Shadeed, Shaddad and the city of Iram
Hayat Al-Qulub Vol. 1,
By: Allamah Muhammad Baqir Al-Majlisi
Ibn Babawayh, Shaykh Tabarsi and others have written that there was a person named ‘Abdullah bin Qalaba who went in search for his lost camel. He was wandering in search of his camel in the wilderness of ‘ad. In that wilderness he saw a city surrounded by a moat. There were many palaces and numerous standards (flags). He came towards it thinking it would be inhabited and he would seek information regarding his camel. But he did not see anyone entering the city. He came to the gate, alighted from his she-camel and tied it on one side. Then he extracted his sword from the scabbard and entered the city. He saw two more gates, more lofty than anyone has seen in the world. They were made of incense wood and inlaid with yellow and red rubies that brightened up the surrounding houses with their glow. Seeing this, the man was mesmerized. He opened a door and entered. He saw another city within, as resplendent and as beautiful. He saw palaces in it; they were constructed on pillars of emeralds and rubies. All the palaces had windows, and above each window was another window. All made up of gold, silver, pearls, rubies and emeralds. The gates of these palaces were like the gates of the city. Of incense wood inlaid with rubies. The floor of the palaces was plastered with pearls, musk and saffron. When the visitor beheld the sight and did not find any human, he was terrified. The palaces were surrounded by orchards of different kind of fruit-bearing trees. Streams flowed underneath the trees. He thought that it was the same Paradise that Almighty has promised for the righteous.
He thanked Allah for letting him enter the Paradise in his worldly life. Then he began pluck as many pearls, musk and as much saffron as he can. But he was not able to pull out a single ruby or emerald. Then he came out, mounted the she-camel and returned the way he had come, to Yemen. He showed the pearls, musk and saffron balls he was having and related the whole incident. He even sold the pearls he had obtained, though they had yellowed due to their age. The information gained popularity and reached the ears of Muawiyah. He sent a messenger to the governor of Sana’a requesting him to send this person to him. Thus he came to Muawiyah. Muawiyah took him aside and he related the incident. He summoned Ka’b him Ahbaar and asked him, “Have heard or read in some book about a city of gold and silver with palaces on pillars of rubies and emeralds, and windows and floors of pearls and orchards of fruit-tries beneath which streams flow?” “Yes”, replied Ka’b, “This city was constructed by Shaddad the son of ‘ad. It is the same Iram that is mentioned by Allah in the Qur’an and praised in the words, “No city has been constructed like it.” Muawiyah told him to relate the details.
Ka’b said, “Apart from the people of ‘ad there was a person, ‘ad the first. He had two sons, Shadeed and Shaddad. After the death of ‘ad they succeeded him and gained such power that the east and the west paid obeisance to them. Shadeed died first and Shaddad became the foremost ruler of the world. He was an avid reader of books. When he came across the description of Paradise, the inlaid rubies and pearls and other bounties, he wanted to construct a Paradise at par with the Paradise of Allah. Thus he appointed one hundred people for building the ‘Paradise’. And under each one of them he deputed a thousand workers. Then he ordered them to look for a vast tract of land in the wilderness and construct a city of gold, silver, rubies, emeralds and pearls. To construct pillars of emeralds. To construct palaces and fix windows to them and windows upon these windows. Below the palaces, they should plant fruit orchards and make streams flow underneath. “I want a similar Paradise on the earth,” said Shaddad, “Just as I have seen the description of Paradise in books.” The people asked, “How can we obtain such huge quantities of gold, silver and gems to construct such a city?”
“You know that I am the master of the whole world.”
“We know that,” they replied.
Shaddad told them to, “Appoint a group of people for each of the mines, that’ they may collect as much quantity as required by you. Apart from this collect all the gold and silver owned by the people.”
Thus, letters were dispatched to the rulers of the east and west and for full ten years, valuables were accumulated. Then for three hundred years continued the construction of the palatial city. The total age of Shaddad was 900 years. The people informed him that they had completed the task of building the ‘Paradise’ for him. Shaddad told them to construct a moat around the city and build a thousand castles on the outskirts each flying thousands of flags. “Each of these places will house one of my ministers,” said Shaddad. The architects completed the additional task as ordered by Shaddad.
Shaddad issued orders to the people that they should move towards Dhat al-‘Imad. The people prepared for the journey for full ten years. Shaddad finally set on his journey with his army and people. When he was near his destination and only a days’ journey remained, the Almighty sent a voice from the heavens that killed all of them. Neither Shaddad was able to enter Aram nor his people. (O Muawiyah
A man from your people, from among the Muslims, red faced, red-haired and short stature, clean eye-brow and neck, will enter this city in search of his lost camel.
The person was present with Muawiyah. When Ka’b saw him, he said, “This is the same man, by Allah!” Then in the last period of time, the followers of the true path will enter that ‘Paradise’.
Ibn Babawayh says, “We have seen the book Al-Mu‘amerun that Husham bin Sa’d has quoted, ‘I saw a stone in Alexandria with the Inscription
: I am Shaddad the son of ‘ad, who built the city of Dhat al-‘Imad. No city has ever been constructed like it. I mobilized a large army and conquered lands with my might. And constructed the palaces of Iran, at the time when there was no old age or death. And the stones were as soft as flowers. And I have sunk twelve stories deep and no one shall be able to salvage it. But the Ummah of Muhammad will bring it out.