Saleh (صالِح) in the Quran, also written as Salih, was one of the great Arab prophets whom God sent to a nation known as Thamūd (ثَمود). The people of Thamud were mighty people who were as tall as date palms and were extremely strong in that they carved houses of mountains. Their prophet came to them to invite them to monotheism. In this article on Islam4u, we will take a look at:
Who is Saleh in the Quran?
Historians say that Saleh was one of the descendants of Shem the son of Noah . He was sent to the Arabian tribe of Thamud . He came after Hūd, who was also an Arabian prophet whom God had sent to the people of ‘Ād (عاد). Saleh in Arabic means righteous. His name has been mentioned nine times in the Quran and his story has been told in various surahs including:
Saleh in the Quran: His Prophethood
Historians say that Saleh was delegated to prophethood at the age of 16. Moreover, he invited his people to monotheism until he was 120, but they did not follow him. The Quran says that Saleh said to his people:
قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم بَيِّنَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ هَـٰذِهِ نَاقَةُ اللَّـهِ لَكُمْ آيَةً ۖ فَذَرُوهَا تَأْكُلْ فِي أَرْضِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَلَا تَمَسُّوهَا بِسُوءٍ فَيَأْخُذَكُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴿73﴾
He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah! You have no other god besides Him. There has certainly come to you a manifest proof from your Lord. This she-camel of Allah is a sign for you. Let her alone to graze [freely] in Allah’s land, and do not cause her any harm, for then you shall be seized by a painful punishment. 1
The people of Thamud were idolaters. Saleh had come to stop his tribe from worshipping anyone but God Almighty. In order to prove his truthfulness, he performed a miracle by making a she-camel emerge from the heart of the mountain. He said, “Do not harm her and let her eat and drink. If you cause her any harm, you will be punished with a painful punishment.”
Saleh in the Quran: The Mighty People of Thamud
Therefore, Saleh begins recounting the blessings that God bestowed upon them. Saleh in the Quran says:
وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ جَعَلَكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ مِن بَعْدِ عَادٍ وَبَوَّأَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِن سُهُولِهَا قُصُورًا وَتَنْحِتُونَ الْجِبَالَ بُيُوتًا ۖ فَاذْكُرُوا آلَاءَ اللَّـهِ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ ﴿74﴾
Remember when He made you successors after [the people of] ‘Ad, and settled you in the land: you build palaces in its plains, and hew houses out of the mountains. So remember Allah’s bounties, and do not act wickedly on the earth, causing corruption.’ 2
Saleh also said:
هُوَ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَاسْتَعْمَرَكُمْ فِيهَا فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي قَرِيبٌ مُّجِيبٌ ﴿61﴾
He brought you forth from the earth and made it your habitation. So plead with Him for forgiveness, then turn to Him penitently. My Lord is indeed nearmost [and] responsive.’ 3
Therefore, the Thamud were very strong people who carved houses out of mountains and lived long lives. However, most of them did not believe in Saleh.
Saleh in the Quran: His People’s Response
The people of Thamud did not listen to Saleh. They wished to cling to their pagan beliefs and worship their idols. They said:
قَالُوا يَا صَالِحُ قَدْ كُنتَ فِينَا مَرْجُوًّا قَبْلَ هَـٰذَا ۖ أَتَنْهَانَا أَن نَّعْبُدَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا وَإِنَّنَا لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ مُرِيبٍ ﴿62﴾
They said, ‘O Salih! You were a source of hope to us before this. Do you forbid us to worship what our fathers have been worshiping? Indeed we have grave doubts concerning that to which you invite us.’ 4
How foolish were the people of Thamud. They were blindly following what their ancestors used to do. How can pieces of wood and stone be gods? Do they benefit themselves even? They cannot even protect themselves. In truth, God is the one and only God of the universe that cannot be seen with the eyes, but with the heart.
They Hamstring the She-camel
The people of Saleh defied him. In fact, they had seen a great miracle from him, yet they still disbelieved. Of course, some of them believed as the Quran says. However, the elite among them disbelieved:
قَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا مِن قَوْمِهِ لِلَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا لِمَنْ آمَنَ مِنْهُمْ أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صَالِحًا مُّرْسَلٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ ۚ قَالُوا إِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلَ بِهِ مُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿75﴾
The elite of his people who were arrogant said to those who were oppressed—to those among them who had faith—‘Do you know that Salih has been sent by his Lord?’ They said, ‘We indeed believe in what he has been sent with.’
قَالَ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا إِنَّا بِالَّذِي آمَنتُم بِهِ كَافِرُونَ ﴿76﴾
Those who were arrogant said, ‘We indeed disbelieve in what you have believed.’ 5
The next two verse read:
فَعَقَرُوا النَّاقَةَ وَعَتَوْا عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِمْ وَقَالُوا يَا صَالِحُ ائْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ ﴿77﴾
So they hamstrung the She-camel and defied the command of their Lord, and they said, ‘O Salih, bring us what you threaten us with, if you are one of the apostles.’
فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ ﴿78﴾
Thereupon the earthquake seized them, and they lay lifeless prostrate in their homes. 6
When the people of Thamud hamstrung the She-camel, Saleh said to them, “Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days: that is a promise not be belied!” 7 After three days passed, God’s edict came and God delivered Saleh and the believers who were with him. The punishment was so powerful that it was as though they never lived. As a result, the people of Thamud were exterminated. God says in the Quran:
أَلَا بُعْدًا لِّثَمُودَ ﴿68﴾
Now, away with Thamud! 8
This is the fate of those who impugn the messengers of God and boldly ask for God’s punishment should they be truthful. Indeed, monotheism is the way of the prophets and all those who deny them will suffer loss.
There is a tomb in the cemetery of Wadī al-Salām (واديُ السلام), in Najaf, Iraq that is attributed to Prophet Saleh and Prophet Hūd. The tomb can be identified by its turquoise dome.
- Quran 7:73 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:74 (Qara’i)
- Quran 11:61 (Qara’i).
- Quran 11:62 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:75-76 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:77-78 (Qara’i).
- Quran 11:65 (Qara’i).
- Quran 11:68 (Qara’i).
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