Prophet Saleh (PBUH) was a descendant of Prophet Noah (PBUH). Ibn Ubaid was his father and ibn Masih was his grandfather. The tribe of Saleh (PBUH) was named after the name of the ancestor Thamud. According to some historians, his ancestors lived in some unknown part of ancient Palestine. And later they came to the present-day city of Al Ula in the North-West of Saudi Arabia. Their main city was called Hijr which was a part of Syria. It is now called Madain Saleh.
The forefathers (Aad) of Thamud were saved from the wrath of Allah SWT during the time of Prophet Hud (PBUH) as they were with him then. Prophet Saleh (PBUH) was sent to his tribe about 500 years after the destruction of the Aad nation. He is one of the Prophets (PBUT) whose names are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.
Background to the Arrival of Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
The forefathers of Prophet Saleh (PBUH) started living in the Arabian region. Their enclave was adorned with various mountain peaks complete with innumerable stones. Beneath the mountains, there was extensive fertile land and a source of clean water nearby. They cut solid rocks and built houses for themselves using their arts, craftsmanship, and skills. The Thamud also revolutionized agriculture and commerce by using locally available materials. They also dug lots of wells as the source of fresh water for many uses. According to Qur’an:
“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
But these livelihoods, wealth, and skills given by Allah SWT of theirs gradually sow the seeds of arrogance in them instead of being obedient to the Almighty. As a result of which they tend to compete and quarrel with each other. The community of Thamud was progressively immersed in injustice, cruelty, and anarchy. But the biggest regret is that, despite being the successors of the ancestor Prophet Nuh (PBUH), the Thamud indulged in the worship of various idols instead of worshipping Allah SWT. Allah, the Almighty has sent His Prophets and Messengers to the misguided mankind from the eras to guide them to the right way. In this continuation, He chose Saleh (PBUH) from among them as a prophet for this misguided tribe to lead them to the way of truth and peace.
Da’wah of Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
From childhood, Prophet Saleh (PBUH) was a trustworthy, well-adviser, and just personality to his tribe. Because of these qualities of his character, he became an acceptable, respectable, and trustworthy person in his community. But after attaining Prophethood in his youth, he continued to call his wayward nation to the worship of Allah Almighty with firmness and devotion instead of idolatry. During most of his life, he called the people of Thamud to the true and simple path of Tawheed. He also called them to ask forgiveness from Allah SWT for their sins.
“And to Thamud, We sent their brother Salih. He said: O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other Ilah (God) but Him. He brought you forth from the earth and settled you therein, then ask forgiveness of Him and turn to Him in repentance. Certainly, my Lord is Near and Responsive.” Al-Hud: 61
But the religion and superstition of their forefathers, which they have followed for so long, make them skeptical about the call of Prophet Saleh (PBUH). So, they started arguing and asking many questions to him.
“They said: O Salih! You have been among us as a figure of good hope, till this you have brought. Do you now forbid us the worship of what our fathers have worshipped? But we are really in grave doubt as to that which you invite us to.” Al-Hud: 62
Prophet Saleh (PBUH) continued to convince them of the truth about the chosen religion of Allah Almighty and requested them to repent for their deeds. But unfortunately, only a handful of weak and common people put their faith in him. On the other hand, most of them, including the influential and powerful people of the society, rejected him. Like the previously destroyed nations, most of the people of Thamud also disobeyed their Prophet. As a result of which, a conflict was created between their believers and non-believers.
“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. Those who were arrogant said: Verily, we disbelieve in that which you believe in.” Al-A’raaf: 75, 76
The disbelievers continued to create mischief in the world like the previous Aad nation. Thus, The more the prophet continued to invite them, the more their disobedience transgressed.
Miracle of Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
Ibn Kathir narrates that Fed up with the constant calling of Hazrat Saleh (PBUH.), the leaders of the community decided to demand something from him, which he would fail to fulfill and thereby end his calling. So, they came to him and demanded that if you are a true prophet of God, then show us a ten-month pregnant strong and healthy she-camel from inside the nearby ‘Kateba’ mountain.
Hearing this demand, Hazrat Saleh (PBUH) took a pledge from them that if their demands are fulfilled, will they believe in his prophethood and his call or not? He also warned them that if they do not believe even after the miracle, then they will be destroyed by the wrath of Allah. All were recognized and pledged to that effect. Then Prophet Saleh (PBUH) stood in the prayer and prayed to Allah. Allah Almighty accepted his supplication and said:
“Verily, We are sending the she-camel as a test for them. So, you watch over them and be patient!” Al-Qamar: 27
In no time the mountain trembled and a huge boulder exploded, revealing a pregnant and beautiful she-camel as claimed by the tribe’s leaders. Seeing this wonderful miracle of prophet Saleh (PBUH) some of the tribe leaders and supporters immediately became believers. The rest also expressed interest. But it could not happen due to the obstruction of the main religious and other social leaders. They said:
“We consider you and those who are with you to be symbols of evil.” An-Naml: 47
The Fate of the She-camel
Thus, the disobedient community of Thamud rejected the clear signs of Allah due to their arrogance and foolishness. They broke the covenant they made with the Prophet Saleh (PBUH). As a result, he became very worried about this disobedient community thinking that God’s wrath might fall on them at any time. So, he asked them to seek forgiveness again and to take good care of the camel given by Allah.
“And O my people! This she-camel of Allah is a sign to you. So, leave her to feed on Allah’s earth and touch her not with evil. Lest a near torment will seize you.” Al-Hud: 64
The people and their cattle of Thamud used to drink water from the well. As per the instruction of Allah SWT, Prophet Saleh (PBUH0 told them to drink water from the well by turns with the she-camel. The day when the she-camel used to drink water, the water from the well would be exhausted. Of course, in those days people used to drink the she-camels milk and fill all their vessels with the remaining milk.
“And inform them that the water is to be shared between (her and) them. Each one’s right to drink being established (by turns)” Al-Qamar: 28
But these unfortunate people could not bear so much happiness. They considered the non-availability of water as a cause of difficulty one day. Moreover, when the she-camel used to graze in the fields, the other cattle were afraid of its huge body and unusual appearance. As a result, they decided to kill her. But no one agreed to kill this she-camel because of Prophet Saleh’s (PBUH) warning. Then their leaders persuaded two strong youths to kill the she-camel through the youth and attraction of two young women. Then they cut off the legs of the she-camel with arrows and swords and killed her.
“Then they called their comrade and he caught the she-camel and killed her.” A-Qamar: 29
Conspiracy of the Unbelievers
Prophet Saleh (PBUH) was greatly distressed because the unbelieving community of Thamud killed that camel. And also he was sure that the wrath of Allah Ta’ala would soon fall upon this cruel nation. So, he warned everyone that they should all seek forgiveness from Almighty Allah for their heinous deeds and leave this city and migrate elsewhere quickly. But the disobedient community still stuck to their idiosyncrasies. As a result, he issued a final warning to them that they will fall under the punishment within a very short time.
“But they killed her. So, he ( Saleh PBUH) said: Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. This promise (threat) will not be belied.” Al-Hud: 6
But these wretched unbelievers, even after such stern warning, mocked the Prophet Saleh (A.S.). They did not pay any attention to his warning and like fools, they kept asking him various questions about how and where this punishment would come from. And so, they continued to challenge him:
“Then 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).” Al-A’raaf: 77
Then, instead of seeking forgiveness from Allah, this stubborn nation decided to kill Prophet Saleh. They blame him as the cause of this possible punishment. They think that if Saleh had not come to their community, they would never have faced such a situation. They also think that if punishment does not come then death is also the proper punishment for his lying. Nine leaders of the tribe lead this nefarious conspiracy. Their conspiracy is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows:
“And there were in the city nine men who made mischief in the land and would not reform. They said: swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household. And afterward, we will surely say to his near relatives: We witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily! We are telling the truth.” An-Naml: 48, 49
Leaving the City by Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
Ibn Kasir says in his Tafsir that these nine leaders, according to their unanimous decision and planned plot, led by their chief Qader bin Salaf, set out for Saleh’s home at night with their forces to kill him and loot his house. But on the way, they faced the punishment of Almighty Allah SWT. Allah the Almighty annihilated these nine leaders and their group by showering stones.
“So, they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, but they perceived not. Then see how was the end of their plot! Verily, We destroyed them and their nation, all together.” An-Naml: 50,51
After that Prophet Saleh (PBUH) left the area with his faithful companions by the command of Allah SWT on the eve of the revelation of Ghazab on the appointed day. While leaving he said to his disbelieved people:
“O my nation! I have conveyed to you the message of my Lord and always wish you well. But you do not love your benefactors.” Al-A’raaf: 79
Punishment for the Disbelieving Thamud
After Prophet Saleh (AS) left their cursed city, they all realized that his warning was about to come true. After two days passed, on the third day they all began to anoint their bodies and prepare for death. At that time, according to the prophecy of Prophet Saleh (PBUH), Allah’s punishment fell on them all of a sudden. Their entire nation was wiped out by a combination of a severe earthquake and rumbling noise.
“So, the earthquake seized them, and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes.” Al-A’raaf: 78
“And awful rumbling noise overtook the wrong-doers. So, they lay (dead) prostrate in their homes. As if they had never lived there. Verily, Thamud disbelieved in their Lord.” Al-Hud: 67, 68
In some hadiths, the Messenger of Allah Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) said that an unbelieving leader named ‘Abu Regal’ was saved because he was in Makkah at that time. But as soon as he came out of the Haram Sharif, he also fell into a rage. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) showed the Companions the mark of Abu Regal’s grave outside Makkah and said that a golden rod was also buried with him. Then they dug the grave and recovered the stick. (Tafseer Ibn Kasir: Al-A’raaf: 78)
The Later Life of Prophet Saleh (PBUH)
Prophet Saleh (PBUH) left the unbelieving people of Thamud and went to some unknown region of Palestine. There is no clear description of his later life in Palestine in history. However, it is said by some scholars that he died at the age of approximately five hundred and fifty years. And he lived there with his faithful community until his death. His tomb is located in the Dhofar region of Oman, about 200k east of Salalah.
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