Prosperity and judgementSaba andthe Arim flood [Archives:2003/624/Culture]

February 24 2003


Saba, built in southern Arabia in the 11th century BC, was a great civilization. The Qur'an relates the story of the Queen of Saba and the Prophet Sulayman in considerable detail. However, there is another story in the Qur'an regarding this people, who appear before us in a violent act of destruction.
The oldest texts to refer to the people of Saba in their annual war chronicles from the time of the Assyrian King Sargon 11. According to these inscriptions, Sargon mentions Saba as one of the states that pays tribute to him.
This record is the oldest text giving firm information about the state of Saba.
Ancient texts that speak of the people of Saba say that like the Phoenicians, they were a state that engaged in wide commercial activities, and that some of the most important trade routes in northern Arabia were in their hands.
The Sabaeans were known in history as a civilized people. The inscriptions of the Sabaean rulers frequently speak of “endowing”, and “building.”

Ruins have survived
The Ma'rib Dam, the ruins of which have survived down to the present day, is a major indication of Sabaean technology. Thanks to that dam, a bright green world was built in the middle of the desert.
The capital that benefited from that dam was Ma'rib, which had grown wealthy because of its many geographical advantages. The capital stood close by the Adhanah River.
The Sabaeans made use of this and built a dam here as they were constructing their civilization and began irrigating the area. Agriculture prospered, and they were thus able to enjoy high levels of well-being.
The capital Ma'rib was one of the most beautiful cities of the time. The Greek writer Pliny, who traveled in the area and had great praise for this land, spoke in his works of the way it was all so verdant.
The dam at Mar'rib was16 meters high, 60 meters wide and 620 meters long. Calculations have shown that two wide plains on both sides of the city could be watered by means of it.
These two plains are sometimes described on Sabaean inscriptions as “Ma'rib and the twin plains”. The expression “two gardens to the right and to the left” in the Qur'an in all probability refers to the impressive vineyards and gardens in these two valleys.

Region was famous
Thanks to the dam and its watering facilities, the region became famous as the best-irrigated and most fertile in Yemen. When we examine the verses in the Qur'an in the light of these historical facts we can see enormous compatibility between them.
Archaeological discoveries and historical facts are totally compatible with what is written in the Qur'an. The people refused to heed the warning of the prophet who was sent to them and were ungrateful for the blessing of God, and were eventually punished with a terrible catastrophe.
There was also a sign for Saba in their dwelling place: two gardens – one to the right and one to the left. “Eat of your Lord's provision and give thanks to Him: a bountiful land and a forgiving lord”. But they turned away so we unleashed against them the flood from the great dam and exchanged their two gardens for two others containing bitter-tasting plants and tamarisk and a few lot trees.
That is how we repaid them for their ingratitude. Are any but the ungrateful repaid like this? (Qur'an, 34:15-17).
The people of Saba lay across trade routes and thus enjoyed a high level of prosperity, making it one of the most prominent cities of the age. What the people of Saba needed to do under such agreeable conditions was to “eat of the sustenance provided by their Lord and be grateful to Him”. Yet they did not do so.
As a verse puts it, “they turned away from God their arrogance in their well being caused them to lose it. The whole country was flattened in a terrible flood. The vineyards and gardens of the people of Saba were suddenly left under the waters.
The punishment visited on the people of Saba is described in the Qur'an as “Seyl al-Arim” or the Arim flood. This term in the Qur'an also tell us the way this disaster occurred.
The word “Arim” means “dam” or “dike”. “Seyl al-Arim” describes the way a flood occurs after a dike has been breached. The Christian archaeologist Werner Keller agrees that the Arim flood came about in line with the description of the Qur'an, and writes: for 1,500 years this garden of spices bloomed around Ma'rib.

Dam burst
That was until 542 B.C then the dam burst. The importunate desert crept over fertile lands and destroyed them.
“The people of Sheba”, says the Qur'an, “had beautiful gardens in which the most costly fruits ripened.”
But then the people turned their backs upon God, wherefore he punished them by causing the dam to burst. Thereafter nothing but bitter fruit grew in the gardens of Saba.
The dam, that may be considered the most important sources of the people of Saba's wealth and well being, was also the means of that ungrateful people's destruction.
After the disaster of the Arim flood, the area turned into a desert and as the agricultural field disappeared the people of Saba lost their most important sources of revenue.
The people of Saba, who ignored God's call to believe in Him and give thanks, were thus chastised.
Following the terrible damage wreaked by the flood, the people of Saba began to fall apart. They abandoned their homes and migrated to Northern Arabia, Mecca and Syria.
Ma'rib, where the people of Saba had once dwelt, was now a desolate ruin, and is most definitely a warning to everyone who commits the same mistake as the people of Saba.