قَالُوا يَا نُوحُ قَدْ جَادَلْتَنَا فَأَكْثَرْتَ جِدَالَنَا فَأْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ
They said, ‘O Nuh, you have disputed with us already, and you have disputed with us a lot. Now bring us what you threaten us with if you are truthful.
(Sūrat Hūd, No.11, Āyat 32)
When people do not want to accept the truth, they dismiss it in derogatory terms. Reasonable arguments are seen negatively and ridiculed. In the above verse we see the response of the people of Prophet Nuh (a) to his preaching and admonishing. Instead of looking at what might be true in his words, they brush it off.
The words of the people show the following qualities:
a) Rudeness. Despite the soft and caring approach of the Prophet they are not considerate enough to be polite to him. Even when we don’t agree with someone, Islam recommends the use of good and respectful language.
b) Arrogance. They consider the words of the Prophet to be a dispute with them. They are not able to understand the sincerity and nobility of the Prophet.
c) Heedlessness. The people are not aware of the true meaning of life and are not willing to think about deeper realities behind human creation. The indulgences in life of this world have put a curtain over their eyes.
d) Stubbornness. Despite all the words the Prophet said to them, the hearts of the people are sealed against the truth. They do not believe that there will be any punishment that will come down upon them.
When people do not understand something, or do not even want to understand it, one of the strategies they use is ridicule. It is a tactic which only works if the opposite side is vulnerable and succumbs to the ridicule. Prophet Nuh (a) responds calmly to the arrogance of is people. He says: Allah will only bring it to you if He wills, and you will not cause [Him] failure. And my advice will not benefit you – although I wished to advise you – If Allah should intend to put you in error. He is your Lord, and to Him you will be returned. (11:33-34) He attributes everything to Allah and shows that it is only Allah who controls all things, not the people.
People reject truth because of pride in accepting something that will falsify what they have previously believed. That is too difficult a pill to swallow. The Quran explains this very clearly; Indeed, those who dispute concerning the signs of Allah without [any] authority having come to them – there is not within their breasts except pride, [the extent of] which they cannot reach. (40:56). Rejection could also be because they fear the consequences of accepting the truth. They do not wish to abide by any laws or moral conduct dictated by religion. Imam Ali (a) says; Disbelief (al-kufr) is built upon four pillars – immorality, exaggeration, doubt, and suspicion. (Al -Kāfī, v 2, p 391)
This verse is a reminder of the rejection faced by the Prophets. A similar dismissal of truth is seen in the modern world today. As believers we need to see the roots of that rejection rather than be influenced by it.
Sources: Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr.