Nuh (Noah) was the next major prophet after Adam. His people became indulged in worshipping idols named Wadd, Suwa, Yaghuth, Ya’uq, and Nasr – these possibly being the names of righteous individuals from earlier generations whose statues were made to honor them, and were later exalted to divine status. Nuh preached to his people to worship the only God, and to live righteously. However, most of them disbelieved in his prophethood and ridiculed him; they repelled him and even threatened to stone him to death. Allah commanded Nuh to construct a ship (or ark) and accommodate the believers in it. Then He sent a severe flood that demolished the city completely. While the disbelievers drowned, the ship sailed to safety.
- Persevere in the cause of Allah
Nuh lived for 950 years, most of which he spent trying to persuade his people to accept faith and establish monotheism: “And We certainly sent Nuh to his people, and he remained among them a thousand years less fifty…” (29:14) Hence, for hundreds of years, Nuh persisted in guiding his people, striving in the path of Allah, and facing people’s ridicule. In the same way, we must propagate the oneness of God, share His Word with others, spread goodness, and not feel dejected when others oppose our actions because it is the effort – more than the final result – that counts in His sight.
- Recognize Allah through His signs
Since Allah is not visible to us, how do we seek to recognize Him? Through His signs and attributes! That is exactly how Nuh and other prophets described Allah to their people. Consider the following argument presented by Nuh to those who opposed his message: “What is the matter with you that you do not attribute to Allah grandeur? Whereas He has created you in stages! Do you not consider how Allah has created seven heavens in layers? And He made the moon therein a [reflected] light and made the sun a burning lamp. And Allah has caused you to grow from the earth a [progressive] growth. Then He will return you into it and extract you [another] extraction.” (71:13-18) We should thus ponder over the signs of Allah and His creative wonders around us, and encourage others to do the same. Knowing more about the universe reveals more about Allah because whatever exists has been created by Him, and reflects His artistic design.
- Material wealth is immaterial to Allah
While wealth is a blessing from Allah, it is also a test from Him as it may encourage one to forget Him, and act arrogantly. This is the reason why many of the prophets, including Nuh, had a large number of poor followers. The affluent among the nation of Nuh asked him rhetorically, “Should we believe you while you are followed by the lowest [class of people]?” (26:111) What these people failed to realize is that the level of wealth one possesses has no value in the sight of Allah; it is rather one’s faith and conduct that matter to Him.
- Think before you ridicule
“And he [Nuh] constructed the ship, and whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they ridiculed him.” (11:38) The disbelievers felt it made no sense to construct a ship to sail on land, and so they made fun of their prophet. However, soon Allah “opened the gates of the heaven with rain pouring down, and caused the earth to burst with springs…” (54:11-12) This resulted in a mighty flood that drowned all except those aboard the ship, thus revealing the purpose of constructing a ship on land! We should try to avoid ridiculing or disparaging others: it could be that we are unable to comprehend the wisdom behind a seemingly foolish act.
- Treat animals with kindness
Just when the flood was approaching, Allah commanded Nuh, “Load upon the ship of each [creature] two mates [male and female]…” (11:40) Hence, along with the believers, a pair of every species of animals in the region was also rescued from the great flood, so that the pair could reproduce and not become extinct. We should similarly be kind towards animals, and protect them from extinction by reducing deforestation, controlling pollution levels, and restricting the slaughter of animals for entertainment or commercial purposes. Animal rights have clearly been prescribed by Prophet Muhammad, who was sent as “a mercy to the worlds” (21:107) – implying “a mercy for all creatures”. There is a prophetic narration about a very sinful woman who was forgiven by Allah merely for taking the trouble to provide water to a thirsty dog.
- Mere blood relations cannot guarantee Paradise
A son of Nuh rejected the truth, and so was drowned by the flood despite his father’s wish that he be rescued. Allah declared to Nuh regarding his son, “Indeed he is not of your family…” (11:46) This is because he had no faith in Allah and acted arrogantly. Similarly, the wife of Nuh was also not a believer, and thus suffered the same fate. We, therefore, learn that being associated with a prophet or righteous person does not automatically lead to salvation. Every person is judged by Allah for his or her own deeds and degree of faith. Allah makes this clear elsewhere in the Quran too: “And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative.” (35:18)