(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
71 - NUH
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
DEVOTED in its entirety to Noah's preaching to his erring fellow-men, this surah depicts symbolically every conscious believer's struggle against blind materialism and the resulting lack of all spiritual values. The story of Noah as such is mentioned in several places in the Qur'an, and particularly in 11:25 ff.
1. BEHOLD. We sent Noah unto his people. [saying:] "Warn thy people ere grievous suffering befall them!
2. [And Noah] said: "O my people! I am but a plain warner to you, [sent to tell you]
3. that you should worship God [alone] and be conscious of Him. "Now do pay heed unto me,
4. so that He may forgive you some of your sins, and grant you respite until a term known [to Him alone]: (1) but, behold, when the term appointed by God does come, it can never be put back - if you but knew it!"

1 - Namely, until the end of each person's life - implying that although they might be forgiven all sins committed before their postulated change of heart, they would henceforth, until their death, be held fully accountable for their behaviour in the light of that new-found faith. Cf. 4:18 - "repentance shall not be accepted from those who do evil deeds until their dying hour and then say, Behold, I now repent'".

5. [And after a time, Noah] said: "O my Sustainer! Verily, I have been calling unto my people night and day
6. but my call has only caused them to flee farther and farther away [from Thee]. (2)

2 - Lit., "has not increased them in anything but flight".

7. And behold, whenever I called unto them with a view to Thy granting them forgiveness, they put their fingers into their ears, and wrapped themselves up in their garments [of sin]; (3)

3 - For the reason of the above interpolation - which endows the concept of "garments" with a metaphorical meaning - see note 2 on 74:4; cf. also the expression "garment of God-consciousness" (libas at-taqwa) in 7:26. and grew obstinate, and became [yet more] arrogant in their false pride.

8. "And behold I called unto them openly;
9. and, behold I preached to them in public; and I spoke to them secretly, in private;
10. and I said: "'Ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins - for, verily, He is all-forgiving!
11. He will shower upon you heavenly blessings abundant, (4)

4 - Lit., "He will let loose the sky over you with abundance" (but see also note 76 on 11:52).

12. and will aid you with worldly goods and children, and will bestow upon you gardens, and bestow upon you running waters. (5)

5 - The two last-mentioned blessings are an allusion to the state of happiness in the hereafter, symbolized in the Quran as "gardens through which running waters flow".

13. "'What is amiss with you that you cannot look forward to God's majesty, (6)

6 - I.e., "that you refuse to believe in God" (Zamakhshari). Some authorities (e.g., Jawhari) give to the above phrase the meaning, "that you will not fear God's majesty", which, too, implies lack of belief in Him.

14. seeing that He has created [every one of] you in successive stages? (7)

7 - I.e., by a process of gradual evolution, in the mother's womb, from a drop of sperm and a fertilized germ-cell (the female ovum), up to the point where the embryo becomes a new, self-contained human entity (cf. 22:5): all of which points to the existence of a plan and a purpose and, hence, to the existence of a conscious Creator.

15. "'Do you not see how God has created seven heavens in full harmony with one another, (8)
16. and has set up within them the moon as a light [reflected] and set up the sun as a [radiant] lamp? (9)

8 - Cf. 67:3 and the corresponding note 2.

9 - See 10:5, where the sun is described as "a [source of] radiant light" (diya) and the moon as "light [reflected]" (nur); both these interpolations are explained in note 10 on 10:5.

17. "'And God has caused you to grow out of the earth in [gradual] growth; (10)and thereafter He will return you to it [in death]:

10 - This phrase has a twofold meaning. In the first instance, it alludes to the evolution of the individual human body out of the same substances - both organic and inorganic - as are found in and on the earth as well: and in this sense it enlarges upon the creation of the human individual "in successive stages" referred to in verse 14 above. Secondly, it alludes to the evolution of the human species, which, starting from the most primitive organisms living on earth, has gradually ascended to ever higher stages of development until it has finally reached that complexity of body, mind and soul evident in the human being.

18. and [then] He will bring you forth [from It] in resurrection. (11)

11 - Lit., "with a [final] bringing-forth ".

19. "'And God has made the earth a wide expanse for you,
20. so that you might walk thereon on spacious paths." (12)

12 - I.e., "He has provided you with all facilities for a good life on earth" - the unspoken implication being, "Will you not, then, acknowledge Him and be grateful to Him?"

21. [And] Noah continued: "O my Sustainer! Behold, they have opposed me [throughout], for they follow people whose wealth and children lead them increasingly into ruin, (13)

13 - Lit., "and have followed him whose wealth and children do not increase him in aught but loss": i.e., people whose propensity and power only enhance their false pride and arrogance, and thus lead them to spiritual ruin. Beyond this, we have here a subtle allusion to the fact that an exclusive devotion to material prosperity must of necessity, in the long run, destroy all moral values and, thus, the very fabric of society.

22. and who have devised a most awesome blasphemy [against Thee],
23. inasmuch as they said [to their followers], 'Do not ever abandon your gods: abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa', and neither Yaghuth nor Yauq nor Nasr!' (14)

14 - As is evident from early sources, these five gods were among the many worshipped by the pre-Islamic Arabs as well (see the small but extremely valuable work by Hishim ibn Muhammad al-Kalbi, Kitab al-Asnam, ed. Ahmad Zaki, Cairo 1914). Their cult had probably been introduced into Arabia from Syria and Babylonia, where it seems to have existed in earliest antiquity.

24. "And so they have led many a one astray: hence, ordain Thou that these evildoers stray but farther and farther away [from all that they may desire]!" (15)

15 - Lit., "increase Thou not the evildoers in aught but in straying-away", i.e., from an achievement of their worldly goals (Razi).

25. And so, because of their sins, they were drowned [in the great flood], and were doomed to suffer the fire [of the hereafter]; (16) and they found none who could succour them against God.
26. And Noah prayed: "O my Sustainer! Leave not on earth any of those who deny the truth:

16 - Lit., "and were made to enter the fire" - the past tense indicating the inevitability of the suffering yet to come (Zamakhshari).

27. for, behold, If Thou dost leave them, they will [always try to] lead astray those who worship Thee, and will give birth to nothing but wickedness and stubborn ingratitude. (17)

17 - Lit., "to such as are wicked (fajir), stubbornly ingrate (kaffar)": but since no one - and particularly not a prophet - is ever justified in assuming that the progeny of evildoers must of necessity be evil, it is obvious that the terms fajir and kaffar are used here metonymically denoting qualities or attitudes, and not persons.

28. "O my Sustainer! Grant Thy forgiveness unto me and unto my parents, and unto everyone who enters my house as a believer, and unto all believing men and believing women [of later times]; and grant Thou that the doers of evil shall increasingly meet with destruction!"' (18)

18 - Lit., "increase Thou not the evildoers in aught but destruction" - i.e., destruction of their aims and, thus, of evil as such.