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In the Quran
Saleh (Alayhis salaam) has been mentioned
in the following eight verses of the Quran:
7:73, 75, 77; 11: 61, 62, 66, 89; 26: 142
Hadrat Saleh (Alayhis salaam) was born in
the nation of Thamud. The scholars of lineage have a
difference of opinion regarding his lineage. Imam Baghawi, the
famous Muhaddith, has mentioned his lineage as follows:
Saleh ibn Ubayd Ibn Asif Ibn Mashikh Ibn Ubayd
ibn Harith Ibn Thamud, while according to Wahab Ibn Munabbah,
the famous Tab'i, his lineage is Saleh ibn Ubayd ibn Jabir ibn
Thamud. Although Imam Baghawi's era is much later than that of
Wahab Ibn Munabbih, the scholars of lineage are of the opinion
that the ancestral chain mentioned by Baghawi seems to be
historically correct and the more preferable view. From this
genealogy it becomes clear that the nation of Thamud was named
after its ancestor Thamud. There are two narrations regarding
the genealogy from Thamud till Nuh (Alayhis salaam).
The first is Thamud ibn Aamir ibn Iram ibn Saam
and the second is Thamud ibn Aad Ibn Ous ibn Iram ibn Saam Ibn
Nuh (Alaihis salaam). The author of Tafsir Ruhul Ma'ani, Sayed
Mahmood ibn Alusi has commented that Imam Tha'labi prefers the
second narration. Nevertheless, it can be unanimously deduced
from the two narrations that the nation of Thamud is a branch
of the Sami tribes, and they, most likely are the ones who
survived with Hud (Alaihis salaam) at the time when Aad Ula
were destroyed. This generation was called Aad Thaniyah and
they are undoubtedly from the Arabs who were destroyed.
The land of
They inhabited a place called Hijr, between
Hijaz and Syria up till Wadi Qura. Today, this area is called
Fajjun Naaqah. The remnants of their villages are there till
today. Some Egyptian researchers who have seen these remnants
have described a building which is called "The Royal House".
It has several chambers. There is a massive pond adjacent to
this building which has been carved out of a mountain. The
famous Arab historian, Mas'ood narrates: "These remains lie on
the road between Syria and Hijaz."
Hijr which is known as Hijre Thamud is situated
south-east of the city Madyan directly opposite the gulf of
Aqaba. Just as Aad have been called Aade Iram, so too are they
called Thamude Iram or Aad Samiyah.
The orientalists have a difference of opinion as
to the origin of this nation. One group is of the view that
they were Jews who did not enter Palestine and lived here.
This claim is totally baseless because all the historians are
unanimous that the nation of Thamud was totally annihilated
before the exit of Moosa (Alaihis salaam) with the Bani
Israeel from Egypt. The Quran clearly states that when the
people of Pharaoh rejected Moosa (Alaihis salaam), a person
from the nation of Pharaoh warned them that if they did not
obey him, their consequence may be the same as what happened
to the nations of Nuh, Aad, Thamud and others thereafter.
The second group is of the opinion that they
were from the Amalekites and migrated from the western bank of
the Euphrates to settle in Arabia. Some of them hold the view
that they are from amongst those Amalekites who the Egyptian
king Ahmas had banished. During their stay in Egypt, they
mastered the art of sculpture. Thereafter they carved
mountains and rocks into magnificent palaces in Hijr and also
constructed mansions in the normal way. However, we have
already proven in the story of Aad that Aad and Thamud are
from the Sami tribes and the Arabs, following the Jews have
incorrectly regarded them as Amalekites. Amleeq Ibn Ud has no
connection to this race and therefore this opinion is
incorrect. Contrary to all the above views, the correct view
regarding them is that they are part of the nation of Aad.
The period in which Thamud lived is uncertain.
History does not provide us with any facts. However this much
is certain that they lived before Ibrahim (Alaihis salaam) and
were destroyed long before his advent. It is also essential to
note that some graves having Aramaic epitaphs are to be found
near the remains of their dwellings. The dates on these
epitaphs refer to the era before Hadrat Isa (Alaihis salaam).
This can give the wrong impression that this nation came into
existence after Hadrat Musa (Alaihis salaam) whereas this is
not the case.
These are actually the graves of those people
who coincidentally came to live here thousands of years after
Thamud. They wrote the epitaphs on the tombs of their elders
in Aramaic which is an ancient script, to show the antiquity
of their tombs. These are not the tombs of Thamud nor was this
their era. The famous Egyptian historian, Georgie Zaydan holds
a similar view. (The Arabs before Islam page 80)
Like their ancestors, Thamud were pagans.
Consequently Saleh (Alaihis salaam) who was from amongst them,
was sent as a prophet to guide them to the straight path,
remind them of Allah's innumerable favours, clarify the unity
of Allah and expose their total misguidance.
The aim of narratives in the
The style of the Quran is to mention the
narratives of past nations in order to serve as a guidance and
advice to mankind. The aim is not to narrate stories, but to
indicate to mankind the correct path to choose in the light of
his intelligence. Allah Taala sends down messengers from
amongst the people to guide and admonish them. They relate the
tales of previous nations to serve as a reminder that those
people who obeyed their messengers succeeded whereas those who
rejected or mocked them were destroyed. Sometimes Allah
Himself or at the request of the people, revealed certain
miracles as a testification of the messenger's truth. If a
nation persisted in rejecting the messenger even after
witnessing the miracle, then the wrath of Allah descended and
annihilated that nation as a lesson for their successors.
"Your nourisher does not destroy villages unless
he sends a messenger to their main areas to recite Our verses
to them. We only destroy villages if their residents exceed
all bounds." (28:59)
Mu'jizah literally means to render helpless and
to exhaust. In Islamic terminology it refers to an act which
comes into existence without any cause. Another word generally
used for a miracle is "unnatural", hence giving rise to the
question whether the law of Allah can change or not. In other
words, is it possible to have a change in a natural law?
This question can be solved by saying that the
word unnatural which is used to describe a miracle is
incorrect because the laws of Allah are divided into two
Islam & Muslims: (1) general laws and (2) specific laws.
The general laws are those which have a cause
and effect e.g. fire burns. The specific laws are those where
the power of Allah due to some reason, removes the
relationship between cause and effect or gives the effect
existence without any cause e.g. for a body not to burn in
fire even though all the causes are present, or to feed 200
persons with food that is sufficient for two persons and yet
the amount of food remains as it originally was.
Since these two factors seem contrary to natural
laws in the general eye, they are regarded as unnatural and in
conflict with Allah's law. However this is not the case. They
may contradict the general pattern of the first category but
will conform to the second category which is also a link in
the chain of divine laws manifested for a particular reason.
By means of such acts, the truthfulness of a Nabi is
consolidated and the rejectors are made to realize that if
this messenger was not true, Allah's assistance would not have
been with him. It therefore follows that such acts in reality
are not the doings of messengers but are the acts of Allah
which are manifested on the hands of his chosen ones.
The general masses do not believe in a messenger
unless he portrays such miracles which manifest divine
assistance. Accordingly, it is incumbent on every individual
to believe in those miracles of the messengers which have been
indisputably proven. To reject any of them is tantamount to
rejecting the reality of Islam.
However, it should not be forgotten that the
perpetration of a supernatural act by any person does not make
it a Mu'jizah (miracle), nor does such a person become a
prophet. A prophet's whole life has to be tried and tested and
no faculty should be deficient or objectionable. He has to be
a paragon of virtue and untainted by any sin. After possessing
such attributes, if he makes a claim to prophethood and
besides presenting literary proof, he exhibits miracles, then
undoubtedly he is a prophet and his act will be a miracle.
We have previously mentioned that a Mu'jizah in
reality is not the act of a Nabi, but is Allah's act
manifested on the hand of a Nabi. The reason for this is that
a Nabi is human and no human being can interfere in the laws
of Allah. It is entirely dependent on Allah's wish. If he
desires and thinks that the moment is opportune, He will
manifest it on a prophet's hand. Without His wish, it is
impossible to do so.
During the battle of Badr when a fully equipped
army of one thousand strong came in opposition to the
ill-equipped 313 Muslims, Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam)
threw a handful of sand in their direction due to which sand
particles reached every soldier's eye and they all began to
rub their eyes. The Muslim army then attacked and were
victorious. This incident, narrated in the Quran is a certain
proof of our claim.
"And you (O Muhammad), did not fling (that
handful of sand) when you flung it, but it was Allah (in
reality) that did so." (17:8)
This act of the Nabi has been called a miracle.
Undoubtedly the sand was thrown by the Nabi because it was in
his hand, but the effect it had of blinding such a large army
that was at a distance was not possible for the Nabi. This was
in reality the act of Allah who at once removed all obstacles
to make the sand effective.
"No messenger has the power to manifest any
miracle without the permission of Allah. When the command of
Allah comes, the correct decision is made while at this
juncture the rejectors are at a loss. (40:78)
"They take firm oaths in the name of Allah that
if any sign comes to them, they will most certainly believe in
it. Tell them (O Muhammad), that the signs are in Allah's
control. And you (O Muslims), don't know that when the signs
come, they will not believe in them. (6:109)
Our discussion regarding miracles can only
satisfy one who has this fundamental religious belief that the
characteristics of everything are not their own but are
granted to them by a Creator. Accordingly, whoever has this
belief can easily understand that the Creator has specified
the law of burning for fire i.e. whatever touches it will
burn. However it is possible that He (the Creator) removes
this characteristic of fire for some important purpose under
special circumstances. This will be regarded as His law or
On the contrary, one who believes that every
entity has its own characteristic and it is impossible for
this characteristic to be separated from it, should first
decide whether an entity, which is entirely dependent on
something else for its existence, can have a non-separable
In 1361 A.H. Khuda Baksh Kashmiri demonstrated
walking on fire and made others do so as well in London and
America. Thereafter many scientists conducted experiments on
him to determine whether he was fire-proof or not but were
unsuccessful. They had to admit that his body and that of the
others had no special characteristics, but was the same as any
normal person. They expressed amazement and admitted that it
was beyond their comprehension why the fire did not burn the
flesh. (London Times)
Man, after possessing such abundant knowledge is
still so helpless. How can he reject a miracle which is
explained by knowledge of certainty (wahi - revelation) simply
because he is not accustomed to witnessing an effect without
Nonetheless, such a person should first reflect
upon the attributes of the Creator, especially the attribute
of power, then only should he tackle the problem of
The camel of Allah
Saleh (Alaihis salaam) continued advising his
nation but it had absolutely no effect on them. On the
contrary, their malice and obstinacy increased. Besides a
handful that accepted Islam, the leaders and the wealthy of
the nation remained steadfast idol-worshippers. Instead of
expressing gratitude for the bounties which Allah bestowed
upon them, they became grossly unthankful. They used to mock
Saleh (Alayhis salaam) saying, "Had we been misguided,
we would not have obtained such abundant wealth, fertile
orchards, excessive gold and silver, impressive mansions, an
abundance of fruits and sweet rivers. Look at yourself and
your impoverished followers and examine their pitiable
condition. Then decide whether you are chosen one or we?"
Saleh (Alaihis salaam) used to reply: "Do not be
arrogant and proud of your luxuries nor mock the true Rasul of
Allah or his correct Deen. If you continue denouncing Deen in
this manner, neither will you remain nor your affluence.
Undoubtedly these are all the bounties of Allah if the
recipients express their gratitude and submit to his will. On
the contrary, if they display arrogance then these favours
will become the cause of punishment and curse."
The tribe of Thamud was also perplexed and could
not understand how a person from amongst them could be chosen
as a messenger. Out of surprise they used to say "Does
revelation dawn upon him in our midst", (54:25) as if to say
they were more entitled to it than him.
This used to anger the proud disbelievers and
they used to say: "We totally disbelieve the message which you
have believed in." (7:76 )
Hafiz ibn Kathir has narrated the incident of
the camel, not based on the principles of hadith, but as an
historical event. The detailed description of this event is
When the tribe of Thamud became frustrated with
Saleh's (Alayhis salaam) propagation, they requested a
miracle. Saleh (Alaihis salaam) told them it does not behove a
person to persist in his disbelief after the manifestation of
the miracle. The leaders of the nation emphatically insisted
that if the miracle appeared, they would immediately accept
it. Saleh (Alayhis salaam) then asked them what kind of
miracle they wanted. They requested that a pregnant camel
emerge from the mountain or from a rock on the outskirts of
the village and that it should give birth immediately.
Saleh (Alaihis salaam) supplicated to the
Almighty and immediately a pregnant camel emerged from the
rock or mountain and gave birth. Upon witnessing this, one of
the leaders, Junda'Ibn Amr immediately embraced Islam. When
the other leaders wanted to follow suit, their leader Zawib
ibn Amr and Khabbab and their fortune-teller Rubaab ibn Safr
prevented them from doing so. Saleh now warned his people that
this miracle was shown at their request. Allah had decreed the
distribution of water - one day for the camel and one day for
the people and their animals. No one should harm it. If it is
harmed, then destruction awaits all. The Quran has called this
camel "the camel of Allah" (6:73) to show that although the
entire creation belongs to Allah, it has been blessed with
this title due to its special significance and honour because
Thamud have requested this camel as a sign of Allah.
Although the people did not accept Islam, they
refrained from harming the camel. The camel used to drink
water on its appointed day while all the people benefitted
from its milk and on the following day it was the people's
turn. The camel and its calf used to graze freely in the
pastures. This eventually perturbed the people and they began
mutual consultations in order to plan its destruction and be
freed from having to wait for every alternate day to partake
of the well-water. Although these consultations continued, no
one could muster the courage to kill the camel. However, an
extremely wealthy and beautiful woman, Sadooq enticed Misda'
and presented herself as a reward for him while another
wealthy lady Unairah was prepared to hand over her pretty
daughter to Qudar ibn Salif if they killed the camel.
Eventually Misda' and Qudar were persuaded to commit the act.
They devised a plan to ambush and attack the camel as it
passed by on the way to the pastures Some other individuals
also promised to assist.
The plan went into action and the camel was
killed. Thereafter they all took an oath to murder Saleh
(Alaihis salaam) and his family and behave innocently after
the crime. On seeing this, the baby camel fled to the
mountains screaming and hid away there.
When Saleh (Alaihis salaam) received the news,
he addressed the people with extreme sorrow saying: "What I
feared has taken place. Now wait for a punishment of Allah
which will annihilate you after three days." A flash of
lightning and thunder destroyed them during the night and left
a lesson for the coming generations
Together with this incident, Muhaddith ibne
Kathir has narrated several ahaadith e.g. on the occasion of
the battle of Tabuk, when Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam)
passed Hijr, the Sahaba drew water from the well of Thamud and
began kneading the dough to make bread. When Nabi (Sallallahu
alaihi wasallam) came to know of this, he gave the order to
throw the water away, empty the pots and to discard the dough.
He said, "This is the village on which the punishment of Allah
descended. Do not alight here nor use the things of this
place. Go further and alight, otherwise you will also be
afflicted by a calamity." In another narration Nabi
(Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) told them to enter the villages
of Hijr fearing Allah and crying with humility. He said, "Do
not make yourself a target for punishment because of your
In another narration it is mentioned that when
Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) entered Hijr, he said, "Do
not ask Allah for miracles. Look at how the nation of Saleh
(Alaihis salaam) sought a miracle and a camel emerged from the
mountain. It used to drink and return to its place. It
provided milk for the nation of Thamud, but they rebelled and
cut its legs. As a result, Allah totally annihilated them.
Only one person viz. Abu Rughal was saved because he went to
the Haram. However when he went beyond the boundaries of the
Haram, he also became a victim of the punishment. Hafiz ibn
Kathir has narrated the above three narrations from Musnad
Ahmad and has regarded them as authentic.
Allama Sayed Aloosi has written in his exegesis,
Ruhul-Ma'ani "The sign of punishment on Thamud became apparent
from the following morning. On the first day everyone's faces
became pale like the countenance of a person who is in fear.
On the second day their faces turned red. This was the second
stage of their fear and trepidation. On the third day their
faces were black and darkness had encompassed them. This is
the third stage of their fear after which remains the stage of
After three days the appointed time came and a
horrifying sound in the darkness of the night destroyed every
person in whatever condition he was. This sound has been
described with different words in the Quran to show the
different aspects of the same punishment. Ponder over a flash
of lightening which bedazzles continuously, shines, erupts and
thunders sometimes in the cast and sometimes in the west. What
will be the condition of a place attacked by such a lightening
together with a deafening and thundering sound. This is a
simple estimation of the punishment which descended on Thamud.
On the other hand, Allah Ta!ala protected Saleh
(Alaihis salaam) and his followers from this agonizing
punishment. Saleh (Alaihis salaam) with anguish and remorse
addressed the victims of Allah's wrath in the following
"O my nation. I have indeed conveyed the message of
my Lord to you and have advised you but you do not love the
The Ulama have expressed the following opinions
with regards to this type of address:
This type of address is a speciality of the
Messengers because Allah Ta'ala undoubtedly conveys these
words to the dead even though they are not capable of
responding. It is for this reason that when Nabi (Sallallahu
alaihi wasallam) addressed the polytheists who were killed
in Badr, Umar (Radiallahu anhu) asked with surprise, "Do
they hear you?" to which Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi
Wasallam) responded, "Yes, they can hear better than you
although they cannot reply."
This type of denunciation is for expressing
grief and sorrow, e.g. you warned a person not to go to a
particular orchard because of an abundance of snakes and the
likelihood of being stung. However the person went and was
bitten by a snake. When the warner reaches the corpse, he
spontaneously says, "Woe to you. Did I not warn you not to
go there. Whatever I feared has occurred."
Such a monologue is actually meant for those
living people who are observing these corpses. It is a
lesson for them not to commit the same error.
Saleh (Alaihis salaam) after the
destruction of his nation
The question arises as to where did, Saleh
(Alaihis salaam) and the believers live after Thamud was
destroyed? It is impossible to answer this question with total
certainty. However, it is most probable that they resided in
Palestine because this was the most fertile land adjacent to
The exegetists of the Quran have suggested the
They lived near Ramallah in Palestine.
Allamah Khazin holds this view.
Hadramaut is also a likely place because it
was their original homeland. There is a grave here which is
regarded as the grave of Saleh (Alaihis salaam)
They remained in the same villages after
Thamud was destroyed. This is the opinion of the historians.
They came to Makkah, resided and passed away
there. Their graves are in the Haram, west of the Kabah.
Sayed Alusi has preferred this view. He has also mentioned
in his exegesis that the followers of Thamud were
approximately 120 while those that were destroyed were
Lessons to be learnt
Although the camel was a sign of the
truthfulness of Saleh's prophethood, it was also a test for
the nation of Thamud. "Indeed we are sending the camel as a
test for them. Therefore wait for them and persevere,"
It is not necessary that a disbelieving
nation be destroyed. However, a nation that requests a
miracle on condition that they will believe after observing
it, will most certainly be annihilated if they subsequently
do not accept. Unless they do not repent, Allah does not
The message of Nabi Sallallahu alaihi
wasallam is an exception to this practice of Allah. This is
because Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wasallam made dua to Allah
not to punish his ummah with a general punishment that is
all-encompassing and Allah accepted this dua. "And Allah
will not punish them while you are among them." (8:33)
It is a pernicious error and a deception of
the self to regard a nation endowed with affluence and a
good life as being in the shadow of Allah's favours. There
is an explicit reference on several occasions in this
narrative that sometimes an abundance of wealth results in
greater punishment and doom.
"Indeed the power of your lord is severe."
However if most of the individuals of a nation
are thankful, just and benevolent, they will be the accepted
servants of Allah and for them is the following glad tiding:
"Allah has promised those among you who
brought faith and did good actions that He will make them
vicegerents on earth as He made those before them. He will
also fortify their Deen which He has chosen for them and
change their rear to tranquillity." (24:55)
"We have written in the Zabur after recording
(it the Sacred Tablet) that my pious servants will inherit
the earth." (21:105)
This verse explicitly states that only those
who are believers and who enter the group of the pious are
promised the inheritance of the earth.
Sheikh Hifzur Rahmaan
Madrasah Arabia Islamia
Source: Jamiatul Ulama (Kwazulu-Natal)