Shu’aib (شعيب), also written as Shuayb or Shoaib was a Prophet of ancient times. Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is also one of those 25 Prophets who are mentioned in the Quran by name. His name appears 11 times in 10 different verses of the Quran. Shu’aib is an Arabic word that can be translated as “the one who guides to the right path.”

Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is one of the four Prophets, who were of Arabian origin, including Prophet Hud عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Prophet Ayyub عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was his predecessor, whereas Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ came after him. The name of the people of Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is mentioned in the Quran as “Ashab Al-Ayaka,” which means “the people of wood.” This community lived in Madyan in the northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, as mentioned in the Quran and referred to as Midian.

Historical background Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and his People

The people of Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ also referred to as the people of wood or Ashab Al-Ayekah, used to live in a town known as Midian and mentioned in the Quran as Madyan. This area was situated in the Northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, alongside the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Midianites were known as a rich community but at the same time had a bad reputation among the trading communities of that time. The Midianites were habitual of deceiving the traders. They used to demand money from the travelers and traders, passing through their town. They were also known for their mischievous acts of deceiving the people in measurements and weighing the trading goods.

But above that, they were distracted from the right path of monotheism, the oneness of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ. Hence, Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was sent from amongst them as a Prophet by Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ for the guidance of the Madyanites, as mentioned in the 36th verse of Surah Al-Ankabut.

Translation

To Midian, We sent their brother Shu’aib. He said: “O people, worship God and be ready for the Day of Resurrection. Do no evil, and create no mischief in the land.

Unfortunately, the community leaders and the majority of the people did not follow his message.

The Preaching of Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and the Reaction of his People

Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ invited the people to follow the right path by worshiping only one Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ.  He also asked them to refrain from deceiving the traders in measuring and weighing the trading goods. At that time the Midianites used to worship a big tree, which as per the Islamic Commentators, was the reason they were called in the Quran as the people of wood (Ashab Al-Ayekah). They flatly refused to follow the right path of monotheism. The community leaders threatened him that if he continued his preaching, they would throw him out of the town along with his followers.

This has been detailed in the Quran in verses 85 to 90 of Surah Al-A’raf:

Translation

  1. Remember, We sent to Midian their brother Shu’aib. “O you people,” he said, “worship God, for you have no other god but He. Clear proof has come to you from your Lord; so give in full measure and full weight; do not keep back from people what is theirs, and do not corrupt the land after it has been reformed. This is best for you if you believe
  2. Do not lie in ambush to intimidate and divert from the path of God those who believe in Him, nor seek obliquity in it. Remember the day when you were few and He increased your numbers. So consider the fate of those who were evil
  3. If some of you believe what has been sent through me, and some of you do not, have patience until God decide between us, for He is the best of all judges
  4. The arrogant leaders of the people replied: “We shall drive you away from our land, O Shu’aib, and those who are with you, unless you come back to your faith.” But he remarked: “Even if we are disgusted with it?
  5. We shall only be guilty of blaspheming God if we accept your way after the people of Noah, and gave you a greater increase in your stature. So think of the favours of God; you may haply be blessed
  6. The chiefs among his people who did not believe said (to them): “If you follow Shu’aib and his way you will surely be ruined

However, only a few Madyanites followed his preaching, while the majority denied it.

The Arguments Between the Midianites and Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

Prophet Su’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ tried to convince them by giving the examples of the previous nations such as those of Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, Prophet Hud عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, and Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, when they had to face the punishment from the Almighty Allah, for not following the right path. Instead of following the preaching of the Prophet, the Midianites argued that his sayings were not understandable to them. They also threatened him that being a weak personality among them, they would be harsh on him.

This argument and threatening statements by the Midianites are mentioned in the Quran in verses 91 to 93 of Surah Hud:

Translation

  1. They said: “O Shu’aib, much of what you say is meaningless to us, and then (for sure) you are powerless among us. But for your clan we would have stoned you to death. You have no power over us
  2. He said: “My clan seems mightier to you than God whom you neglect and push behind your backs. Surely what you do is within the power of my Lord
  3. Do on your part what you can, O people, I will do what I will. You will come to know who suffers the punishment that would put him to shame, and who is the liar. So watch; I am watching with you.

Punishment is Inevitable for the Disbelievers

The mission of the Prophet Su’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is very much similar to some other Prophets like Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, Prophet Hud عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, Prophet Lut عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, and Prophet Salih عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. All these Prophets, including the Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, preached to their communities but they did not turn to the right path and eventually, they were destroyed and had to face the punishment by Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ.

In this context, the fate of the people of Wood had to be the same, as was the pattern with previous nations. A Prophet is sent, and he invites the people to the right path, they not only deny him but also ridicule and threaten him. Resultantly the punishment comes to them. The Madyanites were also destined to the same fate.

The Punishment Comes Closer to the People of Wood

The arguments between the Prophet Su’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and his community continued. The Prophet tries to make them realize that they are distracted from the right path and should not do wrongful acts like deceiving the traders by wrong measures and weights but they do not agree. These continuous arguments and counter-arguments are explained in Surah Ash-Shu’ara in verses 176 to 188:

Translation

  1. The people of the Wood too called the messengers liars
  2. When Shu’aib said to them: “Will you not take heed?
  3. I have been sent as a trusted messenger to you.
  4. So fear God and follow me.
  5. I ask no recompense of you for this. My reward is due from none but the Lord of all the worlds
  6. Give full measure and do not cheat;
  7. Weigh on an even balance.
  8. And do not withhold from people what belongs to them, and do not corrupt the land;
  9. And fear Him who created you and all the earlier people.”
  10. They said: “Surely you are deluded.
  11. You are nothing but a man like us, and we think you are a liar.
  12. But in case you are speaking the truth, then make a segment of the sky to fall upon us.”
  13. (Shu’aib) said: “My Lord knows well what you are doing.”

People of Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ Finally Punished and Destroyed

The arrogance of the leaders of the Midianites increased day by day. When they failed in the arguments with the Prophet, they decided to expel him along with his followers from the town. They seized their belongings and forced them out of the town.

The Prophet did not lose his patience and sought help from Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ. His request was accepted and suddenly the heat of the sun started increasing. The scorching heat forced the Madayanites out of their homes. Soon after that, a cloud started appearing in the sky. The disbelievers thought it would rain and they would get some relief from the scorching heat of the sun. But it was not. The cloud burst terribly, creating a huge thunderous sound. The thunderous sound was so terrible that the whole community was destroyed, as they never existed.

However, the Prophet and his followers remain safe as they were already out of this place by the Will and Command of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ.

The way the Madayanites were punished is mentioned in Verses 189 and 190 of the Surah Ash Shu’ara:

Translation

  1. But they denied him, and We seized them with the torment of the Day of Shadowing (when the cloud had rained down fire). It was indeed the torment of a terrible day!
  2. Verily in this was a sign, but most of them do not believe.

Burial Places of Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ

Though no authentic evidence of the burial site of the Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is available, at least three such places are commonly believed to be his tomb.

  • A place in Jordan known as Wadi Shu’aib (the valley of Shu’aib) is believed to be the burial place of Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. It is situated near the town of Mahis, Jordan.
  • Galilee is a place near the city of Hittin, Israel. The Shrine of Shu’aib is situated here, which is believed to be the burial site of the Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.
  • The third site considered to be the burial place of the Prophet Shu’aib عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is situated in Iran, in the southwestern village, known as Guriyeh.

However, these are all traditions without a piece of concrete evidence.