The Story of Saalih as explained by Mujahid and Qatadah

In addition to co-authoring Tafsir al-Jalalayn, sheikh Jalal al-Deen al-Suyooti also has another book of tafsir to his name, entitled al-Durr al-Manthoor fee Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor. As one might suspect from the title, al-Durr al-Manthoor was dedicated to presenting the explanations of the Qur’an transmitted from the Prophet himself, his companions, and those who followed their way in the early generations.

What follows is an excerpt from his explanation of the story of the Prophet Saalih and his people as it comes in surah al-Nahl [27:45-53]. al-Suyooti collected a number of the statements from the two leading mufassiroon of the tabi’oon, Mujahid ibn Jabr and Qatadah ibn Di’amah, found in the previous books of narration-based tafsir and arranged them to present an explanation of the passage as a whole from each of these great figures.

As mentioned in a previous post, the early generations would often only explain those parts of an ayah which were not immediately clear to their audience. As such, the reader may find it helpful to have a mushaf and/or translation nearby to follow along with the entire passage:

قوله تعالى : ولقد أرسلنا إلى ثمود الآيات . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ

And We sent to Thamud … [27:45]

until the end of this passage [27:45-53].

أخرج الفريابي ، وابن أبي شيبة ، وعبد بن حميد ، وابن جرير ، وابن المنذر ، وابن أبي حاتم ، عن مجاهد في قوله : فإذا هم فريقان يختصمون قال : مؤمن وكافر؛ قولهم : صالح مرسل من ربه . وقولهم : ليس بمرسل . وفي قوله : لم تستعجلون بالسيئة قال : العذاب . قبل الحسنة قال : الرحمة . وفي قوله : قالوا اطيرنا بك قال : تشاءمنا . وفي قوله : وكان في المدينة تسعة رهط قال : من قوم صالح . وفي قوله : تقاسموا بالله قال : تحالفوا على هلاكه، فلم يصلوا إليه حتى هلكوا وقومهم أجمعين . ـ

al-Firyaabi, ibn Abi Shaybah, ‘Abd ibn Humayd, ibn Jarir [al-Tabari], ibn al-Mundhir, and ibn Abi Haatim reported the following from Mujahid:

فَإِذَا هُمْ فَرِيقَانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ

… and at once they were two parties conflicting.[27:45]

meaning: believers and disbelievers. The first group said, “Saalih is sent from his Lord,” while the other group said, “He was not sent.” Continue reading

“We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance”

In surah Fussilaat, Allah briefly mentions some details of the story of the people of Thamud when He says:

وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَىٰ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَأَخَذَتْهُمْ صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَابِ الْهُونِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ * وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ

And as for Thamud, We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance, so the thunderbolt of humiliating punishment seized them for what they used to earn. And We saved those who believed and used to fear Allah. [41:17-18]

Commenting of this, Imam al-Sa’di writes:

وأما ثمود وهم القبيلة المعروفة الذين سكنوا الحجر وحواليه، الذين أرسل اللّه إليهم صالحًا عليه السلام، يدعوهم إلى توحيد ربهم، وينهاهم عن الشرك وآتاهم اللّه الناقة، آية عظيمة، لها شرب ولهم شرب يوم معلوم، يشربون لبنها يومًا ويشربون من الماء يومًا، وليسوا ينفقون عليها، بل تأكل من أرض اللّه،

And as for the Thamud, they were a well-known tribe which resided in al-ijr and thereabouts, to whom Allah sent aalih (‘alaihis salaam). He called them to taweed of their Lord and forbade them from shirk. And Allah gave them the camel as an amazing ayah (sign, miracle). For it was drinking and for them was drinking on known days (i.e. alternating days of access to the water sources for the camel and the people of Thamud). They drank from its milk one day and they drank from the water another day, and they did not spend on it (i.e. its provision). Rather it ate from the land of Allah. Continue reading

“They Became Two Parties Quarreling with One Another”: Tafsir

Allah, Exalted is He, informs us in surah al-Naml about the story of the Prophet Saalih (‘alaihis salaam) and his people when He says:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْ‌سَلْنَا إِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ فَإِذَا هُمْ فَرِ‌يقَانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ

And We had certainly sent to Thamūd their brother Ṣāliḥ, saying, “Worship Allah alone,” and at once they became two parties quarreling with each other. [27:45]

Imam al-Suyooti writes in his tafsir:

عن قتادة في قوله: {فإذا هم فريقان يختصمون} قال: إن القوم بين مصدق ومكذب. مصدق بالحق ونازل عنده، ومكذب بالحق تاركه. في ذلك كانت خصومة القوم

Qataada said about His statement, “and at once they became two parties quarreling with each other” – the people were divided by either affirmation of denial (of Saalih’s call to tawheed). Affirmation of the truth and living according to it, or denial of the truth and abandoning it. That was the heart of the people’s quarreling.

[al-Durr al-Manthoor 11/386 – read more here]

Imam al-Sa’di said in his tafsir:

ولقد أرسلنا إلى ثمود أخاهم صالحًا‏:‏ أن وحِّدوا الله‏,‏ ولا تجعلوا معه إلهًا آخر‏,‏ فلما أتاهم صالحٌ داعيًا إلى توحيد الله وعبادته وحده صار قومه فريقين‏:‏ أحدهما مؤمن به‏,‏ والآخر كافر بدعوته‏,‏ وكل منهم يزعم أن الحق معه‏.‏

And We had certainly sent to Thamūd their brother Ṣāliḥ” to single out Allah for worship, and to not make any other gods along with him. And when Saalih came to them calling to the tawheed of Allah and His worship exclusively, then the people became two parties: one of them believing in it, and the other disbelieving in his call, and each of them asserted that the truth was with them.”

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his tafsir, writes:

{فَإِذا هُمْ فَرِيقانِ يَخْتَصِمُونَ} قال مجاهد: أي مؤمن وكافر، قال: والخصومة ما قصه الله تعالى في قوله: {أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صالِحاً مُرْسَلٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ} إلى قوله: {كافِرُونَ}.

and at once they became two parties quarreling with each other“. Mujaahid said, “meaning mu’min and kaafir.” And he said, “And the quarreling is what Allah, Exalted is He, narrated when He said:

The leaders who were arrogant among his people said to those who were oppressed – to those who believed among them, “Do you [actually] know that Saalih is sent from his Lord?” They said, “Indeed we, in that with which he was sent, are believers.” Those who were arrogant said, “Indeed we are disbelievers in that which you have believed.” So they hamstrung the she-camel and were insolent toward the command of their Lord and said, “O Saalih, bring us what you promise us, if you should be of the messengers.” [7:75-77]

وقيل: تخاصمهم أن كل فرقة قالت: نحن على الحق دونكم.

And it is said that “their quarrel was what every group says, ‘We are upon the truth to the exclusion of you.'”

[Jaami’ al-Ahkam al-Qur’an 13/198]

For more on the story of Saalih, see also: “We guided them, but they preferred blindness

over guidance”

See also: The Story of Saalih as explained by Mujahid and Qatadah