The People of Saba and the Arim Flood (1/2) [Archives:2005/858/Culture]

July 11 2005

Taken from “Perished Nations”
By Harun yahya, Ta-Ha Publishers, United Kingdom, 1990

The community of Saba was one of the four biggest civilisations which lived in South Arabia. This people is estimated to have been established some time between 1000-750 BC and to have collapsed around 550 AD with the two centuries-long attacks of the Persians and the Arabs.

The date of the establishment of the civilisation of Saba is a subject of much discussion. The people of Saba started recording their governmental reports around 600 BC. This is why there are no records of them prior to this date.

The oldest sources which refer to the people of Saba are annual war chronicles left from the time of the Assyrian King Sargon II. (722- 705 BC) While Sargon records about the people that pay taxes to him, he also refers to the King of Saba, Yith'i-amara (It'amara). This record is the oldest written source that yields information about the Saba civilisation.

Yet, it would not be right to draw the conclusion that the Saba culture was established around 700 BC depending only on this source, for it is highly probable that Saba had existed for quite some time before it was recorded in written records. This means that the history of Saba may predate the above.

Indeed, in the inscriptions of Arad-Nannar, one of the latest kings of the state of Ur, the word “Sabum”, which is thought to mean “the country of Saba”, was used.(1) If this word does mean Saba, then, this shows that the history of Saba goes back as far as 2500 BC.

Historical sources telling about Saba usually say that this was a culture, like the Phoenicians, particularly involved in commercial activities. Accordingly, these people owned and administered some of the trade routes passing across Northern Arabia. In order for the Sabaean traders to carry their goods to the Mediterranean and Gaza, and thus pass across Northern Arabia, they had to get permission from Sargon II, the ruler of all the region, or pay a certain amount of ax to him. When the Sabaean people started paying taxes to the ssyrian Kingdom, their name began to be recorded in the annals of this state.

With the Ma'rib Dam, which they had constructed with very advanced technology, the Sabaean people became owners of a great irrigation capacity. The fruitful lands they thus obtained and their control over the trade routes allowed them to lead a magnificent and luxurious lifestyle. However, they “turned away” from Allah to whom they should have been grateful for all those bounties mentioned above. Therefore, their dam collapsed and the “flood of Arim” destroyed all their attainments.

The Sabaeans are known to have been a civilised people in history. In the inscriptions of the rulers of Saba, words such as “restore”, “dedicate” and “construct” are frequently used. The Ma'rib Dam, which is one of the most important monuments of this people, is an important indication of the technological level this people had reached. However, this did not mean that the military power of the Sabaeans was weak; the Sabaean army was one of the most important factors contributing to the endurance of their culture over such a long period without collapse.

The Sabaean state had one of the strongest armies in the region. The state was able to adopt an expansionist policy thanks to its army. The Sabaean state had conquered the lands of the Old Qataban state. It owned many lands on the African continent. During 24 BC, during an expedition to Magrib, the Sabaean army utterly defeated the army of Marcus Aelius Gallus, the Governor of Egypt for the Roman Empire which was definitely the strongest state at the time. Saba can be portrayed as a state that pursued moderate policies, yet did not hesitate to use power when necessary. With its advanced culture and army, the Sabaean state was definitely one of the “super powers” of the region at the time.

This extraordinarily strong army of the Sabaean state is also described in the Qur'an. An expression of the commanders of the Saba army related in the Qur'an, shows the extent of the confidence this army had in itself. The commanders call out to the female ruler (queen) of the state: “We are endued with strength, and given to vehement war: but the command is with thee; so consider what thou wilt command.” (Surat an-Naml: 33)

The capital city of the Sabaean state was Ma'rib, which was quite wealthy thanks to the advantageous position of its geography. The capital city was very close to the River Adhanah. The point where the river reached Jabal Balaq was very suitable for the construction of a dam. Making use of this condition, the Sabaean people constructed a dam at this location at the time when their civilisation was first established, and they began irrigation. They indeed reached a very high level of prosperity. The capital city, Ma'rib, was one of the most developed cities of the time. The Greek writer Pliny, who had visited the region and greatly praised it, also mentioned how green this region was. (2)

The Ma'rib Dam seen above in ruins was one of the most important works of the Sabaean people. This dam collapsed because of the flood of Arim mentioned in the Qur'an and all the cultivated areas were swamped. Its territory destroyed with the collapsing of the dam, the Sabaean state lost its economic strength in a very short time and was soon completely demolished.

The height of the dam in Ma'rib was 16 metres, its width was 60 metres and its length was 620 metres. According to the calculations, the total area that could be irrigated by the dam was 9,600 hectares, of which 5,300 hectares belonged to the southern plain, while the remaining part belonged to the northern plain. These two plains were referred to as “Ma'rib and two plains” in the Sabaean inscriptions (3) . The expression in the Qur'an, “two gardens to the right and to the left”, points to the imposing gardens and vineyards in these two valleys. Thanks to this dam and its irrigation systems, the region became famous as the best irrigated and most fruitful area of Yemen. The Frenchman J. Holevy and the Austrian Glaser proved from written documents that the Ma'rib dam existed since ancient times. In documents written in the Himer dialect, it is related that this dam rendered the territory very productive.

This dam was extensively repaired during the 5th and 6t centuries AD. Yet, these reparations could not prevent the dam from collapsing in 542 AD. The collapse of the dam resulted in the “flood of Arim” mentioned in the Qur'an which caused great damage. The vineyards, gardens and the cultivated fields of the Sabaean people, which they had cultivated for hundreds of years, were completely destroyed. It is also known that the Sabaean people quickly went into a period of recession after the destruction of the dam. The end of the Sabaean state came at the end of this period which had begun with the destruction of the dam.

The Flood of Arim which was Sent to the State of Saba. When we examine the Qur'an in the light of the historical data above, we observe that there is very substantial agreement here. Archaeological findings and the historical data both verify what is recorded in the Qur'an.