How many nations and tribes were destroyed? Where, how and why?

Details of the Question
How many nations and tribes were destroyed? Where, how and why?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Various prophets and apostles were sent by Allah to the nations that went astray. Among those prophets whose names we know, only five of them are Arabs. The other prophets belong to other races. The following is stated in a hadith regarding the issue:

Among those prophets whose names are included in the Quran, only five of them are Arabs. They are as follows: Hz. Ismail, Hz. Shuayb, Hz. Salih, Hz. Hud and Hz. Muhammad (peace be upon them).

They were all prophets in the regions where Arabs lived. Hz. Shuayb lived in the region of Madyan, Hz. Salih in the region of Hijr and Hz. Hud in the region of Ahqaf; almost all of their nations were destroyed. 

The destruction of the nations of Ad, Thamud and the nation of Shuayb, the Flood of Arim, which destroyed the nation of Saba, the incident of Ashab al-Uhdud and the incident of Fil (Elephant) all took place on Arab land known as Bilad al-Arab. 

The place where the Pharaoh and his men, who were enemies of Hz. Musa, where Qarun (Croesus) and Haman were destroyed was Egypt.

The disaster that eliminated the nation of Lut, and the slight punishment given to the nation of Ilyas took place in Bilad ad-Dimashq (Damascus).

The destruction of the nation of Nuh, the destruction of Nimrod, who was an enemy of Ibrahim, and Nimrod's men and what happened to the nation of Yunus, who were saved from Allah's wrath in the last minute, took place in Iraq. 

It is possible to mention a special property that distinguishes a prophet from others whose stories are narrated in the Quran.

For instance, we see that each one of the prophets mentioned in the chapter of al-Anam has different characters and is a pioneer of something.

Accordingly, Hz. Nuh is the first prophet who struggled against idolaters.

Hz. Ishaq and Hz. Yaqub are the ancestors of all the prophets sent to Children of Israel.

Hz. Dawud and Hz. Sulayman are distinguished by their property and sultanate; Hz. Ayyub and Hz. Yusuf differ from other prophets in terms of testing and patience.

Hz. Musa and Hz. Harun are distinguished with the power of weakening, majesty and overwhelming power. Hz. Zakariyya, Hz. Yaqub, Hz. Isa and Hz. Ilyas are models for asceticism, spirituality and sacrifice.

Similarly, each individual and nation that is destroyed has different properties from others and they are the first ones that committed those bad deeds among people.

It is possible to divide human history into three periods in terms of this issue. Besides, it is possible to deal with the destruction of individuals and nations under two headings as before Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) and after him.

The eras of human history according to the Quran:

Qurun al-Ula (The First Generations): The period between Hz. Adam and Hz. Moses when  the Pharaoh was destroyed and the Torah  was sent down. 

The Nation of Nuh, the Prophet Nuh

It is stated in the Quran that Ashab ar-Ras denied their prophets along with the nation of Nuh, Ad and Thamud; there is no other information.

The Nation of Ad, the Prophet Hud

The Nation of Thamud, the Prophet Salih

The Nation of Lut, the Prophet Lut

The Nation of Shuayb (the People of Madyan and Ayka), the Prophet Shuayb    

Qurun al-Wusta (the Middle Generations): The period from the time of the destruction of the Pharaoh or the revelation of the Torah to the time when Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) was sent.

Ashab al-Qarya: Ashab al-Qarya is a Quranic expression meaning the people of village or town. The phrase Ashab al-Qarya mentioned in the chapter of Yasin indicates a community that lived in Antakya (Antioch), Turkey. Allah sent two messengers and then one more messenger to the people of this town. When the messengers told them that they were messengers sent to them by Allah, they denied the messengers by saying, "You are only men like ourselves." (Yasin, 36/15) They even said to the messengers that they brought evil omen to them and threatened to stone them if they did not leave. During this conversation, somebody from the other end of the town arrived there by running and told the people of the town to believe in those messengers. The ferocious unbelievers killed this person, who expressed the truth logically. When those three messengers, whom they did not believe in, left that town, a strong noise caught the people of the town. They were destroyed with that sound. 

The Nation of Saba' (Sayl al-Arim): Saba is mentioned in two chapters in the Quran. In the chapter of an-Naml (27/20-44), it is stated that Saba, which was a rich and powerful country, was directed by a queen, that its people worshipped the sun, that Hz. Sulayman sent a messenger to that queen and asked her and her nation to become Muslims, that the queen who wanted to deal with the issue through peace went to Jerusalem to meet Sulayman, that she understood during this meeting that he was a real prophet when she noticed his bodily and spiritual power and that she accepted his domination. There are narrations in history and tafsir resources that Hz. Sulayman married her or he married her off to the king of Hamdan and allowed her to remain as the queen of Saba. In the chapter of Saba, whose name is derived from this nation, it is stated that the powerful nation of Saba with wealth and welfare gave up worshipping Allah by obeying Satan despite so many bounties given to them, that they were punished by a big flood (Flood of Arim), that their fertile land was transformed into arid land and that their bounties were transformed into shortages. Regarding the date of the demolition of the wall, historians mention various dates between 4th century BC and 6th century AD. This difference can be explained by the possibility of the repetition of the disaster.

Ashab al-Jannah (People of the Garden): The issue mentioned at length in verses 17-32 of the chapter of al-Qalam (68) is about some siblings who did not make good use of the garden like Paradise they inherited from their father and their ungrateful attitude toward Allah, who granted them that bounty, and their losing this bounty. It is said that this incident that happened to the People of the Garden was known by Arabs. 

Ashab as-Sabt: The punishment of Ashab as-Sabt is mainly mentioned in the chapter of al-Araf and also in the chapters of al-Baqara and an-Nisa. WhenAshab as-Sabt (the People of Saturday) is mentioned, Jews come to mind. However, when Ashab as-Sabt is mentioned in the Quran, not all Jews but the Jews that disobeyed Allah by violating the holiness of Saturday and that were transformed into monkeys and pigs because of it come to mind.

Ashab al-Uhdud: The term Ashab al-Uhdud is mentioned only in verse 4 of the chapter of al-Buruj in the Quran. Ashab al-Uhdud means the people of the ditch. This story is about a fire made by a group of unbelievers in order to burn the believers, the test the believers undergo in these ditches of fire and the destruction of those unbelievers. This incident is very well known by the Makkan polytheists; therefore, they are threatened by the terrible punishment given to them and the believers who are exposed to the tortures of the unbelievers are reassured. This story will continue to serve as a morale booster for the believers and as a threat to unbelievers.

The Nation of Tubba': It is mentioned in two places in the Quran: the chapter of ad-Duhan and the chapter of Qaf.

It is controversial whether Tubba is a person or a dynasty of kings. It is reported from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "I do not know whether Tubba is a prophet or not." Hz. Aisha said, "Do not curse Tubba because he was a righteous person. Allah criticized his nation, not him."

Ibn Abbas said he was a prophet. According to a view, Tubba used to be a fire-worshipper but he became a Muslim afterwards and called his nation to accept Islam. His nation opposed him and committed big sins; therefore, they were destroyed. The most important characteristic of the nation of Tubba was probably the fact that they were the closest community to the Makkan polytheists among the destroyed nations. (For narrations and more information, see Zamakhshari, Kashshaf, IV, 279-280)

Ashab al-Fil: A very short time before the advent of Islam, an astonishing incident took place in the Arabian Peninsula. Abraha built a very big church called "Qullays" in the city of San'a in Yemen. Thus, he aimed to make all Arabs abandon the Kaaba, which they visited for hajj, and come to his church. Abraha, who wanted to demolish the Kaaba with this intention, and his army were destroyed. The chapter of al-Fil, which was sent down upon this incident is as follows: 

"Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant? Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? And He sent against them flights of Birds, Striking them with stones of baked clay. Then did He make them like an empty field of stalks and straw, (of which the corn) has been eaten up."
              
Qurun al-Ukhra (The Last Generations): It is the time period between the advent of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) with Islam and the Doomsday, which is also called the end of time. 

Those killed in Badr: Ashab al-Kalib (Makkan polytheists)   

Jews around Madinah

o    Banu Qaynuqa 

o    Banu Nadr       

o    Banu Qurayza   
              
The individuals that were punished by Allah and mentioned in the Quran

Before the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

Nuh's Son       

Nuh's Wife           

Lut's Wife             

Nimrod  

The Pharaoh and Children of Israel  

Qarun     

Haman   

Samiri     

Bal'am   

Jalut       

One of the two men, whose garden (property) was destroyed only           
 
During the time of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)

Abu Lahab         

Abu Jahl           

Walid B. Mughira

Nadr B. al-Harith

Ka'b B. Ashraf     

Abu Amir, a Christian priest            

The examples of the incidents related to the wrath of God presented by the Quran serves to make man avoid the deeds of those people. Therefore, the elements of time and date are not mentioned much in those incidents.

There is no information in the Quran stating that such and such a nation lived in this or that year, stating the date exactly. Similarly, the element of place is not given much importance in the Quran.

The reason for this is the viewpoint of the Quran related to history. When the Quran narrates historical incidents, it deals with the characteristics of the people and the attitudes of the communities; it analyzes them in detail. The Quran emphasizes how attitudes are evaluated by Allah.

Thus, the Quran gives man a list of things he needs to do and not to do.

While doing so, the Quran explains in detail and in a way that man can understand the basic philosophy and approach that need to be dominant in his deeds in order to attain happiness both in the world and the hereafter.

The issue of wrath is present in the parts that are known as stories. From this point of view, the most important topic of stories is the incidents related to wrath. The first addressees of the Quran described the Quran as "tales of the ancients" (al-An'am 6/25) when they denied it. Today, the issue that those who deny the Quran refer to the most is the stories in the Quran. The orientalists, who does it using scientific methods, and their representatives in the Islamic world work hard in order to bring about doubts in the minds of people regarding the stories in the Quran and to show them as unreal stories. 

It is true that some of the stories that exist in the Torah also exist in the Quran. However, there are usually differences between them.

Regarding those stories narrated both in the Quran and the Torah, the Quran  is a judge, showing the real nature of the distorted parts of the Torah.

Besides, another important aspect of the stories is that some stories that are present in the Quran do not exist in the Torah. The Quran has a different originality in terms of this aspect. Even the Makkan polytheists, the first addressees of the Quran that regarded the Quran as the tales of the ancient people, were surprised when they heard these stories, which were sent through revelation; they did not object to them at all.

The reason why stories and especially the scenes describing individuals and communities hit by the wrath of Allah exist so much in the Quran is that it aims to enable man to protect himself from these possible dangers that will happen when he deviates. From this point of view, the parts of the Quran that include scenes of wrath are the most important parts of the Quran, which is a divine warning. As a matter of fact, it functioned like that for the first people it addressed and it will continue functioning so in the future too. Allah reminded the polytheists that they knew what happened to the previous nations and that they will be hit by the wrath of Allah like the previous nations if they do not accept the signs of Allah.

The main idea of these parts is that among the nations that will exist up to the Day of Judgment, the end of those who oppose the orders and prohibitions of Allah and who insist on unbelief, polytheism, oppression and cruelty will not be any different from that of the previous nations.

To sum up, the reason why the verses of wrath are present abundantly without emphasizing the elements of place and time but emphasizing the characteristics of the people in the Quran is to tell people that Allah's law functions in the same way for similar situations and to enable them to protect themselves from falling into a bad situation like that.  

Thus, through stories, the message of the Quran “If they do not accept the signs of Allah, they will be destroyed like the previous nations" to its addressees makes its addressees understand the message fully in the form of unforgettable scenes thanks to the scenes from real events.

The stories repeated so much in the Quran has been a point of interest for especially historians and tafsir scholars. However, the fact that some stories also existed in the Torah and that some scholars completed some of the stories that were not explained in the Quran with the information included in the Torah and Gospel caused some superstitions and wrong information to be included in those history and tafsir resources.    

What is saddening here is the fact that the scholars who included these kinds of narrations in their books did not usually mention whether they took them from the Bible or another source knowingly or unknowingly. These parts that are presented as the interpretation of verses pose the danger of being understood as the explanation of the religion and the revelation regarding the issue since the source of the information is not stated.

In fact, God did not explain those issues because they were not important. While filling the parts of the story that are not explained with sources out of Islam, the source of the information must be mentioned and warnings as the following ones must be included:  “The issue is explained based on the Torah or based on such and such a person.”

Divine wrath, which forms the most horrible disaster in the universe, and destruction as a result of this wrath were conducted very few times in the history of mankind but it is a divine law that is repeated if people form the conditions necessary for it.

The infliction of wrath upon an individual or a community takes place after the formation of a long transformation process. During this process, the Creator sends various warnings to those who deny and go astray. These warnings tell the individuals and communities who rebel against Allah and who are in a war against Allah that a big misfortune is coming. Those who get the message and abandon fighting religious, holy things, who give up the claim of being a deity and avoid oppression protect themselves from the wrath due to the nature of divine laws.   

However, the deniers who insist on unbelief, who do not give up fighting against divine values and who dedicate themselves to fighting religious values attract the wrath of Allah are punished and destroyed by Him.

The types of wrath and disasters sent to the previous deniers from the ground and sky will serve to remain as a fact that can take place anytime and anywhere Allah wishes.:

“Say: "He hath power to send calamities on you, from above and below, or to cover you with confusion in party strife, giving you a taste of mutual vengeance― each from the other.” (al-An’am 6/65)

The interest in and the tendency toward the changes contrary to revelation in the nature of man that the Quran dwells upon will end up with the loss of those who do so as the Quran states.

At that point, the Quran lays emphasis on the criteria and principles of saving man from loss. It does so by drawing attention to the previous ummahs, prophets and the changes that they underwent.

There is no doubt that there are ways of protection from this big disaster in the law of Allah, who imposes all of the rules of the universe perfectly down to the last detail.

The Quran, which is the holy script of the last religion, informs us about those ways of protection.

The first one of it is as follows: man needs to remember that he is a slave in the eye of his Creator and act accordingly. He must not struggle against Allah by forgetting that he is a slave. 

The second one: Man needs to pray Allah, ask for forgiveness and repent for his sins throughout his life. Similar ways of protection from divine wrath are mentioned in the Quran.

For detailed information and resources, see Hatice BAŞKAYA, Kur’ân-ı Kerim’de Allah Teâlâ’nın Gazabına Uğramış İnsanlar Ve Toplumlar, Harran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Temel İslam Bilimleri Anabilim Dalı Tefsir Bilim Dalı  (Yüksek Lisans Tezi), Şanlıurfa, 2007.

Note: We advise you to read the following article of Bahattin AKBAŞ, an expert in the High Council of Religious Affairs:

The Nations that were Destroyed and the Reasons why they were Destroyed

Allah gave man, who is the most honorable creature, intellect and will, and encumbered him with some responsibilities. Allah guided man by sending prophets and books so that he can fulfill those responsibilities. The Quran is the last holy book sent by Allah to Hz. Muhammad (pbuh). The addressee of this book is the whole mankind and its purpose is to ensure their happiness in the world and the hereafter. In order to fulfill this purpose, it is necessary for us to read and understand the Quran and to obey its orders and prohibitions.  

It is Allah who creates man and shapes him spiritually and physically and who makes him live. It is the most important duty of every Muslim to know, approach and worship Allah, who puts the universe under his order. Man needs to accept the revelation Allah sent through His prophet and the sunnah of the Prophet as his guide. The Quran, which is a source of endless knowledge, wisdom and happiness, is a sublime book that enlightens the mind and heart, that enlightens the realms with its light, that cures spirits and that enables man to have a strong conscience and belief.  

Therefore, we need to accept the Quran as our guide, to study carefully what Allah tells us in it and to meditate on them. As a matter of fact, Allah states that the reason why the Quran was sent is to make man think:

هَـذَابَلاَغٌلِّلنَّاسِوَلِيُنذَرُوابِهِوَلِيَعْلَمُواْأَنَّمَاهُوَإِلَـهٌوَاحِدٌوَلِيَذَّكَّرَأُوْلُواْالأَلْبَابِ 
 
"Here is a Message for mankind: let them take warning therefrom, and let them know that He is (no other than) One God: let men of understanding take heed.” (Ibrahim,14/52)

The news about the previous nations, which forms an important part of the Quran, is one of the issues that need to be meditated on. Most of those nations denied the prophets sent to them and treated them as enemies. Allah states in the Quran that these incidents of destructions due to their deviation should be lessons for those who come to the world after them. For instance, the following verse tells us about the punishment given to a group of Jews, who opposed Allah:   

 فَجَعَلْنَاهَانَكَالاًلِّمَابَيْنَيَدَيْهَاوَمَاخَلْفَهَاوَمَوْعِظَةًلِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

“So We made it an example to their own time and to their posterity, and a lesson to those who fear Allah." (al-Baqara,2/66)

Most of the incidents of destruction mentioned in the Quran has been known and seen thanks to archeological excavations.

Every nation and community have a lifespan like all living beings; they are born, live and die. There is no eternal nation in history. Nations also pass away when their lifespan ends like human beings. It is a necessity of the system established by Allah in the universe.

The following is stated about the destroyed nations in the Quran:
 
“Never did We destroy a population that had not a term decreed and assigned beforehand. Neither can a people anticipate its Term, nor delay it.” (al-Hijr,15/4-5)

The words “qarya”, (1) and  “ummah” (2) are used about the destroyed nations in the Quran. These words mean the people in a country, generations, small or big communities.  (3)

Communities die when their lifespan ends. Their term cannot be lengthened or shortened, and quickened or shortened. Only Allah knows this term. When it is due, they are destroyed.  

“There is a term for every community, every nation, whether big or small and every state in the eye of Allah. Not all of those who deny the prophets of Allah, the polytheists, unruly people, atheists, oppressors, rebels, and immoral people all over the world are punished all of a sudden and at the same time. Each nation has a term. An evil that causes a nation to be destroyed at a certain period of time might take less or more time for another. However, when their appointed time reaches, it cannot be delayed or advanced. They are destroyed.” (4) This issue is stated as follows in the Quran:

فَإِذَاجَاءأَجَلُهُمْلاَيَسْتَأْخِرُونَسَاعَةًوَلاَيَسْتَقْدِمُونَ“  وَلِكُلِّأُمَّةٍأَجَلٌ
 
“To every people is a term appointed: when their term is reached not an hour can they cause delay, nor (an hour) can they advance (it in anticipation).” (al-Araf,7/34)

It is stated in the following verse that this appointed time never changes:

“But to no soul will Allah grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come: and Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.” (al-Munafiqun, 63/11)

According to the Quran, a person dies only with the permission of Allah:

“Nor can a soul die except by Allah's leave the term being fixed as by writing. If any do desire a reward in this life, We shall give it to him; and if any do desire a reward in the Hereafter, We shall give it to him. And swiftly shall We reward those that (serve Us with) gratitude."  (Aal-i Imran 3/145)

“The wrath and destruction of every ummah is recorded in the Preserved Tablet (Lawh al-Mahfuz). When the causes and conditions written there occur, they are destroyed.” (5) Allah states the following in the Quran:

 وَإِنْمِنْقَرْيَةٍإِلَّانَحْنُمُهْلِكُوهَاقَبْلَيَوْمِالْقِيَامَةِأَوْمُعَذِّبُوهَاعَذَابًاشَدِيدًاكَانَذَلِكَفِيالْكِتَابِمَسْطُورًا

“There is not a population but We shall destroy it before the Day of Judgment or punish it with a dreadful Penalty: That is written in the (eternal) Record.”(al-Isra, 17/58)

It is Allah who predestinates the time of destruction for ummahs and individuals. It is not possible for anyone to die outside this predestination and time and for any ummah to be destroyed. As it is stated in the verses, every community and every individual have appointed terms. When it is due, the individuals and communities die. People cannot know this appointed term; only Allah knows it. 

According to the Quran, the people themselves cause the destruction of their nations. There lies the reason for the destruction of nations. Allah is merciful. His mercy surrounds everything. Allah does not wrong people; He gives them abundant rewards in return for their good deeds. He does not punish people for all of their bad deeds; He forgives some of them.      

“Allah is never unjust in the least degree: if there is any good (done) He doubleth it, and giveth from His own presence a great reward.”(an-Nisa, 4/40)

إنَّاللّهَلاَيَظْلِمُالنَّاسَشَيْئًاوَلَـكِنَّالنَّاسَأَنفُسَهُمْيَظْلِمُونَ

“Verily Allah will not deal unjustly with man in aught: it is man that wrongs his own soul”(Yunus10/44)   The verses above state that Allah does not treat people unjustly; they state that misfortunes hit people due to their own mistakes and that the people who rebel against Allah treat themselves unjustly.

 وَلَقَدْأَهْلَكْنَاالْقُرُونَمِنْقَبْلِكُمْلَمَّاظَلَمُواوَجَاءَتْهُمْرُسُلُهُمْبِالْبَيِّنَاتِوَمَاكَانُوالِيُؤْمِنُواكَذَلِكَنَجْزِيالْقَوْمَالْمُجْرِمِينَ

Generations before you We destroyed when they did wrong: their Messengers came to them with Clear Signs, but they would not believe! Thus do We requite those who sin. (Yunus, 10/13)

وَلَوْأَنَّأَهْلَالْقُرَىآمَنُواوَاتَّقَوْالَفَتَحْنَاعَلَيْهِمْبَرَكَاتٍمِنْالسَّمَاءِوَالْأَرْضِوَلَكِنْكَذَّبُوافَأَخَذْنَاهُمْبِمَاكَانُوايَكْسِبُونَ
 
“If the people of the towns had but believed and feared Allah, We should indeed have opened out to them (all kinds of) blessings from heaven and earth; but they rejected (the truth) and We brought them to book for their misdeeds. (al-Araf, 7/96)

وَالَّذِينَكَذَّبُواْبِآيَاتِنَاسَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُممِّنْحَيْثُلاَيَعْلَمُونَ
   
“Those who reject Our signs, We shall gradually visit with punishment, in ways they perceive not.” (al-Araf,7/182)

The destruction of nations is because of the oppression and bad deeds they commit. Allah does not change the good characteristics of a nation unless they themselves change them. The following is stated in a verse: 

اناللهلايغيرمابقومختىيغيروامابانفسهم  واذااراداللهبقومسوءافلامردلهومالهممندونهمنوال

“Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him any to protect” (Ra’d, 13/11)

According to the verse above, people keep living in welfare and peace as long as they keep doing good deeds. The destruction of communities is caused by their own bad deeds like mischief, corruption, anarchy and terror. (6)

If immorality, injustice, oppression and evil deeds increase in a community and nobody tries to prevent them, that community is punished and destroyed. Allah replaces them with another community. This issue is stated as follows: in the Quran:

“How many were the populations we utterly destroyed because of their iniquities, setting up in their places other peoples.” (al-Anbiya, 21/11)

Many nations lived and passed away. Why did those nations not survive? Why were they destroyed? According to the Quran, some nations were destroyed while they were in poverty and hardship while others were destroyed while they were in welfare and wealth. (7)

According to what the Quran tells us, Allah sent prophets to all nations to guide people; the prophets called them to belief and obedience and asked them to give up debauchery, oppression and rebellion. However, most of them did not accept the call of the prophets and denied them; some of them even killed their prophets by torturing them. Allah warned those nations several times but He destroyed them because they did not improve themselves. This issue is stated as follows: in the Quran:

أَلَمْيَرَوْاْكَمْأَهْلَكْنَامِنقَبْلِهِممِّنقَرْنٍمَّكَّنَّاهُمْفِيالأَرْضِمَالَمْنُمَكِّنلَّكُمْوَأَرْسَلْنَاالسَّمَاءعَلَيْهِممِّدْرَارًاوَجَعَلْنَاالأَنْهَارَتَجْرِيمِنتَحْتِهِمْفَأَهْلَكْنَاهُمبِذُنُوبِهِمْوَأَنْشَأْنَامِنبَعْدِهِمْقَرْنًاآخَرِينَ

“See they not how many of those before them We did destroy?― Generations We had established on the earth, in strength such as We have not given to you,― for whom We poured out rain from the skies in abundance, and gave streams flowing beneath their (feet): yet for their sins We destroyed them, and raised in their wake fresh generations (to succeed them).” (al-Anam,6/6)

فَلَمَّانَسُوامَاذُكِّرُوابِهِفَتَحْنَاعَلَيْهِمْأَبْوَابَكُلِّ
شَيْءٍحَتَّىإِذَافَرِحُوابِمَاأُوتُواأَخَذْنَاهُمْبَغْتَةًفَإِذَاهُمْمُبْلِسُونَ

“But when they forget the warning they had received, We opened to them the gates of all (good) things, until, in the midst of their enjoyment of Our gifts, on a sudden, We called them to account, when lo! they were plunged in despair!”  (al-Anam 6/44 ) (8)

The verses above state that Allah destroyed previous nations because of their sins and that they could not escape destruction though they were advanced economically and technologically.  Allah created new nations instead of those destroyed nations.

The main sins of the destroyed nations are their rebellion against the prophets who called them to belief, obedience and honesty, and denying their prophets.

An important part of the Quran gives scenes from the stories and lives of previous nations and prophets. These stories are not narrated so that they will be read only but so that people will take lessons from them. These stories are full of important lessons, wisdom and advice. Therefore, we need to read those verses carefully and take lessons from them.

Now we can mention the reasons for the destruction of some nations.

NUH'S NATION

After Hz. Adam, the number of human beings increased; they built several towns on earth but they started to deviate from the true religion and to worship idols. Allah sent Hz. Nuh as a prophet to the people but they did not heed his advice; they even made fun of him. When Hz. Nuh gave up hope of his nation's belief, he asked Allah to destroy them. Allah ordered him to build a ship and to embark the believers and a pair of each animal species. After that, the earth was flooded by a great deluge. Those who did not believe were drowned and destroyed. (9) The reason for the destruction of the nation of Nuh is narrated as follows in the Quran:

وَلَقَدْأَرْسَلْنَانُوحًاإِلَىقَوْمِهِفَلَبِثَفِيهِمْأَلْفَسَنَةٍإِلَّاخَمْسِينَعَامًافَأَخَذَهُمُالطُّوفَانُوَهُمْظَالِمُونَ

“We (once) sent Noah to his people, and he tarried among them a thousand years less fifty: but the Deluge overwhelmed them while they (persisted in) sin." (al-Ankabut, 29/14)

مِمَّاخَطِيئَاتِهِمْأُغْرِقُوافَأُدْخِلُوانَارًافَلَمْيَجِدُوالَهُممِّندُونِاللَّهِأَنصَارًا

“Because of their sins they were drowned (in the flood) and were made to enter the Fire (of Punishment): and they found― in lieu of Allah― none to help them.” (Nuh, 71/25)

The nation of Nuh was destroyed because they rebelled against Allah and His prophet and because they indulged in oppression, unbelief and sins.  

THE NATION OF AD

Allah sent Hz. Hud as a prophet to the people of Ad living in the region of Yemen. The nation of Ad had a lot of bounties; they constructed pompous buildings. Hz Hud, showed miracles to the nation of Ad, who insisted on polytheism and unbelief, and asked them to believe in the oneness of Allah. However, they were destroyed by a strong wind because they did not heed Hz. Hud and insisted on polytheism. (10)

فَأَمَّاعَادٌفَاسْتَكْبَرُوافِيالْأَرْضِبِغَيْرِالْحَقِّوَقَالُوامَنْأَشَدُّمِنَّاقُوَّةًأَوَلَمْيَرَوْاأَنَّاللَّهَالَّذِيخَلَقَهُمْهُوَأَشَدُّمِنْهُمْقُوَّةًوَكَانُوابِآيَاتِنَايَجْحَدُون

“Now the `Ad behaved arrogantly through the land, against (all) truth and reason, and said: "Who is superior to us in strength?" What! Did they not see that Allah, Who created them, was superior to them in strength? But they continued to reject Our Signs.” (Fussilat, 41/15)

فَأَرْسَلْنَاعَلَيْهِمْرِيحًاصَرْصَرًافِيأَيَّامٍنَّحِسَاتٍلِّنُذِيقَهُمعَذَابَالْخِزْيِفِيالْحَيَاةِالدُّنْيَاوَلَعَذَابُالْآخِرَةِأَخْزَىوَهُملَاْيُنصَرُون

“So We sent against them a furious Wind through days of disaster, that We might give them a taste of a Penalty of humiliation in this Life; but the Penalty of the Hereafter will be more humiliating still: and they will find no help." (Fussilat, 41/16)

.فَكَذَّبُوهُفَأَخَذَتْهُمُالرَّجْفَةُفَأَصْبَحُوافِيدَارِهِمْجَاثِمِينَوَعَادًاوَثَمُودَوَقَدتَّبَيَّنَلَكُممِّنمَّسَاكِنِهِمْوَزَيَّنَلَهُمُالشَّيْطَانُأَعْمَالَهُمْفَصَدَّهُمْعَنِالسَّبِيلِوَكَانُوامُسْتَبْصِرِينَ

"But they rejected him: then the mighty Blast seized them, and they lay prostrate in their homes by the morning. (Remember also) the `Ad and the Thamud (people): clearly will appear to you from (the traces) of their buildings (their fate): the Evil One made their deeds alluring to them, and kept them back from the Path, though they were gifted with Intelligence and Skill." (al-Ankabut, 29/37-38).

The nation of Ad was destroyed because they showed ingratitude to Allah despite the bounties He gave to them, and because of their denial and rebellion.

THE NATION OF THAMUD

After the destruction of the nation of Ad, the nation of Thamud lived in the region of Hijr. The nation of Thamud also had a lot of bounties; they built strong houses, summer and winter houses by carving mountains and stones. They lived in abundance and welfare; they lived long. In the course of time, they deviated from the right path and became polytheists. Allah sent Hz. Salih as a prophet to them. Salih called them to belief in Allah, worshipping and obedience. He showed them miracles and gave them advice. However, his nation did not obey him; they denied him. They killed the female camel that was given to them as a miracle and that they were asked not to touch. Thereupon, all of the nation of Thamud except Salih and those who believed in him were destroyed by a strong thunder. (11)

وَلَقَدْأَرْسَلْنَاإِلَىثَمُودَأَخَاهُمْصَالِحًاأَنِاعْبُدُوااللَّهَفَإِذَاهُمْفَرِيقَانِيَخْتَصِمُونَ

“We sent (aforetime), to the Thamud their brother Salih, saying, "Serve Allah": but behold, they became two factions quarrelling with each other.” (an-Naml, 27/45)

كَذَّبَتْثَمُودُبِطَغْوَاهَاإِذِانبَعَثَأَشْقَاهَا  فَقَالَلَهُمْرَسُولُاللَّهِنَاقَةَاللَّهِوَسُقْيَاهَافَكَذَّبُوهُفَعَقَرُوهَافَدَمْدَمَعَلَيْهِمْرَبُّهُمبِذَنبِهِمْفَسَوَّاهَا

“But the messenger of Allah said to them: "It is a She-camel of Allah! and (bar her not from) having her drink!" Then they rejected him (as a false prophet), and they hamstrung her. So their Lord, on account of their crime, obliterated their traces and made them equal (in destruction, high and low).”  (ash-Shams, 91/13-14)

THE NATION OF LUT

Hz. Lut was sent to the nation of Sodom in Palestine as a prophet. This nation deviated from the true path and indulged in denial and rebellion. The men living there stopped having sexual intercourse with women and started homosexuality. Hz. Lut called his nation to the true path. They were destroyed when they did not accept this call. (12)

ْإِنَّامُنَجُّوكَوَأَهْلَكَإِلَّاامْرَأَتَكَكَانَتْمِنَالْغَابِرِينَ  إِنَّامُنزِلُونَعَلَىأَهْلِهَذِهِالْقَرْيَةِرِجْزًامِّنَالسَّمَاءبِمَاكَانُوايَفْسُقُونَ

"Our Messengers said to Lot, "Fear thou not nor grieve: we are (here) to save thee and thy following, except thy wife: she is of those who lag behind. For we are going to bring down on the people of this township a Punishment from heaven, because they have been wickedly rebellious."  (al-Ankabut, 29/33,34)

وَلُوطًاإِذْقَالَلِقَوْمِهِأَتَأْتُونَالْفَاحِشَةَوَأَنتُمْتُبْصِرُونأَئِنَّكُمْلَتَأْتُونالرِّجَالَشَهْوَةًمِّندُونِالنِّسَاءبَلْأَنتُمْقَوْمٌتَجْهَلُونََ

"We also sent Lut (as a messenger): behold, he said to his people "Do ye do what is shameful though ye see (its iniquity)? "Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!” (an-Naml 27/ 54, 55)

وَلُوطًاآتَيْنَاهُحُكْمًاوَعِلْمًاوَنَجَّيْنَاهُمِنَالْقَرْيَةِالَّتِيكَانَتتَّعْمَلُالْخَبَائِثَإِنَّهُمْكَانُواقَوْمَسَوْءٍفَاسِقِينَ

“And to Lut, too, we gave Judgment and Knowledge, and We saved him from the town which practised abominations: truly they were a people given to Evil, a rebellious people.” (al-Anbiya ,21/74)

THE PHARAOH AND THOSE WHO FOLLOWED HIM

Another nation that is stated to have been destroyed in the Quran is the Pharaoh and those who followed him. The Pharaoh is a name given to the kings of the ancient Egypt. The Pharaohs forced Children of Israel to do hard jobs like slaves. Children of Israel, who got tired of the hard jobs they were forced to do by the Pharaohs and by the polytheistic Copts, the natives of Egypt, wanted to return to Kanan, the land of their ancestors. However, they could not do it because they could not get rid of the Pharaoh. Once, a soothsayer told the Pharaoh that a child was going to be born from Children of Israel and that the child would depose him. Thereupon, the Pharaoh started to kill all of the male children of Children of Israel that were born. Hz. Musa (Moses) was born at that time. (13) According to the Quran, Hz. Musa got rid of the Pharaoh and was brought up in the palace of the Pharaoh by his own mother. Hz. Musa called the Pharaoh and Copts to the belief of oneness but the Pharaoh did not believe; he even claimed to be a deity; eventually, he was drowned in the sea together with his soldiers.

نَتْلُواعَلَيْكَمِننَّبَإِمُوسَىوَفِرْعَوْنَبِالْحَقِّلِقَوْمٍيُؤْمِنُونَإِنَّفِرْعَوْنَعَلَافِيالْأَرْضِوَجَعَلَأَهْلَهَاشِيَعًايَسْتَضْعِفُطَائِفَةًمِّنْهُمْيُذَبِّحُأَبْنَاءهُمْوَيَسْتَحْيِينِسَاءهُمْإِنَّهُكَانَمِنَالْمُفْسِدِينَ

“We rehearse to thee some of the story of Moses and Pharaoh in Truth, for people who believe. Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections depressing a group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a maker of mischief.” (al-Qasas,28/3-4)

فَأَوْحَيْنَاإِلَىمُوسَىأَنِاضْرِببِّعَصَاكَالْبَحْرَفَانفَلَقَفَكَانَكُلُّفِرْقٍكَالطَّوْدِالْعَظِيمِوَأَزْلَفْنَاثَمَّالْآخَرِينَوَأَنجَيْنَامُوسَىوَمَنمَّعَهُأَجْمَعِينَثُمَّأَغْرَقْنَاالْآخَرِينَ

“Then We told Moses by inspiration: "Strike the sea with thy rod." So it divided, and each separate part become like the huge, firm mass of a mountain. And We made the other party approach thither. We delivered Moses and all who were with him; But We drowned the others.” (ash-Shuara 26/63,66)

While the Pharaoh was being drowned in the sea together with his followers due to his rebellion and other sins, he wanted to believe by saying, I believed in Allah; there is no god but Allah; I am a Muslim too" but his belief was not accepted because he had no chance of living then and he started to see the punishment he would undergo.

وَجَاوَزْنَابِبَنِيإِسْرَائِيلالْبَحْرَفَأَتْبَعَهُمْفِرْعَوْنُوَجُنُودُهُبَغْيًاوَعَدْوًاحَتَّىإِذَاأَدْرَكَهُالْغَرَقُقَالَآمَنتُأَنَّهُلاإِلِـهَإِلاَّالَّذِيآمَنَتْبِهِبَنُوإِسْرَائِيلََوَأَنَاْمِنَالْمُسْلِمِينَآلآنَوَقَدْعَصَيْتَقَبْلُوَكُنتَمِنَالْمُفْسِدِينَ

“We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: "I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah in Islam)." (It was said to him): "Ah now!― but a little while before, wast thou in rebellion!― and thou didst mischief (and violence)!"  (Yunus, 10/90-91)

Many more nations apart from the examples we have tried to give were destroyed. The main reason why they were destroyed was their oppression.

فَكَأَيِّنمِّنقَرْيَةٍأَهْلَكْنَاهَاوَهِيَظَالِمَةٌفَهِيَخَاوِيَةٌعَلَىعُرُوشِهَاوَبِئْرٍمُّعَطَّلَةٍوَقَصْرٍمَّشِيدٍ

"How many populations have We destroyed, which were given to wrong-doing? They tumbled down on their roofs. And how many wells are lying idle and neglected, and castles lofty and well-built? (al-Hajj, 22/45) Denying Allah, His prophets and His verses, associating partners with Allah, rebellion and oppression are the common properties of the nations that were destroyed. (14)

CONCLUSION:   

There is a certain lifespan for each nation in the world. When this predestinated time comes, it is not delayed. The nations living in the world are destroyed because of their polytheism, unbelief, rebellion and oppression. Allah never oppresses His slaves. 

There are lessons for people in the stories of the previous nations. The stories of the destroyed nations are like that too.

Footnotes:
1.    For qarya, see al-Isra, 17/16, 58 al-Hijr, 15/4, al-Anbiya, 21/56, al-Hajj, 22/45, ash-Shuara, 26/208, al-Qasas ,22/158, Muhammad, 47/13
2.    For ummah, see al-Araf, 7/34, 164, Yunus, 10/49, al-Hijr, 15/5, al-Anam, 6/42, Hud, 11/48, az-Zukhruf, 43/22, al-Anbiya, 21/92, Hud, 11/8. For qawm, see also Aal-i Imran, 3/117, for “qarn”, see al-Qasas, 28/78, al-Anam,6/6, Yunus, 10/13, as-Sajda, 32/26, Qaf,50/36. The words qawm and qarn are used in the same sense.
3.    Al-Qurtubi, Muhammad, al-Jami li Ahkami’l-Qur'an, l,137. Yazır, Elmalılı M. Hamdi, Hak Dini Kur'ân Dili,l, 508. For the relevant verses, see az-Zukhruf, 43/22, al-Anbiya, 21/92, Hud, 11/8, al-Anam, 6/38, 42
4.    Yazır, III, 2156
5.    Karagöz,İsmail,Kur'ân’a Göre Musibetler Açısından İnsan ve Toplum, p.172
6.    Karagöz, İsmail,Kur'ân’a Göre Musibetler Açısından İnsan ve Toplum, p.176-177
7.    Karagöz, p.182
8.    See also Qaf, 50/36,  Muhammad, 47/13,  Maryam, 19/74,  al-Kahf, 18/59, al-Mumin, 60/21. al-Haqqa, 69/9-10, az-Zukhruf, 43/6-8
9.    Ahmet Cevdet Paşa, Kısas-ı Enbiya, l/8. For the relevant verses, see al-Araf, 7/59-63, Nuh, 71/1-28, al-Muminun, 23/23-40, Hud, 11/27-47, ash-Shuara, 26/105-120, al-Qamar, 54/10-14, al-Anbiya, 21/67-78, Yunus, 10/37,73, al-Ankabut, 29/1, adh-Dhariyat,51/46
10.     A.Cevdet Paşa, I, 8. For the relevant verses, see al-Araf, 7/65,72, Hud, 11/50-59, al-Muminun, 23/32-39, al-Furqan, 25/38, ash-Shuara, 26/124-139, al-Ankabut ,29/38, Fussilat, 41/16, al-Ahqaf, 46/21,25
11.     A.Cevdet Paşa, I,10, Yazır, lX/2796. The relevant verses: al-Araf, 7/73-78, Hud, 11/61-68,  al-Isra,17/59,  ash-Shuara,26/141-156.
12.     Ahmed Cevdet Paşa, I,1. Mehmed Vehbi Efendi, Hulasatu’l-Beyan, lX/168 The relevant verses: al-Araf, 7/81-82, al-Hijr, 15/73-74, Hud,11/78-82, ash-Shuara, 26/166, an-Naml, 27/56
13.     A.Cevdet Paşa,l/22,30
14.     See al-Araf,7/5, Yunus, 10/13, Hud, 11/101,102,116, Ibrahim, 14/13, al-Kahf, 18/59, al-Anbiya, 21/11,14,97, al-Hajj, 22/48, al-Muminun, 23/41, ar-Rum, 30/9.

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