Doctrines >Quranic Storytelling in Dialogue  (3)


Dialogue Starting With a Question (3)

Noah’s affliction with his son

There came the deluge. Noah and his band went aboard the ship. It was sailing as if in rough seas. The water level kept rising, flooding everything in its way – towns, villages, people, and animals.

Those were trying times for Noah (a.s.), for his son was adamant not to join in and board the ship with his father. He preferred to stick it out with the camp of unbelief alongside his mother who was of the same persuasion. The dialogue between father and son is brilliantly captured in the following Quranic verses:

So, the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains, and Noah called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest): “O my son! Embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!” The son replied: “I will betake myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water.” Noah said: “This day nothing can save, from the command of God, any but those on whom He hath mercy! “And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood. (11: 42–43)

And the floodwater receded: “Then the word went forth: ‘O earth! Swallow up thy water, and O sky! Withhold (thy rain)!’ and the water abated, and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and the word went forth: ‘Away with those who do wrong!’” (11: 44).

Belief vs. family ties

Noah (a.s.) remained battling with the question of losing his son; he was trying to get to terms with the bereavement. God had promised him to save members of his family when he ordered him to put on the ship a couple [male and female] of each and every creatures, his family – except those whose affair was resolved – and those who had already joined the camp of belief. However, what seemed to escape Noah’s mind was that saving members of his family did not cover those members whose destiny was sealed. Noah turned his face to his Lord in supplication: “And Noah called upon his Lord, and said: ‘O my Lord! Surely my son is of my family! And Thy promise is true, and Thou art the Most Just of judges!’” (11: 45).

The answer came unequivocally. There should be a complete severance of relations between the prophet and the unbelievers, even though some of them were his blood relatives, thus: “He said: ‘O Noah! He is not of thy family: For his conduct is unrighteous. So ask not of Me that of which thou hast no knowledge! I give thee counsel, lest thou should act like the ignorant!’” (11: 46).

It was a somewhat blunt response, which contained a warning. It outlined for Noah the boundaries of his ties with members of his family. The yardstick being that of belief; beyond which no relationship should be contemplated.

Noah (a.s.) was basking in the glory and atmosphere of the Message, seeking refuge with God and asking His forgiveness, for he did not have any lingering doubts as to the truthfulness of servitude to God. He just wanted to know the essence of God’s promise in reality: “Noah said: ‘O my Lord! I do seek refuge with Thee, lest I should ask Thee for that of which I have no knowledge. And unless Thou forgive me and have Mercy on me, I should indeed be lost!’” (11: 47).

This section of the story of Noah, the prophet, concludes with God’s call to Noah and his companions, that they have been graced with His mercy and bounty:

The word came: “O Noah! Come down (from the Ark) with peace from Us, and blessing on thee and on some of the peoples (who will spring) from those with thee: but (there will be other) peoples to whom We shall grant their pleasures (for a time), but in the end will a grievous penalty reach them from Us.” (11: 48)

This has been the story of Prophet Noah (a.s.). It started with dialogues between him and his people, his son, and his Lord. It ended with him having a dialogue with his Lord, bringing his mission to an end by asking for clarifications of certain aspects, which he found ambiguous and were pressing for answers. In the end, God granted him, and the band of believers who followed him, peace and blessings.

The moral of this story

In conclusion, we should ponder a number of points from the last chapter in the story to learn some lessons for the present and the future.

1. Principle of reciprocity

Muslim activists may resort to the same policy used by the other party, in this case ridicule, should no other weapon be left in their armory. That is, it is not realistic that they reciprocate with kindness in situations where the response to amiability is ridicule.

The strategy, of the adversaries of divine messages, of trivializing these messages is a type of psychological warfare intended to unsettle the believers by portraying them as irrelevant, and consequently unworthy of being taken seriously. The prime objective of this game is to scare people away from the Message the believers are trying to spread. Thus, this strategy has not come into being by mere chance. It is driven by a well- thought-out plan. Accordingly, it has to be fought with the same vigor and resourcefulness, in that the activists should use everything at their disposal to perfect the art of making jokes at the adversarial ideologies and their exponents as a means of defending oneself and faith. This can drain the opponents mentally and morally, using the same weapon. This has been the aim of the Quran, in the story of Noah, when he was directed by God to use the same weapon of ridicule against his people.

2. Goodness of father vs. badness of son

It is not necessary that the offspring of the prophets be good like their fathers, albeit desirable. So the goodness of any person should not be a pointer to the righteousness of their posterity, because their being unrighteous should not necessarily be taken to mean unrighteousness of their parents. It should not escape anyone’s mind that sons and daughters are subject, in the way they conduct themselves, to social influences, be they good or evil, insomuch as they are the product of their own private climate, i.e. the family. The father should endeavor to bring his children up in the best manner and to the best of his ability. Should he succeed, he would have achieved his objective; if not, he would have discharged his duty.

The crux of the matter is in defining the responsibility within its lawful framework. The task of the messenger and any other activist is their calling people, including their own relatives, to the way of God. In executing their task, they are free to use any means at their disposal – by word and deed, carrot and stick, and directly and indirectly. Should they exhaust all the means in going about discharging their responsibilities, their work would be accepted, regardless of whether or not their invitation has been accepted, by people closer to them or those at large. Whatever the result might turn out to be, this would not detract from the position of the messenger.

3. Delivering the Message impartially should be paramount

The messengers should not fall prey to their personal preferences and feelings vis-à-vis their family members. They should not follow their emotions slavishly, should any member of their families prefer to side with falsehood rather than guidance and light. The Message should be the final arbiter in determining their relationship. There is no harm in relationships with others that are based on feelings, provided that they do not encroach on the principles of the Message. Yet, should the reverse happen, precedence should be given to the Message over the relationship. God says:

Thou wilt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day, loving those who resist God and His Apostle, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). God will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of God. Truly it is the Party of God that will achieve Felicity. (58: 22)

This has been the story of Prophet Noah (a.s.) in his dialogue with his people, with all its implications on, and practical results for, the future trend of the call to the way of God. We may have gone outside the reach we have put down for the discussion in certain aspects. It is because getting engrossed in the climate of dialogue has required that in general terms.