The people of Midian are mentioned in the Quran as one of the previous perished nations. They were destroyed by Allah as punishment for their scandalous business practices as well as disbelief.
Most scholars believe that Midian was located on the Arabian Peninsula near the Sinai Peninsula. I also am convinced of this location and we shall soon see why.
According to the Bible, the people of Midian were descended from Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and a later wife of his named Keturah. This information is not contained in the Quran, but we can consider the Bible’s information without declaring it true or false.
And interesting thing about the People of Midian is that Allah mentions them by another name in the Quran. In some parts of the Quran, they are called the People of the Wood.
There are some scholars who believe the Midianites and the People of the Wood were two different nations. But those that take that view are a minority. Most believe they were one and the same.
The reason this confusion exists at all is because Allah says the following in the Quran:
And the Companions of the Wood, they denied the Messengers when Shuaib said to them: “Will you not fear Allah?”
Based on this verse and others similar to it, it is obvious that Allah sent Prophet Shuaib to a people who were called the Companions of the Wood.
And, as mentioned above, there are some who believe they were a separate nation from the Midianites and Shuaib was sent to them after the destruction of Midian.
Chronologically, the Midianites were after Prophets Noah, Hud, Salih, and Lot. In the Quran, Allah quotes Prophet Shuaib using the example of the Lot to remind his people of Allah’s wrath and justice.
And O my people, let not [your] dissension from me cause you to be struck by that similar to what struck the people of Noah or the people of Hud or the people of Salih. And the people of Lot are not from you far away.
Chapter 11, verse 89
For this reason, many scholars believe the Midianites were both geographically and chronologically close to the People of Lot and Sodom. However, there are reasons to doubt this idea.
I am convinced that they were geographically close to the Dead Sea which is the location of the town that Prophet Lot (AS) was sent to.
However, based on evidence which we’ll discuss soon, I’m more inclined to believe that Shuaib was at least 300 years after Lot. Of course, only Allah knows for sure.
As far as their location is concerned, I believe they were located near the Dead Sea in the area now known as the nation of Jordan. Interestingly, there are several forests in this area which may give credence to their alternative name as the Companions of the Wood.
The Midianites grew from a small nation to a prosperous large one. However, their success didn’t satisfy them as they began to get involved in certain business practices that were corrupt and scandalous.
Allah mentions how the Midianites were cheats in their businesses.
And to [the people of] Madyan [We sent] their brother Shu’ayb. 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.
Chapter 7, verse 85
In addition to these simple, “white-collar” crimes, they also engaged in much more violent behavior. There were also some Midianites who attacked and hijacked caravans on the highways. This may be an indication that they escalated in their crimes becoming progressively bolder and more dangerous.
To guide these mischievous people to righteousness, Allah sent their brother Shuaib who was one of them. Shuaib was commissioned to preach to his people and convince them to cease their bad deeds, and worship Allah alone.
Shuaib was from a noble family and it was expected that he would engage in the same bad habits as his people. So you can imagine their surprise when they realized he was actually trying to tear their corrupt system down.
In fact, all of the Prophets came from a noble heritage and upbringing. It is well known that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was from the Quraish tribe which at the time was the most respected and noble tribe in Arabia.
And even Prophet Musa (AS), had a noble background. Even though he was born to the lowest rank of his society in slavery, he was actually raised in the Pharaoh’s palace by the Pharaoh’s wife.
Prophet Shuaib preached to his people advising them to worship Allah and cease their cheating ways. But in the end, all they did was mock and threaten him. In fact, they let him know that were it not for his family they would have stoned hime.
They said, “O Shu’ayb, 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.”
Chapter 11, verse 91
They mocked him saying that only the lowest members of society followed him and that he was just a regular man like everyone else. Eventually they got bold enough to challenge Shuaib to bring Allah’s punishment on them.
It wasn’t too long after that challenge that Allah destroyed them.
Now, there’s a reason why I believe the People of Midian were about 300 years after the people of Lot. That is because in the Quran Allah mentions how Prophet Musa (AS) had to flee from his home in Egypt after killing a man there.
While he was on the run, he settled in an area called Midian. While there he saw some girls having trying to water their sheep but unable to get through the other shepherds most of whom were boisterous and rough men.
Musa (AS) got up and took charge of the girls’ sheep and made his way through the crowd of shepherds to water their flock. He returned the sheep to the girls and then went back to his resting spot.
Soon after, the girls returned with an invitation from their father to meet him. Musa went to their house, met their father who was a righteous old man, and agreed to work for him for several years.
According to their agreement, after the contract was over, Musa would marry one of the man’s daughters.
All scholars agree that this old man was righteous. Many also believe this man was an elderly Shuaib.
Once again, Allah knows best.