In ancient Arabia, long before the time of Prophet Muhammad (alayh as-salaato was-salaam), there used to live a nation by the name of Thamud. They were an idol-worshipping group of people. Even though they were given many blessings and bounties by Allah, they did not have the sense to be thankful to Allah and to worship Allah alone. They built splendid buildings in the mountains by actually carving the rocks to create the structure.
Allah, in His mercy, sent Saalih (alayh as-salaam) as the prophet to tell the nation of Thamud about the evil consequences of worshipping anything other than Allah. The threat that he repeatedly warned them against was that of the punishment and destruction from Allah Himself. This penalty would come down on them if they did not give up their evil ways. Prophet Saalih (alayh as-salaam) advised them in clear terms about the error they were in, and that worshipping things other than Allah would bring destruction and Allah’s wrath upon them.
Yet, they were so arrogant in their disbelief that they not only refused to believe in Saalih (alayh as-salaam) and his message, but actually tried to kill him. Nine men amongst the group made a pact to attack Saalih (alayh as-salaam) in the night and murder him. They decided to later on deny that they were witnesses to the murder. The Qur’an tells us that Allah saved Saalih (alayh as-salaam) from this evil plan.
As a sign of the prophethood of Saalih (alayh as-salaam), Allah sent a she-camel to the people of Thamud. The prophet (alayh as-salaam) told his people to let the camel graze freely and not harm it. Rebellious as they were, some of them decided to defy the orders of Allah and His prophet, and went ahead and hamstrung the she-camel with a sword.
As a result of their disobedience, Allah sent a torment upon them that the Qur’an describes as a mighty blast (“Sai-hah”, in Arabic) that left them totally destroyed. Allah saved Prophet Saalih (alayh as-salaam) and those believers who had accepted Islam at the hand of Prophet Saalih, but everybody else was killed by the heavenly punishment that descended on that town. The main reason they received such a severe punishment was that they had completely refused to obey the Prophet Saalih and refused to believe in Allah alone as the one true god worthy of worship. The ruins of their buildings can be seen to this day in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula.