Islamic Web Library

An Islamic Resource Center

7:85 The Madyan People

3 min read

To the Madyan people We sent Shu’aib, one of their own brethren: he said: “O my people! worship Allah; Ye have no other god but Him. Now hath come unto you a clear (Sign) from your Lord! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due; and do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you, if ye have Faith.

“Madyan” may be identified with “Midian”.
Midian and the Midianites are frequently mentioned in
the Old Testament, though the particular incident here
mentioned belongs to Arab rather than to Jewish
tradition.
The Midianites were of Arab race, though, as neighbors
of the Canaanites, they probably intermixed with them.
They were a wandering tribe: it was Midianite merchants
to whom Joseph was sold into slavery, and who took him
to Egypt.
Their principal territory in the time of Moses was in the
northeast of the Sinai Peninsula, and cast of the
Amalekites. Under Moses the Israelites waged a war of
extermination against them: they slew the kings of
Midian, slaughtered all the males, burnt their cities and
castles, and captured their cattle (Num. 31:7-11).
This sounds like total extermination. Yet a few
generations afterwards, they were so powerful that the
Israelites for their sins were delivered into the captivity
of the Midianites for seven years: both the Midianites
and their camels were without number: and the
Israelites hid from them in “dens….. caves, and
strongholds” (Judges 7:1-6).
Gideon destroyed them again, (Judges 7:1-25), say
about two centuries after Moses. As the decisive battle
was near the hill of Moreh, not far south of Mount Tabor,
we may localize the Midianites on this occasion in the
northern parts of the Jordan valley, at least 200 miles
north of the Sinai Peninsula.
This and the previous destruction under Moses were
local, and mention no town of Midian. In later times
there was a town of Madyan on the cast side of the Gulf
of ‘Aqabah. It is mentioned in Josephus, Eusebius, and
47
Ptolemy: (Encyclopedia of Islam). Then it disappears
from geography.
In Muslim times it was a revived town with quite a
different kind of population, but it never flourished. The
Midianites disappeared from history.


Shu’ayb belongs to Arab rather than to Jewish
tradition, to which he is unknown.
His identification with Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses,
has no warrant, and I reject it. There is no similarity
either in names or incidents, and there are chronological
difficulties (see n. 1064 below).
If, as the Commentators tell us, Shu’ayb was in the
fourth generation from Abraham, being a great-grandson
of Madyan (a son of Abraham), he would be only about a
century from the time of Abraham, whereas the Hebrew
Bible would give us a period of four to six centuries
between Abraham and Moses. The mere fact that Jathro
was a Midianite and that another name, Hobab, is
mentioned for a father-in-law of Moses in Num 10:29, 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. Shu’ayb’s
mission was apparently in one of the settled towns of the
Midianites, which was completely destroyed by an
earthquake (7:91).
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 Moses (see last note). 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 Aykah
was a separate settlement, see n. 2000 to 15:78) to
48
which Shu’ayb was sent to preach was complete, and no
traces of it now remain.
The name of the highest mountain of Yemen, Nabi
Shu’ayb (11,000 ft.) has probably no connection with the
geographical territory of the nomad Midianites, unless we
suppose that their wanderings extended so far south
from the territories mentioned in the last note.


References:

Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Translation and Commentary of the Quran. (surah 7 verse 85). Microsoft Word – 007 Araaf.doc (quran4u.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *