After the ‘Ad
The people of Thamud were the heirs to the ‘Ad as they were the heirs to the community of Nuh. The Thamud followed after the ‘Ad as the ‘Ad had followed after Nuh. The land of Thamud was also a beautiful green land of gardens with running rivers and springs.
The Thamud were the same as the ‘Ad in their culture and crops and in the vast number of their gardens. They excelled the ‘Ad in intelligence and skill. They carved beautiful and spacious houses out of the mountains, and produced wonderful paintings on the stones. They skilfully worked stone as others might use soft wax.
Visitors to their city saw great palaces like mountains, looking as if they had been built by the jinn, colourful flowers painted on the walls looking as fresh as if the spring had brought them out.
Allah poured out blessings both in the heavens and the earth for the Thamud. Heaven was generous to them with rain. The earth was generous to them with plants and flowers. The gardens were generous to them with fruits. Allah blessed them in provisions and livelihood.
The Thamud’s disbelief
However, none of that moved the people of
Thamud to be grateful and worship the glory and greatness of Allah. It led them to reject Allah and to be unjust. They forgot Allah while they rejoiced in what they had been given. They would say: ‘Who is stronger than us?’ They lived as if they believed that death would never enter their palaces and gardens, that they would own and enjoy them forever.
They thought that death would find no way to reach them in their high mountains. They thought that Nuh’s community had only been drowned because they had been in a valley and that the ‘Ad had been destroyed because they lived on a plain. They believed that the people of Thamud were in a place safe from fear and death.
But the people of Thamud went still further in their thanklessness. From the stones they carved they made idols and worshipped them, just as the community of Nuh and of the ‘Ad had done.
Allah had made them masters of stone, but in their ignorance they became the slaves of stones. Allah had raised them up and provided them with good things, but they lowered themselves and dishonoured mankind. Allah does not wrong people at all, but people wrong themselves. (10: 44)
What strange madness! The very stones they carved, and with their own hands; stones that could neither hear them nor answer them in any way! They abased themselves before bits of senseless, lifeless rock and fell down in prostration.
Do the strong worship the weak? Does the master prostrate to his slave? But they forgot Allah and forgot themselves. They refused to worship Allah, so Allah brought down their pride.
Salih, the messenger
Allah willed for the people of Thamud a messenger. He sent them a messenger as He had sent one to the community of Nuh and then to the ‘Ad.
Allah does not like His slaves to reject Him. Allah does not like corruption in the earth.
There was a man among them whose name was Salih. He had been born in a noble house and grew up intelligent and virtuous. Indeed, he was such a noble and sensible youth that people would point him out and say: This is Salih! This is Salih!’ People had great hopes for him and thought that one day he would be one of their noblest and wealthiest men. They thought that he would have a great castle and a beautiful garden.
His father thought that his son would obtain great wealth through his intelligence and would stand out among people. He thought that he would ride on a fine horse followed by servants. People would greet him and say, This is the son of So-and-so!’ How happy he imagined he would be when he heard people saying that he was most fortunate in his son who had become so very rich!
But Allah willed otherwise. Allah wanted to honour Salih with prophethood and to send him to his people to bring them out of the darkness into the light. What honour is greater, what nobility is higher, than that?
Salih stood up among his people, saying in his
loudest voice, ‘О my people, worship Allah. You have no god but Him.’ (11: 61)
The rich people were busy eating and drinking, playing and amusing themselves. They worshipped idols and thought that there was no other god.
They did not like Salih’s call. The wealthy men of Thamud became angry and exclaimed, ‘Who is this?’
The servants replied, ‘This is Salih.’
They asked, ‘What does he say?’
They said, ‘He says: “Worship Allah. You have no god but Him.” He says that Allah will raise you up after your death and repay you. He says: “I am Allah’s messenger. He has sent me to my people.'”
The rich people laughed and said, ‘A pauper! Can this man be a messenger? He has neither palace nor garden. He has neither crops nor palm-trees. How can he be a messenger?’
The propaganda of the rich
The rich of Thamud saw that some of the people inclined towards Salih. They feared for their position of leadership and said, ‘This is nothing but a mortal like yourselves, who eats what you eat and drinks what you drink. If you obey a mortal like yourselves, you will be losers. What, does he promise you that when you are dead and become dust and bones, that you will be brought forth? Away, away with what you are promised! There is nothing but the life of this world. We live and we die and we shall not be raised up.
‘He is only a mortal who has forged lies against Allah and we do not believe him.’ (23: 33-8)
‘Our opinion was wrong’
The people rejected Salih and did not believe him. When Salih warned them and told them not to worship idols, they said: ‘Salih, you used to be such a noble and sensible youth. We thought that you would become one of our great men and nobles. We thought that you would be like So-and-so and So-and-so. You have turned out to be a nobody. Those who were the same age as you and not as intelligent as you have become famous and powerful. But you, Salih, you chose the path of poverty. We were wrong in our opinion of you. We are disappointed in our hopes for you.
‘Your poor father! He did not receive any good from you. Your poor mother! Her efforts on you were wasted.’
Salih heard all of this and was sad for his people.
When Salih passed by them, they would say: ‘May Allah show mercy to Salih’s father. His son is wasted.’
Salih kept on giving advice to his people and calling them to Allah with wisdom and kind-heartedness. He said: ‘My brothers, do you think you will be here forever? Do you think that you will live in these houses forever? Do you think that you will remain in these gardens and by these rivers? That you will always eat from these crops and trees? That you will always carve houses out of these mountains? Never! That will never be!
‘Why did your fathers die, my brothers? They too had palaces and they too had gardens and springs. They too used to carve houses out of the mountains. But none of that helped them. None of that protected them!
The Angel of Death came to them and found a way to reach them. So you will also die and Allah will raise you up again and question you about these blessings.’
‘I do not ask you for a wage’
Salih said, ‘My brothers! Why do you run away from me? What do you fear? I will not lessen your wealth at all. I do not ask you for anything. I advise you and convey to you the messages of my Lord.
7 do not ask you for any wage for it. My wage falls only on Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. (26: 145)
‘My brothers! Why don’t you obey me when I am a faithful adviser to you? Why do you obey those who oppress people and consume their property, those who have given themselves up to easy living and corrupt the land, and who do not put things right?’
The people were dumbfounded and could think of no answer. Instead, they said, ‘You are one of the sorcerers. You are only a mortal like us, so bring a sign if you are speaking the truth.’ (26: 153—4)
The camel of Allah
Salih asked, ‘What sign do you want?’
They said, ‘If you are speaking the truth, then bring out a pregnant camel from this mountain!’
They knew that camels are only born from camels and that a camel does not grow out of the ground nor is it produced from stone. They were sure that Salih would be unable to do it. Then they would win!
But Salih had great faith in his Lord. He knew that Allah had the power to do anything.
Salih called on his Lord. All that the people had asked for was done. A pregnant she-camel came out of the mountain and gave birth.
The people were confused and astonished. But only one of them believed.
Salih then said, This is the she-camel from Allah. It is the sign of Allah. You asked and He created it for you by His power. So respect this camel. Do not touch her with evil lest you be seized by a near punishment. (11: 64)
This camel should be allowed to eat and drink in the land of Allah and to come and go freely. You do not need to provide it with drink or fodder, there is plenty.’
The camel was very large indeed and very unusual in form. The other camels were afraid of it. Whenever the camel came and drank, the other camels shied and ran away.
Salih saw that and said, This camel will come one day and your camels the next day. One day, this camel will drink and the next day your camels will drink.’
That is how the bounds were arranged between Salih and the people of Thamud regarding the camel. When it was the camel’s turn, it went and drank. When it was the people’s camels’ turn, they went and drank. For a time these bounds were kept.
The Thamud’s injustice
But the Thamud were proud and broke the agreement. They said, ‘Why can’t our camels drink every day?’
They were angry at this camel from which their camels shied away. Salih had warned them to be gentle with this camel. But they did not heed the warning. They asked one another, ‘Who will get rid of this camel?’
A man stood up and said, ‘I will!’ Another stood up and said, ‘I will!’
The two wretched men went and waited for the camel. When the she-camel came near, the first man brought her down with an arrow. The second man finished her off.
When Salih learned that the she-camel had been killed, he was very sad indeed. He told the people, ‘Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. That is a promise not to be denied. ‘(11: 65)
In the city nine evil-minded men who spread evil and corruption in the land plotted together to get rid of Salih. They said: ‘We will kill Salih and his family at night. We will not be seen. So, if we are questioned about it, we will say, “We don’t know anything.”‘
But Allah protected Salih and his family.
On the third day, the punishment came to the Thamud. As they woke up in the morning there was a Shout accompanied by a great earthquake. Their hearts were broken by the Shout and their houses were destroyed by the earthquake. It was a terrible day for the Thamud. All the unbelieving people died and the city was destroyed.
Salih and the believers left that wretched city. What could they have done there if they had stayed?
As Salih left, he looked sadly at the remains of his people. Now they were only corpses. He said with great sadness: ‘О my people! I conveyed the message of my Lord to you and I advised you sincerely. But you do not love sincere advisers.’ (7: 79)
Today, in the place where the Thamud dwelt, there are only empty castles and disused wells. There are only deserted villages.
When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed by the dwelling places of the Thamud on his way to Syria, he told his Companions, ‘Do not enter the houses of those who wronged themselves unless you enter weeping, fearing that the like of what befell them might befall you.’ The Thamud rejected their Lord. So away with the Thamud! (11: 68)