A Glance at the Life of Prophet Musa (A.S.)
During the reign of Prophet Yusuf (A), he invited his father Prophet Ya'qub (A) and his family to come to live in Egypt. The family settled there and in time grew to a large number and they were called the Bani Israa'il.
After several centuries, a man called Fir'aun came to power in Egypt. He was alarmed to see that the Bani Israa'il had become so many that they might pose a threat to the future security of the state. From that time onwards he made life for the Bani Israa'il difficult. Matters became particularly bad for them when a royal astrologer informed Fir'aun that a boy from the Bani Israa'il would soon be born and at whose hands Fir'aun's kingdom would be destroyed. On hearing this, the cruel king ordered that every male child born to the Bani Israa'il should be killed.
However Allah had decided that Prophet Musa (A) was to be born in such a dangerous environment and He arranged affairs to ensure the safety of His messenger. When Prophet Musa (A) was born, his mother hid him to protect him from the king's soldiers. However, there was a great danger that the child would be discovered at any moment. At this time Allah inspired her to put her baby in a water proof box and cast him into the waters of the Nile. She did this, and then sent her daughter to follow the little "boat" and see where it went.
The box floated towards the palace of Fir'aun, where his men fished it out and brought the baby to him. He wanted to kill it immediately, suspecting that it might be a child of the Bani Israa'il, but his wife Aasiya, who was a pious woman, stopped him. They were childless, so she asked him to adopt the child.
Fir'aun agreed to his wife's request and then summoned some women to breastfeed the crying child. However, the baby refused milk from all the women who came to feed him. In the meantime the sister came forward and offered to introduce a woman who she was certain the child would accept. Fir'aun asked for the woman to be summoned, and the girl brought her mother to the palace. The child immediately went to its real mother and thus Allah reunited mother and child in the very palace of Fir'aun.
As the years passed, Prophet Musa (A) grew up strong and healthy. He had the knowledge, wisdom and manners that Allah grants all His Prophets. Prophet Musa (A) resolved to end the oppression of all people under Fir'aun and he began by trying to help his own people, the Bani Israa'il. They realised that Allah had answered their prayers and their saviour would one day free them from the tyranny of Fir'aun.
Once Prophet Musa (A) saw two men fighting. One was from Bani Israa'il, and shouted for help. Prophet Musa (A) came to his rescue and struck the other man a single blow and unwittingly killed him. Later, Prophet Musa (A) learnt that his action had been seen by one of Fir'aun's men and he wondered whether to leave the city. A warning from a friend that he was being hunted strengthened his resolve and he left the city of his birth secretly.
Prophet Musa (A) walked for a long time without a fixed destination and finally reached Madyan. Here, he rested next to a well and saw that the shepherds had gathered to water their sheep. Two maidens were standing away from the crowd of men, waiting their turn. Prophet Musa (A) went forward to help them draw the water. The maidens then departed, their work finished. However, one of them returned, informing Prophet Musa (A) that her father wished to thank him personally for his help, and wanted to compensate him for his trouble. He went with her to her house and discovered that her father was Prophet Shuaib (A).
Prophet Musa (A) narrated the account of his trouble in Egypt and Prophet Shuaib (A) assured him that he was safe in Madyan. He then offered him a job as a shepherd on the recommendation of his daughter, Safura. He said that he would allow Prophet Musa (A) to marry Safura as long as he worked for him for 8 years. If he wished to work for longer, it would be his decision.
Prophet Musa (A) thus married Safura and worked for her father for 10 years. At the end of this time, he left for Egypt with his wife and a few sheep that he had received as a gift. It was severe winter time and Prophet Musa (A) lost his way in the night. Suddenly he saw a fire in the distance. He asked his wife to remain where she was and headed for the fire, thinking to bring some of it back to give them relief from the bitter cold.
When he reached Mount Sinai he saw that the flames were coming from a green tree but there was no one present. While Prophet Musa (A) looked around in surprise, he suddenly heard a voice saying, "O Musa, I am your Lord! Take off your shoes for you have stepped on to the sacred valley of Tuwa." As Prophet Musa (A) obeyed, he heard the voice ask him to throw his staff onto the ground. At once it changed into a serpent, scaring him. He was then commanded to lift the snake without fear and as he did so, it changed back into a stick.
Next he was commanded to put his hand under his armpit. When he drew it out again, his hand glowed with a dazzling light, brilliant like the sun. The Divine voice said to him, "O Musa! These are the two great Signs of your Lord. Go back to Fir'aun and his people and invite them towards your Lord!"
Prophet Musa (A) requested that his brother, Prophet Haroon (A) accompany him in his mission because he spoke with a fluent voice. This request was granted and thus Prophet Musa (A) came back to Egypt.
When Prophet Musa (A) returned to Egypt from Madyan he first went to meet his mother, brother and sister. He informed his brother Prophet Haroon (A) that their mission had begun and they prepared themselves to go to the court of Fir'aun.
Prophet Musa (A) told Fir'aun that he was a Messenger of Allah and that he had brought clear proofs that he was speaking the truth. Fir'aun rejected this claim and then reminded Prophet Musa (A) of the favours that he bestowed on him in his infancy. He also accused him of having run away after committing a murder.
Prophet Musa (A) argued that he had only been raised away from his own tribe because his mother had been forced to abandon him in fear of his life. He also stated that he had not intentionally killed any man and then reminded Fir'aun of the message he had brought from Allah . Their conversation is recorded in the Holy Qur'an as follows:
He (Fir'aun) said, "If you will take a lord besides me, I will most certainly imprison you". He (Musa) said, "What! even if I bring to you something manifest". He said, "Bring it then if you are one of the truthful ones". So he cast down his staff and lo! it suddenly become an obvious serpent. And he drew forth his hand, and lo! it appeared white to the onlookers.
Surae Shuara, 26 : 29 - 33
These miracles frightened Fir'aun and he turned to his ministers for advice. They assured him that Prophet Musa (A) and Prophet Haroon (A) were great magicians and that their own magicians could easily perform such tricks. Fir'aun called all the great magicians and tricksters in the land to his court. When they were told what had to be done, they were not worried. They threw pieces of rope on the ground and these cords began to wriggle like snakes. But when Prophet Musa (A) cast his staff down his serpent ate all the pieces of rope. The magicians immediately realised that they were witnessing a miracle.
They were experts in trickery but they knew that Prophet Musa (A) was not demonstrating a trick and immediately threw themselves in prostration saying, "We believe in the faith of Musa".
Their actions enraged Fir'aun who warned, "You have surrendered without my permission while he is only a greater magician than you. If you do not repent I will cut off your feet and hands and then crucify you". However, they were not afraid of the threats and were willing to die for their faith. In the end Fir'aun carried out his cruel threat.
Fir'aun realised that Prophet Musa (A) posed a threat to his authority and decided to kill him. However, from his own court one of his advisers warned him against this action, saying, "If you think that Musa has made a false claim it will not harm you but himself. But if he speaks the truth, his Lord's Wrath will befall you".
This advice did not please Fir'aun and he increased his oppression of the Bani Israa'il and tried to intimidate Prophet Musa (A) and his followers.
In the meantime, Allah commanded Prophet Musa (A) to warn Fir'aun that Divine punishment would descend on him and his people if they continued in their ways. Fir'aun was under the spell of his own power and did not heed this warning. Soon the country was hit by famine. Swarms of locusts ate away the crops. The river Nile flooded its banks causing great destruction. The people were afflicted with lice and tumours.
When these calamities befell the people they rushed to Prophet Musa (A) asking him to pray for their relief and promised to embrace his religion. But when they were cured and the situation improved, they returned to their idol worship.
Finally the grace period that Allah had granted Fir'aun and his people came to an end. The Holy Qur'an says:
We commanded Musa, "Journey by night with Our creatures, and strike a dry path for them through the sea. Do not fear being overtaken by Fir'aun nor have dread of any thing". Fir'aun followed them with his army, but the sea overpowered and engulfed them. Fir'aun had led his people astray and did not rightly guide them.
Surae Taa Haa, 20 : 77 - 79
Prophet Musa (A) gathered the people of Bani Israa'il and departed with them for Palestine. Fir'aun learnt of their escape and followed them with a huge army. When the Bani Israa'il reached the Red Sea they saw Fir'aun approaching and were sure they were going to be killed. However, Prophet Musa (A) struck the waters of the sea with his staff and the waters parted, making a dry path. The people rushed through and crossed safely. When Fir'aun saw the path he entered the sea at the head of his army. But while he was in the middle of the sea the waters suddenly closed around him and his men.
In the final moments of his life Fir'aun recognised the Power and Greatness of Allah and he desperately offered his repentance saying. "I solemnly declare that there is no god but the Lord of Musa, and I am one of the believers". However, it was too little too late because once the Curse of Allah takes its course it is futile to ask for forgiveness.
Fir'aun and his people drowned under the deep sea and Allah caused their dead bodies to be thrown onto the shore. The preserved body of Fir'aun can be seen in the Cairo museum even today, a lasting lesson for mankind.
The people of Bani Israa'il had been rescued from Fir'aun by Prophet Musa (A) and now they followed him to their promised homeland in Palestine. When they had come some way from Egypt, they came to a place where the people worshipped idols. This reminded them of their days in Egypt and they asked Prophet Musa (A) if they could also have one idol for themselves.
How soon had the Bani Israa'il forgotten Allah and His favours! They had seen the tragic end of Fir'aun and yet had not learnt from it. Prophet Musa (A) addressed them harshly, reminding them about their covenant with Allah . The people were ashamed of their conduct and promised that they would not make the mistake again.
Prophet Musa (A) had promised the Bani Israa'il that once they left Egypt he would bring to them a Divine Book for their guidance. Now that Fir'aun was dead, Prophet Musa (A) prayed to Allah for that Book. Allah commanded him to come to Mount Sinai and pass thirty nights there. The Holy Qur'an says:
We made an appointment of thirty nights with Musa to which we added ten more, so the term set by the Lord was completed in forty nights. Musa said to Haroon, his brother, "Deputise for me among my people. Act rightly and do not follow the path of the mischief-makers".
Surae A'raaf, 7 : 142
When Prophet Musa (A) returned to his people he had with him the Tawrat, with the Divine revelations inscribed on tablets of stone. However, a strange sight greeted him. In his absence, a man called Samiri had made a golden calf by collecting gold from the people of Bani Israa'il. Then he had sprinkled into its mouth some dust that he had collected from under the feet of the angel Jibraeel (A), who he had seen on the day that Fir'aun was drowned. After the addition of the dust, the calf used to make a sound and the people began to worship it.
The sight of his people worshipping a calf enraged Prophet Musa (A). He put the Tablets on the ground and furiously caught hold of his brother Prophet Haroon (A) and demanded, "Why did you let the people of Bani Israa'il go astray and why did you not prevent them from this ignoble act?" Prophet Haroon (A) explained that the people had ignored his guidance and he had not wanted to use force and cause division amongst them.
Gradually Prophet Musa's (A) anger subsided and he addressed the Bani Israa'il saying, "O people! Do you not know that Allah promised you that if you remained steadfast in your faith He would bestow upon you happiness and prosperity? Do you wish to incur Allah's displeasure?" The people blamed Samiri for misguiding them and repented of their actions. Prophet Musa (A) urged them to devote themselves to the obedience of Allah and sincerely ask for His forgiveness. He then got the golden calf melted and threw every trace of it in the sea.
Meanwhile, Samiri was seized with an illness that made him unable to bear the company of people. He passed the rest of his life living in the woods like a wild animal.
After a long journey, the Bani Israa'il finally came near the Holy Land of Baytul Muqaddas in Palestine. The Holy Qur'an says:
When Musa told his people, "Recall Allah's favours to you. He made Messengers and kings out of your own people and gave you what He had not given others. Enter the Sacred promised land. Do not return to disbelief lest you become losers". They said, "Musa, a strong race of people is living there. We shall never go there unless they leave the land first.
Surae Maa'idah, 5 : 20 - 22
The many years spent under Fir'aun's oppression had robbed the people of Bani Israa'il of their self-respect and courage. They were frightened to approach Palestine and face the forces of the local people. Despite Prophet Musa's (A) attempts to persuade them, they refused to move into Palestine. Instead, they said to him, "You and your Lord should go there and not we. We will stay away while you fight with the rulers and the people of Palestine. After the land is cleared of people, we will walk onto it".
Prophet Musa (A) could not convince his people and gave it up, praying to Allah for a solution. As a result of their disobedience, Allah condemned the Bani Israa'il so that for forty years they remained in the wilderness, wandering without a homeland in the woods and deserts.
During these forty years a new generation of stronger and more courageous people replaced the older demoralised one. Prophet Musa (A) and Prophet Haroon (A) passed away, but Yusha' bin Nun, a successor of Prophet Musa (A), led the Bani Israa'il and finally conquered Palestine. However, the faith of most of them was weak and time and time again they disobeyed Allah's commands. As a result Allah has cursed them in the Holy Qur'an as follows:
... And they drew on themselves the Wrath from Allah, because they used to reject the signs of Allah and kill His Apostles unjustly; because they disobeyed and transgressed.
Surae Baqarah, 2 : 61 (Part)