Ayaat 5-20 ― Prophet Nuh Complains about His Encounter with His People
In these ayaat Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells about Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi salaam that he complained to his Lord about his people’s response after he had been patient with them for this long period of time.
Prophet Nuh said, “O my Lord! Verily, I have called my people night and day,” (71: 5) meaning, he did not abandon calling his people at any time, carrying out Allah’s command and in obedience to Him. “But all my calling added nothing but to (their) flight),” (71: 6) meaning the more he called them to come to the truth, the more they fled from it and avoided it. Every time he preached the Message so they would submit and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive them, they rather closed up their ears so that they could not hear what he was calling them to. This is similar to what the unbelievers of Quraysh did, as recorded in the Qur’an. In Surah Fussilat ayah 26 Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And those who disbelieve say, ‘Listen not to this Qur’an, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation) that you may overcome.” This is why we are instructed to quietly listen to the Qur’an while it is being recited that we might benefit from its recitation.
“…they thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments,” ( 71: 7) could either mean that they covered their faces because they did not even want to cast a look at Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi salaam or that they concealed themselves under false pretences from Prophet Nuh so that he would not recognize them. This was the precise attitude and conduct of the unbelievers of Makkah towards Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as stated in Surah Hud ayah 5.
“…and persisted and magnified themselves in pride,” (71: 7), they thought that it was below their dignity to bow before the Truth and accept the admonition of Allah’s Messenger. Therefore, they continued with shirk and disbelief.
Prophet Nuh shares the various methods that he employed in calling his people to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He called his people openly without the fear of being judged or opposition. He also appealed to them in private but to no avail. He continues,
Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi salaam invited his people to the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala through diverse approaches. He advised them to return to Him turning away from what they were involved in (i.e. shirk). For Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Ghafaar – the Most Accepting of the repentance of those who turn to Him in repentance. He accepts repentance regardless of the sin, even if it is disbelief and polytheism.
We see a continuous reminder to do astaghfaar. It has been mentioned thrice. It is because astaghfaar opens up knots therefore it was said, “He will send rain to you in abundance,” (71: 11). Once in the assembly of Hasan Basri a person complained of drought. He instructed him to beg forgiveness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Another person complained of poverty, a third one said that he was not being blessed with children, a fourth one said that his harvest had failed, and he continued to remind everyone to beg forgiveness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Then a man stood up and asked, “How is it that you have suggested to all the people one and the same cure for the different complaints?” Hasan Basri in response recited these ayaat of Surah Nuh.
Ibn Katheer writes in his tafseer that it is recommended to recite this Surah in the prayer for rain due to this ayah as reported by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu. He ascended the minbar to perform the prayer for rain, and he did not do more than seeking Allah’s forgiveness and reciting this ayah. Then he would say, “Verily, I have sought rain with the keys of the sky which cause the rain to descend.”
“And give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers,” (71: 12) meaning if they repented to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, seeking His forgiveness and obeying Him, then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will increase their provisions for them and provide them with water from the blessings of the sky. Resultantly, crops and plants will grow increasing their live stock and giving them more wealth and children. This theme has been expressed at several places in the Qur’an. When man is arrogant and shows rebellious attitude against Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala he leads a wretched life not only in the Hereafter but also in this world. His blessings are taken away as shown in the story of the two gardens mentioned in Surah al-Kahf. Contrary to this, if a person adopts the way of piety and submission to Divine commands then he is favored with every kind of blessing.
In Surah Ta-Ha it has been said, “But whosoever turns away from My Reminder, verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection,” (20: 124).
In al-A’raf it appears, “And if the people of the towns believed and had piety, certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heavens and the earth,” (7: 96).
In Surah Hud, the Prophet Hud ‘alayhi salaam addressed his people, saying, “And O my people! Ask forgiveness of your Lord then repent to Him, He will send you abundant rain, and add strength to your strength,” (11: 52). Through the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself in Surah Hud, the people of Makkah have been admonished by saying, “Seek the forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him in repentance that He may grant you good enjoyment for a term appointed,” (11: 3).
After inviting his people to repentance and the Right Path through encouragement and promises of future blessings he balanced it out by using intimidation. He said, “What is the matter with you, you hope not for reward,” (71: 13) meaning you praise and exalt your chiefs and think it would be dangerous to do anything against their dignity but as for the Creator and Lord of the universe, you do not expect that He would also be a Being endowed with dignity. You rebel against Him, associate partners in His Divinity, disobey His commands, and yet you are not at all afraid that He would punish you for your misconduct. And this is the dilemma with most of the Muslims. We are regular with prayers, fasting and charity but we have not ‘recognized’ Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The only reason that we rush through our prayers is that we do not realize His Majesty. Here, Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi salaam gives us a tip that when calling people to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala first make them fall in love with Him and then talk to them about other intricate details of religion. A heart that does not recognize and love Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala cannot submit to Him.
“While He has created you in (different) stages,” (71: 14), now attention is being thrown at man’s own creation. What was he before he came into this world? No one knew him. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala created him from a drop, nurtured him in his mother’s womb, brought him into the world, gave him family, gave him recognition and strength and now he is a grown up man. He passed through various stages to be where he is now. While passing through these stages he was solely at the Mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He could have made him blind, deaf, dumb or cripple. Even after birth He could have destroyed him anytime by an accident. Then how can man be so insolent against such a powerful God?
Prophet Nuh continues to remind them of other blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that we even as Muslims have never thanked Him for. Prophet Nuh said, “See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another. And has made the moon a light therein, and made the sun a lamp?” (71: 15-16) We have not seen the seven heavens but we surely see the sun and the moon every day. But do we thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for them? Do we look out of our window and say, “O Allah! Thank you for this warm sun”? Rather, most of the time we are complaining of the heat.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala made the sun, the moon and the stars in a distinct quality so that the night and day may be known. The night and day are known by the rising and setting of the sun. He also determined fixed stations and positions for the moon, and He made its light vary so that sometimes it increases until it reaches a maximum, then it begins to decrease until it is completely veiled. How depressing it would be if there was darkness everywhere? How would people perform their work? We would be bumping into things and an ordinary task would have become a challenge. So, alhumdulillah for the sun and the moon and the assortment that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has created for our enjoyment and work.
Next Prophet Nuh reminds his people of their origin and their return. Man is created from earth. He is buried in earth. And on the Judgment Day he will emerge from earth. “And Allah has made for you the earth wide spread that you may go about therein in broad roads,” (71: 19-20) meaning Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala spread the earth out, leveled it, settled it, and stabilized it with firm and lofty mountains so that man will settle on it and travel in it to places wherever he wishes. This demonstrates the favor that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did. He created for us both heavenly and earthly benefits. Therefore, He Alone is worthy of being worshiped, and accepted as One God. No one should be associated with Him as a partner because He has no equal, peer, rival, coequal, mate, son, minister or advisor. Rather, He is the Most High, the Most Great. SubhanAllahi wa bihamdi subhanAllahi-l adheem.