When Musa a.s. left Bani Israel under the leadership of his older brother Harun a.s., things got a little bit out of hand in his absence. He was gone for 40 nights, and when he came back ‘home’, he found some of his people worshipping a golden calf. Harun a.s., his brother, was there.
And when Moses returned to his people, angry and grieved, he said, “How wretched is that by which you have replaced me after [my departure]. Were you impatient over the matter of your Lord?” And he threw down the tablets and seized his brother by [the hair of] his head, pulling him toward him. [Aaron] said, “O son of my mother, indeed the people oppressed me and were about to kill me, so let not the enemies rejoice over me and do not place me among the wrongdoing people.” [Al A’raaf 7: 150]
Musa’s a.s. first reaction was that of extreme anger and extreme sorrow, encapsulated in the words اسِفَا and غَضبَان. He was so angry that he flung the tablets that he had received on Mount Toor. This is like ripping apart your hard-earned diploma that you spent years working for.
Why was Musa a.s. furious though? Was it out of disrespect that he flung the tablets? Musa a.s. is a prophet and his mission is to convey Allah’s message and guide his nation. His nation was pretty big in number too. To add to that, his nation had been enslaved for centuries and they are stuck with a mindset of a slave, and it’s a great task to teach and guide them. Yet, there is always a beginning to a great task, and Musa a.s. had to undergo the Mount Toor ‘conference’ and get something that will be one of his tool to teach his people what he needed to teach them. So it’s with this excitement and resolve that he came back to his people, hoping to start this new lesson with them, yet what did he find?
Of all things, he found them doing the exact opposite of what his mission was all about; committing shirk! Why was he so angry? Because Allah’s right has been violated. Usually, when we’re angry or furious about something, it’s usually because we have been wronged. But how do we feel when people wrong Allah? Do we get as worked up as when people wrong us? It’s a sign of iman when a person is angry when Allah’s right is violated. It’s akin to maybe seeing your parents cheating on each other (though that is a disturbing example to give). You will feel angry on behalf of the parent who is being cheated on.
Look at how Musa a.s. grabbed his brother by his hair and in another ayat, by his beard in his anger. And look at what Harun a.s. said.
And when Moses returned to his people, angry and grieved, he said, “How wretched is that by which you have replaced me after [my departure]. Were you impatient over the matter of your Lord?” And he threw down the tablets and seized his brother by [the hair of] his head, pulling him toward him. [Aaron] said, “O son of my mother, indeed the people oppressed me and were about to kill me, so let not the enemies rejoice over me and do not place me among the wrongdoing people.”
From this we learn many lessons.
If you’re in a situation where you have to correct others, then do so. But if matter might get worse if you were to do so, then remain silent if it will only lead to chaos and more fitnah. You’re weak at this point so it would be wiser to stay silent. This was what Harun a.s. did. His plan was to wait till his brother came back to address the situation because in the situation he was in, they apparently don’t already listen to him and if he were to push the matter, it might have broken out into a greater fitnah or utter chaos in the Bani Israel camp. In this case, remaining silent is an act of intelligence and wisdom.
Another lesson that can be extracted from this incident is from what Harun a.s. said to his brother Musa a.s. “…so let not the enemies rejoice over me and do not place me among the wrongdoing people.” Right now, the Bani Israel were watching this incident unfold before their very eyes; Musa a.s.’s homecoming, finding his people committing the very antithesis of the message he is to convey, overcome by anger, flinging down the hard earned tangible result of him spending 40 nights at Mount Toor, and grabbing his blood brother by his hair and beard. Included in those who were watching were those who worshipped the calf, including Samiri. In this scene right now, Harun a.s. was in a position that can be humiliating to him, and this might cause those who did wrong to maybe smirk and it might also lead the others to put the onus on Harun a.s. alone. This can also look like a Musa a.s. vs. Harun a.s. scene, and usually, when fitnah breaks out among the Muslims, disunity is almost always the number one immediate consequence. Who would rejoice in this? The enemies of the Muslims? Similarly, those who did wrong among the Bani Israel might rejoice at seeing Musa a.s. going at his brother, so Harun a.s. is appealing to Musa a.s.’s emotion (by calling him “son of my mother” and intellect to not make the scene bad for their unity.
Subhanallah…think about it. When fitnah breaks out among the Muslim communities, how do we react? Niqab ban : we immediately break into 2 opposing camps among the Muslims; those who agree it should be banned and say it’s only cultural and not part of Islam and those who support the niqabis. Controversial statements : we immediately break into 2 opposing camps among the Muslims; those who say it’s not a big deal and those who say it is a big deal. Sad thing is, these two opposing camps will usually go at each other’s throats without mercy.
So, don’t the enemies any opportunity to laugh or sneer at your comrade, friends, family, fellow Muslims, fellow human beings. It’s very much like forming a strong united front to your kids when you have opposing views with your spouse. You stand together united so the kids can’t play you around on their little fingers. It’s also like standing up for your spouse when you are currently in a disagreeable state with him, when someone tries to come in and take sides.
But look at how Musa a.s. responds when Harun a.s. said this…
[Moses] said, “My Lord, forgive me and my brother and admit us into Your mercy, for You are the most merciful of the merciful.”[Al A’raaf 7:151]
And when the anger subsided in Moses, he took up the tablets; and in their inscription was guidance and mercy for those who are fearful of their Lord. [Al A’raaf 7:153]