Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Surah Al Baqarah Ayah 55-57

Today, we will continue on with the story of Musa (AS) and the Bani Israel. Basically, we had discussed earlier about the miracles given to Musa (AS) and his people, and afterwards how they wanted a Book so that they can be rightly guided by the Divine Law. However, even after they got the Torah, they said (as it says in ayah 55), "O Mûsa (Moses)! We shall never believe in you till we see Allâh plainly." But you were seized with a thunderbolt (lightning) while you were looking."

So you can imagine what some of the Bani Israel were like - first, they complained to Musa (AS) that they don't have a Book to follow his religion, and they needed a Shariah. So Musa (AS) fasted, and worshipped Allah in solitude, in order to receive the Torah. Meanwhile, some of the Bani Israel began worshipping a calf while Musa (AS) was away. Then when he came with the Message, they said that they needed proof that Allah Himself wrote this, and not Musa (AS). So what happens is 70 people are chosen to go with Musa (AS), and he will talk to Allah, and they will also be there and witness that Allah is speaking to Musa (AS). So they hear Allah (SWT) speaking to Musa (AS), and then they have the audacity to say that they will never believe him until they see Allah physically before their eyes.

So what was the response of Allah (SWT)? He just sent a lightning bolt towards them and finished them on the spot, all 70 of them. Then Musa (AS) said to Allah that He killed all these people, but all the other people of Bani Israel who are waiting for the 70 people will just think that Musa (AS) killed them because he was lying, so he asked Allah to bring them back to life. That's where we have ayah 56, "Then We raised you up after your death, so that you might be grateful."

After this, a whole separate incident is talked about, but about the same group of people, the Bani Israel. "And We shaded you with clouds and sent down on you Al-Manna [] and the quails, (saying): "Eat of the good lawful things We have provided for you," (but they rebelled). And they did not wrong Us but they wronged themselves." Now, the Bani Israel were originally from Syria, but when Yusuf (AS) came they moved to Egypt. Eventually, Pharaoh took power and oppressed them, and they ran to a place near a valley called Teeh. At this point, Allah told them to go and make Jihad in Syria to fight for their land back from a group of people who were controlling Syria called the Amalika. However, while on the way to Syria, they heard of the power and might of the Amalika and they said to Musa (AS) that there was no way they could beat these people, and decided to turn back to Egypt. As a punishment, Allah made them get stranded in Teeh, which in Arabic means "lost". Basically what happened was that everyday they would travel towards Egypt, and then sleep at night to rest. When they woke up every morning they would return to the same place they started, and this happened for 40 years.

This valley was barren, and had no food, shelter, and they didn't have extra clothes. So the Bani Israel asked Musa (AS) to make dua to Allah to ask for these things. This ayah refers to the acceptance of the dua, where Allah gave them a cloud as a shade to protect them from the heat, and "Manna" and "Salwa" to eat. Manna is referred to as fresh fruits like honeydew...which used to come from the sky just for them, and Salwa refers to quails, which were very easy to prepare and eat for them because Allah made it extremely simple for them.

Imam Kurtubi in his tafsir also goes one step further and explains another blessing given to the people of Bani Israel and that was clothes, which cleaned by themselves and grew with the people, such as kids. What happened then was that the Bani Israel then became tired with their blessings. They complained to Musa (AS) that they were bored of the same food everyday and the same clothes, and to make dua to Allah to give them more variety. Based on their complain, Allah removed what they already and, and said that "We have not wronged them, they have wronged themselves".

There are two lessons to be learnt from this ayah.
i) The first is based on the valley of Teeh. It shows that those people who play games, Allah causes them to be lost in the path, despite their apparent progress. In the valley of Teeh, they would go on a journey, and rest at night. In the morning they would end up in the same exact place. Our spiritual journey is called the "Sirat Ul Mustaqim", and the end is nearness to Allah (SWT). With each step, your iman increases, deepens and progresses. However, if you're not serious with the Shariah, and just get an "iman rush" once in a while but are not regular, then you end up in the same spot as you started, there's no progress. We are also caught in our own valley of Teeh.

ii) The second is based on the part that says these people have wronged themselves. When we are in difficulty, it's because we have wronged ourselves. We create our own trials and circumstances. We, in this day and age, obviously wrong ourselves a lot more than the Sahabas. Once when a companion of the Prophet (SAW) missed Tahajjud he retraced what he did and said "Oh I might have missed it because I accidently saw the ankle of a ghayr-mahram"! Hazrat Umar (RA) said that he always figured out when he did something wrong when he got back home, and if he had some trouble with his wife then he'd know it was because of something wrong he did that day. Once we're careful about each and every thing we do, we'll be able to see that there's a direct result for every action.

There is a hadith that says, "When you make a mistake, follow it up with a good deed". When a mistake is made, the door to the next mistake is opened, and the way to close that door is to follow it up with a good deed. We also need to remember that complaining and not thanking Allah is the way to get rid of barakah, so we need to be careful about avoiding complaining. Even if we make a mistake we should thank Allah for helping us recognize that it's a mistake. So may Allah SWT give us the tawfiq to apply this in our daily lives inshaAllah.