Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "DOES THE QURAN TEACH A LOCAL FLOOD?"


Bassam Zawadi



Sam Shamoun's article can be located here.

Shamoun's arguments are valid but not strong enough to prove that the Qur'an or authentic prophetic traditions teach Noah's flood was universal.

All the verses that he has put forth, which speak of water gushing forth from the earth, do not necessarily imply that they are speaking about the entire planet.

As well-noted Muslim geologist Dr. Zaghloul El-Naggar states:

The word 'Earth' recurs in the Glorious Qur'an and in the Prophet's Ahadith referring to three other meanings according to the context. Sometimes it refers to the whole planet and at other times, to the dry mass on which we live, while at some other times, it indicates the topsoil covering the dry land rocks. (Dr. Zaghloul El-Naggar, Mountains to Stabilize the EarthSource) 

For instance, we know that the Arabic word used for Earth الْأَرْضِ is used in Surah 2:61 to refer to land mass and not the entire planet. In Surah 2:71, we see that the cow being described to the Israelites is one that wonders on the Earth الْأَرْضِ, but the context shows that the cow is wondering in a specific area close by and not that it could be wondering anywhere on the planet Earth. Or in Surah 4:97 where the oppressed believers tell the angels that they were oppressed on Earth الْأَرْضِbut the context denotes that they were referring to the specific land that they were residing in.

There are many other examples that I can provide, but I believe that the above examples suffice to show that context is important when wanting to know the meaning of a word. So the Arabic word الْأَرْضِ does not only refer to the entire planet Earth, it could also refer to a certain area or piece of land.

If we look at the verses that Shamoun has presented, we would see that none of them necessarily imply that they refer to the entire planet Earth.

Surah 11:40 could easily be interpreted as the fountains of the earth gushing in the specific land of Noah's people.

Surah 11:44 could easily be interpreted as referring to the specific land of Noah's people and telling them to "swallow up thy water."

Surah 23:27 could be interpreted as Noah being commanded to gather the male and female species from his specific land. It is more believable than having all the species in the world fit in his man-made ark. It is also possible that all animal species alive during that time were already present in Noah's land. This is more believable than Noah having to travel around the entire planet (how long would that have taken him?) and try gathering all kinds of animals from there. It is also possible that all or many or certain types of species that were alive on planet Earth at that time were only present in the people of Noah's land.

Surah 54:11-14 could easily be interpreted as the specific land of Noah's people being gushed forth with springs.

Surah 71:26-27 could be interpreted in more than one way. One way is that Noah was praying against the disbelievers in his land. Another way is that Noah made a general prayer against all disbelievers on planet earth; however, that does not necessarily imply that the flood was global. Our Islamic sources (contrary to Biblical sources) do not tell us exactly how many years ago this event took place. Thus, we don't know how people spread about the earth at that time. It is said that Noah came after Adam by approximately ten generations. It would be far-fetched to believe that so many people spread throughout the planet in such a time span. Most likely, all the people on Earth were only Noah's people or some other people who did not live very far away from Noah's land. Therefore, a universal flood wouldn't be necessary to wipe out all disbelievers from the face of the planet Earth (America was supposedly not discovered at this time yet, so why have a flood occur there?) 

Shamoun has not shown in his entire article why the word for Earth is speaking about the whole planet in the context of the verses he has cited.

As for the narrations that Shamoun cites from Ibn Abbass, these are most likely from the Israeliyaat sources (something that Ibn Abbass was known to pass off), and they are not binding upon us Muslims since our only sources of religious authority are the Qur'an and authentic Prophetic traditions.

The only narration that he attempts to show is from the Prophet (peace be upon him):

According to Ibn Bashshar- Ibn `Athmah- Sa'id b. Bashir- Qatadah- al-Hasan- Samurah b. Jundub- the Prophet, in connection with commenting on God's word: `And We made his offspring the survivors': Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ibid, p. 369) 

However, the chain of narration is weak. See Sheikh Albany's Jaami' Al Tirmidhi commentary on hadith no. 3230 & 3931. Also, see Sheikh Al Albany's Salseelatil Ahaadeeth Al Da'eefa, Hadith no. 3683, for his detailed critique of the narration.

In conclusion, there are no clear texts in reliable Islamic sources that reject or accept Noah's flood as being universal. For the Christian or anyone else to level this argument successfully, they must be able to clearly show that reliable Islamic sources do teach that a universal flood occurred.


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