Noah’s Lost Son in the Qurʾān

in Arabica
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In Kor 11 (Hūd), 42-47 the Qurʾān has Noah address one of his sons and plead with him to enter the ark. Noah’s son refuses to do so, explaining that he plans to seek refuge from the flood on a mountain. When the son is lost in the flood, Noah turns to God in order to ask that his son be forgiven. In the present article, I discuss the relationship of this Qurʾānic episode with larger themes in the Qurʾān—seen also in the material on Abraham and his father—regarding the believer’s proper disposition towards unbelievers, and unbelieving family members in particular. After a study of earlier theories about this passage, I propose that the account of Noah’s lost son (not found in the Bible) has a particular relationship to Ezekiel 14, a passage which speaks hypothetically of an unrighteous son of Noah. In conclusion, I argue that this passage is an important example of how the Qurʾān applies, and transforms, earlier traditions in order to advance its particular religious arguments.

Dans le verset coranique 11 (Hūd), 42-47, Noah s’adresse à l’un de ses fils et le prie d’entrer dans l’Arche. Le fils de Noé refuse de s’exécuter, arguant qu’il a l’intention de trouver refuge dans une montagne contre le Déluge. Quand son fils est perdu dans le Déluge, Noé se tourne vers Dieu afin de Lui demander de pardonner à son fils. Dans le présent article, nous examinerons la relation de cet épisode coranique avec des thèmes plus importants du Coran—que l’on peut également voir dans les récits sur Abraham et son père—concernant la disposition du croyant envers les incroyants et, plus particulièrement, les membres de la famille. Après une étude des théories antérieures à propos de ce passage, nous avancerons que le récit du fils perdu de Noé (qui ne se trouve pas dans la Bible) est particulièrement lié à Ezéchiel 14, un passage qui traite, en toute hypothèse, d’un fils indigne de Noé. En conclusion, nous soutenons que ce passage est un exemple important de la façon dont le Coran emploie et transforme des traditions antérieures afin d’avancer ses propres arguments religieux.

This article is in English.

Noah’s Lost Son in the Qurʾān

in Arabica




David MarshallGod Muhammad and the UnbelieversSurreyCurzon1999 p. 98.


MarshallGod Muhammad and the Unbelievers p. 101. To this end Marshall also (p. 98-99) quotes Gordon Newby (whose study of the account of Noah’s lost son I will address further below): “Insofar as we can understand the account of Noah as an account parallel to that of Muhammad and I would argue that we can the compassion of Noah tells us of Muhammad’s concern for those who would not heed his message”. Gordon Newby “The Drowned Son: Midrash and Midrash Making in the Qurʾan and Tafsīr” in Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions: Papers Presented at the Institute for Islamic Judaic Studies eds William Brinner and Stephen Rick Atlanta Scholars Press (“Brown Judaic studies” 111 178) 1986 p. 29.


Angelika NeuwirthDer Koran als Text der Spätantike: Ein europäischer ZugangBerlinVerlag der Weltreligionen2010 p. 630. Neuwirth refers to Kor 29 8: “We have enjoined man to be good to his parents. But if they urge you to ascribe to Me as partner that of which you have no knowledge then do not obey them. To Me will be your return whereat I will inform you concerning that which you used to do” (one might compare Kor 31 14-15).


Gabriel Said Reynolds“Le problème de la chronologie du Coran”Arabica58 (2011) p. 477-502.


On this point see SegoviaThe Quranic Noah p. 11 ff.


SpeyerDie Biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran p. 105.


See Howard Kee“Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha ed. James Charlesworth Garden City Doubleday 1983 i p. 765-778.


SpeyerDie Biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran p. 106.


Newby“The Drowned Son”. On Noah in the Qurʾān see also Erica Martin, “The Literary Presentation of Noah in the Qur’ān” in Noah and His Book(s)ed. Michael Edward Stone Aryeh Amilhay and Vered Hillel Leiden-Atlanta Brill-Society of Biblical Literature (“Early Judaism and its literature” 28) 2010 p. 253-275. Martin however does not seek to explain the presence of Noah’s lost son in the Qurʾān.


Transl. WintermuteThe Old Testament Pseudepigrapha2 69. For the Ethiopic see The Book of Jubilees: A Critical Text ed. James C. Vanderkam Leuven E. Peeters (“Corpus scriptorum christianorum Orientalium” 510; “Scriptores aethiopici” 87) 1989 p. 44.


See NeuwirthDer Koran als Text der Spätantike p. 629-631.


Ibid. p. 630.


SegoviaThe Quranic Noah p. 87. Another less convincing attempt to explain Noah’s lost son in the Qurʾān is offered by Brian Brown Noah’s Other Son: Bridging the Gap between the Bible and the Qurʾan New York Continuum 2007. Brown argues that the Qurʾān preserves an ancient tradition—a tradition not recorded in the Bible—according to which Noah had four sons: Ham Japheth Shem and Canaan. The youngest of these Canaan died in the Flood and Ham decided to name his son after his dead brother (hence the appearance of a grandson of Noah named Canaan in Genesis). He writes: “In the Bible Ham another son of Noah named his son Canaan no doubt after his lost brother so the name is not entirely unfamiliar to Jews and Christians” (p. 51).


On this see Dieter Luhrmann“Noah und Lot (Lk 17:26-29): ein Nachtrag”Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft63 (1972) p. 130-132.


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