The Sorrow of Job/Ayyub

The story of Job appears in both books, but in the Qur’an, it is much shorter than in the Bible, and is rather difficult to follow. For this reason, the Qur’an text is supplemented here with quotes from The Stories of the Prophets by Al Imam Ibn Kathir 701 -774 AH or 1301 -1372 AD.

These quotes are shaded to distinguish them from those from the Qur’an itself.

The story is about a wealthy man with a large family, who leads an exemplary life. The Qur’an numbers him among the prophets. Job is struck by great misfortune. His children die, and his wealth disappears overnight. Then, he becomes seriously ill. The question raised by this story is how God, who is both Almighty and Righteous, can allow such a high-standing man to fall into ruin. In both books, the devil (Iblis or Satan) is the culprit, but he does act with God’s permission.

In the Bible, Job suffers great tragedies. The loss of his wealth and his children does not make him turn away from God as the devil had assumed. But when he contracts a kind of leprosy, leading to social isolation, he becomes desperate. He vents his anger on God, whom he blames for his misfortune. Why does God allow such an upright man to suffer, while rewarding the ungodly with health, wealth and ample offspring? His friends treat him to extensive philosophical monologues, exploring the causes of his misfortune. Elihu and Bildad blame Job for his own downfall. This is the way, they argue, that God deals with sinners. But Job refuses to accept his suffering as a punishment for wrongdoings. The Almighty addresses Job personally, and he realizes that he is only a tiny part of God’s creation. He understands that to the limited human mind God’s ways are inexplicable. That gives him peace of mind.

In the Qur’an, Job remains patient throughout his suffering. When his wife becomes desperate and presses him to beg Allah for relief, he persists in his gratitude for all the years of health and wealth that had been granted to him, before he became ill. He asks her to leave him alone, promising to whip her if he regains health.

Finally, Job is rewarded:

  • in the Qur’an for his continuing patience,

-in the Bible, due to his returning peace of mind (after bouts of anger and bitterness)

His health and wealth are restored, as are his children. The Qur’an mentions medicinal waters. Tradition sees Job as a patron of leprosy cures. Job and his wife reach reconciliation, marked by a whipping with grass. In this way Job keeps his promise without hurting his wife. Thus the concept of symbolic punishment by gentle whipping is introduced. In the Bible Job resumes relationships with those who had shunned him during his illness. His children and his wealth are restored to him. He lives happily for another 140 years.


Job a truly good person

There was a man… whose name was Job and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

And seven sons and daughters were born to him.

Also his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. Job 1:1-3

Satan meets the Lord

Now there was a day when the sons of God ( angels ed.) came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.Job 1: 6-12

Job loses wealth and children

…and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people (Job’s children ed.), and they are dead; Then Job…fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.Job 1: 19-22

Job becomes a leper

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “…all that a man has he will give for his life…stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.Job 2:4-7

Job’s despair and anger

(Job to God ed.) “You have made desolate…You have shriveled me up…He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth… They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me. God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked. Job 16: 7-11

Then Job…said: “Why do the wicked live and become old, Yes, become mighty in power? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, Neither is the rod of God upon them. Job 21:1,7-9

Job’s friends give him the blame

Elihu…said “Behold, God is mighty…He does not preserve the life of the wicked, but gives justice to the oppressed. He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but they are on the throne with kings, for He has seated them forever…and if they are bound in fetters, held in cords of affliction, then He tells them …their transgressions – that they have acted defiantly. Job 36:1,5-9

Then Bildad the Shuhite (Job’s friend ed.) answered and said: “You who tear yourself in anger…The light of the wicked indeed goes out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. The light is dark in his tent and his lamp beside him is put out. The steps of his strength are shortened …he is cast into a net by his own feet…Terrors frighten him on every side…His strength is starved, and destruction is ready at his side. It devours patches of his skin. He is uprooted from shelter of his tent, and they parade him before the king of terrors. His roots are dried out below, and his branches wither above, the memory of him perishes from the earth. He is driven from light into darkness. And chased out of the world. He has neither son nor posterity among his people. Nor any remaining in his dwellings. Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him who does not know God. Job 18:1, 4-7, 11-21

God all-powerful

God says (ed.) “Who…is able to stand against me?…Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is mine.” Job 41:10-11

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything…I have uttered what I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I have heard of you…but now my eye sees You. Therefore I …repent. Job 42: 2-3, 5-6

Job blessed more than ever

Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him.

Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys.

He also had seven sons and three daughters. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days. Job 42:11-13, 15-17


Job as one of the prophets

We have sent you inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah…and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms. 4 The Women,163

…We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron… We chose them, and We guided them to a Straight Way. 6 The Cattle,84,87

Iblis to seduce humankind

And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down:

not so Iblis (the devil ed.): he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith. 2 The Heifer, 34
(Allah) said: “What prevented you from bowing down when I commanded you?”

He said: “I am better than he: You created me from fire, and him from clay.”

(Allah) said: “… it is not for you to be arrogant here: get out, for you are of the meanest (of creatures).”

He (Satan ed.) said “Give me respite till the day they (humankind ed.) are raised up.”

(Allah) said: “Be you among those who have respite.”

He (Satan ed.) said: “Because You have thrown me out of the Way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on Your Straight Way. Then I will assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor will You find gratitude in most of them, (for Your mercies).”

7 The Heights,12-17

Job in Distress

Commemorate Our Servant Job. Behold he cried to his Lord:

” The Evil One (Satan ed.) has afflicted me with distress and suffering!” 38 Saad,41

And (remember) Job, when he cried to his Lord:

“Truly distress has seized me, but You are the Most Merciful of those that are Merciful.” 21 The Prophets, 83

The devil ruins Job’s health

Iblis (Satan or the Devil ed.) began to take revenge on Job’s body
and filled it with disease until it was reduced to mere skin and bone and he suffered severe pain.

(He was ed.) an almost lifeless form crumpled on the bed…suspended between life and death.

But through all the suffering Job remained strong in his faith, patiently bearing all the hardships without complaining. Ibn Kathir

Job remains patient

Truly! We found him full of patience and constancy. How excellent is Our service! ever did he turn (to Us). 38 Saad,44

… when he cried to his Lord, “Truly distress has seized me, but You are the most Merciful of those that are Merciful.” 21 The Prophets,83

Job’s wife dissatisfied

Iblis went to Job’s wife… reminded her of the days when Job had good health, wealth and
children. Suddenly, the painful memory of years of hardship overcame her, and she burst into tears. She said to Job:

“How long are you going to bear this torture from our Lord? Why don’t you call upon Allah to remove this suffering?”

Job sighed, and in a soft voice replied:

“Iblis must have whispered to you and made you dissatisfied. Tell me, how long did I enjoy good health and riches?”

She replied, “For eighty years”

Then Job asked, “How long am I suffering like this?”

She said, “for seven years”

Then Job told her:

“In that case I am ashamed to call on my Lord to remove the hardship, for I have not suffered longer than the years of good health and plenty.

It seems your faith has weakened and you are dissatisfied with the fate of Allah. If I ever regain health, I swear I will punish you with a hundred strokes! From this day onward, I forbid myself to eat or drink anything from your hand. Leave me alone and let my Lord do with me as He pleases.”

Crying bitterly and with a heavy heart, she had no choice but to leave him.

Ibn Kathir

Water therapy heals Job

Truly We found him full of patience and constancy. How excellent in Our service! ever did he turn (to Us)! 38 Saad,44

…when he cried to his Lord, “Truly distress has seized me, but You are the most Merciful of those that are Merciful.”

So We listened to him: We removed the distress that was on him…Strike with your foot: here is (water) wherein to wash, cool and refreshing, and (water) to drink.”21 The Prophets,83-84; 38 Saad,42

Allah restores Job’s family

And We gave him (back) his people, and doubled their number… 38 Saad: 43

Meanwhile, his faithful wife could no longer bear to be parted from her husband and returned to beg his forgiveness, desiring to serve him. On entering the house, she was amazed at the sudden change: Job was again healthy! She embraced him and thanked Allah for His mercy. Job was now worried, for he had taken an oath to punish her with a hundred strokes if he regained health, but he had no desire to hurt her. He knew if he did not fulfill the oath, he would be guilty of breaking a promise to Allah. Therefore, in His wisdom and mercy, Allah came to the assistance of His faithful servant, and advised him: “And take in your hand a little grass (in a bundle ed.) and strike therewith (your wife ed.) and break not your oath. 38 Saad,44