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Saleh (//) or Salih (//; Arabic: صالح Ṣāliḥ "Pious") is a prophet of pre-Islamic Arabia mentioned in the Quran who prophesied to the tribe of Thamud. The story of Saleh is linked to the story of the She-Camel of God, which was the gift given by God to the people of Thamud when they desired a miracle to confirm that Saleh was truly a prophet.
The Thamud were a tribal confederation in the northwestern region of Arabia, mentioned in Assyrian sources in the time of Sargon II. The tribe's name continues to appear in documents into the fourth century AD, but by the sixth century they were regarded as a group that had vanished long ago.:81
According to the Quran, the city that Saleh was sent to was called al-Hijr, which corresponds to the Nabataean city of Hegra. The city rose to prominence around the first century AD as an important site in the regional caravan trade. Adjacent to the city were large, decorated rock-cut tombs used by members of various religious groups.:146 At an unknown point in pre-Islamic times, the site was abandoned and possibly functionally replaced by al-Ula. The site has been referred to as Mada'in Salih since the rise of Islam, named after the prophet.
The prophet Saleh is not mentioned in any other Abrahamic scripture or contemporary historical text, but the account of Thamud's destruction may have been well known in pre-Islamic Arabia. The tribe's name is used in pre-Islamic poetry as a metaphor for "the transience of all things".:223-24
Narrative in the Quran
Saleh's life in his community had been so righteous that the people of Thamud virtually relied upon him for support. He was chosen by God as a prophet and sent preach against the selfishness of the wealthy and to condemn the practice of idolatry. Although Saleh preached the message for a sustained period of time, the people for Thamud refused to hear his warning and instead began to ask Saleh to perform a miracle for them.
Saleh reminded his people of the countless castles and palaces they built out of stone, and of their technological superiority over neighboring communities. Furthermore, he told them about their ancestors, the ʿĀd tribe, and how they too were destroyed for their sins. Some of the people of Thamud believed Saleh's words, but the tribal leaders refused to listen to him and continued to demand that he demonstrate a miracle to prove his prophethood.
In response, God gave the Thamud a blessed she-camel, as both a means of sustenance and a test. The tribe was told to allow the camel to graze peacefully and avoid harming her. But in defiance of Saleh's warning, the people of the tribe hamstrung the camel. Saleh informed them that they had only three more days to live before the wrath of God descended upon them. The people of the city were remorseful, but their crime could not be undone, and all the disbelieving people in the city were killed in an earthquake. Al-Hijr was rendered uninhabited and remained in ruins for all time thereafter. Saleh himself and the few believers who followed him survived.
In the version of the story told in Sūrat an-Naml, the she-camel is not mentioned. Instead, it states that nine men plotted to kill Saleh himself, a crime for which they were struck down by God.
In Islamic tradition
Muslim writers have elaborated upon the story of Saleh and the she-camel. Early Islamic tradition often involved a motif of the camel miraculously emerging from stone, often accompanied by a calf, and the production of milk from the camel. Al-Tabari states that Saleh summoned his people to a mountain, where they witnessed the rock miraculously split open, revealing the camel. The she-camel had a young calf. Saleh informed the Thamud that the older camel was to drink from their water source on one day, and they were to drink from it the next day. On days when they were not allowed to drink water, the camel provided them with milk. But God informed Saleh that a boy who would hamstring the camel would soon be born to the tribe, and that child was evil and grew unnaturally fast. The camel was indeed killed, and its calf cried out three times, signaling that the Thamud would be destroyed in three days. Their faces turned yellow, then red, then black, and they died on the third day as predicted.
- Biblical and Quranic narratives
- List of notable Hijazis
- Prophets and messengers in Islam
- Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā’
- Quran 7:73–79
- Quran 11:61–69
- Quran 26:141–158
- Hoyland, Robert. Arabia and the Arabs. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415195355.
- Quran 15:80–84
- Can Aksoy, Omer (2009). "Framing the Primordial: Islamic Heritage and Saudi Arabia". In Rico, Trinidad. The Making of Islamic Heritage: Muslim Pasts and Heritage Presents. p. 69. ISBN 978-981-10-4070-2.
- Fiema, Zbigniew T. (2003). "Roman Petra (A.D. 106–363): A Neglected Subject". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins (1953-). 119 (1): 38-58.
- Nehme, Leila. "Ancient Hegra, a Nabataean Site in a Semi-arid Environment. The Urban Space andPreliminary Results from the First Excavation Season" (PDF). Bollettino di Archeologia.
- Quran 11:62: "They said: "O Salih! Thou hast been of us! A centre of our hopes hitherto! Dost thou forbid us the worship of what our fathers worshiped? But we are really in suspicious (disquieting) doubt as to that to which thou invitest us.""
- Quran 7:74: “And remember how He made you inheritors after the 'Ad people and gave you habitations in the land: ye build for yourselves palaces and castles in (open) plains, and care out homes in the mountains; so bring to remembrance the benefits (ye have received) from Allah, and refrain from evil and mischief on the earth"
- Quran 7:75: "The leaders of the arrogant party among his people said to those who were reckoned powerless - those among them who believed: "Know ye indeed that Salih is a messenger from his Lord?"
- Quran 7:73: "Now hath come unto you a clear (Sign) from your Lord! This she-camel of Allah is a Sign unto you: So leave her to graze in Allah's earth, and let her come to no harm, or ye shall be seized with a grievous punishment.'"
- Quran 7:77
- Quran 11:65
- Quran 26:157
- Quran 7:78
- Quran 7:79: "So Salih left them, saying: 'O my people! I did indeed convey to you the message for which I was sent by my Lord: I gave you good counsel, but ye love not good counselors!'"
- Quran 27:48
- Quran 27:49
- al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Yarir. The History of al-Tabari, Volume 2. Translated by William Brinner. p. 41-44.
- Hoyland, Robert (1997). Seeing Islam As Others Saw It A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam. Darwin Press. p. 480-485.
- John of Damascus (1958). The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, Vol 37. Translated by Frederick H Chase Jr. Catholic University of America Press. p. 158-159.
- Ibn Kathir. "Prophet Salih". Stories of the Prophets. Translated by Muhammad Mustapha Geme’ah. Darussalam.
- "LAWḤ-I-BURHÁN (Tablet of the Proof)". Baha'i Reference Library. Retrieved 2 September 2018.