|Prophet Moses (AS) - Part 1|
THE STORY OF THE ISRAELITES
As we saw in Prophet Joseph's (AS) story, when his brothers recognised him, he ordered them to return to Canaan to bring the whole family back to him. So Jacob (AS) and his family went to Egypt. Joseph (AS) asked the king to grant them a fertile land where they could settle with their sheep and camels, and engage themselves in farming and raising animals. It is believed that Joseph ‘P.B.UH) requested this land in order to prevent, as much as possible, the offspring of Jacob (P.B.UH) from mingling with the Egyptians, who were idolaters. In this manner, he hoped to protect their monotheistic religion.
Jacob (AS) and his offspring settled in the land that the king of Egypt had granted them and began a new life there. According to the Old Testament, at that time, the number of Israelites was seventy persons, and increasing day by day. After residing in that land for seventeen years, Jacob (AS) passed away. As was his will, Jacob's (AS) body was carried to Palestine and buried there.
After Jacob's (AS) death, the Israelites came under the guardianship of Joseph (P.B U.H.)As their population increased, they occupied more lands in the area. However, the Israelites did not remain in peace and comfort for long because after Joseph (AS) died, the times were changed.
The Pharaohs who came to power after the death of Joseph (AS), were worried about the large number of Israelites, and they feared that the Israelites would unite with the enemies of Egypt and rise in revolt against them. So the Pharaohs gradually cut them off from important positions and began to kill, torment and scatter them; they allowed all manner of disrespect and molestation of them.
The Pharaoh in whose time Moses (AS)was born, was more arrogant and more eager for superiority than the others. As soon as he came to power and saw that the people speak of worshipping God, he claimed superiority, saying, "I am God on earth. I am-the Lord and master of you all. The command is my command".
A group of flattering and ignorant people gathered around Pharaoh and began honouring him in order to benefit from his power.
The Israelites, however, did not submit to Pharaoh's pretension, because they worshipped the One and Only God. For this reason, Pharaoh increased the persecution and molestation of the Israelites. He killed their babies and sought to annihilate them all. He ordered that all the arduous and toilsome jobs be turned over to them. He assigned some agents to engage them in continuous work and to not permit them, even for a moment, peace and rest. Whenever a servant was needed for base and toilsome labour, they chose one from among the Israelites. Every low and difficult job was forced on the Israelite men and women, including the preparation of the soil for farming and cultivation. These insults, torments and tortures are mentioned in numerous chapters (suras) of the Holy Qur'an. One of the bounties that God bestowed on the Israelites was rescuing them from those intolerable conditions.
PHARAOH'S MOTIVE FOR THIS HARSH TREATMENT
One night, Pharaoh dreamed that a fire came from the direction of Jerusalem and surrounded the houses of the Egyptians and Coptics; it burned and destroyed them all, but did not damage any of the houses of the Israelites.
The next morning, Pharaoh summoned astrologers, sorcerers and dream-interpreters. He narrated his dream to them and asked them to interpret it. They told him, "From among the Israelites, a child will be born who will cause your downfall; the time of his birth is at hand." Upon hearing this, Pharaoh summoned all the midwives of Egypt and commanded them to kill all the baby boys born among the Israelites, but to spare the lives of the baby girls. In order to enforce his command, he assigned some agents to oversee this job.
THE BIRTH OF MOSES (AS)
Imran was an Israelite man who was a descendant of Prophet Jacob (AS); he worshipped God. He lived in Egypt, and earned his living by raising animals. Imran's wife became pregnant with Moses (AS).
With each passing day, the birth of the saviour of the Israelites drew closer; however, by the will of God, no one realised that Imran ‘s wife was pregnant. On the night that Moses was born, nobody was aware of his birth except his sister.
Moses' mother secretly suckled her child until she feared lest the agents should become aware because of the baby's cry and kill him. She and her family gave this matter much thought. At last, God inspired her to put her child in a chest and release it on the river Nile; to entrust him to God and to be sure that God would protect him. So, Moses' mother wrapped him in a piece of cloth and placed him in a chest. In the cover of darkness, she went to the bank of the river Nile and released the chest on the river. The river's waves carried the chest away and Moses' mother watched with anxiety; she appealed to God to help her baby.
Nobody can exactly imagine the emotions of this mother in these sensitive moments, but the Persian poetess, Parvin Etesami, has, to an extent, brought this scene to life in her beautiful, sentimental poem:
When Moses' mother, Moses into the Nile threw, For the glorious Lord had ordered her to,
From the riverside, with grief, she did stare; "O, my little innocent babe", she did declare,
"If the Mercy of the Lord, you forgets, How will you be saved from this boat, pilotless?
"If the Immaculate God remembers you not, The water will suddenly put you to nought."
Inspiration came, "What a wrong thought! Our wayfarer already home We've brought.
"That which you threw, We caught; The Hand of Truth you saw, but knew not.
"Within you is but motherly love and affection; Justice and Kindness from Our direction.
"Don't lose your calm, jest is not God's way; We will return that which We carried away."
MOSES IN THE PALACE OF PHARAOH
Pharaoh had a wife named Asieh who worshipped God, but hid her faith. She had no children. One spring she asked Pharaoh to erect a pavilion in the bank of the river Nile in order to enjoy the spring weather on the riverside. Pharaoh ordered that a pavilion be built, and he and Asieh stayed there.
One day Asieh was looking at the beauty of the river Nile when suddenly she caught sight of a chest which was being carried along by the water. She called upon some servants to get the chest from the water. When they opened the chest, they saw a fair baby therein. Upon seeing the baby, Pharaoh's wife was filled with love for him. She took him out of the chest, put him in her lap and said, "This is my son". Asieh took the baby to Pharaoh and asked him not to kill the baby; rather, to adopt him as his child.
Pharaoh said, "/o woman! I fear that this child is the very person whom we are afraid of. Let's kill him and put our worries to rest." Asieh replied, "Don't fear. Isn't it a pity that all the people have a child while you, with all this glory and power, have none? The water has brought this child as a gift for us. We can adopt him as our own child and educate him however we wish."
Pharaoh grudgingly accepted. They named the child Moses and sought a wet nurse to feed him. Several women volunteered to feed Moses, but he would not take any breast and would not drink milk.
Meanwhile, Moses' mother had sent her daughter after Moses to - see what would happen to him. She secretly watched, and Pharaoh's people did not notice her. When she saw that Pharaoh's agents were looking for a wet nurse for Moses (AS), she came forward and said, "May I show you a family who can nurse him for you with kindness?"
They accepted and Moses' mother went to Pharaoh's palace. They brought the baby to her, and she took him into her arms. She began feeding him, and the baby drank with complete delight.
GOD'S PROMISE FULFILLED
When Pharaoh's wife saw that the baby accepted the woman's milk, she asked Pharaoh to provide a salary for the woman - who was, in fact, Moses' mother - so that she would stay in their palace to feed and care for the baby. Moses' mother, who had become assured of the promise of God at the sight of her child, declined to stay in the palace. She told them, "I have a husband and children; I can't leave my home and husband and children in order to nurture this baby. If you wish, I will take the baby to my home and care for him there."
Pharaoh's wife agreed; so, although Pharaoh was against her being wet nurse for the baby, Moses' mother brought her beloved child home and, with peace of mind, began caring for him.
Days and months passed and Moses (AS)grew in the lap of his mother and brightened the life of his family. During this time, Moses (AS)wa5 sometimes taken to Pharaoh's palace so that they could see him. And so it was until Moses' period of nursing was over and he was taken back to Pharaoh's palace.
RETURN TO PHARAOH'S PALACE
It was the will of Almighty God that Moses (AS) be raised in the home of his worst enemy - the enemy who, in order to annihilate Moses (AS), had slaughtered thousands of innocent babies and had ripped the stomachs of pregnant women. So Moses (AS.) was again taken to Pharaoh's palace, and Pharaoh's wife, with the deep affection for Moses (AS.) that God had put into her heart, became in charge of his guardianship and education. So Moses passed the first days of his childhood in comfort and riches in the home of his worst enemy.
In Pharaoh's palace, Moses (AS) was respected and cherished by Pharaoh's family and companions. But Moses (AS) always tried to make his presence in Pharaoh's court beneficial to the Israelites; he was always kind to slaves, and promised to rescue them.
When Moses (AS) became matured and grew to manhood, God, the High, granted him wisdom; thus, Moses was rewarded by God for his good deeds.
WHY MOSES LEFT EGYPT?
From the prophecies that their ancestors had handed down to them about the advent of Moses (AS) and from the signs that they saw in him, the Israelites little by little came to know that the time of their affliction and wretchedness was drawing to an end. They came to know that, God, the High, has willed to deliver them from under the yoke of the oppression and torture of Pharaoh's people and the Coptics by way of Moses (AS) - the very same strong, brave young man who grew up in Pharaoh's palace. For this reason, whenever the Israelites saw Moses (AS), they honoured him and related their sufferings to him, asking him for help. On various occasions, Moses (AS) went to the Israelites and made them hopeful about the future. Whenever he found an opportunity, he would take action in their support and remove aggression from them.
One day as Moses (AS) was walking around the city, far from the sight of Pharaoh's agents, he saw an Israelite-who was fighting with a Coptic. The Coptic was trying to impose a job on the Israelite and wanted to force him to do it. The Israelite did not want to do the job, so they were fighting. When the Israelite caught sight of Moses (P.B.UH., he called on him to help. Moses (AS) went forth to prevent the Coptic from coercing and oppressing others. The Coptic resisted; so, in defence of the Israelite, Moses (AS) struck him in the chest. The Coptic fell to the ground and died.
Moses (AS) was full of regret and repentance. He prayed, "O my Lord! I have wronged my soul. Forgive me!" And God forgave him. Moses (AS) said, "O Lord! Because you have bestowed Your Grace on me, I shall never be a help to those who sin.
Worried and frightened, Moses (AS) passed the night in a haven. In the meantime, the story of the killing of the Coptic man spread through the city. Everyone knew that he was killed by an Israelite, but no one knew who the killer was - except the Israelite man whom Moses (AS) had helped. The news of the killing of the Coptic also reached Pharaoh, and he scattered a number of agents around the city to find the killer.
The next morning, Moses (AS) was walking around the city in fear lest he should be recognised and arrested. Suddenly, he saw the same Israelite fighting with another Coptic. Moses (AS), upset about the incident of the day before, reproached the Israelite, saying, "It is clear that you are truly a quarrelsome person!"
When Moses (AS) went forward to lay hold of the Coptic, the Israelite, imagining that Moses intended to punish him, became frightened and said, "Do you want to kill me as you killed that man yesterday? Your intention is none other than to become a tyrant in the land, and not to be one who sets things right!"
The Coptic then understood that Moses (AS.) was the killer that they were looking for, and he informed Pharaoh's agents, who tried to find and arrest him. At this time, Pharaoh's treasurer, who believed in God and worshipped Him in secret, went to Moses and said, "O Moses, the chiefs are taking counsel together about you to slay you. I sincerely advise you to leave the city."
MOSES' DEPARTURE FROM EGYPT
Moses (AS) left the city with fear and anxiety; he asked God to help him and protect him from the unjust people. For a person like Moses (AS), who had never travelled, this Journey was very difficult. Besides this, he did not even have any provisions with himself. He began walking, not knowing which way to go, until by the help of God, he set out in the route which led to the city of Midian. Moses (AS)walked for several days and lived on desert herbs until, wearied and fatigued, he arrived at the city gates of Midian. Near a well, he rested under a tree.
While resting, Moses (AS) saw a group of people gathered around the well drawing water for their sheep. He saw two women who were standing aside with their sheep, waiting for the men to finish watering; then, if any water remained at the bottom of the watering hollow, they would water their own sheep. When all the men had watered their sheep and gone from the well, no water remained in the hollow. The two women were standing, perplexed; they were not strong enough to draw water for their sheep. Moses' sense of honour and feeling for protecting the weak did not allow him to sit by and watch. Although he was exhausted, he went forth, drew water from the well, and watered the women's sheep. Then he returned to his place. Overcome by hunger, he said, "0 Lord, truly I am in need of any good that You send me!"
The two women were Prophet Shu'aib's daughters. When they returned home, they told their father about the kindness of Moses ‘PB.U.H.). Shu'aib told one of-them, "Bring that man to me so that I may reward him for his good deed."
The girl went to Moses (AS) and said, "My father has invited you and wants you to go to see him." Moses (AS) accepted Shu'aib'5 invitation and set out. The girl was walking in front, and Moses (AS) was following. After going a few steps, Moses (AS) said, "I will go in front; you come behind me and tell me which way to go."
Guided by the girl, Moses (AS) arrived at Shu'aib'5 house. Shu'aib ordered that food be brought. Then he asked Moses (AS) out himself and Moses narrated his story. Shu'aib consoled him and said, "Do not be afraid. Now you are secure from the unjust people."
Upon hearing Moses' life story and seeing his virtues and good manners, Shu'aib wished to somehow keep Moses (AS) with himself and to make use of him in the supervision of his wealth. He consulted his older daughter, Zipporah, about the matter; she encouraged him to do so. Therefore, Shu'aib told Moses (AS), "I want to marry one of my daughters to you, provided that you serve me for eight years; but if you serve for ten years, it will be a grace from you. But I do not want to place you under a difficulty. God willing, you will find me a righteous person."
Moses (AS) accepted Shu'aib's offer and said, "Let it be a binding contract between you and I: whichever of the two terms I fulfil, let there be no ill-will to me. God be a witness to what we say." Thus, Moses (AS) married the daughter of Shu'aib, and with complete sincerity, began serving Shu'aib.
As Moses (AS) had promised, he stayed with Shu'aib for ten years. When the ten years were over, he told Shu'aib, "I must return to my own country and visit my mother, brother and family". Shu'aib agreed to Moses' return and gave him a number of sheep and the rod' which he had inherited from his forebears. Moses (AS), with his wife and sheep, set out for Egypt.
THE TUR VALLEY
Fearing lest he should be captured by the rulers of Syria, Moses (AS) took a by-way, trying to stay away from cities and towns. On a cold winter night, they lost their way; perplexed, they remained where they were. The desert in which they had stopped was the Desert of Tur which lies south of Jerusalem.
Moses (AS) tried to find a fire from which to get an ember. He was looking all around when suddenly he saw a fire in the direction of Mount Tur. He said to his family, "Wait here. I see a fire. I hope to bring you some news from there, or a burning ember so that you may warm yourselves."
Moses (AS) then went hastily toward the fire. When he approached it, a voice was heard from the right side of the valley, from a flaming tree, saying, "0 Moses! Verily I am your Lord. Take off your shoes; you are in the holy valley of Tuwa. I have chosen you as my Messenger. Listen, then, to the revelation: I am God; there is no God but I. So, worship only Me and establish regular prayer for remembrance of Me." Then God said, "O Moses, what is in your right hand?" Moses (AS) replied, "It is my rod." God said, "Throw it, 0 Moses."
Moses (AS) threw it and suddenly he saw that it was a serpent in motion. God said, "Seize it and do not fear; We will return it to its original form." Then He said, "Now place your hand into the clothes at your bosom; it will come forth white and shining without harm, as another sign to show you two of Our greater signs. Go to Pharaoh, for he has transgressed all bounds."
Moses (AS) said, "O my Lord! I have slain a man among them, and fear lest they slay me. My brother Aaron is more eloquent in speech than I, so send him with me as a helper to confirm and strengthen me; for I fear that they may accuse me of falsehood."
God said, " We will certainly strengthen you through your brother, and grant you both with authority so they shall not dare to touch you. With Our signs, you shall triumph: you two as well as those who follow you."
In this way, Moses (AS) was appointed as a Prophet of God, and, for the first time, he spoke with God; thus, he was called "Kalim-ollah", the one who speaks with God.
FULFILLING THE DIVINE MISSION
After receiving the Divine mission, Moses (AS) returned to his wife and, after a few days, sent her and his new-born baby back to Midian; he headed for Egypt. Moses (P.B.UH) recounted the command of God to Aaron. So, Moses (AS) and Aaron, encouraged by the promise of God, prepared themselves and, with an iron will, headed for Pharaoh's palace. With reliance on God, they entered the palace and met with Pharaoh.
Pharaoh was surprised to see Moses (AS), and asked, "What do you want and why have you come here?" Moses (AS) replied, "My brother and I are prophets and we have come, by the order of God, to invite you and your nation to desist from your improper claim; to leave off worshipping idols; and to worship the Wise, Great, and Unique God. Also, you must release the Israelites from slavery and the yoke of oppression and tyranny."
Pharaoh was surprised to hear this, and said, "Didn't we cherish you as a child among us, and didn't you stay in our midst many years of your life? And when you killed that Coptic man, you escaped from here. Now you have come to invite us to worship the ‘Unique God' among the gods of Egypt."
Moses (AS) replied, "The Unique and Powerful God is he who created the Universe, the earth and sky, human beings and all creatures. In His hand are life and death."
"As for the day that I killed the Coptic, I wasn't aware of what the result of my action would be, and my Lord forgave me because the cause of that incident was the oppression which you permitted against the Israelites." Pharaoh was perplexed by Moses answer and asked him to present a clear proof of his Prophethood. Moses (AS) said, "My proof is in my hand; this is a sign of the power of the Great God." Then he threw his rod to the ground. The rod turned into a huge serpent. Pharaoh and those around him became terrified. Moses (AS) caught the serpent and it turned back into the same rod. Then he said, ‘This is another sign," and he drew his hand out from his bosom; a light glowed from it that dazzled the eyes.
All those present were astounded; they were seeing things that they had never seen before. Pharaoh was greatly afraid, and did not know what to do in the face of these miracles. Those around Pharaoh, who saw their Lord so weak and overpowered, told him, "Hold Moses and his brother off for a while, and send some men to the cities to collect and bring all the skilful sorcerers to you."
Pharaoh told Moses (AS), "Have you come to drive us out of our land with your magic? But we can surely produce magic to match yours! So make a contest between us and you - which we shall not fail to keep - at an appointed time and place." Moses (AS) accepted and set the day of the contest with Pharaoh's sorcerers for the Festival Day. Pharaoh, without delay, sent agents all over his country to bring the skilful sorcerers.
THE ASSEMBLY OF SORCERERS
On the appointed day, a large number of skilful sorcerers gathered in Pharaoh's court. Pharaoh encouraged them, promising that he would reward them well if they won the contest with Moses (AS). Then Moses and Aaron entered and Pharaoh said, "O Moses, that day you performed some acts and considered them as a sign of your Prophethood, while my slaves and servants can also do such acts; you cannot deceive people in this way."
Moses (AS) replied, "God, the Great, has chosen me as a prophet, and no one can fight the Will of God." Pharaoh said, " We shall try. People have intelligence and will understand everything." Moses (AS) replied, "Yes, if the people did not have intelligence, they would not have responsibility either." Then, at Pharaoh's command, the sorcerers gathered and brought forward the devices which they had prepared. They said, "O Moses, will you begin, or shall we begin?"
Moses (P.B.UH) replied, "You begin." Upon hearing this, the sorcerers said, "By the might of Pharaoh, it is we who will certainly win," and they set into motion a multitude of magic tricks which were very astonishing for the people; sticks and ropes turned into serpents and began jumping and leaping. This bizarre spectacle bewitched the people's eyes and struck terror in their hearts.
Then Moses (AS) declared, "Now behold the Power of God, "and threw his rod to the ground. The rod turned into a great serpent, swallowed up all their magic tricks, and attacked the people around Pharaoh. Moses (AS) reached out and caught hold of the serpent, and it turned back into a rod.
At this time, an uproar arose from the people. The sorcerers fell down in prostration, saying, "We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron." Thus, the sorcerers were the first people to believe, and they confessed their incapability and weakness in the face of the Power of God.
Pharaoh was enraged by this event. In order to cover up his defeat and helplessness, he furiously said to the sorcerers, "Do you believe in him before I permit you? Surely he was your master and has taught sorcery to you!"
Pharaoh threatened them with the most terrifying tortures, but they said in reply to Pharaoh, "Never will we prefer you to these miracles, which have been sent for us, and the God Who has created us. So decree whatever you desire to decree; you can only decree as regards to the life of this world. As for us, we will return to our Lord!"
Pharaoh ordered that they all be arrested and thrown into prison, and that the Israelites be treated more severely. And, he said, "I will think of something for destroying Moses!"
Prophet Moses (AS) - Part 2
THE CONSULTATIVE MEETING
So, Pharaoh summoned a few of his intimates - including Haman, the minister, and Hezghil, the treasurer - and held a consultative meeting to decide about Moses (AS).
Hezghil was one of Pharaoh's relatives and was a learned and truthful man whom Pharaoh respected and consulted on important affairs. He believed in Moses' prophethood - and was later called "The believer of the family of Pharaoh" - but he hid his belief in order to be able to make Pharaoh accept his sensible ideas.
At the consultative meeting, Haman said, "In my opinion, Moses must be destroyed as soon as possible; because, in this way, with each passing day, the people's belief in idols and in Pharaoh weakens; in the future, the followers of Moses will be dangerous for us.''
Hezghil said, "In my opinion, harming loses is a difficult task; if Moses is truthful in is claim and has a connection with the God of the heavens like Noah and other prophets, when it is not possible to oppose him." The consultative meeting did not result in my conclusion, but Haman formed a grudge against Hezghil. He instigated some people to take accusations against Hezghil in front of Pharaoh, saying, "Hezghil encourages people to oppose you and to cooperate with your enemies.
Pharaoh summoned a group of prominent men of his land, and dragged Hezghil to trial. He said, "I have heard that you believe in the God of Moses and have denied my divinity." Hezghil replied, "Have you ever heard me say?" Pharaoh said, "No, I haven't." Hezghil said, "Do you believe that whatever I say is the truth?" Pharaoh said, "Yes, I do." Hezghil said, "Now ask those present who their Lord is."
They replied, "Pharaoh is our Lord, and it is he who keeps evil away from us." Hezghil said, "O Pharaoh, you and all those present be witness that their Lord is my Lord, and their Provider is my Provider. I don't have any lord, provider and creator besides theirs; and I hate all lords, providers and creators besides theirs.''
By way of this discretion, Hezghil did not lie and was safe from the evil of Pharaoh. Pharaoh ordered that all the accusers of Hezghil be severely punished. However, Hezghil's wife and Pharaoh's wife were later harshly punished and martyred when their secret of worshipping God was discovered and they didn't abandon their faith.
Apart from Pharaohs relatives and intimates who had believed in Moses, a large group of the Israelites, especially their youth, believed in Moses, and thereby added to Pharaoh's worry and annoyance. Pharaoh was continuously consulting with his intimates and advisors about Moses. Sometimes they would incite him, saying, "You have allowed Moses and his followers to do corruption in the land." Thus they would obtain permission to kill the Israelite men, and they would do so. But since these massacres were unable to prevent the progress of Moses (AS)and the religion of God, they would again complain to Pharaoh, provoking him to kill Moses (AS).
Meanwhile, the Israelites, wearied from the intensity of the pressure of persecution complained to Moses (AS), saying, "Before you came, we were tormented and tortured, and now that you came, we are still ensnared. So, when will the promise of our release be fulfilled?"
Moses (AS), according to the Divine order, told them, "Pray to God for help, and wait in patience and constancy. It may be hoped that your Lord will destroy your enemies and replace them with you."
Day by day, Pharaoh's worry severely increased; so, he increased his tyranny and oppression. Pharaoh's people, following the example of their tyrant ruler, did not neglect to inflict any kind of torture and torment on the Israelites, cornering them from all directions.
God inflicted Pharaoh's nation with years of drought and shortages in food. But, they would always ascribe their well - being to themselves and their misfortunes to Moses (AS). They said, "Whatever signs you bring to bewitch us with, we shall never believe in you!"
So, God sent plagues on them: widespread death, locusts, lice, frogs, and blood.' When the torment would strike them, they would say, "Pray for us to your Lord through your covenant with Him. If He removes the torment from us, we shall certainly believe in you and permit the Israelites to leave." However, whenever the torment was removed from them, they would again break their promise. And thus it continued until the day arrived that Israelites be saved.
Moses (AS) was commissioned by God to take the Israelites out of Egypt and go toward Palestine. Moses (AS) gave glad tidings to the Israelites, saying, "The day of rescue has arrived; no longer are you the slaves of Pharaoh's people or the Coptics. Everybody be ready to leave Egypt on an appointed day; whoever is with us will be saved, and whoever helps Pharaoh's people will be annihilated." So, the Israelites became prepared and, at the order of Moses (AS), left Egypt on a dark night, setting out for the Holy Land.
News reached Pharaoh that the Israelites had emigrated from Egypt, taking whatever they could with themselves. Therefore, Pharaoh ordered that the army be mobilised: he gathered his forces and followers, and began pursuing Moses (AS) and the Israelites. Pharaoh's army was several times larger than the number of the Israelites.
The path that Moses' followers took, led to the sea. They were aware of Pharaoh's power and the great size of his army, and knew that they did not have the power to face them; so, terrified, they went to Moses (AS) and said, "We will soon be attacked by Pharaoh's army, and we will all be killed by them." Moses (AS), with a calm heart and a strong morale, told them, "Never will this occur. My Lord is with me and will guide me." Those of little faith gathered around Moses (AS) and repeated reproachingly, "O Moses, what has happened to the promise of victory that you gave us? The sea is before us, and the enemy behind. If we remain here, we will be slain by Pharaoh's army.''
Moses (AS) replied, "Whatever I do is by the command of God, and God is the Most Able. We will now pass through the sea and none of us will be drowned."
MOSES' FOLLOWERS SAVED
At this time, by the command of God, Moses (AS) struck his miraculous rod to the sea. Suddenly, the sea split, and the waters piled up like walls on two sides, forming a passage of dry ground. Moses' companions happily passed through the sea and stepped out onto the opposite shore. When they looked back, they saw that Pharaoh and his army were preparing to pass through the sea; this caused them concern again and they raised their hands in supplication toward the Divine court to seek the help of God.
When Pharaoh reached the edge of the sea and saw that the sea had split and a passage was open in front of him, on his horse, he entered the passage through the sea; his army followed him, pouring into the passage. Suddenly, the piled up waters poured onto them, and soon Pharaoh and his people had plunged to the bottom of the sea and were drowned. A short while later, the water threw Pharaoh's lifeless body onto the shore. With this occurrence, all who helped Pharaoh were destroyed; those who were less guilty, remained in Egypt and understood that Pharaoh's claim was false. Since they were relieved of the oppression of Pharaoh and those around him, they began a new life under the guidance of Hezghil.
After the drowning of Pharaoh and his people, Moses (AS), by the command of God, took the Israelites and, continuing on the journey to Palestine, entered the Sinai Desert.
THE DISOBEDIENCE OF THE ISRAELITES
Since God had sent them a prophet and had rescued them from the oppression of Pharaoh, it would be expected that the Israelites, in appreciation for these blessings, would not neglect -even for a moment- to worship and serve God until the end of their lives, and to obey Moses' commands on all occasions. However, they soon forgot their miserable past and began to be ungrateful. Since true faith had not found the way into the hearts of some of them and as a result of long association with the idol -worshipping people of Egypt, the same attitude of worldliness and pleasure- seeking had become firmly rooted in them, soon after crossing the sea, the Israelites came upon a people who worshipped idols. They said, "O Moses, make a god for us like the gods they have.''
Moses replied, "You are an ignorant people. What these people worship is doomed to perish, and their deeds are based on falsehood." He asked, "Shall I seek for you a god other than the true God, while it is God Who has favoured you above all nations? And remember that God rescued you from Pharaoh's people, who afflicted you with the worst torments, killing your sons and keeping your women alive. There was a great trial from your Lord in it."
"We admit that what you say is true," they replied. "But", they further complained, "at that time, we were under the yoke of Pharaoh's oppression and now we are no better off because we must work in the hot, dry desert, ploughing the soil. And besides, the book that was supposed to be revealed by God, still hasn't been revealed, so that we may know our status and duty." Moses (AS) replied, "God's promise is true; He will reveal the book which he has promised."
MOSES AT MOUNT TUR
Moses (AS) petitioned God to fulfil His promise and grant him a book. God, the High, ordered Moses (AS) to purify his body and clothes, and fast for thirty days on Mount Tur in order to receive the revelation.
Moses (AS) appointed Aaron as his deputy in his absence. He told Aaron, "Act for me amongst my people. Do right and do not follow the way of those who do mischief." When Moses was at the appointed place on Mount Tur, he said, "O my Lord! Show Yourself to me so that I may see you." God answered, "By no means can you see Me. But look at the mount; if it remains firm, then you shall see Me."
When God manifested His Glory on the mount, it became dust, and Moses (AS) fell down in a faint . When Moses (AS) regained his senses, he said, "Glory be to You! I turn to You in repentance, and I am the first to believe."
God said, "O Moses, I have chosen you above other men by the mission I have given you and by speaking to you. So, take the revelation which I give you, and be one of the thankful ." So, God ordained laws for the Israelites and inscribed them in stone tablets: laws in all matters, commanding and explaining all things. And God said, "Follow these laws and command your people to follow the good advice therein.''
THE GOLDEN CALF
Moses (AS) was supposed to stay at Mount Tur for thirty days, but he was ordered to stay ten more days. While he was away, a deceitful and ambitious man called Samari gathered the people's golden ornaments, melted them, and formed a golden statue of a calf which emitted a sound like the lowing of a cow. Samari brought the calf before the people and said, "Moses did not keep his promise; he will not return again. Our misfortune is that they took our gods away from us, and now we have no god to worship for ourselves. So, now I have made, of pure gold, a deity in the form of a calf. O people, now worship this god."
The ignorant people were deceived by his words. They began worshipping the idol, and thus, were reverted to idolatry. Aaron tried to prevent the people from this great sin. He told them, "O my people! You are being tested by this. Your Lord is Most Gracious, so follow me and obey me." The Israelites, however, refused to listen. They said, "We will not abandon this; we will continue worshipping it until the return of Moses."
While Moses (AS) was still at Mount Tur, God told him that he had tested the people in Moses' absence, and that Samari had led them astray. Moses (AS) returned to his people, angered and grieved by their disobedience. He told them, "You have done evil in my absence. Didn't your Lord make a good promise to you? Did the promise seem late in coming? Or did you desire that the Wrath of the Lord should descend on you?" Moses (AS) put down the tablets, turned furiously to his brother, Aaron, and said, "O Aaron, what prevented you from following my order when you saw them going astray? Did you disobey my order?"
Aaron answered, ‘The people ignored my words and they almost intended to kill me. Do not humiliate me or count me among the deviated ones." So, Moses (AS) forgave Aaron, and prayed, "O my Lord, forgive me and my brother." Moses (AS) banished Samari and warned him of his punishment in this life and in the next. Thereafter, he burned the calf in a blazing fire and scattered its ash in the sea.
When his anger calmed, Moses (AS) took up the tablets and presented them to the people. He built a strong room and put the tablets therein. Then, with the guidance of the Book of God, Moses (AS) showed the Israelites the path of righteousness. He said, "O my people! You have wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf; so turn to your Creator in repentance. And don't slay each other by yourselves; that will be better for you in front of your Creator. He will forgive you."
ISRAELITES DEMAND TO SEE GOD
The Israelites understood that they had wronged themselves and committed a great sin by worshipping the calf. For this reason, Moses (AS) chose seventy of them and took them to Mount Tur to repent. At Mount Tur, Moses (AS) talked with God, but some of them didn't believe and said, "We shall never believe in you until we see God manifestly." Suddenly, a lightening struck, and they fell to the ground, dead. Moses (AS) prayed for their forgiveness; God forgave them and returned them to life.
THE COVENANT OF THE ISRAELITES
God, the High, made a covenant with the Israelites that they not worship any but God, and treat parents, kindred, orphans, and the needy with kindness; speak well to people, establish prayer and practice regular charity. The Israelites, however, were a rebellious people, and they soon began to be disobedient. Moses (AS) was commissioned to take the Israelites to the "promised land", Palestine. On the way, the Israelites came across cities and towns. The rulers of these cities had strong armies, and the Israelites would have to fight against these rulers if they wanted to free the way to Palestine.
Moses (AS) told them, "O my people! Enter the holy land which God has assigned to you, and do not turn away disgraced, for you will be overthrown."
The Israelites, however, were afraid to fight, and refused to obey the command of Moses and their Lord to enter the land. They complained of the strength of the armies and said , ‘‘We shall not enter this land until they leave it." Thus, they disputed with Moses (AS) and persisted in their disobedience and rebellion. Moses (AS), angry about the Israelites' rebellion, prayed, "O my Lord! I have control only over myself and my brother, so separate us from this rebellious people."
As a punishment for their rebellion, God left them to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Since that generation had grown accustomed to baseness and contemptibleness, they did not deserve independence and dignity. Therefore, God, the High, willed that this despised generation perish within the forty years of wandering, and that a new generation - which has the spirit of freedom and freedom seeking - be able to obtain independence and greatness through perseverance and persistence.
THE COW OF THE ISRAELITES
Moses (AS) told the Israelites, "God has ordered that you sacrifice a cow for the expiation of your sins, and give the meat to the poor." They said, "Do you want to make fools of us?" Moses (AS) replied, "God save me from being one of the ignorant." When the Israelites felt sure that Moses (AS) was serious about this request, they said, "Ask your Lord to describe the cow for us."
Moses (AS) said, "He says that it should neither be too old nor too young." And in order that they not drag out the matter more than this and make pretexts to delay carrying out the order of God, he added, "Now do what you are commanded."
But they didn't leave off their stubbornness, and said, "Ask your Lord to describe its colour to us." Moses replied, "He says that the cow must be yellow." Again, they weren't satisfied with this much seeking of pretexts. And each time, by making excuses, they made the job of finding such a cow more difficult for themselves. They said, "Ask your Lord to describe the cow to us -for all cows are alike to us - so that, God willing, we would be guided."
Moses (AS) said, "He says that it must not have tilled the soil or watered the fields. It must be sound and without blemish." Finally, the Israelites accepted and said, "Now you have brought the truth." Then, with much difficulty - for only one such cow was to be found in all the cities - they bought the cow and killed it in sacrifice; however, they did so without good will.
THE UNGRATEFUL NATION
The Israelites continuously found fault with Moses (AS); each day they made excuses and wanted things which were never reasonable. Moses (AS) suffered much from his people and continuously had problems with them. Since the Israelites were ungrateful for God's blessings and no advice had effect on them, Moses (AS) cursed them. For this reason, the Israelites suffered long in hardship and wretchedness; they wandered homeless and had little happiness.