Musa (Alayhi Salam), also referred to as Moses, is an important Prophet in the Abrahamic religions, i.e., Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. In Islam, he is one of the most important Messengers and Prophets. The discussion of Moses frequently comes up in the Quran. In fact, he is the most-discussed Prophet in the Holy Book. His name is mentioned more than 100 times. There are hundreds of verses across different chapters of the Quran that discuss the story of Moses.
The story of Musa contains many points of guidance for mankind. It is repeatedly mentioned in the Quran that we should seek guidance from the Holy Book. In Surah Sad, Allah says the Quran is a blessed book revealed to Muhammad (PBUH), to be reflected upon and which serves as a reminder to people of understanding. As with the stories of other prophets, the story of Musa is crucial for our Islamic knowledge.
The Quran not only focuses on Moses and his reign of prophethood, but several associated topics are touched upon. The Bani Israel (Children of Israel) are discussed in detail. The ruler of the time, the pharaoh (firawn) and his obstinance in terms of disobeying Allah is focused on. Not only that, but Musa’s early days after birth are also in focus, because of the message that is contained therein.
Moses and his birth and the aftermath
When Prophet Musa was born, the pharaoh was on the warpath against the Bani Israel. It was declared that all newborn boys would be put to death. However, Allah inspired Musa’s mother, as mentioned in Surah Al-Qasas, to suckle him but when afraid for his safety, put him in the river without worrying and being sad. Allah will certainly return Musa to her and make him a messenger.
Hence, Musa’s mother had faith in Allah and put the baby in a wooden basket, casting it into the river. The basket went down the river until it reached an unlikely destination – the pharaoh. His wife, as mentioned in Surah Al-Qassas, said not to kill Musa, as he may be of benefit, or they could adopt him. The wife of the pharaoh (Asiya) was a righteous woman, unlike the cruel and evil pharaoh.
By the will of Allah, Musa refused to suckle the nurses that Asiya summoned. Musa’s sister had followed the basket and quietly joined the group of servants. It is mentioned in Surah Al-Qasas that she asked if they would like her to guide them to a family that will sincerely look after his upbringing, thus he returned to his mother. Henceforth, the baby avoided the wrath that the male infants of the Bani Israel endured, true to Allah’s promise.
Thus, this episode contains a crucial lesson for Muslims, that of always having trust in Allah. Things may not always be as they seem, as we need to trust His wisdom. Whatever He decrees for us has a benefit.
Moses runs away from Egypt, gets married
Musa, one day, came upon two men who were fighting. One was of his brethren (Bani Israel), while the other was an opponent (Egyptian). The man from Bani Israel asked for Musa’s help, so Moses struck the other man, killing him by mistake. The man who he helped out turned out to be an agitator. Despite the killing being unintentional, Musa was later reported to the authorities. A man from another part of the city came to him and warned him that people were after his life so he should depart from the city. Hence, Musa left.
Musa eventually arrived at a place called Madyan in an exhausted state. There, he encountered some people at a well. Some men were watering their flock, with two women standing nearby, refraining from going near the men. Upon Musa’s query, they informed him that they had to wait for the men to finish before they could water their flock. As a result, Musa helped them. He then retreated and supplicated to Allah, expressing his need for Allah’s favor.
One of the two women returned and took Musa to meet their elderly father. Musa narrated his story to him, and the man was sympathetic. He expressed the desire to marry one of his two daughters to Musa provided he served him for eight years, or ten which would be a favor. So did Allah protect Musa and help him when he was in need. This serves as a lesson for us all to turn to Allah; He alone is the Best of Helpers.
Allah speaks to Moses
Upon completing the required time working for his father-in-law, Musa decided to return to Egypt. He collected his family and began the long journey back. On the way, during one night, Musa spotted a fire near Mount Tur. He told his family to stay in their spot, as he went to investigate. Upon Musa’s arrival at the fire, Allah spoke to him directly and told him that there is no God but Him and commanded him to worship Allah and establish prayer for His remembrance.
Allah told Musa that Pharoah had transgressed and that Musa had to go to him. He provided Musa with two miracles: his staff would turn into a snake, and his hand became white and shone brightly, though there was no disease.
Moses requested Allah to ease his task for him and to resolve his speech impediment. He also requested that his brother Haroon be allowed to share in this almighty task. As outlined in Surah Taha, Allah granted him what he asked for and mentioned that He had already conferred favor upon him previously. Allah went on to mention Musa’s miraculous survival as a child, his return to his mother, protection after he killed an Egyptian, and the bounties he received in Madyan. After that, Musa continued on his journey to Egypt, but now he was Prophet Musa, and he had undertaken a mission.
Moses and Pharaoh
Prophet Musa now went to Pharoah and proclaimed the Oneness of Allah to him. Pharaoh was insolent in his manner of response and began to mock and accuse the Prophet. Musa threw down his stick, and it turned into a snake. Thinking this was a regular magic trick, Pharaoh stipulated a contest between Musa and Egyptian magicians.
In Surah Ash-Shu’ara, this episode is described. The magicians confidently threw their ropes and staffs, but when Musa threw his it gobbled up their objects. Then the magician’s prostrated to Allah. This is how truth prevailed, and falsehood was defeated. As a result, Pharaoh’s anger and insolence towards Allah increased.
Pharaoh increased his persecution of the Bani Israel. Torture and oppression intensified. In Surah Ghafir, we learn that Pharaoh wanted to kill Musa as he feared him changing their religion. Allah directed Prophet Musa to tell Pharaoh to free Bani Israel, and to warn him of a grave punishment. The insolent ruler refused, saying that Musa was no more than a slave. Pharaoh’s people also stayed by his side.
Allah’s punishments descend upon Egypt
In Surah Al-A’raf, it is mentioned that the people of Pharaoh faced years of famine and lack of fruits to remind them. As a consequence of Pharaoh’s actions, punishment was meted out to the land. When the punishment was lifted, the people resumed their despicable behavior. Allah sent floods, locusts, and other signs as punishments.
The people told Musa to ask Allah to stop the punishment, after which they would believe him and send him with Bani Israel. However, when the punishment was averted, they turned back on their word. The Bani Israel weren’t set free.
The destruction of Pharaoh and the escape of Bani Israel
As mentioned in Surah Yunus, Prophet Musa supplicated to Allah to destroy their assets and harden their heart so they don’t believe until they face the severe torment. In this manner, it was decided that Bani Israel would run away from their tormentors and gain their freedom. Not to be outdone, Pharaoh and his men followed in hot pursuit as they head towards the sea.
The sea parted and Bani Israel crossed it. However, the disbelievers perished. In Surah Yunus, we see that when drowning overwhelmed Pharaoh, he expressed his faith in the one true God and said he was a believer, but it was too late for him to embrace the true faith.
Transgressions of Bani Israel
Allah then reminds Bani Israel of the favors he granted them. He told them to eat the good things they had been provided with and told them not to transgress or oppress others. Alas, this was an ungrateful nation, prone to committing sin and straying off the path.
While Prophet Musa was away for 40 days, Bani Israel began to worship a golden calf. Despite warnings from Musa’s brother Haroon, they continued to transgress. As outlined in Surah Taha they insisted that they would persist in their worship of the calf until Musa returned.
As we see in Surah Al-Baqarah, a severely disappointed Prophet Musa strictly reprimanded his people. He told them that they had wronged themselves by worshipping a calf and had to repent for their terrible actions and kill the wrongdoers.
Bani Israel repented and were forgiven, but it wasn’t long before they went back to their old ways. Thus continued Prophet Musa’s struggle to reform his own people, but they were thankless. And that was how the rest of this noble prophet’s life was spent. He tried to help his people to stay on the right path until his death.
Prophet Aaron (Harun), the Brother of Prophet Moses
Harun (AS) is a part of the story of Musa (AS) in the Quran. Allah mentions him in the Quran as one of His Prophets. Allah also praises Harun (AS) on many occasions in the Quran. He calls him one of His believing slaves and one of the victors. Harun (AS) has a lot of importance in the story of Prophet Moses.
Allah mentions in the Quran that Harun (AS) was a descendant of Ibrahim (AS). He sent him alongside Moses so that both of them could preach to the pharaoh and his people. Musa (AS) had a speech impediment, and he stated, as Allah records in the Quran, that his brother was more fluent than him as a speaker. Hence, he asked Allah to enable Harun (AS) to support him in his mission.
We see Harun (AS) play a significant part in the incident that took place with the golden calf. Harun (AS) was the leader of the Bani Israel for around 40 days, while Musa (AS) was away. The people of Israel eventually abandoned their attempt at properly worshiping Allah. Instead, they began to worship the golden calf built by a sinister man. Musa (AS) returned and was angry with Harun (AS), but he told him that he had no part to play in this. Musa (AS) then expressed his dismay about his people and said that he only had control over himself and his brother.
Allah has praised Harun (AS) on numerous occasions in the Quran. He also features in the story of Maryam, the mother of Isa (AS). Additionally, he is also a part of the story of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). When he ascended to the heavens and met prophets, Harun (AS) was one of them.
The story of Moses and what it teaches us
In Surah Al-Ahzab, Allah warns the believers not to follow the path of those who abused Musa. For all his struggle, Allah described Musa as one who was ‘distinguished’ in His sight. Therefore, he was one of the noblest messengers of Allah. The repeated mention of Musa in the Quran testifies to his importance.
The story of Musa shows us the importance of always relying on Allah. He is the best of planners. It also teaches us that Allah is ar-Razzaq, the Provider. Without Him, we would never be able to sustain ourselves. Most importantly, the story of Bani Israel shows us how believers always have to undergo trials in this world. In response to these trials, we must always remain steadfast and believe in His ultimate wisdom. When the trial is averted, we should thank Him and be grateful for His blessings. And above all, we should avoid the fate of the People of Israel; that is, the fate of the people who show no gratitude.