Surah Al-A’raf Part 5 Ayat 73-92

{73. And to Thamud (people, We sent) their brother Salih. He said: “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him. Indeed there has come to you a clear sign from your Lord. This she-camel of Allah is a sign unto you; so you leave her to graze in Allah’s earth, and touch her not with harm, lest a painful torment should seize you.

74. And remember when He made you successors (generations) after Ad and gave you habitations in the land, you build for yourselves palaces in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains. So remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allah, and do not go about making mischief on the earth.

75. The leaders of those who were arrogant among his people said to those who were counted weak — to such of them as believed: “Know you that Salih is one sent from his Lord.” They said: “We indeed believe in that with which he has been sent.”

76. Those who were arrogant said: “Verily, we disbelieve in that which you believe in.”

77. So they killed the she-camel and insolently defied the commandment of their Lord, and said: “O Salih! Bring about your threats if you are indeed one of the Messengers (of Allah).”

78. So the earthquake seized them, and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes.}

Thamud: Their Land and Their Lineage

Scholars of Tafsir and genealogy say that “the tribe of Thamud descended from” Thamud bin Athir bin Iram bin Sam bin Nuh, and he is brother of Jadis son of Athir, similarly the tribe of Tasm, and they were from the ancient Arabs, Al-Aribah, [As opposed to Al-Mustaribah, such as the descendants of Prophet Ismail, son of Ibrahim] before the time of Ibrahim, Thamud came after Ad. They dwelled between the area of the Hijaz (Western Arabia) and Ash-Sham (Greater Syria). The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, passed by the area and ruins of Thamud when he went to Tabuk (in northern Arabia) during the ninth year of Hijrah. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn Umar said, “When the Messenger of Allah went to the area of Al-Hijr in Tabuk with the people, he camped near the homes of Thamud, in Al-Hijr and the people brought water from the wells that Thamud used before. They used that water to make dough and placed the pots (on fire) for cooking. However, the Prophet commanded them to spill the contents of the pots and to give the dough to their camels. He then marched forth with them from that area to another area, near the well that the camel (as will follow) used to drink from. He forbade the Companions from entering the area where people were tormented, saying,

“I fear that what befell them might befall you as well. Therefore, do not enter on them.” (Ahmad 2:117)

Ahmad narrated that Abdullah bin Umar said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said while in the Hijr area,

“Do not enter on these who were tormented, unless you do so while crying. If you are not crying, then do not enter on them, so that what befell them does not befall you, as well.” (Ahmad 2:74)

The basis of this Hadith is mentioned in Two Sahihs. (Fath Al-Bari 6:436 and Muslim 4:2286)

The Story of Prophet Salih and Thamud

Allah said, And to Thamud”, meaning, to the tribe of Thamud, We sent their brother Salih, “He said: “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him.” All Allah’s Messengers called to the worship of Allah alone without partners. Allah said in other Ayat, “And We did not send any Messenger before you but We revealed to him (saying): “None has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me.” (21:25) and, “And verily, We have sent among every Ummah a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid Taghut (all false deities)” (16:36).

Thamud asked that a Camel appear from a Stone, and it did

Prophet Salih said, “Indeed there has come to you a clear sign from your Lord. This she-camel of Allah is a sign unto you” meaning, a miracle has come to you from Allah testifying to the truth of what I came to you with. Salih’s people asked him to produce a miracle and suggested a certain solid rock that they chose, which stood lonely in the area of Hijr, and which was called Al-Katibah. They asked him to bring a pregnant camel out of that stone. Salih took their covenant and promises that if Allah answers their challenge, they would believe and follow him. When they gave him their oaths and promises to that, Salih started praying and invoked Allah (to produce that miracle). All of a sudden, the stone moved and broke apart, producing a she-camel with thick wool. It was pregnant and its fetus was visibly moving in its belly, exactly as Salih’s people asked. This is when their chief, Jundu bin Amr, and several who followed him believed. The rest of the noblemen of Thamud wanted to believe as well, but Dhu’ab bin Amr bin Labid, Al-Habbab, who tended their idols, and Rabbab bin Sum’ar bin Jilhis stopped them. One of the cousins of Jundu bin Amr, whose name was Shihab bin Khalifah bin Mikhlat bin Labid bin Jawwas, was one of the leaders of Thamud, and he also wanted to accept the message. However, the chiefs whom we mentioned prevented him, and he conceded to their promptings. The camel remained in Thamud, as well as, its offspring after she delivered it before them.

The camel used to drink from its well on one day and leave the well for Thamud the next day. They also used to drink its milk, for on the days she drank water, they used to milk her and fill their containers from its milk. Allah said in other Ayat, “And inform them that the water is to be shared between (her and) them, each one’s right to drink being established (by turns)” (54:28) and, “Here is a she-camel: it has a right to drink (water), and you have a right to drink (water) (each) on a day, known” (26:155) The camel used to graze in some of their valleys, going through a pass and coming out through another pass. She did that so as to be able to move easily, because she used to drink a lot of water. She was a tremendous animal that had a strikingly beautiful appearance. When she used to pass by their cattle, the cattle would be afraid of her. When this matter continued for a long time and Thamud’s rejection of Salih became intense, they intended to kill her so that they could take the water for themselves every day. It was said that all of them “the disbelievers of Thamud” conspired to kill the camel. Qatadah said that he was told that, “The designated killer of the camel approached them all, including women in their rooms and children, and found out that all of them agreed to kill her.” (At-Tabari 12:537) This fact is apparent from the wording of the Ayat, “Then they denied him and they killed it. So their Lord destroyed them because of their sin, and made them equal in destruction!” (91:14), and, “And We sent the she-camel to Thamud as a clear sign, but they did her wrong.” (17:59) Allah said here, “So they killed the she-camel”

Therefore, these Ayat stated that the entire tribe shared in agreeing to this crime, and Allah knows best.

Thamud kills the She-Camel

Imam Abu Jafar Ibn Jarir and other scholars of Tafsir said that the reason behind killing the camel was that a disbelieving old woman among them named Umm Ghanm Unayzah, the daughter of Ghanm bin Mijlaz, had the severest enmity among Thamud towards Salih, peace be upon him. She had beautiful daughters and she was wealthy, and Dhu’ab bin  Amr, one of the leaders of Thamud, was her husband.

There was another noblewoman whose name was Saduf bint Al-Muhayya bin Dahr bin Al-Muhayya, who was of noble family, wealthy and beautiful. She was married to a Muslim man from Thamud, but she left him. These two women offered a prize for those who swore to them that they would kill the camel. Once, Saduf summoned a man called Al-Habbab and offered herself to him if he would kill the camel, but he refused. So she called a cousin of hers whose name was Musaddi bin Mihraj bin Al-Muhayya, and he agreed. As for Unayzah bint Ghanm, she called Qudar bin Salif bin Jundu, a short person with red-blue skin, a bastard, according to them. Qudar was not the son of his claimed father, Salif, but the son of another man called, Suhyad. However, he was born on Salif’s bed (and thus named after him). Unayzah said to Qudar, “I will give you any of my daughters you wish, if you kill the camel.” Qudar bin Salif and Musaddi bin Mihraj went along and recruited several mischievous persons from Thamud to kill the camel. Seven more from Thamud agreed, and the group became nine, as Allah described, when He said, “And there were in the city nine men, who made mischief in the land, and would not reform.”

These nine men were chiefs of their people, and they lured the entire tribe into agreeing to kill the camel. So they waited until the camel left the water well, where Qudar waited beside a rock on its path, while Musaddi waited at another rock. When the camel passed by Musaddi he shot an arrow at her and the arrow pierced her leg. At that time, Unayzah came out and ordered her daughter, who was among the most beautiful women, to uncover her face for Qudar, encouraging Qudar to swing his sword, hitting the camel on her knee. So she fell to the ground and screamed once to warn her offspring. Qudar stabbed her in her neck and slaughtered her. Her offspring went up a high rock and screamed. (At-Tabari 12:531) Abdur-Razzaq recorded from Mamar that someone reported from Al-Hasan Al-Basari that the offspring said, “O my Lord! Where is my mother?”  It was said that her offspring screamed thrice and entered a rock and vanished in it, or, they followed it and killed it together with its mother. Allah knows best. (Abdur Razzaq 2:231) When they finished the camel off and the news reached Prophet Salih, he came to them while they were gathered. When he saw the camel, he cried and proclaimed, “Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days.” (11:65)

The Wicked Ones Plot to Kill Prophet Salih, But the Torment descended on Them

The nine wicked persons killed the camel on a Wednesday, and that night, they conspired to kill Salih. They said, “If he is truthful, we should finish him before we are finished. If he is a liar, we will make him follow his camel.”

“They said: “Swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household, and thereafter we will surely say to his near relatives: ‘We witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily, we are telling the truth.”’ So they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not.” (27:49-50)

When they conspired to kill Salih and gathered at night to carry out their plot, Allah, to Whom belongs all might and Who protects His Messengers, rained down stones that smashed the heads of these nine people before the rest of the tribe. On Thursday, the first of the three days of respite, the people woke up and their faces were pale (yellow), just as Prophet Salih had promised them. On the second day of respite, Friday, they woke up and found their faces had turned red. On the third day of the respite, Saturday, they woke up with their faces black. On Sunday, they wore the fragrance of Hanut [the perfume for enshrouding the dead before burial] and awaited Allah’s torment and revenge, we seek refuge with Allah from it. They did not know what will be done to them or how and from where the torment would come. When the sun rose, the Sayhah (loud cry) came from the sky and a severe tremor overtook them from below; the souls were captured and the bodies became lifeless, all in an hour.

“And they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes.”

They became dead and lifeless and none among them, whether young, old, male or female, escaped the torment. (At-Tabari 12:534)

The scholars of Tafsir said that none from the offspring of Thamud remained, except Prophet Salih and those who believed in him. A disbelieving man called Abu Righal was in the Sacred Area at the time and the torment that befell his people did not touch him. When he went out of the Sacred Area one day, a stone fell from the sky and killed him. `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Mamar said that Ismail bin Umayyah said that the Prophet passed by the gravesite of Abu Righal and asked the Companions if they knew whose grave it was. They said, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” He said, “This is the grave of Abu Righal, a man from Thamud. He was in the Sacred Area of Allah and this fact saved him from receiving Allah’s torment. When he went out of the Sacred Area, what befell his people also befell him. He was buried here along with a branch made from gold.” So the people used their swords and looked for the golden branch and found it. (Abdur-Razzaq 2:232) Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Mamar said that Az-Zuhri said that Abu Righal is the father of the tribe of Thaqif. (Abdur-Razzaq 2:232)

 

{79. Then he [Salih] turned from them, and said: “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.”}

These are the words of admonishment that Salih conveyed to his people after Allah destroyed them for defying Him, rebelling against Him, refusing to accept the truth, avoiding guidance, and preferring misguidance instead. Salih said these words of admonishment and criticism to them after they perished, and they heard him (as a miracle for Prophet Salih from Allah). Similarly, it is recorded in the Two Sahihs that after the Messenger of Allah defeated the disbelievers in the battle of Badr, he remained in that area for three days, and then rode his camel, which was prepared for him during the latter part of the night. He went on until he stood by the well of Badr (where the corpses of the disbelievers were thrown) and said,

“O Abu Jahl bin Hisham! O Utbah bin Rabiah! O Shaybah bin Rabiah! Did you find what your Lord has promised you (of torment) to be true, for I found what my Lord promised me (of victory) to be true?”

Umar said to him, “O Allah’s Messenger! Why do you speak to a people who have rotted?” He said,

“By He in Whose Hand is my soul! You do not hear what I am saying better than they, but they cannot reply.” (Fath Al-Bari 7:351 and Muslim 4:2204)

Similarly, Prophet Salih, peace be upon him, said to his people, “I have indeed conveyed to you the Message of my Lord, and have given you good advice,” but you did not benefit from it because you do not like the Truth and do not follow those who give you sincere advice, “but you like not good advisers.”

 

{80. And (remember) Lut, when he said to his people: “Do you commit lewdness such as none preceding you has committed in all of the nations?

81. “Verily, you practice your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds.”}

 

The Story of Prophet Lut, upon Him be Peace, and His People

Allah said, We sent, “Lut, when he said to his people..” Lut (Lot) is the son of Haran the son of Azar (Terah), and he was the nephew of Ibrahim, peace be upon them both. Lut had believed in Ibrahim and migrated with him to the Sham area. Allah then sent Lut to the people of Sadum (Sodom) and the surrounding villages, to call them to Allah, enjoin righteousness and forbid them from their evil practices, their sin, and wickedness. It this area, they did things that none of the children of Adam or any other creatures ever did before them. They used to have sexual intercourse with males instead of females. This evil practice was not known among the Children of Adam before, nor did it even cross their minds, so they were unfamiliar with it before the people of Sodom invented it, may Allah’s curse be on them. Amr bin Dinar conmented on; “…as none preceding you has committed in all of the nations.” “Never before the people of Lut did a male have sex with another male.” (At-Tabari 12:548)

This is why Lut said to them, “Do you commit lewdness such as none preceding you has committed in all of the nations? Verily, you practice your lusts on men instead of women.” meaning, you left women whom Allah created for you and instead had sex with men. Indeed, this behavior is evil and ignorant because you have placed things in their improper places. Lut, peace be upon him, said to them: “these (the girls of the nation) are my daughters (to marry lawfully), if you must act (so).” (15:71) So he reminded them of their women, and they replied that they do not desire women!, “They said: “Surely, you know that we have neither any desire nor need of your daughters, and indeed you know well what we want!”  (11:79) meaning, you know that we have no desire for women and you know what we desire with your guests. [This refers to the angels who came in the shape of men to destroy them.]

 

{82. And the answer of his people was only that they said: “Drive them out of your town, these are indeed men who want to be pure (from sins)!”}

 

So they answered Prophet Lut by trying to expel and banish him from their village, along with those who believed with him. Allah indeed removed Prophet Lut safely from among them, and He destroyed them in their land in disgrace and humiliation. They said (about Lut and the believers) “These are indeed men who want to be pure (from sins)!”

{83. Then We saved him and his family, except his wife; she was of the Ghabirin (those who lagged behind).

84. And We rained down on them a rain (of stones). Then see what was the end of the criminals.}

 

Allah says, We saved Lut and his family, for only his household believed in him. Allah said in another Ayah, “So We brought out from therein the believers. But We found not there any household of the Muslims except one [of Lut and his daughters]” (51: 35-36).

Only his wife (from his family) did not believe, remaining on the religion of her people. She used to conspire with them against Lut and inform them of who came to visit him, using certain signals that they agreed on. This is why when Lut was commanded to leave by night with his family, he was ordered not to inform his wife or take her with him. Some said that she followed them, and when the torment struck her people, she looked back and suffered the same punishment as them. However, it appears that she did not leave the town and that Lut did not tell her that they would depart. So she remained with her people, as apparent from Allah’s statement, “except his wife; she was of the Ghabirin” meaning, of those who remained, or they say: of those who were destroyed, and this is the more obvious explanation. Allah’s statement, “And We rained down on them a rain” is explained by His other statement, “And rained on them stones of baked clay, in a well-arranged manner one after another. Marked from your Lord; and they are not ever far from the wrongdoers.” (11:82-83).

Allah said here, “Then see what was the end of the criminals.” This Ayah means: ‘See, O Muhammad, the end of those who dared to disobey Allah and reject His Messengers.’

 

 

{85. And to (the people of) Madyan, (We sent) their brother Shuayb. He said: “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other God but Him. Verily, a clear proof (sign) from your Lord has come unto you; so give full measure and full weight and wrong not men in their things, and do not do mischief on the earth after it has been set in order, that will be better for you, if you are believers.}

 

Story of Shuayb, upon him be Peace, and the Land of Madyan

Muhammad bin Ishaq said, “They (the people of Madyan) are the descendents of Madyan, son of Midyan, son of Ibrahim. Shuayb was the son of Mikil bin Yashjur. And in the Syrian language, his name was Yathrun (Jethro)”. (At-Tabari 12:554) I (Ibn Kathir) say, Madyan was the name of the tribe and also a city that isclose to Ma`an on route to the Hijaz (from Ash-Sham). Allah said in another Ayah, “And when he arrived at the water (a well) of Madyan he found there a group of men watering (their flocks).” (28:23) They are also the people of Al-Aykah (the Woods), as we will mention later on, Allah willing, and our trust is in Him. “He said: “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other God but Him” and this is the call of all Messengers, “Verily, a clear proof (sign) from your Lord has come unto you” meaning, ‘Allah has presented the proof and evidences of the truth of what I brought you.’ He then advised them and commanded them to give full measure and full weight and not to wrong men in their dealings, meaning, to refrain from cheating people in buying and selling. They used to treacherously avoid giving full weight and measure. Allah said in other Ayat, “Woe to Al-Mutaffifin (those who give less in measure and weight)…” (83:1) until He said, “before the Lord of all that exists” (83:6). These Ayat contain a stern warning and sure promise that we ask Allah to save us from. Shuayb was called ‘Speaker of the Prophets’, because of his eloquent words and eloquent advice, and Allah stated that Shuayb said:

{86. “And sit not on every road, threatening, and hindering from the path of Allah those who believe in Him, and seeking to make it crooked. And remember when you were but few, and He multiplied you. And see what was the end of the mischief-makers.

87. “And if there is a party of you who believes in that with which I have been sent and a party who does not believe, so be patient until Allah judges between us, and He is the best of judges.”}

 

Prophet Shu’ayb forbade his people from setting up blockades on the roads, saying, “And sit not on every road, threatening,” threatening people with death if they do not give up their money, as they were bandits, according to As-Suddi. (At-Tabari 12:557) Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and several others commented: “And sit not on every road, threatening.” the believers who come to Shu’ayb to follow him.” (At-Tabari 12:557) The first meaning is better, because Prophet Shu’ayb first said to them, “on every road…” He then mentioned the second meaning, “and hindering from the path of Allah those who believe in Him, and seeking to make it crooked.” meaning, you seek to make the path of Allah crooked and deviated, “And remember when you were but few, and He multiplied you.” meaning, you were weak because you were few. But you later on became mighty because of your large numbers. Therefore, remember Allah’s favour. “And see what was the end of the mischief-makers.” from the previous nations and earlier generations. See the torment and punishment they suffered, because they disobeyed Allah and rejected His Messengers. Sh’ayb continued; “And if there is a party of you who believes in that with which I have been sent and a party who does not believe,” that is, if you divided concerning me, “so be patient” that is, then wait and see, “until Allah judges between us,” and you, “and He is the best of judges.” Surely, Allah will award the best end to those who fear and obey Him and He will destroy the disbelievers.

{88. The chiefs of those who were arrogant among his people said: “We shall certainly drive you out, O Shu’ayb and those who have believed with you from our town, or else you (all) shall return to our religion.” He said: “Even though we hate it.”

89. “We should have invented a lie against Allah if we returned to your religion, after Allah has rescued us from it. And it is not for us to return to it unless Allah, our Lord, should will. Our Lord comprehends all things in His knowledge. In Allah (Alone) we put our trust. Our Lord! Judge between us and our people in truth, for You are the best of those who give judgment.”}

 

Allah describes the way the disbelievers answered His Prophet Shu’ayb and those who believed in him, by threatening them with expulsion from their village, or with forceful reversion to the disbeliever’s religion.

The chiefs spoke the words mentioned here to the Messenger Sh’ayb, but intended it for those who followed his religion too. The statement, “Even though we hate it”, means, would you force us to do that, even though we hate what you are calling us to Certainly if we revert to your religion and accept your ways, we will have uttered a tremendous lie against Allah by calling partners as rivals to Him, “And it is not for us to return to it unless Allah, our Lord, should will.” This part of the Ayah refers all matters to Allah’s will, and certainly, He has perfect knowledge of all matters and His observation encompasses all things, “In Allah (Alone) we put our trust.”, concerning all our affairs, what we practice of them and what we ignore, “Our Lord! Judge between us and our people in truth” judge between us and our people and give us victory over them, “for You are the best of those who give judgment” and You are the Most Just Who never wrongs any in His judgment.

 

{90. The chiefs of those who disbelieved among his people said (to their people): “If you follow Shu’ayb, be sure then you will be the losers!”

91. So the earthquake seized them and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes.

92. Those who belied Shu’ayb, became as if they had never dwelt there (in their homes). Those who belied Shu’ayb, they were the losers.}

 

Allah describes the enormity of disbelief, rebellion, transgression and misguidance “of Shuayb’s people” and the defiance of truth encrypted in their hearts. They vowed, saying, “If you follow Shuayb, be sure then you will be the losers!” Allah answered them, “So the earthquake seized them and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes” Allah said that the earthquake shook them, as punishment for threatening to expel Shuayb and his followers. Allah mentioned their end again in Suah Hud, “And when Our commandment came, We saved Shu’ayb and those who believed with him by a mercy from Us. And the Sayhah (loud cry) seized the wrongdoers, and they lay (dead) prostrate in their homes.” (11:94) This Ayah mentions the Sayhah (cry) that struck them after they mocked Shu’ayb, saying, “Does your Salah (prayer) command you…” so it was befitting to mention here the cry that made them silence. In Surat Ash-Shuara’, Allah said, “But they belied him, so the torment of the Day of Shadow (a gloomy cloud) seized them. Indeed that was the torment of a Great Day.” (26:189) because they challenged Shu’ayb, “So cause a piece of the heaven to fall on us, if you are of the truthful!” (26:187). Therefore, Allah stated that each of these forms of punishment struck them on the Day of the Shadow. First, “So the torment of the Day of Shadow (a gloomy cloud) seized them” (26:189) when a gloomy cloud came over them (containing) fire, flames and a tremendous light. Next, a cry from the sky descended on them and a tremor shook them from beneath. Consequently, their souls were captured, their lives were taken and their bodies became idle, “and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes”. Allah said next, “They became as if they had never dwelt there” meaning, after the torment seized them, it looked as if they never dwelled in the land from which they wanted to expel their Messenger Shu’ayb and his followers. Here, Allah refuted their earlier statement, “Those who belied Shu’ayb, they were the losers.”

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 4 Pages 99-119

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