Allah tells us about the blessings which the people of Saba' enjoyed, and the luxuries and plentiful provision which was theirs in their land, with its secure dwellings and towns which were joined to one another, with many trees, crops and fruits. When they traveled, they had no need to carry provisions or water with them; wherever they stopped, they would find water and fruits, so they could take their noontime rest in one town, and stay overnight in another, according to their needs on their journey. Allah says:
(And We placed, between them and the towns which We had blessed,) Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Sa`id bin Jubayr and Malik, who narrated it from Zayd bin Aslam, and Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, As-Suddi, Ibn Zayd and others -- all said that this means the towns of Syria. It means they used to travel from Yemen to Syria via towns easy to be seen and connected to one another. Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "`The towns which We had blessed by putting Jerusalem among them."
towns easy to be seen, meaning, clear and visible, known to travelers, so they could take their noontime rest in one town and stay overnight in another. Allah says:
(and We made the stages (of journey) between them easy) meaning, `We made it in a way that met the needs of the travelers.'
(Travel in them safely both by night and day.) means, those who travel in them will be safe both by night and by day.
(But they said: "Our Lord! Make the stages between our journey longer," and they wronged themselves;) They failed to appreciate this blessing, as Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan and others said: "They wanted to travel long distances through empty wilderness where they would need to carry provisions with them and would have to travel through intense heat in a state of fear."
(so We made them as tales (in the land), and We dispersed them all totally.) means, `We made them something for people to talk about when they converse in the evening, how Allah plotted against them and dispersed them after they had been together living a life of luxury, and they were scattered here and there throughout the land.' So, the Arabs say of a people when they are dispersed, "They have been scattered like Saba'," in all directions.
(Verily, in this are indeed signs for every steadfast, grateful.) In the punishment which these people suffered, the way in which their blessings and good health were turned into vengeance for their disbelief and sins, is a lesson and an indication for every person who is steadfast in the face of adversity and grateful for blessings. Imam Ahmad recorded that Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "The Messenger of Allah said:
(I am amazed at what Allah has decreed for the believer; if something good befalls him, He praises his Lord and gives thanks, and if something bad befalls him, he praises his Lord and has patience. The believer will be rewarded for everything, even the morsel of food which he lifts to his wife's mouth.)" This was also recorded by An-Nasa'i in Al-Yawm wal-Laylah. There is a corroborating report in the Two Sahihs, where a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, says:
(How amazing is the affair of the believer! Allah does not decree anything for him but it is good for him. If something good happens to him, he gives thanks, and that is good for him; if something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience, and that is good for him. This is not for anyone except the believer.)" It was reported that Qatadah said:
g(Verily, in this are indeed signs for every steadfast, grateful.) It was Mutarrif who used to say: "How blessed is the grateful, patient servant. If he is given something, he gives thanks, and if he is tested, he bears it with patience."