THE PROPHET MUSA (AS)

 

Exodus From Egypt And The Drowning Of Pharaoh In The Sea

There is a limit to the revelations a nation is to receive. God warns people through His books, His messengers or His faithful servants. All humans are invited to believe in the existence and oneness of their Lord, and to obey their True Protector and Creator. This communication may last for many years. However, in the sight of God, there is always a predetermined limit to this process. To those who persist in denial, there will be a torment while here in this world, and which extends into eternity in the hereafter.

Pharaoh and his inner circle, a perversely self-interested troupe, who resisted the message for years, deserved punishment. They rebelled against God, accusing the messenger of insanity as well as of being a liar. Because of their denial, God prepared for them a humiliating end.

Before this affliction began, God commanded Musa to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt:

We revealed to Musa: "Travel with Our servants by night. You will certainly be pursued." (Qur'an, 26: 52)

In compliance with the command of God, Musa and his people secretly left Egypt.

The flight of the children of Israel was entirely unacceptable to Pharaoh, who considered himself to be their Lord. He saw himself as the sole master of all the children of Israel. In addition, it would mean a loss of manpower, that would ultimately contribute to the diminishment of his authority. Therefore, he mobilized his soldiers and set out after the children of Israel:

Pharaoh sent marshals into the cities: "These people are a small group and they are agitating against us and we constitute a vigilant majority."

We expelled them (Pharaoh and his people) from gardens and springs, from treasures and a splendid situation. So it was! And We bequeathed them to the tribe of Israel. So they (Pharaoh and his troops) pursued them towards the east. (Qur'an, 26: 53-60)

By the time the children of Israel had reached a shore, Pharaoh and his soldiers had caught up with them. Panic and despair engulfed the people of Musa when they saw Pharaoh and his soldiers approaching. Pharaoh and his soldiers were within just a short distance. There was no room to escape. They thought they were trapped:

And when the two hosts came into sight of one another Musa's companions said, "We will surely be overtaken!" (Qur'an, 26: 61)

At that very moment, the way Musa conducted himself is an example for all believers. He remembered that he need never lose faith in the help of God:

He said, "Never! My Lord is with me and He will guide me." (Qur'an, 26: 62)

Then, he followed the revelation he received from God, "Strike the sea with your staff" (Qur'an, 26: 63). Miraculously, God divided the waters of the sea leaving a dry path in the middle, which the children of Israel immediately followed. Pharaoh and his soldiers went so audacious as to chase the children of Israel into the sea. Here was an apparent miracle; without question, God's help and support was with Musa and his followers. Nevertheless, this miracle did not suffice to convince Pharaoh. Together with his soldiers, he blindly entered the path that divided the sea. However, after the children of Israel had safely crossed to the other side, the waters suddenly began to close in on Pharaoh and his soldiers and they all drowned. Though, at the last moment, Pharaoh tried to repent, his repentance was not accepted:

We brought the tribe of Israel across the sea and Pharaoh and his troops pursued them out of tyranny and enmity. Then, when he was on the point of drowning, he (Pharaoh) said, "I believe that there is no god but Him in whom the tribe of Israel believe. I am one of the Muslims." What, now! When previously you rebelled and were one of the corrupters? Today we will preserve your body so you can be a Sign for people who come after you. Surely many people are heedless of Our Signs. (Qur'an, 10: 90-92)

There is a very important lesson to draw from Pharaoh's repentance at the very last moment of his life and its rejection by God. God grants sufficient time and opportunity to everybody to ponder over the reason for their existence on earth, to understand that they are here to be servants to God and the way they are to serve Him. God's messengers, divine revelations, and believers, convey the commandments of God to mankind. There is enough time to consider these messages and reminders, and finally, to seek refuge in God's mercy. If, however, a man wastes the time he has been allotted and attempts to repent only at the moment he meets his death-unless otherwise willed by God-his repentance is worthless. Because, at the moment of death, a person can clearly sense the reality and proximity of the hereafter, and bears witness to this truth when he confronts the angels of death. At that point, a person can no longer reject the truth. What is important, however, is to exercise one's conscience and be sincere while one is still living in this world, that is, while he is being tested. Throughout his trial period, Pharaoh conducted himself disrespectfully and insolently towards God. Therefore, his repentance, which was founded on fear, did not bring him salvation.

This should act as an especially important warning to all those who believed in "living it up," and postponed their performance of religious responsibilities to their later years in life. The fulfilment of religious obligations, however, should in no way be postponed. Except for those for whom God wills otherwise, people who postpone forming a religious consciousness when they are young, will ultimately reach the last stages of their lives when faith and repentance no longer have the same value. God informs us about this fact as follows:

God only accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and then quickly repent after doing it. God will pardon them. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. There is no repentance for people who persist in doing evil until death comes to them and who then say, "Now I repent," nor for people who die unbeliever. We have prepared for them a painful punishment. (Qur'an, 4: 17-18)

Certainly, Pharaoh's embracing faith at the very last moment, and his asking for forgiveness, were not accepted by God. God conveys to us the condition of Pharaoh and his companions in hell as follows:

The Fire, morning and night, to which they are exposed; and on the Day the Hour takes place: "Admit Pharaoh's people to the harshest punishment!" When they are squabbling with one another in the Fire, the weak will say to those deemed great, "We were your followers, so why do you not relieve us of a portion of the Fire?" Those deemed great will say, "All of us are in it. God has clearly judged between His servants." (Qur'an, 40: 46-48)

In the hereafter, by the Will of God, we will all see the torment that will be inflicted on Pharaoh and his inner circle who had sought to torment Musa and the believers who followed him. In the mean time, we should pray to God to make us of those who will see Pharaoh's grievous punishment not as those with him in Hell, but as among the righteous servants of God in Paradise.


The picture above shows the procession of Egyptians carrying the dead Pharaoh to its tomb.

The Arrogance Of Qarun And His Punishment

Along with Pharaoh, Qarun is mentioned among those who were destroyed at the time of Musa.

The Qur'an informs us that Qarun was the owner of great possessions in Egypt despite being a descendant of the Israelite tribe.

The following verse indicates that Qarun opposed Musa together with Pharaoh:

We sent Musa with Our Signs and clear authority to Pharaoh, Haman and Qarun. But they said, "A lying magician." (Qur'an, 40: 23-24)

It is noteworthy that Qarun, who was with Pharaoh, was also in charge of a great treasure:

Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him treasures, the keys alone to which were a heavy weight for a party of strong men. (Qur'an, 28: 76)

The great fortune and status Qarun possessed in Egypt, due to his closeness to Pharaoh, made him arrogant and insolent towards his own people. He refused to accept Musa's message, and boasted about his possessions to make the children of Israel feel attachment to the life of this world. In fact, his great fortune and status became the envy of some of the people from Musa's tribe. God relates the arrogance of Qarun and the envy those of poor faith among the children of Israel felt for him:

He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses." (Qur'an, 28: 79)

The true believers among the children of Israel never felt inclined towards Qarun. On the contrary, they comprehended the pitiful situation he was in, and warned him:

.When his people said to him, "Do not gloat. God does not love people who gloat. Seek the abode of the hereafter with what God has given you, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good as God has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. God does not love corrupters." (Qur'an, 28: 76-77)

These same people of faith gave advise to the members of their own tribe who were inclined to Qarun, and warned them to retain the nobility of a believer in their conduct, and never to prefer the temporary pleasures of this world over the mercy of God:

...Those who desired the life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he possesses." But those who had been given knowledge said, "Woe to you! God's reward is better for those who believe and act rightly. But only the steadfast will obtain it." (Qur'an, 28: 79-80)

Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We gave him treasures, the keys alone to which were a heavy weight for a party of strong men. (Qur'an, 28: 76)

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The main reason why Qarun went astray was his belief that he was possessed with "knowledge." In other words, he had the boastful attitude that he was superior to other people.

He said, "I have only been given it because of knowledge I have." Did he not know that before him God had destroyed generations with far greater strength than his and far more possessions? The evildoers will not be questioned about their sins. (Qur'an, 28: 78)

Nevertheless, in the end, Qarun's arrogance brought him nothing but harm. He brought great torment upon himself by being ungrateful to God, and arrogantly believing that all his possessions were earned of his own accord. Qarun finally came to realize that he was a feeble and helpless servant of God, when his possessions, which had made him so boastful, were completely destroyed by God:

We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was no group to come to his aid against God, and he was not someone who is helped. (Qur'an, 28: 81)

What befell Qarun was a warning, and an event from which those around him, as well as succeeding generations, were to draw lessons from. Those who sympathized with him immediately realized that what they had desired so dearly was actually temporary and ultimately worthless. They recognized that those who boast of their possessions and wealth can never attain salvation, and that they will eventually have to give account for their deeds:

Those who had longed to take his place the day before woke up saying, "God expands the provision of any of His servants He wills or restricts it. If God had not shown great kindness to us, we would have been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the unbelievers are not successful." (Qur'an, 28: 82)

Ultimately, the prepared end for Pharaoh and Haman, was the same met by Qarun:

And Qarun and Pharaoh and Haman-Musa came with the Clear Signs to them, but they were arrogant on the earth. They could not outstrip Us. (Qur'an, 29: 39)

The story of Qarun clearly illustrates for us that God does not bestow his mercy on those who are arrogant because of their wealth and possessions, and who consider themselves to be wiser or more knowledgeable than others. In the Qur'an, God also gives us examples from other peoples of the past. Many civilizations of the past had attained great success and material wealth. Yet, all these civilizations were obliterated from the face of the earth. God took back the souls of these people, who had thought themselves to be the rulers of the earth, and reduced their glorious palaces to ruins:

How many wrongdoing cities We destroyed, and now all their roofs and walls are fallen in; how many abandoned wells and stuccoed palaces! (Qur'an, 22: 45)

There is another lesson the story of Qarun teaches us: not to be taken by the allure of the temporary riches of this world and of those who possess them. The ones a believer should be inclined to are hose who withstand hardships in the way of God, those who spend their possessions, and live for the cause of God, and those men of faith and wisdom, whose hearts are full of love for God. As the Prophet Muhammad (saas) said "God does not look at your forms and possessions, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds." (Muslim) Those who appear to lead a luxuriant and prosperous life, actually live in spiritual deprivation. Each day drift these people into eternal torment in hell. God indicates this situation as follows:

Do not let their wealth and children impress you. God merely wants to punish them by them during their life in the world and for them to expire while they are unbelievers. (Qur'an, 9: 55)

Possessions should not be desired for pleasure and ostentation only. We need to keep in mind that God puts humans to test by their possessions as well. These possessions bring enjoyment to people as long as they are used to earn the good pleasure of God. Qarun, for instance, ended up in misery, despite his measureless wealth. The case of Qarun is indeed a warning for all generations, both past and present.



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