The kings of Egypt-known as “Pharaohs” (or “Fir’awn” in the Arabic of the Qur’an)-regarded themselves as divine in the polytheistic, superstitious religion of ancient Egypt. At a time when the people of Egypt favoured a superstitious belief system over a divine belief system-the same era in which when the Children of Israel were enslaved-Allah sent the Prophet Musa (as) as a messenger to the tribe of Egypt.
However, Pharaoh and his court, and the people of Egypt in general, almost universally refused to abandon their idolatrous beliefs when the Prophet Musa (as) called them to divine religion and the Oneness of Allah. The Prophet Musa (as) revealed to Pharaoh and his courtiers that they should avoid false worship, warning them of Allah’s wrath. In response to this, they rose up and slandered the Prophet Musa (as): They accused him of being mad, of being a sorcerer and of falsehood. Pharaoh and his people refused to submit to the Prophet Musa (as) even though many troubles were visited upon them. They refused to accept Allah as the only God. They even held the Prophet Musa (as) responsible for what had befallen them and sought to exile him from Egypt. In the Qur’an, Allah makes this reference to the Prophet Musa (as) and the believers with him:
We revealed to Musa: “Travel with Our servants by night. You will certainly be pursued.” Pharaoh sent marshals into the cities: “These people are a small group and we find them irritating and we constitute a vigilant majority.” We expelled them from gardens and springs, from treasures and a splendid situation. So it was! And We bequeathed them to the tribe of Israel. So they pursued them towards the east. (Qur’an, 26:52-60)
The map shows the route taken by the Prophet Musa (as) after leaving Egypt and the estimated location of the site where the sea divided.
The diagram shows the shallow and deeper areas. It is at this point that the Sinai Peninsula and Arabia approach each other most closely.
As revealed in the Qur’an, the two communities met at the edge of the sea following this pursuit. Allah divided the sea and saved the Prophet Musa (as) and the believers with him, destroying Pharaoh and his people. This aid from Allah is revealed thus:
So We revealed to Musa, “Strike the sea with your staff.” And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. And We brought the others right up to it. We rescued Musa and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest. There is certainly a Sign in that yet most of them are not believers. Truly your Lord is the Almighty, the Most Merciful. (Qur’an, 26:63-68)
In connection with this subject, the following account has recently been found in papyruses from the time of Pharaoh:
When this letter reaches you and has been read point by point, surrender your heart to the sharpest pain, like a leaf before the storm, when you learn of the sorrowful disaster of the drowning in the whirlpool…
Calamity struck him suddenly and inescapably. Depict the destruction of the lords, the lord of the tribes, the king of the east and the west. The sleep in the waters has made something helpless out of something great. What news can compare to the news I have sent you?202
This miracle, experienced by the Prophet Musa (as) and the Children of Israel as they crossed the Red Sea, has been the subject of many studies. Archaeological investigations have established not only the path taken to the Red Sea after leaving Egypt, but also that the place where Pharaoh and the Prophet Musa (as) and his tribe met was one surrounded by mountains. (Allah knows best.)
The mountain known as Jabal-al Musa is generally regarded as being in the Sinai Peninsula. However, recent findings have shown that it is actually on the Arabian shore of the Red Sea. Following a long and difficult journey for the Prophet Musa (as) and the Israelites, a passage out between the mountains could be seen. That part of the Sinai Peninsula opening onto the Gulf.
Following a great deal of study and investigation taking this as the starting point, scientists came to striking conclusions with regard to how the sea was divided into two. These conclusions are in full agreement with those revealed in the Qur’an. The way that historical events described in the Qur’an are today illuminated by historical records is without doubt an important miracle of the book of Islam.
Pharaoh’s royal chariot is on display in a museum in Egypt. A similar example was found during excavations in the location where the sea divided.
Naum Volzinger and Alexei Androsov, two Russian mathematicians, proved that the Prophet Musa (as) could indeed have parted the sea. Unlike those scientists who concentrated on the probability of such a miracle, the Russian mathematicians investigated the conditions that might have led to the miracle. In turn, this led to the confirmation of the miracle itself.
According to the study which was published in the Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, there was a reef, which was close to the surface in the Red Sea at that time. From there, the scientists set about establishing the speed of the wind and the strength of the storm needed to leave the reef high and dry at low tide. As a result, it became apparent that a wind speed of 30 metres per second would have caused the sea to retract, leaving the reef exposed. Naum Volzinger, of the Institute of Oceanography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, stated that “if the [east] wind blew all night at a speed of 30 metres per second then the reef would be dry.” He also said that “it would take the Jews-there were 600,000 of them-four hours to cross the 7 kilometre reef that runs from one coast to another… then, in half an hour, the waters would come back.”203 In addition, Volzinger said that he and his colleague Androsov studied the issue strictly from Isaac Newton’s point of view. As he put it, “I am convinced that God rules the Earth through the laws of physics.”204
It must not be forgotten that there is always a possibility of this natural phenomenon taking place. If Allah so desires, this miracle can take place again when the requisite conditions-such as windspeed, time and place-are met. However, the truly miraculous aspect here is the fact that these events took place just when the Prophet Musa (as) and his tribe were about to be vanquished. The fact that the waters withdrew just as the Prophet Musa (as) and the community with him were about to cross them-not to mention the way that the waters returned just as Pharaoh and his army were crossing-is a clear example of the aid that Allah gives to the faithful. Indeed, the way that the Prophet Musa (as) relied on and trusted in Allah is an example of the most pleasing moral values:
And when the two hosts came into sight of one another Musa’s companions said, “We will surely be overtaken!” He said, “Never! My Lord is with me and He will guide me.” (Qur’an, 26:61-62)
In papyruses from the time of Pharaoh, the Prophet Musa (as) is regularly referred to as a magician. (The papyruses in question are held in the British Museum.) Despite all the best efforts of Pharaoh and his supporters, they were never able to get the better of the Prophet Musa (as) in their all-out war against him and the Children of Israel.
This is written on the second day of the seventh month of Payni during the reign of Ramses, the elder brother of Ammon, the Sun’s son who is the administrator of justice, and who lives eternally like his father, the Sun… When you receive this letter, rise, set to work and undertake the supervision of the fields. When you hear the news of a new misfortune such as a flood ruining the entire cereals, think. Hemton destroyed them by consuming them greedily, granaries are cracked, rats are clumped in fields, fleas are like hurricane, scorpions are eating up greedily, wounds caused by little flies are too many to count. And these grieve the people… The Scribe [probably referring to the Prophet Musa (as)] fulfilled the purpose to destroy the total amount of cereals… Sorceries are like their bread. Scribe… is the first of men in the art of writing.
The reference to the Prophet Musa (as), and the “magician” accusations hurled at him, can be found in the following verses:
They said, “Magician, invoke your Lord for us by the contract He has made with you and we shall certainly follow the guidance.” (Qur’an, 43:49)
They said, “No matter what kind of Sign you bring us to bewitch us, we will not believe in you.” (Qur’an, 7:132)
We sent Nuh to his people and he remained among them for fifty short of a thousand years; yet the Flood engulfed them while they were wrongdoers. (Qur’an, 29:14)
The Prophet Nuh (as) was sent to his people by Allah. They had distanced themselves from the commandments of the Lord and ascribed partners to Him. The Prophet Nuh (as) warned them that they should serve Allah alone and abandon the false worship which they had established in their community. Although the Prophet Nuh (as) called on his people with great eloquence and wisdom, and warned them against the punishment of Allah, they rejected the Prophet and continued to associate partners to Him. At this, Allah told the Prophet Nuh (as) that He would punish the deniers by drowning them. But He also informed His Messenger that His mercy would save the believers, those who embraced true religion and worshipped the One and Only God. The destruction of the people of Nuh and the salvation of the believers is described thus in the Qur’an:
But they denied him so We rescued him and those with him in the Ark. And We drowned the people who denied Our Signs. They were a blind people. (Qur’an, 7:64)
When the time of punishment came, the water in the ground combined with violent rains to cause a giant flood. (Allah knows best.) It is revealed that before the flood came, Allah spoke to the Prophet Nuh (as):
We revealed to him: “Build the Ship under Our supervision and as We reveal. When Our command comes and water bubbles up from the earth, load into it a pair of every species, and your family-except for those among them against whom the word has already gone ahead. And do not address Me concerning those who do wrong. They shall be drowned.” (Qur’an, 23:27)
Apart from those who boarded Prophet Nuh’s (as) Ark, the entire tribe was drowned. The dead included the Prophet’s son who thought he could escape by seeking shelter on a mountain.
It was said, “Earth, swallow up your water!” and, “Heaven, hold back your rain!” And the water subsided and the affair was concluded and the Ark came to land on al-Judi. And it was said, “Away with the people of the wrongdoers!” (Qur’an, 11:44)
Compared to the flood accounts contained in Jewish scriptures, and indeed the various cultural beliefs of other peoples, the Qur’anic account, which was revealed by Allah and is the only divine text to have remained uncorrupted, stands as the most reliable of all these accounts. The Torah, a corrupted text, says that this flood was universal and covered the whole world. On the contrary, it appears from the relevant verses that the flood was a regional one and punished not the whole world but only the tribe that rejected the Prophet Nuh (as). Those who were destroyed in it were the people who rejected the message of the Prophet Nuh (as) and persisted in their denial. There is no indication in the Qur’an that the flood was universal. The verses on the subject read:
We sent Nuh to his people: “I am a clear warner to you. Worship none but Allah. I fear for you the punishment of a painful day.” (Qur’an, 11:25-26)
But they denied him so We rescued him and those with him in the Ark. And We drowned the people who denied Our Signs. They were a blind people. (Qur’an, 7:64)
So We rescued him and those with him by mercy from Us, and We cut off the last remnant of those who denied Our Signs and were not believers. (Qur’an, 7:72)
As we have seen, we are told in the Qur’an that only the people of the Prophet Nuh (as) were destroyed, not the whole world. The corrected states of the corrupted accounts in Christian and Jewish scriptures in the Qur’an prove that it is, in its entirety, a book sent down by Allah.
Excavations in the region where the flood is believed to have occurred also show that the flood was not a universal event, but a wide-scale disaster that affected part of Mesopotamia.
When the waters subsided, the Ark came to rest. As revealed in the Qur’an, the resting place of the ark was al-Judi. The word “judi” is sometimes taken to mean a particular mountain, although the Arabic word itself means “high place, hill.” From that point of view, the word “judi” can refer to the waters reaching only up to a certain height and not to the covering of all the land. In other words, we learn from the Qur’an that the flood did not swallow up all the land and all the mountains on Earth-as is related in Jewish scriptures and other legends-but only one particular region.
Archaeological Evidence for the Flood
According to the archaeological findings, Nuh’s Flood took place on the Mesopotamian Plain, the shape of which was very different to that of today. The present-day limits of the plain are shown with a dotted red line in the above diagram. The wide region beyond that line is known to have been part of the sea at that time.
If a natural disaster, sudden migration or war, for example, should result in the destruction of a civilisation, traces of that civilisation are well-protected. The houses people lived in and the objects people used in their daily lives are quickly buried under the earth. These are thus conserved for long periods without being touched by human hands. For students of the past, they provide invaluable clues when they are finally brought to light.
In recent times, the discovery of a large amount of evidence concerning Nuh’s Flood has come to the attention of the world’s most prominent archaeologists and historians. The Flood, believed to have occurred around 3000 B.C., destroyed an entire civilisation and allowed an entirely new one to be founded in its place. That evidence of the Flood was preserved for thousands of years provides a deterrent to those people who have come after this punishment of the wicked.
Many excavations have been carried out to study the flood, which was localised on and around the Mesopotamian Plains. Digs in the region have encountered traces of a flood in four main cities on the Mesopotamian Plain: Ur, Erech, Kish and Shuruppak. Excavations in these cities have shown that these cities were hit by flooding around 3000 B.C.
The oldest of the remains of the civilisation in the city of Ur-today known as Tell al Muqqayar-date back to 7000 B.C. The city of Ur, one of the oldest human civilisations, was a settlement region in which consecutive civilisations were born and died.
The archaeological discoveries which came from study of Ur unearthed information which clearly informs us that a civilisation there was interrupted by a terrible flood and that new civilisations gradually sprang up in its place. Leonard Woolley led a joint excavation by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania in the desert area between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. Woolley’s excavations are described by the German archaeologist Werner Keller as follows:
“The graves of the kings of Ur” – so Woolley, in the exuberance of his delight at discovering them, had dubbed the tombs of Sumerian nobles whose truly regal splendour had been exposed when the spades of the archaeologists attacked a fifty-foot mound south of the temple and found a long row of superimposed graves. The stone vaults were veritable treasure chests, for they were filled with all the costly goblets, wonderfully shaped jugs and vases, bronze tableware, mother of pearl mosaics, lapis lazuli, and silver surrounded these bodies which had mouldered into dust. Harps and lyres rested against the walls…
When after several days some of Woolley’s workmen called out to him, “We are on ground level”, he let himself down onto the floor of the shaft to satisfy himself. Woolley’s first thought was “This is it at last”. It was sand, pure sand of a kind that could only have been deposited by water.
They decided to dig on and make the shaft deeper. Deeper and deeper went the spades into the ground: three feet, six feet – still pure mud. Suddenly, at ten feet, the layer of mud stopped as abruptly as it had started. Under this clay deposit of almost ten feet thick, they had struck fresh evidence of human habitation…
The Flood – that was the only possible explanation of this great clay deposit beneath the hill at Ur, which quite clearly separated two epochs of settlement…217
Excavations in the Mesopotamian Plain revealed the presence of a layer of mud and clay at a depth of 2.5 metres (8 feet). This stratum in all probability consisted of clay carried by the waters of the Flood, and is to be found only under the Mesopotamian Plain.
Microscopic analysis revealed that this great clay deposit beneath the hill at Ur had accumulated here as a result of a flood, one so large and powerful as to annihilate ancient Sumerian civilisation. The epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Nuh were united in this shaft dug deep under the Mesopotamian desert.
Max Mallowan related the thoughts of Leonard Woolley, who said that such a huge mass of alluvium formed in a single time-slice could only be the result of a huge flood disaster. Woolley also described the flood layer, which separated the Sumerian city of Ur from the city of Al-Ubaid whose inhabitants used painted pottery, as the remains of the Flood.218
These facts demonstrated that the city of Ur was one of those places affected by the Flood. The German archaeologist Werner Keller also described the importance of the excavation in question. He has gone on record to say that the yield of city-remains beneath a muddy layer in the archaeological excavations made in Mesopotamia proves that there was indeed a flood in the region.219
Another Mesopotamian city to bear the traces of the Flood is the “Kish of the Sumerians,” the present-day Tall Al-Uhaimer. Ancient Sumerian records describe this city as the “seat of the first postdiluvian dynasty.”220
The southern Mesopotamian city of Shuruppak, the present-day Tall Fa’rah, also bears evident traces of the Flood. Archaeological investigations were carried out in this city between 1920 and 1930 by Erich Schmidt of the University of Pennsylvania. These excavations uncovered three layers of habitation which stretched from the late prehistoric period to the 3rd dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 B.C.). The most distinctive finds were ruins of well-built houses along with cuneiform tablets of administrative records and lists of words, indicating a highly developed society already in existence toward the end of the 4th millennium B.C.221
When one examines the opinions of these learned scientists, it is clear that they believe that the evidence which supports the Flood account is overwhelming. According to this opinion, this terrible flood took place in or around 3000-2900 B.C. According to Mallowan’s account, 4-5 metres below the earth, Schmidt had reached a yellow soil layer (formed by flood) made up of a mixture of clay and sand. This layer was closer to the plain level than the tumulus profile and it could be observed all around the tumulus. Schmidt defined this layer made up of a mixture of clay and sand, which remained from the time of Ancient Kingdom of Cemdet Nasr, as “a sand with its origins in the river” and associated it with Nuh’s Flood.222
In short, the excavations in the city of Shuruppak once again revealed the traces of a flood around 3000-2900 B.C. Together with the other cities, Shuruppak was in all probability struck by the Flood.223
The last settlement containing evidence of being struck by the Flood is the city of Erech, south of Shuruppak. Today, it is known as Tall Al-Warka. As in the other cities, a flood layer was also discovered here. Like the other cities, this flood layer has been dated to 3000-2900 B.C.224
The Euphrates and Tigris rivers divide Mesopotamia from one end to the other. It appears that in the era in question, these two rivers overflowed, together with all other water sources, great and small, combining with rainwater to create an enormous flood. This phenomenon is reported in these terms in the Qur’an:
So We opened the gates of heaven with torrential water and made the earth burst forth with gushing springs. And the waters met together in a way which was decreed. We bore him on a planked and well-caulked ship. (Qur’an, 54:11-13)
When the clues obtained from the research are evaluated, they indicate that the Flood covered all of the Mesopotamian plains. When we look at the succession of cities-Ur, Erech, Shuruppak and Kish-that bear the traces of the Flood, we see that they all lie in a line. In addition, the geographical structure of the Mesopotamian Plain was very different in around 3000 B.C. compared to its constitution today. At that time, the bed of the River Euphrates was much further to the east than it is today, lying on a line passing through Ur, Erech, Shuruppak and Kish. It therefore appears that the Euphrates burst its banks in this region and destroyed the four cities. (Allah knows best.)
Allah imparted the news of Nuh’s Flood in order that it should act as a deterrent for those of that time and a valuable lesson to those who were to come after, people like us. By means of the Prophets and books, He sent guidance to different societies. However, each time the texts which were brought to the people by Allah’s Prophets were corrupted from their original forms. Men added cultural, mystical or mythological elements to the true account of the Flood. The Qur’an, because it is from Allah and because He preserves it eternally, is the only source compatible with the archaeological findings of the past. (See Harun Yahya, Perished Nations, Ta – Ha Publishers, 2002)
The Prophet Lut (as) lived at the same time as the Prophet Ibrahim (as) and was sent as a Messenger to a neighbouring tribe to the Prophet Ibrahim (as). That tribe, according to the Qur’an, practiced a perversion never before seen in the world: homosexuality. When the Prophet Lut (as) told the people to abandon one of the greatest sins and delivered to them the message of Allah, they rejected him. They denied that he was a Prophet and continued with their horrid lifestyle. As a result of this, the tribe was destroyed in a terrible disaster by Allah.
And Lut, when he said to his people, “Do you commit an obscenity not perpetrated before you by anyone in all the worlds? You come with lust to men instead of women. You are indeed a depraved people.” (Qur’an, 7:80-81)
We rained down a rain upon them. See the final fate of the evildoers! (Qur’an, 7:84)
[Our Messengers said to Lut,] “We will bring down on the inhabitants of this city a devastating punishment from heaven because of their deviance.” We have left a Clear Sign of them behind for people who use their intellect. (Qur’an, 29:34-35)
This city, in which the Prophet Lut (as) lived and which was later destroyed, is called “Sodom” in the Old Testament. It appears that this people, who lived to the north of the Red Sea, was destroyed in a manner compatible with the description in the Qur’an. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the city lay close to the Dead Sea on the present-day Israeli-Jordanian border. According to scientists, the area is covered in large deposits of sulphur. For this reason, no life in the form of animals or plants is to be found there and the region stands as a symbol of destruction.
[He is] the Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything in between them, if you are people with certainty. There is no god but Him—He gives life and causes to die—your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers, the previous peoples.
Sulphur is an element which appears as a result of volcanic eruptions. Indeed, there is clear evidence in the Qur’an that the method of destruction was earthquake and volcanic eruptions. The German archaeologist Werner Keller says this about the region:
Together with the base of this mighty fissure, which runs precisely through this area, the Vale of Siddim, including Sodom and Gomorrah, plunged one day into the abyss. Their destruction came about through a great earthquake which was probably accompanied by explosions, lightning, issue of natural gas and general conflagration… The subsidence released volcanic forces that had been lying dormant deep down along the whole length of the fracture. In the upper valley of the Jordan near Bashan there are still towering craters of extinct volcanoes; great stretches of lava and deep layers of basalt have been deposited on the limestone surface.229
The photographs above show the ancient settlement area around the volcano Mount Vesuvius. It is clear from the remains in the region that the Pompeiians who lived here enjoyed a luxurious and splendid lifestyle.
The petrified body on the left is a remain testifying to the disasters that struck the people of Pompeii.
These layers of lava and basalt are the most important evidence showing that a volcanic eruption and earthquake once took place there. In any event Lake Lut, otherwise known as the Dead Sea, lies directly above a seismically active region-in other words, an earthquake belt:
The technical aspect of the disaster suffered by the people of Lut has been revealed in studies carried out by geologists. These have shown that the earthquake which wiped out the people of Lut came about as the result of a very long fault line. The Jordan River drops a total of 180 metres during its 190 km course. This, and the fact that the Dead Sea is 400 metres below sea level, combined to prove that that there once took place a major geological event in and around this area.
This interesting structure of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea comprise only part of the crack or fissure which passes through this region. It begins at the slopes of the Toros Mountains and runs southward past the southern shores of the Dead Sea, through the Arabian Desert, reaching the Gulf of Aqaba, from where it crosses the Red Sea before coming to an end in Africa. There is major volcanic activity in those areas through which the line passes. In fact, this occurs to such an extent that black basalt and lava can be found in the Mountains of Galilee in Israel, in part of the high plateaus in Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and other areas.
All these remains and geographical features show that there was a major geological event at the Dead Sea.
The December 1957 edition of National Geographic magazine contained these statements on the subject:
The mount of Sodom, a barren wasteland, rises sharply above the dead sea. No one has ever found the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but scholars believe that they stood in the Vale of Siddim across from these cliffs. Possibly flood waters of the Dead Sea engulfed them following an earthquake.231
One of the pieces of information regarding this destroyed city is-as revealed in Surat al-Hijr 76-that these cities are still on the main line. Geographers have identified this region as being on a line to the south-east of the Dead Sea, extending from the Arabian peninsula to Syria and Egypt.
We turned the place completely upside down and rained down on them stones of hard-baked clay. There are certainly Signs in that for the discerning. They were beside a road which still exists. There is certainly a Sign in that for the believers. (Qur’an, 15:74-77)
The people of Thamud are a tribe mentioned in the Qur’an about whom a substantial amount is known. Historical sources confirm that a people known as the Thamud existed many years ago. It is believed that the people of al-Hijr referred to in the Qur’an are actually the same people as Thamud, because another name for Thamud is “Ashab al-Hijr.” That being the case, the word “Thamud” may be the name of a people and al-Hijr one of the cities they founded. In fact, this is exactly what is suggested by the descriptions of the Greek geographer Pliny, who wrote that Thamud lived in places called Domotha and Hegra, the present-day city of Hijr.236The oldest known historical source to refer to Thamud are the Babylonian state records. They relate the details of the victory of King Sargon II of Babylon over that people in the 8th century B.C. Sargon defeated them in a war in Northern Arabia. The Greeks also mention this people and Aristotle, Ptolemy and Pliny refer to them as the “Thamudaei” i.e. “Thamud.”237 All trace of them vanished before the time of our Prophet (saas) in around 400-600.
The well-known ruins of Petra in Jordan
The people of al-Hijr denied the Messengers. We brought them Our Signs but they turned away from them. They carved out houses from the mountains, feeling safe, but the Great Blast seized hold of them in the morning, so all that they earned was of no use to them.
Today, one can see the finest examples of these peoples’ stonework in the Rum Valley in Jordan, better known as Petra. Indeed, the Qur’an refers to their expertise in stonework thus:
[Salih said to his people,] “Remember when He appointed you successors to ‘Ad and settled you in the land. You built palaces on its plains and carved out houses from the mountains. Remember Allah’s blessings and do not go about the earth, corrupting it.” (Qur’an, 7:74)
The people of al-Hijr denied the Messengers. We brought them Our Signs but they turned away from them. They carved out houses from the mountains, feeling safe, but the Great Blast seized hold of them in the morning, so all that they earned was of no use to them. (Qur’an, 15:80-84)