23:21 And, behold, in the cattle [too] there is indeed a lesson for you: We give you to drink of that [milk) which is within their bellies, and you derive many [other] uses from them: for, you eat of their flesh.
Lit., “generations of others”, i.e., new civilizations.
23:22 And by them – as by the ships [over the sea) – you are borne [overland].
See note 5 on the identical phrase in 15:5.
23:23 And, Indeed, We sent forth Noah unto his people, and he said: “O my people! Worship God [alone]: you have no deity other than Him. Will you not, then, become conscious of Him?”
Moses and Aaron are mentioned here by name because their case was different from that of all other prophets: they were rejected not by their own community but by their community’s
23:24 But the great ones among his people, who refused to acknowledge the truth, replied: “This [man] is nothing but a mortal like yourselves who wants to make himself superior to you! For, if God had willed [to convey a message unto us], He would surely have sent down angels; [moreover] we have never heard [anything like] this from our forebears of old!
Lit., “became of those who were destroyed”.
23:25 He is nothing but a madman: so bear with him for a while”.
For my rendering of ayah, in this instance, as a “symbol”, see surah 19, note 16. Jesus and his mother Mary are mentioned here specifically because they, too, had to suffer persecution and slander at the hands of “those who were bent on denying the truth”.
23:26 Said [Noah] “O my Sustainer! Succor me against their accusation of lying!”
i.e., in paradise. The expression ma’in signifies “unsullied springs” or “running waters” (Ibn ‘Abbas, as quoted by Tabari; also Lisan al-‘Arab and Taj al-‘Arus), and thus symbolizes the spiritual purity associated with the concept of paradise, the “gardens through which running waters flow”.
23:27 Thereupon We inspired him thus: “Build, under Our eyes and according to Our inspiration, the ark [that shall save thee and those who follow thee]. And when Our judgment comes to pass, and waters gush forth in torrents over the face of the earth, place on board of this [ark] one pair of each [kind of animal] of either sex, as well as thy family – excepting those on whom sentence has already been passed -; and do not appeal to Me [any more] in behalf of those who are bent on evildoing – for, behold, they are destined to be drowned!
This rhetorical apostrophe to all of God’s apostles is meant to stress their humanness and mortality, and thus to refute the argument of the unbelievers that God could not have chosen “a mortal like ourselves” to be His message-bearer: an argument which overlooks the fact that only human beings who themselves “partake of the good things of life” are able to understand the needs and motives of their fellow men and, thus, to guide them in their spiritual and
23:28 “And as soon as thou and those who are with thee are settled in the ark, say”, All praise is due to God, who has saved us from those evildoing folk!’
As in 21:92, the above verse is addressed to all who truly believe in God, whatever their historical denomination. By the preceding reference to all of God’s apostles, the Qur’an clearly implies that all of them were inspired by, and preached, the same fundamental truths, notwithstanding all the differences in the ritual or the specific laws which they propounded in accordance with the exigencies of the time and the social development of their followers. (See notes 66-68 on the second paragraph of 5:48).
23:29 “And say, ‘O my Sustainer! Cause me to reach a destination blessed [by Thee] – for Thou art the best to show man how to reach his [true] destination!'”
23:30 In this [story], behold, there are messages indeed [for those who think]: for, verily, We always put [man] to a test.
Lit.; “in what they have [themselves]”. In the first instance, this verse refers to the various religious groups as such: that is to say, to the followers of one or another of the earlier revelations who, in the course of time, consolidated themselves within different “denominations”, each of them jealously guarding its own set of tenets, dogmas, and rituals and intensely intolerant of all other ways of worship (manasik, see 22:67). In the second instance, however, the above condemnation applies to the breach of unity within each of the established religious groups; and since it applies to the followers of all the prophets, it includes the latter-day followers of Muhammad as well, and thus constitutes a prediction and condemnation of the doctrinal disunity prevailing in the world of Islam in our times – cf. the well-authenticated saying of the Prophet quoted by Ibn Hanbal, Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and Darimi: “The Jews have been split up into seventy-one sects, the Christians into seventy-two sects, whereas my community will be split up into seventy-three sects.” (It should be remembered that in classical Arabic usage the number seventy” often stands for “many” – just as “seven” stands for “several” or “various” – and does not necessarily denote an actual figure; hence, what the Prophet meant to say was that the sects and divisions among the Muslims of later days would become many, and even more numerous than those among the Jews and the Christians).