Moses - The Familiar Story
A Favourite of Allah
21:49 Who fear their Lord Unseen and are apprehensive of the Hour.
21:50 This is a blessed Reminder (the Qur’an) we have revealed. Are you, then, going to deny it?
33:69 O believers, do not be like those (the Jews, Moududi) who injured (distressed, Moududi) Moses, but Allah exonerated him from what they said, and he was highly regarded in Allah’s Sight.
61:5 When Moses said to his people: “O my people, why do you injure me (maligned him and proved disloyal to him, Moududi), although you know that I am Allah’s Messenger to you?” When they swerved, Allah caused their hearts to swerve. Allah does not guide the sinful people.
The story of Moses is a favourite of Allah. Only God's Messenger gets more mentions in the Koran. We get our first glimpse of the man early on in the second surah, The Cow, in a series of revelation in which Allah reminds the Children of Israel of all that He has done for them.
2:47 O Children of Israel, remember the grace which I bestowed on you, and that I preferred you to all nations.
2:48 And guard yourselves against the Day when no soul shall avail any other soul and no intercession will be accepted from it, nor will a ransom be taken from it; and they will not be supported.
Revelations 2:122 and 2:123 are almost exact duplicates of verses 2:47 and 2:48 respectively:
2:122 O Children of Israel, remember the grace I bestowed on you, and remember that I preferred you to all nations.
2:123 And guard against a Day when no soul shall avail any other soul, and no ransom will be accepted from it, nor any intercession will benefit it, and they will not have any support.
2:49 And [remember] how we saved you from Pharaoh’s people who tormented you cruelly, slaying your children but sparing your women. Therein was a great trial from your Lord.
2:50 And [remember] how for your sake, We split the sea, rescued you and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were watching.
The first mention of the Ten Commandments:
2:51 And [remember] how we promised Moses forty nights (at the end of which Moses received the scriptures); and you took the calf after him, thus becoming evildoers.
2:52 But We pardoned you after that, so that you might give thanks.
2:53 And when We gave Moses the Book (the Torah) and the Criterion ("Al-Furqan" which distinguishes right from wrong), so that you might be well guided.
Al-Furqan is also a reference to the Qur'an as the decisive factor between Good and Evil. Begs the question as to whether Moses was given all or part of the Koran.
The first mention of that infamous calf followed by a request for mass self-immolation:
2:54 When Moses said to his people: “My people, you have wronged yourselves by taking the calf [as god]. Repent to your creator. Kill yourselves (let the innocent kill the evil-doers); that would be better for you in the sight of your Creator.” Then He forgave you. He is the All-Forgiving, the Merciful.
Before the calf-worshippers have time to respond to Moses' request that they commit suicide for taking a calf as a god, a thunderbolt kills them all. Allah quickly brought them back to life hoping that they would be grateful.
2:55 And when you (Moses’ people) said: “O Moses, we will not believe in you until we see Allah with our own eyes”, whereupon you were struck by a thunderbolt while you looked on.
2:56 Then We raised you up after you had died, so that you might give thanks.
In another recollection of the killer thunderbolt from heaven they are killed and brought back to life before the golden calf incident.
4:153 The People of the Book ask you to bring down a book from heaven for them; indeed, they asked Moses for greater than that, saying: “Show us God face to face.” Thereupon the thunderbolt struck them for their wickedness. Then, they worshipped the calf, after they had received the clear proofs. Yet we pardoned all that and we gave Moses clear authority.
And then there was the food from heaven.
2:57 And We caused the clouds to overshadow you and sent to you manna and quails [saying]: “Eat from the good things we have provided for you.” They did not wrong Us; they only wronged themselves.
2:58 And when We said: “Enter this city (Jerusalem or Jericho) and eat wherever you wish from its abundant provision”, and enter the gate while bowing and say: “Forgiveness.” We will [then] forgive you your sins and increase the reward of the righteous.
It has not yet been possible to arrive at any conclusion about the identity of the locality mentioned here. The series of events in the context of which God's command to enter the city is mentioned belong to the period of the exodus of the Children of Israel in the Sinai peninsula. It is therefore probable that the place mentioned in this verse is some Sinaitic city. Another plausible suggestion is that it is Shattim, which was located opposite Jericho on the eastern bank of the river Jordan.
A plague out of nowhere for those who changed god-knows-what.
2:59 The evil-doers changed what was said to them into something else; and We sent down upon the evil-doers a plague from heaven as a punishment for their transgression.
Rewind to Moses in the desert praying for some desperately needed drinking water.
2:60 And when Moses prayed for water for his people, We said: “Strike the rock with your staff.” Thereupon twelve springs gushed out from it, and each tribe recognized its water trough. [We said:] "Eat and drink from Allah’s provision and do not make mischief in the land."
But water and manna and quails from heaven are not enough for the Children of Israel; they want a more varied, balance diet with lots of vegetables – a demand which infuriates Moses and causes Allah to reminisce about the punishment He has had to inflict on an unruly lot.
2:61 And when you said: “O Moses, we will not put up with one kind of food; so pray to your Lord to bring forth for us some on what the earth produces: green herbs, cucumbers, corn, lentils and onions.” He said: “Would you exchange that which is better for that which is worse? Come down to Egypt where you will get what you asked for.” Humiliation and abasement were inflicted on them and they incurred Allah’s wrath. That was because they disbelieved in Allah’s Revelations and unjustly killed the Prophets, thus committing disobedience and aggression.
You will be grateful for what I give you or I will drop this mountain on you!
2:63 And when We made a covenant with you and raised the mountain above you [saying]: “Take what we have given you earnestly and keep in mind what is in it so you might guard yourselves against evil.”
They were not impressed!
2:64 But after that you turned away; and had it not been for Allah’s Grace and Mercy on you, you would surely have been among the losers.
Raising Mount Sinai
In still another recollection of lifting Mount Sinai over the head of the Hebrews, Allah asks them to prostrate themselves as they enter what may be the Ark of the Covenant (a really, really big Ark of the Covenant) or the door is simply a metaphor for acknowledging their pledge to Allah. As to why Allah would admonish the Jews not to “transgress the Sabbath”, on such a momentous inspiring occasion, only Allah knows.
4:154 And We raised the Mount [Sinai] over them, in view of their covenant, and We said to them: “Enter the door prostrate”, and We also said: “Do not transgress on the Sabbath”, taking from them a solemn pledge.
The verses about the lifting of Mount Sinai may have been inspired by a story told in a second century Jewish apocryphal book called The Abodah Sarah about God lifting Mount Sinai and holding it over the head of the Jews as a threat if they rejected His law. As you can expect, some of them broke the Covenant and killed some prophets, prompting Allah to seal their hearts so that they will never wish to enter into an agreement again, and yes, He also sealed their hearts because of something to do with Mary.
4:155 But because they broke their covenant, disbelieved in Allah’s Revelations, killed the Prophets unjustly, and said: “Our hearts are sealed”, Allah has sealed them on account of their disbelief. So, they do not believe, except for a few!
4:156 And for their disbelief and their imputing to Mary a great falsehood;
With this reference to Mary, Allah leaves the desert of Sinai and travels in both time and space to Palestine to make a statement about one of the Prophets the Jews are alleged to have killed (see Jesus - The Crucifixion Myth for revelations 4:157-159 about how Allah made it look like the Jews killed Jesus.
The Fire on the Mountain
27:7 When Moses said to his family: “I have sighted a fire and will bring you news of it, or bring you a flaming spark that you might warm yourselves.”
One account of the meeting between Moses and Allah at the biblical burning bush.
27:8 Then, when he approached it, he was told loudly: “Blessed is he who is in the fire and those around it (Moses and the other Prophets), and glory be to the Lord of the Worlds.
Moududi, by his capitalization of the pronouns he and who in “He Who is in the fire” believes it is Allah.
27:8 When he came to it, a voice called out: "Blessed is He Who is in the fire and the one who is around it. Glorified is Allah, Lord of the worlds.”
Others, like Fakhry, will not commit themselves:
27:8 But when he came to the (fire), a voice was heard: "Blessed are those in the fire and those around: and glory to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” Yusuf Ali
27:8 But when he came to it, he was called: "Blessed is whosoever is in the fire, and whosoever is round about it! And glorified be Allâh, the Lord of the 'Alamîn (mankind, jinns and all that exists)” Mohsin Khan
27:9 “O Moses, I am truly Allah, the All-Mighty, Wise;
27:10 “Cast your staff”; but when he saw it shaking, as though it was a serpent, he turned around not looking back. “O Moses, do not fear; the Messengers do not fear in My Presence;
27:11 “Except for him who has done wrong, then changed, doing good after evil. For I am indeed All-Forgiving, Merciful.
27:12 “Introduce your hand into your bosom and it will come out white, without blemish, as one of the nine signs to Pharaoh and his people. They are, indeed, a wicked people.”
27:13 Then, when Our Signs came to them fully visible, they said: “This is manifest sorcery.”
27:14 And they repudiated them, although their souls acknowledged them as certain, wrongfully and arrogantly. Behold, then what was the fate of the workers of corruption.
The Golden Calf and Want of a Death Wish
The golden calf is mentioned early on in the Koran in a characteristic harangue of the Jews of Medina (surah 2, the Cow, is a Medinan surah) during which Allah instructs His Messenger, revelation 2:94, to tell them that they would wish for death if they were truthful.
2:91 And when it is said to them: "Believe in what Allah has revealed”, they say: “We believe in what was revealed to us (the Torah),” denying thereby what has been revealed thereafter (the Qur’an), although it is the Truth which confirms what they have (their scriptures). Say: “Why, then, did you kill Allah’s Prophets in the past if you are true believers?”
2:92 Surely Moses came to you with clear signs (miracles); then, in his absence you made of the calf a god, and thus you became evil-doers.
Because the Hebrews did not believe in the revelations yet to be brought down by Moses, Allah made them become infatuated with a golden calf.
2:93 And [remember] when we made a covenant with you and raised the mountain over you saying: “Take what we have given you with earnestness and obey.” They said: “We have heard. We disobeyed.” They were made to imbibe the love of the calf into their hearts because of their unbelief. Say: “Evil is what your faith bid you, if you are true believers (the implication here is that they are not believers).”
If the Jews were really the chosen people they would wish for death.
2:94 Say: “If the abode of the Hereafter with Allah is for you alone to the exclusion of all other people, then wish for death if you are truthful.”
The Jews are in no hurry to leave the here-and-now to join Allah in the Hereafter because, according to Allah, of what they did e.g. the calf of gold, and what He will do to them.
2:95 But they will never wish for it, because of what they did earlier. Allah knows well the evil-doers.
Every Jew, again according to Allah, wants to live as long as a thousand years because they fear the punishment.
2:96 Indeed you will find them of all people the most attached to life, even more attached than those who associated other gods with Allah. Every one of them wishes to live for one thousand years. This long life, however, will not spare them the punishment. And Allah sees what they do.
As with most stories adapted from the Bible, the lack of a chronological ordering of the verses means that we get Moses meeting with the Son of Ra (the Egyptian Sun god from whom Pharaohs were said to descend) to let the Israelites leave Egypt before Moses’ meeting with Allah where he is given his marching orders.
We pick up Allah’s first semi-comprehensive version of the meeting between Moses and Pharaoh in surah 7 The Ramparts, with Moses informing Pharaoh that he has been sent by Allah and he can prove it.
7:103 Then after them, We sent Moses with Our Revelations to Pharaoh and his people, but they repudiated them. See then what was the fate of the mischief-makers.
7:104 Moses said: “O Pharaoh, I am a Messenger from the Lord of the Worlds.
7:105 “It is only proper that I should not say about Allah anything other than the truth. I have brought you a clear sign from your Lord; so send forth the Children of Israel with me.”
7:106 He said: “If you have brought a sign, produce it if you are really truthful.”
Moses casts his staff which changes into a snake.
7:107 So he cast his staff and, behold, it was a manifest serpent.
7:108 And he drew his hand; and, behold, it appeared white to the onlookers.
7:109 The dignitaries among Pharaoh’s people said: “This, indeed, is a shrewd magician.
7:110 “He wishes to drive you out of your land; so what do you advise?”
The dignitaries suggest to Pharaoh that he send for his magicians.
7:111 They said: “Leave him and his brother for a while, and send forth summoners (sic) to the cities;
7:112 “To bring you every shrewd magician.”
Before performing their magic, Pharaoh’s magicians obtain a promise that they will be rewarded if they better Moses.
7:113 The magicians then came to Pharaoh and said: “We shall surely have a reward, if we are the winners.”
7:114 He said: “Yes, and you will be, indeed, among those I favour.”
After a short discussion as to who will start first, the magicians produce something we can assume is a snake, or the illusion of a snake.
7:115 They said: “O Moses, either you cast or we will be the first to cast.”
7:116 He said: “You cast”; but when they cast, they put a spell upon the eyes of the people and frightened them, producing a mighty feat of magic.
Moses will again cast his staff, which will again change into a snake, which will proceed to eat whatever Pharaoh’s magicians have produced, thereby convincing them to switch their allegiance; but not before prostrating themselves before Moses and acknowledging that Moses is a Messenger sent by Allah.
7:117 We revealed to Moses: “Cast your staff”, and behold, it proceeded to devour what they faked.
7:118 So the truth was vindicated and what they were doing was nullified.
7:119 And they were vanquished there and then, and they turned away humiliated.
7:120 And the magicians fell down prostrate.
7:121 They said: “We believe now in the Lord of the Worlds;
7:122 “The Lord Of Moses and Aaron.”
Pharaoh is not pleased!
7:123 Pharaoh then said: “Do you believe in Him before I give you leave? This is indeed a plot you contrived in the city, in order to drive its people out. Now you shall know.
Pharaoh then describes what he will do to his magicians for switching their allegiance to Allah. The first time around, Pharaoh describes the punishment he will inflict on his magicians for abandoning the Gods of the Egyptians this way:
7:124 “I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides; then I will crucify you altogether.”
7:125 They said: “Unto our Lord we surely shall return.
7:126 "You only resent from us that we have believed in the Signs of our Lord when they came to us. Lord, grant us patience and let us die as men who submit to You."
In the next version of the meeting between Moses and Pharaoh, Allah is more specific as to the type and condition of the trees to be used in the crucifixion of the magicians.
20:71 He (Pharaoh) said: “Do you believe in him before I give you leave? It must be your chief who has taught you magic. I shall then cut your hands and feet on alternate sides, and I will crucify you upon the trunks of palm trees, and you will certainly know whose punishment is sterner and more lasting.”
20:72 They said: “We cannot prefer you to what came to us of clear proofs and to Him Who created us. So, decide what you will decide; you only decide regarding this present life.
20:73 “We have believed in our Lord, that He may forgive us our sins and what you forced us to practice of magic. Allah is best and most abiding.”
The third time around:
26:49 He (Pharaoh) said: “You have believed before I gave you leave. He (Moses) is indeed your chief, who taught you sorcery, and so you will learn. I shall cut off your hands and feet alternately and will crucify you all.”
The fourth time around Pharaoh won’t crucify his magicians, and his dignitaries appear to have switched sides as well. This time around, he simply wants his administrator, Haman, to build him a tower. The Tower of Babel perhaps?
28:38 Pharaoh then said: “O my dignitaries, I did not know that you had any god but me. So kindle for me, O Haman, a fire upon the clay and build me a tower that I might behold the God of Moses. I really think he is a liar.”
The fifth time around, the magicians may not be crucified but Pharaoh still wants his tower.
40:36 And Pharaoh said: “O Haman, build me a tower that I may perchance reach the pathways,
40:37 “The pathways of heaven; and then look upon the God of Moses. For I think he is a liar.” That is how embellished for Pharaoh was his evil deed and how he was barred from the Path. Pharaoh’s guile was only destined to fail.
Which recollection of the meeting between Moses and Pharaoh is the correct one? In three of the five recollections the magicians are put to death; in the other two, I have assumed that the magicians are not killed but are among the dignitaries who have also switched their allegiance to Allah, and who are asked to build the Tower of Babel or Babel-like tower.
The Plagues of Egypt
In the first account of the competition between Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians, the dignitaries want to know what Pharaoh will do about Moses and the Hebrews.
7:127 And the dignitaries among Pharaoh’s people said: “Will you leave Moses and his people to make mischief in the land and to abandon you and your gods?” He said: “We will massacre their sons, but spare their women, and over them we shall surely triumph.”
Exodus, on which the Koranic revelations pertaining to Moses appear to be drawn, Pharaoh has already done this i.e. the massacre of Hebrew sons from which Moses was saved by a princess of Pharaoh's household.
Moses tells his people to be patient, if anyone is to be massacred or made to suffer, it will not be them.
7:128 Moses said to his people: "Seek Allah's assistance and be patient; the earth is Allah's and He gives it to whomever of His servants he pleases; and for the righteous is the happy end."
7:129 They said: "We were persecuted before you came to us and after you came to us." He said: "Perchance your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you successors in the land and, then, observe what you will do."
Bring on the plagues! Except for perhaps an Egyptian deluge, and the slaughter of the Egyptian firstborn males, the Koran and the Bible are in basic agreement on the Plagues of Egypt, and that they were all God’s doing.
7:130 And We made Pharaoh and his people suffer from drought and shortage of fruits that perchance they may take heed.
7:131 So, when a good fortune came to them they said: “This is ours”, but if a misfortune befell them, they ascribed the evil omen to Moses and his companions. In fact, their omen is with Allah; but most of them do not know.
7:132 And they said: “Whatever sign you may bring us in order to cast a spell upon us, we will not believe in you.”
7:133 So, we let loose upon them the deluge, locust, lice, frogs and blood, as explicit signs; but they grew arrogant and were a sinful people.
Pharaoh's dignitaries agree to let the Hebrews leave if Moses can get his god to stop the scourge.
7:134 And when the scourge descended on them, they said: “O Moses, call upon your Lord for us in virtue of the covenant He made with you. If you lift the scourge from us, we will surely believe you and send forth the Children of Israel with you.”
They never learn!
7:135 But when We lifted the scourge from them for a period We accorded them, behold, their broke their pledge.
7:136 Then We exacted retribution from them and drowned them in the sea, because they denounced Our Signs and failed to pay heed to them.
The Pathetic Tenth
Of all the plagues of Egypt, the tenth plague is the most pathetic for it was not necessary.
In the Old Testament, God brags that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will not let the Israelites leave until He has completed all His “wonders”, the last of which is the mass murder of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, the firstborn sons of their servants and the firstborn of their livestock. Before sending Moses and Aaron to meet with Pharaoh, the Biblical God tells them not to expect Pharaoh to give in to His demands because He has hardened his heart.
Exodus: 7:1-4 The LORD answered Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your prophet. You must say whatever I command you; then Aaron your brother must declare it to Pharaoh so that he will let the Israelites go from his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh will not listen to you.
After the ninth plague (the three days of darkness) Pharaoh has had enough, and is prepared to let the Israelites go – minus their livestock – which means the Israelites will have difficulty in providing their God with His expected charred animal sacrifice. For a vain deity, this is justification for mass murder. He again hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
Exodus: 10:24-27 Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, "Go, worship the LORD. Even your families may go with you; only your flocks and your herds must stay behind." Moses responded, "You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to prepare for the LORD our God. Even our livestock must go with us; not a hoof will be left behind because we will take some of them to worship the LORD our God. We will not know what we will use to worship the LORD until we get there." But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he was unwilling to let them go.
The Prophet modelled his god on the Old Testament Yahweh, therefore, it is to be expected that extreme compassionless cruelty would be a trait shared by both self-proclaimed embodiment of compassion and mercy, with one significant difference.
Both Allah and Yahweh will harden the hearts to further their own objectives. Cynics might argue that hardening the hearts is just a pretence used by omnipotent deities when they can’t get people to do what is expected.
Allah will harden the hearts so that the person or persons He manipulates, when they die, end up in Hell, His personal torture chamber, where He can torment and do unspeakable things to them at His leisure. Yahweh hardens the heart of Pharaoh so that He will be allowed to complete His demonstration of His powers and to show, like Allah, how cruel and pitiless He can be when denied.
In the Koran, Allah takes obvious pleasure in what he will do to unbelievers when He finally gets His hands on them. Mass murder in the Bible is presented as what gods do to get their way, usually without revelling in it, and to get over it. Yahweh even expressed regret for one mass murder. In Genesis 8: 20-21, He promised Noah he would not do it again.
Allah’s Gift to the Jews
A verse as to who are the rightful owners of the Holy Land:
7:137 And We bequeathed to the people who were held to be weak the eastern and western parts of the land which we had blessed (the Holy Land); and the fairest Word of your Lord in regard to the Children of Israel was fulfilled, because of their endurance; and We destroyed the houses and towers which Pharaoh and his people were building.
Upon entering, what I assume is the Promised Land, the Children of Israel are so impressed by the gods of the people who live there that they ask Moses for a god other than Allah.
7:138 And We caused the Children of Israel to cross the sea, and they came upon a people devoted to idols of their own. They said: “O Moses, make us a god as they have gods of their own.” He said: “You are indeed an ignorant people.
7:139 “Surely what those [people] are engaged in is doomed to destruction, and what they are doing is a vanity.”
A reminder from Moses that they are Allah’s “chosen people”, followed by a reminder from Allah that it was He who brought them out of Egypt, not these other gods.
7:140 And he said: “Shall I seek for you a god other than Allah, Who has preferred you to all mankind?”
7:141 And [remember] how We delivered you from Pharaoh’s people who inflicted the worst punishment on you, killing your sons and sparing your women. In that was a grievous trial from your Lord.
In surah 44, The Smoke, Allah actually uses the word “chosen” when referring to the Jews i.e. Children of Israel.
44:30 And thus We saved the Children of Israel from the demeaning punishment;
44:31 From Pharaoh; for he was haughty and extravagant.
44:32 We have indeed chosen them knowingly, above all other peoples;
44:33 And given them many Signs wherein there was a manifest trial.
The Death of Pharaoh
Before we get to the death of Pharaoh, another account of Moses’ encounter with the Egyptian Sovereign. This retelling begins after Allah makes a general statement about all the Messengers He sent after Noah, but before Moses.
10:74 Then We sent forth after him (Noah) Messengers to their people. They brought them clear proofs; but they would not believe in what they had denied earlier. Thus do We seal the hearts of the aggressors.
10:75 Then We sent forth after them Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his dignitaries, with Our Signs, but they were arrogant; they were sinful people.
10:76 Then when the truth came to them from Us, they said: “This indeed is manifest sorcery.”
10:77 Moses said: “Do you say to the truth, when it has come to you: ‘This is sorcery?’ Sorcerers will never prosper.”
10:78 They said: “Have you come to us to turn us away from that (the faith) in which we found our fathers so that sovereignty may be yours (Moses and his brother), in the land? We shall not believe in you both. "
10:79 Then Pharaoh said: “Bring me every skillful magician.”
10:80 Then, when the magicians came, Moses said to them: “Cast down what you intend to cast down.”
10:81 Then, when they cast down, Moses said: “What you brought forward is real sorcery. Allah will bring it to naught. Allah indeed does not uphold the work of the mischief-makers.
10:82 “Allah vindicates the truth by His Words, even if the wicked sinners dislike it.”
10:83 And so only a handful of his people believed in Moses for fear that Pharaoh and his dignitaries would persecute them. Pharaoh was truly a tyrant in the land and one of the transgressors.
10:84 And Moses said: “O my people, if you believe in Allah, then in Him put your trust, if you submit [to Him].”
10:85 Whereupon they said: “In Allah we have put our trust. Our Lord, do not let us be tried by the wrongdoing people.
10:86 “And deliver us by Your Mercy from the unbelieving people.”
Allah, if He doesn’t like you, will make sure you never believe in Him. This is to ensure that you will end up in His Hell where He can torture you at His leisure. He will do this sometimes for his own benefit or as a favour; in this instance, as a favour to Moses who wants Pharaoh to burn in Hell.
The archaeological record (the Egyptians were real sticklers in accurately documenting the life and death of their Kings) and the Bible are in agreement: Rameses II died in his bed of natural causes. Allah would beg to differ, maybe?
In one verse, Allah appears to save Rameses II from drowning, revelation 10:92, as he is chasing Moses and the Israelites across the Red Sea, but not before advising Moses to invest in some Egyptian real estate: “Take for your people dwellings in Egypt”.
10:87 And we revealed to Moses and his brother: “Take for your people dwellings in Egypt and make your dwellings places of worship, perform the prayer and announce the good news to the believers.”
Moses, like all the other Messengers, will ask his Patron to do serious harm to his detractors; and like for all His Messengers, with the possible exception of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah will be happy to answer what He considers a prayer, revelation 10:89.
10:88 Moses then said: “Lord, you have given Pharaoh and his dignitaries adornment and wealth in the present life, with which they lead people away from Your Path. O Lord, obliterate their wealth and harden their hearts so that they will not believe, till they see the very painful punishment.”
10:89 He said: “Your prayer is answered; carry on both with your call and go straight, and do not follow the path of those who do not know.”
10:90 And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea. Pharaoh and his troops followed them insolently and aggressively; but when he was about to drown, he said: “I believe that there is no god but He in Whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of those who submit [to Allah].”
Whether Moses had time to establish what Moududi says were “congregational prayer houses”, revelation 10:87, before departing Egypt, even if Pharaoh had been willing to allow him to do so after all the plagues Allah visited on his Kingdom, and before He drowned him and his people is highly unlikely; unless, of course, Allah accepted Pharaoh’s late conversion, despite His promise to Moses in revelation 10:89? But then again, at that point in time, Moses and his people would have already left Egypt.
10:91 [It was said to him]: “Now [you believe]! But you disobeyed earlier and you were one of the mischief-makers.
10:92 “Today, then, We shall save you bodily, so you may become a sign to those who come after you. Indeed, many people are heedless of Our Signs.”
Did Allah really save Pharaoh from drowning? The answer is in another surah. First, the intriguing end to this account of Moses and Pharaoh and what happened next. In this reiteration, there appears to be no time spent in the desert; this is assuming that “the dignified domain” is not the arid Sinai in which the Jews wandered for 40 years.
10:93 And We have established the Children of Israel in a dignified domain and provided them with good things. Thus they did not differ among themselves until the certain knowledge came to them. Surely, your Lord shall judge between them on the Day of Resurrection regarding that about which they differed.
From Fakhry’s comments about the “commentators” Allah revealed this variation of the story of Moses and Pharaoh, and the aftermath, so that His Messenger could consult the Jews about its veracity if he doubted God’s version of events.
10:94 So, if you (the person addressed here, according to some commentators, is Muhammad) are in doubt concerning what We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Book (the Torah) before you. Indeed, the truth has come to you from your Lord; so do not be one of the doubters.
10:95 And do not be one of those who deny Allah’s revelations and thus become one of the losers.
So, did Allah drown Pharaoh? In revelation 17:103, He surely did!
17:101 And We gave Moses nine clear signs. Ask the Children of Israel, then, how, when he came to them and Pharaoh said to him: “I really think you are bewitched, O Moses.”
17:102 He (Moses) said: “You know that these [signs] have not been sent down by any one other than the Lord of the heavens and the earth as clear proofs, and I think that you, Pharaoh, are doomed.”
17:103 So, he wanted to scare them out of the land, but We drowned him, together with all those who were with him.
17:104 And after him, We said to the Children of Israel: “Dwell in the land, and when the promise of the Hereafter comes, We shall bring you all together.”
Moududi is not helpful in ascertaining why Allah would leave the impression that He wanted Moses and his people to settle in Egypt after making space for them by drowning Pharaoh and his people. He ignores the inconsistency, only to speculate that the message was a warning for the “mushriks” of Mecca (a mushriks is another derogatory term for those who associate other gods with Allah e.g. Christians):
This part of the story of Pharaoh has been related here because it applied exactly to the mushriks of Makkah who were doing their worst to uproot the Holy Prophet and the Believers from the land of Arabia. This story, so to say, tells them, "Pharaoh resolved to uproot Moses and the Israelites but was himself completely annihilated along with his followers and Moses and his followers settled down in the land. Likewise, if you persist on the same way, you will surely meet with the same end.
One final observation about Moses and Pharaoh. According to Allah, Pharaoh’s wife abandoned her husband for Him.
66:11 Allah has given as an instance of believers the wife of Pharaoh, when she said: “Lord, build for me, with You, a house in Paradise and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from the wrong-doing people.”
Pharaoh on Judgement Day
Pharaoh will be at the head of his people on Judgement Day, leading them into Hell.
11:96 And we have indeed sent Moses with Our Signs and a manifest authority,
11:97 To Pharaoh and his dignitaries; but they followed Pharaoh’s command, and Pharaoh’s command was not sound.
11:98 He shall be at the head of his people on the Day of Resurrection; thus he shall lead them into the Fire. How wretched is the place to which they will be led!
Not only that, drowned or not, they are still cursed in this life!
11:99 And they are followed in this life with a curse and on the Day of Resurrection too. Wretched is the support they shall be given!
The revelations about Pharaoh on Judgement Day end another series of verses where Allah brags about the cities He has destroyed, and that while His punishment is “painful and hard”, their inhabitants only have themselves to blame.
11:100 That is part of the tidings of the towns We recount to you; some of them are still standing and some We have reduced to rubble.
11:101 And We have not wronged them, but they have wronged themselves. Their deities, upon whom they called, apart from Allah, did not avail them anything when the Decree of your Lord came; but they only added to their destruction.
11:102 And such is your Lord’s punishment when He punishes the cities which are unjust. His punishment is indeed very painful, very hard.
11:103 There is surely in this a sign for him who fears the punishment of the Hereafter. That is a Day on which men will be gathered together, and that is a Day to be witnessed.
11:104 And We shall not delay it, but for an appointed term.
Egypt Changes Ownership
From Allah’s revisionist historical perspective, the Egyptians, after the Hebrews' departure, may not be the same people, revelation 44:28.
44:17 In fact, We have tried the people of Pharaoh before them, and a noble Messenger (Moses) came to them [saying]:
44:18 “Deliver to me Allah’s servants (the Children of Israel), for I am unto you a faithful Messenger.
44:19 “Do not rise arrogantly against Allah; for I come to you with manifest authority.
44:20 “I seek refuge with my Lord and your Lord, lest you stone me.
44:21 “And if you do not believe me, then leave me alone.”
44:22 Then he called out to his Lord: “These are indeed a criminal people.”
44:23 (Allah said): “Set out then, with My servants at night; for you are being followed.
44:24 “Leave the sea behind as still as ever; for they are a drowning host.”
44:25 How many gardens and well-springs did they leave behind?
44:26 And plantations and a noble station;
44:27 And prosperity which they thoroughly enjoyed.
44:28 So it was, and We bequeathed them to another people.
44:29 Neither the heavens nor the earth cried for them and they were given no respite.
44:30 And thus We saved the Children of Israel from the demeaning punishment;
44:31 From Pharaoh; for he was haughty and extravagant.
44:32 We have indeed chosen them knowingly, above all other peoples;
44:33 And given them many Sign wherein there was a manifest trial.
The Ten Commandments
An account of the life and times of Moses such as this would not be complete without mentioning the Ten Commandments. Yes, they are referenced in the Koran.
In the Bible, Moses spent, on one occasion, forty days and forty nights with God on Mount Sinai; in the Koran, in a revelation that seems intent on proving that the narrator can count, it is thirty nights plus ten nights at an unspecified location.
7:142 And We appointed to Moses thirty nights to which We added ten, and thus the term appointed by His Lord was forty nights. And Moses said to his brother Aaron: “Succeed me at the head of my people, set matters right and do not follow the path of the mischief-makers.”
In the Bible, it was a burning bush that did not burn and God showing him His back that impressed Moses; in the Koran, to impress Moses, Allah makes an entire mountain disappear.
7:143 And when Moses came on Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: “Lord, show me [Yourself] so that I may look at You.” He said: “You will not see Me; but look at the mountain. If it stays in its place, You shall see Me.” But when his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain, He levelled it to the ground, and Moses fell down unconscious. When he woke up, he said: “Glory be to You, I repent unto You and I am the first of the believers.”
7:144 Then He said: “O Moses, I have chosen you above all men for My Messages and My words; so take what I have given you and be one of the thankful.”
Unlike in the Bible, Allah offers no specifics as to what He has written on the tablets He gave to Moses. But He did take the time to give Moses a glimpse of what appears to be Hell, “the abode of the wicked” in the next revelation.
7:145 And We wrote for him in the Tablets (this is a reference to the tablets of the Torah) about everything, providing exhortation and a clear exposition of everything: “So [We said] take it resolutely and bid your people to take the best part of it. I will show you the abode of the wicked.
Allah also confided to Moses during the delivery of the Commandments that He deliberately leads astray the “unjustifiably arrogant” who deny “the truth of Our Signs”, and that whatever they do will be nullified on the day He never fails to mention on occasions of any significance, Judgement Day.
7:146 “I will turn away from My Signs those who are unjustifiably arrogant on earth, and who, if they see each sign, will not believe in it; and if they see the path of rectitude will not follow it, but if they see the path of error, will follow it as their path. That is because they denied the truth of Our Signs and failed to pay heed.
7:147 “Those who deny Our Signs and the Meeting of the Hereafter – their works are nullified. Will they be rewarded except according to what they do?”
Like in the Bible, when Moses returned with the Tablets he found his people worshipping a bejeweled representation of a calf, for which he blamed Aaron, and cast down the Tablets.
7:148 And the people of Moses took, after he went away, a calf made of their jewellery – a mere body which lowed. Did they not see that it did not speak to them and could not guide them to any path? They took it [for worship] and were wrongdoers.
7:149 And when they felt deep regret, and saw that they had gone astray, they said: “If our Lord will not have mercy on us and will not forgive us, we will certainly be among the losers.”
7:150 And when Moses returned to his people, angry and very sad, he said: “Evil is what you did following my departure. Were you in a hurry regarding your Lord’s Commandment?” He cast the Tablets down and took hold of his brother’s head, dragging him towards him. He (Aaron) said: “Son of my mother, the people deemed me weak and were about to kill me, so do not let the enemy rejoice at my plight, and do not reckon me one of the unjust people.”
Moses' plea for mercy for himself and his brother obviously fell on a receptive ear, but perhaps not the plea of people who expressed a “deep regret” for having worshipped a speechless, lifeless calf which could not offer any guidance.
7:151 He (Moses) said: “Lord, forgive me and my brother and admit us into Your Mercy; for you are the Most Merciful of all.”
7:152 Surely, those who worshipped the calf will be visited by wrath from their Lord and humiliation in the present life; and thus We recompense those who invent lies.
7:153 And those who perpetrated the evil deeds and repented thereafter and believed – surely your Lord is thereafter All-Forgiving and Merciful.
In the Bible, Moses smashes the Tablets in anger and has to make another trek up Mount Sinai to get a new set of instructions, but not in the Koran.
7:154 And when the anger of Moses abated, he took up the Tablets, in the text of which are guidance and mercy for those who fear their Lord.
In the Bible, the delivery of commandments is followed by another visit with God so that Moses can get His final written instructions as to how He is to be worshipped and the specifications for the accompanying paraphernalia e.g. the size of the altar, what the priests should wear etc. On this visit, Moses is accompanied by 70 elders who are told to stay at a discreet distance (Exodus 24:1). In the Koran, this story is just one more opportunity for Allah to remind the believers of His Might and that He is a god who does as He pleases.
7:155 And Moses chose from his people seventy men for Our appointed time. When the earthquake overtook them, he said: “Lord, had you pleased, You would have destroyed them, together with me, before this time. Will you destroy us for what the fools among us have done? This is only Your Trial, with which You lead astray whomever You will and guide whomever You will. You are our Protector; so forgive us and have mercy on us. You are the Best Forgiver of all.
7:156 “And ordain for us good in this world and in the Hereafter; we turn repentant to You.” He said: “I smite with my punishment whomsoever I please, and My Mercy encompasses all things; and I will ordain it to those who are pious and give the alms, and to those who believe in Our Signs.
The conveyance of the Ten Commandments was a watershed event for both Christians and Jews. This may explain Allah inserting His Greatest Prophet into His account of their delivery, "the unlettered Prophet" in the following verses:
7:157 “And to those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they find mentioned in the Torah and Gospel. He enjoins them to do good and to forbid evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and unlawful to them the impure things. And He relieves them of their heavy burden and the shackles that were upon them. Thus those who believe in him and who honour and support him and follow the light which has been sent down with him – those are the prosperous.”
7:158 Say: “O people, I am Allah’s Messenger to you all; He to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He gives life and causes to die; so believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet who believes in Allah and His Words; and follow him, that perchance you may be well guided.”
Allah has what we might diagnose as a short attention span, and what Justin Wintle author of History of Islam kindly describes as “jumping from one subject to another in a sort of unfurling stream of supra-consciousness”, a consciousness or awareness that is beyond our understanding. Then again, for Allah, the Commandments were important, but so were other things.
7:159 And of the people of Moses, there is a group who guide by the truth, and by it act justly.
7:160 And We divided them into twelve nation-tribes; and We revealed to Moses, when his people asked him for water: “Strike the rock with you staff”; whereupon twelve springs gushed forth from it, with each tribe recognizing its drinking place. And We spread the clouds over them to shade them and sent down upon them the manna and quails [saying to them]: “Eat from the good things We have provided for you.” They did not wrong us, but they wronged themselves.
The Never-Ending Punishment of the Jews
If only Allah had deigned to give us the time and place associated with the events He describes in the Koran it would have made it a lot easier to make sense of many of His Revelations.
When Jerusalem was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity, a “Fish Gate” was built into its wall (Nehemiah 3:3). While Jerusalem is not near any sea, this may be the gate and city Allah had in mind in the following verse. This assumption is further re-enforced by Allah’s revelation about His putting an end to miraculous fisheries on the Sabbath (verse 7:163).
7:161 And it was said to them: “Dwell in this city and eat from it whatever you please. Seek forgiveness and enter the gate prostrate, so that We may forgive your sins. We shall give more to the beneficent.”
One reason why the Torah and the Koran are not identical:
7:162 But the evildoers among them replaced what was said to them with other words; and so We sent upon them a punishment from heaven, on account of their wrongdoing.
The Torah, from the beginning, according to Allah, was the subject of controversy.
41:45 We have given Moses the Book, but it was the subject of controversy. Had it not been for a Word that preceded from your Lord, a decision between them would have been made. Yet they are, with respect to it, in disquieting doubt.
Moududi’s comments (partial):
It has two meanings' (1) If Allah had not already decreed that the people would be given enough respite for consideration the disputants would have long been destroyed; (2) if Allah had not already decreed that the disputes would finally be decided on the Day of Judgement, the reality would have been made plain as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong.
The wrongdoing, in this instance, was for violating the Sabbath:
7:163 And ask them about the city which stood close to the sea, when they violated the Sabbath. Their fish which used to come floating on the sea on the Sabbath did not appear when they violated the Sabbath. Thus We tried them because they transgressed.
The previous revelation is said to be based on Jeremiah 17:21-7 and Ezekiel 20:12-24. The people allegedly punished remain a mystery, as the Torah, the usual inspiration for this type of story makes no mention of those who may have been deliberately exposed to Allah’s Wrath.
7:164 And when one group of them said: “Why do you exhort a people whom Allah has doomed to destruction or to a terrible punishment?”, they replied: “As an excuse for your Lord, and that perchance they may fear God.”
7:165 Then, when they neglected what they were reminded of, We saved those who were forbidding evil and inflicted upon the wrongdoers a terrible punishment, on account of their sinfulness.
7:166 Then, when they disdained arrogantly what they were forbidden, We said to them: “Be miserable monkeys.”
7:167 Thereupon your Lord made it known that He would send against them one who would inflict on them the worst punishment until the Day of Resurrection. Your Lord is Quick in Retribution, and He is indeed All-Forgiving, Merciful.
Abul A’la Moududi commentary on revelation 7:167:
Since the 8th century B.C. the Israelites were warned consistently. This is borne out by the contents of the Books of the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and their successors. Jesus too administered the same warning which is borne out by many of his orations in the New Testament, This was also later confirmed by the Qur'an. History bears out the veracity of the statement made both in the Qur'an and the earlier scriptures. For throughout history, since the time the Jews were warned, they have continually been subjected to abject persecution in one part of the world or another.
The remainder of these somewhat disjointed mystifying revelations about the alleged sins of the Jews which compelled Allah to “inflict on them the worst punishment until the Day of Resurrection.”
7:168 And We split them up throughout the land into groups, some of them righteous and some otherwise. Then We tried them with prosperity and adversity that perchance that they might desist [from sinning].
7:169 Then there succeeded them [an evil] posterity who inherited the Book (the Torah), but chose the vanities of this world saying: “We shall be forgiven.” And should similar vanities come their way, whey would again seize them. Are they not bound by them. Are they not bound by the covenant of the Book, that they should not say about Allah except the truth? They studied what is in it and the world to come is better for those who fear God. Do they not understand?
7:170 As for those who hold fast to the Book and perform the prayer – surely We do not dissipate the reward of the righteous.
Allah ends this series of revelations ostensibly about the creation of the first “Jewish State” and the aftermath, with a reminiscence of his mountain-lifting exploit.
7:171 And [remember] when We raised the mountain over them, as though it was a canopy; and they thought that it was about to fall down on them. Hold on firmly to what We have given you, and remember what is in it, that perchance you may be God-fearing.
He will return to the story of the post-Moses Israelites in surah 7 with the story of Balaam and the lesson to be learned. The Jews consider Balaam a gentile prophet sent by the King of Moab to curse (but reconsiders) the Israelites shortly before the death of Moses (Numbers 22-24).
7:175 And tell them [O Muhammad] about the man (Balaam) to whom We gave our revelations, but he renounced them and was followed by the Devil. Thus he became one of those condemned to perdition.
7:176 And had We pleased, We would have elevated him through them (the revelations), but he clung to earth and followed his fancy. His case is similar to that of a dog; if you attack it, it will pant, and if you leave it, it will pant too. Such are those who deny our Revelations. So relate to them these narratives, that per chance they may reflect.
7:177 How evil is the example of the people who deny Our Revelations. They only wrong themselves.
7:178 Whomever Allah guides is well-guided; and whomever He leads astray – those are the losers.
The Promised Land
Moses at the Gates
5:20 And when Moses said to his people: “O my people, remember Allah’s grace upon you, how He raised up Prophets among you, made you kings and gave you what He has not given any other nations.
5:21 “My people, enter the Holy Land which Allah ordained for you (that you should enter), and do not turn back, lest you become losers.”
5:22 They said: “O Moses, there is in it a mighty people; we shall not enter it until they leave it. If they leave it, then we shall enter.”
5:23 Two men of those who feared [Allah] and whom Allah favoured said: “Enter the gate and [fall] upon them; if you enter it, you will be victorious. In Allah put your trust, if you are true believers.”
5:24 They said: “O Moses, we shall never enter it, so long as they are in it. So, go forth, you and your Lord, and fight; we are staying put here.”
5:25 He said: “Lord, I have no power over anybody other than myself and my brother; so separate us from the ungodly people."
5:26 Allah said: “It shall be forbidden them (the Promised Land) for forty years, during which they shall wonder aimlessly in the land; so do not grieve for the ungodly people!”
The Promise and the Threat
14:19 Do you not see that Allah created the heavens and the earth in truth? If He pleases He will destroy you and bring forth a new creation.
14:20 And that is not a difficult matter for Allah.
14:6 And when Moses said to his people: “Remember Allah’s favour to you, when He delivered you from Pharaoh’s people who were inflicting upon you the worst punishment, slaughtering yours sons and sparing your women. In that, there was truly a great trial from your Lord.”
14:7 [Remember] when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will increase you; but if you disbelieve, My punishment is certainly severe.”
14:8 And Moses said: “If you are thankless, together with everyone on earth, surely Allah is all sufficient, Praiseworthy.
14:9 “Have you not heard the story of those who preceded you – the People of Noah, of ‘Ad and Thamud, and those who came after them, whom none but Allah knows? Their Messengers came to them with the clear proofs, but they put their hands in their mouths saying: “We disbelieve in what you have been sent forth with, and we are certainly in disturbing doubt regarding what you are calling to us.”
14:10 Their Messengers said: “Is there any doubt about Allah, Maker of the heavens and the earth? He calls you that He may forgive you some of your sins and reprieve you until an appointed term.” They said: “You are only humans like ourselves; you want to turn us away from what our fathers worshipped. Bring us then a manifest authority.”
14:11 Their Messengers said to them: “We are only humans like yourselves. However, Allah bestows His Grace on whom He pleases of His servants. It is not in our power to bring you an authority, save by Allah’s Leave; and in Allah let the believers put their trust.
14:12 “And why should we not put our trust in Allah, when He has guided us on our ways? We will surely endure patiently the harm you cause us; and in Allah let those who trust put their trust.”
14:13 The unbelievers said to their Messengers: “We will certainly expel you from our land, unless you return to our religion.” Then their Lord revealed to them: “We shall destroy the wrongdoers.
14:14 “And We will make you dwell in the land after them. That is for him who fears My presence and fears My threats.”
14:15 And they called [on their Lord] for help, and every stubborn tyrant was disappointed.