Narrated Abu Huraira (RA): The Prophet (SA) said: “Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall … People have been decreasing in stature since Adam’s creation.” (Excerpt from Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543)
A cubit is an ancient measurement, from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow. The conservative approximate based on the average modern man ranges from 17 to 22 inches. Even taking the shorter of these two measurements, Adam’s AS height was at least 1020 inches, which is 85 feet. In the metric system, this equates to 25.5 meters tall.
This is part of the power of Allah. The first men to populate the earth, in comparison to our diminutive statures, were giants. They had lengthy lifespans – Adam AS died when he was approximately ten centuries old, and we saw that Nuh AS preached the message of Islam for over 950 years. Imagine the vast amount of knowledge that the early people managed to gather during their lifetimes. Today, we have an average lifespan of a few decades, and yet we are arrogant over what little knowledge we acquire during that short space of time.
The Qur’an repeatedly reminds us that the people before us were more powerful than we are today – in terms of size, strength, and ability.
Hence, the community of ‘Ad, to whom Hud AS was sent, was colossal. Based in what is now Yemen, they were so advanced and powerful that they were able to hack through the mountains and build lavish dwellings never seen before:
“Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the ‘Ad; of the (city of) Iram, with lofty pillars; the like of which was never created in any land.” (89:6 – 89:8)
The Rebirth of Idolatry
The people of ‘Ad were the successors to Nuh’s AS community. They were granted various bounties by Allah, including fertile, well irrigated land and lush agriculture. With such abundance of natural resources at their fingertips, the community grew ungrateful and arrogant, their arrogance increasing over time, to the point that they declared: “…Who is mightier than us in power?…” (41:15)
While before this their ancestors used to dwell in tents, they built landmarks – buildings with grand pillars – in every high terrain. These haughty monuments were built in total heedlessness of their own vulnerability as human beings, and were the outward manifestation of their arrogance. The landscape was adorned with various landmarks and buildings as tribute to their wealth and stature.
They did not attribute any of their copious provisions to the generosity and might of Allah. As their arrogance increased, similar to other societies that lose their connection with God, they became tyrannical. They were also the first to relapse to the practice of idol worshiping after the Great Flood.
The Da’wah of Hud AS
The community of ‘Ad had fallen into the custom of worshipping what their ancestors worshipped; and were not prepared to discard the false idols that their fathers and grandfathers before them venerated. The destruction of Nuh’s AS community through the Great Flood had already become distant memory and the stuff of legends in their minds.
It is the sunnah of Allah that He will not destroy a community without first sending someone to warn and guide them, giving them ample opportunity to repent and mend their ways. When idolatry became rife among the people of ‘Ad, a Prophet was sent to the community to lead them back to the path of Allah. He was Hud AS, the first of the four Arab Prophets, Saleh AS, Shuaib AS and finally Muhammad SAW being the other three.
Descended from Nuh AS, Hud AS was of a humble social status and financial means. His mission was to guide his community back to the monotheistic path – the worship of Allah alone to the exclusion of others; and abandon their idolatry.
His message echoed that of his forefather. He advised his people to worship none but Allah, and tried to instil the fear of Allah in their hearts. However, the chiefs and elite of the tribes, emboldened by his lack of social standing and wealth, accused him of being of unsound mind and a liar. To this Hud AS replied that he was not insane, but rather that he was sent as a messenger to bring the message of Allah to his community, as their sincere advisor.
Much of his dawah mirrored that of Nuh AS, for at the crux of it, the message is one. The tribe of ‘Ad, following the pattern influenced by Iblis. Blinded by their arrogance, they retorted with replies and arguments parallel to those of Nuh’s AS disbelieving people.
Hud AS pleaded with them, reasoning that he had no hidden agenda, and that he was not expecting any reward from them save for the reward bestowed by Allah. He tried, with patience and gentleness, to persuade them to repent from their falsehood, promising great reward from Allah if they were to obey. He tried to relay warnings of the Day of Resurrection, but the people of ‘Ad rejected the idea of life after death, so rejecting the concept of their imminent accountability before Allah.
It is a futile exercise to convince the arrogant. From the time of Adam AS, arrogance is often succeeded by spiritual blindness, and this is the affliction from which the tribe of ‘Ad suffered.
Too rooted in the erroneous notion that their wealth and provisions were due to their own self-sufficiency rather than due to the bounty of Allah, the people of ‘Ad refused the message. Like the community of Nuh AS, they challenged Hud AS to produce evidence of his assertions and warnings, implying that he had been possessed or afflicted with evil.
Hud AS denied all claims and disassociated himself from their wicked accusations. He did not retaliate, instead, he maintained the manner and dignity befitting of a prophet, and stated that he was pure from what they accused him of. Like his forefather, he patiently explained to them that he was a man and a prophet, sent to guide his community of fellow men for their own good. All these words of advice and guidance were rejected.
“And such were the people of ‘Ad, they denied the Revelation of their Lord, and disobeyed His Messenger, and followed the bidding of every insolent tyrant…” (11:59)
As the dawah of Hud AS continued, the tribe of ‘Ad then began to conspire against him, plotting to harm him in order to thwart his mission. True to form of all Prophets and Messengers deployed by Allah, Hud AS was unmoved by the threats. He maintained his trust and belief in Allah, professing that:
“I have put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord, there is no creature that moves but He has the grasp of its forelock. Surely, my Lord is on the Straight Path. But if you turn away, I have conveyed the Message with which I was sent to you, and my Lord will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him in the least. My Lord is the keeper of all things.” (11:56-11:57)
The Land Of Giants
Prophets and Messengers are not accountable for the results of their dawah efforts. Their duty is only that of clear and unambiguous notification, disseminated to their respective communities with patience and kindness – such that the people would not be able to plead ignorance as a defence when questioned by their Lord on the Day of Judgment. As the stories of the Prophets and Messengers continue, we shall see that similar methods of persuasion were used by the Prophets and Messengers, and the refusal of their respective communities likewise adopted a similar pattern as that of the disbelieving communities of Nuh AS and Hud AS.
Hence, the people of ‘Ad resisted Hud’s AS call to monotheism, instead following the customary religion of their forefathers.
The Destruction of ‘Ad
It is unclear how long Hud AS spent trying to convince his people, but what is clear is that his efforts bore little fruit, gathering only a handful of believers by the end of his mission.
Ultimately though, it became obvious that the rest of his people were unrelenting in their falsehood and tyranny. As demonstrated in the story of Nuh AS, the supplication of a Prophet against his people is supremely powerful. When the opposition and hostility against him and the message he carried reached its peak, Hud AS begged to Allah: ” ‘My Lord! Help me, for they accuse me of falsehood.’ Allah said ‘Very soon they will become remorseful.'”(23:39- 23:40)
In the case of Nuh’s AS community, water was used as a means of their destruction. Here, Allah gathered another element, the wind. At first, the people of ‘Ad suffered drought and famine, yet still clung on to their idolatry, refusing to turn to Allah.
They wished for rain to alleviate their hardship and irrigate their parched land. One day, they finally saw a dense cloud approaching them. They rejoiced, confident that the cloud carried the much needed rain they were longing for. However, their hearts constricted in terror when they discovered that the cloud did not carry any rain, but rather, a painful torment in the form of wind. This was the punishment that they had rashly challenged Hud AS to produce, and now they were confronted with the horrifying fruition of their request.
Allah said “Then, when they saw a dense cloud coming towards their valleys, they said: ‘This is a cloud that shall give us rain.’ No this is that you were asking to be hastened! A wind wherein is a painful torment.’ (46:24)
This was no ordinary wind, like the curses in this life and the hereafter which were established against them, the furious wind descended upon the disbelievers, pursuing them relentlessly. “Which He made it rage against the for seven nights and eight days, uninterruptedly…” (69:7). This fatal wind followed them everywhere as they tried to scatter to safety, even into their dwellings, destroying every last palace, landmark and monument that dotted the terrain, and leaving a trail of total destruction in its wake.
Such was the reply to their earlier boast, when they asked who was mightier than they were – and Allah displayed to them that a simple and unassuming force of nature was capable of obliterating their entire existence. There was no respite. The deadly wind would target each of the surviving disbelievers with accuracy, swooping them into the air and hurtling them head first onto the ground to their disgraceful deaths. Upon impact, their heads were smashed and their headless bodies resembled stumps of palm trees. “We sent upon them a raging wind on an ill-fated day of constant calamity. Plucking up the people as if they were uprooted trunks of palm-trees.” (54:19-54:20)
Eventually, there was nothing left. These colossal people suffered terrible deaths, although this was just a prelude to their eternal torment in the Hereafter. Their statures and status afforded no protection against the curse and wrath of Allah, and they were reduced to nothingness. Only Hud AS and his small group of followers were rescued from this terrible fate.
Today, no trace of this once great civilization exists, and where once the mighty pillars stood, nothing can be seen except for sterile and barren land.
Lesson for us – Resistance from Others and How Can the Vulnerable be so Arrogant?
Whether you are a new Muslim, or one who tries to relive Islam in your life, or one who tries to establish Islam in your community, the pattern will always be the same. You will be met with resistance – more likely than not, from your closest family in the first instance, and then from society. It is normal that one who truly embraces Islam, or even outwardly display their Islamic belief (such as the wearing of the hijab) will be labelled as backward, a fanatic or extremist by the same people who would lend support for leading a reckless, materialistic or heedless lifestyle.
One should not lose heart. History has shown that no faith is built without opposition. Even the Prophets and Messengers suffered this fate. Those coming to Allah will initially be opposed, ridiculed and laughed at. It is the trial set by Allah, and those who pass will be granted victory, in this life and the Hereafter.
Even with the passing of generations between Nuh AS and Hud AS, the arguments presented by the non-believers remain the same. This is because the instigator, Shaitan, is the same, and has limited ideas. Hence the replies of non believers always follows the same narrow sequence. The conclusion is however, when a community strays completely, it will be punished.
The tribe of Ad were tall, strong and powerful – their power remains unsurpassed to this day. One of the diseases that Shaitan left with the people of Ad is the false notion that they will live forever. In return, one of the calamities Allah gave to them was to open all the goodness – He gave them water, rain and beautiful land. Instead of thanking the Creator and discovering who the Provider was, they forgot the Message and became arrogant.
The story of Hud AS also shows Allah’s ability to convert a simple force of nature into a fatal and disgraceful punishment to non believers. Even today, with our sophisticated weather stations, we are unable to accurately predict the next hurricane, or even defend ourselves adequately when the elements of nature are unleashed upon us. We watch this repeatedly in the news, of people being stranded after a cyclone or a typhoon, of trucks being lifted into the eye of the hurricane as effortlessly as a feather. Do we still remain arrogant to the might of Allah after seeing display after display of nature’s fury? We should avoid the path of the people of ‘Ad, who seemed to think that their monuments would outlive everything else in the world, for all man made creations are fragile and vulnerable beyond belief compared to the might of Allah.
We forget that the Owner of the earth who provides us with the beautiful weather and kind breeze, can change it into His wrath, destruction and death. Did you ever ask yourself why He does this and what the wisdom behind it is? Instead of blaming Mother Nature, did you ever say “Oh God, give me the wisdom”?
Why does Allah give us ease, why does He give us difficulty? Did we ever think about death and destruction – is that all there is to it? We never think beyond this, for example, what will happen to the people who perished, and where are they going?
One of the diseases of mankind today is that we are reluctant to think beyond death, which is the opposite of the Message. We are inheritors of this earth and we are here for a short time. We have seen repeatedly what Allah has done with others. This is actually a warning, but not a warning to the dead, but a warning to those who are still alive. We leave you with the following passage from Ya-Sin:
That he or it (Muhammad SAW or the Quran) may give warning to him who is living (a healthy minded the believer), and that Word (charge) may be justified against the disbelievers (dead, as they reject the warnings). (36:70)