Thursday, March 15, 2012

Timeline Of Leading Prophets

One my readers wondered whether I was shooting in the dark when I wrote that 4,000 years ago Makkah was unpopulated.  He, or perhaps she, went on saying that it would be nice to have timeline on the various prophets since Adam.

Well, I was not shooting in the dark, and as promised, here is the brief timeline.

Broadly speaking, we can divide the timeline of the prophets into four categories: (1) prehistoric, (2) ancient, (3) middle age, and (4) modern.

The prophets from Adam to Noah are prehistoric.  Any attempt to put dates on them would be superfluous.  Scholars put the time of Adam creation somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.  As you can see, the gap is huge.  Modern scholars tend to put the date much earlier.  None of these is accurate.

In case you are interested, one Internet source estimates the date of Adam creation at 3760 BC.  That means not even 6,000 years ago.  The evolutionists would definitely disagree.  We don't need to agree with that estimate either, although we don't have to go with the evolutionists.

While at it, let's have some fun.  Adam was created 5772 years ago.  He lived for 930 years.  Enoch (Prophet Idris) was born in 3138 BC, or 622 years after Adam was created.  It means that when Enoch was born, Adam was still alive.

Noah was born in 2704 BC, or 126 years after Adam died.  In 2204 BC, he started to construct the ark, and one hundred years later, the great flood occurred.  Noah was 600 years old when the Flood occurred.

Noah lived for 950 years, which made him the longest living prophet.  But he did not live the longest.  It was his grandfather, Methusaleh, who was the longest living person.  Methusaleh lived for 969 years.

In case you are interested, here is the link for the above information which make for good reading but are not historically accurate.

While those information may not be accurate historically, there is one point worth noting.  The prehistoric people lived very long.  The evolution theory, however, says that early people's lifespan was very short, somewhere around 40 years or so. 

Quran says that Noah tarried the earth for 1,000 years minus 50, meaning 950 years, which agrees with Biblical account.  As a Muslim, I would rather go with the Quran, not evolution theory, as you should too. 

That said, those dating games should be used with caution.  About all we can say is that the early human beings lived very long, but when exactly Adam was created or when the Great Flood took place, these we leave to Allah. 

From Hud to Joseph, we can categorize them as ancient prophets.  Not much is known about Hud and Saleh as far as their times were concerned, but many sources are available about Abraham.  Most sources indicate that Abraham flourished about 4,000 years ago. 

According to Sultan Ghalib Al-Qu'aiti in his book "The Holy Cities, The Pilgrimage and The World of Islam," a 692 page compendium on Makkah and Madinah, tracing the history of these cities from the earliest traditions till 1925, Abraham was born around 2000 BC.  He said it was agreed by most computations (pg. 8).

Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia, Gale Encyclopaedia Of Biography and many others also give the same period.  But the link above, calculated based on Bible, estimates the date of Abraham's birth at 1812 BC. 

Since Bible is quite notorious for historical error, I would tend to think that year 2000 BC, thereabout, is more accurate. 

This ancient period ended with Joseph who lived around 3,600-3,700 years ago, thereabout.

The third period, middle age (not to be confused with European Middle Ages), started with Moses and ended with Jonah (Prophet Yunus).   Moses lived around 3,300-3,400 years ago, while Jonah lived around 2,700 years ago.  In this category we have Prophet Job (Nabi Ayyub) who was said to live around 2,500-2,600 years ago, according to Biblical account.  His name, however, comes before Moses according to Islamic placement of the 25 prophets.

In this category as well, we have King David and King Solomon (Propeht Dawood and Sulaiman).  Since they were also kings, in addition to being prophets, their dates are well known and agreed upon by most scholars.  David was born around 1040 BC and died in 970 BC.  Solomon was born around 1000 BC and died in 930 BC.  In other word, they lived around 3,000 years ago.

The modern prophets started with Zechariah (Prophet Zakariya) and ended with Muhammad.

Zechariah was born around 100 BC while John the Baptist (Prophet Yahya) was born a few years before the Christian Era.  Jesus marked the Christian Era, being born about 2,000 years ago, a few years after the birth of John the Baptist.  It is interesting to note that the actual date of birth of Jesus was not known.  Most place it around 4 BC although it should have been 1 AD.

Muhammad was born in 570 AD, according to most accounts, and died in 632 AD.


  1. Salam.
    Thanks for your article.
    Just wanted to correct the age of Noah. Actually in the Quran it's said that he stayed / lived within his people 1000 years less 50. Means 950 years during he was with them but that doesn't mean that he lived more than that especially that we know that they all died drowned by the flood.Noah and the believers lived after this of course. Please check the different opinions on this topic here

    1. Noted brother. Yes, I am quite aware of what you are referring to. Quran merely mentions he lived for 1000 years minus 50, but scholars differ as to whether it refers to his total age or his age by the time Great Flood occurred. He is said to live for another 120 years after the flood (according to at least some Islamic scholars). So, if 950 years is the age before the Great Flood, then his total age would be 1,070 years, making his age even longer than his grandfather methusaleh.

      On the other hand, the Bible said he was 600 years old when the Great Flood took place, which means that he must have lived for 350 years after the Flood to make the total number 950.

      And if we are to consider other opinions, then there will be other variations.

      Anyway, thanks for pointing that out. Anyone interested can go to the site.

    2. Apart from being a great shipbuilder,Prophet Nuh (a,s) must be a great zoologist and botanist as well. Replanting and repopulating the new world post-superflood was a feat that took tens of years if not hundreds.

  2. wrong estimate my friend; prophet abraham's semitic lineage is estimated to have started 5000-6000 years ago; so adam goes way back

  3. Salam,
    Very interesting read. Thank you. However if we look at ancient history, the pyramids were first built around 2500 BC any many other civilizations had existed going back maybe 1000 years before the pyramids. The great flood during Noahs's time had destroyed most of humankind and Noah's family then repopulated the earth. I would guess that repopulating the earth would take up a considerable amount of time. Hence the hypothesis that Noah was born in 2704 BC doesn't sit so well with me. Just my point. In the end all knowledge is Allah's.

    1. Salam,

      You are very correct my friend. The pyramids were constructed by Noah's descendants through his son, Ham, that is, if we go with the Bible. Thus the Great Flood must have occurred long before pyramids were constructed. I did put a cautionary note in the above article that putting any date on Adam all the way through to Noah would be superfluous. Those dates were mere conjectures based on Biblical account. But from Abraham downwards, we do have some historical basis.


    2. Sir,

      Could it be Pyramids were designed as such to also withstand potential superflood? - being lesson learned


    3. Perhaps, but as far as I know, pyramids were built as monument, to place the dead, not the living.

    4. Perhaps the original purpose was as staple food or seeds vault. Later only repurposed and purpose-built to secure the corpses.

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  5. As salaam o dksykum,
    It's state in hadith 124,000 prophets were sent on earth. If each prophet has 1000 years gap the humanity is 124 million years old.
    How come there are ancient underground cities found which were build about 30,000 years back? If dianasours are 200-300 million years old probably prophet Adam also came during that time. He was 60 cubits tall. Giant people and big animals makes sense.

    1. I am unable to comment about this 1,000 years gap. But I do know that within similar era, multiple prophets can live together. For instance, Lot was Abraham's nephew, and Abraham himself had two sons who were the prophets (Ishmael and Isaac), and his grandson Jacob and great grandson Joseph were also the prophets. There was no gap between them of course. Likewise, Aaron was Moses' brother. And John the Baptist was only a few years older than Jesus, and the father of John the Baptist was Prophet Zechariah. In short, the 1,000 gap premise sounds too far fetched.

  6. Sir,

    Since Adam AS is from Heaven, the paramount advanced civilisation, did he apply the exposure/stint he had to improve living on planet Earth? Or he had to start from scratch the primitive ways?

    1. The truth is I really don't know. The tafsir materials appear to suggest that Adam and his family do not have sophisticated tools. Furthermore, life in Paradise is not similar to life on earth. Chances are in Paradise Adam and Eve did not have to toil to make a living, as everything was provided for. When Cain killed Abel, it was suggested only through bare hand, suggesting there was no sophisticated tool to kill. But this is only my speculation.

  7. What do you say about the opinions of few scholars(Mohammad Shahroor)explaining Noah age to be less than our current kown years and God Allah the mighty mentioned in the Quran the years which were used at that era by its civilizations looking back at historical writings at that era stating king's ruling for hundreds of years!!! Could it be and it would explain in logic while being another miracle in the holy book(Quran) for us to discover...makes more sense to me than having to believes a human even if a prophet lived for a 1000 years..

    1. I must say that I am not altogether familiar with Mohammad Shahroor and his thinking. My cursory research suggests that he belongs to those generally known as Quran only group, such as Rashad Khalifa. I am also not familiar with the idea you mention above and from the little that you put it, I don't see what is the point and where it is leading to. If what the Quran says 1000 years during Prophet Noah's time actually only means 100 years nowadays, or even 10,000 years, I still don't see the point and the purpose.

  8. Sir,

    Has there been any effort to put date reference (e.g. versified in the year 3 BH , versified in the year AH 9) for each Hadith in Kutubussittah?
    I'm asking because I think stating date (and location) helps to validate occurrence of events which in turn helps to further validate Hadith authenticity. Who knows sequencing and periodization - presenting Hadith in chronological order - would pave way for a detailed Prophet's Diary.

    1. I am not aware of any effort in putting date reference to each of those hadith. It would be a massive undertaken I reckon. In any case, I doubt it is a necessary disciplined in hadith authentication. What the hadith scholars did were already more than sufficient as far as hadith authentication is concerned.

      If our concern is more on chronological sequencing of the Prophet's life, this is largely done already, especially by Ibnu Ishaq. His "Life of muhammad" compendium, considered to be the best of seerah book, is, in a way, a hadith. Except that it is being narrated in the story line with chronological sequence. As the intent was to chart the life story of our Prophet, naturally only relevant hadith were used. As of now, even in English, we can have detailed story of the Prophet already even without this date referencing of hadith.

  9. It appears in each different era, different means of weaponry (which determines who"s the mightiest of em all) prevailed.

    During Prehistoric the determinant was very much bare physical strength and big muscles - where brawn rules. Ancient Period is when brawn was augmented with sharp weapons and martial arts.

    Interestingly the Third Period - Middle Age - is characterised with Supernatural Prowess, during which supernatural prowess became a determinant over brawn (and brain) so much so wizards were accorded with high positions in society and palaces.

    While Isa (a.s) was a miracle worker, it was his messages of the Holy Books that prevailed. Suggesting it must be the power of literature (both revealed and acquired knowledge) that had earlier on subdued the craze for supernatural prowess, legacy of the Middle Age.

    1. Interesting observation.

      From the stories of the prophets, we do know that Pharaoh (and possible other kings as well) relied quite a bit on magics and wizards. Even King Solomon was skillful in that craft, in the sense that he can command the genies or communicate with the animals.

      But that the crave for supernatural prowess had really ended by the time of Jesus Christ, that is probably true to some extent, because until now, we know some people somewhere do indulge in this craft. We know that the Mayas, the Incas, and the Aztecs, before they were conquered by the Europeans, especially the Spanish, did indulge in this craft. The Europeans themselves were not free from this indulgence. The burning of Joan of Arc was a typical example, or the Salem witch hunting being another example.

      In any case, to mark our so-called Middle Age to be the period most influenced by magic and witch craft, as compared to other epochs, would not be too far off.