By Ahmad Raza
THE Prophet Nuh (or Noah) is considered to be the ‘second Adam’ according to Quranic and Hadith sources.
He was sent to his people to invite them to worship one God. Surah al-A’araf reports the significance of his message and the purpose of his prophethood. He asked his people to believe in one true God and not to submit to any other false deity. In case of refutation of his invitation, Noah remarked that this might attract divine displeasure.
According to the Quran the leaders of his people replied in the negative to his invitation to monotheism. The chiefs of his people said that Noah was in error, to which he replied that he was not misguided, but a prophet sent by the Lord of the Worlds.
Noah then spoke to his people and said that his basic task was to deliver the message of God and be their well-wisher.
He asked his people why they thought it strange that a man from amongst them brought them the message of God as well as remembrance of God so that they could attain awareness of one God (monotheism), become pious and in return receive divine mercy.
But the Quran has reported that many of his people refused Noah’s invitation to monotheism, except a few who believed. Noah and a small group of believers were delivered from the subsequent deluge. The prophet had built an ark for his followers due to which he and the believers landed safely on land after the great flood and rainfall.
Elsewhere it is reported that Noah’s invitation to monotheism spread across almost 900 years. This means that he preached to his people for almost a millennium but without much success. He elucidated to his people that monotheism leads to peace and tranquillity.
Noah asserted to his people that monotheism is the original state of awareness for every person. When a person realises monotheism, he or she in turn becomes an effective, useful and thankful creature of God.
In Surah Nuh, Noah invites the attention of his people towards the infinite mercy and blessings of God. These include rainwater, wealth and children, fertile gardens and rivers. He then asks his people why they do not expect honour from God who has created them all in a diverse fashion.
Noah then invites his people to ponder over the natural signs and natural order as proof of the presence of one God. He asks them to reflect upon the seven skies (Verse 15), the brightly shining moon and luminous sun (Verse 16), the creative process of man from mud (earth) (Verse 17), death of man and resurrection (again from earth) (Verse 18), and the earth as a resource and the pathway for travel (Verses 19 and 20).
When a person reflects upon the natural order of things, he or she inevitably ends up with monotheism. The fully fledged awareness of the great and profound presence of God and His connection with human beings as well as all of creation leaves one awestruck.
One cannot ignore the overriding evidence of natural complexity and cultural diversity in favour of the monotheistic experience. The Truth is one and indivisible. The history of nature and the history of civilisations bear irrefutable testimony to this fact.
Then Noah advised his people not to submit to and worship idols, which were five in number, named Wadh, Suwa, Yaghuth, Yauq and Nasr. According to the Quranic commentary of Allama Syed Naeemuddin Moradabad, there were many idols which they worshipped but these five were considered to be exceedingly majestic by them. They were in the form of a male, a female, a lion, a horse and a vulture.
One can look at these idols in a symbolic and anthropological way. The symbols reflect that the society in which Noah preached was essentially an agricultural one. The symbols of male/female deities speak to procreation, fertility and the productivity of crops. The symbols of lion and horse represent the political power and authority of the society while that of the vulture may have a connection with the occult. From the symbolism of the idols, Noah appears to have lived and preached in Mesopotamia.
These idols and their mythology were later on transferred to Arabia and each one of them was adopted by the polytheist tribes of Arabia for the purpose of worship (Kinzul Iman).
The most stunning aspect of Noah’s invitation to monotheism resides in his art of persuasion and patience. He would keep inviting his people to the path of Truth and piety day and night, morning and evening.
His people would ridicule him. They would hurl insults upon him. They would harass Noah and his disciples. They would threaten him with a social boycott. They would abuse him and warn him of dire consequences for negating their idols.
But Noah and his followers would stick to their faith. They would not budge an inch for fear of insult, abuse and boycott. Noah would consistently, patiently and peacefully persuade his people to become monotheists and abandon their polytheistic practices. Noah’s wisdom lies in the technique of persuasion when faced with falsehood.
Ahmad Raza is a social scientist based at the University of Management and Technology, Lahore