Sunday, September 22, 2019

Surah Ta Ha: 20th Chapter of Quran - Part II

Sürah Ta Ha is the 20th surah with 135 ayahs with 8 rukus, part of the 16th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. This Sürah takes its name from its "first word "Ta Ha طٰهٰ​ "  - the "disconnected" or "mysterious" (Muqatta'at) Arabic letters: طه (Ta Ha).

Owing to the length of the surah, the exegesis / tafseer has been broken down into following  parts for better understanding as under and will be presented separately in our subsequent posts: 
  • The Overview
  • Part I :   Rukhu 1- 2 (Verses 1-54) - Mention of Prophet Moses and Pharaoh 
  • Part II:   Rukhu 3-5 (verses 55-104) - Mention of Prophet Musa continues
  • Part III: Rukhu 6-8 (Verses 105-135) - Mention of Day of Judgement and Adam's creation and Shaitan's temptation and Allah forgiveness of Adam's sin
We have already presented the Overview and the Part I of the surah. Let us now move over to the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Part II 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"

Ruku / Section 3 [55-76]
( 55 )   From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time.
Before resuming the mention of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) from verse 56 onwards, a reminder and warning is given to the disbelievers that every man has to pass through three stages: (1) From birth to death. (2) From death to Resurrection, and (3) From the Day of Resurrection to Eternity. According to this verse, all the three stages will take place on this earth.

Verses 56 - 64 Pharaoh disbelieved Musa by calling his miracles a magician trick and challenged him to confront his magicians in public - Musa accepted the challenge
( 56 )   And We certainly showed Pharaoh Our signs - all of them - but he denied and refused.
This is a sort of general introduction to the confrontation between Prophet Moses and Pharaoh. The Signs are not only the countering of the fraudulent magic of Egypt with real miracles, but the subsequent Plagues (not mentioned here) and the Crossing of the Red Sea by Israel.

“Signs” comprised those arguments which were based on natural phenomena and human life and those miracles which were given to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). These arguments are contained in the speeches of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) which he delivered before Pharaoh, and the miracles which he showed and are mentioned at several places in the Quran.
( 57 )   He said, "Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Moses?
The Egyptians accused Moses of a design to deprive them of their land, and of exercising black magic. Both charges were palpably false. What Moses wanted to do was to free his people from bondage. The Egyptians had all the power in their possession. As to magic, the Egyptians judged Moses by themselves. They accused the Prophet of Allah of doing the same, though both his outlook and the source of his strength were altogether different.

Here by sorcery are meant the miracles of the staff and the shining hand, which according to the details given in Surahs Al-Aaraf and Ash-Shuara, were shown to Pharaoh by Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) in his first visit to his court. On seeing these miracles Pharaoh was so upset that he cried out: Have you come to drive us out of our country by the power of your sorcery? Although he knew that it had never happened in history that a magician had conquered a country by the power of sorcery. Moreover, there were hundreds of magicians in his own country, who used to show their feats to earn rewards and prizes. Accordingly, Pharaoh’s statement that “you are a sorcerer” on the one hand, and his apprehension that “you want to snatch my kingdom” on the other, were a clear indication of his perturbed mind. In fact, Pharaoh had come to understand that the well reasoned speech of Moses and his miracles were bound to influence not only his courtiers, but also the common people and accordingly he tried to play upon their prejudices through falsehood and treachery. He did not admit that it was a miracle, but called it sorcery. He wanted to create an impression that any sorcerer of his empire could turn a staff into a serpent. He also incited the people, saying: Look, he says that your forefathers were on the wrong way and deserved perdition. So beware of him, he is not a Prophet. He simply aspires for power. He wants that the Israelites should again capture power here like the times of Joseph and wrest the reigns of government from the Copts. Pharaoh, in fact, wanted to suppress the invitation to the truth through such devices.

(For details please see Surah 7. Al-A'raf, verses 108-111 and Surah 10. Yunus verse  77.

فَلَنَاۡتِيَنَّكَ بِسِحۡرٍ مِّثۡلِهٖ فَاجۡعَلۡ بَيۡنَنَا وَبَيۡنَكَ مَوۡعِدًا لَّا نُخۡلِفُهٗ نَحۡنُ وَلَاۤ اَنۡتَ مَكَانًـا سُوًى‏ 
( 58 )   Then we will surely bring you magic like it, so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned."
Suwan: literally, 'equal, even'. It has been construed to mean: (1) a place equally distant for both sides, a central place, or (2) equally convenient to both sides, or (3) an open level plain, where the people can collect with ease. All these are possible meanings, but the one which is more comprehensive, and includes the others, viz.: (4) a place where both sides shall have even chances. "a fair place," as Palmer laconically translates it.
( 59 )   [Moses] said, "Your appointment is on the day of the festival when the people assemble at mid-morning."
A great day of a Temple Festival, when the temples and streets were decorated, and people were on holiday, free from work. Moses makes this appointment in order to collect as large a number as possible, for his first duty is to preach the Truth. And he apparently did it with some effect with some Egyptians (xx. 70, 72-76), though the Pharaoh and his high and mighty officers rejected the Truth and afterwards paid the Penalty.

The object of Pharaoh was this: Once the sorcerers are able to transform the staffs and ropes into serpents, the entire effect of the miracle performed by Moses (peace be upon him) would disappear from the people’s minds. That was exactly to Moses’ (peace be upon him) advantage, who suggested that it was no good fixing an ordinary day or place for the purpose. The Day of the Feast was at hand. People would flock on that occasion from all corners of the empire. Therefore, the encounter should be held in the open so that all might witness it, and in the day time so that everyone should be able to see it clearly.
( 60 )   So Pharaoh went away, put together his plan, and then came [to Moses].
Pharaoh was apparently taken aback at Moses appointing a solemn day of public Festival, when there would be a large concourse and there would be sure to be some people not in the Court clique, who might be critical of Pharaoh's own sorcerers. But probably there was something more in their dark counsels, something unfair and wicked, to which Moses refers in his speech in the next verse.

Pharaoh and his courtiers considered the coming encounter as a decisive one as far as their own future was concerned and, therefore, they attached the utmost importance to it. Courtiers were sent throughout the country to muster round all the magicians wherever available. People were especially encouraged to come in the largest numbers to witness the magic skills so as to keep them immune from the awe inspired by the staff of Moses (peace be upon him). It was openly said that the fate of their religion hinged on the skill of their magicians. Their religion could survive only if they won, otherwise the religion of Moses (peace be upon him) would have its sway see (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayat 34-51).

Here one should bear in mind the fact that the religion of the royal family and the elite of Egypt was much different from that of the common people. They had separate gods and temples and different creeds and concepts about the life after death. They also differed in the practice of religion as well as in the ideologies. (Toynbee: A Study of History: Somervell’s Abridgment Vols. I-VI, pp. 31-32). Moreover, there were sufficiently strong pockets of the population, who under the influence of various religious upheavals, were prone to prefer Monotheism to a creed of polytheism. Besides this, there was also a fairly large element of the worshipers of One God for the Israelites and their fellow believers were at least ten per cent of the total population. Pharaoh also remembered that about 150 years earlier a religious revolution had been brought about by Pharaoh Amenophis IV or Akhenaton (1377-1360 B.C.) by military force, which had abolished all deities except Aton, a single, universal god, which was worshiped by the king and his family. Though this religious revolution had been reversed later by another king, yet its influence retrained, and Pharaoh dreaded that Moses (peace be upon him) might bring about yet another revolution.
( 61 )   Moses said to the magicians summoned by Pharaoh, "Woe to you! Do not invent a lie against Allah or He will exterminate you with a punishment; and he has failed who invents [such falsehood]."
Moses had some idea of their trickery and deceit. They would palm off their fraudulent magic as coming from Allah or from their gods! He warns them that their tricks will stand exposed, and their hopes will be defeated.

The adversaries whom Prophet Moses addressed were Pharaoh and his courtiers who had dubbed him as a sorcerer, and not the common people, who had yet to see the encounter between him and the magicians. The invention of lie was that they had dubbed Allah’s Messenger as a sorcerer and his miracles as a piece of sorcery.
( 62 )   So they disputed over their affair among themselves and concealed their private conversation.
They knew that they had here to deal with no ordinary man, but a man with powers above what they could conceive of. But evil always thinks evil. Judging Moses and Aaron by their own standards, they thought that these two were also tricksters, with some tricks superior to their own. All they had to do was to stand together, and they must win. I construe xx. 63-64 to be private talk among themselves, followed by their open challenge to Moses in xx. 65.

This shows that those people felt in their hearts that their position was weak and knew that the miracle shown by Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was not a piece of magic. Therefore, they had come for the encounter with hesitation and fear. But when the timely, sudden warning of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) shook them to the core, they began to debate the wisdom of holding the encounter on the Feast Day in an open place in the broad daylight. For they thought that if they were defeated in the presence of the common people, all would come to know of the difference between magic and a miracle and they would lose the battle once for all.
( 63 )   They said, "Indeed, these are two magicians who want to drive you out of your land with their magic and do away with your most exemplary way.
Those who were of this view must have been a few fanatics of Pharaoh’s party who were prepared to go to any extent to oppose Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Those people must have been preparing the public for a determined encounter, while the reasonable people among them must have been advising caution and restraint.

Probably those people based their argument on two things: (1) If their magicians would be able to turn their staffs into serpents, it would be a clear proof that Moses (peace be upon him) was a sorcerer, (2) If, on the other hand, Moses (peace be upon him) won, the rulers would lose their country, and their ideal way of life, which reflected their culture, their arts, their civilization, their recreations, etc. would automatically come to an end. Therefore they should do all they could to defeat Moses (peace be upon him).
( 64 )   So resolve upon your plan and then come [forward] in line. And he has succeeded today who overcomes."
They also urged them to present a united front and not to show their differences on the very occasion of the encounter. For, they argued, any hesitation and secret consultation before the very eyes of the public would show that they did not consider themselves to be in the right.

Presumably Pharaoh was in this secret conference, and he promises the most lavish rewards to the magicians if they overcome Moses. That day was to be the crisis: if they won then, they would win all along, and Moses and his people would be crushed.

Verses 65 - 76 Confrontation of Musa and Pharaoh's magicians, after witnessing Musa's miracle Magicians accepted Islam and Dialogue between Magicians and Fir'on
( 65 )   They said, "O Moses, either you throw or we will be the first to throw."
That confidence was subsequently restored among Pharaoh’s party by the speech of the head-strong people, and the magicians were asked to come into the field for the encounter.
( 66 )   He said, "Rather, you throw." And suddenly their ropes and staffs seemed to him from their magic that they were moving [like snakes].
Their bag of tricks was so clever that it imposed upon all beholders. Their ropes and their rods were thrown, and seemed to move about like snakes. So realistic was the effect that even Moses felt the least bit of doubt in his own mind. He of course had no tricks, and he relied entirely on Allah.

In (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 116), it was stated: When they threw down their devices they bewitched the eyes of the people and filled their hearts with terror. Here it is stated that it was not the common people alone who were terrified by their magic but Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) also suffered from its effect. He not only seemed to see that the staffs and cords were running about like serpents but he also felt a dread of them.
( 67 )   So Moses' heart was filled with fear.
The concerted attack of evil is sometimes so well contrived from all points that falsehood appears and is acclaimed as the truth. The believer of truth is isolated, and a sort of moral dizziness creeps over his mind. But by Allah's grace Faith asserts itself, gives him confidence, and points out the specific truths which will dissipate and destroy the teeming brood of falsehood.

It appears that no sooner did Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) say: Cast down, the magicians immediately cast their staffs and cords and it seemed as if hundreds of serpents were running towards him, and he instinctively felt a dread of them. And there is nothing strange in this because a Prophet is after all a human being. Besides this, it is also possible that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) apprehended that the demonstration of the magic might create a misunderstanding among the people about his miracle. This is also a proof that a Prophet too can be influenced by magic to a certain extent like the common people, though magicians have no power to produce any effect on his Prophethood or interfere with revelation, or misguide him. Therefore there is no reason why one should consider as false those traditions in which it has been stated that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) suffered temporarily from the effect of magic.
( 68 )   Allah said, "Fear not. Indeed, it is you who are superior.
( 69 )   And throw what is in your right hand; it will swallow up what they have crafted. What they have crafted is but the trick of a magician, and the magician will not succeed wherever he is."
This is capable of two interpretations: (1) The staff, which was turned into a dragon by a miracle, actually swallowed up all the staffs and cords which had been made to appear as serpents, or (2) The dragon of the staff did not actually swallow up the serpents of the magicians but wiped out the effect of their magic from these things and they again became ordinary cords and staffs.

The second interpretation is preferred because the wording of (Surahs Al-Aaraf, Ayat 117) and (Ash-Shuara, Ayat 45) is this: It swallowed up their false magic. And here the wording is: It will swallow up what they have crafted. Obviously, the staffs and cords were not their creation but the magic which had made them appear like serpents.

Or else the meaning may be either (1) that falsehood and trickery may have their day, but they cannot win everywhere, especially in the presence of Truth, or (2) that trickery and magic must come to an evil end.
( 70 )   So the magicians fell down in prostration. They said, "We have believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses."
When they saw the power of the staff of Moses (peace be upon him), they involuntarily fell prostrate as if someone had made them do so, because they were convinced that it was a miracle and not a feat of magic.

Thus God turned the tables on Pharaoh and his courtiers they arranged the magic show in the hope that it would convince the people that Moses was just a sorcerer, and thus make them sceptical about his claim to prophethood. But the actual outcome was quite the opposite. The sorcerers who had been assembled were defeated. Not only that, it was also unanimously acknowledged that the signs displayed by Moses in support of his claim were not feats of magic. Rather, his signs rather manifested the might of God, the Lord of the universe, and hence could not be overcome by magic.

This profession of faith by the magicians shows that everyone was aware of the basic object of the encounter. It was not an encounter between the feats of the magicians and those of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), but it was to decide whether the claim of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) that he was a Messenger of Allah was true or not. If this staff was actually turned into a dragon, it was by means of a miracle. On the other hand, Pharaoh intended to prove by the feats of his magicians that it was not a miracle but a feat of magic. Incidentally, this also shows that Pharaoh and his magicians and the common people fully understood the distinction between a miracle and a feat of magic. ,That is why when the magicians saw that it was a miracle shown by the power of Allah which had exposed their magic, they did not say that Moses (peace be upon him) was a more skillful magician, but straightway fell prostrate, saying: We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.

It is obvious that the defeat turned the tables on Pharaoh who had himself arranged the encounter to expose Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). He had mustered all his magicians with a view to demonstrating before the public that there was nothing extraordinary in turning a staff into a serpent for this could be done by any magician. But the defeat of the magicians and their acknowledgment testified that Moses (peace be upon him) was really a Messenger of Allah and the transformation of the staff was not a feat of magic but a miracle.
( 71 )   [Pharaoh] said, "You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring."
In( Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat, 123), it has been stated: Indeed it was a plot you conspired in the city to deprive the rightful owners of their power. Here the same thing has been further explained, as if to say: It is not merely a plot between you and him but it appears that Moses is your master and leader. You conspired beforehand that you would be defeated by your master in the encounter to prove that he was a Messenger who had shown the miracle of the staff to frustrate your magic and bring about a political revolution in the country.

Cutting of the right hand and left foot or vice versa, was a very cruel way of punishment in ancient times. They fixed a long pole in the ground or used the trunk of a tree for this purpose. Then a piece of wood was tied across it at the top. Then the hands of the criminal were nailed on to it and he was left hanging there for hours to die a slow, painful death.

This was the last trick played by Pharaoh to win the losing game. He held out the threat of a cruel punishment in order to coerce them to admit that there really was a conspiracy between Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and them against the kingdom. But the fortitude and determination of the magicians turned the tables on him. The very fact that, they were ready to endure the terrible punishment proved to the world that they had sincerely believed in the Prophethood of Moses (peace be upon him) and that the charge of conspiracy was an impudent trick that had been invented as a device.
( 72 )   They said, "Never will we prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and [over] He who created us. So decree whatever you are to decree. You can only decree for this worldly life.
It may also be interpreted like this: It cannot be that we should prefer you to these plain signs which have come before us and to that Being Who has created us.

The tremendous and instantaneous change which took place in the characters of the sorcerers is also of significance. The sorcerers had come all the way from their homes with the purpose of vindicating their ancestral faith and receiving pecuniary reward from Pharaoh for overcoming Moses. However, the moment true faith illumined their hearts, they displayed such resoluteness of will and love for the truth that they contemptuously turned down Pharaoh's offer, and demonstrated their full readiness to endure even the worst punishments for the sake of the truth that had dawned upon them.

Clear Signs: the miracles, the personality of the Messengers of Allah, the logic of events as they unfolded themselves, and the light of inner conviction in their own conscience. There are in addition the Signs and Proofs of Allah in nature, which are referred to in many places, e.g., xx. 53-54.

These Egyptians, by their patience and constancy, show that their repentance was true. Thus in their case the mission of Moses was fulfilled directly, and their number must have amounted to a considerable figure. They were martyrs to their faith, and their martyrdom affected their nation in two ways. In the first place, as they were the pick of those who practised magic in Egypt, their conversion and disappearance dealt a staggering blow to the whole system. Secondly, the indirect effect of their martyrdom on the commonalty of Egypt must have been far greater than can be measured by numbers. The banner of Allah was planted, and the silent spiritual fight must have gone on ever since, though history, in recording outward events, is silent on the slow and gradual processes of transformation undergone by Egyptian religion. From a chaotic pantheon of animals and animal gods, the worship of the sun and the heavenly bodies, and the worship of the Pharaoh as the embodiment of power, they gradually came to realise the oneness and mercy of the true God. After many glimpses of Monotheism on Egyptian soil itself, the (gospel of Jesus reached them, and eventually Islam.)
( 73 )   Indeed, we have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and what you compelled us [to do] of magic. And Allah is better and more enduring."
The magic mummery, and deceptions which pertained to Egyptian Pagan religion became a creed, a State article of faith, to which all citizens were compelled to bow, and which its priests were compelled actively to practise. And Pharaoh was at the head of the whole system-the high priest or the supreme god. With justice, therefore, do the converted magicians lay the blame on Pharaoh, effectively negativing Pharaoh's disingenuous charge that they had been in league with Moses. These falsehoods and deceptions-combined in many cases with horrid cruelties, open and secret,-were common to many Pagan systems. Some of them have been investigated in detail in Sir John G. Frazer' Golden Bough.

The verses xx. 74-76 are best construed as comments on the story of the converted Egyptians who had "purified themselves (from evil)". But some construe them as a continuation of their speech.
( 74 )   Indeed, whoever comes to his Lord as a criminal - indeed, for him is Hell; he will neither die therein nor live.
This is a saying of Allah, which has been added to the foregoing words of the magicians.

This is the most terrible of all the punishments that have been mentioned in the Quran. The criminal will prefer death to the horrible life in Hell, but death will not come to him. He will remain in that state of agony without any hope of relief from it.
( 75 )   But whoever comes to Him as a believer having done righteous deeds - for those will be the highest degrees [in position]:( 76 )   Gardens of perpetual residence beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. And that is the reward of one who purifies himself.
As the Egyptian magicians had done when they confessed the One True God.

Ruku / Section 4 [77-89]

Verses 77 - 82 Deliverance of the Children of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh:
( 77 )   And We had inspired to Moses, "Travel by night with My servants and strike for them a dry path through the sea; you will not fear being overtaken [by Pharaoh] nor be afraid [of drowning]."
Here the details of the events which happened during the long period of Prophet Moses’(peace be upon him) stay in Egypt have been omitted. For these please see (Surah Al- Aaraf, Ayat 130-147), (Surah Younus, Ayats 83-92); (Surah Al-Momin, Ayats 23-50) and (Surah Az-Zukhuruf 46-56).

Time passes, and at last Moses is commanded to leave Egypt with his people by night. They were to cross the Red Sea into the Sinai Peninsula. They were told to have no fear of Pharaoh or of the sea or of the unknown desert country of Sinai into which they were going. They crossed dry-shod, while Pharaoh who came in pursuit with his troops was overwhelmed by the sea. He and his men all perished.

This happened when God at last appointed a night for the exodus of the Israelites and the other Muslims from Egypt. They were asked to gather at a fixed place and set forth as a caravan. Just at the time when they reached the coast of the Red Sea from where they had to cross to the Sinai Peninsula, Pharaoh arrived there with a large army in their pursuit. We learn from (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 61-63) that when they were literally between the army and the deep sea, Allah commanded Moses (peace be upon him) to smite the sea with his staff and according to this verse the sea split and stood like two high walls on both sides, leaving a dry path between them for the caravan to pass. Thus, it is quite clear and plain that it was a miracle, and not the result of a wind storm or tide, for when the water rises in this way it does not remain standing like two high walls, leaving a dry path between them.
( 78 )   So Pharaoh pursued them with his soldiers, and there covered them from the sea that which covered them,
According to( Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 64-66), Pharaoh with his hosts followed the caravan on the dry path and they all were drowned. In Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 50, it has been stated that the Israelites had reached the other shore and saw them drowning in the sea. From (Surah Younus, Ayats 90-92), we learn that Pharaoh professed to believe in God while he was drowning but this was rejected by God and he was told that his dead body would he preserved for the coming generations to serve as a lesson for them.

Surah Younus, Ayats 90-92:
(10:90) And We led the Children of Israel across the sea. Then Pharaoh and his hosts pursued them in iniquity and transgression until Pharaoh cried out while he was drowning: 'I believe that there is no god but Allah in Whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am also one of those who submit to Allah. (10:91) (Thereupon came the response): 'Now you believe, although you disobeyed earlier and were one of the mischief-makers.(10:92) We shall now save your corpse that you may serve as a sign of warning for all posterity,92 although many men are heedless of Our signs.
The Bible does not mention this happening but the Talmud says explicitly that when he was drowning he said: Who is like Thee, O Lord, among the gods?

Even today the place, where the dead body of Pharaoh was found floating, is pointed out by the inhabitants of that region. It lies on the western coast of the Sinai Peninsula and is now known by the name of Jabl-i-Firaun (Pharaoh’s Mount). There is also near to it a hot spring called Hammam-i-Firaun (Pharaoh’s Bath), which is situated at a distance of a few miles from Abu Zenimah, where, they say, Pharaoh’s dead body was found lying.

If the Pharaoh who was drowned was Mineptah, who ruled over Egypt when Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was sent to him, his embalmed dead body is still lying in the Cairo Museum. When Sir Grafton E. Smith removed the bandages from his mummy, a layer of salt was found on the body, which was a clear proof that he was drowned in the sea.

This is how Allah show signs to the people over and over again so that these should serve as warnings and be the means of teaching them lessons, but it is a pity that they do not learn lessons even from such signs as the dead body of Pharaoh.
( 79 )   And Pharaoh led his people astray and did not guide [them].
This was a subtle warning to the disbelievers of Makkah, as if to say: Your chiefs and leaders are leading you on the same way on which Pharaoh led his people. Now you can see yourselves that he did not guide them aright.

In conclusion, it will be worthwhile to consider the version as given in the Bible, for this will make it plain that it is absolutely false and ridiculous to say that the Quran has copied these stories from the Israelite traditions. We learn from Exodus the following:
  • (1) According to 4: 2-5, the miracle of the staff was given to Prophet Moses, and in 4:17 he was instructed: And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs, but according to 7: 9, the same rod was transferred to Prophet Aaron and then it remained with him to work miracles.
  • (2) The first dialogue between Prophet Moses and Pharaoh has been given in Chapter 5, but there is no mention in it whatever of the doctrine of Tauhid was presented by Moses. In answer to Pharaoh’s question: Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, Moses and Aaron merely said: The God of the Hebrews hath met with us. (5: 2-3).
  • (3) The encounter with the magicians has been summed up in a few sentences thus: And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. (7: 8-12). When we compare this with the version of it in the Quran, it becomes obvious that the description in the Bible lacks the real essence of the whole encounter, for it does not mention that the encounter took place on the Day of the Feast in the open as a result of a regular challenge, and there is no mention at all that the magicians became believers in the Lord of Moses and Aaron and remained steadfast in their faith even in face of terrible threats.
  • (4) According to the Quran, Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) demanded full freedom and liberty for the Israelites, but according to the Bible his demand was only this: Let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God. (5:3).
  • (5) In Chapters 11 to 14, the details of the events concerning the exodus from Egypt to the drowning of Pharaoh have been given. Though these contain some useful information and details about the events which have been briefly described in the Quran, they contain some strange contradictions as well. For instance, in 14:15-16 the staff (rod) again comes into the hands of Prophet Moses, who is commanded: Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it, and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. But in vv. 21-22, it is said: And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground. And the waters were a wall unto them, on their right hand, and on their left. It is not clear whether the sea was divided by a miracle or by a strong east wind which incidentally has never been known to divide the sea into two parts leaving a dry path between them.
It will also be worthwhile to make a study of these events as given in the Talmud. The Talmudic account differs from the Biblical version but is nearer to the one given in the Quran. A comparative study of the two clearly shows that the one is based on direct revelation from Allah and the other on centuries old oral traditions which have been handed down from one generation to the other and thus considerably tampered with. (See H. Polano: The Talmud Selections, pp. 150-154).
( 80 )   O Children of Israel, We delivered you from your enemy, and We made an appointment with you at the right side of the mount, and We sent down to you manna and quails,
The part of the story relating to their journey from the Red Sea to the foot of Mount Toor has been omitted. The Arabian side of Sinai (Jabal Musa) was the place where Moses first received his commission before going to Egypt, and also where he received the Torah after the Exodus from Egypt.

This has already been given in (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 138-147). It has also been stated there that the Israelites said to Moses: O Moses, make a god for us like the gods these people have.
This shows that even though the Israelites had been taught and trained by Moses for forty Years and by Joshua for twenty-eight years, they had still been unable to purge their minds of those influences which had warped their outlook and mentality during their period of bondage under Pharaoh. These Muslims had begun to look upon idol-worship as natural. Even after their exodus, the sight of a temple would incline them to indulge in the idolatrous practices which they had observed among their former masters.
According to (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 51) and (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 142), Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and the chiefs of the Israelites were summoned on the eastern side of Toor for receiving the divine commandments on stone tablets for the guidance of the people.
The incident referred to here is that when Moses went to the mountain he had been ordered to bring with him seventy elders of Israel. Later, when God bestowed upon Moses the Book and the Criterion, he presented them to the people. Some mischief-makers, according to the Qur'an, began to complain that they could not believe in something just because Moses claimed that God had spoken to him. This invited the wrath of God and they were punished. The Old Testament, however, has the following account:
'And they saw the God of Israel and there was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank' (Exodus 24: 10-11),
Interestingly, it is stated later in the same book that when Moses requested God to show him His glory, God rejected the request and said: 'You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live'. (See Exodus 33: 18-23)
Manna and Salwa:
Manna and quails constituted the natural food that was continually made available to them throughout the forty years of their wandering in the Sinai desert. Manna was like coriander seed. When the dew fell in the night, manna fell with it from above. By God's grace the quails were made available so plentifully that the entire nation was able to live on them alone and so escaped starvation. (For details regarding manna and quails see Exodus 16; Numbers 11: 7-9 and 31-2; Joshua 5: 12)
This organization was one of the numerous favours which God had bestowed upon the Israelites. Mention is made of three other favours bestowed upon them. First, an extraordinary arrangement for their water supply was made in the otherwise arid Sinai peninsula. Second, the sky was covered with clouds such that they were protected from the scorching heat of the sun. Third, a unique meal, consisting of manna and quails was sent down on them. Had this Divine arrangement, catering as it did for the millions of wandering Israelites' basic necessities of life, not been made, they would certainly have perished.
On visiting that land even today it is difficult to visualize how such an arrangement providing shelter, food and water for millions of people was made. The population of this peninsula standseven today at a paltry, 55,000 people. (it may be noted that this statement was made in the fifties of the present century. However, the present population of the Sinai is 200,000 - Ed.) If a five or six hundred thousand strong army were to camp there today, it would be quite a task for those at the helm to provide the necessary supplies for the army. Little wonder, then, that many scholars who believe neither in the Scripture nor in miracles, rule out the historical accuracy of the event. For them, the people of Israel camped in an area lying south of Palestine and north of Arabia. In view of the physical and economic geography of the Sinai peninsula, they consider it totally incredible that such a large population could have stayed there for years. What has made these scholars even more sceptical about the event is the fact that the Israelites were not then in a position to procure supplies from either the Egyptians or the 'Amaliqah' who inhabited respectively the eastern and northern parts of the peninsula, since both groups were hostile to them. It is against this background that one may appreciate the immense importance of the favours God conferred on the Israelites. Likewise, it also gives one some idea of the blatant ingratitude of the people of Israel since they consistently defied and betrayed God even though they had witnessed a great many divine signs. 
According to the Bible, manna and salwa started being provided to the Israelites when they were passing through the wilderness between Elim and Sinai. According to Exodus, manna and salva were sent down thus.

And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. And the house of Israel called the name thereof manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. (16: 13-15, 31).

In Numbers, the details are: "And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the bight, the manna fell upon it. (11: 8-9). "
( 81 )   [Saying], "Eat from the good things with which We have provided you and do not transgress [or oppress others] therein, lest My anger should descend upon you. And he upon whom My anger descends has certainly fallen."
I should like to construe this not only literally but also metaphorically. 'Allah has looked after you and saved you. He has given you ethical and spiritual guidance. Enjoy the fruits of all this, but do not become puffed up and rebellious (another meaning in the root Taga); otherwise the Wrath of Allah is sure to descend on you.'

This gives the key-note to Moses's constant tussle with his own people, and introduces immediately afterwards the incident of the golden calf.
( 82 )   But indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance.
According to this (verse 82), there are four conditions for forgiveness: (1) Repentance: to refrain from rebellion, disobedience, shirk or disbelief. (2) Faith: sincere belief in Allah and the Messenger and the Book and the Hereafter. (3) Righteous works: to do good deeds according to the instructions of Allah and His Messenger. (4) Guidance: to follow the right way steadfastly and to refrain from straying into any wrong path.

Verses 83 - 89 When Prophet Musa went to Mount Tur for communion with Allah - Israelites started worshipping calf in his absence

From here the same account is resumed that was interrupted by the parenthesis (Ayats 81-82). The Israelites were told to stay on the right side of Mount Toor, and they would be given the commandments after forty days.
( 83 )   [Allah] said, "And what made you hasten from your people, O Moses?"
This was when Moses was up on the Mount for forty days and forty nights. Moses had left the elders of Israel with Aaron behind him: Exod. xxiv. 14. While he was in a state of ecstatic honour on the Mount, his people were enacting strange scenes down below. They were tested and tried, and they failed in the trial.

This shows that in his eagerness to see his Lord as soon as possible, Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had left them in the way and reached the meeting place alone. For the details of that meeting the reader should see (Surah Al- Aaraf, Ayats 143-145). Here only that portion has been mentioned which is connected with the calf-worship by the Israelites. This has been stated here to bring home to the disbelievers of Makkah how idol-worship starts and how deeply a Prophet of Allah is concerned about this evil.
( 84 )   He said, "They are close upon my tracks, and I hastened to You, my Lord, that You be pleased."

قَالَ فَاِنَّا قَدۡ فَتَـنَّا قَوۡمَكَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِكَ وَاَضَلَّهُمُ السَّامِرِىُّ‏   
( 85 )   [Allah] said, "But indeed, We have tried your people after you [departed], and the Samiri has led them astray."
Thia verse needs a little elaboration here as to remove man a misconceptions aired by the Christians while interpreting this verse:

It is obvious from the last Arabic letter ‘ya’ that Samiri was not the proper name of the person, for this Arabic letter is always added to show a person’s connection with his race or clan or place. Moreover, the prefix al (definite article ‘the’) in the original Arabic text clearly denotes that the Samiri was a particular man from among many other persons of the same race or clan or place, who had propagated the worship of the golden calf.

In fact, this does not require any further explanation than this, but this has been necessitated because many Christian missionaries and the Western Orientalists have tried to criticize the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Quran on this account. They say, (God forbid,) "This is a proof of the grievous ignorance of history on the part of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the author of the Quran, and is one of the anachronisms of the Quran. They base this absurd criticism on the assumption that this Samiri was the inhabitant of Samaria, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel, which was built in 925 B.C. long after this happening; then centuries after this, a generation of the Samaritans came into existence as a result of inter-marriage between the Israelites and the non-Israelites.

As the Samaritans worshiped the golden calf, the critics accuse the Prophet (peace be upon him) of inventing this story on the basis of mere hearsay. They say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) might have heard something like this from the neighboring Jews and inserted it in the Quran. That is not all. They also criticize that Haman who was a courtier of Cyrus has been mentioned in the Quran as a minister of Pharaoh. It is a pity that these so called scholars seem to think that in the ancient times there used to be only one person bearing one name in a clan or a place, and there was absolutely no possibility of another person or persons having the same name. They do not know, or pretend they do not know, that during the time of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), a famous people known as the Sumerians inhabited Iraq and the neighboring regions, and it is just possible that during the time of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) there were some people known as the Samiris who might have migrated to Egypt from Iraq.

Besides this, according to the Bible (1 Kings, 16: 24), Samaria itself was built on a hill which was bought from Shemer and named Samaria after him. This is a clear proof that there were people named Shemer (or Sumer) even before Samaria came into existence and it is also just possible that some clans might have been called Samiri.

Here is yet another explanation from Yusuf Ali Translation of the same verse:
Who was this Samiri? If it was his personal name, it was sufficiently near the meaning of the original root-word to have the definite article attached to it: Cf. the name of the Khalifa Mu'tasim (Al-Mu'tasim). What was the root for "Samiri"? If we look to old Egyptian, we have Shemer=A stranger, foreigner (Sir E.A. Wallis Budge's Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, 1920,p. 815 b). As the Israelites had just left Egypt, they might quite well have among them an Egyptianised Hebrew bearing that nickname. That the name Shemer was subsequently not unknown among the Hebrews is clear from the Old Testament. In I Kings, xvi. 21 we read that Omri, king of Israel, the northern portion of the divided kingdom, who reigned about 903-896 B.C., built a new city, Samaria, on a hill which he bought from Shemer, the owner of the hill, for two talents of silver. See also Renan: History of Israel, ii. 210. 
If the Egyptian origin of the root is not accepted we have a Hebrew origin in "Shomer" a guard, watchman, sentinel. The Samiri may have been a watchman, in fact or by nickname.
( 86 )   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?"
That is, did not Allah fulfill the promises He made with you of showing His favors to you? For instance, He safely brought you out of Egypt and not only freed you from the slavery of your enemy but also destroyed him totally. He provided you with provisions in the desert and in the mountainous regions. It may also be translated like this: Did not Allah make a good promise with you? In that case, it will mean: He made a promise that he will give you the law and guidance. Was this not a good promise for your well being and betterment?

That is, had a long time passed since those great favors were done to you that you forgot them? Had long ages passed since you were afflicted with persecution by your enemy that you committed such a blasphemy? It may also be translated like this: Had you to wait for a long time for the fulfillment of God’s promise that you became so impatient? In that case, the meaning is obvious: You had not to wait for a long time to see the fulfillment of the promise of guidance. Therefore there was no excuse for what you did.

This covenant was the one which every community makes with its Prophet and promises that it will steadfastly follow the guidance brought by him and will not worship anyone except Allah.

There are two promises referred to in this verse, the promise of Allah and the promise of the people of Israel. They form one Covenant, which was entered into through their leader Moses. See xx. 80, and Verse 63 of Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter II.  Allah's promise was to protect them and lead them to the Promised Land, and their promise was to obey Allah's Law and His commandments.
( 87 )   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."
This excuse was put forward by those people who were involved in the shirk fabricated by the Samiri. They meant to say: We did not throw down the ornaments with the intention of setting up a calf nor did we know what was going to be made of these, but when the calf was brought before us, we involuntarily got involved in shirk. The Arabic text which we have translated into: “We were laden with burdens of ornaments of the people”, simply means this: The heavy ornaments which our men and women were wearing like the Egyptians proved very burdensome to us in our wanderings in the desert and we did not know how to get rid of them for it appeared very difficult for us to travel in the desert with them.

But according to the Bible these ornaments had been borrowed by every family of the Israelites from their Egyptian neighbors with this intention:
“....and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters and ye shall spoil the Egyptians....and let every man borrow of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold....And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians....so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.” And that, too, on the advice of Prophet Moses, whom God Himself had instructed to do this noble deed. (Exodus, 3: 14-22, 11: 2-3, and I 2: 35-36).
In fact, the clause of the verse under discussion means this: When the people were tired of carrying their ornaments on their bodies, they decided by mutual consultation that all the ornaments should be gathered at one place and it should be noted down how much gold and silver belonged to each of the owners. Then it should be melted into bars and rods and placed on the backs of the beasts of burden. Accordingly, they might have brought their ornaments and thrown them in the common heap.

It is obvious from the context that the answer of the people ended with “threw them”, and Allah Himself has added the remaining story up to the end of the paragraph. It appears from this that the people including the Samiri went on bringing their ornaments and throwing them down into the heap while they were absolutely unaware of what was going to be done by the Samiri. After this the Samiri offered his services to melt it. Then he shaped it into a calf which lowed like a cow. Thus the Samiri deluded the people, saying: This god of yours has come into being by itself for I had simply thrown the gold in the fire.

Yousaf Ali interprets the verse as: Exod. xii. 35-36: the Israelites, before they left Egypt, borrowed from the Egyptians "jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and raiment"; and "they spoiled the Egyptians" i.e., stripped them of all their valuable jewellery. Note that the answer of the backsliders is disingenuous in various ways. (1) The Samiri was no doubt responsible for suggesting the making of the golden calf, but they could not on that account disclaim responsibility for themselves: the burden of the sin is on him who commits it, and he cannot pretend that he was powerless to avoid it. (2) At most the weight of the gold they carried could not have been heavy even if one or two men carried it, but would have been negligible if distributed. (3) Gold is valuable, and it is not likely that if they wanted to disburden themselves of it, they had any need to light a furnace, melt it, and cast it into the shape of a calf.
( 88 )   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."
Moses has forgotten: i.e., 'forgotten both us and his god. He has been gone for so many days. He is searching for a god on the Mount when his god is really here!' This is spoken by the Samiri and his partisans, but the people as a whole accepted it, and it therefore, becomes their speech.
( 89 )   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?
This is a parenthetical comment. How blind the people were! They had seen Signs of the true living God, and yet they were willing to worship this dead image! The true living God had spoken in definite words of command, while this calf could only emit some sounds of lowing, which were themselves contrived by the fraud of the priests. This image could do neither good nor harm, while Allah was the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Universe, Whose Mercy was unbounded and Whose Wrath was terrible.

Ruku / Section 5 [90-104]
Verses 90 - 98 Musa's inquiry about the idol worshipping, his decision about Samiri, Golden Calf and his address to his people
( 90 )   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."
"Resist this temptation: you are being tested in this. Do not follow after the semi-Egyptian Samiri, but obey me."
( 91 )   They said, "We will never cease being devoted to the calf until Moses returns to us."
Here the Quran exonerates Prophet Aaron (peace be upon him) from the sin of taking any part in the calf worship, but in contrast to this, the Bible makes him wholly responsible for making the golden calf and setting it up as a god. According to Exodus:
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at his hand, and fashioned it with a graying tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord. (1,32: 1-5).
It is just possible that the real name of the Samiri was also Aaron which later on might have misled the Israelites to attribute the making of the golden calf to Prophet Aaron. Thus it is obvious that the Quran has shown a favor to the Jews and Christians by exonerating Prophet Aaron from the sin, but it is an irony that the Christian missionaries and the Orientalists still insist that the Quran is guilty of anachronism and that the calf was made a deity of worship by a holy prophet of theirs. In their blind obduracy they forget that even according to the Bible this was a great sin. (Exodus, 32: 21). A little further on in the same chapter the Bible again contradicts itself. It says that Prophet Moses ordered the Levites to kill all their kinsfolk, their friends and their fellow countrymen who had been guilty of the sin of calf-worship. Accordingly, about three thousand men fell that day. (Exodus, 32: 27-29).
Now the question arises: Why was Prophet Aaron not killed, if he was the inventor of the calf-worship? Why didn’t the Levites ask Prophet Moses to kill his brother, Prophet Aaron, who was the real sinner, just as they were asked to kill theirs. The Bible also says that after this Moses went back to the Eternal and prayed Him to forgive their sins or blot him out of His list of the living, and the Eternal answered: Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book (Exodus, 32: 31-33). But we learn from the Bible that the name of Prophet Aaron was not blotted out, but, on the other hand, he and his sons and his family were given the charge of the sanctuary and the office of priesthood (Numbers, 18: 1-7). Thus it is quite evident from the internal testimony of the Bible itself, that it contradicts itself and supports the Quran in its exoneration of Prophet Aaron.
( 92 )   [Moses] said, "O Aaron, what prevented you, when you saw them going astray,
( 93 )   From following me? Then have you disobeyed my order?"
The “order” refers to the instructions which Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) gave to his brother Prophet Aaron (peace be upon him) when he made him his deputy in his absence when he went up to Mount Toor: After me take my place and do the right and follow not the way of the mischief-makers.

Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 142 : And We appointed for Moses thirty nights, to which We added ten, whereby the term of forty nights set by his Lord was fulfilled. And Moses said to Aaron, his brother: 'Take my place among my people, act righteously, and do not follow the path of those who create mischief.'

Although Aaron was elder to Moses in age by three years, he was placed under the direction of the Prophet Moses and was required to assist him in connection with his mission. Thus Aaron was not assigned independent prophethood; he was rather appointed a Prophet by God in response to Moses' prayer that he be appointed as his assistant.
( 94 )   [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.' "
It can also be interpreted like this: You did not wait for orders from me. In order to understand fully the statement of Prophet Aaron (peace be upon him), one should read this verse along with (verse 150 of Surah Al-Aaraf), where he says:
Son of my mother, these people overpowered me and were going to kill me. So, let not the enemies gloat over me. Do not count me among the people who have done wrong. 
Now if both these verses are read together, one can easily see the true picture of the event. Prophet Aaron (peace be upon him) did his utmost to stop the people from committing the sin of calf-worship, but they revolted against him and might even had killed him. Fearing a clash between them, therefore, he held his peace lest Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), on his return, might blame him for letting the situation worsen and failing to control it effectively in his absence. The last clause of (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 150) also gives the hint that there existed among the people a large number of the enemies of the two brothers.

This reply of Aaron's is in no way inconsistent with the reply as noted in Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 150. On the contrary there is a dramatic aptness in the different points emphasised on each occasion. In Surah Al-Aaraf we were discussing the Ummat of Israel, and Aaron rightly says, "The people did indeed reckon me as naught, and went near to slay me!" In addition, "Let not the enemies rejoice over my misfortune" he is referring by implication to his brother's wish to maintain unity among the peopic. Here the unity is the chief point to emphasise: we are dealing with the Samiri as mischief-monger, and he could best be dealt with by Moses, who proceeds to do so.
( 95 )   [Moses] said, "And what is your case, O Samiri?"
Moses now turns to the Samiri, and the Samiri's reply in the next verse sums up his character in a few wonderful strokes of character-painting. The lesson of the whole of this episode is the fall of a human soul that nominally comes to Allah's Truth in a humble position but makes mischief when and as it finds occasion. It is no less dangerous and culpable than the arrogant soul, typified by Pharaoh, which gets into high places and makes its leadership the cause of ruin of a whole nation.
( 96 )   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."
Here it has been a good deal of divergence of opinion in regard to the interpretation of this verse. According to the majority of the early commentators and their followers, it means: The Samiri saw the Messenger (Angel Gabriel) when he was passing and took a handful of dust from his footprints. Then he sprinkled this upon the idol of the golden calf. This created life in it and it began to low like a living calf. The Quran, in fact, does not say that this actually happened but merely cites the reply given by the Samiri to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) when the latter took him to task for the great sin he had committed.

There are others who interpret the words of the Samiri like this: I saw a weakness in the Messenger (Prophet Moses) or in his creed, which others did not see. Therefore I followed in his footsteps to a certain limit but afterwards I left his way. This interpretation was most probably put forward first of all by Abu Muslim Isfahani. Then Imam Razi not only cited it in his own commentary but also approved of it. And now it is being followed by some modernistic commentators, who try to prove their own favorite theories by giving far-fetched interpretations to the obvious meaning of the words of the Quran. Such people forget that the Quran has not been sent down in the terminology of enigmas, riddles and puzzles but in clear, plain and intelligible Arabic. Therefore the Quran would have never employed the words it has used in the text to convey the meaning given by them because their usage cannot support that far-fetched interpretation. What such interpreters really mean to imply is that Allah has failed to express Himself clearly and plainly; therefore, they wish to come to His rescue by their interpretations in order to save Him from the ridicule of the learned people.

If we study the verse in the context in which it occurs, we shall be able to understand easily that the Samiri was a mischief-monger who had contrived his deceitful scheme after a good deal of consideration. As he appears to have been a good craftsman, he caused the golden calf he had made to produce a lowing sound, and successfully deluded the ignorant and simple people. He did not rest content with this but impudently invented the story that he had seen what the common people could not see and that he had taken a handful of the dust from the footprints of the Messenger and sprinkled it on the calf which made it low like a living calf. It is possible that by the Messenger, he meant Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) himself and might have cunningly tried to flatter him, saying, that the dust of his footprints was miraculous. By saying so, he was playing the most subtle trick. He wanted to offer an intellectual bait to Moses (peace be upon him) so that he might feel elated about the miraculous effect of the dust trodden by his feet and utilize his services for propagating his own miraculous acts. Anyhow, the fact is that the Quran has presented the whole thing as a trick of the Samiri and has not given the account as if it were a real event by itself. The subsequent reaction of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) to the statement of the Samiri clearly shows that he considered it as a deceitful story, and so laid the curse on him.

Here is another interpretation of the verse by Yousaf Ali:
This answer of the Samiri is a fine example of unblushing effrontery, careful evasion of issues, and invented falsehoods. He takes upon himself to pretend that he had far more insight than anybody else: he saw what the crowd did not see. He saw something supernatural. "The Messenger" is construed by many Commentators to mean the angel Gabriel. Rasul (plural, rusul) is used in several places for "angels" e.g., in xi. 69, 77; xix. 19; and xxxv. 1. But if we take it to mean the Messenger Moses, it means that the Samiri saw something sacred or supernatural in his footprints: perhaps he thinks a little flattery would make Moses forgive him. The dust became sacred, and his throwing it into the calf made the calf utter a lowing sound! As if that was the point at issue! He does not answer the charge of making an image for worship. But finally, with arrogant effrontery, he says, "Well, that is what my soul suggested to me, and that should be enough!"
( 97 )   [Moses] said, "Then go. And indeed, it is [decreed] for you in [this] life to say, 'No contact.' And indeed, you have an appointment [in the Hereafter] you will not fail to keep. And look at your 'god' to which you remained devoted. We will surely burn it and blow it into the sea with a blast.
The words show that he was not only made an outcast for life but was made to inform the people himself that he was an outcast, as given in Leviticus:

And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be. (13: 45-46).

We conclude from this that either he was inflicted with leprosy as a scourge by Allah or the punishment inflicted on him was that, being a moral "leper", he should be made an outcast and should himself proclaim to be an unclean and impure person.
( 98 )   Your god is only Allah, except for whom there is no deity. He has encompassed all things in knowledge."
Verses 99 - 104 Al Quran is but a reminder and the life of this world shall appears to be no longer than one day in the Hereafter
( 99 )   Thus, [O Muhammad], We relate to you from the news of what has preceded. And We have certainly given you from Us the Qur'an.
Now that the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) comes to an end, the same theme, that was interrupted by this story, has been resumed. That is, the Quran about which it was said at the beginning of the Surah that it had not been sent down to put the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) in distress, and that it was an admonition for the God-fearing.
( 100 )   Whoever turns away from it - then indeed, he will bear on the Day of Resurrection a burden,( 101 )   [Abiding] eternally therein, and evil it is for them on the Day of Resurrection as a load
Here the people have been warned that whoso will turn away front the Quran and will reject its guidance, they shall do harm to them only and not to Allah and His Messenger, and that the one, who rejects His Message, shall inevitably be punished in the Hereafter. And this warning holds good for every people, every country and every age. This is because there are only two alternatives for an individual or a community, whom the message of the Quran reaches. They can either accept it or reject it, there is no third way.
( 102 )   The Day the Horn will be blown. And We will gather the criminals, that Day, blue-eyed.
As regards to the nature of the blowing of the Trumpet on the Day of Resurrection, it may be likened to the blowing of the bugle in the army to muster or disperse the soldiers. It is obvious that these words and terms have been used because these are known to the people. Therefore it will be wrong to consider the Trumpet to be exactly like the bugles and trumpets of this world.

According to some commentators, it means this: The bodies of the criminals will turn white as if no drop of blood had been left in them.
( 103 )   They will murmur among themselves, "You remained not but ten [days in the world]."
The original text may also be interpreted to mean: After your death, you may have passed hardly ten days till now. As regards to the interpretation adopted in the translation, it is supported by (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 112-113): When Allah will ask them, for how many years did you stay on the earth? They will say: We stayed there for a day or part of a day. You may ask those who have kept the record. The second interpretation is supported by (Surah Ar-Room, Ayats 55-56): And on the day when Resurrection will take place, the criminals will declare under oaths: We have not remained in the state of death for more than an hour. And likewise they were deluded on the earth. On the other hand, those who have been given knowledge and faith will say: According to the Book of Allah, you have remained in this state up to the Day of Resurrection, and this is the very Day of Resurrection, but you did not know of it. Both the interpretations are supported by other verses of the Quran. It is clear from these that they will consider both the life on the earth and the life in the interval between death and Resurrection to be very short. They will consider the earthly life to be very short because, against all their expectations, they will have to face the eternal life in the Hereafter which they denied in their earthly life. As they had made no preparation for this life, they will regret that they had ruined their eternal life for the sake of a few transitory pleasures of the short life they had been given on the earth. As regards to the duration of the interval between death and Resurrection, they will consider it to be very short, for they will imagine that they had been suddenly awakened by the Trumpet from their last sleep or unconsciousness in their earthly life. Thus, they will not at first realize that the Trumpet was the signal for the Day of Resurrection because they had no expectation whatever that the Day of Resurrection would ever come. As a matter of fact, they used to make fun of this Day as a nonsensical thing.
( 104 )   We are most knowing of what they say when the best of them in manner will say, "You remained not but one day."
This is a parenthesis that has been inserted to remove this doubt of the hearers: How has it been known today what the people will be talking in whispers on the Day of Resurrection?

This is another parenthesis which has been inserted in answer to another objection raised by some hearer. It appears that when this Surah was being recited, someone might have raised this question as a ridicule: Where will these high mountains go on the Day of Resurrection, for it appears from your description of Resurrection that all the people of the world will be running about in a level plain? In order to understand the background of the question, it should be kept in mind that Makkah, where this Surah was first recited on the occasion of its revelation, is surrounded on all sides by high mountains. The answer to this question follows immediately: Allah will reduce them to fine dust and scatter it away.

Here we come to the end of Part II of the exegesis of the surah. The mention of Prophet Musa (Peace be upon him) also ends here. Look out for the Part III of the exegesis of  Sürah Ta Ha in which mention of Day of Judgement and Adam's creation and Shaitan's temptation and Allah forgiveness of Adam's sin

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sürah Ta Ha  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 | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5| 6 |
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. [1]
  • 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. [2] 
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources:
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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