Hud, Salih, Aad, Thamud
The Aad and the Thamud are two nations mentioned several times in the Quran. They are often discussed when Allah is directing our attention to people who disobeyed Him and were punished as a result.
The exact time of their existence is nearly impossible to determine. But we can conclude from the verses of the Quran that they lived sometime after the flood of Noah and before the time of Ibrahim (AS).
Both groups of people were located on the Arabian Peninsula but in two entirely different areas.
The Aad were in the northwestern part of modern day Saudi Arabia near the border of Jordan. The Thamud were to the south, also in modern day Saudi Arabia near the modern nation of Yemen.
Before sending the punishment on them, Allah sent two prophets to these nations. He sent Prophet Hud (AS) to the Aad, and Prophet Salih (AS) to the Thamud.
Unfortunately, both nations rejected their prophets. Not only did they reject them, they mocked, ridiculed, and in the case of Salih (AS) they even tried to kill him.
These two groups are considered to be ancestors to modern day Arabs. Furthermore, their prophets, Hud and Salih, are often considered two of the four Arab prophets that Allah sent to mankind.
However, while I agree that these two groups are certainly predecessors to modern Arabs, I’m not convinced that Hud, Salih, Shu’ayb, and Ismail were actually “Arabs.”
This is because Prophet Ismail (AS) is often considered to be the father of Arabs just like Prophet Ishaaq/Isaac (AS) is considered to be the father of the Israelites.
If we remember that Ismail’s mother (Hajjar) was an Egyptian, or Coptic, slave, and his father Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was Babylonian, then it’s obvious that he couldn’t also be Arab.
If we try to discuss the lineage of the Arabs we’ll be here forever. So I’ll let that one go for another article and focus on the main discussion, the Aad and Thamud.
The People of Aad
Though no one knows for sure when either of these groups existed, it is clear from the Quran that the Aad were successors to the people of Noah. Therefore, the Aad were a society that sprung up from the survivors of the flood, perhaps some of the same people who rode in the Ark with Prophet Noah (AS).
Over time, some say nine generations, these people developed a society that was very powerful, wealthy, and influential. They were so proud of their accomplishments, that they built huge castles, palaces, and other structures as symbols of their power.
Do you construct on every elevation a sign amusing yourselves? And take for yourselves palaces and fortresses that you may abide eternally?
Chapter 26, Verses 128 – 129
In addition to building gigantic structures, the Aad were also conquerors. And when they conquered people, they did so in a harsh, brutal, and ruthless manner.
And when you strike, you strike as tyrants.
Chapter 26, Verse 130
And of course, they were also polytheists. The exact details of their faith are not mentioned much in the Quran, but it was definitely something that was practiced by most of the society.
Allah sent the Prophet Hud to give the Aad the message of Islam. Hud was from among the Aad himself, as Allah mentions in the Quran:
Aad denied the Messengers when their brother Hud said to them: “Will you not fear Allah?”
Chapter 26, Verses 124 – 125
Hud tried to reason with his people by reminding them of the many favors Allah had given them.
- They were successors to the People of Noah.
- They were able to build great structures and buildings
- They had herds of cattle and livestock.
- They had children to carry on their progeny
- They had gardens and springs
But despite all of this advice, the Aad rejected their brother Hud. In fact they were pretty snarky in their responses.
Indeed, we see in you foolishness and indeed, we think you are of the liars.
Chapter 7, Verse 66
Have you come to us that we should worship Allah and leave what our fathers worshiped? Then bring us what you promise us if you are among the truthful.
Chapter 7, Verse 70
It is all the same to us if you advise us are not from among the advisors. This is not but from the customs of the former peoples and we will not be punished.
Chapter 26, Verses 136-136
Of course, when they challenged Allah and His Messenger like this, they were just inviting destruction. But before we get to that, let’s analyze their responses.
As mentioned earlier, the Aad were a strong, brutish, and conquering people. They conquered other nations and treated them harshly.
Their responses were a reflection of this culture.
Even though they built great sculptures, they weren’t extremely sophisticated people. Hence, they didn’t engage in long, drawn out debates with Hud.
During the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Quraish would debate with him and ask him all sorts of questions. Some of these questions were sincere, but most of the time they were just trying to trip him up. They just wanted to catch him in some sort of inconsistency they could use to discredit him.
The Aad weren’t about that. Their responses, while snarky, were fairly simple.
“What? Are you telling us to change our religion from our father’s relgion? Seriously? Man, you must be crazy. Look, it doesn’t matter if you warn us or don’t warn us, we’re not going to listen to you. So bring on whatever punishment you say is coming to us.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Allah sent a powerful windstorm to the Aad that destroyed them and left them sprawled and mangled in their homes. Their destruction was like a forest being mowed down by giant machines. Here’s how Allah describes their punishment.
And as for Aad, they were destroyed by a screaming violent windstorm which Allah imposed on them for seven days and eight nights straight. So you could see the people therein fallen as if they were hollow trunks of palm trees. Then do you see any remains?
Chapter 69, Verses 6 – 8
Before the destruction came to them, Hud and his small group of followers escaped the area and were spared the punishment.
And that was the end of the Aad.
The People of Thamud
The Thamud were the successors of the Aad. Even though we don’t know for sure how this succession took place, I like to think that perhaps there were a few survivors from that windstorm that wiped them out.
Perhaps these survivors were Prophet Hud (AS) and his followers.
Perhaps they wandered through the Arabian Peninsula for some time looking for a new home. And then perhaps they found a suitable place to settle in southern Arabia. And perhaps, using the knowledge, culture, and technology from the Aad, they established a new society.
And perhaps, over the generations, these people developed their own magnificent society with its own special hallmarks and characteristics.
And perhaps, just like the Aad before them, they forgot the faith of Tawheed practiced by their ancestors and slipped into worshiping idols.
Only Allah knows if this scenario really happened. But certainly, there is some possibility that something like this may have happened.
For one, Allah certainly mentions that the Thamud were successors to the Aad.
And remember when He made you successors after the Aad and settled you in the land?
Chapter 7, Verse 74.
Furthermore, there is also proof that they had some elements of true Islam in their faith.
But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Some sources say the time period of the Thamud, as mentioned in the Quran, was about four generations after the Aad. Of course, only Allah knows the truth.
Personally, I think that would be too soon. Four generations is only about eighty years and it’s unlikely, in my humble opinion, that they were able to establish a new society, invent a new religion, and forget all about their ancestors the Aad in such a short time.
I would rather think that the Thamud were more like two or three hundred years after the Aad.
Anyway, what’s really important is what led to their punishment.
They did worship Allah, which I’ll prove soon. However, they worshiped other deities along with Allah. This shouldn’t be surprising as the Quraish, and in fact most faiths, do the same thing.
They may believe in Allah and may even worship Him in some ways. But they almost always have some other deities included in their pantheon.
The most striking thing about the Thamud was the huge buildings and structures they built into the sides of mountains.
The Aad before them were pretty decent architects and built some fairly magnificent castles. But the buildings of the Aad are like Lego blocks compared to the Thamud.
These Thamud built gigantic castles, hundreds of feet high, and they literally carved them right into the sides of mountains. These things had huge doors, elaborate engravings, complex designs, and must have been an amazing sight in their time.
And they were also well-built because they still exist today. The fact that these structures are still around today, after nearly 4000 years is a testament to their quality and design.
Obviously, the Thamud were much more advanced technologically than the Aad. And this advancement led to a stratified society of haves and have-nots.
There were elites and the downtrodden.
Allah mentions how there were actually nine families that pretty much ran everything in this society. It was these nine families that cause much of the problems for Salih.
I’m also inclined to believe that these nine families were the direct descendents of those believers who escaped the land of the Aad with Hud.
It is very conceivable that those individuals who established this society became the pillars of the nation and their descendents took advantage of that and maintained a stranglehold on the wealth of the nation.
But the Thamud let their education and knowledge go to their heads. They mistreated the lower classes and worshiped others besides Allah.
When Allah sent their brother Salih (AS) to advise them of the true faith, they rejected him just like the Aad had rejected Hud before.
But the Thamud were more nuanced in their rejection.
They were more sophisticated than the Aad. The Thamud were scientists. They were craftsmen. They were elites.
And their responses reflected their advancement in knowledge.
They didn’t bluntly reject Salih like the Aad did to Hud. Instead, they tried to engage Salih in debate. They were a little more inquisitive (at least at first). They wanted to prove that (scientifically, of course) that Salih was not telling the truth.
Eventually, they demanded proof for what Salih was saying. They were scientists and technicians and craftsmen, so they wanted conclusive proof.
So Allah sent a camel with the simple command: Don’t harm her.
That’s it. That’s all the Thamud had to do. Just leave her alone.
But as a sign of their wickedness, they killed her. And when they did that, Allah’s wrath came on them.
According to the Quran, they were hit by a blast that destroyed them. Most scholars interpret this as an earthquake.
Of course there are lessons to be taken from the stories of these two nations.
One of the main lessons I see is that we must be very careful about mocking or challenging Allah. Most decent Muslims would never do such a thing, but there are many misguided people who do.
The second lesson is to watch out for the signs in our lives.
The Thamud demanded and received a sign from Allah. Perhaps they couldn’t understand the significance of receiving a camel. After all, camels were and still are pretty common in that part of the world.
There are some scholars who say a mountain split apart and the camel walked out. Such an amazing thing was supposed to be their sign.
Allah knows best if that really happened (this event is not mentioned in the Quran or Sunnah.)
But the fact that they spitefully killed an animal that had done them no harm and for no good reason is proof and a sign of their evil.
So you must also monitor your life for the signs that you’re receiving. Don’t ignore them.
Sometimes, they can be very important.
Finally, we should understand that Allah has no problem replacing one people with another.
He replaced the people of the Flood with the Aad and then replaced the Aad with the Thamud.
Don’t ever think you’re indispensable. Allah doesn’t need you.
The truth is, we need Allah.
If you keep that mindset, you’ll go far, Inshallah.