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Ashab-ul-Ukhdud (أَصْحَـٰبُ ٱلْأُخْدُودِ) is mentioned in Surah Buruj of the Quran as they threw 20,000 people in a ditch of blazing fire alive for their belief in Allah.
Ashab-ul-Ukhdud in Quran
Allah mentions the people of the ditch in the Holy Quran in these words;
The people of the pit were destroyed. The fire ˹pit˺, filled with fuel while they sat around it watching what they had ˹ordered to be˺ done to the believers. Against these, they had no grudge except that they believed in Allah. – Al-Buruj 85:4-8
King converted to Judaism
Ibn Hisham, Tabari, and Ibn Khaldun, the author of Mujam al-Buldan have written the book Mujam al-Buldan has written the story of Ashab-ul-Ukhdud who used to live in Najran, Saudi Arabia.
The king of Himyar (Yemen) Tuban Asad Abu Karib went to Madina once, where he embraced Judaism under the influence of the Jews and brought two of the Jewish scholars of Bani Quraizah with him to Yemen where he propagated Judaism widely.
The Attack on Najran
In 523 AD, Dhu Nuwas, the son of the King of Yemen succeeded him and he attacked Najran which was a stronghold of the Christians in southern Arabia so as to eliminate Christianity and make the people accept Judaism.
The people of Najran were Christians and the true followers of Prophet Isa عليه السلام.
20,000 people were burnt alive
Dhu Nuwas invited the people to accept Judaism but they refused to obey.
Dhu Nuwas killed Sayyid of Najrain and also killed his two daughters in front of their mother Romah and compelled her to drink their blood and then put even her to death.
Thereupon he dug ditches, burnt fire in them, and ordered women, men, children, aged people, priests, and monks, all to be thrown into the pits of fire alive. According to an estimate, around 20,000 people were thrown into the burning ditch and burned alive.
The Holy Quran says that Ashab-ul-Ukhdud sat around and witnessed the massacre of the true believers of Islam.
One of them escaped
Daus Dhu Thalaban an inhabitant of Najran escaped from Ashab-ul-Ukhdud and went to the Negus, King of Abyssinia, and told him what had happened.
Attack on Yemen
As a result, in 525 AD the Abyssinian army consisting of 70,000 soldiers under a general called Aryat, attacked Yemen. Dhu Nuwas was killed, the Jewish rule came to an end, and Yemen become a part of the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia.
In the British Museum, there are some Abyssinian manuscripts relating to that period or a period close to it, which support this story.
If you visit Al-Okhdood Archeological City in Najran, there is still a hole there where these Christians were burnt alive. Considering its historical and Islamic importance, it is the most important place to visit in Najran for tourists.
- Al-Okhdood Archeological City Location.