The story of Ashab ar-rass (DWELLERS OF AR-RASS)


Allah has said,

And the ‘Aad and the Thamud and the dwellers of Ar-Rass, and many generations in between and for each of them We struck similitude, and each We ruined with an utter ruin. (Al-Furqan, 25:38-39) And Allah has also said, Belied before them the people of Nuh and the dwellers of Ar-Rass and the Thamud, and the ‘Aad and Fir’awn and the brethren of Lut and the dwellers of the Thicket, and the people of Tubba’. Each one belied the Messengers, so My threat came true. (Qaf, 50:12-14)

These verses say explicitly that the dwellers of Ar-Rass were destroyed. Ibn Jarir opines that they are the Ashab Al-Ukhdud who are named in Surah Al-Buruj but the context of the Qur’an rejects that opinion because those people came after Sayyidina ‘Eesa AlaihisSalam.

Ibn Jarir has cited Ibn Abbas Radiallahu anhoo saying that the dwellers of Ar-Rass lived in one of the villages of the Thamud.

According to Ibn ‘Asakir, Allah sent to the dwellers of Ar-Rass the Prophet Hanzalah bin Safwan AlaihisSalam. But they belied him and killed him. On that ‘Aad bin ‘Aws bin Iram bin Sam bin Nuh departed from Ar-Rass with their children and settled in Ahqaf, their descendant dispersed all over Yaman. Meanwhile the dwellers of Ar-Rass were destroyed. Jabrun bin Sa’d bin ‘Aad went to Damascus and built a city which he called Jabrun, and that is the Iram, the one with pillars. And pillars are not found in such a large number anywhere as in Damascus. Allah sent Sayyidina Hud others to the descendants of ‘Aad in Ahqaf but they denied him and suffered destruction. This evidence is enough that the dwellers of Ar-Rass preceded the people of ‘Aad by a long period of time. But Allah knows best.

Ibn Abbas has said that Ar-Rass is a well in Azerbaijan while ‘Ikrimah has said that the dwellers of Ar-Rass were the people of Yass of Falaj. But I say that these were different people.

Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Al-Hasan Al-Naqqash has said that these people (of Ar-Rass) had a well whose water they drank and used for irrigation. They had a just king over them whom they loved very much. When he died, they were grieved beyond repair. Taking advantage of their emotions, the devil appeared to them in the form of the dead king and pretended that he had not died but had disappeared from them to see how they conducted themselves in his absence. They evinced great happiness at that and he commanded them to erect barrier between him and them so that he could speak to them from behind that barrier. He assured them that he would never die. Many of them believed him, they even worshipped him. So, Allah sent to them a Messenger who explained to them that it was the devil who was deceiving them, and he forbade them from worshipping him and commanded them to worship Allah, the One, Who has no partner. His name was Hanzalah bin Safwan. Those people displayed their antagonism for the Prophet and killed him and hurled his corpse in the well. The well then dried up and they became thirsty and their trees did not get their water, as also their fruit and gardens. Their homes became desolate and all of them were destroyed. Nothing was heard of them after that. Jinns occupied their dwellings and haunted their town. Only the roar of the lion and the call of the hyena was heard.

Imam al-Ridha mentioned that one of the nobles of the Tamim tribe approached Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali (AlahisSalam) and requested him to relate the facts regarding the People of Ras; where they lived, in what period, who were their rulers, whom did Allah send as a Prophet for guiding these people, how they were destroyed? etc. The inquirer told ‘Ali that though they are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an no details available.The People of Ras were a particular group. They worshipped the pine tree and called it the ‘King of Trees’. It had been planted by Yafith the son of Nuh besides a spring. The spring was known as Rooshtaab and had formed after the deluge. They were known as ‘People of Ras’ because they had buried alive a Prophet who came after Sulayman The People of Ras inhabited twelve cities on the bank of the river Ras in the eastern hemisphere. The area was known as Aras and the people were named after the river Ras. During that time it was the best fresh water river in the world and the Kingdom of Ras was the most prosperous nation of its time. The nation consisted of cities named as Abaan, Aazar, Dee, Bahman, Isfandaar, Farwarrdeen, Urdi-Behisht, Khordaad, Mardaad, Teer and Shaharpoor. Isfandar was the largest city and the seat of the ruler Tarkooz son of Ghaboor son of Yarish son of Saazan son of Narmood son of Canaan. Nimrod was the contemporary of Ibrahim. The spring and the tree called Sanobar were situated in this city. The people of Ras had taken some seeds from that tree to other towns and sowed them near streams. Then they took some water from the original spring and mixed it in the spring of each town. It irrigated the saplings that gradually grew into thick trees laden with sour fruits. The people prohibited themselves and their animals from partaking in any of the products of these trees. They also refrained from drinking the water of those springs and claimed that it was the cause of existence of their gods.

Thus it did not befit them to drink this water that would result in the decrease of their god’s lives. They used the water from the river Ras that flowed by their cities for themselves and their animals. Every month one of the towns celebrated ‘Id. On this day, people of that particular town gathered near the Sanobar tree situated there. They covered the tree with a silk curtain embroidered with pictures. Cows and sheep were sacrificed at the tree and later burnt with firewood. When the smoke and ashes darkened the atmosphere they fell down prostrate in front of that tree. They wept and wailed and implored the tree to be pleased with them. The Satan used to sit upon the tree and shake its branches. He would hide in the trunk of the tree and say in the voice of a young boy, “My servants! I am pleased with you. May you be happy and your eyes brighten with joy.” Hearing this, the people would arise. They would celebrate the next few days in drinking, playing drums, singing and making merry. Then they would return home. “

The Persians have named the months after the cities of Ras, Abaan, Aazar, etc. Every month was associated with the feast of a particular city, hence that month was named after that city. When it was the turn of their largest town to celebrate the festival, people from all the other cities came there. They would gather at the great tree near the spring and cover the tree with a large curtain embroidered with icons. The curtain was partitioned to have twelve entrances, one for each city. They would prostrate before the tree from outside the curtain. They sacrificed animals equal to those slaughtered from all the other cities collectively. The accursed Iblis sat on the tree and shook its branches. He would call out to them and speak to them. He would make promises to them greater than the promises made by the Shaitans of the other trees. Then they would rise and drink a lot of wine. For twelve long days they indulged in merry making and enjoyment equal to all the festivals of the other towns together. After the celebration they returned home. When the transgression crossed all limits Allah sent towards them a Prophet from the Israelites to make them recognize Allah and worship Him. But they refused to obey the Prophet.

After the Prophet had exhausted all efforts to guide them and was convinced that they would not come on the right path he complained to Allah “My Lord, these people do nothing but falsify me and refuse to believe in You. Therefore at the time of their great festival manifest your power to them by causing the trees that they worship to wither.” The curse was effective and the next day the people saw that their trees had dried and withered. They were astonished and terrified. They were divided among themselves on what they thought had happened to the trees. One group said that the man from Allah had performed sorcery in order to transfer the credit of sustenance bestowed by their gods to his Lord. The second group said that their gods were displeased with them because the Prophet mentioned their defects and criticized them and the people did not object to this. It was for this reason that their god had concealed its freshness and budding to show his anger against that Prophet so that the people would rise up against him.

Having formed such an opinion the people discussed ways of eliminating the Prophet. After consultations they agreed that he should be killed. They constructed huge pipes of lead and fixed them to the spring reaching its bottom. Then they climbed down and after removing all the water and dug a well underground. After this the people caught hold of the Prophet and imprisoned him in that well. Then they closed the mouth of the well with a huge boulder. They climbed up, removed the pipes and allowed the water to flow over the well into the spring. They said, “Now our gods shall be pleased with us for we have killed the Prophet who maligned us. We have buried him at the base of the greatest Sanobar tree. Maybe now it will regain its freshness and bloom.” The whole day they heard the pleas of the Prophet buried inside. He was praying to his Lord thus: “O my Lord! You are aware of my confinement and see my sorrow and grief. Have mercy on my helplessness and take away my soul at the earliest. Do not delay it.” Ultimately the oppressed Prophet met his end. Peace of Allah be upon him.

Allah revealed to Archangel Gabriel, “My creatures have become very sinful and unheeding of My wrath. They feel secure from disaster. They worship something other than Me and have killed My messenger. Do they think they shall be able to face My Chastisement? Can they escape from My Kingdom and Dominion? I shall send retribution to all those who disobey Me and are not fearful of My punishment. By My Might and Honor I shall punish them in such a way that they would be an example to all mankind.”

Thus when the People of Ras were engrossed in celebrating their festival, a red storm caught them by surprise. They clung to each other. The ground beneath their feet became melting sulphur and a black cloud overshadowed them. Fire began to rain from this cloud melting the bodies of men, just like lead melts in fire.

‘Ali says, “I seek Allah’s refuge from this wrath.” Wa laa h’awla walaa quwwate illa billahil a’liyyil a’z’eem (and there is no power and strength except that of Allah the High and the Great).”

A number of reliable traditions mention that the women of Ras practiced lesbianism and that was the reason the Almighty destroyed them

The well was located in Hadramaut and according to some scholars in the city of Khaazoora. It was inhabited by 4000 people who had put their faith in Prophet Salih. Salih also lived with them. Because he breathed his last here, it was called Hadramaut (death).

Later the population increased and progenies proliferated. They began to fall into transgression and idol-worship. Allah sent towards them a Prophet named han¨alah. He was put to death mercilessly in public view. They were destroyed as a result of this cruel act. All of them died. Their well became useless and the palace of their ruler was razed to the ground.

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