THE PEOPLE OF SABA AND THE ARIM FLOOD
The Sabaean state had one of the strongest armies in the region and was able to adopt an expansionist policy thanks to its potent army. With its advanced culture and army, the Sabaean state was without question one of the "super powers" of the region at the time. This extraordinarily strong army of the Sabaean state is also described in the Qur'an. An expression of the commanders of the Saba army related in the Qur'an, shows the extent of the confidence this army had in itself. The commanders call out to the female ruler (Queen) of the state:
… "We possess strength and we possess great force. But the matter is in your hands so consider what you command." (Qur'an, 27:33)
The height of the dam in Ma'rib was 16 metres, its width was 60 metres and its length was 620 metres. According to the calculations, the total area that could be irrigated by the dam was 9,600 hectares, of which 5,300 hectares belonged to the southern plain. The remaining part belonged to the northern plain. These two plains were referred to as "Ma'rib and two plains" in the Sabaean inscriptions. The expression in the Qur'an, "two gardens to the right and to the left," points to the imposing gardens and vineyards in these two valleys. Thanks to this dam and its irrigation systems, the region became famous as the best irrigated and most fruitful area of Yemen. The Frenchman J. Holevy and the Austrian Glaser proved from written documents that the Ma'rib dam existed since ancient times. In documents written in the Himer dialect, it is related that this dam rendered the territory very productive and was the heartbeat of the economy.
The dam that collapsed in 542 led to the flood of Arim and caused enormous damage. The vineyards, orchards and fields cultivated for hundreds of years by the people of Saba were completely destroyed. Following the collapse of the dam, the people of Saba appear to have entered a period of rapid contraction, at the end of which the Sabaean state came to an end.
When we examine the Qur'an in the light of the historical data above, we observe that there is very substantial agreement here. Archaeological findings and the historical data both verify what is recorded in the Qur'an. As mentioned in the verse, these people, who did not listen to the exhortations of their Prophet and who rejected faith, were in the end punished with a dreadful flood. This flood is described in the Qur'an in the following verses:
There was, for Saba, aforetime, a Sign in their home-land-two Gardens to the right and to the left. "Eat of the Sustenance [provided] by your Lord, and be grateful to Him: a territory fair and happy, and a Lord Oft-Forgiving!" But they turned away [from Allah], and We sent against them the Flood [released] from the dams, and We converted their two garden [rows] into "gardens" producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some few [stunted] Lote-trees. That was the Requital We gave them because they ungratefully rejected Faith: And never do We give [such] requital except to such as are ungrateful rejecters. (Qur'an, 34:15-17)
As also used in the expression, Sayl al-Arim, the word "arim" is derived from the word "arimen" used in the Southern Arabic dialect, which means "dam, barrier." In the ruins unearthed in the excavations made in Yemen, this word was seen to be frequently used in this meaning. For example, in the inscriptions which was ordered by Yemen's Habesh monarch, Ebrehe (Abraha), after the restoration of the big Ma'rib wall in 542 and 543 AD, this word was used to mean dam (barrier) time and again. So, the expression of Sayl al- Arim means "a flood disaster which occurs after the destruction of a dam." "… We converted their two garden [rows] into gardens producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some few [stunted] Lote-trees"
The Christian archaeologist Werner Keller, writer of "Und Die Bible Hat Doch Recht" (The Holy Book Was Right), accepted that the flood of Arim occurred according to the description of the Qur'an and wrote that the existence of such a dam and the destruction of the whole country by its collapse proves that the example given in the Qur'an about the people of the garden was indeed realised.
After the disaster of the Arim flood, the region started to turn into a desert and the Sabaean people lost their most important source of income. Their lands, which had been agricultural havens of prosperity and financial strength, disappeared. The people, who had not heeded the call of Allah to believe in Him and to be grateful to Him, were in the end punished with this disaster.