Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ramadan 2013 – Day 7, the Qur'an and the Prophet Nuh (Noah)

As part of my Ramadan Qur’an readings I decided to continue on the Prophets topic and look up what the Qur’an had to say about Noah.

Before I begin I want to briefly discuss the length of the two Scriptures. The Qur’an is actually much shorter than the Bible, I did an Internet search on the number of words in the two Scriptures and while estimates varied (especially for the Bible as it would depend on which version you are using) the word count is roughly:

Qur’an 78,000 words
Bible: 775,000 words

So in terms of the length the Bible is around 10 times as long as the Qur’an. I guess that's why we don't have people memorizing the entire Bible, or reciting the entire text over a specific period. During Ramadan one should recite or listen to a reading of the entire Qur’an, if one did it at the same pace as a standard recitation of the Qur’an (30 days) reciting the Bible would take almost an entire year.

This means the Qur’an does not contain the detailed, lengthy stories that the Bible has. As we will see with Noah, the various Prophets are mentioned in the Qur’an, as are key events such as the flood, but not to the level of detail as found in the Bible.

Now the differences in length is a bit misleading because the Islamic world also has an extensive body of literature, such as the Hadiths, which provide guidance as to how a Muslim should conduct himself, whereas in Christianity the Bible is essentially an all-in-one book. If you combined the Hadiths with the Qur’an the body of literature would be as large or larger than the Bible.

So, onto Noah, most of the verses regarding the flood are found in Surah 11, verses 25-48, below are a few select ones:

11:25 And indeed We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people (and he said): "I have come to you as a plain warner."

11:26 “That you worship none but Allah; surely, I fear for you the torment of the painful Day."

But the people didn’t believe him, so . . .

11:36 And it was revealed to Nuh (Noah): "None of your people will believe except those who have believed already. So be not sad because of what they used to do.”

11:37 "And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our Revelation, and call not upon Me on behalf of those who did wrong; they are surely, to be drowned."

11:38 And as he was constructing the ship, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they mocked at him. He said: "if you mock at us, so do we mock at you likewise for your mocking.”

11:39 "And you will know who it is on whom will come a torment that will cover him with disgrace and on whom will fall a lasting torment."

11:40 (So it was) till when Our Command came and the oven gushed forth (water like fountains from the earth). We said: "Embarks therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your family -- except him against whom the Word has already gone forth -- and those who believe. And none believed with him, except a few.

11:42 So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst waves like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart): "O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers."

11:43 (The son) replied: "I will betake myself to some mountain; it will save me from the water." Noah said: "This day there is no saviour from the Decree of Allah except him on whom He has mercy." And waves came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned.

11:44 And it was said: "O earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withhold (your rain)." And the water was made to subside and the Decree (of Allah) was fulfilled (i.e. 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 Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers)!"

(Note that the location of the Ark is not necessarily Mount Ararat, there is debate in the Islamic world as to which mountain it might have been, with some stating that the Qur’an is not specific on this point as “Judi” can mean hill or a high place so might not be a specific name of a place.)

That one of his sons died in the Flood is something not mentioned in the Bible. Even more surprising you find out in a different Surah that Noah’s wife was not a nice person either:

66:10 Allah sets forth an example for those who disbelieve: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut (Lot). They were under two of our righteous slaves, but they both betrayed them (their husbands by rejecting their doctrine). So they [Noah and Lut (Lot)] availed them (their respective wives) not against Allah and it was said: "Enter the Fire along with those who enter!"

So that’s the key parts of the Great Flood as told in the Qur’an. It lacks a lot of the specifics such as the size of the Ark, the length of the flood, any mention of the dove, etc. A shorter version of the story is retold in Surahs 23: 23-30 and 26: 105-120 as examples of Allah sending Prophets to spread His Word (and what may happen if you do not listen to them). This theme of warning repeats in other sections of the Qur’an:

29:40 So We punished each (of them) for his sins; of them were some on whom We sent Hasib (a violent wind with shower of stones) [as on the people of Lut (Lot)], and of them were some who were overtaken by As-Saihah [torment - awful cry. (as Thamud or Shu'aib's people)], and of them were some whom We caused the earth to swallow [as Qarun (Korah)], and of them were some whom We drowned [as the people of Noah, or Fir'aun (Pharaoh) and his people]. It was not Allah Who wronged them, but they wronged themselves.

There is also an entire Surah named after Noah, Surah 71. The Surah contains 28 fairly-short verses, with most of them describing Noah’s attempts to convince the people to follow Allah, rather than focusing on the Flood itself, such as:

71:5 He said: "Oh my Lord! Verily, I have called to my people night and day.

71:6 But all my calling added nothing to their flight (from the truth).

71:7 And 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, and magnified themselves in pride.

71:8 Then verily, I called to them openly.

71:9 Then verily, I proclaimed to them in public, and I've appealed to them in private.”

But there’s one section that I found interesting:

71:26 And Noah said: "My Lord! Leave not one of the disbelievers on the earth!

71:27 If You leave them, they will mislead Your slaves, and they will beget none but wicked disbelievers.”

So in the Qur’an Noah asked Allah to rid the world of the sinners, I believe in the Bible Noah was simply doing the will of God by preparing for the Flood, but did not ask God for it to happen.

Ultimately the story of Noah has some similarities and some differences between the Qur’an and the Bible, though not as different as the discussion of the Prophet Isa (Jesus) that I covered in my last post. The fundamental story of the Great Flood is there, but the circumstances and details differ.

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