After the destruction of the Ad, the tribe of Thamud succeeded them in power and glory. They also fell to idol-worshipping. As their material wealth increased so, too, did their evil ways while their virtue decreased. Like the people of Ad, they made huge buildings on the plains and hewed beautiful homes out of the hills. Tyranny and oppression became prevalent as evil men ruled the land.
So Allah sent unto them His Prophet Salih, a man from among them. He called his people to worship Allah alone, and to not associate partners with Him. While some of them believed him, the majority of them disbelieved and harmed him by both words and deeds. Salih said to them "O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other Ilah (god) but Him."
Salih was known for his wisdom, purity and goodness and had been greatly respected by his people before Allah's revelation came to him. Salih's people said to him, "O Salih! You have been among us as a figure of good hope and we wished for you to be our chief, till this, new thing which you have brought that we leave our gods and worship your God (Allah) alone! Do you now forbid us the worship of what our fathers have worshipped? But we are really in grave doubt as to that which you invite us to monotheism."
They merely wanted to worship the same gods as their fathers had, with no reason, no proof, no thought. The proof of Salih's message was evident, but despite this it was obvious that most of his people did not believe him. They doubted his words, thinking he was charmed, and they saw that he would not stop preaching. Fearing that his followers would increase, they tried to put him off by assigning him an important task; to prove that he was a messenger of Allah by performing a miracle. Let a unique she camel come from the mountains.
Allah granted Salih this miracle and a huge, unique, she camel appeared from the direction of the mountain. The Quranic commentators said that the people of Thamud gathered on a certain day at their meeting place, and the prophet Salih came and addressed them to believe in Allah, reminding them of the favours Allah had granted them. Then pointing at a rock, they demanded: "Ask your Lord to make a she camel, which must be 10 months pregnant, tall and attractive, come from the rock for us." Salih replied, "Look now! If Allah sends you what you have requested, just as you have described, will you believe in that which I have come to you with and have faith in the message I have been sent with?”
They answered: "Yes."
So he took an oath from them on this, then prayed to Allah the Almighty to grant their request. Allah ordered the distant rock to split asunder, to bringing forth a great ten month pregnant she camel. When their eyes set on it, they were amazed. They saw a great thing, a wonderful sight, a dazzling power and clear evidence!
A number of Salih's people believed, yet most of them continued in their disbelief, stubbornness, and going astray.
At first, the people of Thamud were greatly surprised when the she camel issued from the mountain rocks. It was a blessed camel, and its milk sufficient for thousands of men, women and children. If it slept in a place that place was abandoned by other animals. Thus it was obvious that is was not an ordinary camel, but one of Allah's signs. It lived among Salih's people, some of whom believed in Allah while the majority continued in their obstinacy and disbelief. Their hatred of Salih turned towards the blessed she-camel and became centered on it. A plan started to be hatched against the camel by the disbelievers, and they secretly plotted against it.
Saleh feared that they might kill the camel, so he warned them, "O my people! This she-camel of Allah is a sign to you, leave her to feed on Allah's earth, and do not touch her with evil."
The disbelievers watched the camel closely, observing all its movements, as the she-camel came to drink at the well, one of them shot it in the leg with an arrow. It tried to escape but was hampered by the arrow. Another followed the camel and struck it with a sword in the other leg. As it fell to the ground, he pierced it with his sword.
The killers were given a hero's welcome, cheered with songs and poetry composed in their praise. In their arrogance they mocked Salih, but he warned them: "Enjoy life for 3 more days then the punishment will descend upon you." Salih was hoping that they would see the foolishness of their ways and change their attitude before the three days went out.
"Why three days?" they asked. "Let the punishment come as quickly as possible."
He pleaded with them, "My people, why do you hasten to evil rather than good? Why do not you ask pardon of Allah so that you may receive mercy?"
They replied, "We see your presence and that of your followers as bringing evil on us."
They also plotted to kill Salih and his household but they failed. Three days after Salih's warning, thunderbolts filled the air, followed by severe earthquakes which destroyed the entire tribe and its homeland. The land was violently shaken, destroying all living creatures in it. There was one terrific cry which had hardly ended when the disbelievers of Salih's people were struck dead, one and all, at the same time. Neither their strong buildings nor their homes of rock could protect them.
All were destroyed before they realized what was happening. As for the people who believed in the message of Salih, they were saved because they had left the place.