Allah Almighty revealed: Noah’s people, when they denied the Messengers We drowned them, and We made them as a sign for mankind. We have prepared a painful torment for the Zalimeen (polytheists and wrongdoers) Also Ad and Thamud and the dwellers of Ar Rass and many generations in between. For each of them We put forward examples (as proofs and lessons etc), and each of them We brought to utter ruin (because of their disbelief and evil deeds). (Ch 25:37-39 Quran)
Allah the Exalted revealed: Denied before them (these pagans of Mecca who denied you, O Muhammad) the people of Noah and the dwellers of Ar Rass, and Thamud and Ad and Pharaoh, and the brethren of Lot, and the dewellers of the Wood, and the people of Tubba, everyone of them denied their Messengers so My Threat took effect. (Ch 50:12-14 Quran).
Cause of Naming
“Rass” is a Semitic word and in Aramaic and Hebrew, it means “to split and to break”. In Arabic too, it means “to penetrate” and “to dig” and “well”. It is said that in the Qur’an it means “well” and the People of Rass were the people who threw their prophet into a well.
Also, “Rass” is mentioned as a name for a region, mountain, river and people.
The Story of the People of Rass
There are different reports about who were the People of Rass,
The First Report
In a hadith from Imam Ali (AlahisSalam), the People of Rass are introduced as people who lived after Prophet Solomon (a) and worshiped a poplar tree. It is said that it was planted by Japheth b. Noah (AlahisSalam) beside a river called “Rushab” and no one was allowed to drink or use that water. Every year, they gathered there during Eid times and tied different pieces of cloth to that tree and then began supplicating and made sacrifices. Then, Satan went and shook the branches of the tree and expressed happiness for their actions. The People of Rass engaged in pleasure-seeking actions, including lesbian sex. God sent the grandson of Judah, the son of Prophet Jacob (AlahisSalam) to guide them, but they did not believe in him and began harassing him. After the supplication of their prophet, that tree became dry and the People of Rass considered him guilty for it and threw him in a well. It incurred the wrath of God upon them; so, God sent them clouds and winds and made the earth for them hot like fire and they were melted like iron.
The Second Report
In a number of hadiths, the place the People of Rass lived was mentioned Hadramaut in Yemen and their prophet was mentioned Hanzala b. Safwan (AlahisSalam). It is also mentioned that they committed lesbian sex. Hanzala tried to stop them from doing such actions, but they began harassing him and threw him in a well; so, God sent Aram flood to them. It is said that a note was found in the grave of Hanzala on which he wrote that he was the prophet of God and was chosen from Yemen to guide Himyar, Arib and Aziz, but they killed him. In some of these hadiths, a woman called Dilhath, the daughter of Iblis is mentioned who taught women lesbian sex and urged them to commit those acts.
The Third Report
Based on a hadith from the Prophet ( صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم), Muhammad b. Ka’b b. Qarzi transmitted it, God sent a prophet for people who rejected him. They threw him into a well and put a big rock on the well. In their land, a slave lived who gathered firewood and sold for living. He had believed in that prophet and every day brought him water and food. One day, he had gone to collect firewood, but he went to sleep and by the will of God, he slept for fourteen years. When he woke up, he thought that he slept for one hour; so, he prepared some food and went to the well, but there was no sign of the prophet. Based on this hadith, while he was in sleep, God had afflicted those people with punishment; so, they repented from their deeds and had released that prophet.
Some exegetes considered the people of Rass to be actually the people of Ukhdud and considered “Rass” as “Ukhdud”. It is said that some people, including Ka’b al-Ahbar and Maqatil considered Rass, the name of a well in Antioch where people of Mu’min Al Yasin killed Habib Najjar and Mu’min Al Yasin and threw them into the well.
People of Rass have also been considered a branch of Thamud tribe and Bedouins of Hadura tribe whose prophet was Shu’ayb b. Dhi Mahra’.In some hadiths, the people of Rass have been introduced as nomads and stockbreeders whose prophet was Shu’ayb (AlahisSalam).
Time and Place of Living
Different places have been mentioned as the place the people of Rass lived. The region of Aras river, Hadramaut in Yemen and Yamama. It is said that Dhu l-Qarnayn was the first person who visited their city.
The time of the people of Rass is considered an era after Prophet Noah (AlahisSalam), Prophet Solomon (AlahisSalam), or between the prophethood of Jesus (AlahisSalam) and Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم) or even at the time of Khalid b. Sanan. The Qur’an used the word “qurūn” to refer to the period between the people of Rass and other nations in the verse,
“And ‘Ad and Thamud, and the inhabitants of Rass, and many generations between them.” (Qur’an 25:38)
Exegetes interpreted the word “qarn” (century), a period equal to 40, 70 or 120 years. al-‘Allama al-Majlisi compared different reports and the time period suggested by writers previous to him for the people of Rass.
These verses indicate that the dwellers of Ar Rass were destroyed as they were the other people who refused to believe in the prophets of Allah
Ibn jarir stated that the dwellers of Ar Rass were the people of one of Thamud’s villages. Allah sent a prophet to them called Huzlah Ibn Safwan. They denied and killed him, so Allah destroyed them.
Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Al Hassan narrated: “The dwellers of AR Rass had a well sufficing them and their land. They also had a just and good-hearted king. When he died, they were much grieved for him. After four days Satan took his form and said: “I was not dead, but I kept absent from you to see your reaction.” They were very joyful. He commanded them to set up a curtain between him and them and told them that he would never die. A great number of them believed him and were fascinated with and worshiped him. Then Allah sent them a prophet telling them that it was only Satan who was addressing them from behind the curtain. He forbade them to worship him and commanded them to worship only Allah and no partner with Him. In spite of that, they killed their prophet and threw his body into a well. Therefore Allah destroyed them and their homes.”
Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ al-aḥkām, Azharī, Tahdhīb al-lugha, Jawharī, al-Ṣiḥāḥ,Miybudī, Kashf al-asrār, Hamidānī, al-Aklīl, Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār,
Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān,
Zamakhsharī, al-Kahsshāf; Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-jinān,
Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb,
Ibn Khaldūn, Dīwān al-mubtadaʾ