- An analysis of the Story of Noah
Allah (SWT), in the Holy Quran has mentioned several stories about prophets and this series of artiles based on the lectures of Sheikh Mansour Leghaei will look at some of the lives of the Prophets according to the Holy Quran. The stories in the Quran are referred to by the Quran as ’qasas’ meaning they follow consequences of an incident, not chronologically, in order to illustrate a message.
Purpose of stories in the Quran
- To learn the mistakes of others. Allah mentions in the Holy Quran in chapter 7:176 “…therefore relate the narrative that they may reflect.” Indicating the stories of the past civilisations should teach us to correct our ways so as not to repeat the same mistakes. The following verse clearly states the purpose of such stories “In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding….” (12:111). Allah uses the word “I’bra” more accurately translated as a bridge, therefore the stories are like a bridge that connect the present to the past so we can learn and come back without getting affected in any way.
- Stories used in teaching are more attractive and for years have been used to transmit important messages. People remember messages more accurately when narrated in story form.
- Easier way of learning. It is known that the best authors have the best stories, be it fiction or non fiction and those among them who can put the most philosophical matters in story form are considered the best of writers.[/tie_list]
Characteristics of Stories in the H. Quran
- Real and True: Realism is when a story is true but is mentioned in the authors own words and characters. In the Holy Quran all the stories are the exact words and actions of the characters as they were at their time similar to a reporter following every step of the life of the Prophet for example. Allah Says in the Holy Quran, ”Then certainly We will relate to them with knowledge, for We were never absent” (7:7)
- Philosophy of History: The human approach towards telling stories is the chronological one. The Holy Quran in its uniqueness discusses the philosophy of history doing away with unnecessary trivialities and details that have no benefit to mankind. The stories are always general and always deduce a conclusion. The stories also demonstrate general rules and teachings to instruct mankind how some laws and rules are applied.
Stories of Prophets in the Quran
There are a total of 26 Prophet’s names in the Quran. Prophet Adam and Nuh (3:33), Ozair (9:30), Hud and Swaleh (11:89), Idrees and Dhilkafl (21:85), 18 other prophets (6:83-86) and lastly our H. Prophet Muhammad (SWT) (48:29). Total number of prophets according to hadith is 124,000 out of which 313 were messengers and 5 were the ‘Ulul-‘azm” – or principle prophets (Nuh, Musa, Isa, Ibraheem, and Muhammad) who brought a ‘shari’a’ (new law)
It must be noted that although many prophets were sent by Allah (SWT), they all brought ONE religion which was the submission to the will of Allah (SWT). The question then arises as to why the need for so many Prophets? The answer is simple and straight foreword, the Prophets complete and satisfy each other and do not contradict the former. The example is like that of a school where as a student progresses through the classes, the teachers complete the knowledge gained in the previous class.
Prophet Nuh, The First Principle Prophet.
In the Islamic world there have been a number of forged hadith especially in regards to the lives of the Prophets many of which have come from rabbis, who after the H. Prophet (SWT), transmitted certain ahadith from their own books to explain the lives of the Prophets. These ahadith have to be filtered by shi’i scholars but to this date there are still some ahadith that have escaped detection.
Nuh in Judaism
The story of Noah is mentioned in the Old Testament (Gen: 6-9) is mentioned in a chronological manner having numerous pieces of irrelevant information such as the width, height and length of the ark. In the Holy Quran, unlike the bible, Prophet Nuh is mentioned over 26 chapters divulging only relevant portions at relevant times. In the bible there are 2 accounts of Nuh:
Part 1- Before the flood, God was not happy with his creation for they had become wicked. He chose Noah ‘one who walked with God’ to build an ark and to take two animals of each of the creation male and female etc. The bible does not answer a pertinent question, Why?
Part 2– In this part the narrative continues on but during the flood when Noah is attacked by a lion and God speaks to him telling him “Yea foolish Shepard…”. After the flood Noah plants the first vineyard with the help of Satan and his 3 sons and becomes drunk and introduces slavery!
Nuh in the Quran
Prophet Nuh is mentioned 43 times in 29 chapters of the Holy Quran with 2 main surahs, Surah Nuh (71) and Surah Hud (11), containing the bulk of the narrative. The account is very precise and eloquent.
Allah(SWT) greets him in the Quran in a very compassionate way saying, ”O Nuh, come down (from the ark) with peace from Us, and (with) blessings on you…” (11:48). He was the first person to use sound logical argument and was the symbol of patience and resistance having preached for 950 years and converting only 80. He was the most appreciative Prophet of Allah (SWT) whereby Allah refers to him as “abdan Shakuura” (Most grateful servant) (17:3)
- Nuh was a messenger of Allah sent to his people alone, not to the whole of Mankind, as Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran, “And certainly We sent Nuh to his people: Surely I am a plain warner for you” (11:25) Clearly indicating that the events that occurred to Prophet Nuh were not universal.
- The people of his time were idolaters, this was their crime, and they also refused to accept Nuh as the apostle of Allah (SWT) and therefore the reason for the flood was due to them being idolaters.”And they say (to each other): “Do not forsake your gods, and do not forsake Wadd, Suwa, or Yaghuth, or Ya-uq or Nasr.’ “(71:23)
- His main teachings were regarding theology, “That you shall not worship any one but Allah(SWT), verily I fear for you the chastisement of a painful day.” (11:26) Telling people about the hereafter, and the torment on the day of Judgement.
- His morality and piety were among the best of all of Allah’s (SWT) creation .
- He brought divine laws which were not compatible with the people of his time and therefore there were a lot of objections.
- Only a small number of people followed him (According to ahadith only 80 people)
- His style of preaching
- Was very persuasive. He used to preach “…day and night…” (71:5) and for a period of 950 years.
- He used to preach “…publicly and privately…” (71:9) visiting weddings and funerals.
- He used to present his teachings in a sound and logical manner utilising the internal prophet of intellect to convert people.
- He used to refer to the internal and external signs of Allah (SWT) and encouraged them to look at the stages of creation, look at nature and the heavens.
- He always used the strategy of warning and encouraging discouraging them about punishment of Allah (SWT) and at the same time helping them to understand by encouragement and talking about the mercy of Allah (SWT), not always talking about doom!
Why his People were Punished
- According to the Quran they asked for it “…now bring upon us what you have threatened us with, if you are of the truthful.”(11:32) they were daring God asking where that punishment Nuh promised was.
- There was no more hope for their guidance for if there was even a remote possibility for even one soul to be guided Allah (SWT) would have not brought the calamity. Imam Ali (A.S.) was once asked why during battle, he killed some of the enemy and let others go; he replied that lets some go if he can see even a remote possibility of their guidance, if he cannot see that he kills them.
- They would mislead others if they had the opportunity to live and to propagate.
Preparations for the Punishment
- Allah (SWT) commanded Nuh to build the Ark
- Their women become infertile 40 years prior to the event and therefore they did not have any children for Allah (SWT) is the Most Just
- They mocked him about his building of the ark “And he began making the ark, and whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they mocked at him. He said: “If you mock at us, verily we (also) shall mock at you even as you mock at us.” (11:38)
- After making the Ark, Nuh starts praying against them “And Nuh said: “O my Lord, do not leave a single dweller from the unjust on the earth.” (71:26)
- The gates and windows of heaven were opened both top and bottom therefore creating rain and flood.
- 1Who shall come aboard- According to the bible only 8 people survived, but according to the Quran prophet Nuh was commanded “Carry into it two of every kind, a pair, and your family, except him against whom the sentence has already been passed, and those who believe.” (11:40)
- The wife of Prophet Nuh is not included in the ‘Family’ or ‘Ahl’ as it says in surah Tahreem “…wife of Nuh, and the wife of Lut. They were under (married to) two of Our righteous servants, but they were unfaithful to them, and even (the prophets) could not avail them in the least against Allah (SWT)…” (66:10)
- Nuh invited his son but Canaan refused saying he will climb the highest mountain. He invited his son due to the fact that he was distancing himself from the crowd of unbelievers and also because Allah (SWT) asked him to invite his family.
- Nuh prayed for his son but yet his prayer was not accepted because of the actions of Canaan. Therefore, although he was a blood relation, he had to have the same criterion of selection as anyone else; therefore he had to be a believer, just as Salmaan was considered part of the Ahlul Bayt not due to his blood relation but due to his action.
End of Story
The end of the story is considered the most eloquent ayah of the Quran having only 17 words but containing 150 different styles of Balagah but the translation does not do justice: “And it was said: “O earth, swallow your water;; and O sky, ease (raining).” and the water subsided, and the decree was fulfilled. And it (the ark) came to rest upon (the mount) Al-Judi and it was said: “Away with the unjust people!”” (11:44)
Global or Local Flood?
The Judeo-Christians and mainstream Muslims believe that the flood at the time of Nuh was a global flood but in reality it there is a significant amount of evidence to suggest that it was indeed a local flood. Numerous discrepancies and logical fallacies encumber the idea of a global flood. Questions such as how did all the animals get to the present range and distribution around the globe? How could only 8 people look after millions of species of animals for 1 year? How could Nuh travel all over the world to gather all the animals? Why would Allah (SWT) punish the people of other parts of the world? Besides there is no geological evidence for this event and besides, as has been established earlier, Nuh’s message was not universal.
Nuh’s Flood and Science
1- The earliest large flood that took place was approximately 20,000 years ago in the ice age, which took thousands of years to finish. Besides this, the flood was not global as evidenced from geology.
2- According to a Gilgamesh epic, the Sumerian deluge tale is mentions a deluge that took place close to where Nuh was but geologists say it took place over 75,000 years ago.
3- Robert Ballard, a famous oceanographer, documented ancient buildings on the floor of the black sea. This discovery fits with the Quranic version. Read more here
Lessons From The Story
- Resistance in the path of Allah- Prophet Nuh was an example of the incredible resistance on the right path despite almost insurmountable obstacles. His 950 years of preaching are a testaqment of that incredible patience and resistance!
- Pioneers have the most difficult job- Being the first to introduce Allah (SWT), he had the most difficult job in establishing the faith. Starting something and being a pioneer for the sake of Allah (SWT) is often the most difficult yet rewarding path a human can take!
- Don’t cling to hollow refuge like Canaan who said he would climb the highest mountain. Nothing can save us from the real deluge of the chastisement except reliance on the Almighty.
- Faith is the more respected relation in the eyes of Allah (SWT)- Not nationalism or nepotism, rather true belief.
- Wife of Nuh is not part of his family- This critical distinction is one of the arguments used to prove that the wives of the H.Prophet Muhammad (SAW) were not part of his Ahlul Bayt.
The example of my Ahlul Bayt is like the ark of Nuh, one who embarks will be saved and one who does not will be perished.