Narratives and Myths
Creation of the World
One major narrative in Islam is the creation of the world by God. According to the narrative, the world came into being through God’s word. Through his command of kun (‘be’), the world was created in six days. God then told the angels of his intention to create a vicegerent (khalīfah) on earth (Surah 3:30). Thereafter, God made the first human, Ādam, from clay and breathed spirit in the creation (Surah 38:70-71). This is the same Ādam mentioned in the Jewish and Christian traditions.
Life Narratives of Prophets (Nabiy)
Some major narratives in Islam describe the life of various prophets (nabiy), who are humans specially elected by God to communicate a divine message. The first prophet was Ādam, and much of his story is found in the creation of the world. Other major prophets include Mūsá (Moses), Ibrāhīm (Abraham), Nūḥ (Noah) and ‘Īsá (Jesus, the figurehead of Christianity). Often, the narratives of prophets contain miracles, such as saving Nūḥ from the Great Flood and miraculous birth of ‘Īsá from Mariyam al-‘adhrā’ (the Virgin Mary).
One major prophet is Ibrāhīm, and the Qur’ān describes the story of God’s covenant with Ibrāhīm and his son Ismā‘īl (also known as Ishmael, who was born from Hājar) and with his son Isḥāq (also known as Isaac, who was born from Sārah). In Islam, Ibrāhīm is believed to be the common ancestor of the Jewish and Muslim people and the founding father of the three major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). According to the Islamic tradition, Ibrāhīm willingly obeys God’s command to sacrifice Ismā‘īl. Just before the sacrifice, God permits Ibrāhīm to substitute his son with a ram. Ismā‘īl is considered to be the forefather of Muḥammad and the ancestor of several Arab tribes.
The Prophet Muḥammad is believed to be the greatest and final prophet (nabiy), sent by God to finalise in Arabic the same revelation proclaimed by earlier Jewish and Christian prophets. The Qur’ān provides some details of Muḥammad’s life but fuller accounts are located in traditional biographies (sīrah) and reports of Muḥammad’s sayings and doings (ḥadīth).
Muḥammad was born in the city of Makkah (present-day Mecca in Saudi Arabia). Prior to receiving the sacred revelation from God, Muḥammad is described as distinct in his honesty and virtue, and as someone who distanced himself from pagan practices of the time. At the age of 37, he sought solitude in a cave in Mount Hira (Jabal Ḥirā’) to reflect and contemplate. It is here he experienced a powerful encounter with the archangel Jibrīl (Gabriel), where he was called to be the Messenger of God. From this point onwards, Muḥammad continued to receive revelations until his death in Madīnah (present-day Medina in Saudi Arabia). These revelations constitute the Qur’ān, marking Muḥammad as the messenger (rasūl) of God.
The life and experiences of Muḥammad as well as his revelations are an integral part of Islam. Muḥammad continues to be understood as an extraordinary human and exemplar of the ideal Muslim. He is generally not understood as divine or possessing supernatural abilities.
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