KORAH Arabic Qarun قارون
The son of Yashar (Izhar),son of Qahis (Kohath), son of Lawi (Levi). The leader of the rebellion against Moses, Num. xvi. 1; Jude 11 (where he is coupled with Cain and Balaam). He is mentioned three times in the Qur’an.
Surah xl. 24, 25: “Moreover we had sent Moses of old, with our signs and with clear authority, to Pharaoh, and Haman, and Korah; and they said ‘Sorcerer, imposter.'”
Surah xxix. 38: “And Korah and Pharaoh and Haman. With proofs of his mission did Moses come to them, and they behaved proudly on the earth; but us they could not outstrip; for every one of them did we seize in his sin. Against some of them did we send a stone-charged wind; some of them did the terrible cry of Gabriel surprise; for some of them we cleaved the earth; and some of them we drowned.”
Surah xxviii. 76-82: “Now Korah was of the people of Moses; but he behaved haughtily toward them; for we had given him such treasure that its keys would have burdened a company of men of strength. When his people said to him, ‘Exalt not, for God loveth not those who result; but seek by means of what God hath given thee, to attain the future Mansion; and neglect not thy part in this world, but be bounteous to others as God hath been bounteous to three, and seek not to commit excesses on the earth; for God loveth not those who commit excesses:’ he said, ‘It hath been given me only on account of the knowledge that is in me.’ Did he not know that God had destroyed before him generations that were mightier than he in strength and had amassed more abundant wealth? But the wicked shall not be asked of their crimes. And Korah went forth to his people in his pomp. Those who were greedy for this present life said, ‘Oh that we had the like of that which hath been bestowed on Korah! Truly he is possessed of great good fortune. But they to whom knowledge had been given said, ‘Woe to you! The reward of God is better for him who believeth and worketh righteousness, and none shall win it but those who have patiently endured.’ And we clave the earth for him and for his palace, and he had no forces, in the place of God, to help him, now was he among those who are succored. And in the morning those who the day before had coveted his lot said, ‘Aha! God enlargeth supplies to who He pleaseth of His servants, or is sparing. Had not God been gracious to us. He had caused it to cleave for us. Aha! The ungrateful can never prosper.”
Al-Baizawi says Korah brought a false accusation of immorality against Moses, and Moses complained to God, and God directed him to command the earth what he pleased, and it should obey him; whereupon he said, “O earth, swallow them up”; and immediately the earth opened under Korah and his confederates, and swallowed them up, with his palace and all his riches. – There is a tradition that as Korah sank gradually into the ground, first to his knees, then to his waist, then to his neck, he cried out four several times, “O Moses, have mercy on me!” But that Moses continued to say, “O earth, swallow them up!” Till at last he wholly disappeared; upon which God said to Moses, “Thou hadst no mercy of Korah, though he asked pardon of thee four times; but I would have had compassion on him if he had asked pardon of Me but once.”
He is represented by Jalalu ‘d-din as the most beautiful of the Israelites of his time. His opulence and avarice have become a proverb for those who amass wealth without giving away in alms and charity.
In the Talmud it is said that “Joseph concealed three treasures in Egypt, one of which became known to Korah…..the keys of Korah’s treasure chambers were a burden for 300 white mules.” Midr Jalkut on Eccl. v. 12: “Riches kept for the owners thereof to heir hurt,” – which may have furnished Muhammad with the nucleus of this story. Compare also Tract. Psachim, fol. 119a.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam