Getting to Know Allah
Salih and the Destruction of Thamud
42:30 Whatever calamity might hit you is due to what your hands have earned; yet He pardons much.
42:31 You are not able to thwart Him on earth and you do not have, apart from Allah, any protector or supporter.
Thamud had an army, that, like Pharaoh's, was to no avail when confronted by Allah's Might.
85:17 Have you heard the story of the hosts (armies)?
85:18 Of Pharaoh and Thamud.
85:19 Yet, the unbelievers continue to denounce.
85:20 While Allah, from behind them, is All-Embracing.
Thamud in the Koran is believed to be Petra. The people of Thamud were wiped out for not heeding the warnings of the Arab prophet Salih. Their mass murder is an exception to those God committed on behalf of the Biblical prophets related in Shared Prophets: Biblical Figures in the Koran (Boreal Books). Except for the people of Lot, the genocides Allah committed on their behalf were for being called liars for claiming they spoke on His behalf. Allah’s reason for murdering every man, woman and child of Thamud is even pettier: an injury to His she-camel (Muhammad’s favourite camel was also a she-camel, a white one).
God revels in the destruction of Thamud in at least nine surahs. These nine accounts of Petra’s destruction may remind you of a tourist who visits an amazing ruin—as Muhammad the merchant must have done during one of his trips north to Syria to trade—and keeps returning there during conversations to impress his friends.
Surah 7, The Ramparts
In The Ramparts, Thamud is destroyed by an earthquake.
7:73 And to Thamud [We sent] their brother Salih. He said: “O my people, worship Allah; you have no other god but He. A clear proof from your Lord has now come to you. This is Allah’s she-camel, to be a sign onto you; so let it graze in Allah’s Land and do not cause her any harm; for you will then be seized by a very painful punishment.
7:74 “And remember how He made you as successors after ‘Ad, and established you in the land, wherein you built yourselves castles on its plains and hewed the mountains into houses. Remember then Allah’s Bounties and do not corrupt the earth with mischief.”
7:75 The arrogant dignitaries among his people said to some of those who had believed and were deemed to be weak: “Do you know that Salih is sent forth from his Lord?” They said: “Indeed, we believe in what he has been sent with.”
7:76 The arrogant dignitaries said: “In that which you have believed, we definitely disbelieve.”
7:77 So they hamstrung the she-camel and defied their Lord’s Command and said: “O Salih, bring upon us what you are promising us, if you are one of the Messengers.”
7:78 Whereupon the earthquake overtook them, and so they lay prostrate in their own homes.
7:79 Then he turned his back on them and said: “O my people, I have delivered to you my Lord’s Message and given you advice, but you do not like the givers of advice.”
Surah 11, Hud
In Hud, it is “the [thundering] cry” that destroys the city and its inhabitants!
11:61 And to Thamud [We sent] their brother Salih. He said: “O my people, worship Allah; you have no other god but Him. He brought you out from the earth and made you inhabit it; so ask His forgiveness and repent onto Him. My Lord is indeed close at hand and answers [the prayer].”
11:62 They said: “O Salih, we set our hopes on you before this. Do you forbid us to worship what our fathers worshipped? We are indeed in grave doubt regarding what you are calling us to.”
11:63 He said: “O my people, what if I am in possession of a clear proof from my Lord, and He has accorded me a mercy of His Own? Who then will protect me from Allah if I disobey Him? Surely, you will only compound my perdition.
11:64 “O my people, here is the she-camel of Allah, a sign onto you. Let her graze in Allah’s land and do not do her any harm, lest a swift punishment should overtake you.”
After someone cuts the camel’s hamstring, Salih tells the people of Thamud that they only have three days to live.
11:65 However, they hamstrung her, and so he said: “[You can] stay in your houses [only] for three days. This is a promise which will not be belied.”
11:66 Then, when our Command came, We saved Salih and those who believed with him, by a mercy of Our Own, from the disgrace of that day. Your Lord is truly the Strong, and Mighty.
11:67 And the evildoers were overtaken by the [thundering] cry and they lay prostrate in their own homes,
“Away with…” is how Allah gleefully ends many of His stories about the civilizations He has destroyed and the thousands of mostly innocent bystanders—from the newborn to the elderly—slaughtered on the flimsiest of pretences.
11:68 As if they never dwelt therein. Truly, Thamud disbelieved their Lord. Away with Thamud!
Surah 17, The Night Journey
The Night Journey is a reference to the night Muhammad flew to Paradise on Al Burak, a winged horse, to meet with the god for whom he spoke (a complete account of this visit can be found in Chapter “Prayers – One-on-One with Allah”). In this two-revelation account of the destruction of Thamud, Allah alludes to this short get-together during which He gave His spokesman a glimpse of Hell and “the tree cursed in the Qur’an,” the infamous tree of Zaqqum growing at the bottom of His inferno.
17:59 Nothing prevents Us from sending the signs except that the ancients denied them. We gave to Thamud the she-camel as a manifest sign, but they maltreated her. We do not send the signs except to warn.
17:60 [Remember] when We said to you; “Your Lord encompasses mankind. We did not make the vision We showed you except as a trial to mankind, and likewise the tree cursed in the Qur’an. We warn them, but that only increased their tyranny."
Surah 26, The Poets
In The Poets, the people regret what they did to Allah’s camel. Being sorry would not deter the Wrath of the Compassionate.
26:141 Thamud denounced the Messengers as liars.
26:142 When their brother Salih said to them: “Do you not fear God?
26:143 “I am a faithful Messenger to you.
26:144 “So fear Allah and obey me.
26:145 “I do not ask you any wages for this; my wage is with the Lord of the Worlds.
26:146 “Will you be left herebelow in peace?
26:147 “In gardens and springs;
26:148 “And plantations and palm trees, whose shoots are tender?
26:149 “And will you hew skilfully houses in the mountains?
26:150 “So fear Allah and obey me.
26:151 “And do not obey the orders of the extravagant;
26:152 “Who work corruption in the land and do not make amends.”
26:153 They said: “You are certainly a man bewitched.
26:154 “You are only a mortal like us. Produce, then, a sign, if you are truthful.”
26:155 He said: “This is a she-camel; this has a drinking day, and you have a fixed drinking day.
26:156 “Do not cause her any harm, or else the punishment of a Great Day will smite you.”
26:157 However, they hamstrung her, and became full of remorse.
26:158 Then, punishment smote them. There is surely in that a sign; and most of them were not believers.
26:159 Your Lord is truly the All-Mighty, the Merciful.
Surah 27, The Ants
In The Ants, Allah reveals that nine wrongdoers were responsible for His genocidal wrath and He did it, in part, to prove that He is a better schemer.
27:45 And We have sent to Thamud their brother Salih, saying: “Worship Allah”; and lo and behold, they split into two groups fighting each other.
27:46 He said: “O my people, why do you hasten the evil course before the fair? If only you would seek Allah’s Forgiveness, that perchance you may receive mercy!”
27:47 They said: “We augured ill of you and your companions.” He said: “Your bird of omen is with Allah, but you are a people who are being tested.”
27:48 And they were in the city nine individuals, who worked corruption in the land and did not set things right.
27:49 They said: “Swear one to the other by Allah: We will attack him and his family at night; then we will tell his guardian: ‘We did not witness the slaying of his family, and we are indeed truthful.’”
27:50 They schemed a scheme and We schemed a scheme, while they were unaware.
27:51 See, then, what was the outcome of their scheming; We destroyed them together will all their people.
27:52 Their houses are in ruin, on account of their wrongdoing. There is in that a sign for a people who know.
27:53 And we delivered those who believed and were God-fearing.
Surah 41, The Well-Expounded
The shortest account of the obliteration of Thamud:
41:17 But as for Thamud, We extended guidance to them; yet they preferred blindness to guidance, and so the thunderbolt of humiliating punishment seized them on account of what they used to earn.
41:18 And We delivered those who believed and were God-Fearing.
Surah 51, The Scattering Wind
The genocide of “the people of Noah” is remembered along with the mass murder of those of Thamud.
51:43 And in Thamud, when it was said to them: “Enjoy yourselves for a while.”
51:44 Then, they disdained arrogantly the command of their Lord, and so the thunderbolt struck them, while they looked on.
51:45 They were unable to stand upright, and they were not victorious.
51:46 And We destroyed the people of Noah before that. They were indeed a sinful people.
Surah 54, The Moon
In this reminiscence of the annihilation of the people of Thamud, the catalyst, Allah admits, was one man who took it upon himself to do the deed that caused Him to lose it!
54:23 Thamud denounced the warnings as lies.
54:24 So they said: “Shall we follow a lone mortal from among us? We are indeed in error and folly.
54:25 “Has the Reminder been sent down upon him alone among us? No, he is an arrogant liar.”
54:26 They will surely know tomorrow who is the arrogant liar.
54:27 We shall send the she-camel as a test for them; so watch them and be patient.
54:28 And tell them that the water is to be divided between them, each drinking in turn.
54:29 They called their companion, and so he took charge and hamstrung [her].
54:30 How then were My Punishment and My Warnings?
54:31 We released upon them a single cry and they became like the stubble of a corral-builder.
54:32 We have, indeed, made the Qur’an easy to remember. Is there, then, any one who will remember?
Surah 91, The Sun
In The Sun, Allah’s camel’s drinking time is part of the test.
91:11 Thamud have denounced, due to their arrogance.
91:12 When their most vicious citizen emerged.
91:13 Then Allah’s Messenger said to them: “Beware of Allah’s she-camel and her drinking time.”
91:14 They called him a liar and hamstrung her; whereupon their Lord destroyed them for their sins and settled the matter;
91:15 And He does not fear its sequel.
Allah, in bragging about His destructions of the people of Thamud, ‘Ad, Lot, Noah, Pharaoh and the genocide of countless “generations in between” mentions “the companions of al-Rass” about which there is much speculation. (You will find the complete accounts of the destruction of ‘Ad, Noah and Pharaoh’s people and others in Shared Prophets: Biblical Figures in the Koran, Boreal Books.) They were destroyed ostensibly because “they did not hope to be raised from the dead.”
25:38 And ‘Ad, Thamud, the companions of al-Rass and many generations in between;
25:39 To each, We proposed similes and each We ruined utterly.
25:40 And they came upon the city (of Lot) which was drench by an evil rain. Did they not see it? No, they did not hope to be raised from the dead.
What we know with some certainty is that “the companions of al-Rass” were obliterated after “the people of Noah” and probably before the people of Thamud.
50:12 Prior to them, the people of Noah, the companions of al-Rass and Thamud denounced [the Prophets].
50:13 ‘Ad, Pharaoh and the brethren of Lot, too;
Then there were “the Companions of the Thicket” and “the people of Tubba’,” assumed to be the Midianites “a biblical people who occupied territory east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, and southward through the desert wilderness of the Arabah. They reportedly dominated this territory from roughly the twelfth through the tenth centuries B.C.E.” according to the New World Encyclopedia.
50:14 And the Companions of the Thicket and the people of Tubba’, they all denounced the Messengers and so My Warning was fulfilled.
To Tubba, i.e., Midian, God sent Shu’ayb who is believed to be the biblical Jethro, the man for whom Moses shepherded while in Midian and who gave him his daughter Zipporah in marriage. His story and that of the destruction of Median is told in Shared Prophets: Jethro, Boreal Books.