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AFTER the translation of Idris, the depravity of men waxed so mightily, that Allah determined to destroy them by a flood. But the prophet Noah, who had in vain attempted to restore his followers to the path of virtue, was saved: for Allah commanded him to build an ark for himself and family, and to enter it as soon as his wife should see the scalding waters streaming from the oven.* This was the beginning of the flood; for it was followed by incessant rains from heaven (as from well-filled leathern bottles into which a sharp instrument has been plunged), which mingling with the subterraneous waters that issued forth from all the veins of the earth, produced an inundation which none save the giant Audj the son of Anak survived.† The ark floated during forty days from one end of the earth to the other, passing p. 54 over the highest mountains; but when it came to Mount Abu Kubeis, on whose peak Allah had concealed the black diamond of the Kaaba, that it might serve in the second building of this blessed temple, it rode seven times round the sacred spot. At the lapse of six months the ark rested on Mount Djudi in Mesopotamia, and Noah left it as soon as the dove which he had sent to examine the state of the earth returned with an olive leaf in its mouth. Noah blessed the dove, and Allah gave her a necklace of green feathers; but the raven which Noah had sent out before the dove, he cursed, because, instead of returning to him, it stayed to feast on a carcass which it found on the earth,* wherefore the raven is no longer able to walk like other birds.
But, spite of the calamities of the flood, which Allah intended to serve forever as a warning against sin, Iblis soon succeeded in banishing virtue and goodness from the human family as before. Even Noah's sons, Cham and Japhet, forgot the reverence that was due to their father, and left him uncovered when one day they found him asleep. Cham even derided him, and p. 55 became on this account the father of all the black races of mankind. Japhet's descendants remained white, indeed, but it was written that none of them should attain to the dignity of a prophet. Sham (Shem) is the sole ancestor of the prophets, among whom Hud and Salih, who lived immediately after the flood, attained to high distinction.* Hud was sent to the nation of giants which dwelt in Edom, a province of the Southern Arabia, then governed by King Shaddad, the son of Aad. When the prophet exhorted this king to the faith and fear of Allah, he inquired, "What shall be the reward of my obedience?" "My Lord," replied the prophet, "will give thee in the life to come, gardens of eternal verdure, and palaces of gold and jewels." But the king answered, "I stand not in need of thy promises, for I can even in this world build me gardens and pleasure-houses of gold, and costly pearls, and jewels." He then built Irem, and called it the City of Columns, for each of its palaces rested on a thousand columns of rubies and emeralds, and each column was a hundred cubits high. He next constructed canals, and planted gardens teeming with the finest fruit-trees and the fairest flowers.
When all was completed with prodigal magnificence, Shaddad said, "I am now in actual possession of all that Hud has promised me for the life to come." But when he would have made his entrance into the city, Allah concealed it from him and his followers, nor has it since been seen by man, save once in the reign of Maccavia.
The king and his people then wandered through the wilderness in rain and tempest, and at last sought shelter in caves. But Allah caused them to fall in, and only Hud escaped.
The destruction of this tribe induced their kinsmen, the Thamudites, who numbered seventy thousand warriors, to choose the region between Syria and Hedjaz as their abode, for they also feared to be destroyed, and hoped to secure themselves against the wrath of Allah by building their houses in the rocks. Djundu Eben Omer, the king of the Thamudites, built him a palace there, whose splendor had never been equaled on earth, and the high-priest Kanuch erected a similar one for himself. But their most costly and most perfect building was the temple. In it there stood an idol of the finest gold, and adorned with precious stones: it had a human face, a lion's figure, a bull's neck, and a horse's feet. One day, when Kanuch, after his prayers, had fallen asleep in the temple, he heard a voice which said, "Truth shall appear, p. 57 and delusion shall vanish." He sprang to his feet in terror, and rushed toward the idol, but lo! it was lying on the ground, and beside it lay the crown which had fallen from its head. Kanuch cried for help; the king and his viziers hastened to the spot, restored the idol to its place, and replaced the crown on its head. But the occurrence made a deep impression on the high-priest's mind. His faith in the idol failed, and his zeal to serve it cooled. The king soon discovered the change that had passed within him, and one day sent both his viziers to apprehend and to examine him. But scarcely had his messengers left the royal palace when they were struck blind, and were unable to find Kanuch's dwelling. Meanwhile, Allah sent two angels, who carried the high-priest to a distant valley unknown to his tribe, where a shady grotto, supplied with every convenience of life, was prepared for him. Here he lived peaceably in the service of the one God, and secure against the persecutions of Djundu, who in vain sent out messengers in every direction to discover him. The king gave up, at length, all hope of his capture, and appointed his own cousin, Davud, as high-priest in Kanuch's stead. But on the third day after his inauguration, Davud came to the king in haste, and reported that the idol had again fallen from its place. The king once more p. 58 restored it, and Iblis cried from the idol, "Be steadfast in my worship, and resist all the temptations into which some innovators would lead you," On the following feast-day, when Davud was about to offer two fat bulls to the idol, they said to him, with a human voice, "Why will you offer us, whom Allah has endued with life, as a sacrifice to a dead mass of gold, which your own hands have dug from the earth, though Allah has created it? Destroy, O Allah, so sinful a people!" At these words the bulls fled, nor were the swiftest riders of the king able to overtake them. Yet it pleased Allah, in his wisdom and long suffering, to spare the Thamudites still longer, and to send to them a prophet who should labor by many wonders to convince them of the truth.
Ragwha, the wife of Kanuch, had not ceased to mourn since the flight of her husband; yet in the third year, Allah sent to her a bird from Paradise, to conduct her to his grotto. This bird was a raven, but its head was as white snow, its back was of emerald, its feet were of crimson, its beak was like the clearest sunbeam, and its eyes shone like diamonds, only its breast was black, for the curse of Noah, which made all ravens entirely black, had not fallen on this sacred bird. It was the hour of midnight when it stepped into Ragwha's dark chamber, where p. 59 she lay weeping on a carpet, but the glance of its eyes lit up the chamber as if the sun had suddenly risen therein. She rose from her couch, and gazed with wonder on the beautiful bird, which opened its mouth and said, "Rise and follow me, for Allah has pitied thy tears, and will unite thee to thy husband." She rose and followed the raven, which flew before her, changing the night into day by the light of its eyes, and the morning star had not yet risen when she arrived at the grotto. The raven now cried, "Kanuch, arise, and admit thy wife," and then vanished.
Within a year after their reunion she gave birth to a son, who was the very image of Seth, and the light of prophecy shone on his brow. His father called him Salih (the pious), for he trusted to bring him up in the faith of the one only God, and in piety of life; but soon after Salih's birth Kanuch died, and the raven from Paradise came again to the grotto to take back Ragwha and her son to the city of Djundu, where Salih grew rapidly in mind and body, to the admiration of his mother, and of all who came to visit them; and at the age of eighteen he was the most powerful and handsome, as well as the most gifted youth of his time.
It then came to pass that the descendants of Ham undertook an expedition against the Thamudites, p. 60 and were to all appearance on the point of destroying them. Their best warriors had already fallen, and the rest were preparing for flight, when Salih suddenly appeared on the battle-field at the head of a few of his friends, and by his personal valor and excellent manœuvres wrested the victory from the enemy, and routed them completely. This achievement secured to him the love and gratitude of the more virtuous part of his tribe, but the king envied him from this day, and sought after his life. Yet as often as the assassins came to Salih's dwelling to slay him by the king's command, their hands were paralyzed, and were only restored by Salih's intercession with Allah. In this wise, the believers in Salih and his invisible God gradually increased, so that there was soon formed a community of forty men, who built a mosque, in which they worshiped in common.
One day the king surrounded the mosque with his soldiers, and threatened Salih and his adherents with death unless Allah should save them by a special miracle. Salih prayed, and the leaves of the date-tree that grew before the mosque were instantly changed to scorpions and adders, which fell upon the king and his men, while two doves which dwelt on the roof of the mosque exclaimed, "Believe in Salih, for he is the prophet and messenger of Allah." To this twofold wonder p. 61 a second and third one were added, for at Salih's prayer the tree resumed its former shape, and some of the Thamudites who had been killed by the serpents returned to life again.
But the king continued in unbelief, for Iblis spoke from the mouth of the idol, calling Salih a magician and a demon.
The tribe was then visited by famine, but this also failed to convert them. When Salih beheld the stubbornness of the Thamudites, he prayed to Allah to destroy so sinful a people.
But he too, like his father, was carried by an angel to a subterraneous cave in sleep, and slept there twenty years. On waking, he was about to go into the mosque to perform his morning devotions, for he imagined that he had slept only one night; but the mosque lay in ruins; he then went to see his friends and followers, but some of them were dead; others, in the idea that he had abandoned them or been secretly slain, had gone to other countries, or returned to idolatry. Salih knew not what to do. Then appeared to him the angel Gabriel, and said, "Because thou hast hastily condemned thy people, Allah has taken from thee twenty years of thy life; and thou hast passed them sleeping in the cave.* p. 62 But rise and preach again. Allah sends thee here Adam's shirt, Abel's sandals, the tunic of Sheth, the seal of Idris, the sword of Noah, and the staff of Hud, with all of which thou shalt perform many wonders to confirm thy words." On the following day, the king, and priests, and heads of the people, attended by many citizens, went in procession to a neighboring chapel, in which an idol, similar to that of the temple, was worshiped. Salih stepped between the king and the door of the chapel; and when the king asked him who he was, for Salih's appearance had so changed during the twenty years which he had spent in the cavern that the king did not recognize him, he answered, "I am Salih, the messenger of the one only God, who, twenty years ago, preached to thee, and showed thee many clear proofs of the truth of my mission. But since thou, as I perceive, still persistest in idolatry, I once more appear before thee in the name of the Lord, and by his permission offer to p. 63 perform before thine eyes any miracle thou mayest desire in testimony of my prophetic calling."
The king took counsel with Shihab his brother, and Davud his high-priest, who stood near him. Then said the latter, "If he be the messenger of Allah, let a camel come forth from this rocky mountain, one hundred cubits high, with all imaginable colors united on its back, with eyes flaming like lightning, with a voice like thunder, and with feet swifter than the wind." When Salih declared his readiness to produce such a camel, Davud added, "Its fore legs must be of gold, and its hind legs of silver, its head of emerald, and its ears of rubies, and its back must bear a silken tent, supported on four diamond pillars inlaid with gold." Salih was not deterred by all these additional requirements; and the king added, "Hear, O Salih! if thou be the prophet of Allah, let this mountain be cleft open, and a camel step forth with skin, hair, flesh, blood, bones, muscles, and veins, like other camels, only much larger, and let it immediately give birth to a young camel, which shall follow it every where as a child follows its mother, and when scarcely produced, exclaim, 'There is but one Allah, and Salih is his messenger and prophet.'"
"And will you turn to Allah if I pray to him, and if he perform such a miracle before your eyes?"
"Assuredly!" replied Davud. "Yet must this camel yield its milk spontaneously, and the milk must be cold in summer and warm in winter."
"Are these all your conditions?" asked Salih.
"Still farther," continued Shihab; "the milk must heal all diseases, and enrich all the poor; and the camel must go alone to every house, calling the inmates by name, and filling all their empty vessels with its milk."
"Thy will be done!" replied Salih. "Yet I must also stipulate that no one shall harm the camel, or drive it from its pasture, or ride on it, or use it for any labor."
On their swearing to him to treat the camel as a holy thing, Salih prayed: "O God! who hast created Adam out of the earth, and formed Eve from a rib, and to whom the hardest things are easy, let these rocks bring forth a camel such as their king has described, for the conversion of the Thamudites."
Scarcely had Salih concluded his prayer, when the earth opened at his feet, and there gushed forth a fountain of fresh water fragrant with musk: the tent which had been erected for Adam in Paradise descended from heaven, and thereupon the rocky wall which supported the eastern side of the temple groaned like a woman in travail; a flight of birds descended, and filling p. 65 their beaks with the water of the fountain, sprinkled it over the rock, and lo! there was seen the head of the camel, which was gradually followed by the rest of its body; when it stood upon the earth, it was exactly as it had been described by the king, and it cried out immediately, "There is no God but Allah; Salih is his messenger and prophet." The angel Gabriel then came down and touched the camel with his flaming sword, and it gave birth to a young camel which resembled it entirely, and repeated the confession that had been required. The camel then went to the dwellings of the people, calling them by name, and, filling every empty vessel with its milk. On its way all animals bowed before it, and all the trees bent their branches to it in reverence.
The king could no longer shut his heart to such proofs of God's almightiness and Salih's mission: he fell on the prophet's neck, kissed him, and said, "I confess there is but one God, and that thou art his messenger!"
But the brother of the king, as well as Davud, and all the priesthood, called it only sorcery and delusion, and invented all kinds of calumnies and falsehoods to retain the people in unbelief and idolatry. Meanwhile, since the camel, by constantly yielding its milk and praising Allah as often as it went down to the water, made p. 66 daily new converts, the chiefs of the infidels resolved to kill it. But when many days had passed before they ventured to approach it, Shihab issued a proclamation, that whosoever should kill the mountain camel should have his daughter Ranjan to wife. Kadbar, a young man who had long loved this maiden, distinguished as she was for grace and beauty, but without daring to woo her, being only a man of the people, armed himself with a huge sword, and, attended by Davud and some other priests, fell upon the camel from behind while it was descending to the waters, and wounded it in its hoof.
At that moment all nature uttered a frightful shriek of woe. The little camel ran moaning to the highest pinnacle of the mountain, and cried, "May the curse of Allah light upon thee, thou sinful people!" Salih and the king, who had not quitted him since his conversion, went into the city, demanding the punishment of Kadbar and his accomplices. But Shihab, who had in the mean time usurped the throne, threatened them with instant death. Salih, flying, had only time to say that Allah would wait their repentence only three days longer, and on the expiration of the third day would annihilate them like their brethren the Aaadites. His threat was fulfilled, for they were irreclaimable. p. 67 Already on the next day the people grew as yellow as the seared leaves of autumn; and wherever the wounded camel trod, there issued fountains of blood from the earth. On the second day their faces became red as blood; but on the third they turned black as coal, and on the same day, toward nightfall, they saw the camel hovering in the air on crimson wings, whereupon some of the angels hurled down whole mountains of fire, while others opened the subterraneous vaults of fire which are connected with hell, so that the earth vomited forth fire-brands in the shape of camels. At sunset, all the Thamudites were a heap of ashes. Only Salih and King Djundu escaped, and wandered in company to Palestine, where they ended their days as hermits.
* The generation of the flood was chastised with scalding water.—Midrash, p. 14.
† Besides Noah, Og the King of Bashan was saved, for he seized hold on one of the beams of the ark, and swore to Noah that he and his posterity would serve him as bondmen. Noah made an opening through the wall of the ark, and gave Og some food daily, for it is written, "Only Og the King of Bashan survived of all the giants."—Midrash, p. 14.
* The Midrash, p. 15, relates the same, and draws from it the conclusion that no one should seek to accomplish his ends by (unclean) unlawful means: the raven being unclean (unlawful) but the dove being clean.
* Hud is probably the Eber of the Scriptures, whom the Rabbis esteem as a prophet, and the founder of a celebrated school of divinity.
* The idea of a prophet's intercession with God is of Scriptural origin. Abraham and Moses interceded with God, the one for Sodom, the other for his people; and, according to the Hebrew p. 62 legend, the Jews, on hearing Isaiah denouncing the judgments of God, threatened to put him to death, because he had not sought to turn away His wrath, as Moses had done under similar circumstances. Our Savior's parable of the gardener, who begged another year's respite for the unfruitful tree, is on the same principle. So is also Christ's reproof to his disciples, when they would have called down fire from Heaven. The punishment of Salih, therefore, however prettily introduced, must, like every other truth of the Koran, be referred to the knowledge which the Moslem had of the Scriptures.—E. T.