The book Stories of the Quran is based on the key stories of the Quran as recorded by Ismail ibn al-Kathir in his widely respected and popular commentary generally known as the Tafsir Ibn Kathir. Written in clear, simple language, this compilation from Ibn Kathir’s authentic narration contains 19 of these captivating stories in an abridged version that will hold your interest from beginning to end.
These stories are excellent for both adults and children. By increasing your appreciation for the verses they represent, they will help you to understand and recognize the wisdom and benevolence behind Allah's messages to mankind as revealed in the Holy Quran.
Below are some short summaries of these wise and inspiring stories and the lessons they cover.
1. The Story of Habil and Qabil (Abel and Cain)
This is the story of Habil and Qabil, the sons of the prophet Adam (alaihis salam), as mentioned in Surah Al-Ma’idah (5:27-31). It is the story of the very first crime on earth, the first murder, brought about through Qabil’s envy of his brother and his refusal to accept Allah’s Will. It was Qabil’s selfishness, the root of all evil, that led him to murder his own brother.
From this we learn two things: that a person’s evil intentions can blind him to the virtues of others and that, like Habil, those who maintain their virtue should be strong in their faith and refrain from returning evil for evil. We also learn that Allah sends us messages and lessons in many forms, even through the actions of a creature as small as a bird.
2. The Story of Harut and Marut
The Story of Harut and Marut, as given in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:102,103) gives a clear idea of the practice of black magic as an ancient technique used by Satan and his accomplices, the devils. When Satan tried to spread mischief by attributing the powers of the prophet Sulaiman (alaihis salam) to magic, Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) decided to clear up the difference between magic and the miracles given to the prophets by Allah. He therefore sent the two angels Harut and Marut to earth to warn men that to learn and practice black magic was a sign of disbelief in Allah and that magic could not even become effective until Allah allowed it.
3. The Story of the Town Dwellers
The Story of the Town That Brought Allah’s Wrath upon Itself, as given in Surah Ya-sin (36:13-29), is the story of Habib, the only man with the courage and faith to support the Messengers of Allah, who had come to convince the people of the Straight Path of Allah. But the people not only rejected Allah’s Messengers but brutally killed Habib for trying to get them to see clearly and accept the True Faith. Before Habib died, Allah gave him a glimpse of the place He (SWT) had reserved for him in Paradise, and Habib dearly wished that his people could see the honor bestowed on him. For all the sufferings of the world dissolve into nothingness when we see the Beauty of the permanent Abode.
4. The Story of the Heifer
The Story of the Heifer, as found in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:67-73), highlights how Allah the All-Knowing can expose the crimes of the cleverest criminals, who think they can fool people. It also shows how people create difficulties for themselves by not immediately trusting and following the instructions of Allah Almighty. The more man questions Allah’s instructions, preferring his own intelligence and giving way to doubt, the more complications he invites upon himself. The story also gives an example of how Allah (SWT) has the power to resurrect the dead.
5. The Story of Moses and Al-Khidr
The Story of Moses (alaihis salam) and Al-Khidr (alaihis salam), as mentioned in Surah Al-Kahf (18:60-82), teaches us that even the prophets of Allah the All-Knowing have only as much knowledge as Allah grants them. The questioning mind of man, when unrestrained, finds it hard to be patient and silently accept what it cannot understand, instead compelling him to ask about it. As his humble servants, we should therefore follow the Divine Plan in patience and obedience, remembering that the Knowledge and Wisdom of Allah far exceed our own.
6. The Story of Qarun
The Story of Qarun (Korah) and his riches, as given in Surah Al-Qasas (28:76-83), is an eye opener for those who delude themselves about the power and worth of worldly riches. Qarun took great pride in himself and his wealth, believing it to be the result of his own knowledge and forgetting that the true Source of all Good is Allah. Moreover, the bestowal of riches is not necessarily a sign of the bountiful Benevolence of Allah but is more likely a test. Ultimately, Qarun ensured his own destruction by his belief that he deserved what he had received and his delusion that worldly wealth and power were all that mattered.
7. The Story of Bilqis (Queen of Sheba)
The Story of Bilqis, as given in Surah An-Naml (27:20-44), is an example of continuous devotion to Allah and perfect gratitude for His Benevolence. Allah the Most Wise granted Sulaiman (alaihis salam) the gift of conversing with the animals and birds. Sulaiman (alaihis salam), one of only two believing kings who ruled the whole earth, always acknowledged Allah’s Benevolence, praising Him (SWT) for His Bounties and regarding the fulfillment of his own wishes as a test of his gratitude, understanding, and devotion. Seeing the example of Sulaiman (alaihis salam) and recognizing the limitations of her knowledge, Bilquis too submitted herself to Allah the Almighty and Most Wise, convinced that He (SWT) was the Lord of the worlds.
8. The Story of Saba'
The Story of Saba', as told in Surah Saba' (34:15-19), is the story of how people invited devastation and destruction upon themselves when, after receiving abundance from Allah, they denied His Graces. The name Saba' pertains to the tribes inhabiting Yemen and Syria at that time, to whom Allah sent many prophets. As long as they were righteous and followed the Straight Path, they enjoyed happiness and ease. But when they replaced guidance with misguidance and worshipped the sun instead of Allah Almighty, Allah released a flood from the very dam that they themselves had constructed with great ingenuity. Thus those who escaped and survived were scattered all over the globe.
9. The Story of Uzair
The Story of Uzair, as given in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:259), is the story of a deeply pious man named Uzair. One day, on seeing a town that had been totally destroyed, Uzair wondered how Allah could restore it to life. So Allah caused Uzair to fall into a deep sleep and then resurrected him a hundred years later just as he had been at the time he fell asleep. It was Allah’s demonstration that all things were possible to Him (SWT), even those that are beyond the understanding of man.
10. The Story of Dhul-Qarnain
The Story of Dhul-Qarnain the Just King, as given in Surah Al-Kahf (18:83-98), is about one of two believers to whom Allah Almighty gave the power to rule over the whole earth. Yet, like Sulaiman (alaihis salam), Dhul-Qarnain did not allow his power and authority to make him proud. It was Dhul-Qarnain who erected a barrier of iron and copper between the Turks and Gog and Magog, who were troubling them.
This story also makes clear that there were two Dhul-Qarnains, the second being Alexander the Great, who came long after the first Dhul-Qarnain. The first was a just king and a godly, devout worshipper of Allah Almighty. The second was a polytheist, and the time lapse between them was more than two thousand years.
11. The Story of Gog and Magog
The Story of Gog and Magog, as given in Surahs Al-Kahf (18:94-98) and Anbiya' (21:96), tells of Gog and Magog, who were from among the children of Adam (alaihis salam) and who practiced mischief in the land, attacking the people who lived there. The people therefore sought the help of Dhul-Qarnain, who built them a barrier to keep out Gog and Magog. In humility, Dhul-Qarnain took no credit for his accomplishment but rightly attributed it to Allah’s Mercy.
The story relates that Gog and Magog will demolish the barrier built by Dhul-Qarnain at the hour appointed by Allah, when they will emerge to attack mankind in the final days. But this opening of the gates of evil and turmoil and the return of Gog and Magog at the Last Hour can only take place with the Permission of Allah the Almighty.
12. The Story of the People of the Cave
The Story of the People of the Cave, as given in Surah Al-Kahf (18:9-26), shows us how Allah protected the true believers, the only ones who worshipped Him (SWT), the Almighty, in a land of pagans. Because of their devotion, Allah caused them to sleep in a cave for 309 lunar years (300 years), and when they awoke, they felt as though they had only slept a day.
This story teaches us the Truth of the Resurrection. If the young men slept for three hundred solar years and were awakened unchanged, He (SWT) Who kept them in this state all that time is able to resurrect and restore the dead, even after their bodies have turned to dust.
13. The Story of the Believer and the Disbeliever
The Story of the Believer and the Disbeliever, as given in Surah Al-Kahf (18:32-44), is the story about the mistake people repeatedly make of taking for granted Allah’s Generosity and the wealth He (SWT) bestows upon them. Such was the case of the disbeliever who, proud of his good fortune, ignored the believer’s reminders to thank Allah. The disbeliever only regretted his mistake when Allah’s Decree took effect, depriving the ungrateful man of all he had. But by then it was too late.
14. The Story of the People of the Garden
The Story of the People of the Garden, as found in Surah Al-Qalam (68:17-33), teaches us that when Allah’s gifts are not used as He (SWT), the Most Generous, instructs us to use them, by sharing a part of what we receive with the needy, then He (SWT) can deprive us of those gifts. Selfishness and greed result in loss, whereas generosity and kindness invite Allah’s Blessings and Abundance.
15. The Story of the Sabbath-Breakers
The Story of the Sabbath-Breakers, which figures in Surahs Al-A'raf (7:163-166), Al-Baqarah (2:65,66), and An-Nisa' (4:47), shows us that to obey Allah’s Command in all things leaves no room for personal choice. Those who invent devious ways of getting around Allah’s Commands delude themselves that they are being clever, but they fool no one but themselves. This story also teaches us that evil should be neither ignored nor tolerated and that those with true faith in Allah should speak out against evil in all its forms.
16. The Story of Luqman
The Story of Luqman in Surah Luqman (31:12-19) contains the gems of wisdom of Luqman the Wise, whose virtue, discipline, and discretion raised him from slavehood to become one of the most respected men of his time. It is a great lesson in the rewards of deep devotion and wisdom. It is also significant that the very first rule Luqman taught his son was the pure worship of Allah Alone.
17. The Story of the People of the Ditch
The Story of the People of the Ditch in Surah Al-Buruj (85:1-10) is the story of how one boy’s pure courage and faith gradually drew the people to belief in Allah. This started with the healing of a blind courtier, whose conversion incurred the anger of the king, who wanted to be the sole object of reverence for his people. The king ordered the boy and others to face torturous trials and even killed several people, but he could not kill the boy until he did as the boy required and prayed to Allah before shooting him with an arrow. Ironically, that single event converted all the people. Furious, the king ordered them to jump into a fiery ditch to be burnt, and in the end not one refused, because they knew that the true Fire was not the one in the ditch but the one reserved for those who dug it.
18. The Story of Barsisa the Worshipper (The Renegade)
The Story of Barsisa the Worshipper (The Renegade) in Surah Al-Hashr (59:16,17) is the story of a monk who falls for the wiles of Satan, the chief deceiver, who carries out his deceptions and then frees himself from those who give in to his temptations. Even the most devout cannot take their faith for granted and allow themselves to feel so safe from Satan’s schemes that they let down their guard. In true devotion to Allah, they should constantly seek His Protection and stay away from sin. Once a person falls into Satan’s clutches, it becomes easy for Satan to repeatedly trap him, taking him from one sin to another. To trust Satan’s leadings is a huge mistake, since he eventually abandons the sinner, for though he promises to save him, he ultimately leaves him to his destruction.
19. The Story of the Owners of the Elephant
The Story of the Owners of the Elephant, as given in Surah Al-Fil (105:1-5), shows the power of Allah in defending both his sanctuary and the true believers who were its caretakers. In his arrogance, the commander Abraha believed that nothing could defeat his huge army, so he marched toward Mecca with the intention of destroying the Ka’aba and forcing the tribes to worship the church he had built. But between Abdul Muttalib’s absolute faith in the power of Allah Almighty, the refusal of Mahmoud the elephant to march into Mecca, and Allah’s own miraculous sudden destruction of Abraha’s army, the story provides a great lesson to all who are deluded by pride in their own might.