Ayoub (Job and also spelt Ayyub) AS was of the progeny of Ibrahim (Abraham) AS through his second son, Ishaq (Isaac) AS. Proof of his Messengership is contained in Surah An Nisa:
Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him. And we revealed to Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq, Yaqub, the Descendants, Isa, Ayoub, Yunus, Haron, and Sulaiman, and to Daud We gave the book [of Psalms](the Taurat). (Qur’an 4:163)
He was married to a Muslim woman, in a time where Muslims were far and few between. It is believed that she is a descendant of Yaqub AS.
In understanding the events that unfolded in the life of Ayoub AS, it is worth recalling that Rasulullah SAW was asked which people suffered the greatest affliction. He replied: “The prophets, then those who come next to them. A man is afflicted in keeping his religion. If he is firm in his religion his trial is severe, but if there is weakness in his religion it is made light for him. A man is continuously tried with an affliction till he walks on the earth having no sin.” (Sahih Bukhari)
What Makes His Story Unique?
Ayoub AS was different from most other Messengers and Prophets. All of them, save three, were poor: Sulaiman (Solomon) AS, Daud (David) AS and finally Ayoub AS. These three were extremely rich, while the rest of the Messengers and Prophets barely had enough to eat.
What is the wisdom behind the examples of the wealthy Prophets and Messengers? It is to let us have wisdom and steadfastness in thinking, and as a reminder for all believers of Allah’s might, power and wisdom, whether one is rich or poor.
And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers. (Qur’an 11:120)
Apart from these three, all Messengers and Prophets were asked by the people why they did not have money. The answer to this was simple: if the Qur’an had been revealed to the dignitaries and the wealthy, then it would conflict with the revelations which discourages the pursuit of dunia, status and material comforts.
Allah’s message to us is that He has given us the flower of this life, and if we were to cut the flower now and enjoy it, we would never be able to taste the fruit of the tree. However, if you are patient, and leave the flower untouched, it would turn into a fruit, which from which one can derive a much longer lasting enjoyment. It would be a confusing example for the rest of us if all Prophets and Messengers were immersed in wealth while simultaneously telling his people that shunning dunia and striving for the hereafter is infinitely better.
However, Ayoub AS was immensely wealthy and blessed with good health. His wife was one of the most beautiful women of his time, and he led a life which was desired by many. He owned vast amounts of land in Syria, spanning the valleys, mountains and lakes. He owned thousands of livestock – camels, cows and sheep, and was reported to be one of the richest men in this world at the time. He had slaves and servants, and it is also said that he had many children (although their exact number is unreported).
Yet, he understood that when we are given wealth and other provisions, we should demonstrate our thanks to Allah by spending it in the cause of Allah, to the maximum extent possible. Just as poverty tests our faith in Allah, so does wealth. Hence, Ayoub AS never ate alone, and he certainly would not eat if he knew of someone in need, until that person had been tended to, clothed and fed. He distributed his wealth and did not hoard it for his own personal benefit and did not let his community go hungry.
The Severe Trial
After decades of a wealthy life, his situation changed. Draught and disease killed his livestock and crops. All his beloved children died, one after another.
On top of this, Ayoub AS was struck with a strange illness, the severity of it increasing until his flesh became putrid and chunks of it fell off his body, while worms and maggots crawled out of his wounds. It seems that the stench emanating from him was so unbearable that no one, not even his relatives, could stand being close to him or even look at him.
Diseases usually have a cure, or end in death. This was not the case for Ayoub AS. His disease continued year after year, getting progressively more aggressive and severe. He must have been a repulsive sight to behold, with his diseased skin and mangled flesh. Eventually, fearing contagion, his people cast him out of their town and threw him on a dungheap.
Every single one of his friends and family deserted him to suffer alone in his sickness and agony, except for his loyal wife who continued to stand by him.
There are different reports on how long this painful situation continued, but the majority of scholars agree that this situation lasted for eighteen years. Throughout this time, Ayoub AS maintained his unwavering faith in his Lord, remained patient and continued to believe in Allah’s mercy. All these trials only made Ayoub AS stronger in faith and glorify Allah more.
His wife helped him with his daily necessities and as their resources dwindled, she was forced to seek employment to feed the both of them.
One day she was working for a family. She was not paid yet, and she know her husband was hungry. The child whom she was minding was holding a piece of bread, which he dropped when he fell asleep. She took the bread and brought it home to her husband. When he learnt where the bread had come from, Ayoub AS asked her to return it before the boy woke up and was upset that his bread had gone missing. Such a thing would have been oppressive and unjust to the innocent child. So she raced back, in the middle of the night, to return the bread. The child had woken up screaming and asking for the bread, and she managed to return it to him at the right time.
The situation became worse with the passing of time. People were unwilling to hire her, because knowing the condition suffered by her husband, they feared infection. The extent of their poverty became so critical that she was forced to sell her hair in exchange for food.
His wife’s patience at bearing the situation was wearing thin. Eventually she suggested that if he were to pray to his Lord, He may alleviate his suffering. After all, she reasoned, Allah would have cured him if he asked. In truth, Ayoub AS was too shy to demonstrate his lack of gratitude for all the bounty that Allah had given him by asking Allah for a cure.