Introduction: Past Generations
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)
For centuries, some societies have accepted Allah’s religion 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 compel their people on any matter as commanded by Allah. What they did was to invite their people to the religion of truth and to lead a life in accordance with Allah’s commandments together with their followers.
The reaction of Shu’ayb’s (as)tribe to Shu’ayb (as), 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 sent 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 invite 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 only example. On the contrary, as Shu’ayb (as)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 draws particular attention to the fact that the majority of the communities which perished had established advanced civilisations. In the Qur’an, this characteristic of the communities which perished is stressed in the following verse:
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 these characteristics belong as 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 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.
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 is with respect to Allah. In the following pages, we will examine these examples in chronological order.