Shuaib in the Quran is an Arab prophet whom God sent to the people of Midian. Shuaib (شُعَيب) was a devout and pious man who invited his people to the one and only God. His people used to worship a large tree and used to cheat people of their goods. Shuaib was also the father-in-law of Moses. In this article on Islam4u, we will take a look at:
Shuaib in the Quran: An Arab Prophet
Historians say that Shuaib was an Arab prophet and descendant of Prophet Ibrahim. In fact, he is the third Arab prophet whom God has mentioned in the Quran after Hūd (هود) and Ṣāliḥ (صالِح). He lived after the prophethood of Joseph and later became the Father-in-law of Moses. Shuaib is identified with the biblical figure Jethro whom the Bible names as the Father-in-law of Moses. The Quran tells his story in various surahs.
Shuaib in the Quran: Surah A‘rāf
God tells the story of Shuaib and the Midianites in detail in surah A‘rāf:
وَإِلَىٰ مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْبًا ۗ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم بَيِّنَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَأَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ وَالْمِيزَانَ وَلَا تَبْخَسُوا النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءَهُمْ وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿85﴾
And to [the people of] Midian [We sent] Shuaib, their brother. He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah! You have no other god besides Him. There has certainly come to you a manifest proof from your Lord. Observe fully the measure and the balance, and do not cheat the people of their goods, and do not cause corruption on the earth after its restoration. That is better for you, if you are faithful. 1
Like all other prophets of God, Shuaib invites his people to monotheism. However, their only problem was not monotheism, they also did not observe the measure and balance fully when weighing goods, and used to cheat people. Furthermore the Quran quotes Shuaib as saying to his people:
وَلَا تَقْعُدُوا بِكُلِّ صِرَاطٍ تُوعِدُونَ وَتَصُدُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِهِ وَتَبْغُونَهَا عِوَجًا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ كُنتُمْ قَلِيلًا فَكَثَّرَكُمْ ۖ وَانظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿86﴾
And do not lie in wait on every road to threaten and bar those who have faith in Him from the way of Allah, seeking to make it crooked. Remember when you were few, and He multiplied you, and observe how was the fate of the agents of corruption. 2
The Midianites were evil people in that they were the enemies of those who believed in God. They would lie in wait on the road and rob and harass caravans that were passing by. The Quran continues quoting Shuaib where it states:
وَإِن كَانَ طَائِفَةٌ مِّنكُمْ آمَنُوا بِالَّذِي أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ وَطَائِفَةٌ لَّمْ يُؤْمِنُوا فَاصْبِرُوا حَتَّىٰ يَحْكُمَ اللَّـهُ بَيْنَنَا ۚ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الْحَاكِمِينَ ﴿87﴾
If a group of you have believed in what I have been sent with, and a group have not believed, be patient until Allah judges between us, and He is the best of judges.’ 3
From this verse, one can understand that a group of people actually believed in Shuaib and became righteous. However, the idolaters among his people said:
قَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا مِن قَوْمِهِ لَنُخْرِجَنَّكَ يَا شُعَيْبُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَكَ مِن قَرْيَتِنَا أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِي مِلَّتِنَا
The elite of his people who were arrogant said, ‘O Shu’ayb, we will surely expel you and the faithful who are with you from our town, or else you shall revert to our creed.’
In this way, they threatened Shuaib and his followers. However, Shuaib and his followers were steadfast. The Quran continues telling the story:
قَالَ أَوَلَوْ كُنَّا كَارِهِينَ ﴿88﴾
He said, ‘What! Even if we should be unwilling?!
قَدِ افْتَرَيْنَا عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا إِنْ عُدْنَا فِي مِلَّتِكُم بَعْدَ إِذْ نَجَّانَا اللَّـهُ مِنْهَا ۚ وَمَا يَكُونُ لَنَا أَن نَّعُودَ فِيهَا إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّـهُ رَبُّنَا ۚ وَسِعَ رَبُّنَا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا ۚ عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا افْتَحْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَ قَوْمِنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْفَاتِحِينَ ﴿89﴾
We would be fabricating a lie against Allah should we revert to your creed after Allah had delivered us from it. It does not behoove us to return to it, unless Allah, our Lord, should wish so. Our Lord embraces all things in [His] knowledge. In Allah we have put our trust.’ ‘Our Lord! Judge justly between us and our people, and You are the best of judges!’ 4
Shuaib in the Quran: Surah Hūd
The Midianites were insistent on keeping their false beliefs. They said to Shuaib mockingly as stated in surah Hūd:
قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ أَصَلَاتُكَ تَأْمُرُكَ أَن نَّتْرُكَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا أَوْ أَن نَّفْعَلَ فِي أَمْوَالِنَا مَا نَشَاءُ ۖ إِنَّكَ لَأَنتَ الْحَلِيمُ الرَّشِيدُ ﴿87﴾
They said, ‘O Shuayb, does your worship require that we abandon what our fathers have been worshiping, or that we should not do with our wealth whatever we wish? You are indeed [a] gentle and sensible [person].’ 5
Shuaib in the Quran: Surah Shu‘arā’
Finally, the arrogant elites of the people of Shu‘ab said as mentioned in surah Shu‘arā’ (الشُعَراء):
قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مِنَ الْمُسَحَّرِينَ ﴿185﴾
They said, ‘Indeed you are one of the bewitched.
وَمَا أَنتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُنَا وَإِن نَّظُنُّكَ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ ﴿186﴾
You are just a human being like us, and we indeed consider you to be a liar.
فَأَسْقِطْ عَلَيْنَا كِسَفًا مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿187﴾
Make a fragment of the sky falls upon us, should you be truthful.’ 6
Prophet Shuaib was not the only prophet whom their people said he was bewitched. As a matter of fact, almost all prophets were accused of being bewitched or possessed by a devil. And now, they are asking for God’s punishment. Let us see how the Quran ends the story:
فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَأَخَذَهُمْ عَذَابُ يَوْمِ الظُّلَّةِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ ﴿189﴾
So they impugned him, and then they were overtaken by the punishment of the day of the overshadowing cloud. It was indeed the punishment of a terrible day.
إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً ۖ وَمَا كَانَ أَكْثَرُهُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿190﴾
There is indeed a sign in that; but most of them do not have faith. 7
Shuaib Becomes the Father-in-Law of Moses
As we explained in the article Moses in the Quran, Moses escaped Egypt and went to Midian. There he saw two women who wanted to water their flock but were keeping distance from a group of men. Moses watered their flock. One of them approached Moses:
فَجَاءَتْهُ إِحْدَاهُمَا تَمْشِي عَلَى اسْتِحْيَاءٍ قَالَتْ إِنَّ أَبِي يَدْعُوكَ لِيَجْزِيَكَ أَجْرَ مَا سَقَيْتَ لَنَا ۚ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ وَقَصَّ عَلَيْهِ الْقَصَصَ قَالَ لَا تَخَفْ ۖ نَجَوْتَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿25﴾
Then one of the two women approached him, walking bashfully. She said, ‘Indeed my father invites you to pay you the wages for watering [our flock] for us.’ So when he came to him and recounted the story to him, he said, ‘Do not be afraid. You have been delivered from the wrongdoing lot.’
Of course, in these verses of surah Qaṣaṣ, the name of Shuaib is not mentioned, but exegetes say it was Shuaib especially because Moses went to Midian which is the homeland of Shuaib . Shuaib , as the Quran says, was at an old age and he needed someone to help him. So he hired Moses and gave him one of his daughters in marriage.
There are four places that have been attributed to the tomb of Shuaib:
- Mecca near the Kaaba
- Yemen in the city of Hadramawt
- Tostar, one of the ancient cities of Iran
- Quran 7:85 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:86 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:87 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:88-89 (Qara’i).
- Quran 11:87 (Qara’i).
- Quran 26:185-187 (Qara’i).
- Quran 26:189-190 (Qara’i).
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