Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel
I have a question regarding the people of Thamud. We know through the Quran that Allah Most High punished the people of Thamud.
But now, I have seen that many scholars identify the houses of Thamud with those in Madain Salih. However, through archeological research, we know that these houses were inhabited/carved by the Nabataeans in the first century AD. We know that the Thamud lived before the time of Musa. Also, in verses 29:38 and 27:52, does Allah Most High make here a reference to the dwellings in Madain Salih? How are these verses to be explained?
This now makes me doubt because anti-Islamic sources say that the Quran made a big mistake here. It affects my faith. Can you clarify it for me?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
The summary answer is the Thamud were not the only civilization that built houses in rocky mountains. Petra located in Jordan’s southwestern desert was home to the Nabatean civilization and its capital, which was not the Thamud, and which was not destroyed by Allah Most High. As for the High Rocky Plain (Al-Hijr) in Saudi Arabia, it was home to more than one civilization. One of those civilizations that lived there was destroyed by Allah Most High.
Allah Most High said in the Quran, “The people of Stone Valley (al-Hijr) also rejected Our Messengers. We gave them Our signs, but they turned their backs. They carved out dwellings in the mountains, and lived in security. But the blast overwhelmed them early in the morning.” [Quran 15:80-84]
The Destruction of the Dwellers of High Rocky Plain (Al-Hijr) Who Were Known as People called Thamud – [Quran, 29:38]
And the people of ’Ad and Thamud met a similar fate, which must be clear to you Meccans from their ruins. Satan made their evil deeds appealing to them, hindering them from the Right Way, although they were capable of reasoning. [Quran, 29:38]
Allah tells us about these nations who disbelieved in their Messengers and how He destroyed them and sent various punishments and vengeance upon them. ‘Ad, the people of Hud, peace be upon him, used to live in the curved sand hills (Ahqaf) near Hadramawt in Yemen. Thamud, the people of Salih, lived in High Rocky Plain (Al-Hijr) near Wadi Al-Qura North of Madina. The Arabs used to know their dwelling place very well and often used to pass by it. [Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn-Kathir]
High Rocky Plain (Al-Hijr), Cities of Salih (Madain Salih) and Nabateans
The narration of ʿAbdullah ibn ‘Umar and analysis of Ibn Kathir which report that people called the region of Thamud High Rocky Plain (Al-Hijr), while they called the province of Mada’in Salih as Land of Thamud (Ardh Thamud) and Bayt Thamud (House of Thamud). So the term ‘Thamud’ was not applied to the groups that lived in Mada’in Salih, such as Lihyanites and Nabataeans, but rather to the region itself. The settlement at Mada’in Salih probably ended at about the same time the Romans finally overthrew the Nabateans at Petra (A.D. 106). [Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir; Usmani, The Meanings of the Noble Quran; Ibn Khaldun, Tarikh Ibn Khaldun]
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I pray this helps with your question.
[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied within UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
He started his early education in UK. He went onto complete hifz of Qur’an in India, then enrolled into an Islamic seminary in UK where he studied the secular and Alimiyyah sciences. He then travelled to Karachi, Pakistan.
He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for a number of years. He has taught hifz of the Qur’an, Tajwid, Fiqh and many other Islamic sciences to both children and adults onsite and online extensively in UK and Ireland. He was teaching at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences.
He currently resides in UK with his wife. His personal interest is love of books and gardening.