Author: Muhammad ibn Abd Allah al Kisai
Translator: Wheeler M. Thackston Jr.
Publisher: Great Books of the Islamic World, Kazi Publications (1997)
Pages: 378 Binding: Hardcover
Description from the publisher --
One of the best-loved versions of the prophetic tales is this Qisas al-anbiya composed by al-Kisai around 1200 AD. A master storyteller, the author's sense of dramatic value in ending a narrative section at precisely the right moment to heighten an important point in the mind of the listener is exhibited throughout. In the preface, the author describes the formation of a human fetus in the womb and its entry as a newborn baby into the external world. This is contrasted with the descriptions, typical of the genre, of the birth of the world ex nihilo by God's Word of command, Be! Angelology and cosmology follow with descriptions of the world and natural phenomena, all of which set the stage for the climax of God's creativity, the shaping of Adam, His most perfect creature. Unlike the rest of creation, all of which was brought into existence by divine fiat, Adam was fashioned by God's own hands and was bestowed with God's own breath of spirit. Following the stories! of Prophet Adam and his immediate family come the stories of Prophets Idris, Noah, Shem, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Ishmael and his mother Hagar, Lot, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, Shuayb, Moses, Aaron, Khidr, Joshua, Josephus, Eleazar, Elijah, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, Jonah and Jesus son of Mary.
About the Author --
Kisai was certainly a master storyteller and his sense of the dramatic value in ending a narrative section at precisely the right moment to heighten an important point in the mind of the listener is exhibited throughout. Although Kisai refrains from doing so, it was at such moments that the preacher might have broken into a moral discourse or urged his audience to ponder the significance of what they had just heard. On a much more mundane level, it must have been at precisely these junctures, when the crowds were most anxious to know what comes next, that the professional storyteller made his pitch and had his collector pass the hat around before proceeding with the narrative.
It should be remembered that, whereas the prophetic tales have their pious and devotional aspect, Kisai's version is basically designed for popular entertainment and should ideally be recited by a professional raconteur.