Lessons from Surah Taha Part 8 (Verses 58-70)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 15th March 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 51 to 57.

Prophet Musa and the Sorcerers

فَلَنَأْتِيَنَّكَ بِسِحْرٍ مِّثْلِهِ فَاجْعَلْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَّا نُخْلِفُهُ نَحْنُ وَلَا أَنتَ مَكَانًا سُوًى

We will confront you with sorcery to match your own: make an appointment between us which neither of us will fail to keep, in a mutually agreeable place.’ [20:58]

Firaun was bent on denying the truth. When he saw the miracles of Prophet Musa AS, he accused Prophet Musa AS of using sorcery. He therefore challenged Prophet Musa AS to a sorcery battle.

قَالَ مَوْعِدُكُمْ يَوْمُ الزِّينَةِ وَأَن يُحْشَرَ النَّاسُ ضُحًى

Musa said, “Your appointment is on the Day of Decoration (a day when the people are dressed up and celebrating), and let the people be gathered mid-morning.” [20:59]

Prophet Musa AS, like all prophets, had the quality of “Fathonah” or intelligence. He had no doubt that Allah will send aid to support him. He chose a time and place where there would be a large audience, and everyone would be awake and alert to pay attention to what was happening.

فَتَوَلَّىٰ فِرْعَوْنُ فَجَمَعَ كَيْدَهُ ثُمَّ أَتَىٰ

So Firaun went away, put together his plan, and then came [to Musa]. [20:60]

Firaun did not leave the outcome of this battle to chance. Even though he did not think much of Prophet Musa AS, he made the necessary preparations to ensure that he was ready for the appointment. He strategized, plotted and gathered the best sorcerers he knew for this purpose.

قَالَ لَهُم مُّوسَىٰ وَيْلَكُمْ لَا تَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا فَيُسْحِتَكُم بِعَذَابٍ ۖ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنِ افْتَرَىٰ

Musa said to them, ‘Beware, do not invent lies against God or He will destroy you with His punishment. Whoever invents lies will fail.’ [20:61]

Prophet Musa AS warned the sorcerers that this should be a fair competition, that no foul play should be expected.

فَتَنَازَعُوا أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّجْوَىٰ

So they disputed over their affair among themselves and concealed their private conversation. [20:62]

We do not know for sure how many sorcerers there were. There are certain views of the exact number, not all of these views are supported by legitimate sources. It does not matter how many sorcerers there were. What Allah wants us to know has already been revealed in the verses.

The sorcerers concealed their whispers so as to not be heard by Musa AS as they did not want to reveal their uncertainty or lack of confidence.

قَالُوا إِنْ هَٰذَانِ لَسَاحِرَانِ يُرِيدَانِ أَن يُخْرِجَاكُم مِّنْ أَرْضِكُم بِسِحْرِهِمَا وَيَذْهَبَا بِطَرِيقَتِكُمُ الْمُثْلَىٰ

They said, “Indeed, these are two magicians who want to drive you out of your land with their magic and do away with your most exemplary way. [20:63]

The sorcerers reassured Firaun in order to gain his confidence in them and secure the reward that they had been promised.

فَأَجْمِعُوا كَيْدَكُمْ ثُمَّ ائْتُوا صَفًّا ۚ وَقَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْيَوْمَ مَنِ اسْتَعْلَىٰ

So, make your plot firm and come forth in one row. Successful today is the one who prevails.” [20:64]

قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِمَّا أَن تُلْقِيَ وَإِمَّا أَن نَّكُونَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ أَلْقَىٰ

They said, ‘Musa, will you throw first, or shall we?’ [20:65]

قَالَ بَلْ أَلْقُوا ۖ فَإِذَا حِبَالُهُمْ وَعِصِيُّهُمْ يُخَيَّلُ إِلَيْهِ مِن سِحْرِهِمْ أَنَّهَا تَسْعَىٰ

Musa said, “Rather, you throw.” Then, suddenly their ropes and sticks seemed to him, due to their magic, as if they were moving. [20:66]

فَأَوْجَسَ فِي نَفْسِهِ خِيفَةً مُّوسَىٰ

So Musa conceived a fear in himself. [20:67]

Prophet Musa AS seemed so confident and fearless in verse 66 when he unhesitatingly asked the sorcerers to cast their sticks and ropes first. How then could he possibly suddenly lose courage in verse 67? Did Prophet Musa AS lose faith in Allah?

The scholars have discussed this and come to the conclusion that it was neither the sorcerers nor their magic that Prophet Musa AS was fearful of. In fact, he was not afraid. He was anxious and concerned about whether, if anything were to happen to him, if he would be able to continue his mission as a prophet to spread the word of Islam and to free Bani Israel.

Magic vs Mu’jizat

قُلْنَا لَا تَخَفْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْأَعْلَىٰ

We (Allah) said: “Fear not! Surely, you will have the upper hand. [20:68]

وَأَلْقِ مَا فِي يَمِينِكَ تَلْقَفْ مَا صَنَعُوا ۖ إِنَّمَا صَنَعُوا كَيْدُ سَاحِرٍ ۖ وَلَا يُفْلِحُ السَّاحِرُ حَيْثُ أَتَىٰ

Cast what is in your right hand, and it will swallow up what they have made, for what they have made is no more than a magic trick. And magicians can never succeed wherever they go.” [20:69]

Allah SWT reassures Prophet Musa AS of his guaranteed success. What the sorcerers had were mere illusions and tricks, whereas what Prophet Musa AS was gifted were mu’jizat (miracles) from Allah SWT. The sorcerers’ magic tricks were no match for Prophet Musa AS’ mu’jizat.

There is a clear difference between black magic and reality. When people are being affected by black magic, things do not physically happen to them (e.g. their house doesn’t end up in flames because of black magic). Rather, the impact of black magic is internal – a person’s thoughts, feelings and senses are affected. People impacted by black magic start seeing things, feeling intense heat, experiencing deep hatred or smelling foul smells. They do not have any physical impacts; What they experience are mere illusions. This is the kind of magic that the sorcerers were using. This was the reason why the sorcerers recognised that what Prophet Musa AS was demonstrating was not magic.

When Truth Becomes Clear

فَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سُجَّدًا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّ هَارُونَ وَمُوسَىٰ

So the magicians fell down in prostration, declaring, “We believe in the Lord of Harun and Musa.” [20:70]

The sorcerers recognised immediately that Prophet Musa’s “magic” was something more than just illusions. The sorcerers knew that what Prophet Musa AS was doing was something that could only come from a higher power, from Allah. They did not hesitate to accept the truth the moment it became apparent to them.

What the sorcerers did is a true reflection of how a Mu’min (believer) should act. When a reminder or warning comes from Allah to you, how do you react? Do you immediately recognise and accept the truth, acknowledging the signs from your Lord? Or do you react the way Firaun does (as we will be addressing in the coming lecture) by becoming defensive and denying the truth, turning away from the signs of your Lord?

Covid-19, Our Mosques & the Life of a Believer

In the current circumstances of today’s world, Allah SWT is showing us His True Power. In Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 26, Allah SWT says:

إ ِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِهَٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ

Indeed, Allah is not ashamed to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this as an example?” He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient.

As powerful as we are as humans with the technological advancements that we have in today’s world, we are unable to stop the impact of something as microscopic as a virus from causing massive harm to the world. Allah wants us to reflect on our hearts, if we have any bit of arrogance and pride in thinking we can handle everything that comes our way. Allah is testing us in order to remind us that there is no might and no power except from Allah SWT.

The way to get Allah’s aid is to follow His Orders. When He demands that we do not harm our own bodies, we do our best to protect ourselves from harm. These social distancing measures that we are taking are not limited to Singapore. In fact, international organisations of Ulama’ (scholars) all around the world have decided to cease congregational prayers and Friday prayers in other countries as well. We are not doing this because we think that Allah is weak and unable to protect us. No! In fact, we acknowledge and admit our own weaknesses as human beings.

We take the precautions we need to protect ourselves because of our own weaknesses. We are following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad SAW in doing what needs to be done in the times of a crisis of infectious diseases. We maintain our personal hygiene and limit social interactions so as to reduce the spread of harmful illness from person to person.

In Singapore, we have been blessed with Allah’s protection from harm Alhamdulillah. However, it is not an excuse for us to become complacent and arrogant. Do not put the blame on other countries or think of ourselves as better than them. Wipe away any ill feelings towards other people from your hearts. This test is meant to bring us together as a Muslim Ummah (community). We are a single body; Their hurt and pain is ours as well. We seek Allah’s protection for all of us. Let us make istighfar together, so that Allah may wipe away the sins from our hearts. May Allah remove any barriers that are in the way of our du’as being accepted by Allah.

It saddens me to see our mosques, even Masjidil Haram being silent and vacated. The mosques are our place of comfort and solace. It pains me that we do not get the blessings of being surrounded by people whose hearts are filled with yearning for the Pleasure of Allah SWT. These blessings of uniting as one in congregation has been temporarily taken away from us. Perhaps it is a reminder from Allah SWT that we have been taking these blessings for granted all this while. Perhaps we have not been fulfilling the rights of the mosques. Only through the absence do we realise what has been made available for us all this while.

This is also a reminder to us, that as precious as the mosques are to us, if we combine all of the mosques in the world and we compare it to a single Muslim’s life, the Muslim’s life is way more valuable in status to Allah. We are not closing the mosques because we do not treasure them. It is not as a way of abandoning the religion. No. We are closing the mosques because we know how precious each and every Muslim person’s life is in Allah’s eyes. What is the evidence for this? The evidence is in this hadith in which ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr says:

“I saw the Messenger of Allah SAW circumambulating (doing tawaf around) the Ka’bah and saying: ‘How good you are and how good your fragrance; how great you are and how great your sanctity. By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of the believer is greater before Allah than your sanctity, his blood and his wealth, and to think anything but good of him.’”

As much as it pains us to be distanced from the mosques and from prayers in congregation, what should pain us even more is to know that there are lives being affected by the virus and even deaths of believers being caused by it.

A Heartfelt Prayer

O Allah, You alone deserve to be worshipped, You are Most Gracious Most Merciful, You alone know what is in our hearts, You alone hear all of our appeals and prayers. You are the Most Forgiving and only You can forgive us. We are aware that there is no power and help except through you. You have granted us so much in blessings and bounties. Yet, O Allah, we have been lacking in our gratitude and obedience to You. We have let arrogance enter our hearts. We have committed too many sins and gone overboard throughout our lives. O Allah, forgive our sins. Wipe away any black spots that taint our hearts and our deeds.

Make us amongst your servants who are Soliheen, who are always chasing for Your Pleasure and Love. Make us amongst the Syakireen, who want to be always in gratitude for every blessing You have granted us. Make us amongst the Muttaqin, who are always in fear of your Displeasure, Hatred and Punishment. O Allah, we acknowledge our weakness, smallness and limitations as your slaves. Too heavy is the test you have given us, too huge are the illnesses that have been given to us.

O Allah, we ask for your protection from being destroyed by this illness. O Allah, distance any sickness from us and from our family, from our community, our country and the whole of this world. O Allah, we accept your Qadr. We acknowledge your right to put on us any trial or test. However, we are servants who are weak, small and powerless. We are unable to cope unless with Your Help and Your Guidance and Your Power. O Allah, protect us in Singapore, protect the people in our neighbouring countries and in the countries all around the world. O Allah, grant us Your strength so that we may become slaves who rise up better from this test than we were before.

O Allah, if there are any amongst us who have any animosity or hatred in our hearts for one another, forgive us. Cleanse and purify our hearts of any ill-feelings. Do not let this hatred be a cause for You not giving us protection from this disease. Replace the negativity with love, compassion and brotherhood for one another as what you expect from us.

Protect us O Allah, from epidemics and diseases, from bala’ and musibah, from any form of suffering and pain. Return this earth to a state of peace and tranquillity. O Allah, gaze at us and our brothers in Islam, regardless of where they are, with the gaze of Love, Mercy and Forgiveness. Gaze upon us as the Ummah of Rasulullah SAW. Pity us O Allah, let these tears be tears that wipe away our sins, soften our hearts, purify us from any harm and calamity, plant seeds of companionship in our hearts and wipe away any hatred between us.

O Allah, grant us all your Love and Mercy, forgive us and our parents. For those of them who are still alive, prolong their lives in good health and strong faith, and for those of them who are no longer with us, forgive their sins and raise their ranks in your eyes, expand their graves and grant them protection from the punishment of the grave.

O Allah, forgive our sins, and the sins of those who have come before us with Iman in their hearts. Wipe away hatred from our hearts for fellow believers. Forgive the sins of those of us who have sins as high as mountains. If not for you, who else can give us forgiveness and Mercy? Who else can we rely on for protection from punishment and calamity in this world and the next?

Grant us goodness in this world and the next, protect us from Your displeasure, hatred and curse. Protect us in this world, during the moment of death, during our time in the graves and during the time when we are facing you for our judgement. Protect us, protect our parents, protect our spouses, protect our children, protect us all from being in contact with your hellfire. O Allah, you are the one who answers all prayers. Answer ours. Ameen.

We will resume this lecture next week in syaa Allah, most likely online as well. I have heard of people listening in to my tafsir lectures from home and from all around the world, in Britain, Australia, Vietnam. I hope and pray that all that I have shared with you will continue to benefit you and serve as a protection for me in this world and the next.

Ameen.

 

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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.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile


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