THE PROPHET MUSA (AS)

 

Musa (As) And A Learned Man

Another story about Musa is related in the Sura Kahf. Reading the story, it is difficult to determine during exactly which part of Musa's life these events took place. We may presume it, however, to have happened after Musa's flight from Egypt with the children of Israel. The distinctive feature of this story is its account of events related symbolically. The story is based on a dialogue between Musa and a man of wisdom. At the beginning of the story, Musa makes a journey with his young assistant:

Remember when Musa said to his servant, "I will not give up until I reach the meeting-place of the two seas, even if I must press on for many years."

But when they reached their meeting-place, they forgot their fish which quickly burrowed its way into the sea. When they had gone a distance further on, he (Musa) said to his servant, "Bring us our morning meal. Truly this journey of ours has made us tired."

He (Musa's servant) said, "Do you see what has happened? When we went to find shelter at the rock, I forgot the fish. No one made me forget to remember it except Satan. It found its way into the sea in an amazing way."

He (Musa) said, "That is the very thing that we were looking for!" So, following their footsteps, they retraced their route. (Qur'an, 18: 60-64)

There are important lessons to take from the verses. The statement "Bring us our morning meal, truly this journey of ours has made us tired," shows that Musa takes his food at the same time as he breaks for rest, while others would probably take two separate breaks to fulfil two such needs. Essentially, this decision of his indicates that a Muslim should manage his time wisely.

Another divine lesson these verses reveal is their forgetting their food during the journey and Satan's role as their forgetting. The clear influence Satan has on people, that is, that he can cause man to be forgetful, is here stressed. For instance, Satan causes man to forget in order to hinder him from engaging in something good for the cause of religion and for the sake of the Muslims. His primary goal is to keep people from remembering God and reflecting on Him. The best thing a man of faith can do to counter Satan's efforts is to keep himself occupied with the remembrance of God.

A third divine lesson to be drawn from the dialogue mentioned is Musa's alertness to the signs of God. Indeed, he immediately regards his forgetting the food as a sign, and, accordingly, changes his way. This indicates that Musa is a man who constantly keeps himself occupied with the remembrance of God, which makes him utterly aware that all situations in life are ordained by God. This makes him a man of wisdom, able to arrive at sound conclusions from what happens around him.

Musa and his young companion saw their forgetfulness a sign and returned by following their footsteps back. Later, Musa met a certain person. The Qur'an does not mention the name of this person, to whom great wisdom was granted, but tradition gives it as Khidr. Though Musa was willing to learn of his wisdom, this person of wisdom openly told him that he would not be able to be patient. The story is as follows:

They found a servant of Ours whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had also given knowledge direct from Us. Musa said to him, "May I follow you on condition that you teach me some of the right guidance you have been taught?"

He said, "You will not be able to bear with me. How indeed could you bear with patience something you have not encompassed in your knowledge?"

Musa said, "You will find me patient, if God wills, and I will not disobey you in any matter."

He said, "Then if you follow me, do not question me about anything until I myself make mention of it to you."

They continued until they boarded a boat and he scuppered it. Then Musa said, "Did you scupper it so that those in it would be drowned? This is truly a dreadful thing that you have done!"

He said, "Did I not say that you would not be able to bear with me?"

Musa said, "Do not take me to task because I forgot. Do not demand of me something which is too difficult."

So they went on until they met a youngster whom he killed. Musa said, "Have you killed a boy who has done no wrong, without it being in retaliation for someone else? This is truly an appalling thing that you have done!"

He said, "Did I not tell you that you would not be able to bear with me?"

Musa said, "If I ask you about anything after this, then you should no longer keep me company. I will have given you excuse enough."

So they went on until they reached the inhabitants of a town. They asked them for food but they refused them hospitality. They found there a wall about to fall down and he built it up. Musa said, "If you had wanted, you could have taken a wage for doing that."

He said, "This is where you and I part company. I will let you know the explanation of those things about which you were not able to restrain yourself. As for the boat, it belonged to some poor people who worked on the sea. I wanted to damage it because a king was coming behind them, commandeering every boat. As for the boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would darken their days with excessive insolence and transgression. We wanted their Lord to give them in exchange a purer son than him, one more compassionate. As for the wall, it belonged to two young orphans in the town and there was a treasure underneath it, belonging to them. Their father was one of the pious and your Lord wanted them to come of age and then to unearth their treasure as a mercy from Him. I did not do it of my own volition. That is the explanation of the things about which you were not able to restrain yourself." (Qur'an, 18: 65-82)

The lesson presented here deserves special attention: It may well be that behind what appear to be evil events, God may bestow certain blessings through them. The sinking of a boat for no apparent reason, or the killing of a child who has not committed any crime, may appear to be evil deeds when assessed without sufficient understanding. However, as related in the above story, there is good and wisdom behind these events ordained by God, which are neither obvious nor immediately comprehensible. Clearly, the events related in this story all had a hidden significance. They were not common, everyday occurrences. These were reserved for a certain noble person appointed specifically by God.

People, however, should think about the good inherent in everything that befalls them in their every-day lives. Today, there is surely a divine purpose behind the apparently evil things that are happening and for which the majority say, "Why all these disasters befall humankind?" If a person remains patient and strives sincerely to grasp their divine purposes, God may well make him comprehend their hidden meanings.


Nil Nehri

Conclusion

As all the verses mentioned so far relate, extensive references to Musa are found in many parts of the Qur'an. His life is an example that abounds with lessons and reminders for believers, beginning with the early part of his life, and some of these lessons and reminders we have dealt with in this book.

Reflecting on the meaning of these lessons leads us to recognize the extent to which destiny completely contains a man's life, and the blessings it implies for a man of faith.

The lessons to be drawn from Musa's life can be summarized as follows:

1- Destiny and its divine purposes

By the time Musa was born, his prophecy and the struggle he would pursue in the way of God were all predetermined. In fact, this was all ordained even before his birth. When we look at ourselves, we should also realize that we lead our own lives within a certain destiny. This destiny is what is best for us. It is ordained by God, who is our Creator and our Lord. He has infinite knowledge and mercy. That is why we should submit ourselves to our destiny, and embrace whatever befalls us with joy, knowing that it is a part of the destiny our Lord has created for us.

2- Siding with the righteous

In the early parts of this book we mentioned a story in which Musa sided with a man of his own nation and unintentionally killed another. This was in order to emphasize the wrongfulness of siding unconditionally with our compatriots (family, tribe, nation, etc.). What makes a man superior is not his family, tribe or nation, but his degree of righteousness. Therefore, we should always regulate our own conduct according to justice, a value we should hold above all else.

3- Trusting God and placing faith in Him

The story of Musa greatly emphasizes the notion of placing one's faith in God. God warned and educated Musa on the need to put his trust in Him, despite the fact that it was in his nature to feel excited from time to time. In those situations he encountered throughout his life, Musa always acknowledged that God exercises absolute control over everything, and that he should trust Him unconditionally. Moreover, he would ask for forgiveness for the errors he committed and did what he had to do to mend them.

In order to place one's trust in God, one needs to know God and measure Him according to His true power. A believer is guided to such a knowledge through reflection upon God's attributes: God is the Creator of all life, He is the One that takes back one's soul, He exercises absolute power over everything, He encompasses everything, He needs only command "Be" and it is, He is the absolute and sole controller of all things, He is the Beneficent, He is the One who answers all prayers, and He guides whom He wills to righteousness. All deeds go back to God. If we could fully comprehend the might of our Creator, and appreciate His power, then we would come to realize that He is the only One to turn to and to put our trust in.

4- The temporary nature of the life of this world and of possessions

As we have explored in the example of Qarun, death renders void all the benefits of worldly possessions. Furthermore, unless spent for the cause of God, these possessions could well be a reason to exacerbate torment, both in this world and beyond. Material possessions should never be the object of man's envy. God grants a greater abundance of His blessings to whom He wills. Prosperity is worthless if not put to use for the sake of God. On the other hand, for someone compliant to the will of God, poverty is by no means a source of misery. Therefore, one should neither be remorseful nor boastful about his possessions and wealth in this world. Only living for the cause of God, and fear for God, should be the criteria upon which to base one's life.

5- Ignorance and self-purification

As related throughout this book, the children of Israel embraced the religion Musa brought, without entirely abandoning their ancient ways. Moreover, they attempted to merge their errant ways with the revealed religion. This is an important point all should be cautious of. It may be that, during the development of his personality, an individual could have inculcated some improper ways of thinking. Accordingly, after having accepted the right path, he may still keep some old beliefs and thoughts.

Also to be found in the story of Musa, the idolatrous practices of the tribe encountered on their journey became a matter of temptation for the people of Musa, who were of poor faith and who had failed to cleanse themselves from the ways of ignorance. This demonstrates that adherence to the Qur'an is the sole way of eliminating beliefs and thoughts that are rooted in ignorance.

6- Hypocrites and their attitudes

In the story of Musa, we find the example of hypocrites lurking within a community, and the great harm they can bring to a society. For instance, we can discern attributes peculiar to hypocrites in Samaritan:

Hypocrites are found among believers. In the time of Musa, for example, Samaritan was among the children of Israel. In order to stir trouble, hypocrites look for when the believers are at their weakest. Only at that point they feel they will be most successful do they take action. They make use of people's shortcomings to lead them astray. In pursuit of their cause, they appeal to man's base natures. They offer empty promises. They never openly express unbelief in the religion or in God, but rather, try to bring attention to their supposed piety. They even go to such lengths as to claim they understand the religion better than anyone else, and that therefore, are the most capable of guiding others to the right path. Another important feature of the hypocrites to be conscious of is the extent of their influence over people. A single hypocrite can negatively influence a whole nation. Samaritan was such a hypocrite.

7- The Children of Israel and their basic attitude

An examination of the verses pertaining to the Prophet Musa reveal the fact that he was faced with a struggle even against his own people. Arrogance, a tendency to idolatry, and rebelliousness, were their essential characteristics. It has been for this reason that, this nation, being ultimately undeserving of the prophets, revelations, and all other blessings bestowed upon them by God, has been stripped of such honour. This again is an important lesson for believers.

8- The story of the cow and excessive concern over details

This story reveals a specific mentality plaguing the Children of Israel: man's tendency to concern himself excessively over details. Despite the easy, uncomplicated and pure nature of the religion, some people seek to make the religion difficult, by introducing needless details into it, and by shifting the focus from its true essence to trivial issues. However, God explains that the true religion is as simple as the religion of Ibrahim. The story of the cow brings to light the error of inquiring needlessly into details. It also shows that the pursuit of trivial details only causes difficulty for people, and may ultimately lead them away from the commandments of God.

9- The story of a wise man and wisdom from God

This story conveys to us that there may well be wisdom underlying certain events that is not immediately apparent. This knowledge is a special sort of wisdom granted by God. This is explained with examples that even seemingly disastrous events may not actually be so unfortunate, and that, on the contrary, there may be some reason behind them we are incapable of recognizing.

To conclude, the most important lesson for believers were the good morals exemplified by Musa and Harun. Both of them were prophets of Islam, to whom scriptures were granted.

Although Musa strove in the way of God thousands of years ago, his conduct and manner of speech remain exemplary for us. God chose him for Himself, spoke to him and appointed him as a messenger to convey His message to the people. These noble men are remembered in the Qur'an as follows:

And left the later people saying of them, "Peace be upon Musa and Harun!" That is how We recompense good-doers. They truly were among Our servants who are believers. (Qur'an, 37: 119-122)

God was pleased with them, as He is with all His messengers. May our Lord bless us with the wisdom to better understand the lives of these messengers, and to be one of those with whom He is pleased.


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