12. When the most wicked among them went forth;
13. But the apostle of Allah said to them: "It is a She‑camel of Allah! and (bar her not from) her drink!"
14. Then they rejected him (as a false prophet) and they slayed her. So their Lord annihilated them on account of their crime and made the punishment equal to all.
15. And He (Allah) does not fear its consequences.
Almighty Allah speaks of how the nation, Thamud rejected their Messenger (salutations be upon him) because of the rebellious and transgressing ways they had adopted. He subsequently afflicted their hearts with rejection of that guidance and faith which their Messenger had brought from Him.
“When the most wicked among them went forth” - The most wicked of this tribe was Qudaar bin Saalif the slayer of the camel. It is him to whom Allah refers in the verse: “So they called their friend, who then attacked (the camel) and butchered it.” This particular person was a man of noble descent, well respected and obeyed, and a leader among his people. Imam Ahmad reports that once the Messenger of Allah (salutations upon him) delivered a sermon and discussed the camel of (The Prophet Saalih), and its slayer. He then said: “When the most wicked among them went forth” A man who was of repute, influential and accepted by his tribe, set forth to kill the camel, a man of the calibre of Abu Zumu’ah.”
Ibni Abi Haatim narrates from Ammar bin Yaasir that the Messenger of Allah (salutations be upon him) said to Ali: “Shall I not inform you of the most wicked of people?” He said: “Please do!” He went on: “Two men: one is the blood-letter of the Thamud, the one who slayed the camel. The other is the man who shall strike you here (i.e. on the head) until this (i.e. the beard) is wet with your blood!”
“The Apostle of Allah” in the above verse is Saalih (upon whom be peace).
“It is the she-camel of Allah” - This means, be careful not to harm this camel.
“And her drink” - meaning: do not trangress with regard to the times of drinking, for she has an appointed day to drink, whilst you too have an appointed day to draw water.
“Then they rejected him and slayed her” - They rejected the message brought by him, thus precipitating the slaying of the camel. Allah had brought out this camel from solid rock as a sign of prophethood and proof against their rejection.
“So their Lord annihilated them on account of their crime” - In other words, their Lord descended His Wrath upon them, resulting in their total destruction.
“And made the punishment equal to all” - The chastisement was made to descend upon everyone equally. Qatadah says: When the slayer of the camel wrought his crime, the whole tribe, big and small, male and female, everyone supported him. So when they all participated in the killing of the camel, Allah brought upon them his destruction and made it common to all.
“And he does not fear its consequences” - Ibni Abbas t says: “Allah never fears any reprisal from anyone.” Dhahhak and Suddi say: “The man who killed the camel never feared the consequences of his action.” However, the first view is preferred because the context of the sentence attests to it.
And Allah knows best.