Surah Hud, along with the Surah’s right before and after it were all revealed towards the end of the Meccan phase of prophet Muhammad’s life PBUH, when the Quraish tribe elevated their torture to the Muslims. It gave guidance on the best way to react to increased oppression and discrimination
His Hair Turned Grey
Keeping up the balanced way of life is always difficult, and people always tend to either one of the extremes. This is one time the companions said to the prophet PBUH:
"O messenger of Allah! We see parts of your hair turning grey! And he replied: "Surah Hud and its sisters have made my hair turn grey” [Shama'il Muhammadiyah].
Other narrations mention the particular Ayahs that made his hair turn grey:
فَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَمَن تَابَ مَعَكَ وَلاَ تَطْغَوْا إِنَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ. وَلاَ تَرْكَنُواْ إِلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ فَتَمَسَّكُمُ النَّارُ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَوْلِيَاء ثُمَّ لاَ تُنصَرُونَ
So keep to the right course as you have been commanded, together with those who have turned to God with you. Do not overstep the limits, for He sees everything you do. Do not rely on those who do evil, or the Fire may touch you, and then you will have no one to protect you from God, nor will you be helped. [11:112-113]
Don’t give up
The previous Surah (Yunus) taught us to trust Allah’s wisdom and choices, and that He guides whoever He wills. Here, Allah SWT encourages his prophet to keep up with the message and not give up. He reminds him (and us) that the job of the messenger is to only deliver the message, and that the results and guidance are in the hands of Allah:
فَلَعَلَّكَ تَارِكٌ بَعْضَ مَا يُوحَى إِلَيْكَ وَضَائِقٌ بِهِ صَدْرُكَ أَن يَقُولُواْ لَوْلاَ أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ كَنزٌ أَوْ جَاءَ مَعَهُ مَلَكٌ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ نَذِيرٌ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ
So [Prophet] are you going to abandon some part of what is revealed to you, and let your heart be oppressed by it, because they say, ‘Why is no treasure sent down to him? Why has no angel come with him?’? You are only there to warn; it is God who is in charge of everything. [11:12]
Noah: The Icon of Patience
There is nothing that drives a point home more than stories, and this is why almost 1/3 of the Quran is all about stories of previous nations. Here we read the story of 5 different prophets:
Prophet Noah is the ultimate example of patience; not the passive patience that reacts negatively and passively to challenges, but a proactive patience that keeps trying to change the world despite the obstacles.
Noah delivered the message for 950 years. How many people believed in him?
وَمَا آمَنَ مَعَهُ إِلاَّ قَلِيلٌ
“… Though only a few believed with him.” [11:40]
According to some narrations, the believers with Noah were somewhere between 15-60 people ONLY!
OK, then Allah reveals to Noah:
وَأُوحِيَ إِلَى نُوحٍ أَنَّهُ لَن يُؤْمِنَ مِن قَوْمِكَ إِلاَّ مَن قَدْ آمَنَ فَلاَ تَبْتَئِسْ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْعَلُونَ
It was revealed to Noah, ‘None of your people will believe, other than those who have already done so, so do not be distressed by, what they do. [11:36]
What's next? Mission is over? Let’s destroy them and run away with the believers! Not yet!
وَاصْنَعِ الْفُلْكَ بِأَعْيُنِنَا وَوَحْيِنَا وَلاَ تُخَاطِبْنِي فِي الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ إِنَّهُم مُّغْرَقُونَ
Build the Ark under Our [watchful] eyes and with Our inspiration. Do not plead with Me for those who have done evil– they will be drowned.’ [11: 37]
Even while he was building the ship, his community continued to ridicule him and insult the believers. Even at that point (while being assured that no one else will believe) the response was a calm, firm, and balanced statement:
قَالَ إِن تَسْخَرُواْ مِنَّا فَإِنَّا نَسْخَرُ مِنكُمْ كَمَا تَسْخَرُونَ. فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ مَن يَأْتِيهِ عَذَابٌ يُخْزِيهِ وَيَحِلُّ عَلَيْهِ عَذَابٌ مُّقِيمٌ.
“He said, ‘You may scorn us now, but we will come to scorn you: you will find out who will receive a humiliating punishment, and on whom a lasting suffering will descend.’ [11:38-39]
The caller to Islam works for the sake of Allah SWT, and does not wait for any reward or any results to be seen from his actions. You get “paid” by your Master for your effort, but the results are in His hands.
The most difficult test for Noah was that of his son’s disbelief in his message. His son drowned with the rest of the disbelievers, Noah pleaded for his forgiveness, but Allah warned him that he should dissociate himself from the disbelievers even if they were family:
قَالَ يَا نُوحُ إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ مِنْ أَهْلِكَ إِنَّهُ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَالِحٍ فَلاَ تَسْأَلْنِ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنِّي أَعِظُكَ أَن تَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ. قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَسْأَلَكَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَإِلاَّ تَغْفِرْ لِي وَتَرْحَمْنِي أَكُن مِّنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
God said, ‘Noah, he was not one of your family. What he did was not right. Do not ask Me for things you know nothing about. I am warning you not to be foolish.’ Noah said, ‘My Lord, I take refuge with You from asking for things I know nothing about. If You do not forgive me, and have mercy on me, I shall be one of the losers.’ [11:46-47]
Of course, this has a lot of relevance with the life of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, who had his own uncle die on a state of disbelief, and the prophet PBUH wanted badly to ask for his forgiveness. The stories from previous prophet aim at supporting the Muslim community in their struggles by showing them examples from the past.
Prophet Hud: The Icon for balance
The surah was named after prophet Hud, so we should find in his story a great demonstration to the message of balance that this Surah is preaching. For example, here’s the response from prophet Hud to the threats given by his community:
قَالَ إِنِّي أُشْهِدُ اللَّهِ وَاشْهَدُواْ أَنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ. مِن دُونِهِ فَكِيدُونِي جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ لاَ تُنظِرُونِ. إِنِّي تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللَّهِ رَبِّي وَرَبِّكُم مَّا مِن دَابَّةٍ إِلاَّ هُوَ آخِذٌ بِنَاصِيَتِهَا إِنَّ رَبِّي عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
He said, ‘I call God to witness, and you too are my witnesses, that I disown those you set up as partners with God. 55 So plot against me, all of you, and give me no respite. 56 I put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord. There is no moving creature which He does not control.a My Lord’s way is straight
When you see Muslims living in difficult times and enduring different levels of Islamophobia, please turn to Surah Hud for guidance, moral support, and stories of resilience. Share these stories with those around you and empower them with the wisdom of the Quran.