Hazrat Musa (as) is mentioned more in the Holy Qur’an than any other Prophet. He was sent to the Israelites who lived in Egypt, the land of the pyramids. Egypt was ruled by Pharaoh, a cruel and vicious leader who oppressed the Israelites. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“…Pharaoh behaved arrogantly in the earth, and divided the people thereof into sections; he sought to weaken one section of them, slaughtering their sons and sparing there women… ” (28:5)
It was to be Hazrat Musa’s (as) role to set the Israelite people free from Pharaoh’s rule and make them leaders and the inheritors of Allah’s favours as we shall see.
The Israelites were an enslaved minority that were growing in number. Pharaoh feared that they might ally with Egypt’s enemies and thus become a threat to his rule. Accordingly, Pharaoh decided to take drastic measures. He ordered that every male child born to an Israelite family was to be killed/drowned in the Nile.
Naturally, Hazrat Musa’s (as) mother must have been fearful for her newborn son. However, she was a very sincere believer and had a strong relationship with Allah. Hazrat Musa’s (as) mother was given revelation from Allah:
“… You suckle him; and when thou fearest for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve; for we shall restore him to thee, and shall make him one of the messengers.” (28:8)
In accordance to Allah’s will, Hazrat Musa (as) was breastfed and when his mother felt it was time, she lovingly placed her son in a basket into the river while her daughter followed it. It was Allah’s plan that the basket Hazrat Musa (as) was in was picked up by a member of Pharaoh’s family. Hazrat Musa (as) was brought to Pharaoh’s wife who fell in love with him and pleaded with her husband to keep the boy.
“… He will be a joy for my eyes and for you also, slay him not, hopefully he may prove to be useful for us or we may adopt him as a son.” (28:10)
Pharaoh accepted his wife’s request and this is how Hazrat Musa (as) was raised in the royal family. But what of Hazrat Musa’s (as) mother? After casting her son into the river, did she ever see him again? Allah works in wonderous ways! Pharaoh’s wife tried to have Hazrat Musa (as) breastfed but he refused the milk given to him. His sister was close by and managed to solve the problem.
“… Shall I direct you to a people of a household who will bring him up for you and will be his sincere well-wishers?” (28:13)
Pharaoh approached Hazrat Musa’s (as) mother to breast feed the child and bring him up. Hazrat Musa’s (as) mother was overjoyed to be reunited with her son in accordance to Allah’s promise. This, of course, strengthened the faith of an already pious and devout lady. Hazrat Musa (as) was fortunate enough to have the upbringing of both worlds. From the palace he learnt qualities of power, bravery and etiquette and from his mother he learnt good manners and self-control.
As Hazrat Musa (as) grew up he witnessed how the Israelites were oppressed by the Egyptians. He was against such cruel treatment and often tried to help the Israelites. One such incident is documented in the Holy Qura’an.
“… One day he entered the city at a time when its inhabitants were in a state of heedlessness; and he found therein two men fighting—one of his own party and the other from enemies. And he who was of his party sought his help against him who was of his enemies. So Moses struck the latter with his fist; and thereby caused his death. Then Moses said, ‘This is of Satan’s doing, he is indeed an enemy, a manifest misleader.’ ” (28:16)
While trying to help the Israelite who was caught up in the fight, Hazrat Musa (as) accidentally killed the Egyptian with a single blow. He was sorry for his mistake and immediately asked forgiveness from Allah. The next day, the same Israelite who was involved in the fight, was again involved in another dispute with an Egyptian. When he saw Hazrat Musa (as) he called for help. Hazrat Musa (as) had learned from his mistake and said to the Israelite, “You are definitely a misguided person”. (28:19) When Hazrat Musa (as) grabbed hold of the Egyptian he said, “O Moses, dost thou intend to kill me even as thou didst kill a person yesterday?” (28:20) The cry of the Egyptian was dangerous as the authorities were in search of the murdered Egyptian. Hazrat Musa (as) was informed that the authorities were planning to kill him and so, thought it best to leave Egypt, thus starting a new chapter in his life.
Hazrat Musa (as) decided to head towards Midian (modern day northern Saudi Arabia). As he approached the outskirts of Midian, he saw shepherds watering their animals but two women among them were holding back their flock. When Hazrat Musa (as) enquired what the matter was they replied, “We cannot water our flocks until the shepherds depart with their flocks, and our father is a very old man” (28:24). So Hazrat Musa (as) watered the animals that belonged to the women and then went to rest under the shade of a tree and recited a beautiful prayer:
“My Lord, I stand in need of whatever good Thou mayest send down to me”. (28:25)
Allah Almighty never lets the prayers of His sincere believers go unheard and answered Hazrat Musa’s (as) prayer for help and guidance. Meanwhile, the two women who Hazrat Musa (as) had helped, went, and told their father, Hazrat Shuaib (as) what had happened. He sent one of his daughters back to Hazrat Musa (as). She shyly approached him and said,
‘“My father calls thee that he may reward thee for they having watered our flocks for us”. So when he came to them and told him the story, he said, “Fear not; thou hast escaped from the unjust people’” (28:26).
On hearing Hazrat Musa’s (as) story, Hazrat Shuaib (as), who was a righteous man, believed in Hazrat Musa’s (as) story and ensured him that the Egyptians were an unjust people that he had managed to escape from. On the request of his daughter, Hazrat Shuaib (as) took Hazrat Musa (as) into his service as a servant. Seeing he was an honourable man, Hazrat Shuaib (as) offered to marry his daughter to Hazrat Musa (as) on the condition that Hazrat Musa (as) stay with him for eight to ten years. In this way, Hazrat Musa (as) was able to benefit further from the righteous company of his father in law.
After the eight to ten-year time had elapsed, Hazrat Musa (as) was with his family when, in the distance near a mountain, he saw a fire, which was a manifestation of Allah. He told his family to wait for him while he went up the mountain to be blessed with Divine communion. When Hazrat Musa (as) approached the fire, Allah Almighty spoke to him.
“’O Moses, verily I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Throw down thy rod.’ And when he saw it move as though it were a serpent, he turned back retreating and did not look back. ‘O Moses’ said the voice, ‘Come forward and fear not; surely, thou art of those who are safe. Insert thy hand into they bosom; it will come forth white without evil effect, and draw back they arm toward thyself in order to still thy fear. So these will be two proofs from the thy Lord to Pharaoh and his chiefs. Surely, they are a rebellious people”. (28:32-33)
With these words Allah Almighty commissioned Hazrat Musa (as) as His Prophet. His job was to go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from this cruel and repressive leader. Allah had strengthened Hazrat Musa (as) with two signs that he could show Pharaoh and his people. One; when his stick would be thrown down, it would appear to onlookers as if it were a wriggling serpent and two; Hazrat Musa’s (as) hand would become white when he would draw it from his chest. Look at Allah Almighty’s wonderful plan. Hazrat Musa (as) who was an Israelite, the very people Pharaoh was trying to suppress, was brought up in the royal household as a brother to Pharaoh. After learning a great deal in the company of his pious father in law, Allah sends him back to put an end to Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule. After all, who would be the best person to deal with Pharaoh besides his own stepbrother Hazrat Musa (as)?
Feeling the burden of Prophethood upon him, Hazrat Musa (as) requests Allah to send his brother Hazrat Haaroon (as) with him as he is a better speaker. Allah Almighty accepts this request and Hazrat Musa (as) and Hazrat Haaroon (as) set off back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh.
Charged with the assurance of victory from Allah, Hazrat Musa (as) and Hazrat Haaroon (as) enter the court of Pharaoh and conveyed to him the message:
“… And torment them not. We have, indeed, brought thee a great sign from thy Lord; and peace shall be on him who follows the guidance. It has, indeed, been revealed to us that punishment shall come upon him who rejects the message of God and turns away.” (20:48-49)
On hearing this an interesting conversation ensues between Hazrat Musa (as) and Pharaoh.
Pharaoh: Who then is the Lord of you two, O Moses?
Hazrat Musa (as): Our Lord is He who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function.
Pharaoh: What will be the fate of the former generations?
Hazrat Musa (as): The knowledge thereof is with my Lord preserved in a Book. My Lord neither errs nor forgets. (20:50-53)
The conversation between the two continues and Pharaoh asks Hazrat Musa (as) for a sign.
‘…So he (Moses) flung down his rod and behold! It was a serpent plainly visible. And he drew forth his hand, and lo! it appeared white to beholders.” (7:107-109)
The same signs shown to Hazrat Musa (as) by Allah at the mountain are now shown to Pharaoh. Everyone in Pharaoh’s court is left amazed at the miracle and have no way of explaining it. Pharaoh’s advisors quickly come to his aid saying that Hazrat Musa (as) is a skilful sorcerer who wants to turn the people out of their land. They suggest that Hazrat Musa (as) and his brother be put off for a while. In this time, they call the most skilful magicians that they may challenge Hazrat Musa (as) and show that his magic is inferior to theirs. Hazrat Musa (as) is asked for the date of this contest. He says:
“Your appointment shall be the day of the festival and let the people be assembled when the sun is risen high.” (20:60)
Hazrat Musa (as) chooses the day of the festival for the contest to ensure that everyone is present to see who the winner will be. An account of the contest is recorded in the Holy Qura’an. Said the magicians:
O Moses, either do thou cast first, or we shall be the first to cast.
Moses said, Nay, cast ye, then lo! their cords and their staves appeared to him, by their magic, as though they ran about.
And Moses conceived a fear in his mind.
We said, Fear not, for thou wilt have upper hand;
And cast that which is in thy right hand; it will swallow that which they have wrought, for that which they have wrought is only a sorcerer’s trick. And a sorcerer shall not thrive, contrive what he may!” (20:66-70)
When the magicians first displayed their magic tricks, Hazrat Musa (as) became scared. Not because he thought he would loose. Prophet’s of God always have full faith in Allah and are sure that Allah will leave them without hope. Hazrat Musa (as) feared that the people watching the tricks would be impressed with the magician’s magic and would not believe in Hazrat Musa’s (as) message. With Allah’s assurance, Hazrat Musa (as) threw down his rod on Allah’s command. Hazrat Musa (as) was victorious not only to the onlookers but to the magicians themselves who had been especially summoned by Pharaoh as his most skilful sorcerers. What the magicians did next is a beautiful example of humility and righteousness. It is recorded in the Holy Qura’an:
And the sorcerers were impelled to fall down prostrate. And they said, ‘We believe in the Lord of the worlds, The Lord of Moses and Aaron. (7:21-23)
The magicians recognised that Hazrat Musa (as) was no ordinary magician like them but he had Divine help. Without fear of Pharaoh and ignoring what the gathered crowd would think of them, they fell down in prostration to Allah in complete humility.
Pharaoh said, ‘You have believed in him before I gave you leave. Surely, this is a plot that you have plotted in the city, that you may turn out therefrom its inhabitants, but you shall soon know the consequences. (7:124)
Furious that the magicians professed their faith in Allah without his permission, Pharaoh accuses them of plotting against him. He goes on to threaten them:
Most surely will I cut off your hands and your feet on alternate sides. Then will I surely crucify you all together. (7:125)
The reply of the magicians in the face of this painful and humiliating death is beautiful:
They answered, ‘To our Lord then shall we return. (7:126)
At this point, the magicians no longer fear Pharaoh and are keen to meet with their Lord.
After the contest, Pharaoh intensified in his persecution of the Israelites and Hazrat Musa (as) continued to preach to the Israelites the promise of freedom from Pharaoh’s brutal rule. He reminded his people to bear the cruel treatment with patience and steadfastness. In total, Pharaoh’s people were shown nine signs from Allah Almighty. Some of these were drought, the storm, locusts and frogs. These were shown that his people may recognise Allah, give up their evil ways and repent, but they refused to believe.
‘…And whatever Sign thou mayest bring us to bewitch us with, we will not submit to thee.’ (7:133)
The people of Pharaoh had sealed their own fate. Hazrat Musa (as) had a small Israelite following and when the command came from Allah, they were ready to migrate.
“Take away My servants by night, and strike for them a dry path through the sea. Thou wilt not be afraid of being overtaken, nor wilt thou have any other fear.” (20:78)
Hazrat Musa (as) left with the Israelites at night and headed towards the Red sea. Pharaoh, refusing to give up, came after them.
“And when the two hosts came in sight of each other the companions of Moses said, ‘We are surely overtaken’ … Then we revealed to Moses saying, ‘Strike the sea with thy rod.’ Whereupon it parted and every part was like a huge sand-hill.” (26:62-64)
When Hazrat Musa (as) arrived at the Red sea it was low tide. This allowed the Israelites to cross the sea safely. However, when Pharaoh and his forces arrived at the same spot and saw the low tide, they too began to cross the sea in pursuit of the Israelites. As they were crossing the tide began to come in again and Pharaoh and his people were not able to make it across. As he was drowning, Pharaoh cried out to Allah:
…’I believe that there is no god but He in Whom the children of Israel believe, and I am of those who submit to Him’. (10:91)
‘What! Now! While thou wast disobedient before this and wast of the mischief makers. So this day We will save thee in thy body alone that thou mayest be a Sign to those who come after thee, And surely many of mankind are heedless of Our signs’. (10:92-93)
Pharaoh was shown sign after sign from Allah but he was arrogant and refused to believe. Allah decided to make an example of him and promised him that He would preserve his body alone. In 1898, roughly 3000 years after he was drowned, Pharaoh’s body was discovered and is now preserved in Cairo Museum in Egypt. It is important to note that no religious scripture or book made mention of Pharaoh’s body apart from the Holy Qura’an. The preservation of Pharaoh’s body is just one of the many proofs of its Divine origin.
After safely crossing the Red sea, Hazrat Musa (as) led the Israelites out of Egypt and into Sinai. The Israelites witnessed how the powerful enemy had been defeated and were thankful to Allah. Hazrat Musa (as) then left the Israelites under the care of his brother, Hazrat Haaroon (as) while he went to Mount Tur for special communion with Allah. It was here that Hazrat Musa (as) asked Allah if he was able to see a manifestation of Him. Allah replied:
‘…”Thou shalt not see Me. But look at the mountain; and if it remains in its place, then shalt thou see Me’. And when his Lord manifested Himself on the mountain, He broke it into pieces and Moses fell down unconscious. And when he recovered, he said, ‘Holy art thou, I turn to Thee and I am the first to believe.’ (7:144)
Shaken by this experience, Hazrat Musa (as) fell unconscious and when he awoke, he professed his faith in Allah once again. Hazrat Musa (as) was given the Ten Commandments by Allah for the Israelites. These were a set of rules that the Israelites were to live by. The Commandments given to Hazrat Musa (as) are what make him a law bearing Prophet. They contained rules such as worshipping no God beside Allah, not stealing and not killing, to name just a few. These commandments can be found in the Bible today.
Meanwhile, the Israelites, being weak in faith, had gone back to their old habit of worshipping the calf, despite Hazrat Haaroon’s (as) efforts to try and stop them. The Israelites were so bold as to say to Hazrat Haaroon (as):
‘…”We shall not cease to worship it until Moses return to us.”
Hazrat Musa (as) was furious at what the Israelites had stooped down to in his absence. He reminded the Israelites that they were to worship Allah and Allah alone. Hazrat Musa (as) introduced to them the Ten Commandments and told the Israelites that they were to follow these set of rules if they wanted to be successful and go to the Promised Land of Canaan. The Israelites replied:
“O Moses (peace be upon him), there is in that land an unruly and powerful people, and we shall not enter it until they go forth from it. But if they go forth from it, then we will enter it. … Go thou and thy Lord and fight the enemy, we sit here and wait for the victory.” (5:23, 25)
Having lived under Egyptian rule for so long, the Israelites had become cowardly and dependent. Allah desired to make them strong, brave and noble. To do this it was necessary that they stay in the wilderness, hunting their own food and making their own shelter, thus making them resourceful and independent. This was to be their training so that they would be able to conquer the Promised Land but the verse above shows that they feared the people living in Canaan and had no desire to fight them. The Israelites were used to a life of ease and insisted on living in a town as they had done on Egypt.
Despite Hazrat Musa (as) and Hazrat Haaroon (as) encouraging the Israelites and assuring them of a great victory, they refused to step up to the standard expected of them. Thus, Allah decreed that they were to wander in the wilderness for fourty years. This was so that they may acquire strength from the harsh desert conditions. It was also so that a new generation may be born among the Israelites, a generation who were not born into slavery but who knew only the harsh and tough conditions of desert life. This new generation would lead the way to victory to the Promised Land.
Hazrat Musa (as) was successful in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and into Sinai. He brought them the Ten Commandments, by which they were to live by. He had freed an enslaved nation and gave them the glad tidings of the Promised Land, which was theirs to inherit. However, it was decreed that Hazrat Musa (as) would not see the Israelites enter the Promised Land victorious. Allah Almighty desired to call His servant to Himself, thus Hazrat Musa (as) passed away in Sinai.
By Sajeela Ahmad