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The Thamūd were a people of ancient Arabia who were known from the 1st millennium BC to near the time of Muhammad. Although they are thought to have originated in southern Arabia, Arabic tradition has them moving north to settle on the slopes of Mount Athlab near Mada'in Saleh. According to the Qur'an, the Thamud were punished and destroyed by an earth tremor (rajfa). Numerous Thamudic rock writings and pictures have been found on Mount Athlab and throughout central Arabia. The oldest known reference to Thamud is a 715 BC ####inscription of the Assyrian king Sargon II which mentions them as being among the people of eastern and central Arabia subjugated by the Assyrians. They are referred to as "Tamudaei" in the writings of Aristo of Chios, Ptolemy, and Pliny.
The Qur'an mentions Thamud in Surat Al-A`raf in the context of several prophets who warned their people of coming judgement. Thamud is mentioned between the story of 'Ad and that of Lot (Lūt in Arabic), implying that the events occurred before the time of Lot. Verse 74 says of Thamud, "ye take for yourselves castles in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains". This could refer to the rock-cut tombs of Madāʼin Ṣāliḥ (the Cities of Ṣāliḥ), although these were actually much later than the time of Lot, during late antiquity. And to Thamûd (people, We sent) their brother Ṣâlih (Saleh). He said: "O my people! Worship Allâh! You have no other ilâh (deity) than Him. (Lâ ilâha ill-allâh: There is no god but Allâh). Indeed there has come to you a clear sign from your Lord. This she-camel of Allâh is a sign unto you; so you leave her to graze in Allâh's earth, and touch her not with harm, lest a painful torment should seize you. (73) "And remember when He made you successors after 'Ad (people) and gave you habitations in the land, you build for yourselves palaces in plains, and carve out homes in the mountains. So remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allâh, and do not go about making mischief on the earth." — Qur'an 7:73–74
This verse suggests some kind of relationship between 'Ad and Thamud, and 'Ad may even have been a part of Thamud's history and culture. Just as Nuh's people were seen as the ancestors of 'Ad, it seems 'Ad were seen in a similar relation to Thamud. The 'Ad were a people living in southern Arabia. Some remains of Thamud were found in the region where 'Ad had lived, especially around the region where capital city of the Hadramites, the descendants of 'Ad, stood. A bit further on from the passage quoted above, the Qur'an says, Then they ham-strung the she-camel, and insolently defied the order of their Lord, saying: "O Ṣâlih! bring about the threats, if thou art a prophet!" (77) So the earthquake (rajfa) took them unawares, and they lay prostrate in their homes in the morning! — Qur'an 7:77–78. In Surat Al-Qamar it says "Surely We sent upon them [Thamud] a single cry, so they were like the dry fragments of trees which the maker of an enclosure collects." Qur'an 54:51
`Abd Allah ibn `Umar (ca. 614–693) narrated that while Muhammad was passing by Thamud's houses on his way to the Battle of Tabouk, he stopped together with the people there. The people fetched water from the wells from which the people of Thamud used to drink. They prepared their dough (for baking) and filled their water skins from it (the water from the wells). Muhammad ordered them to empty the water skins and give the prepared dough to the camels. Then he went away with them until they stopped at the well from which the she-camel (of Salih) used to drink. He warned them against entering upon the people that had been punished, saying "I fear that you may be affected by what afflicted them; so do not enter upon them."
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