The People of Ad and Ubar, the Atlantis of the
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
Another people who were destroyed and who are mentioned in various Surah
of the Quran 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
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
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
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)
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
The Archaeological Findings 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 Quran. Many people who, since then, thought that Ad
recounted in the Quran 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 Quran. (7) 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. (8)
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.
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.(9) 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
Excavations made in Ubar
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
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
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 200. A.D. In the
map was shown the location of an old city found in the region and the ways that led to
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 to 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.
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
2. A city 12 metres below the sands was uncovered by excavations.
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 Quran?
Right from the moment remains started to be unearthed, it was understood
that this ruined city belonged to Ad and of Irams pillars mentioned in the
Quran, because among the structures unearthed were the towers particularly referred
to in the Quran. 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
Quran. The Quran 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)
The People of Ad
So far, we have seen that Ubar could possibly be the city of Iram
mentioned in the Quran. According to the Quran, the inhabitants of the city
did not listen to the prophet Hud, who had brought a message to them and who warned them,
and so they perished.
The identity of Ad who found the city of Iram has also created much
debate. In historical records, there is no mention of a people having such a developed
culture or of the civilisation they established. It might be thought quite strange that
the name of such a people is not found in historical records.
On the other hand, it shouldnt be so surprising not to come across
the presence of these people in the records and archives of old civilisations. The reason
for that is that these people lived in South Arabia, which was a region distant from other
people living in the Mesopotamia region and the Middle East, and which only had a
restricted relationship with them. It was a common situation for a state, which is
scarcely known, not to be recorded in the historical records. On the other hand, it is
possible to hear stories among people in the Middle East about Ad.
The most important reason why Ad have not been mentioned in the
written records is that written communication was not common in the region at that time.
Therefore, it is possible to think that Ad founded a civilisation but this
civilisation had not been mentioned in the historical records of those other civilisations
that kept documentation. If this culture had existed a little longer, maybe much more
would be known about these people in our day.
There is no written record of Ad, but it is possible to find
important information about their descendants and to have an idea about
Ad in the light of this information.
Hadramites, the descendants of Ad
The first place to be looked at while searching for the traces of a
probable civilisation established by Ad or their descendants, is South Yemen, where
The Atlantis of the Sands, Ubar is found and which is referred to as
Fortunate Arabia. In South Yemen, four peoples have existed before our time
who are named Fortunate Arabs by the Greeks. These are the Hadramites,
Sabaeans, Minaeans and Qatabaeans. These four peoples reigned for a while together in
territories close to each other.
Many contemporary scientists say that Ad entered into a period of
transformation and then re-appeared on the stage of history. Dr. Mikail H. Rahman, a
researcher at the University of Ohio, believes that Ad are the ancestors of the
Hadramites, one of the four peoples who lived in South Yemen. Appearing around 500 B.C.,
The Hadramites are the least known among the people called Fortunate Arabs.
These people reigned over the region of South Yemen for a very long time and disappeared
totally in 240 A.D. at the end of a long period of decline.
The name of Hadrami hints that those may be the descendants of Ad. The Greek writer
Pliny, living at the 3rd Century B.C. referred to this tribe as Adramitai -
meaning the Hadrami.(11) The termination of the Greek name is
a noun-suffix, the noun being Adram which immediately suggests that it is a
possible corruption of Ad-i Iram mentioned in the Quran.
The Greek geographer Ptolemy (150-100 A.D.) shows the south of the Arabian
Peninsula as the place where the people called Adramitai lived. This region
has been known by the name of Hadhramaut until recently. The capital city of
the Hadrami State, Shabwah, was situated at the west of the Hadhramaut Valley. According
to many old legends, the tomb of the prophet Hud, who was sent as a messenger to Ad,
is in Hadhramaut .
Another factor which tends to confirm the thought that the Hadramites are
a continuation of Ad, is their wealth. The Greeks defined the Hadramites as the
richest race in the world
. Historical records say that the Hadramites
had gone very far in the agriculture of frankincense, one of the most valuable
plants of the time. They had found new areas of usage for the plant and widened its usage.
The agricultural production of the Hadramites was much higher than production of this
plant in our day.
What has been found in the excavations made in Shabwah, which is known to
have been the capital city of the Hadramites, is very interesting. In these excavations
which started in 1975, it was extremely difficult for archaeologists to reach the remains
of the city due to the deep sand dunes. The finds obtained by the end of the excavations
were astonishing; because the uncovered ancient city was one of the most overwhelmingly
interesting found until then. The walled town that was revealed was of a larger extent
than of any other ancient Yemeni site and its palace was remarked to be a truly
Doubtless, it was very logical to suppose that the Hadramites had
inherited this architectural superiority from their forerunners, Ad. Hud said to the
people of Ad while warning them;
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)? (Surat ash-Shuara:
Another interesting characteristic of the buildings found at Shabwah was
the elaborate columns. The columns that were at Shabwah seemed to be quite unique in being
round and arranged in a circular portico, whereas all other sites in Yemen so far had been
found to have square monolithic columns. The people of Shabwah must have inherited the
architectural style of their ancestors, Ad. Photius, a Greek Byzantine Patriarch of
Constantinople in the 9th. Century A.D., made vast research on the Southern Arabs and
their commercial activities because he had access to the old Greek manuscripts no longer
extant in our day, and particularly the book of Agatharachides (132 B.C.), Concerning the
Erythraean (Red) Sea. Photius said in one of his articles; It is said that they
(South Arabians) have built many columns covered in gold or made of silver. Spaces between
these columns are remarkable to behold (12)
Although the above statement of Photius does not directly refer to the
Hadramites, it does give an idea of the affluence and building prowess of the people
living in the region. Greek classical writers Pliny and Strabo describe these cities as
adorned with beautiful temples and palaces.
When we think that the owners of these cities were the descendants of
Ad, it is clearly understood why the Quran defines the home of Ad as
the city of Iram, with lofty pillars (Surat al-Fajr: 7).
The Springs and the Gardens of Ad
Today, the landscape that someone, who travels to Southern Arabia, would
most frequently come across is the vast desert. Most of the places, with the exception of
the cities and regions that have been later afforested, are covered with sand. These
deserts have been there for hundreds and maybe thousands of years.
But in the Quran, an interesting information is given in one of the
verses recounting Ad. While warning his people, Prophet Hud draws their attention to
the springs and gardens with which Allah had endowed them;
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. (Surat ash-Shuara: 131-135)
But as we have noted before, Ubar, which has been identified with the city
of Iram, and any other place which is likely to have been the residence of Ad, is
totally covered with desert today. So, why did Hud use such an expression while warning
The answer is hidden in the climatic changes of history. Historical
records reveal that these areas which have turned into desert now, had once been very
productive and green lands. A great part of the region was covered with green areas and
springs as told in the Quran, less than a few thousand years ago, and the people of
the region made use of these endowments. The forests softened the harsh climate of the
region and made it more habitable. Deserts existed, but did not cover such a vast area as
In Southern Arabia, important clues have been acquired in the regions
where Ad lived, which could cast a light upon this subject. These show that the
inhabitants of that region used a highly developed irrigation system. This irrigation most
probably served a single purpose: agriculture. In those regions, which are not
appropriate for life today, people once cultivated the land.
Satellite imaging had also revealed an extensive system of ancient canals and dams used in
irrigation around Ramlat as Sabatayan which is estimated to have been able to
support 200.000 people in the associated cities.(13) As Doe,
one of the researchers conducting the research, said; So fertile was the area around
Marib, that one might conceive that the whole region between Marib and
Hadhramaut was once under cultivation. (14)
The Greek classical writer Pliny had described this region as being very
fertile, and mist-covered with forested mountains, rivers and unbroken tracts of forests.
In the inscriptions found in some ancient temples close to Shabwah, the capital city of
the Hadramites, it was written that animals were hunted in this region and that some were
sacrificed. All these reveal that this region was once covered with fertile lands as well
The speed with which the desert can encroach can be seen in some recent
research done by the Smithsonian Institute in Pakistan where an area known to be fertile
in the middle ages has turned into sandy desert, with dunes 6 meters high, the desert
being found to expand on average 6 inches a day. At this speed, the sands can swallow even
the highest buildings, and cover them as if they had never existed. Thus excavations at
Timna in Yemen in the 1950s have been almost completely covered up again. The
Egyptian pyramids were also entirely under sands once and were only brought to light after
very long-lasting excavations. Briefly, it is very clear that regions known to be desert
today could have had different appearances in the past.
How were Ad ruined?
In the Quran, Ad are said to have perished through a
furious wind. In the verses, it is mentioned that this furious wind lasted for
seven nights and eight days and destroyed Ad totally.
The 'Ad (people) (too) rejected (Truth): then how terrible was My Penalty and My
Warning? For We sent against them a furious wind, on a Day of violent Disaster, Plucking
out men as if they were roots of palm-trees torn up (from the ground). (Surat
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! (Surat al-Haaqqa: 6-7)
Though warned previously, the people had paid no attention to the warnings
whatsoever and continuously refused their messengers. They were in such delusion that they
could not even understand what was happening when they saw the destruction approaching
them and continued with their denial.
Then, when they saw the (Penalty in the shape of) a cloud traversing the sky, coming
to meet their valleys, they said, This cloud will give us rain!. Nay, it is
the (Calamity) ye were asking to be hastened!- A wind wherein is a Grievous Penalty! (Surat
al-Ahqaf : 24)
In the verse, it is stated that the people saw the cloud that would bring
them calamity, but could not understand what it was and thought that it was a rain cloud.
This is an important indication as to how the calamity was as it drew near to the people,
because a cyclone proceeding along whipping up the desert sand also seems like a rain
cloud from a distance. It is possible that Ad were deceived by this appearance and
did not notice the calamity. Doe gives a description of these sand storms (which seems to
be from personal experience); The first sign (of a dust or sandstorm) is an
approaching wall of dust-laden air which may be several thousand feet in height lifted by
the strong rising currents and stirred by a fairly strong wind.
Thought to be the remains of Ad, the Atlantis of the Sands,
Ubar has been recovered from under a layer of sand metres thick. It seems that the
furious wind lasting for seven nights and eight days by the Qurans
description, accumulated tons of sand on top of the city and buried people under the earth
alive. Excavations made in Ubar point to the same possibility. The French magazine, Ça
MInteresse states the same as follows Ubar was buried under a sand of 12
meters thickness as a result of a storm(16)
The most important evidence showing that Ad were buried by a sand
storm, is the word ahqaf used in the Quran to signify the location of
Ad. The description used in the 21st verse of Surat al-Ahqaf is as follows;
Mention (Hud) one of 'Ad's (own) brethren: Behold, he warned his people about the
winding Sand-tracts: but there have been warners before him and after him: Worship
ye none other than Allah: Truly I fear for you the Penalty of a Mighty Day.
Ahqaf means sand dunes in Arabic and it is the plural form of
the word hiqf which means a sand dune. This shows that Ad
lived in a region full of sand dunes, which provided the most logical ground
possible for the fact that they were buried by a sand storm. According to one
interpretation, ahqaf lost its meaning of sand hills and became the name of
the region in south Yemen where Ad lived. This does not change the fact that the
root of this word is sand dunes, but just shows that this word has since become peculiar
to this area because of the abundant sand dunes in the region.
The region where Ad lived was full of sand dunes.
As a consequence, it can be said that historical and archaeological finds
indicate beyond reasonable that Ad and the city of Iram must have existed and were
destroyed as described in the Quran. By later researches, the remains of these
people have been recovered from the sands.
What one should do in looking at those remains buried in the sands, is to
take warning just as the Quran stresses. The Quran states that Ad
went astray of the right path because of their arrogance and said Who is superior to
us in strength?. In the rest of the verse, it is said What! did they
not see that Allah, Who created them, was superior to them in strength? (Surah
What a person has to do is bear this unchangeable fact in mind all the
time and understand that the greatest and the most honoured is always Allah and that one
can only prosper by adoring Him.
Next : Firawn Who Was Drowned
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