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People of Rass

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People of Rass or Asḥāb al-Rass (Arabic: أَصْحَابُ الرَّس) are people who threw their prophet into a well. The People of Rass are introduced as those who refused to worship God and their women were lesbians. God sent a prophet to guide them, but they threw him into a well and thus God punished them. There are different views about the time and place they lived and also the name of their prophet.

In the Qur'an

The Qur'an mentioned the People of Rass beside the People of 'Ad, the People of Thamud and the People of Noah (a):

"The people of Noah denied before them, and [so did] the people of Rass and Thamud," (Qur'an 50:12)

According to the Qur'an, the People of Rass refused to worship God and were afflicted by His punishment. Some exegetic references related the story of the People of Rass with the verse 45 of Qur'an 22 and "Bi'r Mu'attala" (the Abandoned Wells).[1]

Cause of Naming

"Rass" is a Semitic word and in Aramaic and Hebrew, it means "to split and to break".[2] In Arabic too, it means "to penetrate" and "to dig" and "well".[3] It is said that in the Qur'an it means "well" and the People of Rass were the people who threw their prophet into a well.

Also, "Rass" is mentioned as a name for a region, mountain, river[4] and people.[5]

The Story of the People of Rass

There are different reports about who were the People of Rass:

The First Report

In a hadith from Imam Ali (a), the People of Rass are introduced as people who lived after Prophet Solomon (a) and worshiped a poplar tree. It is said that it was planted by Japheth b. Noah (a) beside a river called "Roshab" and no one was allowed to drink or use that water. Every year, they gathered there during Eid times and tied different pieces of cloth to that tree and then began supplicating and made sacrifices. Then, Satan went and shook the branches of the tree and expressed happiness for their actions. The People of Rass engaged in pleasure-seeking actions including lesbian sex. God sent the grandson of Judah, the son of Prophet Jacob (a) to guide them, but they did not believe in him and began harassing him. After the supplication of their prophet, that tree became dry and the People of Rass considered him guilty for it and threw him in a well. It incurred the wrath of God upon them; so, God sent them clouds and winds and made the earth for them hot like fire and they were melted like iron.[6]

The Second Report

In a number of hadiths, the place the People of Rass lived was mentioned Hadramaut in Yemen and their prophet was mentioned Hanzala b. Safwan. It is also mentioned that they committed lesbian sex. Hanzala tried to stop them from doing such actions, but they began harassing him and threw him in a well; so, God sent 'Aram flood to them.[7] It is said that a note was found in the grave of Hanzala on which he wrote that he was the prophet of God and was chosen from Yemen to guide Himyar, 'Arib and 'Aziz, but they killed him.[8] In some of these hadiths, a woman called Dilhath, the daughter of Iblis is mentioned who taught women lesbian sex and urged them to commit those acts.[9]

Third Report

Based on a hadith from the Prophet (s), Muhammad b. Ka'b b. Qarzi transmitted it, God sent a prophet for people who rejected him. They threw him into a well and put a big rock on the well. In their land, a slave lived who gathered firewood and sold for living. He had believed in that prophet and every day brought him water and food. One day, he had gone to collect firewood, but he went to sleep and by the will of God, he slept for 14 years. When he woke up, he thought that he slept for one hour; so, he prepared some food and went to the well, but there was no sign of the prophet. Based on this hadith, while he was in sleep, God had afflicted those people with punishment; so, they repented from their deeds and had released that prophet.[10]

Some exegetes considered the people of Rass to be actually the people of Ukhdud and considered Rass as Ukhdud.[11] It is said that some people including Ka'b al-Ahbar and Maqatil considered Rass, the name of a well in Antioch where people of Mu'min Al Yasin killed Habib Najjar and Mu'min Al Yasin and threw them into the well.[12]

People of Rass have also been considered a branch of Thamud tribe[13] and Bedouins of Hadura tribe whose prophet was Shu'ayb b. Dhi Mahra'.[14] In some hadiths, the people of Rass have been introduced as nomads and stockbreeders whose prophet was Shu'ayb (a).[15]

Time and Place of Living

Different places have been mentioned as the place the people of Rass lived. The region of Aras river,[16] Hadramaut in Yemen[17] and Yamama.[18] It is said that Dhu l-Qarnayn was the first person who visited their city.[19]

The time of the people of Rass is considered an era after Prophet Noah (a), Prophet Solomon (a), or between the prophethood of Jesus (a) and Prophet Muhammad (s) or even at the time of Khalid b. Sanan.[20] The Qur'an used the word "qurūn" to refer to the period between the people of Rass and other nations in the verse,

"and 'Ad and Thamud, and the inhabitants of Rass, and many generations between them." (Qur'an 25:38)

Exegetes interpreted the word "qarn" (century), a period equal to 40, 70 or 120 years.[21] al-'Allama al-Majlisi compared different reports and the time period suggested by writers previous to him for the people of Rass.[22]

In Hadiths of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)

In some hadiths from the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the people of Rass and their actions are mentioned. In a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), sinful women of the people of Rass are mentioned the people of the hell and their wrong action is described as bad as adultery.[23] A part of sermon 182 of Nahj al-balagha is about them, in which the people of Mada'in Rass are considered as the people who killed their prophet.[24]

Part 16 of 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida (a)[25] and also a part of the second volume of Hayat al-qulub is about the story of the people of Rass.

Notes

  1. Thaʿlabī, ʿArāʾis al-Majālis, vol. 10, p. 119; Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ al-aḥkām, vol. 13, p. 33.
  2. Gesenius, a Hebrew and English lexicon, p. 944.
  3. Abū Ṭayyib, al-Aḍdād, vol. 1, p. 319.
  4. Thaʿlabī, ʿArāʾis al-Majālis, vol. 10, p. 150; Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 10, p. 95.
  5. Azharī, Tahdhīb al-lugha, vol. 12, p. 290; Jawharī, al-Ṣiḥāḥ, vol. 2, p. 934; Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 7, p. 32.
  6. Thaʿlabī, ʿArāʾis al-Majālis, vol. 10, p. 151-153; Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 7, p. 33-35; Ṣadūq, Maʿānī al-akhbār, p. 48-49.
  7. Hamidānī, al-Aklīl, vol. 1, p. 123-124; Nuwayrī, Nihāyat al-arab, vol. 13, p. 88.
  8. Hamidānī, al-Aklīl, vol. 1, p. 123-124; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 14, p. 160.
  9. Thaʿlabī, ʿArāʾis al-Majālis, vol. 10, p. 151; Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 7, p. 33.
  10. Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān, vol. 19, p. 10-11.
  11. Zamakhsharī, al-Kahsshāf, vol. 3, p. 280; Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-jinān, vol. 8, p. 272.
  12. Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 7, p. 32; Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 7, p. 491; vol. 9, p. 361; Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, vol. 13, p. 32.
  13. Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 7, p. 32; Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān, vol. 19, p. 10; Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 24, p. 82.
  14. Ibn Khaldūn, Dīwān al-mubtadaʾ, vol. 2, p. 53.
  15. Zamakhsharī, al-Kahsshāf, vol. 3, p. 280; Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-jinān, vol. 8, p. 271-273; Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 24, p. 84.
  16. Thaʿlabī, ʿArāʾis al-Majālis, vol. 10, p. 150; Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 10, p. 95.
  17. Hamidānī, al-Aklīl, vol. 1, p. 120; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 14, p. 160.
  18. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 24, p. 82.
  19. Nuwayrī, Nihāyat al-arab, vol. 13, p. 88.
  20. Ṣadūq, Maʿānī al-akhbār, p. 48-49; Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 24, p. 82.
  21. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 24, p. 83; Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 7, p. 267.
  22. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 14, p. 159.
  23. Qummī, Tafsīr al-Qummī, vol. 2, p. 113-114; Ṣadūq, Thawāb al-aʿmāl, p. 628.
  24. Nahj al-balāgha, Sermon 182.
  25. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 205-209.

References

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