Teensie-Weensie Tafsir Gems: Not their brother

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Surah Ash-Shuara talks about the stories of multiple Prophets (alaihimissalaam). First, Musa, Haroon and Ibrahim (alaihimissalaam) are mentioned. After that, there is a mention of five more Prophets.

Allah says:

كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ نُوحٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

The people of Nuh belied the Messengers. When their brother Nuh said to them: “Will you not fear Allah and obey Him? [Surah Ash-Shuara (26) : 105-106]

And He says:

كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ هُودٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

Ad (people) belied the Messengers. When their brother Hud said to them: “Will you not fear Allah and obey Him? [Surah Ash-Shuara (26) : 123-124]

And He says:

كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ صَالِحٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

Thamud (people) belied the Messenger. When their brother Saalih said to them: “Will you not fear Allah and obey Him? [Surah Ash-Shuara (26) : 141-142]

And He says:

كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ لُوطٍ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ لُوطٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

The people of Lut  (those dwelt in the towns of Sodom in Palestine) belied the Messengers When their brother Lut said to them: “Will you not fear Allah and obey Him? [Surah Ash-Shuara (26) : 160-161]

And He says:

كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ شُعَيْبٌ أَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

The dwellers of Al-Aiyka belied the Messengers. When Shuaib said to them: “Will you not fear Allah (and obey Him)? [Surah Ash-Shuara (26) : 176-177]

The above are the beginning of each story. There are two points of benefit to be gleaned.

The first is that it states that all these people denied their Messengers, as in plural. But each of them was only sent one Messenger and in Nuh’s (alaihissalaam) case, he was the first Messenger so his people couldn’t have rejected any Messengers before him.

So why was the plural form used?

Well, Imam Ibn Kathir (rahimahullah) states in his explanation of Ayahs 105-106:

“Here Allah tells us about His servant and Messenger Nuh, peace be upon him, who was the first Messenger sent by Allah to the people of earth after they started to worship idols. Allah sent him to forbid that and to warn people of the consequences of idol worship. But his people belied him and continued their evil practice of worshipping idols besides Allah. Allah revealed that their disbelieving in him was akin to disbelieving in all the Messengers, So Allah said:

﴿كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ الْمُرْسَلِينَ – إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ أَخُوهُمْ نُوحٌ أَلاَ تَتَّقُونَ ﴾

So, this is how they rejected the Messengers (plural) – because rejecting one Messenger is like rejecting the rest. This is because all of them came with the same message i.e. the message of tawheed (singling out Allah in worship).

That’s the first point of benefit. The second one pertains to the story of Shuaib (alaihissalaam).

The first four stories refer to the mentioned Prophet as “akhoohum” (their brother). However, this word is notably missing when it comes to Shuaib (alaihissalaam).

Now, he is referred to as “their brother” in other Surahs but that is when “Madyan” is being and not the people of Al-Aykah. Due to this, many people think that the people of Al-Aykah and Madyan were two different tribes to which Shuaib (alaihissalaam) was sent as a Prophet, but that he was from Madyan (hence the use of “their brother”), not from the people of Al-Aykah.

However, there is another opinion. And Imam ibn Kathir (rahimahullah) happens to believe that it is the correct one (and I agree with him).

He states in his explanation of Ayahs 176-177:

“The companions of Al-Aykah were the people of Madyan, according to the most correct view. The Prophet of Allah, Shuayb, was one of them, but it does not say here, their brother Shuayb, because they called themselves by a name denoting their deification of Al-Aykah, which was a tree which they used to worship; it was said that it was a group of trees which were tangled, like trees in a thicket. For this reason, when Allah said that the companions of Al-Aykah denied the Messengers, He did not say, “When their brother Shuayb said to them.” Rather, He said:

﴿إِذْ قَالَ لَهُمْ شُعَيْبٌ﴾

(When Shuayb said to them) He is not described as belonging to them because of the meaning that was inherent in the name given to them even though he was their brother by blood. Some people did not notice this point, so they thought that the dwellers of Al-Aykah were different from the people of Madyan, and claimed that Shuayb was sent to two nations; some said that he was sent to three.

﴿أَصْحَـبُ لْـَيْكَةِ﴾

(The companions of Al-Aykah) were the people of Shuayb. This was the view of Ishaq bin Bishr. Someone besides Juwaybir said, “The dwellers of Al-Aykah and the people of Madyan are one and the same.” And Allah knows best. Although there is another opinion that they were different nations with two identities, the correct view is that they were one nation, but they are described differently in different places. Shuayb preached to them and commanded them to be fair in their weights and measures, the same as is mentioned in the story of Madyan, which also indicates that they were the same nation.”

Subhan Allah, so the reason “their brother” is not mentioned alongside the people of Al-Aykah (i.e. the people who worshipped this tree) is because it would unwittingly tar a Prophet of Allah with the ugliness of shirk (attributing partners to Allah)! However, when Madyan is mentioned (in other Surahs),  “their brother” is mentioned because there is no shirk inherent in this name, although the people being referred to are the same as the people of Al-Aykah.

So, Shuaib (alaihissalaam) was their brother by blood, but he was not their brother when it came to their evil actions.

Subhan Allah, Allah truly protects His beloved slaves. Centuries after they’ve passed away, even their reputations are not allowed to be tarred.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُدَافِعُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ خَوَّانٍ كَفُورٍ

Truly, Allah defends those who believe. Verily! Allah likes not any treacherous ingrate to Allah [those who disobey Allah but obey Shaitan (Satan)]. [Surah Al-Hajj (22) : 38]

May Allah make us from amongst these people.

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