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Many Christian missionaries quote many "Narrations" from the Salaf and claim that the early Salaf actually believed that Paul was mentioned in the Quran and he was actually a Prophet of Allah!

Narrated Ibn S'âd and Ibn Asakir by the authority of Abi Saleh and Ibn Abbas who said:

There was a one thousand and nine hundred years gap between the time of Moses the son of Imran and Jesus. During which time one thousand prophets were sent to the people of Israel. And there was five hundred and sixty nine years gap between the birth of Jesus and the time of Muhammad. During the first part of this gap, three prophets were sent. The third one of these prophets WAS SIMON.

Narrated Ibn al-Monthere from Saed bin Jubayr who said: The name of the third messenger was Paul.

Narrated Ibn Abi Hatim by the authority of Shuwaib Al Jabâ'ayee who said: The names of the first two MESSENGERS were Simon and John. And the name of the third one was PAUL.

Among the apostles, and the followers who came after them were the Apostle Peter and Paul who was a follower and not an apostle; they went to Rome. (Tabari, History, Volume IV, p. 123)

Ibn Jurayj narrated from Wahb bin Sulayman, from Shu’ayb Al-Jaba’i, "The names of the first two Messengers were Sham’un and Yuhanna, and the name of the third was Bulus, and the city was Antioch (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

The Question Is: what is the reality of such reports? I have read some articles that address this issue and they state that these are merely views of some early Muslims. However, does not this prove that at least some early Muslims believed that Paul was someone who was sent by Jesus Christ (Alayhisalam) or God?

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  • It sounds like the quotes are about the three messengers mentioned in surat Yasin يس.
    – Medi1Saif
    Jun 27 '20 at 7:06
  • @Medi1Saif- Yes, these quotes are about the three messengers that were discussed in the Quran. I am not sure if it is discussed in Surah Yasin or any other chapter. The problem here is that Christians claim that Paul is mentioned by the early Salaf. These claims are spurious. The problem here is that Saed bin Jubayr, Ibn Abi Hatim, etc are reliable narrators and belong to the early period of Salaf. I do NOT know about rest of the narrators in these narrations, so I am not sure if these narrations are authentic. However, the one narrated by Ibn Jurayj is found in Abridged version of Ibn kathir.
    – Ren
    Jun 27 '20 at 8:46
  • Most reports are traced back to the Tabi'in and Tabi'in Tabi'in. There's no direct link from the Prophet SAW himself to confirm that these were disciples of Isa AS. Ibn Kathir had already addressed this issue in his tafsir.
    – Afiq
    Jun 27 '20 at 8:53
  • 3
    If someone narrates a report does not mean that they considered it reliable, as their intent is to compile all known traditions regardless of authenticity. Also if someone narrates something in the field of stories, it does not mean that they got it from the Prophet rather than the People of the Scripture.
    – UmH
    Jun 27 '20 at 8:56
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    Even Christian scholars and historians agree that Paul changed the message of Isa ﷺ and introduced many innovations in the religion. That does not sound like the trait of a prophet. The likes of him made halal what Allaah made haraam and vice versa. This is also confirmed in a famous hadeeth. All of these indicate that he was not a prophet or messenger. Mar 17 at 4:45
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Are there reports mentioning this in tafsir books?

Yes many reports in most early tafsir books seem to come to the conclusion and the consensus that the story mentioned in surat Yasseen يس in the verses (13-29) is referring to the city Antakya أنطاكية (Antioch) and that the three messengers were sent by 'Isa ().
Imam al-Qurtubi even mentioned that there's consensus about the location in his tafsir saying:

هذه القرية هي أنطاكية في قول جميع المفسرين فيما ذكر الماوردي . (Source Tafsir al-Qurtubi in Arabic)
This city is Antioch in the opinion of all scholars of tafsir as was mentioned by al-Maawardy

Some of these reports have been compiled by ibn Kathir in his tafsir of verse 14:

When We sent to them two but they denied them, so We strengthened them with a third, and they said, "Indeed, we are messengers to you."

Where the reports also named the city and the messengers:

In the reports that he transmitted from ibn 'Abbas, Ka'ab al-Ahbar and Wahb ibn Munabbih - Ibn Ishaq reported that it was the city of Antioch, in which there was a king called Antiochus the son of Antiochus the son of Antiochus, who used to worship idols.
Allah sent to him three Messengers, whose names were Sadiq, Saduq and Shalum, and he disbelieved in them.
It was also narrated from Buraydah bin Al-Husayb, 'Ikrimah, Qatadah and Az-Zuhri that it was Antioch. (Source Tafsir ibn Kathir)

Nevertheless ibn Kathir pointed out that:

Some of the Imams were not sure that it was Antioch, as we shall see below after telling the rest of the story, if Allah wills.

Before going on with his reports and explanation (Same source with some additional inline comments):

(When We sent to them two Messengers, they denied them both;)
means, they hastened to disbelieve in them.
(so We reinforced them with a third,)
means, "We supported and strengthened them with a third Messenger".
Ibn Jurayj narrated from Wahb bin Sulayman, from Shu'ayb Al-Jaba'i, "The names of the first two Messengers were Sham'un (Simon?)and Yuhanna (John?), and the name of the third was Bulus(Paulus, Paul?), and the city was Antioch (Antakiyah).
(and they said)
means, to the people of that city, (Verily, we have been sent to you as Messengers.)
meaning, "from your Lord Who created you and Who commands you to worship Him Alone with no partners or associates". This was the view of abu Al-'Aliyah. Qatadah bin Di'amah claimed that they were messengers of the Messiah, peace be upon him, sent to the people of Antioch.

This view that this messengers were sent by 'Isa is also present in the tafsirs of scholars such as al-Baghawi, al-Kashaf (az-Zamakhshari), a-Shawkani, al-Naydawi, ibn Jazy and ar-Razi. But the reports which ibn Jarir at-Tabari mainly first complied have a disconnected narrator chain.

Note that ibn Kathir lived between 701 a.H. and 774 a.H. due to his mentioning of his sheikh al-Mizzi in his tafssir of surat al-Anbiyya' -asking Allah to give him a long life- this tafssir was already in work 742 a.H. and as his mate az-Zayla'iy الزيلعي was referring to it it was already finished by 762 a.H.. The corresponding wikipedia Article in Arabic claims it was finished 759 a.H.
While al-Qurtubi died 671 a.H..

The second view saying that the messengers were sent by Allah not by 'Isa () is also presented by ibn Jarir at-Tabari and al-Qurtubi too. While al-Qurtubi only mentioned it ibn Jarir added a few supporting reports (see here in Arabic).

What is the truth of this claims

As said earlier many early tafsir books mentioned the reports above and hardly pointed at an issue as Allah said in the verse mentioned above:

When We sent to them ...

Which actually doesn't confirm the claim that 'Isa sent 2 messengers to a city, but Allah did. This also becomes clear from the answer of the disbelievers who said in (36:16):

..."You are not but human beings like us, and the Most Merciful has not revealed a thing. You are only telling lies."

Only disbelievers expect a miraculous creator or angel to be sent as a messenger from Allah as the qur'an show in other verses. They wouldn't exclaim this in case a human has sent humans to them!

A further issue is that the verse (36:29):

It was not but one shout, and immediately they were extinguished.

In this interpretation would against:

And We gave Moses the Scripture, after We had destroyed the former generations, as enlightenment for the people and guidance and mercy that they might be reminded. (28:43)

Which ibn Kathir commented:

(after We had destroyed the generations of old)
After the revelation of the Tawrah, no nation would again be punished with an overwhelming calamity; instead the believers were now commanded to fight the enemies of Allah among the idolators, as Allah says:
(And Fir'awn, and those before him, and the cities overthrown committed sin. And they disobeyed their Lord's Messenger, so He seized them with a strong punishment) (69:9-10). (Source Tafsir ibn Kathir)

Based on a report which was reported by ibn Jarir at-Tabari and abi Hathim on the authority of abu Sa'id al-Khudri and which ibn Kathir actually quoted -both- in his tafsir (See here in Arabic). This reports say that the punishment mentioned in this verse was the last one Allah () ordered or made, as afterwards He () ordered the believers to fight disbelievers.

And finally the history of Antioch and how it became christian doesn't claim that there was any punishment by Allah.

This was mentioned in the end of this story where ibn Kathir displayed and held a view which ibn Taymiyyah adapted from abu al-'Aliyyah. I'll display here the tafsir starting with the exegesis of verse (36:29):

(It was but one Sayhah and lo! they (all) were still.)
He said, "So Allah destroyed that tyrant king, and destroyed the people of Antioch, and they disappeared from the face of the earth, leaving no trace behind. It was said that the words
(And We sent not against his people after him an army from the heaven,)
mean, another Message to them. This was the view of Mujahid and Qatadah. Qatadah said, "Allah did not rebuke his people after they killed him," (It was but one Sayhah and lo! they (all) were still).
Ibn Jarir said, "The former view is more correct, because the Message does not need to be brought by an army." The scholars of Tafsir said, "Allah sent Jibril, peace be upon him, to them, and he seized the pillars at the gate of their city, then he hurled one Sayhah upon them and lo! they (all) were still, to the last man among them, and no soul was left in any body."

After this ibn Kathir shows the flaws in the view of earlier scholars who interpreted the city to be Antioch and the sender of the messengers to be 'Isa () in three points:

We have already referred to the reports from many of the Salaf that this city was Antioch, and that these three Messengers were messengers sent from the Messiah 'Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon him, as Qatadah and others stated. This is not mentioned by any of the later scholars of Tafsir besides him, and this issue must be examined from a number of angles. (The first) is that if we take this story at face value, it indicates that these men were Messengers from Allah, may He be glorified, not from the Messiah, peace be upon him, as Allah says:
(It was but one Sayhah and lo! they (all) were still)." Ibn Jarir said, "The former view is more correct, because the Message does not need to be brought by an army." The scholars of Tafsir said, "Allah sent Jibril, peace be upon him, to them, and he seized the pillars at the gate of their city, then he hurled one Sayhah upon them and lo! they (all) were still, to the last man among them, and no soul was left in any body." We have already referred to the reports from many of the Salaf that this city was Antioch, and that these three Messengers were messengers sent from the Messiah 'Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon him, as Qatadah and others stated. This is not mentioned by any of the later scholars of Tafsir besides him, and this issue must be examined from a number of angles.
The first is that if we take this story at face value, it indicates that these men were Messengers from Allah, may He be glorified, not from the Messiah, peace be upon him, as Allah says:
(When We sent to them two Messengers, they denied them both; so We reinforced them with a third, and they said: "Verily, we have been sent to you as Messengers.")
up to:
("Our Lord knows that we have been sent as Messengers to you. And our duty is only to convey plainly (the Message).")
If they had been from among the Disciples, they would have said something to indicate that they had come from the Messiah, peace be upon him. And Allah knows best. Moreover, if they had been messengers sent by the Messiah, why would the people have said to them,
("You are only human beings like ourselves")
The second is that the people of Antioch did believe in the messengers sent by the Messiah to them. Antioch was the first city to believe in the Messiah, and it is one of the four cities in which there are Christian patriarchs. These cities are: Jerusalem, because it is the city of the Messiah; Antioch, because it was the first city where all of the people believed in the Messiah; Alexandria, because it was in that city that they agreed to reform the hierarchy of patriarchs, metropolitans (archbishops), bishops, priests, deacons and monks; and Rome, because it is the city of the Emperor Constantine who supported and helped to establish their religion. When he adopted Constantinople as his city, the Patriarch of Rome moved there, as has been mentioned by several historian, such as Sa'id bin Batriq and others, both People of the Book and Muslims. If we accept that, then the people of Antioch were the first to believe, but Allah tells us that the people of this town rejected His Messengers and that He destroyed them with one Sayhah and lo! they (all) were still. And Allah knows best.
The third is that the story of Antioch and the Disciples of the Messiah happened after the Tawrah had been revealed. Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, and others among the Salaf stated that after revealing the Tawrah, Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, did not destroy an entire nation by sending a punishment upon them. Rather, He commanded the believers to fight the idolators. They mentioned this when discussing the Ayah: (And indeed We gave Musa -- after We had destroyed the generations of old -- the Scripture) (28:43).
This implies that the city mentioned in the Qur'an is a city other than Antioch, as also stated by more than one of the Salaf. Or, if we wish to keep the same name, it is possible that it is another Antioch, not the one which is well-known, for it is not known that it (the famous Antioch) was destroyed, either during Christian times or before. And Allah knows best.

From the above we may safely say that ibn Kathir quoted these reports and refuted them at the end of the story so who ever shares this information without quoting ibn Kathir's real position on the topic is falsely quoting ibn Kathir. Nevertheless one could also say that there's a difference of opinion among scholars on this topic.

See also fata islamqa #170943 in Arabic.

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Comparing the passage in Surat Ya Sin 36:13-32 comparing with the report on the acts of the Apostles written by Luke, as a complement to the answer from Medi1Saif (read this before).

The first mismatch pointed out by Ibn Kathir is only between the prior tafsir and the Quran

The first is that if we take this story at face value, it indicates that these men were Messengers from Allah, may He be glorified, not from the Messiah, peace be upon him.

In fact, also according to Luke, the Apostles were not sent by Jesus ﷺ but rather guided by the Holy Spirit (Jibril) as the messenger of God.

The second is that the people of Antioch did believe in the messengers sent by the Messiah to them.

This is also backed by Luke; there is no conflict reported from Antioch of Syria (today Antakya in Hatay, Turkey).

The similarities that have led prior Tafsir writers to associate Ya Sin 36:13-32 with Paul in Antiochia do not refer to Antioch of Syria but rather to what happened in Antioch of Psidia (today Yalvaç in Isparta, Turkey). Let us read both passages in full length; I have put similarities in bold and divergences in italic:

Surat Ya Sin 36:13-32

And cite for them the parable of the landlords of the town—when the messengers came to it. We sent them two messengers, but they denied them both, so We reinforced them with a third. They said, “We are messengers to you.” They said, “You are nothing but humans like us, and the Gracious did not send down anything; you are only lying.” They said, “Our Lord knows that we are messengers to you. And our only duty is clear communication.” They said, “We see an evil omen in you; if you do not give up, we will stone you, and a painful punishment from us will befall you.” They said, “Your evil omen is upon you. Is it because you were reminded? But you are an extravagant people.” Then a man came running from the remotest part of the city. He said, “O my people, follow the messengers. Follow those who ask you of no wage, and are themselves guided “And why should I not worship Him Who created me, and to Whom you will be returned? Shall I take other gods instead of Him? If the Merciful desires harm for me, their intercession will not avail me at all, nor will they save me. In that case, I would be completely lost. I have believed in your Lord, so listen to me.” It was said, “Enter Paradise.” He said, “If only my people knew. How my Lord has forgiven me, and made me one of the honoured.” After him, We sent down no hosts from heaven to his people; nor would We ever send any down. It was just one Cry, and they were extinguished. Alas for the servants. No messenger ever came to them, but they ridiculed him. Have they not considered how many generations We destroyed before them; and that unto them they will not return? All of them, every single one of them, will be arraigned before Us.

Acts 11:23-28

Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphyl'ia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they passed on from Perga and came to Antioch of Pisid'ia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: "Men of Israel, and you that fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he bore with them in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, «I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.» Of this man's posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, «What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.» "Brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, «Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.» And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, «I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.» Therefore he says also in another psalm, «Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption.» For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption; but he whom God raised up saw no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest there come upon you what is said in the prophets: «Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish; for I do a deed in your days, a deed you will never believe, if one declares it to you.»" As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next sabbath. And when the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul, and reviled him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, `I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord spread throughout all the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and went to Iconium.

Two apostles came (Paul and Barnabas). A third one coming is not mentioned, but a multitude of followers. Some Jews followed them, others contradicted him. The words and details of the conflict not reported in the Acts but might have been the same as in the Quran. The best correspondence is the text:

He said, “If only my people knew. How my Lord has forgiven me, and made me one of the honoured.” After him, We sent down no hosts from heaven to his people; nor would We ever send any down.

corresponding to Paul, who was first prosecuting the Christians but called in a vision to serve God in the case of Jesus, and the passage from the acts:

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, «I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.»"

The following sentences:

It was just one shout, and they were extinguished. Alas for the servants. No messenger ever came to them, but they ridiculed him. Have they not considered how many generations We destroyed before them; and that unto them they will not return? All of them, every single one of them, will be arraigned before Us.

does not fit well - as Ibn Kathir had also pointed out - because it is not reported that the people who rejected Jesus were extinguished, and the Jews in general were not extinguished at all. It is only mentioned that Paul admonished them, saying

Beware, therefore, lest there come upon you what is said in the prophets: «Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish; for I do a deed in your days, a deed you will never believe, if one declares it to you.»"

I have no information on the fate of the non-Christian Jewish community in Antiochia of Psidia. The city itself was destroyed in 713 a.D. by the Umayyad prince al-Abbas ibn al-Walid but this struck the essentially Christian community (maybye including a remains of the Jewish community).

So what? Is Surat Ya Sin 36:13-32 referring to Paul and Barnabas in Antiochia of Psidia?

A «yes» is not evident or compulsory, however not fully out of scope. A «no» could be safely affirmed only if another history, as the expression «cite for them the parable of the landlords of the town» clearly indicates that this refers to a story of ancient times.

So I have to close my answer with the question: What other story may this passage refer to?

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  • You should've also consider that the Qur'anic passage speaks of a polytheistic audience. The passage in Acts relates the altercation between Paul and monotheistic exiled jews
    – Afiq
    Mar 17 at 2:37
  • The Quranic passage is not really explicit there about; reading it alone, one would rather think of polytheists. I am nit convinced that the passage really refers to the story discussed here.
    – Jeschu
    Mar 18 at 6:45

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