Al Ula, located in the southwest of Medina, Saudi Arabia, is known to the world as an ancient historical city. Steeped in history and rich in monuments, artifacts, and inscriptions, this ancient city is now a center of interest for avid travelers. However, the ancient history of Al Ula is intertwined with a pathetic and unforgettable history of Islam. This significant history of Al Ula in Islam makes every Muslim think deeply about the innumerable blessings and infinite power of Almighty Allah. Also, this valuable history carries an eternal example that makes us more focused on obedience to our Lord Almighty.
Madain Saleh of Al Ula in Islam
The historical beginning of the city of Al Ula dates back to the pre-Dadanite period. Approximately three and a half thousand years ago, the community of Prophet Saleh (PBUH) who is called ‘the tribe of Thamud’ began to live in this city. So, the history of Al Ula in Islam gets a historic significance for Muslims since then.
According to Islamic history, the forefathers of Prophet Saleh (PBUH) came to Al Hijr or the land of stone (A part of Modern Al Ula) from some unknown region of ancient Palestine. One of the reasons behind this name is the number of Rocky Mountains in this place. They started to live in this place with their whole Thamud community. The Thamud people used to cut these mountains and build houses for them. They used to make a living from the various livelihoods available in this place.
From the history of Al Ula in Islam, we came to know that the tribe of Thamud was highly advanced in intelligence, wisdom, and power. But they deviated from the true religion and belief of their forefathers and gradually turned to the worship of various worldly powers and idols. To guide this misguided nation to the right path, Allah sent Saleh (PBUH) as a prophet and leader to them. But most of the people of Thamud rejected him and disobeyed him. When this disobedience and transgression of theirs reached the extreme level, the Almighty Allah completely destroyed this disobedient nation. Later this place was named Madain Saleh or City of Saleh after the name of Prophet Saleh (PBUH). Various ancient monuments of the Thamud tribe are still available in Al Ula’s Madain Saleh.
Qur’an about Al Ula in Islam
The Holy Qur’an has arranged the history of Al Ula in Islam with a number of Verses about the story of Prophet Saleh (PBUH) and his tribe. From these verses, we get various descriptions of the context of the habitation and lifestyle of Thamud in Al Ula. The Qur’an also describes the Prophet Saleh’s (PBUH) arrival, da’wah activities, and service to his community, and the disobedience, torture, and intrigue of the community to their Prophet. For example, while describing the various gifts and blessings that were bestowed upon the tribe of Thamud like wisdom, power, talent, etc. referring to this place of Al Ula, Allah SWT says:
“And remember when He made you successors after Aad (people) and gave you habitations in the land, you build for yourselves places 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.” Al-A’raaf: 74
Surah ‘Al-Hijr’ revealed in the Holy Qur’an after the name of Al Ula’s Al-Hijr or Madain Saleh has established the ancient memory of Al Ula in Islam as a subject of the eternal lesson. In this Surah, Allah Almighty mentions briefly the disobedience of the inhabitants of al-Hijr to their Messenger and the Signs of Allah SWT, their artistic skill, and the punishment that befall them. We can get a clear presentation of the Holy Qur’an of the life and livelihood of the Thamud tribe lived in Al Ula in the Biography of Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
“And verily, the dwellers of Al Hijr (The Rocky Tract) denied the Messengers. And we gave them Our Signs, but they were averse to them. And they used to hew out dwellings from the mountains for a secure settlement.” Al-Hijr: (80-82)
Read Also: Biography of Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
Hadith about Al Ula in Islam
The history of Al Ula in Islam gets more importance for the Muslims due to some Hadith noticing this place. It is narrated in Hadith that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stopped to meet with the people while He and His companions were passing through the area of Madain Saleh in Al Ula on his way back from the battle of Tabuk. When the people there wanted to serve them food and water, He abandoned the water from the well that was used by the Thamud and drank from the well from where Prophet Saleh’s (PBUH) camel used to drink. At the same time, He warned His companions about entering places where people got punished. He said:
“I fear that you may be affected by what afflicted them. So, do not enter upon them.”
According to the above Hadith, we can say that the land of Thamud is a cursed place in the history of Al Ula in Islam. So, every one of us should be careful when we enter to visit this place. Another important Hadith about Al Ula’s Madain Saleh bears a significant message on the issue of traveling to this place. This Hadith warns us to be cautious and repent of our trespassing on Allah SWT’s order and worship. The Messenger of Allah SWT said:
“Do not enter the ruined dwellings of those who were unjust to themselves unless (you enter) weeping. Lest you should suffer the same punishment as was inflicted upon them.” – Sahih Bukhari 3381
The history of Al Ula in Islam refers mainly to the history of Prophet Saleh (PBUH) and the tribe of Thamud who lived there. In short, the way of life, culture, religious beliefs, and customs centered on Al Ula, behavior towards their prophet of the people of Thamud, and the pathetic punishment imposed upon them are clearly described in different verses of different chapters of the Holy Qur’an. However, because of the arrogance, disobedience, and brutality of the Thamud, Almighty Allah destroyed the entire nation. This historical event is a memorable lesson for us that teaches us to be completely loyal to Allah Almighty. And teaches us to surrender to Him alone to be freed from the punishment of the Supreme Lord, the Sole Ruler of all powers.
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