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Salamun Alaikum (Peace be upon you)




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Copyright 2009 Joseph A Islam: Article last modified 16th October 2011





Nothing was to prepare me for the onslaught to my senses that I experienced in the many hours at the Petran site.  Sure, I had seen pictures, even studied related literature to some depth but to witness the sheer scale, magnitude and craftsmanship of the site was truly mind-boggling.  A question kept repeating in my mind at every dwelling and architectural marvel. How could humans create and carve such dwellings into the rock faces as the ones I was witnessing?



Picture Copyright Joseph Islam. All rights reserved




Dwellings carved into the rock faces seemed almost like reverse engineering. The extent of the skill and knowledge must have been immense. Grand carvings were even found high up in the mountains, such as the 'Monastery'.



"And you carve houses out of the mountains with great skill" 







Picture Copyright Joseph Islam. All rights reserved




Picture Copyright Joseph Islam. All rights reserved




A verse narrated to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) seemed quite apt.


"Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before them? They were even superior to them in strength, and in the traces (they have left) in the land: but God did seize them for their sins, and none had they to defend them against God" 



The Quran's consistent references to the destruction of the Thamud and the lessons learnt seemed to resonate very well with the Petran site. Albeit, modern historians remained quite cautious about what the Nabataean history entailed, there was no doubt that Petra had been inhabited since very ancient periods. However, references of the Quran to the 'Thamud' were most likely in reference to similar rock hewed dwellings at Mada'in Saleh (al-Hijr) in the Al Madinah region of Saudi Arabia.



"And remember how He made you inheritors after the 'Aad people and gave you habitations in the land. You build for yourselves palaces and castles in (open) plains, and carve out homes in the mountains; so bring to remembrance the benefits (ye have received) from God, and refrain from evil and mischief on the earth." 


"And they used to carve out from the mountains, houses secure"



Such power, such skill, might and kingdoms, yet people forgotten. All that was left were their desolate dwellings.


As I strolled along studying the site, I noted camels pitched against such dwellings. I couldn't help but picture the messenger Saleh (pbuh) and the Quranic narrative of the She camel and the denial of her access to drinking water by the people of Thamud. (54:23-31)




Picture Copyright Joseph Islam. All rights reserved



However, one thing the Quran made absolutely clear was that the people of Saleh (pbuh)  (Thamud) preceded the Egyptian Pharaoh and Prophet Moses. (pbuh)  The emphatic speech by a believer amongst the Pharaoh's court, left no doubt.


"Then said the man who believed: "O my people! Truly I do fear for you something like the Day (of disaster) of the Confederates (in sin)! Something like the fate of the People of Noah, and Aad, and the Thamud, and those who came after them, but God never wishes injustice to his Servants" 





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