You all should know the stories (I'm sorry, I don't know if the word "story" is appropriate to address them. In my language it is rude, but I don't find a better word in English.) in Quran. Like Moses dividing the sea to open escape routes, Christ healing diseased people and reviving dead. The great flood in the era of Noah. Etc, there are a lot of them.

Did they actually happen as they are mentioned?
For example, about the story of Noah, did the Earth literally flooded by water. Or does the words "water", "ship", "flood", "rain", etc are symbolizing a more non-supernatural historical event?

If they indeed happened as is, will/can they happen again in our time?
If they are symbolizing different events, then what are they symbolizing? I don't expect you to explain all of them in detail, but can you please explain the main aspect in one or two paragraphs?


An example of symbolization in the story of Noah, which I debated on with one of my friends recently:

water = working
sea = the entire salty (hard) work life in which people earn their earnings (both halal and haram)
land = the part of dunya in which the earnings from sea are spent
mountain = people's ways of lives in dunya
lands filling with water = people working too much to survive
finally drowning = bankruptcy, suffering extreme poverty, not surviving the poverty
ship = companies and organizations that float on the market without sinking

This kind of sight of vision exists among some people. They are making very interesting comments about stories in Quran. What do you think about this kind of angle of view?

  • I don't know about ancient times. But I think there was a market system in that times too. I'm too confused about this. Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 21:20
  • Regarding the Flood specifically, you may be interested in this: The Flood: Mesopotamian Archaeological Evidence Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 16:29
  • @AhmedHan Are you finding it difficult to believe those things could have happened or you're skeptical of the supernatural in general? What's the motivation for this question?
    – Seeker
    Commented May 16, 2014 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


There are various views about this, some insist on literal reading of all stories, others believe some stories are symbolic. Even if a story is symbolic it doesn't mean it didn't happen in a metaphysical sense or does not have physical manifestations. Unlike what some other answers say, stating that a story is symbolic doesn't mean God is lying, in contrast Quran clearly states that symbolic stories are sometimes used to make understanding easier to humans what is hard to comprehend for them. For example, in verse 59:21 Quran says:

لَوْ أَنزَلْنَا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ عَلَىٰ جَبَلٍ لَّرَأَيْتَهُ خَاشِعًا مُّتَصَدِّعًا مِّنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to men, that they may reflect.

Here "نضرب" and "امثال" imply that this is not literal. These words can be helpful in understanding what is symbolic and what is not. A similar verse is 29:43

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ ۖ وَمَا يَعْقِلُهَا إِلَّا الْعَالِمُونَ

And such are the Parables We set forth for mankind, but only those understand them who have knowledge.

If you search the Quran for the words "مثل" and "امثال" you will find examples of symbolic stories.

However, unless there is clear evidence in Quran that a story is symbolic it is hard to say it is symbolic, even harder for historical stories involving historical figures like prophets as in the story of "Noah and the flood" and "Moses and the Israelites". Most Muslim scholars consider these stories to have literal meanings.

The symbolic stories typically seem to short and there are signs in Quran to indicate they are symbolic. Interpreting the stories where miracles happen as symbolic would also defeat the point of them being miracles.

Also note that the fact that a story in its literal form is correct doesn't imply it does not have symbolic meaning.


Coming from the viewpoint of a Muslim, the Qur'an is the truth, and nothing but the truth.

Every story in the Quran is true. The second ayah, of the second surah tells us this:

This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah [2:2]

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَ‌يْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

Yes, the reason these stories are told is to symbolize the power of Allah (SWT), and what the Messengers before Rasulallah (S) did, but they are true.

Now, as everything in the Quran has happened, it is not a event that was written in history. These events were prehistoric, and are only mentioned in the Quran and Bible.

  • 1
    That is the Book - not "this" :) dhalika.
    – Ansari
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 20:41
  • @Ansari Sorry. Tanzil.net gave me that translation.
    – Dynamic
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 20:43
  • I don't think that 2/2 can be used to prove that those stories are not symbolic. Because, in case that stories are symbolic, that doesn't make Quran doubtful. Why should a text be doubtful because of using symbols in it? Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 20:52
  • @AhmedHan But we cannot conclude otherwise...
    – Dynamic
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 21:21
  • "These events were prehistoric" I thought at least Moses supposedly lived no more than 4000 years ago; we still have buildings from that time, it's not really prehistoric.
    – G. Bach
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 19:49

The stories in Quran, most likely, never happened in real although from religion point of view we can NEVER deny it. Neither do they refer to anything symbolically because they are very clear in context. In many cases these stories are contradictory to natural phenomena, science, and have no evidence otherwise in any book, other than the Quran that they happened.

Some of the stories in Quran are the following, although they are not all by any means.

  1. The Story of Habil and Qabil (Abel and Cain)
  2. Harut and Marut
  3. Dwellers of the Town
  4. Story of the Heifer
  5. Moses and AI-Khadir
  6. The Story of Qarun (Korah)
  7. Bilqis (Queen of Sheba)
  8. The Story of Saba' (Sheba)
  9. `Uzair (Ezra)
  10. Dhul Qarnain
  11. Gog and Magog
  12. People of the Cave
  13. The Believer & the Disbeliever
  14. People of the Garden
  15. The Sabbath-Breakers
  16. Story of Luqman
  17. People of the Ditch
  18. Barsisa the Worshipper (The Renegade)
  19. Owners of the Elephant

Then there are stories about

  1. Moses (when he divided the sea in tow)
  2. Jesus (that He will speak to the people from the cradle and)
  3. Sulemain (that who was eaten by fish alive, ants jinn used to obey him)
  4. Yousaf (of his beauty and other events)
  5. Noah ( homosexuality, the great floods)

The stories that belonged to the prophet are prophetic only and will never happen to anyone else. The stories that happened otherwise to other people can happen as Quran clearly said it once happened. In reality they will probably not happen as there is no significant proof of these events ever happened in the first place.

Source of first list

  • please leave a comment when negative voting.
    – muslim1
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 4:22

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