Story Of Prophet Salih In Islam
Prophet Saleh, sometimes written as Salih, was a descendant of the great prophet Nuh (may peace be upon him). He was sent by Allah to the nation of Thamud who lived in Al Hijr, located in Arabia. The nation over a few generations had matured and became very powerful, wealthy and influential.
The Qur’an mentions how the society grew very proud of their accomplishments and began building huge castles, palaces, and other structures as status symbol of their power. This is mentioned in Surah Ash Shura ayat 128-129:
“Do you construct on every elevation a sign amusing yourselves? And take for yourselves palaces and fortresses that you may abide eternally?”
They were given a chance by Allah to turn back to Him especially knowing what had happened to the people of Ad for their disobedience. The Qur’an mentions the warning from Prophet Hud who said, “Will you not fear Allah?” (26:124). They denied these warnings as obsession with materialism took over. They turned away from the path of truth, the poor began worshiping the rich who proclaimed themselves as Gods.
Now, Prophet Saleh was a man from a very high standing in society. He built a reputation of respect and was wealthy himself. The People of Thamud held him in high regard for his wisdom and virtue and were prepared to appoint him as their leader. It was during this period that Allah bestowed Saleh with Prophethood.
Prophet Saleh admonished his people, “O my people, worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him. He has produced you from the earth and settled you in it. So ask forgiveness of Him and then repent to Him. Indeed, my Lord is near and responsive” (11:61).
Saleh continued to urge the people to obey him and fear and worship Allah. But they replied, “O Saleh, you were among us a man of promise before this. Do you forbid us to worship what our fathers worshipped? And indeed we are in disquieting doubt about that to which you invite us.” (11:62) However, few among the poor followed and entered the fold of Islam while the majority rebuked Saleh. Some called him a lunatic while others said he must be possessed.
As the days passed, the Thamud feared that Prophet Saleh’s followers would increase in number. In an attempt to put him off, they planned to ask Saleh for a miracle proving that he was indeed the messenger of Allah. They intended to make this miracle impossible to be brought up. So the main leaders of the Thamud sat down together and confronted Saleh. They pointed at a particularly enormous rock and demanded Saleh to bring out from it a she camel that was extremely tall, very woolly, attractive and ten months pregnant! They further stipulated that it should be able to produce milk for the entire town.
Saleh was desperate to bring his people to the path of Allah. So he pleaded with Allah to grant him what the people had asked for. And there came the day when Saleh gathered his people to witness the coming of the miracle. Allah ordered that very rock to split asunder and from it emerged a red, gigantic, ten month pregnant she-camel, much to the awe and amazement of the people. It was a clear evidence in their midst that a number of people declared their faith. However, the vast majority remained untouched and pursued their disbelief, stating this was nothing but pure magic.
(side note: Some narrations believe the camel did not have a miraculous birth or dispute that it came from a rock, the Qur’an simply states, “O my people, this is the she-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.”)
The she-camel was indeed a living miracle that every passing day people converted to Islam. The disbelievers could not bear this. Eventually their hatred for Saleh was diverted towards the she-camel. Saleh feared that the disbelievers would conspire against the she-camel and warned them, “O my people! This she camel of Allah is a sign to you, leave her to feed on Allah’s earth, and touch her not with evil lest a near torment will seize you.” The Thamud initially allowed the she-camel to graze on their land and drink freely from the common well but this was short-lived.
It wasn’t long before Thamud became disgruntled, the believers found their faith increasing while the disbelievers’ hatred intensified to a degree where they began plotting to kill the she camel.
With the support of all the disbelievers in town, nine men set out aiming to kill the she-camel. They watched her closely. As she approached to drink from the well one of the men shot her in the leg, thereby hindering her from escape. The others immediately sprang forward and put a sword through her body, killing her.
The townspeople saw this as a clear victory and cheered loudly for the men. They went on to slaughter the she-camel and eat her meat. When Saleh heard of this he hurried to warn the people, but it was too late. The people mocked him saying, “O Saleh, bring us what you promise us, if you should be of the messengers.” Saleh replied, “Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. That is a promise that will not be denied.” (11:65)
The disbelievers taunted Saleh and asked him to hasten the punishment. Prophet Saleh 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?” The people paid no heed. They were only infuriated and began plotting to kill Prophet Saleh. The nine men gathered together and discussed, “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.” (27:49)
Meanwhile Allah had a plan for the people of Thamud, “And they planned a plan, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not” (27:50) so he instructed Saleh to gather his followers and leave town. The people were only too happy to be rid of him. They were unperturbed by Saleh’s warning. The Thamud possessed excellent craftsmanship that they had carved their houses out of the dense rock of the mountains. This made them feel secure. They believed their rock fortresses would protect them from all disasters.
Three days after Salih’s warning, thunderbolts filled the air, followed by severe earthquakes which destroyed the entire tribe and its homeland. The land was violently shaken, destroying all living creatures in it. There was one terrific cry which had hardly ended when the disbeliveers of Salih’s people were struck dead, one and all, at the same time. Neither their strong buildings nor their rock hewn homes could protect them.
The disbelievers of Thamud had no ally that day. They had incurred the wrath of Allah which caused them to be destroyed before they realised what was happening.
Meanwhile, Prophet Saleh and the believers were saved by Allah’s grace. He returned to Al Hijr one day to witness the destruction of his people and said with a heavy heart, “O my people, I had certainly conveyed to you the message of my Lord and advised you, but you do not like advisors.” Prophet Saleh then migrated to Palestine, where he lived until his death.