Section 12: Those Gifted with Knowledge – The Ministry of Moses
وَلَقَدْ ءَاتَيْنَا مُوسَي تِسْعَ ءَايَاتٍ بَيّـِنَاتِ فَسْأَلْ بَنِي إِسْرآئِيلَ إِذْ جَآءَهُمْ فَقَالَ لَهُ فِرْعَوْنُ إِنّـِي لاَظُنُّكَ يَا مُوسَي مَسْحُوراً
قَالَ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَآ أَنزَلَ هؤُلآءِ إِلاَّ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالاَرْضِ بَصَآئِرَ وإِنّـِي لاَظنُّكَ يَا فِرْعَوْنُ مَثْبُوراً
101. “And indeed We give Moses nine clear signs, so ask the Children of Israel when he came to them, and, Pharaoh said to him: ‘O’ Mūsa! Verily I think you are bewitched’.”
102. “He said: ‘Indeed you know that none has sent these (miracles) down save the Lord of the heavens and the earth (as) clear proofs, and I think you lost, O’ Pharaoh!’”
In several of the foregoing verses, we noted as to what peculiar demands the pagans used to put to the Prophet (S). We, here, find Him, in fact, exposing one of the examples of such scenes in preceding generations as to how they witnessed extraordinary events and miracles and they, yet, looked for pretexts, rejecting everything.
At first, He says:
“And indeed We give Moses nine clear signs…”
These divine signs consist of: The stick, the white hand, the storm, locusts, one kind of plant-pest called /qummal/, the over-increase in the number of frogs, blood, drought, and deficiencies.
Later, in order to stress this point further, He adds in implication to Moses that if your opponents even reject this matter outright, in order to deliver an ultimatum to them, tell them to ask the sons of Israel as to how they were when these verses came down to them.
Notwithstanding these, not only they did not subject themselves to the acceptance of the fact, but also they accused Moses of being a sorcerer, and of being crazy.
The verse continues saying:
“…so ask the Children of Israel when he came to them, and, Pharaoh said to him: ‘O’ Mūsa! Verily I think you are bewitched’.”
This is the case with all the arrogant people who used to accuse the godly men of sorcery or insanity for their innovations and their movement against the treatment of corrupt communities and their exhibition of extraordinary behaviour, so as to be able to influence naive people, scattering them from around the prophets.
Thus verse 102 shows Moses (as) did not keep quiet in face of all this under accusation, affirming categorically, where it declares:
“He said: ‘Indeed you know that none has sent these (miracles) down save the Lord of the heavens and the earth (as) clear proofs, and I think you lost, O’ Pharaoh!’”
Therefore, O pharaoh!, you reject the facts while having full knowledge of the facts and while you are cognizant of them. I believe you, Pharaoh, will eventually perish.
The first point: In the Glorious Qur’an, there are numerous verses and miracles mentioned concerning Moses, among which one might refer to the following:
1. Conversion of the stick into a giant snake and the act of swallowing of the tools of the sorcerers.1
2. The white hand or the shining of the hands of Mūsa (as) like a source of light.2
3. The pounding storms.3
4. ‘Locusts’ which dominated their farms and their trees, and served as a nuisance for their flourishing agriculture. 4
5. One plant-pest agent which exterminates cereals, called /qummal/5
6. The frogs which emerged from the Nile River and reproduced to such an extent that they made people’s lives miserable and full of difficulties.6
7. ‘Nose-bleeding’ or ‘blood’ which signifies the universal counteraction of nose bleeding or the turning of the Nile into the colour of the blood which made the river water neither good for drinking nor fit for agriculture. 7
8. The splitting of the sea in such a way that the Children of Israel could pass through it.8
9. The descending of /mann/ and /salwa/ which was explained under verse 57, of Surah Al-Baqarah.
10. The gushing of the springs from stone.9
11. The splitting away of part of the mountain and its placement as a canopy over them.10
12) Famine and draught as well as shortage of fruits.11
13. Returning to life of a murdered individual whose death instigated intensive opposition among the Children of Israel.12
14. Use of the cloud shadows as canopy which protected them in a miraculous way in intense desert heat. 13
The issue in question in here is: What is the objective of ‘the nine verses’, which have been alluded to in the verses under discussion?
The expressions utilized in these verses reveal the fact that they signify miracles which were mentioned in connection with Pharaoh and the adherents of Pharaoh, and not the ones which were involved with the Children of Israel themselves, like the descending of ‘Mann and Salwa’, and the emergence of the spring from a stone, and the like.
Considering this point, one can claim that the five topics which are dealt with in verse 133 of Surah Al-’A‘raf, are among these nine signs: Storm, plant-pest, locusts, over reproduction of frogs, and blood.
Undoubtedly, the two famous miracles of Mūsa (as), that is, the issue of the ‘stick’, and the ‘white hand’ are among the nine signs, specially, it is noteworthy that we find verses 10 to 12 of Surah An-Nahl the same expression of the ‘nine signs’, which are mentioned after the statement of these two great miracles.
These all make up the seven supernatural or ‘extraordinary events’. Now, let us turn to the other two verses. Undoubtedly, the drowning of the people of Pharaoh, and the like, cannot be included among these signs, for the goal of explaining of the signs is to guide the people of the Pharaoh and not those which caused their destruction and extermination.
Concentrating on Surah Al-’A‘raf, in which we find many of these verses, exhibits the fact that the objective in mind of the other two signs have been the ‘draught’ and ‘the shortage of all kinds of fruits’, for after the miracle of the stick and the ‘white hand’ and before the mentioning of the five signs of the storm and the locust, the holy verse says:
“And certainly We afflicted the clan of Pharaoh with drought and scarcity of fruits, so that they may take admonition.”14
The second point: who is the one questioning the Prophet (S)?
Apparently, the verses show that the Prophet (S) was commissioned to investigate from the Children of Israel about the nine signs which were revealed to Moses (as), asking them about how the people of the Pharaoh rejected the authenticity of the call of Moses (as) despite all those clear signs under so many different pretexts.
But, as such a person like the Prophet (S) did not require putting to them such a query despite all his knowledge and wisdom; some commentators have still regarded other addressees as the agents who have put the question to them.
However, taking into consideration that the question raised was not the one put by the Prophet (S) for himself, rather, it was put for the acceptance by the pagans, it does not matter that the investigator be the Prophet (S) himself so that the pagans should know that if the Prophet (S) did not accept to give in the various proposals of the pagans, it was because such proposals did not have any motives for the sake of seeking the truth.
On the contrary, their attitude was based on obstinacy, fanaticism and hostility, and their story was like the one we read about in the story of Moses (as) and Pharaoh.
فَاَرَادَ أَن يَسْتَفِزَّهُم مِنَ الاَرْضِ فَاَغْرَقْناهُ وَمَن مَعَهُ جَمِيعاً
وَقُلْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِ لِبَنِي إِسْرآئِيلَ اسْكُنُوا الاَرْضَ فإِذَا جَآءَ وَعْدُ الاَخِرَةِ جِئْنَا بِكُمْ لَفِيفاً
103. “So he (Pharaoh) decided to scare them from that land; but We drowned him and those with him, all together.”
104. “And, after that, We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Settle in the land and when the promise of the Hereafter comes to pass, We shall bring you (all) assemble together.”
The Arabic term /’istifz az/ signifies ‘expelling by force’. The Qur’an has repeatedly made allusions to these methods of oppression towards the men of Allah and their eventual frustration. They put ‘Ibrahim within fire, the Lord turned the fire cold.
They threw Yusuf down the well, the Lord elevated him to the rank of ‘Aziz in Egypt. They expelled the Prophet (S) from Mecca, Allah bestowed on him the government of the entire world of Islam. Such is the Divine way of treatment and the rule of Allah, Who has got suitable contrivance against the dirty tricks of the evildoers.
Therefore, the Qur’an implies in this verse that since the Pharaoh was not able to resist against the pounding reasoning and rationales of Mūsa, he took recourse to the same tricks employed by all oppressors who are illogical throughout the ages, as the verse says:
“So he (Pharaoh) decided to scare them from that land; but We drowned him and those with him, all together.”
And, thus, He implies: We told the Children of Israel, to settle down in the lands of Egypt, Damascus and Bayt-ul-Muqaddas.
However, when the time of after-life arrives, We shall make you assemble, appearing in the Court of Justice altogether.
The verse says:
“And, after that, We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Settle in the land and when the promise of the Hereafter comes to pass, We shall bring you (all) assemble together.”
The Arabic term /lafif/ means interrelated large groups.
We read in the previous verses that the Lord told the Children of Israel that now that you have conquered the enemy, you must settle down in the ‘promised land’. Does this signify the land of Egypt?
(This same word, which has been stated in the previous verse that says Pharaoh wanted to expel them from that land, is mentioned in this sense with the same meaning; other verses of the Qur’an also affirm the fact that the Children of Israel became the heirs and the inheritors of them)
Or else, this is an allusion made to the ‘Holy Land’ of Palestine, for the Children of Israel went to the land of Palestine after this event and were commissioned to enter it.
However, we do not consider it as a remote possibility that both lands have been the objective of it, for the Children of Israel became both the inheritors of the lands of the Pharaohs, as testified by the Qur’an, and they became the proprietors of the land of Palestine.
In the meantime, does the Qur’anic phrase /wa‘d-ul-’ axirah/ signify the Hereafter? The answer to this question is apparently positive, for the sentence:
provides us with the corresponding meaning. Some commentators have also voiced another possibility.
وَبِالْحَقِّ أَنزَلْنَاهُ وَبالْحَقِّ نَزَلَ وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلاَّ مُبَشّـِراً وَنَذِيراً
105. “And, with the truth have We sent it (the Qur’an) down and with the truth it has come down; and We have not sent you except as a Bearer of glad tidings and as a warner.”
The authenticity of the Qur’an has been guaranteed from distortions. The Qur’an has been verily revealed in truth, and the Divine revelation has also been received its destination safely, while, at the same time, the Satans have been unable to do it any harm.
Therefore, once again, the Qur’an calls on the grandeur and glory of this heavenly Book, providing answers to the objections and pretexts of the dissidents.
At first, it says:
“And, with the truth have We sent it (the Qur’an) down…”
At times, one may start doing something, but, because he is limited in his power, he may not be able to finish it up to the end.
However, one who has knowledge of everything, and is capable to fulfill everything he does while he is correctly positioned and ends everything in the right fashion, thus actualizing it to the fullest. For instance, man might sometimes let water out of a spring while it is pure though it might reach the consumption point quite impure for he is unable to preserve it through.
However, he who has command of his job quite well in all respects, he can fill everyone’s jar who is thirsty with pure water.
The Qur’an is just such a Book which has been descended with the truth from the Lord, and He has guarded and protected it in its courses from any point of view, whether be it the stage that Gabriel was the means of revelation and where the recipient has been the Prophet (S) and has been preserved quite well in such a way that the passage of time has even not caused any distortions in it, and will never be distorted, for the Lord has undertaken Himself its preservation.
Thus, this source of ‘pure water’ of the Divine revelation, will remain untouched through to the end of the world.
The verse continues saying:
“…and with the truth it has come down…”
Concluding His statement, He says:
“…and We have not sent you except as a Bearer of glad tidings and as a warner.”
And you have got no right to introduce any changes in the context of the Qur’an.
وَقُرْءَاناً فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَي النَّاسِ عَلَي مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنْزِيلاً
106. “And (it is) Qur’an which We have divided (in sections) so that you may read it to the people at a slow pace and We have sent it down gradually in portions.”
One of the objections of the pagans related to the fact as to why the Qur’an has not been revealed as a whole in one part, when they said:
“…why has not the Qur’an been revealed to him all at once?…”15
The verse under discussion is in response to their objection.
As the verses of the Qur’an relate to different events, and they are meant to meet the requirements of all classes of the people throughout history, they are revealed in sections so as to correspond to the various events, thus becoming more pleasant for the audience.
Would that ever be possible to collect all the events of 23 years in one single day so that the problems raised therein be revealed in the Qur’an instantly?
The verses says:
“And (it is) Qur’an which We have divided (in sections) so that you may read it to the people at a slow pace and We have sent it down gradually in portions.”
Incidentally, the gradual revelation implies the continuous relationship of the holy Prophet (S) with the source of revelation. However, instant revelation would not guarantee such a relationship more than once.
Moreover, an instructor and a reformer must have a long term program in mind and must not be unaware of the new needs.
Thus, the Holy Qur’an does not contain only instructive aspects but it also possesses some practical aspects as well, which must be gradually implemented, and such an implementation of hundreds of commandments in a society which has got hundreds of sorts of corruption, at once, is an impossibility.
قُلْ ءَامِنُوا بِهِ أَوْ لاَ تُؤْمِنُوا إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مِن قَبْلِهِ إِذَا يُتْلَي عَلَيْهِمْ يَخِرُّونَ لِلاَذْقَانِ سُجَّداً
وَيَقُولُونَ سُبْحَانَ رَبّـِنَآ إِن كَانَ وَعْدُ رَبّـِنَا لَمَفْعُولاً
وَيَخِرُّونَ لِلاَذْقَانِ يَبْكُونَ وَيَزِيدُهُمْ خُشُوعاً
107. “Say: ‘Believe in it or believe not, (it makes no difference to Allah), verily, those who were given knowledge before it, when it is read to them, they fall down prostrate on their faces, adoring.”
108. “And they say: “Glory be to our Lord! Verily, our Lord’s promise is to be fulfilled.”
109. “And they fall down (in prostration) weeping and it adds up to their humility.”
In this noble verse, and in the following one, the Lord has commanded His prophet to remain rather heedless of such people who are companions of paganism and ‘Ignorance’.
Whether they embrace the faith or they reject it altogether it does not matter, for a better stock which includes those who are knowledgeable and who have studied the heavenly Books, and have practiced according to the Divine religions, have asserted their belief, confirming that he is the prophet who has been promised to emerge in their authentic religious books, and whenever the Lord’s verses are read to them, they fall to the ground, prostrating in face of all the Lord’s glory and for implementing what is promised in their Divine Books that He appoints Muhammad (S) as His Prophet and sends down the Book to him.
The verse says:
This is what is intended by the promise mentioned in the verse which says:
By this, they mean: Our Lord’s promise is to be fulfilled. They express this way their utmost commitment and faith towards the Divinity of the Lord and His pure Attributes as well as to the promises He has kept.
This is a speech within which, both, faith in monotheism as well as the attributes of the Lord and His justice are included while the prophecy of the Prophet (S) and belief in resurrection are contained. Thus, they assemble all the religious principles in one concise sentence.
Again in verse 109, to stress further the point, and the impact of those Divine verses as well as of this loving prostration, the Qur’an implies that they fall into a state of prostration (involuntarily) and start crying, and the reading of these verses always adds up to their modesty.
They never stay in one state or mood, rather they try to climb up toward the peak of development, and continuously their modesty increases. ‘Modesty’, is the state of humbleness and the physical and spiritual politeness, in which case one bows to the command of Allah and His obedience.
The verse says:
Incidentally, the Qur’anic term / yaxirrūna/ is derived from /xarir/ in the sense of the whispering of the sound of water which is flowing downward from up. This also refers to those who, losing their control, fall into a state of prostration before Allah, worship Him in their fairly loud voices.
The Arabic term /’aŏq an/ is the plural form of /ŏaqan/ which means ‘chin’, it signifies having absolute modesty, in which case, not only one’s forehead but his face and chin also touch the floor as well.
In conclusion, another clear lesson drawn from the above verses relates to the interrelationship of science with Faith.
The Qur’an implies whether you accept these Divine verses or not, men of knowledge will not only accept them believing in them but they also tend to fall into a state of prostration for the love of Allah which is like a burning desire within them, letting their tears be shed in abundance from their eyes.
Their modesty and humbleness is then being augmented while, at the same time, their polite behaviour and their respect increases unto these verses.
It is only those ignorant mean individuals who sometimes disregard heedlessly, and at times ridicule, when confronting the facts: and even if such individuals happen to be attracted to the faith, their belief would be weak, fleeting, and void of love, activity and of any warmth.
Moreover, this meaning reflects a further emphasis on the obliteration of the empty hypothesis of those who believe that religion has got a correlation with the ignorance of mankind.
The glorious Qur’an, in contradiction with this claim, repeatedly stresses the fact that science and religion are always associated with each other in various circumstances. A deep and sustaining devotion in faith can only be attained in having a deep knowledge, and knowledge borrows its weight in higher echelons from faith. ‘Remember’
قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَانَ أَيّاً مَا تَدْعُواْ فَلَهُ الاَسْمآءُ الْحُسْنَي وَلاَ تَجْهَرْ بِصَلاَتِكَ وَلاَ تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَابْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ سَبيلاً
110. “Say: ‘Call upon Allah, or call upon the Beneficent; whichever you call upon; then the best names belong to Him; and do not utter your prayer too aloud nor be silent with regard to it, and seek a way between that’.”
In some of the commentaries, we have it that once the holy Prophet (S) was praying in Masjid-ul-Haram, and was saying:
“O’ Allah! O’ Rahman!”
Some people thought he was calling two Gods one of whom was ‘Allah’ and the other one was (Rahman’ (Compassionate). The verse was revealed and wiped out that paradox.16
In other words, the pagans and the polytheists used to ask as to why the prophet called the Lord by various names while he was claiming to be monotheist.
The Qur’an, answering them, says:
Whichever you choose, it makes no difference; He has got to have various good names:
Those blindfolded individuals, at times, call a person or a place by different names, each of which presents one part or a portion of its existence.
Is it, therefore, surprising that the Lord, whose Essence is infinite in every respect and Who is the source of all perfections, bounties, and goodness, be called by one specific name for whatever He does with respect to that job and whatever virtue His Holy Essence Possesses?
At the end of the holy verse, calling the attention to the discussion of the pagans in Mecca who used to ask with regard to the prayers of the Prophet (S) as to why he used to recite his prayers with a loud voice, disturbing them, He commands the Prophet (S):
The noble verse implies: Neither recite it with a loud voice, shouting it; nor in a state of whispering it, in which case your lips might be moving and no voice heard.
Incidentally, we have it in the Shi‘ah and Sunni quotations that; The Lord has got 99 names, and whoever calls Him by one of them, will succeed and will be saved. 17
However, we must know that when speaking of numerating of these names, it does not mean that we utter them so as to enter the Paradise or become the one whose prayers are accepted.
On the contrary, they are intended for us to be inculcated with the values attached to them and implementing of those values relating to the names such as: Wise, Compassionate, Merciful, Generous, and Blissful in ourselves so as to make us both worthy of the Paradise and make our prayers acceptable in all cases.
وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَتَّخِذْ وَلَداً وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ شَرِيكٌ فِي الْمُلْكِ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَهُ وَلِيٌّ مّـِنَ الذُّلِّ وَكَبّـِرْهُ تَكْبِيرَاً
111. “And say: ‘(All) Praise is Allah’s, Who has not taken unto Him a son; nor has He got any partner in the Sovereignty; and there is not for Him any helper out of humbleness.’ And magnify Him with all magnificence.”
We finally arrive at the last verse of this Surah, the verse which ends with the praise of Allah just as it started with the praising of His pure existence. In fact, this holy verse is a conclusion, culminating all of the monotheistic issues of this Surah and the content of all those monotheistic concepts.
Addressing the Prophet (S), He says:
Such a Lord, with those attributes, stands far too superior to whatever you conjecture. Thus, glorify Him and get to know His immensely boundless magnitude.
The verse concludes:
The above verse negates all assistance and generic like being for Allah whether be it of a lower grade (like a son) or some counterpart for Him, (like a partner), or that one who stands as superior, (like a guardian).
The Late Tabarsi quotes from some commentators (in Majma‘-ul-Bayan) that this verse provides the refutation of the belief of three groups:
First, that of the Christians and the Jews who regarded Allah as having a son; the secondly that of the Arab pagans who regarded Him as having a partner; thirdly, that of those star-worshippers and the Zoroastrians who regarded Allah as having a guardian and an assistant.
Here, the blissful Qur’an commands the Prophet (S) emphatically to glorify Allah. This does not merely imply that one must believe in the glory of the Lord just by saying the words ‘Allah is the greatest’.
This point is also worth considering that the belief in the glory of the Lord does not imply that we regard Him as greater when comparing Him to other beings. Such a comparison is by far irrelevant in principle and by definition.
We must regard Him as greater than in comparative terms, as Imam Sadiq (as) has said in a concise and meaningful speech. An Islamic tradition declares: Someone called on that Imam, saying:
‘Allah is the greatest!’
The Imam asked him:
“Of what is He greater or the greatest?
“Of all things.”
The Imam (as) explained:
“You confined Allah by saying that, as you made a comparison between Him and other beings, then considering Him as superior.”
That man asked:
“Then, what must I say?”
“Say: Allah is far too superior to what one can characterize.”18
A Persian poet declares:
O’ You Who are superior to all imaginations, comparisons, conjectures, and hallucinations:
And also excelling in whatever we have seen, written, or heard.
Our audience came to an end and our life is over, nevertheless, we are stuck in the first phases of our attempt at our depicting of your profile.
Incidentally, some quotations from Ahl-ul-Bayt (as) indicates that the reading of this verse has been considered as effective in removing of one’s dues, removing of passing whims and passions, discarding of poverty, and expelling of diseases.19
O’ Lord! Replenish our heart and soul with the illumination of the lights of knowledge and faith so that we can remain humble before Your grandeur, staying faithful to Your promises and obeying fully Your commands, worshipping no one but You and relying on no one except on You.
O’ Lord! Bestow upon us the means of success not to violate the frontiers of justice and moderation, avoiding all sorts of extremism.
O’ Lord! We thank You; consider You as One; glorify You beyond what can be explicable. You, too, provide us with forgiveness, make our determination ever stronger and help us prevail over the enemies who have surrounded us from interior and from exterior.
Help us to join our victories to those ultimate victories of the uprising of the promised Mahdi (as), and provide us with the means for completing this commentary as it would be pleasing to You.
Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us, and bestow on us from Your mercy, for You are, indeed, the Ever-Bestower. 20
- 1. TaHa, 20
- 2. TaHa, 22
- 3. Al-’A‘raf, 133
- 4. Al-’A‘raf, 133
- 5. Al-’A‘raf, 133
- 6. Al-’A‘raf, 133
- 7. Al-’A‘raf, 133
- 8. Al-’A‘raf, 133
- 9. Al-Baqarah, verse 60
- 10. Al-’A‘raf, 171
- 11. Al-’A‘raf, 130
- 12. Al-Baqarah, 73
- 13. Al-Baqarah, 57
- 14. Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 130
- 15. Surah Al-Furqan, No. 25, verse 32
- 16. Tafsir-Tibyan and Forqan
- 17. Tafsir-i-Tabari, Al-Mizan, and Majma‘-ul-Bayan
- 18. Tafsir-Nūr-uth-Thaqalayn vol. 3, p. 239
- 19. Tafsir Borhan
- 20. ‘Al-i-‘Imran, verse 8