Biblical and Quranic Narratives

The Quran, the central religious text of Islam, contains references to more than fifty people and events also found in the Bible. While the stories told in each book are generally comparable, important differences sometimes emerge. The versions written in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament predate the Quran’s versions. As such, Christians regard the Quran’s versions as being derived directly or indirectly from the earlier materials. Muslims understand the Quran’s versions to be witness accounts from an omnipotent God. As such, Muslims generally hold that the earlier versions are distorted through flawed processes of transmission and interpretation, and understand the Quran’s versions to be more accurate to the actual events.

Often, stories related in the Quran tend to concentrate on the moral or spiritual significance of events rather than the details.[1] Biblical stories come from diverse sources and authors, so their attention to detail varies individually.

Torah narratives

Adam and Eve (آدم Adam and حواء Hawwaa)

According to one of the Genesis creation narratives, God initially created the first human, a man named Adam, from “the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”; thereafter God created a woman named Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. God placed them in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden, telling them to eat any food there they wished, except that from a single tree, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, warning that if they did eat from the tree, they would die.[2]According to the story, a Serpent (often believed to be Satan) tempted them to partake of fruit from the tree, telling them that they would become like God themselves by doing so; both then ate from it. Immediately thereafter, they became ashamed and covered their nakedness with leaves.[3] God questioned them concerning their actions, reminding them of His command to not eat of the tree.[4] He next put enmity between the woman and the serpent, and between humans and the ‘tempter’,[5]then forced Adam and Eve to leave the garden, following which these two humans then populated the earth.[6]

According to the Islamic creation narrative in the Quran, before creating Adam from clay by uttering the simple word “Be”,[7] God informed the Angels of His divine plan to “create a vicegerent on earth”. When they asked him “Will You place therein one who will do harm and shed blood, while we, we hymn Your praise and sanctify You?” He said: “Surely I know that which you know not.”[8] After creating Adam, God taught him the names of all things as well as those of the Angels, which Adam then repeated correctly after the Angels were unable to comply when God asked them to do so from their own knowledge.[9] God next commanded all of the angels to prostrate themselves before God, to honor God’s new creation and to display obedience to God.[10][11][12] All of them did except for Iblis (thereafter known as Shaitaan), was arrogant and refused to comply because he thought Adam was inferior to him because he was created from clay, while Iblis was created from fire. Shaitaan subsequently swore to mislead mankind from the “straight path of God”,[13] and God responded to his arrogance and disobedience by expelling him from Heaven.

Islam believes that God thoroughly forgave Adam and Eve their transgression when they begged His mercy; while in the biblical story death is a punishment for transgressing God’s command and death remains on Adam, Eve and their descendants.[14]

Among the many significant differences between the stories are:

  • In the Bible, God tells the man to name the animals.[15] In the Quran, God teaches Adam the names “of all things” and Adam repeats them.[16]
  • In the second of the Bible’s creation stories, the woman is created from the rib of the man. In the Quran, Eve is mentioned by the name hawwah,.[17][18]
  • In the Bible, the forbidden tree is named the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (3:5), and while its fruit is often depicted as an apple, the Bible does not describe the fruit.[19] In the Quran the forbidden tree is not named but Shaitaan calls it The Tree of Eternity to deceive Adam and his wife.[16]
  • In the Bible, God creates man in His own image.[20] In the Quran, God says “There is nothing like unto Him.”[21]
  • In the Quran, God tells the angels to prostrate before Adam (as a sign of respect and obedience), but Iblis (hereafter referred to as Shaitaan) refuses.[22] In the Bible, no such account is given.
  • According to the Bible, because of God’s curse, serpents have to crawl and eat dust, women have to suffer in childbirth, and men have to sweat for a living.[23] This apparently differentiates blessing and obedience from pain and sinning. According to the Quran, no such curse was issued. The difficulties of life on earth are what makes it different from life in paradise.

(See also: Bible: Book of Genesis:2:4,4:1, and Qur’an: Surah Al-Baqara:30-39,[24] Surah Al-A’raf:19–27,[25] and Surah Ta-Ha:115.[26]

Cain and Abel (Qābīl and Hābīl)

See Genesis 4:1–16 and Al-Ma’ida Quran 5:27–32.

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain, the eldest, and Abel, his brother. Each made sacrifices to God, but God only accepted Abel’s sacrifice and offering, and not Cain’s because Abel gave the best of his flocks, indicating that God came first in his heart. Cain, on the other hand, gave a sacrifice from the fruit of his ground, which shows that he was more focused upon only making a sacrifice rather than pleasing the Lord.(Gen. 4:1-7; see Al-Ma’ida Quran 5:30–32). Although God attempted to remonstrate with Cain about his attitude, Cain refused to listen and ultimately murdered his brother, Abel (see Al-Ma’ida Quran 5:30; Gen. 4:8). Cain was subsequently called to account by God, who condemned him to a lifetime of wandering and fruitless toil, while promising to take vengeance upon any who tried to avenge his brother’s blood upon him. Abel, on the other hand, was regarded by the Bible as righteous.

The Quran relates a slightly different version; as in the Bible, both offered sacrifice and Cain’s was rejected; Cain threatens Abel, who points out that killing him would put Cain among the companions of the fire; Cain murders Abel, but regrets it. The Quran then draws a lesson: Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely’

Compare the last part with the Talmud Yerushalmi (Mishnayot), Mishnah Sanhedrin Tractate 4:5, and Folia 23a, and in the Talmud Bavli Folia 37a.

לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי ללמדך שכל המאבד נפש אחת [מישראל] מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו איבד עולם מלא וכל’המקיים נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קיים עולם

Therefore, humans were created singly, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul [of Israel], Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a full world; and whoever saves one soul of Israel, Scripture accounts it as if she had saved a full world.([27])

Noah…Prepared an Ark to the Saving of His House

Noah (نوح Nūḥ)

See Genesis 6:5–9:29 and mainly Hud 11:25–48 as well as Al-A’raf 7:59–64, Yunus 10:71–73, Al-Muminun 23:23–28, Ash-Shu’ara 26:105–121, Al-Qamar 54:9–16, and all of Nuh 71:1–28

Noah is described in the Bible as a righteous man who lived among a “wicked people”. God decided to kill all the people through a vast flood while saving the righteous Noah and his immediate family; so he commanded Noah to build an Ark, using God’s own instructions. (Gen. 6:9–16; Hud 11:39) Noah did so and he, his family, seven pairs of birds and “clean” (hoofed) animals, and two of each other animal species (a female and a male) board the Ark (Gen. 6:19; Hud 11:42). Water gushes up from the ground and rains fall from the sky, flooding the earth and killing all the wicked. (Gen. 7:11–12; Al-Qamar 54:11–13). All aboard the Ark are safe until the waters retreat (Gen. 8:14 ; Hud 11:44). There is disagreement among Jews, Christians, and Muslims concerning whether the flood was local or global.

There are several differences between the biblical and Quranic versions of the story of Noah:

  • The Quran focuses on a dialogue between Noah and the wicked (Hud 11:32–37), in which Noah unsuccessfully attempts to remonstrate with his countrymen, who reject his message. Genesis does not mention such a dialogue. (In the Christian Bible, 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is called a “preacher of righteousness”.)
  • In the Quran, Noah’s wife and one of his sons reject him (Hud 11:43) and die in the flood, while some people outside his family are faithful and join him (Hud 11:42). In the biblical narrative, Noah’s wife together with his three sons and their wives all board the Ark, but no others.
  • In the Quran, there is no such indication that the flood was universal, although many Islamic scholars claim to interpret otherwise.
  • In the Quran, the Ark is said to rest on the hills of Mount Judi (Hud 11:44); in the Bible, it is said to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4) The Al-Djoudi (Judi) is apparently a mountain in the biblical mountain range of Ararat. The Quran cites a particular mount in the Ararat Range, whereas the Bible just mentions the Ararat Range by name. There is a Mount Al-Djoudi in the present-day Ararat mountain range in Turkey.

Abraham (Ibrāhīm ابراهيم)

Promised a son

See Genesis 18:1–15, 22:1–20 and Hud 11:69–74, Al-Hijr 15:51–56, As-Saaffat 37:102–109, and Adh-Dhariyat 51:24–30. Several messengers come to Abraham on their way to destroy the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham welcomes them into his tent and provides them with food. They then promise their host that Isaac (ʾIsḥāq إسحٰق) will soon be born to Abraham’s wife, Sarah (Sārah سارة). Sarah laughs at the idea because she is far too old to bear children. The Hebrew name יצחק means ‘he laughs” and is one of the literary tropes in the biblical story. These literary connections are typically lost in Quranic versions of biblical stories.

Genesis 18:12 “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
Hud 11:72 (Yusuf Ali). “She said: “Alas for me! shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!””

The angels rebuke her, telling her that by God’s will she can bear a son. A conversation ensues in which Abraham admits that he wished God to have mercy on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sacrifices his son

In another narrative, Abraham receives a command (in his dream) from God to sacrifice his son. Abraham agrees to this and prepares to carry out the sacrifice. Before he can do so, however, God tells him to stop and gives him a replacement sacrifice. Abraham is subsequently honored for his faithfulness to God. (As-Saaffat 37:102–108; Genesis 22:2–18)

However, there are several differences between the biblical and Quranic accounts:

  • In Genesis, the sacrificial son is Isaac, whereas in the Quran name of the son is not mentioned explicitly, however many Muslims assume it is Ishmael (As-Saaffat 37:102–112). Therefore, Muslims assumes the sacrificial son was Ishmael (Ismā’īl إسماعيل) and that this event happened prior to Isaac’s birth. It may be added that the name Abraham is a literary trope in Genesis Ab- “father-of(-many-nations)” while the Arabic name masks the connection. In the New Testament, the son is Isaac (James 2:21).
  • While God seems to speak directly to Abraham in Genesis, He speaks through a vision in the Quran.
  • In the Quran, Abraham directly tells his son (Again name is not mentioned in the text however assumed to be Ishmael (Ismā’īl إسماعيل)) that he intends to sacrifice him. In Genesis, Abraham tells Isaac, that “God will provide the sacrifice.”

Abraham and Isaac

Abraham’s Journeys in the Bible and Quran

The Bible describes Abraham as in Iraq-Syria, then in Canaan, Paran, and Egypt, with his final days in Canaan and Hebron. Both Isaac and Ishmael attend Abraham’s funeral.

The Quran mentions that Abraham left his wife and Ishmael (as an infant) in the land where present-day Mecca is, while he left to what was apparently Palestine.

Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah (Lūṭ لوط and “The People of Lot”)

According to the Bible, after visiting Abraham, two angels go to the city of Sodom in which Abraham’s nephew Lot is a foreigner. They tell him God will soon destroy the city because of the wickedness of the people. The men of the city, upon hearing that Lot is entertaining male visitors, converge upon his house and demand that the men be brought out so that they can have sex with them. Lot offers his daughters in their place, but the men insist upon raping the angels instead. After blinding the city’s inhabitants, the angels tell Lot and his family to flee by night and to not look back. The following morning, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with a shower of fiery stones from the sky. Lot’s wife looked back to see the burning city and was turned into a pillar of salt.[28]

The story continues further after the destruction of the twin cities, with Lot leaving Zoar (where he had fled for refuge) with his two daughters to live in a cave.[29] Fearing that all the men were dead, the daughters decided that in order to ‘preserve the seed of their father’ and procreate, they must have sexual intercourse with him;[30] they decide to get him into a drunken stupor so as to be able to ‘lie with him’ and obtain his seed.[31] And so they each sleep with their father (one each on successive nights), having intoxicated him to a point wherein he could ‘perceive not’,[32][33][34] and thus get impregnated by him. The Bible then continues “And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day”.[35][36] The biblical story of Lot ends here.

According to the Quran, Lot (or Lut, as he is called in the Quran) was a Prophet. He was also a nephew of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). A group of Angels visited Ibrahim as guests[37] and gave him glad tidings of a son “endowed with wisdom”;[38][39] they told him that they had been sent by God to the “guilty people”[40] of Sodom,[41] to destroy them[42][43] with “a shower of stones of clay (brimstone)”[44] and deliver Lot and those who believed in him. However, Lot’s wife was specifically excluded, with the angels saying “she is of those who lag behind”.[45][46] The Quran draws upon Lot’s wife as an “example for the unbelievers”, as she was married to a righteous man but refused to believe in his words; hence, she was condemned to the Hellfire;[47] otherwise, the story of them leaving the city proceeds much as in the Bible. The story of Lot in the Quran ends after describing the destruction of the city.

There are several differences between the Quran and the Bible:

  • In the Quran, Lot is described as a prophet, like his uncle Abraham. In Genesis (Genesis 19:1–29), Lot is not described as a prophet. In the New Testament, (2 Peter 2:7,8) Peter the Apostle describes Lot as a righteous man who was daily tormented by the lawless deeds he saw in Sodom.
  • In both the Bible and in the Quran, Abraham pleads for God to have mercy (Quran11:75; Gen. 18:24–33). In Genesis, God agrees to spare Sodom if just ten righteous men can be found here (but they are not found). In the Quran, God commands Abraham not to ask for mercy on them. 11:76
  • In Genesis, Lot’s wife leaves with Lot but turns around briefly and God turns her into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26). In the Quran, there is no mention of her leaving; rather Lot and his followers were commanded by the angels not to turn, but Lot is informed that his wife will turn and look behind (Quran Hud 11:123), and thus be destroyed with the rest of the two cities. 11:81
  • Following the destruction of Sodom, the Bible describes an incestous event between Lot and his two daughters, at his daughters’ behest, in Genesis 19:30-38. The Quran does not describe any such event, and Muslims reject any such occurrence .

(See Also: Bible: Genesis 19:1–26 . Quran: Surah Al-Hijr 57–77, Surah Hud 74–83, Surah Al-A’raf 80–84, Surah Ash-Shu’ara 160–174, Surah An-Naml 54–58, Surah Al-Ankabut 28–35, Surah As-Saaffat 133–138, Surah Adh-Dhariyat 31–37, and Surah Al-Qamar 36–39.)

Joseph (Yūsuf يوسف)

The narratives of Joseph can be found in Genesis 37–45 and in the Quran 12.4–102.

In both the Bible and the Quran, Joseph has a vision of eleven stars and the sun and the moon all bowing to him which he shares with his family.

(Genesis 37:9) And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”

(Yusuf|12.4) Behold! Joseph said to his father: “O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!”

Joseph’s brothers became jealous that their father preferred Joseph over them, and so they form a plot to kill Joseph. However, one brother convinces them not to kill him but throw him down a well while they are alone. The brothers come to the father asking his permission to take Joseph out with them to enjoy and play with them. Jacob expresses his reservations against letting him go with them and expressing fear about a wild animal killing him while they were not careful about him. The sons assure the father of their being a mighty group against any threats to Joseph. The father eventually agrees to send Yusuf with them (in the Quran), while in the Bible, Jacob sends Joseph out of his own accord without sons trying to persuade him to let him go with them. (Yusuf|12.8–10; Genesis 37:20–22) They agree. They subsequently lie to their father as to Joseph’s whereabouts, covering his clothing in blood and asserting that a wild animal had attacked him. A caravan passing the well inspires the brothers to pull Joseph out of the well and to sell him as a slave to traders in the caravan. Later the traders sell him to a wealthy Egyptian. (Genesis 37:27–36; Yusuf|12.20–22)

Joseph grows up in the house of the Egyptian. When Joseph is a grown man, his master’s wife tries to seduce him. Joseph resists and runs away, but is caught by other servants and reported to his master. The wife lies to her husband, saying that Joseph tried to rape her. (Yusuf|12.25; Gen. 39:12); At this point, the two stories differ.

In the Bible, Joseph’s master (named as Potiphar) refuses to believe Joseph’s denial and imprisons him. In the Quran, Joseph’s master (who is only identified as “the Vizier”) accepts the suggestion of another wise person to check Joseph’s tunic. If it is torn from the front, the wise person asserts, it will prove Joseph a liar; but if it is torn from the back (as proves to be the case), Joseph will be vindicated and the master’s wife proven a liar and an adulteress. The Vizier reprimands his wife and permits Joseph to remain in his household. However, during a subsequent dinner party thrown by the Vizier’s wife to prove the reason for her lust for Joseph, Joseph is commanded to appear before the wife and her ladyfriends; they cut their hands with knives out of lust for him, and although the Vizier again recognizes Joseph’s innocence, he orders him imprisoned nevertheless. In prison, Joseph meets two men. One has a dream of making wine and the other dreams of carrying a stack of bread that birds are eating. Joseph tells the first that he will serve the Pharaoh again and the second will be executed. Both things happen, precisely as Joseph foretold. Although Joseph asks the first man to bring his name and unjust imprisonment to the attention of the Pharaoh, (referred to in the Quran as only the King, not a Pharaoh) the first man quickly forgets about him once restored to the royal favor.

Sometime thereafter, Pharaoh had a dream:

(Genesis 41:17–24) “17. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18.when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19. After them, seven other cows came up – scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the Land of Egypt. 20. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.” 22.” In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23. After them, seven other heads sprouted – withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.”

(Quran: Yusuf|12.43) The king (of Egypt) said: “I do see (in a vision) seven fat kine, whom seven lean ones devour, and seven green ears of corn and seven (others) withered. O ye chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that ye can interpret visions.”

Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who had been previously imprisoned with Joseph, suddenly remembers his promise and tells Pharaoh about the man who foretold his own restoration to favor. Pharaoh sent to the prison, asking Joseph to interpret his dream.

In the Quranic account, Joseph insists that the Vizier’s wife vindicate him before the king before Joseph will agree to do so (this is not mentioned in the Bible); Pharaoh summons the Vizier’s wife, who admits her lies about Joseph and proclaims his innocence. The Quran now rejoins the biblical narrative, where Joseph reveals the meaning of the king’s dream: Egypt will have seven years of good crops followed by seven years of famine and the famine will be worse than the abundance. The king rewarded Joseph by giving him charge over the storehouses and the entire land of Egypt.

During the famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, but the youngest was left with their father. While Joseph recognized them, they did not recognize him. He demanded that they return with the missing brother. The brothers return home and find that Joseph had hidden in their packs more than they paid for. They asked their father if they might return with the youngest brother. Reluctantly, their father allows this. They return, and after some further incidents, Joseph ultimately reveals himself to his brothers. (Genesis 45:1; Yusuf| 12.90).

In both the Quran and the Bible, the missing brother is Benjamin, (Arabic: بن يامين) Joseph’s only full blood brother. The others are half-brothers.

The Qur’an correctly does not refer to the king of Egypt during Joseph’s time as the “Pharaoh.” The titular word “Pharaoh” was given to the kings of Egypt during the New Kingdom period later historically. This distinction is not found in the Bible.

Moses (Mūsā موسى)

Main articles: Moses in Islam and Moses

In the Bible, the narratives of Moses are in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The narratives here are mostly in Exodus 1–14 and 32. In the Quran, the Moses narratives are in the following passages: 2.49–61, 7.103–160, 10.75–93, 17.101–104, 20.9–97, 26.10–66, 27.7–14, 28.3–46, 40.23–30, 43.46–55, 44.17–31, and 79.15–25.

Pharaoh slew the young male children of the Israelites (II:46), and to avoid this fate, Moses’ mother cast Moses as an infant into a small ark, where God protected him. Moses was found by the household of the Pharaoh, who adopted him. Moses’ sister, Miriam, had followed Moses, and she recommended that his own mother serves as a nurse to him. When Moses became an adult, he saw an Egyptian fighting with an Israelite, and he interceded and killed the Egyptian. The next day, the Israelite asked whether Moses intended to kill him as well. The Pharaoh tried to have Moses killed and Moses fled to a watering place in Midian. He met some sisters and watered their herd. When the women’s father, Jethro, learned of Moses, he invited him to stay and gave him a daughter, Zipporah, to marry.

In Midian, Moses saw a fire and approached it. God spoke to him and told him to remove his shoes. God said that he had chosen Moses. God said to throw down his staff and to stretch out his arm as signs. His staff turned into a serpent and then returned to the form of a staff. His arm became white although he was not sick. God commanded him to go to Pharaoh to deliver a message. Moses said that he could not speak well. So God provided Aaron, his brother, to help Moses speak.

God sent Moses to the court of Pharaoh. Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses. Moses threw down his staff and it became a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians also threw down their staffs which turned into snakes. But the snakes of Pharaoh’s magicians were swallowed by Moses’ serpent. God caused a famine. God sent plagues of locusts, frogs, blood, and destruction. God sent at least nine signs to Pharaoh but Pharaoh disregarded the first few signs and when he couldn’t disregard them any longer, he agreed to let the Israelites go but after God allowed tranquility, Pharaoh still stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go so God made every first-born Egyptian son die and spared every Israelite (the first Passover). Pharaoh became hysterical and demanded that Moses and the Israelites leave at once only to pursue them with his army after their exit. Then God helped Moses lead the Israelites into a desert and across a sea. Moses struck the sea with his staff and the sea split in half exposing dry land (while creating a wall of water on each side) for the Israelites to walk through. Pharaoh and his army were catching up to the Israelites but the water returned to its original state. Pharaoh and his army drowned. (Exodus 14:7, II:47)

Moses left the Hebrews for forty nights. He put his brother Aaron in charge of the people (Al-Baqara|2.48) On a mountain, God gave Moses a revelation of precepts for Israel to follow. God made tablets with writing on them which Moses carried back to Israel.

Moses asked to see God. The people saw the fire and lightning and the mountain and were afraid. While Moses was gone, the Israelites demanded to worship an idol. They used the gold from their ornaments to construct a golden calf whom they said was the god who rescued them from Egypt. Aaron does not stop them. Then Moses returned and chastised them and Aaron. Many were killed for their actions. God sent down manna and quail to eat but the Hebrews still rebelled against God, and complained about the food. Moses asked God for water and God answered him. Moses struck a stone with his staff and water came forth. The Israelites were divided into twelve tribes.

God gave the Israelites a bountiful land, but this occurred at different times in the two scriptures. Besides that and the many additional details in the Torah, there are other differences:

  • The biblical Moses is reluctant to become a prophet and makes excuses. He eventually agrees and Aaron speaks and performs miracles at first until Moses is ready and takes over. In the Quran, Aaron was made God’s messenger on Moses’ request to back him up in the difficult task. Moses asked God to give him human support from his family, then asks for Aaron (his brother) praising Aaron by saying that he (Aaron) is a better speaker than him (Moses).
  • The sorcerers, in the Quranic story, repent after seeing Moses’ signs and submit to God at the anger of Pharaoh.
  • In the Quran, Pharaoh didn’t repent but tried to deceive Moses and God by saying that now he believes in one God, the God of Moses and Aaron (while drowning). But God didn’t accept this because he sought repentance at the time of death after seeing the angels.
  • In the Bible, Moses first goes to Pharaoh without showing any signs.
  • In Exodus, Aaron helps make the golden calf. In the Quran, Aaron himself was a messenger of God and was representing Moses in his absences. He opposed that idea with all his might and warned the Israelites that God will be angry with them. In the Quran, a person named Samiri (not to be confused with Samaritans) leads the Israelites to worship the golden calf.
  • In the Quran, Pharaoh drowned, but God said in the Quran that he preserved the pharaoh’s body as an example for generations to come (or made an example for coming generations) (Ramesses II)

See also Aaron, Islamic view of Aaron, and Islamic view of Pharaoh.

Destruction of Korah (Qarun)

The story of the destruction of Korah appears in Numbers 16:1–50 in the Torah and in Al-Qasas 76–82 in the Quran. Korah was an Israelite living during the time of Moses. Because of his wickedness, God caused him to die by opening the ground and swallowing him and his home (Numbers 16:31–33; Al-Qasas|28.81). In the Quran, Karon is simply a rich man who is too arrogant. In the Torah, he leads a minor rebellion against Moses. God also kills the others who rebel with him and destroys their homes.

Later Hebrew Bible narratives


In the Quran and the Bible, there are stories about smaller armies winning victory over larger ones. One story in the Quran and the Bible share strong resemblances, although they are placed at different times and attributed to different characters. The Bible story features Gideon from the Book of Judges and the Quran story features Talut (usually translated as Saul).

In the Book of Judges 6-8 of the Bible, Gideon receives commands from God to take the Israelites to war against the Midianites. Gideon is reluctant, but accedes after making God prove Himself with three different tests. As they are heading to fight, God tells Gideon to send away those who are homesick or afraid of dying. Because the army is still large enough to credit its own strength for victory, God tells Gideon to observe the drinking habits of his troops at the river. God says to send those who do not drink with their hands, but lap the water directly like a dog, back to their homes. The remaining Israelites go on to victory.

In 2:246-248 of the Quran, God chooses Talut (generally considered to be Saul) to lead the Israelites into battle against the army of Goliath. On their way, God tells Talut to warn the men that they will be tested by God, and that they must not drink from the next river in order to pass the test. Despite this warning, most of the men disobey and drink from the river. God tells Talut to leave the disobedient members behind, unless they only drank one handful so that the army will consist of only faithful members. The army then goes on to defeat General Goliath’s army.

Saul, David and Goliath (Tālūt طالوت, Dāwūd داود and جالوت Jalut)

The story appears in 1 Samuel 8–12 and 17:1–58. The Prophet Samuel is petitioned by the Israelites for a king. God sends Samuel to appoint Saul as the king, although with the warning that kings only take from their people. At least a few people are not happy with Samuel’s choice, but Saul then prophecizes and wins some victories, so the people embrace him. Later Saul falls out of God’s favor and God promises to appoint someone else as king. The Philistines attack and are bolstered by the fear engendered by their champion Goliath, a giant. God sends Samuel to recruit David, who kills Goliath. David eventually goes on to become Israel’s new king.

A similar story appears in the Qu’ran 2:246–251. The Israelites demand of their prophet to appoint a king, and so God appoints the man Talut. The people respond poorly to the selection, upset that Talut does not seem special. God gives the Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites in order to verify His choice (this is an event that predates Saul in the Bible). Talut leads the men to battle against an army led by the General Goliath. The Israelite army is small and doubtful, but a few men trust that God can still give them victory. David then kills Goliath and becomes king of Israel. The account also bears similarity to when Gideon led an army. See the above Gideon/Talut subsection.

The Queen of Sheba

The Queen of Sheba

The story appears in 1 Kings 10:1–13 and 2 Chronicles 9: 1–13 and in verses Surah 27 20–44. The two stories have almost nothing in common. In each, the Queen of Sheba comes to visit Solomon and is impressed by his wisdom and riches. In the Bible, the visit is only diplomatic. In the Quran, the Queen becomes monotheist and peace is established in the kingdoms. Although not part of the Quran, Islamic tradition holds that the name of the Queen of Sheba is Bilqis or Balqis.

Jonah (Yunus يونس) and the big fish

In both the Bible and the Quran, Jonah is swallowed by a “big fish”, usually inferred to be a whale. The Book of Jonah in the Bible consists of four chapters about Jonah’s mission to Nineveh. Jonah is referenced three times in the Quran: in verses 139–148 of Sura 37 (As-Saaffat) (Those who set the ranks), verses 87–88 of Sura 21: al-Anbiya’ (The Prophets) and verses 48–50 of Sura 68: al-Qalam (The Pen)/Nun. It is mentioned in verse 98 of Sura 10: Yunus (Jonah) and verse 86 of Sura 6: al-An’am (The Cattle).

In the Quran, Jonah gets frustrated by his own people and abandons them to God’s mercy, however without asking permission from God and thus going against his given responsibility. In the Quran, it is also mentioned that if Jonah had not prayed inside the belly of the fish he would have stayed in there until the Judgement day. In the Bible, Jonah pays a fare to sail to Tarshish. In both stories, he boards the ship loaded with passengers, lots are cast and Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a large fish (Jonah 1:17, As-Saaffat 37|142). After praying, he is cast out of the fish and washed ashore, and God causes a gourd to grow (37|146) or weeds (2:5). In the Bible, Jonah continues into Nineveh, and the city is spared by God. In the Quran, God causes the gourd to grow to comfort Jonah after he lies on the shore in a sickly state (As-Saaffat 37|145), in the Bible the gourd plant grows up to provide shade for Jonah while he waits for Nineveh to be destroyed (4:6). According to an Islamic tradition however, the big fish gets frightened at first, fearing it might have swallowed a holy person as it heard prayers and supplications read in a wonderful voice from her stomach, hearing which numerous sea creatures had surrounded it. But she comforts herself later since it was God’s order to swallow Jonah. After two days the fish casts him out the beach of an island and he is very weak. The gastric juices with the hot sunlight burned his skin till the point he was about to scream of pain. God causes a vine to grow over him and provide him fruit and shade. He recovers and goes back to his people who had become good after he left. According to the Bible, Ninevah was a great city, with more than one hundred twenty thousand people and much livestock (Jonah 4:11). In the Quran, the number of people he was sent towards as a prophet exceeded a hundred thousand. They believed in his message and God granted them prosperity for a long time. (As-Saaffat 37|147–148). In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the Ninevites repenting at the preaching of Jonah (Matthew 12:41, Luke 11:32).


In the Bible, Haman was an Agagite noble and vizier of the empire under Persian King Ahasuerus who desires to persecute the Jews. In the Quran, Haman is an adviser and builder under a Firaun (Pharaoh) of ancient Egypt whose narrative relationship with Moses is recounted in the Quran.

The structure which Firaun commands Haman to build is similar to the Tower of Babel in Genesis, unrelated to the narrative of Haman in the Bible. Both structures are made from burnt bricks for the purpose of ascending to the heavens.

However, it’s also been suggested that these two are different individuals. The name “Haman” was in fact mentioned in old Egyptian tablets which now stand in the Hof Museum, Vienna (Walter Wreszinski, Ägyptische Inschriften aus dem K.K. Hof Museum in Wien, 1906, J. C. Hinrichs’ sche Buchhandlung).

New Testament narratives

Zechariah and John (Zakariya (زكريا) and Yahya (يحيى))

The story of Zechariah is told in the Gospel of Luke 1:5–80 and Luke 3:1–22 and in the Quran 19.2–15. Zechariah and his wife reached an old age without bearing children. God spoke to Zechariah and told him his wife would conceive, despite her barrenness, and his name would be John. As a sign that this would happen, God struck Zechariah mute until John was born though he communicated using signs. John became a great and righteous prophet and came to confirm God’s Word. Both accounts mention John’s death.

The two accounts never directly disagree, but each has unique elements: In the Bible Zechariah is a priest. God speaks to him on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies. He doubts that God will act and his muteness is a sign and punishment. In the Quran, God promises him a child and he questions how would it come about since he is an old man and his wife long barren. Upon which he is told that for God it is indeed very easy and that hasn’t God created you already while you were naught. In the Quranic narrative Zechariah is also reminded that the sign he should seek for would be a muteness for three nights although without being restrained from speech, implying,[48] he simply would not find an occasion to talk to anyone. Zechariah, therefore, is found emerging from his chamber and reminding his people to celebrate the praises of the Lord through an inspirational gesture (Surah Maryam 19|1–11). In the Bible, Zechariah confirms that the son’s name is John and receives his speech back.

Mary (“Maryam” مريم)

Mary’s life is told in several books of the New Testament and Quran 19.16–35. In the Bible, in the sixth month after the conception of John the Baptist by Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to the Virgin Mary, at Nazareth. Mary was of the house of David, and was betrothed to Joseph, of the same royal family. And the angel had taken the figure and the form of man, came into the house and said to her: ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.’ Mary having heard the greeting words did not speak; she was troubled in spirit, since she knew not the angel, nor the cause of his coming, nor the meaning of the salutation. And the angel continued and said: ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. (In Matthew 1:21–22 a meaning for the name is given “for he shall save his people from their sins. In Hebrew ישוע sounds like the Hebrew word for salvation “ישועה”). He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.’ Not doubting the word of God, unlike Zachariah, but filled with fear and astonishment, she said: “How shall this be done, because I have not known a man?’ The angel, to remove Mary’s anxiety and to assure her that her virginity would be spared, answered: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’ In token of the truth of his word he made known to her the conception of John, the miraculous pregnancy of her relative now old and sterile: ‘And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth; she also has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God.’ Mary may not yet have fully understood the meaning of the heavenly message and how the maternity might be reconciled with her vow of virginity, but clinging to the first words of the angel and trusting to the omnipotence of God she said: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.’

In Luke, Mary is betrothed to Joseph but the Quran never mentions any man. In the Quran, ‘her people’ have a conversation with Mary accusing her of fornication. In the Bible, no such conversation happens but Joseph knows that people are thinking this.

The Quran states in the chapter named after Mary, verse 16–37: In the Book, tell the story of Maryam, when she went away from her family (for Prayer) to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to hide) from them; Then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her in the form of a man of respect in every way. She said: “Verily, I ask shelter from you with the Most Gracious (Allah):(Do not come near me) if you guard yourself against evil.” He said: “I am a messenger from your Lord, only to announce to you, the gift of a righteous son.” She said: “How shall I have a son, when no man has touched me, and I am not indecent?” He said: “It will be so: Your Lord says ‘That is easy for Me: And (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign to men and a Mercy from Us’: It is a thing (already) ordained.” So she started to carry him (Jesus), and she went (to rest) with him to a far place. And the pains of childbirth took her to the trunk of a palm tree: She cried “Oh! If I had died before this! If I was a thing forgotten and not seen!” Then (a voice) cried to her from under the tree: “Do not feel sad! Because your Lord has made a stream underneath you; And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm tree: It will drop fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool (wet your) eye. And if you see any man, say, ‘I have promised solemnly to the Most Gracious, and this day I will not enter into talk with any human being.'” At the end she brought the baby to her people, carrying baby Jesus in her arms. They said “O Maryam! Truly an amazing thing have you brought! O sister of Aaron! Your father was not an adulterous man, and your mother was not an immoral woman!” Then, she pointed to the baby. They said, “How can we talk to one who is only a child in the cradle?” He (Baby Jesus) said, “Indeed I am a servant of Allah: He has given me the Injeel (Gospel) and made me a prophet; and he has made me blessed where ever I be, and has commanded for me prayer and charity as long as I live; Allah has made me kind to my mother, and not arrogant or miserable;And Peace is on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I will be raised up alive!” Jesus, the son of Maryam was like this: It is a statement of truth, about which they dispute (uselessly). It is not suited for Almighty Allah that He should father a son. Glory to Him! When He determines anything, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is. Jesus said: “And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him alone you, therefore, worship: That is the Straight Path.” Then, the groups differed among themselves: so this is a warning to the disbelievers because of the Judgement on a great Day! (Translation: Syed Vickar Ahamed, 2007. Approved by Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy, Cairo, Egypt.)

Jesus (Isa عيسى) (Hebrew ישוע)

Main articles: Jesus in Islam and Jesus

Jesus’s ministry takes up the whole of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the Bible, as well as being the focus of the subsequent books of the New Testament. Some stories common to all four Gospels include that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist,[49] subsequently traveled as an itinerant preacher and healer, took on twelve apostles, miraculously fed 5000 people at least once,[50]entered Jerusalem on a donkey,[51] drove merchants from the Second Temple,[52] predicted his betrayal by one of his disciples,[53] was crucified,[54] but resurrected from death.[55] It must be noted that each gospel represents a different perspective, with some different information and emphases than each of the other gospels. Christians accept all four books as part of the canon of Scripture.

Jesus directly appears several times in the Quran: Al-Imran 35–59; An-Nisa’ 156–158; Al-Ma’idah 109–120; Maryam 16–35, Al-Mu’minun 50; Az-Zukhruf 57–65; As-Saff 6 and 14. He is also indirectly referred to in other locations.

The Quran contains few narratives from Jesus’ life, but does include many brief descriptions in common with the Bible:

  • Made the dead to live [56]
  • Was the prophesied Messiah [57]
  • Had disciples.[58]
  • Taught disciples to carry on his ministry.[59]
  • Healed individuals inflicted with blindness and leprosy.[56]

The details of Jesus’s birth differ from those offered in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (see above section). Other accounts in the Quran do not exist in the Bible. Two such stories, one in which infant Jesus verbally testifies to Mary’s virginity and another in which young Jesus forms and breathes life into clay birds, have counterparts in non-canonical Christian literature (see Infancy Gospels).[60] The Quran rejects that Jesus ever expected to be interpreted as divine and that he only taught strictly tawhid. Somewhat surprisingly, it also denies the crucifixion [61] (see Islamic view of Jesus’ death).

Other figures

The Quran and the Bible have over 50 characters in common, typically in the same narratives. The Quran identifies Enoch and Ishmael as prophets, but they are never given a story. In the Bible, all these men are identified as righteous people but not prophets — except Ishmael who is not written of favorably.

There is also one person mentioned in the Quran, Dhul-Qarnayn, who is not mentioned in the Bible by that name but whose story is similar to stories about Alexander the Great as mentioned in other Alexander romances and legends of its time (seeAlexander the Great in the Quran .)

Mixed similarities

In several cases, the Quran and the Bible have common events but occur in different narrations.

Idol calf and Samaritan

In the Bible, in Moses’ absence, certain people who went out of Egypt with the Hebrews worship a golden calf saying “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Hundreds of years later, Samaria was founded and became the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam, its first king, also made two golden calves and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

The Quran tells the story of a calf while Moses is gone. A man called “the Samari” Yusuf Ali or “the Samaritan” (Arberry) is blamed for protagonizing their idolatry.

A verse in Hosea 8:5–6 contains the same content as Ta-Ha|20.97 where Hosea refers to the Jeroboam calf and the Quran refers to the earlier calf. Both feature a prophet speaking to the Samaritan/Samaria promising to destroy the calf.

In the Quran, Moses’ punishment that the Samari cannot be touched is the same as the modern Samaritan’s punishment where no Jew was allowed to touch them because of their idolatry. In his commentary, Yusuf Ali claims that the Samari is not a Samaritan.

Miriam and Mary

In Arabic, both the names Mary and Miriam are called Maryam. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the only female to have her name mentioned in the Quran. While speaking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Quran also calls her as the sister of Aaron. There is an Aaron in the Bible, namely Aaron the brother of Moses, who also had a sister Miriam. According to Muslim interpreters, this Aaron is different from the brother of Moses. Moses and Jesus were separated far apart in time, but it was a tradition to give people the names of prophets and pious persons who lived before them as mentioned in the following hadeeth:

Mughira b. Shu’ba reported: When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read” O sister of Harun” (i. e. Hadrat Maryam) in the Quran, whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) I asked him about that, whereupon he said: The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them. (Sheik Muslim – Adaaab Book)

Hannah and Hannah

In the Books of Samuel, Hannah is grateful that God gave her a son, Samuel. She dedicated him to God by letting him live with Eli the prophet and priest.

In the Quran, Mary’s mother is grateful to God for Mary and dedicates her to God. Mary then lives in the household of Zechariah the prophet.

In the Bible, Zechariah is also a priest. Mary’s mother is unnamed in the Quran.


  1.  e.g. Gerald Hawting, interviewed for The Religion ReportRadio National (Australia), 26 June 2002.
  2.  Genesis 2:17
  3.  Genesis 3:6–7
  4.  Genesis 3:9–13
  5.  Genesis 3:14–15
  6.  Genesis 5:4
  7.  [Quran3:59]
  8.  [Quran2:30]
  9.  [Quran2:31–33]
  10.  [Quran38:71]
  11.  [Quran20:116]
  12.  [Quran18:50]
  13.  [Quran7:16]
  14.  Lawrence E. Brown, M.D.,Original Sin.
  15.  Genesis 2:19
  16.   [Quran20:120]
  17.  [Quran4:1]
  18.  [Quran7:189]
  19.  Genesis 2:9
  20.  Genesis 1:27
  22.  [Quran7:12]
  23.  Genesis 3:16
  24.  [Quran2:30]
  25.  [Quran7:19]
  26.  [Quran20:115]
  28.  (Genesis 19:5–26
  29.  Genesis19:30
  30.  Genesis19:31
  31.  Genesis19:32
  32.  Genesis19:33
  33.  Genesis19:34
  34.  Genesis19:35
  35.  Genesis19:37
  36.  Genesis19:38
  37.  [Quran15:51]
  38.  [Quran11:69]
  39.  [Quran15:53]
  40.  [Quran15:58]
  41.  [Quran11:70]
  42.  [Quran29:31]
  43.  [Quran29:34]
  44.  [Quran51:33]
  45.  [Quran29:32]
  46.  [Quran15:59]
  47.  [Quran66:10]
  48.  [Quran19:10]
  49.  Mt. 3:1-17; Mk. 1:1-11; Lk. 3:1-22; Jn. 1:15-34
  50.  Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:30-44; Lk. 9:10-17; Jn. 6:1-15
  51.  Mt. 21:1-11; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:29-44; Jn. 12:12-19
  52.  Mt. 21:10-17; Mk. 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; Jn. 2:13-17
  53.  Mt. 26:21-25; Mk. 10:41-45; Lk. 22:21-23; Jn. 13:21-30
  54.  Mt. 27:32-56; Mk. 15:21-41; Lk. 23:26-56; Jn. 19:1-37
  55.  Mt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-11; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:1-18
  56.  Surah 5.110
  57.  Surah 3.45
  58.  Surah 3.52
  59.  Surah 3.55
  60.  Hans-Josef Klauck (2003). The Apocryphal Gospels: An Introduction. p 18 056708390X “The surprising element in this Sure is not the allusion to Jesus’ miracles of feeding the crowds, but the reference to the remarkable visual miracle of breathing life into birds formed of clay. This is related in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (2:2–4;”
  61.  Surah 4:157

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