Tafseer Taha : Ayat 77-79

Link to video on Muslimmatters


  • the next ayat is a transition in the story of Musa a.s.
  • filling in the context:
  • Musa a.s. presented miracles to Firawn and Firawn refused
  • the magicians were defeated in the showdown but that led to them accepting iman and being counted as believers
  • the general context in the story tells us that Firawn did carry on his threat and murdered them
  • Musa a.s. continued to try to reason with Firawn and at the same he continued to teach and provide a proper context to teach the Bani Israel
  • nothing tells us that they weren’t believers before but they could always use more tarbiyyah and spiritual focus
  • Musa’s a.s. message to Firawn was two-fold :-
  • he himself will realize the message
  • he will be fearful of what he has been doing in oppressing the Bani Israel
  • so Musa a.s. asked him to free Bani Israel, and he continued to present his message and plead with Firawn on these 2 fronts
  • there is a lengthy hadith that is referred to by muhadithoon as hadith of futoon (hadith of trial) :- in his stubbornness, Firawn grew worse and almost to spite Musa a.s., he was oppressing Bani Israel more
  • “Really, you want me to let them go?! Ok, how about this!”
  • his oppression on them intensified
  • so a befitting response came from Allah as Firawn continued to do this
  • so Allah intensified the message to Firawn
  • Surah al A’raaf 133
  • 7:133
    Sahih International

    So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.

  • terrible weather, storms, tornadoes however you want to understand it
  • locust
  • infestation of lice
  • complete infestation of frogs
  • all water they had access to turned to blood
  • مُفَصَّلاَت – signifies that these were separated
  • the hadith fills in the context :- these signs were clear but they were separated
  • So, first when the storms came, Firawn asked Musa a.s. to ask his Lord to remove it and he promised he would let the Bani Israel go
  • when Musa a.s. did though and Allah removed the plague, Firawn feigned ignorance to his previous promise
  • then the lice came and again and again Firawn kept doing this
  • how Allah speaks about Firawn in Quran
  • it was clear that Firawn was a terrible person and suffered a terrible fate
  • but if we study and compare how Allah speaks about these nefarious people in the Quran, no one was given more opportunity to change than Firawn
  • that shows you the love, generosity, compassion of Allah
  • some of the scholars, muhaditoon say this lasted for years (all these different signs coming and back and forth negotiation between Firawn and Musa a.s.)
  • imagine how difficult that must have been
  • parallel to life of Prophet saw
  • every aspect of life of Prophet saw need to be emphasized and study but often times in our community there is such a large emphasis on the Madinan era but at the expense of the Makkan era
  • in Madinan era there were battles ans sacrifices
  • as mentioned in surah Fath, the people who were there at the treaty under the tree, they had a higher status and reward than people who came afterwards
  • at Madinan era they were at least standing on their own feet and able to fight back
  • in Makkan era it was all out open oppression without ability to defend oneself even. Imagine 13 years of that
  • so when Prophet saw received this surah, it was during Makkan era
  • here Allah is sending a message, drawing that parallel to life of prophet saw, just like Quraysh, back and forth and this ongoing struggle, Musa a.s. went through the same thing, creating that fraternity
  • sahabah, at the height of oppression in Makkah, when they came to Prophet saw and pleaded and cried “When will the help of Allah arrive?”
  • Prophet saw said “You people are rushing things. There were people before you, they would be skinned alive with iron combs, or an ax or huge sword would be placed in the middle of their heads and they would be cut in half. “
  • Prophet saw was telling the sahabah that they were being too hasty and they needed to stay strong
  • when we look at the suffering of these people at the hands of Firawn, we gain a little bit of perspective on how we need to fall back on patience and trust in Allah
  • at the point where it’s clear that Firawn is not budging, in ayat 77, Allah commanded Musa a.s….

Ayat 77

Sahih International

And We had inspired to Moses, “Travel by night with My servants and strike for them a dry path through the sea; you will not fear being overtaken [by Pharaoh] nor be afraid [of drowning].”

  • الإِسرَى = literally to travel at night, move at night-time
  • a lot of times there is this curiosity that if it means to travel by night so why is it in surah Isra that Allah says ‘night'(لَيْلًا) on top of أَسْرَىٰ
  • 17:1
    Sahih International

    Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

    [Al Israa 17:1]

  • is it redundant? no, you have to read ahead
  • from masjidil haram to masjidil aqsa
  • because there was such a huge distance, at that time, with the mode of transportation available to them, it wast unfathomable that they could travel in 1 night between these two places
  • so Allah is saying He took His slave in 1 night from masjidil haram to masjid Aqsa
  • that’s why that لَيلاََ was repeated
  • but إسرَى in essence means to travel by night
  • this is a form of إلتِفَات
  • Allah started with plural We in أَوْحَيْنَا
  • Because Allah is speaking from position of superiority
  • but when Allah tells Musa a.s. to move with the people, it switched to singular بِعِبَادِي
  • speaking in singular is more personal and intimate
  • to show more personal attention and care
  • e.g. :- “we as an organization made arrangement but I personally oversaw this aspect of it”
  • “We commanded Musa a.s. to move at night with MY slaves.”
  • this is a loving affectionate address
  • “You’ve gone through a lot, now I have made arrangements for you, arrangement you could never have expected.”
  • in Ayat 80 Allah will address Bani Israel
  • when you speak to a group of people you can speak to them according to the majority
  • scholars say that here why Allah didn’t sayبِبَنِي إِسرَاِيل and yet says عِبَادِي, this is Allah consoling them and personally guaranteeing them that they will be ok
  • but there were also other believers who were not from Bani Israel in that group
  • some Coptic had accepted iman and followed Musa a.s
  • the Quran tells us explicitly about one of these people [وَقَالَ رَجُلُُ مُّؤمِنُُ مِن اَلِ فِرعَون يَكتُمُ إمَانَهُ]”there was a man who was a believer and he was hiding his faith and he belonged to the people of Firawn”
  • 40:28
    Sahih International

    And a believing man from the family of Pharaoh who concealed his faith said, “Do you kill a man [merely] because he says, ‘My Lord is Allah ‘ while he has brought you clear proofs from your Lord? And if he should be lying, then upon him is [the consequence of] his lie; but if he should be truthful, there will strike you some of what he promises you. Indeed, Allah does not guide one who is a transgressor and a liar.[Ghafir 40:28]

  • there were a few scattered people from the people of Firawn
  • so Allah uses “My slaves [عِبَادِي]”
  • traveling at night even now a lot of times, it’s not a very desirable thing to do
  • even for us with all the technological advances, it’s still not a desirable thing to do
  • imagine for them how much harder it must have been
  • it was very taxing for them, but they departed anyway
  • then Allah tells Musa a.s. “strike for them a path in the ocean [فَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ طَرِيقًا فِي الْبَحْرِ]”
  • books of history and that hadith makes it very clear that it was the Red Sea
  • the phrase “ضَربُ الطَّرِيق” is an expression in Arabic that means ‘to carve out a path or make a way”
  • one of the profound nuances and realization why Allah use this particular expression is to indicate how would one make a path in the ocean?
  • it’s a subtle reference that it would happen with miraculous means
  • in surah Shuara –
  • 26:63
    Sahih International

    Then We inspired to Moses, “Strike with your staff the sea,” and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain.[26:63]

  • فَانفَلَقَ = it will split open
  • كَالطَّوْدِ الْعَظِيمِ = like huge mountains
  • the Quran describes them in this graphic form
  • يَبَسًا = dry
  • this points out how much more amazing this will be, the floor of the ocean was dry
  • when water receded and made a path, they didn’t have to wade through the water, but the path was dry, not even muddy
  • Allah even moved the water particles that are mixed with dirt in the bottom of the ocean
  • it was dry dirt, not even muddy
  • couldn’t Bani Israel have walked through a little bit of Mud
  • this doesn’t just show great power of Allah but it also shows the love and care of Allah
  • imagine how well taken care of they must have felt at that moment
  • لَّا تَخَافُ دَرَكًا = don’t fear being caught
  • وَلَا تَخْشَىٰ= don’t fear
  • yet inوَلَا تَخْشَىٰ, Allah didn’t mention the object
  • don’t fear what?
  • scholars discussed this ayah and based on other ayaat in Quran, it’s fair to understand that Allah means “Don’t be fearful of drowning.”but at the same time,when Allah omitted the object and left it open-ended, He did it for a purpose
  • if it was explained to them that they will go to the edge of the ocean and Musa a.s. will strike it with his staff and it will open up and they will walk through, they would be like “Ok, thank you,no thanks.”
  • so here, Allah is kind of like “No worries, I won’t even bother explaining to you. I’ll take care of it.”
  • there is no point of reference to explain to us even
  • another reason Allah leave it open-ended, it means don’t be fearful of everything (army coming from behind, the ocean, etc)
  • in no way shape of form should be worried or afraid of anything
  • just do zhikr of Allah and move forward
  • Prophet saw is by extension also being told the same thing
  • all arrangements have been made
  • at battle of Khandaq, when Prophet saw struck the rock, he said “I see that Rome has been conquered, Persian have been conquered”
  • at that time the hypocrites got together and said “He’s lots it!”
  • at Hudaybiyah, after a moral defeat (or at least what eyes tell you it’s a moral defeat), Allah says, “a great victory has been granted to you!”

Ayat 78

Sahih International

So Pharaoh pursued them with his soldiers, and there covered them from the sea that which covered them,

  • so Harun and Musa a.s. were ahead and the followed behind them, they reached the shore
  • at that point in time, at another place in the Quran, Allah says, “فَأَتبَعُوهُم مُشرِقِين” (that they followed them in the morning)
  • when Firawn and Coptics woke up in the morning, they realized the people were gone and went after them
  • Shuaraa [26:60]
  • 26:60
    Sahih International

    So they pursued them at sunrise.

  • he brought the whole army [فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ بِجُنُودِهِ]
  • as they were at the shore, they saw Firawn’s army marching up, armed to the teeth, thirsty for blood and Bani Israel started to freak out and completely lost it
  • Surah Shuara [26:61]
  • 26:61
    Sahih International

    And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Moses said, “Indeed, we are to be overtaken!”

  • and they said, “يَا مُسَى إنَّا لَمُدرَكُون” (Musa! We’ve been caught!)
  • it shows you the weakness on our part in faith
  • Allah said, “لَّا تَخَافُ دَرَكًا”(Don’t fear being caught) and they said, “يَا مُسَى إنَّا لَمُدرَكُون” (Musa! We’ve been caught!)
  • Musa a.s. responds, Shuaraa [26:62]
  • 26:62
    Sahih International

    [Moses] said, “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.”

  • Musa a.s. with firmness and conviction of iman said, “Absolutely not, you need to stop that right there,i’m nt hearing any of that! My rabb is with me, He will tell me exactly what to do!”
  • that’s when Allah tells Musa a.s.
  • Imagine that moment
  • Bani Israel completely freaking out and a huge army of Firawn coming closer, and a huge sea in front of them and they were literally trapped
  • Musa a.s. steps forward, lifts his staff and strike the ocean with it and Allah literally removes the water from the path
  • in Surah Shuaraa,[26:63] when Allah says, “كُلُّ فِرْقٍ”, this collaborates what we found in many riwaayat that Allah didn’t just make one path but Allah made 12 paths for each tribe of Bani Israel
  • and they started to walk through, they are literally walking through the ocean with water on either side
  • the believers are there, Musa a.s. is there
  • imagine Firawn and his army
  • the first reaction he must had must have been “Ok, this is too much, I’ve seen a lot, Musa is just a lot of trouble, but this is too much”
  • being a conniving politician, he saw the looks on the faces of his army and saw that they were completely bewildered and ready to run for the hills, he turned to them and said, “Look what I’ve done! Didn’t I tell you I was Your lord the most high ? Now let’s go!”
  • Firawn deep down inside at some level realizes it wasn’t because of him
  • we saw earlier that he would plead with Musa a.s. to remove the plagues when they came and even promised to let Bani Israel go
  • he knew that this is the Rabb of Musa a.s. taking care of him and the believers
  • but that arrogance, that ego, power, it’s an intoxication, it can be so overwhelming that a person can lose his common sense
  • he marches and walks right in, not realizing that he was walking straight into his graveyard
  • that ego is THAT intoxicating
  • same thing, at time of Prophet saw, they would walk right to their doom, they set themselves up for failure
  • so Firawn and his army walked right to the path. This was also mentioned in Surah Shuara and alluded to in Surah Yunus
  • Shuaraa [26:64]
  • 26:64
    Sahih International

    And We advanced thereto the pursuers.

  • Yunus [10:90]
  • 10:90
    Sahih International

    And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, “I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims.”

  • in this ayah (Taha 78) Allah says, “فَغَشِيَهُم مِّنَ الْيَمِّ” [the water overwhelmed them]
  •  earlier when Allah said “مَا يُحَى”, this is an expression
  • مَا غَشِيَهُمْ means “it can’t even be put into words and explained how Allah drowned them on that day

Ayat 79

Sahih International

And Pharaoh led his people astray and did not guide [them].

  • when you are in position of leadership, we right away want to look at board member of masjid or politician
  • but Prophet saw said “Each and every single one of you is a shepherd and each ad every one of you will be asked about his flock”
  • the word for responsibility in Arabic is “مَسؤُلِيَّه” and it literally translated into “what you will be asked about”
  • we love to focus on the power and authority that comes with leadership
  • what we need to be cognizant of is the weight that comes with that responsibility
  • so Firawn doomed himself
  • it takes 2 to tango
  • those who followed him played a part too
  • his wife didn’t follow, the magicians didn’t play along with firawn => look what happened to them
  • but at same time, firawn as their leader, not only has to answer for what he himself did but also for every single one of his followers
  • leadership within Islam and teaching of Prophet saw is a need and necessity, someone’s gotta do it
  • if you’re the man who is pushed to take that responsiblity, it does behoove you to accept it
  • but what can’t be discounted is the taqwa of some of the sahabah
  • there were some of them who never accepted the position no matter how much they were pushed into it
  • there can be a discussion of what is more desirable in that situation
  • but at same time we can’t discount the fact that responsiblity isa weight on the shoulders
  • we have far too many people eager to take leadership and responsibilities without realizing what it really entails
  • one of sheikh’s teachers taught him  and at the khateeb workshop, he was asked a question => we don’t discourage people from taking responsibility but what needs to be hammered is the accountability that comes with responsibility
  • we cannot overstate that
  • it needs to be there in the tarbiyyah of people who are serving the ummah
  • Prophet saw said, “you deal with people according to their level and capacity”
  • there is an inspirational message to ‘do more’ for each and every single believer
  • the purpose is not to demoralize and beat them down and there needs to be a hand put over the shoulder a lot more than the tough love/conversation, but at the same time that tough love needs to be given out
  • the worst thing that can happen to someone who serves/leads the ummah is when they buy their own stock
  • that is a tragedy for the person and ummah
  • Umar Ibn Al Khattab would beg and plead for people’s forgiveness as khalifah
  • he would regularly and frequently go and talk to Hudhayfah Ibn Al Yaman and ask “Am I in the list of hypocrite that Prophet saw gave you “
  • this was the weight of leadership
  • Firawn has a share of the punishment of his followers, today even now, they are being punished morning and evening and the day the Hour will occur…
  • this is why Allah says that Firawn and his posse
  • 40:46
    Sahih International

    The Fire, they are exposed to it morning and evening. And the Day the Hour appears [it will be said], “Make the people of Pharaoh enter the severest punishment.” Ghafir 40:46]

  • Allah will command the angels to enter them in the harshest [punishment available because they have to be punished not just for what they did but for what they made others do as well
  • So in this ayah Taha 77, Allah said, “وَأَضَلَّ فِرْعَوْنُ قَوْمَهُ وَمَا هَدَىٰ
  • Firawn didn’t set a proper example
  • this is a subtle note inserted here
  • the leader has a role in guiding people
  • each and every one of us is a leader in our own capacity, in community, among friends, family in our own homes, even among younger siblings
  • those people who are following him through his example
  • it’s not about what we say but it’s about what we live and manage ourselves
  • Firawn didn’t do that, and that’s coming back to hm
  • From Surah Yunus :- (what happened to Firawn)
  • because of the escalating violence, Musa a.s. made dua to Allah…
  • 10:88
    Sahih International

    And Moses said, “Our Lord, indeed You have given Pharaoh and his establishment splendor and wealth in the worldly life, our Lord, that they may lead [men] astray from Your way. Our Lord, obliterate their wealth and harden their hearts so that they will not believe until they see the painful punishment.” [Yunus 10:88]

  • “Oh Allah, You’ve given them a lot of power in this world, and they used everything just to take people away from Your path. Oh Allah just 1. wipe out their wealth, and then 2. tie up their hearts…”
  • Allah responds “Your prayer has been answered, so you stayed fast and don’t follow the path f these people who don’t understand.”
  • 10:89
    Sahih International

    [ Allah ] said, “Your supplication has been answered.” So remain on a right course and follow not the way of those who do not know.”[Yunus 10:89]

  • Firawn and his army followed out of rebelliousness and hatred
  • 10:90
    Sahih International

    And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, “I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims.” [Yunus 10:90]

  • one of subtleties of this ayah is that he still didn’t want to give credit to Musa and Harun a.s. like the magicians did when they said “We believe in the Rabb of Harun and Musa.” He just said “…whom the Bani Israel believe in..”
  • this is the last few waning moments , crossroads where you are departing the world but the life of hereafter is clear to you
  • many of the sahabah experienced this
  • there are accounts of people experiencing this
  • FIrawn is drowning, he sees the angels and souls of people drowning and dying, so the path of the hereafter is clear and open to him
  • in a last attempt he tries to con his way out of this situation
  • Allah says to him, “Now??!”
  • 10:91
    Sahih International

    Now? And you had disobeyed [Him] before and were of the corrupters?[Yunus 10:91]

  • right until your army were going into the ocean, you were rebellious and destroying people’s life!
  • As Ali Ibn Abi Talib said, “People are fast asleep, knocked out.When people die they actually wake up”
  • that moment when the soul leaves the body, you realize
  • Quran alludes to somethng found in previous scriptures :- when Bani Israel looked back and saw Firawn and his army drowning, (keep in mind they have been tortured for generations and they were so terrified that they can’t believe Firawn is actually dead)..so Allah corroborated that here in Yunus 10:92
  • 10:92
    Sahih International

    So today We will save you in body that you may be to those who succeed you a sign. And indeed, many among the people, of Our signs, are heedless [Yunus 10:92]

  • in narration, it was said that the body of Firawn was spit out of the ocean and landed on the ground and Bani Israel was able to look at it and their nightmare was over

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