Scrolls of Abraham (Islam)

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The Scrolls of Abraham (Arabic: صحف إبراهيم, Suhuf Ibrahim) are part of the religious scriptures of Islam. These scriptures are understood by Muslims to have contained the revelations which Abraham received, which were then written down by Abraham (Ibrahim) himself, as well as his scribes and followers. They are generally believed by Muslims to have perished over the course of time and are now considered a lost body of scripture.

Background[edit]

In two Chapters, which are dated from the first Meccan period, there is a reference to the 'Leaves, Scrolls, Journals' (Suhuf) of Abraham (and Moses), by which presumably certain divinely inspired texts handwritten by the patriarchs are meant. These passages refer to the fact that the truth of God's message is present in the earliest revelations, of Abraham and Moses. Although Suhuf is generally understood to mean 'Scrolls', many translators - including Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Marmaduke Pickthall - have translated the verse as "The Books of Abraham and Moses".

Qur'anic mention[edit]

The Qur'an refers to certain Scrolls of Abraham, which have alternatively been translated as Books of Abraham. All Muslim scholars have generally agreed upon that no scrolls of Abraham survive till today, and therefore this is a reference to a lost body of scripture.[1] The Scrolls of Abraham are understood by Muslims to refer to certain revelations Abraham received, which he would have then transmitted to writing. The exact contents of the revelation are not described in the Qur'an.

The 87th chapter of the Qur'an, Surah Al-A'laa concludes saying the subject matter of the Surah has been in the earlier scriptures of Abraham and Moses. It is slightly indicative of what were in the previous scriptures, according to Islam:

So remind, if the reminder should benefit;
He who fears [Allah] will be reminded.
But the wretched one will avoid it -
[He] who will [enter and] burn in the greatest Fire,
Neither dying therein nor living.
He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself,
And mentions the name of his Lord and prays.
But you prefer the worldly life,
While the Hereafter is better and more enduring.
Indeed, this is in the former scriptures,
The scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

— Qur'an 87 (Al-A'laa), ayat 9-19 [2]

Chapter 53 of the Qur'an, Surah An-Najm mentions some more subject matters of the earlier scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

Or has he not been informed of what was in the scriptures of Moses,
And [of] Abraham, who fulfilled [his obligations] -
That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another,
And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives,
And that his effort is going to be seen,
Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense,
And that to your Lord is the finality,
And that it is He who makes [one] laugh and weep,
And that it is He who causes death and gives life,
And that He creates the two mates - the male and female,
From a sperm-drop when it is emitted,
And that [incumbent] upon Him is the next creation,
And that it is He who enriches and suffices,
And that it is He who is the Lord of Sirius,
And that He destroyed the first [people of] 'Aad,
And Thamud - and He did not spare [them],
And the people of Noah before.
Indeed, it was they who were [even] more unjust and oppressing.,
And the overturned towns He hurled down,
And covered them by that which He covered.,
Then which of the favors of your Lord do you doubt?,
This [Prophet] is a warner like the former warners.,
The Approaching Day has approached.,
Of it, [from those] besides Allah, there is no remover.,
Then at this statement do you wonder?,
And you laugh and do not weep,
While you are proudly sporting?,
So prostrate to Allah and worship [Him].

— Qur'an 53 (An-Najm), ayat 36-62 [3]

Identification[edit]

Some scholars[by whom?] suggested the Scrolls of Abraham to be a reference to Sefer Yetzirah, as Jewish tradition generally ascribed[citation needed] its authorship to Abraham. Other scholars, however, wrote of a certain Testament of Abraham, which they explained was available at the time of Muhammad.[4] Both of these views are disputed because Sefer Yetzirah is a part of esoteric Jewish mysticism, which originated much later in the 13th century, such scrolls or testaments should not have existed in the time of Muhammad for being referred to. And if those would have existed, according to clear instructions in the Qur'an and Hadith, no verification should take place.

The Qur'an contains numerous references to Abraham, his life, prayers and traditions and has a dedicated chapter named Ibrahim (14). Therefore verifying the scrolls of Abraham from other traditions, especially from Judaism has no basis. The advent of Islam was due to the alteration of all previous scriptures. On a relevant note, Surah Al-Kahf (18) was revealed as an answer from Allah to the Jews who inquired Muhammad about past events. Here Allah directly instructed Muhammad in Surah Al-Kahf (18:22), not to consult the Jews for verifying the three stories about which they inquired.

So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.

— Qur'an, sura 18 (Al-Kahf), ayat 22 [5]

The reason being Allah declaring He Himself is relating what needs to be verified in another verse of Surah Al-Kahf (18:13)

It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth.

Regarding consultation with the people of the book, it is also narrated by Abu Hurairah in Hadith literature (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 6, Volume 60, Hadith 12)

The people of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and they used to explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that Allah's Apostle said, "Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say: "We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us."

Therefore relating to any ascription of the Scrolls of Abraham by the people of the book is not required.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, Abraham
  2. ^ Quran 87:9-19
  3. ^ Quran 53:36-62
  4. ^ Tafsir and Commentary on 87: 18-19 & 53: 36-37, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad
  5. ^ Quran 18:22