Hath not the story reached them of those before
them?- the People of Nuh, and 'Ad, and Thamud; the People of Ibrahim,
the men of Madyan, and the cities overthrown. To them came their messengers
with clear signs. It is not Allah Who wrongs them, but they wrong their
own souls.” (Surat at-Tawba: 70)
The divine message, conveyed to the people by Allah through His messengers,
has been communicated to us since the creation of man. Some societies have
accepted the message while others have denied it. Occasionally, a minority
from a society which denied the message followed a messenger.
But the majority of communities who have received the message have not
accepted it. They not only disregarded the message proclaimed by the messenger,
but also tried to do harm to the messenger and his followers. The messengers
were generally accused slanderously of “falsehood, magic, insanity and
conceit” and leaders of many peoples even sought to have them murdered.
All that the prophets wanted from their people was their obedience to
Allah. They did not ask for money or any other worldly gain in return.
Nor did they try compel their people. What they did was only to invite
their people to the religion of truth and that they should start a different
way of life together with their followers apart from that community.
What has happened between Shu’ayb and the Madyan people to whom he was
sent, illustrates the aforementioned prophet-community relationship. The
reaction of Shu’ayb’s tribe to Shu’ayb, who called them to believe in
Allah and give up the injustices they had been doing, and the way they
ended up are very interesting:
To the Madyan People (We sent) Shu’ayb, one of their
own brethren: he said: “O my people! worship Allah: Ye have no other god
but Him. And give not short measure or weight: I see you in prosperity,
but I fear for you the penalty of a day that will compass (you) all round.
And O my people! give just measure and weight,
nor withhold from the people the things that are their due: commit not
evil in the land with intent to do mischief.
That which is left you by Allah is best for
you, if ye (but) believed! but I am not set over you to keep watch!”
They said: “O Shu’ayb! Does thy (religion of) prayer
command thee that we leave off the worship which our fathers practiced,
or that we leave off doing what we like with our property? truly, thou
art the one that forbeareth with faults and is right-minded!”
He said: “O my people! see ye whether I have a
Clear (Sign) from my Lord, and He hath given me sustenance (pure and)
good as from Himself? I wish not, in opposition to you, to do that which
I forbid you to do. I only desire (your) betterment to the best of my
power; and my success (in my task) can only come from Allah. In Him I
trust, and unto Him I look.
And O my people! let not my dissent (from you)
cause you to sin, lest ye suffer a fate similar to that of the people
of Nuh or of Hud or of Salih, nor are the people of Lut far off from you!
But ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn unto Him (in repentance): For
my Lord is indeed full of mercy and loving-kindness.”
They said: “O Shu’ayb! much of what thou sayest
we do not understand! In fact among us we see that thou hast no strength!
Were it not for thy family, we should certainly have stoned thee! for
thou hast among us no great position!”
He said: “O my people! is then my family of more
consideration with you than Allah? For ye cast Him away behind your backs
(with contempt). But verily my Lord encompasseth on all sides all that
ye do! And O my people! Do whatever ye can: I will do (my part): Soon
will ye know who it is on whom descends the penalty of ignominy; and who
is a liar! and watch ye! for I too am watching with you!”
When Our decree issued, We saved Shu’ayb and those
who believed with him, by (special) mercy from Ourselves: But the (mighty)
blast did seize the wrong-doers, and they lay prostrate in their homes
by the morning,- As if they had never dwelt and flourished there! Ah!
Behold! How the Madyan were removed (from sight) as were removed the Thamud!
(Surah Hud: 84-95)
Devising to “stone Shu’ayb”, who had done nothing but summon them to goodness,
the Madyan people were punished by the wrath of Allah and they perished
as described in the verses above. The Madyan people are not the sole example.
On the contrary, as Shu’ayb noted while talking with his people, many previous
communities before the Madyan people had perished. After Madyan, many other
communities also were destroyed by Allah’s wrath.
In the following pages, we will describe the aforementioned communities
which perished and their remnants. In the Qur’an, these communities are
described in detail and people are invited to ponder on and take warning
from how these people ended up.
At this point, the Qur’an particularly draws attention to the fact that
the majority of the communities which perished had established high civilisations.
In the Qur’an, this characteristic of the communities which perished is
stressed as follows;
But how many generations before them did We destroy
(for their sins) - stronger in power than they? Then did they wander through
the land: was there any place of escape (for them)? (Surah Qaf: 36)
In the verse, two characteristics of the peoples which perished are particularly
emphasised. The first is their being “stronger in power”. This conveys that
the communities which perished had established disciplined and strong military-bureaucratic
systems and snatched power in the territory they lived through force. The
second point is that the aforementioned communities founded big cities distinguished
by their impressive architectural characteristics.
It is noteworthy that both of these characteristics belong well to the
current civilisation, which has established an elaborate world-culture
through today’s technology and science, and has founded centralised states,
huge cities, yet denies and ignores Allah, forgetting that all is made
possible by His power. But, as it is said in the verse, the civilisations
they established could not save the communities which perished, since
their civilisations were based on the denial of Allah. The end of today’s
civilisation will not be different as long as it is based on denial and
mischief on earth.
A considerable number of the incidents of destruction, some of which
are related in the Qur’an, have been confirmed by archaeological research
made in modern times. These findings, which definitely prove that these
incidents cited in the Qur’an have occurred, elucidate the need to be
“forewarned” which features so much in the Qur’anic anecdotes. Allah tells
us in the Qur’an that it is necessary to “travel through the earth” and
“see what was the end of those before us”.
Nor did We send before thee (as messengers) any
but men, whom we did inspire,- (men) living in human habitations. Do they
not travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those before
them? But the home of the hereafter is best, for those who do right. Will
ye not then understand?
(Respite will be granted) until, when the messengers
give up hope (of their people) and (come to) think that they were treated
as liars, there reaches them Our help, and those whom We will are delivered
into safety. But never will be warded off our punishment from those who
are in sin.
There is, in their stories, instruction for men
endued with understanding. It is not a tale invented, but a confirmation
of what went before it - a detailed exposition of all things, and a guide
and a mercy to any such as believe. (Surah Yusuf: 109-111)
Indeed, there are examples in the stories of past communities for people
endowed with understanding. Having perished because of their rebellion against
Allah and their rejection of His commands, those communities reveal to us
how weak and impotent mankind are with respect to Allah. In the following
pages, we will examine these examples in a chronological order.