Prophets and Messengers were sent by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى for the guidance of mankind on this planet. It is believed that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى sent around 124,000 Prophets and Messengers to this world in different times, the first being the Prophet Adam عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the last Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

In the Quran, 25 Prophets and Messengers are mentioned by name. Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is one them. He is mentioned by name nine times in different Surahs, such as Surah Al-A’raf, Surah Hud, and Surah As-Shu’ara. Prophet Salih (صَالِحٌ), also written as Saleh, was the successor of Prophet Hud عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. He is from the descendants of the Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ the ancestral line being Salih Ibn ‘Ubeid, Ibn Maseh, Ibn ‘Ubeid, tIbn Hader, Ibn Thamud, Ibn Ather, Ibn Eram, and Ibn Nuh. Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُwas sent to his tribe, known as Thamud (ثمود).

The Thamud Tribe and Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

When the Ad tribe was punished by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, they totally vanished, as if they never existed. A similar tribe replaced them, which is known in history as Thamud (Arabic Samud). Their homeland was Al-Hijr (Arabic word for Stone or Rock), situated in the Northwestern area of the Arabian Peninsula. Currently, this region is the Medina Province of Saudi Arabia and is known as Madain Salih, meaning the Cities of Salih.

Like Ad, the Thamuds were also a mighty and powerful nation. They were well-built and tall-statured. They were rich. They were experts in carving houses and temples in the rocks. But all the wealth and might were concentrated within a small group of powerful people who ruled the entire tribe with no mercy for the poor and oppressed. Gradually, they started worshiping Idols and left the right path of monotheism.

Prophet Salih was a very popular and trusted personality within the Thamud tribe. He enjoyed huge respect amongst the tribe and was known for his good deeds and wisdom. Based on his wisdom and popularity, it was very likely that he would be chosen to lead the tribe. But just before this idea would materialize, he was chosen for the Prophet-hood by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

The Prophet-Hood of Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

In this scenario, Salih was granted the Prophet-Hood by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى so that he may guide his fellow Thamuds to come towards the right path, leave polytheism and worship only One Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. As narrated in the 73rd verse of Surah Al-A’raf, Prophet Salih was sent to his tribe to call them to the right path of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى and worship only One Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

Translation

We sent to Thamud their brother Saleh. “O you people,” said he, “worship God, for you have no other god but He. Clear proof has come to you already from your Lord, and this she-camel of God is the token for you. Leave her free to graze upon God’s earth, and do not molest her lest a grievous punishment should befall you.

This message and preaching of Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ were disliked by the Thamud tribe, especially the ruling class. So, despite all respect for him, they turned against the Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. Only a few of them accepted the message, while the majority flatly refused to follow him. Instead, they argued with him about how they could leave the path of their forefathers. This is narrated in the verses 61 and 62 of Surah Hud:

Translation

  1. Be warned! Accursed are the people of ‘Ad who were Hud’s. To Thamud We Sent their brother Saleh. “O my people,” he said, “worship God; you have no other god but He. It is He who raised you from the earth and settled you upon it. So beg your Lord to forgive you, and turn to Him in repentance. Surely my Lord is near and answers.”
  2. They said: “O Saleh, we had placed our hopes in you, but you forbid us from worshipping that which our fathers worshipped, and we are suspicious of what you are calling us to.”

These were baseless arguments. Hence, they tried another way. They demanded a miracle from the Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to prove that he was the Prophet. The Prophet asked them whether they would follow his preaching if the miracle happened. They promised to do so.

Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the Miracle of She-Camel

Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ accepted the demand of a miracle by the Will and Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. They demanded that the Prophet bring out a She-Camel from the rocks. The camel should be 10 months pregnant and healthy enough to produce milk for the entire tribe.

So, people gathered at a particular place on a pre-decided day and time. With the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, the huge rock in front of them split apart, and a huge She-Camel emerged out of it. As per their demand, it was 10 months pregnant as well. They were astonished to see all this happening right before their eyes. They were expecting that the Prophet would not be able to show such a miracle, but what happened in front of them was unbelievable for them; rather, they were unwilling to believe it.

Seeing this miracle, some of them accepted the message of Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, while most of them refused to believe. Instead, they planned to kill the miraculous She-Camel, as they were afraid that it would attract more people towards the Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. The miracle of She-Camel is specifically mentioned in the 59th verse of Surah Al-Isra:

Translation

Nothing could stop Us from sending signs except that the earlier people had rejected them as lies. We sent to Thamud the she-camel as a token to make it clear to them, but they treated her cruelly; and We send signs only to deter.

This miracle is also mentioned in verses 80 and 81 of Surah Al-Hijr, in a different context as under:

Translation

  1. The people of Al-Hijr denied Our apostles;
  2. And though We had given them Our signs they turned away from them.

Here, the people of Al-Hijr refer to the tribe of Thamud.

Traditions About the She-Camel

Per the traditions and Islamic Commentators, there are different mentions of the She-Camel, a summary of which is given below:

  • The she-camel emerged along with an offspring from the split rock in front of the people of Thamud.
  • The she-camel was so huge that she would drink water from all the wells in one day.
  • People and the she-camel would use water from the wells on alternate days.
  • She-camel produced enough milk that would be sufficient for the entire tribe to fulfill their need for the day when she-camel used water from all the wells.
  • Seeing all these happenings, some of the people turned towards the reality of the Oneness of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, whereas most of them did not.
  • The disbelievers planned to kill the miraculous she-camel and ultimately did so.

Disbelievers Plan to Kill the Miraculous She-Camel

Initially, the people allowed the miraculous camel to freely eat and drink but their hatred soon turned out to be threatening for the she-camel. They secretly planned to kill her. Foreseeing it, the Prophet warned the people to refrain from any such act, as the camel was a sign of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.

This is mentioned in the 64th verse of Surah Hud:

Translation

O my people, this she-camel of God is a token for you. So leave her alone to graze on God’s earth, and do not molest her, otherwise the swiftest punishment would befall you.”

Disbelievers Kill the She-Camel

Despite all the miraculous happenings and warnings by the Prophet, the disbelievers continued with their plans, and eventually, they succeeded in killing her. This was quite unexpected act, hence the Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ warned them about the upcoming punishment from Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. He told them that they had only three days left for them and they would face the consequences after that. They did not realize the severity of the warning and said let it come right now; why wait for three days. In response, the Prophet again tried to make them realize the reality, as narrated in verses 46 to 47 of Surah An-Naml:

Translation

  1. (Saleh) said: “O people, why do you wish to hasten evil rather than good? Why not ask for God’s forgiveness? You may well be forgiven.”
  2. They said: “You betoken evil, and those with you.” (Saleh) replied: “The evil you presage can only come from God. In reality you are a people under trial (for your own inauspiciousness).”

Disbelievers Plan to Kill the Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

Meanwhile, the disbelievers also planned to attack the Prophet secretly and kill him. A group of 9 people conspired and planned to attack him during the night. This event is specifically mentioned in the Surah An-Naml in verses 48 to 53, as under:

Translation

  1. There were in that city nine persons who spread disorder in the land, and did not reform.
  2. They said: “Let us swear by God that we will attack Saleh and his family at night, and later tell his heirs:’We did not see his family destroyed, and we speak the truth.'”
  3. They hatched up the plot; We also planned without their knowledge
  4. Now see the end of their machinations: We destroyed them and their entire people.
  5. So these their habitations lie deserted now because of their iniquities. Verily there is a sign in this for those who understand.
  6. We deliver those who believe and take heed for themselves.

So, they did not succeed in their evil deeds and the Prophet and his family remained protected and safe.

The Punishment Comes

On the other hand, right after the end of three days’ warning by the Prophet, a huge earthquake struck the town. Everything was destroyed, including the buildings and all the living creatures and the humans. The entire nation of Thamud was killed, and their buildings were destroyed in this earthquake. However, the Prophet and his followers were not affected by this earthquake, as they had left the town well before it all happened.

The punishment to disbelievers is mentioned in the Surah Al-A’raf, in verses 75-79, as under:

Translation

  1. The chiefs among the people who were arrogant towards the weaker ones among them who believed, asked: “Do you really know that Saleh has been sent by his Lord?” They said: “Indeed we believe in the message he has brought.”
  2. Those who were arrogant answered: “We do not believe in what you believe.”
  3. Then they hamstrung the she-camel and rebelled against the command of their Lord, and said: “Bring, O Saleh, on us the affliction you promise, if you are one of the sent ones.”
  4. Then they were seized by an earthquake, and lay overturned on the ground in their homes in the morning
  5. Saleh turned away from them and said: “O my people, I conveyed to you the message of my Lord and warned you; but you do not like those who wish you well.

So, that was the end of the arrogant disbeliever people of Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.

Hadith About Thamuds

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was once traveling with his companions. When they reached the site of the destroyed city of the people of Thamud, known as Al-Hijr, the companions tried to use the water of the wells of this destroyed town, but the Prophet stopped them from doing so. This is narrated in Hadith 2981a of Sahih Al-Muslim as under:

Translation

Abdullah b. ‘Umar reported that the people encamped along with Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) in the valley of Hijr, the habitations of Thamud, and they quenched their thirst from the wells thereof and kneaded the flour with it. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) commanded that the water collected for drinking should be spilt and the flour should be given to the camels and commanded them that the water for drinking should be taken from that well where the she-camel (of Hadrat Salih) used to come.