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Sura 34
Aya 16
فَأَعرَضوا فَأَرسَلنا عَلَيهِم سَيلَ العَرِمِ وَبَدَّلناهُم بِجَنَّتَيهِم جَنَّتَينِ ذَواتَي أُكُلٍ خَمطٍ وَأَثلٍ وَشَيءٍ مِن سِدرٍ قَليلٍ

Yusuf Ali

But they turned away (from God., and We sent against them the Flood1 (released) from the Dams,2 and We converted their two garden (rows) into “gardens” producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some few (stunted) Lote-trees.3
  • Into that happy Garden of Eden in Arabia Felix (Araby the Blest) came the insidious snake of Unfaith and Wrongdoing. Perhaps the people became arrogant of their prosperity, or of their science, or of their skill in irrigation engineering, in respect of the wonderful works of the Dam which their ancestors had constructed. Perhaps they got broken up into rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged, highcaste and low-caste, disregarding the gifts and closing the opportunities given by God to all His creatures. Perhaps they broke the laws of the very Nature which fed and sustained them. The Nemesis came. It may have come suddenly, or it may have come slowly. The pent-up waters of the eastern side of the Yemen highlands were collected in a high lake confined by the Dam of Ma'arib. A mighty flood came: the dam burst: and it has never been repaired since. This was a spectacular crisis: it may have been preceded and followed by slow desiccation of the country.
  • “'Arim” (= Dams or Embankments) may have been a proper noun, or may simply mean the great earthworks lined with stone, which formed the Ma'arib dam, of which traces still exist. The French traveller TJ. Arnaud saw the town and ruins of the Dam of Ma'arib in 1843, and described its gigantic works and its inscriptions: See Journal Asiatique for January 1874: the account is in French. For a secondary account in English, see W.B. Harris, Journey Through Yemen, Edinburgh, 1893. The dam as measured by Arnaud was two miles long and 120 ft. high. The date of its destruction was somewhere about 120 A.C., though some authorities put it much later.
  • The flourishing “Garden of Arabia” was converted into a waste. The luscious fruit trees became wild, or gave place to wild plants with bitter fruit. The feathery leaved tamarisk, which is only good for twigs and wattle-work, replaced the fragrant plants and flowers. Wild and stunted kinds of thorny bushes, like the wild Lote tree, which were good for neither fruit nor shade, grew in place of the pomegranates, the date palms, and the grapevines. The lote tree belongs to the family Rhamnaceac, Zizyphus Spina Christi. of which (it is supposed) Christ’s crown of thorns was made, allied to the Zizyphus Jujuba, or bertree of India. Wild, it is shrubby, thorny and useless. In cultivation it bears good fruit, and some shade, and can be thornless, thus becoming a symbol of heavenly bliss: 56:28.