The Biblical and Quranic Stories of
Noah and the Flood: A Comparative Analysis
of their sins they were drowned (in the flood), and were made to enter the Fire
(of Punishment): and they found- in lieu of Allah- none to help them.”
The Holy Quran, Surah
One of the most famous and enduring
stories of the Bible is undoubtedly the story of Noah (Nuh in Arabic), the
flood and the ark. As with many other
stories found in the Bible, this story is also found in the Quran, and as with
the other stories, the Biblical and Quranic versions of Noah and the flood have
some similarities as well as some major differences. In this article, we will discuss these
differences and why they are significant enough to put the Quran and the Bible
at odds with each other. After
summarizing the Biblical story, we will analyze it to discuss the
irreconcilable problems that plague it.
Next, we will summarize the Islamic version of Noah and the flood and
compare it to the Biblical one. This
comparison will illustrate that the Biblical story cannot be accepted as the
true version of the epic story of Noah and that the Quranic story, by lacking
any of the difficulties found in the former, is clearly the version that is
more deserving of acceptance and far more credible.
The Biblical Story
the Bible, the story of Noah is found in several chapters of the Book of
Genesis. For the purposes of this
article, we will summarize the parts dealing with the events preceding the
flood, the flood itself, and some elements of the post-flood story. As such, we will deal specifically with
Genesis 6-8, though in the analysis of the story, we will discuss other parts
of Genesis as well.
the story goes, it had been several centuries since Adam and Eve had fallen to
earth and great wickedness had spread threrein.
In fact, humans had become so evil that God:
that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
It was for this reason that God
decided to destroy the entire, sinful world.
The only exception made was regarding a righteous man named Noah, who
had “…found favor with the Lord”, since he did not share in the sin that was
prevalent in the world.
Thus, God commanded him to build an ark with exact specifications, and
instructed him to take his family and two of every animal on board with him.
the ark was built, the cataclysmic flood arrived and destroyed all who were not
on the ark. This occurred when Noah was
600 years old. By Noah’s 601st year, the waters had
dried and he was instructed to come out of the ark, which had come to rest on
the Ararat mountain range. The survivors, both human and animal, then
repopulated the earth. It was through
Noah’s sons that the human race survived and spread throughout the earth once
Analyzing the Story
the brief summary above, we can see that the whole world had become sinful and
was beyond salvation. In other words,
God sent the flood upon an unsuspecting world without warning. As we will see later, this element of the
Biblical story differs greatly with the Quranic version.
scrutinizing the Biblical claims, it should become clear that there are certain
irreconcilable problems that cannot be easily explained. One of the biggest problems surfaces as a
result of the chronology of the flood.
While Genesis does not provide a specific date for the flood, it is
nevertheless possible to come to a reasonable estimate using the various
genealogies that are found in the Bible.
Based on this, the “Young Earth” website “Answers In Genesis” states
began approximately 4,359 years ago in the year…2348 BC.”
The skeptic C. Dennis McKinsey gives
the same date:
allegedly occurred around 2348 B.C.”
Finally, Muslim author Dr. Laurence
Brown estimates, using the Biblical chronology, that the flood:
corresponded with the twenty-first to twenty-second centuries BC.”
Hence, the Bible provides an
approximate date of around 2100-2400 BC for the global deluge. This being the case, any student of history
should see an immediate conflict. The Bible
is obviously wrong about either the flood being global or the exact date of the
flood or both.
If we assume that the Biblical
chronology is correct, then the flood could not have covered the whole
earth. The reason for this is that if
the flood occurred sometime between 2100-2300 BC, then there should be no records
of surviving civilizations from that time.
Yet, this is exactly what we have in the historical record. As McKinsey notes:
Egyptian history does not mention a flood even though uninterrupted records
were kept from the pharaoh Menes in 3400 B.C. to Darius Ochus in 340 B.C. The flood allegedly occurred around 2348
While there is a flood story in
Egyptian mythology, it was not a flood of destruction, so McKinsey is correct. The point is that if a global flood had
indeed occurred, then there would have been a gap in ancient Egyptian
records. Yet, this is not what
historians have found. Dr. Laurence
Brown also notes this discrepancy in the Biblical story by rightfully point out
failed to wash away both the Third Dynasty at Ur in Babylonia and the First
Intermediate Period before the Eleventh Dynasty in Egypt – two civilizations
that history testifies were uninterrupted.
So the period to which the biblical narratives attribute the global
flood could stand revision.”
Therefore, since there is indisputable archaeological evidence of thriving civilizations during the time
the flood allegedly occurred, we either have to admit the flood was not global
or that it occurred at another earlier time.
Since Egyptian records go back uninterrupted to 3,400 B.C., the flood
would have had to have happened some time before that (assuming that it was
global). Hence, the Bible’s chronology
is off by at least 1,100 years, and possibly even more.
Both scenarios present a problem for
the Biblical version. Since a global
flood would have surely destroyed the civilizations of Egypt and Ur at the time
it occurred, the Biblical claim that the flood covered the entire world is
impossible to defend. On the other hand,
if there was a global flood, then the Genesis account is chronologically flawed,
since it places the flood in the wrong time period.
The Quranic Story
story of Nuh and the flood is mentioned throughout the Quran, sometimes as
long, continuous narratives and sometimes as brief accounts just a few verses
long. Nuh (peace be upon him) was the
first messenger sent by God. His people had strayed from the true faith of
their father Adam (peace be upon him) and had begun worshiping various idols
and despite Nuh’s repeated warnings and preaching, they refused to reject these
have said (to each other), 'Abandon not your gods: Abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa', neither Yaguth nor
Ya'uq, nor Nasr';-”
After spending most of his life preaching
in vain to his people,
and when it became clear that his people would not believe in his message
(besides those few who had already believed), Nuh (peace be upon him) was
commanded by Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) to build an ark:
revealed to Noah: "None of thy people will believe except those who have
believed already! So grieve no longer over their (evil) deeds. But construct an Ark under Our eyes and Our
inspiration, and address Me no (further) on behalf of those who are in sin: for
they are about to be overwhelmed (in the Flood)."”
Once the ark was built and the flood
was imminent, Nuh (peace be upon him) was told to bring the believers and two
of every animal on board the ark. While
most of his family had believed, his wife and one of his unnamed sons had
remained loyal to the pagan religion, and were thus among the condemned:
forth, for an example to the Unbelievers, the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut:
they were (respectively) under two of our righteous servants, but they were
false to their (husbands), and they profited nothing before Allah on their
account, but were told: "Enter ye the Fire along with (others) that
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
Allah, any but those on whom He hath mercy!" And the waves came between them, and the son
was among those overwhelmed in the Flood.”
The flood utterly destroyed the
people of Nuh (peace be upon him), leaving only the blessed messenger, his
remaining sons and some others who were on the ark. Once the flood waters receded, the ark came
to a rest on a mountain called “Judi” and the believers once again set foot on
“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!"”
reading the Quranic story of Nuh (peace be upon him), some major differences
with the Biblical version are immediately apparent. First, unlike the Biblical account which
claims that God sent the flood on an unsuspecting, yet sinful world, the Quran
states that the flood was sent upon Nuh’s people only after they had consistently
rejected his warnings and refused to shun their idols. It is a consistent message in the Quran that
even if people are living in sin, God will not punish them until He has given
them a chance to repent and sending a messenger to warn them. If they do not, then and only then, will He
regarding the alleged global nature of the flood, the context of the Quranic
story suggests that the flood was in fact a local one and affected only the
people of Nuh (peace be upon him). Some
people have argued that the Quran states that the flood waters covered the
earth, appealing to such verses as the following:
said: "O my Lord! Leave not of the Unbelievers, a single one on earth!”
Yet this argument fails for a simple
reason. The Arabic word translated here
as “earth” is “الْأَرْضِ” (al-ardi), which can mean either “earth”, “land” or
“country”. Hence, Nuh (peace be upon him) could have
prayed to God to destroy all the disbelievers in the land, meaning the area in
which he lived. In fact, the context of
the verse shows that he was referring to his own people:
"O my Lord! They have disobeyed me, but they follow (men) whose wealth and
children give them no increase but only Loss.”
How could Nuh (peace be upon him)
have been referring to people in other parts of the world whom he had never met
and was never sent to? How could they
have “disobeyed” him if they had not even heard him preaching? Clearly, his prayer to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) was concerning
his own people, and had nothing to do with the rest of the world.
objection raised to the local flood theory is that the early Quranic
commentators tended to believe that the flood was indeed global. Yet this argument is also weak since it was
common for the Quranic commentators to rely on Jewish and Christian traditions
to fill in the gaps of the stories of the prophets. This was especially true when both the Quran
and the authentic Hadiths were silent on an issue. Since there is nothing concrete in the Quran
or the Hadiths to suggest that the flood was global, the opinions of the
exegetes cannot be considered authoritative.
This is the view of many modern Islamic scholars (though others also
believe that the flood was global). Here
are some examples:
According to one scholarly opinion
instruction to Prophet Noah was to carry on the ark a pair of every species.
Certainly the Prophet Noah complied with this order and put those creatures on
the ark. This must be understood as relating to the area in which he was and
the practical possibility of implementing Allah's instruction. We are not told
that Noah traversed the whole globe collecting those animals who were not
available in his area. Nowhere are we told that couples of species from
different climates and faraway geographical areas were guided to go to Prophet
Noah's place in order to be on the ark. Indeed, there is no clear indication that
the flood covered the whole earth. It certainly covered the area where the
people of Noah lived, so as to exterminate all creatures other than those who
believed in Allah and followed Prophet Noah. We cannot tell how big the ark
was, but it certainly was big enough to accommodate those believers and a pair
of each type of species. May I remind you that in the Qur'an we are told that
Noah's followers were few.”
Another fatwa states:
“In fact, there
is no indication or reference in the Qur'an suggesting that the floods
overwhelmed the entire planet. The description given in the Qur'an of the flood
makes clear that it was of overwhelming proportions, leaving none of the
wrongdoers among Noah's people alive. It does not mention other communities. In
fact there are several references that it engulfed Noah's own people in
particular. Take for example the twice-repeated Qur'anic statement: "Do
not appeal to Me on behalf of the wrongdoers. They shall be drowned." (11:
37 & 23: 27) "We saved him together with all those who stood by him,
in the ark, and caused those who rejected Our revelations to drown. Surely they
were blind people." (7: 64) The contexts in which all these statements
occur are very clear in their references to Noah's own community to whom he was
required to address his message. Hence we can say that the flood punishment was
directed to his own people who rejected his faith, after clear evidence had
been given to them, and after their long opposition to his efforts and their
repeated hurling of abuse and ridicule on him.”
Further below, the same fatwa also
questions whether Nuh (peace be upon him) had exactly three surviving sons (as
the Bible claims), which is a reasonable question to ask because there is
nothing in the Quran or authentic ahadith to indicate how many sons he had or
what their names were:
“Nor can we say
that all people living today are descendents [sic] of Noah through his three
sons. To start with, there were other people saved in the Ark. These could have
had children of their own and they would have descendents [sic]. Moreover, we
cannot establish with any degree of certainty that Noah had three sons.”
Despite this fact, some early
Quranic commentators stated that Nuh (peace be upon him) had three sons and
they even give their Biblical names!
According to Islamic scholar M.A.S.
“…when one looks at the Qur'anic
text itself (in this account and in those of suras 7, 11 and 23), it is only al-mala,
the prominent people in the society, who kept demanding that he drive away
the 'worst kind of people' amongst his followers, and those they have led
astray (Q. 71:24-7), who will be punished, not everybody and everything.”
he states the following:
“It has already been observed that
in the Qur'anic accounts only al-mala' and their followers were drowned.
This view of the 'universal' flood, which is actually depicted in the Qur'an as
being specific and localised, has no basis in the Qur'an and is clearly
inspired by other versions of the Noah story, such as those related in the
Bible and popular religious legend.”
Finally, Islamic scholar Suzanne
Haneef notes that there was a difference of opinion even among the early
scholars about the nature of the flood:
“The Qur’an and
ahadith are silent concerning the
locus and extent of the Flood, and the early Islamic traditionists also
differed concerning it.”
Hence, there is no proof that the
Quranic story tells of a global flood. In fact, the context strongly suggests a
local flood. Since there is far more
evidence of a local flood and there is no indication as to when it occurred,
the Quranic account does not suffer from the same inconsistencies and
difficulties found in the Biblical story.
Therefore, the Quranic account is far more credible than the Biblical
In this article, we compared the
Biblical and Quranic versions of the story of Noah and the flood. While similar in some ways, the two stories
are worlds apart in other ways. While
the Biblical account of God sending a global flood without warning contradicts
archaeological and historical facts, the Quranic account suffers from no such
difficulties. This is because the latter
does not clearly endorse the theory of a global flood, despite claims to the
contrary, and instead only mentions the flood story in the context of Noah’s
preaching to his own people. Therefore,
the claim of a global flood is not tenable and we must instead endorse the
belief that the flood was probably local, affecting only the sinful people of
And Allah knows best!
 Genesis 6:6 (New International Version).
 In Genesis 8, however, he is instructed to take seven pairs of “clean”
animals and one pair of “unclean” animals.
 See the “Table of Nations” (Genesis 10).
 C. Dennis McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 220.
 Laurence B. Brown, God’ed?: The Case for Islam as the Completion of Revelation (Booksurge, 2008), p. 99.
 McKinsey, op. cit., p. 220.
 Brown, op. cit., p. 99.
 Sahih Bukhari, Book 55, Number 556.
 Surah Nuh, 71:23 (Yusuf Ali Translation).
 He preached to them for 950 years. See Surah Al-Ankaboot, 29:14.
 Surah Hud, 11:36-37.
 Surah At-Tahrim, 66:10.
 For example, see Surah al-Isra, 17:15.
 Suzanne Haneef, The History of the Prophets of Islam: Derived from the
Quran, Ahadith and Commentaries (Chicago: Kazi Publications, Inc., 2002), Volume 1, p. 171.
John Penrice, A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran (New York: Dover Publications, 2011),
 M.A.S Abdel Haleem, “The Qur'anic Employment of the Story of Noah,” Journal Of Qur'anic
Studies, 8, no. 1 (2006): 48.
 Haneef, op. cit., p. 171.