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Noah in the Quran

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One of the greatest prophets of Allah who suffered greatly in promoting Tawheed (monotheism) was Prophet Noah. Noah is one of the prophets who is revered in all Abrahamic religions including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. He is one of the five great prophets of Allah revered in Islam and sent to people along with a holy scripture and universal religion. Prophet Noah is known for his very long life. He only preached to his people for 950 years as the Quran has stated and lived up to 2800 years! The great flood during his time is the most important event during his prophethood, which went down in history. This article featured on Islam4u will delve into the life and character of this noble prophet and the events that unfolded during his time.

Who Was Noah?

Noah was the ninth descendant of Adam. His father and ancestors respectively were:

Lamech—-> Methuselah—->Enoch (Idris)—->Jared—->Mahalalel—->Kenan—->Enos—->Seth (Shayth)—->Adam

Prophet Noah was known by his name Noah due to his weeping and lamenting greatly for Allah. In Arabic, weeping and lamenting is known as nawhah (نَوحة), and his Arabic name Nuh is derived from this word. Noah was the first of the great five prophets possessing a strong resolve. That is, he was one of the Ul al-‘Azm (اولو العزم) prophets. These prophets were universal prophets who were sent to the entire world and had a holy scripture and a separate code of religious law or sharia. They were also of higher rank than other prophets due to their high level of piety and devotion. Of course, their sharia was mostly the same in terms of principles but had variations in certain rulings. The five great Ul al-‘Azm prophets were:

Unlike prophets who were sent to their own tribe or nation, these prophets were sent to propagate their religion to the entire world, and everyone must have obeyed them and accepted their religion and holy scripture.

Noah’s Characteristics in the Quran

The Quran mentions that Noah was very grateful and appreciative of Allah’s blessings. In Surah Isra verse three, Allah says:

ذُرِّيَّةَ مَنْ حَمَلْنَا مَعَ نُوحٍ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ عَبْدًا شَكُورًا ‎﴿٣﴾

…descendants of those whom We carried [in the ark] with Noah. Indeed, he was a grateful servant.

It has been written under the commentary of this verse that Noah would thank and praise Allah every time he would wear a garment, eat, or drink.

One of the things that sets Noah apart from other prophets was his long life. There are many historical records of the age of Noah. Based on them, Noah lived between 1000 to 2800 years. The Quran states that he only preached to his people for 950 years:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِۦ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ ٱلطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَٰلِمُونَ ‎﴿١٤﴾‏

Certainly We sent Noah to his people, and he remained with them for a thousand-less-fifty years. Then the flood overtook them while they were wrongdoers. (29:14)

This shows that Noah was an extremely patient prophet. His people were idolaters. Idolatry had just recently gained ground and many people were embracing it. They must have been stopped from practicing such a foolish act. Prophet Noah propagated Tawheed and monotheism for 950 years. Just imagine that. Yet, the stubborn people of his time did not believe in him. They mocked him, harassed him, and refused to believe in him. That was when Prophet Noah felt helpless and asked Allah to help him.

Prophet Noah’s Story in Surah Noah

In Surah Nuh, Allah quotes Noah and how he spent years and years trying to guide his people to the right path but all to no avail. Allah sent Noah to his people to warn his people before they are overtaken by a painful punishment. So Noah says to his people in verse two of this surah:

يَٰقَوْمِ إِنِّى لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ ‎﴿٢﴾

O my people! Indeed, I am a clear warner to you.

What is he going to warn them about and enjoin them to? He wants three things from them:

1. Worship God

2. Be pious

3. Obey me (as Allah’s prophet to you)

What would happen if they did that? Verse four explains:

يَغْفِرْ لَكُم مِّن ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُؤَخِّرْكُمْ إِلَىٰٓ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ إِنَّ أَجَلَ ٱللَّهِ إِذَا جَآءَ لَا يُؤَخَّرُ ۖ لَوْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ‎﴿٤﴾

That He may forgive you some of your sins and respite you until a specified time. Indeed when Allah’s [appointed] time comes, it cannot be deferred, if you know.’

Noah Complains to Allah

After witnessing that his words were ineffective, Prophet Noah turns to his Lord and says, “O my Lord! I invited my people to You night and day. However, they did not answer my call and instead evaded it. Every time I invited them to Your religion so that their sins may be forgiven, they would place their fingers in their ears and cover their heads with their clothes. They were persistent in their disbelief and were too arrogant to accept my invitation. Then I invited them to Your religion openly. Then I did so privately. I said to them, ‘Seek forgiveness from Allah as He is all-forgiving. He will cause rain to fall abundantly. He will help you with wealth and sons and provide you with gardens and streams. Why is it that you do not revere Allah? He has created you in stages.

Do you not see how Allah has made the seven heavens in layers? He is the one who made the moon a light and the sun a lamp. Do you not see how Allah made you grow like plants? Then He causes your death and then resurrects you. Allah is the one who made the land of the earth flat like a spread-out carpet so that you could travel along its paths.’ Then Noah said to his Lord, “My Lord! My people have disobeyed me and have followed those whose wealth and children avail them not but destruction and loss! They hatched a plot and said, ‘Never abandon your deities, Wadd, Suwa‘, Yaghuth, Ya‘uq, and Nasr.’ They indeed led many astray. So, my Lord, do not increase anything for the wrongdoers save misguidance.”

The Ark of Noah

The story of how Prophet Noah built the ark is quite interesting. When Noah and his followers asked for Allah to help them due to their small number, Allah told Noah to tell each of the believers to eat dates and plant their seeds. After the seeds grow into date palms, they should eat their dates and plant their seeds. The seeds grew into date palms. Once again, Allah said that they must eat the dates and plant their seeds. At this point, one-third of those people who used to be followers of Noah lost their faith. When the seeds grew into date palms, Allah gave the same command.

At this point, another one-third of the believers lost their faith. For the third time, Noah told his people to plant the seeds, and after the seeds grew into date palms, Noah’s followers went to him and told him that they fear that they may also lose their faith. Prophet Noah prayed to Allah and asked Him to bring their salvation. Allah answered his prayer and said, “Now you can build the ark.” Allah wanted to provide Noah and the believers with the raw material needed to build the ark, that is, wood from those trees. 

Noah Begins Building the Ark

Noah would spend hours on end constructing the ark under the supervision of Allah. His people mocked at how he was building an ark while there was no body of water around it. The Quran quotes them as saying:

وَيَصْنَعُ ٱلْفُلْكَ وَكُلَّمَا مَرَّ عَلَيْهِ مَلَأٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِۦ سَخِرُوا۟ مِنْهُ ۚ قَالَ إِن تَسْخَرُوا۟ مِنَّا فَإِنَّا نَسْخَرُ مِنكُمْ كَمَا تَسْخَرُونَ ‎﴿٣٨﴾

As he was building the ark, whenever the elders of his people passed by him, they would ridicule him. He said, ‘If you ridicule us [today], we shall ridicule you [tomorrow] just as you ridicule us [now].

In the next verse, Noah continues:

فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ مَن يَأْتِيهِ عَذَابٌ يُخْزِيهِ وَيَحِلُّ عَلَيْهِ عَذَابٌ مُّقِيمٌ ‎﴿٣٩﴾

Soon you will know whom a disgraceful punishment will overtake and on whom a lasting punishment will descend.’

It is said that the ark had three floors. The bottom floor was for animals, the middle floor was for cattle, and the top floor was for Noah and his followers.

The Great Flood

After the ark was built, Allah commanded Noah to board the ship along with all the believers and a pair of every kind of animal. The Quran says in this regard:

حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا جَآءَ أَمْرُنَا وَفَارَ ٱلتَّنُّورُ قُلْنَا ٱحْمِلْ فِيهَا مِن كُلٍّ زَوْجَيْنِ ٱثْنَيْنِ وَأَهْلَكَ إِلَّا مَن سَبَقَ عَلَيْهِ ٱلْقَوْلُ وَمَنْ ءَامَنَ ۚ وَمَآ ءَامَنَ مَعَهُۥٓ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ ‎﴿٤٠﴾

When Our edict came and the oven gushed [a stream of water], We said, ‘Carry in it a pair of every kind [of animal], along with your family—except those [of them] against whom the edict has already been given—and those who have faith.’ And none believed with him except a few.

This flood that was about to happen was the result of the obstinacy of a group of people who never listened to their prophet and now had to taste the punishment that they had denied. Their prophet had preached to them for almost a millennium and there was no other way for them to live but to be punished.

Noah Boards the Ark

Noah boarded the ark along with his few followers and family. He also carried a pair of every kind of animal in the ark. After everyone was aboard, the doors of the sky opened and a ferocious storm broke. The Quran says in this regard:

فَفَتَحْنَآ أَبْوَٰبَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ بِمَآءٍ مُّنْهَمِرٍ ‎﴿١١﴾

Then We opened the gates of the sky with pouring waters.

Moreover, the springs burst forth and the two waters met and the world was struck by a devastating flood. At this point, one of Noah’s sons whose name was apparently Canaan did not board the ark. Noah called out to him:

يَٰبُنَىَّ ٱرْكَب مَّعَنَا وَلَا تَكُن مَّعَ ٱلْكَٰفِرِينَ ‎﴿٤٢﴾

O my son! ‘Board with us, and do not be with the faithless!’

However, he did not listen and instead said, “I shall take refuge on a mountain, and it will protect me from the flood.” Noah said, “No one can protect you today except Allah.” Then the waves rose and covered the mountaintops. Noah’s son was also drowned.

The Flood Subsides

Allah commanded the water to drain by saying:

وَقِيلَ يَٰٓأَرْضُ ٱبْلَعِى مَآءَكِ وَيَٰسَمَآءُ أَقْلِعِى وَغِيضَ ٱلْمَآءُ وَقُضِىَ ٱلْأَمْرُ وَٱسْتَوَتْ عَلَى ٱلْجُودِىِّ ۖ وَقِيلَ بُعْدًا لِّلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ ‎﴿٤٤﴾

Then it was said, ‘O earth, swallow your water! O sky, leave off!’ The waters receded; the edict was carried out, and it settled on [Mount] Judi. Then it was said, ‘Away with the wrongdoing lot!’

Then, Allah told Noah:

قِيلَ يَٰنُوحُ ٱهْبِطْ بِسَلَٰمٍ مِّنَّا وَبَرَكَٰتٍ عَلَيْكَ وَعَلَىٰٓ أُمَمٍ مِّمَّن مَّعَكَ ۚ وَأُمَمٌ سَنُمَتِّعُهُمْ ثُمَّ يَمَسُّهُم مِّنَّا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ‎﴿٤٨﴾

It was said, ‘O Noah! Disembark in peace from Us and with [Our] blessings upon you and upon nations [to descend] from those who are with you, and nations whom We shall provide for, then a painful punishment from Us shall befall them.’

Thus, Noah and his people settled on the earth in peace. There were no longer any disbelievers and idolaters on earth. Now was the time to raise righteous offspring who would inherit the land.

Noah’s Wives

Historians have said that Noah had at least two wives. One of them, possibly by the name of Naamah (نعمة), was a disbeliever who did not board the ark with Noah and his followers. She has been mentioned in the Quran as a disbelieving woman who went against Noah’s will and was ultimately drowned in the flood. Verse 10 of Surah Tahrim reads:

ضَرَبَ ٱللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ ٱمْرَأَتَ نُوحٍ وَٱمْرَأَتَ لُوطٍ ۖ كَانَتَا تَحْتَ عَبْدَيْنِ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا صَٰلِحَيْنِ فَخَانَتَاهُمَا فَلَمْ يُغْنِيَا عَنْهُمَا مِنَ ٱللَّهِ شَيْـًٔا وَقِيلَ ٱدْخُلَا ٱلنَّارَ مَعَ ٱلدَّٰخِلِينَ ‎﴿١٠﴾

Allah cites an example of the faithless: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two of our righteous servants, yet they betrayed them. So they did not avail them in any way against Allah, and it was said [to them], ‘Enter the Fire, along with those who enter [it].’

It is said that she was the mother of Canaan, the same son of Noah who also defied him and was ultimately drowned. Noah also had another wife who was righteous and was with Noah on the ark. She was the mother of Shem. Her name was Emzara (أمزورة).

Noah’s Sons

Other than the son who disbelieved, Noah had three sons who were the ancestors of the human race. They were Shem (سام), Ham (حام), and Japheth (یافث). Shem was the eldest son of Noah and his vicegerent. All the prophets after Noah descended from him. Ham was the ancestor of the Africans, while Japheth was the ancestor of Europeans, or as some have said, he was also the ancestor of the Chinese, Mongols, Turks, and Slavs. After Shem became the vicegerent and heir of Noah, his brothers disbelieved in him. Some Islamic historians say that Shem was also a prophet.

Noah’s Demise

After living for 2500, or as some say, 2800 years, the angel of death (Izra’il) came to Noah and said, “I have come to take your soul.” Noah, who was in the sun, said, “Allow me to move into the shade.” Therefore, he went next to a tree and lay down. He then said, “Do what you are commanded.” The angel asked him, “How did you, as a person who has lived the longest among the children of Adam, see the world?” Noah said, “It was just like moving from the sun into the shade of this tree.” Then the angel took Noah’s soul.[1]

Conclusion

Noah is one of the five great prophets in Islam. Other religions including Judaism and Christianity also revere this great prophet. Noah was a patient and forbearing prophet. He preached to his people for 950 years but all to no avail. His people did not believe in him and instead mocked and harassed him. Allah commanded Noah to build the ark as a great flood would happen soon. The world was struck by a devastating flood and only those aboard the ark survived. Shem succeeded his father Noah. The prophets of Allah after Noah descended from Shem. In conclusion, the story of Prophet Noah teaches us many lessons. We must always follow and obey the prophets of Allah if we want to prosper in both worlds.


References

[1] Saduq, Amali, p. 306.

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