People of Ya-Sin

People of Ya-Sin is the phrase used by Muslims to refer to an ancient community who are mentioned in the Quran[1] as the People of the City or the Companions of the City. The location and people of this city has been the subject of much scholarly debate in Islam.

In the Quran

According to the Quran, God sent two prophets to this particular community.[2] When the people of the city refused to hear their words, God sent a third prophet to strengthen them. The prophets told the people: "Truly we have been sent on a mission to you".[3] The community mocked the message of the prophets and said "Ye are only men like ourselves; and the Most Gracious sends no sort of revelation: ye do nothing but lie.".[4] The prophets, in reply, rebuked the community, saying: "Our Lord doth know that we have been sent on a mission to you: "And our duty is only to proclaim the clear Message."[5]

Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem's depiction of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, an incident which has often been compared to the Quranic narrative of the "Companions of the City"

The Quran goes onto say that the prophets were threatened with stoning and torture,[6] but they refused to give in and continued to warn the people to end their sinful ways. Then, from the farthest part of the city, there came running a man who exhorted the people to believe the message and told them: "O my people! Obey the messengers: "Obey those who ask no reward of you (for themselves), and who have themselves received Guidance.[7] The following verses, which describe the man's entrance in to "the garden", assumed to mean Heaven, has been interpreted by some scholars to mean that the believing man was martyred for his faith.[8]

Accounts in exegesis

Classical commentators on the Quran popularly identified the "People of the City" with the city of Antioch.[8] Those scholars who identified the city with Antioch, however, were divided over the date of the event. One group believed that this event took place after Jesus and explained that the Quran's use of the word "messenger" in this context refers not to three prophets but to three of Jesus's disciples who were sent to Antioch to proclaim the message. Those of this view further explained that the name of the martyr was Habib the Carpenter, who is also known as The Believer of YaSin.[9] The disciples believed to have been sent were Peter, John and others. Other commentators who while still believed that the city refers to Antioch explained that this is the narrative of a far older incident and that the three "messengers" mentioned were indeed prophets, namely Saduq, Masduq and Shalum.[10]

But another school of classical scholars, among them Ibn Kathir, rejected the identification with Antioch altogether. These commentators explained that the described town could not have been Antioch as the city was never destroyed, with no historical records recording such an incident.[8] The other main reason that these scholars gave for rejecting this particular identification is that the term "messengers" almost always refers to prophets in the Quran and never does it refer to the disciples of a prophet. Most modern scholars, including Abdullah Yusuf Ali, rejected the identification with Antioch and stated that this identification was made with no real proof.[11] Many scholars who rejected the identification did, however, link the narrative of the story with the preaching of Paul and Barnabas as described in Acts of the Apostles.[12]


  1. Quran 36:13–21
  2. Quran 36:13
  3. Quran 36:14
  4. Quran 36:15
  5. Quran 36:16–17
  6. Quran 36:18
  7. Quran 36:20–21
  8. 1 2 3 Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, People of Ya-Sin
  9. Muhammad, Martin Lings, Chapter XXVIII
  10. A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Wheeler, People of Ya-Sin
  11. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, notes on 36:13-21
  12. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, note. 3959: "Cf. Acts, 14:15, where Paul and Barnabas say, in the city of Lystra near the modern Konia, 'We also are men with like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities...'".
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