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Ark of the Covenant

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Ark of the Covenant or Tābūt al-ʿAhd (Arabic: تابوت العهد) was an important box which Israelites kept for centuries and was very precious and sacred to them. The Qur'an referred to it as an "ark" and considered it a cause of tranquility for Israelites. It contained valuable and important articles such as the tablets of Moses (a), Staff of Moses (a), etc.

Introduction

Ark of the Covenant, also called "ark of the tranquility" and "ark of the testimony", refers to an important box which Israelites kept for centuries and was very precious and holy to them.

The word "tabut" (ark) is used twice in the Qur'an:

  • Once, the mother of Moses (a) put her son in ark (box or basket) and casted in Nile river.[1]
  • In the story of choosing Talut (Saul) as the king and carrying Tabut (Ark of the Covenant) as the sign; which contained tranquility from God, heritage of the family of Moses (a) and Aaron (a) and angels carried it.[2] "Tabut" in this story is the famous Ark of the Covenant.[3]

Making of the Ark

Islamic and non-Islamic sources have different narrations about the emergence of this ark (tabut):

The Qur'an has used the word "tabut" once referring to the ark, addressing to the mother of Moses (a), "Put him in the casket, and cast it into the river. Then the river will cast it on the bank". [4]

It is narrated from Imam al-Baqir (a) that, the box, mother of Moses (a) put him in it and casted into the river was later received by Israelites and became very important to them. It was with them during the Exodus. Then, they put the tablets of Moses (a), etc. in it.[5] In other words, it was actually the Ark of the Covenant. Some Shi'a exegetes have accepted this view.[6]

Some Sunni exegetes believe that God gave prophet Adam (a) an ark and it was passed from one prophet to the next and it was this Ark of the Covenant.[7]

Torah has mentioned that the making of the Ark of the covenant was after the Exodus.[8]

About the time and the way this ark (tabut) was made, the Qur'an does not mention anything. But, there are many narrations about the details of the description of this ark (tabut), some exegetes consider them among israelites which cannot be relied upon.[9] Contrary to the Qur'an, Torah has discussed extensively about how the Ark of the Covenant was made and has mentioned its details.[10]

Destiny

Ark of the Covenant became very famous and sacred after the Exodus of Israelites from Egypt. During the years of their wandering in the desert, Ark of the Covenant was kept in a sacred tent (tabernacle) and there were very strict rulings about it.[11] After Prophet Moses (a) and the end of 40 years of wandering in the desert, Israelites went toward the holy land together with Joshua (a).

Ark of the Covenant was an important and influential symbol to Israelites. They placed it in front of their army in different battles and defeated their enemies. But, when they opposed their prophets and disobeyed the orders of God, they were defeated and in some of their defeats,[12] their enemies took the Ark of the Covenant from them;[13] however, after a while, they received it back.[14]

The Qur'an has mentioned one of these incidents and mentioned carrying the Ark of the Covenant a sign of the kingdom of Talut (Saul), "Their prophet said to them, 'Indeed the sign of his kingship shall be that the Ark will come to you, bearing tranquility from your Lord "[15] According to this verse, God considered a sign for the king and the prophet should try to make people understand this and avoid their division.

Ultimately, after the attack of Nebuchadnezzar to Jerusalem and destruction of the temple, the Ark of the Covenant was lost.[16] According to some hadiths, it is among the trusts of Imamate and Imam al-Mahdi (a) will take out the Ark of the Covenant from a cave in Antioch.[17]

Contents of the Ark of the Covenant

The Qur'an has generally referred to the content of the Ark of the Covenant, "The relics left behind by the House of Moses and the House of Aaron"[18]

Exegetes have mentioned that it contained different articles, including the tablets of Moses (a), Staff of Moses (a),[19] and belongings of other prophets.[20] In a letter to Hebrews (mentioned in the New Testament), Paul the Apostle mentioned the tablets of Moses (a), a golden pot of manna (the bread God supplied as food for the Israelites in the wilderness) and the staff of Moses (a) which once budded as contents of the Ark of Covenant.[21]

Its Effects and Miracles

The Qur'an describes this tabut, "bearing tranquility from your Lord"[22] Different interpretations have been mentioned for it.[23] In any case, it conveys tranquility of the heart which the Ark of the Covenant brought to Israelites.[24]

Holy book of Jews has mentioned different miracles for it: After the demise of prophet Moses (a), Israelites wanted to pass river Jordan, so they carried the Ark (tabut) in the lead preceding the people like before and entered the river. For the miracle of the Ark, the river split and water condensed at the top and Israelites stepped on dry ground and proceeded their way.[25][26]

Notes

  1. Qurʾān, 20:39.
  2. Qurʾān, 2:248.
  3. Ibn ʿĀshūr, al-Taḥrīr wa l-tanwīr, vol. 8, p. 304.
  4. Qur'an, 20:39.
  5. Qummī, Tafsīr al-Qummī, vol. 1, p. 81.
  6. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr nimūna, vol. 2, p. 240.
  7. Baghawī, Maʿālim al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 334.
  8. Exodus, 25:10-22.
  9. Manāhij jāmiʿat al-madīna al-ʿālamīyya, al-Dakhīl fī l-tafsīr, vol. 1, p. 114.
  10. Exodus, 25:10-22.
  11. Exodus, 28.
  12. Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān, vol. 2, p. 382.
  13. Samuel, 4.
  14. Samuel, 6.
  15. Qur'an, 2:248.
  16. Rashīd Riḍā, Tafsīr al-manār, vol. 3, p. 131.
  17. Ibn Ṭāwūs, al-Malāḥim wa l-fitan, p. 142.
  18. Qur'an, 2:248.
  19. Bayḍāwī, Anwār al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 151.
  20. Baḥrānī, al-Burhān, vol. 1, p. 510.
  21. Epistle to the Hebrews, 9:4.
  22. Qur'an, 2:248.
  23. Balāghī al-Najafī, Ālāʾ al-raḥmān, vol. 1, p. 222.
  24. Sabziwārī Najafī, Irshād al-adhhān, p. 45.
  25. Joshua, 3:14-17.
  26. 14 When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15 Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, 16 the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan."

References

  • Baghawī, Ḥusayn b. Masʿūd al-. Maʿālim al-tanzīl fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Edited by ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Mahdī. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH.
  • Baḥrānī, Hāsim b. Sulaymān. Al-Burhān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Tehran: Bunyād-i Biʿthat, 1416 AH.
  • Balāghī al-Najafī, Muḥammad Jawād. Ālāʾ al-raḥmān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Qom: Bunyād-i Biʿthat, 1420 AH.
  • Bayḍāwī, ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUmar al-. Anwār al-tanzīl wa asrār al-taʾwīl. Edited by Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Marʿashlī. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1418 AH.
  • Ibn ʿĀshūr, Muḥammad b. Ṭāhir. Al-Taḥrīr wa l-tanwīr. Beirut: Muʾassisat al-Tārīkh, [n.d].
  • Ibn Ṭāwūs, ʿAlī b. Mūsā. Al-Malāḥim wa l-fitan. Qom: Muʾassisat Ṣāḥib al-Amr, 1416 AH.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr nimūna. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1374 Sh.
  • Qummī, ʿAlī b. Ibrāhīm al-. Tafsīr al-Qummī. Edited by Mūsawī Jazāʾirī. Third edition. Qom: Dār al-Kitāb, 1404 AH.
  • Rashīd Riḍā. Tafsīr al-manār. Cairo: al-Hayʾa al-Miṣrīyya al-ʿĀmma li-l-Kitāb, 1990.
  • Sabziwārī Najafī, Muḥammad b. Ḥabīb Allāh. Irshād al-adhhān ilā tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Dār al-Taʿāruf li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 1419 AH.
  • Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-. Jāmiʿ al-bayān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifa, 1412 AH.