Researcher of Political Science & Classical Islam. Initiated by the Khwajagan i-Naqshband.
Q. I wanted to know more about the Islamic history of the Ark of the Covenant. How is it that the Ishmaelite Mahdi will inherit it when it contains the relics of the family of Moses and the family of Aaron (and not the family of Prophet Muhammad)? How can you justify his inheritance of a treasure, which does not belong to him, nor his father as per your own Quran?
A. The Ark of the Covenant in Islamic traditions has a different origin than the Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the Bible. In the Holy Quran the actual Ark wherein the Covenant was found, is refereed to as ‘Tabut’ and the Covenant as ‘Sakina’, hence it is also referred to as Tabut Sakina (the Ark of the Covenant) in (al-Baqara, v.248) and Sakina in the Holy Quran in (at-Taubah v. 26, 40) and (al-Fath, v.26).
The Ark of the Covenant is the name of a Heavenly treasure chest, which was used as a weapon of war by the Prophets, including Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, and as I will prove, even by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa aalihi wa sallam).
The Holy Quran states, “And their Prophet said to them: “A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark (Tabut), and in it Sakina with (a Covenant) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith” (al Baqara, v.248).
The author of Tafsir Uthmani (English) writes, “(The Ark of the Covenant, Tabut Sakina) contained some holy relics of Hazrat Moosa (alaihi salam), and other Prophets. The Bani Israel (Children of Israel) put this box in the front line in times of war and Allah gave them victory by its auspices.” (Tafsir Uthmani, Allama Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani, trans. Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmad. Bombay: Taj Publishers, 1992. Vol. 1, p.140)
As the author of Tafsir Uthmani wrote, this Ark contained the Covenant (Sakina), which was the assurance of help from the unseen and victory over enemies, in the form of Prophetic relics. These relics it (the Ark) contained were connected to Prophetic authority, which represented the Vicegerency of God on earth by His Prophets and Messengers, and as such, assured unfathomable powers to the possessor of the Ark.
From Eden to Adam, the Caliph
In our narrative, the Ark of the Covenant was from the time of Adam, who brought it out from heaven beyond space, and down to earth. Adam was the first Prophet, and he was granted revelation, able to speak and write and possessed knowledge of everything. revelation came to Adam in Arabic, the language of Heaven, and hence, it also becomes established that Adam was actually the first Arab as well.
Adam descended to earth wearing a crown according to Ibn Kathir. With the Ark, Adam was empowered as the Vicegerent of Allah. Adam’s Ark contained the Hajr al Aswad, the Staff of Moses, the Ring of Solomon, the Sword of Prophet Muhammad (s) called Zulfiqar among many other relics.
Adam became the ruler of the world as the Vicegerent of Allah. He constructed the Holy House, Al Ka’aba and placed the Ark inside. Hence, the Holy Ka’aba was the first Qibla, direction of prayer. During Adam’s reign, the Ark was moved and eventually, Adam built Bait ul-Maqdis in Palestine and the Ark was also housed there.
From Adam, the Ark was passed to Seth, and Seth became Adam’s heir to authority. From Seth, it was passed to Thoth (Idris, Hermes), and was moved to Egypt. It continued to be guarded by Adamite Prophets who ruled in Egypt as Prophets and Kings until the marriage of Hagar to Abraham, and the birth of her son, and heir Ishmael.
After the trial of the sacrifice, Ishmael inherited it from his mother under the supervision of his father.
On another note, it is important to mention the father of Abraham was not Azar the idolater, rather his name was Tarah, as per the many Islamic historians, including Ibn Kathir, and even the Holy Bible. Tarah died when Abraham was a young boy. Together, Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Ka’aba in Mecca, and placed in its corner from the Ark of the Covenant the Black Stone (Hajr al Aswad). Abraham and Ishmael restored the Ark of the Covenant to its original House, inside the Holy Ka’aba. (See for example, Ark of the Covenant Found in Mecca by Mathematician Anatoly Fomenko, “one of the world’s leading experts in topology and statistics”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXt_EyeRnLc
The Children of Ishmael
The Ark then continued to be in the possession of the Children of Ishmael, the Arabs, among whom were both Prophets (Jethro) and Kings (the Kedarites, the descendants of Qedar, the Nabateans etc.). The Kedarites were such a powerful tribe that they were even mentioned in the Torah, Assyrian Tablets and by the ancient Greeks. We read in the Bible, Genesis 17:20 “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve mighty princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation”
From Jethro to Moses
The Ark was eventually moved by the Ishamelites (Arabs) to Al Khazneh in Petra, actually known as Khazinat Firoun, or the Treasury of the Pharaoh, to this very day. It remained there until the reign of the Prophet Shuaib.
Have you ever wondered why the Children of Ishmael were free, and mighty, while the Children of Israel were still enslaved to the Pharaoh? Amongst the descendants of Ishmael, the Ark was eventually inherited by the Prophet Shuaib (Jethro), whose daughter Safura (Zipporah), a princess, married Moses, prince of Egypt. Jethro was an Ishmaelite, not an Israelite.
Moses and Aaron were descendants of Ladi (Levi) the son of Yaqub (Jacob), the son of Isaac, the younger son of Abraham. The Banu Nadhir tribe were also from amongst the descendants of Levi, and the Mother of Believers Safia, the wife of the Seal of the Prophets (s) also descended from this tribe.
Moses met Jethro’s daughters in Jordan, in Petra, at the Wadi Musa, or the Valley of Moses. This was the beginning of the second golden age for the Israelites.
I would like to point out here that the identity and lineage of Jethro has been confused by some historians, just as some of them confused Tarah, the father of Abraham with Azar. The truth is, Jethro was an Ishmaelite. The Holy Qur’an states, “To the people of Madyan (Madian) (We sent) their brother Shu’aib ” [Qur’an, 7:85], according to this author, and even according to the Holy Bible, the Midianites were Ishmaelites. See, Genesis 37:25-36 and Judges 8:22,24,26, were the Midianites are referred to as “the Ishmaelites”.
Moses served Jethro the Ishmaelite Prophet and king for a number of years, learnt from him, and was given guardianship of the Ark of the Covenant by him, and the staff of Adam from it, to go and set the Children of Israel free. Through the blessings of the Ark, the Children of Israel became free, and the Pharaoh was destroyed.
The Ark stayed in the family of Moses with the Children of Israel from this stage in history on wards and they placed in it the relics of Moses and Aaron as well. Moses and his brother and their family remained the cheifs of the Israelites and eventually placed it back in Bait ul-Maqdis in Palestine, which was originally built by Adam.
When the Children of Israel rebelled against the House of Moses, the Ark was taken from them and hidden during the era of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In search for the Ark, Nebuchadnezzar sacked both Mecca and Bait ul-Maqdis. The Adnanites buried Abraham and Ishmael’s treasure and the Hajr ul-Aswad whuch was from the Ark in Mecca, and fled to Yemen.
Nebuchadnezzar seized the Ark from the Israelites in Palestine. Faced with destruction and defeat, the Israelites then approached asked the Prophet Shamwil (Samuel) to pray God sends them a new King, to fight in God’s way and restore their lost blessings.
Kings Saul and David
Samuel prayed, and as he was a Prophet, Allah heard his prayer. Talut (Saul) was appointed as the King of the Children of Israel, and the sign of his kingdom was that he would be given the Ark of the Covenant (al Baqarah, 246-249).
Saul was a descendent of Ben Yamin (Benjamin), the younger brother of Yusuf (Joseph), the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Saul promised to marry his daughter and surrender the Ark of the Covenant over to the person who would kill Goliath.
The Holy Quran states David, who was a direct descendant of Yahuda (Judah), the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, killed Goliath, and inherited the Ark and the kingdom from Saul.
As the new guardian of the Ark of the Covenant, David now became the king of the Children of Israel. The House of David restored the Bait ul-Maqdis and placed the Ark therein. The Bible states that David, the greatest King of the Children of Israel also lived amongst the Ishmaelites, see Psalm 120:5 and his son Solomon; is reported to have said, “I am as dark and lovely as the tents of Kedar” (Song of Solomon 1:5).
King Solomon and Queen Sheba
Solomon inherited the Ark of the Covenant from David and thereby became king. He rebuilt the Bait ul Maqdis in Jerusalem, in honor of the Seal of Prophets, Muhammad, who was to come to it on the night of Ma’raj, and lead all Prophets in prayer. However, the topic of the Temple is for another time.
King Solomon married Queen Sheba (Bilqis), and from her had a son, Menelik I. Solomon gave the responsibility of guarding of the Ark of the Covenant to his son from Sheba, who carried it to Ethiopia after the death of Solomon, which was still kept a secret until sometime. See for example, History Channel’s “Ark of Covenant in Ethiopia”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOqLpT6HKzY
The Ark was sent to Ethiopia by Solomon because the delegation of the Seal of Prophets, Muhammad ibn Abdullah (s) was going to come to Ethiopia to receive it as would Jesus with his mother Mary. The descendants of Solomon and Sheba from the House of David who were its custodians, would surrender it to him through them.
As a child, Jesus visited Ethiopia with his mother Mary, and the Ark was surrendered to him during his youth. To read about the interaction of Jesus and the Ethiopians, see Acts 8:26-40 which speaks of Philips interaction with the Ethiopian Eunuch who was “an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “Queen of the Ethiopians”)”.
After Jesus was raised, the Ark returned to Ethiopia under the guardianship of the Davidic-Solomonic dynasty from the line of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.
Emperor of Ethiopia: Ashama bin Al-Abjar
The Emperor of Ethiopia Negus, Ashama bin Al-Abjar, embraced Islam secretly on the hands of the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, Ja’far ibn Abi Talib who resembled the Holy Prophet so much in looks, that people often mistook him for the Prophet Muhammad (s). The Ark was surrendered to him by Negus.
The proof he embraced Islam, was that the Prophet Muhammad prayed the funeral prayer over him (al-Najashi), and called him pious. His descendants intermarried into the family of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa aalihi wa sallam), and through them, the last Emperor of Ethopia Haile Selassie claimed maternal relation to he family of the Prophet (Ahlul-Bayt) through the Imam al-Husayn’s grandson, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir.
Additionally, there are clear verses in the Holy Qur’an which speak of this victory, that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa aalihi wa sallam) was granted, that the Ark of the Covenant was in his possession, but most people, other than Saints fail to notice them, similar to how the Ashab (Sahabah, Companions) felt after Abu Bakr’s sermon after the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) passed on, that they had heard the verses 3:144 from Surah Aal ‘Imran for the first time.
Abdullah ibn Abbas is reported to have said after hearing the sermon of Abu Bakr, “It seemed that the verse of the Holy Qur’an to which Abu Bakr referred was just revealed, although we had recited it several times in the past”.
The verses in the Holy Qur’an which corroborate this fact that the Ark with the Covenant in it (Tabut Sakina, Ark of the Covenant) was actually in possession of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) prior to the Hijrah are found in Surah al-Taubah and Surah al-Fath, wherein the Ark (Tabut) with the Covenant (Sakina) (referred to Tabut Sakina in al-Baqarah, v.248) is referred to in specific as “Sakina”.
Here are the verses, “But Allah did send Sakina on the Messenger and on the Believers, and sent down forces which ye saw not: He punished the Unbelievers; thus doth He reward those without Faith” (9:26) and ,”If ye help not (the Holy Prophet), (it is no matter): for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers drove him out: he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to his companion, “Have no fear, for Allah is with us”: then Allah sent down Sakina upon him, and strengthened him with forces which ye saw not, and humbled to the depths the word of the Unbelievers. But the word of Allah is exalted to the heights: for Allah is Exalted in might, Wise” (9:40) and, “While the Unbelievers got up in their hearts heat and cant – the heat and cant of ignorance,- Allah sent down Sakina to his Messenger and to the Believers, and made them stick close to the command of self-restraint; and well were they entitled to it and worthy of it. And Allah has full knowledge of all things.” (48:26)
The Zulfiqar Sword and Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib
It then follows that the Zulfiqar sword was taken out from it (the Tabut Sakina, Ark of the Covenant) and granted to the spiritual successor of the Prophet, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. The Ark of the Covenant was the best kept secret of the first two of the Rashidun Caliphs of the Quraysh dynasty, due to which both of them gave their spiritual allegiance to the first Imam of spirituality on the 18th of Dhul Hijjah, known as the day of Ghadir Khum, wherein the Prophet appointed ‘Ali as his spiritual successor, and the Guardian of Believers by declaring, “Whoever has me as his Master, ‘Ali is his Master”.
Dr. Tahir Qadri writes in his book; ‘The Ghadir Declaration’, when commenting on Hadith 5: “Manāwī has written in Fayd-ul-qadīr (6:217) that when Abū Bakr and ‘Umar had heard the Prophet’s saying — One who has me as his Master has ‘Ali as his Master — they said to ‘Ali: O son of Abū Tālib! You have become the master of every male and female believer, morning and evening (for ever).”
Bloodline of the Holy Prophet (S): The Twelve Imam Dynasty as Guardians
From the Ghadir Declaration onward, the new guardian of the Ark of the Covenant, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib was granted a distinct status by the companions, and allegiance to this secret administration continued from their time onwards.
Professor Tahir ul-Qadri writes in Hadith 47 of his book ‘Ghadir Declaration’, “Umar ibn Khattab said: One who has Allāh’s Messenger as his master has ‘Alī as his master. Sālim narrates: ‘Umar was asked why he always treated ‘Ali differently from other Companions. (At this) ‘Umar replied: Indeed that (‘Alī) is my master”. Any indifference or disrespect towards him was regarded by companions as a sure sign of a hypocrite and wickedness, to the extent there are even reports of the second Rashidun Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab strangling someone who disrespected ‘Ali in his presence, stating that anyone who did not regard ‘Ali as his Master could never be a true believer.
Professor Tahir Qadri writes in his book the ‘Ghadir Declaration’ Hadith 46, “It is narrated by ‘Umar that two Bedouins came to him disputing with each other. He said to ‘Ali: O Abū Hasan: decide between these two. So he decided between them (and settled their dispute). One of them said: Is he the only one left to decide between us? (At this) ‘Umar moved towards him and caught him by his collar and said: May you be dead! Do you know who he is? He is my master and the master of every believer (and) one who does not acknowledge him as his master is not a believer.” It was through the power of the Ark possessed by ‘Ali, that the Rashidun Caliphs were able to bring Palestine and Jerusalem into the Ishmaelite Empire, and returned the tribe of Judah to Jerusalem.
The Arab conquest of Jerusalem resulted in the Jews once again being allowed to live and practice their religion in Jerusalem, eight years after their massacre by the Byzantines and nearly 500 years after their expulsion from Judea by the Roman Empire. With the power of the Ark, the first generation expanded the borders of the revived Ishmaelite Empire, defeating virtually every army in the Arab Middle East who marched against it. However, during the reign of ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph, the Ark came under danger through the civil wars instigated by the camps of the rebels of the battles of Jamal, and Siffin, and so it was secretly hidden in Antioch or around it.
The secret of its location remained a sworn secret within the illustrious sons of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Twelve Imams. Its secret location was granted to Hasan ibn ‘Ali, then from him to Husayn ibn ‘Ali, and through their descendants its secret location will known by the Mahdi (a), the Twelfth Imam, a king and the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs.
Mahdi and the Return of Monarchy
According to the Sunni hadith texts, “then there shall be a Caliphate again, on the pattern of Prophetship” (Ahmad). This hadith indicates the return of a governance system which will follow the pattern of spiritual and secular succession of the Prophets. It is important here to elaborate on the system of governance of the Prophets mentioned in the Holy Quran. This system is a monarchy, since, outside monarchy, with dynastic succession from father to son, the Holy Quran, the Torah and the Bible do not acknowledge any other model of government.
Monarchy will return with the Mahdi since the main Prophets mentioned in the Quran are all from the Children of Israel, the dynasty of Jacob, tracing their descent back to the same ancestor, from Jacob to Isaac son of Abraham.
After Abraham, Prophetship in the Quran stayed within his bloodline through his two illustrious sons. Additionally, as this hadith refers to a secular (political) office as well as spiritual, the Caliphate, political on the pattern of Prophetship, spiritual, there arises a need to identify what this will look like.
According to Ibn Kathir, Adam wore a crown in heaven. When he descended, Gabriel was ordered to remove it. After his repentance was accepted, a crown was once again placed upon his head. The model of succession to secular power of the Prophets in the Quran, like from Adam the Caliph of God, to Seth (Agathodaimon) down to Idris (Thoth), the first king of the Egyptians, and from King David, who was appointed like Adam, according to the Holy Quran, as the Caliph of God, to his son King Solomon, of secular, or political succession, was dynastic, from father to son.
Al Mahdi is from the Ahlul Bayt; the bloodline of the Prophet Muhammad, from the descendants of Abraham and Ishmael. It is on this account that the earliest generation of Muslims prayed in every prayer, “O God, bless Muhammad, and the Family of Muhammad, as thou blessed Abraham, and the Family of Abraham”. The Mahdi then rules as a king over the Ishmaelites, because of his bloodline, as the Caliph of God, like Adam and David, with the Ark in his possession.
A Symbol of the Ark
“As for the Mahdi himself, he has a sword and a divinely inspired political policy (siyasa)” [Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, 366, Vol. 3, p. 327- 328]. It is also interesting to learn that the Zulfiqar sword was historically a symbol of power for the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the first flag commissioned and carried into battle by the Victorious Sultan Selim I in 1519, when he claimed the Caliphate and Sultanate to himself and the House of Osman (the longest lasting empire in history), after vanquishing the last Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil II, had the Zulfiqar sword on it as a symbol of the Prophet’s and his religion’s promised and eternal victory. See, http://flagspot.net/flags/tr-zulf.html. The Ottoman Caliphs used the Zulfiqar as a symbol of power and carried Zulfiqar flags into their battles against their enemies.
It will be brought forth by the Caliph Al Mahdi, a King
Al Suyuti wrote, “The reason he will be known as the Mahdi is that he will show the way to a hidden thing. He will bring the Ark (of the Covenant) to light from a place called Antioch.” (Suyuti, al-Hawi li’l Fatawa, II, 82,). See, http://www.harunyahya.com/articles/32ark_of_covenant.html
Related by Sulaiman ibn Isa: “I was informed that the Ark of the Covenant will emerge from the Tabariyya Sea through the efforts of Imam al-Mahdi. It will be placed before him at the Sacred House (either the Holy Ka’aba or Bayt al-Muqaddas in Palestine). When the descendents of Judah (the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham) see this (Ark), all except a few will embrace Islam.” (Ibn Hammad transmitted in al-Fitan (1:360#1050); and Suyuti copied it in al-Hawi li’l Fatawa (II:83).
Hence, according to multiple Islamic traditions, the Ark of the Covenant will finally be ‘taken out’ by Imam Al Mahdi (a), who will be its true and rightful heir, as a descendant of both Abraham, Ishmael and the Seal of Prophets, Muhammad (s), from the bloodline of ‘Ali and Fatima al-Zahra.
After retrieving this sacred Prophetic treasure of his ancestors, he will be coroneted king of the kingdom of heaven in Mecca or Jerusalem by Jesus son of Mary, upon his Second Coming. Mahdi will restore the Ark and place it back inside the Holy Ka’aba.
Before the Day of Judgment, the Ethiopians will learn of this history, and out of vengeance will destroy the Ka’aba and destroy it while digging it to search the Ark. The world will end upon these wicked people, and all good people will leave the world by this time according to the hadith traditions. It is reported in Tazkia Lil Qurtabi on Page 704-706 that Huzaifa once asked the Prophet about the Ark of the Covenant, where upon the Prophet, salutations be upon him, informed him “it would be brought forth by Al Mahdi”. Thereafter, Huzaifa states the Holy Prophet (s) recited the following verses of the Quran in reference to this,
4 And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture: Ye verily will work corruption in the earth twice, and ye will become great tyrants.
5 So when the time for the first of the two came, We roused against you slaves of Ours of great might who ravaged (your) country, and it was a threat performed.
6 Then we gave you once again your turn against them, and We aided you with wealth and children and made you more in soldiery.
7 (Saying): If ye do good, ye do good for your own souls, and if ye do evil, it is for them (in like manner). So, when the time for the second (of the judgments) came (We roused against you others of Our slaves) to ravage you, and to enter the Temple even as they entered it the first time, and to lay waste all that they conquered with an utter wasting.
8 It may be that your Lord will have mercy on you, but if ye repeat (the crime) We shall repeat (the punishment), and We have appointed hell a dungeon for the disbelievers. (Quran, 17:4-8)
And Allah Knows Best!
Sayyid Ahmed Amiruddin
Copyright © 2009 Ahlus Sunnah Foundation of Canada. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce this article is granted by the author for fair use only, with citation of the name of the author and source (this blog) without editing.