Dwellers of the Town


In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful

Allah the Almighty says:

﴿وَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ مَّثَلاً أَصْحَـبَ القَرْيَةِ إِذْ جَآءَهَا الْمُرْسَلُونَ – إِذْ أَرْسَلْنَآ إِلَيْهِمُ اثْنَيْنِ فَكَذَّبُوهُمَا فَعَزَّزْنَا بِثَالِثٍ فَقَالُواْ إِنَّآ إِلَيْكُمْ مُّرْسَلُونَ – قَالُواْ مَآ أَنتُمْ إِلاَّ بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُنَا وَمَآ أَنَزلَ الرَّحْمَـنُ مِن شَىْءٍ إِنْ أَنتُمْ إِلاَّ تَكْذِبُونَ – قَالُواْ رَبُّنَا يَعْلَمُ إِنَّآ إِلَيْكُمْ لَمُرْسَلُونَ – وَمَا عَلَيْنَآ إِلاَّ الْبَلَـغُ الْمُبِينُ ﴿قَالُواْ إِنَّا تَطَيَّرْنَا بِكُمْ لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهُواْ لَنَرْجُمَنَّكُمْ وَلَيَمَسَّنَّكُمْ مِّنَّا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴾

﴿قَالُواْ طَـئِرُكُم مَّعَكُمْ أَءِن ذُكِّرْتُم بَلْ أَنتُمْ قَوْمٌ مُّسْرِفُونَ ﴾

﴿وَجَآءَ مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ رَجُلٌ يَسْعَى قَالَ يقَوْمِ اتَّبِعُواْ الْمُرْسَلِينَ – اتَّبِعُواْ مَن لاَّ يَسْـَلُكُمْ أَجْراً وَهُمْ مُّهْتَدُونَ – وَمَا لِىَ لاَ أَعْبُدُ الَّذِى فَطَرَنِى وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ – أَءَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِهِ ءَالِهَةً إِن يُرِدْنِ الرَّحْمَـنُ بِضُرٍّ لاَّ تُغْنِ عَنِّى شَفَـعَتُهُمْ شَيْئاً وَلاَ يُنقِذُونَ – إِنِّى إِذاً لَّفِى ضَلَـلٍ مُّبِينٍ – إِنِّى ءَامَنتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ فَاسْمَعُونِ ﴾

(قِيلَ ادْخُلِ الْجَنَّةَ قَالَ يلَيْتَ قَوْمِى يَعْلَمُونَ – بِمَا غَفَرَ لِى رَبِّى وَجَعَلَنِى مِنَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ – وَمَآ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَى قَوْمِهِ مِن بَعْدِهِ مِن جُندٍ مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ وَمَا كُنَّا مُنزِلِينَ – إِن كَانَتْ إِلاَّ صَيْحَةً وَحِدَةً فَإِذَا هُمْ خَـمِدُونَ ﴾

{And put forward to them a similitude: the (story of the) dwellers of the town, when there came Messengers to them. When We sent to them two Messengers, they belied them both; so We reinforced them with a third, and they said: “Verily we have been sent to you as Messengers.” They (people of the town) said: “You are only human beings like ourselves and the Most Gracious (Allah) has revealed nothing. You are only telling lies.” The Messengers said: “Our Lord knows that we have been sent as Messengers to you.” And our duty is only to convey plainly (the Message).” They (people) said: “For us, we see an evil omen from you: if you cease not, we will surely stone you, and a painful torment will touch you from us.”They (Messengers) said: “Your evil omens be with you! (Do you call it “evil omen”) because you are admonished? Nay, but you are a people Musrifun (transgressing all bounds by committing all kinds of great sins, and by disobeying Allah). And there came a man running from the farthest part of the town. He said: “O my people! Obey the Messengers. ” “Obey those who ask no wages of you (for themselves), and who are rightly guided. “And why should I not worship Him (Allah Alone) Who has created me and to Whom you shall be returned.” “Shall I take besides Him alihah (gods)? If the Most Gracious (Allah) intends me any harm, their intercession will be of no use for me whatsoever, nor can they save me?” “Then verily, I should be in plain error.” “Verily! I have believed in your Lord, so listen to me!” It was said (to him when the disbelievers killed him): “Enter Paradise.” He said: “Would that my people knew. “That my Lord (Allah) has forgiven me, and made me of the honored ones!” And We sent not against his people after him a host from the heaven, nor was it needful for Us to send (such a thing). It was but one Saihah (shout) and lo! They (all) were still (silent, dead, destroyed)}. (Al Qur’an-36:13-29)

‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas, Ka’b Al-Ahbar and Wahb Ibn Munabih and many others narrated a story of a town called Antioch (Antakiyah), governed by the king Antikhis Ibn Antikhis. This king used to observe idol worship. Allah Almighty sent him three Messengers whom he severely belied. The Messengers were: Sadiq, Masduq and Shalom.

It is evidently apparent that they were Messengers sent by Allah the Almighty. Qatadah claimed them to be messengers sent by Jesus Christ. The same view was held by Ibn Jarir after Wahb after Ibn Sulaiman after Shu’ aib Al-Jiba’i who added that: those messengers were called: Shimon, Jonah and Paul and the town was called Antioch. This view is groundless because the people of Antioch – when received three of the disciples of Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him) -were the first to believe in him at that very time. Thereupon, Antioch was one of the first four towns in which there first existed Christian Patriarchs. These four towns were Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Rome. However, the people of these towns were not destroyed, whereas the people of the aforementioned town in the Qur’anic verses were totally annihilated, following the killing of their companion whom Allah sent to admonish them. Allah the Almighty says: {It was but one Saihah (shout) and lo! They (all) were still (silent, dead and destroyed)}. (36:29) There is no contradiction between the two interpretations, if the case was that the three Messengers of Allah were sent to the earlier dwellers of Antioch and that they were belied, the matter which incurred complete destruction. Then, their land was re-inhabited and during the lifetime of Jesus (Peace be upon him) the new dwellers believed in his three messengers.

The claim that the story mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an is that of the messengers of Jesus (Peace be upon him) is very absurd and groundless. Obviously, the context shows that they, the Messengers were sent by Allah the Almighty.

Allah the Almighty says: {And put forward to them a similitude} i.e. for your people 0 Muhammad (Peace be upon him). {The (story of the) dwellers of the town, when there came Messengers to them. When We sent to them two Messengers, they belied them both, so We reinforced them with a third} i.e. We supported them with a third Messenger, {and they said: Verily we have been sent to you as Messengers}. The people of the town said that the Messengers were only human beings and they set aside the idea that Allah Almighty might send human beings as His Messengers to mankind. The Messengers asserted that Allah knows that they have been sent to them and that if they lie to Him, He would certainly give them the severest of all punishment. They added: {our duty is only to convey plainly (the Message)} i.e. what they were sent with and that guidance and misleading are in the Hand of Allah the Almighty Alone. {They (people) said: For us, we see an evil omen from you} i.e. from what you have brought us. {If you cease not, we will surely stone you} with bad words and stones as well; {and a painful torment will touch you from us} i.e. they threatened them with afflicting humiliation (bad words) and killing (stoning to death). {They (Messengers) said: Your evil omens be with you!} i.e. they will badly affect you. {(Do you call it “evil omen “) because you are admonished?} i.e. because we reminded you with guidance and invited you to it you threatened us with killing and afflicting humiliation. {Nay, but you are a people Musrifun} i.e. you transgress all bounds by committing all kinds of sinful deeds, and by disobeying Allah.

Allah the Almighty says: {And there came a man running from the farthest part of the town} to support the Messengers and to declare his faith in them. {He said: O my people! Obey the Messengers. Obey those who ask no wages of you (for themselves), and who are rightly guided} i.e. they invite you to the absolute truth without asking wages or reward for themselves of you. Then he invited them to worship Allah Alone, and not to worship other than Him that can do nothing in this present life or in the Hereafter. {Then verily, I should be in plain error} i.e. if I abandoned the worship of Allah and worshipped anything else besides Him.

Then, the believing man said to the three Messengers: {Verily! I have believed in your Lord, so listen to me!}, i.e. you should listen to my statement and bear witness to this before your Lord. Or, O my people! Listen to my declaration of faith of these Messengers. Thereupon, the people killed him either by stoning him to death, or biting, or making one sudden assault against him. Narrated Ibn Ishaq after some of his counterparts on the authority of `Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud that the people stepped over his body till they broke his neck.

Narrated Ath-Thawri after `Asim Al-Ahwal after Abu Majlaz his saying: The name of that believing man was Habib Ibn Murriy who was said to be a carpenter, or rope-maker, or shoe-maker. It is also said that he used to observe his religious rituals in an isolated cave. `Abdullah Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: He was Habib, the carpenter who was afflicted with leprosy. He was charitable, but killed at the end at the hands of his own people. Then, Allah the Almighty says: {Enter Paradise} i.e. when he was killed by his people, Allah Almighty admitted him into Paradise. When he saw of the pleasures and joys therein, he said: {Would that my people knew? That my Lord (Allah) has forgiven me, and made me of the honored ones!}, i.e. to believe in what I have believed in and thus gain what I have just obtained. Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: He advised his people during his life saying: {O my people! Obey the Messengers}, and after his death {Would that my people knew? That my Lord (Allah) has forgiven me, and made me of the honored ones!}. In addition, Qatadah said: The believer always gives counseling because of what he sees of the rewards granted by Allah {Would that my people knew? That my Lord (Allah) has forgiven me, and made me of the honored ones!}, i.e. he wished that his people would know the honor Allah bestowed on him. Qatadah added: By Allah! Allah did not admonish or even blame those people after killing him (the believing man) {It was but one Saihah (shout) and lo! They (all) were still (silent, dead, destroyed)}. Allah the Almighty says: {And We sent not against his people after him a host from the heaven, nor was it needful for Us to send (such a thing)}, i.e. it was not needful for Allah the Almighty to send against them a host from the heaven to avenge the Messengers.

Mujahid and Qatadah said: This means that Allah did not send them another Message. Ibn Jarir said: The first interpretation looks more proper because Allah the Almighty says after this: {nor was it needful for Us to send (such a thing)}, i.e. Allah was not in need to send such a thing to punish them when they belied His Messengers and killed His godly man, {It was but one Saihah (shout) and lo! They (all) were still (silent, dead, destroyed)}.

Interpreters said: Allah the Almighty sent Gabriel (Peace be upon him) who maintained a grasp on their town’s gate and made a single shout {one Saihah (shout) and lo! They (all) were still (silent, dead, destroyed)}, i.e. they turned to be silent, motionless and dead.

Finally, all these indicate that the town mentioned in the Qur’anic verses was not Antioch because the people of Antioch believed in Allah and followed the messengers of Jesus (Peace be upon him). Moreover, Antioch was said to be the first town to declare faith in Jesus (Peace be upon him).

Source:Tafsir Ibn Kathir

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