Prophet Yaqub is one of the Greatest Prophets in the Islamic history. In English, he is referred to as Jacob. Israel is another name associated with him. His descendants are more commonly known by this name and are referred to as Bani Israel (Children of Israel).
Although it is believed that Allah sent more than 124,000 Prophets to guide the people to the right path, we can find a reference to around 25 Prophets in the Quran. Prophet Yaqub is one of those who has been mentioned more than once in the Quran.
His reference to the name Yaqub appears 16 times in the Quran, whereas twice, he has been mentioned with the name of Israel. He belongs to the family of Prophets, being the son and grandson of a Prophet, nephew of Prophet as well as father of a Prophet. So, he stayed in the exclusive company of the most pious personalities of their time, the company of Prophets.
Family of Prophets
Prophet Yaqub comes from a family of Prophets. His grandfather is Prophet Ibrahim. Prophet Ibrahim’s son Ishaq was also a Prophet who was the father of Prophet Yaqub. And then one of the sons of Prophet Yaqub, namely Yusuf was also a Prophet.
This has been elaborately mentioned in the Quran in Surah Maryam verse number 49.
So, after he had left them and what they worshipped besides Allah, We granted him Isaac and Jacob, and made each of them a prophet.
Additionally, the other son of Prophet Ibrahim, Ismael was also a Prophet, so the Prophet Yaqub also happens to be the nephew of a Prophet. The legacy of Prophet Ibrahim, monotheism (the concept of one God), was taken forward by his son Prophet Ishaq and his grandson Prophet Yaqub. Prophet Yaqub firmly adhered to the concept of the oneness of Allah throughout his life.
The Story of Prophet Yaqub
The complete story of the Prophet Yaqub is not mentioned in the Quran. Only important events and his praise are mainly mentioned in the Quran. However, we can find some details about his life in the research studies of various Muslim Scholars and the Quran commentators.
On the other hand, some details are available per the traditions of the “People of the Book” (Ahl-e-Kitab, in Arabic). Some of these details about the life of Prophet Yaqub do, however match with each other in both the references of the People of the Book and Islamic Scholars.
Story of Israel
One such very important and relevant event can be quoted which is not in the Quran but has been mentioned by the People of the Book and the Islamic commentators. One day an angel came in front of Prophet Yaqub in the form of a man and started fighting with him. Both of them remained unbeaten until the time when the Angel hurt the thigh of the Prophet Yaqub, so he became lame. At the end, the Angel asked what your name is. Prophet replied, my name is Yaqub.
The Angel said, after today you will not be called by any other name but “Israel”. When Prophet Yaqub asked about his name, the Angel disappeared. Then Prophet Yaqub came to know that the man was in fact an angel. So, from that day, Prophet Yaqub got the name “Israel”. Hence, the descendants of Prophet Yaqub and his 12 sons collectively got the name and reference as the Children of Israel, which is most commonly known as Bani Israel in the Muslim world.
Birth of Prophet Yaqub
Prophet Yaqub was born in Palestine, which is referred to as the “Land of Prophets” in history. When the Prophet Ibrahim was in the closing years of his life, he wished to get his son Ishaq, married. Historically, Prophet Ibrahim belonged to the Canaanites, but he wished to marry his son Ishaq out of this tribe. So, Prophet Ishaq got married to Rebekah, who lived in Iraq. Rebekah gave birth to twins. One of the twins was Prophet Yaqub, while the other is Al-Eis.
Unfortunately, a sense of rivalry prevailed between the twin brothers right from their childhood. Al-Eis thought that his parents loved Yaqub more. So, they grew up with this bad feeling. The anger increased day by day, and eventually, he decided to kill Yaqub. Knowing this fact, Prophet Yaqub decided to leave the country.
Prophet-Hood of Yaqub
Quran tells us about the prophethood of Yaqub in Surah Maryam, verse number 49.
So after he had left them and what they worshipped besides Allah, We granted him Isaac and Jacob, and made each of them a prophet.
This verse is about the Prophet Ibrahim, whom Allah promised to grant prophecy to his descendants. Prophet Ibrahim believed in the oneness of Allah, a concept more commonly referred to as monotheism. So, he strongly passed on this concept to his son, Prophet Ishaq as well as to his grandson Prophet Yaqub.
Prophet Yaqub got special gifts with the will and command of Allah in the shape of strength of faith. His stood firm on his faith till his death. He was guided, given knowledge, got inspiration and more relevantly was given a voice with truthfulness. This is mentioned in surah Al-Anbya verse number 73, as under
We ˹also˺ made them leaders, guiding by Our command, and inspired them to do good deeds, establish prayer, and pay alms-tax. And they were devoted to Our worship.
In surah Saad, verse number 45-47, this has been further elaborated as under.
And remember Our servants: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the men of strength and insight.
We truly chose them for the honour of proclaiming the Hereafter.
And in Our sight they are truly among the chosen and the finest.
Importance of Prophet Yaqub in Islam
Prophet Yaqub has a very special and respected status in Islam, as he took forward his forefathers’ legacy. We believe that he was the chosen one and one of Allah’s men. He was a man of vision and strength. His special status as a Great Prophet and an exalted man is frequently mentioned in the Quran.
The Prophetic legacy of Prophet Yaqub continued with so many Prophets to come amongst his descendants, such as Prophet Yusuf, Prophet Yunus, Prophet Dawud, Prophet Sulayman and Prophet Esa. So, being the ancestor of so many Prophets, he gets the highest respect and regard in Islam and Muslims.
Sons of Prophet Yaqub
Prophet Yaqub has been mentioned in the Quran quite significantly about his son, Prophet Yusuf, in the surah Yusuf. Prophet Yaqub had 12 sons, Yusuf being the youngest one. As a father’s natural behavior or with Allah’s will, he had a special love and affection for his youngest son Yusuf.
This was not liked by his other 11 sons, so they conspired to kill Yusuf. Meanwhile, Yusuf dreamed that 11 stars and the sun and the moon prostrate before him. When he shared this dream with his father Prophet Yaqub, he advised him not to let his brothers know this dream or they may plan to harm you. This is narrated in the Quran in Surah Yusuf in verses number 4 and 5.
˹Remember˺ when Joseph said to his father, “O my dear father! Indeed I dreamt of eleven stars, and the sun, and the moon—I saw them prostrating to me!”
He replied, “O my dear son! Do not relate your vision to your brothers, or they will devise a plot against you. Surely Satan is a sworn enemy to humankind.
However, the 11 brothers succeeded in taking Yusuf with them for a trip, which was their plan to kill him. They threw Yusuf in a deep well and returned to their father, saying, Yusuf is eaten by a beast. This tragedy had a deep impact on Prophet Yaqoob, and he kept crying for so many years, which resulted in the loss of his sight. But his unwavering faith in Allah never weakened during this difficult time. He stood firm on his faith.
On the other side of the story, Allah managed to save Yusuf, so he grew up in an Egyptian family. After many years, fortunes favored Prophet Yaqub and his son Yusuf and they reunited. The sight of the Prophet Yaqub also restored and his other 11 sons confessed their fault.
This story is mentioned in Quran in details, in Surah Yusuf. It again confirms the unparalleled faith of prophet Yaqub.
Last Advice of Prophet Yaqub to His followers
In the last days of his life, Prophet Yaqub called all his followers, historically known as the children of Israel or Bani Israel in Arabic. He asked them to remain firm on Islam. This is mentioned in the Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah, verse number 132 and 133.
This was the advice of Abraham—as well as Jacob—to his children, ˹saying˺, “Indeed, Allah has chosen for you this faith; so do not die except in ˹a state of full˺ submission.”
Or did you witness when death came to Jacob? He asked his children, “Who will you worship after my passing?” They replied, “We will ˹continue to˺ worship your God, the God of your forefathers—Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac—the One God. And to Him we ˹all˺ submit.”
After his death, at the age of 147 years, he was buried in Ibrahimi Masjid in the city of Hebron alongside his ancestors. This place is commonly known as the sanctuary of Ibrahim in the Islamic world and the Cave of the Patriarchs by others. The tombs of Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Ishaq, Prophet Yaqub, and Prophet Yusuf are said to be here in the sanctuary of Ibrahim.