Tales of the Prophets


Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’ (Tales of the prophets) is the title of the various collections of tales originating in the Qurʼan and embroidered by different authors. Shown here is one of the best known, attributed to Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Kisa’i, who is thought to have lived in the 11th century AD. The lives of the prophets were not covered in detail in the Qurʼan, so al-Kisa’i and other writers added more elaborate storylines. The Qiṣaṣ begin with God’s creation of the world and descriptions of angels, the cosmos, heaven, and earth; the drama then continues with his masterpiece, Adam, given life and breath by his maker. The stories of figures from the Bible (considered prophets in Islam) follow chronologically from Idris and Noah on through to Abraham, Ishmael, and Hagar. Many other lives and sacred actions are discussed, including some who may be unfamiliar to non-Muslims, such as Shuayb and Khidr, and others who are held to be holy in other religions, culminating the biblical progression with the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus. Al-Kisa’i also provides much information about Islam in general and about the Prophet Muhammad in particular. This edition of Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’, in the Chagatai and Tatar languages of Central Asia, was published in Kazan, Russia, in 1872. Kazan University was founded by Tsar Alexander I in 1804 and became the premier center for oriental studies in the Russian Empire. Kazan was a center of publishing for the empire’s Muslim population.

Last updated: April 7, 2015