People of the Ditch

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People of the Ditch (Arabic: أصحاب الأخدود) is a story mentioned in Surah Al-Burooj of the Qur'an. It is about people who were thrown into a ditch and set afire, due to their belief in Allah.[1]

Story in Suratul-Buruj[edit]

The verses 4 to 7 are the story of a group of devout people, who were burned in a ditch. The main text and English translation of the verses are in the following table:

Verse Arabic text English translation
4 قُتِلَ أَصْحَابُ الْأُخْدُودِ Woe to the makers of the pit (of fire),
5 النَّارِ‌ ذَاتِ الْوَقُودِ Fire supplied (abundantly) with fuel:
6 إِذْ هُمْ عَلَيْهَا قُعُودٌ Behold! they sat over against the (fire),
7 وَهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَفْعَلُونَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ شُهُودٌ[2] And they witnessed (all) that they were doing against the Believers.[3]

Then the Qur'an adds that they were killed in this way only because they believed in Allah. Then it mentioned the fate of torturers in verses 8 to 10:

Verse Arabic text English translation
8 وَمَا نَقَمُوا مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَمِيدِ And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, Exalted in Power, Worthy of all Praise!
9 الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness to all things.
10 إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِ‌يقِ[2] Those who persecute (or draw into temptation) the Believers, men and women, and do not turn in repentance, will have the Penalty of Hell: They will have the Penalty of the Burning Fire.[3]

Meaning of 'Ukhdud'[edit]

According to the Al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Quran, "Ukhdud" (Arabic: أخـدود) is basically derived from "Khadd" (Arabic: خـد), and it means "wide and deep ditch spread on the land."[4] It is called this because it is believed to be where the burning took place.[5]

Time and place of the event[edit]

Al-Ukhdud is a historical place located 5 km (3.1 mi) south of Najran city in Saudi Arabia. The event of Al-Ukhdud occurred in 520 or 523 ACE, in the time of Dhu Nuwas, the last Himyarite King.[5][6]

Story in other sources[edit]

There are different stories about the people of the Ditch. One of them is a hadith (Arabic: حَـدِيـث, 'account', 'narration' or 'report') about a Malik (Arabic: مَـلِـك, King) that had a sahir (Arabic: سَـاحِـر, magician) in the days before Muhammad. As the magician grew old and his lifetime was nearly over, he asked the King to choose a smart boy to learn sihr (Arabic: سِـحْـر, magic) from him. However, as the boy was training in magic, he met a monk everyday on the way to the magic class, and finally became a true believer in God. As a result, he could save people and treat sick people in unusual ways. When the King learned of this, he commanded the boy to abandon his faith in God. The boy rejected the King's command, so he was killed. The King also burned those who followed the boy's deen (Arabic: ديـن, religion), in one or more ditches.[7][8][9]

Ibn Ishaq-Guillaume interpreted this passage to be an allusion to the killing of the Christians of Najran by order of the King Dhu Nuwas. According to Christian sources, this event took place around 523 C.E. Dhu Nuwas converted to Judaism and chose Joseph as his new name. He went to Najran to force the Christian people there to convert to Judaism. When they refused, the King threw them alive into one or more burning ditches.[5]

There is also a hadith that God chose a Nabi (Arabic: نَـبِي, Prophet) in Abyssinia, but the people of Abyssinia denied him. At last the prophet and his companions (Arabic: أصـحـاب) were burned in a ditch.[10]

It is reported that companions of Daniyal (Daniel) were burned in a ditch [11] Some say it happened several times in several places such as Yemen, Constantinople, Babylon, Iraq, and Al-Sham; and that this story is not about just one such event.[12]

In media[edit]

The animated film, The Boy and the King, is a movie about people of the ditch.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "People of the Ditch".
  2. ^ a b Quran 85:4–7 "Quran (85:4–7)".
  3. ^ a b "English translation of 85th chapter".
  4. ^ Sadr-Ameli, Sayyed Abbas. "85". An enlightening commentary into the light of the Quran. Vol. 19. Imam Ali foundation.
  5. ^ a b c Encyclopaedia Of The Quran, Jane Dammen McAuliffe, vol.2, pp.147–148
  6. ^ "Ukhdud Najran the story is narrated by Quran and successive civilizations". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  7. ^ Abdul Malik bin Hisham Ibn Hisham, Biography of the Prophet, Darol-Ma'refah Publication, Beirut, vol.1, pp.35–36, 1355 H.Sh.
  8. ^ Muhammad Bal'ami, History of the Prophets and Kings, Sorosh Publication, Tehran, vol.2, pp.121–122, 1378 H.Sh.
  9. ^ "The Story of the Boy and the King from Surah al-Buruj". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  10. ^ Barghi, Ahmad ibn Muhammad. Almahasen. Vol. 1. p. 250.
  11. ^ Shaykh Tabarsi. Majma' al-Bayan. Vol. 10. p. 706.
  12. ^ al-Tha'labi, Ahmad ibn Muhammad. Ghesas al-Anbia. Vol. 1. Beirut. pp. 438–439.