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Was Noah a ... Muslim? Robert Spencer's 'Blogging the Qur'an': Sura 11, 'Hud'

Even the reception Noah receives resembles how the pagan Quraysh received Muhammad. The unbelievers tell him he is just a man and charge him and his followers with lying (v. 27), and even claim he is forging the messages he claims are from Allah (v. 35). Noah counters by saying that it won't matter what he says to them if Allah has determined to lead them astray (v. 34). This, of course, almost exactly replicates Muhammad's experience: Allah tells him to tell the unbelievers that he is just a man (18:110); they charge him with lying (42:24) and with forging the Qur'an (v. 13); and of course Muhammad also teaches that if Allah wills to lead someone astray, no one can guide him (7:186).

Noah is, then, essentially a stand-in for Muhammad. Indirectly emphasized is the identity of the messages of all the prophets, and the obstinacy of the unbelievers before the manifest truth of Allah. One of those unbelievers is Noah's son, who declines to enter the ark and instead says, "I will take refuge on a mountain to protect me from the water" (v. 43). His son dies in the flood, and Noah reminds Allah of his promise to save his family (which came in v. 40): "My Lord, indeed my son is of my family" (v. 45). But Allah tells him, "O Noah, indeed he is not of your family; indeed, he is one whose work was other than righteous" (v. 46). Belief and unbelief in Islam supersede even family ties. Ibn Kathir explains: "Thus, for his son, it had already been decreed that he would be drowned due to his disbelief and his opposition to his father."

The story of Hud (verses 50-60) follows a roughly similar pattern. He tells the people of Ad to repent (v. 52), but they complain that he has brought them no clear sign (v. 53), and are destroyed -- although Hud and his people are saved (v. 58). Allah repeats the same pattern in telling the story of Salih (vv. 61-68), who was sent sometime after Noah's time to the Thamud people, who lived in northern Arabia. Allah gives them a sign of his power: the "she-camel of Allah is a symbol to you" (v. 64) -- which according to some traditions emerged miraculously from a mountain. The Thamud are told not to harm it, but they do anyway (v. 65) and are destroyed (v. 67), except for Salih and the believers (v. 66).

Allah then retells the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, and Lot (vv. 69-83), culminating in the destruction of an unnamed Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 82) with a strong hint of an unnamed crime of sodomy (v. 79). Then he tells the story of Shu'aib, prophet to the Midianites, in language very similar, and with an identical outcome, to the story of Hud (vv. 84-95).

Then in verses 96-123, Allah recapitulates many themes of the entire Sura, with passing reference to Moses and Pharaoh (vv. 96-98). Both those who reject Allah and those who accept him will face a fearsome judgment, leading to hellfire for the unbelievers and Paradise for the believers (vv. 103-108).

Allah gave Moses the Torah, but there are disputes about it (v. 110), which Allah would have already settled except that he has decided to "delay His chastisement from your nation," according to the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas. The believers should pray and be steadfast (vv. 114-115), for all this is Allah's will: "And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ." (v. 118). Yet believers must trust in him (v. 123) -- or else.