Islamic History Podcast 1-3: Noah And The Great Flood

Islamic History Podcast 1-3: Noah And The Great Flood

The story of Noah and the Great Flood is one that exists in both the Quran and the Bible. However, there is no recorded history of its occurrence.

The Bible goes into more detail about the evil of the People of Noah. In particular it highlights an incident where the “Sons of God” are marrying human women. Biblical scholars say these Sons of God were angels.

Furthermore, the Bible says that the offspring of these unholy marriages resulted in giants walking the earth.

The Bible also has a story about the Hamitic Curse. As the story goes, some time after the flood, Noah got drunk and fell asleep in his tent.

His son Ham peaked in the tent, saw his father drunk and then went and spread the news to his two brothers, Shem and Japeth.

The two brothers respected their father’s condition and covered him without looking at his nakedness. When Noah awoke and discovered what Ham did, he cursed him and his progeny.

The problem with this story is that Europeans later claimed the offspring of Ham were the people of Africa. Some Europeans then used this as an excuse to subjugate, enslave, and colonize Africans.

Neither of these two stories exist in the Quran. The story of Noah, as related in the Quran, while similar in many respects to the Biblical one, is more about his people’s faith.

The story in the Quran focuses more on Noah’s mission to guide his people to Tawheed, their refusal, and their ultimate punishment.

Was the Flood Local or Global?

Recently, there has been a disagreement about whether Noah’s flood was a local incident or a global apocalypse. Traditionally, most Muslims scholars have said it was a global event.

While there are many verses in the Quran that suggest the same thing, there are no verses that conclusively say that it was. And there are also many verses that indicate it was a local event as well.

In the Quran, the Great Flood is referred to as the Great Affliction.

And Noah had certainly called upon Us and We are the Best of Responders. And We saved him and his family from the Great Affliction.

Chapter 37, verses 75 – 76

I’m sure you’ve heard that many cultures throughout the world have a story of a great flood. Some people use this as evidence of Noah’s flood. However, in my opinion that isn’t quite enough proof.

The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Story of the Flood

Be that as it may, the most prominent of these flood stories appears in an ancient Babylonian tale called the Epic of Gilgamesh. The flood story in this epic is really a story inside of a story.

There are many similarities to the Islamic narrative of the flood, but also some very striking differences.

  • In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the “gods” decide there are too many humans on earth and they have to be decreased.
  • One of the “gods” warns a human about what’s about to happen.
  • That man sets out to build a big ship and stocks it with a pair of every animal on earth.

Chronologically, the Epic of Gilgamesh was written long before either the Quran was revealed or the modern version of the Bible was canonized. Therefore, many secular scholars suggest the story of Noah was taken from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

However, from an Islamic point of view, if these two stories are connected at all, we must look at it differently.

Instead, it is likely that the Babylonian flood story is a remnant of the true story of Noah that just got passed down over the centuries.

What the Quran Says About Noah and the Flood

The story of Noah as mentioned in the Quran follows a similar pattern to other stories of perished nations. This may be one clue supporting the idea of it being a localized event.

Basically, Allah sent Prophet Noah to warn his people. They were involved in idol worship devoted towards four primary deities named Wad, Su’aq, Yaguth, and Nasr.

Noah tried to warn his people of the impending punishment in every way he could.

  • He warned them in the evening and in the morning.
  • He warned them in public and in private.
  • He advised them of the blessings of this life and the next.

He stayed among them for almost 1000 years. But despite all of his efforts, only a few people listened to him.

The elites of his community began to interfere with his dawah activities also.

At first they just mocked him and called him crazy.

Said the eminent from among his people: “We see you in clear error.”

Chapter 7, verse 60

Then they began to mock and belittle the few people who did follow him.

So the eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, ” We do not see you but as a man like ourselves, and we do not see you followed except by those who are the lowest of us [and] at first suggestion. And we do not see in you over us any merit; rather, we think you are liars.”
Chapter 11, verse 27

And then finally, they threatened to kill him if he did not stop.

They said, “If you do not desist, O Noah, you will surely be of those who are stoned.”
Chapter 26, verse 116

At this point, Noah could see that his people were not going to change. After 950 years of preaching to them, it was obvious they were going to stay on their disbelief.

Allah’s Punishment Comes to the People of Noah

Even though Allah was well aware of what was happening, Noah complained to his Lord about his people’s action. He recounted all of his efforts in trying to guide them to the straight path.

So Allah instructed Noah to build a huge, covered ship. This ship was to carry Noah, his followers, and the believers from his people. Allah also commanded Noah to bring two of every kind of animal.

As Noah was constructing the ship, the same elites who caused him so many problems before mocked him. After all, he was building a ship in the middle of dry land, miles away from the nearest body of water.

And he constructed the ship, and whenever an assembly of the eminent of his people passed by him, they ridiculed him. He said, “If you ridicule us, then we will ridicule you just as you ridicule.
Chapter 11, verse 38

Once the ship was complete, Allah sent the punishment on the People of Noah. Heavy rains came from the sky, and water poured forth from beneath the earth.

Before long, the entire landscape was covered in water and the ship was afloat. While sailing on the ship, Noah recognized his son swimming the waves.

Noah called to his son to join him on the ship, but his son, being a disbeliever, refused and was overcome by the waves.

Eventually, the rains subsided and the waters receded. Noah’s ship settled in a land called Judi.

For those who say the flood was global, these people on the boat became the originators of the rest of human society to come after. In other words, we are all descended from Noah if you believe this was a global event.

Show Notes

Lessons from Noah’s son

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Surah Nuh in the Quran

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