Prophet Nuh (as) and The Great Flood
We (once) sent Nuh to his people, and he tarried among them a thousand years less fifty: but the Deluge overwhelmed them while they (persisted in) sin.(Surat al-Ankaboot: 14)
Referred to in nearly all cultures, the Great Flood at the time of Nuh (as) is one of the instances most widely alluded to in the Qur’an. The indifference of the Prophet Nuh’s (as)people to his advice and warnings, their reactions and how the event took place are told in detail in many verses.
The Prophet Nuh (as)was sent to warn his people who had turned away from Allah’s verses and were associating partners with Him and to urge them to worship Allah only and abandon their rebellion. Despite the messenger Nuh (as) advising his people many times to submit to Allah’s commands and warning them of the wrath of Allah, they still denied him and continued associating partners with Allah. In Surat al-Muminun, how the affair developed is described as follows;
(Further, We sent a long line of prophets for your instruction). We sent Nuh to his people: He said, O my people! worship Allah! Ye have no other god but Him. Will ye not fear (Him)?
The chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: He is no more than a man like yourselves: his wish is to assert his superiority over you: if Allah had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down angels; never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old.(And some said): He is only a man possessed: wait (and have patience) with him for a time.
(Nuh) said: O my Lord! help me: for that they accuse me of falsehood! (Surat al-Muminun: 23-26)
As told in these verses, the chiefs of the community tried to accuse the Prophet Nuh (as) of trying to assert his superiority over them, and they tried to slander him as possessed, and they decided to bear with him for a while, and keep him under pressure.
Upon this, Allah told His messenger Nuh (as)to build the ark because those who rejected faith and did wrong would be punished by drowning and only those who believed would be saved.
Indeed when the time of punishment came, waters and overflowing springs burst from the ground which, together with excessive rains, caused a huge flood. Allah told Nuh (as) to take on board pairs of every species, male and female, and his family- except those of them against whom the Word has already gone forth. All the people in that land were drowned in water - including Nuh’s (as)son who thought that he could be saved by taking refuge in a nearby mountain. All were drowned except those who embarked on the Ark with the Prophet Nuh (as). When the waters abated at the end of the Flood, and the matter was ended, the Ark came to rest on Judi - that is, on a high place - as the Qur’an informs us.
Archaeological, geological and historical studies show that this incident took place just as it is related in the Qur’an. The Flood is also very similarly described in many records of past civilisations and in many historical documents, although character and place-names vary, and all that happened to an astray people is presented to contemporary people as a warning.
Apart from the Old and New Testaments, the account of the Flood is told in a very similar manner in Sumerian and Assyrian-Babylonian records, in Greek legends, in the Shatapatha, Brahmana and Mahabharata epics of India, in some Welsh legends of the British Isles, in the Nordic Edda, in Lithuanian legends and even in some Chinese-rooted stories.
How could such detailed and pertinent information be gathered from such geographically and culturally distant lands, which are quite far from each other and from the flood region?
The answer is clear: the fact that the same incident is related in the records and inscriptions of all those communities which have little possibility of communicating with each other, is in fact clear evidence that these people received knowledge from a divine source. It seems that the Flood, one of the biggest and most destructive events in history, was narrated by prophets sent to various civilisations for the purpose of setting an example. Thus news about the Flood has spread out to various cultures.
Besides, despite being narrated in many cultures and religious sources, the story of the Flood incident and of the Prophet Nuh (as)have been greatly altered and so have diverged from the original version because of falsification of sources, or incorrect transmission and maybe even wrong intentions. Research reveals that, among all the Flood narrations which relate basically the same event with various differences, the only consistent description is the one in the Qur’an.
The Prophet Nuh (as) and the Flood in the Qur’an
The Great Flood is mentioned in many verses of the Qur’an and these verses have been arranged according to the sequence of events, below:
Prophet Nuh (as) Invites His People to the Religion of Truth
We sent Nuh to his people. He said: O my people! worship Allah! ye have no other god but Him. I fear for you the punishment of a dreadful day! (Surat al-A‘raf: 59)
(Nuh:) I am to you a messenger worthy of all trust: So fear Allah, and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds: So fear Allah, and obey me. (Surat ash-Shuara: 107-110)
(Further, We sent a long line of prophets for your instruction). We sent Nuh to his people: He said, O my people! worship Allah! Ye have no other god but Him. Will ye not fear (Him)? (Surat al-Muminun: 23)
The Prophet Nuh (as) Warns His People Against the Punishment of Allah
We sent Nuh to his People (with the Command): Do thou warn thy People before there comes to them a grievous Penalty. (Surah Nuh: 1)
(Nuh:) But soon will ye know who it is on whom will descend a penalty that will cover them with shame - on whom will be unloosed a penalty lasting (Surah Hud: 39)
(Nuh:) That ye serve none but Allah: Verily I do fear for you the penalty of a grievous day. (Surah Hud: 26)
Denial of Nuh's (as)People
The leaders of his people said: Ah! we see thee evidently wandering (in mind). (Surat al-A‘raf: 60)
They said: O Nuh! thou hast disputed with us, and (much) hast thou prolonged the dispute with us: now bring upon us what thou threatenest us with, if thou speakest the truth!? (Surah Hud: 32)
Forthwith he (starts) constructing the Ark: Every time that the chiefs of his people passed by him, they threw ridicule on him. He said: If ye ridicule us now, we (in our turn) can look down on you with ridicule likewise! (Surah Hud: 38)
The chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: He is no more than a man like yourselves: his wish is to assert his superiority over you: if Allah had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down angels; never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old. (And some said): He is only a man possessed: wait (and have patience) with him for a time. (Surat al-Muminun: 24-25)
Before them the People of Nuh rejected (their messenger): they rejected Our servant, and said, Here is one possessed!, and he was driven out. (Surat al-Qamar: 9)
Their Disregard of Those Who Followed the Prophet Nuh (as)
But the chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: We see (in) thee nothing but a man like ourselves: Nor do we see that any follow thee but the meanest among us, in judgment immature: Nor do we see in you (all) any merit above us: in fact we think ye are liars! (Surah Hud: 27)
They said: Shall we believe in thee when it is the meanest that follow thee? He said: And what do I know as to what they do? Their account is only with my Lord, if ye could (but) understand. I am not one to drive away those who believe. I am sent only to warn plainly in public. (Surat ash-Shuara: 111-115)
Allah Reminds Nuh (as)Not to Grieve
It was revealed to Nuh: None of thy people will believe except those who have believed already! So grieve no longer over their (evil) deeds. (Surah Hud: 36)
Prayers of the Prophet Nuh (as)
(Nuh:) Judge Thou, then, between me and them openly, and deliver me and those of the Believers who are with me. (Surat ash-Shuara: 118)
Then he called on his Lord: I am one overcome: do Thou then help (me)! (Surat al-Qamar: 10)
(Nuh:) He said: O my Lord! I have called to my People night and day: But my call only increases (their) flight (from the Right). (Surah Nuh: 5-6)
(Nuh) said: O my Lord! help me: for that they accuse me of falsehood! (Surat al-Muminun: 26)
(In the days of old), Nuh cried to Us, and We are the best to hear prayer. (Surat as-Saffat: 75)
The Construction of the Ark
But construct an Ark under Our eyes and Our inspiration, and address Me no (further) on behalf of those who are in sin: for they are about to be overwhelmed (in the Flood). (Surah Hud: 37)
The Destruction of the Prophet Nuh’s (as) People by Drowning
But they rejected him, and We delivered him, and those with him, in the Ark: but We overwhelmed in the flood those who rejected Our signs. They were indeed a blind people! (Surat al-A‘raf: 64)
Thereafter We drowned those who remained behind. (Surat ash-Shuara: 120)
We (once) sent Nuh to his people, and he tarried among them a thousand years less fifty: but the Deluge overwhelmed them while they (persisted in) sin. (Surat al-Ankaboot: 14)
But they denied him so We rescued him, and all those with him, in the Ark and We made them the successors and We drowned the people who denied Our Signs. See the final fate of those who were warned! (Surah Yunus: 73)
The Destruction of the Prophet Nuh’s (as) Son
The Qur’an relates a dialogue between Nuh (as) and his son, in the early stages of the Flood:
So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains, and Nuh called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest): O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers! The son replied: I will betake myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water. Nuh said: This day nothing can save, from the command of Allah, any but those on whom He hath mercy! And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood. (Surah Hud: 42-43)
Saving the Believers from the Flood
So We delivered him and those with him, in the Ark filled (with all creatures). (Surat ash-Shuara: 119)
But We saved him and the companions of the Ark, and We made the (Ark) a Sign for all peoples! (Surat al-Ankaboot: 15)
The Physical Nature of the Flood
So We opened the gates of heaven, with water pouring forth. And We caused the earth to gush forth with springs, so the waters met (and rose) to the extent decreed. But We bore him on an (Ark) made of broad planks and caulked with palm-fibre: (Surat al-Qamar: 11-13)
At length, behold! there came Our command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth! We said: Embark therein, of each kind two, male and female, and your family - except those against whom the word has already gone forth - and the Believers. but only a few believed with him.
So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains, and Nuh called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest): O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!(Surah Hud: 40-42)
So We inspired him (with this message): Construct the Ark within Our sight and under Our guidance: then when comes Our Command, and the fountains of the earth gush forth, take thou on board pairs of every species, male and female, and thy family- except those of them against whom the Word has already gone forth: And address Me not in favour of the wrong-doers; for they shall be drowned (in the Flood). (Surat al-Muminun: 27)
The Resting of the Ark on a High Place
Then the word went forth: O earth! swallow up thy water, and O sky! Withhold (thy rain)! and the water abated, and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and the word went forth: Away with those who do wrong! (Surah Hud: 44)
The Instructional Aspect of the Flood Incident
We, when the water (of Nuh's Flood) overflowed beyond its limits, carried you (mankind), in the floating (Ark), That We might make it a Message unto you, and that ears (that should hear the tale and) retain its memory should bear its (lessons) in remembrance. (Surat al-Haqqa: 11-12)
Allah’s Praise of the Prophet Nuh (as)
Peace and salutation to Nuh among the nations! Thus indeed do we reward those who do right. For he was one of our believing Servants. (Surat as-Saaffat: 79-81)
Was the Flood a Local Disaster or was It Global?
Those who deny the reality of the Flood, support their stance with the assertion that a worldwide flood is impossible. However, their denial of any flood whatsoever is also directed as an argument for disbelief.
Yet the Qur’an was revealed by Allah and is the only unaltered Divine book. The Qur’an gives a very different account of the Flood than the Pentateuch and the other flood legends narrated in various cultures. The Pentateuch, the name given to the first five books of the Old Testament, says that the flood was cosmic and that it covered the whole world. Yet the Qur’an does not offer such as assertion, indeed on the contrary, the relevant verses imply that the Flood was regional and did not cover the whole world but only drowned Nuh’s (as) people who had been warned by Nuh (as)and so were punished.
When the Flood narrations of the Old Testament and the Qur’an are examined, this difference is plain. The Old Testament, which has been subject to so many alterations and additions throughout its history that it can truly be said that almost nothing of the original remains, describes how the Flood began as follows;
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis, 6:5-8)
However, in the Qur’an, it is clearly shown that it was not the whole world, but only Nuh’s (as)people who were destroyed. Just as Hud (as)was sent only to ‘Ad (Surah Hud: 50); Salih (as)was sent to Thamud (Surah Hud: 61) and all the other prophets prior to Muhammad (saas)were sent only to their own peoples, Nuh (as)was sent only to his people and the flood caused only Nuh’s (as)people to perish:
We sent Nuh to his people (with a mission): I have come to you with a Clear Warning: That ye serve none but Allah: Verily I do fear for you the penalty of a grievous day. (Surah Hud: 25-26)
Those who perished were people who totally disregarded Prophet Nuh’s (as)proclamation of the message and persisted on rebellion. Relevant verses are explicit:
But they rejected him, and We delivered him, and those with him, in the Ark: but We overwhelmed in the flood those who rejected Our signs. They were indeed a blind people! (Surat al-A‘raf: 64)
But they denied him so We rescued him, and all those with him, in the Ark and We made them the successors and We drowned the people who denied Our Signs. See the final fate of those who were warned! (Surah Yunus: 73)
Besides, in the Qur’an, Allah remarks that He does not destroy a community unless a messenger has been sent to it. Destruction can only take place if a warner has already arrived among a particular people and the warner is belied. Allah states in the Qur’an:
Nor was thy Lord the one to destroy a population until He had sent to its centre a messenger, rehearsing to them Our Signs; nor are We going to destroy a population except when its members practice iniquity. (Surat al-Qasas: 59)
It is revealed in the Qur’an that Allah will not destroy people to whom He has not sent any messengers. As a warner, Nuh (as)had been sent only to his people. Therefore, Allah did not destroy the communities who had not been sent a warner, but only Nuh’s (as)people.
From these statements in the Qur’an, we can be certain that the Flood was a regional disaster, not a cosmic one. Excavations made in the archaeological region where the flood is supposed to have occurred - which we will examine below - show that the flood was not a cosmic event affecting the whole world, but a very broad catastrophe which affected a certain part of Mesopotamia.
Were all the Animals Taken on Board?
The interpreters of the Bible believe that Nuh (as)took all animal species on earth on board the Ark and that animals were saved from extinction thanks to Nuh (as). According to this belief, a pair of every animal species on earth were brought together and put on board.
Those who defend this assertion doubtless have to face serious difficulties in many respects. The question of how the animal species taken aboard were fed, how they were housed on the Ark, or how they were isolated from each other are impossible to answer. Moreover, the question remains: how were animals from different continents brought together - mammals in the poles, kangaroos in Australia or the bison peculiar to America? Moreover, there follow more questions as to how very dangerous animals - venomous ones like snakes, scorpions and wild animals - were caught and how they could be sustained away from their natural habitats until the flood abated.
These are the accounts in the distorted Old Testament which cannot be answered. In the Qur’an, there is no statement implying that all the animal species on earth were taken on board. As we have noted before, the Flood took place in a certain region. Therefore, the animals taken on board could only have been those living in the region where Nuh’s (as) people resided.
However, it is evident that it is impossible even to collect all the animal species living in that region. It is difficult to think of Nuh (as)and a few number of believers besides him (Surah Hud: 40) going in all directions and setting out to collect two each of hundreds of animal species in their surroundings. It is even more highly improbable for them to have collected specimens of the insect species living in their region, and, moreover, to discriminate the males from the females! This is the reason why it is more probable that the animals collected were those that could easily be caught and sustained, and were, therefore, domestic animals especially useful to man. The Prophet Nuh (as)was most likely to have taken on board such animals as cows, sheep, horses, poultry, camels and the like, because these were the primary animals that would have been needed for establishing a new life in a region which would have lost a great deal of its livestock because of the Flood.
Here the important point is that Allah’s command to Nuh (as)to collect the animals may be directed to the collecting of the animals required for the new life to be established after the Flood rather than to protecting the genus of animals. Since the flood was regional, the extinction of animal species could not have been a possibility. It is most likely that after the flood, animals from other regions would have migrated to that area in the course of time, and re-populated the region with its old liveliness. What was important was the life to be established in the region right after the flood, and the animals gathered would have been collected basically for this purpose.
How High Did the Waters Rise?
Another debate around the Flood is whether the waters rose high enough to cover the mountains. As acknowledged, the Qur’an informs us that the Ark came to rest on al-Judi after the flood. The word Judi is generally referred to as a specific mountain site, whereas the word appears to mean high setting or hill in Arabic. Therefore it should not be forgotten that in the Qur’an, Judi could have been used not as a name for a specific mountain site but to indicate that the Ark had come to rest on a high site. Besides, the aforementioned meaning of the word Judi may also show that the waters had reached a certain height, but not as high as mountaintop level. That is to say that the flood most probably did not engulf the whole earth and all the mountains as described in the Old Testament, but only covered a certain region.
The Location of the Flood
The Mesopotamian Plains have been suggested as the location of the Flood. In this region lived the oldest civilisations known to history. Besides, being between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, geographically this region is a suitable setting for a great deluge. One of the contributory factors to the effect of the flood is most probably that these two rivers overflowed their beds and overwhelmed the region.
The second reason why this region is regarded as the location for the Flood is historical. In the records of many civilisations of the region many documents are to be found referring to a flood that took place in the same period. Having witnessed the destruction of Nuh’s (as)people, these civilisations must have felt the need to record how this disaster came about and what it resulted in. It is known that most of the legends about the flood are of Mesopotamian origin. More important to us are the archaeological finds. These show that a big deluge did indeed once befall this region. As we will examine in detail in the following pages, this flood caused civilisation to be suspended for a period. In the excavations, apparent traces of such an enormous disaster have been unearthed.
The excavations made in the Mesopotamian region disclose that many times in history, this region suffered from various disasters as a result of deluges and the overflow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. For instance around the second millennium BC, at the time of Ibbi-sin, ruler of the large nation of Ur situated to the south of Mesopotamia, a year is marked as coming after a Flood that annihilated the borders between the heavens and the earth 1. Around 1700 BC, at the time of the Babylonian Hammurabi, a year is marked as being that in which occurred the incident of the ruining of the city of Eshnunna with a deluge.
In the tenth century BC, at the time of the ruler Nabu-mukin-apal, a deluge occurred in the city of Babylon. 2 After ‘Isa (Jesus) (as), in the seventh, eighth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries, important deluges took place in the region. In the twentieth century, the same happened in 1925, 1930 and 1954.3 It is clear that the region has always been subject to the disaster of flooding and, as indicated in the Qur’an, it is very likely that a massive flood could have destroyed an entire people.
Archaeological Evidence of the Flood
It is striking that today we run into traces of most of the communities which are said in the Qur’an to have been destroyed. Archaeological evidence yields the fact that the more suddenly a community disappears, the more likely it is that we will come across some of its remnants.
In the case of a civilisation suddenly disappearing, which can happen as a result of a natural disaster, sudden emigration or war, the traces of this civilisation can often be preserved much better. Houses in which people lived and tools they once used in daily life are buried under the earth in a short time. Thus these are preserved for quite long periods untouched by human hand and they yield important evidence of the past when brought to light.
This is how a great deal of evidence for the Flood has been uncovered in our day. Thought to have occurred around the third millennium BC, the Flood put an end to a whole civilisation in a matter of moments, and later resulted in a brand new civilisation being established in its place. Thus the apparent evidence for the Flood has been preserved for thousands of years so that we may take warning.
Many excavations have been made in the investigation of the Flood which covered the Mesopotamian plains. In excavations made in the region, in four main cities there are traces of what must have been a particularly large flood. These cities were the important cities of Mesopotamia: Ur, Erech, Kish and Shuruppak.
The excavations made in these cities reveal that all four of these were subjected to a flood around the third millennium BC.
First let us take a look at the excavations made in the city of Ur.
The oldest remains of a civilisation unearthed in the excavations made in the city of Ur, which has been re-named Tell al Muqqayar in our day, date back as far as 7000 BC. As one of the sites which has been home to one of the earliest civilisations, the city of Ur has been a region of settlements in which many cultures succeeded each other.
Archaeological findings from the city of Ur show that here civilisation was interrupted after an enormous flood, and that then new civilisations later emerged. R.H. Hall from the British Museum made the first excavations here. Leonard Woolley, who took it upon himself to carry on with excavations after Hall, also supervised an excavation organised collectively by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. Excavations conducted by Woolley, which had a huge effect world-wide, lasted from 1922 to 1934.
Sir Woolley’s excavations took place in the middle of the desert between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. The first founders of the city of Ur were a people who had come from North Mesopotamia and called themselves Ubaidian. Excavations originally began to gather information on these people. Woolley’s excavations are described by the German archaeologist Werner Keller:
The graves of the kings of Ur - so Woolley, in the exuberance of his delight at discovering them, had dubbed the tombs of Sumerian nobles whose truly regal splendour had been exposed when the spades of the archaeologists attacked a fifty-foot mound south of the temple and found a long row of superimposed graves. The stone vaults were veritable treasure chests, for they were filled with all the costly goblets, wonderfully shaped jugs and vases, bronze tableware, mother of pearl mosaics, lapis lazuli, and silver surrounded these bodies which had mouldered into dust. Harps and lyres rested against the walls. Almost at once he wrote later in his diary, discoveries were made which confirmed our suspicions. Directly under the floor of one of the tombs of the kings we found in a layer of charred wood ash numerous clay tablets, which were covered with characters of a much older type than the inscriptions on the graves. Judging by the nature of the writing, the tablets could be assigned to about 3000 BC. They were therefore two or three centuries earlier than the tombs.
Microscopic analysis revealed that this great clay deposit beneath the hill at Ur had accumulated here as a result of a flood so big as to annihilate ancient Sumerian civilisation. The epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Nuh (as)were united in this shaft dug deep under the Mesopotamian desert.
Max Mallowan related the thoughts of Leonard Woolley, who said that such a huge mass of alluvium formed in a single time slice could only be the result of a huge flood disaster. Woolley also described the flood layer that separated the Sumerian city of Ur from the city of Al-Ubaid whose inhabitants used painted pottery, as the remains of the Flood.5
These show that the city of Ur was one of the places affected by the Flood. Werner Keller expressed the importance of the aforementioned excavation by saying that the yield of city-remains beneath a muddy layer in the archaeological excavations made in Mesopotamia proves that there was a flood here.6
Another Mesopotamian city carrying traces of the Flood is Kish of the Sumerians which is now known as “Tall Al-Uhaimer”. According to ancient Sumerian sources, this city was the seat of the first postdiluvian dynasty.7
The city of Shuruppak in South Mesopotamia, which is today named “Tall Fa’rah”, likewise carries apparent traces of the Flood. Archaeological studies in this city were headed by Erich Schmidt from the University of Pennsylvania between 1920-1930. These excavations uncovered three layers of habitation extending in time from the late prehistoric period to the third dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 BC). The most distinctive finds were ruins of well-built houses along with cuneiform tablets of administrative records and lists of words, indicating a highly developed society already in being toward the end of the fourth millennium BC.8
The main point is that a big flood disaster was understood to have occurred in this city around 2900-3000 BC. According to Mallowan’s account, four-five metres below the earth, Schmidt had reached a yellow soil layer (formed by flood) made up of a mixture of clay and sand. This layer was closer to the plain level than the tumulus profile and it could be observed all around the tumulus… Schmidt defined this layer made up of a mixture of clay and sand, which remained from the time of Ancient Kingdom of Cemdet Nasr, as a sand with its origins in the river and associated it with Nuh’s (as) Flood.9
In the excavations made in the city of Shuruppak, the remains of a flood were found that corresponded approximately to the years 2900-3000 BC. The city of Shuruppak was probably as much effected by the flood as the other cities.10
The latest place which is shown to have been affected by the Flood is the city of Erech to the south of Shuruppak which is known as “Tall Al-Warka” today. In this city just as in others, a flood layer is found. This flood layer is also dated between 2900-3000 BC just like the others.11
As is well known, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers cut across Mesopotamia from one end to the other. It seems that, during the event, these two rivers and many other water resources, big and small, overflowed and, by uniting with rain water, caused a big deluge. The event is described in the Qur’an:
So We opened the gates of heaven, with water pouring forth. And We caused the earth to gush forth with springs, so the waters met (and rose) to the extent decreed. (Surat al-Qamar: 11-12)
When the factors causing the Flood are examined one by one, it is seen that they are all very natural phenomena. What makes the event miraculous is their taking place at the same time and Nuh’s (as)warning his people about such a disaster beforehand.
Assessment of the evidence obtained from the completed studies revealed that the Flood area stretches approximately 160 km (in width) from east to west, and 600 km (in length) from north to south. This shows that the Flood covered all the Mesopotamian plains. When we examine the order of the cities Ur, Erech, Shuruppak and Kish which bear traces of the Flood, we see that these are lined along a route. Therefore, the Flood must have affected these four cities and their surroundings. Besides it should be noted that around 3000 BC, the geographical structure of the Mesopotamian plain was different from what it is now. At those times, the bed of the Euphrates river was more to the east than it is today; this stream-line was matched with a line passing through Ur, Erech, Shuruppak and Kish. With the opening of the springs of the earth and heaven, it seems that the river Euphrates overflowed and spread thus destroying the four cities cited above.
Religions and Cultures Mentioning the Flood
The Flood has been made known to nearly all peoples through the mouth of prophets conveying the Religion of Truth, but it has been turned into legends by those communities and been both extended and corrupted on the way.
Allah has conveyed news of the Great Flood to people through messengers and books He has sent to different communities so that it may be a warning and example. Yet, each time the texts have been altered from the original, and the Flood descriptions have been expanded to include mythological elements. The Qur’an is the only remaining source that is in substantial agreement with the findings of empirical observation. This is only because Allah has guarded the Qur’an from undergoing even a single change and has not permitted it to be corrupted. According to the following judgment of the Qur’an: We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption). (Surat al-Hijr: 9). The Qur’an is under the special protection of Allah.
In this section, we will examine how the incident is envisioned - though quite corrupted - in various cultures and in the Old and New Testaments.
Nuh’s (as)Flood in the Old Testament
The book in truth revealed to the Prophet Musa (as)was the Tawrah. Almost nothing at all of this revelation remains, and the biblical book, the Pentateuch, has long lost its connection to the original revelation over time. Even then most parts of that dubious entity have been altered by the rabbis of the Jewish community. Similarly, the revelations all the other prophets were sent with to the Children of Israel after the Prophet Musa (as)were subject to the same treatment and greatly altered. Therefore, this characteristic, which calls us to rename it the Altered Pentateuch because it has lost its connection to its original, drives us to regard it as a product of human beings attempting to record their tribes’ history rather than a divine book. Unsurprisingly, the nature of the Altered Pentateuch and the contradictions it contains are well revealed in its telling of the story of Nuh (as)despite it having some parallels with the Qur’an in parts.
According to the Old Testament, God proclaimed to Noah that everybody except the believers would be destroyed because the earth was full of violence. To this end, He commanded him to make the Ark and described to him in detail how to do it. He also told him to take along his family, his three sons, his sons’ wives, two of every living thing and some provisions.
Seven days later, when the time for the Flood came, all the underground sources burst open, the window of the heavens opened and a big flood engulfed everything. This lasted for forty days and nights. The ship sailed over waters covering all mountains and high hills. Thus those who were on board with Noah were saved and the rest were carried away by the waters of the Flood and were drowned to death. The rain stopped after the Flood and the waters started to recede 150 days after that.
Thereafter, on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ship came to rest on the Ararat (Agri) mountains. Noah sent out a dove to see whether the waters had fully receded or not and when finally the dove did not come back, he understood that the waters had totally receded. God told them to disembark from the ship and spread out on the earth.
One of the contradictions in this story in the Old Testament is that, following this summary, in the Yahwist version of the text, it is said that God commanded Noah to take along seven of those animals, males and females, He called clean and only pairs of those animals He called unclean. This contradicts with the text above. Besides, in the Old Testament, the duration of the Flood is also different. According to the Yahwist account the rising of the waters took forty days whereas it is said to be 150 days according to the account of the laymen.
Some parts of the Old Testament account of the Flood are as follows:
And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood;...
...And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven; [and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every [sort] shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep [them] alive with thee; they shall be male and female...
And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. (Genesis, 8: 4)
Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that [are] not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. (Genesis, 7:2-3)
And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. (Genesis, 9:11)
According to the distorted Old Testament, in accordance with the verdict that every thing that [is] in the earth shall die in a flood covering all the world, all people were punished, and the only ones who survived were those who embarked on the Ark with Noah.
Nuh’s (as)Flood in the New Testament
Since it has been distorted over time, the New Testament we have today is not a Divine book in the real sense of the word either. Being comprised of the words and deeds of ‘Isa (Jesus) (as), the New Testament starts with four Gospels written up to one century after ‘Isa (as)by people who had never seen him or only kept company with him for a while; namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are very obvious contradictions between these four Gospels. In particular, the Gospel of John differs to a great extent from the other three (Synoptic Gospels) which are to some degree, but not totally, compatible with each other. The other books of the New Testament comprise the letters written by the Apostles and Saul of Tarsus (later called Saint Paul) describing the deeds of the apostles after ‘Isa (as).
Therefore the New Testament of today is not a Divine text, but rather a semi-historical book.
According to the New Testament, Noah was sent as a messenger to a disobedient community who were astray, but his people did not follow him and went on in their perverseness. Upon this, God called those who rejected faith to account with the Flood and saved Noah and the believers by putting them on the Ark. Some chapters of the New Testament relating to the subject are as follows:
But as the days of Noah [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew, 24: 37-39)
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. (Second Peter, 2: 5)
And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. (Luke, 17: 26-27)
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. (Second Peter, 3: 5-6)
Accounts of the Flood in Other Cultures
Sumer: A god called Enlil told people that other gods intended to destroy humanity, but that he himself was willing to save them. The hero of the story is Ziusudra, the devotee king of the city of Sippur. God Enlil told Ziusudra what to do to be saved from the Flood. The text relating the making of the boat is missing, but the fact that such a part once existed is revealed in the parts in which it is told how Ziusudra is saved. Relying on the Babylonian version of the flood, one reaches the conclusion that in the complete Sumerian version of the event there must have been much more comprehensive details of the reason for the Flood and how the boat was made.
Babylonia: Ut-Napishtim is the Babylonian counterpart of the Sumerian hero of the Flood, Ziusudra. Another important character is Gilgamesh. According to the legend, Gilgamesh decided to seek and find his ancestry to obtain the secret of immortality. He was warned against the dangers and difficulties of such a journey. He was told that he was supposed to make a journey in which he should pass over the Mashu Mountains and waters of death; and that such a journey had only been accomplished by the sun-god Shamash up until then. Still, Gilgamesh braved all the dangers of the journey and finally succeeded in reaching Ut-Napishtim.
The text is cut off at the point where the meeting of Gilgamesh and Ut-Napishtim is narrated; and when it next becomes legible, Ut-Napishtim said to Gilgamesh that the gods reserved the secret of death and life to themselves (that they did not give it to people). Upon this, Gilgamesh asked Ut-Napishtim how he had acquired immortality; and Ut-Napishtim told him the story of the flood as a reply to his question. The flood is also told in the famous twelve tables of the Gilgamesh epic.
Ut-Napishtim started by saying that the story he was about to tell Gilgamesh was something secret, a secret of the gods. He said that he was from the city of Shuruppak, the oldest among the cities of the Akkad land. According to his account, the god Ea had called out to him through the walls of a cane hut and declared that the gods had decided to destroy all the seeds of life with a flood; but the reason for their decision was not explained in the Babylonian Flood account just as it had not been in the Sumerian Flood story. Ut-Napishtim said that Ea had told him to make a ship in which he should bring together and put the seeds of all living things. He informed him of the size and shape of the ship; according to it, the width, length, and height of the ship were equal to each other. The storm turned everything upside down for six days and nights. On the seventh day it calmed down. Ut-Napishtim saw that on the outside, it had turned into sticky mud. The ship came to rest on Mount Nisir.
According to Sumerian and Babylonian records, Xisuthros or Khasisatra is saved from the Flood by a ship of 925 metres in length, along with his family, friends, and some birds and animals. It is said that the waters outspread towards the heavens, the oceans covered the shores, and rivers overflowed from their beds. The ship then came to rest on the Corydaean mountain.
According to the Assyrian-Babylonian records, Ubar-Tutu or Khasisatra was saved along with his family, servants, flocks and wild animals on a ship which is 600 cubits long and 60 cubits high and wide. The Flood lasted for six days and six nights. When the ship reached the Nizar Mountain, the dove that was set free came back but the raven did not.
According to some Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian records, Ut-Napishtim with his family survived through the Flood which lasted for six days and six nights. It is said: On the seventh day Ut-Napishtim looked outside. It was all very quite. Man had once more turned to mud. When the ship came to rest on the Nizar mountain, Ut-Napishtim sent out one pigeon, one raven and one sparrow. The raven stayed to eat the corpses, but the other two birds did not return.
India: In the Shatapatha Brahmana and Mahabharata epics of India, the person called Manu is saved from the flood along with Rishiz. According to the legend, a fish which Manu caught and whose life he spared, suddenly grew and told him to make a ship and tie it to its horns. This fish was accepted to be a manifestation of the god Vishnu. The fish drove the ship over huge waves, and brought it to the north, the Hismavat mountain.
Wales: According to Welsh legend (from Wales, a Celtic region of Britain), Dwynwen and Dwyfach escaped from the great disaster on ship. When the dreadful deluge that occurred from the bursting of Llynllion, which was called the Lake of Waves, subsided, Dwywen and Dwyfach started to repopulate Britain afresh.
Scandinavia: Nordic Edda legends report that Bergalmir and his wife escaped from the flood in a big boat.
Lithuania: In Lithuanian legend, it is told that a few pairs of men and animals were saved by taking shelter in a crust up on the top of a lofty mountain. When the winds and floods that lasted for twelve days and twelve nights reached to the high mountain so much as almost to swallow those on it, the Creator threw a giant nut shell to them. Those on the mountain were saved from disaster by sailing in this nut shell.
China: Chinese sources relate that a person called Yao with seven other persons or Fa Li with his wife and children, were saved from the deluge and earthquakes on a sailing boat. It is said that the earth was all in ruins. The waters burst forth and covered everywhere. Finally, the waters receded.
The Flood in Greek Mythology: The god Zeus decided to destroy people, who have become more wrongdoing every day, with a flood. Only Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha were saved from the flood, because Deucalion's father Prometheus had formerly advised his son to make a boat. The couple set foot on Mount Parnassos on the ninth day after embarking on the boat.
All these legends indicate a concrete historical reality. In history, each community received the message, everybody received Divine revelation, and thus many communities learned about the Flood. Unfortunately, as people turned away from the essence of the Divine revelation, the account of the Flood underwent many changes, and turned into legends and myths.
The only source where we can find the real story of Nuh (as) and the people who denied him, is the Qur’an, which is the single unaltered source of Divine revelation remaining.
The Qur’an provides us with correct information not only on Nuh’s Flood, but also about other historical events and peoples. In the following chapters, we will review these events.