The accounts of the flood in the Jewish and Christian
traditions acknowledge Noah as being a righteous man in a world crushed under
the weight of sin and disbelief. The Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad,
may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, teach us that Prophet Noah was
a beacon of hope among the descendants of Adam in an era where sin and lawlessness
had overtaken the people.
Mankind had been one community believing in the Oneness
of God, but confusion and deviation had crept in. Noah was a calm, patient man
who called his people to return to the worship of the One True God. He was an
exceptional speaker, enjoining those around him to leave the worship of idols,
and to hear his warning of a terrible punishment for those who venerated idols
“And indeed We sent Noah to his people and he said O my people!
Worship God! You have no other god but Him.” (Quran 23:23)
Noah narrated stories about the mysteries of life and
the wonders of the universe. He described how the day, which gives sunlight
and activity, followed the night that gives coolness and rest. He spoke of God,
the Divine Creator Who owned heaven and earth, and he pointed out the wideness
and beauty of the earth. Noah explained that the creation of the world was for
the well being of mankind; but that man also had an obligation to understand
this and direct his worship to God, not false deities. When Noah began to speak
of the punishment that awaited idolaters, his people became resentful and
How Idolatry Began
Prophet Muhammad informed us that there were ten generations
between Prophets Adam and Noah.
We know that this was a very large period of time, as Noah himself lived over
a century, and people before lived even longer.
In those years, between Adam and Noah there were
generations of people that remembered the laws taught by Adam and worshipped
God correctly. The years passed and the people forgot; at times, the righteous
men amongst them reminded the people of their obligations to God. As time
continued to move on, the righteous men began to die, and Satan came whispering
to the people who had looked up to them, putting thoughts into their minds in
his sly, cunning way.
Satan inspired the good people to make statues of the
righteous men. In this way, Satan said, they would remember the righteous
people and thus remember to worship God. The good people built statues in
their meeting places and their homes, and Satan left them alone until everyone
had forgotten the reason the statues existed. Many years later, the devious
Satan appeared amongst the people again, this time suggesting that they worship
the idols directly.
An authentic narration of Prophet Muhammad sums up the beginning
of idolatry in the following way. Ibn Abbass, a close companion of the Prophet
“The names (of the idols) formerly belonged to some
pious men of the people of Noah, and when they died Satan inspired their people
to prepare and place idols at the places where they used to sit, and to call
those idols by their names. The people did so, but the idols were not
worshipped till those people (who initiated them) had died and the origin of
the idols had become obscure, whereupon people began worshipping them.” (Saheeh
The word Prophet (Nabi in Arabic) is derived from
the word Naba,meaning news. Revelation is given by God and, in turn,
the Prophet spreads the news amongst his people. A Messenger, on the other hand,
is sent with a specific mission, usually to convey a new ordainment from God. Every
Messenger is a Prophet, but every Prophet is not a Messenger. Since this was
mankind’s first deviation from the correct worship of God as taught by Prophet
Adam, God, in his infinite Kindness and Mercy, fulfilled His promise to Adam to
send messengers as guidance for mankind. God sent Noah, the first of His
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet Muhammad said:
“On the day of Judgement, the people will come to
Noah and say ‘Oh Noah, you are the first of the Messengers sent to earth, and God
called you a thankful slave.’”(Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Worshipping anything other than God has grave
consequences, the least of which is a lack of freedom; for Satan enslaves man,
destroys his mind and renders him unable to distinguish between right and
wrong. When Noah warned his people of the torment that awaited them if they
did not give up their idolatry, his warning fell mostly on deaf ears. Noah
explained Satan’s deceit, but his people turned away and refused to listen.
Noah warned them day and night; he announced his message in public and he spoke
quietly to people privately; yet all, but a few, denied his words. Noah cried
out to God.
“He said: ‘O my Lord! Verily, I have called my people night
and day (secretly and openly to accept the doctrine of Islamic Monotheism), but
all my calling added nothing but to their flight from the truth. Verily! Every
time I called unto them that You might forgive them, they thrust their fingers
into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, and persisted (in
their refusal), and magnified themselves in pride.” (Quran 71:5-7)
Those who responded to Noah’s call were the weakest and
poorest of his people; the leaders and those with power responded arrogantly
and rejected the call. They said:
“Verily we see you in plain error” (Quran 7:60)
Noah continued to appeal to his people, day after day
and year after year. For 950 years he endured their taunts and mockery.
Based on the work of Al Imam ibn Katheer, The Stories of the Prophets.
Noah continued to appeal to his people and they became
divided into two groups. His words spoke to the heart of the weak, poor, and oppressed,
but the wealthy influential people distrusted those words and could think only
of the possible erosion of their power and status. A war of words began
between Noah and the disbelievers. They accused Noah of being nothing but any
other human, of being nothing special. Noah agreed with this observation and
said that, indeed, he was only a human being, but one who brought a clear warning.
And God, the Almighty told us:
“Indeed We sent Noah to his people (he said): ‘I have come to
you as a plain Warner that you worship none but God, surely, I fear for you the
torment of a painful Day.’ The chiefs of the disbelievers among his people
said: ‘We see you but a man like ourselves, nor do we see any follow you but
the meanest among us and they too followed you without thinking. And we do not
see in you any merit above us in fact we think you are liars.’” (Quran
Noah explained to his rebellious people that they would
receive benefits by turning to God and begging His forgiveness. He (God) would
bestow rain on them, as well as children and wealth, He would grant them
bounteous gardens and flowing rivers. However, the disbelievers rebuffed his
words; they felt secure in their arrogance and pride.
The Conflict Intensified
Those against Noah and his call began to bargain with
him. They told him, that these two diverse groups, the meek and poor and the
rich and powerful, could not exist together in the same faith. Although
continuously taunted and bullied by the disbelievers, Noah reacted in a kind
gentle manner. He explained that he would never turn away the humble and weak believers
who had heeded his call. These people, he would inform them, were the guests of
God. Noah appealed to his people. He tried to reason with them and make them
see the reality of their situation. Without personal gain and with a humble
but heavy heart Noah refuted their arguments.
“O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it; my reward is
from none but God. I am not going to drive away those who have believed. Surely,
they are going to meet their Lord, but I see that you are a people that are
ignorant. O my people! Who will help me against God if I drove them away? Will
you not then give a thought? And I do not say to you that the Treasures of God
are (only) with me or that I know the unseen, nor do I say I am an angel; and I
do not say that God will not bestow any good on those whom your eyes look down
upon. God knows what is in their inner selves (in regard to Belief). In that
case, I would indeed be among the unjust.” (Quran 11:29-31)
The disagreements continued until the disbelievers had
run out of arguments. They mocked Noah and the believers, but Noah continued to
deliver his message. Finally, he could bear no more and turned to God with
heartfelt supplication. Noah did not run out of patience; he remained a patient,
kind and gentle man. But he had come to realise that the disbelievers would do
nothing but spread corruption and disbelief throughout the land. They would
mislead and corrupt the believers and deliver a legacy of disbelief to their children.
Noah prayed to God. He said:
“My Lord! Leave not one of the disbelievers on the earth. If
you leave them, they will mislead Your slaves and they will beget none but
wicked disbelievers.” (Quran 71:27)
So God accepted Noah’s prayer.
God instructed Noah to build the ark and passed
judgement on the disbelievers in the form of a flood.
“And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our
Inspiration and address Me not on behalf of those who did wrong; they are
surely to be drowned.” (Quran11:37)
Noah chose a place outside the city and far away from
the sea to build his ark. The disbelievers mocked and laughed, making comments
about the ship’s location, far from any water source. The disbelievers had no comprehension
of the power and magnificence of God, so they could not understand why Noah
would build a ship, on the top of a hill, far away from the ocean. They called
him crazy and laughed out loud. The ship began to take shape and when it was
finished, Noah patiently waited for the command from God.
“Until when Our Command came and the lowlands gushed forth,
overflowing, We said: ‘Load it with two of each kind of animal (male and
female), and embark your family, except against whom the Word has already gone
forth, and those who believe.’ And none believed him except a few.” (Quran
When the water started to gush from the earth and fall
from the sky, God instructed Noah to enter the ark with his family and the
believers. God also commanded Noah to take a pair (male and female) of every
animal, bird and insect with him. The disbelievers watched him incredulously,
asking what he intended to do with all the animals.
Noah’s wife did not join him, for she had never believed
in the message that Noah had been preaching; nor did his oldest son, who
preferred to flee to a high mountain. The scholars of Islam hold different
opinions about the number of people on the ark, but the highest estimate is 80.
As the believers and animals entered the ark, the water gushed from every crack
in the earth, and the rain fell from the sky in quantities never seen before.
Hour after hour the water levels rose, and the seas and rivers invaded the land.
The believers entered the ark in the name of God, just as
Muslims today begin everything they do, in the name of God.
“Embark therein; in the Name of God will be its course and its
anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft Forgiving, most Merciful. So it sailed with
them amidst waves like mountains...” (Quran 11:41)
Noah had built the ark according to God’s instructions,
from planks and nails, and it kept the believers safe from the deluge of rain and
from the water gushing out of the earth. Then the earth’s interior moved in
unusual ways, and the bottom of the oceans rose in sudden bursts causing waves to
flood the earth. These waves, as big as mountains, submerged everything; they
lifted up the ark, making it appear as fragile as a matchbox tossed in the
ocean. This construction, made of wood, became a ship of safety and security, for
its passengers had true belief and trust in God.
From his secure place on the ark, Noah could see one of
his sons overwhelmed by the water. Noah cried out to his son, imploring him to
come aboard the ark and to leave the non-believers to their fate. The son,
however, was thinking in terms of this world, and not with heartfelt trust in
God. He replied that he would take himself to a mountain, never imagining that
waves could swallow a mountain. Noah pleaded with his son saying “nothing can
save you on this day except the mercy of God”. The son refused, and he
“And Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself
(apart), ‘O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers.’ The son
replied, ‘I will betake myself to a mountain; it will save me from the water.’
Noah said: ‘This day there is no saviour from the Decree of God except him on
whom He has mercy.’ And a wave came in between them so he (the son) was among
the drowned.” (Quran 11:42-43)
The Flood Ends
“‘O Earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withhold (your
rain).’ The water was diminished (made to subside) and the Decree (of God) was
fulfilled (the destruction of the people of Noah). And it (the ship) rested on
Mount Judi, and it was said: ‘Away with the people who are wrongdoing.’” (Quran
Unlike Christian and Jewish traditions Islam, does not
mention Noah sending a bird (neither a dove nor raven) to search for dry land.
Rather, at God’s command, the rain stopped and the water ceased to gush from
all the cracks in the earth. Calm returned and the sun began to shine. The
flood had cleansed the earth of idolatry and disbelievers. Not a single person
who had disbelieved in God remained on the earth. The earth swallowed up the
water and the ark rested upon Mt. Judi (what is believed to be in present day Turkey).
Noah was a Prophet and leader of men, but he was also a
father. He turned to God with sadness and cried,
“O my Lord! Verily my son is of my family! And certainly your
promise is true and you are the Most Just of the judges.” (Quran 11:45)
Noah remembered that God had promised to save his
family. Noah did not doubt the word or promises of God, but he wanted to
understand. Thus God taught Noah a lesson.
As human beings we use words to mean certain things, but
God can often give them new, more comprehensive meanings. For instance, the
word prayer originally meant making supplication to God, but Islam came and
gave it new meaning – it became the ritual prayer preformed five times a day. When
we use the word family, we think of blood ties and relationships, and Noah was
imploring God that his son was of his family. God told Noah that his son was
definitely not part of his family because he was unrighteous. True family
are the righteous believers in God.
“He said: ‘Oh Noah! Surely, he is not of your family; verily,
his work is unrighteous, so ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge!
I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorants.’” (Quran 11:46)
Noah understood. He said;
“O my Lord! I seek refuge with You from asking from You that
of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have Mercy on me,
I would indeed be one of the losers.” (Quran 11:47)
Noah released the animals, the birds and the insects and
they scattered over the earth. Noah and his family (the believers) disembarked,
whereupon Noah touched his head to the ground in prostration. At this point
the Quran and the narrations of Prophet Muhammad leave the story of Noah. We
do not know how his affairs with his people continued, nor do we know what
happened to his family. All we can ascertain is that on his death bed Noah
drew his sons close to him and called on them to worship One God: The Creator
and Sustianer of the Universe.
Prophet Muhammad said:
“When the death of the Messenger of God, Noah,
approached, he admonished his sons: ‘Indeed I would give you far reaching
advice, commanding you to do two things, and warning you against doing two
things as well. I charge you to believe that there is no god but God and that
if the seven heavens and the seven earths were put on one side of a scale and
the words “there is no god but God” were put on the other, the latter would
outweigh the former. I warn you against associating partners with God and
against pride.” (Sahih al Bukhari)
Most of Noah's people rejected his message, but the message
survives in the hearts and minds of Muslims to this day. The comforting words,
and the hopes of salvation Noah conveyed to his sons while on his death bed,
remain part of a Muslim's belief and confirm his attitude towards God. For the
Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, also told us
that God undertakes a covenant with the believers: If we do not worship other
gods beside God, then He will not refuse us heaven.