When he turned his face toward Midian, he said, “Perhaps my Lord will guide me on the even way.”
In what preceded all precedents, the scented garden of recognition was adorned with the trees of love. The playing field of bewilderment and love was placed in front of it and made its access-way. “The Garden is surrounded by disliked things.” Whenever they wanted to bring someone into the garden of recognition, they first brought him into the playing field of bewilderment, and they made his head the polo-ball of tribulation. Thus he would taste the flavor of bewilderment and tribulation, and then he would reach the fragrance of love. This was the state of Moses, God's speaking companion.
When they wanted to garb him in the clothing of prophethood and take him to the presence of messengerhood and conversation, first they put him in the bend of trial's polo stick until he was cooked in those trials and troubles. Thus the Exalted Lord says, “We tried thee with trials” [20:40].
In other words: “We cooked you well with trial until you became limpid and immaculate.”
He came out of Egypt fearful and trembling. In terror of his enemy he was looking right and left, just as a fearful person does. That is His words, “So he left there, fearful and vigilant” [28:21]. In the end he wept to God and complained of his burning liver. He said, “My Lord, deliver me from the wrongdoing people” [28:21]. The Lord of the Worlds answered his supplication and kept him safe from the enemy. Tranquility came down into his heart and took up residence. It was said to his secret core, “Have no fear and no sorrow. The Lord who kept you under His protection and guarding and did not give you over to the enemy when you were an infant in Pharaoh's chamber and you were slapping his face will today also keep you in His protection and not give you over to the enemy.”
Then he set off in the desert all at once, not aiming for Midian. The Exalted Lord threw him to Midian for the sake of a secret that He had prepared there. Shuʿayb was God's prophet and dwelled in Midian. He was a worshipful man, overcome by fear. In the moments of his seclusion he wept so much that he lost his eyesight from weeping, but the Exalted Lord gave him back his eyesight through a miracle.
He still kept on weeping until he became blind again and the Exalted Lord again gave him eyesight. For the second time, for the third time, he kept on weeping until he lost his eyesight. Revelation came to him, “Why are you weeping so much, O Shuʿayb? If you fear hell, I have made you secure from hell, and if you hope for paradise, I have permitted that to you.”
Shuʿayb said, “No, O Lord, but in yearning for You. I am not weeping in fear of hell or in hope of paradise, but I am burning in my wish for the Possessor of Majesty.”
God revealed to him, “Because of this, I will put My prophet and speaking companion in your service for ten years.”
When he turned his face toward Midian. In his person Moses went to Midian and fell into the service of Shuʿayb. In his heart he went toward the Real and fell into prophethood and messengerhood. He said, “Perhaps my Lord will guide me on the even way.” In terms of allusion in the tongue of unveiling, the even way is the perseverance of the soul in service and the resting of the soul in straightness. Until the man traveling the road traverses the road's way stations, he will not reach the top of tawḤīd's street.
At the beginning of the work when Abraham was brought to the threshold, he was sent to the street of the star until he said, “This is my Lord” [6:76]. Then he left the street of the star and entered the street of the moon. He left the street of the moon and entered the street of the sun. He saw that every street had a defect. In the street of the star he saw the blight of change. In the street of the moon he saw the fault of transition. In the street of the sun he saw the defect of disappearance. He came to know that this is not the highway of straightness nor the top of tawḤīd's street. All the roads were blocked for him. He stood with the feet of reflection at the top of bewilderment's street, bewildered, languishing, seeking the Friend. Anyone who saw him would have said that he was captive to the dust at the top of friendship's street.
The dust at the top of the Friend's street has become jasmineeveryone who passes by that dust becomes like me.
When Abraham saw that all the roads were blocked, he knew that the Presence is one. He cried out, “Surely I have turned my face toward Him who originated the heavens and the earth” [6:79]. The manly man is not he who rides on the highway when the road is open. The man is he who goes in the darkness of night on a narrow road without a guide to the top of the Friend's street.
And when he turned his face towards Midian, in the direction thereof — and this [Midian] was the town of [the prophet] Shu‘ayb, eight day’s journeying from Egypt, [so] named after Midian son of Abraham; he [Moses] did not know the route to it — he said, ‘Perhaps my Lord will show me the right way’, that is to say, which route to follow, in other words, the simplest route to it. God thus sent forth to him an angel with a goat, which he [Moses] set off following towards it [the town].
Musa, peace be upon him, in Madyan, and how He watered the Flocks of the Two Women
When the man told Musa about how Fir`awn and his chiefs were conspiring against him, he left Egypt on his own. He was not used to being alone, because before that he had been living a life of luxury and ease, in a position of leadership.
فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَآئِفاً يَتَرَقَّبُ
(So he escaped from there, looking about in a state of fear.) meaning, turning around and watching.
قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِى مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّـلِمِينَ
(My Lord! Save me from the people who are wrongdoers!) means, from Fir`awn and his chiefs. It was mentioned that Allah sent to him an angel riding a horse, who showed him the way. And Allah knows best.
وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَآءَ مَدْيَنَ
(And when he went towards (the land of) Madyan,) means, he took a smooth and easy route -- and he rejoiced because of that.
(he said: "It may be that my Lord guides me to the right way.'') meaning, the most straight route. And Allah did indeed do that, for He guided him to the straight path in this world and the Hereafter, and caused him to be guided and to guide others.
وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَآءَ مَدْيَنَ
(And when he arrived at the water (a well) of Madyan,) means, when he reached Madyan and went to drink from its water, for it had a well where shepherds used to water their flocks,
(he found there a group of men watering, and besides them he found two women who were keeping back.) means, they were stopping their sheep from drinking with the sheep of those shepherds, lest some harm come to them. When Musa, peace be upon him, saw them, he felt sorry for them and took pity on them.
قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا
(He said: "What is the matter with you'') meaning, `why do you not water your flocks with these people'
قَالَتَا لاَ نَسْقِى حَتَّى يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَآءُ
(They said: "We cannot water until the shepherds take...'') meaning, `we cannot water our flocks until they finish.'
وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ
(And our father is a very old man.) means, `this is what has driven us to what you see.'
("My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!'') the women heard him.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Both the Bible and the Qur'an agree that after leaving Egypt the Prophet Moses had gone to live in Madyan (Midian). But the Talmud tells the absurd story that Moses fled to Ethiopia and became a great favorite with the king there. After the king's death the people made Moses their king and leader and gave him the widow of the king for a wife, but during the 40 years of his reign there he never had intercourse with his African wife. Then the queen of Ethiopia, who was a wife to Moses in name only, said to the people, "Why should this stranger continue to rule over you '? He has never worshiped the gods of Ethiopia." At this the people of Ethiopia deposed him and made him many rich presents and dismissed him with great honors. Then he came to Midian and met with the events being mentioned below. At this time he was 67 years old.
A clear proof of this story's being absurd is that according to it Assyria (northern Iraq) in those days was under Ethiopia, and the Prophet Moses and the Ethiopian king, his predecessor, had led military campaigns to crush the Assyrian revolts. Now anybody who has a little acquaintance with the history and geography can have a look at the map and see things for himself. Assyria could be under Ethiopian domination and have been attacked by the Ethiopian army only in case Egypt and Palestine and Syria had been under its subjugation, or the whole of Arabia under its sway, or, at least the Ethiopian navy so powerful as to have conquered 'Iraq across the Indian ocean and the Persian Gulf. History, however, does not support the view that the Ethiopians ever held sway over these countries, or their naval force was ever so powerful. This indicates how imperfect was the Israelites' knowledge of their own history, and how the Qur'an corrects their errors and presents the true facts in their pure form. Nevertheless, the Christian and the Jewish orientalists are never ashamed of asserting that the Qur'an has plagiarized the Israelite traditions for its narratives.
The right path: "The path that may take me to Midian safely." It should be borne in mind that Midian in those days was outside Pharaoh's empire. Egypt did not have control over the whole of the Sinai Peninsula but only on its western and southern parts. The Midianites who inhabited the eastern and western coasts of the Gulf of 'Agabah were free from Egyptian influence and authority. That is why the Prophet Moses had headed for Midian after leaving Egypt, because that was the nearest free and inhabited land. But to reach Midian he had to pass through Egyptian territories; avoiding the Egyptian police and military posts on the way. That is why he prayed to God to put him on the right track which should take him to Midian safely.
This place where the Prophet Moses had arrived was situated, according to the Arab tradition, on the western coast of the Gulf of 'Agabah, a few miles to the north of Magna. Today it is called Al-Bid, and is a small habitation. I visited this place in December, 1952, when I was traveling from Tabuk to 'Agabah. The natives told me that, as they had heard from their elders, Midian was situated there. From Josephus to Burton, all ancient and modern explorers and geographers, have generally confirmed this very place as the location of ancient Midian. Nearby there is the place now called Magha`irShu'aib or Magharat Shu'aib. There are some Thamudic monuments here. A mile or so away, There are some ancient ruins, where we saw two dry wells, one of which was said to be the well where the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had watered the goats. The same has been related by Abu Fida' (d. 732 A.H.) in Taqvim al-Buldan and Yaqut in Mu jam al-Buldan, on the authority of Abu Zaid Ansari; (d. 216 A.H.), that the natives point to the same well there as the well of Moses. This indicates that the tradition is being handed down since centuries among the people, and therefore, it can be confidently asserted that this is the same place which has been mentioned in the Qur'an. See some photographs of this on the opposite page.
That is, "We are women: it is not possible for us to water our animals by resisting these shepherds. Our father is too old to perform this rigorous duty. There is no other male member in the house either. Therefore we, the womenfolk, have to come out to perform these chores, and until all the shepherds have watered their animals and left, we have to wait." This whole meaning was conveyed by the ladies in a brief sentence, which is indicative of their modesty. They did not want to have a lengthy conversation with a stranger, but at the same time, they did not like that he should form a wrong impression about their family, thinking how lethargic were the manfoIk who sat back in their homes and sent the women to perform outdoor duties.
About the father of these ladies traditions that have become current among the Muslims are that he was the Prophet Shu`aib (peace be upon him), but the Qur'an makes no allusion to this, although Prophet Shu`aib is a prominent character of the Qur'an. If he were really the father of the ladies, it would have been clearly mentioned here. No doubt there are some traditions in which his name has been mentioned, but both 'Allama Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir concur that none of them has been authentically reported. That is why great commentators like Ibn `Abbas, Hasan Basri, Abu `Ubaidah and Said bin Jubair have relied on the Israelite traditions and mentioned the same names of this personage which appear in the Talmud. etc. Evidently, if the name of Shu'aib had actually been reported froth the Holy Prophet these scholars would not have mentioned any other name.
The Bible mentions him as Re'uel in one place and Jethro in another (Exod. 2: 16-18, 3: 1, 18: 5), and says that he was the priest of Midian. In the Talmudic literature he has been variously called as Re'uel, Jethro and Hobab. The present-day Jewish scholars are of the view that Jethro was a synonym for "his excellency' and his real name was Re'uel or Hobab. Similarly, they differ about the meaning of the word Kohen. Some regard it as a synonym of priest and others of prince.
According to the Talmud Re'uel used to visit Pharaoh from time to time before the birth of Prophet Moses, and pharaoh relied on his knowledge and good counsel and mature opinion. But when the royal council of Egypt started consultations for the subduing of the Israelites and it was decided that their male children be killed on their birth, he did his best to stop Pharaoh from enforcing this wrong decision, warned him of its evil consequences and counselled that if he found the Israelites unbearable, he should let them go to Canaan, the laud of their forefathers. These words of Re'ue angered Pharaoh, and he sent him in shame front his presence. Re'uel then left Egypt for his country. Midian, and settled there ever afterwards.
As to his religion it is commonly believed that, like the Prophet Moses, he was a follower of Prophet Ibraham's Faith, for just as the Prophet Moses was a ' Descendant of Isaac, son of Abraham (peace be upon bath of them), so was he a descendant of Midian, son of Abraham. Probably due to this relationship he tried to prevent Pharaoh from persecuting the Israelites and angered him. Nisaburi, the commentator, writes on the authority of Hasan Basri: "He was a Muslim: he had embraced the religion of the Prophet Shu`aib." The Talmud says that he publicly condemned the idol-worship of the Midianites as a folly. Due to this the people of Midian had turned his opponents.