Saturday, September 26, 2009

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 49-54

Image: Partition of the Red Sea

The verses that we will focus on today highlight the blessings that Allah had bestowed on the Bani Israel at the time of Musa (AS). "And recall when We saved you [i.e., your forefathers] from the people of Pharaoh, who afflicted you with the worst torment, slaughtering your [newborn] sons and keeping your females alive. And in that was a great trial from your Lord".

The people being addressed here are the people from Prophet Muhammad (SAW)'s time, but they are being reminded of the blessings given to their previous generations. If Allah had not blessed the people of Bani Israel in Musa (AS)'s time then they would not be in existence since they were all being killed. They were blessed like this due to the reason that they were in the company of Musa (AS), who is a Prophet.

Pharaoh had put the Bani Israel through a lot of difficulties, but one of the greatest difficulties that he bestowed on the Bani Israel is that he used to kill the newborn boys born in their house, but left the females alive. Killing baby boys is brutal enough, but leaving the women alive meant that more babies were born by them, just to be killed. Apart from being so ruthless, Pharaoh was also extremely protective of his kingdom, and no one could question his authority. One day he was told of a prediction that said that there will be a boy born in the tribe of Bani Israel who will arise to threaten his power. Although the Bani Israel were already so weak compared to Pharaoh's army and they had no power compared to him, Pharaoh still decided to get all the boys that were born in their tribe slaughtered immediately after they were born. During this period, there was one baby saved by the Grace of Allah, and he turned out to be Pharaoh's own adopted son! This was Musa (AS). What happened was that when the people of Pharaoh came to kill the baby, Musa (AS)'s mother had quickly put him in the oven to hide him. Pharaoh's people couldn't find the baby and left, and Musa (AS) came out of the oven unhurt. Then Allah told the mother to put the baby in a basket and let it flow in the River Nile. Musa (AS)'s sister quietly followed the basket and saw that it had landed in Pharaoh's kingdom! Aasia (AS) asker her husband Pharaoh if she could keep the baby- she reasoned that if they raise him then he won't go against them. Pharaoh agreed, and later on the baby refused to be nursed by anyone else, and only when his mother came did he get nursed, so she got to see him everyday as well. Such are the ways of Allah.

"And recall when We parted the sea for you and saved you and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were looking on". When Musa (AS) grew up, he saw how Pharaoh was oppressing the people of Bani Isreal, and not liking it, he planned to escape with them, but Pharaoh's army found out. They chased the Bani Israel until they reached a dead end, in front of the sea. Allah told Musa (AS) to hit his staff on the sea and this caused the sea to part and make a pathway. Musa (AS) and his people quickly went across the sea, and as Pharaoh and his people were following behind them, Allah told the pathway to close and become a sea again. This drowned Pharaoh and his army which Musa (AS) and his people looked on.

The scholars have said that there are so many blessings mentioned in this one ayah.
i) Firstly, when the Bani Israel thought that they were trapped in a dead end, with Pharaoh's people on one side and the sea on the other, they thought there was no escape. But Allah gave Musa (AS) the ability to part the sea, and the sea opened a new passageway.
ii) The second blessing is that all the Bani Israel survived. It could have been that Allah drowned the people of Pharaoh, and along with them the Bani Israel could also have drowned, but Allah saved every single one of them.
iii) Then there's the blessing of Pharaoh and his people drowning. Allah could have left Pharaoh's army on one side and the Bani Israel on the other and they would've been saved. But Allah finished the whole army off by the sea.
iv) And the Bani Israel looked on. Imagine the peace that would've been felt in their heart after seeing such a cruel man you killed others mercilessly, dying before their own eyes. Getting to see him die let's them know it's over now. That in itself is also a blessing.

"And [recall] when We made an appointment with Moses for 40 nights. Then you took [for worship] the calf after him [i.e., his departure], while you were wrongdoers". After they were saved from Pharaoh, the Bani Israel went to a place which is outside of Egypt and Damascus. (Historically, the Bani Israel were originally from Syria but when Yousuf (AS) was King of Egypt they went to Egypt). When they came here they asked Musa (AS) to tell Allah to give them a Book of rules for them. They wanted guidelines in order to please Allah. They asked Musa (AS) to make dua to Allah to bestow on their community this book, and when he did then Allah told Musa (AS) to fast and worship Allah for 30 days at Mount Sinai. On the 30th day Allah gave him the Torah. The Torah and other Books were revealed all in one go, but the Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years. When the Torah was revealed, Musa (AS) broke his fast, and lost the smell of his breath which is very special to Allah (SWT). So he was told by Allah to fast for another 10 days. He did this, and it totaled to 40 days of fasting and worshiping.

What happened during the time that Musa (AS) was in seclusion was that a man named Thamri went back to the magical place that the sea was separated and he found a particular area where he saw the imprint of the horse of Jibrael (AS). He took that sand or dust from that place, and fashioned a gold calf. He put the dust into the mouth of the calf and that calf looked magically realistic. Some of the people of Bani Israel were so mesmerized by this and thought it was a miracle and started worshiping the calf. Thamri was cursed for doing this and he had a constant fever. He had to tell people not to come near him or touch him or else they would get it too. In the end, he asked Allah for forgiveness, and Allah forgave him. This shows Allah's infinite mercy, "Then We forgave you after that so perhaps you might be grateful".

"And [recall] when We gave Musa the Scripture and the criterion that perhaps you may be guided". These are the two blessings given to the Bani Israel. One is the Scripture, which refers to the Torah, and one is the criterion, which refers to the Furqan. This refers to the rulings of the religion or something that separates the truth from falsehood.

When Musa (AS) came back from his 40 days of worship, he was in shock to see that some of his people were worshiping an idol. Musa (AS) made dua to Allah that He forgives the Bani Israel and not finish them off entirely. Allah said that the only way of purifying these people is that those who have wronged will have to be killed, they will then be forgiven. It used to be so difficult to seek Allah's forgiveness before, but Alhumdulillah, in our Ummah, we just have to sincerely ask for repentance and Allah (SWT) accepts it. "And [recall] when Musa said to his people, 'O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by worshiping the calf. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves [i.e., the guilty among you]. That is the best for you in the sight of your Creator'. Then indeed, He accepted your repentance...He is the Merciful". They had committed an act which would take them straight to the Hellfire, but Allah provided a means for them to be forgiven.

There was a Sahabi who came to the Prophet (SAW) and told him that he made a mistake, so the Prophet should punish him. The Prophet (SAW) told him to sit down. Then they had the prayer in Jamaat/congregation. After the prayer Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was leaving the masjid and the Sahabi caught up and said he needs to be punished for the mistake he made. The Prophet (SAW) said the prayer you just made wiped away your sins. So as you can see, the deen is designed to fix our mistakes.

Such are the interesting stories in the Quran and ahadith, and inshaAllah we will continue the inspiring story of Musa (AS) in the next entry. May Allah (SWT) readily forgive our sins and save us from the punishments of the Hellfire. Ameen.