Tafseer Taha : Ayat 86-89

Link to video on Muslimmatters


  • After saving Musa a.s. and Bani Israel from Firawn and his army, Allah called Musa a.s. to Mount Tuur so that Allah could reveal the taurah
  • very subtly there is a foretelling
  • and a promise to Prophet saw
  • the Muslims in Makkah were suffering through a lot of hardship at that time
  • they must have longed for living a complete Islamic lifestyle and a code of life that is desired by Allah
  • but circumstances in Makkah didn’t allow for that
  • so there is sadness on part of the believers
  • so Allah is giving them this good news
  • just like Bani Israel was saved from Firawn, Allah is providing a code of life for them, they will be given them same
  • So now Allah calls Musa a.s. and Bani Israel to Mount Tuur, on the right side of the Mt. Musa a.s. by himself will ascend the mountain and spend (mentioned in Surah Al A’raaf) 30 days (originally) in iktikaaf and worship and then Musa a.s. is to come down to the people who are still camped there to provide for them the code of life
  • in his zeal to converse with Allah, and rush to go speak to Allah and practicality-wise (traveling with ten thousands of people is tedious and a long process, so he thought why not he go there ahead, a single rider is quicker and by the time Bani Israel arrives, everything is done and they can start implementing)
  • when Musa a.s. got there, Allah asked, “What made you rush from your people, Oh Musa?”
  • “The people aren’t too far behind and I came to please you, oh my Rabb. “
  • Allah said, “I tested your people from behind you after you and Samiri was able to lead them astray.”
  • when Allah speaks about testing them, Allah attributes it HImself but when He talks about them going astray, He attributes them to Samiri
  • this is part of the adab with  Allah, that we attribute the evil to ourselves
  • we need to learn to take responsiblity while realizing that blessings are from Allah
  • this doesn’t affect us theologically that we try to distribute the creation of evil and good in any form but this is just for adab and respect
    • some scholars mention that in hadith of Futoon (complete narration f imam Nasai) that Musa a.s. put in his complete 40 days with Allah and at that point in time is when Allah told him that Samiri had led his people astray and so Musa a.s. went rushing back
    • Samiri used the prolonged absence of Musa a.s. to his advantage to try to confuse the Bani Israel further
    • Musa a.s. did end up putting a full 40 days of iktikaaf after which he was given the Taurah
    • now Allah tells him, “Guess what, We tested your people, We saw what they’re made of, they witnessed miracles they walked through dry path in middle of ocean and saw their enemies drown with their own eyes, and after that We tested them, but they were led astray by Samiri. They failed the test.”
    • there is a subtle lesson here in Musa a.s. being called back to Allah to spend those days in i’tikaaf
    • it’s to make sure that a person takes out time to rejuvenate themselves and to shore up their own spirituality
    • this is the irony of it
    • every human being needs this where they need to remove distraction and spend time solely with Allah
    • in our daily prayers to a certain extent are an opportunity to do
    • it happens 5 times a day, 20 minutes each time but people need to take out more time than that
    • to reconnect with Allah and be very honest and come to terms where they need improvement in themselves
    • the irony is that leadership is more in need of this than anyone else ; an imam, scholar, preacher
    • they  need it more than anyone else
    • the irony is that leadership is the often times slowest and most reluctant to implement this
    • this goes back to lack of spirituality
    • the epitome of leadership, spirituality, humanity => Prophet saw would do i’tikaaf for 10 days every single Ramadan
    • i’tikaaf = you take residence in masjid and don’t do anything except spiritual activity, no business dealings at all at any level in any way, shape of form
    • if when leadership struggle with spirituality in this regard, what will be the condition of their flock? this is the dirty laundry of our ummah
    • it’s an unfortunate reality and reflects on us as an ummah and the symptoms are spread across the board
    • the tank is running dry but we just keep going and going
    • some of key advice Sheikh has received from senior scholars :- the more we continue to preach the more we need to invest time with Allah privately
    • it has to be proportionate, it has to br balanced
    • in last days of Prophet saw (when we think he (saw) should take it easy since he’s (saw) put in his time and did what needed to be done), he (saw) did i’tikaaf for 20 days
    • Sheikh worries about young activists burning the candle on both ends
    • quality over quantity
    • be involved in one activity but do it with quality, but if you’re involved in 8 activities that ends up in sacrificing your time with Allah, there is no khayr in this
    • greatest tragedy :Prophet saw says in a narration that Allah often times aids His deen using someone who himself is disobedient to Allah
    • that this person will be cause of something good happening but he himself will be deprived of the benefits of it
    • old proverb in Urdu that means :- how a lamp burns but there is a very small dark circular shade immediately surrounding that candle. It’s illuminating the room but the immediate area around that light is still in darkness
    • that’s a parable we can easily fall into if we’re not cautious
    • Musa a.s. put in 40 days, though he came for 30 but Allah told him to add 10 more days despite what’s happening to Bani Israel
    • we use that for justification => “If I”m not going to do it, what’s going to happen to the ummah. The work needs to be done.”
    • Yes, but I’m not going to be good for anything if I’m not able to take care of this (personal relationship with Allah)


Ayat 86

Sahih International

So Moses returned to his people, angry and grieved. He said, “O my people, did your Lord not make you a good promise? Then, was the time [of its fulfillment] too long for you, or did you wish that wrath from your Lord descend upon you, so you broke your promise [of obedience] to me?”

  • فَرَجَعَ مُوسَىٰ إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ = Musa returned to his people
  • غَضْبَانَ = the root means anger ; it’s the hyperbolized noun => extremely angry
  • أَسِفًا = remorseful (another hyperbolized version) => very remorseful, sad and regretful over the condition of the people
  • scholars say he was very angry over the people who led others astray and very sad and remorseful over the people who were led astray
  • this tells you the nature of the heart of a messenger
  • very angry for people who make trouble but it doesn’t take away the fact that they feel sad and remorseful over people who are led astray
  • Prophet saw said “Sometimes I feel like I”m a man standing over a big fire and there are insects flocking towards fire and I’m trying to swat at them to prevent them from going into the fire but one is not going to be able to prevent thousands of insects from falling into a fire.”
  • Musa a.s. addressed his people “قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَلَمْ يَعِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ وَعْدًا حَسَنًا” [Didn’t your Rabb promise you a life pf peace and tranquility, saved you from Firawn? Some of these promises you’ve seen them so you have no reason to doubt! This can mean only 1 of 2 things for what you have done :-
  • أَفَطَالَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْعَهْدُ = can be interpreted 2 ways:
  1. the fulfilment of the promise was taking way too long (but weren’t some of the promises fulfilled already, so this can’t be it)
  2. had so much time passed since Allah fulfilled the promise to you that you forgot about it? “Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that!” [preposterous, can’t happen]
  • أَمْ أَرَدتُّمْ أَن يَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ= or you intended all along that anger and wrath and punishment from your lord would come and grip and seize you?! [this is the scary part]
  • When Musa a.s. talks about anger and wrath gripping them, he uses the word رَّبِّكُمْ (implying => your master, the One who created you, took care of you, and this is how you repay??)
  • then he says, “فَأَخْلَفْتُم مَّوْعِدِي” = you broke your promise with  me as well!
  • “You people have no credibility left, what have you done??? Look at how many layers to this indiscretion of yours!”
  • in next ayah they respond
Ayat 87
Sahih International

They said, “We did not break our promise to you by our will, but we were made to carry burdens from the ornaments of the people [of Pharaoh], so we threw them [into the fire], and thus did the Samiri throw.”

  • مَا أَخْلَفْنَا مَوْعِدَكَ بِمَلْكِنَا = we didn’t break our promise to you out of our own choice
  • وَلَٰكِنَّا حُمِّلْنَا أَوْزَارًا مِّن زِينَةِ الْقَوْمِ = rather we were burdened by very heavy weight from the jewelry/luxury/valuable items of people
  • فَقَذَفْنَاهَا فَكَذَٰلِكَ أَلْقَى السَّامِرِيُّ = so we threw them and Samiri threw as well

This is interpreted in 2 ways (both have certain historical backing but neither one can be said with absolutely certainty so we will try to understand both):-

1. when they escaped from Firawn that night (Taurah speaks of this and some mufasiroon mentioned this and many tabioon corroborate this well and so it’s ok to talk about this here), the excuse they made was that they were going out for a celebration, so they took with them some jewelry, clothes, etc from the Coptics to strengthen this excuse, so when they escaped and Firawn and his people drowned, they still had those stuff with them. It was hectic going through the ocean etc that there was not time to return these things. Then Harun a.s. told them, “Listen, some of these things have come along with you. You have to get rid of them, it’s not allowed for you to have them. Let’s build a big pit and burn them so no one gets it.” Allah has revealed that this was a lawful way to dispose of it. They couldn’t return it anyway since Firawn and his people were gone. So they were doing this, and at that point, Samiri comes and

أَلْقَى السَّامِرِيُّ can mean 2 things :

  1. he threw something on top of the fire
  2. the word إلقَى is oftentimes used when someone makes a display of their skill and ability. One of his skill was that he was a craftsman (at crafting and carving things). So when they were burning the metal (silver and gold), he later took them and molded them into shape of a calf

2. some other mufasiroon have said that the above doesn’t make sense. Why would Coptics lend the Bani Israel those valuables since they were at odds for a long time! And it would be fair to assume that Musa a.s. and Harun a.s. would have been diligent enough not to let this happen. Even in difficult and chaotic situations, messengers are at a different level when it comes to these things. As evidenced by Prophet saw. Prophet saw when he migrated from Makkah to Madinah, the circumstances was that a plan was being hatched to assassinate him. Representatives were surrounding his house that night. Imagine how stressful that situation was. In spite of that, Prophet saw had the awareness and sensibility, diligence to call Ali Ibn Abi Talib and tell him that he (saw) needs him to stay back and take care of a couple of things, one of them is to lay on his bed. Another is to distribute all the amaanaat. Prophet saw was known as As Saadiq al Ameen so he kept a lot of people’s wealth for safekeeping. He delegated the returning of this to Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Prophet saw here was literally escaping death, there was an assassination attempt in progress, but despite that, he (saw) worked on returning the trust back. This is leading by example. Someone asked Ali when he was telling the story later that “That must have been the worst night of your life.” Ali said, “I’ve never slept as peaceful as I have that night.” “How, why?” “Before Prophet saw left he said, ‘I will see you in Madinah’. I had a guarantee from Prophet saw. That’s all I needed.” Look at the conviction the sahabah had at the words of Prophet saw. They were deserving of his (comfort). Ibn Masood said “Allah chose these people for the companionship of His prophet.”

So, what happened was that the majority of common folks of Bani Israel had gone to their leaders and asked that the leaders keep their valuables. One treasure per tribe. That was the system. So the ones responding to Musa a.s. were these leaders. They said, “We didn’t do break our promise to you on our own accord. Rather, the common folks got caught up in Samiri’s rhetoric (there is backing of this in Quran***). The people had burdened us with the wealth. We were carrying this burden around. [it wasn’t ours, we were safekeeping it for them]. We tried to talk some sense into them, but thousands of people didn’t want to listen. So we released our hold on those items and Samiri made what he made.”

*** in Surah Araaf, when Bani Israel passed by people who were worshiping idols, they told Musa a.s. “We want an idol too!” There was a weakness in conviction and iman among some of the common folk and Samiri was able to take advantage of that. He was able to rile up the people and they showed up at the doorstep of the leaders demanding their valuables back. He told them “Just  bring me your goods and I will make something that will blow your mind.” So imagine if these people showed up at the leaders’ doorstep demanding their stuff back. The leaders would have had no choice but to comply.

  • subtlety mentioned on the side :- Prophet saw didn’t deem it permissible to leave with the valuables of the Makkan despite what the have done and were about to do (assassinate him (saw). The opinions of the fuqahaa have given similar opinions. Imam Muhammad Ibn Al Hasan As Shaybaani r.h who has authored a book by name Kitaab Siyaar said “The verdict of the fuqahaa is that even in a war situation (الحَرب), it’s not permissible for Muslims to violate property of non-Muslims they are at war with.”
  • The fuqahaa of this ummah have been saying this for 1400 years. Those who say it’s incumbent on us Muslims to destroy non-Muslim property or attack them for whatever reason is not educated or well versed in the religion.
  • مَال غَنِيمَة (spoils of war) is wealth or goods that can be taken from the hand of someone who is holding a sword in the battlefield. But to invade lands and areas and violate their property is not permissible
  • this coincides with shariah of Muhammad saw
Ayat 88
Sahih International

And he extracted for them [the statue of] a calf which had a lowing sound, and they said, “This is your god and the god of Moses, but he forgot.”

  • فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلًا = he extracted for them a calf
  • why doesn’t Allah say “صَنَعَ لَهُم”(He made for them)
  • this is Quranic language (language at a higher level)
  • إخرَاج – used when you present something to someone or when you’re making something but like a craftsman when they work, they don’t allow people to see it until they unveil it. This is unveiling of that finished product
  • So he unveiled for them a calf
  • but it wasn’t a living creature, it was just the physical shape of a calf, indicted here by the word  جَسَدًا
  • it made a sound =  لَّهُ خُوَارٌ
  • the sound is consistent with the sound a cow would make
  • Ibn Abbas and classical mufasiroon have quoted this opinion of him, that the way Samiri had made the calf , it was such that wind would pass through it and when this happens, it would make a whistling type of sound
  • almost like an instrument
  • we’ve all heard the wind howl and whistle, so that’s how he crafted this calf
  • when the Bani Israel heard that, maybe from being simple folks, they were baffled by this
  • the other explanation for how and why he did that is something the Quran itself will tell
  • all we need to know right is that Samiri shaped a calf form and made it such that when wind passes through it it would produce a sound
  • هَٰذَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ وَإِلَٰهُ مُوسَىٰ فَنَسِيَ = Samiri said, “This is your lord and the lord of Musa”[this is your object of worship and the object of worship for Musa, but Musa forgot, messed up, got lost. He originally went for 30 days but it’s not 40 days and there is no sign of him.”
  • he slandered Musa a.s.
  • Allah then reprimands them and debunks this whole theory of Samiri
Ayat 89
Sahih International

Did they not see that it could not return to them any speech and that it did not possess for them any harm or benefit?

  • Samiri was a trouble maker, bad news
  • أَفَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَلَّا يَرْجِعُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَوْلًا =  didn’t these people see and think and realize, and understand that it couldn’t talk back to them
  • it tells us sometimes how people can overlook the simplest thing, where common sense is the hardest thing to find
  • this is shirk and the biggest failing of common sense and iman
  • we are not immune to it
  • most often, we overlook the simplest of things
  • common sense eludes us
  •  وَلَا يَمْلِكُ لَهُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا = and it didn’t possess harm for them nor did it posses benefit for them
  • a lot of times, when someone gets caught in something emotionally, irrationally they might see something that is nt there
  • person has to be able to evaluate “is my harm or benefit associated with this in any shape or form”
  • quranic nuances => when Allah emphasizes tauheed, He would say “قُل لاَ املِكُ لِنَفسِ نَفعََا وَ لاَ ضرَّا إلاَّ مَاشَاء الّلَه” [Tell them that I don’t own benefit nor harm for you except what Allah has decrees]
  • but here n this ayah, it says “ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا
  • this calf didn’t posses for them harm or benefit and in some places Allah says benefit or harm [this is when refuting shirk]
  • the Quran is very specific, it’s not either or
  • so sequence is of great significance in the book of Allah
  • why is harm mentioned here first?
  • scholars say => this is Musa a.s. providing every excuse he could for his people, that he mentions the harm first that if you think something possesses harm for you, you would be more inclined to take a step if you think harm is going to happen
  • repelling harm has greater priority than getting benefit
  • even if someone does something bad because they[re trying to avoid some harm there may be reason to excuse someone than someone who is trying to achieve benefit (greed)
  • maybe he is in a desperate situation
  • so Musa a.s. is implying that “maybe that’s why you were associating worship of Allah because it had the ability to harm you. Even then it’d be wrong but at least I can sympathize and pity you at some level. But it doesn’t even have ability to harm you. You have NO excuse or justification here!”
  • Allah says that the people didn’t bother to understand and realize this

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