109- …Do they not travel through the earth and see what
was the end of those before them?
So far our attention has been focused on the miraculous revelations of
the Quran and our effort has been to try to work out correlations with
natural phenomena. The four preceding chapters were reserved for
philosophical issues expounded in the Quran that had had no dialectic background at the time of its descent. The said four chapters must
be classified in a separate category. The present and the next three
chapters will deal with archaeological findings and their relevance to
the ancient communities. Archaeological data differ from the natural
sciences in many respects and deriving erroneous conclusions from
them is all the more likely. In due consideration of these findings,
those tribes that have disappeared must be examined accordingly.
The accounts given in the Quran about ancient peoples are not
mere stories. They are mostly parables illustrating a moral or spiritual
128- Did they not learn from the many generations that We
destroyed before them, in whose haunts they move? Verily,
these are signs for those who possess intelligence.
THE PEOPLE OF SHEBA AND
THE FLOOD FROM THE DAM
15- There was a sign for the people of Sheba in their habitations: two gardens, one on the right and the other on the
left. “Eat from your Lord’s provisions and be thankful to
Him. Good land and a forgiving Lord.”
16- But they turned away and We sent against them the
flood from the dam. And We converted their two gardens
into gardens of bitter fruit, and tamarisks and a few sparse
Some of the accounts we come across in the Quran also exist in the
Old and the New Testaments. As the flood that followed the burst of
the dam referred to in the Quran dates from after Christ, it is not
mentioned in the Old and the New Testaments.
The “flood from the dam” is also referred to as the “arim flood,”
“arim” meaning “dam” in Arabic. Mawdudi, a contemporary Pakistani
scholar, made the following comment: “The word ‘arim’ used in the
expression ‘seyl-ul Arim’ derived from the word ‘arimen’ meaning ‘dam’
is used in Southern Arabia. This word was frequently seen during the
excavations at Yemen. For instance, in a tablet dictated by Abraha, the
ruler of Yemen of Ethiopian origin, after the restoration of the great
Marib Dam dated 542-543 A.D. the said word was often used. So the
expression ‘seyl ul arim’ means the flood disaster in the wake of the burst
dam.” The capital of Sheba was Marib. The people of Sheba had
become prosperous thanks to this dam. Pliny describes this region as
a green spot covered by lush vegetation. The height of the dam at
Marib was 16m and its width 60m, while the length measured 620m.
The area irrigated was 9600 hectares, of which 5300 hectares were in
the southern plain and 4300 hectares in the northern plain (See Cavit
Yalç›n, The Perish of Nations).
The “two gardens” referred to in the Quran were these sumptuous
gardens in the said valleys. Thanks to this dam and the irrigation system, this region was renowned as the best spot in Yemen, well irrigated and fertile. The Frenchman J. Holévy and the Austrian Glaser
proved the existence of the Marib dam. In documents written in the
Himer dialect, it was said that the said dam had made the land fertile.
The year of its destruction is believed to be 542 A.D. In the wake of
its destruction the “arim flood” occurred and ravaged the entire area.
Archaeologist Werner Keller also corroborates the account as
reported in the Quran: “The fact that such a dam existed and that its
destruction ravaged the city demonstrates that the account given in the
Quran about the destruction of the gardens is a true account.”
As we read of the disaster that the people of Sheba faced, one cannot help feeling that this was the consequence of the ingratitude of
the people for the gifts with which they had been endowed. We must
acknowledge the fact that the Creator of all the beauties is God,
Whom we must extol and give thanks and try to avoid the fate of the
people of Sheba.
17- That is how We requited them for their ingratitude.
And never do We give requital except to those who are