Jacob in Islam

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Joseph with his father Jacob and brothers in Egypt from Zubdat-al Tawarikh in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, dedicated to Sultan Murad III in 1583

Yaqub ( Arabic: يَعْقُوبtranslit.: Yaʿqūb ), also known as Jacob, is a prophet in Islam who is mentioned in the Qur'an.[1] He is acknowledged as a patriarch of Islam. Muslims believe that he preached the same monotheistic faith as did his forefathers: Ibrahim, Ishaq and Ismail. Yaʿqūb is mentioned 16 times in the Qur'an.[2] In the majority of these references, Jacob is mentioned alongside fellow Hebrew prophets and patriarchs as an ancient and pious prophet who remained in the "company of the elect".[3][4] Muslims hold that Jacob was the son of Isaac and that he preached the Oneness of God throughout his life. As in Christianity and Judaism, Islam holds that Jacob had twelve sons, each of which would go on to father the Twelve Tribes of Israel.[5] Jacob plays a significant role in the story of his son, Joseph, and is referenced around twenty-five times throughout the narrative.[6] The Qur'an further makes it clear that God made a covenant with Jacob[7] and Jacob was made a faithful leader by God's command.[8]

Jacob in the Qur'an[edit]

Jacob is mentioned by name in the Qur'an around sixteen times.[9] Although many of these verses praise him rather than recount an instance from his narrative, the Qur'an nonetheless records several significant events from the life of Jacob. Although Muslim tradition and literature greatly embellishes upon the narrative of Jacob,[10] the earliest event involving Jacob in the Qur'an is that of the angels giving "glad tidings" to Ibrahim and Sarah of the future birth of a prophetic son by the name of Ishaq as well as a prophetic grandson by the name of Jacob.[11] The Qur'an states:

So when he [Abraham] abandoned them and what they served besides God, We granted him Isaac and Jacob, and each of them We made a prophet.

—Qur'an, sura 19 (Maryam), ayah 49[12]

The Qur'an also mentions that Abraham taught the faith of pure monotheism to his sons, Ismail and Ishaq, as well as Yaʿqūb. The Qur'an records Abraham telling Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob: "O my sons, God has selected the system for you, so do not die except as ones who have submitted."[13] The Qur'an also mentions the gifts given to Jacob as well as the strength of his faith, which became stronger as he became older. The Qur'an mentions that Jacob was "guided";[14] given "knowledge";[15] "inspired";[16] and was given a "tongue of truthfulness to be heard".[17] The Qur'an later states the following regarding Jacob:

And We granted him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob afterward, and each of them We made a good doer.
And We made them leaders who guide by Our command, and We inspired them to do good works and hold the contact prayer and contribute towards purification, and they were in service to Us.

—Qur'an, sura 21 (Al-Anbiya), ayah 72–73[18]

And recall Our servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were resourceful, and with vision.
We had chosen them to enforce awareness of the Hereafter.
And they are with Us of the elite, the best.

—Qur'an, sura 38 ('Sad), ayah 45–47[19]

Jacob's next significant mention in the Qur'an is in the narrative of Yusuf. Yusuf's story in the Qur'an opens with a dream that Yusuf had one night, after which he ran to his father Jacob, saying: "O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!"[20] Jacob's face filled with delight at what he had heard from the young Yusuf, and the ageing prophet immediately understood what the dream meant. Jacob could foresee that his son would grow up to be the next prophet in the line of Abraham and it would be Joseph who would keep the message of Islam alive in the coming years. Jacob's older sons, however, felt that their father loved Joseph and Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son, more than them. Jacob knew about their jealousy and warned the young Joseph about it.[21] Joseph's ten older brothers than decided to kill him. As the Qur'an narrates their discussion:

They said: "Truly Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we: But we are a goodly body! Really our father is obviously wandering (in his mind)!"
(One said): "Kill Joseph or cast him to some (other) land, so that your father's favour may be all for you, and (that) ye may afterward be righteous folk."

—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayat 8–9[22]

One of the brothers (usually understood to be Reuben,[23]) however, felt that instead of slaying Joseph they should instead drop him into a well, so that a caravan may come and pick him up.[24] Thus, they asked their father whether they could take the young Joseph out to play with them, on the condition that they would keep watch over him. Although Jacob feared that the wolf would devour his son,[25] the rebellious older sons forcefully took Joseph away and threw him into the well.[26] When the sons came back to Jacob that night, they pretended to weep and they further told him that the wolf had devoured Joseph. To trick their father, they stained Joseph's shirt with false blood,[27] but Jacob, who had been gifted with knowledge, knew this was a false concoction that they had devised. Although Jacob did worry over the loss of Joseph, he remained steadfast to God throughout his grief.[27] As the years past, the young Joseph grew up into a man in Egypt; Jacob, meanwhile, was back at home in Canaan, where his sons would constantly bother him about his repeated praying to God for the return of Joseph.[28] Although Jacob frequently complained to God[15] it was never for God's doings, but out of the distractions of his own mind and his occasional breaking out of the bounds of patience he had set for himself. He constantly ignored the wicked taunting of his sons and would forgive them and tried to give them sound advice.[29] One day, Jacob decided to send his sons on an errand, telling them to go to Egypt in search of Joseph and Benjamin. His sons, for the first time, listened to him and departed for Egypt. When one of Jacob's sons returned to Canaan with the good news of Joseph and Benjamin in Egypt, he came with a shirt that Joseph had given him, which he had told him to cast over their father's face,[30] to remove Jacob's blindness and grief. Thus, the son followed the instructions and did as Joseph said, restoring Jacob's physical and mental vision.

Once Jacob's sight had been restored, the whole family began their trek to Egypt, to meet Joseph and the other sons again. Once they arrived, the father and son met each other with great love and were reunited in peace once again. The now powerful Joseph provided a home for his parents with himself and, as the Qur'an says, raised them high on a 'throne of dignity'.[31] It was now that the whole family, together, could turn to God through the prophetic offices of both Jacob and Joseph.

Jacob's last advice to his people[edit]

The whole of the Children of Israel were called to bow down to faith in Islam (Submission to God) before Jacob died. Jacob wanted to make sure that his children die only in Islam and, therefore, took one last promise from them. When he asked them who they would worship after his death, they replied "We shall worship thy God and the God of thy fathers - of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac".[32] Although the death-bed scene is embellished upon in Jewish Tradition, and mentioned in the Book of Genesis, the Qur'an mentions it to emphasize upon the notion that Ibrahim, Ishaq, Ismail and Yaʿqūb were all Muslims, as they bowed down in full faith to God and God alone. The Qur'an narrates:

And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; "O my sons! Allah hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the Faith of Islam.
Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: "What will ye worship after me?" They said: "We shall worship Thy God and the God of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma'il and Isaac,- the one (True) God: To Him we bow (in Islam)."

—Qur'an, sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 132–133[33]

The legacy of Jacob[edit]

Jacob is very special in Islam for carrying on the legacy left off by his great forefathers. Muslims believe God bestowed His utmost grace upon Jacob and chose him to be among the most exalted men. The Qur'an frequently mentions Jacob as a man of might and vision and stresses he was of the company of the good and elect. As the Qur'an says:

That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.
We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good:

—Qur'an, sura 6 Al-An'am, ayah 83–84[34]

Instances in the Bible involving Jacob wrestling with an angel are not mentioned in the Qur'an, and so are rejected by Muslims. Furthermore, Muslims don't believe Jacob tricked Isaac, by impersonating his twin, Esau, into blessing him[35] as they consider him a righteous prophet of God and that Isaac must have known that Jacob was special from all his children. Finally, there is no mention of the vision of Jacob's Ladder,[36] and this is rejected by most Muslims.

The Cave of the Patriarchs, which is said to include the tomb of Jacob

Muslims, who do believe Yaʿqūb was a great patriarch, stress the belief that Jacob's main importance lay in his great submission to God and his firm faith in the right religion. As a patriarch, Jacob, alongside Abraham, may be the most fruitful according to tradition. From his twelve sons[37] were to come many other great prophets, including Jonah (Yunus), Dawud (David), Sulayman (Solomon) and Isa (Jesus).

Tomb of Jacob[edit]

Jacob is believed by Muslims to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs (known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham). The compound, located in the ancient city of Hebron, is the second holiest site for Jews (after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), and is also venerated by Christians and Muslims, both of whom have traditions that maintain that the site is the burial place of three Biblical couples: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. Although Jews alternatively also believe this to be the burial place for Adam and Eve, this is a view not usually adopted by Muslims.

References to Jacob in the Qur'an[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Qur'an 19: 49
  2. ^ "Jacob", Encyclopedia of Islam Vol. XI, p.254.
  3. ^ [Quran 38:47]
  4. ^ [Quran 21:75]
  5. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Children of Israel
  6. ^ Quran, Sura Yusuf (Chapter of Joseph)
  7. ^ [Quran 12:80]
  8. ^ [Quran 21:73]
  9. ^ A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, Jacob
  10. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Kathir/Kisa'i, Story of Isaac and Jacob
  11. ^ Quran 19:49
  12. ^ Quran 19:49
  13. ^ Qur'an II: 132
  14. ^ Quran 6:84
  15. ^ a b Quran 12:86
  16. ^ Quran 3:163
  17. ^ Quran 19:50
  18. ^ Quran 21:72
  19. ^ Quran 38:45–47
  20. ^ Qur'an XII: 4
  21. ^ Quran 12:5
  22. ^ Quran 12:8–9: "They said: 'Truly Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we: But we are a goodly body! Really our father is obviously wandering (in his mind)!'
    (One said): 'Kill Joseph or cast him to some (other) land, so that your father's favour may be all for you, and (that) ye may afterward be righteous folk.'"
  23. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali's tafsir on Sura Yusuf
  24. ^ Qur'an XII: 10
  25. ^ Quran 12:13
  26. ^ Qur'an XII: 15
  27. ^ a b Quran 12:18
  28. ^ Qur'an XII: 85
  29. ^ Quran 12:87
  30. ^ Quran 12:93: "Go with this my shirt, and cast it over the face of my father: he will come to see (clearly). Then come ye (here) to me together with all your family."
  31. ^ Quran 12:100: "And he raised his parents high on the throne (of dignity), and they fell down in prostration, (all) before him. He said: 'O my father! this is the fulfilment of my vision of old! Allah hath made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you (all here) out of the desert, (even) after Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Verily my Lord understandeth best the mysteries of all that He planneth to do, for verily He is full of knowledge and wisdom.'"
  32. ^ Quran 2:133
  33. ^ Quran 2:132–133: "And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; 'O my sons! Allah hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the Faith of Islam.'
    Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: 'What will ye worship after me?' They said: 'We shall worship Thy God and the God of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma'il and Isaac,- the one (True) God: To Him we bow (in Islam).'"
  34. ^ Quran 6:83–84
  35. ^ Genesis 27:22
  36. ^ Genesis 28:11–19
  37. ^ For the twelve sons, see Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Levi, Judah, Reuben, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Gad, Joseph and Benjamin

Further reading[edit]

  • P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  • The Concise Encyclopedia Of Islam, Cyril Glasse