It seems quite unbelievable to read in the Qur’an that one of the first Prophets of Allah, Prophet Nuh (peace be upon him), preached to the nation to which he was sent as messenger, for no less than 950 years! During that time, thousands of years ago, human beings were physically stronger and lived much longer than us.

Nuh’s sincerity in conveying the message of Allah to his people has been testified to and exemplified in the Qur’an as Allah positively mentions his tireless efforts of da’wah.

In today’s fast-paced world of instant results and immediate gratification, even da’ees towards Allah can get impatient if they do not see their da’wah yielding quick results. They want people to repent and reform themselves immediately, and start practicing Islam as a complete faith and lifestyle in the blink of an eye.

We question the acceptability and effectiveness of efforts, if we do not see clearly visible, positive results. Prophet Nuh, however, preached for 950 years in different ways, yet his people persistently rejected his call and continued in disbelief and transgression. Only few accepted his da’wah.

In a chapter named after him, Surah Nuh, Allah narrates to us in detail Prophet Nuh’s earnest du’a and complaint to Allah about his people’s rejection. From his plea, we get to know of his sincere efforts:

Incentive of forgiveness
Prophet Nuh started preaching to his people with the precursory requirement: giving them the hope that Allah will forgive their sins and grant them further respite in the world to be able to do righteous deeds. He invited them to worship Allah alone and be conscious of Him, and obey him, as he was Allah’s appointed messenger.

Increase in provisions
He promised his people that sincere repentance, which means giving up evil deeds and obeying Allah, results in an increase in provision. He promised them that Allah would bless them with rain, which meant an abundance in food: grains, fruit and crops. He also promised them that Allah would bless them with all kinds of material wealth and “sons” i.e. progeny, thriving families and an overall flourishing community of large numbers. He said Allah would also grow forth for them lush gardens and flowing rivers.

Prophet Nuh thus used the example of worldly blessings, which human beings long for and which is entirely in Allah’s Hands, to invite his people to come back to the Straight Path, the path of monotheism.

Reflection over Allah’s creation
Prophet Nuh asked his people why they did not recognize Allah’s Greatness. He invited them to contemplate on the magnificent creation of Allah – how He created humans in grades or stages (within the womb and after birth); how Allah created the seven skies one upon the other; the moon in the skies as a light; and the sun as a lamp. Thousands of years ago, human beings lived closer to nature, living primarily as agriculturalists, and they witnessed the signs of creation all the time.

Man’s origin and his end
One of the best and truthful ways to convince human beings to repent to Allah, worship Him and obey Him, is to remind them of their imminent return to dust after death. Prophet Nuh told his people that Allah created us from earth and that is where everyone would eventually return after death. He gave the example of vegetation – it grows and then withers down.

Nuh further described the way Allah spread out the earth for human beings to dwell in without congestion and with wide, open pathways to travel in.

After doing everything he could, Prophet Nuh complained to Allah that he called his nation to the right path at all times – day and night, publicly and privately, and he left no stone untouched. Yet, each time, they rejected his call due to arrogance, stuffing their fingers in their ears, turning away with their clothes covering their heads.

In the end of Surah Nuh, Prophet Nuh pleads to Allah for his own forgiveness and that of the believing men and women. After giving sincere, relentless da’wah for 950 years, he asks Allah to wipe out his disbelieving people in such a way that not a single one of them is left. Because of their deep-rooted polytheistic beliefs and arrogance, he pleaded to Allah that even if one of them is left alive he would lead others astray and give birth to none but a wicked disbeliever!

Perhaps a whole surah was dedicated to Prophet Nuh’s da’wah efforts because its message serves as an enlightening beacon for all modern da’ees to Islam. Patience, sincerity, eloquence, persistence, intelligent use of proofs and signs, diversity of techniques, and wisdom are all necessary qualities of a representative of Allah who wishes to give the due of the Divinely-ordained task of calling humankind back to the obedience and worship of their Creator.