A Simple Storyline
The scenario is similar to the story structure found in your typical movie script where you have the introduction of the characters, followed by a crisis, which is followed by a denouement where the crisis is resolved one way or another.
1) Allah send’s a Messenger to “his people” who informs them that he has been sent by the one and only god and that they must do as he tells them or there will be dire consequences.
2) The people refuse to acknowledge that their kin has a special relationship with god and that he is to be listened to, believed and obeyed.
3) Allah kills all the people except for His Messenger and a few followers.
The first complete, but brief account of the story of Noah is a good example of this simple story telling technique.
7:59 We sent Noah forth to his people, and he said: “O my people, worship Allah, you have no other god but Him. I fear for you the punishment of an Awful Day.”
7:60 The dignitaries among his people said: “We see you, indeed, in manifest error.”
7:61 He said: “O my people, I am not in any error, but I am a Messenger from the Lord of the Worlds.
7:62 “I deliver to you the Messages of my Lord and give you good advice, and I know from Allah what you do not know.
7:63 “Do you wonder that a reminder from your Lord has come to you at the hands of a man from your own people to warn you, and to induce you to fear Allah so that mercy may be shown to you?”
7:64 However, they denounced him, and so We delivered him, together with those in the Ark*, and drowned those who denied Our Revelations. For they were indeed a blind people.
The story of Noah, like the many Koranic accounts of death and destruction from above, are very much used as threats to convince the Prophet's contemporaries to do as they are told by God's Messenger or face the consequences.
36:43 And if We wish, We would drown them; then there is none to deliver them, nor will they be rescued.
36:44 Except for a mercy from Us and enjoyment for a while.
36:45 If it is said to them: “Beware what came before you and what is behind you, that perchance you might receive mercy.”
36:46 Yet, no Sign of their Lord’s Signs comes to them but they turn away from it.
* An interesting tidbit from Allah is that He made the Ark easy to board:
36:41 And a sign unto them is that We carried their progeny in the laden Ark.
36:42 And We created for them the like of it that which they could board.
The Noah Surah
Noah is one of the few Prophets (Joseph, son of Jacob being another) from the Bible to get an entire surah to himself, an aptly named surah.
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
71:1 We have indeed sent Noah forth to his people saying: “Warn your people before a painful punishment afflicts them.”
71:2 He said: “O my people, I am truly a manifest warner to you;
71:3 “That you should worship Allah and fear Him, and obey me.
The obligatory reminder about Judgement Day:
71:4 “Then, He will forgive you yours sins and reprieve you till an appointed term. Allah’s term cannot be deferred, once it comes; if only you knew.”
Noah’s insistence that he is Allah’s messenger may have convinced people who believed in Allah to quit believing.
71:5 He said: “Lord, I have called my people night and day;
71:6 “But my call only increased them in defection.
71:7 “In fact, every time I called them, so that You might forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears, wrapped themselves up in their clothes, persisted and waxed very proud.
Whether he talks to them in public or in private the people of Noah don’t care for Noah.
71:8 “Then, I called them publically;
71:9 “Then, I proclaimed to them and spoke to them in secret.
71:10 “I said to them: ‘Ask forgiveness from your Lord; He is truly All-Forgiving.
71:11 “‘He will then loose heavens upon you in torrents;
71:12 “And provide you with wealth and sons, and allot for you gardens, and allot for you rivers.
Even Noah’s description of heaven will not sway them.
71:13 “‘What is the matter with you? Why do you not show reverence towards Allah?
71:14 “‘Although, He created you in stages.
71:15 “‘Do you not see how He created for you seven heavens superposed upon one another?
71:16 “‘And placed the moon therein as a light and made the sun a lamp?
Revelations about how they were created and will return to the earth and be brought out of the earth on Judgement Day are still not enough to convince the sceptics among Noah’s people.
71:17 “‘And Allah caused you to grow out of the earth;
71:18 “‘Then, He will cause you to return to it and bring you out.
A final argument about the earth being a gift from Allah:
71:19 “‘And Allah has made the earth a vast expanse for you;
71:20 “‘So that you might follow therein broad pathways.’»
Noah’s reason for asking Allah to drown his people then burn them in Hell may have more to do with envy and paranoia, than anything unholy.
71:21 Noah said: “Lord, they have disobeyed me and followed one whose wealth and children only increased him in perdition;
71:22 “And they devised a mighty plot.
One legitimate argument made by the Ark builder for killing them all, from Allah’s perspective*, is that Noah's people worshipped the god’s of the Arabs (Joktan, Noah's great-great-grandson is considered the ancestor of the Arabs, therefore the reference to Noah's people worshipping Arab gods is tenuous at best).
71:23 “And they said: ‘Do not forsake your gods; do not forsake Wadd, Suwa’, Yaghuth, Ya’uq or Nasr (deities of the pagan Arabs before Islam).’
71:24 “They have led many astray. Hence, increase not the wrongdoers except in greater error.”
71:25 Because of their sins, they were drowned, and were hurled into the Fire. Then, they did not find, apart from Allah, any supporters.
Like Allah’s greatest Messenger, Noah was very much a prude. As if Allah needed further convincing, Noah encouraged Him in his murderous rage by reminding God about the “unbelieving libertines” the unbelievers would beget if He did not slaughter them all, sparing the small coterie of believers, including his parents, who would join him on the Ark.
71:26 And Noah said: “Lord, do not leave of the unbelievers a single dweller upon the earth.
71:27 “Surely, if You leave them alone, they will lead Your servants astray and will not beget any but unbelieving libertines.
71:28 “Lord, forgive me and my parents, and whoever enters my house as a believer and all the believers, men and women; and do not increase the wrongdoers except greater perdition.”
Rain, Age, and What became of His Wife
Rain was a rare occurrence on the Arabian Peninsula. So rare and so welcomed that in the Prophet Muhammad’s time, according to Gheorghiu, it was believed to be the spit of angels.
For the desert dwellers of the peninsula it was impossible to imagine enough rain falling from the sky to flood the earth, that had to be too much spit. The water for the biblical flood had to come from a place they were more familiar with and which had plenty of water and that was a well in the middle of an oasis. This could be why, in the Koran, it is not only torrential rainfall which causes the great flood, but gushing wells.
54:9 The people of Noah denounced before them; they denounced Our servant as a liar and said: “A madman”, and he was rebuffed.
54:10 So, he called upon his Lord: “I am beaten; so give me support.”
54:11 Thereupon, We opened up the gates of heaven with torrential water;
54:12 And caused the earth to gush with springs, and so the waters converged in accordance with a foreordained decree.
54:13 And We carried him along upon a ship made of boards and iron plates;
54:14 Sailing before Our Very Eyes, as a reward to him who was disbelieved.
54:15 We have indeed left it as a sign. Is there, then, any one who will remember?
54:16 How, then, were My Punishment and My Warnings?
The approximate age of Noah at the time of the Flood was just shy of a thousand years old.
29:14 We sent Noah to his own people and he tarried among them a thousand years minus fifty years. Then the Deluge overtook them; for they were wrongdoers.
29:15 Yet We delivered him, together with the companions of the Ark, and We made it a sign unto mankind.
What about wives? Allah revealed that Noah’s wife betrayed her husband and will be spending an eternity in Hell for that transgression, along with Lot’s wife.
66:10 Allah gave as an instance of the unbelievers the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two of Our righteous servants, then they betrayed them. Nothing availed them against Allah and it was said to them: “Enter you two the Fire with the other entrants.”
The Answerer and the Boiling Oven
Has Allah blessed Himself? Only the attributes of gods are usually capitalized, and this is definitely the case in Fakhry’s translation. If he did, then, in the following revelation, Allah may be admitting that there is more than one Answerer i.e. more than one god.
37:75 Noah called Us in times past; blessed then are the Answerers.
37:76 We delivered him and his people from the great calamity.
Didn't He drowned most of them? What He may have meant:
37:77 And made His progeny the survivors.
37:78 And We bequeathed to him, among those who succeeded:
37:79 “Peace upon Noah among all the nations.”
37:80 Indeed, this is how We reward the beneficent.
37:81 He was truly one of our believing servants.
37:82 Then, We drowned the others.
In another recollection of Noah and the Flood an oven boiling over is the signal that it is imminent, revelation 23:27.
23:23 And We sent Noah forth to his people, and he said: “O my people, worship Allah; you have no god other than He. Do you not fear [Allah]?”
23:24 Then, the dignitaries of his people who had disbelieved said: “This is only a mortal like you, who wishes to show you favours. Had Allah willed, He would have sent down angels. We never heard of this from our forefathers.
23:25 “He is a man possessed; so watch him for a while.”
23:26 He (Noah) said: “Lord, help me, for they deny me.”
23:27 We revealed to him, then: “Make the Ark under Our Very Eyes and according to our Revelation. Then when Our Command comes and the oven boils over, take into it a couple of every kind, together with your family, except for him against whom the Decree has already been pronounced. Do not speak to Me concerning those who are wrongdoers; for they will certainly be drowned.
Moududi on the “oven”:
There are some who express the opinion that the words have been used metaphorically for the creation of turmoil. But in view of the context, we see no reason why one should take a farfetched figurative meaning of a clear word of the Qur'an. It appears that a particular oven (tannur) had been ear-marked for the deluge to start from, which was to all appearances an unexpected origin of the doom of the wretched people.
And don’t forget to be thankful for the length I went through to deliver you from the “wrongdoing people.”
23:28 “Then, when you are seated, you and your company, upon the Ark, say: ‘Praise be to Allah Who delivered us from the wrongdoing people.’”
23:29 And Say: “Lord, let me land in a blessed way; for you are the Best of those who make people land.”
23:30 Surely in that are signs. Thus We put them to the test.
Most of Allah’s Messenger (Jesus being the most conspicuous exception) come across as preachers who want to be both spiritual and secular leaders of men as benefits expounders of a religion that makes no difference between church and state.
Noah is no exception, and even less so; twice in three revelations he insists that his people obey him: revelations 26:108 and 110.
Noah in the Koran reminds you of a power-hungry buffoon. In this account of his attempt to convince his people to obey him because he is a Messenger of Allah, our would-be dictator is caught short, when “his people” inform him about the criminals (“the lowliest crowd” in revelation 26:111), Allah not having told him “what they used to do” (revelation 26:112).
It is these criminals who will join Noah on the Ark: revelations 26:114, 118 and 119.
26:105 The people of Noah have denounced the Messengers as liars;
26:106 When their brother Noah said to them: “Do you not fear god?
26:107 “I am to you a faithful Messenger.
26:108 “So, fear Allah and obey me.
26:109 “I ask you no wages for this; my wage is with the Lord of the Worlds.
26:110 “So, fear Allah and obey me.”
26:111 They said: “Shall we believe in you, when the lowliest crowd has followed you?”
26:112 He said: “How could I know what they used to do?
26:113 “They will only be called to account by my Lord; if only you had any sense.
26:114 “And it is not for me to drive away the believers.
26:115 “I am only a manifest warner.”
26:116 They said: “If you will not desist, O Noah, you will surely be stoned.”
26:117 He said: “Lord, my people have called me a liar.
26:118 “So, judge between me and them decisively and deliver me and the believers who have joined me.”
26:119 And so, We delivered him and those who joined him in the laden Ark.
26:120 Then We drowned all the rest.
26:121 There is in that a sign, but most of them would not believe.
26:122 And your Lord is the All-Mighty, the Merciful.
Noah in Hud
The story of Noah in the surah Hud is almost twice the length in words (888 to 445 words) than in the surah named after the builder of the Ark. Of all the variations on the story of the Flood it is probably the most pathetic which may explain why some of the Prophet's audience accused him of prevarication and mocked God's Messenger.
11:25 And We have sent Noah forth to his people; [he said]: “I am a plain warner to you;
11:26 “That you worship none but Allah. I fear for you the punishment of a very painful Day.”
11:27 Thereupon the unbelieving dignitaries among his people said to him: “We do not see you except a mortal like ourselves; nor do we see in those who hastily followed you except the scum of our people. We do not see that you (Noah and the believers) have any merit over us, but rather think that you are liars.”
11:28 He said: “O my people, do you think that I have a clear proof from my Lord and He has granted me a mercy from Him but it has been hidden from your sight, we would force it on you while you are averse to it?
11:29 “And O my people, I do not ask you money for it; my reward is with Allah; and I will not drive away those who believe, for they will surely meet their Lord, but I see that you are an ignorant people.
11:30 “O my people, who will save me from Allah if I drive [the believers] away? Will you pay heed?
11:31 “I do not say to you that I possess Allah’s Treasures; and I do not know the Unseen. I do not claim to be an angel; nor do I say to those to whom you look with disdain that Allah will not accord them any good; Allah knows best what is in their hearts. For I would be, then, one of the wrongdoers."
11:32 They said: “O Noah, you have disputed and disputed much with us. Bring us, then, what you promise us (the punishment), if you are truthful.”
11:33 He said: “It is Allah who will bring it to you, if He wills, and you will not be able to escape. 11:34 “My advice will not profit you, should I wish to give you advice, if Allah wills to lead you astray. He is your Lord and unto Him you shall be brought back."
At one point, in this account of the story of Noah, a Meccan listening to the Prophet must have accused him of falsification for Fakhry to make clear that the allegation of forgery comes from “the pagans of Mecca”, not Noah’s people.
11:35 Or will they (the pagans of Mecca) say:“ He has forged it.” Say (O Muhammad): “If I have forged it, my guilt is upon me and I am innocent of the evil you commit.”
11:36 And it was revealed to Noah: “None of your people will believe except those who have already believed, so do not grieve at what they do;
11:37 “And make the Ark under Our Eyes and with Our Revelation, and do not plead with Me regarding the wrongdoers; they shall be drowned.”
11:38 So he started making the Ark, and whenever a group of his people passed by him, they mocked him. [But] he would say: “If you mock us, we will mock you, as you are mocking.
11:39 “You shall surely learn who will be afflicted by a degrading chastisement, and will undergo a lasting punishment.”
What became of Noah's Son
In the Bible, Noah has three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth; in the Koran he has one unnamed male progeny who refuses to board the Ark, preferring to seek shelter from Allah's genocidal rage on a mountain top.
11:40 And when Our Command came, and the water gushed forth from the earth, We said: “Carry in it (the Ark) two of every kind, together with your family, except for those who have been doomed, and [take] those who believe.” However only a few believers besides him were there.
11:41 And he said: “Embark on it. In the name of Allah will be its sailing and anchor. My Lord is indeed All-Forgiving, Merciful.”
11:42 And as it (the Ark) sailed along with them amid waves like mountains, Noah called out to his son, who stood apart: “My son, embark with us and do not remain with the unbelievers.”
11:43 He (Noah’s son) said: “I will seek refuge in a mountain that will protect me from water.” He (Noah) said: “Today, there is no protector from Allah’s Decree, except for him on whom He has mercy.” Then the waves came between them and so he was one of those who were drowned.
Where is al-Judi?
The Ark began it's voyage at Kufa in central Iraq and sailed to Mecca, circling the Kaaba (sic) [seven times] before finally travelling to Mount Judi where it settled.
Ibn Haukal [died 978 A.D.]
Both the Bible and the Koran claim a mountain peak in present day southern Turkey as the final resting place of the Ark. In the Bible, it is Mount Ararat, in the Koran it is al-Judi.
11:44 And it was said (by Allah): “O earth, swallow your waters, and O heaven, desist.” The water then subsided and the Decree [of Allah] was accomplished; and it (the Ark) settled upon al-Judi mountain; and it was said: “Away with the wrongdoing people.”
Scholars still dispute whether it is the same mountain.
While the story of Nuh and the Flood within Islam is strongly connected with the biblical tradition, there was a divergence in tradition with regard to the mountain.
Cudi Dagh (pronounced Judi Dah) is located in southern Turkey near the Syrian and Iraqi borders at the headwaters of the river Tigris, just east of the present Turkish city of Cizre (Jazirat ubn Umar). It is a good two hundred miles south of Mt Ararat and represents in every way an alternative Ark Mountain.
Irving Finkel, The Ark Before Noah, Decoding the story of the Flood, Hodder & Stoughton, 2014, p. 284
No Mercy for Noah's Son
The Prophet’s demand that the Arabs abandon the religion of their ancestors, with their many gods and goddesses for Allah, the one true god, made a civil war between Arabs inevitable. It was a vicious war, setting brother against brother, father against son as civil wars tend to do.
The believers were expected to show no compassion to those who would deny the existence of Allah, or were unwilling to acknowledge His dominion over them, and that included family members.
Allah makes it abundantly clear to Noah, He will make it abundantly clear to Abraham, He will make it abundantly clear to Moses, and He will make it abundantly clear to His Messenger (although He will make an exception for His Messenger’s parents) you must disown, if not kill, family members who will not submit to His Will.
11:45 Noah then called out to his Lord saying: “My Lord, my son is my family; and Your Promise is surely the Truth and you are the best of judges.”
11:46 He said: “O Noah, he is not of your family. It is an act which is not righteous, so do not ask Me about that of which you have no knowledge. I admonish you not to be one of the ignorant.”
“Do not ask Me about that of which you have no knowledge” and variations of this phrase, is Allah’s stock response when He does not want to answer a question, such as a questions as to why a god, who claims to be the quintessence merciful, compassionate God, demonstrates a complete lack thereof.
After receiving the standard non-answer from Allah as to why his son deserves to die, Noah apologizes to Allah for asking Him to show his son any mercy.
11:47 He said: “Lord, I seek refuge with You, lest I should ask You that of which I have no knowledge. For unless You forgive me and have mercy on me I will be one of the losers.”
More Mass Murders to Come
Allah, after inviting Noah to disembark from the Ark, informs him that he has taken on people who will give rise to nations that will require more “severe punishment.” It is to be expected, having allowed criminals to come on the Ark while good people drowned.
11:48 It was said to Noah: “Come down [from the Ark] in peace from Us and blessings on you and on [some] nations [descending] from those with you, and We shall provide for others [in this life]. Then they will be afflicted by severe punishment from Us.”
We have to assume that when Allah tells the Prophet, in the following revelation that “Neither you, nor your people knew it before this” that He is referring to the account of Noah and the Ark in the Koran that differs from the Hebrew Bible.
11:49 That is part of the tidings of the Unseen which we are revealing to you. Neither you, nor your people knew it before this. Forebear, then, the [good] outcome belongs to the righteous.
Noah, Two Short Versions
10:71 And relate to them (Muhammad) the story of Noah when he said to his people: “O my people, if my dwelling [among you] and my reminding you of the Revelations of Allah, is too much for you, then in Allah I have put my trust. Agree upon a course of action with your associates; then let not that course of action be a burden to you; then pass to me [your decision] and give me no respite.
10:72 “If you turn away, I have asked for no reward from you. My reward is only with Allah. I have been ordered to be one of those who submit.”
10:73 But they denounced him; so We delivered him and those with him in the Ark and made them successors, while drowning those who denied Our Signs. See then what was the fate of those who were warned!
21:76 And Noah, when he called before, and so We answered him and delivered him and his people from the great calamity.
21:77 And supported him against the people who had denied Our Signs. They were an evil people, and so We drowned them all.