Thursday 4 July 2019

Surah Ash-Shu'ara - The Poets: Exegesis / Tafsir 26th Chapter of the Holy Quran - Part I

Sūrah Ash-Shuʻarāʼ is the twenty sixth surah with 227 ayahs with eleven rukus, part of the 19th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Surah takes its name from verse 224 in which the word Ash-Shu`araa' occurs.

As already mentioned in the Overview of this surah, since this surah is very long, the exegesis / tafseer has been broken down into parts for better understanding as under and will be presented separately in our subsequent posts: 
  • Part I (This Part): Rukhu 1-4 (Verses 1-68) - Mention of Prophet Moses and Pharaoh
  • Part II:  Rukhu 5 (verses 69-104) - Mention of Prophet Abraham
  • Part III: Rukhu 6-7 (Verses 105-140) - Mention of Prophets Noah and Hüd
  • Part IV: Rukhu 8-10 (Verses 141-191) - Mention of Prophets Sälih, Lüt, and Shu'aib
  • Part V:  Rukhu 11 (Verses 192-227) - The Revelation of the Qur'an 
Just a reminder of the overview, from Sūrah Ash-Shuʻarāʼ, a new series of four Surahs (Chapters 26-29), begins which illustrate the contrast between the spirit of Prophecy and spiritual Light and the reactions to it in the communities among whom it appeared, by going back to old Prophets and the stories of the Past. In this particular Surah the story of Moses in his fight with Pharaoh and of Pharaoh's discomfiture has been mentioned. Other Prophets mentioned are Abraham, Noah, Hüd, Sälih, Lüt, and Shu'aib. The lesson is drawn that the Qur'an is a continuation and fulfillment of previous Revelations, and is pure Truth, unlike This Surah begins the poetry of vain poets Chronologically the Surah belongs to the middle Makkan period, when the contact of the Light of Prophecy with the milieu of Pagan Makkah was testing the Makkans in their most arrogant mood.

Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"
Rukhu 1 [Verses 1-9]
( 1 )   Ta, Seen, Meem. طٰسٓمّٓ‏ 
[These disjoined letters are one of the miracles of the Qur'an, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings - see our earlier post for details: Understanding the Holy Quran: Huroof Muqatta’at - Disjoined Letters].

Verses 2-10 make a mention of the despair of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when pagans of Makkah consistently refused to believe him. At this juncture, Allah could have sent them a sign that was undeniable, but they would still turned away from every revelation.  So wile comforting His prophet, the Allah assures that the disbelievers would soon experience the reality of what they mock.  In fact all they needed was to look around to see Allah’s creation; a sign that Allah is Mighty and Merciful.

تِلۡكَ اٰيٰتُ الۡكِتٰبِ الۡمُبِيۡنِ 
( 2 )   These are the verses of the clear Book.
That is, the verses being presented in this Surah are of that Book, which presents and explains its subject-matter clearly and plainly so that every reader and listener may easily understand what it invites to, what it enjoins and what it forbids, and what it regards as true and what as false. To believe or not to believe is a different matter; but no one can have the excuse that he could not understand the teachings of the Book and its injunctions and prohibitions.

Al-Kitab-ul-Mubin also has the meaning that the Quran is, beyond any doubt, a divine Book. Its language, its diction and themes, the facts presented by it and the background of its revelations, all testify to the fact that this is indeed the Book of the Master of all Creation. In this sense, its every sentence is a sign and a miracle. As such, any person who has common sense has no need of any other sign than the verses of this Book for believing in the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

This brief introductory sentence, which covers both these meanings, has a close connection with the subject-matter of this Surah. The disbelievers of Makkah demanded a miracle from the Prophet (peace be upon him) so as to be convinced that the message he gave was really from Allah. In answer to that, it has been said that if someone really wanted a sign for believing in the Prophet (peace be upon him), he should study the verses of this Book. Then, the disbelievers accused the Prophet (peace be upon him) of being a sorcerer. This charge has been refuted by saying that the Quran has nothing ambiguous or mysterious in it; but it plainly puts forward all of its teachings which cannot be the creation of a poet or a sorcerer’s imagination.

لَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّـفۡسَكَ اَلَّا يَكُوۡنُوۡا مُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ‏ 
( 3 )   Perhaps, [O Muhammad], you would kill yourself with grief that they will not be believers.
The words bakhiun-nafsaka literally mean: You would kill yourself. The verse in fact describes the extreme anguish, anxiety and grief of the Prophet (peace be upon him) over the disbelievers’ ways of deviation, moral degradation, and obduracy and opposition to his message of reform. Sometimes it seemed as if his grief and mental suffering for their sake would cause his death. This state of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been referred to at other places in the Quran as well, for instance in (Surah Al-Kahf, Ayat 6), thus: Well, O Muhammad, it may be that you will consume your life for their sake out of sorrow if they do not believe in this message. And in (Surah Al-Fatir, Ayat 8), thus: Let not your life be consumed in grief for their sake.
( 4 )   If We willed, We could send down to them from the sky a sign for which their necks would remain humbled.
If it had been Allah's Will and Plan to force people's will, He could quite easily have forced the Makkans. But His Will and Plan work differently. His revelation is meant to train man's own will so that it conforms to Allah's beneficent purpose.

If Allah had adopted a method of coercing people to believe and obey, it would have defeated the very purpose of the trial and test. Then there was no need to send down the signs for the purpose, but He would have created man with a pure nature, without any inclination for evil, disbelief and sin, and made him obedient by birth like the angels. This has been referred at several places in the Quran, for instance in (Surah Younus, Ayat 99): Had your Lord willed, all the dwellers of the earth would have believed in Him. And in (Surah Houd, Ayat 118): Your Lord could have made mankind one community had He so willed, but now they will continue to follow different ways, but only those on whom Allah has His mercy (escape wrong ways). It will be so because He has created them for this (very freedom of choice and action).
( 5 )   And no revelation comes to them anew from the Most Merciful except that they turn away from it.
( 6 )   For they have already denied, but there will come to them the news of that which they used to ridicule.
That is, the people who show lack of feeling and interest for every rational attempt made to bring them to the right way, cannot be made to believe forcibly by sending down signs from heaven. They only deserve to be shown their evil end after they have been duly warned and shown guidance, which they not only treated with indifference but rejected scornfully. This evil end can be shown to them in several ways.

(1) The truth which they have bitterly opposed and scoffed at should prevail in the world in front of their very eyes in spite of their antagonism. (2) They should be visited by a painful torment and eliminated from the world. (3) Alter a few years of misguided life they should meet death and see for themselves that what they had been following whole heartedly throughout their lives was nothing but falsehood and what the Prophets had been presenting was the very truth, which they had been scoffing at. Thus the evil end can take place differently for different people as it happened in the past.
( 7 )   Did they not look at the earth - how much We have produced therein from every noble kind?
( 8 )   Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers.
That is, the seeker after truth does not have to look far for a sign. If only he sees with open eyes the phenomena of vegetation around him, he will be able to judge for himself whether the reality about the system of the world (i.e. Tauhid) which was being presented by the Prophets is true or the speculations of the polytheists and atheists. From the variety and abundance of creation found on the earth, the various elements and factors supporting it, the laws of nature causing it to grow and flourish, and the accord and harmony existing between its characteristics and the countless needs and demands of innumerable creatures, only a fool will conclude that all this is happening automatically without the wisdom, knowledge, power and design of an All-Mighty, All-Powerful Creator. Obviously, many masters and gods could not have by any device arranged and produced the perfect harmony and accord between the soil, the sun and the moon, and the animal and plant life produced with their help and the needs of a great variety of creatures living on the earth. A sensible person, unless he is prejudiced and biased, cannot help feeling convinced that these are the clear signs and proofs of the existence of One God, and there is no further need of a miracle to convince him of the reality of Tauhid.

He has the power and ability to annihilate completely anyone whom He wills to punish, but it is His mercy that He does not hasten to punish the wrong-doer, but gives him respite for years and centuries to allow him time to think, understand and mend his ways, and is ever ready to forgive the sins of a lifetime if the sinner offers repentance but once.

وَاِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَهُوَ الۡعَزِيۡزُ الرَّحِيۡمُ 
( 9 )   And indeed, your Lord - He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.
You may refer to our post "99 Attributes of Allah" for complete list of 99 attributes of Allah Almighty with meaning and explanation.

Rukhu 2 [Verses 10-33]
The main theme of this part of the surah, rukhu 2-4, is the mention of Prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) who was sent to the people of Pharaoh (Fir'on)( but feared he would be rejected because of his speech.  Allah reassured him by making Aaron his helper.   Moses asked that the Israelites be released from bondage.  Pharaoh reminded Moses of his time in Egypt and called him ungrateful. Moses spoke about the glory of Allah , and Pharaoh threatened him with prison while mocking him and God.  Moses demonstrated the miracles Allah  allowed him to perform.  He threw his staff which became a snake and from his robes he drew his hand, shining and white.  He was called a sorcerer and Pharaoh and his advisers arranged a competition with their sorcerers. 

At the assembly the sorcerers threw their ropes, but Moses’ staff devoured their illusions.  The sorcerers prostrated to God and Pharaoh had them crucified.  Allah  inspired Moses to flee at night with all the Israelites.  Pharaoh sent an army to prevent their emigration.  By sunrise Pharaoh’s people had the Israelites trapped at the edge of the Red Sea.  Moses struck the sea with his staff and the waves parted allowing them to escape.  The pursuers were drowned.  This is a sign for those who believe.  Allah  is Mighty and Merciful.

In that Verses 11-33 explain the assignment of Musa as a Rasool and his dialogue with Fir'on and Miracles of Prophet Musa
( 10 )   And [mention] when your Lord called Moses, [saying], "Go to the wrongdoing people 
From here on, the mention of Prophet Musa is made and his struggle to convince the Pharaoh to accept the Divine message is basically to tell Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that all prophets before him had to undergo much distress and hardships to carryout the prophetic mission.

In fact the conditions under which Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had to work were much harsher and more severe than those faced by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Prophet Moses belonged to a slave community very much suppressed by Pharaoh and his people. In contrast to them, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a member of the clan of Quraish and his family enjoyed an equal status with the other clans. Then Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had been bred and brought up in the house of Pharaoh and after remaining a fugitive for ten years due to a charge of murder, he was commanded to go before the same king from whom he had fled for life. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not have to face any such situation. Then the empire of Pharaoh was the most extensive and powerful empire of the time and the meager power of the Quraish had no comparison with it. In spite of that Pharaoh could not do any harm to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and ultimately perished in the conflict. From this Allaln wanted the Quraish to learn this lesson: None can defeat the one who has Allah to help him? When Pharaoh with all his might became helpless against Moses (peace be upon him), how can you, O poor Quraish, succeed against Muhammad (peace be upon him)?

There could not be clearer and more manifest signs (miracles) than those which were shown to Pharaoh through Moses (peace be upon him). Then in an open contest with the magicians before a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people to meet the challenge of Pharaoh himself, it had been conclusively demonstrated that what was presented by Moses (peace be upon him), was not magic. The skillful magicians who were themselves Egyptians and had been summoned by Pharaoh himself bore witness to the fact that turning of Moses’ (peace be upon him) staff into a serpent was a real change of nature, which could only happen through a divine miracle, and not by any trick of magic. Then the magicians’ believing in Moses (peace be upon him) immediately, even at the risk of life, proved beyond any doubt that the sign presented by Moses (peace be upon him) was a miracle and not magic. Yet the disbelievers were not inclined to believe in the Prophet (peace be upon him). Now how can you, O Quraish, say that you will believe only when you are shown a perceptible miracle and a physical sign? As a matter of fact, if a person is free from prejudice, false sense of prestige and vested interest, and has an open mind to appreciate the distinction between truth and falsehood, and is prepared to give up falsehood for the truth, he does not stand in need of any other signs than those found in this Book, in the life of the one presenting it and in the vast universe around him. On the contrary, an obstinate person, who is not interested in the truth, and who because of selfish motives is determined not to recognize and accept any such truth as may clash with his interests, will not be prepared to believe after seeing any sign whatsoever, even if the earth and the heaven are turned upside down in front of his eyes.

The tragic end of such obstinacy as met by Pharaoh is not something for which other people should become so impatient. Those who do not believe even after seeing with their own eyes the signs of divine power have inevitably to meet a similar fate. Therefore, instead of learning a lesson why do you insist on seeing such a dreadful sign? For comparison, see (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 103-137); (Surah Younus, Ayats 75-92); (Surah Bani Israil, Ayats 101-104); and (Surah Ta Ha, Ayats 9-79).
( 11 )   The people of Pharaoh. Will they not fear Allah?"( 12 )   He said, "My Lord, indeed I fear that they will deny me 
( 13 )   And that my breast will tighten and my tongue will not be fluent, so send for Aaron.
The sentence, “My breast tightens”, shows that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was somewhat hesitant of going alone on such a difficult mission, and also had the feeling that he was not eloquent in speech. That is why he begged Allah to appoint Aaron too, as messenger to assist him who, being more vigorous in speech, could support and strengthen him as and when the need arose. It is just possible that in the beginning, the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) might have begged that Aaron be appointed to Prophethood instead of him, but later when he felt that Allah willed him to be appointed to that position, he might have appealed that Aaron should at least be made his counselor and assistant. We say this because here Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) is not praying for Aaron to be made his counselor, but says: Appoint Aaron to Prophethood. On the other hand, in Surah Ta Ha, he says: Appoint for me a counselor from my family, (let it be) my brother Aaron. Then in Surah Al-Qasas, he says: My brother Aaron is more vigorous in speech than myself, so send him as an assistant with me to confirm (and support) me. From this it appears that these two requests were made later, but originally Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had begged Allah to appoint Aaron to Prophethood instead of himself.

The Bible has a different story to tell. According to it, Prophet Moses, fearing that he would be rejected by the people of Pharaoh, and putting forward the excuse of his faltering speech, had declined to accept his appointment to prophet hood on the pretext that he lacked vigor and eloquence in speech: O my, Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. (Exodus, 4: 13), Then Allah, of His own will, appointed Aaron to be his assistant and persuaded them: to go together before Pharaoh. (Exodus, 4: 1-13).
( 14 )   And they have upon me a [claim due to] sin, so I fear that they will kill me."
The allusion is to the incident of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) giving a blow to an Egyptian, who was fighting with an Israelite, and thus causing his death. Then as soon as Moses came to know that the report had reached Pharaoh and his people and they were planning to take revenge, he fled the country and took refuge in Median. See (Surah Al-Qasas, Ayat 15-21). Now when after a period of almost ten years of hiding he was suddenly called upon and commanded to go before Pharaoh, who had already a charge of murder against him, with the message, Prophet Moses rightly felt apprehensive that he would immediately be involved in the murder case even before he was able to convey the message as commanded by Allah.
( 15 )   [Allah] said, "No. Go both of you with Our signs; indeed, We are with you, listening.
Here the signs meant the miracles of the staff and the shining hand, which were given to Moses. For details see (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 106-117); (Surah Ta Ha, Ayats 17-23); (Surah An-Naml, Ayats 7-14); and (Surah Al-Qasas; Ayats 31-32).
( 16 )   Go to Pharaoh and say, 'We are the messengers of the Lord of the worlds,( 17 )   [Commanded to say], "Send with us the Children of Israel."'"
The mission of the Prophets Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) was twofold: First, to invite Pharaoh to the worship and obedience of Allah which has been the foremost aim of the mission of every Prophet, and secondly, to liberate the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh, which was specifically assigned to them. The Quran has mentioned sometimes only the first part of their mission (as in Surah An-Naziat) and sometimes only the second.
( 18 )   [Pharaoh] said, "Did we not raise you among us as a child, and you remained among us for years of your life?
This remark of Pharaoh shows that he was not the same Pharaoh who had brought up Moses in his house, but his son. Had he been the same Pharaoh, he would have said, “I brought you up.” But, on the contrary, he says, “You were brought up among ourselves.”

It may be noted that the Qur'anic narrative regarding Moses refers to two Pharaohs. The first of these was one during whose reign Moses was born and in whose palace he was brought up. The second Pharaoh to whom reference is made is the one whom Moses invited to Islam and who was asked to liberate the Israelites. It is this latter Pharaoh who was finally drowned. Modern scholarship is inclined to the view that the first Pharaoh was Ramses 11 who ruled over Egypt from 1292 B.C. to 1225 B.C. while the second Pharaoh was Minpetah, his son, who had become a co-sharer in his father's authority during the latter's lifetime and who, after his death, became the fully-fledged ruler of Egypt. This, however, is not fully established since Moses, according to the Egyptian calendar, died in 1272 B.C. In any case these are merely historical conjectures. It is quite difficult to establish a clear chronological framework owing to discrepancies in the Egyptian, Israeli and Christian calendars.
( 19 )   And [then] you did your deed which you did, and you were of the ungrateful."
The allusion is to the incident of murder committed by Moses accidentally.

قَالَ فَعَلۡتُهَاۤ اِذًا وَّاَنَا مِنَ الضَّآلِّيۡنَؕ‏ 
( 20 )   [Moses] said, "I did it, then, while I was of those astray.
The word dalalat does not always mean straying away, but it is also used in the sense of ignorance, folly, error, forgetfulness, inadvertence, etc. As mentioned in Surah Al- Qasas, Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had only given a blow to the Egyptian (Copt) when he saw him beating an Israelite cruelly. A blow does not cause death, nor is it given with the intention of causing death. It was only an accident that the Egyptian died. As such, it was not a case of deliberate murder but of accidental murder. A murder was committed but not intentionally, nor was any weapon used, which is usually employed for murder, or which can cause murder.

فَفَرَرۡتُ مِنۡكُمۡ لَمَّا خِفۡتُكُمۡ فَوَهَبَ لِىۡ رَبِّىۡ حُكۡمًا وَّجَعَلَنِىۡ مِنَ الۡمُرۡسَلِيۡنَ‏ 
( 21 )   So I fled from you when I feared you. Then my Lord granted me wisdom and prophet hood and appointed me [as one] of the messengers.
The word hukm means wisdom, knowledge or authority, which is granted by Allah to a Prophet so that he may speak with confidence and power.
( 22 )   And is this a favor of which you remind me - that you have enslaved the Children of Israel?"
That is, if you had not been unjust and cruel to the Israelites. I should not have been brought to your house for upbringing. It was only on account of your barbarism that my mother put me in a basket and cast it into the river. Had it not been so, I should have been happily brought up in my own house. Therefore, it does not behoove you to remind me of your favor of bringing me up in your house.
( 23 )   Said Pharaoh, "And who is the Lord of the worlds?"
Here the details that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) went before Pharaoh as the Messenger of the Lord of the universe and conveyed to him His message, have been omitted, and only the conversation that took place between them has been related.

This question of Pharaoh concerned the assertion of Moses (peace be upon him) that he had been sent by the Lord, Master and Ruler of all Creation with the message that he should let the Israelites go with him. This was a political message. It implied that the One, Whom Moses claimed to represent, possessed authority and sovereign rights over all the people of the world including Pharaoh and that he was not only encroaching upon his sphere of sovereignty as Supreme Ruler, but was also sending him the command that he should hand over a section of his subjects to the representative appointed by Him, so that he should take them out of his kingdom. That is why Pharaoh asked: Who is this Master and Ruler of all Creation who is sending such a command to the king of Egypt through an ordinary subject of his kingdom?
( 24 )   [Moses] said, "The Lord of the heavens and earth and that between them, if you should be convinced."
That is, I have not been sent by any mortal king ruling in the world, but I come from Him Who is the Owner of the heavens and the earth. If you believe that, there is a Creator and Master and Ruler of this universe, it should not be difficult for you to understand who is the Lord of all Creation.
( 25 )   [Pharaoh] said to those around him, "Do you not hear?"( 26 )   [Moses] said, "Your Lord and the Lord of your first forefathers."
These words were addressed to the chiefs of Pharaoh, whom he had asked: Do you hear? Prophet Moses said: I do not believe in the false gods who exist today, but did not exist yesterday, or who existed yesterday but do not exist today. This Pharaoh, whom you worship as your lord today, did not exist yesterday, and the Pharaohs whom your elders worshiped yesterday, do not exist today; whereas I believe in the sovereignty and authority of that Lord Who is both your Lord and Pharaoh’s Lord as much today as He was your elders’ Lord before this.
( 27 )   [Pharaoh] said, "Indeed, your 'messenger' who has been sent to you is mad."( 28 )   [Moses] said, "Lord of the east and the west and that between them, if you were to reason."
That is, You regard me as a mad person, but if you think you are wise people, you should yourself decide as to who is the real lord: this wretched Pharaoh who is ruling over a small piece of earth, or He Who is the Owner of the east and the west and of everything bounded by the east and the west including the land of Egypt. I believe in His sovereignty alone and have been sent to convey His message to a creature of His.
( 29 )   [Pharaoh] said, "If you take a god other than me, I will surely place you among those imprisoned."
To understated and appreciate this conversation fully, one should bear in mind the fact that as it is today, in the ancient times too, the concept of deity was confined to its religious sense only. The deity was meant to be worshiped and presented offerings and gifts, and because of its supernatural powers and authority the people were to pray to it for help and fulfillment of their desires. But a deity’s being supreme legally and politically also and his right to enjoin anything he pleased in the mundane affairs and man’s duty to submit to his commands as to superior law, has never been recognized by the so-called worldly rulers. They have always claimed that in the mundane affairs, they alone possess absolute authority and no deity has any right to interfere in the polity and law prescribed by them. This very thing has been the real cause of the conflict between the Prophets and their righteous followers, on the one hand, and the worldly kingdoms and governments on the other.

The Prophets have been trying their utmost to make the worldly rulers acknowledge the sovereign and absolute rights of the Lord of the Worlds, but they in return have not only been claiming sovereign powers and rights for themselves, but have been considering every such person as a criminal and rebel, who has held someone else as a deity in the political and legal sphere.

With this background one can easily understand the real significance of Pharaoh’s words. Had it been a question of mere worship and offerings, he would have least bothered that Moses (peace be upon him), forsaking all gods, regarded only Allah, the Lord of all Creation, as worthy of those rights. If Moses (peace be upon him) had invited him to serve Allah alone, he would not have felt provoked and offended. At the most he would have refused to give up the creed of his forefathers, or would have challenged Moses (peace be upon him) to have a debate with his own religious scholars.

But what caused him provocation was that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was presenting himself as the representative of the Lord of all Creation and was conveying to him a political command as if he was a subordinate ruler and the representative of the superior authority was demanding obedience from him to the command. In this sense, he was not prepared to acknowledge any other political or legal authority, nor allow any of his subjects to acknowledge anybody instead of himself as the supreme ruler. That is why he challenged the term “Lord of all Creation”, for the message sent by Him clearly reflected sovereignty in the political and not in the mere religious sense. Then, when Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) explained over and over again what he meant by the Lord of all Creation, Pharaoh threatened that if he held anyone other than him as sovereign in the land of Egypt, he would be cast into prison.
( 30 )   [Moses] said, "Even if I brought you proof manifest?"( 31 )   [Pharaoh] said, "Then bring it, if you should be of the truthful."
This reply of Pharaoh shows that he was not in any way different from the common polytheists of the ancient and modern times. Like all other polytheists, he believed in Allah’s being the highest Deity in the supernatural sense. Who wielded greater power and authority than all other gods and goddesses. That is why Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) said to him: If you do not believe that I have been appointed by Allah, I can present such clear signs as will prove that I have really been sent by Him. And that is why Pharaoh said: If you are true in your claim, come out with your sign, otherwise if he had any doubt about the existence of Allah or His being Master of the universe, he would not have asked for the sign.

 ​فَاَ لۡقٰى عَصَاهُ فَاِذَا هِىَ ثُعۡبَانٌ مُّبِيۡنٌ​ ۖ ​​ۚ‏ 
( 32 )   So [Moses] threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent manifest.
Thuban means a serpent. At other places, the Quran has used hayyatun (snake) and jaann (a small snake) to describe the snake of the staff. The interpretation given by Imam Razi is that the snake of the staff looked like a serpent from its big size and has been called jaann on account of its swift movement which is characteristic of small snakes.

وَّنَزَعَ يَدَهٗ فَاِذَا هِىَ بَيۡضَآءُ لِلنّٰظِرِيۡنَ 
( 33 )   And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white for the observers.
Some commentators under the influence of the Israelite traditions have translated baida as white and have taken it to mean that the healthy hand when drawn out of the armpit became white as if struck by leprosy. But commentators like Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Abul Saud Imadi, Alusi and others agree that baida here means shining and bright. As soon as Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) took his hand out from the armpit, it made the whole place bright as if by the sun.

Rukhu 3 [Verses 34-51]
34-51 Fir'on took Prophet Musa's miracles as magic and summoned the magicians to compete and After witnessing a miracle, all the magicians embraced Islam
( 34 )   [Pharaoh] said to the eminent ones around him, "Indeed, this is a learned magician.( 35 )   He wants to drive you out of your land by his magic, so what do you advise?"
The verse 35 shows Pharaoh’s perplexed state of mind. A moment before he was the deity of his courtiers and, now, struck by awe, the deity is asking his servants as to what he should do to meet the dangerous situation.

The impact of the two miracles can be judged from the fact that a moment before this Pharaoh was calling Moses (peace be upon him) a mad man, because he had claimed to be a Prophet and had the boldness to openly demand release of the Israelites. He was also threatening Moses (peace be upon him) that if he took somebody else as Lord instead of him, he would cast him into the prison for life. But, after he had seen the signs, he became so terror stricken that he felt his kingdom to be at stake, and in his confusion he did not realize that he was talking meaninglessly to his servants in the court. Two men from the oppressed community of the Israelites were standing before the most powerful ruler of the time. They had no military force with them, they belonged to a weak and lifeless community, and there was no sign of any rebellion in any corner of the country, nor did they have the support of any foreign power, yet as soon as the miracles of the snake of the staff and the shining hand were shown, the tyrant desperately cried out: These two men want to seize power and deprive the ruling class of their sovereign rights! His apprehension that Moses (peace be upon him) would do so by force of his magic again reflected a confused state of mind, for nowhere in the world has a political revolution been ever brought about, nor a country taken, nor a war won merely by force of magic. There were many magicians in Egypt, who could perform masterly tricks of magic, but Pharaoh knew it well that they were nonentities because they performed magic only for the sake of rewards.
( 36 )   They said, "Postpone [the matter of] him and his brother and send among the cities gatherers( 37 )   Who will bring you every learned, skilled magician."
( 38 )   So the magicians were assembled for the appointment of a well-known day.
As mentioned in Surah TaHa (verse 59), "The appointment to meet you is on the Day of the Feast and let all people come together before noon" , the day fixed for the purpose was the day of the national festivities of the Egyptians so that large crowds of people coming to the festivals from every part of the country should also witness the grand contest which was to be held in the broad daylight so that the spectators could see the performances clearly.
( 39 )   And it was said to the people, "Will you congregateالمعانيEnglish - Sahih International  ( 40 ) That we might follow the magicians if they are the predominant?"
Verse 40 confirms the idea that those who had witnessed the miracle of Moses (peace be upon him) in the royal court and those who had heard of it reliably outside were losing faith in their ancestral religion, and now the strength of their faith depended on this that their own magicians also should give a performance similar to that of Moses (peace be upon him). That is why Pharaoh and his chiefs themselves regarded this contest as a decisive one, and their heralds were busy moving about in the land, impressing on the people that if the magicians won the day, they would yet be secured against the risk of being won over to Moses’ (peace be upon him) religion, otherwise there was every possibility of their creed being exposed and abandoned forever.
( 41 )   And when the magicians arrived, they said to Pharaoh, "Is there indeed for us a reward if we are the predominant?"  ( 42 )   He said, "Yes, and indeed, you will then be of those near [to me]."
This was then the highest honor that the king could confer on those who served the creed best. Thus, at the very outset, Pharaoh and his magicians manifested by their conduct the great moral distinction that exists between a Prophet and a magician. On the one side, there stood that embodiment of courage and confidence, who in spite of belonging to the suppressed community of the Israelites and having remained to hiding for ten long years on account of a charge of murder, had suddenly appeared in Pharaoh’s court to proclaim fearlessly that he had been sent by the Lord of all Creation and demanded release of the Israelites.

He did not even feel the least hesitation in starting a discussion face to face with Pharaoh not caring in the least for his threats. On the other side, there were the wretched magicians wholly lacking in moral fiber, who had been summoned by Pharaoh himself to help secure the ancestral religion, and yet they were begging for rewards in return for the services. And when they are told that they will not only be given rewards but will also be included among the royal courtiers, they feel greatly overjoyed. These two types of characters clearly bring out the difference between the grand personality of a Prophet and that of a mere magician. Unless a man loses all senses of modesty and decency, he cannot have the audacity to call a Prophet a magician.
( 43 )   Moses said to them, "Throw whatever you will throw."( 44 )   So they threw their ropes and their staffs and said, "By the might of Pharaoh, indeed it is we who are predominant."
As soon as they cast down their cords and staffs, these started moving like so many snakes towards Moses. This has been described in greater detail at other places in the Quran. According to (Surah Al-Araf, Ayat 116): When they threw down their devices, they bewitched the eyes of the people and terrified their hearts: for they had indeed produced a great magic. And according to (Surah TaHa, Ayats 66, 67): Suddenly it so appeared to Moses that their cords and staffs were running about by the power of their magic, and Moses’ heart was filled with fear.
( 45 )   Then Moses threw his staff, and at once it devoured what they falsified.( 46 )   So the magicians fell down in prostration [to Allah].( 47 )   They said, "We have believed in the Lord of the worlds,( 48 )   The Lord of Moses and Aaron."
Falling down of the perplexed magicians in prostration not merely an acknowledgment of their defeat at the hands of Moses (peace be upon him) as though he was a greater magician, but their falling prostrate in submission to Allah, Lord of the universe, was an open declaration before thousands of Egyptians that what Moses (peace be upon him) had brought about was no magic at all, but a manifestation of the powers of Allah, Almighty.
( 49 )   [Pharaoh] said, "You believed Moses before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic, but you are going to know. I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will surely crucify you all."
This only shows the extreme obstinacy and obduracy of Pharaoh, who even after witnessing a clear miracle and the testimony of the magicians on it, was still insisting that it was magic. But according to (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 123), Pharaoh said: Indeed it was a plot you conspired in the capital to deprive the rightful owners of their power. Thus he tried to make the people believe that the magicians had yielded to Moses (peace be upon him) not because of the miracle but due to a conspiracy with Moses (peace be upon him) before they entered the contest, so that they might seize political power and enjoy its fruits together.

This horrible threat was held out by Pharaoh to justify his thinking that the magicians had entered a conspiracy with Moses (peace be upon him). He thought that the magicians, in order to save their lives, would confess the plot and thus the effect produced by their falling prostrate and believing in Moses (peace be upon him) in front of thousands of spectators would be gone.
( 50 )   They said, "No harm. Indeed, to our Lord we will return.( 51 )   Indeed, we aspire that our Lord will forgive us our sins because we were the first of the believers."
That is, we have to return to our Lord in any case. If you kill us now, we shall present ourselves before Him just today, and we have nothing to worry about this. We rather expect that we shall be forgiven our sins and errors because out of this entire gathering we were the first to believe as soon as reality became known to us.

This reply of the magicians made two things absolutely clear to the people who had been gathered together by Pharaoh heralds.
  • First, that Pharaoh was a dishonest obdurate and deceitful person. When he saw that Moses had come out successful in the contest which he himself had arranged to be decisive, he concocted a plot and forced the magicians to confess it by coercion and threats. Had there been any truth in it, the magicians would not have readily offered to have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides and get crucified. The fact that the magicians remained steadfast and firm in their belief, even in the face of such a horrible threat, proves that the accusation of plotting a conspiracy against Pharaoh was baseless. The fact was that the magicians being experts in their art had realized that what Moses (peace be upon him) had displayed was no magic, but surely a manifestation of the powers of Allah, Lord of the universe.
  • Secondly, thousands of the people who had gathered together from all corners of the land had themselves witnessed the great moral change that had occurred in the magicians as soon as they professed belief in the Lord of the universe. The same magicians who had been summoned to strengthen and secure the ancestral creed by means of their magic and who, a minute before, were humbly begging Pharaoh for rewards had now become so bold and ennobled spiritually that they would not take any notice of Pharaoh’s powers and his threats and were even prepared to face death and extreme physical torture for the sake of their faith. Thus psychologically there could not be a better occasion to expose the polytheistic creed of the Egyptians in their own eyes and help impress the truth of Moses’ (peace be upon him) religion in the minds of the people.
Rukhu 4 [Verses 52-68]
52-68 Deliverance of the Children of Israel and the destruction of Fir'on and his chiefs
( 52 )   And We inspired to Moses, "Travel by night with My servants; indeed, you will be pursued."
The mention of migration here does not mean that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and the Israelites were immediately ordered to leave Egypt. The history of the intervening period has been related in (Surah Al-Araf, Ayats 127-135) and (Surah Yunus, Ayats 83-89), and a part of it has been mentioned in (Surah Al-Momin, Ayats 23-46 )and (Surah Az-Zukhruf, Ayat 46-56). Here the story is being cut short and only the final phase of the conflict between Pharaoh and Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) is given to show the tragic end of Pharaoh who had remained obdurate even after witnessing clear signs and the ultimate success of Moses (peace be upon him) who had divine support behind his message.

The warning that “you will be pursued” shows the wisdom of the instruction to set off during the night. The idea was that before Pharaoh came out with his hosts to pursue them, they should have gone far enough so as to be out of reach of him. It should be borne in mind that the Israelites were not settled in one place in Egypt but were scattered in cities and habitations all over the country and lived in large numbers especially in the land between Memphis and Ramses called Goshen. It appears that when Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was commanded to leave Egypt, he must have sent instructions to the Israelite habitations telling the people to make necessary preparations for migration and he must have also fixed a night for them to leave their homes for the exodus.
( 53 )   Then Pharaoh sent among the cities gatherers ( 54 )   [And said], "Indeed, those are but a small band,( 55 )   And indeed, they are enraging us,( 56 )   And indeed, we are a cautious society... "
All this shows that Pharaoh in fact was terror-stricken, but was trying to hide his fear under cover of fearlessness. On the one hand, he was mobilizing forces to face the situation; and on the other hand, he wanted to show that he was undaunted and undeterred, for a despotic ruler like Pharaoh could have no danger from a suppressed and slave community which had been living in disgrace for centuries. That is why his heralds made the people believe that the Israelites were just a handful of people, who could do them no harm, but had to be punished for the provocation they had caused. As for mobilization it was only a precautionary measure which had been taken to meet any eventuality in time.
( 57 )   So We removed them from gardens and springs( 58 )   And treasures and honorable station
The general mobilization ordered by Pharaoh was aimed to crush the Israelites completely, but God’s device turned the tables on him and drew out all his chiefs and courtiers from their dwelling places and drove them to the place where they and their hosts were to be drowned all together. Had they not pursued the Israelites, nothing would have happened save that a community would have left the country quietly and they would have continued to enjoy life in their fine dwellings as before. But they in fact had cleverly planned not to allow the Israelites go away peacefully, but to attack the migrating caravans suddenly to finish them completely. For this very purpose the princes and the high chiefs and the nobles came out of their palaces and joined Pharaoh in the campaign, but their cleverness did not avail them anything. Not only did the Israelites succeed in escaping from Egypt, but also at the same time the elite of Pharaoh's tyrannical kingdom perished in the sea.
( 59 )   Thus. And We caused to inherit it the Children of Israel.
Some commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that Allah made the Children of Israel to inherit the gardens, water-springs, treasure-houses and fine dwellings vacated and left behind by Pharaoh and his people. This would inevitably mean that after the drowning of Pharaoh, the Israelites returned to Egypt and took possession of the wealth and properties of Pharaoh’s people. This interpretation, however, is neither supported by history nor by other verses of the Quran.

The relevant verses of Surahs Al-Baqarah, Al-Maidah, Al-Aaraf and TaHa confirm that after the destruction of Pharaoh in the sea, the Israelites did not return to Egypt but proceeded towards their destination (Palestine) and then, till the time of Prophet David (973-1013 B.C.) all the major events of their history took place in the lands which are now known as the Sinai Peninsula, northern Arabia, Trans Jordan and Palestine.

Thus the verses mean this: On the one hand, Allah deprived the people of Pharaoh of their wealth, possessions and grandeur, and on the other hand, He bestowed the same on the Children of Israel in Palestine, and not in Egypt. This same meaning is borne out by( verses 136-137 of Surah A1-Aaraf): Then We took Our vengeance on them and drowned them in the sea because they had treated Our signs as false and grown heedless of them. And after them We gave as heritage to those who had been abased and kept low, the eastern and the western parts of that land, which had been blessed bountifully by Us. The epithet of the blessed land has generally been used for Palestine in the Quran as in (Surah Bani Israil, Ayat 1); (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayats 71-81); and (Surah Saba, Ayat 18).
( 60 )   So they pursued them at sunrise. ( 61 )   And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Moses said, "Indeed, we are to be overtaken!"( 62 )   [Moses] said, "No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me."
فَاَوۡحَيۡنَاۤ اِلٰى مُوۡسٰٓى اَنِ اضۡرِبْ بِّعَصَاكَ الۡبَحۡرَ​ؕ فَانْفَلَقَ فَكَانَ كُلُّ فِرۡقٍ كَالطَّوۡدِ الۡعَظِيۡمِ​ۚ‏  
( 63 )   Then We inspired to Moses, "Strike with your staff the sea," and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain.
Literally, tawd is a high mountain. It appears that as soon as Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) struck the sea with his staff, it tore the sea asunder and the waters stood like two mighty mountains on the sides and remained in that condition for so long that, on the one hand, the Israelite caravans consisting of hundreds of thousands of the migrants were able to pass through safely, and on the other, Pharaoh and his hosts stepped in and reached the middle of the sea.

In the natural course, a phenomenon like this has never occurred that due to a windstorm, however strong, the sea should have parted and stood like mighty mountains on either side for such a long time. According to (verse 77 of Surah Ta Ha), Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was commanded by Allah to make for them (the Israelites) a dry path across the sea. This shows that the smiting of the sea did not only result in dividing the waters into two parts, which stood like mighty mountains on either side, but it also created a dry path in between without any mud or slush.

In this connection, one should also consider (verse 24 of Surah Dukhan), which says that after Moses (peace be upon him) had crossed the sea along with his people, he was commanded by Allah to let the sea remain as it is because Pharaoh is to be drowned in it. This implies that if after crossing the sea, Moses had again struck it with his staff, the two sides would have rejoined, but he was forbidden to do so. Obviously, this was a miracle, and the view of those who try to interpret it as a natural phenomenon, is belied. For explanation, see (E.N. 53 of Surah Ta Ha).
( 64 )   And We advanced thereto the pursuers.( 65 )   And We saved Moses and those with him, all together.( 66 )   Then We drowned the others.
That is, Pharaoh and his army.
( 67 )   Indeed in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers.
That is, the Quraish have this lesson to learn from this: The obdurate people like Pharaoh, his chiefs and followers had not believed even though they had been shown clear miracles for years. They had been so blinded by obduracy that even on the occasion of their drowning in the sea although they had seen the sea parting asunder in front of their very eyes, the waters standing like high mountains on either side, and the dry path in between for the Israelite caravans to pass, yet they failed to understand that Moses(peace be upon him) had divine succor and support with him which they had come out to fight. At last when they came to their senses, it was too late, because they had been overtaken by the wrath of Allah and the sea waters had covered them completely. It was on this occasion that Pharaoh had cried out: I have believed that there is no god but the real God in Whom the Children of Israel have believed and I am of those who surrender. (Surah Yunus, Ayat 90). On the other hand, there is a sign in this for the believers, too. They should understand how Allah by His grace causes the truth to prevail in the long run and the falsehood to vanish even though the forces to evil may appear to be dominant for the time being .
( 68 )   And indeed, your Lord - He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.
The same has already been used in verse 9, and here it is repeated once again to show the might and mercifulness of Allah which he showed by drowning the Pharaoh and his army and saving the Israelites and letting them live forever.

Here the mention of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) comes to an end in this Surah. The other parts that follow carry mentions many other prophets, who also faced similar and stiff resistance from their people when conveying to them the Divine message.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah Ash-Shu'ara with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary / exegesis of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Juzʼ / Part backwards for chapters in 30th Juzʼ / Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. 
  • In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites. 
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