All posts for the month May, 2015

Ebed-melech and Luqman (or Lokman)

Published May 14, 2015 by amaic



 Damien F. Mackey


The disputed historical figure, Luqman, or Lokman, figures in Sura 31 of the Koran.

A renowned wise man, and presumably negroid, Luqman however appears to have borrowed from the proverbs of Ben Sirach and from Ahikar – the latter tentatively identified in Part Two of this series with Bildad of the Book of Job.

Luqman might be yet a further extension of Bildad’s colleague, Zophar, whom I identified in Part Three (iii) with the supposedly Ethiopian black, Ebed-melech.



Luqman a Jerusalemite?


According to “Luqman Ibn ‘Anqa’ Ibn Sadun or, as stated by As-Suhaili from Ibn Jarir and Al-Qutaibi, Luqman Ibn Tharan, was from among the people of Aylah (Jerusalem)”.

This is rather striking in my context of Zophar the Naamathite’s being of the tribe of Judah. Moreover, it was Zophar’s praise of Wisdom that had led me to identify him as Baruch (in (ii)). So this next statement about Luqman, from the same source, could be applicable also to Zophar, and to Baruch: “He was a pious man who exerted himself in worship and who was blessed with wisdom”.

And I have already commented on the possibility that Luqman was, as Ebed-melech is thought to have been, a black Ethiopian. Thus we read (loc. cit.):

Sufyan Ath- Thawri narrated from Al-Ash’ath after ‘Ikrimah on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) that he was an Ethiopian slave who worked as a carpenter. Qatadah narrated from Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubair that Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah when asked about Luqman, said: “He was short with a flat nose. He was from Nubia.” Yahia Ibn Sa’ id Al-Ansari said after Sa’ id Ibn Al-Musayib that Luqman belonged to the black men of Egypt.

[End of quote]

In the case of, now Baruch, of, now Luqman, there is some difference of opinion as to whether the prophetic office was conferred on him. For instance, about Baruch we read ( “The Tannaim are much divided on the question whether Baruch is to be classed among the Prophets. According to Mekhilta,[21] Baruch complained[22] because the gift of prophecy had not been given to him. “Why,” he said, “is my fate different from that of all the other disciples of the Prophets?” And, regarding Luqman (iqrasense, ibid.): “The majority of scholars are of the view that he was a wise man and not a prophet”. And again, in a very Job-ian context of having lost “all his children” (ibid.): “[Luqman] was very eloquent and well-versed. He did not weep or cry when all his children died. He even used to frequent the princes and men of authority to mediate. The majority of scholars are of the view that he was a wise man and not a prophet”.

But that is not the end of the apparent Job-ian connection, for, according to a tradition, Luqman “was sister’s son to Job” (

Now concerning this Lokman, the commentators and the critics have diligently thrown their brains about. The former have disputed whether Lokman was an inspired prophet or merely a philosopher and have decided against his inspiration: and they have given him a noble lineage, some saying that he was sister’s son to Job, and others that he was nephew to Abraham, and lived until the time of Jonah. Others have said that he was an African: slave. It will not escape the reader’s notice that the term sister’s swi to Job, to which should be added rtephew of Abraham, is the proper equivalent of the €f aSeX^o? by which Nadan and Ahikar are described in the Tobit legends.

Job, moreover, is singularly like Tobit.

[Mackey’s comment: That is because Job was Tobias, son of Tobit].

That he lived till the time of Jonah reminds one of the destruction of Nineveh as described in the book of Tobit, in accordance with Jonah’s prophecy.

[End of quote]


Luqman Borrows from Book of Tobit


A contributor, given as “Lydia”, has noted this interesting fact on the Facebook site (

There’s a book in the Bible entitled “Tobit.” It’s not in every Bible, but it’s in most Catholic Bibles, so it’s in the New American Bible, which is an excellent translation. Within the book, there’s a section where the man Tobit is instructing his son, Tobiah. It reminds me very much of Luqman (Chapter 31) in the Quran. His advice is very sound. Tobit 4:3-19 ….

[End of quote]

That section of Tobit reads:


So Tobit called Tobias and said to him, ‘Son, when I die, give me a proper burial. And after I’m gone, show respect to your mother. Take care of her for the rest of her life, and when she dies, bury her beside me. Remember, she risked her life to bring you into this world, so try to make her happy and never do anything that would worry her.

Every day of your life, keep the Lord our God in mind. Never sin deliberately or disobey any of his commands. Always do what is right and never get involved in anything evil. Be honest, and you will succeed in whatever you do.

Give generously to anyone who faithfully obeys God. If you are stingy in giving to the poor, God will be stingy in giving to you. Give according to what you have. The more you have, the more you should give. Even if you have only a little, be sure to give something. This is as good as money saved. You will have your reward in a time of trouble. Taking care of the poor is the kind of offering that pleases God in heaven. Do this, and you will be kept safe from the dark world of the dead.

Son, be on your guard against prostitutes. Above all, marry a woman of our tribe, because we are descendants of the prophets. Do not marry anyone who is not related to us. Remember that Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our earliest ancestors, all married relatives. God blessed them with children, and so their descendants will inherit the land of Israel. Son, be loyal to your own relatives. Don’t be too proud to marry one of them. Such pride leads to terrible frustration and ruin, just as laziness brings on severe poverty and causes starvation.

Pay your workers each day; never keep back their wages overnight. Honor God in this way, and he will reward you. Behave properly at all times. Never do to anyone else anything that you would not want someone to do to you.

Do not drink so much wine that you get drunk, and do not let drinking become a habit.

Give food to the hungry and clothes to people in need. If you are prosperous, give generously, and do it gladly!

When one of God’s faithful people has died, prepare food for the family, but never do this when someone evil dies.

Take the advice of sensible people, and never treat any useful advice lightly.

Take advantage of every opportunity to praise the Lord your God. Ask him to make you prosper in whatever you set out to do. He does not give his wisdom to the people of any other nation. He is the source of all good things, but he can also destroy you and bring you to certain death, if he wishes.

And Luqman will advise his son along similar lines (

…. Be grateful to Allah. And whoever is grateful, he is only grateful for his own soul and whoever is ungrateful, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, Praised. And when Luqman said to his son while he admonished him: O my son! Do not associate ought with Allah; most surely polytheism is a grievous inequity -O my son! Surely if it is the very weight of the grain of a mustard -seed, even though it is in (the heart of) rock, or (high above) in the heaven or (deep down) in the earth, Allah will bring it (to light); surely Allah is Knower of subtleties, Aware. O my son! Keep up prayer and enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and bear patiently that which befalls you; surely these acts require courage: And do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the land exulting overmuch; surely Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster: And pursue the right course in your going about and lower your voice; surely the most hateful of voice is braying of the asses. (31:12, 13, 16-19)

Luqman Borrows from Ahikar


This last statement by Luqman, about the ‘braying of asses’, is, in turn, pure Ahikar, as we read in the following quote, showing also the startling dependence of Islam upon Ahikar (

Now let us turn to the Sura of the Koran which bears the name Lokman, and examine it internally: we remark (i) that he bears the name of sage, precisely as Ahikar does : (ii) that he is a teacher of ethics to his son, using Ahikar’s formula ‘ ya bani ‘ in teaching him : (iii) although at first sight the matter quoted by Mohammed does not appear to be taken from Ahikar, there are curious traces of dependence. We may especially compare the following from Ahikar : ‘ O my son, bend thy head low and soften thy voice and be courteous and walk in the straight path and be not foolisL And raise not thy voice when thou laughest, for were it by a loud voice that a house was built, the ass would build many houses every day.’

Clearly Mohammed has been using Ahikar, and apparently from memory, unless we like to assume that the passage in the Koran is the primitive form for Ahikar, rather than the very forcible figure in our published texts. Mohammed has also mixed up Ahikar’s teaching with his own, for some of the sentences which he attributes to Lokman appear elsewhere in the Koran. But this does not disturb the argument. From all sides tradition

advises us to equate Lokman … and Ahikar, and the Koran confirms the equation. ….

[End of quote]

And, in another place from the same article, we read:

We pass on, in the next place, to point out that the legend of Ahikar was known toMohammed, and that he has used it in a certain Sura of the Koran.

There is nothing d priori improbable in this, for the Koran is full of Jewish Haggada and Christian legends, and where such sources are not expressly mentioned, they may often be detected by consulting the commentaries upon the Koran in obscure

passages. For example, the story of Abimelech and the basket of figs, which appears in the Last Words of Baruch, is carried over into the Koran, as we have shown inour preface to the Apocryphon in question. It will be interesting if we can add another volume to Mohammed’s library, or to the library of the teacher from whom he derived so many of his legends.

[End of quote]

Ahikar, for his part, must have been heavily dependent upon the Israelite wisdom, proverbs and axioms of his uncle Tobit, whom he had assisted for two years during Tobit’s blindness (Tobit 2:10): “For four years I could see nothing. My relatives were deeply concerned about my condition, and Ahikar supported me for two years before he went to the land of Elam”.

As for Tobit’s own sources of wisdom, this is what he tells us (1:8): “… we obeyed both the ordinances of the Law of Moses and the exhortations of Deborah the mother of our ancestor Ananiel …”.