The Thamood are another ancient people next only to the Aad in fame
The Thamood lived in the north-western part of Arabia, which is still called al-Hijr. Today there is a station on the Hijaz railway between Madinah and Tabuk. This is called Madaain Salih, which was the capital town of ood, and was then known as al-Hijr, the rock-hewn city. This has survived to this day and is spread over thousands of acres. It was once inhabited by no less than half a million people. During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Arab trade caravans passed through the ruins of this city.
While the Prophet (pbuh) was on his way to Tabuk, he pointed to the well from which the she camel of Prophet Salih used to drink water. He told his companions to draw water from that well alone and avoid all the other wells. The Prophet (pbuh) then asked them to hastily move ahead, for the place was a sad reminder of Allah’s severe punishment.
The people of Thamood were the descendants of the people of Aad, who followed the teachings of their Prophet Hud, They had survived Allah’s punishment because of their belief. They lived in the territory known as al-Hijr and the plain known as Waadee al-Quraa. lt forms the southern boundary of Syria and the northern boundary of Arabia. The people of Thamood were the heirs to the Aad, and that is why they are also known as “the Second Aad”.
The Thamood were also highly skillful in rock carving. They carved beautiful and spacious houses out of the mountains and produced wonderful paintings on the stones. A few buildings, which were erected by the Thamood and are still intact in Madaain Salih, still speak of their tremendous skill in civil engineering and architecture
Allah showered His blessings upon the people of Thamood. They were handsome and their land was a beautiful green land, full of gardens and with running rivers and streams. They had plenty of rain and fruits. Allah blessed them in provisions and livelihood and gave them many comforts.
The Thamood worshipped idols. They moved the people of Thamood to be reject Allah and be unjust. They forget what they had been given. They lived their palaces and gardens.
From the stones they carved, they made idols. They worshipped these idols, just as the people of Nuh and Hud had done before them.
Allah the Almighty sent Prophet Salih, who was a noble man from among the Thamood, to guide them and call them to the worship of Allah alone. The Thamood, however, rejected him and spread corruption in the land.
Salih told his people, “Worship Allah. You have no god but Him… Remember when He made you successors after the Aad and settled you in the land, [and] you take for yourselves palaces from its plains and carve from the mountains homes. Then remember the favours of Allah, and do not abuse the earth, spreading corruption.”
The leaders from among his people who were arrogant said to those among them who believed and who were oppressed, “Do you know that Salih is sent from his Lord?” They replied, “Indeed, we are believers in what he has been sent with.”
When Salih called them to the truth, they also said, “Salih you were among us a man of promise before this. Do you forbid us to worship what our fathers worshipped? We certainly doubt that to which you invite us.”
Allah wanted to guide the Thamood but they preferred blindness to guidance. They argued with Salih and ridiculed him.
Prophet Salih Calling to Allah
A small number of people believed in Prophet Salih’s teachings and became his followers, but most of them rejected him. They refused to change their evil ways, so he continued calling them to Allah with wisdom and kindness. He reminded them that they would not live forever and that Almighty Allah would raise them up again and question them about His blessings. They stubbornly refused to follow the truth and to change their evil ways. Some of them said he was a magician and that they were not going to listen to him unless he brought them a sign proving that he was sent by Allah.
The She-Camel-A Sign from Allah
When Salih asked them about the sign they wanted him to produce they asked him to bring out a she-camel from a certain rock. They knew that camels are only born from camels and so they were sure, in their ignorance, that Salih would not be able to do it. They thought they would surely win!
But Salih was a prophet, and he knew that Allah has the power to do anything He wills. He had total faith in his Lord. So he prayed to his Lord, and the very thing they wished happened! They were astonished and confused. Some of them believed but most of him persisted in their disbelief.
Prophet Salih told them to leave the she-camel to feed upon Allah’s earth and not to touch her with evil intent or they could be taken by a painful punishment. He also said that she had drinking rights and they had drinking rights on fixed days.
When she came to the well, she drank the water of that day, and so they all drank from the water of the next day. They also all drank from her milk to their satisfaction. This is how the limits were set between Salih and the people of Thamood regarding the she camel. When it was the she camel’s turn, she went and drank. When it was the people’s turn, they went and drank. For a time these limits were kept.
The Thamood’s Treachery and Cruelty
But the Thamood were arrogant and cruel. They broke the agreement. They argued, “Why can’t our camels drink everyday?” They were furious at the she-camel which Allah sent to them as a sign of Salih’s prophethood. They defiantly decided to kill her. The person who took the charge of killing her was their chief. When they hamstrung her, he was the first one to attack her and kill her. When she fell on the ground, they rushed forward, cutting her into pieces. They also challenged Salih by saying, “Bring us that which you threaten us with if you are a messenger.”
When Prophet Salih learnt of this incident, he felt very sad indeed. He threatened them, “Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. This is not an idle promise!”
In the city there were nine men. They were the wicked men among the Thamood. They spread evil and corruption in the land. They plotted to kill Prophet Salih. They said, “We will kill Salih and his family at night. We will not be seen. So if we are questioned about it, we will simply say, we do not know anything about it.”
But Allah protected Salih and his family. On the third day the punishment came to them. As they woke up in the morning, they were seized by a terrible blast from the sky and a terrible earthquake from beneath them. They died instantly. They remained in their houses squatting and lifeless. It was a terrible day for the Thamood. All the disbelievers died. The city was destroyed.
As Salih and the believers left the city, Salih looked sadly at the remains of his people. He said with great sadness, “O my people, I had certainly conveyed to you the message of my Lord and advised you, but you do not like advisors.” (Quran, 7:79)
Today, in the place where the Thamood lived, there are only empty fortresses, disused wells and abandoned villages.
When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) passed by the dwelling places of the Thamood on his way to Syria, he told his Companions, “Do not enter the houses of those who wronged themselves unless you enter weeping, fearing that the like of what had happened to them might also happen to you.”
The Thamood rejected their Lord, so away with the Thamood!