Have you been to a city center or what they call here downtown, or ‘Neecha Nagar’ in a Hindi movie written by an Urdu journalist when edifices high like mountains hound you from every corner and from the top. It is a horrific experience, an eerie trip. Lost in the jungle of concrete a man suddenly becomes insignificant. The Quran describes with disapproval all such architectural marvels of the past by several names. When Man is not master of this world, the devil is. Coleridge, if alive today, would say, devil, devil everywhere, not a Man to think!
MUHAMMAD TARIQ GHAZI
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ll around the destroyed abodes of the Aad are un-Islamic demonstrations of wealth in much the similar ways that have never produced pleasing results in human history. The Qur’an introduces the ancient nation of the Aad through their strong temples, highrise palaces and citadels, sky-kissing towers and pillars. And then it narrates the story of their catastrophic end. There must be some links between these descriptions. They need to be probed.
Everyone knows that the higher a building goes it demands greater expertise in architectural science and that expertise will be conditioned on originality and creativity. It is also common knowledge that human civilization and science of architecture had totally vanished in The Deluge. Then the Aad inherited the knowledge that was retained and further developed by the 80 believers among the People of Noah who were the only ones saved of the human race.
Once waters receded and passengers disembarked the Ark, they founded a city known in history and exegeses of the Qur’an as Qar’yat ath-Thamanin – Town of the Eighty. They carried with them the science and technology of the destroyed nation. In the town they built houses and other buildings of social requirements. You cannot have a town without buildings. That confirms that the Noahite believers had the required knowledge of the science of architecture. In later times, that was the legacy for the Aad who further improved that science and technology of construction.
Before The Deluge, People of Noah certainly had acquired that knowledge but theirs was not any remarkable contribution in that sphere. Both the Bible and the Qur’an are silent on that subject, although the Bible says that the Ark-engineers were ordered to build rooms, roofs and doors in the Ark (Genesis 6:14). Such instructions indicate that the believer-followers of Noah, or at least some of them, were proficient in construction and shipbuilding.
However, there is no mention of any remarkable construction marvels in that era like it is in the narrations about the Aad and Thamud, People of Nimrod and Pharaoh, etc. Probably on that basis the Aad concluded that the reason for total destruction of the Noahite civilization was lack of strong structures and they laid stress on well-fortified edifices which in their opinion were indestructible.
Their progress in that area was manifest in towers that in their reckoning were capable of withstanding force of wear. Their superb engineers had built Shaddad’s legendary city of Iram. But then, all that could not withstand one push of a tempest.
One drawback – taken as an asset – of material knowledge is that human intellect engaged in that always tries to find physical causes of an incident and argues that a disaster occurred because the past peoples had defective knowledge, and that some technical improvement would make properties durable. This simple-mindedness was recently noticed after a tornado hit Ontario town of Angus on 19 June 2014 destroying 100 houses.
A Canadian civil engineer Gregory Kopp said in a newspaper report that houses could be protected with inexpensive improvement in structural design by using steel strips to join roofs with walls.
It was a similar mindset that had encouraged the Aad to build sturdy structures after The Deluge, and when a thundering gale destroyed the Aad together with secure high towers, it persuaded the Thamud to carve out palaces from hills. But what every developed nation has always ignored was that Aad and Thamud vanished despite all those technological improvements, and no nation however expert in science and technology is guaranteed to stay perpetually, or at least for a long time. Why is it so?
Material knowledge could not explain this point.
The Qur’an explains this point in candid language and serious tone. About the Aad it said: “We made for them ears and eyes and hearts. But their ears and eyes and hearts availed them not from anything” (Al-Ahqaf/The Sandhills 46:26). Shah Abdul Qadir, according to Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani (Tafsir Usmani 3:477), explained that with the faculties of ears and eyes and hearts the Aad were intelligent in worldly affairs, yet they did not have the wisdom that could lead them to a pleasant end. They had properties, they had wealth, they had power, but nothing of their progress had helped them and they did not survive to see their post-destruction country. Those who survived or came after them did not care about the vanished people, or turned their archaeological sites into picnic spots. “Indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts in the chests” (Al-Haj 22:46).
A time comes when people refuse to listen to reason, they do not understand and they are not able to see what’s under their noses; not because they are blind, but because their hearts are smudgy for a reflection or vision. They are relegated lower than intelligent human beings to the level of quadrupeds, in fact worse than them, ignorant of their eminence. As the Quran says: “Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless” (Al-A‘raf, The Heights/7:179)’
This is the tragedy of man that despite high intelligence and vast knowledge he is unable to appreciate a simple sociological truth; does not want to see it; does not listen to the knowledgeable. “We have certainly created man in the best of stature; then We return him to the lowest of the low, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds” (At-Tiin/The Fig 95:4-6).
Who would like to debase himself with open eyes? But then men and nations often do.