Women, men and gods: when do we deserve the flood?

About twenty years ago, the principal of a French school in Lebanon called on me to teach “the religious fact” in primary classes. In his Christian school, 80% of the students were Muslim and the Bible class was no longer adequate. It was there that she was inspired by Régis Debray.

While I was discussing with her the program I was developing for the CE1 class, she suggested that I start with Noah’s Ark, because it contained animals and that the children would like it. I was devastated. How to explain to children that God had killed all of humanity in one fell swoop? What image would they have of God? I myself couldn’t believe this story. I didn’t see what could legitimize it, perhaps because I had not yet witnessed the evil that humans can be capable of on a large scale. I had read and not yet witnessed the horrors made by men, such as the Shoah or the atomic bomb. I had always experienced war and its vices, it is true, but when Daesh exposed all the evil that human beings are capable of through their hands, it was something else. Then came Gaza to show all the vice that humans can be capable of through their silence.

There I found myself calling it, this flood.

Injustice, violence, blindness

The Koran, for its part, puts forward the criteria which brought about the Flood. The first is injustice: “And the people of Noah, when they had denied the messengers, We drowned them and made them a sign of warning to the people. And We have prepared for the wrongdoers a painful punishment.” (Al-Furqan 25:37).

The second is violence: “Like the people of Noah before, for they were even more unjust and more violent” (Al-Najm 53:52).

The third is blindness: “We saved him and those who were with him in the ark, and drowned those who denied Our signs. They were blind people, really” (Al-A’raf 7:64).

When we are consciously blind and silent in the face of incredible injustice and violence, do we not deserve a flood?

This verse could in fact be read as addressing all of us: “Did not the history of those who preceded them reach them: the people of Noah, of Aad, of Tamud, of Abraham, of the people of Madyan, and of the overthrown Cities? Their messengers had brought them clear proof. It was not God who was unjust to them, but they who were unjust to themselves. (Al-Tawba 9:70).

We are unfair to ourselves when we are unfair to the concept of humanity but also to the concept of divinity. When we consider some lives worth more than others, when we legitimize cruelty and inhumanity, and when we attribute all of this to God’s command or His promise, we are at the heart of injustice and delirium.

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