Islamic mythology

Islamic mythology is the body of myths associated with Islam and the Quran. Islam is a religion that is more concerned with social order and law than with religious myths.[1] The Oxford Companion to World Mythology identifies a number of traditional narratives as "Islamic myths".[1] These include a creation myth and a vision of afterlife, which Islam shares to some extent with the other Abrahamic religions, as well as the distinctively Islamic story of the Kaaba.[1]

The traditional biography of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which plays a central role in Islamic teachings, is generally recognized as being largely historical in nature, and Islam depends less on mythology than Judaism and Christianity.[1] However, the canonical narrative includes two key supernatural events: the divine revelation of the Quran and the Isra and Mi'raj — the night journey to Jerusalem followed by the ascension to the Seventh Heaven.[1] In addition, Islamic scriptures contain a number of legendary narratives about biblical characters, which diverge from Jewish and Christian traditions in some details.[1]


Religion and mythologyEdit

The discussion of religion in terms of mythology is a controversial topic.[2] The word "myth" is commonly used with connotations of falsehood,[3] reflecting a legacy of the derogatory early Christian usage of the Greek word muthos in the sense of "fable, fiction, lie" to refer to classical mythology.[4] However, the word is also used with other meanings in academic discourse. It may refer to "a story that serves to define the fundamental worldview of a culture"[3] or to stories which a given culture regards as true (as opposed to fables, which it recognizes as fictitious).[5] In the preface to The Oxford Companion to World Mythology Devid Leeming writes:[2]

I have treated the sacred narratives of the "great religions", including the monotheistic Abrahamic religions, as myths, not to deprecate those religions, but simply because to a believer in one religion the stories -- especially the supernatural ones -- of another religion tend to be seen as myth rather than history.

Biblical stories in the QuranEdit

The Prophet and his companions advancing on Mecca, attended by the angels Gabriel, Michae, Israfil and Azrael. An illustration from Siyer-i Nebi.

Islam incorporates many biblical events and heroes into its own mythology. Stories about Musa (Moses)[6] and Ibrahim (Abraham)[7] form parts of Islam's scriptures. The Quran retells in detail the Jewish tale of Yūsuf (Joseph), who was sold to an Egyptian,[8] and the Christian tale of Mary, the mother of Jesus.[9] In both cases, it adds original details and an Islamic interpretation: for instance, in the Islamic version, Jesus speaks while he is still an infant,[10] and he is a miraculously-conceived human prophet, not the incarnation of God.[11]

Islamic creation narrativeEdit

Creation of worldEdit

According to the Quran, the heavens and the earth were joined together as one "unit of creation", after which they were "cloven asunder".[12][13] After the parting of both, they simultaneously came into their present shape after going through a phase when they were smoke-like.[14][13] The Quran states that the process of creation took 6 ayam,[15][13] In the Quran, the word yawm (often translated to "day") is used loosely to mean era, for example Surah 70 verse 4: "The angels and spirit will ascend to Him during a day the extent of which is fifty thousand years".[13]

According to the mufassirs, Islam acknowledges three different types of creation:

  • Ex-nihilo in time: A position especially hold by most classical scholars: God existed alone in eternity, until God's command "Be", thereupon the world came into existence. This world is absolute distinct from God. Accordingly, the world was neither created out of His own essence nor did God created the world out of a primarial matter which preceded the creation, but created by His sheer command not bound on the laws of nature.[16]
  • Theory of Emanation: Found especially among scholars such as Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina: Accordingly, the world was created out of nothing, but not in time. The world was eternal, but temporary in essence.[17]
  • Creation out of primordial matter: Maintained by scholars such as Ibn Taimiyya: God fashioned the whole world out of primordial matters, the waters and the smoke.[18]

Creation of lifeEdit

The Quran states that God created the world and the cosmos, made all the creatures that walk, swim, crawl, and fly on the face of the earth from water.[12] He made the angels, and the sun, moon and the stars to dwell in the universe. He poured down the rain in torrents, and broke up the soil to bring forth the corn, the grapes and other vegetation; the olive and the palm, the fruit trees and the grass. Traditionally, the earth is held to be inhabited by several other creatures, like the jinn, before God created humanity.[19]

God molded clay, earth, sand, and water into a model of a human. He breathed life and power into it, and it evolved into life. And this first human was called Adam. God took Adam to live in a Paradise. God taught Adam the names of all the creatures, and then commanded all the angels to bow down before Adam. All of them bowed but Iblis refused to obey.

God placed Adam in a beautiful garden in Paradise, telling him that he could eat whatever it wanted except the fruit of a forbidden tree. Satan tempted Adam to disobey God, and eat the fruit. When Adam had disobeyed God, God cast Adam out of Paradise. Muslim scholars are divided whether the Paradise from which Adam was expelled is the paradise in the heavens awarded to the righteous at the day of judgement or a paradise on earth.

Islam breaks somewhat with Judaism and Christianity in that Eve is not mentioned in the Quran[clarification needed] and in explaining why Adam ate the forbidden fruit. In the Hebrew account in Genesis, a snake tempts them Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. While the Genesis creation narrative does not explicitly identify the snake with Satan, that Satan and the snake are the same being is claimed in the New Testament, in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2. In Genesis, Eve was tempted but Adam was not.[20][21] In contrast, the Quran states explicitly that Shaitan (Satan) tempted Adam to eat the fruit.[22] Unlike Christian traditions, which sees Satan as rebelling against God, Islamic tradition identifies Shaitan's disobedience as a result of his superior nature out of fire, in contrast to the nature of humans,[23] since angels in Islam do not rebel against God.[24][25] God cast Iblis out of his paradise, and Iblis vowed to tempt Adams generations to corruption and to disobey God.

The KaabaEdit

According to Islamic mythology, God instructed Adam to construct a building (called the Kaaba) to be the earthly counterpart of the House of Heaven and that Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael) later rebuilt it on its original foundations after was destroyed in the flood of Nuh (Noah).[26][27] According to other opinions, Ibrahim and Ismail were the first to build it.[27] As Ismail was searching for a stone to mark a corner with, he met with the angel Jibrail (Gabriel). Jibrail gave him the Black Stone. According to the hadith,[28] the Black Stone is reported to have been milky white after being descended from Heaven but was rendered black due to the sins of the people, who had touched it.[29][30] Muslims do not worship the Black Stone.[31]

The Kaaba was originally intended as a symbolic house for the one monotheistic God. However, after Ibrahim's death, people started to fill the Kaaba with pagan idols. When Muhammad conquered Mecca after his exile, he removed the idols from the Kaaba.[32][33] The inside of the Kaaba is now empty.[34] It now stands as an important pilgrimage site, which all Muslims are supposed to visit at least once if they are able (Hajj).[35][34] Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day while facing in the Kaaba's direction (qibla).[34][36]


  • Azrael - the angel of death
  • Buraq - a winged steed with a very wide stride: it could place its hooves at the farthest boundary of its gaze. It transported prophet Muhammad to the heavens.
  • Darda'il - the angels who travel in the earth searching out assemblies where people remember God’s name. The Quran tells of two angels, Harut and Marut, sent down to test the people at Babylon.
  • Houri - companions in paradise
  • Iblis - corrupter of the humans and leader of the demons, who was cast out of the heavens. Resembles the Christian Satan
  • Israfil - the angel of the trumpet
  • Jibrail - the archangel Gabriel, an archangel who serves as a messenger from God
  • Jann - usually the ancestor of the jinn
  • Jinn - refers to invisible creatures, often inhabiting the earth together with humans. They were created from a smokeless fire and have free will, and have lived on earth since before the first humans came.
  • Kiraman Katibin - the two angels who record a person's good and bad deeds
  • Mu'aqqibat - a class of guardian angels who keep people from death until its decreed time
  • Maalik - the angel who guards the Hellfire
  • Munkar and Nakir - the angels who test the faith of the dead in their graves
  • Ridwan - the angel in charge of maintaining Jannah or Paradise
  • Shayatin - demons or devils, subordinates of Iblis.
    • Ifrit - Is a high ranked demon and is one of the most powerful of them.
  • Yajuj and Majuj (Gog And Magog)


  • Barzakh - barrier between the deceased and the living.
  • Garden of Eden - A Paradise where Adam and Eve lived before their Fall
  • Jahannam - Hell; the abode of the wicked
  • Jannah - Heaven; the abode of the righteous; contains the Garden of Paradise
  • Kaaba - the sacred building that Muslims visit while on the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). In Islamic mythology, Abraham (Abraham) and Ishmael built the Kaaba at God's command, to serve as the earthly counterpart of Jannah (Heaven). Adam built the original earthly Kaaba, but Abraham and his son had to rebuild it.


  • Creation - a six-stages creative act by God
    • Fall of man - the loss of Paradise that resulted from eating the forbidden fruit; like Judaism,[37] and Orthodox Christianity, but unlike Western Christianity,[38] Islam does not hold that the Fall made man inherently sinful.[39]
    • Deluge and Noah's (Nuh's) Ark- worldwide flood-event with a water vessel containing the remains of humanity and a set of all animals
  • Qiyamah - the Day of Resurrection (and of the reward and punishment of the good and the wicked); a fundamental element of Islamic eschatology that incorporates much from the Jewish and Christian traditions

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f David Leeming (2005). "Islamic Mythology". The Oxford Companion to World Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 207–211.
  2. ^ a b David Leeming (2005). "Preface". The Oxford Companion to World Mythology. Oxford University Press. p. vii.
  3. ^ a b Grassie, William (March 1998). "Science as Epic? Can the modern evolutionary cosmology be a mythic story for our time?". Science & Spirit. 9 (1). The word 'myth' is popularly understood to mean idle fancy, fiction, or falsehood; but there is another meaning of the word in academic discourse. A myth, in this latter sense of the word, is a story that serves to define the fundamental worldview of a culture
  4. ^ Eliade, Myth and Reality, 1968, p. 162.
  5. ^ Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 1, 8-10; The Sacred and the Profane, p. 95
  6. ^ Quran 17:2
  7. ^ Quran 14:35-52
  8. ^ Quran 12:7-100
  9. ^ Quran 19:16-33
  10. ^ Quran 19:30-33
  11. ^ Quran 19:35
  12. ^ a b Quran 21:30
  13. ^ a b c d "Islam Creation Story". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  14. ^ Quran 41:11
  15. ^ Quran 11:7
  16. ^ Husam Muhi Eldin al- Alousi The Problem of Creation in Islamic Thought, Qur'an, Hadith, Commentaries, and KalamNational Printing and Publishing, Bagdad, 1968 p. 29 and96
  17. ^ Husam Muhi Eldin al- Alousi The Problem of Creation in Islamic Thought, Qur'an, Hadith, Commentaries, and KalamNational Printing and Publishing, Bagdad, 1968 p. 179
  18. ^ Husam Muhi Eldin al- Alousi The Problem of Creation in Islamic Thought, Qur'an, Hadith, Commentaries, and KalamNational Printing and Publishing, Bagdad, 1968 p. 53
  19. ^ Brannon Wheeler Prophets in the Quran: An Introduction to the Quran and Muslim Exegesis A&C Black 2002 ISBN 9780826449566 Page 16
  20. ^ 2 Cor 11:3
  21. ^ 1 Tim 2:13, 14
  22. ^ Quran 7:20
  23. ^ Quran 7:11-12
  24. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 45
  25. ^ "The Muslim Belief in Angels".
  26. ^ M. J. Akbar. The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict Between Islam and Christianity. p. 5.
  27. ^ a b "Kaaba - Oxford Islamic Studies Online". Retrieved 2018-09-15. Cube-shaped “House of God” located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Focal point of the hajj pilgrimage and a world spiritual center that all Muslims face during prayer. Muslims believe that it was built by Abraham (Ibrahim) and Ishmael (Ismail); some believe Adam built it and Abraham and Ishmael only rebuilt it. Often called the earthly counterpart to God's throne in heaven. Circumambulated seven times during the hajj ritual in imitation of angels circumambulating God's throne. Contains the Black Stone, which pilgrims often try to touch or kiss during circumambulations, believing that it physically absorbs sin; all pilgrims salute the stone as a gesture of their renewed covenant with God. Covered with a cloth called kiswah, which is embroidered with verses from the Quran.
  28. ^ Jami` at-Tirmidhi, hadith #877 / Book 9, Hadith 70 / Vol. 2, Book 4, Hadith 877
  29. ^ "Black Stone of Mecca | Islam". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  30. ^ Elsebeth, Thompson. "New Light on the Origin of the Holy Black Stone of the Ka'ba". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  31. ^ Hedin, Christer. "Muslim Pilgrimage as Education by Experience". p. 176. Archived from the original on 2018-09-15. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  32. ^ "Cmje". Archived from the original on 2009-02-01.
  33. ^ "Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  34. ^ a b c "Important Sites: The Kaba". Inside Islam. 2012-02-14. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  35. ^ "Hajj - Oxford Islamic Studies Online". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  36. ^ "qibla | Art History Glossary". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  37. ^ The Jewish view of Jesus
  38. ^ Original Sin - Catholic Encyclopedia
  39. ^ For a discussion of the Islamic opinion about original sin, see here. See also Quran 6:164.


  • Huston Smith. The Religions of Man. NY: Harper & Row (Perennial Library), 1965.
  • Robert A. Segal. Myth: A Very Short Introduction. NY: Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Zong In-Sob. Folk Tales From Korea, Third Edition. Elizabeth: Hollym International, 1982.
  • Mircea Eliade. Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. NY: Harper & Row (Harper Torchbooks), 1968.
  • The Holy Quran. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Available online.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Islamic mythology at Wikimedia Commons