Archaeological experts and scholars of antiquity have devoted an immense amount of time to understand the lifestyles, economic activities and social systems of ancient civilisations. After tireless and painstaking effort they have pieced together the evolution of early human societies and identified their levels of intellectual development. But they have deliberately ignored a fundamental dimension of this study. Under the pretext of objective research, investigation and reliance on facts they allow no possibility of religion, let alone the suggestion of any divine inspiration, to be considered as a potential factor in their explanations. Detailed descriptions of priests and temples in these ancient societies are given, but there is a refusal to acknowledge the possibility of any external source of guidance on earth directed by a creative force.
Instead these experts insist that in prehistoric societies the innate fear and terror felt by early human beings from natural threats and disasters led to the invention of religion. This was a direct consequence of their limited intelligence and understanding. However, the researchers of antiquity rarely display the courage to go beyond the period of polytheism. It is a general principle that the concept of ‘divine unity’ can be glimpsed in every pagan belief system. Idol worship in most societies came after a period of devotion to a single, universal deity. Looking at the Greek gods, we notice that before the families of Zeus and Hera and in the backdrop of all the gods of Mount Olympus, there was the great God Cronus who had the ability to swallow up all others. According to Greek mythology Cronus was later dethroned by Zeus. The explanation behind the spread of idolatry amongst the ancients is that as long as the belief in One God remained, the worship of idols and the creation of images and statues was strictly prohibited. Prophets and priests of that period followed supra-human, metaphysical guidance, worshipping one universal deity and shunning polytheism.
The concept of divine unity can also be found in the mythology and belief system of Hinduism. This states that the Aryans started with the One God Indira, the God of paradise, thunder and lightning. In the cultural period that followed, they linked the One God in the trinity of Mithra and Verona. In another conception of the trinity, the God of the Brahmans is the one and Absolute God. According to the description of Manu he is alone and has no partners. However, it is the attributes of this One God that are manifested in the forms of gods such as Vishnu and Shiva. It is a fact that all idol-worshipping mythologies end with the sovereignty of One God. Perhaps, the abstract and inaccessible concept of One God, led shortsighted and unprincipled priests, driven by greed and wealth, to create means of intercession so that they could have a share of the Absolute Sovereignty of God.
The flood of Noah is mentioned in almost every ancient mythology. The Bible, Torah and the Quran, all confirm that this was a universal flood that did not spare any unbeliever or polytheist. The passengers of Noah’s Ark were the ones who witnessed this major event and passed it on. It is certain that this mighty flood was not confined to the region of Mesopotamia, nor that it was the consequence of the transgression of the inhabitants of the Euphrates and Tigris. The fact is that as a result of this flood the children of Noah spread all over the world; the boundaries of human civilisation reached all the places where the human race is found today. If this had been an ordinary and localised flood its reports would not be found in all world mythologies which roughly originate around the same period after the flood and in similar societies.
It is possible to acknowledge that due to the intermingling of societies, the legend of the great flood entered the mythology of many cultures. However, this would have had to happen at a much later stage of mass human migration. This theory cannot explain how Manu, the founder of the human race in Hindu mythology, talks about the flood; how the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh mentions it in detail; how Scandinavian mythology is full of the stories of the flood. The reality is that the source of the stories of the great flood can only come from the survivors of the Ark, and this also explains how the story is found in myths and legends of cultures separated by time and space.
If this had been a localised flood, there would not have been any need to gather all the different animals, especially animals that are harmful to humans and have never been ‘befriended’ by Man. Looking after scorpions and snakes on a ship is not the most sensible thing to do. It is clear that this flood was a universal flood and God wanted to save the different types of species through His prophet - irrespective of whether these species were friends or enemies of Mankind.
Centuries later the report of this event reached other societies; but what need was there for these cultures, who had not experienced the flood themselves, to make this story part of their religious traditions in a very diligent manner? There seems to be only one explanation. To the survivors, this flood was a historical event of such magnitude that, like a terrifying threat, it seeped into the unconsciousness of Mankind. The terror it produced in their minds was so intense that even future generations could not forget it. Perhaps, God-fearing elders narrated the story of the flood to warn and caution the heedless of future generations so that the intellect could witness the consequences of misguidance.
There were two major trends after the great flood. First, the dispersal of the human species across the globe was accelerated. Crossing the boundaries of a specific region the descendants of Noah spread to every corner of the Earth - even building homes in regions of boundless ice and snow like the Eskimos (Inuit). Second, the worship of One God became the custom of every human society for a considerable period of time. Modern research into pre-history is still confined to the age of polytheism. Were we to advance beyond the period of statues and idols, we would discover the reality that monotheism came before polytheism. Existing civilised societies have their origin in the second period of the Neolithic or Stone Age. As yet there is little anthropological evidence of polytheism and idol worship in these early societies.
Another fact that cannot be ignored is that all early societies were religious communities, structured around a priestly class. At a time when the human race was preoccupied with seeking the means of survival, religious consciousness seems to be an exceptional phenomenon. Its presence cannot be explained by the usual workings of the mind. Early Man was not driven by the fear of death. Experience shows that when a single idea dominates every aspect of a person’s life, and when life and death are witnessed on a regular basis, the mind does not fear death; instead it is eager to forget its existence and not be reminded of it. It is impossible to imagine that the concept of an after-life, fear of a Creator, and philosophical and metaphysical ideas are the product of an uncivilised and underdeveloped human mind. Yet, the highly advanced and developed human mind of the modern age regards this life as the only and final stage of existence, and the thinkers of our time have reached the conclusion that religion and the notion of an after life are figments of the imagination. This shows that left to its own devices, the human mind cannot develop such metaphysical notions. How then did the primitive minds of early cultures arrive at such conclusions? A plausible explanation is that the cultures of that time may have received some external supra-human guidance. Their intellectual growth and development was influenced by a power greater than Man. In this way, the wild and untamed groups of humans were given the means to culture their minds.
Prehistoric Man does appear to be different from other animals, but not to the degree that one of our ancestors was able to develop the intelligence to undertake a Ph.D. in rocket engineering. Educational advances were slow and rudimentary, requiring many centuries, not years to make small steps of progress. The human mind was like that of a child whose hand has to be held in order to teach them anything, or like that of an undisciplined student who has to be taught through understanding, coaxing and gentle threats. But who was there to teach the wild and undisciplined human being of prehistoric times? There is only one answer to this question: God.
(Translated from Muqaddama-tul-Quran (pp.110-114)
An English Edition of Muqaddama-tul-Quran by Prof.Ahmad Rafique Akhtar