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al-A’raf: Noah and the Flood

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The story of the flood is ingrained in the Abrahamic tradition, so much so that there's a scientific debate dating back to 1996 about whether a sudden flood in the Black Sea 7,000 years ago could have been the root event of a variety of flood mythologies, from Gilgamesh to Noah (as well as causing the spread of agriculture in Europe and the Middle East).

I have a pretty strong recollection of Noah from Bill Cosby. He's probably the main source of my understanding of the story. What's clear is that Noah never went out and talked to anyone, he was never a prophet. God told him to build an Ark to save a remnant of God's creation.

Let's go to the New Jerusalem Bible (Genesis:6) again:

Yahweh saw that human wickedness was great on earth and that his heart contrived nothing but wicked schemes all day long. Yahweh regretted having made human beings on earth… and Yahweh said, "I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created… But Noah won Yahweh's favour… Noah was a good man, an upright man among contemporaries, and he walked with God…

God said to Noah… "Make yourself an Ark…" For my part I am going to send the flood, the waters… to destroy all living things.

Noah did… exactly as God commanded.

And then the flood came for forty days and forty nights, etc., etc. You know the story.

Here's the Qur'anic version:

059: We sent Noah to his people, and he said: "O people worship God; you have no other god but He; for I fear the retribution of the great Day may fall on you."
060: The elders of his people replied: "We see clearly that you (Noah) have gone astray."
061: "I have not gone astray, O my people," Noah said, "but have been sent by my Lord, the creator of all the worlds…
063: "Do you wonder that a warning has come to you from your Lord through a man who is one of you, and warns you to take heed for yourselves and fear God?…"
064: But they called him a liar, and We saved him and those with him in the Ark, and drowned the others who rejected Our signs…

The Biblical Noah reacted to God, followed his commands to build an Ark, but brought no message to his people to save them. God had already judged.

The Qur'anic Noah brought a message to his people to save them, but was spurned, so God saved Noah and his family by placing them on the Ark.

The stories are the same, and yet so profoundly different. The Qur'anic Noah is clearly a Messenger just like Muhammad, and the result of rejecting of Noah's message shows what will happen if Muhammad's message is rejected as well.