Getting to Know Allah

Salih and the Destruction of Thamud

Getting to Know Allah26:208 We have never destroyed a city, but it had prior warners,

26:209 As a reminder; and We have never been unjust.

“The Thamud were a people of ancient Arabia who were known from the 1st millennium BC to near the time of Muhammad. Although they are thought to have originated in southern Arabia, Arabic tradition has them moving north near Mada'in Saleh a pre-Islamic archaeological site. Wiki

The Thamud were wiped out by Allah for not heading the warning of a prophet not found in the Bible, the Arab prophet Salih.

The Destruction of Thamud is an exception to Allah's predilection for committing genocide because people called one or more of His messengers liars. Nonetheless, the destruction is just as ghastly and the reason for the destruction of the people of Thamud is about as petty as petty gets where gods are concerned.

“Away with…” is how Allah ends many of His stories about the civilizations He destroyed thereby demonstrating a somewhat uncaring, not to say callous, attitude towards the thousands of men, women and children He slaughters at a moment’s notice, and on the flimsiest of pretences; in the case of the people of Thamud, for an injury done to His camel, a white she-camel just like His Messenger’s favourite camel.

Thamud, it would appear, had an army, just like Pharaoh’s, which, like Pharaoh's was to no avail when confronted with Allah's Wrath.

85:17 Have you heard the story of the hosts (armies)?

85:18 Of Pharaoh and Thamud.

85:19 Yet, the unbeliever continue to denounce.

85:20 While Allah, from behind them, is All-Embracing.

Allah revels in the destruction of Thamud in at least nine surahs.

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 be 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’s “the [thundering] cry”.

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,

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 the Prophet flew to heaven on a horse name Al Burak to meet with God. In this two revelation account of the destruction of Thamud, Allah alludes to this short time get-together when He gave His Messenger a glimpse of Hell and the tree at the bottom of Hell – the Tree of Zaqqum, “the tree cursed in the Qur’an” in revelation 17:60 – which will provide the food for the sinners e.g. the people of Thamud.

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 sent 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."

The resistance to the Message of Salih by the “tyrants” of Thamud was exceptional considering Allah’s appalling description of His pitiless out-of-proportion punishment that the men, women and children of Thamud would experience for an eternity because of a regrettable prank.

Surah 26, The Poets

In The Poets, the people regret what they did to Allah’s camel; but being sorry did not deter the wrath of the Compassionate, the Merciful.

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 skillfully 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

The destruction of Thamud in The Ants is the only recollection where the she-camel is not mentioned. In The Ants Allah reveals that it was nine wrongdoers who were responsible for His genocidal wrath and that He did it, in part, to prove that He was 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 Thamud disappeared from history shortly before the Prophet Muhammad arrived on the scene; it was not the next genocide after that of Noah's people as might be assumed from revealed truth 51:46. It may simply be the Almighty reminding the believers of His favourite act of wanton destruction of a sinful people.

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 The Moon, Allah recalls the many people He has destroyed, including the people of Thamud, for not believing in Him

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.

The test in this retelling of the obliteration of Thamud involves water, not just letting Allah’s camel graze unharmed.

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.

Surah 91, The Sun

In this retelling, it is Allah’s camel’s drinking time that 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 of his destructions of the people of Thamud and ‘Ad and the genocide of countless “generations in between”, in two revelations (25:38,50:12) in Fakhry’s translation mentions “the companions of al-Rass” as being another people and/or city He has annihilated.

In three other translations (Pickthall, Shakir and Khan) it is “the dwellers in ar-Rass” or “dwellers of the Rass”, therefore it is safe to assume that Rass is a reference to another unfortunate rational people who did not buy into Allah’s Messenger’s Message that they would be raised from the dead; so He killed every last one of them, including children who would not have had a clue as to what was being revealed.

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.


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;

Who is “them” in revelation 50:12 is unclear. In Khan’s translation, in explanatory text he writes: “the pagans of Makkah who denied you, O Muhammad SAW”.

Some of the generations in between must have included “the Companions of the Thicket” and “the people of Tubba’".

50:14 And the Companions of the Thicket and the people of Tubba’, they all denounced the Messengers and so My Warning was fulfilled.