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Story of Noah (Nuh (AS)'s Ark


Adopted from Mariful Qur'aan by Mufti Mohammed Shafi (RA)

۞ وَقَالَ ٱرۡڪَبُواْ فِيہَا بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ مَجۡر۪ٮٰهَا وَمُرۡسَٮٰهَآ‌ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّى لَغَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬ (٤١) وَهِىَ تَجۡرِى بِهِمۡ فِى مَوۡجٍ۬ كَٱلۡجِبَالِ وَنَادَىٰ نُوحٌ ٱبۡنَهُ ۥ وَڪَانَ فِى مَعۡزِلٍ۬ يَـٰبُنَىَّ ٱرۡڪَب مَّعَنَا وَلَا تَكُن مَّعَ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ (٤٢) قَالَ سَـَٔاوِىٓ إِلَىٰ جَبَلٍ۬ يَعۡصِمُنِى مِنَ ٱلۡمَآءِ‌ۚ قَالَ لَا عَاصِمَ ٱلۡيَوۡمَ مِنۡ أَمۡرِ ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا مَن رَّحِمَ‌ۚ وَحَالَ بَيۡنَہُمَا ٱلۡمَوۡجُ فَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُغۡرَقِينَ (٤٣) وَقِيلَ يَـٰٓأَرۡضُ ٱبۡلَعِى مَآءَكِ وَيَـٰسَمَآءُ أَقۡلِعِى وَغِيضَ ٱلۡمَآءُ وَقُضِىَ ٱلۡأَمۡرُ وَٱسۡتَوَتۡ عَلَى ٱلۡجُودِىِّ‌ۖ وَقِيلَ بُعۡدً۬ا لِّلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

And he said, "Embark it. With the name of Allah it sails and anchors. Surely, my Lord is Most-Forgiving, Very Merciful." [41]

And it was sailing with them amidst the waves like mountains. And Nuh called out to his son, who was at an isolated place, "0 my child, come on board with us, and do not be in the company of the disbelievers." [42]

He said, "I shall take shelter on a mountain which will save me from the water." He said, "There is no saver today from the command of Allah, except the one to whom He shows mercy." And the waves rose high between the two, and he was among the drowned. [43]

And it was said, "0 earth, suck in your water, and 0 heaven, stop." And water subsided, and the matter was over. And it (the Ark) came to rest on the Judi, and it was said, "Curse be upon the wrongdoers." [44]

Commentary

Etiquette of boarding boats and other modes of conveyance

The first verse (41) teaches the etiquette of boarding boats and other modes of conveyance, One should board by saying: بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ مَجۡر۪ٮٰهَا وَمُرۡسَٮٰهَآ‌ۚ  (With the name of Allah it sails and anchors). The word (مَجۡر۪ے )majra pronounced according to the reading (qir'aah) of Imam Hafs as 'majray' with Fathah on the letter mim and a major Im'alah [inclination] on the letter "ra" means to sailor to move, and (مُرۡسَی) mursa means to stop or anchor. The sense is that the moving of this mode of transport owes itself to the power of Allah, and is with His name alone, as well as its stopping which is also subservient to nothing but His power.

Every conveyance moves and stops only with the power of Allah Ta'ala.

Even a little thought would show that no conveyance, a boat or any other mode of transport that moves on land (or flies in the air) is really within one's own power, neither its creating and making, nor its moving and stopping. A shallow view of things leads man to assume that he is the one who has manufactured it and made it move. The reality lies elsewhere. It does not take much to realize that man has not created iron, wood, brass, aluminum etc. which serve as raw material that go into the making of these modes of conveyance. And it is also clear that it does not lie in his control to create on his own a gram of iron or a foot of wood. Then, who gave them the intelligence to design and produce all sorts of mechanical parts and instruments? How did he do that? Did he create his own intelligence? Had it been within the power of man, no one in this wide world would have remained dumb. Everyone would have been a Plato and Aristotle in his field. So, man puts together wood and iron and mechanical support from all sides, makes the body and frame for the conveyance. Now he needs to haul tons of weight easily and quickly on the land or in the air. He needs power to do that. It may come through petrol, gas or hydro-electricity. Has man created any of these? Did he create the petrol or gas, or water, or oxygen, or hydrogen?

If we were to look at things impartially, we will realize that even in this age of great scientific advancement, the helplessness of man is still visible and it is true that the moving and stopping of every conveyance rests within the ultimate control of the creator of this universe.

The process of inventing things and making them work makes inventors self-centered. They start living in a hall of mirrors. They congratulate themselves to the limit that they lose touch with the reality of things on a canvass larger than what they invent. Allah Ta'ala tells them through his Prophets that there is more to their making that they fail to see بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ مَجۡر۪ٮٰهَا وَمُرۡسَٮٰهَآ‌ۚ  (With the name of Allah it sails and anchors). This is the reality. A brief statement, but very comprehensive. In fact, it is a key to a door. Once he enters it, he lives in this mortal world but turns into a citizen of the spiritual universe - seeing the beauty of the Lord everywhere in it.

From here unfolds the difference between the world of a believer and the world of a disbeliever. Both ride. But, when a believer steps in there, the conveyance does not simply shorten his travel distances on the land, it introduces him to the one higher, more sublime.

As stated in the second (42) and third (43) verse, when the whole family of Sayyidna Nuh (AS) had boarded the ark, a son whose name has been reported as Kin'an (Canaan) was left out. Out of his paternal compassion, Sayyidna Nuh (AS) called out to him asking him to come on board and warning him that he should not stay in the company of disbelievers otherwise he would be drowned with them. This young man was already in league with those disbelieving enemies, in fact, was himself a disbeliever. But, in all likelihood, Sayyidna Nuh (AS) did not know that he was a disbeliever. And even if he did know that, the good counsel he gave to his son to board the boat and leave the company of the disbelievers was in the spirit of asking him to repent from disbelief and enter the fold of faith. But, the unfortunate son still took the flood to be something that will pass away and told him not to worry about him for he would be safe from the flood by climbing a mountain. Sayyidna Nuh (AS) warned him again that nothing was going to save anyone, not even a mountain, from the punishment of Allah on that day and that there was no way one could remain safe from it unless Allah Himself were to show mercy to him. This father-son dialogue was on from a distance when rose a wave of the flood and took him down and away. Historical reports say that the level of the Flood was fifteen yards above the highest mountain peak and according to some other reports, it was forty yards high.

In the fourth verse (44), the recession of the flood and the return of things to normal conditions has been described in a particular manner. Addressing the earth, Allah Ta'ala commanded: يَـٰٓأَرۡضُ ٱبۡلَعِى مَآءَكِ  (0 earth, suck in your water). The sense was that the amount of water which had bulged out from the earth was to be taken back in by the earth. The sky was commanded to stop raining. The water from rains that had already accumulated on the earth, nature channeled it into rivers and streams for human beings to benefit by it. (Tafsir Qurtubi, Mazhari)

In this verse, Allah Ta'ala has given His commands by addressing the heaven and the earth, although these are no sensate entities, at least outwardly. Therefore, some commentators have taken it in a figurative sense. But, the fact of the matter is that, in terms of our perception, things in the world which appear non-conscious, insensate, and lifeless are, in all reality, live and conscious. Yes, their consciousness and perception are not of a level as given to humankind and others, therefore, by declaring them to be inanimate, they were not obligated with the percepts and injunctions of the Shari'ah. Many verses of the Holy Qur'an confirm it, such as: إِن مِّن شَىۡءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِهِۦ (and there is no such thing which does not glorify Him with praises - 17:44). And it is obvious that the glorification of Allah Ta'ala depends on knowing Him, and knowing, on reason and consciousness. This tells us that everything has reason and consciousness according to its respective capacity. From it, it recognizes its creator and whatever it has been assigned to do by Him. Everything knows it fully well and keeps doing it staunchly as due. The verse of the Qur'an: أَعۡطَىٰ كُلَّ شَىۡءٍ خَلۡقَهُ ۥ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ  (gave each thing its form then guided [it] 20:50) means exactly this. Therefore, in this verse, if the address to the heaven and the earth is taken in the real sense, it does not matter. Sage Rumi said:

Dust, air, water and fire are all 'servants'

For you and me, dead, but with Him, live.

At the end of the fourth verse (44), it was said that the heaven and the earth obeyed the orders and the matter of the flood was all over. The Ark of Sayyidna Nuh (AS) came to rest on the Mount -Judi and it was declared that the unjust people have been cast far 'away from the mercy of Allah' - (which is what curse is).

Mount - Judi still stands there by that name. Geographically, it is located on the border of Armenia near Ibn 'Umar Island north of Mousil in 'Iraq, the real home of Sayyidna Nuh (AS). This is a mountain range, part of which is called Judi. Another part of it is known as Ararat, In the present Torah, the place where the Ark came to rest has been identified as Mount Ararat. As obvious, there is not much of a contradiction in these two reports. But, well-known old historical accounts also say that the ark of Sayyidna Nuh (AS) had come to rest on Mount Judi.

These accounts also mention that pieces of this ark are still there at many places in 'Iraq. These are kept and used as a relic.

According to Tafsir at-Tabari and al-Baghawi, Sayyidna Nuh (AS) had embarked the Ark on the tenth of the month of Rajab. For six months, this ark sailed on the waters of the flood. When it reached the spot where Baytullah was, it made seven circuits. Allah Ta'ala had raised His House higher from being submerged. Then, on the tenth of Muharram, the day of 'Ashura', the flood subsided and the ark came to rest at the Mount Judi. Sayyidna Nuh (AS) observed a thanksgiving fast on that day and asked everyone on the ark to do the same. Some reports say that even animals that had shared the ark fasted on that day. (Mazhari and Qurtubi)

The importance of the day of 'Ashura', that is, the tenth of Muharram, has been recognized in all religious codes of the blessed prophets. In early Islam - before the fasts of Ramadan became obligatory - fasting on the day of 'Ashura' was far d. It is no more far d after the revelation of the obligatory status of fasting in Ramadan, but it continues to be a practice of prophets, and a source of reward forever.

 

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