Who is prophet salih? What is the story of prophet salih?
The prophet of the people shaken out of their land by an earthquake
SALIH -peace be upon him-
Salih (as) was the 19th-generation grandson of Adam (as) and was the prophet of the people of Thamud. One report says he is buried alongside the graves of Noah, Hud and Jethro (as) in Mecca, between the Zamzam springs and the Maqam Ibrahim.
The People of Thamud
The destruction of Thamud is legendary. The Qur’an mentions them on numerous occasions, along with their transgressions that led to their ruin.
The people took their name from their forefather, a man known as Thamud, who had descended from Noah’s son (as) Sam. Following Hud’s (as) death, Thamud’s grandchildren settled in northern Arabia between Damascus and Hijaz, in an area known as Hijr. After that, they migrated again, this time to the land of Aad. Hence, they also came to be known as the Second Aad.
Thamud enjoyed the same pleasures as Aad but also fell into similar excess and ignorance. They well knew of the miserable end of Aad but explained it away through natural causes. They said:
“Aad perished because their buildings were poor. They were built on sand were not made to stand the storm. However, we have built our homes on sturdy rocks. No storm could ever damage them”. So, they carved out palaces and mansions out of rocks, with elaborate designs and decorations. However, having long forgotten belief in the Oneness of Allah, they also used the same rocks to carve out idols.
The leader of Thamud was Janda. On his people’s request, he ordered an idol be made unlike any other. The sculptors found a giant rock on a mountain top and chiseled into it shapes like an eye, a bull’s chest and a horse’s hooves and further adorned it with gold, silver and other gemstones. The people then began worshipping it.
Shortly afterwards, the people of Thamud built a temple and sculpted a number of other idols called Wadd, Jadd, Had, Shams, Manaf, Manat and Lat.
Salih (as) was a member of Thamud, who made his living through commerce. Due to his ability, honesty and overall character, he was much loved and respected by his kinsmen. They expected a lot of great things from him. Some even believed he would become their next king. However, Allah (jj) had wished otherwise.
The Call Begins
Once Salih (as) reached the age of forty, Jibril (as) informed him he had been made a prophet. Salih (as) was at first tentative. However, Jibril (as) told him it was his duty to:
“….to call your people to the truth”, and that “you would witness things Noah and Hud did not”.
With those words, Jibril (as) disappeared to the skies.
Salih (as) first took the call to the people’s king, Janda, who responded with decency and understanding.
“Let me inform my people”, he said. Janda then brought the leading members of his people and told them about the oneness of Allah and Salih’s (as) prophethood. They demanded that Salih (as) come and tell them in person. The Qur’an recounts what unfolded next:
“And to Thamud, We sent their brother Salih. He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah; you have no god other than Him. He has produced you from the earth and settled you on it, so ask forgiveness of Him and then repent to Him. Indeed, my Lord is near and responsive.” (Hud, 11: 61)
Elsewhere, it is stated:
“Thamud denied the messengers. When their brother Salih said to them, ‘Will you not fear Allah? Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger. So fear Allah and obey me. And I do not ask you for it any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.’” (Al-Shu’ara, 42: 141-145)
Thamud turned on Salih (as) the moment he began to make his call openly. Just like the prophets before him, only a handful of people accepted Salih’s (as) invitation to believe that Allah is One. The rest continued their denial:
“They said, ‘O Salih, you were among us a man of promise before this. Do you forbid us to worship what our fathers worshipped? And indeed we are, about that to which you invite us, in disquieting doubt.’” (Hud, 11: 62)
“He said, ‘O my people, have you considered that if I am on clear evidence from my Lord and He has given me mercy from Himself, then who would protect me from Allah if I disobeyed Him? You would then not add anything to me except loss.” (Hud, 11: 63)
“He said, ‘O my people, why are you impatient for evil instead of good? Why do you not seek forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?’” (Al-Naml, 27: 46)
Despite the undeniable wisdom of Salih’s (as) advices, Thamud went further to the point of calling him a liar who had been put under a spell:
“They said, ‘You are only of those affected by magic!’” (Al-Shuara, 42: 153)
They said to one another:
‘Are we supposed to follow a human being from among us? We would then indeed be in error and madness!’” (Al-Qamar, 54: 24)
“Has the message been sent down upon him from among us? Rather, he is an insolent liar!” (Al-Qamar, 54: 25)
The Almighty responds to the senseless protests of Thamud with a warning:
“They will know tomorrow who is the insolent liar!” (Al-Qamar, 54: 26)
“Allah said, ‘After a little, they will surely become regretful!’” (Al-Mu’minun, 23: 40)
However, Salih (as) did not despair. Despite their attitudes, he patiently continued to try and steer his people away from idols through words of wisdom:
“Will you be left secure in that which you have here? In gardens and springs. And fields of crops and palm trees with softened fruit. And you carve houses out of mountains with great skill. So fear Allah, keep your duty to Him, and obey me. And follow not the command of criminals, who make mischief in the land and do not reform.” (Al-Shuara, 42: 146-152)
Thamud gave up on Salih (as), when they realized they could not turn him away from his path. They instead turned their attention on a few who had accepted Salih’s (as) call. Their aim was to isolate Salih (as) and leave him on his own. They asked the believers:
“Do you actually know that Salih is sent from his Lord?” (Al-Araf, 7: 75)
However, those people, who had now tasted the zest of faith, were unwavering:
“We without a doubt believe in what he was sent!” (Al-Araf, 7: 75)
The deniers, astounded with their unquestioning resolution, could only respond with mulishness:
“And we certainly deny what you believe in!” (Al-Araf, 7: 76)
Thamud then came up with a number of excuses to justify their denial. They accused Salih (as) of “…trying to seize our wealth and become our king”.
Using an elementary logic, they said:
“We have our idols that we can see and touch. Should we abandon them for a God we cannot see? How can a God, whom you cannot see, give you such a duty?
If you are true to your word, then prove it by doing something no other human being can!”
“You are but a man like ourselves, so bring a sign, if you are truthful!” (Al-Shu’ara, 42: 154)
The Miracle of the Camel
Salih (as) was deeply grieved at how stubborn and ignorant his people were. For a while, he left them on their own and kept to himself. However, when he returned, with the will of Allah, he appeared to them in an imposing form. Thamud felt an awe.
Salih (as) headed to the leader of Thamud, Janda, who said to him:
“We will test you to see if you really are telling the truth”. He then took him to a big rock in the outskirts, known as al-Katibah. He pointed to it and said:
“Ask your God to extract a pregnant, red camel out of this rock! And let the color of its calf be the same!”
Others nearby scornfully added:
“And let its milk be cool in summer and warm in winter! Let it cure all illnesses and make the poor rich!”
Thamud valued red camels more than anything.
As all of Thamud, young and old, gathered, Salih (as) stood to pray and pleaded the Almighty to grant their wish.
The rock then began to swell and let out sounds of birth pain. A red camel stepped out, saying the words:
“There is no god but Allah and Salih is His messenger”.
Janda kissed Salih (as) on the forehead and joined a hundred others in accepting his call. He then turned to Thamud and said:
“Enough with this blindness! I hereby believe in Allah, who has none like He and alone deserves to be worshipped…and I affirm that Salih is his messenger!”
However, the priest of the temple retorted:
“How easily are you fooled by magic? I will show you a greater trick!”
He then cast a spell on the people around, including Janda’s brother, and turned their hearts, which had begun to lean towards Salih (as), around. Afterward, he took the crown of Janda, placed it on the head of his brother and said:
“From now on, you are our king!”
As for Janda, he rushed home and destroyed every single idol he had. He also donated his wealth to the believers. He removed his elaborate clothes and wore another made of thick felt. He began to call others to the truth and became one of Salih’s (as) most prominent helpers.
Every time they saw Janda, the pagans would say:
“Shame on you for being fooled by Salih’s magic!” However, Janda took little notice and remained steadfast by the prophet’s side.
The Almighty revealed to Salih (as):
“Indeed, We are sending the camel as trial for them, so watch them and be patient.” (Al-Qamar, 54: 27)
…and informed him of the guidelines his tribe was to observe in treating the camel, which Salih (as) conveyed:
“‘And O my people, this is the camel of Allah – she is to you a sign. So let her feed upon Allah’s earth and do not touch her with harm, or you will be taken by an impending punishment.’” (Hud, 11: 64)
“He said, ‘This is a camel. For her is a time of drink, and for you is a time of drink, each on a known day. And do not touch her with harm, lest you be seized by the punishment of a terrible day.’” (Al-Shu’ara, 42: 155-156)
The camel would graze the land with its calf and glorify the Lord. Its majesty would scare the other animals away and they would not dare approach it. The believers would drink from its milk, finding cure both physically and spiritually.
The pagans, who suddenly felt useless and despondent in the face of the miracle, began plotting to kill the camel but were holding back out of fear of divine retribution. However, there were two women, who kept provoking the Thamud men to go ahead with the killing, alleging that the camel was harming their livestock. One of them was an old woman called Unayza bint Ghanam, who had beautiful daughters. The other was Muhayya, who had both wealth and beauty.
Both women had herds; and when Salih’s (as) camel drank from the town’s water, their livestock could not. The animals had to take turns. The camel and its calf would drink on one day, while the other livestock would drink on the other.
Muhayya called her cousin, Mista, and said, “If you kill the camel, I will marry you and give you everything I have!”
Mista agreed. Nevertheless, he needed the help of another; so he convinced another pagan by the name of Qitar, who was offered one of Unayza’s daughters.
The two men ended up gathering seven others to help them. The nine men then persuaded the rest of Thamud that the camel had to be killed. The Almighty says:
“And there were in the city nine heads causing corruption in the land and not amending its affairs.” (Al-Naml, 27: 48)
The nine men lied in ambush. Mista shot an arrow and wounded the camel. Qitar and the others then lunged at it:
“So they killed the camel and violated the command of their Lord.” (Al-Araf, 7: 77)
The calf got scared and fled to the mountain. One report suggests they slaughtered it, too, and consumed its meat. After hearing what had happened, a distraught Salih (as) went next to the camel and wept. Despite everything, he still prayed for his kinsmen to be guided. However, they called out to him, saying:
“…‘O Salih, bring us what you promise us, if you are of the messengers.’” (Al-Araf, 7: 77)
“And Salih turned away from them and said, ‘O my people, I had certainly conveyed to you the message of my Lord and advised you, but you do not like advisors!’” (Al-Araf, 7: 79)
“They said, ‘We consider you a bad omen, you and those with you.’ He said, “Your omen is with Allah. Rather, you are a people being tested.” (Al-Naml, 27: 47)
By saying, “…but you do not like advisers”, Salih (as) was letting Thamud know how much they had let him down. They evoke the words of the Prophet (saw), who three days after the Battle of Badr, stood by the pits where the slain leaders of Quraysh had been buried, and said:
“Tell me, people of the qalib! Do you now see that the things that your Lord promised you, are real? For I have today seen that they indeed are!”
“How bad your attitudes were to your prophet! You denied me when others accepted me. You banished me from my hometown, when others embraced me with open arms. You warred with me, when others helped me. How bad your attitudes were!”
Umar (ra) who was nearby, asked:
“Messenger of Allah (as)…are you calling out to rotten corpses in the hope they will hear?”
“I promise by Allah, in whose Hand my life is”, he replied, “they hear me better than you all do; it is just that they cannot talk back!” (Muslim, Janaiz, 26/932; Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad, III, 104)
Once, while passing through the area of Hijr, the Prophet (saw) said:
“Do not ask for a miracle. Salih’s (as) tribe did and their wish was granted. The camel would come from that direction over there towards the water and return from that direction. However, they transgressed and slaughtered it. The camel would drink from their water for one day, while they would drink from its milk on the other. However, they slaughtered it. Then, a loud noise caught them and they were all destroyed except for one person who happened to be in the Ka’bah at the time.”
“Who was he?” the companions asked.
“A man by the name of Abu Righal. However, the loud noise got him, the moment he stepped out.” (Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, III, 296; Waqidi, Maghazi, III, 1007-1008)
The Terrifying Shriek and Quake that Seized the Transgressors
Salih’s (as) efforts to guide Thamud and steer them away from misery only ended up increasing their stubborn denial. Naturally, they brought upon their own demise. They were finally told they had only three more days left:
“He said, ‘Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three more days. That is a promise not to be denied.’” (Hud, 11: 65)
It is narrated that those days were Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On the first their faces would turn yellow, on the second red, on the third black and on the fourth, they would be annihilated. On the first morning, strange things started to happen. Blood began to spurt out of the spots that the camel had stepped on. Leaves turned crimson. Drinking water turned red like blood. The people of Thamud watched their own faces turn yellow. The nine men who had killed the camel began to say, “Salih has cast a spell on us. Let us kill him and his family!” The Qur’an recounts their plot:
“They said, ‘Take a mutual oath by Allah that we will kill him by night, he and his family. Then we will say to his executor, ‘We did not witness the destruction of his family, and indeed, we are truthful!’” (Al-Naml, 27: 49)
The Almighty informed Salih (as) of their plan; and with his family and believers by his side, he migrated. The nine men had surrounded Salih’s (as) home that night waiting for the right moment to attack. When they did, there was no one inside. Once they stepped back out, with the will of the Lord, Jibril (as) pelted them to death with rocks:
“And they planned a plan, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not.” (Al-Naml, 27: 50)
“So the quake seized them, and they became within their home corpses fallen prone.” (Al-Araf, 7: 78)
The city of Thamud suddenly resembled a ghost town. Salih (as) and his believers, who numbered around 4,000 people, had long departed.
“So when Our command came, We saved Salih and those who believed with him, by mercy from Us, and saved them from the disgrace of that day. Indeed, it is your Lord who is the Powerful, the Exalted in Might.” (Hud, 11: 66)
“And We saved those who believed and feared Allah.” (Al-Naml, 27: 53)
On the second day, after the believers left the city, the pagans’ faces turned red as had been warned and black on the third. By now, they were terrified. They were looking left and right to see where their destruction would come from. The Almighty commanded Jibril (as) to turn their homes, which they took so much pride in and thought to be invincible, upside down. In a matter of moments, their city was no more. The Qur’an says:
“So those are their houses, desolate because of the wrong they had done. Indeed, in that is a sign for people who know.” (Al-Naml, 27: 52)
What destroyed Thamud was a piercingly loud blast, a shriek, which according to Fakhruddin Razi, petrified and instantly killed them. The Qur’an describes it in a number of places:
“So the shriek seized them in truth, and We made them as a plant stubble. Then away with the wrongdoing people!” (Al-Mu’minun, 23: 41)
“And the shriek seized those who had wronged, and they became within their homes corpses fallen prone.” (Hud, 11: 67)
Thamud were confident that their wealth and solid homes would save them from catastrophe. However, they could not estimate the power of divine wrath:
“But the shriek seized them at early morning. So nothing availed them from what they used to earn.” (Al-Hijr, 83-84)
Because they did not take lessons from the past, they became a lesson for the future.
“And the punishment seized them. Indeed, in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers. And indeed, your Lord – He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.” (Al-Shu’ara, 42: 158-159)
The Qur’an tells us that a number of peoples were destroyed with a sayhah, a shriek. Thamud is one of them. Their blast sounded from the bottom of the earth. Another is Aykah, the people of Jethro (as), who were eradicated with a blast from the sky. The people of the town mentioned in Chapter Yasin also perished in a similar manner.
The Qur’an also informs us that judgment day will also be sounded with a single blast (sayhatan wahidah). Thus, the destructions mentioned are, in a sense, rehearsals of the final hour.
Shortly after the destruction of Thamud, Salih (as) advised his followers to “…leave this land immediately, for it is a place where Allah manifested His wrath. Seek refuge near the Ka’bah”.
The believers then set out on camelback and offered pilgrimage. Soon, they returned to see the ruins of Thamud to ponder on the consequences of disbelief and give thanks to the Lord for saving them. Afterwards, they returned to near Mecca, where they remained for the rest of their lives.
The Reasons Behind the Destruction of People of Thamud
They insisted on denial and made fun of their prophet.
They yielded to conceit and their rampant egos.
They held their opinions above the religion and turned a deaf ear to their prophet’s call.
They did not listen to advice.
They took the side of the nine killers.
They followed the caprices of wicked women and acted on their command.
They were jealous of righteous people. They would say to Salih (as) “…we never had any troubles until the day you said you were a prophet.”
They were dazzled and fooled by the riches of the world.
They turned back on their word. It was them who had requested the camel and promised they would believe if they saw the miracle.
They betrayed their trust by killing the camel they had promised to leave alone.
They were complicit with criminals. They did not prevent the nine men from slaying the camel.
The camel belonged to no one. It belonged to Allah (jj). It was like a trust and its milk was free for all to drink. Again, they violated that trust.
Those nine men had gone too far in their misdemeanors. They would seize people’s properties and had become loathed by all. However, their kinsmen, did not bring them to justice.
The Destruction of Peoples
The world is a trial and one must observe each moment with eyes wide open. However,, unfortunately, most people live in a deep state of sleep. It is a sleep that in the past has dragged people to the most nightmarish of ends. For them, the world proved to be nothing but a bed of deception.
Whether rocky or smooth, every street on this land called life leads to the grave. The important thing is to reach that final stop with a sound heart filled with belief. However, thoughtlessness, ignorance, negligence, lust, reveling in the pleasures of the world, immorality and materialism often surrender the heart to the ego.
History is dotted with examples of transgressors struck by divine wrath. The arrogant men of Aad and Thamud, the Pharaoh who could not prevent a handful of the Red Sea’s waters from filling his lungs despite his claim to be god, the likeminded Nimrod who could not defend himself against a tiny fly or Sodom and Gomorrah, who lived worse than beasts. They are now long gone along with their tyranny and rebellion, and if it was not for the Qur’an, would have also been long forgotten.
The Book says:
“Has there not reached them the news of those before them, the people of Noah, Aad and Thamud; and the people of Abraham, the companions of Madyan and the towns overturned? Their messengers came to them with clear proofs. And Allah would never have wronged them, but they were wronging themselves.” (Al-Tawbah, 9: 70)
History is an arena where denial, rebellion and injustice has many a time been met with divine vengeance. Sooner or later, those who oppose the path shown by prophets inescapably encounter Allah’s tremendous might. This is an unchanging divine law.
Allah sent prophets to heal the social wounds inflicted by selfish desires. Yet, many were too enamored by the dazzle of the world to accept treatment. They parted from the paths shown by prophets, only to end up being pieces in a rubble made up of others they dragged to demolition. They mistook their misery for joy; and unable to grasp the reason as to why they were created, they imitated animals, but ended up far lower.
The Qur’an declares:
“And how many generations have We destroyed before them? Do you see of them anyone or hear from them a sound?” (Maryam, 19: 98)
“Have they not traveled through the earth and observed how was the end of those before them? They were greater than them in power, and they plowed the earth and built it up more than they have built it up, and their messengers came to them with clear evidences. And Allah would not ever have wronged them, but they were wronging themselves.” (Al-Rum, 30: 9)
The verses advise us to throw a thoughtful eye at the relics of the once great peoples of Aad and Thamud, who built splendid cities by tilling the land, pumping out water and mining precious metals and gems out of it, but lost it all to their denial.
Man searches for food to stay alive. And He searches Allah in times of duress because of the need to keep his spirit alive. When Nimrod had Abraham (as) thrown into the fire only to watch him come out unscathed, he told him, “I will not stop claiming I am god but I will sacrifice 4,000 cattle for yours”. Similarly, the Pharaoh exclaimed, “I believe in the God of Israel”, when he realized he would inescapably perish in the sea. These show that man has a deep-seated need for religion and inevitably turns to his inner world on his deathbed, when he feels genuinely vulnerable, unprotected and alone. However, for people who have spent their entire lives in denial, the final remorse holds no value.
It is a pity that those who have laid waste to their lives in ignorance wait until the very last moment to come to their senses. However, it is all too late. Their torment begins with the angel of death asking, “Where have you been all this time?”
Death cancels out every pleasure experienced in the world and brings an abrupt end to all passing trades.
The wise and righteous therefore seek to get closer to the truth by making their every breath count. They slip away from mortality by making their bodies rehearse death before it comes knocking. While everyone else sleeps, they remain awake.
It is unreasonable to flee death as if it is an ultimate end. None of us fears the approaching night as if the sun will never rise again. When night comes, we let ourselves go into the arms of sleep without the least fear, for we know that the morning will come by the time we reopen our eyes. In like manner, there is nothing more natural than to believe that death only signals a reawakening in the land of truth.
The Almighty says:
“O mankind, indeed the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and let not the deceiver deceive you about Allah!” (Fatir, 35: 5)
What a shame it is to chase after the world like there is no tomorrow and tire oneself in reveling in its pleasures until the last breath. Islam commands us to gaze at the world with an eye of wisdom and live a conscious life on a straight, unwavering path. Allah states:
“Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned? So exalted is Allah, the Sovereign, the Truth; there is no deity except Him, Lord of the Noble Throne.” (Al-Mu’minun, 23: 115-116)
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. Or do those who do evil deeds think they can outrun Us? Evil is what they judge.” (Al-Ankabut, 29: 2-4)
Islam regulates man’s life from the cradle to the grave and prepares him for the mysteries and the truth of the afterlife. What a waste it is for man to live without a purpose, without understanding the relation between the cradle and the coffin, without grasping his position and role in the cosmos, and without making sense of the wisdom that underlies his steady journey to the grave! What legacy can he otherwise possibly leave behind other than a pile of sad memories?
Once prophets become powerless, divine help comes to their rescue and Allah’s wrath and vengeance descends on their enemies. After 950 years, Noah (as) had run out of patience and prayed:
“So he invoked his Lord, ‘Indeed, I am overpowered, so help!’” (Al-Qamar, 54: 10)
Manifestations of divine wrath, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, floods, invasions and plagues, are the most feared events in life. Although these are often explained away as natural disasters, they are not arbitrary and occur due to a number of reasons. They happen because of man’s rebellion and sins, which call upon the disasters to arrive.
Of course, the Almighty is not a tyrant. These disasters happen only when humans deserve it. Divine torment meets those who rally against the divine order.
The Qur’an tells us that even a leaf falls off a tree according to Allah’s destiny. Had it been otherwise, anarchy would have prevailed throughout the cosmos. Each physical event contains thousands of mysteries known only to prophets and people of the heart.
The Qur’an includes many verses about the destruction of peoples and the reasons that underlie it. Allah does not oppress His servants and would never do them injustice. Those are traits that belong to human beings:
“Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves.” (Yunus, 12: 44)
With His infinite mercy, calm and patience, Allah only strikes when people pass beyond a point of no return in their evil and oppression. They are then turned into cases in point for those who come after them:
“His seizure is painful and severe.” (Hud, 11: 102)
Allah catches and destroys them with an intensity from which they cannot recover.
“And there is prohibition upon the people of a city which We have destroyed that they will never return.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 95)
When recounting the destruction of past nations, the Qur’an also lays emphasis on the reasons behind it, so it could serve as a warning for those who are still alive. The biggest reasons of destruction are major sins such as being ungrateful to Allah’s blessings, becoming spoilt instead of thankful and going overboard in oppression and injustice. The Qur’an declares:
“And how many a city have We destroyed that was insolent in its way of living, and those are their dwellings which have not been inhabited after them except briefly. And it is We who were the inheritors.” (Al-Hajj, 28: 58)
“And how many a city have We destroyed that was insolent in its way of living.” (Al-Hajj, 28: 59)
“And how many a city did We destroy while it was committing wrong – so it is now fallen into ruin – and how many an abandoned well and a lofty palace.” (Al-Hajj, 22: 45)
Allah (jj) informs that every misfortune that finds man both in this life and in the hereafter is because of his own doing.
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of what they have done that perhaps they will turn back.” (Al-Rum, 30: 41)
As understood from the above verse, the disorder and ruin that appear in both nature and society is brought upon my man following the desires of his ego. It is then that he denies Allah and basks in immorality and injustice. Allah dishes out some of that punishment in this life, so that man can come to his senses, repent and get back on the straight path. However, if he does not take heed, he will taste the worst of his punishment in the hereafter, which is the land of real punishment. The Qur’an says:
“And whatever strikes you of disaster – it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much.” (Al-Shura, 42: 30)
Allah does in fact defer many of man’s penalties to the afterlife.
“And if Allah were to impose blame on the people for their wrongdoing, He would not have left upon the earth any creature.” (Al-Nahl, 16: 61)
The troubles man faces in return for his sins are only warnings for him to wake up.
However, Allah’s law regarding true believers is a little different. The troubles and misfortunes they undergo compensate for their sins and shortcomings. Our Prophet (saw) has in fact said:
“Allah (jj) makes everything a Muslim undergoes from exhaustion, illness and sorrow to even a thorn in his heels…a means to forgive his sins”. (Al-Bukhari, Marda, 1, 3; Muslim, Birr, 49)
The troubles man undergoes while working for the sake of Allah (jj) not only compensate for his sins but also serve to lift his spiritual standing.
The Almighty tells us He has recounted the stories of destroyed peoples over and over again so that people will draw lessons and come back on the true path:
“And We have already destroyed what surrounds you of those cities, and We have diversified the signs or verses that perhaps they might return from disbelief.” (Al-Ahqaf, 46: 27)
“And We left it as a sign, so is there any who will remember?” (Al-Qamar, 54: 15)
“And how many a generation before them did We destroy who were greater than them in power and had explored throughout the lands. Is there any place of escape? Indeed, in that is a reminder for whoever has a heart or who listens while he is present in mind.” (Qaf, 50: 36-37)
“So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” (Al-Hajj, 22: 46)
Because the heart is the center of all emotions, as well as intellectual and moral qualities, the verse alludes the fact that a heart blinded by mulish denial deafens a person to the truth and keeps him away from sensible behavior.
Allah has devastating power. It turned the flames of Nimrod into lush gardens for Abraham (as). It smashed the kingship of the Pharaoh on its head for Moses (as). It crushed the army of Abraha with pebbles thrown by birds and turned Mecca into a cemetery for the war elephants he had brought to destroy the Ka’bah. It aided the Prophet (saw) with invisible soldiers such as angels, winds and fear and opened for him the horizons of victory.
Places where divine wrath became manifest carry the traces of those catastrophes until the end of time. During his farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet (saw) sped up while passing through Muhassir Valley between Mina and Muzdalifah. When his companions asked him why, he said:
“It was here that the Almighty laid waste to the army of Abraha. I sped up not to bring upon myself any share of that wrath.”
Again, as the army was passing through the land of Thamud during the Tabuk Campaign, the Prophet (saw) advised his companions to:
“Pass through these houses of stone with grief. And do not pick up anything from here…for it was here that a group of wrongdoers met divine punishment!”
The companions said, “But we have filled our bottles with water from here…we have even made dough with it.”
The Prophet (saw) then told them to:
“Empty out your bottles and leave your dough!” (Al-Bukhari, Anbiya, 17)
These places of sin and rebellion continue to bear the wrath that the Almighty once made manifest. To avoid receiving a reflection of that, it is best to avoid going to these places altogether. If one has no other way than to go, he must pass through as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, the Ka’bah, the grave of our Prophet (saw) and the graves of other prophets, mosques, as well as the company of righteous people, are places that receive a constant influx of spiritual inspiration. These are place where divine mercy rains on hearts.
Since the time of Adam (as), Allah sent prophets and revealed books to guide people out of the darkness of denial and immorality. This is a major gift and blessing from our Lord. The final and most complete instance of that is Prophet Muhammed (saw). He is the eternal teacher of humanity, a light reflected on a desert that has taken eternity in its shade.
Islam invites man to act responsibly, constantly reminding him of the day he will be called before Allah to give an account of his entire life. For that reason, a believer must refrain from futile activities, gossip and empty pursuits that lower his moral standards. He must avoid mingling with ignorant people or delve into pointless and vain adventures. He must keep away from the backstreets of deviant philosophies.
Living life without concern for the hereafter is as bizarre as enjoying the day without thinking about the evening. Life on earth passes by as quickly as a cloud in summer. Rumi says:
“Do not feed your flesh in excess…for it will eventually be sacrificed to earth! Look to fill your heart from the fountains of inspiration. It is the heart that will be honored and reach lofty heights.
Give your body only little of the oily and sweet stuff…for those who feed their flesh in excess fall into desire and end up lost.
Feed your spirit with maturity and finesse so that it goes where it will go full of strength!”
May Allah protect us all from a pitiful end….and grant us entry to the gardens of paradise!
. Qalib means a well or a ditch.
. See, Muslim, Hajj, 147; al-Nawawi, Sharhu Sahihi Muslim, VIII, 190.