Is it permissible to benefit from Israiliyyat in the form of “the moral of the story”?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Evaluation of a narration

اَللّٰهُ اَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُۜ
“Allah knoweth best where (and how) to carry out His mission” (al-An’am, 124)

When Hz. Musa (Moses) was young and was herding sheep, a sheep went astray.  Hz. Musa followed it. He took off his sandals and tried to catch it. He ran after it until the evening. His feet swelled up. Eventually, he caught the sheep. He started to pat and caress the sheep mercifully as if he was its mother. He did not get angry at all. He addressed the sheep compassionately as follows: “All right! You did not have mercy for me, but why did you wrong yourself?” Allah said to His angels, “Musa befits prophethood.” (Rumi, Mathnawi, Translated by Veled İzbudak, MEB Yay. VI, 259-260)

The story reported by Mawlana is a nice interpretation of the verse above. Hz. Musa, who herded sheep, was regarded suitable for herding people too. Besides, every prophet is a shepherd of his nation.   

Such narrations that reach us from Jewish or Christian resources are called “Israiliyyat”. We do not have the means to prove this incident, which was reported by Mawlana. However, this state does not make it necessary to reject it either. We can benefit from it in the form of “the moral of the story” at least. As a matter of fact, such narrations are reported using passive voice in our books to indicate that they are not certain like “it is said that” and “it is narrated that”.   

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

"Do not approve the people of the Book or disapprove them, but say, "We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us." (Bukhari, Tafsir, I/11)

For, when we approve them as a whole, it means we approve the fabricated and superstitious things in them. When we disapprove them as a whole, it means we disapprove the true things in them too. However, there are so many true and good things that are accepted by us and that we can benefit from in them. We can quote from a Chinese scholar when it is necessary; similarly, it is permissible to benefit from the resources of the People of the Book.

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