What is the story of prophet shuaib? Who is the prophet jethro?
The prophet whose speeches enraptured hearts JETHRO -peace be upon him-
Jethro (as), or Shuayb (as) as the Qur’an refers to him, was a descendant of either Abraham (as) or Salih (as). He is also said to be a maternal cousin of Job (as). It is reported that he was born at a time when one of Lot’s (as) daughters was still alive. He is more famously known as the father-in-law of Moses (as).
Jethro (as) was a prophet to Madyan and Aykah, two neighboring nations that lived in a mountainous and wooded region. (Hakim, Mustadrak, II, 621/4075)
Jethro (as) hailed from a noble family in Madyan, and spent his youth there, among a people who had become unruly. Jethro (as) kept to himself and lived a clean life away from their misdeeds. He set an example to the rest through his both lifestyle and words of wisdom.
This nation took its name from Madyan, which is the region that stretches from the Khoms Valley to the Gulf of Aqabah.
The Madyanites had taken to transgression and rebellion. They had abandoned worshipping the Lord and doing good. They instead bowed to idols. Most of them were merchants, as Madyan sat on trade routes. However, they had become masters of deceit and fraud. They had turned defrauding into an art form. When purchasing goods, they would tip the scales to pay less; but when they sold the same goods, they would, again, tip the scales to swindle more money from the buyer. They even used one scale for buying and another for selling.
The Madyanites would also seal off roads and take away a portion of people’s property by force. Especially vulnerable were foreigners and the weak, who were coerced to hand over their belongings through all sorts tricks. Social interaction in Madyan was based purely on fraud, abuse and tyranny. Not only were the Madyanites unthankful for the divine blessings they were given, they had taken their ingratitude a step further by rebelling against Allah and yielding to idols. Their belief was built on paganism, their trade on deceit, while their profession of choice was profiteering.
Every divine pillar in Madyan had crumbled and its people faced a total political, economic and moral collapse.
It was at a time when Madyanites were embroiled in such decadence, without a clue of what their evils would bring, that the Almighty sent them Jethro (as) as a prophet. He tried speaking sense into them and reminded them of Allah’s prohibitions and commands. He urged them not to worship anyone other than Allah (jj), to be fair in trade, to have firm belief in the afterlife and not to cause strife on earth. While he told them of the enormity of Allah’s punishment, he also spoke of His countless rewards.
The Qur’an states:
“And to Madyan, We sent their brother Jethro. He said, ‘My people, worship Allah! You have no god but Him. And do not steal from the measure and the scale! You may be in prosperity now but I fear for you the punishment of an overwhelming day.” (Hud, 11: 84)
“And to Madyan We sent their brother Jethro. He said, ‘My people, worship Allah! You have no god but Him. There has come to you clear evidence from your Lord. So fulfill the measure and weight! Do not deprive people of their due and do corrupt the earth after it has been reformed! That is better for you, if you should believe.’” (Al-Araf, 7: 85)
“My people, worship Allah and look ahead to the last day to come!” (Al-Ankabut, 29: 36)
In such manner, Jethro (as) persisted with conveying the truth to his people, inviting them to affirm belief in the hereafter and divine tribunal, and encouraging them to do deeds that would save them.
Jethro (as) especially warned the people against resorting to deceit and fraud in trade. He told them that unless they changed their ways, Allah would take back everything He had given them. Among other things, the Almighty had blessed the Madyanites with plenty of wealth. They should have thought better and repented, instead of stubbornly sticking to the habits that would ultimately destroy them.
Jethro (as) continued:
“And my people! Give full measure and weight in justice! Do not deprive people of their due. And do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption!” (Hud, 11: 85)
Jethro (as) followed this up by the laying out the principles of trade. It was based on being fair in measuring the value of goods and being content with standard profits. This would ensure a secure trade and prevent violating the rights of others. Jethro (as) added:
“What remains lawful from Allah is best for you, if only you would believe! But I am not a guardian over you.” (Hud, 11: 86)
That is to say, “I neither have the power to punish you for your misdeeds, nor prevent you from losing all you have to ingratitude. I can do no more than to convey you the truths revealed to me!”
The above verses indicate that Jethro (as) invited his people to five things:
Tawhid and to worship Allah (jj) alone.
To accept he is a prophet.
To stick to fair measures and avoid deceit in trade.
To recognize the inviolability of the rights of others, and to abandon all crimes whether public or private, such as extortion, theft and bribery.
Not to cause mischief in worldly as well as religious affairs.
These five principles conveyed by Jethro (as) may be summarized as “to honor the Creator and show mercy to the created.” This encompasses the recognition of tawhid, the truth of prophets, the inviolability of the rights of others and the need to avoid causing mischief and corruption on earth.
Jethro’s (as) call proved to be very effective, and forced many people to question themselves. Many of his kinsmen began coming to him to profess their belief and set out to act on his advices. They still continued doing trade, but justice had now become their norm.
However, a high number of people continued to deny him. What bothered them was the fact they had to settle for a fair, normal revenue and profit. They thought these made it impossible to become rich. So, they continued promoting injustice.
They said to Jethro (as):
“They said, ‘Hey Jethro! Does your ritual prayer tell you that we should abandon what our fathers have worshipped and stop doing with our wealth as we please? You sure are mild and wise man!” (Hud, 11: 87)
What they meant by ‘ritual prayer’, was the religion itself. That is because as the most comprehensive and important deed, ritual prayer or salat virtually represents religion. On the flipside, this also shows just how important the five daily prayers are.
“He said, ‘My people! Have you considered for once that I just might be on clear evidence from my Lord and He has provided me with a good provision? And I do not wish to differ from you by doing what I have forbidden you! I only intend on correcting you as much as I can. And my success is only through Allah. Upon him I have relied, and to Him I return.” (Hud, 11: 88)
Here, Jethro (as) says to his people:
“I only ask you to do things that I already do myself. And if I ask you to avoid something, I would be the first person to stop doing it.”
Practicing what you preach when conveying the religion, is an important quality which Allah has (jj) praised. In contrast, Allah (jj) has banned and furthermore condemned hypocrisy. This was a major reason as to why the Qur’an panned some later Jewish scholars:
“Do you order people to do good while forgetting it yourselves, when you well know what the Scripture says? Will you not reason?” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 44)
The Prophet (saw) also explains:
“On the day of judgment, a man will be brought forth and thrown into hell. All the organs around his belly will spill out from the heat. The man would start spinning like a donkey around a mill. The dwellers of hell would gather and ask:
‘What are you doing here? Were you not the one who advised us to do good and avoid evil?’
The man will say, ‘Yes, I was. I advised you to do good but did not do it myself. And I advised you to avoid evil but engaged in it myself.” (Muslim, Zuhd, 51/2989)
Jethro (as) tirelessly continued his call to the truth. Nevertheless, most of his kinsmen were set in their ways. Soon, they took things to another level. They could not harm Jethro (as) personally, as he belonged to a strong clan. However, they began threatening those around him. Jethro (as) cautioned them against it:
“And do not sit on every path, threatening and averting believers from the way of Allah, and try to deviate them! Remember the times when you were few and He increased you. And look at how it all ended for the corrupters.” (Al-Araf, 7: 86)
Jethro (as) took little notice of the problems facing him and persevered. He practiced the law of Abraham (as). Soon, his message reached as far as Damascus; and people far and wide, burning with divine love, began flocking to Madyan to meet him. However, this time, the troublemakers of Madyan came out on the roads that led to the city to prevent them from seeing Jethro (as). This was a clear sign that they were following Satan, who at the time of his expulsion from Allah’s presence, had said:
“Satan said, ‘Because You have put me in error, I promise you that I will sit and wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from their front and back, from their right and left. And You will not find many of them grateful.” (Al-Araf, 7: 16-17)
Jethro (as) was striving to stop the Madyanites from:
…assembling on the sides of roads to harass people
…preventing others from believing in Allah
…and trying to cast all sorts of doubts in the hearts of those who either had already accepted the religion or were about to accept it.
The Final Warnings
Jethro (as) had become worried by the misconducts and rebellious attitude of his people and wanted use all the patience he had to wake them up from their slumber. So, he issued a warning:
“And my people! Do not let your rebellion cause you to be struck by something similar to what struck the people of Noah, the people of Hud or the people of Salih. And the people of Lot are not too far away.” (Hud, 11: 89)
That is to say, it was only recently that the nations mentioned were destroyed. They are not too far back in time to remember. You, Madyanites, revel in the same evils that led them to perish. Therefore, you should stop and have a long, hard think!
“And ask forgiveness of your Lord and then repent to Him. My Lord is indeed Merciful and Affectionate.” (Hud, 11: 90)
However, the leaders of Madyan just would not listen:
“They said, ‘Hey Jethro! We do not understand much of what you say, and we think you are weak. And if it was not for your clan, we would have stoned you to death. We have no respect for you either!’
He said, ‘My people! Is my clan worthier of respect than Allah? But you have put Him behind your backs. Still, my Lord encompasses what you do.” (Hud, 11: 91-92)
By now, Jethro (as) had all but given up hope that his kinsmen would change their ways, and there was no more he could do other than let fate take its course. However, in a final attempt, he reminded them of divine punishment, hoping perhaps that it would knock some sense into them:
“And if there should be a group among you who believes in what I have been sent with and a group who does not, then be patient until Allah judges between us. And He is the best of judges.” (Al-Araf, 7: 87)
However, this time, the Madyanites accused Jethro (as) of being a liar. They further threatened to expel both him and the believers from the land. They now felt that the believers living among them posed a threat:
“The arrogant leaders among his people said, ‘We will surely drive you, Jethro, and those who have believed in you, out of our city, unless you return to our religion!’
Jethro said, ‘What! Even if we were unwilling to do so?’” (Al-Araf, 7: 88)
“We will have slandered against Allah if we returned to your religion after He has saved us from it. And we will not return, unless Allah wills it. Our Lord has encompassed all things in knowledge. And on Allah we rely. Our Lord! Separate us from our people on the lines of truth. You are the best of those who can do so.” (Al-Araf, 7: 89)
While Jethro (as) rejects the call to turn back, he makes an exception, saying that it is only possible if Allah (jj) wills it to happen. This attitude represents his total submission to Allah’s will. Prophets and saints constantly fear Allah’s punishment and are wary about their conditions changing for the worse.
For that reason, Jethro (as) says:
“It is unthinkable for us to leave Allah’s religion and return to yours. Yet, if Allah (jj) has willed for our destruction, we cannot do anything about it. All of our affairs are in His hands. He rewards whom He wills for doing good, and punishes whom He wills for committing evil.”
Our Prophet (saw) would frequently pray:
“My Lord who rules over our hearts…Place our hearts in Your service.” (Muslim, Qadar, 17)
Nevertheless, Jethro (as)’s words of wisdom did nothing to disturb the Madyanites. Not only did they continue their denial, they became increasingly unable to stomach those who had believed in Jethro’s (as) call. The believers were condemned, threatened, abused and cornered to turn back from the religion:
“The arrogant leaders among his people said, ‘If you follow Jethro, then you will certainly be the losers!’” (Al-Araf, 7: 90)
The Terrifying Shriek from the Skies
Jethro (as) could do no more to set his people right. So, he said:
“And my people, do whatever you can; indeed, I am, too. You will soon know who the punishment will disgrace, and who is a liar. So keep an eye out! I am watching alongside you!” (Hud, 11: 93)
“And when Our command came, We saved Jethro and those who believed with him, by mercy from Us. And the shriek seized those who had wronged, and they were knocked out inside their homes.” (Hud, 11: 94)
Elsewhere, the Qur’an describes the scene as:
“So the earthquake seized them in their homes, and turned them into corpses fallen prone. Those who denied Jethro, it was as though they had never lived there. Those who denied Jethro; it was they who were the losers.” (Al-Araf, 7: 91-92)
So the Madyanites got their just desert for their debauchery, deceit, injustice and rebellion against the Almighty and His prophet. For tyrants, this punishment was inescapable; and tyrants did not deserve any compassion:
“And Jethro turned away from them and said, ‘My people! I certainly conveyed to you the messages of my Lord and advised you. So how could I now grieve for a disbelieving people?” (Al-Araf, 7: 93)
“As if they had never prospered therein. Then, away with Madyan, just like Thamud!” (Hud, 11: 95)
Like Thamud, the Madyanites perished through a loud and petrifying noise. The similarity of their punishment points to the likeness of their immoral characters. Allah, in fact, curses both of them in the same way: that they be distant from divine mercy. Madyan is spoken of in the same breath as Thamud.
The shriek that obliterated Thamud had sounded from the bottom of the earth, while that of Madyan came from the skies. However, the noise hurled eternally them away from Allah’s mercy, just the same.
The People of Aykah
Aykah means a dense forest. Geographically, it is the area that stretches from the Red Sea to Madyan. Its inhabitants took their name from the area.
Jethro (as) had also been tasked to guide to people of Aykah, who like the Madyanites, were basking in wealth and prosperity but had strayed from the lighted path of tawhid.
Just like those in Madyan, the people of Aykah also denied Jethro (as).
Allaht he Almighty states:
“The people of Aykah denied the messenger.” (Al-Shu’ara, 26: 176)
“And the people of Aykah were also wrongdoers.” (Al-Hijr, 15: 78)
“Recall when Jethro said to them, ‘Will you not fear Allah? I am to you a trustworthy messenger. So fear Allah and obey me. And I do not ask you for any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.” (Al-Shu’ara, 26: 177-180)
The prophets came to their people with two main qualities:
They did not ask for any payment or benefits, and stressed that their rewards were only from Allah (jj).
And their conduct set the best example for their communities. There was a perfect harmony between their words and action.
The importance of these two qualities is stressed in the story recounted in chapter Yasin. Envoys arrive at a town to invite people to the truth. A local, who scholars have identified as Habib the Carpenter, advises the townsfolk:
“Do these people ask for any money from you? Are they not exemplary in their conduct and character? Well, if that is the case –and it truly is- that means they are on the right path and speak the truth. And nothing is better for you than to follow them!”
Jethro (as) continued advising the people of Aykah:
“Give full measure and do not be of those who cause loss. Weigh with an even balance. Do not deprive people of their due and do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption. And fear He who created you and those before.” (Al-Shu’ara, 26: 181-184)
“They said, ‘You are simply under a spell! You are but a man like us, and we truly think you are a liar! Make the skies crumble on us, if you are really speaking the truth!” (Al-Shu’ara, 26: 185-187)
The Destruction from the Skies: Scorching Flames
When the people brashly asked for divine punishment, Jethro (as) just said:
“My Lord well knows what you do.” (Al-Shu’ara, 26: 188)
He prayed to the Lord to bring on the destruction they had been asking for. Not long after, hot winds began to blow and blue flies appeared in the land to pester the people. The pagans were left helpless. The weather gradually got warmer to the point it became insufferable. The people of Aykah flocked to riversides, seeking shades beneath the trees. However, it was getting hotter by the day. Then, Jibril (as) brought a cloud and held it hovering right outside the city. The pagans thought the cloud offered a cool shade and rushed underneath it. When every single one of them had gathered under the cloud, they heard a voice:
“People of Aykah! Taste the torment you thought would never come! And ask your idols to help you if they can!”
Suddenly, the cloud began raining down fire. It burned everyone and everything, including the trees, and even stones.
The Qur’an says:
“And they denied him, so the punishment of the day of the black cloud seized them. It was the punishment of a terrible day. In that is a sign, but most of them still do not believe. And indeed, your Lord…He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.” (Al-Shu’ara, 26: 189-191)
In the end, both the communities to whom Jethro (as) was sent were destroyed: Madyanites with a shriek followed by an earthquake, and the people of Aykah with flames that rained from a cloud they mistook for a shade.
After the Destruction
After the two nations were destroyed, Jethro (as) settled around Madyan. During that time, he married and had two daughters.
Jethro (as) is known as khatibu’l anbiya, the orator of prophets. He spoke beautifully and gave convincing answers to the questions he was posed.
He was a prophet who offered lots of prayer and paid great attention to observe the rights of others. He especially showed great rigor in trying to get the merchants among his nation to stop rigging the scales. He meticulously tried to instill in them feelings of justice.
Another quality of Jethro (as) was that he was a sensitive man who shed a lot of tears. At old age, his eyes had become weak and his body frail. There came a point, where he cried so much that he lost his eyesight. Allah returned his vision and asked him, through revelation:
“Why is it that you cry so much? Is it because of your enthusiasm for paradise or fear of hell?”
Jethro (as) replied, “My Lord…You know better than me that my tears are neither for paradise nor hell. It is just that Your love taken hold of my heart and I am worried about whether I will be able to see You! Nothing else would worry me, if I knew for sure that I would!”
The Almighty said, “You have been true to your word…and for that, you will get to see Me. And I have designated Imran’s son Moses, whom I shall speak to, as your servant!”
This is the state of mind of people close to Allah. Contrary to the ignorant, they always hold the love of Allah above all things else and have no interest in public recognition. Because divine love has tightly embraced their hearts, they do not look at either the here or the hereafter, even with the corner of their eyes.
Prophets were sent to open up the eyes of people’s hearts, rid them of forgetfulness, endow them with beautiful morals and teach them how to worship Allah in a way that would deliver them to a perfect reunion with Him. In short, they were sent to call humans to the daru’s salam, the land of peace.
People, whose eye of the heart have the potential to open, sincerely desire spiritual training and make an effort to make progress on the path of truth. However, the stubborn and conceited, who have no desire to acquire this kind of certain knowledge and block their ears to the teachings of prophets, leave themselves in a dark and depressing place. They become hardened sinners and pitiable, no different to a traveler who has lost his way, not knowing whether to turn left or right.
Because of the intensity of his compassion, Jethro (as) spent a lifetime trying to save people from misery, doing everything he could in his power and almost burning himself out in the process.
Towards the end of his life on earth, Jethro (as) led the believers on a migration to Mecca, where he spent the rest of his days. He was buried in Hatim at the Kaaba, right beneath the Golden Rainspout.
Peace be upon him…
. See, Ya Sin, 36: 21.