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Why Are the Prophets’ Stories Incomplete?

20 January, 2024
Q What is the purpose of the stories of Prophets in the Qur'an? Why are they incomplete (except for the story of Prophet Yusuf (AS).


Short Answer: Quranic narrations of events in the lives of the prophets are like illuminating relevant scenes from their lives, so that future generations can derive good lessons from them. This means the stories of the prophets are not meant as their biographies. Allah states in the twelfth chapter of the Quran that there are lessons in the stories of the prophets for ‘people of intelligence’.


Salam Brother/Sister,

Thank you for contacting Ask About Islam with your question.

The first point I wish to stress in answer to your question is this: Islam is not to be understood simply as the Religion of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

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Indeed, it is the Religion of all the prophets of God.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the Last of the prophets appointed to fulfill and complete the prophetic mission assigned to all the previous prophets.

God is one; and the Religion He sent to humanity through His prophets too is one.

And the essential teaching of that Religion is that we humans must wholeheartedly and unconditionally lead a life of complete submission to our One and Only Creator and Sustainer, Allah Almighty.

All the prophets taught this and so, all the prophets were prophets of Islam (i.e. ‘Submission to the Will of God’):

{For We assuredly sent amongst every People an apostle, (with the Command), “Serve Allah, and eschew Evil” […]} (Quran 16:36)

The Quran teaches us that from the very beginning of humankind on earth, Allah Almighty had been sending His prophets to people who were living in different parts of the world at different stages of human history:

{To every people (there has been a guide.} (Quran 13:7)

The message these prophets conveyed was basically the same; while the people they addressed, the immediate issues they faced, the language they used etc. were all typical of their time and place.

Allah’s Prophets

The first prophet was the first man Adam (peace be upon him). He had the duty of conveying the Guidance of Allah to his family, which was humankind at its infancy.

A few generations later, there came Prophet Abraham – Ibrahim (peace be upon him) – whose mission was wider in scope and more significant in the history of prophets.

Then there were several prophets, including David, Moses, Jesus, and last of all Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

It is God who chose them and sent them to the world. Our duty as humans is not to discriminate between them, but to respect and honor all of them alike. God says in the Quran (Quran 2:136).

Allah has commanded Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to tell the people that the Religion he was teaching was not a new one:

{Say: “I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the apostles, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear.”} (Quran 46:9)

The foregoing means that the primary purpose of including the stories of the prophets in the Quran is to underscore the essential oneness of the Religion of all the prophets, as well as to highlight its continuity through generations of people who lived in different lands in different times.

It is noteworthy that the Quran mentions the same important events in the lives of the old prophets as mentioned in the scriptures of the Jews and the Christians, so that these People of the Book cannot dismiss them as “mere tales of the ancients”.

They are forced to reckon with the Quran, even to reject its claims; which is not an easy matter either.

The worst that the critics among the People of the Book could say was that Muhammad copied the Bible, though he was an illiterate and so he could not have researched through the extant copies of the Bible in Hebrew, Latin, or Greek!

And the first Arabic versions of the Bible appeared only AFTER the death of the Prophet.  

Thus, no one could convincingly argue that the prophetic stories or other teachings of the Quran came out of the shrewd mind of a plagiarist.

This means that the real source of the content of the Quran, including the stories of the prophets mentioned therein, is divine revelation.

And Allah says in the Quran:

{THESE ACCOUNTS of something that was beyond the reach of your perception We [now] reveal to thee, [O Muhammad: for] neither you nor your people knew them [fully] before this. Be, then, [like Noah,] patient in adversity – for, behold, the future belongs to the God-conscious!} (Quran 11:49)

Stories NOT Biographies

Another point to note is that the stories of the prophets are not meant as their biographies. These stories do not tell us everything a human biographer would have included.

Quranic narrations of events in the lives of the prophets are like illuminating relevant scenes from their lives, so that future generations can derive good lessons from them.  

That is, the Quran’s emphasis is on the significant junctures in the lives of the prophets, from which spiritual lessons can be learned. So, the prophetic stories in the Quran focus on the central message and do not divert the readers’ attention to nonessential details.

Consider for instance the story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim (peace be upon him)). The verses about his struggle of preaching One God to polytheists were sent down at a time when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself was engaged in a similar struggle against the polytheists of Makkah.

The Prophet and his followers were greatly consoled and inspired by these verses that taught patience and perseverance. Because the Quran opened their eyes as to how the endurance and steadfastness in the face of dangers and hardships led other prophets and their people to final success and the rewards from God Himself.

In addition, the prophetic stories emphasized the idea that the prophets were a community of brothers together on the same mission, as it were. Though belonging to different periods in history they taught the same principles, agreed on the same ideas, disseminated the same truths.

This means that the Muslims can march forward along their path without any hesitation or doubt, inspired by the awareness that they are the carriers of the Truth taught by all the prophets of old including Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus among others.

The Quran teaches that all communities throughout history have had prophets of their own to teach the Religion of God. In fact, every event narrated in the Quran regarding the prophets is undoubtedly enlightening and instructive for the lives of all Muslims.

And so Muslims should not only read their stories, but also follow their teachings in life. In this way they can seek the high morality of the most worthy people who lived on earth.   

Allah states in the twelfth chapter of the Quran (12:111) that there are lessons in the stories of the prophets for ‘people of intelligence’.

And Allah knows best.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

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