Nuh (نُوْحٌ) or Noah (English) was a Prophet and Messenger sent by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى for the guidance of his community. He is one of the 25 Prophets who are mentioned by name in the Quran and happens to be the third in chronological order, after Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and Prophet Idris عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. His name appears 43 times in the Quran in different Surahs and Verses. One of the Surahs in the Quran is also named after him, Surah Nuh.

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ – Highly Praised Prophet

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is highly praised by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَ in the Quran on different occasions. 3rd Verse of Surah Al-Isra narrates as follows:

Translation – O˺ descendants of those We carried with Noah ˹in the Ark˺! He was indeed a grateful servant.”

Similarly, in the 33rd verse of Surah Al-e-Imran, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى ranks Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ as the one who was above all the people of his time.

Translation – Indeed, Allah chose Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of ‘Imrân above all people of their time˺.

And in Surah As-Saffat, verses 75 to 80, the higher status of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is further explained.

Translation

Indeed, Noah cried out to Us, and how excellent are We in responding!

We delivered him and his family from the great distress,

and made his descendants the sole survivors

And We blessed him ˹with honourable mention˺ among later generations

Peace be upon Noah among all peoples.

Indeed, this is how We reward the good-doers

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is often referred to as Ulu’l-Azm (أُولُو ٱلْعَزْم) Prophet. Ulu’l Azm, an Arabic word, means “a person having strong will and determination.” The entire life of the Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is highlighted by his unshaken and persistent commitment towards the mission assigned to him by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, with determination, hence he is known as Ulu’l-Azm Prophet.

Historical Background – Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

The precise period of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ cannot be determined. He was the third Prophet, the first being Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. According to the majority of Scholars and Islamic Commentators, the period between the first Prophet and the birth of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was ten centuries. Some believe it to be 1056 years between the birth of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the creation of Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.

Similarly, his family background is also not precisely known. However, according to Islamic traditions and Commentators, he was the son of Lamech. His grandfather’s name is Methuselah. Accordingly, he happens to be in the 8th or 9th generation after the Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.

The People of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and Idolatry

After the death of Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, there were so many righteous and good people, whom the community respected and followed their teachings. Gradually, such people passed away, and the community started making their statues in their memory. They named these statues per the powers, they believed, these good persons possessed. Some of the names of these statues were, Yaghutha, Yaauga, Waddan, Wuwaan, and Nasran.

The later generations started worshipping these statues by giving them the status of Gods. They did not even realize that these were the statues of some pious people of their time and that the statues were only made in memory of them. Instead, they treated them as Gods and started worshipping them. After a lapse of considerable time, in the era of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, the majority of people used to worship these statues and were badly involved in Idolatry. Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, from the very beginning, has been preaching to his people not to worship these statues, but very few responded positively.

The 23rd verse of Surah Nuh speaks about them:

Translation – urging ˹their followers˺, ‘Do not abandon your idols—especially Wadd, Suwâ’, Yaghûth, Ya’ûq, and Nasr.

So, those were the circumstances that Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ had to face right from day one of his Prophethood and even before that. Polytheism is a community’s worst state of mind, and pulling them out of this is perhaps the most challenging task that the Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ had to face.

Preaching of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ used to preach to his people that there is only One Allah, who is the Creator of this world and everyone should only worship Him. He gave the example of day and night, explaining to them how night consistently follows the day and that this pattern never changes. He further explained to them how the moon and stars appear, how crops and plants are grown, and so on. He argued that this is possible only with the Will and Command of only One Allah عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. He warned them not to worship the idols, or they will have to face severe punishment by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

As a result, the poor and oppressed segment of society started following him. This was not acceptable to the rich and powerful people. They thought it would destroy their centuries-old power structure. Hence, they did not follow the preaching of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. The 27th verse of Surah Hud describes how they argued with the Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

Translation – The leaders of the people who were unbelievers, replied: “We see that you are but a man like us, and see that none among us follows you but the meanest and immature of judgement, and do not see any excellence in you above us. In fact, we think you are a liar.

Challenges of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ has been inviting the people to worship only one Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, which attracted the most oppressed part of the community. This was not acceptable to the elite of the society, so they decided to approach Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, in an attempt to bargain with him. They asked him to disassociate himself from the poor people and come along with them, as they were the wealthiest and most powerful rulers. Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, did not agree. His response is narrated in verses 29 to 31 of Surah Hud.

Translation

I do not demand for it any wealth from you, O my people. My reward is with God. And I will not drive those away who believe. They have also to meet their Lord. But I see you are an ignorant people

O my people, who will save me from God if I drive them away? Do you not understand?

I say not that I have the treasures of God, or that I possess the knowledge of the unknown. I do not claim to be an angel, nor can I say that God will not bestow any good on those you disdain, for God is cognisant of what is in their hearts. If I say this, I will surely be unjust

Continuing with the arguments between the elite rulers and Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the elite of the community verses 32 to 34 of Surah Hud narrate that they wanted to show how they would be punished. Prophet replied that only Allah is worth doing that:

Translation

They said: “O Noah, you have argued with us, and disputed at length; so bring that (retribution) you promise if you speak the truth.”

He replied: “Only God will bring it on you if He please, and you cannot prevail against Him.

Even if I wish to advise you aright, my counsel will not profit you if God intend that you go astray, for He is your Lord, and to Him you will return.”

So, the arguments continued until the elites were left with nothing to say. At this stage, they became rude and started insulting the Prophet. Prophet Nuhعَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ remained calm and composed, as usual, and kept on appealing to them to come towards the right path and worship only Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى Verses 60 to 62 of Surah Al-Aa’raf narrate the conversation as follows:

Translation

The elders of his people replied: “We see clearly that you have gone astray.”

“I have not gone astray, O my people,” he said, “but have been sent by my Lord, the creator of all the worlds.

I bring to you the messages of my Lord, and give you sincere advice, for I know from God what you do not know.

But they did not listen to his advice and practically closed their ear towards the Prophet. On the other hand, Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ kept on preaching and calling them to the right path. Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ lived for around 950 years and persistently preached to his community. This is evident from the 14th verse of Surah Al-Ankabut:

Translation – We sent Noah to his people, and he lived with them a thousand years minus fifty. Then they were caught by the deluge for they were evil.

That also indicates the fortune of the disbelievers.

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ Prays for End of Disbelievers

Despite consistent and patient preaching to his people, generations after generations, the disbelievers did not respond positively to the Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. At that stage, it was revealed to him by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, that they will not turn towards the right path and that the Prophet should now stop thinking about them. Responding to that, Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ prayed that the disbelievers should then be punished.

Verses 26 and 27 of Surah Nuh narrates his request to Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى:

Translation

Noah said: “O Lord, do not leave a single habitation of unbelievers on the earth.

If you leave them, they will lead Your creatures astray, and beget but iniquitous and ungrateful offspring.

Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى accepted the prayer of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. The verdict of the Almighty Allah came that the disbelievers would be destroyed in a huge flood. The Prophet was Commanded to start building an ark, so the believers can board safely during the upcoming flood. 37th verse of Surah Hud narrates as under:

Translation – Build an ark under Our eye and as We instruct. Do not plead for those who have been wicked, for they shall certainly be drowned.”

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the Ark

Eventually, Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ started work on building an Ark, per the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. He faced humiliation and mockery by the elites and their followers during this work. They asked him why you are constructing an Ark so far from the sea. How will you drag it to the sea? Or are winds going to carry it to the waters? As usual, the Prophet responded with a cool mind, saying, you will soon know what comes out. Verses 38 and 39 of Surah Hud speak about this as follows:

Translation

So he built the ark; and when groups of his people passed by him, they scoffed at him. He said to them: “Though you laugh at us (now), we shall laugh at you, as you are laughing at us.

You will soon come to know who suffers the punishment that would put him to shame, and who suffers lasting torment.”

So, he kept on constructing the Ark, ignoring the humiliating remarks from the disbelievers.

Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ Waits for the Flood to Come

Construction of the ship was completed, but there were no signs of flooding. Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was optimistic that it will happen soon. Allah told him that it would start from the oven in his house. The water will come gushing out of his oven. It was also revealed to him that when it starts, he will have to collect pairs (male and female) of each animal, bird, and insect and take them along with him to the Ark. It was further Commanded to him to take along his followers to the Ark, as well, so they can be protected from the flood. This is stated in the 40th Verse of Surah Hud.

Translation

When Our command was issued and the waters gushed forth from the source, We said: “Take into (the ark) a pair of every species, and members of your family other than those against whom the sentence has been passed already, and those who come to believe.” But only a few believed in him.

The Day, It Happened

So, the day came when the flood started. As revealed, he took on board the ship pairs of each animal, bird, and insect species along with the believers. The number of believers who boarded the Ark has yet to be precisely discovered. Most commentators and scholars agree they were 80, whereas others believe 72.

The wife of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was also one of the disbelievers; hence, she was also left behind to face the consequences. Similarly, his son was also one of the disbelievers. He asked him to come on board with believers, but he refused. Instead, he said, I will rise the mountains, where a flood cannot ascend. Eventually, he was also drowned in the flood. His appeal to the Almighty Allah about his son and the Command of Allah عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is narrated in verses 45 to 47 of Surah Hud.

Translation

Noah called on his Lord and said: “O Lord, my son is surely a member of my family, and verily Your promise is true, as You are the most just of all judges.”

“O Noah”, He answered, “truly he is not of your family. He is surely the outcome of an unrighteous act. So, ask Me not of what you do not know. I warn you not to be one of the ignorant.”

“Preserve me, O Lord,” said (Noah), “from asking You that of which I have no knowledge. If You do not forgive me and have mercy on me I shall be among those who perish.”

Hence, all the disbelievers were drowned in the flood. Only those who boarded the Ark and the pairs of animals, birds, and insects remained alive.

End of Flood

When all the disbelievers were drowned, the flood came to an end with the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. The Ark then landed on Mount Judi, as is evident from the 44th verse of Surah Hud.

Translation – hen it was said: “O earth, swallow back your water; and, O sky, desist.” And the water subsided, and the decree was accomplished. The ark came to rest on Judi (Mount Ararat), and it was said: “Away with the cursed people!”

Eventually, the flood ended, and the Prophet and the believers were ordered to disembark on earth. See Verse 48 of Surah Hud.

Translation – (And the Lord) said: “O Noah, disembark with peace and safety from Us and blessings on you and the people with you. As for some (of them), We shall bestow advantages for a time, then send a grievous punishment on them.”

This practically cleared the earth of all the disbelievers. Life started afresh on this earth after the Great Flood of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. He is often called “Adam-e-Sani,” the second Adam.

Death of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

The event of the death of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran. The only evidence in the Quran is that he lived for 950 years. It is also not mentioned in the Quran how the leftover people lived on this earth after the end of the flood. However, it is narrated by some of the scholars that on his deathbed, he advised his descendants to worship only One Allah and then passed away. So, the story of an Ulul Azm Prophet started and ended with his preaching about the Oneness of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.