The Dead Sea in Islamic Tradition
|Prophet LOT shrine|
With its high mineral and salt content, the Dead Sea is known as a place of healing. It is visited by thousands each year seeking spa treatments, therapies, and relaxation. According to Islamic tradition, however, it also stands as a sign of God's punishment.
Location and Features:
The Dead Sea is the lowest surface on Earth, at 400 meters below sea level. It is located in the Middle East, bordered by Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. It is more of a lake than a "sea," fed by the Jordan River. The fresh water evaporates, however, leaving a salt concentration which is seven times stronger than that of the ocean. Beyond tiny microbes, no life can survive in the water.
The salt and minerals of the Dead Sea have long been believed to have healing properties. They are often used in soaps and cosmetics, and several high-class spas have sprung up along the shores of the Dead Sea to cater to tourists.
Prophet Lut (Lot):
According to Islamic and Biblical traditions, the Dead Sea is the site of the ancient city of Sodom, home of the Prophet Lut (Lot), peace be upon him. The Qur'an describes the people of Sodom as ignorant, wicked, evildoers who rejected God's call to righteousness. The people were murderers, thiefs, and openly practiced immoral sexual behavior. Lut perservered in preaching God's message, but found that even his own wife was one of the disbelievers.
God's severely punished the people of this region for their wickedness. According to the Qur'an, the punishment was to "turn the cities upside down, and rain down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread layer on layer, marked from your Lord" (Qur'an 11:82-83). The site of this punishment is now the Dead Sea, standing as a symbol of destruction.
Visiting the Dead Sea:
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, reportedly tried to dissuade people from visiting the sites of God's punishment: "Do not enter the place of those who were unjust to themselves, unless you are weeping, lest you should suffer the same punishment as was inflicted upon them."
The Qur'an describes that the site of this punishment has been left as a sign for those who follow: "Surely! In this are signs for those who understand. And verily, they (the cities) are right on the highroad. Surely! Therein is indeed a sign for the believers." (Qur'an 15:75-77)
If one does visit the Dead Sea, it is recommended to spend time recalling the story of Lut, and how he stood for righteousness among his people. The Qur'an says, "And to Lut, too, We gave wisdom and knowledge; We saved him from the town which practiced abominations. Truly they were a people given to evil, a rebellious people. And We admitted him to Our mercy; for he was one of the righteous" (Qur'an 21:74-75).