Jacob in Islam

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Resting placeCave of the Patriarchs, Hebron
Other namesIsrail (إِسْرَآءِیْل)
Children12, including Yusuf and Binyamin
  • Ishaq (father)
  • Rafqa (mother)

Yaqub ibn Ishaq ibn Ibrahim (Arabic: يَعْقُوب ابْنُ إِسْحَٰق ابْنُ إِبْرَاهِيم, transl.Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham), later given the name Israil (إِسْرَآءِیْل, transl. 'Israel'), is recognized by Muslims as an Islamic prophet. He is held to have preached the same monotheism as his forefathers: Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac.

Jacob is mentioned sixteen times in the Quran.[1] Two further references to "Israil" are believed to be mentions of Jacob.[2] In the majority of these references, Jacob, identified as a son of Isaac, is mentioned alongside fellow Hebrews as an ancient and pious prophet who stayed in the "company of the elect"[3][4] and asserted the oneness of Allah throughout his life. In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, it is stated that Jacob had twelve sons, who went on to father the Twelve Tribes of Israel.[5] Jacob plays a significant role in the story of his son Joseph.[6] The Quran further makes it clear that Allah made a covenant with Jacob,[7] and that Jacob was made a faithful leader by divine command. His grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac, his uncle Ishmael, and his son Joseph are all recognized as Islamic prophets.[8]

In the Quran[edit]

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

When he had turned away from them and from those whom they worshipped besides God, We bestowed on him Isaac and Jacob, and each one of them We made a prophet.

— Quran, surah 19 (Maryam), ayah 49[11]

The Quran also mentions that Abraham taught the faith of pure monotheism to his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, as well as Jacob. The Quran records Abraham telling Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob: "Oh my sons! God hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the Faith of Islam."[12] The Quran also mentions the gifts given to Jacob as well as the strength of his faith, which became stronger as he became older. The Quran mentions that Jacob was "guided";[13] given "knowledge";[14] "inspired";[15] and was given a "tongue of truthfulness to be heard".[16] The Quran later states the following regarding Jacob:

And We bestowed on him Isaac and, as an additional gift, (a grandson), Jacob, and We made righteous men of every one (of them).
And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to and they constantly served Us (and Us only).

— Quran, surah 21 (Al-Anbiya), ayat 72–73[17]

And commemorate Our Servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, possessors of Power and Vision.
Verily We did choose them for a special (purpose)- proclaiming the Message of the Hereafter.
They were, in Our sight, truly, of the company of the Elect and the Good.

— Quran, surah 38 ('Sad), ayat 45–47[18]

Jacob and his sons[edit]

Jacob's next significant mention in the Quran is in the narrative of the surah Yusuf. Joseph's story in the Quran opens with a dream that Joseph had one night, after which he ran to his father Jacob, saying: "Behold! Joseph said to his father: "O my father! I did see eleven planets and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!" "[19] Jacob's face filled with delight at what he had heard from the young Joseph, 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.[20] Joseph's ten older brothers then decided to kill him. As the Quran 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)!
"Slay ye Joseph or cast him out to some (unknown) land, that so the favour of your father may be given to you alone: (there will be time enough) for you to be righteous after that!"

— Quran, surah 12 (Yusuf) ayat 8–9[21]

One of the brothers (usually understood to be Reuben[22]) however, felt that instead of slaying Joseph(Yusuf) they should instead drop him into a well, so that a caravan may come and pick him up.[23] 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 a dhi’b (Arabic: ذِئـب, wolf) would devour his son,[24] the rebellious older sons forcefully took Joseph away and threw him into the well.[25] 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(Yusuf) shirt with false blood,[26] 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.[26] As the years passed, 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(Yusuf).[27] Although Jacob frequently complained to God[14] 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.[28] 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,[29] 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 Quran says, raised them high on a 'throne of dignity'.[30] 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 that they would continue in Islam and bow down to and worship God.[31] Although the death-bed scene relates to Jewish tradition, and mentioned in the Book of Genesis, the Quran mentions it to emphasize the notion that Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, and Jacob were all Muslims, as they bowed down in full faith to God and God alone. The Quran narrates:

And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; "Oh my sons! God 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: And we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."

— Quran, Surah 2 (Al-Baqara), Ayah 132–133[32]

Prophetic legacy[edit]

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

— Quran, surah 6 Al-An'am, ayah 83–84[33]

Ali ibn Abi Talib, when asked about the prophets who were bestowed special names, narrates in Hadith that Ya'qub ibn Ishaq was known by his people as Isra'il.[34]

Instances in the Bible involving Jacob wrestling with an angel are not mentioned in the Quran, but are discussed in Muslim commentaries, as is the vision of Jacob's Ladder.[9][35] Jacob tricking Isaac into blessing him by impersonating his twin, Esau, is also not in the Quran, but is in Muslim commentaries.[9]

Muslims, who do believe Jacob 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[36] were to come many other great prophets, including Jonah (Yunus), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulayman) and Jesus (Isa).

Tomb in Hebron[edit]

The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, in Palestine, which is said to include the tomb of Jacob.

Jacob is believed by Muslims and Jews alike to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs (known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham). The compound, located in the 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.

Quranic references to Jacob[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Tottoli, Roberto. "Jacob". Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Brill. ISSN 1573-3912. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia Of Islam, Cyril Glasse


  1. ^ "Jacob", Encyclopaedia of Islam Vol. XI, p.254.
  2. ^ Jane Dammen McAuliffe (General Editor) Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an Volume Three : J-O
  3. ^ Quran 38:47
  4. ^ Quran 21:75
  5. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Children of Israel
  6. ^ Quran, surah Yusuf (Chapter of Joseph)
  7. ^ Quran 12:80
  8. ^ Quran 21:73
  9. ^ a b c Noegel, Scott B.; Brannon M. Wheeler (April 2010). "Jacob". The A to Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism. Scarecrow Press. pp. 160–162. ISBN 978-1-4617-1895-6.
  10. ^ Qisas Al-Anbiya (Stories of the Prophets), Ibn Kathir/Kisa'i, Story of Isaac and Jacob
  11. ^ a b Quran 19:49
  12. ^ Quran 2:132
  13. ^ Quran 6:84
  14. ^ a b Quran 12:86
  15. ^ Quran 3:163
  16. ^ Quran 19:50
  17. ^ Quran 21:72–73
  18. ^ Quran 38:45–47
  19. ^ Quran 12:4
  20. ^ Quran 12:5
  21. ^ Quran 12:8–9
  22. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali's tafsir on surah Yusuf
  23. ^ Quran 12:10
  24. ^ Quran 12:13
  25. ^ Quran 12:15
  26. ^ a b Quran 12:18
  27. ^ Quran 12:85
  28. ^ Quran 12:87
  29. ^ 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."
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Quran 2:133
  32. ^ Quran 2:132–133
  33. ^ Quran 6:83–84
  34. ^ Qai'm, Mahdi Muntazir (2007). Jesus Through the Qur'an and Shi'ite Narrations (Bilingual ed.). Queens, New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an. p. 26. ISBN 978-1879402140.
  35. ^ Ibn Kathir. "The Story of Ya'qub (Jacob)". The Stories of the Prophets. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  36. ^ For the twelve sons, see Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Levi, Judah, Reuben, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Gad, Joseph and Benjamin