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Thamūd (Arabic: ثَمود) was an Arabian tribe that suffered from the divine punishment after refusing to accept the call of the Prophet Salih (a). They are referred to in the Qur'an as polytheists and as being skillful in making stone houses. God sent Salih (a) to guide them to the right path. They killed the miracle of their prophet, that is, the She-Camel of Salih (a), and then they were stricken with the divine punishment. The story of the Thamud tribe does not appear in the Torah, but archaeological findings confirm their existence in northern regions of the Arabian Peninsula.

In the Qur'an

Recent archaeological work has revealed numerous Thamūdic rock writings and pictures not only on Mount Athlab but also throughout central Arabia

Some people take "Thamud" to be an Arabic word meaning little water,[1] and others take it to be a non-Arabic word.[2] "Thamud" was a tribe[3] which was named after its main ancestor.[4] The word occurred 26 times in the Qur'an.[5] Some exegetes of the Qur'an take "Ashab al-Hijr" (companions of Hijr) in the verse 80 of Qur'an 15 to refer to Thamud, taking "Hijr" to refer to the place where they lived.[6]


The Qur'an refers to the expertise of the people of Thamud in the construction of houses by carving the mountains and stones,[7] the construction of palaces in deserts[8] as well as fertile lands.[9] According to the Qur'an, they built their houses with stones.[10]

Period of Living

The Qur'an has not referred to the period in which people of Thamud lived, but they are introduced as successors of the People of 'Ad.[11] In mentioning past people and prophets, the Qur'an has narrated the story of Thamud after People of 'Ad.[12] Some people have referred to people of Thamud as "'Ad al-Akhira" (the later 'Ad).[13] Some people believe that the Quranic order implies the chronological order as well.[14] On Azarnush's account, the Thamud are mentioned in ancient sources as having lived between the 8th century BC and the 2nd century.[15] However, according to sources of Islamic history, the period of Prophet Salih's (a) prophethood was prior to Prophet Abraham's (a),[16] and people of 'Ad and Thamud were 500 years apart.[17] In some sources, people of Thamud are said to be from the progeny of Shem the son of the Prophet Noah (a).[18]

Place of Living

People of Thamud reportedly lived in Hijr at the coast of the Red Sea near "Wadi l-Qura"[19] which was located on the way from Hijaz to Syria.[20] According to a hadith, when the army of Islam arrived in Hijr on its way from Medina to Tabuk, the Prophet (s) ordered people not to drink from its water and to pass the region while crying lest they be stricken with the same punishments with which the people of Thamud were stricken.[21] Jawad 'Ali maintains that people of Thamud lived in the heights of today's Hijaz and Jordan.[22] The Qur'an has not specified the place where people of Thamud lived.

The Story

According to Quranic verses, people of Thamud were polytheists, so God sent Salih (a) in order to guide them to the path of monotheism.[23] According to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), they worshiped a large rock, gathered around it once a year, and made sacrifices for it.[24] A portrait of the Prophet Jesus (a) on an inscription ascribed to Thamud (dating back to 267) is said to be evidence for the prevalence of Christianity in their period.[25]

Reaction to Salih's Call to Monotheism

People of Thamud asked Salih (a) to present a miracle to prove his claims.[26] According to hadiths, they asked him to bring out a she-camel from inside a mountain.[27] God realized their request and a she-camel came out of the mountain. Salih (a) warned them not to harm the she-camel,[28] but they slaughtered her.[29] In Islamic sources, the animal is known as the She-Camel of Salih (a). Some Shiite exegetes of the Qur'an have appealed to a hadith from the Prophet (s) to analogize the slaughterer of the She-Camel of Salih (the wretched of the former people) with the killer of Imam 'Ali (a) (the wretched of the late people).[30]

The Qur'an refers to 9 groups of people who allied to kill Salih (a) and his family.[31] However, according to some accounts, there were 9 people who plotted the murder of Salih (a) and hid in a cave, but the cave collapsed and they died as a result.[32]

With respect to Salih's (a) call, people of Thamud were divided into two or three groups;[33] most of them rejected his call,[34] but a few people followed him.

The Divine Punishment

When people of Thamud killed the She-Camel of Salih (a), Prophet Salih (a) told them that they were going to be punished by God within three days.[35] On some accounts, on the first day, their faces turned yellow; on the second day, their faces turned red; and on the third day, their faces turned black, and then they were killed by the divine punishment.[36] The Qur'an has variously referred to the punishment of the people of Thamud as "thunderbolt" (sa'iqa),[37] "shriek" (sayha),[38] and "earthquake" (rajfa).[39] Some authors take these to refer to different stages of their punishment.[40]

Survivors of the Punishment

The few survivors of the people of Thamud allegedly migrated to Mecca[41] or Ramla in Palestine.[42] Some researchers believe that the attribution of a number of places in Palestine to the Prophet Salih (a) is evidence that some survivors of Thamud lived there.[43] Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani holds that the Thaqif tribe was a progeny of the people of Thamud,[44] but Ibn Khaldun has cast doubts on the accuracy of this attribution.[45] Some other people take Banu Hilal to be a progeny of the people of Thamud.[46]

Remnants of Thamud

A lot of petroglyphs, epigraphy, and buildings have been found in Mount Athalith and other places in the Arabian Peninsula which are speculated to be related to people of Thamud.[47] The following names appear in inscription attributed to them: "Radw" or "Radi" —well-known idols of northern Arabia— , "Salm" —an idol in Tayma'— and other idols of the region.[48]

It is said that the story of the people of Thamud does not appear in the Torah. Thus, some archaeologists cast doubts on the existence of such people,[49] but their existence was confirmed by archaeological findings in the 19th century.[50]


  1. Farāhīdī, al-ʿIyn, vol. 7, p. 35.
  2. Rāghīb al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 175.
  3. Rāghīb al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 175.
  4. Ibn Kathīr, Qiṣaṣ al-anbīyāʾ, p. 113.
  5. ʿAbd al-Bāqī, al-Muʿjam al-mufahras, vol. 9, p. 125.
  6. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 12, p. 185-186; Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 6, p. 529.
  7. Qurʾān, 26:149.
  8. Qurʾān, 7:84.
  9. Qurʾān, 26:147-148.
  10. Qurʾān, 89:9.
  11. Qurʾān, 7:74.
  12. Qurʾān, 7:65-73; 11:59-61; 26:123-141; 51:41-43; 54:18-23; 89:6-9.
  13. Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, vol. 6, p. 435.
  14. Khālidī, al-Qiṣaṣ al-Qurʾānī, vol. 1, p. 270-271.
  15. Ādharnūsh, "Nigāhī bi tārīkh-i qawm-i Thamūd", p. 34-36.
  16. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 1, p. 216; Masʿūdī, al-Tanbīh wa l-ishrāf, p. 70.
  17. Saʿd Zaghlūl, Fī tārīkh al-ʿarab qabl al-Islām, p. 113.
  18. Maqdisī, al-Bidaʾ wa l-tārīkh, vol. 3, p. 37.
  19. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 1, p. 216; Jawād ʿAlī, al-Mufaṣṣal, vol. 1, p. 323.
  20. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 1, p. 216; Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 2, p. 14.
  21. Thaʿlabī, Qiṣaṣ al-anbīyāʾ, p. 62.
  22. Jawād ʿAlī, al-Mufaṣṣal, vol. 1, p. 328.
  23. Qurʾān, 7: 73; 11:63; 26:141-143; 27:45.
  24. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 8, p. 185.
  25. Jawād ʿAlī, al-Mufaṣṣal, vol. 1, p. 328.
  26. Qurʾān, 26:154.
  27. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 8, p. 187.
  28. Qurʾān, 7:73; 11:64; 26:156.
  29. Qurʾān, 26:157.
  30. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 20, p. 301.
  31. Qurʾān, 27:48-49.
  32. Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Janān, vol. 8, p. 276.
  33. Qurʾān, 27:45; 7:75.
  34. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol.8, p. 183.
  35. Qurʾān, 11:65.
  36. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 6, p. 31; Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Janān, vol. 8, p. 280-281.
  37. Qurʾān, 41:13, 17; 51:44.
  38. Qurʾān, 11:65.
  39. Qurʾān, 7:78.
  40. Khālidī, al-Qiṣaṣ al-Qurʾānī, vol. 1, p. 293.
  41. Maqdisī, al-Bidaʾ wa l-tārīkh, vol. 3, p. 41.
  42. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 2, p. 17.
  43. Dabbāgh, al-Qabāʾil al-ʿarabīyya, p. 21-22.
  44. Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-Janān, vol. 4, p. 302-307.
  45. Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh Ibn Khaldūn. vol. 2, p. 26.
  46. Jawād ʿAlī, al-Mufaṣṣal, vol. 1, p. 328.
  47. Mūsā, Dirāsāt Islāmīyya, p. 56-57.
  48. Jawād ʿAlī, al-Mufaṣṣal, vol. 1, p. 328-331.
  49. Mūsā, Dirāsāt Islāmīyya, p. 58.
  50. Jawād ʿAlī, al-Mufaṣṣal, vol. 1, p. 324.


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