THE PEOPLE OF AD AND UBAR,
THE "ATLANTIS OF THE SANDS"

And the 'Ad, they were destroyed by a furious Wind, exceedingly violent; He made it rage against them seven nights and eight days in succession: so that thou couldst see the (whole) people lying prostrate in its (path),as they had been roots of hollow palm-trees tumbled down! Then seest thou any of them left surviving?(Surat al-Haaqqa: 6-8)

Another people who were destroyed and who are mentioned in various Surah of the Qur'an is 'Ad, who are mentioned after the people of Nuh. Being sent to 'Ad, Hud summoned his people, just like all the other prophets had done, to believe in Allah without ascribing partners to Him and to obey him, the prophet of that time. The people reacted to Hud with animosity. They accused him of imprudence, untruthfulness, and attempting to change the system their ancestors had established. In Surah Hud, all that passed between Hud and his people is told in detail;

To the Ad People (We sent) Hud, one of their own brethren. He said: "O my people! worship Allah! ye have no other god but Him. (Your other gods) ye do nothing but invent! O my people! I ask of you no reward for this (Message). My reward is from none but Him who created me: Will ye not then understand? And O my people! Ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him (in repentance): He will send you the skies pouring abundant rain, and add strength to your strength: so turn ye not back in sin!"

They said: "O Hud! No Clear (Sign) that hast thou brought us, and we are not the ones to desert our gods on thy word! Nor shall we believe in thee! We say nothing but that (perhaps) some of our gods may have seized thee with imbecility."

He said: "I call Allah to witness, and do ye bear witness, that I am free from the sin of ascribing, to Him, Other gods as partners! so scheme (your worst) against me, all of you, and give me no respite. I put my trust in Allah, My Lord and your Lord! There is not a moving creature, but He hath grasp of its fore-lock. Verily, it is my Lord that is on a straight Path. If ye turn away,- I (at least) have conveyed the Message with which I was sent to you. My Lord will make another people to succeed you, and you will not harm Him in the least. For my Lord hath care and watch over all things."

So when Our decree issued, We saved Hud and those who believed with him, by (special) Grace from Ourselves: We saved them from a severe penalty. Such were the Ad People: they rejected the Signs of their Lord and Cherisher; disobeyed His messengers; And followed the command of every powerful, obstinate transgressor. And they were pursued by a Curse in this life - and on the Day of Judgment. Ah! Behold! for the 'Ad rejected their Lord and Cherisher! Ah! Behold! removed (from sight) were 'Ad the people of Hud! (Surah Hud: 50-60)

Another Surah mentioning 'Ad is Surat ash-Shuara. In this Surah, some characteristics of 'Ad are emphasised. According to this, 'Ad were a people who "build a landmark on every high place" , and its members "get for themselves fine buildings in the hope of living therein (for ever)". Besides, they did mischief and behaved brutally. When Hud warned his people, they commented that his words were "a customary device of the ancients". They were very confident that nothing would happen to them;

The 'Ad (people) rejected the messengers. Behold, their brother Hud said to them: "Will ye not fear (Allah)? I am to you a messenger worthy of all trust: So fear Allah and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds. Do ye build a landmark on every high place to amuse yourselves? And do ye get for yourselves fine buildings in the hope of living therein (for ever)? And when ye exert your strong hand, do ye do it like men of absolute power? Now fear Allah, and obey me. Yea, fear Him Who has bestowed on you freely all that ye know. Freely has He bestowed on you cattle and sons, And Gardens and Springs. Truly I fear for you the Penalty of a Great Day."

They said: "It is the same to us whether thou admonish us or be not among (our) admonishers! This is no other than a customary device of the ancients, And we are not the ones to receive Pains and Penalties!"

So they rejected him, and We destroyed them. Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe.

And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful. (Surat ash-Shuara: 123-140)

The people who showed animosity to Hud and rebelled against Allah, were indeed destroyed. A horrible sandstorm annihilated 'Ad as if they had "never existed".

The Archaeological Finds of the City of Iram

At the beginning of 1990, there appeared press-releases in the well-known newspapers of the world declaring "Fabled Lost Arabian city found", "Arabian city of Legend found", "The Atlantis of the Sands, Ubar". What rendered this archaeological find more intriguing was the fact that this city was also referred to in the Qur'an. Many people who, since then, thought that 'Ad recounted in the Qur'an were a legend or that their location could never be found, could not conceal their astonishment at this discovery. The discovery of this city, which was only mentioned in oral stories of Bedouins, awoke great interest and curiosity.
It was Nicholas Clapp, an amateur archaeologist, who found this legendary city mentioned in the Qur'an.1

The remains of the city of Ubar, where 'Ad lived, were found somewhere near to the coasts of Oman.

Being an Arabophile and a winning documentary film maker, Clapp had come across a very interesting book during his research on Arabian history. This book was Arabia Felix written by the English researcher Bertram Thomas in 1932. Arabia Felix was the Roman designation for the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula which today includes Yemen and much of Oman. The Greeks called this area "Eudaimon Arabia" and medieval Arab scholars called it "Al-Yaman as-Saida". 2

All of these names mean "Fortunate Arabia", because the people living in that region in old times were known to be the most fortunate people of their time. Well, what was the reason for such a designation?

Their good fortune was in part due to their strategic location - serving as middlemen in the spice trade between India and places north of the Arabian peninsula. Besides, the people living in this region produced and distributed "frankincense", an aromatic resin from rare trees. Being highly favoured by the ancient communities, this plant was used as a fumigant in various religious rites. In those times, the plant was at least as valuable as gold.

Many works of art and monuments of high civilisation were once erected in Ubar in accordance with the Qur'an's account. Today, only the remains are right.
The English researcher Thomas described these "lucky" tribes at length and claimed that he found the traces of an ancient city founded by one of these tribes.3 This was the city known as "Ubar" by the bedouins. In one of the trips he made to the region, the bedouins living in the desert had shown him well-worn tracks and stated that these tracks led toward the ancient city of Ubar. Thomas, who showed great interest in the subject died before being able to complete his research.

Clapp, who examined what the English researcher Thomas wrote, was convinced of the existence of the lost city described in the book. Without losing much time, he started his research.

Clapp tried two ways to prove the existence of Ubar. First, he found the tracks which the Bedoins said existed. He applied to NASA to provide the satellite images of the area. After a long struggle, he succeeded in persuading the authorities to take the pictures of the region.4

Clapp went on to study the ancient manuscripts and maps in the Huntington library in California. His aim was to find a map of the region. After a short research, he found one. What he found was a map drawn by the Greek-Egyptian geographer Ptolemy. In the map was shown the location of an old city found in the region and the ways that led to this city.

Excavations made in Ubar

Meanwhile, he received the news that the pictures had been taken by NASA. In the pictures, some caravan trails became visible which were difficult to identify with the naked eye, but could only be seen as a whole from the sky. Comparing these pictures with the old map he had in hand, Clapp finally reached the conclusion he was looking for: the trails in the old map corresponded with the trails in the pictures taken from the satellite. The final destination of these trails was a broad site understood to have once been a city.

Finally, the location of the legendary city which had been subject of the stories told orally by the bedouins was discovered. After a short while, excavations began and remains of an old city started to be uncovered under the sands. Thus, this lost city was described as "the Atlantis of the Sands, Ubar".

Well, what was it that proved this city to be the city of the people of 'Ad mentioned in the Qur'an?


The location of the city of Ad was discovered by photographs taken from the Space Shuttle. On the photograph, the place where caravan trails intersect is marked, and it points towards Ubar.

1.Ubar, could only be seen from space before excavations were made.
2.A city 12 metres below the sands was uncovered by excavations.

Right from the moment remains started to be unearthed, it was understood that this ruined city belonged to 'Ad and Iram's pillars mentioned in the Qur'an, because among the structures unearthed were the towers particularly referred to in the Qur'an. A member of the research team leading the excavation, Dr. Zarins said that since the towers were alleged to be the distinctive feature of Ubar, and since Iram was mentioned as having towers or pillars, this then was the strongest proof so far that the site they had unearthed was Iram, the city of 'Ad described in the Qur'an. The Qur'an mentions Iram as follows;

Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the 'Ad (people),Of the (city of) Iram, with lofty pillars, The like of which were not produced in (all) the land? (Surat al-Fajr: 6-8)

NOTES
1. Thomas H. Maugh II, "Ubar, Fabled Lost City, Found by LA Team", The Los Angelas Times, 5 February 1992.
2. Kamal Salibi, A History of Arabia, Caravan Books, l98O.
3. Bertram Thomas, Arabia Felix: Across the "Empty Quarter" of Arabia, New York: Schrieber's Sons 1932, p. 161.
4. Charlene Crabb, "Frankincense", Discover, January 1993.

 

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