Ghana: Between History and the Quran - the Case of the Famous She-Camel of Allah (I)


There is a natural relationship between history and revealed verses of the Holy Quran. Let me prove the existence of this link using the case of the famous she-camel of Allah sent as a mighty and unprecedented miracle to the ancient Thamud tribe of Arabia.

History was first in existence and from this history Allah revealed to become the pieces of verses in the Quran dealing with the histories of past nations and personalities. History, vindicated by the Quran, is explicitly dear that the very cause that led to the annihilation of the powerful and prosperous Thamud tribe was their killing of the she-camel sent to them by God as a sign. Owing to its importance as a moral lesson for the past, present and future generations a significant portion of Thamud history in the Quran is devoted to the she-camel. As usual the Quran does not state the animals history in details for the fact that it was well known to the Arabs particularly those in the Hijaz (Macca and Madina region), which at that time was under Thamud rule. The understanding is therefore that the Quran expects the Arabs and the latter people to fill in the missing gap in the Quranic narration with the animal's history obtained through research. Without any such detailed knowledge any attempt to comment on the relevant Quranic verses dealing with the animal will be a hotch potch. Those stories therefore served the great moral lesson that if they failed to heed to the Quranic warnings, then certainly the destruction meted to their predecessors (The people of Noah, Aad, Thamud etc.) would be meted to the pagan Arabs.

Let me endorse this point with the following incidence. That the people of Macca at one point in time demanded from the Prophet Mahammad that he should turn its mountains into gold as well as move them away and create ample space to enable them grow food. Allah, the Merciful, then revealed to Muhammad to tell them that Allah was more capable to wrought them, but that if they failed to accept Muhammed then, God would destroy them just as He destroyed the Thamud tribe in the past. Then was revealed the verse: "And nothing prevents us from sending down signs, but that the earlier People rejected them. And we sent the she-camel to the Thamud as an eye-witnessed miracle but they harmed it. And we send not signs but to cause fear "(Quran 17:59). Allah then gave them the second option that Muhammad should reason out with them. Since they were most conversant with how the she-camel emerged from a huge rock as a sign, which the Thamud denied leading to their eventual destruction, theMaccan took heed and dropped those demands. (Ibn Hisham). Let us therefore critically analyse history supported by Quranic verses to find out how the she-camel, was created. From such eminent and authoritative history books as Tabari, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Kathir and Ibn Athir, we learn that after several years of preaching his message, which the Thamud rejected, they challenged him to show them a wonderful miracle as his proof that he (Salih) was from God. Salih asked them to specify the miracle. Instead of answering that question they rather challenged him to a prayer duel scheduled for one of their festivals. If Salih's prayers to his God prevailed the Thamud would follow him and if the Thamud's prayers to their gods prevailed Salih and his followers would follow them (Qisas Anbiyaa). From this little introduction it can be discerned the fact that the Thamud had a sinister motive when they failed to specy the miracle. And that sinister motive kept to the leadership, was that they would request him to bring from a huge rock a huge, tall and pregnant she-camel of a particular colour as his miracle. A day before the contest Allah revealed to him the secret in the verse: "Should we follow a single man from amongst us? Is it that the Reminder (revelation) has been sent only to him from amongst us? Certainly he is an impudent liar. Tomorrow they will know who is the impudent liar. We shall send them the she-camel as a trial (Fitna), so watch them and be patient "(Quran 54:24-27). Meaning that the Thamud charged the Prophet Salih of being an impudent liar for claiming that he was the recipient of divine revelation demanding the allegiance of his people. In refutation God says He would send them the she-camel as a sign in support of Salih there by proving then as the impudent liars. The Quran is emphatically clear that a day before the contest the she-camel had not appeared and that it would only makes its presence on the very day of the spiritual contest. In short this verse confirms the historical account that Salih and Thamud had agreed to a spiritual contest scheduled for a particular day.

Let us move to the scene of the spiritual contest held at their capital, Hijr. With their huge idols arrayed before them their chief priests prayed all day long without success. Instead of giving Salih the chance to pray to his God according to the terms of the agreement, their King all of a sudden got up and requested Salih to bring from a rock a pregnant she-camel. If he was able to achieve that feat they would follow him. Salih never raised any objection of being cheated since the revelation, a day before, had informed him to expect that demand and that kind of behaviour. Salih them spread his praying mat and offered two prostrations (Rakat) of prayers in the direction of the rock. Moments later they heard the crying of a pregnant she-camel inside the rock, followed by shaking after which the rock split into two from which emerged the she-camel of exact size and description as demanded by the Thamud (Qisas Anbiyaa p59). The following Quranic verse is a brief summary of the spiritual duel and of what occurred on the occasion: "You (Salih) are but a human being like us. So bring a sign if you are one of the truthful. He Salih said, 'Here is a she-camel: For her is a portion of the drinking water and for you is a portion of the drinking water on specified days'. (Quran 26:154-155). This verse also confirms the authenticity of the historical account of what actually occurred on the decisive day. Let us critically compare the historical account with the summarised Quranic revelation to enable us make very important conclusions.

Historically, what occurred that day is as follows: First, the Thamud prayed the whole day to their gods but to no avail. Second, they demanded that Salih should bring from a rock a pregnant she-camel. Third, Salih prayed and the animal emerged. These three facts have been compressed into the just quoted Quranic revelation: "So bring a sign if you are fruitful. So Salih said, Here is a she-camel". The demand by the Thamud to bring a she-camel from a rock has been compressed into the Quranic statement "So bring a sign". Being only a summary the actual miracle of a she-camel coming from the rock has been omitted. Thus when Salih in the Quran said, 'Here is a she-camel', that statement cannot be interpreted to mean that that animal from nowhere emerged on the scene, as some modern literalist want us to believe. But that the animal emerged from the rock according to the history. But most importantly it would sound very illogical for Salih to wrought the sign of the she-camel if they had not made a demand for it to be wrought from a rock. If not and Salih had specified and wrought his own miracle of the she-camel they would have certainly and justifiably rejected it, since they never made a demand for it.

Let me substantiate this point with the following example. That it is a well known fact that during the battle of Badar the Holy Prophet Mahammad collected a handful of sand and gravels, prayed on them and then threw them in the enemy direction. There was none of the 1,000 strong enemy whose eyes were not affected by that handful throw that conferred victory on the Muslims. This event has been summarised in the following revelation. "You did not throw when you threw but that it was Allah who threw" (Quran 33:17) Meaning that that handful throw enjoyed divine support and power. Restricting ourselves only to the Quran the pertinent question is, what did Muhammad throw on the occasion, since the Quran has not included that in the revelation. That question is answered only by the history which states categorically that Muhammad threw a handful of sand and gravels. For similar reason when the Quran says 'Here is a she-camel', the question of from where emerged the she-camel is answered by history which tells us that the she-camel emerged from a rock and not from nowhere.

Let me emphatically conclude that every Quranic verse dealing with the she-camel has a corresponding history stated in the history books that preceded the Quranic revelation. Secondly, that the she-camel without the least shred of doubt was created by Allah from a rock. If history is confirmed by the testimony of Allah himself then what other testimony do we need? A book called Qisas Al-Anbiyaa, written by a modern author Abdul Wahab Al-Najar denies that the she-camel came from a rock for the fact that it is not categorically stated in the Quran. Last but not the least archeologist have discovered some Thamudic engravemets on some huge rocks in Saudi Arabia depicting how the she-camel emerged from a rock according to the history. This disco very settles once and for all the question of the source from which that animal emerged.

Conclusion: Quranic revelations are usually brief accounts of historical narrations and that the famous she-camel of Allah was created by Him from a rock.

Abdul Naasir, Islamic University of Madina

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