Iram of the Pillars
Iram of the Pillars (Arabic: إرَم ذَات ٱلْعِمَاد, Iram dhāt al-ʿimād; an alternative translation is Iram of the tentpoles), also called "Irum", "Irem", "Erum", "Ubar", or the "City of the pillars", is considered a lost city, region or tribe mentioned in the Quran.
The legend of Iram
The Quran mentions Iram in connection with ‘imad (pillars):
6: Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad –
7: [With] Iram – who had lofty pillars,
8: The likes of whom had never been created in the lands
9: And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley?
10: And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? –
11: [All of] whom oppressed within the lands
12: And increased therein the corruption.
13: So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment.
14: Indeed, your Lord is in observation.
There are several explanations for the reference to "Iram – who had lofty pillars". Some see this as a geographic location, either a city or an area, others as the name of a tribe. Those identifying it as a city have made various suggestions as to where or what city it was, ranging from Alexandria or Damascus to a city which actually moved or a city called Ubar. As an area, it has been identified with the biblical region known as Aram. It has also been identified as a tribe, possibly the tribe of ʿĀd, with the pillars referring to tent pillars.
"The identification of Wadi Rum with Iram and the tribe of ʿĀd, mentioned in the Quran, has been proposed by scholars who have translated Thamudic and Nabataean inscriptions referring to both the place Iram and the tribes of ʿĀd and Thamud by name."
According to some Islamic beliefs, King Shaddad was the king of the Iram of the Pillars who defied the warnings of the prophet Hud, whereupon Allah smote the city, driving it into the sands, never to be seen again. The ruins of the city are thought to lie buried somewhere in the sands of Rub' al Khali (The Empty Quarter). Iram became known to Western literature with the translation of the story "The City of Many-Columned Iram and Abdullah Son of Abi Kilabah" in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.
In November 1991, the remains of a settlement were discovered in southern Oman and hypothesized to be the legendary lost city claimed to have been destroyed by God. In 1992 Ranulph Fiennes wrote a book called Atlantis of the Sands about the expedition. The term Atlantis of the Sands had originally been coined by T. E. Lawrence.
There's a lot of confusion about that word. If you look at the classical texts and the Arab historical sources, Ubar refers to a region and a group of people, not to a specific town. People always overlook that. It's very clear on Ptolemy's second century map of the area. It says in big letters "Iobaritae". And in his text that accompanied the maps, he's very clear about that. It was only the late medieval version of One Thousand and One Nights, in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, that romanticised Ubar and turned it into a city, rather than a region or a people."
By 2007, following further research and excavation, a study authored in part by Zarins could be summarised as follows:
- As far as the legend of Ubar was concerned, there was no evidence that the city had perished in a sandstorm. Much of the fortress had collapsed into a sinkhole that hosted the well, perhaps undermined by ground water being taken to irrigate the surrounding oasis.
- Rather than being a city, interpretation of the evidence suggested that "Ubar" was more likely to have been a region—the “Land of the Iobaritae” identified by Ptolemy. The decline of the region was probably due to a reduction in the frankincense trade caused by the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity, which did not require incense in the same quantities for its rituals. Also, it became difficult to find local labour to collect the resin. Climatic changes led to desiccation of the area, and sea transport became a more reliable way of transporting goods.
There are many Hadiths about Iram, with one being the story of 'Abdullah bin Qalabah, who found Iram of the Pillars while searching for his lost camel. The story has been rejected by some Islamic scholars who consider the story an Isra'iliyyat Hadith. Ka’b al-Ahbar, who told the story, was Jewish before he converted to Islam, and thus he was accused by some scholars of narrating Isra'iliyyat stories.
- Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception explores Iram of the Pillars in the city of Ubar.
- Illwinter Game Design's Dominions 5 Iram is featured as the playable nation Ubar, a precursor to Na'Ba, which represents the Nabataeans
- Irem is featured as a port of call in Sunless Sea, having been transported underground to a subterranean ocean.
- Fallout 4 mentions Ubar and the Rub' al Khali by way of character Lorenzo Cabot.
- H. P. Lovecraft places it somewhere near "The Nameless City" in his stories (1921). In "The Call of Cthulhu" (1926) it is the supposed base of the Cthulhu Cult. Lovecraft and other Cthulhu Mythos authors have settled on the spelling Irem.
- Iram is the theme of Daniel Easterman's novel The Seventh Sanctuary (1987).
- Bayard Taylor's poem The Garden of Irem.
- Josephine Tey's novel The Singing Sands (1952) concerns, among other things, the search for the lost city of Wabar.
- Al-Hijr Archaeological Site
- Arabian Desert
- Al-Ukhdud ("The Ditch", or a place near Najran)
- Babil (Babylon)
- Madyan (Midian)
- Ma'rib, Saba' (Sheba)
- Sodom and Gomorrah
- The town in Surah Ya-Sin
- Wabar craters
- Glassé, Cyril; Smith, Huston (2003). "ʿĀd". The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman Altamira. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7591-0190-6.
- Quran 89:6–14 (Translated by Pickthall)
- Noegel, Scott B.; Wheeler, Brannon M. (2010). "Iram". The A to Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism. Scarecrow Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-8108-7603-3.
- Bosworth, C.E., ed. (1999). The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume V: The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-7914-4355-2.
- "Wadi Rum (Jordan). ICOMOS Advisory Body Evaluation" (PDF). UNESCO.org. 2011.
- Burton, Richard Francis (1885). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. p. – via Wikisource.
- Wilford, John Noble (5 February 1992). "On the Trail From the Sky: Roads Point to a Lost City". New York Times. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
- Fiennes, Ranulph (1993). Atlantis of the Sands: The Search for the Lost City of Ubar. Harmondsworth: Signet Books. ISBN 0-451-17577-8. OL 17393459M.
- Zarins, Juris (September 1996). "Interview with Dr. Juris Zarins". PBS Nova Online (Interview). Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- Blom, Ronald G.; Crippen, Robert; Elachi, Charles; Clapp, Nicholas; Hedges, George R.; Zarins, Juris (2006). Wiseman, James; El-Baz, Farouk (eds.). "Southern Arabian Desert Trade Routes, Frankincense, Myrrh, and the Ubar Legend". Remote Sensing in Archaeology. Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. New York: Springer: 71–87. doi:10.1007/0-387-44455-6_3. ISBN 978-0-387-44455-0.
- Lawton, John (May–June 1983). "Oman: Frankincense". Saudi Aramco World. Vol. 34 no. 3. pp. 26–27. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "Chapter 54: Shaddad and his Paradise, those who had very long life-spans". Al-Islam.org. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
- Ibn Khaldun (1958). The Muqaddimah: an introduction to history. 1. Princeton University Press. p. 17. ISBN 0691017549.
- "The Nameless City". Mythos Tomes. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Taylor, Bayard. "The garden of Irem". Poetry nook.
- Pellegrino, Charles R. (1994). Return to Sodom & Gomorrah: Bible Stories from Archaeologists. Random House. ISBN 0-679-40006-0.
- Clapp, Nicholas (1999). The road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-395-95786-8. OCLC 41557131.
- Entry on Irem in Dan Clore's A Necronomicon Glossary
- "Lost City of Arabia". PBS Nova documentary companion website. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
- "Space Radar Image of Ubar Optical/Radar". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 28 April 1998. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
- "Space Radar Image of the Lost City of Ubar". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 27 January 1999. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
- "The Search for Ubar: How Remote Sensing Helped Find a Lost City". NASA's Observatorium. Archived from the original on 27 February 2001. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
- Wilford, John Noble (21 April 1992). "The Frankincense Route Emerges From the Desert". New York Times. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
- Blom, Ronald G.; Crippen, Robert; Elachi, Charles; Clapp, Nicholas; Hedges, George R.; Zarins, Juris (March 1997). Space Technology And The Discovery Of The Lost City Of Ubar (PDF). IEEE Aerospace Conference. Aspen, CO: IEEE. doi:10.1109/AERO.1997.574258. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2006. Retrieved 22 November 2019.