This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 16th February 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Taha can be found here. This lecture is a continuation of last week’s lecture of Surah Taha verses 17 to 32.
“And I have chosen you for Myself [20:41]
Prophet Musa AS was specifically chosen for this mission. His appearing on the valley of Tuwa was neither a coincidence nor a random occurrence. In fact, in the verse above, the word “Istona’tu” used comes from a similar root word as ‘sana’a’, meaning “to make”. Allah SWT had planned and designed the life of Prophet Musa AS so that he would be in the perfect condition to be ready for that moment. Allah did not merely choose Prophet Musa AS; He had also laid the path and strategically placed the challenges in Prophet Musa’s life in order to shape and groom him AS for his role.
اذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَأَخُوكَ بِآيَاتِي وَلَا تَنِيَا فِي ذِكْرِي
Go you and your brother with My Ayaat and do not slacken in My remembrance; [20:42]
The word “Ayaat” can mean two things. The first, is Wahyu or verses of Revelation. The second, is Mu’jizat, or signs from Allah. In this situation, both the meanings could be accepted as possible.
Allah SWT informs Prophet Musa AS that his requests have been granted and that he should go and carry out his mission as had been instructed. Allah SWT also reminds Prophet Musa AS that regardless of what happens, he should always remember Allah.
The Mission: Dealing with a Dictator
اذْهَبَا إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَىٰ
Go you both to Firaun (Pharaoh), for he has indeed transgressed all bounds; [20:43]
فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا لَّعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَىٰ
And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear (Allah).” [20:44].
When we went through verse 24 in the previous lecture, we saw that Allah SWT had instructed Prophet Musa AS to head to Firaun alone. Now, in verse 43, that Prophet Musa AS has made du’a asking for support, Allah SWT granted this du’a and asked that both he and Prophet Harun AS go forth to carry out the mission.
In verse 43, the word “Taghaa” is used to describe Firaun. Some of you might have heard of the word ‘Taghut’ before. This word comes from the same root word as ‘Taghaa’ and is used to describe someone powerful who loses himself and does things as he wishes. Taghut refers to the worst of all dictators. Firaun wasn’t being identified as arrogant, cruel, oppressive or evil. Instead, he was called out for going overboard or transgressing all bounds. Firaun was someone who did things in the extremes. He was not just arrogant, he was extremely arrogant – so much so that he considered himself God. He was not just cruel, he was extremely cruel – he mercilessly killed people. Firaun was not just bad, he was extremely evil.
Seeing Firaun’s extremeness in arrogance and cruelty, shouldn’t the response to him be equally extreme as well in harshness? Instead, the prophets AS were instructed to speak gently to Firaun. The root word “lam-ya’-nun” refers to gentleness and softness. What we learn from this is that when dealing with someone extremely harsh and oppressive, there is no point in using harshness.
Firaun already thinks that he is the most powerful being in all of creation. How would it be possible to get him to respond to harshness? Moreover, Prophets Musa and Harun AS were descendants of the Israelites. They were immigrants, with no status and honour. In fact, Firaun detested this group of people and has ben regarding them as mere slaves. He would only have responded to firmness from someone he considered to be of the equal or higher status to himself. As such, the only feasible option was to respond with gentleness.
The word “la’alla”, loosely translates to ‘perhaps’, was used to indicate that although success is ideal, it is not guaranteed. Allah SWT already knew what the outcome of the mission would be. Prophet Musa and Harun did not, they could only hope for success. However, what they know is that they will put in their effort anyway, because Allah judges based on efforts and not our results. Try anyway even when success is not guaranteed, give your 100% effort and leave the outcome in Allah’s Hands.
Fear, Courage and Trusting Allah
قَالَا رَبَّنَا إِنَّنَا نَخَافُ أَن يَفْرُطَ عَلَيْنَا أَوْ أَن يَطْغَىٰ
They said, “Our Lord, indeed we are afraid that he will hasten [punishment] against us or that he will transgress.” [20:45]
Were the Prophets afraid of Firaun? Did they not trust Allah to protect them? Knowing that Allah was guaranteed to help them out, how could the Prophets be afraid?
The answer is that Prophet Musa and Prophet Harun were not actually afraid of Firaun or his punishment. What they feared was that they couldn’t complete their tasks effectively. The tasks they were given was to go to Firaun with two requests: (1) To bring to him the message of One God (i.e. Islam) and (2) to take Bani Israel out of his control so that they may be freed from slavery. The Prophets did not fear the consequences of their actions towards themselves, they feared not being able to continue their work because of something that happens and the impact of that on others.
We are reminded of the story of Prophet Muhammad SAW during the Hijrah, when he had escaped Makkah with Sayidina Abu Bakr RA. They had been hiding in the cave of Hira’ when they heard the footsteps of the Quraysh people approaching them. These people were out to find and kill Rasulullah SAW. It was then that Abu Bakar RA became really fearful. What he feared was not the Quraysh or that they would get caught. What he feared was the death of Rasulullah SAW, because he saw how the message would be prematurely terminated if he was to be unable to protect the Prophet SAW.
A believer is someone who is brave. A believer does not fear other people. A believer only fears Allah SWT and His displeasure. Bravery doesn’t mean being fearless and rash. It means being afraid and yet doing what needs to be done. Having concern for things that matter, and yet relying upon Allah SWT to get you through the difficult time.
In the early days of Islam in Makkah, the first believers came to Prophet Muhammad SAW saying that they feared that the torture and oppression by the Quraysh may impede them from being able to carry on the message of Islam. Rasulullah SAW did not tell them to trust Allah, to not to worry or to ask them to be brave and keep fighting. Instead, he proposed that they migrate to Abyssinia.
During the second migration (Hijrah), Rasulullah SAW did not tell everyone to “trust Allah” and just move as a big troop to Madinah. He advised them to migrate silently in small groups so as to not attract attention and to keep safe. This was not a sign of low confidence in Allah’s ability to protect them. It was a form of taking precaution – the safety and security of the people is important to think about. Being brave and ‘not fearing people’ does not equate to being irresponsible and rash.
For us Muslims today, we need to take precautions with those under our care. We cannot tell our children to stay at home and not go to school because “Allah will provide for us”. We need to take necessary action to complement our faith in Allah. Tawakkal is not about putting your 100% trust in Allah and letting go. It is about putting in the effort and then trusting Allah with the outcome.
Another example Rasulullah SAW was known to fast so often that at times it seemed like he was fasting everyday. But just because he went hungry, he SAW did not leave his family hungry. There have been narrations saying that he often had a stock of reserves of dates for his family, at times enough supply for a month and other times even up to a year of reserves. He had Tawakkal for himself, because he knew that he was protected and cared for by Allah as a Prophet. But for his family, he put in effort to ensure that their needs were properly met. He did fear for their safety and happiness. Likewise, Prophet Musa and Harun AS expressed their fear not for themselves but for their people.
قَالَ لَا تَخَافَا ۖ إِنَّنِي مَعَكُمَا أَسْمَعُ وَأَرَىٰ
He said: Fear not, surely I am with you both: I do hear and see. [20:46]
Allah SWT reassured them that they need not worry. Allah had arranged whatever that they were about to face. Allah is with them throughout all that happens. However, they need to put in effort. Allah is able to grant Firaun guidance if He Wishes, or Free Bani Israel from slavery without the help of Prophet Musa AS. He doesn’t need their help. What he wants is to see their efforts. The outcome is completely up to Him.
“Peace be upon those who follow Guidance”
فَأْتِيَاهُ فَقُولَا إِنَّا رَسُولَا رَبِّكَ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلَا تُعَذِّبْهُمْ ۖ قَدْ جِئْنَاكَ بِآيَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكَ ۖ وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَىٰ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ الْهُدَىٰ
So go to him and say, ‘Indeed, we are messengers of your Lord, so send with us the Children of Israel and do not torment them. We have come to you with a sign from your Lord. And peace will be upon he who follows the guidance. [20:47]
The phrase “Peace be upon him who closely follows the guidance” was often used by the Prophet SAW. In fact, it was included in the letters being sent to the rulers of Rome by Rasulullah SAW to spread Islam.
On that note, let me tell you a story of Musaylamah also known by his given nickname Al-Kadhdhab, meaning the liar. He lived in the time when Rasulullah SAW was still alive. He had heard stories of a poor illiterate orphan from amongst the Arabs gaining status and fame because he claimed to be a Prophet of Allah. Musaylamah got jealous at how a single man could develop a gathering of followers out of nothing. He saw how Prophet Muhammad SAW managed to build an army that was small but strong enough to defeat the powerful Quraysh, and how he managed to get respect and love out of the whole city of Madinah. He decided that he too wanted to become a prophet. Musaylamah wrote a letter to Prophet Muhammad SAW, starting with “To Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah, from Musaylamah, the Prophet of Allah. Peace be Upon you. I was sent by Allah SWT to aid you. You are like a house and I am the earth beneath it.” Rasulullah saw knew the falseness of the letter. In his response, Prphet Muhammad SAW sent a response starting with, “Peace be upon him who follow guidance.”. This phrase serves as a reminder that peace and safety can only be found in true guidance from Allah SWT.
“Who is your Rabb?”
إِنَّا قَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْنَا أَنَّ الْعَذَابَ عَلَىٰ مَن كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّىٰ
Indeed, it has been revealed to us that the punishment will be upon whoever denies and turns away.” [20:48]
Prophet Musa AS used gentle words to let Firaun know that there is a punishment prepared for disbelievers and requesting for him to believe in Allah
قَالَ فَمَن رَّبُّكُمَا يَا مُوسَىٰ
Firaun said, “Who then, O Musa, is the Rabb of you two?” [20:49]
Firaun recognised Prophet Musa as the boy he had raised since childhood. The word “Rabb”, translated loosely to ‘guardian’, refers to someone who protects, cares for, maintains and sustains us.
Firaun asked Prophet Musa AS who had raised him up, intending to remind him that he (Firaun) was the one who had protected Musa from certain death, giving him food and shelter as a child.
Guidance from Allah
قَالَ رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَىٰ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ
Musa said, “Our Rabb is He who gave everything its form, then gave it guidance.” [20:50]
Prophet Musa AS brought up an irrefutable evidence about Allah, something that Firaun himself was unable to do. Firaun had no control over what circumstances he had been born into. His own family, his own looks had already been pre-determined for him by Allah. He had no say in what form Allah had created him in.
All of creation has been given guidance from Allah- they each know their natural capabilities. A tortoise doesn’t try to fly. A turtle who has crossed the seas throughout the years, is able to return to where she had hatched in order to lay her eggs. Freshly-hatched turtles all know which way to go when they emerge from the sand. 100% of all baby turtles head towards the sea rather than away from it. This is in spite of their mother turtle not having taught them or showed them the way. Allah SWT is the one who guides all living things.
As human beings we often forget what strengths and blessings we already have. At times we forget that our time on earth is temporary. At times we make the world our permanent home. It is important for us to always turn back to Allah and remind ourselves that true guidance comes only from Him and that He is our Rabb, the one who sustains us all.
May Allah grant us the wisdom to remember Him at all times and to strengthen our faith in Him. May we have the courage to fear only Allah and not His creations. May we be given the kindness and mercy in our hearts to deal with others with gentleness and wisdom.
Summary by: Arina Adom
Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables me to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.
Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS and is currently a Research Assistant at Evolutionary Biology Lab ( NUS ). She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.
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