Al-qissa is the news about the historical figures and events in the Qur’an and it is the knowledge of all these news included in the Qur’an. In the dictionary it is explained as “to trace somebody and follow him/her; to inform somebody about a news or speech”. As a term it comprises every sort of event such as stories as narration or the fact or imaginary events that can be told about. That is why they do not use the word “story” for the qissas in the Qur’an. Then, the qissas in the Qur’an are the true historical events which the lessons should be taken from. (1)
Some of the qissas in the Qur’an are evaluated in the context of historical facts. The events that Noah and Lut Prophet s (PBUH) experienced, the perish of ‘Ad community, the Fir‘awn incident, the creation issues of Adam and Jesus (PBUH), slaughtering the cow of the children of Israel (Banu Israel) are the samples of those kinds of qissas. The others serve to tell about a truth by using some symbolic or hypothetical meanings or figures of speech. The samples for that kind of qissas from the Qur’an are setting of the sun in a wet clay or transformation of the deeds into mirage in the desert.
THE QISSAS IN THE QUR’AN IN TERMS OF THEIR CHARACTER
1. The historical qissas: Among the qissas of the Qur’an, the qissas of the Prophet s are the longest ones. Some of these qissas have been discoursed widely. For example; in the context of tawhid belief of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) his father, his community and his struggle with Namrud. The qissah like the birth of the Prophet Moses (PBUH), his being taken into the palace of Fir‘awn and his struggle with Fir‘awn are important qissas of the Qur’an. The qissas about our Prophet also have an important place.
Some qissas about some figures are considered as historical qissas. Such as Fir ‘awn, Namrud, Qarun, Ashab al-Kahf, Ashab al-Fil, Ashab al Uhdud.
2. The events taking place during revelation of the Qur’an: These events also have been told in the form of the qissa in the Qur’an. The events such as Isra and Mi’raj; migration to Medina; the battles of Badr, Uhud, Trench (Handak); the Ridwan Pledge and the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
3. The unseen qissas: The creation of Prophet Adam, the scenes of the doomsday, the hereafter, the heaven and the hell, and the situations’ of the ones who will be sent these places are told in the form of qissa.
Some of the qissas in the Qur’an are told covering one sura from the beginning to the end. The qissas of prophets such as Joseph, Noah, Hud, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, peace and blessings be unto all of them… Some of them are told in a curtailed form since they are already told in another place or it is a known event but just reminder for a lesson. The qissas such as Fil and Uhdud. And some of them are told consecutively for giving a lesson. The qissas of ‘Ad, Samud and Fir‘awn (Pharoah) in the surah of Fajr; the qissa of Noah and his community, ‘Ad, Lut and Fir‘awn in the surah of Qamar. (2)
THE PURPOSES OF THE QISSAS IN THE QUR’AN
1- Proving the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH): Our Prophet and his community didn’t know every detail about the events of the former prophets and their communities. Although our Prophet was an illiterate person, he informed his people truly by the will of Allah about the events that are totally unseen to them. It is said in the Qur’an in the following way verse: “Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed.” (Najm, 3-4)
“(Some) say: (They are) three, the fourth of them being their dog; and (others) say: Five, the sixth of them being their dog, making conjectures at what is unknown; and (others yet) say: Seven, and the eighth of them is their dog. Say: My Lord best knows their number, none knows them but a few; therefore contend not in the matter of them but with an outward contention, and do not question concerning them any of them!” (Kahf, 22)
2-To show that all the other prophets taught Islam: “Certainly We sent Noah to his people, so he said: O my people! Serve Allah, you have no god other than Him; surely I fear for you the chastisement of a grievous day.” (A’raf, 59)
3-Lesson for Humanity: “And He it is Who sends forth the winds bearing good news before His mercy, until, when they bring up a laden cloud, We drive it to a dead land, then We send down water on it, then bring forth with it of fruits of all kinds; thus shall We bring forth the dead that you may be mindful.” (A’raf, 57)
4-Strenghtening the hearts of the believers: “Moses said to his people: Ask help from Allah and be patient; surely the land is Allah’s; He causes such of His servants to inherit it as He pleases, and the end is for those who guard (against evil).” (A’raf, 128)
5-To remind the bounty: The bounties that Allah (SWT) gave to his prophets as miracles are told in the form of qissas and it is stated that the obedience and loyalty to Allah will not be without result and the people are encouraged to take the prophets as model.
Two goals are pursued in the miracles of the prophets
The First: To make acceptable and confirmed their prophethood to their communities. The Second: Prophets have been exemplary people for scientific progress for humankind. They showed the goal for man with their miracles and man is encouraged to imitate them by the Qur’an through these qissas. The Qur’an has said to the man: “O man! These miracles that you see are some samples. You can do the similar ones with your works and consensus.”
Yes, the past is the mirror of the future. The inventions of the future are built on foundations and principles which are established in the past. The civilization of today is also based on these principles which are mentioned in the Qur’an. For example;
-The first clock and ship are granted to humanity through miracles of prophets.
-A Lot of scientific knowledge which was formed by collection of thoughts of humanity serve to explain the names, attributes and features of all the species in the universe and that was first time witnessed through the miracle of Prophet Adam (Peace be unto Him).
-Softening of the iron and its usage which is the cause for all crafts was an important step for the progress of humanity. That event was first time witnessed through the miracle of Prophet Dawud (Peace be unto Him).
-The aerial transportation which is curtailing the distances today hardly approaches the miracle of Prophet Sulaiman (Peace be unto Him).
-Man has learned the centrifuge pump which ejects water from arid, sandy areas from the staff of Prophet Moses (Peace be unto Him).
-The progression in the area of medicine by experience was inspired by the miracles of Prophet Jesus (Peace be unto Him).
-The voice and image transfer that we are familiar and enjoy in our cell phones are told in the qissas of Prophet Joseph (Peace be unto Him) and Balkis.
-Teaching of the language of the birds to the Prophet Suleiman (Peace be unto Him) is another important step for humanity. If the man struggles and discovers, he possibly used many animals in many jobs. Today, the use of mice in earthquakes, and the use of dogs in narcotic and rescue works may be regarded as the beginning of that practice.
-There are many issues similar to those mentioned above. Accession of human kind to them is possible by being servant of the One who is the owner of all these bounties, that is, of Allah (SWT) so that the creatures submit to man. (3)
It is clear that the establishment of the civilization of today and later is only possible through taking our lessons from these qissas which are cited in the Qur’an. That is our problem and the solution lies in the Qur’an.
6-Warning: One of the purposes of the qissas is to warn people about the distracters in the path of Allah. The leading of those distracters is shaitan (satan). This issue is told in the qissa of Prophet Adam with shaitan. It has been warned that the animosity between shaitan and man represented by Adam will last till the doomsday.
“But the Shaitan made them both fall from it, and caused them to depart from that (state) in which they were; and We said: Get forth, some of you being the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time.” (Baqara, 36)
“O you who believe! Enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitan; surely he is your open enemy.” (Baqara, 208)
7-They address every century as members of a general principle. The Glorious Qur’an considers the dominicality of Allah (SWT) and the governing of every creature in the framework of illuminating of all people and with a general and comprehensive view. However most of the addressees of the Qur’an are the common people. It is difficult for them to conceive the issue in the way the Qur’an explains. Thus, the Qur’an has such a high discourse that it addresses to the common people who are the most heterogeneous class of society and it provides them to make use of discourse of the Qur’an.
For example, mentioning about the events and disasters occurred to the cruel communities of the past and telling about the extraordinary survival of the prophets and their followers from those events the Qur’an gives solace to the helpless believers of this age and heralds the salvation for them and it also threatens the oppressors.
The Qur’an pushes the views of the people forward to the future and draws them back to the past with the light of the belief since they consider sometimes the past and future as nonexistent. By doing this, the Qur’an enlightens the views and understanding of the people and gives them familiarity about their lives and rescues them from their imaginary fears.
What on earth is the reason of consistent repetition of some simple events in the Qur’an as if they are history? What is the reason of portraying a trivial event as a very important incident like slaughtering a cow?
There are many simple events told in the Qur’an where there are general principles or rules concerning most of the people behind each of them. Although these are simple events they are shown as the tips of the rules which are of interest to everybody.
For example, one of them is the event of ordering the slaughter of a cow (Baqara) to Banu Israel. The Qur’an stresses upon the details that ‘baqara’ so much that the longest surah in the Qur’an has taken its name from this event (the surah of Baqara). Imam Bediuzzaman says the following related to why that event is mentioned in such a detailed way in the Qur’an:
The land of Egypt is a part of the Great Desert, that is, it is a desert. Since it has the River Nile in its borders it became a very fertile land. Thus, the farming and agriculture gained importance and became the occupations that people attached value. That giving value improved into such a degree that they began to revere the agriculture and worship the cows. It is understood from this ‘slaughtering the cow’ event that the Jews also had been affected by this mental and sentimental situation.
The issue of assigning Moses (Peace be unto Him) as prophet and ordering to ‘slaughter the cow’ which the Qur’an mentions is not a simple ‘slaughtering the cow’ issue. On the contrary, it is the issue of cutting off the idea of cow worshipping that had penetrated into the character of that nation (4). So, everybody living in different ages takes a lesson from that event and gives up to idolize objects and phenomena, and worship anything or anyone but Allah (SWT) and focuses his/her heart and mind to Him only.
The Qur’an tells the qissas but these qissas are not just aimed to tell a historical event. Although some people raised objections concerning these, Imam Bediuzzaman has explained these issues in his treatises (risalas) titled as Risale-i Nur and he has lectured us the subtle points behind them. We suggest you to read Twenty Fifth Word which is the risalah of Mu’jizat al Qur’aniyya once more considering that point. May Allah grant us to benefit the Qur’an truly this year in which public awareness is tried to be formed at the event of the 1400th anniversary of the revelation of the Qur’an. Amin.
1 Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation, Islam Encyclopedia, (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi), v. 25, p. 498.
2 ibid. p. 499.
3 Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Zulfikar, p. 89.
4 Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Zulfikar, p. 77.