Prophets of Allah – Shu‘aib: The Prophet sent to Midian

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
Shuaib 2

Shu‘aibas [شُعَيب] was a noble Prophet of Allah sent to a place named Midian (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.86). Midian was also the son of Abrahamas from his wife, Keturah. (Genesis 25:1-2) The descendants of Midian resided in the northern side of Hijaz. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has explained that Midian was also the name of a town close to the Red Sea. (Tafsir-e-Kabir. Vol.3, p. 234) Thus, this makes Prophet Shu‘aibas a descendant of the Father of the Prophets, Abrahamas.

Ibn Kathir states that the dwellers of Midian resided in Ma’an and were of Arab descent. (Ibn Kathir, Qasas-ul-Anbiya [Urdu], under Prophet Shu‘aibas, p. 246)

Alluding to Hudas, the Holy Quran states:

“And unto ‘Ad We sent their brother Hud.” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch. 7: V. 66).

Further, we read:

“And to Thamud We sent their brother Salih.” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.74).


“And to Midian We sent their brother Shu‘aib.” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.86).

Concerning these three Prophets – Hudas, Salihas, and Shu‘aibas – Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explained:

“The verses mean that Hudas, Salihas and Shu‘aybas were in close association with their respective peoples, so that those peoples could be said to know everything about them.” (Introduction to the Study of the Holy Quran, p. 9)

Shu‘aibas was a descendant of the Father of the Prophets

Shu‘aibas was a non-Israelite Prophet who lived before Prophet Mosesas (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.104). The Holy Quran states, “And to Midian [We sent] their brother Shu‘aib.” (7:86) This verse highlights that he was a descendant of Prophet Abrahamas as he was a brother of the people of Midian who were the descendants of Midian, son of Abraham and Keturah. (Genesis 25:1-2)

His advent was not so far after Prophet Lot’sas as he is recorded to have said to his people:

“‘O my people, let not your hostility towards me lead you to this that there should befall you the like of that which befell the people of Noah or the people of Hud or the people of Salih; and the people of Lot are not far from you.” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.90)

Ashab al-Aykah

The Holy Quran states that Prophet Shu‘aibas was sent to the People of the Wood:

“The People of the Wood rejected the Messengers, When Shu‘aibas said to them, ‘Will you not be righteous? Surely, I am unto you a Messenger, faithful to [my] trust. So fear Allah, and obey me, and I ask of you no reward for it. My reward is only with the Lord of the worlds. Give full measure, and be not of those who give less, and weigh with a true balance, and diminish not unto people their things, nor act corruptly in the earth, making mischief. And fear Him Who created you and the earlier peoples.’” (Surah ash-Shu‘ara’, Ch.26: V.177-185)

The reason for producing the translation of these verses is to demonstrate, as will become clearer later on in the article, that the people of Ashab al-Aykah were guilty of doing what the people of Midian did. Thus, it indicates that these two were sections of the same place.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explains that Ashab al-Aykah was another name or section of the people of Shu‘aibas, known for its dense trees and such a forest where oak trees and Salvadora persica trees were in abundance. And so, Huzoorra adds, it means that there seems to have been a forest near the area consisting of tangled and luxuriant trees. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 4, pp. 100-101)

In the Five Volume Commentary, it states:

“The fact that according to the Quran the Prophet Shu‘aibas was sent both to أَصۡحٰبُ ٱلۡأَيۡكَة i.e. People of the Wood and أَصۡحٰب مَدۡيَن i.e. People of Midian (7:86 and 11:85) shows that both these were the names of two sections of the same people, Shu‘aibas particularly belonging to the section known as مَدۡيَن, because where in the Quran he is stated as having been sent to مَدۡيَن he is described as ‘their brother’ and where he is mentioned as having been sent to أَصۡحٰبُ ٱلۡأَيۡكَة the words ‘their brother’ are omitted.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, p. 2373)

Ibn Kathir, in his book Qasas-ul-Anbiya, writes that Shu‘aibas is known as Khateeb-ul-Anbiya because when calling his people to the truth, he made use of eloquent language. (Ibn Kathir, Qasas Ul-Anbiya [Urdu], under Prophet Shu‘aibas, p. 245)

People of Lotas, People of the Wood, and the People of Hijr

In Surah al-Hijr, after mentioning the people of Lotas, we read about the People of the Wood and then the People of the Salihas:

“And the People of the Wood [too] were surely wrongdoers. So We chastised them [also]. And they both lie on a manifest way. And the People of the Hijr also did treat the Messengers as liars.” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.79: V.81)

In light of this, we read in the Five Volume Commentary:

“The order in which they have been mentioned is noteworthy. They have not been mentioned in their chronological order but in the order of the distance of their habitations from Mecca. The land of the people of Lotas was the most distant of the three places and so it has been mentioned first. Next in order of distance were the people of Aykah, and they have been put next. Hijr being situated between Tabuk and Medina, the tribe of Thamud were the nearest of the three and it has consequently been mentioned last of all. In the order of time, the people of Hijr preceded the people of Lotas and the people of Aykah came last. This unusual order has been adopted in preference to the more natural one with a view to producing the greatest psychological effect, the tribe that was least known to the Arabs being mentioned first and the tribe which the Arabs knew best being mentioned last.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.3, p. 1626)

Khateeb-ul-Anbiya’s message to his people

Prophet Shu‘aibas admonished his people:

“‘O my people, worship Allah; you have no other deity but Him. A clear Sign has indeed come to you from your Lord. So give full measure and full weight, and diminish not unto people their things, and create not disorder in the earth after it has been set in order.” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.86)

From this verse, we come to know that his people would practise idolatry and resort to fraud during their dealings. The words, “So give full measure and full weight” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.86) clarify that his people were not fair in their dealings.

Such people, who cling to this practice are asked, in the Holy Quran, “Do not such [people] know that they will be raised again?” (Surah at-Tatfif, Ch.83: V.4)

Prophet Shu‘aibas told them that he feared the punishment of a destructive day would befall upon them if they carried on in their ways. (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.85)

Shu‘aibas and his people

Hearing his message, his people ironically said to him:

“‘O Shu‘aib, does thy Prayer bid thee that we should leave what our fathers worshipped, or that we cease to do with our property what we please?’” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.88)

This shows that they were a proud people who did not regard anything their Prophet called them towards. All Prophets of God face such hardships. At first, his people deem that the Prophet sent to them desires power and rule over them. Shu‘aibas replied “‘I only desire reform as far as I can.’” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.89)

He further exhorts them and reminds them of what happened to the people of Noahas, Hudas, Salihas, and Lotas. “‘And O my people, let not [your] hostility towards me lead you to this that there should befall you the like of that which befell the people of Noah or the people of Hud or the people of Salih; and the people of Lot are not far from you.” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.90) This shows that Shu‘aibas came after the people of Noahas, Salihas, and Lotas but before Mosesas as he did not mention what happened to the Pharaoh and those who rejected Mosesas.

His people responded that if it were not for his tribe, they would stone him. (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.92) Prophet Shu‘aibas, hearing this, replied:

“‘O my people, is my tribe mightier with you than Allah? And you have cast Him behind your backs as neglected. Surely, my Lord encompasses all that you do.” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.93)

Prophets of God always speak out against those who pay little attention to the power of Allah. During the battle of Uhud, when Abu Sufyan exclaimed:

اعل ھبل

“O Hubl! Exalted by thy name!”

The Holy Prophetsa responded by saying:

اللّٰہ أَعلي وأَجل

“Greatness and grandeur belongs to Allah the Exalted alone.”

Abu Sufyan replied:

لَنَا العُزّي وَلا عُزّي لَکُم

“We have ‘Uzza but you have no ‘Uzza!”

Then, the Holy Prophetsa exclaimed:

اللّٰہُ مَولانا وَلا مَولي لَکُم

“We have Allah, Who is our Helper, but you have no Helper.” (The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 2, p. 343)

The prophets of Allah understood and stood firmly to the fact that it was Allah in whom they trust and turn to alone.

Similarity to events in the life of the Holy Prophetsa

As Prophets of God all came with the same message which was to reintroduce human beings to Allah, the One true God, there were some who were fortunate enough not to be blinded by darkness and accept the Prophet of their time; however, there were also some unfortunate souls who did not recognise the call of their time.  The disbelievers of Mecca made efforts to halt the message of Islam, they deterred outsiders from approaching the Messengeras of Allah. We find a similar instance during the life of Prophet Shu‘aibas. Those who rejected the message of Holy Prophetsa bore a striking resemblance to the disbelievers of Shu‘aibas. The Holy Quran records:

“‘And sit not on every path, threatening and turning away from the path of Allah those who believe in Him, and seeking to make it crooked.’” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.87)

This verse implies that they too made efforts to halt the message he came with.

Was Shu‘aibas the father-in-law of Mosesas?

The Bible states that Moses’as father-in-law was Jethro (Exodus, 3:1); additionally, there are several pieces of evidence that support this perspective:

The Holy Quran mentions both Prophet Shu‘aibas and the father-in-law of Mosesas; however, it never suggests that they are the same person. Further, the father-in-law of Mosesas is not even referred to as a prophet in the Holy Quran or Islam. Additionally, as stated above at the beginning of the article, the Holy Quran confirms that Moses’as advent was after the destruction of the people of Midian. (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.104)

Further, the Holy Quran states Prophet Shu‘aibas mentions Prophet Lotas indicating that he came and was sent to his people not long after Lotas. (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.90)

Enemies threaten to drive Shu‘aibas away, and their destruction

After hearing the message of Shu‘aibas, an arrogant chief of his people threatened to drive him and his followers out “from our town”. (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.89)

Being a Prophet of God, Shu‘aibas placed his trust in God alone. A Prophet of God, after having preached his message and faced with such difficulty, leaves the matter to Allah.

“The chief men of his people who disbelieved said, ‘If you follow Shu‘aib, you shall then certainly be the losers.’” (Surah al-A`raf, Ch.7: V.91)

The Holy Quran states that disbelievers who rejected the call of Shu‘aibas were destroyed by an earthquake.

The people of Shu‘aibas so proudly said that they would expel him “from our town”.  (Surah al-A`raf, Ch.7: V.89) In this incident lies the essence of Allah’s help. Rejecters of the divine call assume that they are powerful and have the ability to do as they please. For his people to label the town as “our town” and then be demolished by it speaks volumes of the will of Allah. Their homes were so utterly effaced from the face of the earth that it seemed as if nobody lived there, their existence plucked out of this world. “Those who accused Shu‘aib of lying became as if they had never dwelt therein. Those who accused Shu‘aib of lying – it was they who were the losers.” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.93)

They are now only recalled in the account of their Prophet who turned out victorious and true in his message. Such does Allah do to the losers who stand in the way of the divine call. They accused their Prophet of lying and yet ruined themselves.

In the Holy Quran, we read:

“And when Our command came, We saved Shu‘aib and those who had believed with him by Our special mercy; and chastisement seized those who had done wrong, so that they lay prostrate in their houses.” (Surah Hud, Ch.11: V.95)

“Shu‘aibas lived in a territory where earthquakes were frequent. So it is quite possible that, as the words apparently show, his people should have been visited with an earthquake: but the word ‘صيحة’ […] [as mentioned in وَاَخَذَ الَّذِيۡنَ ظَلَمُوا الصَّيۡحَةُ فَاَصۡبَحُوۡا فِيۡ دِيَارِہِمۡ جٰثِمِيۡنَ] may also mean any other punishment and the words, they lay prostrate in their houses, may have been used in a figurative sense, meaning that their power was broken by some dreadful visitation and they met with disgrace and humiliation, as if thrown into the dust.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.3, pp. 1388-1389)

Prophet Shu‘aibas said, “‘O my people, indeed, I delivered to you the message of my Lord and gave you sincere counsel. How then should I sorrow for a disbelieving people?’” (Surah al-A`raf, Ch.7: V.94)

In here lie the essence of the emotions of the Prophets of Allah. Take a moment to imagine the anguish that Prophet Shu‘aibas must have felt. Despite his wise counsel, his people did not heed his call. Truly are those unfortunate souls who have been given the chance of salvation and live among their Prophet, yet refuse to pay any heed.

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