Worldwide Flood?

Genesis 7—”Here the Bible tells us that the floodwaters covered all the earth, but science says that is impossible.”

The Bible’s critic often ignores that the best Qur’ānic scholars through history have argued that the Qur’ān teaches a universal flood. Ibn Abbas, Ibn Kathir, and al-Tabari all understood the Qur’ān to mean a universal flood. They based this on the following verses:

“And Noah said: `O my Lord! Leave not of the Unbelievers, a single one on earth! For if Thou dost leave (any of them), they will but mislead Thy devotees, and they will breed none but wicked ungrateful ones.'” (Nuh 71:26-27)

“At length, behold! There came Our Command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth! We said: `Embark therein, of each two, male and female, and your family- except those against whom the Word has already gone forth,- and the believers.’ But only a few believed with him.” (Hud 11:40)

“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!'” (Hud 11:44)

These two verses make it clear that not a single unbeliever on the face of the earth survived except those on Noah’s ark. Here is the interpretation of these verses:

According to al-Harith- Ibn Sa’d- Hisham- his father- Abu Salih- Ibn Abbas : God sent rain for forty days and forty nights. When the rain hit them, the wild animals, the domestic animals, and the birds all went to Noah and were subjected (to labor) for him. As commanded by God, he carried along ` pair(s), two of each kind. ‘ He also carried along Adam’s corpse, making it a barrier between women and men. They boarded the ark on the tenth day of Rajab, and they left it on the Ashura Day, (the tenth day) of al-Muharram; therefore, all those people fast on the Ashura Day. The water was brought forth in two equal parts. This is (meant by) God’s word: ` And We opened for water munhamirin ‘- that is, musabbin pouring- ` and We fajjarna ‘- that is, shaqqaqna split- ` the earth for springs (to gush forth). The water (from above and below) met for a matter (pre)determined. ‘ Thus, (because of the word `meeting’ that is used in the verse, it appears that) the water came in two equal parts, one from heaven, and the other from the earth. It rose fifteen cubits above the highest mountain on earth.

The ark carried them around the entire earth in six months. It did not come to rest anywhere until it came to the Sacred Territory (of Mecca and Medina). However, it did not enter the Sacred Territory but circled around for a week. The House built by Adam was lifted up- lifted up, so as not to be submerged- `the inhabited House’ with the Black Stone- on Abu Qubays. After the ark had circled around the Sacred Territory, it traveled with (those aboard) over the earth and eventually reached al-Judi … When it had come to rest upon al-Judi, `it was said: Earth, swallow your water!’- meaning, absorb your water that came forth from you- `and Heaven, hold back!’- meaning, restrain your water- `and the water disappeared in the ground’- that is, the earth absorbed it. The water that came down from heaven became the oceans that are seen on earth today… ( al-Tabari, vol. 1, pp. 362-363)

The above passages make it clear that the waters rose “fifteen cubits above the highest mountain on earth.” If we have to choose between the interpretation of modern revisionists and that of Ibn Abbas, Ibn Kathir, and al-Tabari, the classical rules of Qur’ānic tafsir demand that we accept the earlier traditions.

The Qur’ān furthermore makes it clear that every species on earth was in the ark, which clearly indicates a universal flood:

“So We inspired him (with this message): `Construct the Ark within Our sight and under Our guidance: then when comes Our command, and the oven gushes forth, take thou on board pairs of every species, male and female, and thy family- except those of whom the Word has already gone forth: and address Me not in favor of the wrong-doers: for they shall be drowned (in the Flood).” (Al-Mu’minun 23:27)

Turning to the Tawrat account of the flood, we find that scholars are equally divided over whether this was a local flood or a global flood. The following reasons are cited to understand this as a local flood:

– The term “earth” used throughout this passage is ארץ (‘erets ), which can also mean “the land” or “country.” The common word for “world” (tēbel) does not occur anywhere in this narrative. ‘Erets is used in other passages to clearly mean just one region (Gen 41:57).- If humanity had not spread very far, a localized flood could still wipe out the entire human race.- We can assume that the “high mountains” covered were local mountains in the land, and it is not impossible to believe that the waters covered them twenty feet. The text does not specify that the Ark landed on what is presently called “Mount Ararat” in Turkey, but rather on one of the “mountains of Ararat” ( Urartu ) which was a kingdom extending south into Mesopotamia. This was the conclusion of many pre-Qur’ānic traditions, like the Nestorian Christians, Josephus, the Jews and all Eastern Christians, and fits well with a localized flood.

There is some surprising geological evidence supporting a universal flood. From North America to Gibraltar, Malta to Odessa, fissures 140 to 300 feet deep have been found containing dismembered animal bones that could only be explained by a great flood.

In conclusion, it would seem that the Qur’ān and Bible both seem to indicate a global flood but can also legitimately be interpreted to mean a localized flood.

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