The Prophet Saleh AS

The Story of Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

Prophet Saleh Calligraphy

Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was a descendant of the great Prophet Nuh (may peace be upon him). He was chosen by Allah (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) to help guide the Thamud people. This was an ancient tribe who settled in Al-Hijr, now known as Madain Saleh (the Cities of Saleh), located in northwestern Arabia.

The Thamud people were successors of the previous community called Ad. As we covered in greater detail in the story of Prophet Hud (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), the people of Ad were an extremely powerful and wealthy nation. They were built physically strong and tall. They were also excellent builders, constructing lofty towers. But Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) brought their downfall due to their arrogance when they repeatedly rejected Prophet Hud's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) warnings.

The Qur'an mentions,

فَأَمَّا عَادٞ فَٱسۡتَكۡبَرُواْ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ بِغَيۡرِ ٱلۡحَقِّ وَقَالُواْ مَنۡ أَشَدُّ مِنَّا قُوَّةًۖ أَوَلَمۡ يَرَوۡاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِي خَلَقَهُمۡ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنۡهُمۡ قُوَّةٗۖ وَكَانُواْ بِـَٔايَٰتِنَا يَجۡحَدُونَ ayah 15

Fa ammaa ‘Aadun fastak baroo fil ardi bighairul haqqi wa qaaloo man ashaddu minnaa quwwatan awalam yaraw annal laahal lazee khalaqahum Huwa ashaddu minhum quwwatanw wa kaanoo bi Aayaatinaa yajhadoon

English Translation:

"As for 'Aad, they were arrogant upon the earth without right and said, "Who is greater than us in strength?" Did they not consider that Allah who created them was greater than them in strength? But they were rejecting Our signs."
(Surah Fussilat 41:15)

The civilization of Ad' had completely vanished, leaving no trace of its existence besides what the Qur'an has mentioned. However, like the Pharaoh who left behind the Pyramids, the buildings and sites constructed by the people of Thamud still exist as a sign for us today.

أَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ ayah 6 إِرَمَ ذَاتِ ٱلۡعِمَادِ ayah 7 ٱلَّتِي لَمۡ يُخۡلَقۡ مِثۡلُهَا فِي ٱلۡبِلَٰدِ ayah 8 وَثَمُودَ ٱلَّذِينَ جَابُواْ ٱلصَّخۡرَ بِٱلۡوَادِ ayah 9 وَفِرۡعَوۡنَ ذِي ٱلۡأَوۡتَادِ ayah 10 ٱلَّذِينَ طَغَوۡاْ فِي ٱلۡبِلَٰدِ ayah 11 فَأَكۡثَرُواْ فِيهَا ٱلۡفَسَادَ ayah 12 فَصَبَّ عَلَيۡهِمۡ رَبُّكَ سَوۡطَ عَذَابٍ ayah 13

Alam tara kaifa fa’ala rabbuka bi’aad (6) Iramaa zaatil ‘imaad (7) Allatee lam yukhlaq misluhaa fil bilaad (8) Wa samoodal lazeena jaabus sakhra bil waad (9) Wa fir’awna zil awtaad (10) Allazeena taghaw fil bilaad (11) Fa aksaroo feehal fasaad (12) Fasabba ‘alaihim Rabbuka sawta ‘azaab (13)

English Translation:

"Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad – (6) [With] Iram – who had lofty pillars, (7) The likes of whom had never been created in the land? (8) And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley? (9) And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? – (10) [All of] whom oppressed within the lands (11) And increased therein the corruption. (12) So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment. (13)"
(Surah Fajr 89:6-13)

Furthermore, the 15th surah of the Qur'an is dedicated after their story titled "Surah Al-Hijr," meaning 'The Stone' or 'The Stoneland.' This is a reference to how they used to carve their houses, temples, and tombs into the large rocky mountains. As successors of the people of Ad' they knew about Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), and it is believed they originally worshipped one God.

But as the society prospered and they achieved material success, they too fell victim to believing in their superiority. Their success led them astray. They built castles, statues, and eventually idols to symbolize their powers. Instead of sharing the abundance they created, they became greedy and cruel to the poor. The Qur'an mentions their fascination with the worldly life, neglecting the life of the hereafter in Surah Ash-Shu’ara ayat 128-129:

أَتَبۡنُونَ بِكُلِّ رِيعٍ ءَايَةٗ تَعۡبَثُونَ ayah 128 وَتَتَّخِذُونَ مَصَانِعَ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَخۡلُدُونَ ayah 129

Atabnoona bikulli ree’in aayatan ta’basoon (128) Wa tattakhizoona masaani’a la’allakum takhludoon (129)

English Translation:

"Do you construct on every elevation a sign, amusing yourselves," (128) And take for yourselves palaces and fortresses that you might abide eternally? (129)
(Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:128-129)

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Now, Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) wasn't just another man living among the people of Thamud. He made a name for himself, reaching a high standing in society. He had a distinct personality and built a reputation of integrity. The People of Thamud respected him for his wisdom and virtues and were prepared to appoint him as their leader. It was during this period that Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) bestowed Saleh with Prophethood.

prophet Saleh Image

With this revelation, Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) began criticizing his people for what they worshipped, trying to teach them about Tawheed (Oneness of God), saying, My people! Serve Allah; you have no god other than Him. He brought you into being out of the earth, and has made you dwell in it. So ask Him to forgive you, and do turn towards Him in repentance. Indeed My Lord is near, responsive to prayers. (Surah Hud, ayah 61)

The people were disappointed in this rhetoric. They respected Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) but disliked his new message. They said, “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.” (Surah Hud, ayah 62).

Like the life Arc of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) nurtured his chosen prophets with good morals to be models of excellent behavior from a young age. Whoever knew them before their revelations loved and respected them. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), before prophethood, was known by the entire community by his nickname Al-Amin, meaning "The Trustworthy One."The moment they began urging people to turn away from their wrongdoings, hostility surfaced.

This was the case of Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), who was soon to be an appointed leader chosen by the people. But when he received Allah's message, they were disappointed. The people then turned on him, "You were among us a man of promise."

But not everyone turned their backs on Prophet Salih (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). There were a few people of modest means who were touched by the sincerity of his message. They saw the truth, unlike the elite, blinded by the glamor of high living and status. In their case, wealth and power actually served as an obstacle, making them resistant to change. It was far easier to dismiss Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) as a madman or possessed than to confront their own immoral lifestyle.

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Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) kept preaching to the Thamud people. He argued with reason and intellect, and slowly but surely, a few more began to follow his message. This worried the others; they feared that Prophet Saleh’s followers would increase in number if left uncontested. So, to put him off, they came to him and said we want to worship the same gods as our fathers, but if you are able to produce a miracle, we will believe you are truly a messenger of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ).

For them, this was obviously a joke. They intended to make the miracle so ludicrous that it'd be impossible for him to fulfill. So, the leaders sat Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) down and demanded, pointing to an enormous rock, split it into two, and from inside should come an extremely large, wolly, and attractive camel. They improvised further, adding that it must also be a female, ten months pregnant, and be able to produce milk for the entire town.

leaders Image

They laughed as they thought the task would be impossible, but Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was desperate and determined to bring his people to the path of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ). So, he pleaded with his Lord to grant the people's request. And there came the day when Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) gathered his people to witness the coming of the miracle.

And to the Thamūd [We sent] their brother Salih. He said, "O my people, worship Allāh; you have no deity other than Him. There has come to you clear evidence from your Lord. This is the she-camel of Allāh [sent] to you as a sign. So leave her to eat within Allāh's land and do not touch her with harm, lest there seize you a painful punishment." (Surah Al-A'raf, ayah 73)

The she-camel was a living miracle that caused people to convert to Islam with every passing day. The people of Thamud had demanded Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) for the miracle of a massive camel with a large appetite, and now it was present.

The one condition Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) warned against was not to harm the sign of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ). Allow the camel to eat within the land freely and drink from the pond. Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) told his Prophet, "We are going to send the She-camel as a trial for them; so watch them (O Salih) and keep patience, and tell them that water (of the well) is to be shared between them (and the She-camel), so as the right of having water shall be attended by each (alternatively)." (Surah Al-Qamar, ayah 28)

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The disbelievers could no longer bear this. They had asked for a sign from Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and now were annoyed by its very presence. The she-camel arrival meant they had to alternate their animals' feeding and drinking schedules, which they found bothersome. They asked for a massive camel yet complained when it grazed and drank more than their own flocks. When the she-camel walked near the other animals, they would run away, frightened by its size and color. But deep down, their hatred for the camel was beyond these superficial reasons. Fundamentally, the camel was a living symbol. A constant reminder of their persistent wrongdoings.

The Qur'an then mentions,

“when the most wicked of them was roused to kill the she-camel. But the messenger of Allah warned them, 'Do not disturb Allah’s camel and her turn to drink!'” (Surah Ash-Shams, ayat 12-13)”

One of the disbelievers in town became motivated and began conspiring to bring down the camel. Rallying eight other accomplices to his cause, he also secured the support of the entire town. Completely ignoring Prophet Salih's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) warning of severe punishment, they set off on their mission.

Camel Killing

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 (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) 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.” (Surah Hud, 11:65)

The disbelievers taunted Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and asked him to hasten the punishment. Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) said, O my people, why do you seek evil to come sooner before good? Why do you not seek forgiveness from Allah, so that you are treated with mercy? They replied, "We regard you and those with you as a sign of bad omen." Saleh said, "Your omen is with Allah, but you are a people put to a test." (Surah An-Naml, ayat 46-47)

The people paid no heed. They were fully committed to their cause of corruption. The nine conspirators convened to kill the Prophet next.

"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.” (Surah An-Naml, 27:49)

Mea discussed Image

Meanwhile Allah had a plan for the people of Thamud,
“And they planned a plan, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not” (Surah An-Naml, 27:50)

So, He instructed Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) to gather his followers and leave town.

Thamud destroyed

This is the case for all those who ask for miracles, and when they're revealed and they continue in their defiance, they are destroyed.

Remember when the people asked Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), "O Jesus, son of Mary! Would your Lord be willing to send down to us a table spread with food from heaven?" (Surah Ma'idah, ayah 112) Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) replied, "Fear Allāh, if you should be believers." He then turned to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), asking for the best foods from heaven, then Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) replied,

قَالَ ٱللَّهُ إِنِّي مُنَزِّلُهَا عَلَيۡكُمۡۖ فَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بَعۡدُ مِنكُمۡ فَإِنِّيٓ أُعَذِّبُهُۥ عَذَابٗا لَّآ أُعَذِّبُهُۥٓ أَحَدٗا مِّنَ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ ayah 115

Qaalal laahu innee munaz ziluhaa ‘alaikum famai yakfur ba’du minkum fa inneee u’azzibuhoo ‘azaabal laaa u’azzibuhooo ahadam minal ‘aalameen (section 15)

English Translation:

"Indeed, I will send it down to you, but whoever disbelieves afterwards from among you - then indeed will I punish him with a punishment by which I have not punished anyone among the worlds."
(Surah Ma'idah, ayah 115)

The disbelievers of Thamud had no ally that day. They had incurred the wrath of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ).

Meanwhile, Allah's grace saved the Prophet Saleh (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and the believers. 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.” (Surah Al-A'raf, ayah 79)

Modern-Day Al-Hijr:

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar (ra): (While we were going for the Battle of Tabuk and when we reached the places of the dwellers of Al-Hijr), Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said about the dwellers of Al-Hijr (to us). "Do not enter (the dwelling places) of these people unless you enter weeping, but if you weep not, then do not enter upon them, lest you be afflicted with what they were afflicted with."

Today, these signs remain from Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), not for us to enjoy a vacation. Rather, we should return to these places, "weeping" in the sense it should be a reminder, a lesson to learn from their mistakes.

Narrated 'Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her): "When the Prophet (ﷺ) saw storm clouds he would pace back and forth. And when it rained, he would relax." She said: "I said something to him about that, and he said: 'What do I know?' Maybe it is as Allah, Most High said: "And when they saw it as a cloud approaching their valleys, they said, "This is a cloud bringing us rain!" But Hûd replied "Rather, it is that for which you were impatient: a wind, within it a painful punishment," (46:24 & Sahih (Darussalam) Jami at-Tirmidhi 3257)

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