Birth Of Musa (As)

As related in the previous chapter, Musa was born into adversity. Even at the moment of his birth, his life was already in jeopardy. Pharaoh ordered all male children killed and the females spared for slavery. Ensnared by such circumstances, Musa was forced to lead his life among the slaves under the constant threat of death. His mother had been concerned about him until the moment she was inspired by God:

We revealed to Musa's mother, "Suckle him and then when you fear for him cast him into the sea. Do not fear or grieve; We will return him to you and make him one of the Messengers." (Qur'an, 28:7)

God instructed Musa's mother and told her to put him into a chest and send it floating down the Nile, if the soldiers of Pharaoh ever learned about his birth. As she feared for the life of her son, she followed what was revealed to her. Not knowing where and how the flowing waters would have carried her son, she placed Musa into a chest and released him to the waters of the Nile. However, by the inspiration of God, she knew he would ultimately return back to her and become a prophet. God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, created Musa and his mother and allowed them know their destiny. Some time later, God reminded Musa about the facts of his early childhood as follows:

When We revealed to your mother: "Place him into the chest and throw it into the sea and the sea will wash it up on the shore, where an enemy of Mine and his will pick it up..."(Qur'an, 20: 38-39)

At this point, we should expand on the subject of destiny. God, as specified in the above verse, told the mother of Musa to leave the child in the water, and informed her that Pharaoh would later find him, and that Musa would ultimately return to her as a messenger of God. In other words, that Musa would be placed in a chest and sent to the river, that he would be found and taken care of by Pharaoh, and that he would eventually become one of the prophets, were all known beforehand. That is because all of these events were predetermined by God, according to His will, and which He allowed Musa's mother to know of in advance.

Here, we should make note that all the details pertaining to the life of Musa were predetermined in the sight of God, and that they had all come true as had been ordained. The fulfilment of the revelation offered to Musa's mother was possible through the occurrence of countless conditions predetermined by destiny.

Musa's avoiding the soldiers of Pharaoh and his reaching the palace of Pharaoh without drowning were dependent on the fulfilment of certain conditions. They are the following:

  1. The chest the baby Musa was placed in would have to have been watertight. Therefore, he who constructed the chest would have crafted it in appropriate manner so as to allow to float. Moreover, the shape of the chest was an important factor as far as its speed on the water; it had to neither flow too quickly, floating passed Pharaoh's palace, nor too slowly, stopping at some point before the Palace. The chest would have to have been crafted into just the exact shape so as to allow it to float at just the right speed. These factors all comprised the numerous details preordained as part of the carpenter's destiny, crafting the chest exactly as he had to.
  2. The current that had carried the chest would have to have been neither too fast nor too slow, but just the right speed. This could have only been possible by a precise calculation of the amount of rainfall which constituted the Nile's water volume-intensity per minute. This amount is also part of the intricate details in the destiny predetermined by God.
  3. The blowing winds must have also affected the chest in the appropriate manner. That is, the winds also blew in compliance with a certain predetermined destiny. They must have blown neither too fast to cause it to drift, nor in the opposite direction, changing its direction, and nor too slow, slowing its speed.
  4. When in the Nile, no one could have found the chest. That is, no one, except who should have, was supposed to have come across it or noticed it. Consequently, in compliance with a specified destiny, every one living along the Nile had not been near to or noticed the chest. In fact, these conditions were all part of the destiny preordained by God.
  5. As well as the life of Musa, the lives of Pharaoh and his family, were also set to comply with a certain destiny. They would also have to have been exactly at the right place at the right time so as to permit them find Musa. The family of Pharaoh could have planned to come to the shore earlier. The factor which had ordained them to come there at the precise time was their destiny.

The above are only a few of the factors which allowed Pharaoh find Musa. All of them had occurred exactly as was revealed to Musa's mother. In fact, the promise God gave to the mother of Musa, and all the other events which have happened, have all taken place and been fulfilled as already ordained by God.

The events involved in Musa's destiny were not limited to only those events recounted so far. Each moment of his life was carefully predetermined according to a specific destiny. Neither the place nor the year of his birth, nor the people he was surrounded by, nor his mother or father were designated according to his own choice. It was God who ordained and created each one. This fact was also proclaimed by the Prophet Muhammad (saas) who said "Everything is by decree-even incapacity and ability" (Muslim)

A deeper consideration of these incidents will allow us to have a better grasp of how every moment of our lives is bound within our destiny. Through numerous examples, Musa's story allows one to contemplate the meaning and implications of his destiny. In the various details of the story of Musa, God reminds us that an individual's life, as well as the lives of all mankind and the whole universe, are bound within the destiny he has ordained.

Just as how Musa floated on the Nile in compliance with his destiny, so were Pharaoh and his family made to reach the place where they were to encounter Musa. From the verses related to this subject, we learn that Pharaoh's family had behaved exactly as was previously revealed to Musa's mother, that is, they had taken Musa under their care without being aware of what the future would hold for them:

The family of Pharaoh picked him up so that he might be an enemy and a source of grief to them. Certainly Pharaoh and Haman and their troops were in the wrong. The wife of Pharaoh said, "A source of delight for me and for you; do not kill him. It may well be that he will be of use to us or perhaps we could adopt him as a son." They were not aware. (Qur'an, 28: 8-9)

And thus Pharaoh and his family, utterly unaware of what the destiny had in store for them, found Musa and adopted him as their own. In fact, they had decided to keep him in the hope that the child would some day be of some benefit to them.

In the meantime, Musa's mother was concerned about her son since she did not know what had happened to him. To cope with this situation, God strengthened her heart:

Mother of Musa felt a great emptiness in her heart and she almost gave him away; only We fortified her heart so that she would be one of the believers. She said to his sister, "Go after him." And she kept an eye on him from afar and they were not aware. We first made him refuse all wet-nurses, so she (Musa's sister) said, "Shall I show you to a household who will feed him for you and be good to him?"

That is how We returned him to his mother so that she might delight her eyes and feel no grief and so that she would know that God's promise is true. But most of them do not know this. (Qur'an, 28: 10-13)

The baby Musa refused all the wet nurses, that is, he did not drink their milk, because, according to the destiny outlined for him, God had ordained him to drink only his own mother's milk. This makes light of the fact that everything human beings wish for are also in compliance with the destiny ordained by God. As had been revealed to his mother, the Prophet Musa ultimately returned to his own family.

In the story of Musa, God illustrates that He often creates what appear to be difficult situation with no apparent way out, and that events which are perceived as adversities may well turn out to actually be wonderful blessings. A mother, fearing the threat of her baby being killed by cruel soldiers, to save him, leaves the child to float in the waters of a river. The same child is then adopted by the most powerful family of the country, who ultimately return the baby back to her mother because he refuses all the other wet nurses. Each one of these events is a miracle in itself, demonstrating the ultimate perfection in the destiny decreed by God. For believers, every detail of one's destiny eventually turns out to be a blessing. As can be seen in the above example, sometimes God prepares such blessings for us through the most unexpected circumstances.

Musa (As) Flees From Egypt

The Qur'an relates the following event in Musa's life:

He (Musa) entered the city at a time when its inhabitants were unaware and found two men fighting there-one from his party and the other from his enemy. The one from his party asked for his support against the other from his enemy. So Musa hit him, dealing him a fatal blow. He said, "This is part of Satan's handiwork. He truly is an outright and misleading enemy." (Qur'an, 28: 15)

The above mentioned event reveals to us a situation in which Musa witnessed a fight involving a man from his own party, whereupon, without considering who was right, he sided with, smiting the other. Though he did not intend to kill him, the man died from the blow. The Prophet Musa realized he erred. The moral of this account is that, when a person is in the wrong, it is unjust to support him simply because he is from one's own party. Musa referred to his wrongful action, that is, his assumption of the superiority of the man from his own party, as "the Satan's handiwork."

Indeed, the matter criticized here is one that has brought hatred and wars to mankind throughout history, and continues to do so till this day. Man's patriotic obsession towards his own family, tribe, comrades or race, and his rejection of what is just and right for that sake, have been the major cause of most of the conflicts and cruelty perpetrated in history.

Alerted by his conscience, Musa promptly grasped that this sentiment was an evil from the influence of Satan, and, accordingly, sought refuge from it in God and repented. In the following verses, we read of the exemplary and conscientious approach adopted by Musa:

He said, "My Lord, I have wronged myself. Forgive me." So He (God) forgave him. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful. He said, "My Lord, because of Your blessing to me, I will never be a supporter of evildoers." (Qur'an, 28: 16-17)

Musa acknowledged his error; that of protecting a man, contrary to justice, purely because he was from his own tribe. However, this sort of prejudicial attitude was common among the people of Egypt. Upon becoming aware of Musa's unintentional murder, the people of the other party, moved by racist sentiments, might well have sought revenge by killing Musa. It was fear of this possibility that disturbed Musa:

Morning found him in the city, fearful and on his guard. Then suddenly the man who had sought his help the day before, shouted for help from him again. Musa said to him, "You are clearly a misguided man." (Qur'an, 28: 18)

Thus, Musa could no longer maintain his place in Pharaoh's society. Concerned for his safety, Musa spent the night on guard against any possible harm from Pharaoh and his people. The next day, the event related in the above verse took place; the man who asked Musa's help the previous day came to him with a similar demand, this time against another man. As the verse informs, the man hoped to receive Musa's help yet another time, based on the fact that he was from his own people. However, Musa avoided repeating the same error. Aware that his companion was not in the right, he refused to help him. The companion of Musa then immediately turned against him and started to criticize him. Against Musa he referred to the unintentional murder Musa had committed the previous day:

But when he was about to grab the man who was their common enemy, he said, "Musa! Do you want to kill me just as you killed a person yesterday? You only want to be a tyrant in the land; you do not want to be a reformer." (Qur'an, 28: 19)

In any case, though committed unintentionally, Musa was considered a person who killed an Egyptian. Meanwhile, Pharaoh and the leading followers discussed Musa's punishment, even the possibility of executing him. Someone who overheard the discussion came to warn Musa. Concerned over the plot against him, Musa fled from Egypt:

A man came running from the furthest part of the city, saying, "Musa, the Council are conspiring to kill you, so leave! I am someone who brings you good advice." So he left there fearful and on his guard, saying, "My Lord, rescue me from the people of the wrongdoers!" (Qur'an, 28: 20-21)

These facts about the life of Musa give us some insight into Musa's personality as well. It appears that he was rather an excitable man. When in a fight, he immediately took sides with a man from his party, then smote and unintentionally killed the opponent. Finally, fearing his life was in danger, he fled from Egypt. One can presume that Musa would have always been excitable throughout the course of these events. Nevertheless, after God's discourse with him, Musa learned to fear only from God, and to seek refuge only in Him. This is a very good example of how God strengthens one's character.

Fleeing Into The Country Of Midian And His Settlement There

Musa left behind Pharaoh, the person who had raised him, as well as the Pharaoh's people, and set off to Midian. (Midian is a region beyond the Sinai desert to the east of Egypt, corresponding to the southern end of Jordan today.)

At the water of Midian, Musa encountered two women who could not water their flocks out of wanting to avoid other shepherds. But, as the verses of the Qur'an relate, outwardly, Musa appeared as a highly decent and trustworthy person. Thus, the women did not hesitate to approach him. They explained that they were holding back to guard their chastity, but that they had to graze their father's flocks for him since he was an old man. Then, Musa helped the women by leading their flock to the water:

When he arrived at the water of Midian, he found a crowd of people drawing water there. Standing apart from them, he found two women, holding back their sheep. He said, "What are you two doing here?" They said, "We cannot draw water until the shepherds have driven off their sheep. You see our father is a very old man." So he drew water for them... (Qur'an, 28: 23-24)

The verses provide an example of the courteous and benevolent character of Musa; he approaches two strangers, helped them, and earned their respect. On the other hand, it is to be understood that the men, mentioned as "shepherds," effected an attitude entirely opposite to the manners of Musa. This is evident from the fact that the women apparently avoided them though they chose to talk to Musa. From these above verses we can well suppose that these men would have been frightful in appearance, and rude and brutish in behaviour. (God knows best.)

We may continue to conclude that a Muslim must carefully avoid the manners peculiar to the people mentioned here as "shepherds." Muslims should look to role models like Musa, who conducted himself kindly, decently and forthrightly. As the example of Musa suggests, a Muslim must develop highly cultivated manners, and be trustworthy, qualities that should be immediately discernible in him.

We need also make note of the fact that Musa is always of a temperament that exemplifies that wholehearted submission to God. Leaving everything dear to him in the land of Egypt where he had grown up, he had no idea whatsoever of what the future would hold for him. The only thing that was certain was that nothing in his life would be the same again. However, though it was not known to him, God already predestined certain events for him. Musa prayed the following:

.and then withdrew into the shade and said, "My Lord, I am truly in need of any good You have in store for me." (Qur'an, 28: 24)

One's sincerity in one's prayer is evidence in one's grasp of the fact that God has the power to do anything, that all blessings and adversities come only from Him, and that one has no other helper or protector other than God. Musa's prayer quoted in the above verse is the kind made in complete submission to God, by someone who has a full comprehension of this truth. Indeed, God answered Musa's sincere prayer and opened His mercy to him.

The kindness Musa had shown to the two women resulted in the start of a completely new life for him. While Musa was resting, one of the women approached him to convey her father's invitation in appreciation for his help:

Then there came unto him one of the two women, walking shyly and said, "My father invites you so that he can reward you with a payment for drawing water for us." When he came to him and told him the whole story he said, "Have no fear, you have escaped from wrongdoing people." (Qur'an, 28: 25)

Musa prayed to his Lord sincerely, pleading for any good He would bestow on him. God answered his prayer and, following a threat against his life, guided him to the people who would help him and offer him security. Musa was of a strong character, and person who was trusted because of his manners. Indeed, the women, despite being cautious against the shepherds, trusted Musa and spoke to him. Furthermore one of the women asked her father to hire Musa seeing as he was strong and trustworthy:

One of them said, "Hire him, father. The best person to hire is someone strong and trustworthy." (Qur'an, 28: 26)

With these words, the woman explicitly expressed to her father that she found Musa to be a reliable person. Convinced of his trustworthiness, the old man decided to wed his daughter to Musa. The recognizable decency of Musa was a major factor in his decision, with the old man making the following proposal to him:

He said, "I would like to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine on condition that you work for me for eight full years. If you complete ten, that is up to you. I do not want to be hard on you. You will find me, God willing, to be one of the righteous." He (Musa) said, "That is agreed between me and you. Whichever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice done to me. God is Guardian over what we say." (Qur'an, 28: 27-28)

Musa accepted the proposal of this old man, who we should understand from the Qur'an to have been a true believer, and began leading the rest of his life in Midian. Hence, God first delivered Musa to safety, making the waters of the Nile carry him to the Palace of Pharaoh without drowning. Then, while his life was in danger in Egypt, He saved him a second time and led him to a peaceful life in Midian.

Those who perform good actions will receive better than them and will be safe that Day from fear. (Qur'an, 27: 89)

Arrival At The Valley Of Tuwa And The First Revelation

Musa honoured the agreement he made with the old man and stayed in Midian for many years. At the end of the appointed time, that is, when the agreement had come to termination, Musa and his family left Midian. On their journey, Musa saw a fire in the distance, on the side of the Mount Sinai, which he was passing by with his family. Musa thought he could bring a brand from the fire to warm up or to gather some information from it:

When Musa had fulfilled the appointed term and had set off with his family, he noticed a fire from one side of the Mount. He said to his family, "Stay here, I can see a fire. Hopefully I will bring you back some news from it or a burning branch from the fire so that you will be able to warm yourselves." (Qur'an, 28: 29)

When Musa said to his household, "I can make out a fire. I will bring you news from it or at least a burning brand so that hopefully you will be able to warm yourselves." (Qur'an, 27: 7)

When he saw a fire and said to his family, "Wait here. I can make out a fire. Maybe I will bring you a brand from it, or will find guidance there." (Qur'an, 20: 10)

This event is indicative of yet another facet of Musa exemplary character. Musa is a very attentive person, who carefully assesses everything happening around him. He knows God ordains all events according to a specific destiny. Aware that God predetermines everything through divine reason, Musa always welcomes various events or circumstances with the expectation of drawing some benefit from them. His noticing a fire on a mountain, and his assessing the situation, is a condition of mind peculiar to a vigilant believer. His decision to go alone, leaving his family behind to ensure their security, is also exemplary of the wisdom granted to him by God.

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