Scholars of Tafsir and genealogy say that (the tribe of Thamud descended from) Thamud bin `Athir bin Iram bin Sam bin Nuh, and he is brother of Jadis son of `Athir, similarly the tribe of Tasm, and they were from the ancient Arabs, Al-`Aribah, before the time of Ibrahim, Thamud came after `Ad. They dwelled between the area of the Hijaz (Western Arabia) and Ash-Sham (Greater Syria). The Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed by the area and ruins of Thamud when he went to Tabuk (in northern Arabia) during the ninth year of Hijrah. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Umar said, "When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ went to the area of Al-Hijr in Tabuk with the people, he camped near the homes of Thamud, in Al-Hijr and the people brought water from the wells that Thamud used before. They used that water to make dough and placed the pots (on fire) for cooking. However, the Prophet commanded them to spill the contents of the pots and to give the dough to their camels. He then marched forth with them from that area to another area, near the well that the camel (as will follow) used to drink from. He forbade the Companions from entering the area where people were tormented, saying,
«إِنِّي أَخْشَى أَنْ يُصِيبَكُمْ مِثْلُ مَا أَصَابَهُمْ فَلَا تَدْخُلُوا عَلَيْهِم»
(I fear that what befell them might befall you as well. Therefore, do not enter on them.)" Ahmad narrated that `Abdullah bin `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said while in the Hijr area,
«لَا تَدْخُلُوا عَلَى هؤُلَاءِ الْمُعَذَّبِينَ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونُوا بَاكِينَ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُونُوا بَاكِينَ فَلَا تَدْخُلُوا عَلَيْهِمْ أَنْ يُصِيبَكُمْ مِثْلَ مَا أَصَابَهُم»
(Do not enter on these who were tormented, unless you do so while crying. If you are not crying, then do not enter on them, so that what befell them does not befall you, as well.) The basis of this Hadith is mentioned in Two Sahihs.
(And to Thamud), meaning, to the tribe of Thamud, We sent their brother Salih,
قَالَ يَاقَوْمِ اعْبُدُواْ اللَّهَ مَا لَكُمْ مِّنْ إِلَـهٍ غَيْرُهُ
(He said: "O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other god but Him.") All Allah's Messengers called to the worship of Allah alone without partners. Allah said in other Ayat,
وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ نُوحِى إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ أَنَاْ فَاعْبُدُونِ
(And We did not send any Messenger before you but We revealed to him (saying): "None has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me.") 21:25 and,
وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِى كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُواْ الْطَّـغُوتَ
(And verily, We have sent among every Ummah a Messenger (proclaiming): "Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid Taghut (all false deities)") 16:36.
Prophet Salih said,
قَدْ جَآءَتْكُم بَيِّنَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ هَـذِهِ نَاقَةُ اللَّهِ لَكُمْ ءَايَةً
("Indeed there has come to you a clear sign from your Lord. This she-camel of Allah is a sign unto you;") meaning, a miracle has come to you from Allah testifying to the truth of what I came to you with. Salih's people asked him to produce a miracle and suggested a certain solid rock that they chose, which stood lonely in the area of Hijr, and which was called Al-Katibah. They asked him to bring a pregnant camel out of that stone. Salih took their covenant and promises that if Allah answers their challenge, they would believe and follow him. When they gave him their oaths and promises to that, Salih started praying and invoked Allah (to produce that miracle). All of a sudden, the stone moved and broke apart, producing a she-camel with thick wool. It was pregnant and its fetus was visibly moving in its belly, exactly as Salih's people asked. This is when their chief, Jundu` bin `Amr, and several who followed him believed. The rest of the noblemen of Thamud wanted to believe as well, but Dhu'ab bin `Amr bin Labid, Al-Habbab, who tended their idols, and Rabbab bin Sum`ar bin Jilhis stopped them. One of the cousins of Jundu` bin `Amr, whose name was Shihab bin Khalifah bin Mikhlat bin Labid bin Jawwas, was one of the leaders of Thamud, and he also wanted to accept the message. However, the chiefs whom we mentioned prevented him, and he conceded to their promptings. The camel remained in Thamud, as well as, its offspring after she delivered it before them. The camel used to drink from its well on one day and leave the well for Thamud the next day. They also used to drink its milk, for on the days she drank water, they used to milk her and fill their containers from its milk. Allah said in other Ayat,
وَنَبِّئْهُمْ أَنَّ الْمَآءَ قِسْمَةٌ بَيْنَهُمْ كُلُّ شِرْبٍ مُّحْتَضَرٌ
(And inform them that the water is to be shared between (her and) them, each one's right to drink being established (by turns)) 54:28 and,
هَـذِهِ نَاقَةٌ لَّهَا شِرْبٌ وَلَكُمْ شِرْبُ يَوْمٍ مَّعْلُومٍ
(Here is a she-camel: it has a right to drink (water), and you have a right to drink (water) (each) on a day, known) 26:155 The camel used to graze in some of their valleys, going through a pass and coming out through another pass. She did that so as to be able to move easily, because she used to drink a lot of water. She was a tremendous animal that had a strikingly beautiful appearance. When she used to pass by their cattle, the cattle would be afraid of her. When this matter continued for a long time and Thamud's rejection of Salih became intense, they intended to kill her so that they could take the water for themselves every day. It was said that all of them (the disbelievers of Thamud) conspired to kill the camel. Qatadah said that he was told that, "The designated killer of the camel approached them all, including women in their rooms and children, and found out that all of them agreed to kill her." This fact is apparent from the wording of the Ayat,
فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ بِذَنبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا
(Then they denied him and they killed it. So their Lord destroyed them because of their sin, and made them equal in destruction!) 91:14, and,
وَءَاتَيْنَا ثَمُودَ النَّاقَةَ مُبْصِرَةً فَظَلَمُواْ بِهَا
(And We sent the she-camel to Thamud as a clear sign, but they did her wrong.) 17:59 Allah said here,
(So they killed the she-camel) Therefore, these Ayat stated that the entire tribe shared in agreeing to this crime, and Allah knows best.
Imam Abu Ja`far Ibn Jarir and other scholars of Tafsir said that the reason behind killing the camel was that a disbelieving old woman among them named Umm Ghanm `Unayzah, the daughter of Ghanm bin Mijlaz, had the severest enmity among Thamud towards Salih, peace be upon him. She had beautiful daughters and she was wealthy, and Dhu'ab bin `Amr, one of the leaders of Thamud, was her husband. There was another noblewoman whose name was Saduf bint Al-Muhayya bin Dahr bin Al-Muhayya, who was of noble family, wealthy and beautiful. She was married to a Muslim man from Thamud, but she left him. These two women offered a prize for those who swore to them that they would kill the camel. Once, Saduf summoned a man called Al-Habbab and offered herself to him if he would kill the camel, but he refused. So she called a cousin of hers whose name was Musaddi` bin Mihraj bin Al-Muhayya, and he agreed. As for `Unayzah bint Ghanm, she called Qudar bin Salif bin Jundu`, a short person with red-blue skin, a bastard, according to them. Qudar was not the son of his claimed father, Salif, but the son of another man called, Suhyad. However, he was born on Salif's bed (and thus named after him). `Unayzah said to Qudar, "I will give you any of my daughters you wish, if you kill the camel." Qudar bin Salif and Musaddi` bin Mihraj went along and recruited several mischievous persons from Thamud to kill the camel. Seven more from Thamud agreed, and the group became nine, as Allah described, when He said,
وَكَانَ فِى الْمَدِينَةِ تِسْعَةُ رَهْطٍ يُفْسِدُونَ فِى الاٌّرْضِ وَلاَ يُصْلِحُونَ
(And there were in the city nine men, who made mischief in the land, and would not reform.) These nine men were chiefs of their people, and they lured the entire tribe into agreeing to kill the camel. So they waited until the camel left the water well, where Qudar waited beside a rock on its path, while Musaddi` waited at another rock. When the camel passed by Musaddi` he shot an arrow at her and the arrow pierced her leg. At that time, `Unayzah came out and ordered her daughter, who was among the most beautiful women, to uncover her face for Qudar, encouraging Qudar to swing his sword, hitting the camel on her knee. So she fell to the ground and screamed once to warn her offspring. Qudar stabbed her in her neck and slaughtered her. Her offspring went up a high rock and screamed. `Abdur-Razzaq recorded from Ma`mar that someone reported from Al-Hasan Al-Basari that the offspring said, "O my Lord! Where is my mother" It was said that her offspring screamed thrice and entered a rock and vanished in it, or, they followed it and killed it together with its mother. Allah knows best. When they finished the camel off and the news reached Prophet Salih, he came to them while they were gathered. When he saw the camel, he cried and proclaimed,
تَمَتَّعُواْ فِى دَارِكُمْ ثَلَـثَةَ أَيَّامٍ
("Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days.") 11:65
The nine wicked persons killed the camel on a Wednesday, and that night, they conspired to kill Salih. They said, "If he is truthful, we should finish him before we are finished. If he is a liar, we will make him follow his camel."
قَالُواْ تَقَاسَمُواْ بِاللَّهِ لَنُبَيِّتَنَّهُ وَأَهْلَهُ ثُمَّ لَنَقُولَنَّ لِوَلِيِّهِ مَا شَهِدْنَا مَهْلِكَ أَهْلِهِ وَإِنَّا لَصَـدِقُونَ - وَمَكَرُواْ مَكْراً وَمَكَرْنَا مَكْراً وَهُمْ لاَ يَشْعُرُونَ
(They said: "Swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household, and thereafter we will surely say to his near relatives: `We witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily, we are telling the truth."' So they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not.) 27:49-50 When they conspired to kill Salih and gathered at night to carry out their plot, Allah, to Whom belongs all might and Who protects His Messengers, rained down stones that smashed the heads of these nine people before the rest of the tribe. On Thursday, the first of the three days of respite, the people woke up and their faces were pale (yellow), just as Prophet Salih had promised them. On the second day of respite, Friday, they woke up and found their faces had turned red. On the third day of the respite, Saturday, they woke up with their faces black. On Sunday, they wore the fragrance of Hanut the perfume for enshrouding the dead before burial and awaited Allah's torment and revenge, we seek refuge with Allah from it. They did not know what will be done to them or how and from where the torment would come. When the sun rose, the Sayhah (loud cry) came from the sky and a severe tremor overtook them from below; the souls were captured and the bodies became lifeless, all in an hour.
فَأَصْبَحُواْ فِي دَارِهِمْ جَـثِمِينَ
(And they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes.) They became dead and lifeless and none among them, whether young, old, male or female, escaped the torment. The scholars of Tafsir said that none from the offspring of Thamud remained, except Prophet Salih and those who believed in him. A disbelieving man called Abu Righal was in the Sacred Area at the time and the torment that befell his people did not touch him. When he went out of the Sacred Area one day, a stone fell from the sky and killed him. `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mar said that Isma`il bin Umayyah said that the Prophet passed by the gravesite of Abu Righal and asked the Companions if they knew whose grave it was. They said, "Allah and His Messenger know better." He said,
«أَتَدْرُونَ مَنْ هَذَا؟»
قالوا الله ورسوله أعلم، قال
«هَذَا قَبْرُ أَبِي رِغَالٍ رَجُلٍ مِنْ ثَمُودَ كَانَ فِي حَرَمِ اللهِ فَمَنَعَهُ حَرَمُ اللهِ عَذَابَ اللهِ، فَلَمَّا خَرَجَ أَصَابَهُ مَا أَصَابَ قَومهُ فَدُفِنَ هَاهُنَا وَدُفِنَ مَعَهُ غُصْنٌ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ، فَنَزَلَ الْقَوْمُ فَابْتَدَرُوهُ بِأَسْيَافِهِمْ فَبَحَثُوا عَنْهُ فَاسْتَخْرَجُوا الْغُصْن»
(This is the grave of Abu Righal, a man from Thamud. He was in the Sacred Area of Allah and this fact saved him from receiving Allah's torment. When he went out of the Sacred Area, what befell his people also befell him. He was buried here along with a branch made from gold.) So the people used their swords and looked for the golden branch and found it. `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mar said that Az-Zuhri said that Abu Righal is the father of the tribe of Thaqif.