LATER HEBREW PROPHETS
ELIJAH (IDRIS OR ILYAS) AND ELISHA
The majority of the classical commentators identify the Prophet Idris with the Biblical Enoch (Genesis v, l8-19 and 21-24), without, however, being able to adduce any authority for this purely conjectural identification. Some modern Quran commentators suggest that the name Idris may be the Arabicized form of Osiris (which, in its turn, was the ancient Greek version of the Egyptian name As-ar or Us-ar), said to have been a wise king and/or prophet whom the Egyptians subsequently deified, but this assumption is too far-fetched to deserve any serious consideration. Finally, some of the earliest Quran commentators assert with great plausibility that \u201cldris\u201d is but another name for Ilyas, the Biblical Elijah (see 37:123). The Hebrew prophet Elijah (Ilyas in Arabic) is mentioned in the Bible (I Kings xvii ff. And II Kings i-ii) as having lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah - i.e., in the ninth century B.C. - and having been succeeded by Elisha (Al-Yasa in Arabic).
(21:85-86) And [remember] Ishmael and Idris and every one who [like them] has pledged himself [unto God]: they all were among those who are patient in adversity, and so We admitted them unto Our grace: behold, they were among the righteous! [The expression \u201cpledged himself\u201d to do something signifies he became responsible for something or someone. What
(37:123-132) And, behold, Elijah [too] was indeed one of Our message-bearers when he spoke [thus] to his people: \u201cWill you not remain conscious of God? Will you invoke Baal and forsake [God,] the best of artisans - God, your Sustainer and the Sustainer of your forebears of old?\u201d [The above stress on his, too, having been \u201cone of the message-bearers\u201d recalls the
Quranic principle that God makes no distinction between any of His apostles (see 2:136 and 285, 3:84, 4:152). The term bal (conventionally spelt Baal in European languages) signified \u201clord\u201d or \u201cmaster\u201d in all branches of ancient Arabic, including Hebrew and Phoenician; it was an honorific applied to every one of the many male deities worshipped by the ancient Semites, especially in Syria and Palestine. In the Old Testament this designation has sometimes the generic connotation of \u201cidol-worship\u201d - a sin into which, according to the Bible, the early Israelites often relapsed.] But they gave him the lie: and therefore they will
most surely be arraigned [on Judgment Day], excepting only [those who were] God\u2019s true servants; and him We left thus to be remembered among later generations: \u201cPeace be upon Elijah and his followers!\u201d Verily, thus do We reward the doers of good - for he was truly one of Our believing servants! [The form IL-Yasin in which this name appears in the above verse is
either a variant of llyas (Elijah) or, more probably, a plural - the Elijahs - meaning Elijah and his followers. Abd Allah ibn Masud used to read this verse as \u201cPeace be upon Idrasin\u201d, which, apart from giving us a variant or a plural of Idris (Idris and his followers), lends support to the view that Idris and llyas are but two designations of one and the same person, the Biblical Elijah.] ELISHA, (AL-YASA)
(2:246-249) Are you not aware of those elders of the children of Israel, after the time of Moses, how they said unto a prophet of theirs, [The prophet referred to here is Samuel (see Old Testament, I Samuel viii ff.).] \u201cRaise up a king for us, [and] we shall fight in God\u2019s cause\u201d? Said he: \u201cWould you, perchance, refrain from fighting if fighting is ordained for you?\u201d They answered: \u201cAnd why should we not fight in God\u2019s cause when we and our children have been driven from our homelands?\u201d [Obviously a reference to the many invasions of their homelands by their perennial enemies, the Philistines,
them, they did turn back, save for a few of them; but God had full knowledge of the evildoers. And their prophet said unto those elders: [The next sentence shows that the elders were thus addressed by Samuel] \u201cBehold, now God has raised up Saul to be your king.\u201d They said: \u201cHow can he have dominion over us when we have a better claim to dominion than he, and he has not [even] been endowed with abundant wealth?\u201d [The prophet] replied: \u201cBehold, God has exalted him above you, and endowed him abundantly with knowledge and bodily perfection. And God bestows His dominion upon whom He wills: for God is infinite, all-knowing.\u201d [An allusion to the Quranic doctrine that all dominion and all that may be owned by man
when Saul set out with his forces, he said: \u201cBehold, God will now try you by a river: he who shall drink of it will not belong to me, whereas he who shall refrain from tasting it - he, indeed, will belong to me; but forgiven shall be he who shall scoop up but a single handful.\u201d[The symbolic implication is that belief in the justice of one\u2019s cause has no value unless it
all drank [their fill] of it. And as soon as he and those who had kept faith with him had crossed the river, the others said: \u201cNo strength have we today [to stand up] against Goliath and his forces!\u201d [Yet] those who knew with certainty that they were destined to meet God, replied: \u201cHow often has a small host overcome a great host by God\u2019s leave! For God is with those who are patient in adversity.\u201d
(2:250-251) And when they came face to face with Goliath and his forces, they prayed: \u201cO our Sustainer! Shower us with patience in adversity, and make firm our steps, and succor us against the people who deny the truth!\u201d And thereupon, by God\u2019s leave, they routed them. And David slew Goliath; and God bestowed upon him dominion, and wisdom, and imparted to him the knowledge of whatever He willed. And if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against
(38:17-29) And remember Our servant David, him who was endowed with [so much] inner strength! He, verily, would always turn unto Us: [and for this,] behold, We caused [Or constrained] the mountains to join him in extolling Our limitless glory at eventide and at sunrise, and [likewise] the birds in their assemblies: [together] they all would turn again and again unto Him [who had created them]. And We strengthened his dominion, and bestowed upon him wisdom and sagacity in judgment. And yet, has the story of the litigants come within your ken - [the story of the two] who surmounted the walls of the sanctuary [in which David prayed]? [The story which, according to the oldest sources at our disposal, is alluded to in verses
21-26 affects the question as to whether God\u2019s elect, the prophets - all of whom were endowed, like David, with wisdom and sagacity in judgment - could or could not ever commit a sin: in other words, whether they, too, were originally subject to the weaknesses inherent in human nature as such or were a priori endowed with an essential purity of character which rendered each of them incapable of sinning\u201d. The story of David contradicts the doctrine - somewhat arbitrarily developed by Muslim theologians in the course of the centuries that prophets cannot sin by virtue of their very nature. The purity and subsequent sinlessness among prophets is a result of inner struggles and trials and, thus, represents in each case a moral achievement rather than an inborn quality.
David fell in love with a beautiful woman whom he accidentally observed from his roof terrace. On inquiring, he was told that she was the wife of one of his officers, named Uriah. Impelled by his passion, David ordered his field-commander to place Uriah in a particularly exposed battle position, where he would be certain to be killed; and as soon as his order was fulfilled and Uriah died, David married the widow (who subsequently became the mother of Solomon). This story agrees more or less with the Old Testament, which gives the woman\u2019s name as Bath-Sheba (II Samuel xi), barring the Biblical allegation that David committed adultery with her before Uriah\u2019s death (xi, 4-5) - an allegation which has always been rejected by Muslims as highly offensive and slanderous: see the saying of the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib: \u201cIf anyone should narrate the story of David in the manner in which the story-tellers narrate it, I will have him flogged with one hundred and sixty stripes - for this is a suitable punishment for slandering prophets\u201d (thus indirectly recalling the Quranic ordinance, in 24:4, which stipulates flogging with eighty stripes for accusing ordinary persons of adultery without legal proof). The two \u201clitigants\u201d who suddenly appeared before David were angels sent to bring home to him his sin. However, it is possible to see in their appearance an allegory of David\u2019s own realization of having sinned: voices of his own conscience which at last \u201csurmounted the walls\u201d of the passion that had blinded him for a time.]
As they came upon David, and he shrank back in fear from them, they said: \u201cFear not! [We are but] two litigants. One of us has wronged the other: so you judge between us with justice, and deviate not from what is right, and show [both of] us the way to rectitude. \u201cBehold, this is my brother: he has ninety-nine ewes, whereas I have [only] one ewe - and yet he said, \u2018Make her over to me,\u2019 and forcibly prevailed against me in this [our] dispute.\u201d Said [David]: \u201cHe has certainly wronged you by demanding that your ewe be added to his ewes! Thus, behold, do many kinsmen wrong one another- [all] save those who believe [in God] and do righteous deeds: but how few are they!\u201d And [suddenly] David understood that We had tried him: [And that he had failed in the matter of Bath-Sheba] and so he asked his Sustainer to forgive him his sin, and fell down in prostration, and turned unto Him in repentance. And thereupon We forgave him that [sin]: and, verily, nearness to Us awaits him [in the life to come], and the most beauteous of all goals! [And We said:] \u201cO David! Behold, We have
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