Did the Son of Prophet Nuh Attain Salvation?
Brief description of the dubiety
Some verses of the Quran such as Surah al-Anbiya, verse 76, and Surah al-Saffat, verse 76 point out that the family of Prophet Nuh were saved from a great agony; however elsewhere in the Quran in Surah Hud, verse 43 it mentions that his son – who was a member of his family – was not saved and that he was amongst those who drowned. It is clear that it is not possible for the son of Prophet Nuh to have both been saved and drowned, so let us take a look at this point to clear up the ambiguity.
Detailed description of the dubiety
Verses which point towards the family of Prophet Nuh being saved
In verse 76 of Surah al-Anbiya Allah says: “And before that Nuh when he called out, We responded to him and delivered him and his family from the great agony.” In this verse, the salvation of the family of Prophet Nuh is mentioned explicitly. There is another place in the Quran with the same meaning in Surah al-Saffat, verse 76 which states: “Certainly Nuh called out to Us, and how well We responded! We delivered him and his family from the great agony.”
Verses which point towards the son of Prophet Nuh drowning
In Surah Hud, verses 42-43 it says: “And it sailed along with them amid waves [rising] like mountains. Nuh called out to his son, who stood aloof, ‘O my son! Board with us, and do not be with the faithless!’ He said, ‘I shall take refuge on a mountain - it will protect me from the flood.’ He said, ‘There is none today who can protect from Allah’s edict, except someone upon whom He has mercy.’ Then the waves came between them, and he was among those who were drowned.” This verse shows that the son of Prophet Nuh was not saved and ended up drowning in the flood.
A summarized response
With regards to most of the members of Prophet Nuh’s family being saved, the verse in Surah al-Anbiya mentions generally that his family will be saved. Surah Hud, verse 43 looks more specifically, and it addresses a certain individual from his family (i.e. one of his sons), and gives news of his damnation. In reality, this verse excludes one of the members of Prophet Nuh’s family from that which was mentioned in Surah al-Anbiya.
A detailed response
Pre-requisite Introduction: The criterion for describing a group with an attribute
In order to describe a group with a certain quality, it is enough for it to exist in most of people in that group. For example, if a school with 200 students has 195 studious students, it can be said that “The students of this school are very studious.” Therefore, in order to describe a group with a quality, it is not necessary for each and every individual in that group to have the said quality. In reality, from a general point of view, that group can be described with that quality; even though from a more specific point of view, namely by looking at each and every individual, it is possible for there to exist an individual or so who does not have that specific quality.
The damnation of Prophet Nuh’s son does not negate the soundness of the news regarding the salvation of his other family members
The verse in Surah al-Anbiya mentions generally that the family of Prophet Nuh were saved. As was mentioned, if the majority of a group have the same quality, then it is correct to describe a group with it. From the family of Prophet Nuh, only his son was not saved, but the rest of his family was saved. Therefore, the majority of his family boarded the ark and got refuge and this verse attributes this salvation in a general sense to his family.
However, with a specific outlook, verse 43 in Surah Hud mentions that one of the members of Prophet Nuh’s family, (i.e. his son) was damned by the punishment of Allah. These two verses do not contradict one another, and thus both of them are correct. From a general sense, his family was saved; and from a specific sense, the fate of one of his sons being damned, was mentioned. These two verses complete each other, and in reality, the verse in Surah Hud excludes one of the family members from what was mentioned in Surah al-Anbiya.
A father becomes bedridden due to an illness. The eldest son visits the father and asks him who has come to visit him. The father says: “Today, your sister’s family came.” The next day the son sees his sister and while speaking to one another she mentions: “Yesterday my husband, me and the kids went to see our father, however my eldest son was at work so he could not come with us.” The father’s sentence and his daughter’s sentence do not contradict one another. His father, intending a general meaning mentioned that his daughter’s family came to visit him, as most of them did; and the daughter with a specific outlook, and by looking at each of her family members individually, mentioned that her son was not able to be present. Both of these sentences are sound and can be reconciled with one another. In the same way, the verses regarding the members of Prophet Nuh’s family being saved, do not contradict one another.