بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
اللهم صلي على سيدنا محمد وعلى اله وصحبه وسلم
Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wasallim
O Allah, send your peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions
This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Online Lecture on 11th October 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Maryam, Surah Taha, Surah Al-Anbiya’ and Surah Al-Hajj can be found here. The previous lecture of Surah Al-Mu’minun can be found here.
Continuation of the Story of Prophet Nuh AS
Recap of Last Week’s Lecture
In the previous lecture, we went through verses 23 to 25 of Surah Al-Mu’minun. We spoke about how Prophet Nuh AS was sent to his people with the same message that was sent to other prophets of Allah SWT – that is to worship Allah SWT as the only One God.
The people of Prophet Nuh AS had rejected his message, especially the Al-Mala’ (those of high status and great influence in the community). These people questioned Prophet Nuh AS’s credibility saying that Allah SWT should have sent an angel rather than a human being as a messenger.
They also accused Prophet Nuh AS of having ulterior motives of gathering wealth and status through his preaching. Lastly, they accused him of having lost his mind. In verse 25, they came to a decision to leave Prophet Nuh alone and to see what happens next.
Help from Allah
قَالَ رَبِّ انصُرْنِي بِمَا كَذَّبُونِ
[Nuh] said, “My Lord, grant me An-Nasr because they have denied me.” [23:26]
‘An-Nasr’ can mean either help, victory, or defence. Prophet Nuh AS was a human being. He had a heart just like we do. He was emotionally affected and hurt by the false accusations thrown at him by his people, calling him crazy and power-hungry. Prophet Nuh AS surrendered his problems to Allah SWT asking that He grant him a way out.
فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِ أَنِ اصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا
Then We inspired in him, saying,“Build the Ark under Our Eyes and Our Wahyu…” [23:27]
Allah SWT used the word “bi a‘ayunina” which translates to ‘under Our eyes’ and mean ‘under our observation’. Allah SWT did not leave Prophet Nuh AS to deal with the Ark on his own. Instead, Allah SWT watched over and took care of things; He protected the Ark.
This Ark had to be massive for it to have been able to hold creatures of all kinds. Prophet Nuh was not an expert carpenter, yet he had to build an immense ark that was able to survive the worst of stormy seas.
The only way such a huge project could be realised was through Allah SWT’s protection and guidance. This guidance and instruction were given by Allah through the Wahyu, as explained in the word “wa wahyina” meaning “through our revelation”.
Prophet Nuh AS had a seemingly impossible task of building an Ark on the top of a mountain, far from the nearest water source, without any prior experience in shipbuilding.
To get this done, he was given (1) supervision and protection from Allah, and (2) guidance and knowledge. This is a reminder for us that in whatever tasks we set out to accomplish in life, there are two things that we should never forget to ask from Allah SWT. First, is protection from Allah SWT.
As human beings, we will always find obstacles in our path stopping us from achieving what we want. We may encounter people’s ill-will of us, borne out of envy and hatred. Ask Allah SWT for His protection.
Next, ask for guidance from Allah SWT. Ask for inspiration that is good, ask for signs to show us what is good and what is not. We are human beings; we have our weaknesses and gaps in knowledge.
Only Allah SWT knows what is best for us, so ask for His aid. Before you start any project, ask for these two essentials. Allah SWT will protect us from harm and show us the right path.
The Tannoor Gushes with Water
فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا وَفَارَ التَّنُّورُ ۙ
… Then, when Our command comes and the Tannoor gushes water… [23:27]
What is a Tannoor? In the Arab world, there are ovens, built underground or over ground, used to bake bread. These are referred to as “Tannoor”. How does water gush forth from an oven? Scholars have discussed the interpretation of this verse extensively.:
- Hot boiling water will gush forth from the ovens used to bake bread. This would serve as a sign from Allah SWT that they were to embark on the ship and set out on the journey.
- Professor Hamka in his book, Tafsir Al-Azhar, says that Tannoor refers to a furnace, what we call a ‘Tungku’ in Malay. It is a kind of stove in which there is a compartment at the bottom for you to place coal or firewood, and where you put a pot or wok on top. This tafsir says that ‘water coming out of the tannoor’ is a metaphor for the arrival of dawn. Professor Hamka’s explanation is that when nightfall comes, all cooking will be ceased. Therefore, only at the break of dawn will the stove’s fire be reignited and water boils. So, Allah SWT is indicating to Prophet Musa AS that when sunrise arrives, that will be the time for him and his followers to embark on the ark.
- The next interpretation is that Tannoor refers to the earth, since the Tannoor is often built underground. What it means when ‘water gushes forth from the Tannoor’ is that water will erupt out of the earth. This water will be a sign that a huge flood will come, as stormwater pours down from the skies and boiling hot water gushes out from within the earth.
Board the Ark or get Left Behind
فَاسْلُكْ فِيهَا مِن كُلٍّ زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ وَأَهْلَكَ إِلَّا مَن سَبَقَ عَلَيْهِ الْقَوْلُ مِنْهُمْ ۖ
… take on board a pair from every kind, and your family, except for those on whom the sentence has already been passed… [23:27]
We do not know the details of how this process was done. Some of you may have seen animations of animals lined up in pairs walking in an orderly manner up a ramp into an Ark. This imagery was one borne out of imagination, perhaps based on whatever evidence could be found in the previous books like the Injeel and Taurat.
In the Qur’an, Allah SWT leaves out the details. He does not tell us how big the ship was or how the animals were brought on board – it does not matter anyway. All we know is that the instruction had been given, and the task had been carried out.
Allah SWT also instructed Prophet Nuh AS to bring his family onboard, except for those who have been rejected by Allah SWT. We have learnt in the tafsir lecture of Surah Hud, three years ago, that within the family of Prophet Nuh AS, his wife and his son rejected, mocked, and denied his message of Islam.
In Surah Hud, verses 42 to 44, we heard of Prophet Nuh AS who, after he boarded the ship, tried to persuade his son to come with him. His son had refused, saying that he would climb a mountain and save himself from the rising waters. Prophet Nuh new that even a mountain could not protect anyone from the Flood. When Prophet Nuh AS saw that his son was about to be drowned, he called to Allah SWT in desperation:
رَبِّ إِنَّ ابْنِي مِنْ أَهْلِي وَإِنَّ وَعْدَكَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنتَ أَحْكَمُ الْحَاكِمِينَ
… “O my Lord! Verily, my son is of my family! And certainly, Your Promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges.”[Hud, 11:45]
قَالَ يَا نُوحُ إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ مِنْ أَهْلِكَ ۖ إِنَّهُ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَالِحٍ ۖ
Allah replied, “O Noah! He is certainly not of your family—he was entirely of unrighteous conduct… [Hud, 11:46]
Prophet Nuh had hopes that Allah SWT might save his beloved son. Instead, Allah SWT informed Prophet Nuh that his son was not to be considered part of his family because of his blatant rejection of Allah SWT. Prophet Nuh AS’ son did not accept his message even to the point right before he drowned.
Returning to Surah Al-Mu’minun, we can see how Allah SWT tells Prophet Nuh AS:
وَلَا تُخَاطِبْنِي فِي الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ۖ إِنَّهُم مُّغْرَقُونَ
– do not plead with me for the evildoers: they will be drowned- [23:27]
Allah SWT is not cruel. Whatever punishment that befalls His servants come only out of their own choice to reject the truth. The disbelievers were so stubborn to the extent that even when they found themselves surrounded by water and at the brink of death, they still refused to accept Islam and seek forgiveness. Allah tells Prophet Nuh AS that they will be drowned.
Give Thanks and Look Ahead
فَإِذَا اسْتَوَيْتَ أَنتَ وَمَن مَّعَكَ عَلَى الْفُلْكِ فَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي نَجَّانَا مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
Then when you and those with you have settled firmly in the Ark, say, “All praise is for Allah, Who saved us from the wrongdoing people.” [23:28]
As the flood waters rose and the storm poured down, the atmosphere must have been chaos. Allah SWT tells Prophet Nuh AS that once their feet were firmly planted and things started to stabilise and settle down, they were to give praise and thanks to Allah SWT.
This was Allah SWT’s answer to the du’a that Prophet Nuh made in verse 26. Allah SWT reminds him AS not to forget to give thanks. The truth is that the salvation of Prophet Nuh and his followers was not out of his own doing.
It is Allah SWT who saved them. For how long did Prophet Nuh AS’s ark stay afloat on the waters? Only Allah knows. What we do know is that when the ship stabilised, the people were asked to praise Allah SWT.
وَقُل رَّبِّ أَنزِلْنِي مُنزَلًا مُّبَارَكًا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْمُنزِلِينَ
And say, ‘My Lord, make me land a blessed landing, and You are the best of those who bring (someone) to land’. [23:29]
What is the ‘munzalan mubarakan’ that Prophet Nuh AS had asked for? He asked that the ship lands at a place that is filled with blessings and goodness. Prophet Nuh AS was literally drifting on the waters as he made this du’a. However, the du’a is not irrelevant to us.
At times, we as servants of Allah SWT also find ourselves drifting – we drift through the difficulties and challenges of life. Those who drift do not know where they will land; they do not know how and when their problems will get resolved.
Would they land at a good location? Or one that would bring them more pain and suffering? In this matter, you can rely on nothing but Allah SWT.
Miscellaneous Questions on the Story of Nuh
Q: Was the flood one that impacted the entire globe, or did it only affect the area where Prophet Nuh AS lived?
A: This is a topic that has been discussed by tafsir scholars. I do not know the position held by the Jews and Christians, but in Islam, there is in fact a variety of opinions. I am not sure of the answer of whether this was a global catastrophe that affected every inch of the Earth’s surface or one that was localised to a certain area. Allah SWT knows best. There is no evidence in the hadith or the Qur’an to support either option.
Q: Is it true that the ship of Nabi Nuh was built out of Kokka wood?
A: The answer to this is wallahu’alam bissawab, Allah knows what is correct. The truth is that most of the stories in the Qur’an do not come with details. At the very most, the details come in dialogues – in the relationships between human beings. For example, the conversations between Prophet Ibrahim AS and his father, and Prophet Musa AS and Firaun were very detailed.
However, details like the characteristics and features of the Ark were not mentioned. It is said that in the Taurat, details such as the length and height of the Ark were mentioned. I have looked for evidence in the hadith to see if there is any basis for the claims that the ark was made of a certain type of wood. There was none. So, we leave this to Allah SWT.
Focus on the Message, not the Details
Instead of focusing on what is uncertain and unknown, we focus on what we know is the truth. We take the lessons from the verses in the Qur’an. Do not waste your time on that which is not beneficial.
Remember that the message brought by Prophet Nuh AS was: O mankind worship Allah, the One God. His message was to worship Allah, to bow to Allah, to fulfil His SWT’s commands and avoid His prohibitions. This is what a true believer of Allah does.
Instead of focusing on what is important, believers get distracted and start discussing that which is baseless: they discuss what kind of wood was used to build the ark, what the benefits and miracles of this wood were etc.
There are even people who claim that if you hold a string of prayer beads made out of Kokka wood, then you will be indestructible such that a bullet could not hurt you. People argue with one another about which prayer beads are made of authentic Kokka wood. This is ridiculous! What we should be focusing on is the message behind the story.
In 2016, in Kentucky, USA, an exhibition was launched in which a replica of the Ark of Prophet Nuh AS was showcased; they called it the Ark Encounter. The replica of this ship was made 155 metres long – that’s comparable to the length of 1.5 soccer fields.
In it, they placed statues of animals, allocated cooking areas etc. This is all out of their own imagination. The creators of this exhibition claim that this ark was reflective of a new world – one in which humankind had just came into existence. They follow an opinion that believes that the world has only existed for as long as there were human beings on Earth, about six to seven thousand years ago.
So, when scientists found the bones of dinosaurs, they claim that the dinosaurs must have existed at the same time as the earliest of people. If you have a look within the exhibition, there are also enclosures for dinosaurs. We do not know if any of this was true, only Allah knows.
Life After the Flood
What is for sure, what we can take from this verse is that in whatever we do, always remember to thank Allah SWT and make du’a asking that He aids us. More than that, it is important to not only focus on overcoming the problem, but to also work towards creating a better tomorrow.
We want to ensure that once the problems have been overcome with Allah SWT’s aid, then what comes next is that we are prepared for a better life. The aim of the story is not merely to be saved from difficulty and tragedies. Rather, it is about building a better future, one that is blessed by Allah SWT.
As an example, in a marriage, there are problems that need to be overcome. For example, there are cases of domestic abuse, where a husband physically and psychologically harms and tortures his wife and children.
The wife then proceeds to ask Allah SWT for aid through her prayers, asking that Allah SWT frees her and grants her strength and wisdom to do what is best and find an end to the suffering.
So, under Allah’s guidance, this wife goes on to file a report on her husband and to ask for a divorce. It becomes wajib for her to thank Allah SWT for the freedom she is granted. But after she does that, her story does not end there.
The end of the tragedy is not the end of life. Keep asking from Allah SWT for guidance and hope so that you may be able to restart life and build a life that is good. We want to break the vicious cycle. We don’t want the children to inherit the father’s abusiveness and become abusive spouses themselves in the future.
So as a mother, the lady should make du’a asking Allah SWT to grant her what is better for her and her family. She can make du’a asking Allah SWT to replace her ex-husband with a loving spouse who will be a good father for her children.
Allah SWT will grant you a brighter future. Look far into the future. Do not be constrained with only looking for a way out of difficulties. Know that the next challenge will exist; life goes on even after the problems of the present have been overcome.
إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ وَإِن كُنَّا لَمُبْتَلِينَ
There are signs in all this: We have always put [people] to the test. [23:30]
How long did Prophet Nuh AS live? Allah SWT tells us in Surah Hud that Prophet Nuh lived ‘a thousand except for 50 years’. Tafsir scholars who discuss this hold two opinions. Most scholars say that he lived 950 years, others say he lived for 1,050 years.
After preaching the word of Allah for centuries, Prophet Nuh and his followers board the ark. What happens next is that Prophet Nuh AS and his small group of several dozen believers live in a new post-flood world. When compared to his life pre-flood, the years he had left to live stretch only as long as 60 to 100 years. This was only up to 10% of his entire lifespan.
After the demise of Prophet Nuh AS, his people continued to live. In the absence of a prophet of Allah, they were expected to remain faithful and firm in their faith. The reality is that as firm as believers get, by the time the next prophet arrives, the people will be misguided and lost once more. This is the nature of human beings, we drift and we forget. We face trials and we need to rely on Allah SWT to help us get through them.
Summary of Takeaways
As a summary, whenever you undergo a difficulty or trial in life, stay steadfast in faith and patience. When facing the difficulty, ask Allah SWT for protection and guidance. When the difficulty has been overcome, praise, and thank Allah SWT.
Then, do not stop there. When one problem ends, look ahead, and strive to build a brighter future. Remember that Allah SWT will always give challenges and tests for us. Have faith and trust Allah SWT to give us ease and happiness in this world and the next.
We are human beings. When we encounter trials, we forget to seek Allah. When we overcome challenges, we are proud and arrogant, and forget to thank Him. When we are hurt, we forget to rely on Allah. When we get out of a tight situation, we forget that the next trial will come.
May Allah SWT protect and guide us. Ameen.
Now, when we have a look at the situation of the pandemic. We had a lockdown in Singapore in March. As a community we had responded appropriately and cooperated with the regulations and advice given by the authorities and experts.
The mosques which had been previously shut have now been reopened gradually, with increasing numbers of congregants being permitted in. Businesses and weddings have resumed, even with the restrictions of social distancing in place.
The numbers of new cases continue to decrease with each day as the number of recoveries increase each day. Alhamdulillah, things are getting better. We should not however become complacent. Be firm in your belief that all that has happened is out of the Qadr of Allah.
This is what has been decreed and planned by Allah SWT. Be grateful for the aid and guidance from Allah. Our success is not our own doing. As His servants, we planned well, we executed our plans well, however, at the end of the day, success only comes from Him SWT. Now, think about what’s next.
Imagine if life were to return to how it used to be before the pandemic, what would it be like? If they mosques were to be reopened completely, would our community be one that is better than it was pre-pandemic? Would our worship be better? We speak about missing being in physical circles of knowledge.
If physical classes were to resume once more, would the class attendance be better than it is right now, than it was before? If social distancing measures were to be removed from school, will we be parents who are more concerned about their children’s education than we were before?
If the Makkan borders were to reopen once more and Umrah and Hajj were to be permitted again, would we take advantage of that? If travelling restrictions were eased, what good would it do to us? Would the post-Covid believers be better than the believers of today? These are questions we need to ask ourselves and seek the answers for.
May Allah SWT grant us guidance and protection, and make us amongst the believers who always look ahead and strive to make tomorrow better than today. Ameen. Thank you, my dearest brothers and sisters. Allah SWT bears witness that I truly love and miss all of you for the sake of Allah.
Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
Summary by: Arina Adom
Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables her to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.
Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS. She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.
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