Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Destruction of Nations Part 3 - Thamud


The destruction of ‘Aad is something we ourselves cannot comprehend but we see in a hadith related by ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) the distress it would cause the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him). She mentions that whenever the sky was covered (with clouds), his face would change, he would come in and out (of the house) and he would pace up and down. Being the caring and loving wife she was, ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) asked him as to why he does this to which the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) would reply and say,

“It could be what ‘Aad have faced: “So, when they saw it as a cloud proceeding towards their valleys, they said, ‘This is a cloud that will bring us rain!’” (Surah Ahqaf)

And so the people of ‘Aad were destroyed and Allah replaced them with another tribe upon whom He bestowed countless bounties but they to forgot their transgressed. They were the tribe of Thamud and there are two opinions as to why they were labelled with this name. The first opinion is because of the vicinity in which they lived in. In Arabic, the word ‘Thamad’ means a lack of water and the area which was inhabited by the people of Saleh (peace be upon him) had a deficiency in water. The opinion of Ibn Katheer is that the nation were named after their forefather whose name was Thamud.

Like the people of ‘Aad forgot about the punishment suffered by the people of Nuh (peace be upon him), Thamud too forgot about their predecessors (‘Aad) and they too followed in the footsteps of their accursed ancestors. The people of Thamud were similar to the people of ‘Aad in their strength, abilities and arrogance. Allah the Almighty had given them bounty upon bounty and like ‘Aad, Thamud became poisoned by the beauty of this world. They began to feel as if they would never die and they started with the words that brought destruction upon ‘Aad. They would say,

“Who is stronger than us?”

And so they began to make huge palaces (pictured) upon the earth and in the mountains. Their disobedience had no bounds and they would happily work contrary towards the way of Allah. Thus they forgot about Allah and Allah caused them to forget about themselves. They began to oppress themselves in ways their eyes did not perceive and such is the statement of Allah in the Qur’an:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَظۡلِمُ ٱلنَّاسَ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلنَّاسَ أَنفُسَہُمۡ يَظۡلِمُونَ ٤٤

"Surely, Allah does not wrong people at all, but the people do wrong their own selves."

It was then that Allah decided to send a mercy to them, a messenger from amongst themselves to guide them towards the truth. Verily, Allah is not pleased by those who spread trouble upon the earth. From amongst the community, He erected a prophet by the name of Saleh (peace be upon him). Saleh (peace be upon him) was a man of a noble lineage, piety, intelligence and when he grew up, Allah blessed him with the wisdom that was needed for Saleh (peace be upon him) to carry out his mission. Prior to becoming a prophet, Saleh (peace be upon him) was a very popular figure in society. He was considered by many as being a luminary, a man who was more articulate and upright in his conduct than any other man from amongst them. When he would walk past people, they would whisper,

“That is Saleh! That is Saleh!”

His people and in particular his father had high aspirations of him and they all dreamt that he would grow up to own palaces with large, beautiful gardens. They envisaged him having servants running back and forth for him but Saleh (peace be upon him) had no interest in the materialistic society he was living in. On the contrary, he was selected to convey the message of His Lord, a status far loftier than anything anybody else could have perceived. He (Saleh (peace be upon him)) then stood up in the midst of his people and said the words which brought all of the Prophets (peace be upon them all) so much anguish, he said,

يَـٰقَوۡمِ ٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنۡ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيۡرُهُ ۥ‌ۖ هُوَ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱسۡتَعۡمَرَكُمۡ فِيہَا فَٱسۡتَغۡفِرُوهُ ثُمَّ تُوبُوٓاْ إِلَيۡهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّى قَرِيبٌ۬ مُّجِيبٌ۬ ٦١

"And to (the people of) Thamud (We sent) their brother, Saleh. He said, 'O my people, worship Allah. You have no god other than Him. He has created you from earth and made you settle therein. So, seek His forgiveness, then turn to Him in repentance. Surely, my Lord is near, responsive to the prayers.'"
And they replied to him,

يَـٰصَـٰلِحُ قَدۡ كُنتَ فِينَا مَرۡجُوًّ۬ا قَبۡلَ هَـٰذَآ‌ۖ أَتَنۡهَٮٰنَآ أَن نَّعۡبُدَ مَا يَعۡبُدُ ءَابَآؤُنَا وَإِنَّنَا لَفِى شَكٍّ۬ مِّمَّا تَدۡعُونَآ إِلَيۡهِ مُرِيبٍ۬ ٦٢

“O Saleh, we had hopes in you before this. Do you ask us not to worship what our fathers used to worship? We have serious doubts that have disturbed us about the faith to which you are calling us.”

After this encounter, the people Saleh (peace be upon him) would socialise with became hugely disrespectful to him. The rich who were in power knew for sure that if Saleh (peace be upon him) would prevail with his mission then they would no longer remain in power and so they launched a scathing attack on Saleh (peace be upon him). They began to defame him amongst his own people and removed their high aspirations of him. This is recorded in the Qur’an, they said,

وَقَالَ ٱلۡمَلَأُ مِن قَوۡمِهِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَكَذَّبُواْ بِلِقَآءِ ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ وَأَتۡرَفۡنَـٰهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا مَا هَـٰذَآ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ۬ مِّثۡلُكُمۡ يَأۡكُلُ مِمَّا تَأۡكُلُونَ مِنۡهُ وَيَشۡرَبُ مِمَّا تَشۡرَبُونَ (٣٣) وَلَٮِٕنۡ أَطَعۡتُم بَشَرً۬ا مِّثۡلَكُمۡ إِنَّكُمۡ إِذً۬ا لَّخَـٰسِرُونَ (٣٤) أَيَعِدُكُمۡ أَنَّكُمۡ إِذَا مِتُّمۡ وَكُنتُمۡ تُرَابً۬ا وَعِظَـٰمًا أَنَّكُم مُّخۡرَجُونَ (٣٥) ۞ هَيۡہَاتَ هَيۡہَاتَ لِمَا تُوعَدُونَ (٣٦) إِنۡ هِىَ إِلَّا حَيَاتُنَا ٱلدُّنۡيَا نَمُوتُ وَنَحۡيَا وَمَا نَحۡنُ بِمَبۡعُوثِينَ (٣٧) إِنۡ هُوَ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ ٱفۡتَرَىٰ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ ڪَذِبً۬ا وَمَا نَحۡنُ لَهُ ۥ بِمُؤۡمِنِينَ ٣٨

“Then said the chiefs of his nation who were disbelievers and who denied facing the Hereafter and whom We made affluent in the worldly life,
‘This (man) is nothing but a human being. He eats from what you eat from, and drinks from what you drink. If you obey a human like yourselves, then you will be absolute losers. Does he promise you that, when you die and are turned into dust and bones, you are to be brought forth? Far too improbable is what you are being promised. There is nothing but our worldly life. We die and we live, and we are not to be raised again. He is nothing but a man who has forged a lie against Allah, and we are not going to believe in him.’”

They had really abused Saleh (peace be upon him). They attached many vulgar lies against Saleh (peace be upon him) and they would taunt his family and his father in particular. They targeted his father because they knew of the high hopes he kept with regards to the future of Saleh (peace be upon him) and then they would tell the father that his previously successful son had become of the fruitless. This would truly hurt the feelings of Saleh’s (peace be upon him) mother, father and family. Despite these hardships, Saleh (peace be upon him) would continue to proclaim Monotheism out aloud but the people would look at him and merely say,

إِنَّمَآ أَنتَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُسَحَّرِينَ (١٥٣) مَآ أَنتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ۬ مِّثۡلُنَا فَأۡتِ بِـَٔايَةٍ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ ٱلصَّـٰدِقِينَ ١٥٤

“You are merely one of those bewitched. You are nothing but a human like us. So, bring a sign if you are one of the truthful.”

The Mufassireen mention that during this assembly Saleh (peace be upon him) admonished his people and warned them of a painful torment. They said to him,

“If you could produce from this rock a she-camel with these qualities (they then mentioned what it should be like.”

Hazrat Saleh (peace be upon him) enquired,

“Tell me, if I responded to your requirement would you believe in what I am asking you to believe and regard me as the Messenger of Allah?”

The people of Thamud replied in the affirmative and so Hazrat Saleh (peace be upon him) offered prayers and then asked Allah to respond to their demand. Thereafter a she-camel came out of the mountain and the people became bewildered and dumbstruck. However, despite the various emotions felt, one emotion that was prevalent that day was arrogance. Even though they witnessed a sign from Allah with their own eyes, they still rejected it and did not believe and Saleh (peace be upon him) would say,

يَـٰقَوۡمِ ٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ مَا لَڪُم مِّنۡ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيۡرُهُ ۥ‌ۖ قَدۡ جَآءَتۡڪُم بَيِّنَةٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّكُمۡ‌ۖ هَـٰذِهِۦ نَاقَةُ ٱللَّهِ لَڪُمۡ ءَايَةً۬‌ۖ فَذَرُوهَا تَأۡڪُلۡ فِىٓ أَرۡضِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ وَلَا تَمَسُّوهَا بِسُوٓءٍ۬ فَيَأۡخُذَكُمۡ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ۬ ٧٣

“O my people, worship Allah. You have no god other than Him. There has come to you a clear sign from your Lord. This is the she-camel of Allah, a sign for you. So, leave her to eat on the earth of Allah, and do not touch her with mischief, lest a painful punishment should seize you.”

The threat was put forth by Hazrat Saleh (peace be upon him). Nobody was to harm this she-camel and if they did, there punishment of Allah would be let loose upon them. The people understood this until the emergence of Qudar bin Salif...

In the next post we shall discuss how Qudar bin Salif attempted to slaughter the sign of Allah because of his love for a woman... Next Thamud Part 2

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