The first command of Allah is about reading (Quran, 96:1). Generally, reading means to make sense of a written text. However, at the time of the revelation, there was no written text in sight. This gives us an idea that reading is not limited to written, printed or electronic text, but includes unwritten text spread all around. One of the fundamental aspects of Islam is the special emphasis on knowledge, and reading forms one of the basic means of gaining knowledge. The holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) encouraged Muslims to read the Quran. In addition to its divine origin, the Quran has remained accessible in all ages; its reading invites believers’ reflection. It lights the path of spiritual development, enables one to differentiate between right and wrong. It develops forward thinking, piety and awareness of the present, past and future to meet any exigency. Believers become more conscious of the purpose of their life and accountability in the hereafter. The Quranic stories are an important part of the Holy Quran, as they contain religious meanings, ethical teachings, and Islamic principles. They work to stimulate people to seek the truth and follow the right path in their lives. In Quran we come across a number of stories such as story of Cain and Abel, Abraham destroying idols, Solomon’s conversation with an ant, the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, and several stories about Mary, mother of Jesus. In this article, we write about Shaddad and his paradise on the basis of the available information. The primary ancestor of the nation of ‘Aad is ‘Aad Ibn ‘Aws Ibn Iram Ibn Saam Ibn Nooh. Thousands of years ago, his people had lived in the deserts of “AL-AHQAF” around Oman and Hadhramut in South Arabia. They were strongly built and very tall. They believed in no God but worshipped idols.Prophet ‘HUD’ was sent by Allah to preach and guide them on the right path. He advised them to worship one God as taught by Islam but they paid no heed. Allah punished them by stopping rain and drought over took them for years.Then some people went to Prophet ‘Hud’ begging him to pray to Allah for the rains. The Prophet prayed and instructed them to return to their villages. Thereafter it rained and people prospered. But never did they amend their conduct nor abandon their faith in idol-worship. Al last they were destroyed by punishement from Allah.When ‘Aad’ died, he left behind two sons Shaddad and Shadeed. After some time Shadeed also died and Shaddad became the ruler of his kingdom. He had appointed several governors in the areas over which he ruled. He grew so arrogant that he even claimed to be God and compelled his people to worship him.Allah sent Prophet ‘Hud’ to approach ‘Shaddad’ advising him to correct his wrong thinking and conduct. In response, he once asked the Prophet what reward he could expect if he were to put his faith in Allah and worship One God. He was told that he would have a place in paradise.Shaddad inquired what sort of place it was. The Prophet described it as a blissful place where the righteous and true believers in Allah would after death enjoy the best of every thing. ‘Shaddad’ responded saying it was nothing since he could also build similar place or even a better one on earth.He then resolved to build a huge and beautiful paradise of his own on earth. He sent someone to Zohak Tazi – who ruled Iran with request to purchase all available quantity of gold and silver.He also sent people around to other places and acquired large quantities of valuable items including musk and amber etc. He then gathered all his experts and architects and gave them instructions to construct a magnificient ‘paradise’ on earth.A place with good climate and scenery somewhere in south Arabia was selected. High palaces and towers with walls inlaid with gold and silver were constructed. Beautiful pearls and emaralds were spread on floors instead of sand.Trees made of gold with branches hanging with musks and amber were put up in plush gardens. Everytime the wind blew, the sweet scent OT their perfume would spread around. Pretty women were accommodated there to beautify the dream setting. All valuable metals and materials were supplied and it took some three hundred years to complete it.In those very olden days, people used to live very long. Prophet Noah had lived for 900 years. Similary Shaddad was informed that he would live about that long. So he was extremely anxious to enter and live in his lavish man made paradise before his death.He gave orders to all people to proceed to the walls of dazzling city of high and magnificient pillars described in the holy Quran as IRAM ZATIL IMAD. Then he himself came out of his residence in Hadramont with his large army for opening ceremony. As he neared the paradise of his imagination, suddenly he saw a deer with trunk and legs of gold and silver.He gave chase to capture it but in so doing he got separated from his army. Now alone, unexpectedly he was faced with a frightful horseman who in raised voice said: “Oh Shaddad! You imagined that you will be saved from death and live for ever after entering this man-made paradise on earth.”Shaddad on hearing this trembled and inquired who he was. “I am MALAKOL MAUT” – (the angel of death) came the reply.”What do you want and why are you obstructing me?” asked Shaddad. “I have come to take away your soul”, he replied.Shaddad pleaded for sometime at least to be able to enter his paradise but the angel of death refused saying he had no permission from Allah to do so. He then fell from his horseback and his soul instantly departed from his body.His army heard a deafening and frightening sound from the sky and they also perished on the spot. None of them could fulfill their ardent desire of entering the fictitous paradise. The whole decorated structure crumbled and got buried under the Arabian sands. What a splendid example of the consequence of one who thought he could challenge the Might of Allah, who had become arrogant as a result of this enormous wealth. What a tragedy that he could not even step into his man- made paradise.
“The arrogant attitude, disobedience and boastfulness of the people are the most hated characteristics by Allah Almighty therefore, Allah Almighty destroyed all those nations that were arrogant and disobedient with His wrath. Shaddaad and the other members of the nation of ‘Aad, they shared the same arrogance and disobedient characteristics therefore they were destroyed from the surface of earth. We should seek wisdom from their conditions and the reason why the Holy Quran has mentioned their stories so that the people of Quran may find guidance and fear Allah at all times.”
The Holy Quran has truly described such people in these words:”Nay! man is most surely inordinate,Because he sees himself free from want.” (96: 6-7)Ka’aba Against The Might of Elephants: During the sixth century around 570 A.D., before the advent of Islam, the part of Arabia known as Yemen was under the rule of the Abyssinian Christians who had driven away the Jewish Himyar rulers. The Abyssinian viceroy in Yemen was Abraha Ashram. He was determined to build great church in San’aa, present capital of Yemen, so as to make it a leading centre of commerce and place of pilgrimage for the Christian world. He was convinced that this dream could only be realized if he could first destroy Mecca which was then a huge centre of commerce and pilgrimage.Intoxicated with power and fired by religious fanaticism, Abraha finally made his vicious plans. Accompanied by a big herd of elephants and other animals, he led an expedition and marched to destroy the Holy Ka’aba in Mecca. The Arabs in those days hardly had any opportunity to see an elephant in their lives. Hence the army of Abraha is described in history as ‘ASHABUL FEEL’ i.e. the army with elephants.Abraha camped his army on the outskirts of Mecca preparing to attack and destroy the holy Ka’aba. During the course of preparation, his army stole some 700 camels belonging to Abdul Muttalib – the grandfather of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W), The camels were grazing in the open fields outside the city.Abraha sent a message to Abdul Muttalib who was the supreme chief of Mecca, informing him his intention of destroying the Holy Ka’aba. Abdul Muttalib replied that he would meet Abraha in person and talk to him. When he approached the invading army’s camp, he was received respectfully and given an honourable seat near Abraha.As the two men talked, Abdul Muttalib said that he had come to complain about Abraha’s army stealing his camels. Abraha answered, “I have come to conquer Mecca, your place of worship, and you worry about your camels?” Abdul Muttalib repiied, “I am the owner and responsible for the camels so I have come for them. The Ka’aba belongs to God and it is the concern of the owner of that house whether to save it or not.” Abraha, amazed by the reply, returned Abdul.Muttalib’s camels to him but was determined to attack the city. Abdul Muttalib advised his people to move into the hills for safety.As Abraha entered the city a huge flock of tiny birds, like a patch of cloud appeared in the sky. Each bird had a small pebble in its tiny beak and dropped it on the invading soldiers. The stones fell exactly on the men and they were instantly killed and fell prone on the ground.Abraha was spared but one bird flew above him. The king asked him what kind of birds had acted so miraculously. Abraha raised his eyes to the sky and saw the bird and pointed out it to the king; the bird dropped the stone and Abraha was instantly killed. After the miraculous event, Abraha’s army was found lying on the ground as bits of some withered and crunched grass rendered useless for any purpose.Is this event not a clear miracle proving the sanctity of the Ka’aba and the people who were truly attached to it such as Abdul Muttalib and the people of his house?Had he not shown his utmost confidence in Allah as the real protector of the Holy Shrine and guided his people to safety, they would have perhaps bowed down to the might and pomp of Abraha and made a truce with him. Consequently the history of Mecca and the holy shrine as well as the glory of Islam would have been different.Another important lesson to draw from this event for men of all ages is that a man intoxicated with power can prepare armies and armaments against God’s holy plan, but such a man’s action will be his own downfall, he cannot prevail against God.The Holy Qura’n has in eloquent words described this incident as follows:”Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant?Did He not cause their war to end in confusion, And send down (to prey) upon them birds in flocks, Casting against them stones of baked clay, So He rendered them like straw eaten up” (105: 1-5) It is concluded that the arrogant attitude, disobedience and boastfulness of the people are the most hated characteristics by Allah Almighty therefore, Allah Almighty destroyed all those nations that were arrogant and disobedient with His wrath. Shaddaad and the other members of the nation of ‘Aad, they shared the same arrogance and disobedient characteristics therefore they were destroyed from the surface of earth. We should seek wisdom from their conditions and the reason why the Holy Quran has mentioned their stories so that the people of Quran may find guidance and fear Allah at all times. It is necessary for the Muslims to recite Quran and also read the translation in order to understand and take a lesson from the destruction of the previous lessons. We should make Taubah at all times and instill the fear of Allah in our hearts and keep away from all forms of disbeliefs and evil practices. We should all strive to do good and not have any pride due to having wealth etc.And Allah, He shall grant the divine opportunity!
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for the opinion pages of “Kashmir Horizon”. The views, opinions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the authors and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)