In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadee al-Madkhalee [may Allaah preserve him] stated:
The attention given to artifacts (or relics) – in this era – in the manner pursued by the Archaeologists was not known during the era of the Prophet’s companions [may Allaah be pleased with them] and the pious predecessors [may Allaah have mercy upon them], but rather the Muslims blindly followed the Europeans and Americans whose greatest goal in studying artifacts (or relics) in the land of the Muslims is to revive (the traits of) pre-Islamic nationalism, such as Pharaonism, (Pan) Babylonianism, Phoenicianism etc And they succeeded to a great extent in actualizing many of these goals and thus arose – in the Muslim lands – the (traits) of pre-Islamic national pride and taking pride in these nationalisms.
Indeed, I am amazed with the example of yours [i.e. the one Shaikh Rabee is refuting] regarding the towns of (Prophet) Saaleh and Ukhdood (ie. the people who tortured the believers mentioned in Surah Al-Burooj), which are places (that incurred) Allaah’s anger!! Imaam Al-Bukhaaree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al-Jufee narrated to us that Abdur Razzaaq narrated to them from Az-Zuhree who narrated from Saalim, who narrated from Ibn Umar [may Allaah be pleased with him and his father], who said, ‘When the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] passed by Al-Hijr, he said, ‘Do not enter the dwelling places of those people who were unjust to themselves unless you enter in a weeping state lest the same calamity as of theirs should befall you’. Then he covered his head and made his speed fast till he crossed the valley”. Yahyah Bin Bukayr narrated to us who said that Maalik narrated to us from Abdullaah Bin Deenaar who reported from Ibn Umar [may Allaah be pleased with him and his father], who said, “Allah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said to his companions who were at Al-Hijr, ‘Do not enter upon these people who are being punished, except in a weeping state, lest the same calamity as of theirs should befall you'”. [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari. Numbers 4419 and 4420]
The two Prophetic reports show the danger of entering the places of those who incurred Allaah’s anger and He destroyed them due to their disbelief, denial of the prophets and what they brought. The Prophet did not permit entry into them [i.e. those places] except for one who fears Allaah and fears His punishment, so he enters them when in need whilst he is in a weeping state.
It is feared for the one who enters the dwellings of those who were punished that he would be afflicted with the punishment that afflicted them. It is legislated for the one who approaches those dwellings to go past quickly whilst covering his face as an act of following the example of Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him]. So, do the Muslim possess understanding – and amongst them the Archeologists and those who encourage them – of what is in this Prophetic guidance that came from one who does not speak out of his own desires [I.e. Muhammad -peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him]?
Also, Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] legislated for the one who goes past the valleys of Muhassar to hurry because Allaah destroyed the people of the Elephant over there [i.e. the story of the people of the Elephant – Surah Al-Feel].
So, those who excavate the artifacts (relics) of the people of Aad, Thamood, the Ashaab Al-Ukhdood, the pharoanic and Babylonian artifacts (or relics), do they act based on the guidance of Allaah’s Messenger] or do they blindly follow the enemies of Allaah who set up partnership of exploration for them from the artifacts (or relics) of the destroyed nations in order to entice (them) to the pride of pre Islamic ignorance. Indeed, I and other than myself have read the numerous boasting of Muslims or those who ascribe to Islam, such as the statement of some of them, “O Misree [i.e. Egyptian]! Be proud of the builders of your glory when people were sleeping”. He boasts about the Pharoanic artifacts (relics) such as the pyramids and other than them. (1)
Allaah [The Most High] said: [قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ سُنَنٌ فَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ – Many similar mishaps [troubles, problems] of life were faced by nations that have passed away before you, so travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who disbelieved]. [Surah Aal Imraan. Verse 137]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Indeed, there were nations like yourselves before you, so look to their evil end. You have to know that the reason behind their evil end was due to their disbelief in the revelations of Allaah and disbelief in Allaah’s Messengers. They were the forefathers and you are the descendants. The main affair that connects you to each other is your disbelief and the ruling on that disbelief is destruction”. (2)
Imaam Muhammad Bin Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “If it is said, ‘What is the benefit in narrating to us the stories of the destroyed nations despite the fact that this Ummah will not be completely destroyed in a manner similar to the destruction of the previous nations before it?'”.
The Answer: Indeed, this has two benefits: The first benefit is a clarification of Allaah’s blessings upon us that the occurrence of a complete destruction is removed from us, and that were it not for Allaah’s Benevolence we would have been deserving of it. Second, the likeness of the punishment they received may occur in the hereafter for the one who did what they did, if punishment was not received in the worldly life. And this may be understood from the statement of Allaah: “Such is the Seizure of your Lord when He seizes the population of towns while they are doing wrong. Verily, His Seizure is painful and severe. Indeed in that (there) is a sure lesson for those who fear the torment of the Hereafter.” So what is apparent from this Aayah is that what is similar to the punishment they received will happen in the Hereafter, and Allaah knows best. (3)
[Ref 1: Baraa’atus Sahaabah Al-Akhyaar Min At-Tabarruk Bil Amaakin Wal-Aalathaar. Pages 11-14. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: Source: I’laam Al-Muwaqqi-een: 1/181]
[Ref 3: Source: Al-Muntaqaa Min Fawaa-idil Fawaa-id 123-124]