The people of Salih “Methusaleh” ( Thamud ) – Previous nations 5

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful


The tribe of) Thamud rejected warnings (23) For they said; Is it a mortal man, alone among us, that we are to follow? Then indeed we should fall into error and madness. (24) Hath the remembrance been given unto him alone among us? Nay, but he is a rash liar. (25) (Unto their warner it was said): To-morrow they will know who is the rash liar. (26) Lo! We are sending the she-camel as a test for them; so watch them and have patience; (27) And inform them that the water is to be shared between (her and) them. Every drinking will be witnessed. (28) But they call their comrade and he took and hamstrung (her). (29) Then see how (dreadful) was My punishment after My warnings! (30) Lo! We sent upon them one Shout, and they became as the dry twigs (rejected by) the builder of a cattle-fold. (31) And in truth We have made the Qur’an easy to remember; but is there any that remembereth? (32)

Surah Al-Qamar – verse 23 – 32

كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِالنُّذُرِ ﴿58:23﴾
(54:23) Thamud gave the lie to the warnings,
فَقَالُوا أَبَشَرًا مِنَّا وَاحِدًا نَتَّبِعُهُ إِنَّا إِذًا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ ﴿58:24﴾
(54:24) saying: “Are we to follow a single mortal, *17 one from among ourselves? If we do that, we shall surely be in error and folly.
*17 In other words, there were three reasons for their refusal to obey and follow the Prophet Salih: (1) “He is a human being and not a super-human person so that we may regard him as superior to ourselves. ” (2) “He is a member of our own nation: he is in no way superior to us.” (3) `He is a single man, one from among ourselves. He is not a prominent chief with a large following, or an army of soldiers. Or a host of attendants so that we may acknowledge his superiority.” They wanted that a Prophet should either be a superman, or if he be a common man, he should not have been born in their own land and nation, but should have descended from above, or sent from another land, and if nothing else, he should at least have been a rich man, whose extraordinary splendour should make the people believe why AIIah had selected him alone for the leadership of the nation. This same was the error of ignorance in which the disbelievers of Makkah were involved. They also refused to acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad (UpOn Whom be Allah’s peace and blessings) as a Prophet on the ground that he was a man who moved about in the streets like the common men, had been born among them only . the other day and now was claiming that God had appointed him as a Prophet.
أَءُلْقِيَ الذِّكْرُ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ بَيْنِنَا بَلْ هُوَ كَذَّابٌ أَشِرٌ ﴿58:25﴾
(54:25) Was there none but he to whom the Reminder could be vouchsafed excluding all others? Nay; he is an insolent liar.” *18
*18 The word ashir of the original means a conceited, insolent person given to bragging of his own superiority over others.
سَيَعْلَمُونَ غَدًا مَنِ الْكَذَّابُ الْأَشِرُ ﴿58:26﴾
(54:26) (We told Our Messenger): “Tomorrow they shall know who is the insolent liar.
إِنَّا مُرْسِلُواْ النَّاقَةِ فِتْنَةً لَهُمْ فَارْتَقِبْهُمْ وَاصْطَبِرْ ﴿58:27﴾
(54:27) We shall send the she-camel as a trial for them; so watch their end with patience.
وَنَبِّئْهُمْ أَنَّ الْمَاءَ قِسْمَةٌ بَيْنَهُمْ كُلُّ شِرْبٍ مُحْتَضَرٌ ﴿58:28﴾
(54:28) Let them know that the water should be divided between them and the she-camel, each availing their turn.” *19
*19 This explains the verse: “We are sending the she-camel as a trial for them.” The trial was that suddenly a she-camel was produced before them and they were told that one day she would drink the water aII by herself and the next. day they would be allowed to have water for themselves and their cattle. On the day of her turn neither would any of them himself come to any of the springs and wells to take water nor bring his cattle for watering. This challenge was given on behalf of the person about whom they themselves admitted that he had no army and no hosts to support him.
فَنَادَوْا صَاحِبَهُمْ فَتَعَاطَى فَعَقَرَ ﴿58:29﴾
(54:29) Eventually, they summoned their companion, and he undertook the (outrageous) task and hamstrung the she-camel. *20
*20 These words by themselves indicate that the she-camel roamed at will in their settlements for along period of time. No one could dare approach a source of water on the day of her turn. At last, they called out to a haughty chief of theirs who was well known for his courage and boldness, and urged him to put an end to her Emboldened by the false encouragement he took up the responsibility and killed the she-camel. This clearly means that the people were very frightened. They felt that she had extraordinary power, and so they dared not touch her with .m evil intention. That is why the killing of a mere she-camel especially when the Prophet who had presented her, did not possess any army that could be a deterrent for them. amounted to undertaking a dangerous and difficult task. (For further details. see E.N 58 of Surah AI-A’raf and E.N.’s 104. 105 of Surah AshShua’ra’ ).
فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ ﴿58:30﴾
(54:30) So how awesome were My chastisement and My warnings!
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ صَيْحَةً وَاحِدَةً فَكَانُوا كَهَشِيمِ الْمُحْتَظِرِ ﴿58:31﴾
(54:31) Behold, We sent a single Blast against them, and they became like the trampled twigs of a sheep pen-builder. *21
*21 The crushed and rotten bodies of the people of Thamud have been compared to the trampled and trodden twigs and pieces of bush Iying around an enclosure for cattle.
وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآَنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّكِرٍ ﴿58:32﴾
(54:32) Surely We have made this Qur’an easy as a reminder. Is there, then, any who will take heed?
And unto (the tribe of) Thamud (We sent) their brother Salih. He said: O my people! Serve Allah, Ye have no other God save Him. He brought you forth from the earth and hath made you husband it. So ask forgiveness of Him and turn unto Him repentant. Lo! my Lord is Nigh, Responsive. (61) They said! O Salih! Thou hast been among us hitherto as that wherein our hope was placed. Dost thou ask us not to worship what our fathers worshipped? Lo! we verily are in grave doubt concerning that to which thou callest us. (62) He said: O my people! Bethink you: if I am (acting) on clear proof from my Lord and there hath come unto me a mercy from Him, who will save me from Allah if I disobey Him? Ye would add to me naught save perdition. (63) O my people! This is the camel of Allah, a token unto you, so suffer her to feed in Allah’s earth, and touch her not with harm lest a near torment seize you. (64) But they hamstrung her, and then he said: enjoy life in your dwelling-place three days! This is a threat that will not be belied. (65) So, when Our commandment came to pass, We saved Salih, and those who believed with him, by a mercy from Us, from the ignominy of that day. Lo, thy Lord! He is the Strong, the Mighty. (66) And the (awful) Cry overtook those who did wrong, so that morning found them prostrate in their dwellings, (67) As though they had not dwelt there. Lo! Thamud disbelieved in their Lord. A far removal for Thamud! (68)
Surah Hud – verse 61-68
وَإِلَى ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَهٍ غَيْرُهُ هُوَ أَنْشَأَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ وَاسْتَعْمَرَكُمْ فِيهَا فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ إِنَّ رَبِّي قَرِيبٌ مُجِيبٌ ﴿11:61﴾
(11:61) And to Thamud We sent their brother Sali’h. *66 He said: ‘My people! Serve Allah; you have no god other than Him. He brought you into being out of the earth, and has made you dwell in it. *67 So ask Him to forgive you, and do turn towards Him in repentance. *68 Indeed My Lord is near, responsive to prayers . *69
*66. For further information see Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. Ill, al-A’raf, nn. 57-62, pp. 45-8. *67. This substantiates the fact that there is no god other than the One True God; and that He should be the sole object of worship and service. Now, even those who associated others with God in His divinity acknowledged that it is Allah alone Who created them. Using this obvious premise, Prophet Salih (peace be on him) sought to persuade people to affirm that God alone should be worshipped. He emphasized that it is God alone Who had made them into human beings out of the lifeless materials from the earth, and had subsequently settled them on earth. In view of this, who else than God could claim godhead? Likewise, who else could claim that he ought to be served and worshipped? *68. The Thamud had been guilty of worshipping others besides God. They are now urged to seek God’s forgiveness for this grave sin. *69. This verse is aimed at removing a major misconception which had been prevalent among the polytheists. This misconception is in fact one of the major reasons which prompted men to associate others with God in His divinity. One of man’s most persistent faults is that he has conceived God to be similar to those worldly rulers who immerse themselves in a life of ease and luxury in their grand palaces. Such rulers are normally far removed from their subjects. To all intents and purposes they are well beyond the direct access of their subjects. The only way for their subjects to reach them is through the auspices of their favourite courtiers. And even if a subject succeeds in conveying his pleadings through a courtier, these rulers are often too arrogant to directly respond to such pleadings. This is one aspect of the function of a courtier – to communicate to a ruler the pleadings of his subjects, and also to communicate to the subjects the response of the ruler. Since God was often conceived in the image of such worldly rulers many people fell prey to the false belief that God is well above the reach of ordinary human beings. This belief spread further because many clever people found it quite profitable to propagate such a notion. No wonder many people felt God could only be approached through powerful intermediaries and intercessors. The only way that a person’s prayer could reach God and be answered by Him was to approach Him through one of the holy men. It was, therefore, considered necessary to grease the palm of the religious functionaries who supposedly enjoyed the privilege of conveying a man’s offerings and prayers to the One on high. This misconception gave birth to a pantheon of small and large deities and intercessors who are supposed to act as intermediaries between man and God. This misconception has given rise to institutionalized priesthood, according to which no ritual, whether relating to birth or death, can be performed without the active participation of the priests. Prophet Salih (peace be on him) strikes at the root of this ignorant system, and totally demolishes its intellectual infrastructure. This he does by emphasizing two facts: that God is extremely close to His creatures and that He answers their prayers. Thus he refutes many misconceptions about God: that He is far away, altogether withdrawn from human beings, and that He does not answer their prayers if they are to directly approach Him. God, no doubt, is transcendent, and yet He is extremely close to every person. Everyone will find Him just beside himself. Everyone can whisper to Him the innermost desires of his heart. Everyone can address his prayers to God both in public and in private, by verbally expressing those prayers or addressing them to Him without so much as uttering a single word. Moreover, God answers the prayers of all His creatures directly. The fact is that God’s court with all its majesty is just around everyone’s corner, so close to one’s threshold, and always open to all. How silly it is, therefore, for people to search for those intercessors who they think will help them approach God, (See also Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. I, al-Baqarah 2, n. 188.)
قَالُوا يَا صَالِحُ قَدْ كُنْتَ فِينَا مَرْجُوًّا قَبْلَ هَذَا أَتَنْهَانَا أَنْ نَعْبُدَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آَبَاؤُنَا وَإِنَّنَا لَفِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ مُرِيبٍ ﴿11:62﴾
(11:62) They said: ‘O Salih! Until now you were one of those among us on whom we placed great hopes. *70 Now, would you forbid us to worship what our forefathers were wont to worship? *71 Indeed we are in disquieting doubt about what you are calling us to. *72
*70 The people of Salih (peace be on him) centred many expectations around him. On account of his wisdom, intelligence, maturity, and dignified personality they expected Salih to rise to great heights. They also believed that he would not only achieve personal greatness and prosperity, but would also assist his people in their bid to excel against other tribes and nations in terms of worldly benefits. However, no sooner had Salih begun to teach his people that they are obligated to exclusively worship and serve the One True God and pay due heed to the Hereafter than they became altogether disenchanted with him. It may be recalled that the predicament of the Makkan unbelievers was no different from that of the people of Salih (peace be on him). The Makkans also recognized that Muhammad (peace be on him) was a person of outstanding qualities. They were confident that he would grow into a very successful merchant and that they would also benefit from his trading acumen. But then they found that the Prophet (peace be on him), contrary to their expectations, began to invite them to serve and worship the One True God. He also began to urge (hem to pay heed to the Next Life and to observe moral excellence. They were instantly disappointed and became totally averse to him. They even began to give vent to the idea that the Prophet (peace be on him) who for so long had been a perfectly normal person, was now seized by some strange mental disease. In their view it was because of this mental derailment that he had ruined his own life and also threw cold water on the hopes and expectations of his people. *71. This was the main reason which the unbelievers advanced to support their view, the rationale they offered for the worship of the deities in which they believed. The simple reason was, as stated here and elsewhere in the Qur’an, that their ancestors had also worshipped them! This brings into sharp relief the fundamental difference between the rationale offered by Islam and that offered by jahiliyah. Salih (peace be on him) had said that none but God deserves to be worshipped. He argued that since God had created human beings and had enabled them to settle on earth, they, therefore, ought to worship Him. The unbelievers responded by saying that their deities also deserved to be worshipped, indeed had been worshipped by their ancestors and so they could not just forsake them. In other words, they proclaimed their commitment to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors even if those ancestors had been altogether ignorant and stupid. *72. The Qur’an does not specify the ‘disquieting doubt’ to which the unbelievers were subjected. The reason for this is that although all of them had doubts, the doubt entertained by each was different. It may even be said that whenever people are asked to accept the truth, all those who believe in one kind of falsehood or the other feel disturbed. The complacent faith which they had before they became acquainted with the truth is simply gone, and a ‘disquieting doubt’ creeps in and begins to agitate them. Although each of them may feel this differently, an amount of disquiet is nevertheless common to all unbelievers. Before the unbelievers were invited to the truth, they may never have felt the need to critically examine their position. But after the call to the truth has been made such an attitude can no longer persist. This is so because the trenchant criticism of jahiliyah made by the Prophet of the day together with his weighty arguments in support of his teachings is bound to have its effect. Moreover, his lofty morals, his firmness, his forbearance, his grace and dignity, his straightforward and honest ways, and his wisdom and sagacity create a certain respect for him even among his staunchest enemies. Not only that but the people concerned cannot help but notice that the best elements in the society of the day are continually drawn to the call of the truth. They also observe that as a result of embracing the truth the lives of these people are perceptibly transformed. Taken together, all these factors agitate the minds of those who wish to cling to and even promote the old jahiliyah even after the truth has been made known to them.
قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُ عَلَى بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّي وَآَتَانِي مِنْهُ رَحْمَةً فَمَنْ يَنْصُرُنِي مِنَ اللَّهِ إِنْ عَصَيْتُهُ فَمَا تَزِيدُونَنِي غَيْرَ تَخْسِيرٍ ﴿11:63﴾
(11:63) Salih said: ‘My people! What do you think? If I had a clear evidence from my Lord, and then He also bestowed His mercy upon me, who will rescue me from the punishment of Allah if I still disobey Him? You can only make me lose even more. *73
*73. Prophet Salih (peace be on him) makes it clear to his people that if he were to follow the advice which they offered him, it would virtually lead to his perdition. Were Salih (peace be on him) to act contrary to his conscience and in opposition to the knowledge and guidance intimated to him by God, he would be liable to God’s punishment, and his people would be helpless in their efforts to rescue him from that punishment. Moreover, Salih (peace be on him) was not an ordinary person but a Prophet. This made his dereliction in the sight of God even more grave. For, God would take him to task on the grounds that although he had been encumbered with the duty to direct his people to the right way, he had consciously led them to error.
وَيَا قَوْمِ هَذِهِ نَاقَةُ اللَّهِ لَكُمْ آَيَةً فَذَرُوهَا تَأْكُلْ فِي أَرْضِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تَمَسُّوهَا بِسُوءٍ فَيَأْخُذَكُمْ عَذَابٌ قَرِيبٌ ﴿11:64﴾
(11:64) My people! This she-camel of Allah is a sign for you. So let her pasture on Allah’s earth, and do not hurt her or else some chastisement – which is near at hand -should overtake you.’
فَعَقَرُوهَا فَقَالَ تَمَتَّعُوا فِي دَارِكُمْ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ ذَلِكَ وَعْدٌ غَيْرُ مَكْذُوبٍ ﴿11:65﴾
(11:65) But they slaughtered her. Thereupon Salih warned them: ‘Enjoy yourselves in your homes for a maximum of three days. This is a promise which shall not be belied.’
فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا نَجَّيْنَا صَالِحًا وَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا مَعَهُ بِرَحْمَةٍ مِنَّا وَمِنْ خِزْيِ يَوْمِئِذٍ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ الْقَوِيُّ الْعَزِيزُ ﴿11:66﴾
(11:66) Then, when Our command came to pass, We saved Salih and those who shared his faith through Our special mercy, from the disgrace of that day. *74 Truly Your Lord is All-Strong, All-Mighty.
*74. The folk traditions of the Sinaitic Peninsula indicate that when a severe punishment afflicted the Thamud, Salih (peace be on him) migrated to Sinai. Hence, close to the Mount of Moses there is a hillock called Nabi Salih. These traditions make one believe that it is here that Prophet Salih (peace be on him) lived.
وَأَخَذَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا الصَّيْحَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دِيَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ ﴿11:67﴾
(11:67) And the Blast overtook those who were wont to do wrong, and then they lay lifeless in their homes
كَأَنْ لَمْ يَغْنَوْا فِيهَا أَلَا إِنَّ ثَمُودَ كَفَرُوا رَبَّهُمْ أَلَا بُعْدًا لِثَمُودَ ﴿11:68﴾
(11:68) as though they had never lived there before. Oh, verily the Thamud denied their Lord! Oh, the Thamud were destroyed.
And lo! thy Lord, He is indeed the Mighty, the Merciful. (140) (The tribe of) Thamud denied the messengers (of Allah) (141) When their brother Salih said unto them: Will ye not ward off (evil)? (142) Lo! I am a faithful messenger unto you, (143) So keep your duty to Allah and obey me. (144) And I ask of you no wage therefor; my wage is the concern only of the Lord of the Worlds. (145) Will ye be left secure in that which is here before us, (146) In gardens and watersprings. (147) And tilled fields and heavy-sheathed palm-trees, (148) Though ye hew out dwellings in the mountain, being skilful? (149) Therefor keep your duty to Allah and obey me, (150) And obey not the command of the prodigal, (151) Who spread corruption in the earth, and reform not. (152) They said: Thou art but one of the bewitched; (153) Thou art but a mortal like us. So bring some token if thou art of the truthful. (154) He said: (Behold) this she-camel. She hath the right to drink (at the well), and ye have the right to drink, (each) on an appointed day. (155) And touch her not with ill lest there come on you the retribution of an awful Day. (156) But they hamstrung her, and then were penitent. (157) So the retribution came on them. Lo! herein is indeed a portent, yet most of them are not believers. (158) And lo! thy Lord! He is indeed the Mighty, the Merciful. (159)
Surah Al-Shuara – verse 140-159
كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ الْمُرْسَلِينَ ﴿26:141﴾
(26:141) Thamud rejected the Messengers. *95
*95 For comparison, see Al-A’raf: 73-79, Hud: 61-68, AI-Hijr: 80-84, Bani Isra’il 59; and for further details, see An-Naml . 45-53, Az-Zariyat: 43-45, AI-Qamar: 23-31, AI-Haqqah: 4-5, Al-Fajr: 9, and Ash-Shams: 11. _Thamud achieved power and glory after the destruction of ‘Ad and as far as progress in civilization is concerned, they followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. In their case, too, the standards of living went on rising higher and higher and the standards of humanity continued to fall lower and lower, suffering one deterioration after the other. On the one hand, they erected large edifices on the plains and hewed beautiful houses out of the hills like those in the caves of Ellora and Ajanta in India, and on the other, they became addicted to idol-worship and the land was filled with tyranny and oppression. The worst men became leaders and rulers in the land. As such, Prophet Salih’s message of Truth only appealed to the weak people belonging to the lower social strata and the people of the upper classes refused to believe in him.
إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ صَالِحٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ ﴿26:142﴾
(26:142) Remember the time when their brother Salih said to them, “Do you not fear?
إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ ﴿26:143﴾
(26:143) I am a Messenger to you worthy of full trust *96 :
*96 According to the Qur’an, the people of Prophet Salih themselves admitted that he was a man of great integrity and extraordinary calibre: “They said, ‘O Salih, till now you were such a person among us of whom we had great expectations.” (Hud: 62)
فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ ﴿26:144﴾
(26:144) so fear Allah and obey me.
وَمَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿26:145﴾
(26:145) I do not ask of you any reward for this duty, for my reward is with the Lord of the worlds.
أَتُتْرَكُونَ فِي مَا هَاهُنَا آَمِنِينَ ﴿26:146﴾
(26:146) Will you be left in security amidst all that is around you here? *97 –
*97 hat is, “Do you consider that your life of indulgence and pleasure is everlasting, and you will never be asked to account for Allah’s favours to you and for your own misdeeds?”
فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ ﴿26:147﴾
(26:147) in the gardens and the water-springs?
وَزُرُوعٍ وَنَخْلٍ طَلْعُهَا هَضِيمٌ ﴿26:148﴾
(26:148) in the corn-fields and the date-groves laden with juicy fruit? *98
*98 Hadim. heavy bunches of ripe, juicy and soft date-palm fruit hanging from trees –
وَتَنْحِتُونَ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا فَارِهِينَ ﴿26:149﴾
(26:149) You proudly carve out dwellings in the hills. *99
*99 Just as the most prominent feature of the ‘Ad civilization was that they built large edifices with high pillars, so the most prominent feature of the _Thamud civilization for which they were known among the ancient peoples was that they carved out dwellings in the hills. That is why in Surah Fajr, the `Ad have been referred to as “(people) of the illars”, and the _Thamud as “those who hewed rocks in the valley”. These people also built castles on the plains, the purpose and object of which was nothing but display of wealth and power and architectural skill as there was no real necessity for them. These are, in fact, the ways of the perverted people: the poor among them do not have proper shelters, and the wealthy members not only have sufficient fine dwellings but over and above those they raise monuments for ostentation and display. Some of these Thamudic works exist even today, which I have seen in December, 1959. (See pictures. This place is situated between AI-Madinah and Tabuk, a few miles to the north of Al-‘Ula (Wad-il-Qura of the Holy Prophet’s time) in Hejaz. The local inhabitants call it AI-Hijr and Mada’in Salih even today. AI-‘Ula is still a green and fertile valley abounding in water springs and gardens, but AI-Hijr appears to be an abandoned place. It has thin population, little greenery and a few wells one of which is said to be the one at which Prophet Salih’s shecamel used to drink water. This well is now dry and located within a deserted military post of the time of the Turks. When we entered this territory and approached AI-‘Ula, we found hills which seemed to have been shattered to pieces from top to bottom as if by a violent earthquake. (See pictures on the opposite pages). We saw the same kind of hills while travelling to the east, from AI-`Ula to Khaibar, for about 50 miles, and towards the north inside Jordan, for about 30 to 40 miles. This indicated that an area, stretching well over 300 to 400 miles in length and 100 miles in width, had been devastated by the terrible earthquake. A few of the _Thamudic type monuments that we saw at AI-Hijr were also found at Madyan along the Gulf of ‘Aqabah and at Petra in Jordan. At Petra specially the Thamudic and Nabataean works stand side by side, and their styles and architectural designs are so different that anyone who examines them will find that they were neither built in the same age nor by the same nation. (See pictures for contrast). Doughty, the British orientalist, in his attempt to prove the Qur’an as false, has claimed that the works found at Al-HIijr were not carved out by Thamud but by the Nabataeans.I am of the view that the art of carving houses out of the rocks started with the _Thamud, and thousands of years later, in the second and first centuries B.C., it was considerably developed by the Nabataeans and it reached perfection in the works of the caves of Ellora, which were carved out about 700 years after Petra.
فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ ﴿26:150﴾
(26:150) Fear Allah and obey me,
وَلَا تُطِيعُوا أَمْرَ الْمُسْرِفِينَ ﴿26:151﴾
(26:151) and do not follow the transgressors
الَّذِينَ يُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا يُصْلِحُونَ ﴿26:152﴾
(26:152) who spread mischief in the land and reform nothing.” *100
*100 That is, “You should give up obedience to your chiefs, guides and rulers under whose leadership you are following an evil way of life. These people have transgressed all bounds of morality: they cannot bring about any reforms and they will corrupt every system of life that they adopt: The only way for you towards success and well-being is that you should inculcate fear of God, give up obedience to the misguides and obey me, because I am God’s Messenger: you are fully aware of my honesty and integrity: I have no personal interest and motive for undertaking the work of reform. ” This was in short the manifesto which Prophet Salih presented before his people: it not only contained the religious message but invitation to cultural, moral and political revolution as well.
قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مِنَ الْمُسَحَّرِينَ ﴿26:153﴾
(26:153) They replied, “You are , only an enchanted person : *101
*101 “Enchanted person”: Mad and insane person who has lost reasoning power. According to the ancient conceptions, madness was either due to the influence of a jinn or magic. That is why a mad person was either called majnun (one under the influence of a jinn) or one enchanted by magic.
مَا أَنْتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُنَا فَأْتِ بِآَيَةٍ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿26:154﴾
(26:154) “you are no more than a man like us: bring forth a sign if you are truthful.” *102
*102 That is, “We cannot believe you to be a Messenger from God because you are just like us and we see no distinction in you. However, if you are true in your claim that God has appointed you as His Messenger, you should present such a clear miracle as should make us believe that you have really been sent by the Creator and Master of the universe.
قَالَ هَذِهِ نَاقَةٌ لَهَا شِرْبٌ وَلَكُمْ شِرْبُ يَوْمٍ مَعْلُومٍ ﴿26:155﴾
(26:155) Salih. said, “Here is a she-camel. *103 One day will be for her to drink, and one day for you all to take water. *104
*103 From the context it appears that it was not a common she-camel, but it was brought about in a supernatural manner because it was presented in response to the demand for a miracle. Prophet Salih. could not have produced before the people an ordinary she-camel as a proof of his Prophethood because that would not have satisfied them. Ai other places in the Qur’an it has been clearly referred to as a miracle. In Surah Al-A`raf and Hud it has been said: “….here is Allah’s she camel, a Sign for you.” (VII: 73) In Surah Bani Isra’il the same thing has been stated more emphatically: “And nothing has hindered Us from sending Signs except that the former people refused to acknowledge them as such. (For example) We sent the she-camel as an open Sign to Thamud but they treated her with cruelty; whereas We send Signs only by way of warning.” (v. 59) Moreover, the challenge given to the wicked people of Thamud, after presenting the she-camel before them, was such that it could only be given after presenting a miracle. *104 That is, “One day the she-camel will drink water all alone at your wells and springs, and one day you and your animals will take water, and this arrangement will not be violated in any way.” There could hardly be a greater challenge for the people of Arabia, for taking of water had been the foremost cause of feuds and fights among them, which mostly resulted in bloodshed, even loss of life. As such, the challenge given by Prophet Salih was indeed a challenge to the whole nation, which could not be acceptable unless the people were sure that the challenger had a great power at his back. But Prophet Salih threw this challenge all by himself without any worldly power behind him, and the whole nation not only received it quietly, but also abided by it submissively for quite some days. In Surahs Al-A`raf and Hud there is an addition to this: “Here is Allah’s she-camel, a Sign for you. So let her graze at will in Allah’s land, and do not touch her with an evil intention.” (XI: 64) That is, the challenge was not only this that the she-camel would drink water all alone every alternate day, but, in addition, she would freely move about and graze at will in their fields and gardens and palm groves and pastures and was not to be touched with an evil intention.
وَلَا تَمَسُّوهَا بِسُوءٍ فَيَأْخُذَكُمْ عَذَابُ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ ﴿26:156﴾
(26:156) Do not at all molest her; otherwise you will be overtaken by the torment of a dreadful day”.
فَعَقَرُوهَا فَأَصْبَحُوا نَادِمِينَ ﴿26:157﴾
(26:157) Yet they hamstrung her, *105 and then became regretful,
*105 This dces not mean that as soon as they heard the challenge, they attacked the she-camel at once and hamstrung her. Actually, when the she-camel became a problem for the whole nation, the hearts of the people were filled with rage, and they began to hold lengthy consultations as to how to get rid of her. At last, a haughty chief undertook the task of putting an end to her, as mentioned in SurahAsh-Shams thus: “When arose the most villainous of the people.. .” (v. 12) and in Surah Al-Qamarthus: “They appealed to their companion; so he took up the responsibility and hamstrung (her).” (v. 29).
فَأَخَذَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآَيَةً وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿26:158﴾
(26:158) for the torment overtook them. *106 . Indeed there is a Sign in this, but most of these people would not believe;
*106 As stated at other places in the Qur’an, when the she-camel was killed, Prophet Salih declared: “You have only three more days to enjoy yourselves in your houses.” (Hud: 65) When this time limit came to an end, a shocking explosion took place in the night at about dawn, followed by a violent earthquake, which destroyed the whole nation completely. In the morning their dead bodies lay scattered here and there like dry pieces of bush trampled down by animals around an enclosure. Neither their stony castles nor their rock-hewn caves could protect them against the calamity. “We sent against them a single blast and they became as the trampled twigs of the fence of a fold-builder.” (AI-Qamar: 31). “Consequently a shocking catastrophe overtook them and they lay lifeless in their dwellings” (Al-A’raf: 78). “At last a violent blast overtook them with the approach of the morning, and all that they had achieved proved of no avail to them.” (AIHijr: 83, 84).
وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿26:159﴾
(26:159) and the fact is that your Lord is Mighty as well as Merciful
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