Tafseer Taha : Ayat 17-24

Link to video on Muslimmatters

Recap:

  • From ayah 9 we’ve been talking about story of Musa a.s.
  • this initial address to Musa a.s. is Allah bestowing prophethood, raising iman, educating Musa a.s. – a crash course in iman and providing him with the fundamentals that would be necessary for him to fulfill responsibilities and rights of prophethood that are about to be laid on his shoulders
  • beginning portion :- Allah imparts tarbiyyah and ta2deeb on Musa .a.s
  • 2nd portion – Allah imparts the knowledge to Musa a.s. (introduction of Allah and how Allah is the reason for everything being in existence and how entire purpose of Musa’s mission was to invite everyone towards Allah, Allah talks about akhirah that we are not only meant for this world but also for the hereafter)
  • after completion of that 2nd portion (previous session at ayah 16), in this portion, Allah continues on with the next phase of Musa a.s.’s education
  • it continues to focus on power and majesty of Allah but now Musa a.s. will be shown how this extends and apparent and manifests within each and everything in this world
  • in the Quran , Allah says, “not a single leaf falls from a tree, not a single atom in this heavens and earth dry or wet except it’s in full knowledge and control of Allah”
  • Quran is guidance from Allah and greatest miracle of Allah that we witness
  • similarly, Musa a.s., Allah gives him the education of how the power and magnificence of Allah manifests itself throughout this world and those same means through which Allah will teach him His power and authority, will also become the miracle in Musa’s hand and Musa will be able to use that to open the eyes of people and lead them towards Allah

 

 

Ayat 17

20:17
Sahih International

And what is that in your right hand, O Moses?”

  • a question posed here
  • Allah ‘points’ to the staff of Musa a.s. by using the pointing word for something far away (Ismul ishaarah lil ba3eed)
  • this also brings about an obvious question -> Why is Allah asking, doesn’t He know?
  • Of course Allah knows, but Allah is asking Musa a.s. to engage Musa a.s. in this conversation
  • understand what Musa a.s. has just experienced
  • Allah had just spoken to him, he’s shaken up, bewildered, overwhelmed and still coming to grips with what is happening
  • Allah wakes Musa a.s. up by asking him this question
  • just like someone coming in front of you and you know what’s in their hand, and to engage them in the conversation, you ask them “Hey, hey, what’s that in your hand right there?”
  • yo’re trying to draw that person in
  • from the tone, you realize that it’s a very affectionate, loving tone
  • from one human to another, it’s a very playful tone
  • to calm Musa a.s., Allah speaks to him very lovingly, affectionately
  • there is deep wisdom in this as well
  • => even when Allah is teaching Musa a.s. this, Allah speaks about something that is very personal to Musa .a.s something that he takes with him everywhere he goes, something he’s very comfortable and confident in talking about as well

 

Ayat 18

20:18
Sahih International

He said, “It is my staff; I lean upon it, and I bring down leaves for my sheep and I have therein other uses.”

  • Musa a.s. responds, “It is my staff…”
  • Allah asks Musa a.s. the question to open the door to education
  • this is a teaching technique, in order to get a response
  • Allah asks Musa a.s. to make him comfortable
  • Allah asks Musa a.s. the obvious question so Musa a.s. would give the obvious answer so there would be no shred of a doubt about what is in Musa’s a.s. hand
  • now that there is no doubt remaining, everybody is on the same page now…
  • what’s about to happen from here on out is going to be very very interesting to say the least
  • even the way Musa a.s. responds is also very telling of this fact that he simply didn’t just say “it’s a staf” but he says “of course, it’s my staff”
  • you can hear even in words of Musa a.s. he’s very comfortable now (“Oh this? this here, this is my staff”)
  • now Musa a.s. continues the conversation
  • he says, “I lean on it..”
  • if someone’s on their feet quite a bit for work (Musa a.s. was a shepherd, so he’s on his feet for a long time), you need something to rest on
  • he continues “I even knock down leaves for my flock (it’s multifunctional, not only I use it for something personal but it even comes handy for my business)
  • it’s like a smartphone for us, it’s always with us
  • it’s like if someone asks us about it, and we start telling the questioner about it, quite happily
  • he also says “And it got lots of other functions as well” [it got lost of apps]
  • maarib is plural of ma2rabatun
  • مَأرَبَ – a very severe need you can’t do without
  • “this isn’t just some accessory [not just some random thing that doesn’t have function – Sheijh goes off tangent saying there are dudes who wear glasses without lenses] but it has a lot of benefits in it for me in my everyday life”
  • to analyze what Musa a.s. has said :initially Musa a.s. already answered the question  with a great level of comfort, he didn’t just say “Staff”
  • if you were so freaked out, you would say “Staff”
  • but he says,
  • This, oh yeah, this is my staff, check it out, I even had it customized
  • then the answer’s given and Musa a.s. keeps going, “yeah it’s really useful, it does this, it does that”
  • he goes on and on
  • scholars have analyzed this because this is not a typical conversation, why is Musa a.s. going on about the staff, something obviously Allah didn’t ask him about ?
  • mufassiroon have extracted diferent ideas and thoughts about why Musa a.s. kept on going
  • now that he’s regained his senses, and comfortable,and after he realized after first part of the conversation that he’s talking to Ar Rahmaan, Rabbul Alameen, Allah, now Musa a.s. being very intersted and involved, wanting the conversation to continue, he wants to keep the conversation going
  • “how are you doing? what’s going on? Alhamdulilah you doing well, Alhamdulillah inshaaAllah your family is well, alhamdulilah inshaallah your neighbors are well?”🙂
  • you meet someone, you admire them you keep wanting to talk to them, you don’t even remember that you had a list of questions typed up for them, but initialy you don’t want to let this person go and you just want to hold on to this opportunity as long as you can
  • this shows the raghbah and shawq, the natrual inclination, the emotional attachment that Musa a.s. has at this moment, it’s the greatest moment of his life, he’s talking to Allah!
  • at the same time, you see the balance here, it’s very endearing to see Musa a.s. do this, there is always that line where it’s very endearing but then it gets annoying [ok, stop now]
  • Musa a.s. engaged just enough to be able to enjoy this moment but he pulls it right back “Oh and yeah there are lots of other benefits in it for”
  • he begun by listing how he uses the staff but ends it by summarizing it abruptly like that so as not to cross that line
  • that is the adab of the situation, to not drag it unnecessarily
  • he realizes that ‘I’m talking to Rabbul Alameen, I answered his question, now I need to wrap this up quickly’
  • there is no down side to having a staff when he was talking about it, he talks about its many benefits, kind of like “I don’t know what I’d do without this staff”
  • شَيء نَافِع – something beneficial [that’s how Musa a.s. presented his staff]

 

Ayat 19

20:19
Sahih International

[ Allah ] said, “Throw it down, O Moses.”

  • القِ = to drop it
  • Allah says to Musa a.s. “Drop it. let it go, throw it on the ground”
  • there is no need to repeat Musa’s a.s name, but Allah does so because initially that will be a very strange thing to somebody
  • it’s like you have just been telling someone about how awesome your smartphone is and everything and he tells you to slam it down and step on it
  • why would I do that? this is very beneficial!
  • so Allah says “Oh Musa..” getting his attention, yes I heard everything you said and I know how beneficial the staff is to you, now I’m telling you to throw it down
  • for Musa a.s. this is like letting go of something that apparently seems beneficial to the eye

Ayat 20

20:20
Sahih International

So he threw it down, and thereupon it was a snake, moving swiftly.

  • he obeyed the command
  • faizha فَاءذَا =- all of a sudden
  • it turned into a snake, not just some ordinary snake
  • when you go the zoo, you see the snakes, mostly they’re just chillin’, not really doing anything
  • Sheikh says, “You ever see a snake move? Yeah, you’ll break your wudhu.” it’s a completely different experience
  • if from behind a glass you see a snake move, you’ll take steps back
  • but right in front of you if a snake moves, it’s terrifying
  • تَسعَى – not just movement
  • سَعيُ – rapid aggressive movement
  • even in Arabic language, sa3yu generally as a word and even in fiqh when we talk about hajj and umrah, sa3i is specific to men and not women
  • that was how the snake was moving, it was in attack mode
  • so you can imagine what Musa a.s. was going through
  • there was no downside to the staff in mind of Musa a.s.
  • Allah told Musa a.s. to let it go and it became something to bad, detrimental. It turned from something completely  beneficial to something extremely harmful
  • all that changed was that the command of Allah was changed in between
  • Musa a.s. is terrified
  • there are other places in Quran where it talks about this experience with the staff
  • in surah Qasas 28:31 :-
  • 28:31
    Sahih International

    And [he was told], “Throw down your staff.” But when he saw it writhing as if it was a snake, he turned in flight and did not return. [ Allah said], “O Moses, approach and fear not. Indeed, you are of the secure.

  • the word Allah uses there is جَانٌّ – snake that moves really really quick, that you don’t even see it move
  • Musa a.s. turns around and starts to run away [I’m out of here!] like he had no plans about coming back
  • Allah told him to come back around and not to be scared, “I’m in charge of the situation, you’ll be taken care of”
  • in Surah Naml, 27:10
  • 27:10
    Sahih International

    And [he was told], “Throw down your staff.” But when he saw it writhing as if it were a snake, he turned in flight and did not return. [ Allah said], “O Moses, fear not. Indeed, in My presence the messengers do not fear.

  • “Prophets and messengers are not allowed to be afraid when their with Me, they’re My people, they don’t have to be afraid of anything. Turn back around.”
  • Quran talks about same experience couple of different times so you actually see
  • that’s how scary and terrified Musa a.s. was
  • from a linguistic perspective : Allah uses حَيَة for snake, it comes from root which means life

But why would ‘snake’ comes from a word that has basic meaning of ‘life’?

1. the Arabs have the habit of giving a name to an entity based on the opposite meaning

  • so a snake if it bites you, it could kill you[it takes like]
  • so they call it that which takes life

2. the first time Arabs stumbled upon a snake, they saw it shedding its skin, so the impression they got was that this animal gives birth to itself over and over again [constantly living]

3. they saw snake coiled up and it reminded them immediately of how you can tell how old a tree is (from the rings)

  • how long the tree has been alive [حَيَة]

When Allah talks about the staff of Musa a.s. turning into a snake, He uses 3 different words:

  1. حَيَة – a geenral word meaning a snake, but Allah complements it using the word tas3a (moving rapidly)
  2. in surah Qasas and Naml, Allah uses the word جَانٌّ (used to describe a snake that is very very fast and quick)
  • why that word in those surah ? because in those surah, Allah elaborates more on the fear experienced by Musa a.s., that he actually turned back and ran
  • so Allah uses a word that explains why Musa a.s. was so scared
  • it didn’t just turn into a garden snake

3. in surah Araaf and Shuara Allah uses the word ثُعبَان

  • a better translation of this word is serpent (a big ole scary looking snake like Boa constrictor, Anaconda big)
  • thu3baan mubeen – it was such a huge snake you couldn’t look at anything else, it was unbelieveable and overwhelming
  • why does Allah uses this word there ?
  • to describe staff of Musa a.s. turning into a snake when he was facing off into the challenge where Firawn had hired magicians to ‘fight’ with Musa a.s.
  • there, it didn’t just turned into a snake but gobbled up all the things the magicians had thrown down
  • to reconcile everything, some scholars even mention, this is not Musa a.s. performing this mriacle, but Allah is
  • the first time Musa a.s. threw staff, it became a snake, it was more of a normal looking snake
  • when he faced off against magicians of Firawn and when Allah wanted Firawn to be overwhelmed at what he was seeing, Allah made that same staff turned into a humongous snake that was way bigger than the staff was (and this is in the power of Allah, there is nothing restricting that)
  • so basically, when Allah asks Musa a.s. what was in his hand, Musa a.s. got comfortable and said, “Oh this? this is my staff, it can do this and that but I’m not going to bore you with the details.” Allah says, “Oh that’s great, not throw it down. I’m telling you to, you’re here to learn .”
  • knoweldge is meant to increase our obedience, humility, ability to follow instuctions
  • think about what knoweldge does to us
  • it makes us so stubborn, arrogant, more difficult for us to follow instruction [Why, why not, what about this, what about that, I don’t have to listen to him anymore, well, there is this and there is also that…]
  • Musa a.s. listens (it is divine tarbiyyah after all)
  • when the staff change to a snake :- from khayr came sharr, from nafi3a came dharar  [all that changed in between was Allah’s command]
  • this show that Allah is in control (Allah teaching Musa a.s this)
  • in regards to everythig in this dunya, Allah is in control
  • every situation we experience is within the amr and command of Allah
  • parallel drawn from life of Prophet saw :- your circumstances are very challenging and difficult but that is by te comand and amr of Allah and if tomorow the command and amr of Allah changes, your situation will change

 

 

Ayat 21

20:21
Sahih International

[ Allah ] said, “Seize it and fear not; We will return it to its former condition.

  • Allah now tells Musa a.s. “go and grab the snake”
  • this is more shocking than the first time around when Allah told Musa a.s. to throw the staff and it turned into a snake
  • yes this is very hamrful, dangerous, bad for you, but Allah controls the harm in it
  • So go and grab it
  • on top of that, don’t be afraid
  • to Musa a.s.this is like :-  “grab snake and don’t be afraid??”
  • that trust that is needed in Allah [Allah told me to do this, this is what’s best for me]
  • we deal with situations like this all the time, every single day:- “but if I was to do this, I would save a lot of money..if I were to do this, this would be good for my career…”
  • but with commands of Allah, it’s the contrary, we’d respond “but, if I didn’t do it, this would be better, that would be..”
  • sometimes you just have to put yuor trust in Allah and just do what Alalh is telling you to do
  • سَنُعِيدُهَا – very soon We will return it
  • “back to its original form”
  • when Musa a.s. grabbed it, it turned back into the staff
  • from sharr to khayr, from dharar to nafa3 and in between was the command and amr of Allah that changed
  • we have to learn to live life in this fashion where we see, acknowledge, conscious of  the world around us, but at the end of the day we are able to see through things and see that Allah is the one who controls the outcome
  • even though everyone is telling you this is harmful or beneficial, in the end it’s all in Allah’s control , and the One who decides and decrees the good and bad of it
  • in life of Prophet saw, when he first went to Taif (that was an amazing oportunity as if anybody could stand up to the people of Makkah, it was the people of Taif (it was another big city)) but bad came from that, he (saw) was pelted with stones
  • on the other hand, what came from that was good :- when Prophet saw sits down to make dua, he made dua for guidance for the people of Taif and their progeny
  • when Prophet saw leaves Makkah to go to Madinah, apparenyly that is a bad situation (they wer trying to assasinate him, leavig his home,) but we realize what a great khayr came out from there (blesings in Madinah and what rtanspired there)
  • when Prophet saw set out to Makkah and turned back, they felt defeated, and the first revelation sent down at this time when they were turned back, Allah says, “Congratulations on the victory!”
  • “what?? we were just defeated and humilated”
  • outcome of situations are in hands of Allah
  • a powerful lesson of Iman taught to Mu sa.a. sand Prophet saw and us too

 

 

Ayat 22

20:22
Sahih International

And draw in your hand to your side; it will come out white without disease – another sign,

  • while teaching that great lesson here, Allah equipped Musa as. with a great miracle that woud lbe used to convince people and show , rattle their cages, wake them up so they pay attention and understand and realize what the truth is
  • now Allah teaches Musa a.s. a second lesson and equips him with a 2nd miracle
  • وَضمُم يَدَكَ – touch/press your hand
  • جَنَاح = means wing
  • in another place, Allah says, usluk yadaki fi jaybika /udkhul “put your hands inside of your shirt”
  • جَيب = opening of the shirt
  • here Allah says ‘press’ your hand under your wing (referring to armpits). Allah doesn’t use the word armpit/underarm though
  • Allah uses جَنَاح (wing), which sound nicer, better and has a tone to it. جَنَاح in Arabic language, is a symbol of mercy, love, perfection
  • we are told to do to our parents “waghfirlahumaa janaahu zhulli [lower the wings of humility to your parents]”
  • Press your hand to your wing = press your hand inside of yoru arm
  • تَخرُج – when you take it out
  • بَيضَاء – the hand will come out glowing white
  • مِن غَيرِ سُوء – but there won’t be anything wrong with it
  • if you put your hand inside of your arms and you take it out and it was glowing white, you would freak out if just a little bit
  • some mufassiroon say that here Allah is assuring Musa a.s. that he has not contracted any disease, leprosy, etc
  • but those specifics are not even needed; “yeah your hands are glowing white, but it’s okay”
  • scholars extract from this that this is not a permanent condition, that it woudl temporarily glow white and just to let Musa a.s. know that it would turn back to normal
  • اَيَة اخرَى – this is a second sign
  • something extraordinary
  • your hand is your hand, its a part of your body
  • “you know it like the back of your hand”
  • what do you know better than your hand?
  • all of a sudden for your hand to be glowing white, that’s out of this world! it’s miraculous
  • Allah says “this is a sign”
  • Allah takes so familiar and turn it into a sign and miracle from Allah
  • some mufassiron (not a lot) have actually (even though nowhere in the Quran does it elaborate whether it was left or right hand) read and researched (because after all it is their job) and said that in the beginning of the conversation where Allah asks Musa a.s. what was in his right hand, and then Allah told him to grab the staff, so right hand was occupied, so scholars said maybe this glowing white was his left hand
  • but nowhere is this mentioned in Quran or hadith, so it’s best to leave this alone

 

Ayat 23

20:23
Sahih International

That We may show you [some] of Our greater signs.

  • scholars explained based on construction of this ayah is that Allah is saying “all of this is just a little bit of an introduction.”
  • imagine how mind-blowing all this is for Musa a.s.
  • “This introduction is being done so We can continue to show you the GREAT signs”
  • “This was just your intro, 101, wait for what comes ahead, this is just the tip of iceberg.”
  • and from the life of Musa a.s. we know what comes ahead :- challenged by 70 magicians, punishment on Firawn and his people (terrible weather, locusts, lice, frogs, blood), splitting of ocean…
  • strike ocean with staff -: sounds ridiculous no matter how awesome the staff is, but it literally split ocean in two, it helped them escape and drowned their enemy
  • later on, when Bani Israel were thirsty and needed water, Musa a.s. made dua and Allah told him to strike the stone with his staff and 12 springs came out
  • now that Musa a.s. has been prepared with the basis education, some more preparations will be made but Allah goes ahead and lets Musa a.s. know what is expected of him

 

Ayat 24

20:24
Sahih International

Go to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed.”

  • go to Firawn with this iman, understanding
  • “You remember the Firawn that you remember but you have no idea, he has completely lost his head now.”
  • taghaa – to cross all boundaries and limits, to grab something that is not yours to grab
  • “He’s out of control, he’s telling people he’s the Rabb the Most high”

Reflection:

  • Musa a.s. had a staff, something that he own, understood very well, confident about, saw benefit in for himselt, but when Allah gave him instruction and walked him through the entire process, what Allah opened up his mind and eyes to was “Yes you thought this was beneficial, because it helped you in your work, personal life etc, but you have no idea how beneficial it really is. This staff that you hold so casually, thinking you completyly know what it has to offer, you have yet to realize this is huge miracle, you had to be shown.”
  • Once Musa a.s. was shown, he never looked back
  • all the other miracles that occurred during life time of Musa a.s. by means of that staff, it continued to benefit, the benefit was unbelievable
  • we have a similar situation, specificaly with regards to this setting
  • the Quran is something we are very comfortable with, we realize it’s good, great, fantastic, it’s in our phones, on our computers, in glove compartment of our cars, we have 5 different prints in our homes, we’re confident and aware of how beneficial it is but we have yet to realize how truyl beneficial it is
  • how it can be a major source of not only bettering our lives but bettering the world we live
  • Musa a.s was able to change lives of 100s of people
  • we are also holding this Quran in our hands, we can better the world , it’s just a matter of opening our eyes to the true benefit and blessings of this Quran
  • when we read story of Musa a.s. let us also realize we have so much more to learn about the Quran
  • let’s continue to open our eyes to the benefit so we can better our own lives and those around us

 

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