The people of Moses (The children of Israel )&Pharaoh – Previous nations 6

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Hath there come unto thee the story of Moses? (9) When he saw a fire and said unto his folk: Wait! Lo! I see a fire afar off. Peradventure I may bring you a brand therefrom or may find guidance at the fire. (10) And when he reached it, he was called by name: O Moses! (11) Lo! I, even I, am thy Lord, So take off thy shoes, for lo! thou art in the holy valley of Tuwa. (12) And I have chosen thee, so hearken unto that which is inspired. (13) Lo! I, even I, am Allah, There is no God save Me. So serve Me and establish worship for My remembrance. (14) Lo! the Hour is surely coming. But I will to keep it hidden, that every soul may be rewarded for that which it striveth (to achieve). (15) Therefor, let not him turn thee aside from (the thought of) it who believeth not therein but followeth his own desire, lest thou perish. (16) And what is that in thy right hand, O Moses? (17) He said: This is my staff whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses. (18) He said: Cast it down, O Moses! (19) So he cast it down, and lo! it was a serpent, gliding. (20) He said: Grasp it and fear not. We shall return it to its former state. (21) And thrust thy hand within thine armpit, it will come forth white without hurt. (That will be) another token. (22) That We may show thee (some) of Our greater portents, (23) Go thou unto Pharaoh! Lo! he hath transgressed (the bounds). (24) (Moses) said: My Lord! relieve my mind (25) And ease my task for me; (26) And loose a knot from my tongue, (27) That they may understand my saying. (28) Appoint for me a henchman from my folk, (29) Aaron, my brother. (30) Confirm my strength with him (31) And let him share my task, (32) That we may glorify Thee much (33) And much remember Thee. (34) Lo! Thou art ever Seeing us. (35) He said: Thou art granted thy request, O Moses. (36) And indeed, another time, already We have shown thee favour, (37) When we inspired in thy mother that which is inspired, (38) Saying: Throw him into the ark, and throw it into the river, then the river shall throw it on to the bank, and there an enemy to Me and an enemy to him shall take him. And I endued thee with love from Me that thou mightest be trained according to My will, (39) When thy sister went and said: Shall I show you one who will nurse him? and we restored thee to thy mother that her eyes might be refreshed and might not sorrow. And thou didst kill a man and We delivered thee from great distress, and tried thee with a heavy trial. And thou didst tarry years among the folk of Midian. Then camest thou (hither) by (My) providence, O Moses, (40) And I have attached thee to Myself. (41) Go, thou and thy brother, with My tokens, and be not faint in remembrance of Me. (42) Go, both of you, unto Pharaoh. Lo! he hath transgressed (the bounds). (43) And speak unto him a gentle word, that peradventure he may heed or fear. (44) They said: Our Lord! Lo! we fear that he may be beforehand with us or that he may play the tyrant. (45) He said: Fear not. Lo! I am with you twain, Hearing and Seeing. (46) So go ye unto him and say: Lo! we are two messengers of thy Lord. So let the children of Israel go with us, and torment them not. We bring thee a token from thy Lord. And peace will be for him who followeth right guidance. (47) Lo! it hath been revealed unto us that the doom will be for him who denieth and turneth away. (48) (Pharaoh) said: Who then is the Lord of you twain, O Moses? (49) He said: Our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its nature, then guided it aright. (50) He said: What then is the state of the generations of old? (51) He said: The knowledge thereof is with my Lord in a Record. My Lord neither erreth nor forgetteth, (52) Who hath appointed the earth as a bed and hath threaded roads for you therein and hath sent down water from the sky and thereby We have brought forth divers kinds of vegetation, (53) (Saying): Eat ye and feed your cattle. Lo! herein verily are portents for men of thought. (54) Thereof We created you, and thereunto We return you, and thence We bring you forth a second time. (55) And We verily did show him all Our tokens, but he denied them and refused. (56) He said: Hast come to drive us out from our land by thy magic, O Moses? (57) But we surely can produce for thee magic the like thereof; so appoint a tryst between us and you, which neither we nor thou shall fail to keep, at a place convenient (to us both). (58) (Moses) said: Your tryst shall be the day of the feast, and let the people assemble when the sun hath risen high. (59) Then Pharaoh went and gathered his strength, then came (to the appointed tryst). (60) Moses said unto them: Woe unto you! Invent not a lie against Allah, lest He extirpate you by some punishment. He who lieth faileth miserably. (61) Then they debated one with another what they must do, and they kept their counsel secret. (62) They said: Lo! these are two wizards who would drive you out from your country by their magic, and destroy your best traditions; (63) So arrange your plan, and come in battle line. Whoso is uppermost this day will be indeed successful. (64) They said: O Moses! Either throw first, or let us be the first to throw? (65) He said: Nay, do ye throw! Then lo! their cords and their staves, by their magic, appeared to him as though they ran. (66) And Moses conceived a fear in his mind. (67) We said: Fear not! Lo! thou art the higher. (68) Throw that which is in thy right hand! It will eat up that which they have made. Lo! that which they have made is but a wizard’s artifice, and a wizard shall not be successful to whatever point (of skill) he may attain. (69) Then the wizards were (all) flung down prostrate, crying: We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses. (70) (Pharaoh) said: Ye put faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! he is your chief who taught you magic. Now surely I shall cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and I shall crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and ye shall know for certain which of us hath sterner and more lasting punishment. (71) They said: We choose thee not above the clear proofs that have come unto us, and above Him Who created us. So decree what thou wilt decree. Thou wilt end for us only this life of the world. (72) Lo! we believe in our Lord, that He may forgive us our sins and the magic unto which thou didst force us. Allah is better and more lasting. (73) Lo! whoso cometh guilty unto his Lord, verily for him is hell. There he will neither die nor live. (74) But whoso cometh unto Him a believer, having done good works, for such are the high stations; (75) Gardens of Eden underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. That is the reward of him who groweth. (76) And verily We inspired Moses, saying: Take away My slaves by night and strike for them a dry path in the sea, fearing not to be overtaken, neither being afraid (of the sea). (77) Then Pharaoh followed them with his hosts and there covered them that which did cover them of the sea. (78) And Pharaoh led his folk astray, he did not guide them. (79) O Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy, and we made a covenant with you on the holy mountain’s side, and sent down on you the manna and the quails, (80) (Saying): Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you, and transgress not in respect thereof lest My wrath come upon you: and he on whom My wrath cometh, he is lost indeed. (81) And lo! verily I am Forgiving toward him who repenteth and believeth and doeth good, and afterward walketh aright. (82) And (it was said): What hath made thee hasten from thy folk, O Moses? (83) He said: They are close upon my track. I hastened unto Thee, my Lord, that Thou mightest be well pleased. (84) He said: Lo! We have tried thy folk in thine absence, and As-Samiri hath misled them. (85) Then Moses went back unto his folk, angry and sad. He said: O my people! Hath not your Lord promised you a fair promise? Did the time appointed then appear too long for you, or did ye wish that wrath from your Lord should come upon you, that ye broke tryst with me? (86) They said: We broke not tryst with thee of our own will, but we were laden with burdens of ornaments of the folk, then cast them (in the fire), for thus As-Samiri proposed. (87) Then he produced for them a calf, which gave forth a lowing sound. And they cried: This is your God and the God of Moses, but he hath forgotten. (88) See they not, then, that it returneth no saying unto them and possesseth for them neither hurt nor use? (89) And Aaron indeed had told them beforehand: O my people! Ye are but being seduced therewith, for lo! your Lord is the Beneficent, so follow me and obey my order. (90) They said: We shall by no means cease to be its votaries till Moses return unto us. (91) He (Moses) said: O Aaron! What held thee back when thou didst see them gone astray, (92) That thou followedst me not? Hast thou then disobeyed my order? (93) He said: O son of my mother! Clutch not my beard nor my head! I feared lest thou shouldst say: Thou hast caused division among the Children of Israel, and hast not waited for my word. (94) (Moses) said: And what hast thou to say, O Samiri? (95) He said: I perceived what they perceive not, so I seized a handful from the footsteps of the messenger, and then threw it in. Thus my soul commended to me. (96) (Moses) said: Then go! and lo! in this life it is for thee to say: Touch me not! and lo! there is for thee a tryst thou canst not break for thee. Now look upon thy god of which thou hast remained a votary. Verily we will burn it and will scatter its dust over the sea. (97) Your God is only Allah, than Whom there is no other God. He embraceth all things in His knowledge. (98) Thus relate We unto thee (Muhammad) some tidings of that which happened of old, and We have given thee from Our presence a Reminder. (99) Whoso turneth away from it, he verily will bear a burden on the Day of Resurrection, (100)

Surah Ta-Ha – verse 9-100

وَهَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَى ﴿20:9﴾
(20:9) And has the history of Moses reached you?
إِذْ رَأَى نَارًا فَقَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آَنَسْتُ نَارًا لَعَلِّي آَتِيكُمْ مِنْهَا بِقَبَسٍ أَوْ أَجِدُ عَلَى النَّارِ هُدًى ﴿20:10﴾
(20:10) When he saw a fires *5 he said to his family, “Wait a bit, I have seen a fire: it may be that I bring a burning brand for you, or find guidance (to the way) at the fire. ” *6
*5 This happened when Prophet Moses was returning to Egypt after passing several years in exile in Midian, along with his wife whom he had married there. According to the early part of his history, which has been related in Surah XXVIII (A!-Qasas), an Egyptian had been killed by Prophet Moses; so he had to leave Egypt in order to escape arrest and had taken refuge in Midian. *6 It appears that this happened during a night of winter, when Prophet Moses was passing through the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula. When he saw a fire at a distance, he went towards it in the hope that he might get some of it to keep his wife and children warm during the night, or at least get some guidance concerning the direction of his journey. But instead of this it was his good fortune that he found the guidance to the Right Way.
فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:11﴾
(20:11) When he reached there, a voice called out, “O Moses, I am your
إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى ﴿20:12﴾
(20:12) Lord; take off your shoes, *7 for you are in the sacred vally of Tuwa. *8
*7 Probably, it is because of this that the Jews do not say their prayers with their shoes on. The Holy Prophet, however, removed this misunderstanding, saying, “Act in contrast to the practice of the Jews who do not say their prayers with their shoes or leather socks on.” (Abu Da’ud). It does not, however, mean that one must say one’s prayers with the shoes on, but it is merely to make it lawful to say prayers with shoes on. This is confirmed by another tradition, related by Abu Da’ud from `Amar bin `As, that he had seen the Holy Prophet saying his prayer both with and without the shoes. There are other traditions also to this effect but it should also be kept in mind that there were no carpets, mats, etc. in the mosques in those days, not even in the Holy Prophet’s Mosque. Therefore it would be improper to go with shoes on into the mosques of today which have carpets, mats, etc. However, one may say one’s prayer on grassy plots or open ground with shoes on. *8 In general, the commentators are of the opinion that Tuwa was the name of the valley, but according to some it means, “The valley that had been made sacred for the time being. “
وَأَنَا اخْتَرْتُكَ فَاسْتَمِعْ لِمَا يُوحَى ﴿20:13﴾
(20:13) And I have chosen you: so listen to what is revealed.
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي ﴿20:14﴾
(20:14) It is Who am AIIah: there is no god but Me: so worship Me and establish Salat to remember Me. *9
*9 This is the real object of Salat. It has been prescribed to remind people that they should not become neglectful of Allah by worldly diversions and that they should remember that man is not an unbridled free being but a servant of Allah. Salat has been prescribed five times a day to remind man of Allah’s presence. Some people are of the opinion that it means: “Establish Salat, so that I may remember you.” Incidentally, according to this verse, if one forgets to offer a prayer in time, one should offer it when one recollects it. This is also supported by a tradition related by Hadrat Anas: “If one forgets to offer a certain prayer at the proper time, he should offer it whenever he recollects this; for there is no other expiation for this omission.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmed). There is another tradition related by Abu Hurairah to the same effect. It was inquired from the Holy Prophet: “What should we do if we remained asleep during the time of prayer?” The Holy Prophet said, “There is no sin if one remained asleep. The sin is that one should neglect one’s prayer intentionally while awake. Therefore if one forgets to offer a prayer or remained asleep one should offer that prayer on remembering it or on awaking.” (Tirmizi, Nasa’i, Abu Da’ud).
إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ آَتِيَةٌ أَكَادُ أُخْفِيهَا لِتُجْزَى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا تَسْعَى ﴿20:15﴾
(20:15) The Hour of Resurrection is sure to come, but it is My will to keep the time of its coming secret so that every soul may be recompensed according to its labours. *10
*10 After Tauhid the second thing that was revealed to alI the Prophets was the reality of the “Hereafter”, and they were appointed to impart its knowledge to their peoples. Here its object Gas also been stated. The Hour of Resurrection is destined to come so that every one should get the recompense in the Hereafter of what one did in this world, and that Hour has been kept secret to fulfil the requirement of the trial. For the one who believes in the Hereafter will always be on his guard against any deviation from the Right Way, and the one who does not believe in the coming of that Hour will remain engaged in other things, for he will think that he did not see any sign of the coming of the Hour.
فَلَا يَصُدَّنَّكَ عَنْهَا مَنْ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِهَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ فَتَرْدَى ﴿20:16﴾
(20:16) Therefore let not any person who does not believe in it and has become a slave of his lusts, turn your thoughts away from it, lest you perish-
وَمَا تِلْكَ بِيَمِينِكَ يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:17﴾
(20:17) And O-Moses, what is this in your right hand?” *11
*11 This question was not asked for the sake of getting any information, for Allah knew that Moses held a staff in his hand. The question was posed with a view to impressing upon him the fact that it was a staff so that he might be mentally prepared to see the miracle which was going to be performed with it.
قَالَ هِيَ عَصَايَ أَتَوَكَّأُ عَلَيْهَا وَأَهُشُّ بِهَا عَلَى غَنَمِي وَلِيَ فِيهَا مَآَرِبُ أُخْرَى ﴿20:18﴾
(20:18) Moses replied, “It is my staff: I lean upon it and I beat down leaves with it for my flock, and I have quite a few other uses for it.” *12
*12 Prophet Moses deliberately prolonged his answer and did not stop at: “It is my staff”. This was because he naturally wanted to prolong the dialogue to make the privilege meeting last longer.
قَالَ أَلْقِهَا يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:19﴾
(20:19) He said, “Cast it down, O Moses.”
فَأَلْقَاهَا فَإِذَا هِيَ حَيَّةٌ تَسْعَى ﴿20:20﴾
(20:20) So he cast it down and immediately it turned into a snake, which began to run about.
قَالَ خُذْهَا وَلَا تَخَفْ سَنُعِيدُهَا سِيرَتَهَا الْأُولَى ﴿20:21﴾
(20:21) He said, “Catch hold of it and do not fear for We will again restore it to its former state.
وَاضْمُمْ يَدَكَ إِلَى جَنَاحِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ آَيَةً أُخْرَى ﴿20:22﴾
(20:22) Now clasp your hand under your arm-pit: it will come out shining without any hurt (to you). *13 This is the second Sign:
*13 That is, “Your hand will shine brightly like the sun, but it will not cause any hurt to you. ” It is strange that the Bible interprets this miracle, saying that ‘his hand was leprous as snow but it was turned again as his other flesh’. The Talmud also interprets the miracle in the same way and adds that this was a miracle which was meant for Pharaoh who was suffering from leprosy. It is a pity that the same interpretation has been adopted by our own commentators, though the correct interpretation is the one that has been adopted by us, and many former commentators. Obviously, it is bad taste to attribute to a Prophet the repugnant miracle of leprosy and that, too, before a king in his court.
لِنُرِيَكَ مِنْ آَيَاتِنَا الْكُبْرَى ﴿20:23﴾
(20:23) this is because We are going to show you Our great Signs.
اذْهَبْ إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى ﴿20:24﴾
(20:24) Now go to Pharaoh for he has become rebellious.
قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ﴿20:25﴾
(20:25) Moses said, “Lord, open my breast for me *14
*14 That is, °Fill my heart with the courage that may enable me to perform the obligations connected with the great Mission of a Messenger, and give me the confidence for its fulfilment”. Prophet Moses prayed for this because he realized the grave responsibilities of the great Mission.
وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ﴿20:26﴾
(20:26) and make my task easy for me,
وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ﴿20:27﴾
(20:27) and remove the impediment from my tongue
يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي ﴿20:28﴾
(20:28) so that people may understand my speech, *15
*15 Prophet Moses prayed to Allah for this because he was conscious that he was not a fluent speaker but was slow of speech. He also knew that as a Messenger he would have to be fluent in order to impress Pharaoh and his courtiers. This is confirmed by the Bible (Exodus 4: 10) but the Talmud gives a strange explanation for this impediment in his speech. According to it, when he was a child he burnt his tongue with a live coal to escape punishment from Pharaoh whose crown he had taken off from his head and put it on his own head. The same story has been adopted by many of our commentators though it is absurd on the face of it. Our interpretation is also confirmed by the Qur’an. The tact is, that at first he was not a fluent speaker and Pharaoh had also taunted him on this impediment (XLIII: 52). Prophet Moses realized the same for he said, “My brother Aaron is more fluent than I, so send him with me as a helper, so that he may support me (with his fluent speech).” (XXVIII: 34). Afterwards this impediment in his speech was removed and he was able to deliver very fluent speeches. This tray be testified by his speeches which have been cited both in the Bible and in the Qur’an for they are masterpieces of eloquence and rhetoric. Above all, it does not stand to reason that Allah should appoint a lisper or a stammerer or a stutterer as His Messenger. That is why the Messengers have always been the best of mankind in regard to their appearance, personality and capabilities for they had to be most impressive both in their appearance and conduct, so that they could not be made the target of ridicule and contempt by the people because of such personal defects as stammering or stuttering.
وَاجْعَلْ لِي وَزِيرًا مِنْ أَهْلِي ﴿20:29﴾
(20:29) and appoint a counsellor for me from my own family,
*16 Prophet Aaron was three years older than Prophet Moses (Exodus,7:7).
هَارُونَ أَخِي ﴿20:30﴾
(20:30) by means of Aaron, who is my brother, *16
اشْدُدْ بِهِ أَزْرِي ﴿20:31﴾
(20:31) and strengthen my hands through him,
وَأَشْرِكْهُ فِي أَمْرِي ﴿20:32﴾
(20:32) and make him my associate in my work
كَيْ نُسَبِّحَكَ كَثِيرًا ﴿20:33﴾
(20:33) so that we may glorify Thee
وَنَذْكُرَكَ كَثِيرًا ﴿20:34﴾
(20:34) and remember Thee always.
إِنَّكَ كُنْتَ بِنَا بَصِيرًا ﴿20:35﴾
(20:35) Thou hast always been watching over us.”
قَالَ قَدْ أُوتِيتَ سُؤْلَكَ يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:36﴾
(20:36) He said, “Your request is granted, O Moses.
وَلَقَدْ مَنَنَّا عَلَيْكَ مَرَّةً أُخْرَى ﴿20:37﴾
(20:37) We have shown favour to you for the second time. *17
*17 Allah recounts the favours He had shown to Prophet Moses since his birth in order to impress on him the fact that he had been brought up under Divine care right from his birth for the purpose of appointing him as a Messenger. Here mere references have been made but in Surah XXVIII (AI-Qasas) details of the favours have been given.
إِذْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّكَ مَا يُوحَى ﴿20:38﴾
(20:38) Recall the time when We inspired your mother with this idea by means of a Revelation:
أَنِ اقْذِفِيهِ فِي التَّابُوتِ فَاقْذِفِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ فَلْيُلْقِهِ الْيَمُّ بِالسَّاحِلِ يَأْخُذْهُ عَدُوٌّ لِي وَعَدُوٌّ لَهُ وَأَلْقَيْتُ عَلَيْكَ مَحَبَّةً مِنِّي وَلِتُصْنَعَ عَلَى عَيْنِي ﴿20:39﴾
(20:39) `Place this child in a box and put the box in the river; the river will cast it on to the bank and My enemy and his enemy will pick it up. I Myself made you an object of love and so arranged things that you should be brought up under My supervision.
إِذْ تَمْشِي أُخْتُكَ فَتَقُولُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى مَنْ يَكْفُلُهُ فَرَجَعْنَاكَ إِلَى أُمِّكَ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ وَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا فَنَجَّيْنَاكَ مِنَ الْغَمِّ وَفَتَنَّاكَ فُتُونًا فَلَبِثْتَ سِنِينَ فِي أَهْلِ مَدْيَنَ ثُمَّ جِئْتَ عَلَى قَدَرٍ يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:40﴾
(20:40) Recall the time when your sister was walking along; then she said: `May I inform you of one, who will bring up this child in the best manner?’ Thus We returned you to your mother so that her .eye might be cooled and she might not be grieved. And (also remember that) you killed a certain person and We freed you from its evil (consequences) and put you through various trials and you stayed with the people of Midian for several years. Now you have come back at the right time:
وَاصْطَنَعْتُكَ لِنَفْسِي ﴿20:41﴾
(20:41) O Moses, I have moulded you for My Mission.
اذْهَبْ أَنْتَ وَأَخُوكَ بِآَيَاتِي وَلَا تَنِيَا فِي ذِكْرِي ﴿20:42﴾
(20:42) You and your brother should go (on the Mission) with My Signs. And see that you do not show any negligence in remembering Me.”
اذْهَبَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى ﴿20:43﴾
(20:43) “Go both of you to Pharaoh, for he has transgressed all bounds.
فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَيِّنًا لَعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَى ﴿20:44﴾
(20:44) Talk to him in a gentle manner; may be that he is convinced by admonition or imbued with fear.” *18
*18 The only two ways of bringing a man to the Right Way are: ( 1 ) To convince him by argument and admonition, or (2) to warn him of the consequences of deviation. *18a. It appears that they implored AIIah thus before going before Pharaoh when Prophet Moses had reached Egypt and Aaron had joined him in the propagation of the Mission.
قَالَا رَبَّنَا إِنَّنَا نَخَافُ أَنْ يَفْرُطَ عَلَيْنَا أَوْ أَنْ يَطْغَى ﴿20:45﴾
(20:45) The two ( 18a ) said, “Lord, we dread that he will behave unjustly towards us or treat us cruelly.”
قَالَ لَا تَخَافَا إِنَّنِي مَعَكُمَا أَسْمَعُ وَأَرَى ﴿20:46﴾
(20:46) He answered, “Have no fear: I am with you: I hear everything and see everything.
فَأْتِيَاهُ فَقُولَا إِنَّا رَسُولَا رَبِّكَ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلَا تُعَذِّبْهُمْ قَدْ جِئْنَاكَ بِآَيَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَى مَنِ اتَّبَعَ الْهُدَى ﴿20:47﴾
(20:47) Go to him and say, `We are Messengers from your Lord, so let the Israelites go with us, and do not oppress them. We have come to you with Signs from your lord; and peace is for him who follows the Right Way.
إِنَّا قَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْنَا أَنَّ الْعَذَابَ عَلَى مَنْ كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّى ﴿20:48﴾
(20:48) We have been informed by Revelation that there is scourge for him who rejects it and turns away. *19
*19 A comparative study of this incident as given in the Bible and the Talmud will show that the Qur’an dces not copy the stories from these books, but gives its own version in order to portray the Messengers in their true glory and dignity. According to the Bible, when God said to Moses that He would send him to Pharaoh, Moses replied, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3: 11). God persuaded and encouraged Moses by giving him Signs but he was still reluctant and said, “O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.” (Exodus 4: 13). And the Talmud goes even further than this and says that there was an argument between God and Moses for seven days that he should become a Prophet but Moses did not accept the offer. At this God was angry with hlm and so made his brother Aaron a partner in his Prophethood. Moreover, He deprived the descendants of Moses of the office of priesthood and bestowed it on the descendants of Aaron. These two versions depict Allah to be suffering from human weaknesses and Prophet Moses from inferiority complex.
قَالَ فَمَنْ رَبُّكُمَا يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:49﴾
(20:49) Pharaoh *20 ° said, “Well, who is the Lord of you both, O Moses?” *21
*20 Here the details have been omitted. These have been given in VII: 103-108, XXVI: 10-33, XXVIII: 28-40, LXXIX: 15-25. As regards the necessary information about Pharaoh, see E.N. 85 of Chapter VII. *21 Pharaoh addressed Prophet Moses because he was, in regard to Prophethood, the senior of the two. It is also possible that he deliberately addressed him in order to exploit his impediment in speech, and ignored Prophet Aaron, who was more fluent. As regards the implication of this question of Pharaoh, he meant to say, “YOU say that you have brought a Message from my Lord to me. Who is that Lord? You should know that I am the Lord of Egypt and the people of Egypt” . In regard to this claim of his, see LXXIX: 24, XLIII: 51, XXVIII: 38 and XXVI: 29. It may also be noted that by this claim Pharaoh did not mean to say that he was the sole deity of his people nor did it mean that none other was worshipped in Egypt. As a matter of fact, he himself based his right of sovereignty on his claim of being the incarnation of the sungod. And we also learn from the history of Egypt that there were many other gods and goddesses. In fact, what he claimed was that he was politically the Lord of not only Egypt but also of the whole of mankind theoretically. Therefore, he would not acknowledge that there was any supreme sovereign over him whose delegate might bring an order to him and demand its obedience from him.
قَالَ رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَى كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَى ﴿20:50﴾
(20:50) Moses replied, “Our Lord is He *22 – Who has given a distinctive form to everything and then guided it aright. ” *23
*22 That is, “We acknowledge Him alone as our Lord in every sense: He is our Sustainer, our Maker, our Master, our Sovereign and is Supreme in everything, and there is no other lord in any sense but He.” *23 This concise sentence needs serious attention. It means that it is Allah alone Who has created everything and given it its distinctive structure, form, capabilities, characteristics, etc. (1) For instance, tnan has been given the hands and feet which are given the most appropriate structure that was needed for their right functioning. (2) A human being, an animal, a plant, mineral and the like, air, water and light-everything has been given that particular form which was needed for its right functioning in the universe. (3) Then He has guided everything aright to function properly. It is He Who has taught everything the way to fulfil that object for which it has been created. He has taught the ear to hear and the eye to see; the fish to swim and the swallow to fly; the earth to grow vegetation and the tree to blossom and bear fruit. In short, He is not only the Creator of everything but also its Guide and Teacher. Prophet Moses employed this concise and meaningful sentence to convey the Message to Pharaoh and his people. He not only gave a suitable reply to Pharaoh as to who his Lord was, but also told him why He was his Lord, and how there was no other lord than He. The argument implied in it was this: As Pharaoh and every one of his subjects was obliged to Allah for his human form and could trot live even for a moment without the functioning of the different parts of his body which were performing their functions in accordance with the guidance of Allah, so Pharaoh’s claim that he was the lord of the people was absurd, and its acknowledgment by his people that he was their Lord, a folly. Besides this, Prophet Moses also hinted at the need of Prophethood which was denied by Pharaoh. When Allah guides everything in the universe, He has also to fulfil the need of the guidance of mankind. Whereas the guidance of. the animals and birds has been provided by instinct, the guidance of rational human beings has been provided by sending Messengers who appealed to them by rational arguments.
قَالَ فَمَا بَالُ الْقُرُونِ الْأُولَى ﴿20:51﴾
(20:51) Pharaoh said, “And what was the position of the generations who have passed before ?” *24
*24 The question posed by Pharaoh was very subtle. He meant to say, “If there is no other lord than the One Who has given a distinctive form to everyone, then what will be the position of our forefathers who had been worshipping other deities since centuries? Were all those people in error? Did all of them deserve torment’? Did they all lack common sense ?” Thus Pharaoh perhaps wanted to give vent to his anger against Prophet Moses for showing disrespect to his forefathers. At the same time he also wanted to incite his courtiers and the common people of Egypt against the Message of Prophet Moses. And this trick has always been used against the people who propagate the Truth and has always proved very effective to incite those people who lack common sense. This same trick has been mentioned here for it was being employed at the very time against the Holy Prophet by the people of Makkah.
قَالَ عِلْمُهَا عِنْدَ رَبِّي فِي كِتَابٍ لَا يَضِلُّ رَبِّي وَلَا يَنْسَى ﴿20:52﴾
(20:52) Moses replied, “The knowledge of that is with my Lord, secure in a writing; my Lord neither errs nor forgets. ” *25
*25 This answer is full of wisdom. If Prophet Moses had said, “Yes, they all lacked common sense and had gone astray and would become the fuel of Hell”, this answer, though true, would have served the very purpose Pharaoh had in mind in putting the question. But the answer given by the Prophet was true and it frustrated the trick of Pharaoh as well. His answer was to this effect: “Well, those people have now gone before their Lord, and I have no means of judging their deeds and intentions. However, their whole record is safe and secure with Allah, and nothing can escape Him. Allah alone knows how to deal with them. What concerns you and me is our own position and attitude to life. We should be more concerned about our own end than of those who have already passed away into Allah’s presence.”
الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مَهْدًا وَسَلَكَ لَكُمْ فِيهَا سُبُلًا وَأَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِنْ نَبَاتٍ شَتَّى ﴿20:53﴾
(20:53) He *26 it is Who has spread the earth as a bed for you, and made paths for you to move about (from place to place); He sent down rain water from above and produced different kinds of vegetation:
*26 It is quite obvious that vv, 53-55 are an addition by Allah to the foregoing answer by Prophet Moses. There are other instances of this in the Qur’an that Allah added a few sentences to the speech of someone by way of admonition. Moreover, it is connected not only with the preceding verse but also with the whole reply of Prophet Moses (vv. 50-52).
كُلُوا وَارْعَوْا أَنْعَامَكُمْ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآَيَاتٍ لِأُولِي النُّهَى ﴿20:54﴾
(20:54) eat of these and graze your cattle. Surely there is many a Sign in this for those who possess common sense. *27
*27 That is, “Those, who use their common sense in their search for the Truth, find a way to the Reality by the help of these Signs, which clearly show that the universe has One Lord Who alone is sustaining it, and there is no room here for any other lord.”
مِنْهَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ وَفِيهَا نُعِيدُكُمْ وَمِنْهَا نُخْرِجُكُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَى ﴿20:55﴾
(20:55) We have created you from this earth and We will return you into it and then will bring you forth out of it once again. *28
*28 That is, “Every man has to pass through three stages: (1) from birth to death, (2) from death to Resurrection, and (3) from the Day of Resurrection to Eternity. According to this verse, all the three stages will take place on this Earth.
وَلَقَدْ أَرَيْنَاهُ آَيَاتِنَا كُلَّهَا فَكَذَّبَ وَأَبَى ﴿20:56﴾
(20:56) We showed all (kinds of) Our Signs *29 to Pharaoh, but he went on treating them as falsehood and refused to believe.
*29 “Signs” comprised those arguments which were based on natural phenomena and human life and those miracles which were given to Prophet Moses. These arguments are contained in the speeches of Prophet Moses which he delivered before Pharaoh, and the miracles which he showed and are mentioned at several places in the Qur’an.
قَالَ أَجِئْتَنَا لِتُخْرِجَنَا مِنْ أَرْضِنَا بِسِحْرِكَ يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:57﴾
(20:57) He said, “O Moses, have you come to drive us out of our land by the power of your sorcery? *30
*30 Here by sorcery are meant the miracles of the staff and the shining hand, which according to the details given in Chapters VII and XXVI, were shown to Pharaoh by Prophet Moses in his first visit to his court. On seeing these miracles Pharaoh was so upset that he cried out, “Have you come to drive us out of .our country by the power of your sorcery? although he knew that it had never happened in history that a magician had conquered a country by the power of sorcery. Moreover, there were hundreds of magicians in his own country, who used to show their feats to earn rewards and prizes. Accordingly, Pharaoh’s statement that “you are a sorcerer” on the one hand, and his apprehension that “you want to snatch my kingdom” on the other, were a clear indication of his perturbed mind: In fact, Pharaoh had come to understand that the welt-reasoned speech of Moses and his miracles were bound to influence not only his courtiers, but also the common people and accordingly he tried to play upon their prejudices through falsehood and treachery. He did not admit that it was a miracle, but called it sorcery. He wanted to create an impression that any sorcerer of his empire could turn a staff into a serpent. He also incited the people, saying: “Look! he says that your forefathers were on the wrong way and deserved perdition. So beware of him! He is not a Prophet. He simply aspires for power. He wants that the Israelites should again capture power here like the times of Joseph and wrest the reigns of government from the Copts.” Pharaoh, in fact, wanted to suppress the invitation to the Truth through such devices. (For details please see E.N.’s 87 to 89 of Chapter VII; E.N. 75 of Chapter X).
فَلَنَأْتِيَنَّكَ بِسِحْرٍ مِثْلِهِ فَاجْعَلْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَا نُخْلِفُهُ نَحْنُ وَلَا أَنْتَ مَكَانًا سُوًى ﴿20:58﴾
(20:58) Well, we will also bring as strong a sorcery as yours. So settle with us when and where should the encounter take place; then neither should we back out of this agreement nor you. Come out in the open field.”
قَالَ مَوْعِدُكُمْ يَوْمُ الزِّينَةِ وَأَنْ يُحْشَرَ النَّاسُ ضُحًى ﴿20:59﴾
(20:59) Moses replied, “Let the encounter take place on the Day of the Feast, and the people assemble after the rising of the sun. ” *31
*31 The object of Pharaoh was this: “Once the sorcerers are able to transform the staffs and ropes into serpents, the entire effect of the miracle performed by Moses would disappear from the people’s minds. That was exactly to Moses’ advantage, who suggested that it was no good fixing an ordinary day or place for the purpose. The Day of the Feast was at hand. People would flock on that occasion from all corners of the empire. Therefore, the encounter should be held in the open so that all might witness it, and in the day time so that every one should be able to see it clearly.”
فَتَوَلَّى فِرْعَوْنُ فَجَمَعَ كَيْدَهُ ثُمَّ أَتَى ﴿20:60﴾
(20:60) Pharaoh then withdrew and gathered together all his devices, and came to the encounter. *32
*32 Pharaoh and his courtiers considered the coming encounter as a decisive one as far as their own future was concerned and, therefore, they attached the utmost importance to it. Courtiers were sent throughout the country to muster round all the magicians wherever available. People were especially encouraged to come in the largest numbers to witness the magic skills so as to keep them immune From the awe inspired by the staff of Moses. It was openly said that the fate of their religion hinged on the skill of their magicians: their religion could survive only if they won; otherwise the religion of Moses would have its sway (see XXVI: 34-51). Here one should bear in mind the fact that the religion of the royal family and the elite of Egypt was much different from that of the common people. They had separate gods and temples and different creeds and concepts about the life after death. They also differed in the practice of religion as well as in the ideologies. (Toynbee: A Study of History: Somervell’s Abridgment Vols. I-VI, pp. 31-32). Moreover, there were sufficiently strong pockets of the population, who under the influence of various religious upheavels, were prone to prefer Monotheism to a creed of polytheism. Besides this, there was also a fairly large element of the worshippers of One God for the Israelites and their fellow believers were at least ten per cent of the total population. Pharaoh also remembered that about 150 years earlier a religious revolution had been brought about by Pharaoh Amenophis IV or Akhenaton (1377-1360 B.C.) by military force, which had abolished all deities except Aton, a single, universal god, which was worshipped by the king and his family. Though this religious revolution had been reversed later by another king, yet its influence retrained, and Pharaoh dreaded that Moses might bring about yet another revolution.
قَالَ لَهُمْ مُوسَى وَيْلَكُمْ لَا تَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا فَيُسْحِتَكُمْ بِعَذَابٍ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنِ افْتَرَى ﴿20:61﴾
(20:61) (On the very occasion) Moses warned (his adversaries), saying, *33 “O unfortunate people, do not invent falsehoods in regard to Allah: *34 otherwise He will destroy you by a scourge: for whoso invented a falsehood, perished.”
*33 The “adversaries” whom Prophet Moses addressed were Pharaoh and his courtiers who had dubbed him as a “sorcerer”, and not the common people, who had yet to see the encounter between him and the magicians. *34 “The falsehoods” were that they had dubbed Allah’s Messenger as a “sorcerer” and his miracles as “a piece of sorcery”.
فَتَنَازَعُوا أَمْرَهُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّجْوَى ﴿20:62﴾
(20:62) Hearing this, a difference of opinion arose among them concerning the issue, and they began to hold secret consultations. *35
*35 This shows that those people felt in their hearts that their position was weak and knew that the miracle shown by Prophet Moses was not a piece of magic. Therefore, they had come for the encounter with hesitation and fear. But when the timely, sudden warning of Prophet Moses shook them to the core, they began to debate the wisdom of holding the encounter on the Feast Day in an open place in the broad day light. For they thought that if they were defeated in the presence of the common people, all would come to know of the difference between magic and a miracle and they would lose the battle once for all.
قَالُوا إِنْ هَذَانِ لَسَاحِرَانِ يُرِيدَانِ أَنْ يُخْرِجَاكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ بِسِحْرِهِمَا وَيَذْهَبَا بِطَرِيقَتِكُمُ الْمُثْلَى ﴿20:63﴾
(20:63) At last some of them decided the issue, saying, *36 “These two are no more than sorcerers. Their object is to drive you out of your homeland by the power of their sorcery, and bring to an end your ideal way of life. *37
*36 Those who were of this view must have been a few fanatics of Pharaoh’s party-who were prepared to go to any extent to oppose Prophet Moses. Those hot-headed people must have been preparing the public for a determined encounter, while the saner and experienced among them must have been advising caution and restraint. *37 Probably those people based their argument on two things: (1) If their magicians were also able to turn their staffs into serpents, it would be a clear proof that Moses too was a sorcerer. (2) If, on the other hand, Moses won, the rulers would lose their country, and their ideal way of life, which reflected their culture, their arts, their civilization, their recreations, etc. would automatically come to an end. Therefore they should do all they could to defeat Moses.
فَأَجْمِعُوا كَيْدَكُمْ ثُمَّ ائْتُوا صَفًّا وَقَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْيَوْمَ مَنِ اسْتَعْلَى ﴿20:64﴾
(20:64) Therefore muster up all your devices and come into the field zwith a united front. *38 You should realize that whoso comes out victorious today, he will win (the battle of ideology).”
*38 They also urged them to present a united front and not to show their differences on the very occasion of the encounter. For, they argued, any hesitation and secret consultation before the very eyes of the public would show that they did not consider themselves to be in the right.
قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى إِمَّا أَنْ تُلْقِيَ وَإِمَّا أَنْ نَكُونَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ أَلْقَى ﴿20:65﴾
(20:65) The magicians *39 said, “O Moses, will you cast down (your things) or shall we cast down first?”
*39 That confidence was subsequently restored among Pharaoh’s party by the speech of the head-strong people, and the magicians were asked to come iota the field for the encounter, has been omitted.
قَالَ بَلْ أَلْقُوا فَإِذَا حِبَالُهُمْ وَعِصِيُّهُمْ يُخَيَّلُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ سِحْرِهِمْ أَنَّهَا تَسْعَى ﴿20:66﴾
(20:66) Moses replied, “No, cast down (yours). Suddenly it so appeared to Moses that their cords and staffs were running about by the power of their magic, *40
*40 ‘In V11: 116, it was stated: “When they threw down their devices they bewitched the eyes of the people and filled their hearts with terror.” Here it is stated that it was not the common people alone who were terrified by their magic but Prophet Moses too suffered from its effect. He not only seemed to see that the staffs and cords were running about like serpents but he also felt a dread of them.
فَأَوْجَسَ فِي نَفْسِهِ خِيفَةً مُوسَى ﴿20:67﴾
(20:67) and Moses’ heart was filled with fear. *41
*41 It appears that no sooner did Prophet Moses say, “Cast down”, than the magicians immediately cast their staffs and cords and it seemed as if hundreds of serpents were running towards him, and he instinctively felt e dread of them. And there is nothing strange in this because a Prophet is after all a human being. Besides this, it is also possible that Prophet Moses apprehended that the demonstration of the magic might create a misunderstanding among the people about his miracle. This is also a proof that a Prophet too can be influenced by magic to a certain extent like the common people, though magicians have no power to produce any effect on his Prophethood or interfere with Revelation, or misguide hint. Therefore there is no reason why one should consider as false those traditions in which it has been stated that the Holy Prophet suffered temporarily from the effect of magic.
قُلْنَا لَا تَخَفْ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْأَعْلَى ﴿20:68﴾
(20:68) We said, “Don’t fear for you will come out victorious.
وَأَلْقِ مَا فِي يَمِينِكَ تَلْقَفْ مَا صَنَعُوا إِنَّمَا صَنَعُوا كَيْدُ سَاحِرٍ وَلَا يُفْلِحُ السَّاحِرُ حَيْثُ أَتَى ﴿20:69﴾
(20:69) Cast down what is in your hand, and it will swallow up all their sham creation; *42 for they are mere tricks of a magician; and a magician can never succeed, howsoever skilled he may be.”
*42 This is capable of two interpretations: (1) the staff, which was turned into a dragon by a miracle, actually swallowed up all the staffs and cords which had been trade to appear as serpents. (2) The dragon of the staff did not actually swallow up the serpents of the magicians but wiped out the effect of their magic from these things and they again became ordinary cords and staffs. We prefer the second interpretation because the wording of VII: 117 and XXVI: 45 is this: “It swallowed up their false magic”, and here the wording is: “It will swallow up all their sham creation”. Obviously, the staffs and cords were not their creation but the tragic which had made them appear like serpents.
فَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سُجَّدًا قَالُوا آَمَنَّا بِرَبِّ هَارُونَ وَمُوسَى ﴿20:70﴾
(20:70) Accordingly, at the end of the encounter, all the magicians were cast down to prostration *43 and they cried out, “We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses. ” *44
*43 When they saw the power of the staff of Moses, they involuntarily fell prostrate as if some one had trade them do so, because they were convinced that it was a miracle and not a feat of tragic. *44 This profession of faith by the magicians shows that every one was aware of the basic object of the encounter. It was not an encounter between the feats of the magicians and those of Prophet Moses, but it was to decide whether the claim of Prophet Moses that he was a Messenger of Allah was true or not. If this staff was actually turned into a dragon, it was by means of a miracle. On the other hand, Pharaoh intended to prove by the feats of his magicians that it was not a miracle but a feat of magic. Incidentally, this also shows that Pharaoh and his magicians and the common people fully understood the distinction between a miracle and a feat of magic. ,That is why when the magicians saw that it was a miracle shown by the power of Allah which had exposed their magic, they did not say that Moses was a more skilful magician, but straightway fell prostrate, saying, “We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.” It is obvious that the defeat turned the tables on Pharaoh who had himself arranged the encounter “to expose” Prophet Moses. He had mustered all his magicians with a view to demonstrating before the public that there was nothing extraordinary in turning a staff into a serpent for this could be done by every magician. But the defeat of the magicians and their acknowledgment testified that Moses was real]y a Messenger of Allah and the transformation of the staff was not a feat of magic but a miracle.
قَالَ آَمَنْتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آَذَنَ لَكُمْ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ فَلَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ أَيُّنَا أَشَدُّ عَذَابًا وَأَبْقَى ﴿20:71﴾
(20:71) Pharaoh said, “Have you believed in him before I gave you permission? Obviously, he is your master who has taught you sorcery. *45 Well, now I will have your hands and feet cut off on alternate sides *46 and crucify you on the trunks of palm-trees *47 then you shall know whose punishment is more terrible and tasting (mine or that of Moses). ” *48
*45 In VII : 123, it has been stated : “Indeed it was a plot you conspired in the city to ,deprive the rightful owners of their power.” Here the same thing has been further explained, as if to say, “It is not merely a plot between you and him but it appears that Moses is your master and leader. You conspired beforehand that you would be defeated by your master in the encounter to prove that he was a Messenger who had shown the miracle of the staff to frustrate your magic and bring about a political revolution in the country. ” *46 That is, “Right hand and left foot or via versa. ” *47 This was a very cruel way of punishment in ancient times. They fixed a long pole in the ground or used the trunk of a tree for this purpose. Then a piece of wood was tied across it at the top. Then the hands of the criminal were nailed on to it and he was left hanging there for hours to die a slow, painful death. *48 This was the last trick played by Pharaoh to win the losing game. He held out the threat of a cruel punishment in order to coerce them to admit that there really was a conspiracy between Prophet Moses and them against the kingdom.But the fortitude and determination of the magicians turned the tables on him. The very fact that, they were ready to endure the terrible punishment proved to the world that they had sincerely believed in the Prophethood of Moses and that the charge of conspiracy was an impudent trick that had been invented as a device.
قَالُوا لَنْ نُؤْثِرَكَ عَلَى مَا جَاءَنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالَّذِي فَطَرَنَا فَاقْضِ مَا أَنْتَ قَاضٍ إِنَّمَا تَقْضِي هَذِهِ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا ﴿20:72﴾
(20:72) The magicians replied, “By Him Who has created us, we can never prefer you (to the Truth) after we have seen clear Signs. *49 Therefore you may do your worst, for at the most you can pass judgment concerning this worldly life.
*49 ‘It may also be interpreted like this: “It cannot be that we should prefer you to these plain Signs which have come before us and to that Being Who has created us.”
إِنَّا آَمَنَّا بِرَبِّنَا لِيَغْفِرَ لَنَا خَطَايَانَا وَمَا أَكْرَهْتَنَا عَلَيْهِ مِنَ السِّحْرِ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى ﴿20:73﴾
(20:73) We have believed in our Lord so that He may pardon our errors, and forgive us the sin of sorcery which you forced us to practice. Allah is Best and Eternal.”
إِنَّهُ مَنْ يَأْتِ رَبَّهُ مُجْرِمًا فَإِنَّ لَهُ جَهَنَّمَ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَى ﴿20:74﴾
(20:74) –In fact, *50 for the one who comes before his Lord as a criminal, there shall be Hell, wherein he shall neither live nor die. *51
*50 This is a saying of Allah, which has been added to the foregoing words of the magicians. *51 This is the most terrible of all the punishments that have been mentioned in the Qur’an. The criminal will prefer death to the horrible life in Hell, but death will not come to him. He will remain in that state of agony without any hope of relief from it.
وَمَنْ يَأْتِهِ مُؤْمِنًا قَدْ عَمِلَ الصَّالِحَاتِ فَأُولَئِكَ لَهُمُ الدَّرَجَاتُ الْعُلَى ﴿20:75﴾
(20:75) As for the one, who comes before Him as a Believer, who has done good deeds, all such people will have the highest ranks for them.
جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا وَذَلِكَ جَزَاءُ مَنْ تَزَكَّى ﴿20:76﴾
(20:76) They will dwell for ever in the evergreen Gardens beneath which canals flow. Such is the reward of the one who adopts purity.
وَلَقَدْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنْ أَسْرِ بِعِبَادِي فَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ طَرِيقًا فِي الْبَحْرِ يَبَسًا لَا تَخَافُ دَرَكًا وَلَا تَخْشَى ﴿20:77﴾
(20:77) We *52 sent this Revelation to Moses: “Set forth with My servants during the night and make for them a dry path across the sea. *53 Have no fear of being overtaken nor be afraid (while passing through the sea).”
*52 Here the details of the events which happened during the long period of Prophet Moses’ stay in Egypt have been omitted. For these please see VII: 130-147, X: 83-92, XL: 23-5O and XLIII: 46-56. *53 This happened when God at last appointed a night for the exodus of the lsraelites and the other Muslims from Egypt. They were asked to gather at a fixed place and set forth as a caravan. Just at the time when they reached the coast of the Red Sea Prom where they had to cross to the Sinai Peninsula, Pharaoh arrived there with a large army in their pursuit. We learn from XXVI: 61 -63 that when they were literally between the devil and the deep sea, Allah commanded Moses to smite the sea with his staff and according to this verse the sea tore asunder and stood like two high walls on both sides, leaving a dry path between them for the caravan to pass. Thus, it is quite clear and plain that it was a miracle, and not the result of a wind storm or tide, for when the water rises in this way it does not remain standing like two high walls, leaving a dry path between them. ( For details see E.N. 47 of Chapter XXVI).
فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ بِجُنُودِهِ فَغَشِيَهُمْ مِنَ الْيَمِّ مَا غَشِيَهُمْ ﴿20:78﴾
(20:78) Pharaoh pursued them with his hosts but the sea overwhelmed them completely. *54
*54 According to XXVI: 64-66, Pharaoh with his hosts. followed the caravan on the dry path and they were all drowned. In II :50, it has been stated that the Israelites had reached the other shore and saw them drowning in the sea. From X: 90-92, we learn that Pharaoh professed to believe in God while he was drowning but this was rejected by God and he was told that his dead body would he preserved for the coming generations to serve as a lesson for them.
وَأَضَلَّ فِرْعَوْنُ قَوْمَهُ وَمَا هَدَى ﴿20:79﴾
(20:79) Pharaoh had misled his people and had not guided them aright. *55
*55 This was a subtle warning to the disbelievers of Makkah, as if to say, “Your chiefs and leaders are leading you on the same way on which Pharaoh led his people; now you may yourselves see that he did not guide them aright.” In conclusion, it will be worth while to consider the version as given in the Bible, for this will make it plain that it is absolutely false and ridiculous to say that the Qur’an has copied these stories from the Israelite traditions. We learn from Exodus the following: (1) According to 4: 2-5, the miracle of the staff was given to Prophet Moses, and in 4:17 he was instructed: “And thou shalt take this rod in throe hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs”, but according to 7: 9, the same rod was transferred to Prophet Aaron and then it remained with him to work miracles. (2) The first dialogue between Prophet Moses and Pharaoh has been given in Chapter 5, but there is no mention in it whatever of the Doctrine of Tauhid presented by Moses. In answer to Pharaoh’s question: “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord”, Moses and Aaron merely said, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us”. (5: 2-3). (3) The encounter with the magicians has been summed up in a few sentences thus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” (7′ 8-12) When we compare this with the version of it in the Qur’an, it becomes obvious that the description in the Bible lacks the real essence of the whole encounter, for it dces not mention that the encounter took place on the Day of the Feast in the open as a result of a regular challenge, and there is no mention at all that the magicians became believers in the Lord of Moses and Aaron and remained steadfast in their faith even in face of terrible threats. (4) According to the Qur’an, Prophet Moses demanded full freedom and liberty for the Israelites, but according to the Bible his demand was only this: “Let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God. ” (5:3) (5) In Chapters 11 to 14, the details of the events concerning the exodus from Egypt to the drowning of Pharaoh have been given. Though these contain some useful information and details about the events which have been briefly described in the Qur’an, they contain some strange contradictions as well. For instance, in 14:15-16 the staff (rod) again comes into the hands of Prophet Moses, who is commanded: “…. Iift thou up thy rod, and stretch out throe hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” But in w. 21 -22, it is said: “And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry /and, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground.’ and the waters were a wall unto them, on their right hand, and on their left. ” It is not clear whether the sea was divided by a miracle or by a strong “east wind” which incidentally has never been known to divide the sea into two parts leaving a dry path between them. It will also be worth while to make a study of these events as given in the Talmud. The Talmudic account differs from the Biblical version but is nearer to the one given in the Qur’an. A comparative study of the two clearly shows that the one is based on direct Revelation from Allah and the other on centuries old oral traditions which have been handed down from one generation to the other and thus considerably tampered with. (See H. Polano: The Talmud Selections, pp. 150-154).
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ قَدْ أَنْجَيْنَاكُمْ مِنْ عَدُوِّكُمْ وَوَاعَدْنَاكُمْ جَانِبَ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنَ وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَى ﴿20:80﴾
(20:80) O children of Israel, *56 We rescued you from your enemy and fixed a time for your attendance on the right side of Tur, *57 , *58 and sent down manna and salva to you. *59
*56 The part of the story relating to their journey from the Red Sea to the toot of Mount Tur has been omitted. This has already been given in VII:138-147. It has also been stated there that the Israelites said to Moses, “O Moses, make a god also for us like the gods these people have”. (See VII:138 and its E.N. 98). *57 That is, on the eastern side of Tur *58 According to II: 51 and VII: 142, Prophet Moses and the chiefs of the Israelites were summoned to Mount Tur for receiving the Divine Commandments on stone tablets for the guidance of the people. (See E.N. 71 of Chapter II). *59 For details please see E.N. 73 of Chapter II and E.N. 119 of Chapter VII. According to the Bible, manna and salva started being provided to the Israelites when they were passing through the wilderness between Elim and Sinai. According to Exodus, manna and salva were sent down thus: “And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat …..And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (16: 13-15, 31). In Numbers, the following details have been given: “And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the bight, the manna fell upon it.” (11: 8-9).
كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَلَا تَطْغَوْا فِيهِ فَيَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبِي وَمَنْ يَحْلِلْ عَلَيْهِ غَضَبِي فَقَدْ هَوَى ﴿20:81﴾
(20:81) Eat of the pure provision We have given you and do not transgress after this; otherwise My wrath will visit you. And he who is visited by My wrath is bound to perish
وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِمَنْ تَابَ وَآَمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اهْتَدَى ﴿20:82﴾
(20:82) except the one who repents and believes and does righteous deeds and then follows the straight path, for I am very forgiving for such a one. *60
*60 According to this verse (82), there are four conditions for forgiveness: (1) Repentance: to refrain from rebellion, disobedience, shirk or disbelief. (2) Faith: sincere belief in Allah and the Messenger and the Book and the’ Hereafter. (3) Righteous works : to do good deeds according to the instructions of Allah and His Messenger. (4) Guidance: to follow the right way steadfastly and to refrain from straying into any wrong path.
وَمَا أَعْجَلَكَ عَنْ قَوْمِكَ يَا مُوسَى ﴿20:83﴾
(20:83) “And Moses, *61 what has hastened you to come here before your people?” *62
*61 From here the same account is resumed that was interrupted by the parenthesis (vv. 81-82). The Israelites were told to stay on the right side of Mount Tur, and they would be given the Commandments after forty days. *62 This shows that in his eagerness to see his Lord as soon as possible, Prophet Moses had left them in the way and reached the meeting place alone. For the details of that meeting the reader should see VII: 143-145. Here only that portion has been mentioned which is connected with the calf-worship by the Israelites. This has been stated here to bring home to the disbelievers of Makkah how idol-worship starts and how deeply a Prophet of Allah is concerned about this evil.
قَالَ هُمْ أُولَاءِ عَلَى أَثَرِي وَعَجِلْتُ إِلَيْكَ رَبِّ لِتَرْضَى ﴿20:84﴾
(20:84) He said, “They are just coming behind me: I have hastened to come before Thee, O my Lord, so that Thou mayst be pleased with me.”
قَالَ فَإِنَّا قَدْ فَتَنَّا قَوْمَكَ مِنْ بَعْدِكَ وَأَضَلَّهُمُ السَّامِرِيُّ ﴿20:85﴾
(20:85) He said, “Well, listen! We put your people to a trial after you and the Samiri *63 has misled them. “
*63 It is obvious from the last letter `ya’ that Samiri was not the proper name of the person, for this Arabic letter is always added to show a person’s connection with his race or clan or place. Moreover, the prefix `al’ (definite article ‘the’) in the original Arabic text clearly denotes that the Samiri was a particular man from among many other persons of the same race or clan or place, who had propagated (he worship of the golden calf. In fact, this does not require any further explanation than this, but this has been necessitated because many Christian missionaries and the Western Orientalists have tried to criticise the Holy Prophet and the Qur’an on this account. They say, (God forbid,) “This is a proof of the grievous ignorance of history on the part of Muhammad, the author of the Qur’an, and is one of the anachronisms of the Qur’an.” They base this absurd criticism on the assumption that this Samiri was the inhabitant of Samaria, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel, which was built in 925 B.C. long after this happening; then centuries after this, a generation of the Samaritans came into existence as a result of inter-marriage between the Israelites and the non-Israelites. As the Samaritans worshipped the golden calf, the critics accuse the Holy Prophet of inventing this story on the basis of mere hearsay. They say that the Holy Prophet might have heard something like this from the neighbouring Jews and inserted it in the Qur’an. This is not all. They also criticise that Haman who was a courtier of Cyrus has been mentioned in the Qur’an as a minister of Pharaoh. It is a pity that these so-called scholars seem to think that in the ancient times there used to be only one person bearing one name in a clan or a place, and there was absolutely no possibility of another person or persons having the same name. They do not know, or pretend they do not know, that during the time of Prophet Abraham, a famous people known as the Sumerians inhabited ‘Iraq and the neighbouring regions, and it is just possible that during the time of Prophet Moses there were some people known as the Samiris who might have migrated to Egypt from ‘Iraq. Besides this, according to the Bible (1 Kings, 16: 24), Samaria itself was built on a hill which was bought from Shemer and named Samaria after him. This is a clear proof that there were people named Shemer (or Sumer) even before Samaria came into existence and it is also just possible that some clans might have been called “Samiri”
فَرَجَعَ مُوسَى إِلَى قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَانَ أَسِفًا قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَلَمْ يَعِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ وَعْدًا حَسَنًا أَفَطَالَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْعَهْدُ أَمْ أَرَدْتُمْ أَنْ يَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُمْ مَوْعِدِي ﴿20:86﴾
(20:86) Moses returned to his people in a state of anger and grief. Reaching there, he said, “O my people, did not your Lord make good promises with you ? *64 Had a long time passed since those promises were fulfilled? *65 Or did you want Allah’s wrath to come down upon you that you went against your Covenant with me? ” *66
*64 That is, “Did not Allah fulfil the promises He made with you of showing His favours to you? For instance, He safely brought you out of Egypt and not only freed you from the slavery of your enemy but also destroyed him totally. He provided you with provisions in the desert and in the mountainous regions.” It may also be translated like this: “Did not Allah make a good promise with you?” In that case, it will mean: “He made a promise that he will give you the Law and Guidance: was this not a good promise for your well being and betterment?” *65 That is,”Had a long time passed since those great favours were done to you that you forgot them? Had long ages passed since you were afflicted with persecution by your enemy that you committed such a blasphemy?” It may also be translated like this : Had you to wait for a long time for the fulfilment of God’s promise .that you became so impatient?” In that case, the meaning is obvious: “You had not to wait for a long time to see the fulfillment of the promise of Guidance. Therefore there was no excuse for what you did.” *66 This Covenant was the one which every community makes with its Prophet and promises that it will steadfastly follow the Guidance brought by him and will not worship anyone except Allah.
قَالُوا مَا أَخْلَفْنَا مَوْعِدَكَ بِمَلْكِنَا وَلَكِنَّا حُمِّلْنَا أَوْزَارًا مِنْ زِينَةِ الْقَوْمِ فَقَذَفْنَاهَا فَكَذَلِكَ أَلْقَى السَّامِرِيُّ ﴿20:87﴾
(20:87) They answered, “We did not go against the Covenant with you of our own accord; it so happened that we felt burdened with the ornaments of the people and we merely threw them down. *67 ………..Then *68 the Samiri also put down something like these
*67 This excuse was put forward by those people who were involved in the shirk fabricated by the Samiri. They meant to say, “We did not throw down the ornaments with the intention of setting up a calf nor did we know what was going to be made of these, but when the calf was brought before us, we involuntarily got involved in shirk. ” The Arabic text which we have translated into: “We felt burdened with the ornaments of the people”, simply means this: “The heavy ornaments which our men and women were wearing like the Egyptians proved very burdensome to us in our wanderings in the desert and we did not know how to get rid of them for it appeared very difficult for us to travel in the desert with them.” But according to the Bible these ornaments had been borrowed by every family of the Israelites from their Egyptian neighbours with this intention, “….and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters and ye shall spoil the Egyptians….and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold….And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians….so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.” And that, too, on the advice of Prophet Moses, whom God Himself had instructed to do this “noble deed.” (Exodus, 3: 1422, 11 : 2-3, and I 2 : 35-36). It is a pity that some of our commentators have interpreted this verse in the light of the above traditions of the Bible. They say that the Israelites felt burdened with the weight of those ornaments which they had borrowed from their Egyptian neighbours, with the intention of carrying them away as a “spoil” bestowed by God. We are of the opinion that the clause of the verse under discussion means this: “When the people were tired of carrying their ornaments on their bodies, they decided by mutual consultation that all the ornaments should be gathered at one place and it should be noted down how much gold and silver belonged to each of the owners. Then it should be melted into bars and rods and placed on the backs of the beasts of burden.” Accordingly, they might have brought their ornaments and thrown them in the common heap. *68 It is obvious from the context that the answer of the people ended with “threw them down”, and Allah Himself has added the remaining story up to the end of the paragraph. It appears from this that the people including the Samiri went on bringing their ornaments and throwing them down into the heap while they were absolutely unaware of what was going to be done by the Samiri. After this the Samiri offered his services to melt it. Then he shaped it into a calf which lowed like a cow. Thus the Samiri deluded the people, saying, “This god of yours has come into being by itself for I had simply thrown the gold in the fire.”
فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُوا هَذَا إِلَهُكُمْ وَإِلَهُ مُوسَى فَنَسِيَ ﴿20:88﴾
(20:88) and forged the shape of a calf which lowed like an ox. Then the people cried out, `This is your god and the god of Moses: Moses has forgotten it.”
أَفَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَلَّا يَرْجِعُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَوْلًا وَلَا يَمْلِكُ لَهُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا ﴿20:89﴾
(20:89) Did they not see that it did not respond to their prayer nor had it any power to hurt and benefit them `?
وَلَقَدْ قَالَ لَهُمْ هَارُونُ مِنْ قَبْلُ يَا قَوْمِ إِنَّمَا فُتِنْتُمْ بِهِ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ فَاتَّبِعُونِي وَأَطِيعُوا أَمْرِي ﴿20:90﴾
(20:90) Aaron had already warned the people, saying, “O people, you have been involved in mischief by this (calf) In fact, your Lord is Rahman, so follow me and submit to me.”
قَالُوا لَنْ نَبْرَحَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفِينَ حَتَّى يَرْجِعَ إِلَيْنَا مُوسَى ﴿20:91﴾
(20:91) But they replied, “We will go on worshipping it till Moses comes back to us. ” *69
*69 Here the Qur’an exonerates Prophet Aaron from the sin of taking any pan in the calf-worship, but in contrast to this, the Bible makes him wholly responsible for making the golden calf and setting it up as a god. According to Exodus: “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at his hand, and fashioned it with a graying tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar. before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” 1,32: 1-5). It is just possible that the real name of the Samiri was also Aaron which later on might have misled the Israelites to attribute the making of the golden calf to Prophet Aaron. Thus it is obvious that the Qur’an has shown a favour to the Jews and Christians by exonerating Prophet Aaron from the sin, but it is an irony that the Christian missionaries and the Orientalists still insist that the Qur’an is guilty of anachronism and that the calf was made a deity of worship by a holy prophet of ,theirs. In their blind obduracy they forget that even according to the Bible this was a great sin. (Exodus, 32: 21). A little further on in the same chapter the Bible again contradicts itself. It says that Prophet Moses ordered the Levites to kill all their kinsfolk, their friends and their fellow country men who had been guilty of the sin of calf-worship. Accordingly, about three thousand men fell that day. (Exodus, 32: 27-29). Now the question arises: Why was Prophet Aaron not killed, if he was the inventor of the calf-worship? Why didn’t the Levites ask Prophet Moses to kill his brother, Prophet Aaron, who was the real sinner, just as they were asked to kill theirs. The Bible also says that after this Moses went back to the Eternal and prayed Him to forgive their sins or blot him out of His list of the living, and the Eternal answered: “Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus, 32: 31-33). But we learn from the Bible that the name of Prophet Aaron was not blotted out, but, on the other hand, he and his sons and his family were given the charge of the sanctuary and the office of priesthood (Numbers, 18: 1-7). Thus it is quite evident from the internal testimony of the Bible itself, that it contradicts itself and supports the Qur’an in its exoneration of Prophet Aaron.
قَالَ يَا هَارُونُ مَا مَنَعَكَ إِذْ رَأَيْتَهُمْ ضَلُّوا ﴿20:92﴾
(20:92) (After rebuking the people, Moses turned to Aaron) and said,”O Aaron, what prevented you from following my way when you saw that they were going astray?
أَلَّا تَتَّبِعَنِ أَفَعَصَيْتَ أَمْرِي ﴿20:93﴾
(20:93) What, did you disobey my command?” *70
*70 The “command” refers to the instructions which Prophet Moses gave to his brother Aaron when he made him his deputy in his absence when he went up to Mount Tur: “After me take my place and do the right and follow not the way of the mischief-makers”. (VII: 142).
قَالَ يَا ابْنَ أُمَّ لَا تَأْخُذْ بِلِحْيَتِي وَلَا بِرَأْسِي إِنِّي خَشِيتُ أَنْ تَقُولَ فَرَّقْتَ بَيْنَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلَمْ تَرْقُبْ قَوْلِي ﴿20:94﴾
(20:94) Aaron said, “O son of my mother,do not seize me by my beard nor pull the hair of my head. *71 I was afraid that you might say on your return, `You sowed discord among the Israelites and did not pay due heed to my words’ ! ” *72
*71 See VII: 150. *72 It can also be interpreted like this: “You did not wait for orders from me” In order to understand fully the statement of Prophet Aaron, one should read this verse along with verse 150 of Chapter VII, where he says: “Son of my mother, these people overpowered me and were going to kill me: so, let not the enemies gloat over me: do not count the among the people who have done wrong.” Now if both these verses are read together, one can easily see the true picture of the event: Prophet Aaron did his utmost to stop the people from committing the sin of calf-worship, but they revolted against him and might even have killed him. Fearing a clash between them, therefore, he held his peace lest Prophet Moses, on his return, might blame him for letting the situation worsen and failing to control it effectively in his absence. The last clause of VII: 150 also gives the hint that there existed among the people a good number of the enemies of the two brothers.
قَالَ فَمَا خَطْبُكَ يَا سَامِرِيُّ ﴿20:95﴾
(20:95) (Then Moses turned to Samiri) and said, “O Samiri, what have you to say about the matter?”
قَالَ بَصُرْتُ بِمَا لَمْ يَبْصُرُوا بِهِ فَقَبَضْتُ قَبْضَةً مِنْ أَثَرِ الرَّسُولِ فَنَبَذْتُهَا وَكَذَلِكَ سَوَّلَتْ لِي نَفْسِي ﴿20:96﴾
(20:96) He replied, “I saw what the people did not see: so I took a handful of dust from the footprints of the Messenger, and sprinkled it (on the calf), for so did my soul prompt me. ” *73
*73 here has been a good deal of divergence of opinion in regard to the interpretation of this verse. According to the majority of the early commentators and their followers, it means: “The Samiri saw the Messenger (Angel Gabriel) when he was passing and took a handful of dust from his footprints. Then he sprinkled this upon the idol of the golden calf. This created life in it and it began to low like a living calf.” The Qur’an, in fact, dces not say that this actually happened but merely cites the reply given by the Samiri to Prophet Moses when the latter took him to, task for the great sin he had committed. There are others who interpret the words of the Samiri; like this: “I saw a Weakness in the Messenger (Prophet Moses) or in his Creed, which others did not see. Therefore I followed in his footsteps to a certain limit but afterwards I left his way.” This interpretation was moat probably put forward first of alI by Abu Muslim Isfahani. Then Imam Razi not only cited it in his own Commentary but also approved of it. And now it is being followed by some modernistic commentators, who try to prove their own favourite theories by giving far-fetched interpretations to the obvious meaning of the words of the Qur’an. Such people forget that the Qur’an has not been sent down in the terminology of enigmas, riddles and puzzles but in clear, plain and intelligible Arabic. Therefore the Qur’an would have never employed the words it has used in the Text to convey the meaning given by them because their usage cannot support that far-fetched interpretation. What such interpreters really mean to imply is that Allah has failed to express Himself clearly and plainly; therefore, they wish to come to His rescue by their interpretations in order to save Him from the ridicule of the “learned” people. If we study the verse in the context in which it occurs, we shall be able to understand easily that the Samiri was a mischief-monger who had contrived his deceitful scheme after a good deal of consideration. As he appears to have been a good craftsman, he caused the golden calf he had made to produce a lowing sound, and successfully deluded the ignorant and simple people. He did not rest content with this but impudently invented the story that he had seen what the common people could not see and that he had taken a handful of the dust from the footprints of the Messenger and sprinkled it on the calf which made it low like a living calf. It is possible that by the “Messenger”, he meant Prophet Moses himself and might have cunningly tried to flatter him, saying, that the dust of his footprints was miraculous. By saying so, he was playing the most subtle trick. He wanted to offer an intellectual bait to Moses so that he might feel elated about the miraculous effect of the dust trodden by his feet and utilize his services for propagating his own miraculous acts. Anyhow, the fact is that the Qur’an has presented the whole thing as a trick of the Samiri and has not given the account as if it were a real event by itself. The subsequent reaction of Prophet Moses to the statement of the Samiri clearly shows that he considered it as a deceitful story, and so laid the curse on him.
قَالَ فَاذْهَبْ فَإِنَّ لَكَ فِي الْحَيَاةِ أَنْ تَقُولَ لَا مِسَاسَ وَإِنَّ لَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَنْ تُخْلَفَهُ وَانْظُرْ إِلَى إِلَهِكَ الَّذِي ظَلْتَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفًا لَنُحَرِّقَنَّهُ ثُمَّ لَنَنْسِفَنَّهُ فِي الْيَمِّ نَسْفًا ﴿20:97﴾
(20:97) Moses said, “Well, get away! now you shall have to say throughout your life: `Touch me not’. *74 And there is an appointed time for your reckoning which is inevitable. And just have a look at your god which you cherished so much: now We will burn it and shatter it and cast the ashes into the sea.
*74 The words show that he was not only made an outcast for life but was made to inform the people himself that he was an outcast, as given in Leviticus: “And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be “. (13: 45-46). We conclude from this that either he was inflicted with leprosy as a scourge by . Allah or the punishment inflicted on him was that, being a moral “leper”, he should be made an outcast and should himself proclaim to be an unclean and impure person, saying, “Touch me not”
إِنَّمَا إِلَهُكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَسِعَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا ﴿20:98﴾
(20:98) O people, , your God is Allah alone Who has no other god beside Him: His knowledge embraces everything.”
كَذَلِكَ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ مَا قَدْ سَبَقَ وَقَدْ آَتَيْنَاكَ مِنْ لَدُنَّا ذِكْرًا ﴿20:99﴾
(20:99) (O Muhammad), *75 thus do We relate to you the history of the past events, and We have given you an “Admonition” from Our Own Self. *76
*75 Now that the story of Prophet Moses comes to an end, the same theme, that was interrupted by this story, has been resumed. *76 That is, the Qur’an about which it was said at the beginning of the Surah that it had not been sent down to put the Holy Prophet in distress, and that it was an Admonition for the God-fearing.
مَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَحْمِلُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وِزْرًا ﴿20:100﴾
(20:100) Whoso will turn away from it, he shall bear a heavy burden of sin on the Day of Resurrection;
Ta. Sin. Mim. (1) These are revelations of the Scripture that maketh plain. (2) We narrate unto thee (somewhat) of the story of Moses and Pharaoh with truth, for folk who believe. (3) Lo! Pharaoh exalted himself in the earth and made its people castes. A tribe among them he oppressed, killing their sons and sparing their women. Lo! he was of those who work corruption. (4) And We desired to show favour unto those who were oppressed in the earth, and to make them examples and to make them the inheritors, (5) And to establish them in the earth, and to show Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts that which they feared from them. (6) And We inspired the mother of Moses, saying: Suckle him and, when thou fearest for him, then cast him into the river and fear not nor grieve. Lo! We shall bring him back unto thee and shall make him (one) of Our messengers. (7) And the family of Pharaoh took him up, that he might become for them an enemy and a sorrow, Lo! Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts were ever sinning. (8) And the wife of Pharaoh said: (He will be) a consolation for me and for thee. Kill him not. Peradventure he may be of use to us, or we may choose him for a son. And they perceived not. (9) And the heart of the mother of Moses became void, and she would have betrayed him if We had not fortified her heart, that she might be of the believers. (10) And she said unto his sister: Trace him. So she observed him from afar, and they perceived not. (11) And We had before forbidden foster-mothers for him, so she said: Shall I show you a household who will rear him for you and take care of him? (12) So We restored him to his mother that she might be comforted and not grieve, and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of them know not. (13) And when he reached his full strength and was ripe, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. Thus do We reward the good. (14) And he entered the city at a time of carelessness of its folk, and he found therein two men fighting, one of his own caste, and the other of his enemies; and he who was of his caste asked him for help against him who was of his enemies. So Moses struck him with his fist and killed him. He said: This is of the devil’s doing. Lo! he is an enemy, a mere misleader. (15) He said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged my soul, so forgive me. Then He forgave him. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. (16) He said: My Lord! Forasmuch as Thou hast favoured me, I will nevermore be a supporter of the guilty. (17) And morning found him in the city, fearing, vigilant, when behold! he who had appealed to him the day before cried out to him for help. Moses said unto him: Lo! thou art indeed a mere hothead. (18) And when he would have fallen upon the man who was an enemy unto them both, he said: O Moses! Wouldst thou kill me as thou didst kill a person yesterday? Thou wouldst be nothing but a tyrant in the land, thou wouldst not be of the reformers. (19) And a man came from the uttermost part of the city, running. He said: O Moses! Lo! the chiefs take counsel against thee to slay thee; therefor escape. Lo! I am of those who give thee good advice. (20) So he escaped from thence, fearing, vigilant. He said: My Lord! Deliver me from the wrongdoing folk. (21) And when he turned his face toward Midian, he said: Peradventure my Lord will guide me in the right road. (22) And when he came unto the water of Midian he found there a whole tribe of men, watering. And he found apart from them two women keeping back (their flocks). He said: What aileth you? The two said: We cannot give (our flocks) to drink till the shepherds return from the water; and our father is a very old man. (23) So he watered (their flock) for them. Then he turned aside into the shade, and said: My Lord! I am needy of whatever good Thou sendest down for me. (24) Then there came unto him one of the two women, walking shyly. She said: Lo! my father biddeth thee, that he may reward thee with a payment for that thou didst water (the flock) for us. Then, when he came unto him and told him the (whole) story, he said: Fear not! Thou hast escaped from the wrongdoing folk. (25) One of the two women said: O my father! Hire him! For the best (man) that thou canst hire is the strong, the trustworthy. (26) He said: Lo! I fain would marry thee to one of these two daughters of mine on condition that thou hirest thyself to me for (the term of) eight pilgrimages. Then if thou completest ten it will be of thine own accord, for I would not make it hard for thee. Allah willing, thou wilt find me of the righteous. (27) He said: That (is settled) between thee and me. Whichever of the two terms I fulfil, there will be no injustice to me, and Allah is Surety over what we say. (28) Then, when Moses had fulfilled the term, and was travelling with his housefolk, he saw in the distance a fire and said unto his housefolk: Bide ye (here). Lo! I see in the distance a fire; peradventure I shall bring you tidings thence, or a brand from the fire that ye may warm yourselves. (29) And when he reached it, he was called from the right side of the valley in the blessed field, from the tree: O Moses! Lo! I, even I, am Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; (30) Throw down thy staff. And when he saw it writhing as it had been a demon, he turned to flee headlong, (and it was said unto him): O Moses! Draw nigh and fear not. Lo! thou art of those who are secure. (31) Thrust thy hand into the bosom of thy robe it will come forth white without hurt. And guard thy heart from fear. Then these shall be two proofs from your Lord unto Pharaoh and his chiefs. Lo! they are evil-living folk. (32) He said: My Lord! Lo! I killed a man among them and I fear that they will kill me. (33) My brother Aaron is more eloquent than me in speech. Therefor send him with me as a helper to confirm me. Lo! I fear that they will give the lie to me. (34) He said: We will strengthen thine arm with thy brother, and We will give unto you both power so that they cannot reach you for Our portents. Ye twain, and those who follow you, will be the winners. (35) But when Moses came unto them with Our clear tokens, they said: This is naught but invented magic. We never heard of this among our fathers of old. (36) And Moses said: My Lord is best aware of him who bringeth guidance from His presence, and whose will be the sequel of the Home (of bliss). Lo! wrong-doers will not be successful. (37) And Pharaoh said: O chiefs! I know not that ye have a god other than me, so kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake the mud; and set up for me a lofty tower in order that I may survey the God of Moses; and lo! I deem him of the liars. (38) And he and his hosts were haughty in the land without right, and deemed that they would never be brought back to Us. (39) Therefor We seized him and his hosts, and abandoned them unto the sea. Behold the nature of the consequence for evil-doers! (40) And We made them patterns that invite unto the Fire, and on the Day of Resurrection they will not be helped. (41) And We made a curse to follow them in this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be among the hateful. (42) And We verily gave the Scripture unto Moses after We had destroyed the generations of old: clear testimonies for mankind, and a guidance and a mercy, that haply they might reflect. (43) And thou (Muhammad) wast not on the western side (of the Mount) when We expounded unto Moses the commandment, and thou wast not among those present; (44)
طسم ﴿28:1﴾
(28:1) Ta. Sin. Mim.
تِلْكَ آَيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ ﴿28:2﴾
(28:2) These are the verses of the lucid Book.
نَتْلُوا عَلَيْكَ مِنْ نَبَإِ مُوسَى وَفِرْعَوْنَ بِالْحَقِّ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿28:3﴾
(28:3) We narrate to you accurately some of the history of Moses and Pharaoh *1 for the benefit of those who believe *2
*1 For comparison, see AI-Baqarah: 47-59, AI-A’raf: 100-141, Yunus: 75-92. Hud: 96-109, Bani Isra’il: 101-111, Maryam: 51-53. Ta Ha: 1-89, Al- Mu’minun: 45-49, Ash-Shu`araa: 10-68, An-Naml: 7-14, Al-`Ankabut: 39-40, AlMu’min: 23-50, Az-Zukhruf: 46-56, Ad-Dukhan: 1 7-33, Adh-Dhariyat: 38-40, An-Naziyat: 1 5-26. *2 That is, “For the benefit of those who are not obstinate and stubborn, for it would be useless to address those who are not at all inclined to listen to you.
إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ عَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَجَعَلَ أَهْلَهَا شِيَعًا يَسْتَضْعِفُ طَائِفَةً مِنْهُمْ يُذَبِّحُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿28:4﴾
(28:4) The fact is that Pharaoh adopted an attitude of rebellion in the land *3 and divided its dwellers into groups *4 , one of which he debased, putting their sons to death, and letting their daughters live: *5 indeed he was one of the mischief-makers.
*3 The words ala fil-ard in the Text are comprehensive and mean that he adopted a rebellious attitude in the land, assumed independence and godhead and superiority instead of behaving like a servant and a subordinate, and started oppressing his subjects like a tyrannical and haughty ruler. *4 That is, “He did not rule his subjects with an even hand giving equal rights to all of them, but he had adopted the polity of dividing them into groups. He bestowed privileges and preferential rights on some to be made the ruling class and reduced others to serfs to be oppressed and exploited.” Here, nobody should have the doubt that an Islamic government also discriminates between its Muslim and dhimmi subjects, and does not allow them equal rights and privileges in every way This doubt is misplaced because this distinction, contrary to Pharaonic discrimination, is not based on any distinction owing to race, colour, language or class, but on the distinction of ideology and way of life. In the Islamic system there is absolutely no difference between the legal rights of the Muslims and the dhimmis. The only difference is in their political rights, for the simple reason that in an ideological state the ruling class can only be the one which believes in its basic ideology. Every person who accepts this ideology can enter that class, and anyone who rejects it quits it. Thus, there can be no element of resemblance between this discrimination and the Pharaonic discrimination according to which no member of the oppressed race can ever enter the ruling class, under which the people of the oppressed race do not even enjoy the basic human rights, not to speak of their political and economic rights; so much so that they are even deprived of their right to live and survive, and denied security of any right whatever, all special privileges and benefits and high of offices and good things of life being reserved for the ruling class and for every such person who happens to have been born in it. *5 The Bible elucidates this as follows: “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them: lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them task masters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Ra`amses ….And the Egyptians trade the children of Israel to serve with rigour; And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour …. And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives …. And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.” (Exod. 1: 8-16). This shows that after the passing away of the Prophet Joseph a nationalist revolution took place in Egypt, and when the Copts regained power the new nationalist government employed every means to subdue the Israelites. They did not _ only humiliate and disgrace them and took mean services from them, but, over and above this, they adopted the policy of reducing their population, by killing their sons and allowing their daughters to live so that their women should gradually pass into the Copts’ hands and produce the Coptic instead of the Israelite race. The Talmud adds that this revolution had taken place a little over a hundred years after the death of the Prophet Joseph. According to it, the new government, in the first instance, deprived the Israelites of their fertile lands and houses and possessions, and then removed them from the government jobs and offices. Even after this whenever the Coptic rulers felt that the Israelites and their Egyptian coreligionists were becoming formidable they would disgrace them and employ them in rigorous jobs on little or no wages at all. This is the explanation of the Qur’anic verse: “He debased a section of the Egyptian population”, and of verse 49 of AlBaqarah: “They had inflicted a dreadful torment on you. ” However, neither the Bible nor the Qur’an mentions that the Pharaoh was told by an astrologer that a boy would be born among the Israelites, who would become a cause of his deposition from power and to meet this danger he had issued orders to kill the male children born in the Israelite homes, or that Pharaoh himself had seen a dreadful dream and the explanation given was that a son would be born among the Israelites, who would cause his downfall. Our commentators have taken this °`legend from the Talmud and other Israelite traditions. (See Jewish Encyclopedia, under ;”Moses”, and The Talmud Selections, pp. 123-24).
وَنُرِيدُ أَنْ نَمُنَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنَجْعَلَهُمْ أَئِمَّةً وَنَجْعَلَهُمُ الْوَارِثِينَ ﴿28:5﴾
(28:5) And it was Our will to show favour to those who had been oppressed in the land to make them leaders and to make them the heirs *6 ;
*6 That is, “Make them leaders and guides of the people in the world.”
وَنُمَكِّنَ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنُرِيَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا مِنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَحْذَرُونَ ﴿28:6﴾
(28:6) to give them power in the land *7 and to show Pharaoh and Haman *8 and their hosts, at their hands, the same which they feared.
*7 That is, “Bestow on them inheritance of the land so that they should be rulers over it. *8 The Western orientalists have been very critical of this. They say that Haman was a courtier of the Persian King Xerxes, who reigned hundreds of years after the Prophet Moses, from 486 to 465 B.C., but the Qur’an has made him a minister of Pharaoh in Egypt. This is nothing but an instance of sheer prejudice. After all, what historical evidence have these orientalists got to prove that there never lived any other person called Haman before Xerxes’ courtier Haman? If an orientalist has been able to discover, through authentic means, a complete list of ali the ministers and chiefs and courtiers of the Pharaoh under discussion which dues not contain the name of Haman he should make it public, or publish a photostat of it, because there could be no better or more effective instrument than this c f the refutation of the Our’an.
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ ﴿28:7﴾
(28:7) We *9 inspired the mother of Moses, saying, “Suckle him, and when you see any danger for him, cast him into the river, and fear not nor grieve, for We shall restore him to you and shall include him among the Messengers.” *10
*9 That a son was born in the same period to an Israelite parents who was later known by the name of Moses to the world, has been omitted. According to the Bible and the Talmud, the family descended from Levi, a son of the Prophet Jacob, and the name of the Prophet Moses’ father was Amram, which has been pronounced as Imran by the Qur’an. They already had two children before Moses, the elder a daughter, named Miriam, and the younger her brother, Aaron. Probably the proclamation that every male child born in an Israelite home would be killed, had not yet been issued when the Prophet Aaron was born; therefore, he was saved. The third child was born when the proclamation was in full force. *10 That is, “She was not commanded to cast the child into the river immediately after birth, but to suckle it till she felt a real danger for it. For instance, if she felt that the secret had been exposed and the enemies had come to know of the child’s birth through some means, or through some wretched informer from among the Israelites themselves, she should place the child in a box and cast it into the river, without any hesitation. According to the Bible, the Prophet Moses’ mother kept him hidden for three months after his birth. The Talmud adds that the Pharaoh’s government had appointed Egyptian women who carried infants into the Israelite homes, and would make these babies cry, so as to make any hidden Israelite infants also cry and be thus discovered. This new method of spying worried Moses’ mother and in order to save her child’s life, she cast him into the river three months after his birth. Upto this point the version given by these Books is the same as the Qur’an’s, and the event of casting the box into the river has also been described just as the Qur’an has described it. In Surah Ta Ha it has been said: Put this child in a box and place the box in the river.” (v.39). The same has been said by the Bible and the Talmud. According to these, the Prophet Moses’ mother made a basket of reeds and covered it with slime (tar) and with pitch to make it watertight. Then she laid the child in it and placed it in the river Nile. But the most important thing, which the Qur’an mentions, has found no mention anywhere in the Israelite traditions, that is, that the Prophet Moses’ mother had done all this according to an inspiration from AIlah, and Allah had already assured her that by following that device not only would her child remain safe and secure but the child would ultimately be restored to her, and that her child would become Allah’s Messenger in the future.
فَالْتَقَطَهُ آَلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُونَ لَهُمْ عَدُوًّا وَحَزَنًا إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا كَانُوا خَاطِئِينَ ﴿28:8﴾
(28:8) Consequently, Pharaoh’s household picked him up (from the river) so that he may become their enema and cause of grief for them. *11 Really, Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts were misguided (in their scheming).
*11 This was not their aim, but the ultimate destiny of their act. They picked up the child through whom they were to be destoyed in the end.
وَقَالَتِ امْرَأَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ قُرَّةُ عَيْنٍ لِي وَلَكَ لَا تَقْتُلُوهُ عَسَى أَنْ يَنْفَعَنَا أَوْ نَتَّخِذَهُ وَلَدًا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ ﴿28:9﴾
(28:9) Pharaoh’s wife said (to him), “He is a comfort of the eyes for me and for you! Do not kill him: maybe that he proves useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son. ” *12 And they were unaware (of the ultimate result).
*12 What one understands from this is briefly so: “When the ark or the basket was carried by the river to the place where Pharaoh’s palaces were situated, the servants of Pharaoh picked it up and took it before the king and the queen. It is just possible that the king and the queen were at that time strolling along the river bank and might have noticed the basket and ordered it to be picked up. When they saw a child in it, they could easily guess that it belonged to an Israelite family. For it came from the quarters inhabited by the Israelites, whose sons were being put to death in those days. It was understood that somebody had hidden the child for some time but when it could not be hidden any longer, it was cast to the river in the hope that it might be picked up and rescued from death. With this in view the most obedient servants. submitted that the king order the child to be killed forthwith, for it might prove dangerous for him. But the Pharaoh’s wife was a woman and might even be childless. Then it was a lovely child, as Allah has reminded Moses in Ta Ha: 39, thus: “I had cast on you love from Myself.” That is “I had made you such a lovely child that the beholders could not help regarding you with love.” Therefore, the woman could not help feeling for him, and said to the king, “Do not kill him, but let us adopt him. When he grows up in our house as our son, he will not know that he was an Israelite: he will rather think he is one of Pharaoh’s own kinsfolk, and he will be useful for us as against the Israelites.” According to the Bible and the Talmud, the woman who had counselled adoption of, Moses was Pharaoh’s daughter, but according to the Qur’an his wife (imra’at-u-Fir ‘aun). Obviously, the direct Word of Allah is more reliable than the verbal traditions which were compiled centuries afterwards. Therefore, it is absolutely needless to translate imra’at-u-Fir ‘aun as a woman of Pharaoh’s family” against the Arabic idiom and usage only for the sake of seeking conformity with the Israelite traditions.
وَأَصْبَحَ فُؤَادُ أُمِّ مُوسَى فَارِغًا إِنْ كَادَتْ لَتُبْدِي بِهِ لَوْلَا أَنْ رَبَطْنَا عَلَى قَلْبِهَا لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿28:10﴾
(28:10) On the other hand, the heart of Moses’ mother was sorely distressed. She would have disclosed his secret, had We not strengthened her heart so that she might have faith (in Our promise).
وَقَالَتْ لِأُخْتِهِ قُصِّيهِ فَبَصُرَتْ بِهِ عَنْ جُنُبٍ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ ﴿28:11﴾
(28:11) She said to his sister, “Follow him up. ” So, she watched him from a distance in a manner that (the enemies) did not notice it.” *13
*13 That is, the girl walked along and watched the floating basket in such a manner that the enemies could not know that she had anything to do with the child in it. According to the Israelite traditions, this sister of the Prophet Moses was 10 to 12 years old. She followed up her brother intelligently and cleverly and ascertained that he had been picked up by the Pharaoh’s household.
وَحَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَرَاضِعَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَقَالَتْ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَكْفُلُونَهُ لَكُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ نَاصِحُونَ ﴿28:12﴾
(28:12) And We had already forbidden the breasts of the nurses for the child. *14 (On seeing this) the girl said to them, “Shall I tell you of a house whose people will bring him up for you and look after him well?” *15
*14 That is, “The child would not take to any nurse whom the queen would call for suckling him.” *15 This shows that the sister did not go and sit back at home when she found that her brother had reached Pharaoh’s palace, but cleverly hung about the palace to watch every new development. Then, when she found that the child was not taking to any nurse, and the queen was anxious to get a nurse who would suit it, the intelligent girl went straight into the palace, and said, “I can tell you the whereabouts of a nurse, who will bring him up with great affection.” Here it should be borne in mind that in old days the well-to-do and noble families of these countries generally used to entrust their children to nurses for bringing up. We know that in the time of the Holy Prophet also nurses from the suburbs used to visit Makkah from time to time in order to get infants from the well-to-do families for suckling and nursing on rich wages. The Holy Prophet himself was brought up by Halimah Sa diyah in the desert. The same custom was prevalent in Egypt. that is why the Prophet Moses’ sister did not say that she would bring a suitable nurse, but said that she would tell them of a house whose people would take up the responsibility of bringing him up with care and affection.
فَرَدَدْنَاهُ إِلَى أُمِّهِ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ وَلِتَعْلَمَ أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿28:13﴾
(28:13) Thus We restored Moses *16 to his mother so that her eyes might be cooled and she might not grieve and she might know that Allah’s promise was true. *17 But most people do not know this.
*16 According to the Bible and the Talmud, the child was named “Moses” in Pharaoh’s house. It is not a Hebrew but a Coptic word, which means, “I drew him out of the water”, for in Coptic mo meant water and oshe rescued. *17 Another good thing that resulted from this wise device by Allah was that the Prophet Moses could not become a real prince in Pharaoh’s house, but grew up among his own people and became fully aware of his family and community traditions and his ancestral religion. Thus, instead of growing up as a member of Pharaoh’s class and people he arose sentimentally and intellectually as a full-fledged Israelite. In a Hadith the Holy Prophet has said: “He who works to earn his livelihood and keeps in view Allah’s goodwill also, has a likeness with the Prophet Moses’ mother, who suckled her own son as well as received her wages for the service, too.” That is, although such a person works to earn a living for his children, since he works honestly with a view to pleasing God he is just and upright in his dealings with others, seeks lawful provisions for himself and his children in the spirit of God’s worship he does deserve a reward from Allah even for earning his own livelihood.
وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَاسْتَوَى آَتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿28:14﴾
(28:14) When Moses had reached his full maturity and become full- grown, *18 We gave him judgement and knowledge; *19 thus do We reward the righteous.
*18 That is, when he had attained his full mental and physical development. In this connection, different ages of the Prophet Moses have been mentioned in the Jewish traditions. Some say he was 18, others have mentioned 20 years and still others 40 years. According to the New Testament, he was 40 years old. (Acts, 7: 23). But the Qur’an does not mention any age. For the purpose of the incident being mentioned in the following verses, it is enough to know that he had attained his full maturity at that time. *19 Hukum implies wisdom, understanding and power of judgement, and ‘llm is both religious and worldly knowledge. The Prophet Moses became familiar with the teachings of his forefathers the Prophets Joseph. Jacob, Isaac and Abraham (peace be upon all of them) through his contact with his parents, and with the sciences prevalent in Egypt by virtue of his training as a prince in the king’s palace. Here the gift of Hukm (wisdom) and `Ilm (knowledge) does nor refer to the gift of Prophethood, because Prophethood was bestowed on Moses several years afterwards, as is mentioned below, and has already been mentioned in Ash-Shu`araa: 21 above. Regarding his education and training while as a prince the New Testament says: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and’ in deeds.” (Acts, 7: 22). The Talmud says: Moses grew up, a handsome lad, in the palace of the king: he dressed royally, was honoured by the people, and seemed in all things of royal lineage. He visited the land of Goshen daily, observing the rigour with which his brethren were treated…. Moses urged the king of Egypt to grant the men of Goshen one day of rest from the labour, in each week, and the king acceded to his request. Moses said, “If you compel them to labour steadily their strength will fail them; for your benefit and profit allow them at least one day in the week for rest and renewal of strength”, And the Lord was with Moses, and his fame extended through all the land. ” (H. Polano: The Talmud Selection pp. 128-29).
وَدَخَلَ الْمَدِينَةَ عَلَى حِينِ غَفْلَةٍ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا فَوَجَدَ فِيهَا رَجُلَيْنِ يَقْتَتِلَانِ هَذَا مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ وَهَذَا مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَاسْتَغَاثَهُ الَّذِي مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ عَلَى الَّذِي مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَوَكَزَهُ مُوسَى فَقَضَى عَلَيْهِ قَالَ هَذَا مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ مُضِلٌّ مُبِينٌ ﴿28:15﴾
(28:15) (One day) he entered the city at a time when the people were heedless. *20 There he saw two men fighting, the one of his own people, the other of his enemies. The one belonging to his own people asked his help against the one belonging to the enemy. Moses gave him a blow *21 and killed him. (On seeing what had happened) Moses said, “This is the work of Satan: he is a deadly enemy (of man) and an open misleader.” *22
*20 It might be the early morning, or midday in summer, or night in winter, when the roads were deserted and there was all quiet in the city. The words “entered the city” indicate that the royal palaces were situated outside the capital, away from the common population. The words used are “entered the city” and not “came out in the city”, because the Prophet Moses lived in the royal palace. *21 The word wakaza in the original means both giving a slap and giving a blow. We have adopted “Moses gave a blow” for the reason that a blow can cause death but not so a slap. *22 One can imagine the state of utter remorse and confusion in which the Prophet Moses uttered these words when he saw the Egyptian fall down after receiving the blow and breathe his last. He had no intention to murder, nor is a blow struck to kill, nor can one expect that a healthy person would die on receiving a blow. That is why the Prophet Moses exclaimed: “This is the work of Satan! He has made me do this in order to work some great mischief, so that I am accused of killing an Egyptian while defending an Israelite, and a violent storm of ‘anger and indignation is aroused in the whole of Egypt not only against me but the whole Israelite community.” In this connection, the Bible gives a different version from the Qur’an. It declares the Prophet Moses to be guilty of wilful murder. It says that when Moses saw an Egyptian and an Israelite fighting, “He ( Moses) looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, He slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.” (Exod. 2: 12). The same is the version of the Talmud also. Now anybody can see how the Israelites brand the characters of their elders with infamy and how the Qur’an exonerates them. The verdict of common sense also is that a wise and discreet person, who was to become a great Prophet in the future, and who had to give man a great code of law and justice, could not be such a blind nationalist that seeing a member of his own community fighting with a man of the other community he would be so infuriated that he would kill the other person wilfully. Evidently, it could not be lawful to kill the Egyptian only for the sake of rescuing an Israelite from his tyranny.
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَغَفَرَ لَهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿28:16﴾
(28:16) Then he said, *23 “O my Lord, I have sinned against myself, so forgive me. ” So, Allah forgave him: He is the All-Forgiving, the All-Merciful. *24
*23 What the Prophet Moses meant by this prayer was: “O my Lord, forgive this sin of mine, which you know I have not committed wilfully, and also cover and conceal it from the people.” *24 This has two meanings and both are implied here: Allah pardoned Moses’ error as well as concealed his sin from the people so that neither any Egyptian nor any official of the Egyptian government passed that way at that time that he might witness the incident. So, the Prophet Moses got an opportunity to escape undetected from the place of the occurrence of murder.
قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِلْمُجْرِمِينَ ﴿28:17﴾
(28:17) Moses promised, “O my Lord, after this favour that You have shown me, *25 I shall never again be a helper of the criminals. ” *26
*25 That is, “The favour of concealing my `act’ from my enemies and enabling me to escape unharmed from Egypt. ” *26 This pledge of the Prophet Moses is in very comprehensive words. What he meant by this was that he would neither become a helper of an individual nor of those who perpetrated cruelty and tyranny in the world. Ibn Jarir and several other commentators have rightly understood this to mean that on that very day the Prophet Moses pledged to sever his relations with Pharaoh and his government, for it was a tyrannical government, which had set up a wicked system on God’s earth. He realized that it was not for any honest person to continue as a functionary of a tyrannical kingdom and become an instrument of increasing its power and grandeur. The Muslim scholars in general have deduced from this pledge of the Prophet Moses that a believer should completely refrain from helping a tyrant, whether the tyrant is an individual, or a group, or a government or kingdom. Somebody asked Hadrat `Ata’ bin Abi Rabah the well-known follower of the Companions, “My brother is secretary to the governor of Kufah, under the Umayyids. Though he does not decide the disputes of the people, the decisions, however, ate issued through his pen. He has to continue in this service because this is his only source of income.” Hadrat ‘Ata` recited this verse, and said, “Your brother should throw away his pen: the Providence is Allah. Another secretary asked `Amir Sha`bi, “O Abu `Amr, I am only responsible for writing down and issuing the judgements: I have nothing to do with passing them. Is it lawful provision for me ?” He replied, “It is just possible that a sentence of murder is passed against an innocent person and it is issued under your pen; or a person’s property is confiscated unjustly; or somebody’s house is ordered to be pulled down, and the orders are issued under your pen.” Then the said Imam recited this verse, hearing which the secretary said, “After this day my pen will not be used for issuing judgements of the Umayyids.” The Imam said, “Then AIlah also will not deprive you of your daily bread.” ‘Abdur Rehman bin Muslim had only asked Dahhak to go to Bukhara and distribute the salaries of the officials there, but he declined even this. When his friends said there was nothing wrong in it, he replied, “I do not want to be a helper of the unjust in any way.” (Ruh al-Ma`ani, Vol. XX. p. 49) All of Imam Abu Hanifah’s authentic biographers including Al-Muwaffaq al-Makki, lbn al-Bazzaz al-Karvari, Mulla `AIi Qari, etc.. have related that Hasan bin Qahtubah, the commander-in-chief of Mansur, had tendered his resignation only on his instruction, saying, “Whatever I have done to support your kingdom until today, is enough for me if it was in the cause of AIIah, but if it was for injustice and tyranny, then I do not want to add to my crimes in my conduct-book.
فَأَصْبَحَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي اسْتَنْصَرَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَسْتَصْرِخُهُ قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَى إِنَّكَ لَغَوِيٌّ مُبِينٌ ﴿28:18﴾
(28:18) The next morning, as he was walking in a state of fear and caution in the city, suddenly he saw the same man who had asked his help the day before, again calling him for help. Moses said, “You are certainly a misguided man. ” *27
*27 That is, “You seem to be a quarrelsome man:you have daily a new quarrel with one or the other person.”
فَلَمَّا أَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ يَبْطِشَ بِالَّذِي هُوَ عَدُوٌّ لَهُمَا قَالَ يَا مُوسَى أَتُرِيدُ أَنْ تَقْتُلَنِي كَمَا قَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا بِالْأَمْسِ إِنْ تُرِيدُ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ جَبَّارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا تُرِيدُ أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ ﴿28:19﴾
(28:19) Then, when Moses was about to assault the man, who was their enemy, *28 he cried out, *29 “O Moses! would you kill me today just as you killed a person yesterday? You certainly wish to become a tyrant in the land and reform nothing.”
*28 Here, the Biblical version is different from the Qur’anic. The Bible says that the fight on the next day was between two Israelites, but according to the Qur’an this fight also was between an Israelite and an Egyptian. This second version seems to be credible, for the manner in which the secret of the murder of the tirst day became known, as is being mentioned below, could be possible only if a member of the Coptic community had come to know of the matter. An Israelite’s knowledge of it could not be so treacherous: he could not have gone to inform the Pharaonic government of such a heinous crime committed by the prince, who was a great supporter of his own community. *29 The one who cried out was the same Israelite whom the Prophet Moses wanted to help against the enemy. When after scolding and rebuking him, he turned to assault the Egyptian, the Israelite thought that Moses was going to strike him; therefore, he raised a hue and cry and disclosed the secret of the previous day’s murder by this own folly.
وَجَاءَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَى قَالَ يَا مُوسَى إِنَّ الْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَاخْرُجْ إِنِّي لَكَ مِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ ﴿28:20﴾
(28:20) Then, a man came running from the other end of the city; *30 who said, “O Moses, the chiefs are holding consultations to kill you, so leave this place: I am your well-wisher.”
*30 This happened when in the second day’s fight, the secret of the murder became known and the Egyptian informed the authorities about the case accordingly.
فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿28:21﴾
(28:21) Hearing this, Moses left the place, in a state of fear and, vigilance, and prayed, “O my Lord, save me from the wicked people. “
وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَاءَ مَدْيَنَ قَالَ عَسَى رَبِّي أَنْ يَهْدِيَنِي سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ ﴿28:22﴾
(28:22) (Leaving Egypt) when Moses set his direction towards Madyan *31 he said “I expect that my Lord will guide me to the right path. ” *32
*31 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 favourite 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 negro 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 worshipped the gods of Ethiopia.” At this the people of Ethiopia deposed him and made him many rich presents and dismissed him with great honours. 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 thetrue 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. *32 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.
وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَاءَ مَدْيَنَ وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِنَ النَّاسِ يَسْقُونَ وَوَجَدَ مِنْ دُونِهِمُ امْرَأتَيْنِ تَذُودَانِ قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّى يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ ﴿28:23﴾
(28:23) And when he arrived at the well of Madyan *33 he saw a multitude of people watering their animals and apart from them two women keeping their animals back. Moses asked the women “What is your worry?” They said “We cannot water our animals until these shepherds have taken away their animals; and our father is a very old man. ” *34
*33 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 travelling from Tabuk to ‘Agabah. The natives told me that, as they had heard from their elders, Midian was situated there. From Josephus to Burton, alI ancient and modern explorers and geographers, have generally confirmedthis 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. *34 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 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 braham’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.
فَسَقَى لَهُمَا ثُمَّ تَوَلَّى إِلَى الظِّلِّ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنْزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ ﴿28:24﴾
(28:24) Hearing this Moses watered their animals for them, then turned and sought a shady place and said, “Lord, I stand in need of any good that You may send down to me.”
فَجَاءَتْهُ إِحْدَاهُمَا تَمْشِي عَلَى اسْتِحْيَاءٍ قَالَتْ إِنَّ أَبِي يَدْعُوكَ لِيَجْزِيَكَ أَجْرَ مَا سَقَيْتَ لَنَا فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ وَقَصَّ عَلَيْهِ الْقَصَصَ قَالَ لَا تَخَفْ نَجَوْتَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿28:25﴾
(28:25) (Not long afterwards) one of the two women came bashfully towards him, *35 and said, “My father calls you so that he may reward you for watering our animals for us.” *36 When Moses went to him and narrated to him his whole story he said, “Have no fear for you have now escaped from the wicked people.”
*35 Hadrat `Umar has explained this sentence, thus: “She came walking modestly, with her face covered with a part of her outer garment, unlike those immodest women, who go about wherever they like, and enter wherever they like without any hesitation.” Several traditions bearing on this subject have been reported by Said bin Mansur, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Hatim-and Ibn al-Mundhir from Hadrat ‘Umar through authentic chains of athorities. This shows that the Islamic concept of modesty which the Companions of the Holy Prophet had understood from the Qur’an and the teaching and training of the Holy Prophet was absolutely opposed to keeping the face exposed to the other then and moving about immodestly. outside the house. hadrat `Umar has clearly regarded covering of the face as a symbol of modesty and exposing it to the other men as an immodesty and shamelessness. *36 She said this also out of modesty, for she had to give a sound reason for her coming to another man all alone; otherwise it was not at all necessary that a gentleman should have been rewarded if he had rendered some service to the (helpless) women in trouble. And then, in spite of hearing of a reward, the Prophet Moses’ willingness to follow her forthwith to her house indicates the state of extreme helplessness in which he found himself at that time. He had left Egypt empty-handed and might have taken at least eight days to reach Midian. He must be hungry and worn out by journey. And, above all, he must be anxious to find a shelter in the unfamiliar land and a sympathetic person to give him refuge. Under this very compulsion, in spite of hearing that he was being called to be rewarded for a small service he had rendered, the Prophet Moses felt no hesitation in going with the woman. He must have thought that the prayer he had just made to God was being answered thus by God Himself. Therefore, he did not think it was right to turn down the means of hospitality provided by his Lord by an unnecessary show of self-respect.
قَالَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا يَا أَبَتِ اسْتَأْجِرْهُ إِنَّ خَيْرَ مَنِ اسْتَأْجَرْتَ الْقَوِيُّ الْأَمِينُ ﴿28:26﴾
(28:26) One of the two women said to her father, “Dear father, employ this man as a servant, for the best man for you to employ as a servant can be the one who is strong and trustworthy. ” *37
*37 It is not necessary that the girl said this to her father in his very first meeting with Moses. Most probably her father made the traveller stay with him fo a couple of days, and the girl counseled him thus during that time. What she meant by this counsel was: “Father, you are old, and therefore, we girls have to go out to perfom outdoor duties. We have no brother either, who could take up these chores. You thay, therefore, employ this man as a servant: he is strong and will be able to face all kind of rigours, and he is also trustworthy. He helped us only due to his noble nature when he found us standing helpless, but he never raised his eyes at us.”
قَالَ إِنِّي أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُنْكِحَكَ إِحْدَى ابْنَتَيَّ هَاتَيْنِ عَلَى أَنْ تَأْجُرَنِي ثَمَانِيَ حِجَجٍ فَإِنْ أَتْمَمْتَ عَشْرًا فَمِنْ عِنْدِكَ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَيْكَ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ ﴿28:27﴾
(28:27) Her father said (to Moses), *38 “I wish to give you one of my daughters in marriage provided that you serve me for eight years; and if you wish you may complete ten. I do not want to be harsh to you; if God wills, you will find me a righteous man. “
*38 It is also not necessary that the father should have said this to Moses immediately at the daughter’s counsel. One feels that he must have formed this opinion after due consideration. He must have thought: “No doubt he is a noble person, but employing a healthy and strong young man like him as a servant in a house where there are grown up daughters would not be the right thing. When he is a gentle, educated and civilized man of a noble family (as he must have come to know from the story told by Moses), why shouldn’t he be kept as a son-in-law in the house?” After reaching such a decision, he might have spoken to Moses at a suitable time. Here again the lsraelites have done a grave injustice to their illustrious Prophet, greatest benefactor and national hero. The Talmud says, “Moses lived with Re’uel, and he looked with favour upon Ziporah, the daughter of his host, and married her.” Another Jewish tradition related in the Jewish Encyclopedia is to the effect: When Moses related his story to Jethro, the latter understood that he was the person at whose hand the kingdom of Pharaoh was to be destroyed according to prophecies. Therefore, he immediately imprisoned Moses so that he should hand him over to Pharaoh and get a reward. He remained imprisoned for seven or ten years in a dark underground cell, but Jethro’s daughter, Ziporah, whom he had first met at the well of water, kept visiting him in the cell secretly and providing him with food and drink;. They had even decided to marry. After seven or ten years Ziporah said to her father, “Years ago you put a man in the cell and then forgot him altogether. He should have died by now. But if he is still alive, he must be a godly person.” Hearing this when Jethro went to the prison, he found Moses alive and was convinced that he had miraculously remained so. Then he married Ziporah to him. Have the Western orientalists who are ever on the lookout for the sources of the Qur’anic narratives ever cared to see this manifest difference that exists between the Qur’anic version and the Israelite traditions?
قَالَ ذَلِكَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكَ أَيَّمَا الْأَجَلَيْنِ قَضَيْتُ فَلَا عُدْوَانَ عَلَيَّ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى مَا نَقُولُ وَكِيلٌ ﴿28:28﴾
(28:28) Moses replied, “Be it an agreement between me and you. Whichever of the two terms I complete, let there be no injustice to me after that; and Allah is a witness to what we have agreed upon. *39
*39 Some people have taken this conversation between the Prophet Moses and the girl’s father for a contract of marriage, and have started the dispute whether service under the father can be looked upon as a dower of the daughters marriage, and whether such external conditions can be laid down for the marriage contract; whereas the words of the verses under discussion themselves indicate this was not the contract of marriage but the initial proposal that is generally made before the execution of the marriage contract itself. After all, how can this be taken for a contract of marriage when it had not yet been decided which of the two girls was to be given away in marriage. The purport of the conversation was that the girl’s father said, “I am prepared to marry one of my daughters to you provided that you promise that you will stay in my house for eight to ten years and help me in performing household chores, for I am old and have no son either, who could manage my properties. I have only daughters whom I have to send to perform outdoor duties. I want you to strengthen me as my would-be son-in-law. Lf you are willing to accept this responsibility, and do not intend to take away your wife soon after marriage, I will marry one of my daughters to you.” The Prophet Moses himself was in search of a shelter at that time, so he accepted the proposal. Evidently, it was a sort of contract that had been agreed upon between the two parties before the marriage. After this the actual marriage must have taken place according to the law and the dower also settled. There could be no question of including the condition of service in the marriage bond itself.
فَلَمَّا قَضَى مُوسَى الْأَجَلَ وَسَارَ بِأَهْلِهِ آَنَسَ مِنْ جَانِبِ الطُّورِ نَارًا قَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آَنَسْتُ نَارًا لَعَلِّي آَتِيكُمْ مِنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِنَ النَّارِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَصْطَلُونَ ﴿28:29﴾
(28:29) When Moses completed the term *40 and he was travelling with his family, he saw a fire in the direction of Tur. *41 He said to his family, “Stay a while: I have seen a fire: I may bring some information from there, or a burning brand with which you may warm yourselves.”
*40 According to Hadrat Hasan bin `Ali bin Abi Talib, the Prophet Moses had completed the ten years term instead of the eight years. According to Ibn ‘Abbas, this has been related on the authority of the Holy Prophet himself. He has said, “Moses (peace be upon him) completed the term which was more perfect and more agreeable to his father-in-law, i.e. ten years.” *41 That the direction of the journey was towards Mt. Tur shows that the Prophet Moses might be traveling to Egypt with his family, for Tur lies on the way from Midian to Egypt. Probably Prophet Moses thought that he had stayed away from home for ten long years and the Pharaoh in whose reign he had left Egypt had also died, if he quietly went back and stayed with his people, nobody would know it. The Biblical version of the sequence of events is different from the Qur’an’s. It says that the Prophet Moses `led the flocks (of his father-in-law) to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.” There God spoke to him, and appointed him to Prophethood and commanded him to go to Egypt. Then Moses went back to Jethro, his father-in-law, took his permission and went to Egypt with his family. (Exod. 3: 1, 4: 18) Contrary to this, the Qur’an says that the Prophet Moses left Midian with his family after completing the term and during this journey AIIah spoke to him and appointed him to Prophethood. Both the Bible and the Talmud agree that the Pharaoh in whose house Prophet Moses had been brought up had died during his stay in Midian, and now another Pharaoh was the king of Egypt.
فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ مِنْ شَاطِئِ الْوَادِ الْأَيْمَنِ فِي الْبُقْعَةِ الْمُبَارَكَةِ مِنَ الشَّجَرَةِ أَنْ يَا مُوسَى إِنِّي أَنَا اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿28:30﴾
(28:30) When he reached there, a voice called out from a tree in the blessed ground *42 on the right side *43 of the valley: “O Moses, I am Allah, Lord of the universe.”
*42 That is, in the ground which was being lit up by Divine Light. *43 That is, on that side of the valley which lay to the right of the Prophet Moses.
وَأَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ فَلَمَّا رَآَهَا تَهْتَزُّ كَأَنَّهَا جَانٌّ وَلَّى مُدْبِرًا وَلَمْ يُعَقِّبْ يَا مُوسَى أَقْبِلْ وَلَا تَخَفْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الْآَمِنِينَ ﴿28:31﴾
(28:31) And (it was commanded), “Cast down your staff.” When Moses saw that the staff was writhing like a snake, he turned about and fled and did not even look behind. (It was said,) “Moses, come back and have no fear: you are quite safe.
اسْلُكْ يَدَكَ فِي جَيْبِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ وَاضْمُمْ إِلَيْكَ جَنَاحَكَ مِنَ الرَّهْبِ فَذَانِكَ بُرْهَانَانِ مِنْ رَبِّكَ إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ ﴿28:32﴾
(28:32) Put your hand into your bosom: it will come out shining, without any harm to you ; *44 and fold back your arm to ward off fear. *45 These are two clear Signs from your Lord to be shown to Pharaoh and his courtiers: they are very disobedient people indeed. ” *46
*44 These two miracles were shown to the Prophet Moses at that time so that, firstly, he himself is fully convinced that the same Being Who is speaking to him is, in fact, the Creator and Master and Ruler of the whole system of the universe and secondly, he should have full satisfaction that he was not going unarmed before Pharaoh, to perform the dangerous mission assigned to him, but would go well armed with the two powerful weapons. *45 That is, “Whenever you experience the fear of any danger, fold back your arm to yourself: this will strengthen your heart and will deliver you completely from every feeling of fear and dread.” The arm probably implies the right arm. The arm can be folded back in two ways: either by bringing the arm and pressing it against the side, or by pressing one hand under the armpit of the other. Probably the first way was implied, for in that case the other person cannot perceive that one is specially doing so in order to ward off fear. The Prophet Moses was taught this device because he was being sent to counter a tyrannical government without any army and worldly equipment. He was going to meet with many a dreadful situation when a great Prophet also could not remain safe from fear and terror. AIlah said to him, “Whenever you face such a situation, just do this* and Pharaoh will not be able to shake your heart in spite of all the power of his mighty kingdom.” *46 The words by themselves imply: “Go to Pharaoh with these Signs and present yourself as Allah’s Messenger, and invite him and his chiefs to the obedience and worship of Allah, Lord of the worlds.” That is why his appointment has not been specified here, though at other places it has been clearly stated, thus: ‘Go to Pharaoh for he has become rebellious’ “(Ta Ha: 24) And: “When your Lord called Moses, saying: “Go forth to the wicked people–the people of Pharaoh’.” (Ash-Shu’araa: 10).
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي قَتَلْتُ مِنْهُمْ نَفْسًا فَأَخَافُ أَنْ يَقْتُلُونِ ﴿28:33﴾
(28:33) Moses submited, “My Lord, I have killed a man of theirs: I fear that they will put me to death; *47
*47 It did not mean that he was hesitant to go there because of the fear, but it meant this: “Kindly make some such arrangement that I am not apprehended on the charge of murder just on arrival even before I may convey to them Your message, for in that case the very object for which I am being sent will be defeated.” The next verse makes it plain that the Prophet Moses, by this submission, did not at all mean to reject the office of Prophethood and refuse to go before Pharaoh because of the fear.
وَأَخِي هَارُونُ هُوَ أَفْصَحُ مِنِّي لِسَانًا فَأَرْسِلْهُ مَعِيَ رِدْءًا يُصَدِّقُنِي إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يُكَذِّبُونِ ﴿28:34﴾
(28:34) and my brother Aaron is more eloquent of tongue than I: send him with me as a helper so that he may support me; I fear that they will treat me as a liar. “
قَالَ سَنَشُدُّ عَضُدَكَ بِأَخِيكَ وَنَجْعَلُ لَكُمَا سُلْطَانًا فَلَا يَصِلُونَ إِلَيْكُمَا بِآَيَاتِنَا أَنْتُمَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَكُمَا الْغَالِبُونَ ﴿28:35﴾
(28:35) Allah said, “We shall strengthen your hand with your brother and shall give both of you such authority that they will not be able to harm you in any way. With Our Signs you and your followers only shall triumph. *48
*48 This meeting of the Prophet Moses with Allah and the mutual conversation has been described in much greater detail in Surah Ta Ha (vv. 9-48). Anyone possessed of fine taste, who compares this Qur’anic version with the story given in the Bible (Exod., chs. 3, 4), will be himself able to judge which of the two is Divine Revelation and which the result of human story-telling. Besides, he will also be able to judge whether the Qur’anic version is, God forbid, a plagiarism of the Bible and Israelite traditions, or that God Himself is describing the actual event, Who had honoured Moses by calling him up into His Presence. (For further explanation, see E.N. 19 of Surah Ta Ha).
فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ مُوسَى بِآَيَاتِنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالُوا مَا هَذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُفْتَرًى وَمَا سَمِعْنَا بِهَذَا فِي آَبَائِنَا الْأَوَّلِينَ ﴿28:36﴾
(28:36) Then, when Moses came to those people with Our clear Signs, they said”This is nothing but false magic, *49 and we have never heard of such things in the time of our forefathers. *50
*49 The words of the Text mean “Fabricated or forged magic.” If fabrication is taken to mean falsehood, it would mean, “The staff’s turning into a serpent and the shining of the hand is not any real change in the nature of the thing itself, but a mere illusion, which this man calls a miracle in order to deceive us.” And if it is taken to mean a forgery it will imply: “This person has forged something which appears to be a staff; but when it is thrown on the ground, it moves like a snake. As for the hand, he has rubbed something on it so that when he draws it out of the armpit, it shines. He himself works these magical tricks but tries to make us believe that these are miracles which God has granted him.” *50 The reference is to the teachings which the Prophet Moses had presented while conveying this message of Tauhid. The details have been given at other places in the Qur’an. For example, according to Surah An-Naziyat: 18-19, he said to Pharaoh: “Will you mind to purify yourself, that I may guide you to your Lord so that you may have fear (of Him)?” And in Surah Ta Ha: 47-48: “We have come to you with Signs from your Lord; peace is for him who follows the Right Way. We have been informed by Revelation that there is punishment for him who rejects it and turns away.” And: “We are Messengers from your Lord: so let the Israelites go with us.” It was about these things that Pharaoh said, “Even our forefathers had never heard that there was a Being more powerful than Pharaoh of Egypt, Who was authorised to command him, to punish him, to send a man to his court to convey His instructions to him, and to warn the king of Egypt to fear Him. These are strange things which we are hearing today from a man like you.”
وَقَالَ مُوسَى رَبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ جَاءَ بِالْهُدَى مِنْ عِنْدِهِ وَمَنْ تَكُونُ لَهُ عَاقِبَةُ الدَّارِ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ ﴿28:37﴾
(28:37) Moses replied, “My Lard is fully aware of the person who has brought guidance from Him and He alone knows who will fare best in the end; the truth is that the unjust never attain true success. ” *51
*51 That is, “You think I am a magician and a forger, but my Lord is well aware of me. He knows what sort of a man is the person whom He has appointed as a Messenger; and the final judgement rests with Him. If I am a liar, I shall meet an evil end; and if you are a liar, you should know that your end will not be good. In any case, the inevitable fact is that the unjust will not attain true success. He who is not Allah’s messenger but falsely presents himself as a messenger for selfish motives, is also unjust and will not attain success. And the one who rejects a true Messenger by false accusations and suppresses the Truth by deceit and fraud, is also unjust and will never attain success.”
وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَهٍ غَيْرِي فَأَوْقِدْ لِي يَا هَامَانُ عَلَى الطِّينِ فَاجْعَلْ لِي صَرْحًا لَعَلِّي أَطَّلِعُ إِلَى إِلَهِ مُوسَى وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّهُ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ ﴿28:38﴾
(28:38) And Pharaoh said, “O chiefs, I do not know of any other god of yours than myself. *52 Burn for me bricks of clay, O Haman, and build me a high tower so that I may climb it to see the God of Moses for I consider him to be an utter liar. ” *53
*52 By this Pharaoh did not, and could not, mean that he was the creator of his people and the earth and the heavens, for such a thing be uttered only by a madman. Likewise; he also did not mean that they had no other deity besides him for the Egyptians worshipped many gods, and the Pharaoh himself had been made the incarnation of the sungod. The Qur’an testifies that the Pharaoh himself worshipped many gods: “The chiefs of Pharaoh’s people said, `Will you leave Moses and his followers free to spread disorder in the land, and to discard you and your deities’?” (A1-A`raf: 127) Therefore, inevitably, the Pharaoh had not used the word “god” here for himself as a creator and deity, but as an absolute and supreme sovereign. What he meant was this: “I am the owner of this land of Egypt: I alone will rule here: My law will be the law of the land; I alone shall be accepted as the fountainhead of all commands and prohibitions here. None else is entitled to give commands in this country. Who is this Moses, who has appeared as the delegate of the Lord of the universe and is conveying orders to me as though he is the ruler and I am his subordinate?” That is why he addressed his courtiers, thus: “O people: Is not the kingdom of Egypt mine? And are not these canals flowing beneath me?” (Az-Zukhruf: 51) And that is why he said to Moses again and again, “Have you come to turn us away from the faith of our forefathers so that you too may dominate over the land?” (Yunus: 78) “O Moses, have you come to drive us out of our land by the power of your sorcery?” (Ta Ha: 57) “I fear he will change your religion, or cause mischief to appear in the land.” (Al-Mu’min: 26) If the matter is considered from this angle it will become evident that the position of Pharaoh was no different from the position of those states which claim political and legal sovereignty independent of Divine Law brought by the Prophets. Whether they accept a king as the fountainhead of law and commands and prohibitions, or the will of the nation, in any case as long as they stick to the position that the country will be ruled by their law and not by the Law of AIlah and His Messengers, there will be no fundamental difference between their position and that of Pharaoh. It is, however, a different thing that the ignorant people curse Pharaoh but approve these as lawful. A person who understands reality will look for the spirit and sense and not merely for words and terminology. Pharaoh had used the word “god” for himself but these stales use the term “sovereignty” in the same sense. (For further explanation, see E.N. 21 of Ta’Ha. *53 This was the same kind of mentality as the Russian communists of today are displaying. They launch Sputniks and Lunics and tell the world that these balls have not found God anywhere above. That stupid man of yore wanted to see God from the top of a tower. This shows that the extent of the imagination of the straying people during the past 3,500 years has remained where it was. They have not advanced even an inch. It is not known who told them that the Being Whom the God-worshippers acknowledge as the Lord of the universe resided some where above according to their belief. And if they do not see Him a few thousand feet or a few lakh miles above the earth’s surface in this limitless universe, it will be a proof that He exists nowhere. The Qur’an does not specify whether Pharaoh actually got such a tower built and tried to see God from the top of it, but it only relates what he said. Apparently, he did not commit the folly. He only meant to befool the people. This also is not clear whether Pharaoh was, in actual fact, a disbeliever in the Being of the Lord of the universe, or talked atheism only due to stubbornness. In this regard his sayings point to the same mental confusion which one finds in the statements of the Russian Communists. Sometimes he wanted to climb into the sky and come back to tell the world that he had nowhere seen the God of Moses, and sometimes he would say, “Why were not bracelets of gold sent down on him, or a company of angels as attendants?” (Az-Zukhruf: 53) These things are not much different from what a former Prime Minister of Russia, Khrushchev, said. He sometimes rejected God and sometimes invoked Him and swore by Him. We are of the opinion that after the passage of the period of the Prophet Joseph and his successors when Egypt was dominated by the Coptic nationalism and a political revolution took place in the country owing to the racial and nationalistic prejudice, the new leaders, in their nationalistic enthusiasm, revolted against the God also towards Whom the Prophet Joseph and his followers, the Israelites and the Egyptian Muslims, had been calling the people. They thought that if they believed in God, they would never be able to shed the influence and impact of the civilization brought about by the Prophet Joseph. For if that civilization remained, they would never be able to consolidate, their political influence. For them belief in God and Muslim sovereignty were inseparable and inter-dependent. Therefore, to get rid of the one it was necessary to reject the other, although they could not root out belief in One God from the depths of their hearts.
وَاسْتَكْبَرَ هُوَ وَجُنُودُهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا يُرْجَعُونَ ﴿28:39﴾
(28:39) He and his hosts assumed haughtiness in the land unjustly, without anyright, *54 and they thought they had never to return to Us. *55
*54 That is, Allah, Lord of the worlds, alone is entitled to the right to greatness, but Pharaoh and his hosts assumed greatness when they attained a little power in a small territory on the earth. *55 That is, “They thought they were answerable to none and with this assumption they started behaving absolutely independently in their day to day life.”
فَأَخَذْنَاهُ وَجُنُودَهُ فَنَبَذْنَاهُمْ فِي الْيَمِّ فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿28:40﴾
(28:40) Consequently, We seized him and his hosts and cast them into the sea. *56 Now behold what fate the wicked people met!
*56 Allah in these words has depicted their worthlessness and insignificance as against their false pride. They thought they were big people, but when the respite Allah had granted them to reform themselves came to an end, they were thrown into the sea like so much rubbish.
وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يُنْصَرُونَ ﴿28:41﴾
(28:41) We made them leaders who invited the people to Hell-fire, *57 and on the Day of Resurrection they will not be able to get any help from anywhere.
*57 That is, “They have set a precedent for the later generations as to committing injustices, rejecting the Truth and persistence in their rejection till the last, and using all sorts of devices to defend falsehood against the Truth.” They showed these ways to the people and have gone to Hell, and now their descendants are following in their footsteps and rushing towards the same doom.
وَأَتْبَعْنَاهُمْ فِي هَذِهِ الدُّنْيَا لَعْنَةً وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ هُمْ مِنَ الْمَقْبُوحِينَ ﴿28:42﴾
(28:42) We set a curse to follow them in this world and on the Day of Resurrection, they shall be involved in an awkward predicament. *58
*58 The words in the Text mean: “On the Day of Resurrection they will be among the maqbuhin “, which has several meanings: (l) They will stand rejected and repulsed; (2) they will be wholly deprived of Allah’s mercy; and (3) they will be severely beaten up and their faces will become distorted .
وَلَقَدْ آَتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُونَ الْأُولَى بَصَائِرَ لِلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ ﴿28:43﴾
(28:43) After We had destroyed the former generations, We gave Moses the Book, which We made a means of enlightenment for the people, and a Guidance and a Mercy, so that they may learn lessons. *59
*59 That is, “When the former generations met with the evil consequences of turning away from the teachings of the Prophets, and they met the doom that was experienced by Pharaoh and his hosts, then Moses was granted the Book so as to usher in a new era for mankind. “
وَمَا كُنْتَ بِجَانِبِ الْغَرْبِيِّ إِذْ قَضَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى الْأَمْرَ وَمَا كُنْتَ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ ﴿28:44﴾
(28:44) (O Muhammad,) you were not present on the western side *60 when We gave Moses the Law, nor were you among the witnesses, *61
*60 “Western side”: Mount Sinai, which lies to the west of the Hijaz and on which the Prophet Moses was given the Divine Law. *61 “The witnesses”: the seventy of the elders of Israel who had been summoned along with Moses for the covenant to follow the Law. (For reference, see AI-A’raf: 155 and Exod., ch. 24)
Then, after them, We sent Moses with our tokens unto Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they repelled them. Now, see the nature of the consequence for the corrupters! (103) Moses said: O Pharaoh! Lo! I am a messenger from the Lord of the Worlds, (104) Approved upon condition that I speak concerning Allah nothing but the truth. I come unto you (lords of Egypt) with a clear proof from your Lord. So let the Children of Israel go with me. (105) (Pharaoh) said: If thou comest with a token, then produce it, if thou art of those who speak the truth. (106) Then he flung down his staff and lo! it was a serpent manifest; (107) And he drew forth his hand (from his bosom), and lo! it was white for the beholders. (108) The chiefs of Pharaoh’s people said: Lo! this is some knowing wizard, (109) Who would expel you from your land. Now what do ye advise? (110) They said (unto Pharaoh): Put him off (a while) – him and his brother – and send into the cities summoners, (111) To bring each knowing wizard unto thee. (112) And the wizards came to Pharaoh, saying: Surely there will be a reward for us if we are victors. (113) He answered: Yea, and surely ye shall be of those brought near (to me). (114) They said: O Moses! Either throw (first) or let us be the first throwers? (115) He said: Throw! And when they threw they cast a spell upon the people’s eyes, and overawed them, and produced a mighty spell. (116) And We inspired Moses (saying): Throw thy staff! And lo! it swallowed up their lying show. (117) Thus was the Truth vindicated and that which they were doing was made vain. (118) Thus were they there defeated and brought low. (119) And the wizards fell down prostrate, (120) Crying: We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, (121) The Lord of Moses and Aaron. (122) Pharaoh said: Ye believe in Him before I give you leave! Lo! this is the plot that ye have plotted in the city that ye may drive its people hence. But ye shall come to know! (123) Surely I shall have your hands and feet cut off upon alternate sides. Then I shall crucify you every one. (124) They said: Lo! We are about to return unto our Lord! (125) Thou takest vengeance on us only forasmuch as we believed the tokens of our Lord when they came unto us. Our Lord! Vouchsafe unto us steadfastness and make us die as men who have surrendered (unto Thee). (126) The chiefs of Pharaoh’s people said: (O King), wilt thou suffer Moses and his people to make mischief in the land, and flout thee and thy gods? He said: We will slay their sons and spare their women, for lo! we are in power over them. (127) And Moses said unto his people: Seek help in Allah and endure. Lo! the earth is Allah’s. He giveth it for an inheritance to whom He will. And lo! the sequel is for those who keep their duty (unto Him). (128) They said: We suffered hurt before thou camest unto us, and since thou hast come unto us. He said: It may be that your Lord is going to destroy your adversary and make you viceroys in the earth, that He may see how ye behave. (129) And we straitened Pharaoh’s folk with famine and dearth of fruits, that peradventure they might heed. (130) But whenever good befell them, they said: This is ours; and whenever evil smote them they ascribed it to the evil auspices of Moses and those with him. Surely their evil auspice was only with Allah. But most of them knew not. (131) And they said: Whatever portent thou bringest wherewith to bewitch us, we shall not put faith in thee. (132) So We sent against them the flood and the locusts and the vermin and the frogs and the blood – a succession of clear signs. But they were arrogant and became a guilty folk. (133) And when the terror fell on them they cried: O Moses! Pray for us unto thy Lord, because He hath a covenant with thee. If thou removest the terror from us we verily will trust thee and will let the Children of Israel go with thee. (134) But when We did remove from them the terror for a term which they must reach, behold! they broke their covenant. (135) Therefore We took retribution from them; therefore We drowned them in the sea: because they denied Our revelations and were heedless of them. (136) And We caused the folk who were despised to inherit the eastern parts of the land and the western parts thereof which We had blessed. And the fair word of thy Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because of their endurance; and We annihilated (all) that Pharaoh and his folk had done and that they had contrived. (137) And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea, and they came unto a people who were given up to idols which they had. They said: O Moses! Make for us a god even as they have gods. He said: Lo! ye are a folk who know not. (138) Lo! as for these, their way will be destroyed and all that they are doing is in vain. (139) He said: Shall I seek for you a god other than Allah when He hath favoured you above (all) creatures? (140) And (remember) when We did deliver you from Pharaoh’s folk who were afflicting you with dreadful torment, slaughtering your sons and sparing your women. That was a tremendous trial from your Lord. (141) And when We did appoint for Moses thirty nights (of solitude), and added to them ten, and he completed the whole time appointed by his Lord of forty nights; and Moses said unto his brother, Aaron: Take my place among the people. Do right, and follow not the way of mischief-makers. (142) And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: My Lord! Show me (Thy Self), that I may gaze upon Thee. He said: Thou wilt not see Me, but gaze upon the mountain! If it stand still in its place, then thou wilt see Me. And when his Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down. And Moses fell down senseless. And when he woke he said: Glory unto Thee! I turn unto Thee repentant, and I am the first of (true) believers. (143) He said: O Moses! I have preferred thee above mankind by My messages and by My speaking (unto thee). So hold that which I have given thee, and be among the thankful. (144) And We wrote for him, upon the tablets, the lesson to be drawn from all things and the explanation of all things, then (bade him): Hold it fast; and command thy people (saying): Take the better (course made clear) therein. I shall show thee the abode of evil-livers. (145) I shall turn away from My revelations those who magnify themselves wrongfully in the earth, and if they see each token believe it not, and if they see the way of righteousness choose it nor for (their) way, and if they see the way of error choose if for (their) way. That is because they deny Our revelations and are used to disregard them. (146) Those who deny Our revelations and the meeting of the Hereafter, their works are fruitless. Are they requited aught save what they used to do? (147) And the folk of Moses, after (he left them), chose a calf (for worship), (made) out of their ornaments, of saffron hue, which gave a lowing sound. Saw they not that it spake not unto them nor guided them to any way? They chose it, and became wrong-doers. (148) And when they feared the consequences thereof and saw that they had gone astray, they said: Unless our Lord have mercy on us and forgive us, we verily are of the lost. (149) And when Moses returned unto his people, angry and grieved, he said: Evil is that (course) which ye took after I had left you. Would ye hasten on the judgment of your Lord? And he cast down the tablets, and he seized his brother by the head, dragging him toward him. He said: Son of my mother! Lo! the folk did judge me weak and almost killed me. Oh, make not mine enemies to triumph over me and place me not among the evil-doers. (150) He said: My Lord! Have mercy on me and on my brother; bring us into Thy mercy, Thou the Most Merciful of all who show mercy. (151) Lo! Those who chose the calf (for worship), terror from their Lord and humiliation will come upon them in the life of the world. Thus do We requite those who invent a lie. (152) But those who do ill-deeds and afterward repent and believe – lo! for them, afterward, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (153) Then, when the anger of Moses abated, he took up the tablets, and in their inscription there was guidance and mercy for all those who fear their Lord. (154) And Moses chose of his people seventy men for Our appointed tryst and, when the trembling came on them, he said: My Lord! If Thou hadst willed Thou hadst destroyed them long before, and me with them. Wilt thou destroy us for that which the ignorant among us did? It is but Thy trial (of us). Thou sendest whom Thou wilt astray and guidest whom Thou wilt: Thou art our Protecting Friend, therefore forgive us and have mercy on us, Thou, the Best of all who show forgiveness. (155) And ordain for us in this world that which is good, and in the Hereafter (that which is good), Lo! We have turned unto Thee. He said: I smite with My punishment whom I will, and My mercy embraceth all things, therefore I shall ordain it for those who ward off (evil) and pay the poor-due, and those who believe Our revelations; (156) Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honour him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful. (157) Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all – (the messenger of) Him unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no God save Him. He quickeneth and He giveth death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, who believeth in Allah and in His Words, and follow him that haply ye may be led aright. (158) And of Moses’ folk there is a community who lead with truth and establish justice therewith. (159) We divided them into twelve tribes, nations; and We inspired Moses, when his people asked him for water, saying: Smite with thy staff the rock! And there gushed forth therefrom twelve springs, so that each tribe knew their drinking-place. And we caused the white cloud to overshadow them and sent down for them the manna and the quails (saying): Eat of the good things wherewith we have provided you. They wronged Us not, but they were wont to wrong themselves. (160) And when it was said unto them: Dwell in this township and eat therefrom whence ye will, and say “Repentance,” and enter the gate prostrate; We shall forgive you your sins; We shall increase (reward) for the right-doers. (161) But those of them who did wrong changed the word which had been told them for another saying, and We sent down upon them wrath from heaven for their wrongdoing. (162) Ask them (O Muhammad) of the township that was by the sea, how they did break the Sabbath, how their big fish came unto them visibly upon their Sabbath day and on a day when they did not keep Sabbath came they not unto them. Thus did We try them for that they were evil-livers. (163) And when a community among them said: Why preach ye to a folk whom Allah is about to destroy or punish with an awful doom, they said: In order to be free from guilt before your Lord, and that haply they may ward off (evil). (164) And when they forgot that whereof they had been reminded, We rescued those who forbade wrong, and visited those who did wrong with dreadful punishment because they were evil-livers. (165) So when they took pride in that which they had been forbidden, We said unto them: Be ye apes despised and loathed! (166) And (remember) when thy Lord proclaimed that He would raise against them till the Day of Resurrection those who would lay on them a cruel torment. Lo! verily thy Lord is swift in prosecution and lo! verily He is Forgiving, Merciful. (167) And We have sundered them in the earth as (separate) nations. Some of them are righteous, and some far from that. And We have tried them with good things and evil things that haply they might return. (168)
Surah Al-Araf– verse 103 – 168
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ مُوسَى بِآَيَاتِنَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿7:103﴾
(7:103) After those We sent forth Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his nobles, *83 but they dealt with Our signs unjustly. *84 Observe, then, what happened to the mischief-makers.
*83. The stories narrated in the Qur’an bring home unmistakenly the point that people who reject God’s Message are not spared; rather they are destroyed. In narrating at length the story of Moses, Pharaoh and the Israelites, the Qur’an provides some important lessons for the unbelieving Quraysh, the Jews, and also the believers. The Quraysh are advised that the apparently large differences in the numerical strength of the forces of truth and falsehood in the early phase of the Islamic movement should not lead them to entertain any, kind of illusion. History, provides ample testimony that the Message of truth has always had a very humble beginning. That its proponent, initially, is in the hopelessly small minority of one; in fact, one in the whole world. He then proceeds, despite his resource lessness, to challenge the hegemony of falsehood, to declare war against it, despite the fact that falsehood is backed by powerful states and empires. And ultimately the truth triumphs. The Quraysh are also reminded that all conspiracies hatched against the Prophets and all the means employed to suppress the Message of truth are ultimately foiled. They are further told that God grants long terms of respite to the evil-doing nations so that they might mend their ways and reform themselves. But when they persistently disregard all warnings and learn no lesson from instructive events, He smites them with an exemplary punishment. Some further lessons are meant to be conveyed to those who believed in the Prophet (peace be on him). First, that they should not feel disheartened by the paucity of resources, nor be overawed by the impressive numerical strength, pomp and grandeur of their enemies. Nor should they lose heart if they find that God’s help does not come at the expected hour. Second, that those who follow in the footsteps of the Jews are bound, ultimately, to be seized by the same curse which afflicted the Jews. As for the Israelites, they are warned against the evil effects of clinging to falsehood. Illustrations of this were provided by important events in their own history. They are also asked to purge the Message of the earlier Prophets of all accretions and distortions and to restore it to its original purity. *84. ‘They dealt with Our signs unjustly’ refers to their rejection of God’s signs and to the fact that they dismissed them as sheer sorcery. If a person scoffs at a beautiful couplet, and dubs it as amateurish rhyming, this amounts to committing an offence against poetry itself. Likewise, to brand those extraordinary acts of God as sorcery and magic – even though magicians declared that those acts were beyond their ability – constitutes a serious offence not only against God’s signs but also against common sense and truth.
وَقَالَ مُوسَى يَا فِرْعَوْنُ إِنِّي رَسُولٌ مِنْ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿7:104﴾
(7:104) And Moses said: ‘0 Pharaoh! *85 I am a Messenger from the Lord of the universe.
*85. ‘Pharaoh’ literally means ‘the offspring of the sun-god’. The ancient Egyptians called the sun ‘Ra’, worshipped it as their supreme deity’, and Pharaoh – Ra’s physical manifestation and representative – was named after it. It was for this reason that all Egyptian rulers claimed their authority on the basis of their association with Ra, and every ruler who mounted the Egyptian throne called himself Pharaoh, trying thereby to assure his people that he was their supreme deity. It may be noted that the Qur’anic narrative regarding Moses refers to two Pharaohs. The first of these was one during whose reign Moses was born and in whose palace he was brought up. The second Pharaoh to Whorn reference is made is the one whom Moses invited to Islam and who was asked to liberate the Israelites. It is this latter Pharaoh who was finally drowned. Modern scholarship is inclined to the view that the first Pharaoh was Rameses 11 who ruled over Egypt from 1292 B.C. to 1225 B.C. while the second Pharaoh was Minpetah, his son, who had become a co-sharer in his father’s authority during the latter’s lifetime and who, after his death, became the fully-fledged ruler of Egypt. This, however, is not fully established since Moses, according to the Egyptian calendar, died in 1272 B.C. In any case these are merely historical conjectures. It is quite difficult to establish a clear chronological framework owing to discrepancies in the Egyptian, Israeli and Christian calendars.
حَقِيقٌ عَلَى أَنْ لَا أَقُولَ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ قَدْ جِئْتُكُمْ بِبَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعِيَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ ﴿7:105﴾
(7:105) And it behoves me to say nothing about Allah except what is true. I have come to you with a clear sign of having been sent from your Lord. So let the Children of Israel go with me.’ *86
*86. Moses was sent to Pharaoh to invite him to two things; first, to surrender himself to God (i.e. Islam); and second, to release the Israelites – who were already Muslims – from his oppressive bondage. The Qur’an refers occasionally to both these objectives, and occasionally confines itself to mentioning either of the two.
قَالَ إِنْ كُنْتَ جِئْتَ بِآَيَةٍ فَأْتِ بِهَا إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿7:106﴾
(7:106) Pharaoh said: if you have brought a sign, then bring it forth if you are truthful.’
فَأَلْقَى عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ ثُعْبَانٌ مُبِينٌ ﴿7:107﴾
(7:107) Thereupon Moses threw his rod, and suddenly it was a veritable serpent.
وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ بَيْضَاءُ لِلنَّاظِرِينَ ﴿7:108﴾
(7:108) Then he drew out his hand, and it appeared luminous to all beholders. *87
*87. Moses was granted these two miraculous signs in order to provide testimony to his being a Messenger of God, the creator and sovereign of the universe. As we have mentioned earlier, whenever the Prophets introduced themselves as God’s Message-bearers, people asked them to produce some miraculous sign, to perform something supernatural. In response to those demands the Prophets produced what the Qur’an terms as ‘signs’, and which are called ‘miracles’ by theologians. Those who tend to play down the supernatural character of such signs or miracles, and who try to explain them in terms of natural laws of causation, in fact attempt to build a mid-way house between believing and disbelieving in the statements of the Qur’an. Such an approach can hardly be considered reasonable. What it does demonstrate, however, is how such people can be pulled in two opposite directions. On the one hand, they are not inclined to believe in a Book which abounds in narrations of a supernatural kind. On the other hand, being born followers of their ancestral religion, they are not inclined to reject the Book which carries supernatural narrations. With regard to miracles, there are two basic questions that people should ask themselves. Did God, after creating the universe and establishing a system of natural causations therein, suspend Himself such that it is no longer possible for Him to interfere in the workings of the universe? Or does He still hold the reins to His realm in His owns Hands so that His command is enforced every moment, and He does retain the power to alter the shape of things and the normal course of events – either partially or fully, – as and when He wills? It is impossible for those who respond in the affirmative to the first question to accept the idea of miracles. For clearly miracles do not fit in with their concept of God and the universe. Honesty demands that instead of indulging in far-fetched explanations of Qur’anic statements on miracles, such people should clearly declare that they do not believe in the Qur’an. For quite obviously the Qur’an is explicit, even quite emphatic in affirming the former concept of God. As for those who, being convinced by Qur’anic arguments, respond in the affirmative to the second question regarding God and the universe, for them there is no difficulty in accepting miracles. Let us take the instance mentioned in verse 107, namely, that the rod of Moses turned into a serpent. Now, there are those who believe that serpents can come into being only through one process – the known biological process. Such people are bound to reject the statement that Moses’ rod changed into a serpent and later reverted to its original shape. On the contrary, if you are fully convinced that it is God’s command alone which causes life to arise from lifeless matter, and that God has full power to confer whichever kind of life He wills, the transformation of the rod into a serpent and its subsequent reversion to its original state is no stranger than the transformation of any other lifeless matter into a living entity. The fact that the latter happens virtually every day whereas the former took place only a few times in history is not enough to declare the first as incredibly, strange and the second as ‘natural’.
قَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِنْ قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّ هَذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿7:109﴾
(7:109) The elders of Pharaoh’s people said: ‘Surely this man is a skilful magician
يُرِيدُ أَنْ يُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ ﴿7:110﴾
(7:110) who seeks to drive you out from your land. *88 What would you have us do?’
*88. The above account raises the question as to how a destitute member of the slave Israeli nation could pose such a serious threat to an emperor as mighty as Pharaoh. This is especially so when one considers that Pharaoh was not only an absolute ruler over territory which stretched in one direction from Syria to Libya and in the other from the Mediterranean coast to Ethiopia, but was even considered a deity deserving of worship, One might also wonder how the transformation of Moses’ rod into a serpent could he considered an event of such magnitude as to give rise to the fear that Moses would overthrow the entrenched empire and unseat the royal family as well as the entire ruling class. It might further seem strange that the mere declaration of prophethood and the demand to liberate the people of Israel caused such a furore even though no other political question had been touched upon. The answer here lies in the fact that Moses’ claim to prophethood implied the call to total change, obviously, including political change. For if a person lays claim to be God’s Messenger, it implies that people obey him unreservedly. For God’s Messengers are not sent to the world to obey other human beings and live in subordination to them; they rather ask others to accept them as their leaders and rulers. It is this which explains why Pharaoh and his coteric felt threatened by an all-out revolution -political, economic and social – when Moses came forth with his call. There remains the question as to why the claim to prophethood was considered such a potential threat when Moses enjoyed the support of none except his brother, Aaron, and his claim was reinforced by only two miracles – those of the shining hand and the rod which turned into a serpent. This can be explained by two things. First, that Pharaoh and his courtiers knew very well about Moses. All were aware of his extraordinary abilities and his inherent calibre as a leader of men. Also, according to the traditions of the Talmud and Josephus – provided they are authentic -Moses had also learnt the martial arts and other skills which were available only exclusively to royalty and which were required in connection with their political and military leadership. Moreover, he had proved his mettle as a good general during the expedition to Ethiopia. Furthermore, during the course of his eight years of life in Midian – rigorous years in the desert working as a shepherd – he had purged himself of all his weaknesses because of his association with the Pharaonic svstern. Hence. when the Pharaonic court was confronted by a mature, serene and pious man who came forth with the claim of prophethood, it was obviously impossible for them to give short shrift to his claim. Second, the miracles of the rod and the shining hand overawed Pharaoh and his courtiers to such an extent they were almost convinced that Moses did indeed enjoy the support of some supernatural power. That they were unnerved by the very first proof of his prophethood is borne out by the contradictions in their charges against Moses. On the one hand they dubbed Moses a sorcerer, and on the other hand they accused him of plotting to banish them from their own land. It is clear that had they taken Moses for a mere sorcerer, they would not have expressed fears of political upheaval. For sorcery has never brought about any political change in the world.
قَالُوا أَرْجِهْ وَأَخَاهُ وَأَرْسِلْ فِي الْمَدَائِنِ حَاشِرِينَ ﴿7:111﴾
(7:111) Then they advised Pharaoh: ‘Put off Moses and his brother for a while, and send forth heralds to your cities
يَأْتُوكَ بِكُلِّ سَاحِرٍ عَلِيمٍ ﴿7:112﴾
(7:112) to summon every skilful magician to your presence.’ *89
*89. The plan of Pharaoh’s courtiers clearly suggests that they knew the difference between mere sorcery and a miracle. They were well aware that miracles are effective and have the capacity to bring about actual transformation whereas sorcery results merely in optic illusion. Hence, they dubbed Moses a sorcerer so as to refute his claim to prophethood. They claimed instead that the transformation of the rod into a serpent was not a miracle; that it was rather a magical performance which could be undertaken by any sorcerer. Therefore, they asked all the sorcerers of the land to come together and display how rods could be magically transformed into serpents. They believed that such a magical show would remove the awesome effect created by Moses’ miracles on the people, or at least sow doubts in their minds about those miracles.
وَجَاءَ السَّحَرَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ قَالُوا إِنَّ لَنَا لَأَجْرًا إِنْ كُنَّا نَحْنُ الْغَالِبِينَ ﴿7:113﴾
(7:113) And the magicians came to Pharaoh and said: ‘Shall we have a reward if we win?’
قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنَّكُمْ لَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ ﴿7:114﴾
(7:114) Pharaoh replied: ‘Certainly, and you shall be among those who are near to me.’
قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى إِمَّا أَنْ تُلْقِيَ وَإِمَّا أَنْ نَكُونَ نَحْنُ الْمُلْقِينَ ﴿7:115﴾
(7:115) Then they said: ‘0 Moses, will you [first] throw your rod, or shall we throw?’
قَالَ أَلْقُوا فَلَمَّا أَلْقَوْا سَحَرُوا أَعْيُنَ النَّاسِ وَاسْتَرْهَبُوهُمْ وَجَاءُو بِسِحْرٍ عَظِيمٍ ﴿7:116﴾
(7:116) Moses said: ‘You throw.’ So when they threw [their rods], they enchanted the eyes of the people, and struck them with awe, and produced a mighty sorcery.
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَلْقَفُ مَا يَأْفِكُونَ ﴿7:117﴾
(7:117) Then We directed Moses: ‘Now you throw your rod.’ And lo! it swallowed up all their false devices. *90
*90. It would be a mistake to believe that the rod of Moses swallowed up the rods and ropes cast by the other sorcerers and which had looked like serpents. The Qur’anic statement means that the rod of Moses swallowed up the falsehood faked by them. This clearly shows that wherever Moses’ rod moved, it destroyed the magical effect which had caused the transformation of their ropes and rods. One blow of Moses’ rod caused every other rod to revert to a rod, and every rope to revert to a rope. (For further elaboration see Tafhim al-Qur’an, Ta Ha 20, n. 42)
فَوَقَعَ الْحَقُّ وَبَطَلَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿7:118﴾
(7:118) Thus was the truth established, and their doings proved in vain.
فَغُلِبُوا هُنَالِكَ وَانْقَلَبُوا صَاغِرِينَ ﴿7:119﴾
(7:119) Pharaoh and his men were defeated and put to shame,
وَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سَاجِدِينَ ﴿7:120﴾
(7:120) and the magicians flung themselves prostrate,
قَالُوا آَمَنَّا بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿7:121﴾
(7:121) saying: ‘We believe in the Lord of the universe,
رَبِّ مُوسَى وَهَارُونَ ﴿7:122﴾
(7:122) the Lord of Moses and Aaron.’ *91
*91. Thus God turned the tables on Pharaoh and his courtiers they arranged the magic show in the hope that it would convince the people that Moses was just a sorcerer, and thus make them sceptical about his claim to prophethood. But the actual outcome was quite the opposite. The sorcerers who had been assembled were defeated. Not only that, it was also unanimously acknowledged that the signs displayed by Moses in support of his claim were not feats of magic. Rather, his signs rather manifested the might of God, the Lord of the universe, and hence could not be overcome by magic.
قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ آَمَنْتُمْ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ آَذَنَ لَكُمْ إِنَّ هَذَا لَمَكْرٌ مَكَرْتُمُوهُ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لِتُخْرِجُوا مِنْهَا أَهْلَهَا فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿7:123﴾
(7:123) Pharaoh said: ‘What! Do you believe before you have my permission? Surely this is a plot you have contrived to drive out the rulers from the capital. So you shall see,
لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ ثُمَّ لَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ ﴿7:124﴾
(7:124) I shall cut off your hands and feet on the opposite sides, and then crucify you all.’
قَالُوا إِنَّا إِلَى رَبِّنَا مُنْقَلِبُونَ ﴿7:125﴾
(7:125) They replied: ‘We shall surely return to our Lord.
وَمَا تَنْقِمُ مِنَّا إِلَّا أَنْ آَمَنَّا بِآَيَاتِ رَبِّنَا لَمَّا جَاءَتْنَا رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِينَ ﴿7:126﴾
(7:126) Will you punish us just because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us? Our Lord! Shower us with perseverance and cause us to die as those who have submitted [to You].’ *92
*92. Faced with utter failure Pharaoh finally resorted to branding the whole magic tournament as a conspiracy concocted by Moses and his accomplice sorcerers. Under threat of death and physical torture he asked the sorcerers to confess that they had acted in collusion with Moses. This last move by Pharaoh was ineffectual. For the sorcerers readily agreed to endure every torture, clearly proving thereby that their decision to accept Moses’ message reflected their sincere conviction and that no conspiracy was involved. Pharaoh was hardly left with any choice. He, therefore, gave up all pretence to follow truth and justice, and brazenly resorted to persecution instead. The tremendous and instantaneous change which took place in the characters of the sorcerers is also of significance. The sorcerers had come all the way from their homes with the purpose of vindicating their ancestral faith and receiving pecuniary reward from Pharaoh for overcoming Moses. However, the moment true faith illumined their hearts, they displayed such resoluteness of will and love for the truth that they contemptuously turned down Pharaoh’s offer, and demonstrated their full readiness to endure even the worst punishments for the sake of the truth that had dawned upon them.
وَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ مِنْ قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَآَلِهَتَكَ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ ﴿7:127﴾
(7:127) The elders of Pharaoh’s people said: ‘Will you leave alone Moses and his people to spread mischief in the land, and forsake you and your gods?’ Pharaoh replied: ‘We will kill their male children and spare their female ones. *93For indeed we hold irresistible sway over them.’
*93. There were two periods of persecution. The first was during the reign of Rameses 11 and took place before Moses’ birth, whereas the second period of persecution started after Moses’ assumption to the office of prophethood. Common to both periods is the killing of the male issue of Israelites while the female was spared. It was a calculated design to rob the Israelites of their identity and to bring about their forcible assimilation. An inscription discovered during the archaeological excavations of 1896 probably belongs to this period. According to this inscription, Pharaoh Minpetah rounds off the narration of his achievements and victories in these words: ‘The Israel have been exterminated, and no seed of them is left.’ (For further explanation see al-Mu’min 40: 25)
قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ اسْتَعِينُوا بِاللَّهِ وَاصْبِرُوا إِنَّ الْأَرْضَ لِلَّهِ يُورِثُهَا مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ ﴿7:128﴾
(7:128) Moses said to his people: ‘Seek help from Allah and be steadfast. The earth is Allah’s, He bestows it on those of His servants He chooses. The end of things belongs to the God-fearing.’
قَالُوا أُوذِينَا مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ تَأْتِيَنَا وَمِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جِئْتَنَا قَالَ عَسَى رَبُّكُمْ أَنْ يُهْلِكَ عَدُوَّكُمْ وَيَسْتَخْلِفَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرَ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿7:129﴾
(7:129) The people of Moses replied: ‘We were oppressed before your coming to us and after it.’ Moses said: ‘Your Lord will soon destroy your enemy and make you rulers in the land. Then He will see how you act.’
وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَا آَلَ فِرْعَوْنَ بِالسِّنِينَ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ ﴿7:130﴾
(7:130) We afflicted the people of Pharaoh with hard times and with poor harvest that they may heed.
فَإِذَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْحَسَنَةُ قَالُوا لَنَا هَذِهِ وَإِنْ تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَطَّيَّرُوا بِمُوسَى وَمَنْ مَعَهُ أَلَا إِنَّمَا طَائِرُهُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿7:131﴾
(7:131) But whenever prosperity came their way, they said: ‘This is our due.’ And whatever hardship befell them, they attributed it to the misfortune of Moses and those who followed him. Surely, their misfortune had been decreed by Allah – but most of them do not know that.
وَقَالُوا مَهْمَا تَأْتِنَا بِهِ مِنْ آَيَةٍ لِتَسْحَرَنَا بِهَا فَمَا نَحْنُ لَكَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿7:132﴾
(7:132) And they said to Moses: ‘Whatever sign you might produce before us in order to enchant us, we are not going to believe you.’ *94
*94. Pharaoh’s courtiers obstinately persisted in branding Moses’ signs as sorcery although they knew well that sorcery had nothing in common with the miraculous signs granted to Moses. Even a fool would not he ready to believe that the country-wide famine and the consistent decrease in agricultural output could have been caused by magic. It is for this reason that the Qur’an says: But when Our signs, which should have opened their eyes, came to them they said: ‘This is clear sorcery! And they rejected those signs out of iniquity and arrogance even though they were inwardly convinced of it’ (al-Naml 27: 13-14).//
فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الطُّوفَانَ وَالْجَرَادَ وَالْقُمَّلَ وَالضَّفَادِعَ وَالدَّمَ آَيَاتٍ مُفَصَّلَاتٍ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا مُجْرِمِينَ ﴿7:133﴾
(7:133) Then We afflicted them with a great flood *95and locusts, and the lice *96 , and the frogs, and the blood. All these were distinct signs and yet they remained haughty. They were a wicked people.
*95. This probably refers to the torrential rain accompanied by hailstorm. While we do not totally exclude the possibility of other kinds of storms, we are inclined to the view, that it probably signifies hailstorm since the Bible specifically mentions that. (See Exodus 9: 23-4 – Ed.) *96. The word used in the text – qummal – denotes lice, fleas, small locusts, mosquitoes, and weevil. This rather general term has been used in the Qur’an probably to suggest that while men were afflicted with lice and fleas, weevil destroyed the barns. (Cf. Exodus 7-12. See also Tafhim al-ur’an, al-Zukhruf 43, n. 43.)
وَلَمَّا وَقَعَ عَلَيْهِمُ الرِّجْزُ قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ بِمَا عَهِدَ عِنْدَكَ لَئِنْ كَشَفْتَ عَنَّا الرِّجْزَ لَنُؤْمِنَنَّ لَكَ وَلَنُرْسِلَنَّ مَعَكَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ ﴿7:134﴾
(7:134) Each time a scourge struck them they, said: ‘0 Moses! Pray for us to your Lord on the strength of the prophethood He has bestowed upon you. Surely, if you remove this scourge from us, we will truly believe in you, and will let the Children of Israel go with you.’
فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمُ الرِّجْزَ إِلَى أَجَلٍ هُمْ بَالِغُوهُ إِذَا هُمْ يَنْكُثُونَ ﴿7:135﴾
(7:135) But when We removed the scourge from them until a term – a term which they were bound to reach – they at once broke their promise.
فَانْتَقَمْنَا مِنْهُمْ فَأَغْرَقْنَاهُمْ فِي الْيَمِّ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ ﴿7:136﴾
(7:136) So We inflicted Our retribution on them, and caused them to drown in the sea because they gave the lie to Our signs and were heedless of them.
وَأَوْرَثْنَا الْقَوْمَ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَارِقَ الْأَرْضِ وَمَغَارِبَهَا الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَةُ رَبِّكَ الْحُسْنَى عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا وَدَمَّرْنَا مَا كَانَ يَصْنَعُ فِرْعَوْنُ وَقَوْمُهُ وَمَا كَانُوا يَعْرِشُونَ ﴿7:137﴾
(7:137) And We made those who had been persecuted inherit the eastern and western lands which We had blessed. *97 Thus your Lord’s gracious promise was fulfilled to the Children of Israel, for they had endured with patience; and We destroyed all that Pharaoh and his people had wrought, and all that they had built.
*97. The Israelites were made the inheritors of Palestine. This has been interpreted by some commentators of the Qur’an to mean that the Israelites were made the rulers of Egypt as well. This view, however, is neither supported by, the Qur’an nor by any other historical and archaeological evidence. We have, therefore, serious reservations about the correctness of this opinion. (See Tafhim a]-Qur’an, al-Kahf 18, n. 57, and al-Shuara’ 26, n. 45)
وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتَوْا عَلَى قَوْمٍ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَى أَصْنَامٍ لَهُمْ قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى اجْعَلْ لَنَا إِلَهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ آَلِهَةٌ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ ﴿7:138﴾
(7:138) And We led the Children of Israel across the sea; and then they came upon a people who were devoted to the worship of their idols. They said: ‘0 Moses, make for us a god even as they have gods.’ *98 Moses said: ‘You are indeed an ignorant people.’
*98. The point at which the Israelites probably crossed the Red Sea lies somewhere between the present Suez and Ismailia. After that they headed towards the south of the Sinai peninsula along the coastal route. The western and northern regions of the Sinai peninsula were then included in the Egyptian empire. In the southern part of the peninsula, in the area lying between the present towns of Tur and Abu Zanimah, there were copper and turquoise mines. Since these were of immense value to the Egyptians, a number of garrisons had been set up to ensure their security’. One such garrison was located at a place known as Mafqah, which also housed a big temple. The ruins of this temple can still be found in the south-western part of the peninsula. In its vicinity there was an ancient temple, dedicated to the moon-god of the Semites. Passing by these places the people of Israel, who had been subservient to the Egyptians for a long time and were thus considerably Egyptianized in their outlook, felt the desire to indulge in idol-worship. The extent to which the Israelites had become degenerated as a result of their slavery may be gauged by Joshua’s last address to the Israelites delivered seventy years after their exodus from Epypt: Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24: 14-15). This shows that even though the Israelites had been taught and trained by Moses for forty Years and by Joshua for twenty-eight years, they had still been unable to purge their minds of those influences which had warped their outlook and mentality during their period of bondage under Pharaoh. These Muslims had begun to look upon idol-worship as natural. Even after their exodus, the sight of a temple would incline them to indulge in the idolatrous practices which they had observed among their former masters.
إِنَّ هَؤُلَاءِ مُتَبَّرٌ مَا هُمْ فِيهِ وَبَاطِلٌ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿7:139﴾
(7:139) The way these people follow is bound to lead to destruction; and all their works are vain.
قَالَ أَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ أَبْغِيكُمْ إِلَهًا وَهُوَ فَضَّلَكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿7:140﴾
(7:140) Moses said: ‘Should I seek any god for you other than Allah although it is He who has exalted you above all?’
وَإِذْ أَنْجَيْنَاكُمْ مِنْ آَلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ يُقَتِّلُونَ أَبْنَاءَكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَاءَكُمْ وَفِي ذَلِكُمْ بَلَاءٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ ﴿7:141﴾
(7:141) And call to mind when We delivered you from Pharaoh’s people who perpetrated on you a terrible torment, putting your males to death and sparing your females. Surely in it there was an awesome trial for you from your Lord.
وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى ثَلَاثِينَ لَيْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِيقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً وَقَالَ مُوسَى لِأَخِيهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِي فِي قَوْمِي وَأَصْلِحْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿7:142﴾
(7:142) And We appointed for Moses thirty nights, to which We added ten, whereby the term of forty nights set by his Lord was fulfilled. *99 And Moses said to Aaron, his brother: ‘Take my place among my people, act righteously, and do not follow the path of those who create mischief.’ *100
*99. After the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt which marks, on the one hand, the end of the constraints of slavery and on the other, the beginning of their life as an independent nation, Moses was summoned by God to Mount Sinai in order that he might receive the Law for Israel. He was initially summoned for a period of forty days so that he might single-mindedly devote himself to worshipping, fasting, meditation and reflection and thus develop the ability to receive the revelation which was to put a very heavy burden upon him. In compliance with God’s command, Moses left the Israelites at the place now known as the Wadi al-Shaykh which lies between Nabi Salih and Mount Sinai. The place where the Israelites had camped is presently called Maydan al-Rahah. At one end of the valley is a hillock where, according to local tradition, the Prophet Salih pitched his tent after his migration from the land of Thamud. A mosque built as a monument to the Prophet Salih still adorns the landscape. Mount Harun is located at the other end of the valley where, again, according to local tradition, the Prophet Harun (Aaron) stayed after his exasperation with the Israelites because of their cow-worship. The top of the towering Mount Sinai, standing 7,359 feet high, is mostly enveloped by clouds. The cave to which Moses retired for forty days to devote himself to worship and meditation is situated at the top of the mountain, and still attracts many pilgrims. Close to the cave are a mosque and a church. Moreover, a monastery built in the Justinian period stands even today at the foot of the mountain. (See Tafhim al-Qur’an, al-Naml 27: nn. 9-10.) *100. Although Aaron was senior to Moses in age by three years, he was placed under the direction of the Prophet Moses and was required to assist him in connection with his mission, As explained elsewhere in the Qur’an, Aaron was not assigned independent prophethood; he was rather appointed a Prophet by God in response to Moses’ prayer that he be appointed as his assistant. (See Ta Ha 20: 29-31 – Ed.)
وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَى لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنْظُرْ إِلَيْكَ قَالَ لَنْ تَرَانِي وَلَكِنِ انْظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّى رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ مُوسَى صَعِقًا فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿7:143﴾
(7:143) And when Moses came at Our appointment, and his Lord spoke to him, he said: ‘O my Lord! Reveal Yourself to me, that I may look upon You!’ He replied: ‘Never can you see Me. However, behold this mount; if it remains firm in its place, only then you will be able to see Me.’ And as soon as his Lord unveiled His glory to the mount, He crushed it into fine dust, and Moses fell down in a swoon. And when he recovered, he said: ‘Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance, and I am the foremost among those who believe.’
قَالَ يَا مُوسَى إِنِّي اصْطَفَيْتُكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ بِرِسَالَاتِي وَبِكَلَامِي فَخُذْ مَا آَتَيْتُكَ وَكُنْ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ ﴿7:144﴾
(7:144) He said: ‘O Moses! I have indeed preferred you to all others by virtue of the Message I have entrusted to you and by virtue of My speaking to you. Hold fast therefore, to whatever I have granted you, and give thanks.’
وَكَتَبْنَا لَهُ فِي الْأَلْوَاحِ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَوْعِظَةً وَتَفْصِيلًا لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَخُذْهَا بِقُوَّةٍ وَأْمُرْ قَوْمَكَ يَأْخُذُوا بِأَحْسَنِهَا سَأُرِيكُمْ دَارَ الْفَاسِقِينَ ﴿7:145﴾
(7:145) And We ordained for Moses in the Tablets all manner of admonition, and instruction concerning all things, *101 and said to him: Hold to these, with all your strength. and bid your people to follow them in accord with their best understanding. *102 I shall soon show you the habitation of the wicked. *103
*101. The Bible categorically mentions that the tablets were of stone. The act of writing on these tablets is attributed in both the Qur’an and the Bible, to God. Nonetheless, it is not possible to ascertain whether the actual act of writing was as performed by God exercising His power directly, or by God in the sense of His assignment of the task to some angel or to Moses (cf. Exodus 31: 18, 32: 15-16; and Deuteronomyi, 5: 6-22). *102 The Israelites were asked to hold fast to the Law to follow it in its plain meaning, a meaning which can he grasped by an ordinary man of sound heart and good intent with the help of his common sense. This stipulation was added in order to discourage the chicanery and hair-splitting to which lawyers resort in order to accommodate the crooked aims of the people. The warning was necessary to emphasize that holding fast to the Law was not to be equated with following the chicanery of the lawyers. *103. The Israelites were told that on their way they would come across the ruins of earlier nations who had refused to turn to God and who had persisted in their evil way’s. Observing those ruins would he instructive insofar as they eloquently spoke of the tragic end that meets those who indulge in such iniquity .
سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آَيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آَيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ ﴿7:146﴾
(7:146) I shall turn away from My signs those who, without any right, behaved haughtily in the earth, *104 even if they may, witness each and every, sign, they shall not believe therein. And even if they see the right path, they shall still not follow it; but if they see the path of error. they shall choose it for their path. This is because they rejected Our signs as false and were heedless to them.
*104. It is God’s law that evil-doers do not and cannot take any lesson from the otherwise instructive events which they observe. The arrogance mentioned here refers to man’s delusion that he is on a higher plane than God’s creatures and servants. It is this which prompts him to disregard God’s command and to adopt an attitude which suggests that he neither considers himself God’s servant, nor God his Lord. Such egotism has no basis in fact; it is sheer vanity. For as long as man live on God’s earth, what can justify his living as a servant of anyone other than the Lord of the universe? It is for this reason that the Qur’an declares this arrogance to be ‘without any right’.
وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَلِقَاءِ الْآَخِرَةِ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ هَلْ يُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿7:147﴾
(7:147) Vain are the deeds of those who reject Our signs as false and to the meeting of the Hereafter. *105Shall they be recompensed, except according to their deeds?’
*105. That the acts of such persons are vain and fruitless is evident from the fact that the acceptance of man’s acts by God is subject to two conditions. First, one’s acts should conform to the Law laid down by God. Second, man should be prompted by the desire to achieve success in the Hereafter rather than merely in this world. If these conditions are not fulfilled, a person’s acts will be of no consequence. He who performs an act in defiance of God’s guidance, is guilty of rebellion and is undeserving of God’s reward. He who acts only to obtain worldly success, is neither entitled to nor should expect any reward from God in the Hereafter. If someone uses another person’s land contrary to his wish, what else can he expect from him than punishment? The same holds true for he who deliberately uses someone’s land, knowing well that he is not entitled to any produce after the restoration of that land to its owner. There is no justification for him to expect any share of the produce of that land.
وَاتَّخَذَ قَوْمُ مُوسَى مِنْ بَعْدِهِ مِنْ حُلِيِّهِمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ أَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّهُ لَا يُكَلِّمُهُمْ وَلَا يَهْدِيهِمْ سَبِيلًا اتَّخَذُوهُ وَكَانُوا ظَالِمِينَ ﴿7:148﴾
(7:148) And in the absence of Moses *106 his people made the image of a calf from their ornaments, which lowed. Did they not observe that it could neither speak nor give them any guidance? And still they made it an object of worship. They were indeed wrong-doing. *107
*106. Here reference is made to the forty days which Moses spent on Mount Sinai in compliance with God’s command when his people remained in the plain at the foot of the mountain called Maydan al-Rahah. *107. Their cow-worship was another manifestation of the Israelites’ slavish attachment to the Egyptian traditions at the time of the Exodus. It is well-known that cow-worship was widespread in Egypt and it was during their stay there that the Israelites developed this strange infatuation. The Qur’an also refers to their inclination to cow-worship: ‘Their hearts were overflowing with love for the calf because of their unbelief’ (al-Baqarah 2: 93). What is more surprising about their turn to idolatry is that it took place just three months after their escape from Egypt. During that time they had witnessed the parting of the sea, the drowning of Pharaoh, and their own deliverance from what otherwise seemed inescapable slavery, to the Egyptians. They knew well that all those events had taken place owing to the unmistakable and direct interference of the all-powerful God. Yet they had the audacity to demand that their Prophet should make for them a false god that they might worship. Not only that, soon after Moses left them for Mount Sinai, they themselves contrived a false god. Disgusted with such conduct on the part of the Israelites, some Prophets have likened their people to a nymphomaniac who loves all save her husband and who is unfaithful to him even on their nuptial night.
وَلَمَّا سُقِطَ فِي أَيْدِيهِمْ وَرَأَوْا أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ ضَلُّوا قَالُوا لَئِنْ لَمْ يَرْحَمْنَا رَبُّنَا وَيَغْفِرْ لَنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ ﴿7:149﴾
(7:149) And when they were afflicted with remorse and realized that they had fallen into error, they said: ‘If our Lord does not have mercy on us and does not pardon us, we shall be among the losers.’
وَلَمَّا رَجَعَ مُوسَى إِلَى قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَانَ أَسِفًا قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِي مِنْ بَعْدِي أَعَجِلْتُمْ أَمْرَ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَلْقَى الْأَلْوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ إِلَيْهِ قَالَ ابْنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ الْقَوْمَ اسْتَضْعَفُونِي وَكَادُوا يَقْتُلُونَنِي فَلَا تُشْمِتْ بِيَ الْأَعْدَاءَ وَلَا تَجْعَلْنِي مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿7:150﴾
(7:150) And when Moses returned to his people, full of wrath and sorrow, he said: ‘Vile is the course you have followed in my absence. Could you not patiently wait for the decree of your Lord?’ And he threw down the Tablets [of the Law] and took hold of his brother’s head, dragging him to himself. Aaron said: ‘My mother’s son, the people overpowered me and almost killed me. So let not my enemies gloat over me, and do not number me among the wrong-doing folk.’ *108
*108. The above Qur’anic verse absolves Aaron of the charge levelled against him by the Jews. According to the Biblical version of the story of calf-worship, however, it was Aaron who had made the golden calf for the people of Israel. To quote: When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Up, make up gods who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play (Exodus 32: 1–6). The Qur’an, however, refutes the above account at many places and points out that it was Samiri the rebel of God rather than Aaron the Prophet who committed that heinous sin. (For details see Ta Ha 20: 90 ff.) Strange though it may appear, the Israelites maligned the characters of those very people whom they believed to be the Messengers of God. The accusations they hurled at them included such heinous sins as polytheism, sorcery, fornication, deceit and treachery. Needless to say, indulgence in any of these sins is disgraceful for even an ordinary believer and decent human being, let alone Prophets. In the light of the history of Israeli morals, however, it is quite understandable why they maligned their own Prophets. In times of religious and moral degeneration when both the clergy and laity were steeped in sin and immorality, they tried to seek justification for their misdeeds. In order to sedate their own consciences they ascribed the very sins of which they were guilty to their Prophets and then their own inability to refrain from sins on the grounds that not even the Prophets could refrain. The same characteristic is evident in Hinduism. When the Hindus reached the lowest point in their moral degeneration, they produced a literature which presents a very perverted image of Hindu ideals. This literature portrayed their gods, hermits and monks as crass sinners. In doing so, they suggested that since such noble people could not refrain from indulging in grave sins, ordinary mortals are inevitably bound to commit them. Moreover, a person’s indulgence in immoral acts should not make him remorseful for the same acts were committed earlier by their monks and hermits.
قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِأَخِي وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ ﴿7:151﴾
(7:151) Thereupon Moses said: ‘O Lord! Grant forgiveness upon me and my brother and admit us to Your Mercy, for You are most merciful of the merciful.’
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا الْعِجْلَ سَيَنَالُهُمْ غَضَبٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَذِلَّةٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُفْتَرِينَ ﴿7:152﴾
(7:152) In reply they were told: ‘Verily those who worshipped the calf will certainly incur indignation from their Lord, and will be abased in the life of this world. Thus do We reward those who fabricate lies.
وَالَّذِينَ عَمِلُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُوا مِنْ بَعْدِهَا وَآَمَنُوا إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنْ بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ ﴿7:153﴾
(7:153) As for those who do evil, and later repent and have faith, such shall find their Lord All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate after (they repent and believe)
وَلَمَّا سَكَتَ عَنْ مُوسَى الْغَضَبُ أَخَذَ الْأَلْوَاحَ وَفِي نُسْخَتِهَا هُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِرَبِّهِمْ يَرْهَبُونَ ﴿7:154﴾
(7:154) And when the anger of Moses was stilled, he took up the Tablets again, the text of which comprised guidance and mercy to those who fear their Lord.
وَاخْتَارَ مُوسَى قَوْمَهُ سَبْعِينَ رَجُلًا لِمِيقَاتِنَا فَلَمَّا أَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ قَالَ رَبِّ لَوْ شِئْتَ أَهْلَكْتَهُمْ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَإِيَّايَ أَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ السُّفَهَاءُ مِنَّا إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا فِتْنَتُكَ تُضِلُّ بِهَا مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتَهْدِي مَنْ تَشَاءُ أَنْتَ وَلِيُّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الْغَافِرِينَ ﴿7:155﴾
(7:155) And out of his people Moses singled out seventy men for Our appointment. *109Then, when violent shaking seized them, he addressed his Lord: ‘Had You willed, O my Lord, You could have destroyed them and me long ago. Will You destroy us for what the fools amongst us did? That was nothing but a trial from You whereby You mislead whom You will and guide whom You will. *110You alone are our guardian. Forgive us, then, and have mercy upon us. You are the best of those who forgive.
*109. Moses was summoned for the second time to Mount Sinai along with seventy chiefs of the nation in order that they might seek pardon for their calf-worship and renew their covenant with God. Reference to this event is not found in the Bible and Talmud. They simply mention that Moses was summoned to receive new tablets as replacements for the ones he had thrown down and broken. (Cf. Exodus 34.) *110. When a people are put to the test it is an occasion of crucial importance for it helps to distinguish the righteous from the wicked. Like a winnow, it separates out of the mass the useful from the useless. Hence in his wisdom God subjects people to tests. Those who successfully pass through them, owe their success to the support and guidance they receive from God. As for those who are unsuccessful, their failure is the result of their not receiving that support and guidance. This does not detract from the fact that men neither arbitrarily receive or are denied God’s support and guidance. Both extending and withholding support and guidance follow a rule which is based on wisdom and justice. The fact, however, remains that man can succeed in the test to which he is put only if God supports and guides him.
وَاكْتُبْ لَنَا فِي هَذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآَخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِآَيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿7:156﴾
(7:156) And ordain for us what is good in this world and in the World to Come for to You have we turned.’He replied: ‘I afflict whomsoever I wish with My chastisement. As for My mercy, it encompasses everything. *111 will show mercy to those who abstain from evil, pay Zakat and have faith in Our signs.’
*111. It is false to assume that the general rule underlying God’s governance of His realm is that of wrath which is occasionally tempered with mercy and benevolence. On the contrary, the general rule is that of mercy and benevolence and wrath is the exception which is aroused when man’s transgression and rebellion exceed all reasonable limits.
الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِنْدَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنْجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ مَعَهُ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿7:157﴾
(7:157) [To-day this mercy is for] those who follow the ummi Prophet, *112whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel with them. *113 He enjoins upon them what is good and forbids them what is evil. He makes the clean things lawful to them and prohibits all corrupt things, *114 and removes from them their burdens and the shackles that were upon them. *115 So those who believe in him and assist him, and succour him and follow the Light which has been sent down with him, it is they who shall prosper.
*112. The preceding verse concludes God’s response to Moses’ prayer. This was the appropriate moment to invite the Israelites to follow the Message preached by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The upshot of what is being said here is that people can even now attain God’s mercy exactly as they could in the past. These conditions require that people should now follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), since refusal to follow a Prophet after his advent amounts to gross disobedience to God. Those who do not commit themselves to follow the Prophet (peace be on him) cannot attain the essence of piety, no matter how hard they try to make a pretence of it by observing the minor details of religious rituals generally associated with piety. Likewise, the Israelites had been told that paying Zakah was essential to win God’s mercy. However, payment of Zakah is meaningless unless one supports the struggle to establish the hegemony of truth which was being carried on under the leadership of the Prophet (peace be on him). For unless one spends money to exalt the word of God, the very foundation of Zakah are lacking, even if a person spends huge amounts in the way of charity. They were also reminded that they had been told in the past that God’s mercy was exclusively for those who believed in His Revelation. Now those who rejected the Revelation received by Muhammad (peace be on him) could never be considered believers in Revelation no matter how zealously they claim to believe in the Torah. Reference to the Prophet (peace be on him) in this verse as umimi is significant as the Israelites branded all other nations as Gentiles (ummis). Steeped in racial prejudice, they did not consider members of other nations as their equals, let alone accept any person not belonging to them as a Prophet. The Qur’an also states the Jewish belief that they would not be taken to ask for whatever they might do to non-Jews. (See Al’Imran 3: 75.) Employing the same term which they themselves had used, the Qur’an tells them that their destiny was linked with the ummi Prophet. By obeying him they would become deserving of God’s mercy. As for disobedience to the Prophet (peace be on him). it would continue to arouse God’s wrath which had been afflicted upon them for centuries. *113. Pointed and repeated reference to the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) is made in the Bible. (See Deuteronomy 8: 15-19; Matthew 21: 33-46; John 1: 19-25; 14: 15-17, 25-30; 15: 25-6; 6: 7-15.) *114. The Prophet declares the pure things which they had forbidden as lawful, and the impure things which they had legitimized as unlawful. *115. The Israelites had fettered their lives by undue restrictions which had been placed on them by the legal hair-splitting of their jurists, the pietistic exaggerations of their spiritual leaders, the introduction of superstitions and self-contrived laws and regulations by, their masses. The Prophet, by relieving them of every unnecessary burden and releasing them from every unjustified restriction, in fact liberated their shackled lives.
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ فَآَمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الْأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴿7:158﴾
(7:158) [Say, O Muhammad]: ‘O men! I am Allah’s Messenger to you all – of Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He grants life and deals death. Have faith then, in Allah and in His Messenger, the ummi Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him so that you may be guided aright.’
وَمِنْ قَوْمِ مُوسَى أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ ﴿7:159﴾
(7:159) Among the people of Moses’ *116 there was a party who guided others in the way of the truth and established justice in its light. *117
*116. This marks the resumption of the main theme of the discourse which had been interrupted by the parenthesis (see verses 157-8) calling people to affirm the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be on him). >*117. The translators generally render the verse as the following: Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. (Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.) They do so because, in their view, the present verse describes the moral and intellectual state of the Israelites at the time when the Qur’an was revealed. However, the context seems to indicate that the above account refers to the state of the Israelites at the time of the Prophet Moses. Thus, the purpose of the verse is to emphasize that even in the days of their calf-worship when God rebuked them, all members of Israel were not corrupt; that a sizeable section of them was righteous.
وَقَطَّعْنَاهُمُ اثْنَتَيْ عَشْرَةَ أَسْبَاطًا أُمَمًا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى إِذِ اسْتَسْقَاهُ قَوْمُهُ أَنِ اضْرِبْ بِعَصَاكَ الْحَجَرَ فَانْبَجَسَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْنًا قَدْ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٍ مَشْرَبَهُمْ وَظَلَّلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الْغَمَامَ وَأَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَى كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ ﴿7:160﴾
(7:160) And We divided them into twelve tribes, forming them into communities. *118 When his people asked Moses for water We directed him: ‘Smite the rock with your rod.’ Then twelve springs gushed forth from the rock and every people knew their drinking-places. And We caused thick clouds to provide them shade, and We sent down upon them manna and quails, *119 saying: ‘Eat of the clean things that We have provided you.’ They wronged not Us, but it was themselves that they wronged.
*118. This refers to the organization of the people of Israel which has been mentioned in the Qur’an in al-Ma’idah 5:12 and also described, at length, in the Bible in Numbers. According to these sources, in compliance with God’s command the Prophet Moses first conducted the census of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. He registered their twelve tribes, ten of whom were descendants of the Prophet Jacob, and the remaining two descendants of the Prophet Joseph, as separate and distinct tribes. He appointed a chief for each tribe and assigned to him the duty to maintain moral, religious, social and military discipline within each tribe and to enforce the Law. The Levites, who were descendants of the Prophets Moses and Aaron, however, were organized as a distinct group entrusted with the task of providing religious guidance to all tribes. *119. This organization was one of the numerous favours which God had bestowed upon the Israelites. Mention is made of three other favours bestowed upon them. First, an extraordinary arrangement for their water supply was made in the otherwise arid Sinai peninsula. Second, the sky was covered with clouds such that they were protected from the scorching heat of the sun. Third, a unique meal, consisting of manna and quails was sent down on them. Had this Divine arrangement, catering as it did for the millions of wandering Israelites’ basic necessities of life, not been made, they would certainly have perished. On visiting that land even today it is difficult to visualize how such an arrangement providing shelter, food and water for millions of people was made. The population of this peninsula standseven today at a paltry, 55,000 people. (it may be noted that this statement was made in the fifties of the present century. However, the present population of the Sinai is 200,000 – Ed.) If a five or six hundred thousand strong army, were to camp there today, it would be quite a task for those at the helm to provide the necessary supplies for the army. Little wonder, then, that many scholars who belive neither in the Scripture nor in miracles, rule out the historical accuracy of the event. For them, the people of Israel camped in an area lying south of Palestine and north of Arabia. In view of the physical and economic geography of the Sinai peninsula, they consider it totally incredible that such a large population could have stayed there for years. What has made these scholars even more sceptical about the event is the fact that the Israelites were not then in a position to procure supplies from either the Egyptians or the ‘Amaliqah’ who inhabited respectively the eastern and northern parts of the peninsula, since both groups were hostile to them. It is against this background that one may appreciate the immense importance of the favours God conferred on the Israelites. Likewise, it also gives one some idea of the blatant ingratitude of the people of Israel since they consistently defied and betrayed God even though they had witnessed a great many divine signs. (See Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. 1, al-Baqarah 2: nn. 72-3 and 76, pp. 76-7 – Ed.)
وَإِذْ قِيلَ لَهُمُ اسْكُنُوا هَذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ وَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ وَقُولُوا حِطَّةٌ وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا نَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطِيئَاتِكُمْ سَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿7:161﴾
(7:161) And recall *120 when it was said to them: ‘Dwell in this town and eat plentifully of whatever you please, and say: “Repentance”, and enter the gate prostrate. We shall forgive you your sins and shall bestow further favours on those who do good.’
*120. This alludes to their constant defiance and rebellion in face of God’ favours which eventually brought about their destruction.
فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ قَوْلًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِجْزًا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ ﴿7:162﴾
(7:162) Then the wrong-doers among them substituted another word in place of the one told them. So We sent upon them a scourge from the heaven as a punishment for their Wrong-doing. *121
*121. For details see Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. 1, al-Baqarah 2: nn. 74-5, pp. 76-7.
وَاسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَةَ الْبَحْرِ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ إِذْ تَأْتِيهِمْ حِيتَانُهُمْ يَوْمَ سَبْتِهِمْ شُرَّعًا وَيَوْمَ لَا يَسْبِتُونَ لَا تَأْتِيهِمْ كَذَلِكَ نَبْلُوهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ ﴿7:163﴾
(7:163) And ask the people of Moses concerning the town situated along the sea *122 how its people profaned the Sabbath when fish came to them breaking the water’s surface on Sabbath days, *123 and would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days. Thus did We try them because of their disobedience. *124
*122. Most scholars identify this place with Eilat, Eilath or Eloth. (Cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, XV edition, ‘Macropaedia’, vol. 3, art. ‘Elat’ -Ed.) The seaport called Elat which has been built by the present state of Israel (which is close to the Jordanian seaport, Aqaba), stands on the same site. It lies at the end of that long inlet of the Red Sea situated between the eastern part of the Sinai peninsula and the western part of Arabia. It was a major trading centre in the time of Israelite ascendancy. The Prophet Solomon took this city as the chief port for his fleet in the Red Sea. The event referred to in the above verse is not reported in Jewish Scriptures. Nor do historical accounts shed any light on it. Nonetheless, it appears from the way it has been mentioned in the above verse and in al-Baqarah that the Jews of the early days of Islam were quite familiar with the event. (See Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. 1, al-Baqarah 2: 65 and n. 83, pp. 81-2 – Ed.) This view is further corroborated by the fact that even the Madinan Jews who spared no opportunity to criticize the Prophet (peace be on him) did not raise any objection against this (Qur’anic account. *123. ‘Sabbath’, which means Saturday, was declared for the Israelites as the holi day of the week. God declared the Sabbath as a sign of the perpetual covenant between God and Israel. (Exodus 31: 12-16.) The Israelites were required to strictly keep the Sabbath which meant that they may not engage in any worldly activity; they may not cook, nor make their slaves or cattle serve them. Those who violated these rules were to be put to death. The Israelites, however, publicly violated these rules. In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah (between 628 and 586 B.C.), the Israelites carried their merchandise through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day itself. Jeremiah, therefore, warned them that if they persisted in their flagrant violation of the Law, Jerusalem would be set on fire. (Jererniah 17: 21-7.) The same complaint is voiced in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (595-536 B.C.) who referred to their violation of the Sabbath rules as their major sin. (Ezekiel 20: 12-24.) In view of these Scriptural references it seems plausible that the event mentioned in the above Qur’anic verse is related to the same period. *124. Men are tested by God in a variety of ways. When a person or group of people begin to turn away from God and incline themselves towards disobedience, God provides abundant opportunities for them to disobey. This is done in order that the full potential for disobedience, which had remained hidden because of lack of such an opportunity, might come to the surface.
وَإِذْ قَالَتْ أُمَّةٌ مِنْهُمْ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوْمًا اللَّهُ مُهْلِكُهُمْ أَوْ مُعَذِّبُهُمْ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا قَالُوا مَعْذِرَةً إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ ﴿7:164﴾
(7:164) And recall when a party of them said: ‘Why do you admonish a people whom Allah is about to destroy or punish severely?’ They said: ‘We admonish them in order to be able to offer an excuse before Your Lord, and in the hope that they will guard against disobedience.’
فَلَمَّا نَسُوا مَا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ أَنْجَيْنَا الَّذِينَ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ السُّوءِ وَأَخَذْنَا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا بِعَذَابٍ بَئِيسٍ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ ﴿7:165﴾
(7:165) Then, when they forgot what they had been exhorted, We delivered those who forbade evil and afflicted the wrong-doers with a grievous chastisement *125 because of their evildoing.
*125. This shows that the people in that town were of three categories. One, those who flagrantly violated God’s commands. Two, those who were silent spectators to such violations and discouraged those who admonished the criminals, pleading that their efforts were fruitless. Three, those who, moved by their religious commitment, actively enjoined good and forbade evil so that the evil-doers might make amends. In so doing, they were prompted by, a sense of duty, to bring back the evil-doers to the right path, and if the latter did not respond to their call, they would at least be able to establish before their Lord that for their part they had fulfilled their duty to admonish the evil-doers. So, when the town was struck by God’s punishment, only the people belonging to the last category were spared for they had displayed God-consciousness and performed the duties incumbent upon them. As for the people of the other two categories, they were reckoned as transgressors and were punished in proportion to their crimes. Some commentators on the Qur’an are of the opinion that whereas the Qur’an specifically, describes the fate of the people belonging to the first and third categories, it is silent about the treatment meted out to the people of the second category. It cannot be said, therefore, with certainty, whether they were spared or punished. It is reported that Ibn ‘Abba’s initially believed that God’s punishment included the second category as well. It is believed that later his disciple Ikramah convinced him that only the people of the second category would be delivered in the same manner as the people of the third category. A closer study of the Qur’anic account, however, shows that Ibn ‘Abba’s earlier viewpoint is sound. It is evident that the people of the town would inevitably have been grouped into two categories on the eve of God’s punishment: those who were spared and those who were not. Since the Qur’an states that the people of the third category, had been spared, it may be legitimately assumed that the people belonging to both the first and the second categories were punished. This view is also corroborated by the preceding verse: Also recall when a party of them said: ‘Why do you admonish a people whom Allah is about to destroy or punish severely? They said: ‘We admonish them in order to he able to offer an excuse before your Lord, and in the hope that they will guard against disobedience.’ (Verse 164.) Thus it clearly emerges from the above discussion that all the people of the place where evil deeds are publicly committed stand guilty, One cannot be absolved merely on the basis that one had not committed any evil. One may be acquitted only, in the event that one made every possible effort to bring about reform and actively worked in the cause of the truth. This constitutes the divine law pertaining to collective evil as is evident from the teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith. The Qur’an says: And guard against the mischief that will not only bring punishment to the wrong-doers among you. Know well that Allah is severe in punishment (Al-Anfal 8: 15). Explaining the above verse the Prophet (peace be on him) remarked: ‘God does not punish the generality of a people for the evil committed by a particular section of that people until they observe others committing evil and do not denounce it even though they are in a position to do so. And when they do that, God punishes all, the evil-doers and the people in general.’ (Ahmad b. Hanbal. Musnad, vol. 4, p. 192 – Ed.) Moreover. the verse in question seems to suggest that God’s punishment afflicted the town concerned in two stages. The first stage is referred to as ‘grevious chastisement’, for in the next stage they were turned into apes. We may, therefore, hold that people belonging to both the first and the second categories were subjected to punishment. But the punishment of transforming the persistent evil-doers into apes was confined only to the people of the second category. (God knows best. If I am right that is from God. If I err, that is from me alone. God is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.)
فَلَمَّا عَتَوْا عَنْ مَا نُهُوا عَنْهُ قُلْنَا لَهُمْ كُونُوا قِرَدَةً خَاسِئِينَ ﴿7:166﴾
(7:166) And when they persisted in pursuing that which had been forbidden We said: ‘Become despised apes.’ *126
*126. For details see Towards Understanding the Q ur’an, vol. 1, alBaqarah 2: n. 83, pp. 81-2,
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكَ لَيَبْعَثَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَنْ يَسُومُهُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَسَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ ﴿7:167﴾
(7:167) And recall when Your Lord proclaimed *127 that ‘He would continually set in authority over them, till the Day of Judgement, those who would ruthless oppress thern.’ *128 Surely, your Lord is swift in chastising; and yet He is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.
*127. The Qur’anic expression ‘ta’adhdhana’ means almost the same ‘he warned; he proclaimed’. *128. Since the 8th century B.C. the Israelites were warned consistently. This is borne out by the contents of the Books of the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and their successors. Jesus too administered the same warning which is borne out by many of his orations in the New Testament, This was also later confirmed by the Qur’an. History bears out the veracity of the statement made both in the Qur’an and the earlier scriptures. For throughout history, since the time the Jews were warned, they have continually been subjected to abject persecution in one part of the world or another.
وَقَطَّعْنَاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أُمَمًا مِنْهُمُ الصَّالِحُونَ وَمِنْهُمْ دُونَ ذَلِكَ وَبَلَوْنَاهُمْ بِالْحَسَنَاتِ وَالسَّيِّئَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ ﴿7:168﴾
(7:168) And We dispersed them through the earth in communities – some were righteous, others were not -and We tested them with prosperity and adversity that they may turn back (to righteousness).
Pharaoh in this video
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