AL-YA‘QŪBĪ’S BIBLICAL NARRATIVES
Translated from the Arabic text of Ya‘qūbī, Ta’rīkh (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣadir, 1960), 1:5-80, and compared with Ibn Wādih qui dicitur al-Ja‘qubi historiae (2 vols.; ed. M. T. Houtsma; Leiden: Brill, 1883), 1:2-89.
… about Adam, and no thing which God, may He be praised and exalted, created disobeyed Him before (the episode in) the Garden. When Adam saw how wonderful were the contents of the Garden, he said, ‘Would that it were possible for me to remain here forever!’ Iblīs envied him when he heard this from him, and he began weeping. He appeared while he was weeping to Adam and Eve. They said to him, ‘What are you weeping about?’ He replied, ‘Because Your Lord has forbidden you this tree only to prevent you from becoming angels or from becoming immortal! He swore to them: Most truly I am giving you good advice!‘ (Q 7:20-21).
Adam and Eve wore garments composed of light. When they tasted (fruit from) the Tree, their genitals became visible to them. The People of the Book maintain that Adam resided on earth for three hours before he entered the Garden, and that he and Eve dwelt in comfort and honor for three hours before they both ate from the Tree and their genitals were revealed to them. When Adam’s genitals became visible to him, he plucked a leaf from the Tree and placed it on himself. He then cried out, ‘Behold, O Lord, I am naked! I ate from that Tree which You forbade me to eat from!’ And God said, ‘Return to the earth from which you were created, and I shall subjugate the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea to you and to your descendants.’ God expelled Adam and Eve from where they were, and the People of the Book say (it happened) at the ninth hour on Friday. They came down to the earth, and they were grieving and weeping, and their place of descent was one of the mountains of the earth that was close to the Garden, which is in the land of India. But some people say it was on Abū Qubays, a mountain near Mecca. Adam lodged in a cave on that mountain, naming it the Cave of Treasures, and he called on God so that He might consecrate it.
Some of them report that Adam wept piteously after he had descended (from Paradise), and his grief over his severance from the Garden persisted. Then God (may He be praised!) inspired him to say, ‘There is no god save for You! Exaltation and praise are Yours! I have acted badly and harmed myself; grant me forgiveness, for You are the Much-Forgiving One, the Merciful One!’ And Adam received words from his Lord, and He forgave him (Q 2:37), and He showed him favor. He caused the black stone which was in the Garden to descend to him, and He commanded him to convey it to Mecca and to build a house for Him. Adam brought (it) to Mecca and built the house and circumambulated it. Then God commanded him to offer a sacrifice to Him, pray to Him, and glorify Him. Gabriel came out with him until he reached ‘Arafāt, and then Gabriel said to him, ‘This is the place where your Lord commands you to halt for Him!’ Then he continued with him (back) to Mecca, but Iblīs (i.e., Satan) opposed him. He (Gabriel) said, ‘Throw (rocks) at him!’ He thereupon bombarded him with gravel. Then he reached the plain, and (there) angels met him, and they said to him, ‘Honor your pilgrimage, O Adam! We already made the pilgrimage (to) this house two thousand years before you!’
God, may He be praised and exalted, brought down wheat for Adam, and commanded that he would (henceforth) receive nourishment from his labor. So he plowed and he planted, then he harvested and threshed, then he ground and kneaded, and finally he baked. After perspiration popped out on his forehead, he ate. After eating his fill, he was sluggish with what was in his stomach. Gabriel came down to him and squeezed him, and after what was in his stomach had come out, he was met with an odor which disgusted him. He asked, ‘What’s this?’ Gabriel answered him, ‘The smell of wheat!’
Adam had sexual relations with Eve: she became pregnant and gave birth to a boy and a girl. He named the boy Qābīl (i.e., Cain) and the girl Lūbdhā (i.e., Lebuda). Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another boy and girl. He named the boy Hābīl (i.e., Abel) and the girl Iqlīmā. And after his children had grown and reached a marriageable age, Adam said to Eve, ‘Instruct Qābīl to marry Iqlīmā, the one who was born with Hābīl, and instruct Hābīl to marry Lūbdhā, the one who was born with Qābīl.’ And Qābīl was jealous of him, for he was to wed his sister, the one who was born with him. The way he described their (respective) allotments was that God (may He be praised and exalted!) had brought down from Paradise a houri to Hābīl for him to marry, whereas He had cast out a she-demon for Qābīl for him to marry. Qābīl was jealous of his brother on account of the houri.
Adam said to them, ‘Prepare offerings!’ Hābīl offered some figs which he had grown, and Qābīl offered the best ram in his flock to God. God accepted the offering of Hābīl, but rejected the sacrifice of Qābīl. His distemper and envy continued to grow, so that when Satan induced him to kill his brother he smashed him with stones until he had slain him. God was angry with Qābīl: He cursed him and made him descend from the holy mountain to the land called Nūd.
Adam and Eve remained mourning for Hābīl a very long time; so much, it is said, that their tears flowed like a river. Then Adam had sexual relations with Eve: she became pregnant and gave birth to a boy—his (Adam’s) coming to her happened after the passage of 130 years—and they named him Shīth (i.e., Seth). The son of Adam looked exactly like Adam. Then Adam contracted a marriage for Shīth, and after 165 years had passed he fathered a son, and they named him Anūsh. A boy was fathered by Anūsh, and they named him Qaynān. Then a boy was fathered by Qaynān, and they named him Mahālā’īl. These were born during the lifetime of Adam, and they concluded a covenant with him.
When Adam was preparing for death, his son Shīth along with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren came (to him), and he prayed for them and pronounced a blessing over them. He designated Shīth as his legatee, and instructed him to preserve his corpse and place it after his death in the Cave of Treasures; and to enjoin his sons and grandsons that they should enjoin one another at the time of their (own) deaths that when they (eventually) descended from their mountain to remove his body with decorum (from the Cave) and re-inter it at ‘the middle of the Earth.’ He also commanded Shīth his son to govern their descendants after him and to instruct them in the piety expected by God and (in) the excellence of His religious observances. He prohibited them from associating with the cursed Qābīl and his descendants. He prayed for those sons, their children, and their wives, and then he died. It was the sixth of Nisan (?), a Friday, and coincidentally at the same hour when he had been created. His lifespan was 930 years.
Shīth b. Adam
After the death of Adam, his son Shīth took charge. He issued instructions to his people regarding the piety expected by God, (how to effect) His glorification, and the practice of virtue. They were glorifying God and worshipping Him. Their children and their wives never acted with hostility toward one another, they exhibited no envy, they were neither hateful nor suspicious, they did not lie, and they never quarreled. Their sole statement when intending to swear an oath was to say: ‘No, by the blood of Hābīl!’
When Shīth was preparing for his death, his sons and grandsons—who at the time were Anūsh, Qaynān, Mahālā’īl, Yarad, and Akhnūkh—and their wives and their children came (to him). He prayed for them and pronounced a blessing over them. He issued instructions to them and made them swear by the blood of Hābīl that none of them would descend from that holy mountain, nor would they let anyone else from among their descendants to descend from it, and that they would not associate with the progeny of Qābīl the accursed. He designated his son Anūsh as his legatee, and commanded him to protect the body of Adam and to show reverence to God. He was to instruct his people in the piety expected by God and (in) the excellence of His religious observances. Then he died: it was during the night on a Tuesday, the twenty-seventh of the month Ab, about three hours before daylight. His lifespan totaled 912 years.
Anūsh b. Shīth
After his father (died), Anūsh b. Shīth governed in compliance with the injunction(s) of his father and applied himself diligently (to the task). He demonstrated a mastery of the religious observances expected by God and instructed his people in the excellence of (these) observances. It was during his lifetime that the accursed Qābīl was slain. Lamak, who was blind, threw a rock at him: it crushed his skull and he died. After he had reached ninety years of age, Anūsh had a child—Qaynān. When Anūsh was preparing for his death, his sons and grandsons—Qaynān, Mahālā’īl, Yarad, Akhnūkh, and Matūshalah, along with their wives and children—gathered around him. He prayed for them and pronounced a blessing over them. He forbade them to descend from their holy mountain or to cause a single one of their descendants to associate with the progeny of Qābīl the accursed. He designated Qaynān to take charge of the body of Adam, and enjoined them to pray with him and to glorify God incessantly. He died on the third day of the month Tishrīn I, at the time when the sun was setting. His lifespan totaled 965 years.
Qaynān b. Anūsh
Qaynān b. Anūsh assumed leadership. He was a gentle man, pure (and) saintly. He governed his people (modeling) obedience to God and the excellence of His religious observances, and he followed the instructions of Adam and Shīth. After he had reached seventy years of age, Mahālā’īl was born to him.
When his death approached, his sons and grandsons—Mahālā’īl, Yarad, Akhnūkh, Matūshalah, Lamak, along with their wives and children—gathered around him. He prayed for them and pronounced a blessing over them. He made them swear an oath by the blood of Hābīl that not a single one of them would descend from their holy mountain to the progeny of Qābīl the accursed. He designated Mahālā’īl as his legatee, and enjoined him to protect the body of Adam. Then Qaynān died. His lifespan totaled 920 years.
Mahālā’īl b. Qaynān
Then Mahālā’īl b. Qaynān took charge after Qaynān, and he governed his people (modeling) obedience to God Most High, following the injunction(s) of his father. After he reached sixty-five years of age, Yarad was born to him.
When his death approached, Mahālā’īl designated his son Yarad as his legatee and put him in charge of the body of Adam. Then Mahālā’īl died on the second night of the month Nīsān, a Sunday, the third hour before daylight. His lifespan totaled 895 years.
Yarad b. Mahālā’īl
Then Yarad governed after Mahālā’īl. He was a faithful man, perfect in the execution of practices stipulated by God. He offered praise to Him and engaged in His worship, praying most of both the night and the day. Hence God increased his lifespan. After he reached sixty-two years of age, Akhnūkh was born to him. When Yarad was forty years old, the first millennium (from creation) was completed.
After five hundred years of the life of Yarad had passed, the descendants of Shīth violated the oaths and covenants which they had taken upon themselves, and they began to descend to the land wherein the descendants of Qābīl dwelt. Their initial fall was occasioned by Satan taking the form of two ‘human Satans’: the name of one was Yūbal, and the other was named Tūbal-qayn. He taught them different sorts of melodies and music. Yūbal made flutes, mandolins, lutes, and horns, while Tūbal-qayn made drums, tambourines, and cymbals. The progeny of Qābīl had no work with which to busy themselves or to talk about except for (what) Satan (wanted). They began practicing forbidden acts and committing sins, and they would gather together to engage collectively in acts of moral depravity. Those of their men and women who were older were worse offenders in this than their younger ones. They would assemble together, play their instruments, beat the drums and tambourines, (strum) the lutes, (strike) the cymbals, shout, and laugh. (This ruckus continued) until a few of the descendants of Shīth—the people of the mountain—heard their voices. One hundred men from among them came together for the purpose of descending to the progeny of Qābīl and determining the reason for the noise. When this news reached Yarad, he came to them and implored them—invoking God—to recall the injunction of their forefathers; he (also) adjured them by the blood of Hābīl. Akhnūkh b. Yarad then stood up before them and said, ‘Know that those of you who defy our father Yarad and violate the oath of our ancestors by descending from our mountain will never again re-ascend (it)!’ But they insisted on descending, and after they had descended, they consorted with the daughters of Qābīl and as a result committed shameless perversions.
When his death approached, Yarad gathered his sons and grandsons around him, they being Akhnūkh (!), Matūshalaḥ, Lamak, and Nūḥ. He prayed for them and pronounced a blessing over them, and forbade them to descend from the holy mountain. He said: ‘If you must descend to the lower world, whomever among you is the last to descend should bring down (with him) the body of our forefather Adam and re-inter it at ‘the middle of the earth,’ in accordance with what he enjoined upon us.’ He directed his son Akhnūkh to not fail to pray in the Cave of Treasures. Then he died: it was at night on a Friday in the month Adhār as the sun was setting. His lifespan totaled 962 years.
Akhnūkh b. Yarad
Then after Yarad there arose Akhnūkh, the son of Yarad, and he was engaged in the worship (and) praise of God. When he was 65 years old, he engendered Matūshalaḥ. He admonished the descendants of Shīth, together with their wives and children, about descending (from the mountain), for this (behavior) distressed Akhnūkh. He summoned his offspring—Matūshalaḥ, Lamak, and Nūḥ—and said to them: ‘I know that God will inflict a great merciless punishment on this generation!’ Akhnūkh was the first who wrote with a pen; he is (the same figure as) Idrīs the prophet. He enjoined his offspring to be faithful in the worship of God and to practice righteousness and true religion. Then God raised him (to heaven) after three hundred years had passed.
Matūshalaḥ b. Akhnūkh
Then Matūshalaḥ b. Akhnūkh took charge of the worship of God Most High and (modeled) obedience to Him. After he had reached the age of 187 years, he engendered Lamak. Moreover, during his lifetime, Nūḥ experienced a revelation from God wherein He informed him that He was sending a Flood upon humankind. He directed him to build a wooden boat. When Nūḥ was 344 years old, the second millennium (from creation) was completed.
Matūshalaḥ died on the twenty-first day of the month Aylūl, a Thursday. His lifespan totaled 960 years.
Lamak b. Matūshalaḥ
After his father (died), Lamak took charge of the religious observances and obedience expected by God. He engendered a son after he had attained the age of 182 years. The Giants were very numerous during his lifetime, for this was what had happened when the descendants of Shīth had sexual relations with the daughters of Qābīl: the Giants were born from them.
Then the death of Lamak approached, and he summoned Nūḥ, Sām, Ḥām, Yāfith, and their wives. Not a single one of the descendants of Shīth remained on the mountain, apart from these, for they had (all) made their descent to the progeny of Qābīl. Only these eight individuals remained; they had no children prior to the Flood. He prayed for them and invoked a blessing for them. Then, while weeping, he said to them, ‘Only these eight individuals are left from our family! I ask of God, He who created Adam and Eve by themselves and then multiplied their posterity, that He deliver you from the punishment which He has prepared for this wicked generation. May He multiply your offspring so that they fill the earth, and may He extend to you the blessing enjoyed by our forefather Adam and appoint a ruler from among your descendants! I will soon die, and only you, O Nūḥ, will escape from among those deserving punishment. When I am dead, take me and inter me in the Cave of Treasures. When God urges you to board the boat, remove the body of our forefather Adam and bring it down with you and place it in the center of the uppermost chamber of the boat. Let you and your sons be in the eastern section of the boat, and let your wife and daughters-in-law be in the western section of the boat, so that the body of Adam is between you (and they). You will not go to your wives, nor will your wives be permitted to come to you. You will not eat or drink with them, nor will you approach them, until you disembark from the boat. And when the Flood disappears and you disembark from the boat onto land, you will take the body of Adam and entrust (it) to Sām, your eldest son. He will take the body of Adam until he can inter it at “the middle of the earth.” He will take with him a man from his family who will care for it; he will be a learned man of God who during his lifetime has never married, never built a house, never shed blood, and has never participated in a sacrifice involving animals or birds. God will send one of His angels to point out to him “the middle of the earth” so that he will recognize it.’
Lamak died during the night on the seventeenth day of the month Adhār, which was a Sunday. It was at the ninth hour prior to daylight. His lifespan totaled 777 years.
God—may He be praised and exalted—imparted a revelation to Nūḥ during the time of his great-grandfather Akhnūkh, who was Idrīs the prophet, before God had raised Idrīs (to heaven). He directed him to warn his people to desist from the sins which they were committing, in which case He would excuse them from punishment. He (i.e., Nūḥ) took charge of the religious observances expected by God Most High and of issuing calls (for repentance) to his people. He did not marry during the first five hundred years (of his life). Then God revealed to him that he should wed Haykal, daughter of Nāmūsā b. Akhnūkh. He informed him that He was bringing a Flood upon the earth, and instructed him to build a boat wherein God would rescue him and his family. He was to construct it with three chambers: a lower, a middle, and an upper one. He directed him to make its length three hundred cubits, (a cubit being the length) of the forearm of Nūḥ, its width fifty cubits, and its roof thirty cubits (in height). He was to fashion its partitions from wooden planks. The lower chamber would be for beasts, wild animals, and predators; the middle chamber would be for birds; and the upper chamber would be a dwelling for Nūḥ and his family. He was also to construct in the upper chamber tanks for water and places to store food. When he attained the age of five hundred years, he began to engender children.
While Nūḥ was completing the construction of the boat, the descendants of Qābīl and those of Shīth who had intermarried with them (were engaged in their sinful activities). When they saw him working on the ship, they ridiculed him. And when he had finished, he invited them to board it, and he informed them that God was sending a Flood upon the entire earth in order to purge it of sinners. But not a single one of them consented (to come aboard). So he and his sons climbed up to the Cave of Treasures, carried out the body of Adam, and deposited it in the center of the uppermost chamber of the boat. It was a Friday, the evening of the seventeenth day of the month Adhār. He made the birds enter the middle chamber, and made the animals and predators enter the lower chamber. He closed it up at the time the sun was setting.
God poured forth water from the sky, and He made terrestrial springs overflow, and the waters came together by command as He had ordained (Q 54:12). The water overwhelmed the whole earth and the mountains. The world became dark: sunlight and that of the moon disappeared, so that night and day were the same, (even though) it (the sun) was shining at the time when God Most High sent down the water. Those who do computations say that Cancer, the sun, the moon, Saturn, Mercury, and the ascendant node were all conjoined in the last one-sixtieth degree of the sign Pisces. The heavenly and the terrestrial waters combined together for forty days, until it (the water) was fifteen cubits above the peaks of all the mountains. Then it stopped (rising) after no place remained (intact) on the earth, save for what the waters had immersed and the surface (of the waters) above.
The boat passed over the whole earth until it came to Mecca. It circled around (the site of) the sanctuary for a week, and then after five months the water uncovered (the earth). This (process) began the evening of the seventeenth of Ayyār and (continued) to the evening of the thirteenth of Tishrīn I.
Some report that Nūḥ boarded the boat on the first day of Rajab, and that he lodged on Mount Jūdī during the month of Muḥarram, resulting in his disembarking it during the first of the months (of the Muslim calendar). The People of the Book differ about this (itinerary), and (say) he did not land on Mount Jūdī, which is a mountain in the neighborhood of Mosul. God Most High commanded the water of heaven, and it returned from where it had come, and He issued a command to the earth, and it swallowed up its water. After the boat stopped moving, Nūḥ waited for four months. Then he sent out a raven so he might ascertain information about the water. It came across corpses floating in the water, alighted on them, and did not return. Then he dispatched a dove, and it returned bearing an olive leaf. Thus he knew that the water had vanished. He disembarked on the twenty-seventh of Ayyār. Consequently, the time between his boarding the boat and his departure from it was one complete year plus ten days. And when he had returned to the earth, he and his family built a city which they named Thamānīn (i.e, ‘Eighty’).
When Nūḥ exited from the boat, he saw the bones of the (drowned) people emerging (from the ground). This grieved him and saddened him. God revealed to him, ‘After this I will never again send a Flood upon the earth!’ After Nūḥ had disembarked from the boat, he secured it with a lock and presented the key to his son Sām. Then Nūḥ sowed seeds, planted a vineyard, and cultivated the earth.
One day Nūḥ fell asleep with his clothing open, and his son Ḥām saw his genitals and laughed (about it). He informed his brothers Sām and Yāfith (about this comic scene). They took hold of a garment as they were approaching him, diverted their faces from him, and spread the garment over him. When Nūḥ woke up from his sleep and learned the news (about what had happened), he pronounced a curse on Kana‘ān b. Ḥām, but he did not curse Ḥām. Among his descendants are the Copts, the Ethiopians, and the inhabitants of India.
Kana‘ān was the first of the descendants of Nūḥ to behave like one of the progeny of Qābīl. He made musical instruments, songs, flutes, drums, harps, and cymbals, and obeyed Satan with regard to amusements and diversions.
Nūḥ divided the earth among his sons. Sām’s portion was the center of the earth, and Ḥām’s portion was what surrounded it, as well as Yemen and the Ḥaḍramawt extending to ‘Oman and to Baḥrain and to the ‘Ālij and to the Yabrīn and Wabār and al-Dauw and al-Dahnā’. Ḥām was (also) granted the Maghrib and the coastlands. He was the ancestor of Kūsh b. Ḥām, Kana‘ān b. Ḥām the Nubian, Zanj (sub-Saharan Africa), and Ethiopia.
Yāfith b. Nūḥ took up residence on the land lying between the east and west, and he fathered Jūmar, Tūbal, Māsh, Māshj (?), and Mājūj. Jūmar is the ancestor of the Slavs, Tūbal is the ancestor of the Bulgarians, Māsh is the ancestor of the Turks and the Khazars, Māshj is the ancestor of ?, and Mājūj is the ancestor of Yājūj wa-Mājūj, (a people) who dwell in the eastern part of the world on the other side of the Turks. The homelands of the Slavs and Bulgarians are in Byzantine territory: this was before it had become (known as) Rome. These were the descendants of Yāfith.
After his departure from the boat, Nūḥ lived for 360 (sic!) years. When the time for Nūḥ’s death approached, his three sons Sām, Ḥām, Yāfith, and their children gathered around him, and he communicated to them and instructed them in the worship of God Most High. He commanded that after he had died, Sām was to re-enter the boat—without informing anyone—and remove the body of Adam. He was to carry it away accompanied (only) by Malkīzadaq b. Lamak b. Sām, for God had chosen the latter to remain with the body of Adam in the sacred place at “the center of the earth.” He said to him: ‘O Sām! When you and Malkīzadaq depart, God will send an angel with you to guide you on the way and to point out to you “the center of the earth.” Do not inform anyone about what you are doing! This command was the testament of Adam which he bequeathed to his son, and each of them in succession has bequeathed it until it has now come to you. And when you reach the place which the angel shows you, lay the body of Adam there. Malkīzadaq shall continue (to stay) there without leaving it (Adam’s body) unattended, and his sole occupation will consist of the worship of God, may He be praised and exalted! Command him not to take a wife, not to construct a building, not to shed blood, not to wear any clothing except for wild animal skins, and not to cut his hair or his nails. Instead, he will sit alone and constantly offer praises to God.’
Then he (Nūḥ) died in the month of Ayyār; (his day of death) was a Wednesday. His lifespan totaled 950 years, thus confirming what God Most High has said: ‘[Nūḥ was among his people] one thousand years less fifty years’ (Q 29:14).