In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Moses

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Text Collections
  • Biblical Studies
  • Jewish Exegesis
  • Christian Exegesis
  • Wilderness Wandering
  • Theodicy Stories
  • Moses and Khidr
  • Dhu Al-Qarnayn and Alexander
  • Shuʾayb
  • People of Moses
  • The Prophet Muhammad and Moses

Islamic Studies Moses
Brannon Wheeler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0134


Moses is mentioned by name some 137 times in the Qurʾan, more than any other figure in the text. Because he is often associated with the stories of the Israelites, Muslim exegetes focus on the historical and mythological background of Moses as leader of the Israelites and relate the Qurʾanic accounts of Moses with the Prophet Muhammad and the early history of the Muslim community in Mecca and Medina. In part, Muslim scholars detail the parallels between the lives of Moses and Muhammad, including the flight to Midian and the Hijrah to Medina, and the challenges to Moses by the Israelites and Muhammad by the Jews of Medina. The shared importance of Moses as a foundational figure in other biblical religions and the significant overlap between the Bible and Qurʾan have resulted in considerable attention being given to the comparison of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic interpretations of Moses.

General Overviews

No comprehensive study exists on the role of Moses in Islam, but there are a number of works that provide broad summaries of Moses in the Qurʾan and more focused research on specific aspects of Muslim exegesis of the Moses narratives in the Qurʾan. The most general treatment, though brief, is Heller 1993. Wheeler 2006 provides a comprehensive overview of Moses in the Qurʾan. Knappert 1985, Rubin 1999, and Walker 1931 refer to Moses in the larger context of biblical history. Elder 1925, Sirat 1965, and Wheeler 2002 focus on specific textual issues. Widengren 1970 gives a unique perspective.

  • Elder, E. E. “Parallel Passages in the Koran: The Story of Moses.” Muslim World 15 (1925): 254–259.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.1925.tb00574.x

    Mostly outdated and too brief to provide in-depth analysis but useful in highlighting the Qurʾanic narrative on Moses.

  • Heller, Bernhard. “Musa.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 7. Edited by C. E. Bosworth, E. Van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs, and C. Pellat, 638–639. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1993.

    Standard reference work overview of Moses in the Qurʾan, post-Qurʾanic exegesis, and Islamic tradition (D. B. Macdonald) but brief and peculiar in its attention to only certain details.

  • Knappert, Jan. Islamic Legends: Histories of the Heroes, Saints, and Prophets of Islam. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1985.

    Provides a synthetic narrative overview of the Moses story as developed in Islamic exegesis of the Qurʾan (pp. 104–120). Lacks references to the sources from which the narrative was extracted.

  • Rubin, Uri. Between Bible and Qurʾān: The Children of Israel and the Islamic Self-Image. Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam 17. Princeton, NJ: Darwin, 1999.

    General and wide-ranging work on the specific issue of how Muslims used biblical stories and images of ancient Israel, including the central place of Moses, to formulate their identity.

  • Sirat, C. “Un midras juif en habit musulman: La vision de moïse sur le mont Sinaï.” Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 168 (1965): 15–28.

    DOI: 10.3406/rhr.1965.8205

    Although focused on the single episode of Sinai, this work provides a general overview of how many scholars see the relationship between Jewish exegesis and Islamic tradition.

  • Walker, John. Bible Characters in the Koran. Paisley, UK: Alexander Gardner, 1931.

    Overview by a nonspecialist designed to provide information on the Qurʾan to those familiar with the biblical narrative.

  • Wheeler, Brannon. Moses in the Quran and Islamic Exegesis. Quranic Studies Series. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002.

    Detailed examination of the exegesis of Qurʾan 18:60–85 and its relationship to how Islamic exegesis defines Moses in relation to pre-Islamic traditions and the Prophet Muhammad.

  • Wheeler, Brannon. “Moses.” In The Blackwell Companion to the Qurʾān. Edited by Andrew Rippin, 248–265. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405117524.2006.00018.x

    Broad overview of the Moses story in the Qurʾan and early Islamic exegesis.

  • Widengren, Geo. “What Do We Know about Moses?” In Proclamation and Presence: Old Testament Essays in Honour of Gwynne Henton Davies. Edited by John Durham and J. R. Porter, 21–47. Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1970.

    Brief but penetrating study illustrating the interconnected nature of how the narrative and mythology of biblical figures developed.

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