The Qi?a? al-'Anbiy?' (Arabic: ) or Stories of the Prophets is any of various collections of stories adapted from the Quran and other Islamic literature, closely related to exegesis of the Qur'an. One of the best-known is a work composed by the Persian author Ab? Ish?q Ibr?h?m bin Mans?r bin Khalaf of Neysh?b?r (a city located in Khorasan, Northeast Iran) the 12th century AD (AH 5th century); another was composed by Muhammad al-Kisai in the 8th century AD (AH 2nd century); others include the Ara'is al-Majalis by al-Tha'labi (d. 1035, AH 427) and the Qasas al-Anbiya by Ibn Kathir (d. 1372, AH 774). The Fatimid Ismaili jurist Qadi al-Nu'man also discusses the story (qia) of the Birth of Jesus, explaining its esoteric significance (ta?w?l) in his Foundation of Esoteric Interpretation (As?s al-Ta?w?l). The narrations within the Qisas Al-Anbiya, are not about historical accuracy, but rather about wisdom and moral teachings.
Because the lives of biblical figures--the Muslim prophets or anbiya--were covered only briefly in the Qur'an, scholars, poets, historians, and storytellers felt free to elaborate, clothing the bare bones with flesh and blood. Authors of these texts drew on many traditions available to medieval Islamic civilization such as those of Asia, Africa, China, and Europe. Many of these scholars were also authors of commentaries on the Qur'an; unlike Qur'an commentaries, however, which follow the order and structure of the Qur'an itself, the Qi?a? told its stories of the prophets in chronological order – which makes them similar to the Jewish and Christian versions of the Bible.
The Qi?a? thus usually begins with the creation of the world and its various creatures including angels, and culminating in Adam. Following the stories of the Prophet Adam and his family come the tales of Idris, Nuh, Shem, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Ismail and his mother Hajar, Lut, Ishaq, Yaqub and Esau, Yousuf, Shuaib, Musa and his brother Aaron, Khidr, Joshua, Josephus, Eleazar, Elijah, Samuel, Saul, Dawud, Sulaiman, Yunus, Dhul-Kifl and Dhul-Qarnayn all the way up to and including Yahya and Isa son of Maryam. Sometimes the author incorporated related local folklore or oral traditions, and many of the Qi?a? al-'Anbiy?''s tales echo medieval Christian and Jewish stories.
During the mid-16th century, several gorgeously illuminated versions of the Qi?a? were created by unnamed Ottoman Empire painters. According to Milstein et al., "iconographical study [of the texts] reveals ideological programs and cliché typical of the Ottoman polemical discourse with its Shi'ite rival in Iran, and its Christian neighbors in the West."