Climate Change in the Holy Quran: Perspectives

Imagine being stuck in the middle of the desert, with little or no water and all of a sudden you completely submerged in an Ocean. Covered from more than head to toe in water. Springs gushing forth from where there used to be ovens and all havoc breaking loose, with only one ship. Not a single flood barrier in sight nor the ability to be able to capture the rainwater for use later on. This is a glimpse of what it must have been like for the people of Prophet Nuh (AS). In the process he also lost his own family members. The Almighty told him to build his Ark and the people mocked him, but he listened and obeyed.

Quranic verses about climate change

The story of Nuh (A.S) shows us an excellent example of climate change in the Holy Quran. It also highlights to us the impact which flooding can have on society and focuses on effort and not necessarily results. This is clear in the fact that Nabi Nuh preached to his people for almost 1000 years, yet very few accepted the message.

“We did indeed send Noah to his people and he lived among them a thousand years save fifty. Eventually the Flood overtook them while they were engaged in wrongdoing”. Quran (29:14)

One thing that stands out for sure in the entire lesson is that we need to look at the Ark as a sign of hope. There will always be a tool for us to use if we are truthful and steer the course

One other Flood in the Holy Quran, which also had major impacts, was that of Musa (A.S). This is highlighted in the Quran:

“Then We afflicted them with a great flood and locusts, and the lice, and the frogs, and the blood. All these were distinct signs and yet they remained haughty. They were a wicked people.” Quran (7:133)

This leads us to think about the dynamic interplay between events like flooding and disease and how we really need to examine the way we are studying science. We should actually be taking approaches related to multi and interdisciplinary work with large teams of various scientists from numerous backgrounds tackling big problems to solve them holistically.

The story of Yusuf (A.S) is the only one in the entire Quran which occurs in one surah of the Quran, in order from start to  finish This can be seen in Surah 12 of the Holy Quran. The verses pertaining  to the climate variability could be seen as :

And the king said: Lo! I saw in a dream seven fat kine which seven lean were eating and seven green ears of corn other (seven) dry. O notables! Expound for me my vision, if he can interpret dreams. They answered: Jumbled dreams! And we are not knowing in the interpretation of dreams. And of the two who was released and (now) at length remembered, said : I am going to announce unto you the interpretation,  therefore send me forth. (And when he came to Joseph in the prison, he exclaimed): Joseph! O thou truthful one! Expound for us the seven fat kine which seven lean were eating and the seven green ears of corn and other (seven) dry, that I may return unto the people so that they may know. He said: Ye shall sow seven years as usual, but that which ye reap, leave it in the ear, all save a little which ye eat. Then after that will come seven hard years which will devour all that ye have prepared for them, save a little of that which ye have stored. Then, after that, will come a year when the people will have plenteous crops and when they will press (wine and oil) “(Quran 12: 43-49)

The analysis of the dreams occurs in the latter verse with a further analysis suggesting that grain should be stored in the seven good years for the seven tough years. Furthermore, after the seven years of drought a good year will occur with plentiful water and in turn good crops of olives and grapes for people to process oil and wine. This is not in the dream nor part of its interpretation but was used by Yusuf (A.S) to garner hope for the population.


The Quran shows us, by means of   case studies, what the effects of climate change can be as well as how to minimise the impacts thereof. The stories of Nuh (A.S), Yusuf (A.S) and Musa (A.S) have numerous lessons. These should spill over into our lives and we could make a major impact in terms of saving this beautiful planet of ours and being the vicegerent the Almighty wants us to be.

It also seems as if two distinct patterns of Climate Change could be deduced. The first pattern was a slow persistent change in climate, like the event affecting Yusuf (A.S). The second pattern, in the case of Musa (A.S) as well as Nuh (A.S), was a sudden one in the form of a flood. It also seems as if the modern data favours more intensive climatic changes, but it could also be said that the effects are likely to be erratic.

It should however be noted that the decisions made by human beings in certain instances without proper planning and consultation could have these types of disastrous impacts. This can be seen in instances whereby construction has occurred alongside rivers, knowingly that the river spills its banks on a regular basis.

The Question we should be asking ourselves in a modern context is – What is our Ark in the desert? What do we need to build in order to be resilient to the impacts of Climate Change?

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About Gaathier Mahed

Gaathier Mahed has a background in Hydrogeology with a focus on fractured rock. He received a MSc from the UNESCO Chair and a PhD in Geology from Nelson Mandela University. He has also undergone extensive technical training in aspects of Geophysics and Isotopes in Germany and Morocco, the latter sponsored through the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has worked in gold, uranium and coal mining as well as on shale gas research. He has served in his capacity as a consultant on various projects in the Earth Sciences for government, industry and academia.

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