Story of Prophet Ilyas AS

The Story of Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

Background Information:

In the Qur'an, the depth of detail in the stories of the Prophets varies significantly. Take, for instance, Prophet Musa he is the most mentioned prophet by name, appearing 136 times. Others, like Prophet Yusuf have a full surah dedicated to documenting their entire life from beginning to end.

Then, there's another category of prophets where not much detail is given. In Surah An-Nisa, ayah 164,

"We revealed to the Messengers We have already told you of, and to the Messengers We have not told you of; and to Moses, Allah spoke directly."
— (Surah An-Nisa, ayah 164)

This verse is a clear indication that the Qur'an is not intended to be a complete historical record of every Prophet sent to each ummah.

Prophet Hud Story

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So, we rely on other sources such as hadith, tafsir, and other literature for further information regarding the known Prophets mentioned in the Qur'an. The Prophets that fall into the latter category include Dhul-Kifl, Al-Yasa (Elisha), and Prophet Ilyas (Elijah), may peace be upon them all.

Prophet Ilyas is mentioned in two places in the Qur'an, once in Surah Al-An'am and the other in Surah As-Saffat.

Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) Character

In Surah Al-An'am, specifically ayat 84-88, we find Prophet Ilyas's name mentioned among a list of other Prophets where Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) praises them for their virtues.

Prophet Hud Story
"We bestowed upon him Ishaq and Ya‘qub. Each one of them We guided to the right path. Earlier, We guided Nuh and, of his progeny, (We guided) Dawud and Sulaiman and Ayyub and Yusuf and Musa and Harun. Thus, We reward those who are good in deeds - and (We guided) Zakariyya and Yahya and ‘Isa and Ilyas - each one of them was of the righteous - and Isma‘il and Yasa‘ and Yunus and Lut, and all of them We made to excel over all the people of the world (in their respective times). We guided many among their fathers and their children and their brothers, and We chose them and led them on to the straight path."

Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) Mission.

In Surah As-Saffat, it gives further account of the life Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), his mission, his message and the people who he was sent to guide.

Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) says,
And surely, Ilyās is one of the messengers. (Remember) when he said to his people: “Do you not fear Allah? Do you invoke Baal (the name of a well-known idol they used to worship), and ignore the Best of the creators, that is, Allah who is your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers?” Then they rejected him. Therefore, they will be arraigned - except Allah’s chosen servants. And We left for him (a word of praise) among the later people, (that is,) “Peace be upon Ilyas. This is how We reward those who are good in their deeds. Surely, he was from among Our believing servants.
— (Surah As-Saffat, ayat 123-132)

From this, we gather the people had gone astray and begun worshipping an idol called Baal. Prophet Ilyas questioned their belief, asking how they could leave Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), the most beautiful and the best of creators. But they persisted in their disbelief and were punished. The people who followed Ilyas were rewarded, and this is all the Qur'an mentions about Prophet Ilyas and his community.

Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) Expanded Edition:

The Qur'anic commentators have made a few inferences based on this information given. It is believed Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was a descendant of Prophet Harun (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and was appointed by Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) to teach tawheed to Bani Isra'il (children of Israel). They believe this was during a time when idol worshipping was increasing in the city of Ba'alabak during the reign of King Ahab. This aligns with the Biblical account of Prophet Elijah.

Prophet Ilyas descendant of Harun

Pagan Deity Baal

Now, as for the worship of the pagan deity Baal, there is some history. Baal was a title used in Semitic language believed to mean "owner" or "lord." Other traditional reports suggest it was an idol made of gold, spanning twenty cubits (9 meters) tall, and had four faces. Many ancient Middle Eastern communities (Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, in particular) were believed to worship Baal, believing in it as the fertility and weather deity.

This may or may not be true, but whatever the reason, they believed their deity was far superior to all the other creators. It was this notion that Prophet Ilyas (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) addressed his people, explaining how Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) was the best of creators, not the false idol they worshipped.

Prophet Ilyas taught them it was only Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) who was capable of creating something out of nothingness.

He simply says,

English Translation:

"'Be,' and it is"
Surah Yaseen, ayah 82

All other life forms are just transforming material from one form to another. We take the wood that Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) has given us and make it a chair. We are limited in what we can make, whereas Allah's (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) creation is unbounded. Only he has that inherent ability or power to make what is not become what is.

Now, it is unknown how the people were punished. The Biblical account says there was a drought and famine that lasted for three years, and Elijah questioned the people why their Baal wasn't able to change the weather and end the dry spell. He asked whether Baal was asleep and needed to be awakened. Or maybe he is traveling and unable to respond? Elijah then called upon his Lord on the condition that if the drought came to an end, they would stop their pagan worship.

Whatever their punishment, Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) knows best. The commentators suggest the punishment could be of this world, like the people of Ad', Thamud, or the Pharaoh. It could also be referring to the punishment of the hereafter.

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