Thursday, June 09, 2011

The People of Lut and The City which was Turned Upside Down

The People of Lut and The City which was Turned Upside Down

The people of Lut rejected (his) warning. We sent against them a violent Tornado with showers of stones, (which destroyed them), except Lut's household: them We delivered by early Dawn,-  As a Grace from Us: thus do We reward those who give thanks. And (Lut) did warn them of Our Punishment, but they disputed about the Warning.
(Surat al-Qamar:, 33-36)

Lut lived at the same time as Ibrahim. The Old Testament says that Lut was Ibrahim's nephew and that they travelled some distance together in Ibrahim's long journeys.

Lut was sent as a messenger to one of Ibrahim's neighbouring communities. These people, as the Qur’an tells us, practiced a perversion unknown to the world up to then, namely sodomy. When Lut told them to give up this perversion and brought them Allah's warning, they denied him, refused his prophethood, and carried on with their perversion. In the end, these people were destroyed by a dreadful disaster.

The city where Lut resided is referred to as Sodom in the Old Testament. Being situated at the north of the Red Sea, this community is understood to have been destroyed just as it is written in the Qur’an. Archaeological studies reveal that the city is located in the area of the Dead Sea which stretches along the Israel-Jordan border.

The Qur’an tells how Lut warned his people and what they said in reply;

The people of Lut rejected the messengers. Behold, their brother Lut said to them: “Will ye not fear (Allah)? I am to you a messenger worthy of all trust. So fear Allah and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of the Worlds. Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!”
They said: “If thou desist not, O Lut! thou wilt assuredly be cast out!”
He said: “I do detest your doings.” (Surat ash-Shuara: 160-168)

The people of Lut threatened him in response to his inviting them to the right way. His people detested him because of his showing them the right way, and wanted to banish both him and the other believers beside him. In other verses, the event is told as follows;

We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.”
And his people gave no answer but this: they said, “Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!” (Surat al-Araf: 80-82)

Lut called his people to an obvious truth and warned them explicitly, but his people did not heed any warnings whatsoever and continued to reject Lut and to deny the penalty of which he told them.

And (remember) Lut: behold, he said to his people: “Ye do commit lewdness, such as no people in Creation (ever) committed before you. Do ye indeed approach men, and cut off the highway?- and practise wickedness (even) in your councils?” But his people gave no answer but this: they said: “Bring us the Wrath of Allah if thou tellest the truth.” (Surat al-Ankaboot: 28-29)

Receiving the above answer from his people, Lut asked for the help of Allah,
He said: “O my Lord! help Thou me against people who do mischief!” (Surat al-Ankaboot: 30)
O my Lord! deliver me and my family from such things as they do!” (Surat ash-Shuara: 169)

Upon Lut’s prayer, Allah sent two angels in the form of men. These angels visited Ibrahim before coming to Lut. Giving Ibrahim the good news that his wife would give birth to an infant, the messengers explained the reason of their being sent: the insolent people of Lut were to be destroyed.

(Ibrahim) said: “And what, O ye Messengers, is your errand (now)?” They said, “We have been sent to a people (deep) in sin; To bring on, on them, (a shower of) stones of clay (brimstone), Marked as from thy Lord for those who trespass beyond bounds.” (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 31-34)

Excepting the adherents of Lut: them we are certainly (charged) to save (from harm),- All - Except his wife, who, We have ascertained, will be among those who will lag behind. (Surat al-Hijr: 59-60)

After leaving Ibrahim’s company, the angels, who were sent as messengers, came to Lut. Not having met the messengers before, Lut first became anxious, but then calmed down after talking  to them;

When Our messengers came to Lut, he was grieved on their account and felt himself powerless (to protect) them. He said: “This is a distressful day.” (Surah Hud: 77)

He said: “Ye appear to be uncommon folk.” They said: “Yea, we have come to thee to accomplish that of which they doubt. We have brought to thee that which is inevitably due, and assuredly we tell the truth. Then travel by night with thy household, when a portion of the night (yet remains), and do thou bring up the rear: let no one amongst you look back, but pass on whither ye are ordered.” And We made known this decree to him, that the last remnants of those (sinners) should be cut off by the morning. (Surat al-Hijr: 62-66)

Meanwhile, his people had learned that Lut had visitors. They did not hesitate to approach these visitors perversely as they had approached others before. They encircled the house. Being afraid for his visitors, Lut addressed his people as follows;

Lut said: “These are my guests: disgrace me not: But fear Allah, and shame me not.” (Surat al-Hijr: 68-69)
The people of Lut retorted;
They said: “Did we not forbid thee (to speak) for all and sundry?” (Surat al-Hijr: 70)

Thinking that he and his visitors subjected to evil treatment, Lut said:

“Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could betake myself to some powerful support.” (Surah Hud: 80)
His “visitors” reminded him that they were the messengers of Allah and said;

(The Messengers) said: “O Lut! We are Messengers from thy Lord! By no means shall they reach thee! now travel with thy family while yet a part of the night remains, and let not any of you look back: but thy wife (will remain behind): To her will happen what happens to the people. Morning is their time appointed: Is not the morning nigh?” (Surah Hud: 81)

When the perversity of the city people reached its fullest extent, Allah saved Lut by means of the angels. In the morning, his people were destroyed by the disaster of which Lut had informed them in advance.

And they even sought to snatch away his guests from him, but We blinded their eyes. (They heard:) “Now taste ye My Wrath and My Warning.” Early on the morrow an abiding Punishment seized them: (Surat al-Qamar: 37-38)

The verses describe the destruction of this people as follows;

But the (mighty) Blast overtook them before morning, And We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay. Behold! in this are Signs for those who by tokens do understand. And the (cities were) right on the high-road. (Surat al-Hijr: 73-76)

When Our Decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer,-Marked as from thy Lord: Nor are they ever far from those who do wrong! (Surah Hud: 82-83)

But the rest We destroyed utterly. We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! : Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful. (Surat ash-Shuara: 172-175)

When the people were destroyed, only Lut and the believers, who were only as many as one “household”, were saved. Lut’s wife did not believe either and she was also destroyed.

We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you?  For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” And his people gave no answer but this: they said, “Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!” But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who legged behind.
And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime! (Surat al-Araf: 80-84)

Thus, Prophet Lut was saved along with the believers and his family with the exception of his wife. As described in the Old Testament, he emigrated with Ibrahim. As for the perverted people, they were destroyed and their dwellings were razed to the ground.

“The Obvious Signs” in the Lake of Lut
The 82nd  verse of Surah Hud, clearly states the kind of the disaster that befell the people of Lut. “When Our Decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer”

The statement of “turning (the cities) upside down” implies that the region was totally destroyed by a violent earthquake. Accordingly, The Lake of Lut, where the destruction took place, bears “obvious” evidence of such a disaster.

We quote German archaeologist Werner Keller as follows;

Together with the base of this mighty fissure, which runs precisely through this area, the Vale of Siddim, including Sodom and Gomorrah, plunged one day into the abyss. Their destruction came about through a great earthquake which was probably accompanied by explosions, lightning, issue of natural gas and general conflagration. (1)

As a matter of fact, the Lake of Lut, or the Dead Sea as it is otherwise known, is located right on the top of an active seismic region, that is, an earthquake zone:

The base of the dead sea is located with a tectonic rooted downfall. This valley is located in a tension stretching between the Taberiye Lake in the north, and mid of Arabah Valley in the south.(2)

The event was expressed as “we rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer” in the last part of the verse. This is in all probability meant to be the volcanic explosion that took place on the banks of the Lake of Lut, and because of which the rocks and stones that erupted were in a “baked form”. (The same event is related in the 173rd verse of Surat ash-Shuara as “We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)!”)
In relation to this subject, Werner Keller writes;

The subsidence released volcanic forces that had been lying dormant deep down along the whole length of the fracture. In the upper valley of the Jordan near Bashan there are still towering craters of extinct volcanoes; great stretches of lava and deep layers of basalt have been deposited on the limestone surface.(3)

A satellite photograph of the region where the people of Lut lived.

These lava and basalt layers constitute the greatest evidence that a volcanic explosion and earthquake had once taken place here. The catastrophe depicted in the following expression as “we rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer” in the Qur’an most probably points to this volcanic explosion, and Allah knows best. The expression “When Our Decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down” which occurs in the same verse, must be referring to the earthquake which caused volcanoes to erupt over the surface of the earth with devastating impact, and to the fissures and debris brought by it, and only Allah knows the truth of it.
The “obvious signs” conveyed by the Lake of Lut are indeed very interesting. In general, the events which are related in the Qur’an take place in the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. Right in the middle of these lands, is the Lake of Lut. The Lake of Lut, as well as the incidents that have taken place around it, deserves attention geologically. The Lake is approximately 400 meters below the surface of the Mediterranean. Since the deepest place in the Lake is 400 meters, the bottom of the Lake is 800 meters below the surface of the Mediterranean.


The Lake of Lut, or Dead Sea as differently called.

This is the lowest point on the earth. In other areas which are lower than sea level, the depth is at most 100 meters. Another property of the Lake of Lut is that the salt content of its water is very high, the density being nearly 30 %. Because of this, no living organism, such as fish or moss, can survive in this lake. This is why the Lake of Lut is called the “Dead Sea” in Western  literature.

The incident of Lut’s people, which is recounted in the Qur’an, occurred around 1800 B.C. according to estimates. Based on his archaeological and geological researches, the German researcher Werner Keller noted that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were in fact located in the Siddim Valley which was the region at the furthers and lowest end of the Lake of Lut, and that there were once big and widely inhabited sites in those regions.
The most interesting structural characteristic of the Lake of Lut is an evidence showing how the disaster incidence recounted in the Qur’an took place;

On the eastern shore of the Dead Sea the peninsula of el-Lisan protrudes like a tongue far into the water. El-Lisan means “the tongue” in Arabic. Unseen from the land the ground falls away here under the surface of the water at a prodigious angle, dividing the sea into two parts. To the right of the peninsula the ground slopes sharply down to a depth of 1200 feet. On the left of the peninsula the water remains remarkably shallow. Soundings taken in the last few years established depths of only fifty to sixty feet. That extraordinary shallow part of the Dead Sea, from the peninsula el-Lisan to the southernmost tip, was the Vale of Siddim. (4)

Photographs of the Lake of Lut taken from satellite.

Werner Keller noted that this shallow part, which was discovered to have formed subsequently, was the outcome of the aforementioned earthquake and the massive collapse this earthquake had caused. This was the place where Sodom and Gomorrah were situated, that is, where Lut’s people lived.

Once, it was possible to cross this region by walking. However, now, the Vale of Siddim, where Sodom and Gomorrah were once situated, is covered by the flat surface of the lower part of the Dead Sea. The collapse of the base as a result of the dreadful catastrophe that came to pass in the beginning of the 2nd. millennium B.C., caused salt water from the north to flow into this recently formed cavity and filled the basin with salty water.
The traces of the Lake of Lut are visible… When one takes a rowing boat across the Lake of Lut to the southernmost point, if the sun is shining in the right direction, one sees something quite fantastic. Some distance from the shore and clearly visible under the surface of the water, there are the outlines of the forests which the extraordinarily high salt content of the Dead Sea preserved.

The trunks and roots in the shimmering green water are very ancient. The Siddim valley, where these trees were once in blossom green foliage covered their twigs and branches, was one of the most beautiful locations in the region.

The mechanical aspect of the disaster that befell people of Lut is revealed by the researches of the geologists. These reveal that the earthquake which destroyed  the people of Lut, came about in consequence of quite a long crack in the earth (a fault line), along the 190 kilometres distance making up the bed of the River Sheri’at. River Sheri’at makes a fall of 180 meters in total. Both this and the fact that the Lake of Lut is 400 metres below sea level are two important pieces of evidence showing that an enormous geological event has taken place here.
The interesting structure of River of Sheri’at and the Lake of Lut make up only a small part of the crack or split passing from this region of the earth. The condition and length of this crack have only recently been discovered.




The fault starts from the outskirts of Mount Taurus, stretches to the southern shores of the Lake of Lut and proceeds over the Arabian desert to the Gulf of Aqaba and continues across the Red Sea, ending up in Africa. Along the length of it, strong volcanic activities are observed. Black basalt and lava exist in the Galilee Mountains in Israel, high plain regions of Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and other areas nearby.  
All these remains and geographical evidences show that a catastrophic geological event took place in the Lake of Lut. Werner Keller writes,

Overhead view of the mountains around the Lake of Lut


National Geographic makes the following comment on December 1957;

The mount of Sodom, a barren wasteland, rises sharply above the dead sea. No one has ever found the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but scholars believe that they stood in the Vale of Siddim across from these cliffs. Possibly flood waters of the Dead Sea engulfed them following an earthquake.

What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Make it us STUPID?)


Nicholas Carr: Why the Human Brain Can't Multitask by FORAtv




The internet's not just making us stupid, it's possibly also feeding our egos, leaching away our empathy and making us poor. That's if you believe a whole host of writers currently making a living from predicting that the web is ruining us all.

Among them is Nicholas Carr, the technology writer and author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, who explained his views to the Seoul Digital Forum last week.

"The medium does matter," Carr writes. Unlike a book, which focuses our minds, he says, a networked computer "is designed to scatter our attention... It's hard not to conclude that as we adapt to the intellectual environment of the Net our thinking becomes shallower."

It's easy to agree: tabbed browsing seems designed for procrastination; Facebook and Twitter encourage us to spend time reading and writing short, shallow remarks; and Wikipedia and Google provide access to way too much information to properly process.

On the other hand, laziness, gossip and a surfeit of facts are nothing new - surely it's up to us to make good use of whatever technology is at hand. Alarmists such as the 15th-century Venetian editor Hieronimo Squarciafico were warning people against the dangers of publishing long ago: "Abundance of books makes men less studious," Squarciafico wrote, just after the invention of the printing press.

This anxiety dates all the way back to Socrates, who worried about scrolls, as William Powers recalls in Hamlet's BlackBerry, another book warning against the incessant allure of the pinging smart phone. Once people could read and write, the philosopher thought, they would no longer need to remember things - and they could absorb a biased view rather than engaging in dialogue.

But a 2009 study suggests that a bit of internet browsing might boost concentration levels, by giving the brain a timely rest. "People who surf the internet for fun at work - within a reasonable limit of less than 20 per cent of their total time in the office - are more productive, by about nine per cent, than those who don't," Dr Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne said following a study of 300 workers. He also identified less-productive workers, however, who use the internet an unhealthy amount.

Even if it does interrupt us now and again, the internet can be seen as a sort of external memory drive for our minds, expanding our consciousness and doing the hard work of remembering things so that we can free up more space for other mental work. In Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action and Cognitive Extension, the philosopher Andy Clark argues that machines such as iPhones and computers with Wi-Fi, in taking over functions that we used to perform, have become part of us.


So perhaps Google is increasing our brain power and not making us more stupid - so long as we make use of it in the right way. Which perhaps means looking up facts when we need them and reading whole articles online, as opposed to updating social network sites and jumping from link to link.

Even so, there are writers who take issue with the digital age for different reasons. The virtual-reality pioneer Jaron Lanier argues in his book You Are Not a Gadget that file-sharing will bankrupt society's creativity. In Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle (a social science professor at MIT) looks at the psychological effects of the web: the way texting is easier and less awkward than calling, virtual worlds demand less of us than the real one, and time spent on social network sites only gives us the illusion of interacting.

Although some studies have shown that social networking online usually supplements, rather than replaces, face-to-face socialising, Turkle warns that interacting via machines is always easier than the real thing, and that can have a creeping effect. Who hasn't experienced the modern situation of sitting at a table in a restaurant, with friends, only to look up and find everyone looking at their phones?
The neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer disagrees with Turkle, calling the internet "just another tool, an accessory that allows us to do what we've always done: interact with one other". The written word may have damaged oral storytelling traditions, but not many of us would give up our bookshelves. Nor would we advocate a life spend reading, without any other forms of communication.

The internet's easy to access in countries like this one: it's tempting to spend too much time there. But TV didn't kill radio and films didn't kill books. The internet, then, probably doesn't spell the end of culture, empathy and socialising. I'm with Lehrer: the digital kids will be all right.