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Sūrah Nūh
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)



Sūrah Nūh forms a pair with Sūrah Jinn the succeeding sūrah with regard to the subject discussed in them. Sūrah Nūh portrays the indhār of the Qur’ān and its consequences by narrating the account of the people of the Prophet Nūh (sws), while Sūrah Jinn presents the testimony of the Jinn folk on this portrayal and then urges the Quraysh to seriously review their attitude of making fun of these consequences and of asking to hasten their arrival.

Viewed thus, this sūrah is actually an explanation of the testimony of the seen (mā tubsirūn) and the next sūrah an explanation of the testimony of the unseen (mā lā tubsirūn) mentioned in Sūrah Hāqqah.

The sūrah is directed at the Quraysh and it is evident from the topic discussed in it that like the previous sūrahs of this group it was revealed in Makkah in the phase of indhār of the Prophet's mission.

Central Theme

The central theme of this sūrah is to explain to the Quraysh, in indirect terms, the da‘wah (preaching) of the Prophets of Allah and its various phases and to warn them of the consequences of denying this da‘wah according to the law of the Almighty.


إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَى قَوْمِهِ أَنْ أَنذِرْ قَوْمَكَ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ  قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ  أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَطِيعُونِ  يَغْفِرْ لَكُم مِّن ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُؤَخِّرْكُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى إِنَّ أَجَلَ اللَّهِ إِذَا جَاء لَا يُؤَخَّرُ لَوْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (١-٤)

قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي دَعَوْتُ قَوْمِي لَيْلًا وَنَهَارًا  فَلَمْ يَزِدْهُمْ دُعَائِي إِلَّا فِرَارًا  وَإِنِّي كُلَّمَا دَعَوْتُهُمْ لِتَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ جَعَلُوا أَصَابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِمْ وَاسْتَغْشَوْا ثِيَابَهُمْ وَأَصَرُّوا وَاسْتَكْبَرُوا اسْتِكْبَارًا  ثُمَّ إِنِّي دَعَوْتُهُمْ جِهَارًا

ثُمَّ إِنِّي أَعْلَنتُ لَهُمْ وَأَسْرَرْتُ لَهُمْ إِسْرَارًا  فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا  يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاء عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَارًا (٥-١٢)

مَّا لَكُمْ لَا تَرْجُونَ لِلَّهِ وَقَارًا  وَقَدْ خَلَقَكُمْ أَطْوَارًا  أَلَمْ تَرَوْا كَيْفَ خَلَقَ اللَّهُ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ طِبَاقًا  وَجَعَلَ الْقَمَرَ فِيهِنَّ نُورًا وَجَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ سِرَاجًا  وَاللَّهُ أَنبَتَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا  ثُمَّ يُعِيدُكُمْ فِيهَا وَيُخْرِجُكُمْ إِخْرَاجًا  وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ بِسَاطًا  لِتَسْلُكُوا مِنْهَا سُبُلًا فِجَاجًا (١٣-٢٠)

قَالَ نُوحٌ رَّبِّ إِنَّهُمْ عَصَوْنِي وَاتَّبَعُوا مَن لَّمْ يَزِدْهُ مَالُهُ وَوَلَدُهُ إِلَّا خَسَارًا  وَمَكَرُوا مَكْرًا كُبَّارًا  وَقَالُوا لَا تَذَرُنَّ آلِهَتَكُمْ وَلَا تَذَرُنَّ وَدًّا وَلَا سُوَاعًا وَلَا يَغُوثَ وَيَعُوقَ وَنَسْرًا  وَقَدْ أَضَلُّوا كَثِيرًا وَلَا تَزِدِ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا ضَلَالًا (٢١-٢٤)

مِمَّا خَطِيئَاتِهِمْ أُغْرِقُوا فَأُدْخِلُوا نَارًا فَلَمْ يَجِدُوا لَهُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَنصَارًا (٢٥)

وَقَالَ نُوحٌ رَّبِّ لَا تَذَرْ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ دَيَّارًا  إِنَّكَ إِن تَذَرْهُمْ يُضِلُّوا عِبَادَكَ وَلَا يَلِدُوا إِلَّا فَاجِرًا كَفَّارًا  رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِمَن دَخَلَ بَيْتِيَ مُؤْمِنًا وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَلَا تَزِدِ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا تَبَارًا (٢٦-٢٨)

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful

[O Prophet! just as We have sent forth you], We had sent forth Nūh as a Rasūl to his people [with the directive] ‘Warn your people before there comes to them a grievous penalty’.1 He said ‘O my People! I am to you a warner, clear and open. [I call upon you] to serve Allah and remain within the limits set by him and obey me.2 [I inform you that as a result of this] the Almighty shall forgive your [previous] sins3, and shall give you respite till an appointed  time.4  Verily,  the  time  appointed by  Allah,  when  it comes, cannot be put off. Would that you understood this!'  (1-4)

[He kept on calling them to this message but they did not pay any heed until at last] he said `O Lord! day and night I have called my people but my calls have only added to their aversion.5 And whenever I called upon them [to show repentance] so that You [O Lord!] may forgive them, they thrust their fingers in their ears and drew their cloaks over them and persisted in their denial and bore themselves with insolent pride.6 Then I openly called them and then appealed to them in public and beseeched them in private. `Seek forgiveness from your Lord' I said. `Indeed, He is ever Forgiving.7  [As  a  consequence]  He   shall   send  down  on  you abundant rain from the heavens and shall strengthen you with  wealth and sons and shall make for you gardens and shall bring forth for you springs of water.8  (5-12)

What has come upon you that you do not fear the majesty of your Lord9, for He has made you in gradual stages in various moulds.'10 [We  said]11  `See  you  not  how  God  has made seven heavens one above the other? And made the moon a light therein and the sun a lamp? And Allah has grown you from the earth in such an elaborate way12 and to the earth He will return you and then He will suddenly bring you forth from it without any effort. And Allah has spread out the earth for you as a spreading that you may walk in its spacious passes [that lie between the mountains].'  (13-20)

Nūh said `O Lord! they have disobeyed me and followed those [leaders of theirs] whose wealth and children only added to their ruin and they contrived great schemes13 and said ‘Abandon not these Gods of yours whatsoever and abandon not [this] Wadd nor Suwā‘; and neither Yaghūth nor Ya‘ūq nor Nasr.’14 And [in this manner] they misled many. And [now, O Lord!] only increase these wrong-doers in further error.'15  (21-24)

And because of their misdeeds they were drowned and then were cast into a great Fire. Then they found none to help them against Allah.16  (25)

And Nūh said ‘O Lord! Leave not one of these disbelievers in the land. If You spare them they will definitely mislead Your servants and will beget none but sinners and unbelievers.17 Forgive me, Lord, and forgive my parents and everyone who enters my house as a believer18 and forgive all believing men and women and [O Lord!] increase not these wrongdoers save in ruin.’  (26-28)







1. This is a mention of an immutable law of the Almighty: When a people's moral degeneration reaches an extent that they must face a decisive punishment from the Almighty, a Rasūl is assigned to them by Him to warn and admonish them. If they submit to him, they are spared; otherwise they, as a nation, are wiped out  from the face of the earth. It was for this very purpose that the Almighty sent forth the Prophet Nūh (sws) to his people.

2. This is in clear simple terms a three-point agenda which formed the crux of Nūh's message. These three points are, in fact, the basis of da‘wah (preaching) of all the Prophets of Allah.

3. Accepting faith, as is evident from the Qur’ān, absolves a person of his earlier sins.

4. This appointed time is governed by the law of the Almighty concerning the rise and fall of nations which are the direct addressees of the Rusul of Allah. As long as such a nation strongly adheres to the three points mentioned above, it continues to flourish and prosper in this world. Once it deviates from these directives, its existence is threatened with extinction.

5. The Prophets of Allah invested all their time and effort in trying to warn their people of the punishment which they would encounter if they did not mend their ways. In this regard, the Prophet Nūh  (sws) has the distinction of warning his people for a very, very long period. His earnest calls should have melted their hearts and stirred their souls if they had responded properly. However, the more he called them, the more they ran away from him.

6. The verse portrays the reaction of the leaders of Nūh's people and spells out the basic reason for their denial: pride and arrogance.

7. This is a mention of the second phase of Nūh's mission in which, seeing their denial, he augmented his crusade and launched an extensive effort to beseech his nation: for a true preacher does not get frustrated at the obstinacy of his people; in fact the more they evade his calls the more he increases his pitch and the more they show hostility to him, the more gracious he becomes.

8. The promise of the Almighty, in case the people repent from their ill-ways is prosperity and affluence in their national capacity.

9. Here the earnest pleadings of Nūh (sws) have given way to stern words of rebuke. A nation is often misled by its wealth and riches in the time of respite allotted to it by the Almighty according to His laws. They consider this period of reprieve as eternal and often cite it as a testimony of their own rectitude. The people of Nūh (sws) too had become deeply engrossed in their misdeeds. This verse prods them that they must not misunderstand the purpose of the freedom given to them by Allah's majesty and grace; they must be mindful of the precious time they are loosing and if they continue to be indifferent the Almighty shall have to decide their fate once and for all.

10. This verse states the reason that why must these people, who consider the Day of Judgement as something unlikely, remain mindful of His grace and majesty mentioned in the previous verse: if the Almighty has shown such a profound display of His Power and Grandeur in creating man, He can easily create him a second time.

11. Here the words of the Prophet Nūh (sws) are interposed by those of the Almighty which continue up to the verse twenty. These verses mention the various manifestations of the Almighty's power and providence present in the world around man. The way He sustains and cherishes His creations shows that one day each person shall be held accountable for His deeds.

12. This simile is both a claim and a substantiation of the claim: Allah has grown man from this earth like vegetation; just as He enlivens dead vegetation, He will one day bring forth the dead from the earth.

13. This is a mention of the reaction of Nūh’s nation (sws), in his own words, in the third phase of his mission when the time fixed for its respite was beginning to run out. His people had totally disobeyed him and had followed the footsteps of their haughty leadership.

14. These are the names of the prominent idols which the people of Nūh (sws) worshipped, and which continued to be worshipped for centuries by the Arabs even after these people had been destroyed.

15. This is the final prayer of Nūh (sws) in which he has invoked the Almighty's wrath on his people since they had denied him completely.

16. These are the words of the Almighty which interrupt Nūh’s prayer (sws) signifying that his prayer had come at such a right time that it had been accepted by the Almighty as soon as he had uttered its very first sentence. In other words, the time when Nūh (sws) raised his hands in prayer coincided with the ending time fixed by Allah as regards the respite to be given to the people of Nūh (sws). The verses also refer to the punishments of the Herein and the Hereafter encountered by them. In this world, they were drowned in a great flood while in the Hereafter they would be cast in Hell. The punishment of the next world has been stated in the past tense to show its certainty.

17. These harsh words should cause no surprise, for it was almost for nine hundred years that the Prophet Nūh  (sws) had earnestly pleaded with his people to mend their ways.

18. It seems, from these words, that, in the final stages, Nūh  (sws) had declared to his people that whoever wanted to save himself from the imminent punishment should take refuge in his house after accepting faith.

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