Submitted by Ikram
There is general myth about Noah's flood which precipitated from forty days and nights of relentless rain. The flood engulfed the whole earth and every living thing perished except the occupants of the Ark which included at least a pair of every species of the earth and the world was repopulated thereafter when the Ark rested on Mount Ararat in present day Turkey and Armenia border. This myth, cloaked in nonsensical miracles has led to the making of the movie ‘Noah’, released this weekend and is expected to be blockbuster. I saw it. The movie too tries to make some sense of the story line by a summary and miraculous convergence of all land life to the Ark and puts them into a sustained slumber lest they ask for food before they start snacking on each other, fetch vomit bags, complain about movie reruns, headphones not working, frequent trips to the bathroom, Noah running out of ice for the drinks, and all the other ordeals of a travel that still plague modern man and animal alike. Earlier we had a Biblical version, now we have a Hollywood version of the pitiful Noah. Before this movie, there were other questions as follows:
This general theme falls on its own face from its inherent contradictions. According to some estimates, time of Noah's flood is rounded to three thousand years B.C. Noah had to be a Zoologist, Biologist, Entomologist, Ornithologist, all in one to enumerate and identify each of the species, which to date, science has not fully done so. Now just imagine how much time it must have taken Noah to herd, trap or entice every species on the earth and was it even possible for him to travel the whole earth to do it so in his lifetime or the lifetime of the species he was transporting, and the amount and variety of food that was needed to be kept in store for the duration of the flood, while keeping in view the food chain of the animals of the world, hence each pair had to be kept in a separate box or cage. Do your own calculation for the size of the Ark, the man power, resources and time to put the whole operation from its inception, through its voyage and the final destination. If the whole earth was under water then firstly, where did the extra flood water come from and where did it disappear? Even the instantaneous global warming and freeze cannot account for it.
The movie ends where the occupants of the contraption, the Ark, disembark, Noah makes the first wine for the mankind, gets drunk, is found naked by his son Ham (who is then cursed) and leaves for Canaan (by biblical account). Noah in the end blesses his remaining progeny, his wife, sons Japheth, Shem, Shem's wife and daughters. The end of the movie leaves further questions for the movie and biblical audience alike as follows:
Once the living things disembarked from the Ark, then all species had to return to their original ecosystems and geographical distribution, which already had been destroyed by the flood. Thereafter, they all inbred over past several thousand years to populate the whole planet. Since these were the only surviving animals on the earth, then who ate whom to survive? Essentially, each endangered species became food for the other. Were the early humans thereafter vegans only? The birds must have been eradicated from earth too, as the only dry platform was the deck on the Ark. So far we have not yet touched upon the terrestrial plant life yet. Was it too saved on the Ark and how did it regenerate thereafter? Did the handful people on the Ark replant the whole earth? What about human species? How do we have so much racial diversity, unless Noah had a pair of each one of us too? Given the enormity of the size of Ark needed, did Noah have resources, expertise and technology available to build such a magnanimous ship and that too of wood with all its structural strength? In the movie at least he is helped by the Hulk like fallen angels and angels are killed by men (No surprise here, after all Jacob is called Israel becasue he faught God the whole night and none over powered the other, what a miserable God and His powerless angels). One also has to pause to reflect as to whether Noah's ministry had extended to ends of the world as it was the entire world that was to be punished for disobedience. The contradictions and questions are endless. The walk away message from the movie is that humans are God’s worst creation, even worse than snakes and reptiles that God wants to save, not humans. What a hopeless Creator and His equally hopeless creation!
Such a story of Noah is nothing but absurd, and its narrators and heeders alike are a proof of the superficiality of human thinking which makes nonsensical narrations as an article of faith and as an evidence of truth.
Whereas, Quran tells us that Noah was sent to his people and not to the whole world:
11:25. And (similar were the circumstances when) We sent Noah to his people (and he said), `Verily, I am a plain Warner to you.
Even though Quran is more interested in moral principles underlying the flood, still it describes the need for the Ark, its construction, its occupants and its landing in following terms:
11:36. And it was revealed to Noah, `No one of your people besides those who have so far believed, will henceforth believe, therefore grieve not over what they have been doing.
Essentially, the above verse tells us that Noah had small number of followers and helpers.
11:37. `And build the Ark under Our eyes and in accordance with Our revelation, and address not (to plead with) Me in favour of those who act unjustly. Verily, they are doomed to be drowned.'
11:38. And he set himself to making the Ark and every time the chiefs of his people passed by him they looked down upon him, (thereupon) he said, `Surely, we (in our turn) will look down on you just as you look down (on us now).
11:39. `You shall soon know for yourself who it is who will be overtaken by the punishment that will disgrace him, and on whom descends a long lasting penalty.'
The above three verses conform to principles of prophethood i.e. prophet is someone who can prophesize the future events, in this case the punishment of flood.
11:40. (Thus it was) till Our command (about the punishment) came and waters of the springs (of the valley) swelled and gushed forth, We said, `Embark in it two of every kind (needed) male and female and (all the members of) your family except those about the destruction of whom (Our) verdict has already been announced and (embark in it) also those who believe.' Yet there had not believed in him excepting a few.
11:41. And (Noah) said, `Embark in it. With the name of Allâh and His help be its course and its mooring. Surely, my Lord is indeed Great Protector, Ever Merciful.'
The above two verses by implication tell us that Noah lived in a valley amidst mountains or hills. Human habitats usually take foothold in valleys with its own rivers or streams. It is a known phenomenon that at times the downstream exits of valleys do become blocked by landslides and a temporary lake can form upstream. So, by some combination of seismic or meteorological phenomenon of torrential rain or cloud burst or landslide, the valley was flooded bottom up. After the flood started to develop, Noah scrambled onto his boat along with his followers and domesticated animals. It is also interesting to note the short duration in which Noah scrambles to gather his livestock after the flood had already started to emerge. Thereafter, the voyage of the Ark begins:
11:42. Now this (Ark) moved carrying them amidst waves as (high as) mountains. And Noah called out to his son who was (standing) aloof, `My dear son, embark with us and do not be with the disbelievers.'
11:43. He said, `I shall betake myself to a mountain for refuge which will protect me from this water.' (Noah) said, `There is no protection (for anyone) this day, from the decree of Allâh (about this punishment), but he (will be safe) on whom He has mercy.' And (lo!) a wave separated the two so he (- Noah's son) was among the drowned.
Clearly, the scenario above tells us that people on the land, including Noah's son, did not anticipate the enormity of the developing flood to scramble onto Ark and instead thought that they could walk up the mountain slopes of the valley instead, because, a valley is formed only in presence of mountain(s) nearby. The next verse touches upon the receding of the flood waters and the landing of the Ark:
11:44. And it was said, `O earth! swallow back your water, and O cloud! abate and stop (pouring).' So the water was made to subside and the matter was decided. And this (Ark) came to rest on (the mount) Al-Jûdî. And the word went forth, `Away with the unjust people!'
Of note is that family in context of a prophet includes the spiritual followers and not the bloodline family. This relationship is further contextualized about Noah's son in verses 11:45-47 below. Earlier, while witnessing the disastrous flood, Noah pleads for the safety of his bloodline:
11:45. And Noah called to his Lord and said , `My Lord! my son belongs to my family and surely Your promise is (also) true; yet You are the Most Just of the judges.'
There upon, Noah, the prophet, is apparently admonished about his understanding of a family:
11:46. (The Lord) said, `He decidedly does not belong to your family as he is given to unrighteous conduct, so do not ask of Me that of which you have no knowledge. I advise you not to be of those wanting in knowledge.'
Finally, Noah, the prophet, accepts and stands corrected about the spiritual notion of family over his physical bloodline:
11:47. He said, `My Lord! I beg You to protect me that I should ask You that of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have mercy on me I shall be of the losers.'
Once the flood completed its moral and physical course, the Ark was lifted by the flood waters to a mountain side, the rain stopped and the apparent blockage of the valley reopened and the waters receded. Naturally, Noah and his spiritual family thereafter resettled the valley with their salvaged livestock:
11:48. There came the command, `Noah! descend (from the Ark) with peace from Us and (varied) blessings (We shall bestow) on you and upon peoples (to be born) of those with you. There shall be other peoples whom We shall grant provisions (of this world for a time), then they will receive from Us a grievous punishment (as a result of their transgression).'
Thus, in the above verse, Noah’s flood is an example of natural course of a moral history in which there are natural cycles of virtue and vice, rise and fall, recompense and retribution for peoples of all ages and the hope of survival for believers and practitioners of moral laws. Quran then identifies other peoples whom We shall grant provisions, besides his own people, the Arabs:
11:49. These (announcements full of warnings) are some of the important news of the hidden realities We have revealed them to you [-Muhammad]. You did not know them, neither you, nor your people before this. Therefore, persevere (in doing good), for those who become secure against evil shall surely have the (good and successful) end.
The above verse solidifies two points. Firstly, pre-Islam Arabs were pagans and no preaching of previous religions had touched them to know about the Noah’s flood. Secondly, Noah's flood was not a global phenomenon, else the Arabs would have known it from their sharp verbal historical accounts that they were known for. Details similar to above are narrated elsewhere in Quran as well:
23:23. And We sent Noah to his people and he said, `O my people! worship Allâh alone. You have no God other than He. Will you not then guard against evil and seek (His) protection?'
23:24. But the chiefs of those who disbelieved from among his people said, `He is nothing but a human being like yourselves, (only) he seeks to assert (his) superiority over you. And if Allâh had so willed He could have certainly sent down angels (with him). We have never heard of this (sort of a thing) happen in the times of our fathers of yore.
23:25. `He is but a man gone mad, you had better bear with him for a while (and see the consequences).'
23:26. (Noah) said (praying), `My Lord! help me for they treat me as a liar.'
23:27. Then We sent Our revelation to him (directing him), `Make the Ark under Our eyes and (according to the dictates of) Our revelation. And when (the time of) Our judgment comes and the waters of the valley gush forth, then embark there in (the Ark) two of every species, a pair (of every thing that you may need), and your companions, except those of them against whom (Our) word (of condemnation for their misdeeds) has already gone forth. But do not plead with Me in favour of those who have acted unjustly for they are (doomed) to be drowned.
23:28. `Then when you and your companions are seated perfectly well in the Ark say (praying), "All true and perfect praise belongs to Allâh Who has delivered us from the wicked people."
23:29. `And say (while praying), "My Lord! enable me to make a blessed landing, for You are the Best of those who provide (people) with the fairest landing place".'
23:30. Verily, this (account of Noah) is full of (many) signs. Surely, thus do We reveal the hidden truth (about the people and We did try the people of Noah).
23:31. Then We raised another generation after them.
With the above narrative from Quran it becomes obvious that Noah faced flood in his world, but not the whole world as the common myth perpetrated by the Old Testament.
Ref: English Translation of Holy Quran by Allamah Nooruddin