The ancient Arabs who lived in the Ahqaf were the people of ‘Ad. The people of Saleh (as) were also considered part of the ancient Arabs. This area where they lived is in modern day Yemen and Oman. The word al-Ahqaf as mentioned in the surah named after it refers to the winding sand dunes that are found in that region of the Arabian Peninsula. The people of ‘Ad were living approximately 5 generations after Nuh (as). They were a people blessed with extremely impressive physique. They were people of great size and they also were known for building tall buildings.
“Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the ‘Ad; of the city of Iram, with lofty pillars; the like of which was never created in any land.”
Surah al-Fajr, Ayah 6-8
Out of all the nations at the time, none rivaled the ‘Ad in power or wealth. This power and wealth eventually made them very arrogant and prideful in themselves. The political power for the ‘Ad was held in the hands of a few unjust rulers who ruled with an iron fist.
The people of ‘Ad were not ignorant in the existence of Allah (swt). They didn’t refuse to worship Him either. Rather, they associated partners with Allah (swt), hence committing shirk. Allah (swt) wanted to guide these people on the right path and humble them so He sent a prophet from amongst them. That prophet was Hud (as). Hud (as) was a very noble and and respectful man who handled his prophethood with tolerance and patience.
Hud (as) condemned the idol worshipping and would tell his people, “My people, what is the benefit of these stones that you carve with your own hands and worship? In reality it is an insult to the intellect. There is only One Deity worthy of worship and that is Allah. Worship of Him, and Him alone, is compulsory on you. He created you, He provides for you and He is the One Who will cause you to die. He gave you wonderful physiques and blessed you in many ways. So believe in Him and do not be blind to His favors, or the same fate that destroyed Noah’s people will overtake you.”
Hud (as) hoped that with this message the people would answer his call and accept the true meaning of tawheed (oneness in Allah). However, his people admonished him and said, “Do you desire to be our master with your call? What reward do you want?” Hud (as) tried desperately to persuade them and told them he would receive his reward from Allah (swt). He was not demanding anything from them except that they let the light of truth touch their hearts. Allah (swt) says,
And to ‘Ad We sent their brother Hud. He said, “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other God but Him, Certainly, you do nothing but invent lies! O my people I ask of you no reward for it (the Message). My reward is only from Him Who created me. Will you not then understand? And O my people! Ask forgiveness of your Lord and then repent to Him, He will send you (from the sky) abundant rain, and add strength to your strength, so do not turn away as Mujrimeen (criminals, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah).”
They said: “O Hud! No evidence have you brought us, and we shall not leave our gods for your (mere) saying! And we are not believers in you. All that we say is that some of our gods (false deities) have seized you with evil (madness).”
He said: I call Allah to witness and bear you witness that I am free from that which you ascribe as partners in worship, – with Him (Allah). So plot against me, all of you, and give me no respite. I put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord! There was not a moving creature but He has grasp of its forelock. Verily, my Lord is on the Straight Path (the truth). So if you turn away, still I have conveyed the Message with which I was sent to you. My Lord will make another people succeed you, and you will not harm Him in the least. Surely, my Lord is Guardian over all things.”
Surah Hud, Ayah 52, 56, 59
Hud’s (as) efforts were falling on deaf ears. He tried to explain to his people that Allah (swt) made them Nuh (as) successors and had blessed them with physical strength and power, and how He sent them rain to revive their soil. They were the strongest people on Earth and took this fact with extreme pride. They argued with Hud (as) repeatedly and asked, “O Hud! Do you say that after we die and turn into dust, we will be resurrected?” He replied: “Yes, you will come back on the Day of Judgment and each one of you will be asked about what you did.”
His people had begun to deny the Day of Judgment and afterlife by saying things such as, “There is nothing but our life of this world! We die and we live! And we are not going to be resurrected! He is only a man who has invented a lie against Allah, but we are not going to believe in him.”
They asked Hud (as), “Who is going to destroy us?” And he responded, “Allah!” To this the disbelievers said, “We will be saved by our gods.” Hud (as) again clarified that there the main reason why they’re going to be severely punished. The conflicts between him and his people continued for years and the people of ‘Ad became more arrogant and tyrannical everyday. They then began to accuse Hud (as) of being a luncatic. They thought that their gods had inflicted madness and insanity on Hud (as) because he would insult them (the gods).
“O Hud! No evidence have you brought us, and we shall not leave our gods for your (mare) saying! And we are not believers in you. All that we say is that some of our gods (false deities) have seized you with evil (madness).”
Surah al-Hud, Ayah 53
Hud (as) renounced them and their gods and reaffirmed his dependence on Allah (swt). He realized that punishment would come on the disbelievers. This is part of the law of Allah (swt). He will punish those who disobey him, no matter how rich, powerful, or strong they are. Soon after, a drought spread throughout the land. The hot sun pierced the desert sands. So Hud’s (as) people asked him, “What is this drought, Hud?” Hud (as) answered: “Allah is angry with you. if you believe in Him, He will accept you and the rain will fall and you will become even stronger than you are.” This was essentially their last chance. They mocked him, and became even more arrogant and strong in their disbelief. As a result, the drought increased and the trees and plants died. Then one day, they found the sky full of clouds. The people were in joy as they realized that it would soon rain and the drought would end. They cried joyfully, “A cloud which will give us rain!”
Then, when they saw it as a dense cloud coming towards their valleys, they said: “This is a cloud bringing us rain!”
Surah al-Ahqaf, Ayah 24
At once, the weather changed! The weather went from burning dry to cold and windy. Everything shook, from plants, trees, tents, men and women. The wind increased every day and got more severe with each passing second. As the wind and rain became unbearable, the people started to flee and hid in their lofty buildings. Their buildings however came crashing down once Allah (swt) increased the speed of the wind. The wind gusts were so strong they tore away at the skin and Allah (swt) made sure to punish every disbelieving soul that ridiculed Hud (as) message. The storm raged for eight days and seven nights
And as for ‘Ad, – they were destroyed by a furious violent wind.
Which Allah imposed on them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so that you could see men lying overthrown (destroyed) as if they were hollow trunks of palm trees!
Then do you see of them any remains?
Surah al-Haqqah, Ayah 6-8
This wind storm did not cease until the whole region was reduced to rubble and its wicked people were destroyed. Everything from the buildings to the people were swallowed by the rolling sand dunes of the desert. Hud (as) and his small band of followers were spared and settled in a different land where they lived peacefully, worshipping Allah (swt).