After Prophet Hud, came Prophet Salih. In Suratul-‘A^raf, in verse 73, we are told that God sent to the people of Thamud a Prophet called Salih who belonged to the tribe of Thamud. Salih told them, “O people worship Allah, there is no God but Him Who deserves to be worshiped.”
“And, indeed We have sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad); of some of them We have related to you their story and of some We have not related to you their story, and it was not given to any Messenger that he should bring a sign except by the Leave of God.” (Quran 40:78)
As to the lineage of Prophet Salih, it is cited that he is Salih, the son of ^Ubayd, the son of Masih, the son of ^Ubayd, the son of Hadir, the son of Thamud, the son of ^Athir, the son of Iram, the son of Noah. God sent Salih to Thamud, a tribe named after their famous grandfather Thamud.
They were Arabs who lived in the area called Al-Hijr. This is an area stretching from the Hijaz to Jordan. Our Prophet passed by that land, when he was heading towards Tabuk. He had a group of Muslims with him. The traces of the tribe of Thamud still remain until today. They were there when the Prophet passed. It is called Mada’in Salih.
The Many Endowments on the Tribe of Thamud
God enabled the tribe of Thamud to live in this area. He endowed on them a lot of endowments, like those on the people of ^Ad. The people of Thamud were not any better than those blasphemers of ^Ad. They did not learn from the lesson of ^Ad. They were not God-fearing and most did not believe Prophet Salih. They worshipped idols and were carried away by the luxury of living that they had.
God made Salih a Prophet from among the most honorable lineage of their tribe. They knew Salih well. Salih was the most patient and wise among them, and had the strongest mind. He urged them to worship God only, and not to associate partners to Him. Salih told them that the Creator does not resemble the creation. He told them to stop worshipping the idols that do not create harm or benefit. Suratul-A^raf, verse 74 means that God made the people of Thamud the vicegerents after the people of ^Ad.
"O Saleh! You have been among us as a figure of good hope and we wished for you to be our chief, till this, new thing, which you have brought that we leave our gods, and worship your God alone! 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 monotheism.” (Quran 11:62)
They were well off in their means of living and they lived long lives. They used to build houses that would collapse before they die, and so they resorted to carving their houses inside rocks in the mountains. Those houses would last long enough, and they would die before the houses collapsed. They became arrogant as a result of their ability to make those stone houses.
They should have taken a lesson from the people of ^Ad. Thamud planted and harvested crops, but these people were not thankful to God. They did not believe in God correctly. They did not respond to the message of Prophet Salih.
In Suratush-Shu^ara’, verses 141-152, we are told that Prophet Salih pointed out to his people that God is the One Who created them, and enabled them to construct on the Earth, making them vicegerents on Earth, after the people of ^Ad. God endowed on them the luxury of good crops and fruits. Prophet Salih explained to them that since God is the true Creator of all of these things, He is the only One Who deserves to be worshipped. He is the One Who truly sustains them. Salih ordered them to quit their blasphemy and to worship God only. Just as Prophet Hud said to his people, Prophet Salih told his people, “I do not seek anything in exchange for teaching you the knowledge. I do not expect you to pay or feed me. I seek the reward from God alone.”
The people of Thamud responded to Prophet Salih, as we know from verse 62 of Surat Hud saying, “O Salih, we had high hopes for you in the past, before you started warning us and asking us to worship that which our forefathers did not worship. We truly doubt that you are truthful in what you are calling us for. We knew you before this, as someone with a sound mind and sound opinion. Yet now you are inviting us to drop that which our forefathers had worshipped before.”
Prophet Salih told them to follow him, worshipping God and leaving out the blasphemy. Prophet Salih was very gentle in conveying the threat to them and drawing their attention to the fact that they were following the wrong path. He told them, “You will not have an excuse on the Day of Judgment if you remain in a state of blasphemy, because I delivered to you the message from God. You are accountable. You will not be able to say on the Day of Judgment ‘O God had You sent us Prophets and Messengers, we would have believed’, because God did send me as a Prophet to you.”
Among the many hardships that the people of Thamud inflicted on Prophet Salih is that they told him that he was under the effect of witchcraft. This is stated in the Qur’an in verse 153 of Suratush-Shu^ara’. It means, “They said, ‘O Salih, you are under the effect of sorcery’.” This was only a reflection of their deep arrogance and rejection to following the true path that is supported by the judgment of the sound mind.
Prophet Salih continued calling his people to leave blasphemy, and his people continued worshipping idols and following the wrong path. They feared that due to the persistence of Prophet Salih, that his message would spread and that some people would start believing in him. They wanted to picture Salih as someone weak and powerless, to show that he was not truthful in his claim of Prophethood. Hence, they requested from him to perform a miracle. They did this out of ridicule, and not because they believed in Salih.
The Blasphemers Challenge Prophet Salih
The blasphemers set specifications for this miracle. They said, “What we knew about you is that you had a sound mind, but now you are telling us to leave the idols of our forefathers. You now must be under the effect of witchcraft.” They pointed at a rock, and said, “Can you bring a camel and its calf out of this rock?”
In Surat Ash-Shu^ara’, verses 153-156, we are told that the people of Thamud told Prophet Salih, “You are only a person under the effect of sorcery. You are only a human being like us. If you are truthful in your claim, give us a sign.”
Prophet Salih, knowing their stubbornness, took from them commitments that should he perform that miracle, they would quit worshipping idols, believe in God, worship Him correctly, and believe in Prophet Salih and his message.
When Prophet Salih took these promises from them, he asked God to make that miracle happen. God fulfilled the request of Prophet Salih, and a camel and its calf came out of the rock with the same specifications set by the people of Thamud.
Some of the people who saw that miracle did believe, and they accepted Prophet Salih and fulfilled their commitment. One was named Jundu^ the son of ^Amr. This man was among their leaders; he had a branch of the people behind him. However, most of the people of Thamud did not honor their commitment and still disbelieved in Prophet Salih, and continued to worship idols.
Some of the people blocked the way of others to embrace Islam. One of them was named Du’ab, the son of ^Amr, the son of Labid. Another was a person who was the owner of the idols, named Al-Hubab, and others.
When the camel and its calf came out of the rock, Prophet Salih warned the people of Thamud about harming that camel. Salih gave them certain restrictions by which they had to abide. He said that the camel had to graze on the land and was entitled to the water of the well for one entire day. Thamud could use the well on the following day. From then on, it had to alternate like that. Prophet Salih warned them that if they did not honor that, they would face a severe punishment from God.
“We sent the she camel to Thamud as a clear sign, but they did her wrong.” (Quran 17:59)
From the Qur’an we know that Prophet Salih told them, “This is the camel, and note that the camel will drink from the well one day and you will drink from the well another day. Do not harm that camel or else you will be inflicted with a severe torture.”
The camel stayed with Prophet Salih for some time, and this attracted some people to believe in Salih. This made the blasphemers more scared, because they saw that Prophet Salih was more appealing to the people. They feared for their position, and their leadership in the tribe. They started lobbying for the non-acceptance of Prophet Salih.
“O my people! This she camel of God is a sign to you, leave her to feed on God's earth, and touch her not with evil lest a near torment will seize you.” (Quran 11:64)
The followers of Prophet Salih stayed firm. They responded as we know from Suratul-‘A^raf, verse 75, saying, “We believe in the message that Prophet Salih was ordered to convey from God.” This response did not change the position of the blasphemers. Their hearts stayed as stiff as stones. They responded to the believers as said in verse 76 of Suratul-‘A^raf, “What you have believed in, we have disbelieved in.” They saw that this camel that Prophet Salih brought was a major threat to them. They wanted to kill it and get rid of this threat. Hence, they conspired to kill the camel.
The Killing of the Camel
Those people hesitated for a while to carry out killing that camel, up to a point of time when two evil women among them played a role in influencing the people to carry out the conspiracy. One of them was named Saduq, the daughter of Mahya. She had a high social status and money. She offered herself to a man named Masra^, were he to carry out the mission of slaughtering the camel. The woman ^Unayzah, was elderly, and a blasphemer with four daughters. She offered anyone of her four daughters to Qudar if he slaughtered that camel.
“And there were in the city nine men (from the sons of their chiefs), who made mischief in the land, and would not reform. They said: ‘Swear to another by God that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household, and afterwards we will surely say to his near relatives, "We witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily! We are telling the truth.’” (Quran 27: 48 & 49)
These two men got excited about this matter, and lobbied among the people to slaughter the camel. Seven joined them and they became nine. God told us about those nine people in Suratul-Naml, verse 48. In the city, there were nine who conspired to make trouble. They were all from the tribe of Thamud. These men killed the female camel that came out of a rock. The calf climbed a mountain, entered a rock, and disappeared.
The Blasphemers are Warned of the Torture
God told us in Suratu Hud, that Prophet Salih informed them after they slaughtered the camel, “Stay in your houses, enjoying for three days. Then await the torture of God.” Prophet Salih told them that he had warned them not to harm the camel and now they did. He said, “Now God has revealed to me that you stay in your houses for three days and then you shall receive the severe punishment. This is a promise that shall come true.”
Despite the warning of Prophet Salih, those people did not repent. They had between their hands the stories of the blasphemers of before, like the people of Noah who were drowned, and the people of ^Ad who were killed. Even when Prophet Salih gave them three days and warning, they did not repent or reconsider. They did not leave out their blasphemy. Instead, they persuaded themselves that Prophet Salih was not truthful in his warning.
They challenged, (Suratul-‘A^raf, 77). They said, “O Salih, deliver to us that torture that you are promising, if you are truly a Messenger.” Those people came together and conspired to kill Prophet Salih and his family. They agreed to kill him during the night and to deny that they were behind this murder they planned. God saved his Prophet from that conspiracy. God sent stones that killed the group of people that wanted to carry out the scheme of killing Prophet Salih.
The first of the three days was a Thursday. The people woke up on Thursday, having pale yellow faces. However, their arrogance grew towards the end of the day. They said, “One day is over and nothing has happened.” They woke up the next day and their faces were red. Then, at the end of Friday they said, “Two days have passed, and nothing has happened.” They woke up on Saturday and their faces were black. At the end of the day they said, “the deadline is over, and nothing has happened.”
When they woke up on Sunday they got ready to see what would happen. When the sun started to rise, the land rocked and shivered, underneath their feet. A very strong scream was heard, that immediately caused these blasphemers to drop dead. Their hearts ruptured inside of their chests. They were fallen corpses on the ground, empty of souls. Suratul-‘A^raf, 78 means that the rocking of the land overwhelmed them and they ended up lying down dead on their own land.
It was cited that when they woke up on the fourth day, Sunday, the sun rose. However, they did not immediately receive the torture. At that they said that God had forgiven them. They had been scared and had entered into graves that they had dug that evening. Briefly, they enjoyed thinking that God had forgiven them and that there would be no torture. Then Angel Gabriel (Jibril) came down and blocked the rays of the sun. When they saw that, they ran back into their graves. Angel Gabriel screamed one scream like thunder and their hearts ruptured in their chests. They died. The fortified houses they built inside of rocks dropped down on top of their graves.
After they were destroyed, Prophet Salih addressed them. He said, “I endeavored to call you to the Religion of Islam. I invited you to the belief and to stop worshipping the idols. I tried to take you out of the dungeons of blasphemy to the light of Islam. I was keen in doing that. However, you turned me down and rejected my advice. You rejected what I called you to, and this is the result. The strong houses in the mountains, money, water, fertile land, and crops did not do you any good. God punished you for your blasphemy.”
This story of Prophet Salih sheds light that God put us on this Earth and enabled us to benefit from the facilities and made us accountable. He sent Prophets and Messengers to tell us the rules. If people do not respond to the Prophet of their time, they are at a loss.
After the blasphemous people of Salih were destroyed, it is cited that Prophet Salih moved to the area of Ash-Sham, and lived in Palestine. Then he moved to Makkah and resided there worshipping God until he died.