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Section 4: Saleh and Lot

Surah An-Naml - Verses 45-46

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَآ إِلَي ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحاً أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ فَإِذَا هُمْ فَرِيقَانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ

قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تَسْتَعْجِلُونَ بِالسَّيّـِئَةِ قَبْلَ الْحَسَنَةِ لَوْلاَ تَسْتَغْفِرُونَ اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

45. “And indeed We sent unto (the tribe of) Thamud their brother Saleh, saying: ‘Worship you Allah!’ but behold, they became two parties quarrelling with each other.”
46. “He said: ‘O my people! Why will you hasten on the evil before the good? Why do you not ask forgiveness of Allah so that you may be dealt with mercifully?”

Next to a part of life stories of Moses, David, and Solomon (as) mentioned in the previous verses, the fourth prophet, a part of whose life story is referred to in this Surah, is Hadrat Saleh, the prophet of Thamud people.

At first, it says:

“And indeed We sent unto (the tribe of) Thamud their brother Saleh, saying: ‘Worship you Allah!’…”

As it was also said before, the application of the concept of ‘their brother’, which has been used in the story life of several prophets, is a hint to their ultimate love and affection unto their peoples. In addition to this, in some instances, it points to their relationship with those people, too.

However, the entire messengership and invitation of this prophet is summarized in the holy phrase:

“Worship you Allah!”

Yes, the servitude of Allah is the essence of all teachings of the messengers of Allah.

Then, the verse continues saying:

“…but behold, they became two parties quarrelling with each other.”

Those two groups, who quarrelled with each other, were the believers, from one side, and the obstinate disbelievers, from the other side.

Imam Baqir (as) said:

“A group attested the invitation of Hadrat Salih but another group rejected it.”1

These two groups are referred to in Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 75 as:

‘The arrogant’

and

‘those who were considered weak’.

It says:

“The chiefs of the arrogant among his people said to those who were considered weak – those of them who believed – ‘Do you know that Saleh is sent by his Lord?’ they said surely we believe in what he has been sent with’.”
“Those who were arrogant said: ‘We, indeed, disbelieve in that which you believe’.”2

Of course, this conflict of two groups of believers and disbelievers existed among the peoples of many prophets, although some of them were deprived of even these adherents and nearly the totality of their people were rejecters of the truth.

Finally, in order to awaken them, Hadrat Saleh (as) began warning them, and made them aware of the painful chastisements of Allah. But not only they did not take counsel, but also took that very matter as a reason for their obstinacy, and persistently wanted him that they should be involved with the Divine punishment if he was truthful.3

But Saleh replied them as follows:

“He said: ‘O my people! Why will you hasten on the evil before the good?…”

Why do you concentrate your thought on meeting the Divine punishment? If the Divine chastisement meets you, it will put an end to your life and there will not remain any time for you to believe. Let yourselves try the legitimacy of my statement by the grace and blessings of Allah which will embrace you as the result of Faith.

The verse continues saying:

“…Why do you not ask forgiveness of Allah so that you may be dealt with mercifully?”

Why do you seek for evils and the descent of punishment? What is this obstinacy and arrogance for?

Those who rejected the call of prophets and asked for the promised punishment were not limited to the people of Saleh, this matter is repeatedly seen in the Qur’an concerning other peoples, too, including the people of Nuh.4

In relation to the Prophet of Islam (S) and some fanatic and obstinate polytheists, the Qur’an says:

“And (remember) when they said: ‘O Allah! If this (Qur’an) is the truth from You, then rain down upon us stones from the sky, or bring us a painful punishment’.”5

This is, indeed, surprising that some persons want to try the truthfulness of the call of the prophet by the way of Divine destructive punishment, not by the way of asking for Divine mercy; while certainly they do verify the probable legitimacy of those prophets in their hearts, though they deny it by tongue.

This behaviour is like a person who claims he is a physician and says this medicine is curative and that one is fatal, and then, in order to test him, we use the fatal medicine, not the curative one.

This is the ultimate ignorance, folly and fanaticism, while ignorance has many fruits of this kind.

Surah An-Naml - Verse 47

قَالُوا اطَّيَّرْنَا بِكَ وَبِمَن مَّعَكَ قَالَ طَآئِرُكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ بَلْ أَنتُمْ قَوْمٌ تُفْتَنُونَ

47. “They said: ‘Ill omen do we augur from you and those with you’. He said: ‘Your ill omen is with Allah. Nay! You are a people who are being tried’.”

The Arabic word /tatayyur/ is derived from /tayr/ which means ‘a bird’. Some of Arabs used to leave a bird at the time when they wanted to travel.

If it went to the right direction they would start their traveling, and if it flew to the left (they augured ill and) they would suspend their traveling.6 In Islam auguring ill has been considered disbelief. To augur ill leads to leaving the main reasons and going toward superstitions.

There are many occurrences in the Qur’an which indicate that the Divine prophets had been augured ill. The people of Pharaoh thought that their afflictions had come because of Moses (as).

The Qur’an says:

“…and if any evil afflicted them, they took it bad omens due to Moses…”7

Jesus (as) was told:

“…For us, we augur an evil omen from you…”8

In the above mentioned verse, the disbelievers told Saleh:

“…‘Ill omen do we augur from you and those with you’…”

However, this arrogant nation, instead of listening to the sympathetic advice of their great prophet and applying it, they opposed him with some vain words and baseless conclusions, among them is their following statement:

“They said: ‘Ill omen do we augur from you and those with you’…”

It seems that there was drought, and deficiency of crop and foodstuff for the people of Moses in that year. They said that all those afflictions and difficulties were because of unpleasant advent of Moses and his followers who brought them and their society misery and omen.

By resorting to the weapon of ill omen, which is often the weapon of arrogant and superstitious persons, they wanted to overcome the strong logic of Moses (as). But in answer to them, he said that their evil fortune was with Allah, and it was their own deeds that resulted such miseries and afflictions, as punishments. In fact, this was a great Divine trial for them.

The verse continues saying:

“…He said: ‘Your ill omen is with Allah. Nay! You are a people who are being tried’.”

These are some Divine trials. They are some warnings and awakening subjects for those who have some suitability and competency to awake from the sleep of negligence and, by going to the path of Allah, improve themselves.

There are also some people in some societies who do not believe in Allah, although they have earned some considerable good grades in knowledge and science but, in the meantime, they have some superstitions and similar vain beliefs in them and they still have a warm market for fortune-telling and soothsaying among them, so that the illusive subject of luck and horoscopy has many customers.

But the Qur’an through a short sentence says:

“Your ill omen is with Allah.”

This means your luck, your victory, your defeat, and your success and failure all are with Allah, Who is Wise, and His favours are divided among men according to their competencies, those very competencies which are the reflection of their Faith, action, speech and behaviour.

Thus, the Qur’an drives out the followers of Islam from the valley of superstition to reality and from devious way toward straight Path.

Some Traditions Upon Bad Omen

1. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

“The atonement of ill omen is reliance in Allah.”9

2. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

“Ill omen is infidelity and it is not from us, but reliance in Allah abolishes it.”10

3. There has been narrated that, in supplication, the Prophet (S) used to say:

“O Allah! There is no omen but Your omen, no goodness but Your goodness, and no god but You (Allah). O Allah! No one gives rewards but You, and no one wipes the faults but You, and there is no power except in Allah, the Exalted, the Great.”11

Surah An-Naml - Verse 48

وَكَانَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ تِسْعَةُ رَهْطٍ يُفْسِدُونَ فِي الاَرْضِ وَلاَ يُصْلِحُونَ

48. “And there were in the city nine (groups of) persons who made mischief in the land and would not reform.”

The Arabic word /raht/ is used for ‘a group of people among whom there is a warm relation’.

This holy verse refers to another part of the life story of Saleh (as) which completes the previous part and concludes the story. It concerns the plot of nine groups of pagans and hypocrites who wanted to kill Saleh, but their evil plot failed.

The Qur’an says:

“And there were in the city nine (groups of) persons who made mischief in the land and would not reform.”

Regarding to the fact that the Arabic word /raht/ in lexicon means a group of persons who are less than ten or less than forty members, makes it clear that these small groups, each of which had a separate line, were similar to each other in one thing and it was making mischief in the earth, disturbing the social system and the creedal and ethical principles.

The Qur’anic phrase /layuslihuna/ (would not reform) is an emphasis on this matter, because it sometimes happens that someone makes a mischief and later he regrets and tries to amend himself, but the real mischief mongers are not like that. They go on their corruption constantly and never try to rectify their wrong.

Paying attention to the Arabic conjugation of the verb /yufsidun/ (make mischief), which is in future and simple present tense form and indicates to the duration of the action, it shows that this action was their permanent deed and they used to commit it.

Each of these nine groups had a chief, and probably every one of them was from a separate tribe.

Surah An-Naml - Verse 49

قَالُوا تَقَاسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ لَنُبَيّـِتَنَّهُ وَأَهْلَهُ ثُمَّ لَنَقُولَنَّ لِوَلِيّـِهِ مَا شَهِدْنَا مَهْلِكَ أَهْلِهِ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ

49. “They said: ‘Swear a mutual oath by Allah that surely we will make a sudden attack on him and his family by night, then we will tell his heir, we were not present at the slaughter of his household, and verily we are truthful’.”

The content of this holy verse is similar to the state of the pagans of Mecca who united by an oath and decided to surprise and kill the Prophet of Islam (S) in his bed while he was asleep, but the holy Prophet (S) asked Hadrat Ali (as) to sleep in his bed and thus the enemy’s plot was nullified.

Certainly by the appearance of Saleh and his pure religion in the society, those groups were driven to extremities, and it was in that condition that, as the verse says:

“They said: ‘Swear a mutual oath by Allah that surely we will make a sudden attack on him and his family by night, then we will tell his heir, we were not present at the slaughter of his household, and verily we are truthful’.”

The Arabic word /taqasamu/ (swear a mutual oath), in an imperative verb form, means: ‘everybody must participate in making an oath and promise to achieve this great plot’, a promise in which there is no change or return.

It is interesting that they made an oath by Allah. It indicates that, besides worshipping idols, they believed in Allah, the Creator of the skies and the earth, too. Therefore, they used to make an oath to Him in relation to important matters.

It also shows that they were so proud that they did this great crime of theirs by mentioning their names; as if they wanted to worship, or to do a godly service. This is the custom of haughty misguided disbelievers.

The Qur’anic word /lanubayyitannahu/ (surely we will make a sudden attack on him) is derived from /tabyit/ which means ‘to surprise and to attack suddenly by night’. The application of this meaning here shows that, in the meanwhile, they were afraid of the adherents of Saleh and his tribe.

Therefore, in order that they could reach their own goal and, in the meantime, they might not confront the anger of his followers, they designed the plot of a sudden attack at night and colluded that if Saleh’s followers came to them, all of them with together take an oath that they had no role in that event absolutely, and even they were not present there nor had they witnessed it.

Surah An-Naml - Verses 50-51

وَمَكَرُوا مَكْراً وَمَكَرْنَا مَكْراً وَهُمْ لاَ يَشْعُرُونَ

فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ مَكْرِهِمْ أَنَّا دَمَّرْنَاهُمْ وَقَوْمَهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

50. “And they devised a device, and We devised a device (too), but they were not aware;”
51. “And behold, how was the end of their device! For We destroyed them and their people all together.”

The means of annihilation of the people of Thamud has been referred to in several occurrences of the Qur’an with different explanations:

1) By earthquake:

“…Then the earthquake seized them…”12

2) By thunderbolt:

“…So the Thunderbolt seized them…”13

3) By Mighty Blast:

“And the (mighty) Blast overtook those who were unjust…”14

It does not matter, of course, that these three punishments might have occurred simultaneously.

One of the aspects of the device of Allah is giving respite and bounty to the sinners, so that they be busy with them, and when their time is over they are suddenly involved in the chastisement of Allah.

History announces that there was a mountain in a side of the city and it had a slit where the temple of Saleh was. Sometimes Saleh (as) went there at night in order to worship and prattle with Allah as two lovers.

They decided to lie in ambush there and when Saleh came over there they would kill him, and then, after his martyrdom, they would attack his home by the same night and kill his household, too, and return to their houses; and when they were questioned about it, they would say they knew nothing.

But Allah nullified their plots surprisingly and their plans remained invalid.

When they were lying in ambush in a corner of the mountain, some pieces of the mountain fall and a huge rock from upward of it came down over them and destroyed them in a short moment.

The verse says:

“And they devised a device, and We devised a device (too), but they were not aware;”

Then, the next verse implies that not only those people, but also their adherents were destroyed.

It says:

“And behold, how was the end of their device! For We destroyed them and their people all together.”

As it has been mentioned formerly, the Qur’anic term /makr/, in the Arabic literature, means any ‘application of a remedy’, and it does not pertain exclusively to satanic and harmful plans that is used in the Persian language today. Thus, it is used in both harmful plans and good devices.

Raqib in Mufradat says:

/makr/ (device) is that which hinders one to reach his goal.”

Therefore, when this word is used about Allah, it means: ‘nullification of harmful plots’; and when it is used about mischief mongers, it means: ‘impedimental acts against reproving programs’.

Surah An-Naml - Verses 52-53

فَتِلْكَ بُيُوتُهُمْ خَاوِيَةً بِمَا ظَلَمُوا إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لاَيَةً لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

وَأَنجَيْنَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ

52. “So those are their houses in empty ruins for they were unjust. Verily there is in this a sign for a people who have knowledge.”
53. “And We saved those who believed and used to keep from evil.”

The Arabic word /xawiyah/ means ‘corruption, annihilation, and destruction’, and it is also used in the sense of ‘empty of dwellers’.

Chastisement is not limited to that of Hereafter, sometimes oppressors are punished in this world. This situation is also the same for the effects of faith and piety which is not particular to the Hereafter. The pious people observe the result of their deeds in this world, too.

However, regarding to their annihilation and final fate, the holy Qur’an says:

“So those are their houses in empty ruins for they were unjust…”

Their houses are utterly ruin and there is no people to have activities therein, and there have remained no sign of their glories, bounties and sinful gatherings.

Yes, the fire of cruelty and injustice caused them and all their belongings to be burnt and destroyed. This is a clear sign for the end of the act of those who are unjust.

The verse continues saying:

“…Verily there is in this a sign for a people who have knowledge.”

But in this event those who were not guilty were not burnt in the fire of the guilty ones and were not involved in the evil fate of wrongdoers.

The verse says:

“And We saved those who believed and used to keep from evil.”

Surah An-Naml - Verses 54-55

وَلُوطاً إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ أَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ وَأَنتُمْ تبْصِرُونَ

أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرّ‌ِجَالَ شَهْوَةً مِن دُونِ النّـِسَآءِ بَلْ أَنتُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ

54. “And (We sent) Lot, when he said to his people: ‘Do you commit indecency while you see (its iniquity)?’”
55. “What! Do you approach men lustfully instead of women? No, you are a people that are ignorant.”

The people of Lot used to commit sodomy in their public meetings and before the eyes of each other. Surah Al-‘Ankabut, No. 29, verse 29 says:

“…and you commit dishonour in your assemblies?…”

In the above verse, the Qur’an also says:

“…while you see (its iniquity)?”

which means ‘you commit indecency before the eyes of each other, or you commit sin consciously and with insight.

Sodomy is one of the great and hideous sins, because the later verses of the Surah indicate that it consequently brings the chastisement of Allah.

Some other verses of the Qur’an refer to the fact that wife is necessary for calmness, educating and raising up generation, and cooperation in living; but, here, the Qur’an points only to the phenomenon of lust, because the people of Lot had not any aim of their shameful act but lust.

Next to mentioning parts of the life stories of Moses, David, Solomon, and Saleh and their peoples, the fifth prophet whom has been referred to in this Surah, is Lot, the great prophet of Allah.

This subject has repeatedly been referred to in the former Suras of the Qur’an, such as Al-Hijr, Hud, Ash-Shu‘ara, and Al-’A‘raf, where some matters have been mentioned in this ground.

This repetition, and the like of it, is for the fact that the Qur’an is not a book of history in which an event may be wholly explained for one time and it usually does not refer to that event again.

But Qur’an is a book of education for training good men, and we know that in educational themes sometimes the conditions require that an incident should be repeated again and again, in order that it could be reminded and be dealt with from different dimensions.

However, the story of the people of Lot, who are known in the world for their sexual deviation, Sodomy, and for other hideous deeds, as well as their fate at the end of their life, can be an example for those who are drowned in the cesspool of lusts; and the spread of this pollution among societies requires that this instructive event to be mentioned repeatedly.

Here the Qur’an says:

“And (We sent) Lot, when he said to his people: ‘Do you commit indecency while you see (its iniquity)?’”

The Arabic word /fahišah/, as we have said aforetime, means some deeds that the indecency and ugliness of which is manifest, but here the purpose of it is the shameful act of Sodomy.

The Qur’anic phrase /’antum tubsirun/ (while you see) refers to this fact that you see the ugliness and the evil results of this hideous action with your eyes, and you observe that your society has wholly become polluted, so that even your own children are not secured. Why do you see, but yet you do not awake?

Then, in the next verse, it says:

“What! Do you approach men lustfully instead of women?…”

In fact, at first the Qur’an points to this action as an indecent action, /fahišah/, then it explains it more clearly so that there remains no ambiguity for anybody. This is one of the styles of decorum in order to state an important thing.

Then for making clear that the motive of this action is ignorance, it says:

“…No, you are a people that are ignorant.”

This ignorance is the ignorance to Allah, the ignorance to the purpose of creation and laws of creation, and the ignorance to the evil effects of this important sin. If a person, contemplates deeply, he will understand that how much ignorantly this evil action is.

The reason why this sentence is stated in interrogative form is for the sake that they hear its answer from the inside of their own conscience so that it may be more effective.

The End of Part 19

Surah An-Naml - Verse 56

فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلآَّ أَن قَالُوا أَخْرِجُوا ءَالَ لُوطٍ مِن قَرْيَتِكُمْ إِنَّهُمْ أُنَاسٌ يَتَطَهَّرُونَ

56. “But the answer of his people was naught except that they said: ‘Drive out the people of Lot from your city; verily they are people (who seek to be) pure.”

Since the wrong doers have not any acceptable logic before the Divine prophets, they use force against them.

The former discussions with the strong logic of Lot, the Divine prophet, in front of those polluted people, explained that how he dissuaded them from the hideous act of Sodomy by his reasonable and eloquent statement, and he showed them that this act is the consequence of ignorance and being unaware of the law of creation and all human values.

Now, we see the answer of this polluted nation to the logical statement of Lot (as).

The holy Qur’an says:

“But the answer of his people was naught except that they said: ‘Drive out the people of Lot from your city; verily they are people (who seek to be) pure.”

This answer is an implication to the low level of their thought and the extraordinary fall of their ethical affairs.

Yes, in the environment of the polluted ones, chastity is a crime and a defect. The chaste and modest ones, like Yusuf, are put in prison, and the household of the divine prophet, because of their chastity and avoidance from pollution, are banished, while the persons like Zulaykha, are free and possess ranks.

Lot’s household must be banished, but the people of Lot can live in peace in their city freely.

This is the clear example of the word of Qur’an where it says about the wrong doers that their hearts were sealed because of their deeds and their eyes were veiled and their ears had heaviness.15

It is also probable that because of their being sunk in corruption and being accustomed to pollution, concerning Lot’s household, they said in mockery:

“…They are people (who seek to be) pure…”.

These people implied that Lot’s household imagined that their piety was chastity and the act of the people of Lot was impious. What a wonderful and ridiculous thing!

And it is not surprising that, as the result of getting accustomed to a shameful action, the sense of recognition of a person changes. The famous story of a tanner, who was constantly with the purified skins and his sense of smell had got accustomed to that bad smell, is well known.

When he was passing the market of perfume-sellers, he became unconscious, and the concerning doctor ordered that he should be brought into the market of tanners to ‘recover his sense’. We have heard this story and it is an interesting sensible example for this logical matter.

Surah An-Naml - Verses 57-58

فَأنجَيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ إِلاَّ امْرَأَتَهُ قَدَّرْنَاهَا مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ

وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهِم مَّطَراً فَسَآءَ مَطَرُ الْمُنذَرِينَ

57. “So We saved him and his household, except his wife, We had decreed her to be of those that tarried.”
58. “And We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone), and evil was the shower of those who had been warned.

The Divine leaders are under the protection and support of Allah:

“So We saved him…”

The fruit of people’s piety and virtue in this world is their being saved from the wrath of Allah.

The Arabic word /qabirin/, which means: ‘those that tarried and were annihilated’, has been used seven times in the Qur’an and all of them are about Lot’s wife.

It has been cited in narrations that Lot taught those people for about thirty years but none believed in him except his household, (and among them even his wife had the creed of pagans).16

It is evident that such a group, who might not be improved, could not have a room for living in this world and they should be annihilated.

Therefore, this verse says:

“So We saved him and his household, except his wife, We had decreed her to be of those that tarried.”

Then, when Lot and his family came out of the city at the appointed time, (in midnight of the night when the city was full of corruption and shame), a terrible earthquake turned their land completely upside down, and, in the morning, a shower of brimstone came over there.

The verse says:

“And We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone), and evil was the shower of those who had been warned.”

We had a detailed discussion about the people of Lot and their fate, as well as the evil effects of Sodomy, when explaining holy Surah Hud, No. 11, verse 77-83, which is not necessary to be repeated here again.

There is only one point, of course, that seems necessary to be mentioned here, as follows:

As a factor for duration of man’s seed and the calmness of his soul, the law of creation has set the sexual attraction between two opposite sexes, and its change toward Sodomy disturbs both the spiritual calmness and the social peace. And since these social laws have a trace in man’s nature, this change causes a kind of disorder in the system of the entity of man.

Lot, the great prophet of Allah, attracted the attention of that deviated nation to this natural trace and said to them:

“Do you commit indecency while you see (its iniquity)?”

This ignorance and unawareness of the law of life was in the sense of foolishness that drugged them towards this devious way.

It is not marvellous that other laws of creation may change due to this nation, too, and instead of a wholesome rain water, a shower of brimstone rains down over them, and their peaceful land turns over by an earthquake, and, consequently, not only they are destroyed but also no trace remains from them.

  • 1. Tafsir-i-Nur-uth-Thaqalayn
  • 2. Al-’A‘raf, verses 75-76
  • 3. This meaning is explicitly expressed in Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 77
  • 4. Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 70
  • 5. Sur Al-’Anfal, No. 8, verse 32
  • 6. Tafsir-ul-Kashshaf
  • 7. Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 131
  • 8. Surah Yasin, No. 36, verse 18
  • 9. Nahaj by Ibn-Abil-Hadid, Vol. 20, P. 283
  • 10. Sunan-i-Ibn-Majid, Vol. 2, P. 1170; and Sunan-i-’Abi Dawud, Vol. 2, P. 344
  • 11. Safinah, Vol. 2, P. 102
  • 12. Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 78
  • 13. Surah Ath-Thariyat, No. 51, verse 44
  • 14. Surah Hud, No. 11, verse 67
  • 15. Surah ’Isra’, No. 17, verse 46
  • 16. Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, the Commentary, Vol. 2, P. 382

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