The Land of Giants
Narrated Abu Huraira (RA): The Prophet (SA) said: "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall … People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation." (Excerpt from Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543)
A cubit is an ancient measurement, from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow. The conservative approximate based on the average modern man ranges from 17 to 22 inches. Even taking the shorter of these two measurements, Adam's AS height was at least 1020 inches, which is 85 feet. In the metric system, this equates to 25.5 meters tall.
This is part of the power of Allah. The first men to populate the earth, in comparison to our diminutive statures, were giants. They had lengthy lifespans – Adam AS died when he was approximately ten centuries old, and we saw that Nuh AS preached the message of Islam for over 950 years. Imagine the vast amount of knowledge that the early people managed to gather during their lifetimes. Today, we have an average lifespan of a few decades, and yet we are arrogant over what little knowledge we acquire during that short space of time.
The Qur'an repeatedly reminds us that the people before us were more powerful than we are today – in terms of size, strength, and ability.
Hence, the community of 'Ad, to whom Hud AS was sent, was colossal. Based in what is now Yemen, they were so advanced and powerful that they were able to hack through the mountains and build lavish dwellings never seen before:
"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." (89:6 – 89:8)
The Rebirth of Idolatry
The people of 'Ad were the successors to Nuh's AS community. They were granted various bounties by Allah, including fertile, well irrigated land and lush agriculture. With such abundance of natural resources at their fingertips, the community grew ungrateful and arrogant, their arrogance increasing over time, to the point that they declared: "…Who is mightier than us in power?..." (41:15)
While before this their ancestors used to dwell in tents, they built landmarks – buildings with grand pillars - in every high terrain. These haughty monuments were built in total heedlessness of their own vulnerability as human beings, and were the outward manifestation of their arrogance. The landscape was adorned with various landmarks and buildings as tribute to their wealth and stature.
They did not attribute any of their copious provisions to the generosity and might of Allah. As their arrogance increased, similar to other societies that lose their connection with God, they became tyrannical. They were also the first to relapse to the practice of idol worshiping after the Great Flood.
The Da'wah of Hud AS
The community of 'Ad had fallen into the custom of worshipping what their ancestors worshipped; and were not prepared to discard the false idols that their fathers and grandfathers before them venerated. The destruction of Nuh's AS community through the Great Flood had already become distant memory and the stuff of legends in their minds.
It is the sunnah of Allah that He will not destroy a community without first sending someone to warn and guide them, giving them ample opportunity to repent and mend their ways. When idolatry became rife among the people of 'Ad, a Prophet was sent to the community to lead them back to the path of Allah. He was Hud AS, the first of the four Arab Prophets, Saleh AS, Shuaib AS and finally Muhammad SAW being the other three.
Descended from Nuh AS, Hud AS was of a humble social status and financial means. His mission was to guide his community back to the monotheistic path – the worship of Allah alone to the exclusion of others; and abandon their idolatry.
His message echoed that of his forefather. He advised his people to worship none but Allah, and tried to instil the fear of Allah in their hearts. However, the chiefs and elite of the tribes, emboldened by his lack of social standing and wealth, accused him of being of unsound mind and a liar. To this Hud AS replied that he was not insane, but rather that he was sent as a messenger to bring the message of Allah to his community, as their sincere advisor.
Much of his dawah mirrored that of Nuh AS, for at the crux of it, the message is one. The tribe of 'Ad, following the pattern influenced by Iblis. Blinded by their arrogance, they retorted with replies and arguments parallel to those of Nuh's AS disbelieving people.
Hud AS pleaded with them, reasoning that he had no hidden agenda, and that he was not expecting any reward from them save for the reward bestowed by Allah. He tried, with patience and gentleness, to persuade them to repent from their falsehood, promising great reward from Allah if they were to obey. He tried to relay warnings of the Day of Resurrection, but the people of 'Ad rejected the idea of life after death, so rejecting the concept of their imminent accountability before Allah.
It is a futile exercise to convince the arrogant. From the time of Adam AS, arrogance is often succeeded by spiritual blindness, and this is the affliction from which the tribe of 'Ad suffered.
Too rooted in the erroneous notion that their wealth and provisions were due to their own self-sufficiency rather than due to the bounty of Allah, the people of 'Ad refused the message. Like the community of Nuh AS, they challenged Hud AS to produce evidence of his assertions and warnings, implying that he had been possessed or afflicted with evil.
Hud AS denied all claims and disassociated himself from their wicked accusations. He did not retaliate, instead, he maintained the manner and dignity befitting of a prophet, and stated that he was pure from what they accused him of. Like his forefather, he patiently explained to them that he was a man and a prophet, sent to guide his community of fellow men for their own good. All these words of advice and guidance were rejected.
"And such were the people of 'Ad, they denied the Revelation of their Lord, and disobeyed His Messenger, and followed the bidding of every insolent tyrant…" (11:59)
As the dawah of Hud AS continued, the tribe of 'Ad then began to conspire against him, plotting to harm him in order to thwart his mission. True to form of all Prophets and Messengers deployed by Allah, Hud AS was unmoved by the threats. He maintained his trust and belief in Allah, professing that:
"I have put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord, there is no creature that moves but He has the grasp of its forelock. Surely, my Lord is on the Straight Path. But if you turn away, I have conveyed the Message with which I was sent to you, and my Lord will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him in the least. My Lord is the keeper of all things." (11:56-11:57)