathan, Nathan, Baran, or Tharan, who paid no attention to the wise adages of his father, and as a consequence, after holding wild parties in his father's house, chasing the serving girls (presumably wearing heavy makeup) and ultimately selling state secrets to the Pharaoh, was ordered flayed. This punishment took place to the accompaniment of sage counsel couched in the form of animal fables and some of these fables later turn up in the collections attributed to Luqman and Aesop. Even at the end, the son of Luqman, or Aesop, or Ahiqar, had to put up with well-meant admonitions. They were probably harder to bear than the flaying. (Aesop of the Arabs)
If the foregoing citations are correct in identifying Luqman as AEsop, then Muslims are now obligated to purchase a copy of AEsops Fables and begin seriously studying it!!! After all, AEsops Fables would have to be recognized as inspired stories revealed for the purpose of illustrating moral truths.
Here are some other prophets which the Quran mentions in brief:
And relate the story of Idris as mentioned in the Book. He was a truthful man and a Prophet. And WE exalted him to a lofty station. S. 19:56-57 Sher Ali
And Ismail and Idris and Zulkifl; all were of the patient ones; S. 21:85 Shakir
And remember Ismail and Al-Yasha and Zulkifl; and they were all of the best. S. 38:48 Shakir
Can a Muslim tell us from the Quran ALONE who in the world are Idris and Zulkifl (Dhulkifl)? These passages presume that these Prophets were already known by the people during Muhammad's time. If this is the case then can a Muslim point us to a pre-Islamic text, inscription, etc. where the names Idris and Zulkifl appear? Where can we find any pre-Islamic information which could shed some light on these prophets since the Quran fails to provide any information on their background?
Some Muslims have sought to identify Idris with either Enoch or Elijah, while others identify him as the pagan god OSIRIS!!!! The late Muhammad Asad, commenting on S. 19:56, wrote:
41 The majority of the classical commentators identify the Prophet Idris - who is mentioned in the Qur'an once again, namely in 21:85 - with the Biblical Enoch (Genesis v, 18-19 and 21-24), without, however, being able to adduce any authority for this purely conjectural identification. Some modern Qur'an-commentators suggest that the name Idris may be the Arabicized form of Osiris (which, in its turn, was the ancient Greek version of the Egyptian name As-ar or Us-ar), said to have been a wise king and/or prophet whom the Egyptians subsequently deified (cf. Maraghi XVI, 64, and Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zildl al -Qur'an, Cairo, n.d., vol. XVI, 44); but this assumption is too far-fetched to deserve any serious consideration. Finally, some of the earliest Qur'an-commentators (`Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, Qatadah, `Ikrimah and Ad-Dahhak) assert - with, to my mind, great plausibility - that "Idris" is but another name for Ilyas, the Biblical Elijah (regarding whom see note 48 on 37:123). (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an, [Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar; rpt. 1993], p. 463; source; underline emphasis ours)
The differences of Muslim opinion regarding the precise identity of Idris serve to affirm our point regarding the Quran being incomplete and incoherent.
For a defence of the position that Idris is Osiris we recommend the following articles:
For a Muslim response to this claim please read the following:
Here is another perplexing character:
And Zakariya and Yahya and Isa and Ilyas (ilyasa); every one was of the good; S. 6:85 Shakir
And Ilyas (ilyasa) was most surely of the apostles. S. 37:123 Shakir
"PEACE BE ON ELIASIN (il yaseena)!" S. 37:130 Rodwell
Who in the world is Ilyas/Ilyasa? And why is he called il yaseena if his name is Ilyas? Some Muslims claim that this is the prophet Elijah, but the Arabic doesn't correspond to the Hebrew which means "my God is Yah." Neither the word Il nor yasa corresponds to either Eli ("my God") or Yah (short for Yahweh). Some say that the Arabic corresponds to the Greek form of Elijah's name which is Elias. But why in the world is an Arabic text preserving the Greek form of this Hebrew prophet's name especially when Arabic and Hebrew are cognate/sister Semitic languages? Wouldn't it make more sense for the Quran to retain the Hebrew form of the name by transposing it to its Arabic equivalent as opposed to preserving the Greek? In light of this, it is highly doubtful that this refers to Elijah. But then who does it refer to?
Another so-called prophet who has left Muslims baffled is Dhul-Qarnain:
And they ask thee concerning Dhu'l Qarnain. Say, `I will recite to you something of his account.' ... S. 18:83ff.
The verse implies that there were some inquirers seeking to know about Dhul-Qarnain, which presupposes that Dhul-Qarnain was a famous figure. But once again the Quran fails to tell us who exactly Dhul-Qarnain was, where was he from, when did he live etc.
Muslims such as Yusuf Ali believed that the historical evidence pointed to Dhul-Qarnain being none other than Alexander the Great. In fact, Ali has an entire appendix (Appendix VII) defending this position! He writes:
2428. Literally, "the Two-horned one", the King with the Two Horns, or the Lord of the Two Epochs. Who was he? In what age, and where did he live? The Qur∑an gives us no material on which we can base a positive answer. Nor is it necessary to find an answer, as the story is treated as a Parable. Popular opinion identifies Zul-qarnain with Alexander the Great. An alternative suggestion is an ancient Persian king, or a pre- historic Himyarite King. Zul-qarnain was a most powerful king, but it was Allah, Who, in His universal Plan, gave him power and provided him with the ways and means for his great work. His sway extended over East and West, and over people of diverse civilisations. He was just and righteous, not selfish or grasping. He protected the weak and punished the unlawful and the turbulent. Three of his expeditions are described in the text, each embodying a great ethical idea involved in the possession of kingship or power. (Ibid., p. 753; source; underline emphasis ours)
Now the GENERALITY of the world of Islam have accepted Alexander the Great as the one meant by the epithet Zul-qarnain. But some of our 'Ulama have raised doubts about it and made other suggestions...
Personally, I have not the least doubt that Zul-qarnain is meant to be Alexander the Great, the historic Alexander, and not the legendary Alexander of whom more presently... (Ibid., Appendix VII, pp. 760, 763; capital emphasis ours)
Hence, we have the Quran listing Osiris, AEsop and even Alexander the Great as prophets of God!!!
Not every Muslim accepts that Dhul-Qarnain was Alexander and for obvious reasons. Historically, Alexander was a pagan who worshiped Amun-Ra, which means that if he is Dhul-Qarnain then the Quran is grossly mistaken.
But the fact that Muslims disagree regarding the exact identity of Dhul-Qarnain once again proves that the Quran is an incoherent and incomplete record.
For more on Dhul-Qarnain please read the following:
Here is the final story we would like to focus on:
And remember the time when Moses said to his young companion, `I will not cease pursuing my course until I reach the junction of the two seas, though I may have to journey on for ages. But when they reached the place where the two seas met, they forgot their fish and it made its way into the sea going away quickly. And when they had gone beyond that place, he said to his young companion, `Bring us our morning meal. Surely, we have suffered much fatigue on account of this journey of ours.' He replied, `Didst thou see, when we betook ourselves to the rock for rest and I forgot the fish - and none but Satan caused me to forget to mention it to thee - it took its way into the sea in a marvelous manner? He said, `That is what we have been seeking.' So they both returned, retracing their footsteps. Then they found a servant of OURS, upon whom WE had bestowed mercy from US, and whom WE had taught knowledge from Ourselves. Moses said to him, `May I follow thee on condition that thou teach me some of the guidance which thou hast been taught?' He replied, `Thou canst not have patience with me; And how can thou have patience about the things the knowledge of which thou comprehendest not?' He said, `Thou wilt find me, if ALLAH please, patient and I shall not disobey any command of thine.' He said, `Well, if thou wouldst follow me, then ask me no questions about anything till I myself speak to thee about it.' So they both set out till, when they embarked in a boat, he made a hole in it. Moses said, `Hast thou made a hole in it to drown those who are in it ? Surely, thou hast done a grievous thing.' He replied, `Did I not tell thee that thou canst not have patience with me?' Moses said, `Take me not to task for what I forgot and be not hard on me for this lapse of mine.' So they journeyed on till when they met a young boy; he slew him. Moses said, `What ! hast thou slain an innocent person without his having slain anyone ! Surely, thou hast done a hideous thing.' He replied, `Did I not tell thee that thou couldst never bear with me patiently?' Moses said, `If I ask thee concerning anything after this, keep me not in thy company, for then thou shalt have got sufficient excuse from me.' So they went on till, when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to receive them as their guests. And they found therein a wall which was about to fall and he repaired it. Moses said, If thou hadst so desired, thou couldst have taken payment for it.' He said, `This is the parting of the ways between me and thee. I will tell thee the meaning of that which thou wast not able to bear with patience; As for the boat, it belonged to certain poor people who worked on the sea and I desired to damage it, for there was behind them a king who seized every boat by force; And as for the youth, his parents were believers, and we feared lest on growing up he should involve them into trouble through rebellion and disbelief; So we desired that their Lord should give them in exchange one better than he in purity and closer in filial affection; And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them, and their father had been a righteous man, so thy Lord desired that they should reach their age of full strength and take out their treasure, as a mercy from thy Lord and I did it not of my own accord. This is the explanation of that which thou could not bear with patience.' S. 18:60-82 Sher Ali
We would like the Muslims to answer the following questions by using the Quran ALONE. What was the name of Moses' servant? What was the name of the servant whom God personally taught knowledge from his ownself? When did this event take place? Did it occur before or after Moses' prophetic ministry? Where did Moses and the servant travel? What town did they enter? Finally, why is this story not mentioned in the Holy Bible?
Appealing to the hadith doesn't solve all these problems. Note for instance the following tradition:
Narrated Ubai bin Ka'b:
The Prophet said, "Once the Prophet Moses stood up and addressed Bani Israel. He was asked, "Who is the most learned man amongst the people. He said, "I am the most learned." Allah admonished Moses as he did not attribute absolute knowledge to Him (Allah). So Allah INSPIRED to him, "At the junction of the two seas there is a slave amongst my slaves who is more learned than you." Moses said, "O my Lord! How can I meet him?" Allah said: Take a fish in a large basket (and proceed) and you will find him at the place where you will lose the fish. So Moses set out along with his (servant) boy, Yusha' bin Nun [SAM- Joshua son of Nun] and carried a fish in a large basket till they reached a rock, where they laid their heads (i.e. lay down) and slept. The fish came out of the basket and it took its way into the sea as in a tunnel. So it was an amazing thing for both Moses and his (servant) boy. They proceeded for the rest of that night and the following day. When the day broke, Moses said to his (servant) boy: "Bring us our early meal. No doubt, we have suffered much fatigue in this journey." Moses did not get tired till he passed the place about which he was told. There the (servant) boy told Moses, "Do you remember when we betook ourselves to the rock, I indeed forgot the fish." Moses remarked, "That is what we have been seeking. So they went back retracing their foot-steps, till they reached the rock. There they saw a man covered with a garment (or covering himself with his own garment). Moses greeted him. Al-Khadir replied saying, "How do people greet each other in your land?" Moses said, "I am Moses." He asked, "The Moses of Bani Israel?" Moses replied in the affirmative and added, "May I follow you so that you teach me of that knowledge which you have been taught." Al-Khadir replied, "Verily! You will not be able to remain patient with me, O Moses! I have some of the knowledge of Allah which He has taught me and which you do not know, while you have some knowledge which Allah has taught you which I do not know." Moses said, "Allah willing, you will find me patient and I will not disobey you in aught. So both of them set out walking along the sea-shore, as they did not have a boat. In the meantime a boat passed by them and they requested the crew of the boat to take them on board. The crew recognized Al-Khadir and took them on board without fare. Then a sparrow came and stood on the edge of the boat and dipped its beak once or twice in the sea. Al-Khadir said: "O Moses! My knowledge and your knowledge have not decreased Allah's knowledge except as much as this sparrow has decreased the water of the sea with its beak." Al-Khadir went to one of the planks of the boat and plucked it out. Moses said, "These people gave us a free lift but you have broken their boat and scuttled it so as to drown its people." Al-Khadir replied, "Didn't I tell you that you will not be able to remain patient with me." Moses said, "Call me not to account for what I forgot." The first (excuse) of Moses was that he had forgotten. Then they proceeded further and found a boy playing with other boys. Al-Khadir took hold of the boy's head from the top and plucked it out with his hands (i.e. killed him). Moses said, "Have you killed an innocent soul who has killed none." Al-Khadir replied, "Did I not tell you that you cannot remain patient with me?" Then they both proceeded till when they came to the people of a town, they asked them for food, but they refused to entertain them. Then they found there a wall on the point of collapsing. Al-Khadir repaired it with his own hands. Moses said, "If you had wished, surely you could have taken wages for it." Al-Khadir replied, "This is the parting between you and me." The Prophet added, "May Allah be Merciful to Moses! Would that he could have been more patient to learn more about his story with Al-Khadir." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number 124)
The mention of Joshua and that Moses was receiving revelation from God points to this journey taking place during the Exodus. But this poses an additional problem. Are we to assume that Moses left the people of God in the desert in order to undergo this journey with al-Khadir (a title which literally means the Green [one])?
Furthermore, the hadith presents Moses as an arrogant and conceited individual, thinking that there was no one more knowledgeable than he. God's Word, the Holy Bible, denies that Moses was arrogant:
"Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 'Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?' they asked. 'Hasn't he also spoken through us?' And the LORD heard this. (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, 'Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.' So the three of them came out. Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, 'Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"' The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them." Numbers 12:1-9
The Holy Bibles assessment of Moses was that he was the humblest man on the earth at that time. Now a Muslim may try to turn this against us. In case they do, we suggest that our readers consult the article, The (Self-)Assessment of Prophets: Humility or Arrogance?
Regarding the issue of Moses' sojourn with this mysterious unnamed figure, M. Ali takes a stab at trying to explain the story:
60b. The words Majma' al-Bahrain have been misunderstood generally. It should be borne in mind that Moses lived in Egypt for forty years, and the junction of the two rivers is no other than the junction of the two great branches of the Nile at Khartoum. That the story of this journey of Moses is not found in the Bible or even Rabbinical literature is no argument against it. Rabbinical literature relates things about Moses which give us strong reason to believe that such a journey was very probably undertaken by him. South of Egypt was the Kingdom of Ethiopia, whose southern boundary reached Khartoum, or the junctions of the two Niles, and various accounts met with both in Rabbinical and Hellenistic literature (see Jewish Encyclopedia) agree that Moses went to Ethiopia. According to one of these accounts, he became king of Ethiopia by reason of his great prowess in having defeated an enemy, and married the king's widow. This is corroborated to some extent by the statement in the Bible that "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married" (Num. 12:1). Hence, a journey to Khartoum, which was near the southern border of Ethiopia, made in search of knowledge, is most probable... (Ibid., pp. 601-602)
Ali's statements are seriously flawed. To begin with, his assertion that this story is not found in either the Holy Bible or in Rabbinic sources poses no problem is purely wishful thinking. The Quran claims that Moses received a fully detailed Scripture:
We gave Moses the Book to complete (Our favor) for the righteous ones, the Book that contained a detailed explanation of all things, a guide and a mercy so that perhaps they would have faith in the Day of Judgment. S. 6:154 Sarwar
If the Book of Moses is a fully detailed record then we would expect that such an important event in Moses' life would be mentioned in the Holy Bible, specifically in the first five books of the OT. After all, this was a very important event in Moses' life, an event which taught him the value of humbleness and exposed his inadequacy, moulding him into a better servant and believer.
Second, Ali's appeal to Numbers 12:1 doesn't help him at all since that passage states that Moses had an Ethiopian wife during the desert wandering. Yet, the Jewish stories which Ali references claim that Moses married the Ethiopian king's widow, but didn't consummate the marriage and eventually left Ethiopia without her. For instance, the online Jewish Encyclopaedia writes:
Flees from Egypt.
Moses did not commit murder in killing the Egyptian (Ex. ii. 12); for the latter merited death because he had forced an Israelitish woman to commit adultery with him (Ex. R. i. 33). Moses was at that time eighteen years of age ("D. Y." l.c.; "M. W." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.). According to another version, Moses was then twenty, or possibly forty, years of age (Ex. R. i. 32, 35). These divergent opinions regarding his age at the time when he killed the Egyptian are based upon different estimates of the length of his stay in the royal palace (Yalk., Shemot, 167; Gen. R. xi.), both of them assuming that he fled from Egypt immediately after the slaying (Ex. ii. 15). Dathan and Abiram were bitter enemies of Moses, insulting him and saying he should not act as if he were a member of the royal house, since he was the son not of Batya, but of Jochebed. Previous to this they had slandered him before Pharaoh. Pharaoh had forgiven Moses everything else, but would not forgive him for killing the Egyptian. He delivered him to the executioner, who chose a very sharp sword with which to kill Moses; but the latter's neck became like a marble pillar, dulling the edge of the sword ("M. W." l.c.). Meanwhile the angel Michael descended from heaven, and took the form of the executioner, giving the latter the shape of Moses and so killing him. He then took up Moses and carried him beyond the frontier of Egypt for a distance of three, or, according to another account, of forty, days ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 115b). According to another legend, the angel took the shape of Moses, and allowed himself to be caught, thus giving the real Moses an opportunity to escape (Mek., Yitro. 1 [ed. Weiss. 66a]; Ex. R. i. 36).
King in Ethiopia.
The fugitive Moses went to the camp of King Nikanos, or Kikanos, of Ethiopia, who was at that time besieging his own capital, which had been traitorously seized by Balaam and his sons and made impregnable by them through magic. Moses joined the army of Nikanos, and the king and all his generals took a fancy to him, because he was courageous as a lion and his face gleamed like the sun ("S. Y." P. 116a; comp. B. B. 75a). When Moses had spent nine years with the army King Nikanos died, and the Hebrew was made general. He took the city, driving out Balaam and his sons Jannes and Jambres, and was proclaimed king by the Ethiopians. He was obliged, in deference to the wishes of the people, to marry Nikanos' widow, Adoniya (comp. Num. xii.), with whom he did not, however, cohabit ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 116b). Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on account of the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman whom he had married. He was twenty-seven years of age when he became king; and he ruled over Ethiopia for forty years, during which he considerably increased the power of the country. After forty years his wife, Queen Adoniya, accused him before the princes and generals of not having cohabited with her during the many years of their marriage, and of never having worshiped the Ethiopian gods. She called upon the princes not to suffer a stranger among them as king, but to make her son by Nikanos, Munahas or Munakaros, king. The princes complied with her wishes, but dismissed Moses in peace, giving him great treasures. Moses, who was at this time sixty-seven years old, went from Ethiopia to Midian (ib.).
According to Josephus' account of this story (see Moses in Hellenistic Literature), after Moses' marriage to the daughter of the Ethiopian king, he did not become King of Ethiopia, but led his troops back to Egypt, where he remained. The Egyptians and even Pharaoh himself were envious of his glorious deeds, fearing also that he might use his power to gain dominion over Egypt. They therefore sought how they might assassinate him; and Moses, learning of the plot, fled to Midian. This narrative of Josephus' agrees with two haggadic accounts, according to which Moses fled from Egypt direct to Midian, not staying in Ethiopia at all. These accounts are as follows: (1) Moses lived for twenty years in Pharaoh's house; he then went to Midian, where he remained for sixty years, when, as a man of eighty, he undertook the mission of liberating Israel (Yalqut, Shemot, 167). (2) Moses lived for forty years in Pharaoh's house; thence he went to Midian, where he stayed for forty years until his mission was entrusted to him (Gen. R. xi.; comp. Sifre, Deut. xxxiv. 7). (Source)
Louis Ginzberg wrote:
Moses was twenty-seven years old when he became king over Ethiopia, and he reigned for forty years...
Seeing that they had been saved by the king, and the city had been taken by his good counsel, the people became more than ever attached to him. They set the royal crown upon his head, and gave him Adoniah, the widow of Kikanos to wife. But Moses feared the stern God of his fathers, and he went not in unto Adoniah, nor did he turn his eyes toward her, for he remembered how Abraham had made his servant Eliezer swear, saying unto him, "Thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell." He also remembered what Isaac did when Jacob fled before his brother Esau, how he commanded his son, saying, "Thou shalt not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan, nor ally thyself by marriage with any of the children of Ham, for the Lord our God gave Ham the son of Noah and all his seed as slaves to the children of Shem and Japheth forever"...
In the fortieth year of his reign, while he was sitting upon his throne one day, surrounded by all the nobles, Adoniah the queen, who was seated before him, rose up, and spake: "What is this thing which you, the people of Ethiopia, have done these many days? Surely you know that during the forty years this man bath reigned over you, he hath not approached me, nor hath he worshipped the gods of Ethiopia. Now, therefore, let this man reign over you no more, for he is not of our flesh. Behold, Monarchos my son is grown up, let him reign over you. It is better for you to serve the son of your lord than a stranger, a slave of the king of Egypt."
A whole day the people and the nobles contended with one another, whether to pay heed to the words of the queen. The officers of the army remained faithful to Moses, but the people of the cities were in favor of crowning the son of their former lord as king. The following morning they rose up and made Monarchos, the son of Kikanos, king over them, but they were afraid to stretch forth their hand against Moses, for the Lord was with him. They also remembered the oath they had sworn unto Moses, and therefore they did him no harm. Moreover, they gave many presents to him, and dismissed him with great honor.
When Moses left Ethiopia, in the sixty-seventh year of his age, it was the time appointed by God in the days of old to bring Israel forth from the affliction of the children of Ham. But fearing to return to Egypt on account of Pharaoh, Moses journeyed to Midian. (Source)
Now a Muslim may want to argue that Numbers 12:1 doesn't necessarily say that Moses still had his Ethiopian wife when Miriam and Aaron complained against him. It may be that Miriam and Aaron were complaining about Moses having married an Ethiopian woman in the past. Not only is this a very unnatural reading of the text, but this would mean that Miriam and Aaron were complaining about something which took place over 53 years earlier!!!!
This leads us to our third point. Ali's appeal to Numbers 12:1 to provide some support for the veracity of the Jewish stories regarding Moses being in Ethiopia fails to take into consideration that it is more likely that these stories were concocted in order to explain certain details found in the Exodus account. In other words, these Jewish stories are nothing more than legendary embellishments to the Exodus story in order to clarify certain statements, just as the following writer noted:
The biblical connection between Moses and Ethiopia is not a strong one, being limited to a vague reference to Moses' "Ethiopian wife," a mysterious figure about whom we are told very little.
Jewish LEGEND however fills in this episode in the prophet's life in meticulous and ROMANTIC detail, relating that Moses actually reigned as King of Ethiopia for no less than forty years!
According to this tradition Moses, in his flight from Egypt following his killing of the Egyptian taskmaster, wandered off first to Ethiopia, where he found himself in the midst of a civil war. It seems that while the legitimate king, named Kikanos, had been off on a foreign campaign, he had entrusted the homefront to the wily Balaam, who took the opportunity afforded by the king's absence in order to execute a coup d'ťt‚t, fortifying the country against the returning monarch. Moses happened upon King Kikanos as he was laying siege to the capital city trying to recapture it, and was instantly appointed commander-in-chief. When Kikanos died soon afterwards, Moses was declared the new king and set to completing the liberation of Ethiopia, a task which had already dragged on for nine long years.
The most formidable of the enemy fortifications consisted of a barrier of venomous snakes and scorpions. Moses defused this "minefield" by having his soldiers unleash a volley of hungry storks who immediately swooped down upon the serpents and devoured them, allowing Moses' forces to recapture the capital. As was the custom in antiquity, Moses was expected to contract a diplomatic marriage with King Kikanos' widow Adoniah. Daunted by the prospect of intermarriage, Moses never consummated the union. Nonetheless he continued to reign as king of Ethiopia for forty years until his embittered queen aroused the population to remove this foreign ruler. Moses then proceeded to Midian where the biblical narrative resumes.
The story as I have described it is based on a work called the Sefer Hayashar, composed in Spain during the later middle ages. However versions of the story are found in Greek sources that date back to antiquity, except that instead of storks these versions refer to the ibis, the sacred bird of the Egyptians. These versions relate that the Egyptians' reverence for these birds resulted from their association with this episode. (Moses King of Ethiopia, From the Sources by Eliezer Segal; bold emphasis ours)
Fourth, taking Ali's appeal to the Jewish legends for granted, we would then have to place Moses' journey with al-Khadir before his prophetic calling. This leaves us with a contradiction with both the Holy Bible and the Quran which state that Moses didn't encounter God until the burning bush event, and with the ahadith which has Moses already receiving revelation from God when this supposed journey took place.
So the question remains, why doesn't the Torah refer to this incident in Moses' life? Why do the Rabbinic sources fail to mention this event? (Not that this would make the story true even if the Rabbis had mentioned it, since this would only be another case of the Quran adapting a mythical story from Rabbinic and Apocryphal sources).
The answer should be rather obvious. The event never took place and is purely mythical in nature. Moses' so-called sojourn with al-Khadir has no basis in historical fact.
We conclude in the words of Muslim author Faruq Sherif:
Some Legendary Figures
In the course of developing its teachings, the Qur'an frequently cites the example not of prophets and sages of ancient times, but also of some LEGENDARY, MYTHICAL or even FICTITIOUS persons. Chief among these is Khidr, the Evergreen who, though not mentioned by name, is recognised as the mysterious person (the possessor of divinely-inspired knowledge of the secret sources of life) whom Moses met on his ALLEGORICAL journey ... Another LEGEND prominently described in the Qur'an is that of the seven sleepers or the Companions of the Cave also mentioned in another section of this book. In this connection mention is made of the angels Harut and Marut who taught magic at Babylon, but warned the people that the teaching was imparted to them only to try them. In the commentaries of the Qur'an Harut and Marut have been identified with the two fallen angels of Jewish tradition who, having sinned on earth, were hung by their feet over a well for punishment.
A summary is given below of the contents of the Qur'an relating to three LEGENDARY figures: Dhulqarnain, Luqman, Qarun. A section is also included on Pharaoh who, although a historical person, often appears in the Qur'an as an archetype for autocracy. The experiences or characteristics of these MYTHICAL or SEMI-MYTHICAL figures are included to serve a salutary example or a dissuasive lesson to believers." (Sherif, A Guide to the Contents of the Qur'an [Garnet Publishing, 8 South Court South Street, Reading, RG1 4QS UK, 1995], pp. 94-95; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The Incompleteness and Incoherence of the Qur'an
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