Tafseer Taha: Ayat 90-96

Link to video on Muslimmatters


  • previously, Allah saved Bani Israel through the Red Sea
  • afterwards, Allah called Musa a.s. and Bani Israel to Mt Toor and Musa a.s. was to do i’tikaaf for 30 days while the Bani Israel camp on the right side of the mountain
  • Musa a.s. got a head start and went first, leaving Bani Israel behind
  • Samiri led the Bani Israel astray while he was gone and Musa a.s. came back to find things in chaos and his people were worshipping a golden calf
  • he reprimands the people and gets upset at his brother Harun a.s.
  • Now he is going to hold Samiri accountable
  • the Quran unfolds the detail one at a time
  • when Musa a.s. confronted the people, the leadership said it happened accidentally (they wanted to dispose of the jewelry but Samiri made something else out of it) OR that they were taking care of these jewelry for the people and Samiri somehow got the people riled up and demanded their jewelry back and then Samiri made what he made
  • He unveiled for them a shape of a calf
  • one theory of how it made noise was the design (wind would pass through it making a noise – Ibn Abbas’ opinion)
  • another theory
  • Samiri’s eventual message from this was “this is not only your god but also Musa’s a.s. god, but he forgot”
  • but didn’t the people realize and understand that this idol can’t even understand let alone help them?
  • Harun a.s. was in charge when Musa a.s. was gone, so he’s heavily involved in this situation
  • from Biblical version, we realize how important that in the Quran, Allah exonerates Harun a.s. completely because the BIblical version said Harun a.s. was also responsible for what  happened, that he approved or didn’t object to it(the least slander against Harun a.s.)

Ayat 90

Sahih International

And Aaron had already told them before [the return of Moses], “O my people, you are only being tested by it, and indeed, your Lord is the Most Merciful, so follow me and obey my order.”

  • Allah adds this مِن قَبْلُ to refute anything that anyone else said
  • Allah defends the honor of His prophet
  • the first time they started doing this, Harun a.s. spoke up
  • not that only when Musa a.s. show up that Harun a.s. spoke up
  • this is a messenger of Allah
  • how ironic that from the Biblical version, that even before becoming a prophet, Harun a.s. was a great scholar amongst his people and then to turn around and slander him doesn’t make a lot of sense
  • يَا قَوْمِ إِنَّمَا فُتِنتُم بِهِ = Oh my people, you al have been tested with him
  • fitnah = melting of precious metal, heat may be intense, but it’s meant to improve us, but if we can’t stand it, it can lead to our downfall
  • وَإِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ= Your Lord is Ar Rahman
  • we see gentleness in the message of Harun a.s
  • these people are doing shirk, can you imagine how outraged we would be if if were in his place
  • but to a prophet, the flock is like his children
  • a prophet has a responsibility greater than that of a father
  • imagine if your child comes up to you and suggests doing shirk, can you imagine what you would say in the heat of the moment
  • what Harun a.s. is saying “You are good people, you all are just being tested because of him. Your Lord, He is Ar Rahman, He has compassion and mercy towards you. Don’t do this.”

There are 2 stages of implementation of shariah

1. 1st stage

  • فَاتَّبِعُونِي
  • more natural and easier for us to implement => to follow
  • إتِّبَاع is to follow step by step by step
  • the imagery in إتِّبَاعis to put your feet where you see the footprint in the sand, to track someone’s step and follow it exactly, to retrace
  • we also understand that the first stage of implementation of shariah brought by Muhammad saw is to just follow his (saw) example

2. 2nd step

  • وَأَطِيعُوا أَمْرِي
  • there will be certain commands and injunctions, that following the example of the Muhammad saw, will be a process that will lead to the refinement, furthering establishment of one’s iman and conviction
  • when iman is developed by following example set by the prophet, a command will be given
  • then, implementing and following the command will not be an issue
  • any time we find it difficult to follow a command that is being given to us, we have to fall back on the إتِّبَاع, retrace the steps
  • go back to the basics
  • check my daily routine, practices, and reconfirm and refigure and put myself back on track
  • this is the divine model of tarbiyyah of development
  • classical scholars would have a process through which they would develop the tarbiyyah of people
  • one of them is عِلم الحَال – how to spend your 24 hour daily life in accordance to the practice of Prophet saw
  • “how would the Prophet saw do this right now?”
  • living the 24 hour daily life in line with the morals, ethics, standards of Prophet saw
  • today we can delve into all different types of endeavors but have we ever measured ourselves ‘do I practically live a 24 hour daily lives according to the morals, ethics, standards taught by Prophet saw?’
  • from seerah, the sahabah are the epitome of believing, they lived what it means to believe, follow, obey
  • but being human beings there were moments when they struggled
  • treaty of Hudaybiyah was one of those moments ; to have given what they have given only to sit down and agree to lopsided agreements
  • it was a moral defeat at least superficially or temporarily
  • the sahabah were dumbfounded and didn’t know how to make sense of it
  • so when the Prophet saw said to untie their ihram and go back home, they were just dazed
  • through advice of Umm Salamah, “Just do it” because the sahabah haven’t forgotten about إتِّبَاع
  • so when Prophet saw did it himself (untie ihram, shaved head etc), the sahabah did it
  • when they were struggling the إتِّبَاع was a fall back option
  • so here Harun a.s. is saying “Follow my lead, and obey my command!”

Ayat 91

Sahih International

They said, “We will never cease being devoted to the calf until Moses returns to us.”

  • لَن نَّبْرَحَ = we will not desist/stop
  • it’s a specific type of verb used to give a specific type of meaning
  • the meaning is to not stop/cease and always used in the negative
  •  عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفِينَ = our total complete devotion and dedication to this idol
  • عَاكِفِينَ comes from i’tikaaf (to dedicate, worship)
  • حَتَّىٰ يَرْجِعَ إِلَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ = until Musa a.s. comes back
  • basically they’re saying “the only way we will change our stance is when Musa comes back and says something else, otherwise, we’re not interested to hear what you have to say, Harun”
  • book so history and mufassiroon based on some narrations and hadeeth ; there were 3 factions of Bani Israel at this point in time
  1. Harun is in charge, we will stick with him, he knows what he’s talking about
  2. we’ll reevaluate our position when Musa comes back and if he says stop, we’ll stop
  3. no, this is the new deen we have adopted and that’s that
  • now this conversation is interjected here to exonerate Harun a.s. (Allah gives us a flashback when Musa a.s. is back and about to confront his brother)
  • Harun a.s. telling the people “What are you all doing?! Don’t make this mistake! You all know better tan this!” and the people saying ” No, we’re not interested in what you have to say. You just need to go!”
  • Musa a.s. is standing there and now after being angry with the people, he turned and set his attention to Harun a.s.
  • this is serious, shirk, we’re not talking about someone leaving the lights on at the masjid or anything small or silly that we often fight over (not justifiable)
  • an entire nation falling into shirk here
  • this is people straight up praying to a calf made of gold and silver
  • so this is a very emotional situation
  • you can’t discount the fact
  • when Musa a.s. confronted the people => “Did you want to invite the anger of Allah?! You all broke your promise to me!”
  • he didn’t become physical with them
  • he is a messenger of Allah
  • he has more ethics, morals than we’ll ever know
  • Musa a.s. and Harun a.s. are brothers (some things are permissible between  brothers)

Ayat 92

Sahih International

[Moses] said, “O Aaron, what prevented you, when you saw them going astray,

  • يَا هَارُونُ = Harun, what happened here?!!
  • مَا مَنَعَكَ = what prevented you..
  • إِذْ رَأَيْتَهُمْ ضَلُّوا = that when you saw that they had gotten off the path…

Ayat 93

Sahih International

From following me? Then have you disobeyed my order?”

  • in Ayat 93, Allah continues that conversation ..أَلَّا تَتَّبِعَنِ: [what prevented you from following me?!]
  • this is grammatical
  • the لاَ here is what we define in meaning
  • it’s often categorized as لاَ زَائِدَه
  • some people don’t like that terminology (how  can it be زَائِدَه? nothing is زَائِدَه in the Quran!)
  • when classical scholars say this, they mean a غَير نَافِيَه
  • this لاَ is not for negation, it’s for emphasis, it’s to get your attention
  • لاَ اقسِمُ بِهَاذَ البَلَد (not I don’t swear by…but Listen up!!!)
  • what possibly could stop you Harun that you would follow me?!

2 meanings:- (we can take both)

  1. you should have followed my lead, I trained you, all you have to do when you run into a difficult situation is look at your ‘prophet manual’. I showed you how this was done, what would I have done in that situation, just look at my lead
  2. (interesting interpretation) :- Ok, fine, you reprimanded, confronted the people and when they were not listening (and based on another place in the Quran where Harun a.s. said “they were close to killing me”) then you should have just left the people and come and join me [this is further corroborated in another place in the Quran where when the people reached a place/point where they outright disrespected Musa a.s. and even Allah, Musa a.s. made a dua “فَفرُق بَينَنَا وَبَينَ الفَاسِقِين” [Oh Allah separate between us (Musa and Harun a.s.) and the ungrateful/rebellious people]
  • there is wisdom here
  • when is it ever admirable to pack your bags and leave ? (till the last moment. You stick it out.)
  • for us, we flake too quickly, so we need to be told to stick it through, that’s what we need
  • messengers and prophets have no lack of resolve. They often times have to be told, “Pack your bags and leave, You’re going to kill yourself over these people who won’t believe.”
  • Prophet saw had to be told this too
  • i’s justifiable in that case for Harun a.s. to leave them since they were going to kill him
  • his remaining among the people, the only reason Musa a.s. disapproved it was that posily in the mind of some, to an onlooker, superficially, it could justify the actions of a people
  • Abu Hanifah commtend in this “when someone is a leader of a people, or looked to for religious direction, he should be a man of the peple but should be selective and careful what situation he puts himself in becasye the action of someone like this can often times be proof and evidence and precedence for the common folk.
  • he was asked by some of his student about the situation because many of them come from Persian tribes or lands and they have family members who aren’t Muslim yet
  • that was a time when corruption started to enter into the ummah
  • maybe festiviteis or gathering where there is wine on the table and you’re sitting there and someone puts wine there, what do you you?
  • becayse the people who were asking were his top-level students (caliber of Imam Muhammad, Abul Qadhi Abu Yusuf – now when we look back they are the luminaries of the ummah), he said it’s necessary for them to get up and remove themselves from the situation because people can use that as justification and validation
  • leadership comes with a lot of responsibility
  • أَفَعَصَيْتَ أَمْرِي = did you disobey my command directly??!
  • this shows the human side of the prophets, it gets emotional

Ayat 94

Sahih International

[Aaron] said, “O son of my mother, do not seize [me] by my beard or by my head. Indeed, I feared that you would say, ‘You caused division among the Children of Israel, and you did not observe [or await] my word.’ “

  • the Quran wants to show us how serious the situation was and give us a human peek at the messengers of Allah but at the same time doesn’t want to necessarily belittle or humiliate the messengers either
  • So Allah didn’t tell us what Musa a.s. did but only what Harun a.s. said in response to what Musa a.s. did
  • Harun a.s. said “يَا ابْنَ أُمَّ”(Oh son of my mother!)
  • that’s an interesting way of phrasing it
  • if he were to just say “Oh Musa!” it’d be like an invitation to just come at him and give it to him because it can be seen as confrontational
  • one of the most compassionate people anyone has ever had in their lives is their bad mothers
  • when you get older you always think back of your mother affectionately
  • their mother (Quran tells us) was an amazing mom
  • she was a very loving compassionate mother
  • so he recalls the love of their mother
  • some have discussed if this means that they had different fathers and same mother (maybe she had been married before and divorced etc – all of that is unnecessary)
  • because there is a reason this expression was used “What would mom say if she sees us fighting like this now?”
  • that’s what Harun a.s. is saying to Musa a.s.
  • لَا تَأْخُذْ بِلِحْيَتِي وَلَا بِرَأْسِي = Just relax, calm down, it’s okay..don’t grab me by my beard , let go of my hair
  • you even see that brotherly love and understanding
  • one sibling is frustrated and dealing with a lot and he lashes out at the other sibling (because that relationship is there) but the other sibling doesn’t just retaliate, but he understands and trying to calm him down
  • إِنِّي خَشِيتُ = let me explain to you what I feared above everything else
  • if there were some people who were obeying me, why didn’t I just rallied them and fight and why I didn’t pack my bags..I’m going to tell you why
  • this is so profound and deep
  • أَن تَقُولَ فَرَّقْتَ بَيْنَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ = you caused a permanent split between Bani Israel amongst the people
  • وَلَمْ تَرْقُبْ قَوْلِي = and you didn’t follow my advice
  • رَقَب is the back of the neck
  • the image given in تَرْقُبْ قَوْلِي  is like tailgating someone (closely following) => you closely following everything I had said
  • in prophetic wisdom of Harun a.s., he understands one thing
  • it’s a drastic situation
  • most of us are way too trigger-happy, too quick to judge, decree, and hopefully that is not borne out of a sadistic, malicious desire (Yeah, let’s get some drama going on here! It’s gonna get real now!) because that is shaytaanic intent
  • that’s what Shaytaan like for anyone to become
  • rather, here, we see the prophetic quality of حِلم (forbearance, calm cool and collected, better safe than sorry)
  • “Musa, I know at the end of the day, you command enough authority and credibility with them that even when they do terrible things like this that when you come back and put your foot down, everyone would  listen. But if I would have gone too far and taken drastic measure, it would have ended up leading to a permanent split between them and an outcome that is not easily reconciled and when you come back, you would have come back to a fractured, broken people who maybe can’t be put back together. Whether it’s because of me or them having a civil war with each other. I did the best of my situation.
  • the fact that Musa a.s. moves on from this is implying the fact that he understood, agreed and confirmed
  • with Allah Himself reprimanding what Harun a.s. said or relaying to us the refutation that Musa a.s. would offer to Harun a.s., this also implies this
  • deep lesson in this for us
  • we get so high and mighty and self-righteous
  • this is shirk!
  • for us, it’s just some minute issues of fiqh and we find it justifiable to cause ‘civil war’ in our community
  • Sheikh doesn’t even want to call these issues difference of opinions but just differences of preferences
  • let someone who is qualified speak on the matter even if there is a matter to be spoken about
  • why don’t we know our place better
  • it’s ok with not knowing, like Imam Malik who said “لاَ ادرِي’ [I don’t know/IDK :)]
  • next time you receive a fiqh question just reply IDK 😀
  • what do we fracture our community over?! look at the prophetic quality of forbearance
  • we need to be cognizant of this, that’s how important unity of the ummah is
  • not unity in a superficial manner where we dumb down the religion and throw intellectual tradition down the garbage
  • people are turned off by this conversation because they say “Oh in unity, you justify everything, we have no deen left!”
  • Sheikh is not talking about this, but rather talking about philosophically understanding the importance, aiming, planning for the tarbiyyah of the community
  • that if you are not able to speak to the community as one, how can you educate them and bring them together and raise their level of practice?
  • this should be done is through communication, tarbiyyah, development
  • how can you do that if they can’t even sit together ?
  • because it’s fractured so bad that no one has any tolerance or patience for anyone
  • that’s what Harun a.s. understood here
  • there is a problem and the person to do that tarbiyyah is my brother Musa a.s. who is away right now, he will be back later. My job right now is to maintain some level of cohesion until the qualified person is back and takes charge
  • this is the Quran’s game plan for developing communities
  • now Musa a.s. turns his attention to the 3rd and final party ; Samiri

Ayat 95

قَالَ فَ يَا سَامِرِيُّ
Sahih International

[Moses] said, “And what is your case, O Samiri?”

  • مَا خَطْبُكَ = English equivalent of “What’s your problem, bro?”
  • Samiri, realizing he’s got to answer for what he did…
  • either he’s just making excuses or he’s actually remorseful
  • scholars have looked at it from both angles
  • Allah knows best

Ayat 96

قَالَ بَصُرْتُ بِمَا لَمْ يَبْصُرُوا بِهِ  فَنَبَذْتُهَا وَكَذَٰلِكَ سَوَّلَتْ لِي نَفْسِي
Sahih International

He said, “I saw what they did not see, so I took a handful [of dust] from the track of the messenger and threw it, and thus did my soul entice me.”

  • بَصُرْتُ بِمَا لَمْ يَبْصُرُوا بِهِ = I saw something they had not seen/witness OR I understood this situation in a way that they did not
  • the Quran elaborates itself
  • فَقَبَضْتُ قَبْضَةً مِّنْ أَثَرِ الرَّسُولِ = I took a handful from the tracks of the messenger [wherever his foot had fallen, he scooped up a handful of dirt from it]
  • there are more contemporary mufasiron who say that it’s all bogus and there is a really logical explanation for this
  • there is a certain point in time where you do تَفسِير بِالدِّرَايَه where you apply your intellect and try to assess the situation, but it should not supersede تَفسِير رِوَايَه where if the sahabah have said something about the ayah, no matter how intelligent we are or how much trouble we might have accepting that explanation, we are in no position to override that
  • not that there is no more than one way to look at it, there are multiple angels to appreciate this from
  • but we can’t say “that;s a bunch of nonsense and garbage”
  • people who often times says “It’s a bunch of garbage and not logical’ are not well versed in usul of tafsir of the Quran and don’t have much knowledge and appreciation of the sunnah of Prophet saw
  • real ulamaa and mufasiroon have said asuyooti in _______ (which is standard when it comes to ulum al Quran)(51:32-51:35 ; I’m unable to get the full name of the book)  “there are 18 pre- requisite/ulum that need to be mastered in order to do tafseer of the Quran”
  • it starts with grammar, morphology, and even goes on to hadith and usul tafsir, usul fiqh, sunnah…etc
  • does that mean we should never read and understand and even basically explain the book of Allah? No
  • we can reflect, ponder over the Quran, but we don’t ever proclaim to be an authority of the Quran [ to tell people what tafseer is correct and what is not correct]
  • from the experience of Prophet saw, Jibril would often come in shape and form of a human being
  • Samiri was able to witness Jibril coming and whenever Jibril would set foot, he would notice there was something unique about the place where he set his foot (heavenly making contact with earthly or whatever it was ), he scooped up these dirt and held on to it
  • فَنَبَذْتُهَا = then I basically threw it
  • when he carved the calf, he threw the dirt on it and it shone, glittered, shook and rumbled
  • this is the 2nd explanation of خُوَارٌ in Ayat 88
  • 20:88
    فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَّهُ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ وَإِلَٰهُ مُوسَىٰ فَنَسِيَ
    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.”

  • that because of the heavenly making contact with it, it shook and rumbling and that is what caused that sound
  • وَكَذَٰلِكَ سَوَّلَتْ لِي نَفْسِي = and that’s how my own nafs (inner desires) got the best of me
  • سَوَّلَت ،تَسوِيل is when a person is deceived by their own bad inner evil desires
  • “that my own evil desires to engage in shirk and lead others towards it got the best of me “
  • this is where Mufasiroon say you can sense he was being contrite and sorry for what he’d done
  • but others say no, he was trying to save his skin
  • at the end of the day Allah knows best

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