Did all prophets work as shepherds?

Details of the Question
Did all prophets work as shepherds?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Abu Hurairah (radiyallahu anh) narrates: "the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"Allah did not send any prophets that did not herd sheep."

"Did you herd sheep too, O Messenger of Allah?" they asked.

He said, "Yes, I also looked after sheep for the people of Mecca in return for some qirat (amount or name of a place)*" said  [Bukhari, Ijara 2; Muwatta, 18 (2, 971); Ibn Majah, Tijarah 5, (2149).]

Explanation:

1- This hadith  states that there was  a period of herding sheep in the life of all prophets. The following is stated in a hadith narrated by Nasai:

"Sheep owners and camel owners boasted about it. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

‘’Moses (pbuh)  became a prophet while  he was a shepherd .The Prophet Dawud became a prophet while he was  a shepherd. I also became a prophet while I was herding my people’s sheep in Jiyad."

In the hadith, the word qararit is the plural form of qirat. Was the word qirat used as a place name in the hadith or was it a part of dinar (currency unit)? For, qirat is normally a currency like cent. The ones who say, ‘’qararit means money’’ draw attention to the fact that Meccan people did not know any place called Qararit. However, in the narration we have mentioned above, the Prophet says he was a shepherd in the Jiyad location. Ibn Hajar combines both views by saying, "The prophet (Hz. Muhammad) mat have herded the sheep of Meccan people in return for money, and herded his family’s sheep for free."

2- The scholars explained the wisdom behind the prophets' herding sheep before prophethood as follows:

Prophets gained experience about the works of the ummah by herding sheep because when they become involved with sheep, their feelings of lenience and compassion improve. For, they show patience   during herding sheep and  picking them up after they scatter on grassland, transporting them  from one grassland to the other and protecting them from the  wild animals and thieves around. Prophets  see and experience the differences in the nature of animals, the violent disagreements among one another in spite of their weaknesses and being in need of getting on well. By this way, prophets become familiar with  gaining patience  for their ummah and  understand the changes in their nature and  differences in their minds. So, they show mercy to the weak ummah, wrap  their wounds and get  along with them. Those who herd sheep can tolerate the challenges of these kinds of attitude far more easily than sudden starters. When a person works as a shepherd, he learns to deal with these issue  gradually.’’

The importance of sheep is  emphasized regarding this experience. For, sheep is weaker than other animals; and they scatter more easily than camels and cattle. It is more practical to tie camels and cattle with ropes. As a tradition, sheep are not tied with ropes in the country. Besides, compared to other animals, sheep obey the orders more easily even though they scatter more easily.

Hazrat Jabir (radiyallahu anh) narrates:

"I remember collecting the fruit of arak tree called kabas in Marruz-Zahran with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).  

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told us,

"Collect the  black ones; they are better!"   

"Have you also herded sheep?" I asked. 

"Do you know any prophets who did not herd sheep?" was his answer to me." [Bukhari, At'ima 50, Anbiya 29, Muslim, Ashriba 163, (2050).]

Explanation :

1- Marruz-Zahran  is the name of a place about one marhala (35 km) away from Makkah.

2- Expounders state that the question "Have  you also herded sheep?" means "How do you   know that the black ones of kabas are better? Have you been a shepherd before since you know the black ones are better?" From this expression, we understand that the kabas fruit are not grown or sold, that it grows on the mountains on its own and that only shepherds  know and use it.Nevertheless, expounders state that humans, camels and even sheep eat the kabas fruit.

3- From this hadith, scholars come to the conclusion that it is permissible to eat the fruits of the trees that grow  on their own in the mountains. .

4- The scholars give the following explanation about the wisdom of prophets’ being  shepherds before their  prophethood:

‘’Herding sheep is for  practicing about running the business of ummah and gaining experience. For,dealing with sheep improves the emotions like lenience and compassion. When the prophets show  patience during herding sheep and picking them up after their scattering on grassland, transporting them  from one grassland to another and protecting them from wild animals and thieves around, and when they see and experience the differences in the nature of animals, how they disagree with one another in spite of their weaknesses and being in need of being in need of getting on well, they become familiar with showing patience for their ummah and understand the changes in their nature and  differences in their minds. So, they show mercy to the weak ummah, wrap their wounds and treat them well. After all, those who herd sheep can tolerate the challenges  of  these kinds of attitude far more easily than sudden starters. However, this virtue is gradually gained by herding sheep."

"For this job, sheep is particularly mentioned because it is more vulnerable than others; and they scatter more easily than camels or cattle. It is more practical to tie camels and cattle with ropes. Besides, compared to other animals, sheep obey the orders more easily even though they scatter more easily.’’

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