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Shoaib in Islamic traditionEdit
Al-Quran stated that Shoaib was appointed by God to be a prophet to the people who lived east of Mount Sinai, the people of Midian and Ayka. The people of these lands were said to be especially notorious for cheating others through dishonest weights and measures. Shoaib warned them against such actions but they did not listen. Subsequently, both lands were destroyed by the wrath of God. (see 7:91)
Despite this claim, according to Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary on Chapter 7:85 he said:
Shu'aib belongs to the Arab rather than Jewish tradition, to which he is unknown. His identification with Jethro, the father-in-law of Musa, Peace be on him, has no warrant, and I reject it. There is no similarity either in names or incidents, and there are chronological difficulties. If, as the commentators tell us, Shu'aib was in the fourth generation from Ibrahim, being a great-grandson of Madyan (son of Ibrahim), he would be only a century from the time of Ibrahim, whereas the Hebrew Bible would give us a period of four to six centuries between Ibrahim and Musa. The mere fact that Jethro was a Midianite and that another name, Reuel, is mentioned for a father-in-law of Musa in Num.x.29, is slender ground for identification. As the Midianites were mainly a nomad tribe, we need not be surprised that their destruction in one or two settlements did not affect their life in wandering sections of the tribe in other geographical regions. Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1946). The Holy Qur’ān : text, translation and commentary. Washington: American International Printing Co.. pp. 365, n. 1054.He further argued that the mission Shu'aib brought was in one of the settled towns of the Midianites, which was completely destroyed by an earthquake (see 7:91); and that if this happened in the century after Abraham, there is no difficulty in supposing that they were again a numerous tribe three or five centuries later, in the time of Musa.
As they were a mixed wandering tribe, both their resilience and their eventual absorption can be easily understood. But the destruction of the settlement or settlements (if the Wood or Aika was a separate settlement, (see 15:78) to which Shu'aib was sent to preach was complete, and no traces of it now remain. — ibid.
The Midianites were in the path of a commercial highway of Asia, viz., that between two such opulent and highly organized nations as Egypt and the Mesopotamian group comprising Assyria and Babylonia. Their besetting sins are thus characterised here:
- giving short measure or weight, whereas the strictest commercial probity is necessary for success;
- a more general form of such fraud, depriving people of rightful dues;
- producing mischief and disorder, where peace and order had been established (again in a literal as well as metaphorical sense);
- not content with upsetting settled life, taking to highway robbery, literally as well as
- metaphorically, in two ways, viz., cutting off people from access to the worship of God, and abusing religion and piety for crooked purposes, i.e., exploiting religion itself for their crooked ends, as when a man builds houses of prayer out of unlawful gains, or ostentatiously gives charity out of money which he obtained by force or fraud, etc.
After setting out this catalogue of besetting sins, Shu'aib makes two appeals to the past:
- You began as an insignificant tribe, and by God's favour you increased and multiplied in numbers and resources; do you not then owe a duty to God to fulfil His Law?
- What was the result in the case of those who fell into sins? Will you not take warning by their example?
So Shu'aib began his argument with faith in God as the source of all virtue, and ended it with destruction as the result of all sin. — op. cit., n. 1055, p. 366
Here again Yusuf Ali further extends his argument:
Can we get any idea of the chronological place of the destruction of the Midianite? In Chapter (7:85) we have discussed the geographical aspects. The following considerations will help us in getting some idea of their period:
- The story of Nuh (SAW), Hud, Salih(SAW), Lot(SAW) and Shu'aib seem to be in chronological order. Therefore Shu'aib came after Abraham,see 11:89) whose nephew Lot was.
- If Shu'aib was in the fourth generation from Abraham, It would be impossible for him to have been a contemporary of Musa, who came many centuries later — this difficulty is recognized by Ibn Kathir and other classical commentators.
- The identification of Shu'aib with Jethro the father-in-law of Musa is without warrant; see 7:85.
- Shu'aib must have been before Musa; see 7:103.
- The Midianites who were destroyed by Musa and by Gideon after him were local remnants, as we may speak of the Jews at the present day; but their existence as a nation in their original homeland seems to have ended before Musa(7:92).
- Josephus, Eusebius, and Ptolemy mention a town of Madyan, but it was not of any importance.
- After the first centuries of the Christian Era, Madyan as a town appears as an unimportant place resting on its past.
— op. cit., n. 1064, p. 369
The tomb of Shoaib  is well preserved in Jordan; it is located 2 km west of the town of Mahis in an area called Wadi Shoaib . Another site recognized by Druze as the tomb of Shoaib is located in Hattin in the Lower Galilee. The site is holy to the Druze.