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The She-Camel in the Qur’an

Question and answer details
Amy
2012/08/05
I have read a translation of the Qur’an and there is a continual reference to a she-camel. What does this mean?
Ælfwine Mischler
Answer

Salam Amy,

It is nice to hear from you again.

I believe you are referring to the she-camel in the story of Prophet Salih, who was sent to the Thamud people. The story is told in Surat Al-A`raf 7:73–79 and in Surat Hud 11:61–68, and mentioned briefly elsewhere in the Qur’an (26:141–159; 54:23–32; 91:11–15).

This is how Pickthall translated one of the relevant passages:

*{And to (the tribe of) Thamud (We sent) their brother Salih. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other God save Him. A wonder from your Lord hath come unto you. Lo! this is the camel of Allah, a token unto you; so let her feed in Allah's earth, and touch her not with hurt lest painful torment seize you. And remember how He made you viceroys after Aad and gave you station in the earth. Ye choose castles in the plains and hew the mountains into dwellings. So remember (all) the bounties of Allah and do not evil, making mischief in the earth. The chieftains of his people, who were scornful, said unto those whom they despised, unto such of them as believed: Know ye that Salih is one sent from his Lord? They said : Lo! In that wherewith he hath been sent we are believers. Those who were scornful said : Lo! in that which ye believe we are disbelievers. So they hamstrung the she-camel, and they flouted the commandment of their Lord, and they said: O Salih! Bring upon us that thou threatenest if thou art indeed of those sent (from Allah). So the earthquake seized them, and morning found them prostrate in their dwelling place. And Salih turned on them and said: O my people! I delivered my Lord's message unto you and gave you good advice, but ye love not good advisers.}* (Al-A`raf 7:73–79

According to footnotes for this passage in Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’an, the Thamud were the successors to the culture and civilization of the `Ad people that are also mentioned in the Qur’an (7:65–72; 11:50–60 and elsewhere). The Thamud lived in the northwest corner of Arabia, between Madinah and Syria.

The main sin of the Thamud is that they were arrogant and would not give the poor their rights to pasture and water, both of which are gifts of Allah and should be shared by all.

The she-camel was a sign or symbol sent to Prophet Salih. It was a test case to see if the arrogant ones would come to reason.

There are various traditions that say that the she-camel appeared miraculously. Ibn Kathir (d. AH 774), in his Stories of the Prophets, says that the Thamud people asked for a miracle, specifically that a pregnant she-camel would issue from a rock. Allah granted them the miracle, and Salih warned them to allow the she-camel to have access to the water springs on alternate days with their own animals. Ibn Kathir further repeats various traditions that say that the miraculous she-camel would drink all the water on her days, not leaving any for the other animals, but in return she provided enough milk for all; and that the other animals were afraid of it and would not approach it or sleep where it had slept.

While some of the people accepted Salih’s message to worship only Allah and to be just to one another, the rich continued in their arrogance and refused to accept his message. Finally, several young men plotted to hamstring and then kill the she-camel. After they did so, Salih warned them that they had three days to repent of their crime. They refused, and the people were destroyed by an earthquake.

You can read more about The Story of Prophet Salih.

I hope this answer is satisfactory. Please write again if we can help you.

Salam
.
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