The Community of Shuaib AS
As mankind flourished and spread across the land, so did their diseases and wrongdoings. Close to the Syrian borders lived the Arabic tribe of Madyan, not far from the Dead Sea where the people of Lut AS had perished. Famed for their eloquence, they were notorious for being dishonest merchants and also for cutting off the highways in order to ambush travellers to rob them.
The tribe of Madyan were disbelievers and tree worshippers, and were of evil behaviour. As with other communities, they lapsed into worshipping what their forefathers worshipped, and turned others away from the worship of Allah. Their faith was corrupted, as was their behaviour. Cheating was predominant, and the community lied and short changed in their measurements and weights, both when buying and selling merchandise.
The people of Madyan were in close proximity to the community of Lut AS, but did not take heed of the terrible destruction that befell them, even though the physical evidence was there as a silent and eerie reminder. Instead, just like the people of today, they saw such catastrophes as being irrelevant to them, and continued with their corruption.
It was to these crooked merchants that Shuaib AS was sent to preach the message of Allah.
The Da'wah of Shuaib AS
Similar to the message of the previous Prophets and Messengers, Shuaib AS appealed to his community towards the monotheistic worship of Allah. He tried to warn them of the divine retribution if they were to persist in their wrongdoing. In addition, he tried to enjoin upon them to trade honestly, for a lawful income was far superior to their dishonest pickings and proceeds of thievery. He tried to remind them of the bounty of Allah, but to no avail.
"And to [the people of] Madyan [We sent] their brother Shuaib. He said, "O my people, worship Allah; you have no deity other than Him. There has come to you clear evidence from your Lord. So fulfill the measure and weight and do not deprive people of their due and cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation. That is better for you, if you should be believers. And do not sit on every path, threatening and averting from the way of Allah those who believe in Him, seeking to make it [seem] deviant. And remember when you were few and He increased you. And see how was the end of the corrupters." [7:85-7:86]
How did the people of Madyan react? As with their ancient ancestors, they did not accept the message and rejected him wholeheartedly. His pleas were met with ridicule and sarcasm, riddled with remarks to belittle the message.
Refusing to depart from the practice of their forefathers "They said, 'O Shuaib, does your prayer command you that we should leave what our fathers worship or not do with our wealth what we please? Indeed, you are the forbearing, the discerning!'" [11:87].
He (Shuaib) said, "O my people, have you considered: if I am upon clear evidence from my Lord and He has provided me with a good provision from Him? And I do not intend to differ from you in that which I have forbidden you; I only intend reform as much as I am able. And my success is not but through Allah. Upon him I have relied, and to Him I return." [11:88]
He tried to remind them of the fate that had befell the communities of Nuh AS, Hud AS, Salih AS and Lut AS, but it was of no use. His plea for them to repent was equally ineffective and fell on deaf ears. Similar to the people of today, the community treated death, Allah's retribution and the hereafter as a joke. Their amusement was caused by their own greed and spiritual blindness. The reaction then escalated to more hostile rejoinders, and they accused him of being a liar. As with any person trying to spread goodness amongst a corrupted people, Shuaib AS was rejected when he refused to leave the religion of Allah and join them in their wrongful worship.
The eminent of the townspeople eventually threatened to evict him from the community. "They said, 'O Shuaib, we do not understand much of what you say, and indeed, we consider you among us as weak. And if not for your family, we would have stoned you [to death]; and you are not to us one respected.'" [11:91]
The Punishment of Madyan
When finally pushed to the limit, Shuaib AS supplicated to Allah. "Our Lord has encompassed all things in knowledge. Upon Allah we have relied. Our Lord, decide between us and our people in truth, and You are the best of those who give decision." [7:89] This famous supplication can be made at such opportunities we are in difficulty (for example when we have been wronged or oppressed) or when we need the truth to be made apparent to us (for example when choosing a spouse), depending on our intention when making it.
Shuaib AS and his small group of followers were saved from the destruction of the community. As for the rest, when the time came, Allah sent down on them a scorching wind that dried up everything in its path. This was followed by a cloud, which when the disbelievers saw it, thought that reprieve had arrived in the form of rain. They rushed outside to enjoy the refreshing rainfall, but instead of rain, they were exposed to the thunderbolts and fire that the clouds hurled onto them.
And then: "And the shriek seized those who had wronged, and they became within their homes [corpses] fallen prone. As if they had never prospered therein. Then, away with Madyan as Thamud was taken away". [11:94-11:95] Like the previous communities, their existence was wiped out in an instant.