How the Destruction of Past Nations Conformed to Their Wrongdoings and Stand as a Warning for Succeeding Generations

الحمد لله رب العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين، نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين أما بعد


It is the Sunnah (practice) of Allaah, The Most High, towards His servants that He recompenses them in accordance to their deeds, so if they believe in Him; obey His Messengers and are obedient; dutiful and fearful of Him, then He would send down upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth, and yet if they disbelieve in Him and belie the Messengers, then He would seize them with punishment, He, The Most High, said:

وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَىٰ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِن كَذَّبُوا فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

((And if the people of the towns had believed and had Taqwa [piety/fearfulness], We would have certainly opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied [the Messengers]. So We seized them for what they used to earn.)) (Al-A’raaf: 96)


Throughout the Qur’aan, we find the stories of the nations of old that were destroyed due to their refusal to believe in Him and their disobedience to the Messengers who were sent to them. Such stories and accounts are a means of admonition and a deterrent from falling into the wrongdoings of those nations, as well as a means of reflection for those who believe, as Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said:

“Allaah has related to us the stories of those that came before us from the nations in order for it to be a consequential lesson for us, so that we may compare our condition with that of their condition, and so that we may correlate the latter nations with their earlier ones. So that – for the believer who is from the later ones it should be a comparison with that which it was for the believer from the earlier ones, and that – for the disbeliever and the hypocrite who is from the later ones it should be a comparison with that which it was for the disbeliever and hypocrite from the earlier ones.”[1]

The punishments and varying forms of annihilations which these nations met were unique in that they are clearly distinct from the varying forms of destructions and disasters mankind is commonly familiar with, Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) mentioned in relation to this:

“Likewise that which Allaah does by way of the signs, and the punishments of those that belie the Messengers, such as drowning Pharaoh, and the destruction of the nation of ‘Aad with a furious violent wind, and the destruction of the nation of Saalih with an awful cry – and the like of that. Then indeed this is a class which is not punished by it except those who have belied the Messengers, it is a proof therefore of the truthfulness of the Messengers.

Allaah may cause some of the people to die by way of an accustomed variety of adversities such as plagues and its like, however this is usual for other than those that belie the Messengers. As for that by way of which Allaah punishes those that belie the Messengers with – then it is exclusive to them, and due to this it was pertinent to them[2] and became from the signs of Allaah.”[3]


The Punishment of Every Nation Was in Accordance to Their Wrongdoing


Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said: “Ponder over His Wisdom, The Blessed and Most High, with regard to the punishments of the nations of the past, and of their diversity upon them in accordance to the variation of their crimes.”[4]

He, The Most High, said:

فَكُلًّا أَخَذْنَا بِذَنبِهِ ۖ فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ أَخَذَتْهُ الصَّيْحَةُ وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ خَسَفْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ أَغْرَقْنَا ۚ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَٰكِن كَانُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

((So each [of them] We seized for his sin, of them were those upon whom We sent a violent wind [with a shower of stones], and of them were those who were seized by the [awful] cry, and of them were those whom We caused the earth to swallow, and of them were those whom We drowned. And it was not Allaah Who wronged them, but it was they who were wronging themselves.)) (Al-Ankaboot: 40)


Al-Haafidh Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said regarding this aayah: “Its punishment was in accordance to that which was conformable to it.”[5]

Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) discussed this issue further when he said:

“The punishment of every nation was in accordance to their sins and their crimes. So the people of ‘Aad were punished by a furious violent wind which nothing could withstand, the people of Lūṭ were punished with an array of punishments, there was no nation other than them that was punished by way of them. So among that which came together for them was destruction and being stoned with rocks from the sky, and the obliteration of the sights, and their regions being overturned upon them – in that their highest parts became their lowest parts, and they were sunk into the ground to the lowest of the low.

The people of Shu’ayb were punished with fire that burned them, and it burned that wealth which they had acquired through oppression and transgression. As for Thamud, then He destroyed them with an awful cry – and so they died instantly.

Whoever gives consideration to the circumstances of the world – ancient and modern, and that which is imposed as punishment upon those that proceed to spread corruption upon the earth, and in shedding blood without due right, and commissions tribulations and makes light of the things which Allaah has made inviolable, then he comes to know that salvation in the life of this world and the Hereafter is for those who had believed – and were dutifully pious.”[6]


A Closer Look at the Punishments of Previous Nations – and of the Conformity of Every Nation with its Relevant Punishment


‘Allaamah Muhammad Ameen ash-Shanqitee (rahimahullaah) said:

وَجَاءَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَن قَبْلَهُ وَالْمُؤْتَفِكَاتُ بِالْخَاطِئَةِ

 ((And there came Pharaoh and those before him and the Mu-tafikaat with sin.)) (Al-Haaqah: 9)


The Mu-tafikaat (overthrown cities) they are: the overthrown/upturned – and they are the hamlets of the people of Lūṭ (Lot).

…Detail of that has preceded with His saying, The Most High, in (Soorah) Hūd:

فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا جَعَلْنَا عَالِيَهَا سَافِلَهَا

((So when Our command came, We made the highest part [of the hamlet] as its lowest.)) (Hūd: 82)


As well as in (Soorah) an-Najm where He, The Most High, said:

وَالْمُؤْتَفِكَةَ أَهْوَىٰ

((And He destroyed the Mu-tafikaat [overthrown cities])) (An-Najm: 53)


Point of note:

He, The Most High, has textually stated here that Pharaoh and those before him as well as the Mu-tafikaat (overthrown cities) came with committing wrongdoing, and it was:

فَعَصَوْا رَسُولَ رَبِّهِمْ

((So they disobeyed the Messenger of their Lord.)) (Al-Haaqah: 10)


Likewise ‘Aad and Thamud belied the Qaari’ah (the striking Hour of Judgment). So all of them partook in wrongdoing – and that was in disobeying the Messengers

فَعَصَىٰ فِرْعَوْنُ الرَّسُولَ

 ((But Pharaoh disobeyed the Messenger.)) (Al-Muzzamil: 16)


However, He seized them with a strong punishment.

Yet He diversified in His seizure of them in that regard, hence He drowned Pharaoh[7] and the people of Nooh;[8] and seized Thamud with an awful cry;[9] and ‘Aad with a (violent) wind[10] and the people of Lūṭ with overturning their hamlets.[11] Just as He seized the army of Abrahah by way of birds in flocks.[12]

So is there in that a conformity between each nation and its punishment? Or is it that the variation in the nature of the punishment was to demonstrate His Power – The Most High, and His exemplary punishment of those that disobey the Messengers of Allaah?

The reality is that any form of punishment contains a sign of Power; and in it is an exemplary punishment of what occurred with them. However; specifying each nation with that which occurred over it certainly induces inquiry, and so perhaps from that which the Qur’aan indicates to – even if it is by way of subtle indication is as follows:


As for Pharaoh; then he used to say:

أَلَيْسَ لِي مُلْكُ مِصْرَ وَهَٰذِهِ الْأَنْهَارُ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِي

((“Does the dominion of Egypt not belong to me, and these rivers flowing beneath me?”)) (Az-Zukhruf: 51)


Accordingly; once he would prolong competing (and being insolent) with it; Allaah made his destruction in that, meaning: in that which was homogenous (in conformity) to it.


As for the people of Nooh; then once he despaired of them fifty years short of a thousand years; they became such that they would beget none except the wicked disbelievers.[13] Therefore cleansing the earth of them was necessitated; and nothing was suitably appropriate for that – except the flood.


As for Thamud; then they were seized by a brutal awful cry, because they called out to their companion and so took (a sword) and hamstrung it (i.e. killed the she-camel). Therefore since their call to their companion was the reason behind killing the she-camel, then likewise their destruction was by way of a brutal awful cry.


As for ‘Aad; then it was due to their tyranny with their strength, as He, The Most High, said regarding them:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ * إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ * الَّتِي لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِي الْبِلَادِ

((Do you not see how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad. [With] Iram – who had lofty pillars. The like of which were not created in the land?)) (Al-Fajr: 6-8)


So equal were the pillars of their homes and their palaces, for that is tantamount to the sheer height of their bodies as well as the abundance of their wealth and the ample might that was with them. Therefore they were seized by a wind – and it is usually the most delicate and the gentlest of what can be, of the elements from which they had not anticipated any harm or severity.


Likewise the army of Abrahah; when he arrived presumptuously with his enumerated quantity and readied contrivances; elephants arrived along with him – the strongest of the animals. Allaah subsequently empowered the weakest of the creatures over him:

وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ * تَرْمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّن سِجِّيلٍ

((And He sent against them birds in flocks. Striking them with stones of baked clay.)) (Al-Fīl: 3-4)



As for the people of Lūṭ; then due to their overturning the principled practices by way of approaching the males instead of the females, the recompense therefore was in conformity to the action – Allaah overturned their hamlets upon them.


And the knowledge is with Allaah, The Most High.”[14]




[1] Majmu’ Fataawa vol 28 p.425

[2] Such punishments and annihilations that came upon nations in this way would later cease, as explained by Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) who said: “It is known with the people of knowledge that after the revealing of the Torah, Allaah did not destroy those from the nations that would belie with a punishment from the sky that would encompass them as a whole, as He had destroyed the people of Nooh and ‘Aad and Thamud, and the people of Lūṭ and Pharaoh and other than them. Rather He commanded the believers with Jihaad against the disbelievers just as He commanded the Children of Israel upon the tongue of Moosaa (Moses) with fighting against the tyrants.” (Al-Jawaab as-Saheeh vol 2 p.251)

This draws attention to the wisdom behind why such collective destruction and punishments of extermination do not occur in the way they once did with those past nations, but rather Allaah, The Most High, punishes in accordance to His Wisdom, as explained by Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) who said: “Ponder over His Wisdom, The Most High, in regard to the punishment of the past nations with a punishment of extermination when they had longer life-spans and were of greater strength and were more insolent against Allaah and His Messengers. So when the life-spans reduced, and the strength waned, He raised the punishment of extermination, and so He caused their punishment to come at the hands of the believers. So the wisdom in each of the two affairs was in accordance to that which was necessary for it in its time.” (Miftaah Daar as-Sa’aadah vol 1 p.725)

[3] I’jaaz al-Qur’aan al-Kareem ‘ind Shaikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah p.143, for the original reference refer to: Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.494-495

[4] Miftaah Daar as-Sa’aadah vol 1 p.723

[5] Tafseer al-Qur’aan al-Adheem vol 3 p.386

[6] Abridged from Majmu’ Fataawa vol 16 p.250

[7] Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said: “The people of Pharaoh and Moosaa (Moses), two great multitudes – the sea separates apart for them, each separate part being like a great towering mountain. So these ones traverse it and so emerge (from it) safe and sound; yet when the others traverse it – the water closes upon them. This – its equivalent is not to be found in the world.” (Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.510)

[8] Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said: “Allaah’s drowning of all of the people of the earth – except for Nooh (Noah) and those that boarded along with him on the ark. This – its equivalent has never occurred in the world.” (Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.509)

[9] Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) stated: “The people of Saalih; the associates of the cities and the dwellings in the plains and the mountains and the orchards; they were all destroyed by a single awful cry. This – its equivalent is not to be found in the world.” (Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.509)

[10] Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) mentioned: “The destruction of the people of ‘Aad (with) Iram – who had lofty pillars, the like of which were not created in the land, despite their abundance and their strength and the grandeur of their structures – the like of which were not created in the land. Then they were destroyed by a furious violent wind imposed (upon them) for seven nights and eight days in succession – such that they were all rendered as though they were hollow date palm-trunks; whilst (the Prophet) Hūd was saved along with those that followed him. This – its equivalent is not to be found in the world.” (Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.509)

[11] Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said: “The people of Lūt (Lot); the associates of the numerous townships; which were hoisted up to the heavens – then overturned upon them, and were followed by rocks from the sky; in accordance to their irregularity. Yet Lūt was saved as was his family – except his wife, there afflicted her that which afflicted them. This – its equivalent is not to be found in the world.” (Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.510)

[12] Shaikh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said regarding this: “That which Allaah did with the companions of the elephant – when they desired its obliteration (the Ka’bah), He, The Most High, said:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحَابِ الْفِيلِ * أَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ فِي تَضْلِيلٍ * وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ * تَرْمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّن سِجِّيلٍ * فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَّأْكُولٍ

((Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not make their plot go astray? And He sent against them birds in flocks. Striking them with stones of baked clay. So He rendered them like devoured straw.)) (Soorah Al-Fīl: 1-5)


It was targeted by an immense army; and with them were elephants, so its people fled from them, yet the elephants knelt down and were prevented from marching in its direction (the Ka’bah), and if they were faced in other than its direction – they would proceed. Then from the sea there came to them birds in flocks, meaning: groups in divisions, troop after troop, they threw down pebbles upon them due to which they all perished. This – is from that which its equivalent is not to be found in the world.” (Kitaab an-Nubuwaat vol 1 p.511-512)

[13] As He, The Most High, stated:

وَقَالَ نُوحٌ رَّبِّ لَا تَذَرْ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ دَيَّارًا * إِنَّكَ إِن تَذَرْهُمْ يُضِلُّوا عِبَادَكَ وَلَا يَلِدُوا إِلَّا فَاجِرًا كَفَّارًا

((And Nooh said, “My Lord, do not leave upon the earth from among the disbelievers an inhabitant. For indeed, if You leave them, they will mislead Your servants and they will beget none but wicked disbelievers.”)) (Nooh: 26-27)


[14] Abridged from: Adwaa al-Bayaan fee Eedaah al-Qur’aan bil-Qur’aan vol 8 p.440-443.

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