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Prophet Saleh and the People of Thamud
MANY years passed by after the torment that befell the people of 'Ad, and other generations came to succeed them. Among these were the Thamud people who were the successors of the believers who were saved with Prophet Hud. Once again, the people of Thamud, deviated from the right path and started to worship idols, and once again, Allah the Most Merciful decided to send them a prophet from amongst themselves to guide them back to the right path. This prophet was Prophet Saleh(SWS).
The people of Thamud were Arab tribes that lived in the area between Madinah and Syria. Their land was made of rocky mountains and spacious fertile plains. They lived in huge houses that they carved out of the huge rocks in the mountains - and the remains of these houses are still visible in northwest Saudi Arabia. The Thamud people were arrogant and they oppressed the poor among them. The rich exploited the plains and water resources and seldom did they permit others to equally profit from the bounty of Allah. Prophet Saleh, whom they respected very much for he was the most righteous among them, was sent to them as a warner. He said to them: "O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other god but Him,"
(Al-A'raf 7:73). They were surprised and disturbed that among all people, Saleh whom they held in high esteem, should say such things to them. They soon discarded his advice, and said to him: "O Saleh! You have been among us a bearer of our hopes as we wished you to be our chief, till you brought this new thing of telling us to leave our gods and worship your God Alone! We are really in doubt as to that which you invite us to."
Saleh's people disbelieved and thought he was bewitched. Then they asked him to show them a sign from Allah that he was indeed a prophet. They pointed at a huge rock that was standing by itself, and proposed to him that he ask his God to create a she-camel out of it. They of course thought that it was a good way to dumbfound him and silence him. But Saleh, in turn, took a strong oath from them that if Allah provided them with this sign they would believe in him and follow him. He then fervently prayed to Allah to answer their request. The huge rock moved and split and from it came a wonderful she-camel, which was pregnant and soon to give birth. Allah provided the Thamud people this miracle which was also a test for them, to see if they obey His orders. Saleh told them: "O my people! This she-camel of Allah is a sign to you. Leave her to feed on Allah's earth, and inflict no harm on her, or a swift punishment will seize you!"
(Hud, 11:64). The she-camel and her young offspring lived among the Thamud people, she would drink from the water of the well for one day, and leave it to them the second day as Allah ordered: "She has a right to drink (water), and you have a right to drink water, each on a day appointed," (Al-Shu'ara', 26:155). Allah ordered Prophet Saleh to tell his people of the camel's right, saying: "And tell them that the water is to be shared between her and them. Each one's right to drink being established by turns," (Al-Qamar, 54:28). On the day the she-camel was to drink from the well, she would have enough milk for all the people of Thamud who would milk her and fill all their containers. She would graze in the valley and she was so huge that when she came near their sheep, they would flee and leave the way for her, and the cattle would not come near the well on the day she would drink from it.
The Thamud people were very amazed and some of them believed and followed Prophet Saleh. It was clear that she was not a normal camel but was a miracle from Allah and a blessed animal. The disbelievers, however, were very much bothered by her for she was always reminding them of that oath
they gave to Saleh. Also, they claimed that she was an obstacle and a danger to their cattle and sheep. Their enmity toward Saleh changed to a hatred toward the she-camel and they could not bear to see her anymore.
They plotted to kill her and get rid of her, so that way they would use the well every day. There were nine men in the city who were known for their mischief and crimes, and hence they were trusted with the mission of killing the camel. After making sure that all the disbelievers were in agreement to kill the she-camel, the men went out secretly by night to where she used to sleep cuddling her young offspring. She stood up as soon as she saw them, but they hit her at the neck, and she fell on the ground where they slaughtered her, then they slaughtered her offspring too.
When he heard of their horrible crime, Prophet Saleh warned them saying: "Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. This is a promise that will not be belied!" (Hud, 11:65). This warning was an occasion for them to repent to Allah, but to the contrary, they not only disbelieved in the threat but also decided to kill Saleh as well. They said: "Swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household, and afterwards we will surely say to his near relatives: We
witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily! We are telling the truth," (Al-Namal, 27:48,49). But Allah did not allow them to carry on their plot. A shower of rocks from the sky fell on them and killed them on their way to committing the crime. The nine men were the first among their people to meet their punishment.
The people of Thamud waited for three days not believing that Allah's punishment would strike them. On the third day, when the sun rose above the horizon, a mighty blast overtook them, followed by a terrible earthquake that left them lying dead prostrate in their homes. The area was left barren as if nobody had lived there before! Prophet Saleh was saved from this torment along with those who believed. He turned away from the dead disbelievers saying: "O my people! I have indeed conveyed to you the Message of my Lord, and have given you good advice but you like not good advisers!" (Al-A'raf, 7:79). Subsequently, he and the believers left the desolated area.
(Source: Al Jumuah magazine)