Published on 12th
of Saba and the Arim Flood
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Qura'an
"There was, for
Saba, aforetime, a Sign in their
home land, two Gardens to the right and to the left;
Eat of the Sustenance (provided) by your Lord, and be grateful to
a territory fair and happy, and a Lord Oft-Forgiving!"
But they turned
away (from Allah), and We sent against them the Flood (released) from the dams,
and We converted their two garden (rows) into "gardens" producing
and tamarisks, and some few (stunted) Lote-trees."
The community of Saba was one of the four biggest
civilisations which lived in South Arabia. This community is estimated to have been
established some time between 1000-750 BC and to have collapsed around 550 AD
after a two century long attack from the Persians and the Arabs.
The date of the establishment of the
civilisation of Saba is a subject of much discussion. The people of Saba started
recording their governmental reports around 600 BC. This is why there are no
records of them prior to this date.
The oldest sources which refer to the people of
Saba are annual war chronicles left from the time of the Assyrian King Sargon
II. (722-705 BC) While Sargon records about the people that pay taxes to him, he
also refers to the King of Saba, Yith’i-amara (It’amara). This record is the
oldest written source that yields information about the Saba civilisation yet,
it would not be right to draw the conclusion that the Saba culture was
established around 700 BC depending only on this source, for it is highly
probable that Saba had existed for quite some time before it was recorded in
written records. This means that the history of Saba may predate the above.
Indeed, in the inscriptions of Arad-Nannar, one of the latest kings of the state
of Ur, the word "Sabum", which is thought to mean "the country of
Saba", was used. If this word does mean Saba, then this shows that the
history of Saba goes back as far as 2500 BC.
Historical sources telling about Saba usually
say that this was a culture, like the Phoenicians, particularly involved in
commercial activities. Accordingly, these people owned and administered some of
the trade routes passing across Northern Arabia. In order for the Sabaean
traders to carry their goods to the Mediterranean and Gaza and thus pass across
Northern Arabia, they had to get permission from Sargon II, the ruler of all the
region, or pay a certain amount of tax to him. When the Sabaean people started
paying taxes to the Assyrian Kingdom, their name began to be recorded in the
annals of this state.
The Sabaeans are known to have been a civilised
people in history. In the inscriptions of the rulers of Saba, words such as
"restore", "dedicate" and "construct" are
frequently used. The Ma’rib Dam, which is one of the most important monuments
of this people, is an important indication of the technological level this
people had reached. However, this did not mean that the military power of the
Sabaeans was weak; the Sabaean army was one of the most important factors
contributing to the endurance of their culture over such a long period without
The Sabaean state had one of the strongest
armies in the region. The state was able to adopt an expansionist policy thanks
to its army. The Sabaean state had conquered the lands of the Old Qataban state
and it owned many lands on the African continent. During 24 BC, during an expedition
to Magrib, the Sabaean army utterly defeated the army of Marcus Aelius Gallus,
the Governor of Egypt for the Roman Empire which was definitely the strongest
state at the time. Saba can be portrayed as a state that pursued moderate
policies, yet did not hesitate to use power when necessary. With its advanced
culture and army, the Sabaean state was definitely one of the "super
powers" of the region at the time.
strong army of the Sabaean state is also described in the Qur’an. An
expression of the commanders of the Saba army related in the Qur'an, shows the
extent of the confidence this army had in itself. The commanders call out to the
female ruler (queen) of the state:
"We are endued with strength, and
given to vehement war:
but the command is with thee; so consider what thou wilt
(Surat an-Naml: 33)
The capital city
of the Sabaean state was Ma’rib, which was quite wealthy thanks to the
advantageous position of its geography. The capital city was very close
to the River Adhanah which was the point where the river reached Jabal Balaq
and therefore very suitable for the construction of a dam. Making use of this
condition, the Sabaean people constructed a dam at this location at the
time when their civilisation was first established and they began
irrigation. They indeed reached a very high level of prosperity. The
capital city, Ma’rib, was one of the most developed cities of the
time. The Greek writer Pliny, who had visited the region and greatly
praised it, also mentioned how green this region was.
the Ma’rib Dam, which they had constructed with very advanced
technology, the Sabaean people became owners of a great irrigation
capacity. The fruitful lands they thus obtained and their control over
the trade routes allowed them to lead a magnificent and luxurious
lifestyle. However, they "turned away" from Allah to whom they
should have been grateful for all those bounties mentioned above.
Therefore, their dam collapsed and the "flood of Arim"
destroyed all their attainments.
The height of the dam in Ma’rib was 16 metres, its
width was 60 metres and its length was 620 metres. According to the
calculations, the total area that could be irrigated by the dam was 9,600
hectares, of which 5,300 hectares belonged to the southern plain, while the
remaining part belonged to the northern plain. These two plains were referred to
as "Ma’rib and two plains" in the Sabaean inscriptions. The
expression in the Qur'an, "two gardens to the right and to the left",
points to the imposing gardens and vineyards in these two valleys. Thanks to
this dam and its irrigation systems, the region became famous as the best
irrigated and most fruitful area of Yemen. The Frenchman J. Holevy and the
Austrian Glaser proved from written documents that the Ma’rib dam existed
since ancient times. In documents written in the Himer dialect, it is related
that this dam rendered the territory very productive.
the famous dam of the Sabaeans are again turned into irrigation
premises. The Ma’rib Dam seen above in ruins was
one of the most important works of the Sabaean people. This dam
collapsed because of the flood of Arim mentioned in the Qur’an and all
the cultivated areas were swamped. Its territory destroyed with the
collapsing of the dam, the Sabaean state lost its economic strength in a
very short time and was soon completely demolished.
This dam was
extensively repaired during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Yet, these
reparations could not prevent the dam from collapsing in 542 AD. The
collapse of the dam resulted in the "flood of Arim" mentioned
in the Qur’an which caused great damage. The vineyards, gardens and
the cultivated fields of the Sabaean people, which they had cultivated
for hundreds of years, were completely destroyed. It is also known that
the Sabaean people quickly went into a period of recession after the
destruction of the dam. The end of the Sabaean state came at the end of
this period which had begun with the destruction of the dam.
The Flood of Arim was Sent to the State of Saba -Sayl al-Arim
When we examine the Qur’an in the light of the historical data above, we
observe that there is very substantial agreement here. Archaeological findings
and the historical data both verify what is recorded in the Qur’an. As
mentioned in the verse, these people, who did not listen to the exhortations of
their prophet and who ungratefully rejected faith, were in the end punished with
a dreadful flood. This flood is described in the Qur’an in the following
"There was, for Saba, aforetime, a Sign in their home-land - two Gardens
to the right and to the left;
Eat of the Sustenance (provided) by your
Lord, and be grateful to Him:
a territory fair and happy, and a Lord
But they turned away (from Allah), and We sent
against them the Flood (released) from the dams,
and We converted their two
garden (rows) into "gardens" producing bitter fruit,
and some few (stunted) Lote-trees.
the Requital We gave them because they ungratefully rejected Faith:
and never do
We give (such) requital except to such as are ungrateful rejecters."
(Surah Saba: 15-17)
As emphasised in the above verses, the
Sabaean people were living in a region noted for its outstanding aesthetic,
fruitful vineyards and gardens. Situated on the trade routes, the country of
Saba had quite a high standard of living and was one of the most favoured cities
of the time.
In such a country, where standards of living and
circumstances were so positive, what the Sabaean people should have done was to "Eat
of the Sustenance (provided) by their Lord, and be grateful to Him" as
is said in the verse. Yet, they did not do so. They chose to lay claim to the
prosperity they had. They thought that this country belonged to themselves, that
it was they who made all these extraordinary circumstances possible. They chose
to be arrogant instead of being grateful and, in the expression of the verse,
they "turned away from Allah"…
Because they laid claim to all the prosperity
they had, they lost it all. As related in the verse, the flood of Arim destroyed
everything they had.
In the Qur’an, the punishment sent to the
Sabaean people is named as "Sayl al-Arim" which means the "flood
of Arim". This expression used in the Qur’an also tells us the way this
disaster occurred. The word "Arim" means dam or barrier. The
expression of "Sayl al-Arim" describes a flood that came about with
the collapse of this barrier. Islamic commentators have resolved the issue of
time and place being guided by the terms used in the Qur'an about the flood of
Arim. Mawdudi writes in his commentary: As also used in the
expression, Sayl al-Arim, the word "arim" is derived from the word
"arimen" used in the Southern Arabic dialect, which means "dam,
barrier". In the ruins unearthed in the excavations made in Yemen, this
word was seen to be frequently used in this meaning. For example, in the
inscriptions which was ordered by Yemen’s Habesh monarch, Ebrehe (Abraha),
after the restoration of the big Ma’rib wall in 542 and 543 AD, this word was
used to mean dam (barrier) time and again. So, the expression of Sayl al- Arim
means "a flood disaster which occurs after the destruction of a dam."
their two garden (rows) into gardens producing bitter fruit,
and tamarisks, and
some few (stunted) Lote-trees"
(Surah Saba: 16).
That is, after the collapse of the dam-wall, all the country was inundated by
the flood. The canals that had been dug by the Sabaean people and the wall that
had been constructed by building barriers between the mountains, were destroyed
and the irrigation system fell apart. As a result, the territory, which was like
a garden before, turned into a jungle. There was no fruit left but the
cherry-like fruit of little stumpy trees.
The Christian archaeologist
Werner Keller, writer of "The Holy Book Was Right" (Und Die Bible Hat
Doch Recht), accepted that the flood of Arim occurred according to the
description of the Qur’an and wrote that the existence of such a dam and the
destruction of the whole country by its collapse proves that the example given
in the Qur'an about the people of the garden was indeed realized.
After the disaster of the Arim flood, the region
started to turn into a desert and the Sabaean people lost their most important
source of income with the disappearance of their agricultural lands. The people,
who had not heeded the call of Allah to believe in Him and to be grateful to
Him, were in the end punished with such a disaster as this. After the great
destruction caused by the flood, the people started to disintegrate. The Sabaean
people started to desert their houses and emigrate to Northern Arabia, Makkah
Since the flood took place after the revelation
of the Tawrah and the Bible, this event is described only in the Qur’an.
The city of
Ma’rib, which was once a residence for the Sabaean people, but is now
only a desolate ruin, undoubtedly is a warning to those who repeat the
same mistake as the Sabaean people. The Sabaean people were not the only
people that were destroyed by a flood. In Surat al-Kahf of the Qur'an,
the story of two garden owners is told. One of these men possesses a
very imposing and productive garden like those of the Sabaean people.
However, he makes the same mistake as them: turning away from Allah. He
thinks that the favour bestowed on him "belongs" to him
himself, i.e. he is the cause of it:
The Qur’an tells us that the Queen of Saba and her people were "worshipping
the sun besides Allah" before she followed Sulayman. The
information on the inscriptions verify this fact and indicate that they
were worshipping the sun and the moon in their temples, one of which is
seen below. On the pillars, there are inscriptions written in the Sabaean language.
And Allah (swt) says in the Quor'an:
Set forth to them the parable of two men:
for one of
them We provided two gardens of grape-vines and surrounded them with date palms;
in between the two We placed corn-fields.
Each of those gardens brought forth
its produce, and failed not in the least therein:
in the midst of them We caused
a river to flow.
(Abundant) was the produce this man had. He said
to his companion, in the course of a mutual argument:
"more wealth have
I than you, and more honour and power in (my following of) men." He
went into his garden in a state (of mind) unjust to his soul: He said, "I
deem not that this will ever perish, Nor do I deem that the Hour (of Judgment)
will (ever) come: Even if I am brought back to my Lord, I shall surely find
(there) something better in exchange."
His companion said to him, in the course of the
argument with him:
"Dost thou deny Him Who created thee out of dust,
then out of a sperm-drop, then fashioned thee into a man?
But (I think) for my
part that He is Allah, My Lord, and none shall I associate with my Lord.
didst thou not, as thou wentest into thy garden, say: ‘Allah's will (be done)!
There is no power but with Allah!’ If thou dost see me less than thee in
wealth and sons,
It may be that my Lord will give me something better than thy
and that He will send on thy garden thunderbolts (by way of reckoning)
making it (but) slippery sand!-
Or the water of the garden will run
off underground so that thou wilt never be able to find it."
So his fruits (and enjoyment) were encompassed
and he remained twisting and turning his hands over what he had
spent on his property,
which had (now) tumbled to pieces to its very
foundations, and he could only say,
"Woe is me! Would I had never
ascribed partners to my Lord and Cherisher!
Nor had he numbers to
help him against Allah, nor was he able to deliver himself.
There, the (only)
protection comes from Allah, the True One.
He is the Best to reward, and the
Best to give success."
(Surat al-Kahf: 32-44)
As understood from the verses,
the mistake of this garden owner was not to deny the existence of Allah. He does
not deny the existence of Allah, on the contrary he supposed that "even if
he is brought back to his Lord" he would certainly find something better in
exchange. He held that the state he is in, was due to his own successful
Actually, this is exactly what associating
partners to Allah means: attempting to lay claim to everything that belongs to
Allah and losing one's fear of Allah thinking that one has some particular grace
of his own, and Allah will somehow "show favour" to one.
This is what the Sabaean people also did. Their
punishment was the same - all of their territory was destroyed - so that they
could understand that they were not the ones who were the "owners" of
power but that it was only "bestowed" on them.
1 "Seba" Islam
Ansiklopedisi: Islam Alemi, Tarihi, Cografya, Etnografya ve Bibliyografya Lugati,
(Encyclopedia of Islam: Islamic World, History, Geography, Ethnography, and
Bibliography Dictionary) Vol.10, p. 268
2 Hommel, Explorations in Bible Lands, Philadelphia: 1903, p.739
3 "Marib, İslam Ansiklopedisi: İslam Alemi, Tarihi, Coğrafya,
Etnoğrafya ve Bibliyografya Lugatı, Volume 7, p. 323-339.
4 Mawdudi, Tefhimul Kuran, Cilt 4, Istanbul: Insan Yayinlari, p.517.
5 Werner Keller, Und die Bibel hat doch recht (The Bible as History; a
Confirmation of the Book of Books), New York:
William Morrow, 1956, p.207.
6 New Traveller’s Guide to Yemen, p.43.
Taken from "Perished
Nations" by Harun Yahya, Ta-He Publications, U.K.,
Provided with the kind permission of Harun
temple could uncover Queen of Sheba (Saba)
Canadian archaeologist said that his team
slowly unravelling the secrets of a 3,000-year-old temple that may have
to the Queen of Sheba. Half-buried
under the sands of the
Arabian desert in northern Yemen, the Mahram Bilqis or Temple of
the Moon God contains priceless documents and artefacts from the
biblical and Quoranic queen.
temple was a sacred site for pilgrims in
around 1200 BC to to 550 AD, the time that fits with history's
the Queen of Sheba and her visit to
King Solomon ( Prophet Sulayman 'a). "To
historical, religious and cultural connection to one site is
Not often in archaeology do we have that." Professor Bill
is quoted as saying. Mr Glanzman, who teaches archaeology at the
Calgary and is the project's director said:
than one percent of the site, with many of its treasures still
beneath the sands."
discovery and excavation of the temple
in 1951 by the late American archaeologist Wendell Phillips. But it
abruptly a year later because of political unrest. Work was
restarted in 1998 by the American Foundation for the Study of Man, a
organization that spearheads such projects. Mr. Glanzman said the
could become an "eighth wonder of the world," attracting people
around the world. "We think it has the potential to become a
tourist site, where tourists can walk around and really feel what happened thousands of years ago." But another expert disagrees.
is the most optimistic of statements at the moment, given the
situation and the problem of raising money for such
Edward Keall, senior curator of Middle Eastern Archaeology at
Ontario Museum in Toronto.
"I do not expect to see it in my
he said. "As of the moment, the Yemeni government does
over the various tribal groups that live in the country and
that they own the land," Keall said. But Mr Glanzman tries to
the importance of the excavation, saying that it is as important a
ruins of Pompeii, the pyramids of Giza or the Acropolis.
is packed with artefacts, pottery, artwork and inscriptions,
a new door to the ancient civilizations of southern Arabia," he said.
Mr Glanzman said his team could be finished with the excavation