O Children of Israil! Remember My-SWT favour... I-SWT exalted you above others.
In the preceding section, the covenant of Bani lsräil came under discussion and they were ordered to follow the Islamic Shari’ah in fulfilment of that covenant. Now they are being directly addressed and reminded of the blessings bestowed upon them so far. Keeping in view these fabulous rewards, it seems unbecoming of them to disobey Allah-SWT, Who-SWT is so Generous that He-SWT increases His-SWT favours for the obedient. The Bani Israil are being emphatically addressed because, firstly, they were the pedigree of the Prophets-AS and secondly only they had the learned scholars amongst them. Most of the polytheists consulted these scholars, and sought their advice regarding the Holy Prophet-SW and his Message. Allaah-SWT reminds them of His-SWT rewards; how He-SWT had blessed them with superiority over all contemporary people and had honoured their nation with Prophethood and knowledge. They should fear the Day when no one shall be of any avail to the other.
And be mindful of the Day ... nor shall they be helped.
That great Day must be feared when no one will be able to share the grief of the other. No one will be able to intercede to lessen the punishment of anyone, as the intercession of a non-believer will not be acceptable in favour of another. This address is to the non-believers and does not relate to the intercession of the Prophets-AS which shall only be available to the believers. Neither will the Prophets-AS intercede for the non-believers, nor will such intercession be permitted. The address refers to those chieftains of the infidels in whose servility the Jews were forsaking the truth. The former would be of no avail to them on that Day. They would be unable to alleviate their burdens or intercede, for it would not be permitted. Neither would anyone be allowed to pay any compensation in lieu of his disobedience and be released, nor would these leaders be able to use any force or influence. In short, no conceivable method for evading punishment will work on the Day of Judgement. And there is no way out but to embrace Islam, a blessing that entitles a believer to intercession and carries promise of safety against eternal fire. And yet O Jews! After so many Divine Favours bestowed upon you, your forefathers and your nation, you are still devoid of faith!
And when We-SWT delivered you from Pharaoh’s folk … And therein was a tremendous trail from your Rabb--SWT .
Recall the time when He-SWT saved you from the atrocities of the Pharaoh. It s happened that when Prophet Y’aqub-AS took his family to Egypt to reunite with his son Prophet Yusuf-AS it comprised approximately of seventy-two members. The latter was the driving force behind the prevalence of Divine religion and justice in Egypt. Thus the family became leaders in a way. But in due course of time they faced a decline, abandoned righteousness and became unreligious. The Egyptians, too, not only forgot Allah-SWT , but their rulers also proclaimed divinity for themselves. From amongst these tyrant rulers, the one contemporary to Prophet Müsã-AS surpassed others in oppressing the immigrants, the Bani Israil. They were treated like animals and were put to service without wages, had to live on the leftover of their masters. They had neither honour nor wealth, nor the right to live. The Pharaoh was led to believe, by his dream, or by the astrologers who interpreted his dreams, that a boy would be born in Bani Israil who would be the source of his destruction. He, therefore, ordered the assassination of all male children of Bani Israil, which continued for years, till the natives (i.e. the Qibtis) protested against it themselves. They said that all the male infants of Bani Isrãil were being killed while their elders were dying off, and in due course there will be no male left to work for them. The Bani Israil were so worthless that no one cared about their genocide; their masters were concerned only about their own service. Thus the orders were changed to assassination of male infants every alternate year. Prophet Hãrün-AS was born in the year of exemption, while Prophet Musä-AS was born in the year of killing. The events of his life will come up later at an appropriate place. The point to take note of here is that, when the very people who are blessed and chosen by Allaah-SWT turn disobedient, they will not only be punished but also be degraded and abased in this world.
The Effects of Disobedience
It is a common observation that when a Sufi abandons the Path, he is condemned forever. His life becomes worse than death. Bani Isrãil, as the heirs of Prophethood, were to strive for the reformation of the Pharaohs and their folk, but blinded by the mundane greed, they themselves began to follow the misguided, and thus had to face humiliation. This is the case of the Muslim today, whose assignment is the reformation of entire mankind, but he is trailing the infidels of the world. As a result he is down trodden and in deep distress everywhere. Even today if he decides to turn back to his origin, things are bound to change, as it is not in the least difficult for Allaah-SWT .
May Allaah-SWT grant the Muslims the capacity to return! This is a universal principle known to every sensible person that anyone seeking honour outside the laws of Allaah-SWT has always been degraded, just like the Bani Isrãil, who are being reminded of their life of torment and degradation, when their sons were assassinated and their daughters spared for service. This was indeed a punishment from their Rabb-SWT . His-SWT Providence ensures that the appropriate thing is delivered where it deserves to be. They were to experience much more for their wrongdoing but Allaah-SWT ’s Mercy rescued them by raising amongst them an exalted Prophet Musã-AS He not only emancipated them from the darkness of infidelity but also rescued them from the Pharaohs, and by Allaah-SWT ’s Command led them out of Egypt. It is said that they were six hundred thousand in number at the time of their exodus. After prolonged confrontation with the Pharaoh when all efforts including continuous manifestation of miracles to reform him had failed, Prophet Müsã-AS was ordered to leave Egypt along with the Children of Isrãil.
When the news of the exodus reached Pharaoh in the morning, he set out with his army in hot pursuit, which according to some scholars comprised seven hundred thousand soldiers. Near the Mediterranean Sea he managed to catch up with the Bani Israil, who were terrified, as before them was the raging sea while behind them were the swords of the Pharaoh’s Army! Allaah-SWT declares:
‘And We-SWT parted for you the sea’.
Prophet Musã-AS struck his staff in the sea. It split into twelve paths for the twelve tribes of Bani Isrãil. These paths were, dry without the slightest signs of any dampness. The flowing water stood like a solid rock. They crossed safely and reached the far bank. The Pharaoh stood flabbergasted. Allaah-SWT tasked Angel Jibril , who led him and his entire army into the sea. As soon as they all got in, the water was released. The whole army along with the Pharaoh were drowned and perished. The Bani Israil stood witnessing the whole spectacle, as the Pharaoh they dreaded and the Qibtis who tormented them were helplessly drowning before their very eyes.
The Company of a Shaikh
An accomplished Shaikh similarly splits a ‘way through all hurdles in Din faced by a seeker and drowns the chasing Pharaoh of arrogance and ungratefulness. As a result, a seeker can analyse the changes in his life, after being blessed by the company of an accomplished Shaikh.
And We-SWT appointed forty nights for Müsã-AS . . . .And you were the transgressors.
Allah-SWT reminds the Bani israil of the time when He-SWT had commanded Prophet Musa-AS to spend forty nights in worship and days in fasting, on Mount Tur, in seclusion he-AS was not allowed to meet or speak to anyone so that the angelic power and the capacity to receive Divine secrets were generated prior to the revelation of Torah. This also proves the basis of ‘Chillah’ (forty-day programme).
Method of Attaining Spiritual Levitation
In reality, a reduction in diet, conversation and interaction with other people is the best method of weakening the soul and strengthening the Spirit. In fact, the strength of one is the weakness of the other.
Prophet Musä-AS concentrated on the attainment of his goal, while his people took to Samri’s cult in his absence. Samri moulded gold into the shape of a calf, which produced a certain sound. Some accounts of the incident have it that the ground where the hoofs of Angel Jibril-AS’s horse had touched turned grassy and green. Samri picked up some soil from that ground and put it in the calf, which became alive. While according to some scholars, Samri had perforated the calf in a way that channelised the air to whistle through. Allaah-SWT knows best! However, majority of the people from Bani IsrAil prostrated before the calf. Thus Allaah-SWT reminds them, in brief, of all the favours He-SWT had bestowed upon them, the details of which will be given later. He-SWT condemns their calf-worship, an act of grave transgression, which they committed despite witnessing so many miracles and the presence of a great Messenger-AS amongst them like Prophet Musa-AS.
Even after that We-SWT pardoned you to give you a chance of being grateful.
But look at Allaah-SWT ’s favour Who-SWT still pardoned them, so that they may express their gratitude and indebtedness to Him-SWT .
And when We--SWT gave Musa the Book and the Criterion, so that you are led aright.
Not only did Allaah-SWT pardon them, but for their guidance, blessed Prophet Musa-AS with Torah. It was a Book that differentiated between truth and falsehood, so that his people could find the right path. In other words the conferring of a Divine Scripture upon a Prophet is to provide his Ummah with a criterion of right and wrong, whereby everyone in general, gets the honour of being addressed by Allaah-SWT . How imperative it was to appreciate all these favours! All this has been revealed for the benefit of the Muslims, to make them realise that if the Bani Israil were blessed with Prophet Musã-AS the Muslims have the honour of being the Ummah of the Holy Prophe-SW. The Quran in its pristine purity is with them as an eternal criterion of truth and falsehood. Anything said or done individually or as a nation against the Quranic injunctions will be nothing but waywardness while adherence to it is the guidance.
And when Moosa--AS said to his people, ... He-SWT is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Allah-SWT reminds the Bani Isräil to recollect the time when Prophet Musä-AS made them aware of the gravity of their offence and taught them the mode of repentance. This is the office of a Shaikh in Tasawwuf. He must instil in the seekers a disinclination to sin, and embed the method of repentance in their hearts. The difference is that a Prophet-AS receives guidance directly from Allah-SWT, while a Shaikh receives it through adherence to the Prophet-AS. If these qualities cannot be attained in the company of a Shaikh, then the time spent with him will be a sheer waste, in addition to the danger of being totally misled.
To expiate for the grave sin of calf-worship by the Bani Israil, Allah-SWT commanded the execution of those who had prostrated before the calf, by those who had not done so. Only then the repentance of the executed was to be accepted, as the stain of polytheism can be washed away only by the blood flowing from the veins. Such expiation is also decreed by Islamic Shari’ah for crimes like intentional murder and adultery, because these crimes cannot be atoned for, with repentance alone. But if the matter has been a part of the forgotten past, and no one besides Allaah-SWT knows about it, then the only method of atonement is repentance. This is a special favour, to the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad-SW. The beauty of Tasawwuf is that the seeker becomes as if he is dead, his soul lies assassinated in the control of Shari’ah, just as a dead body lies in the hands of the one who gives it a bath before burial; moving only when moved! It was the excellence of the company of Prophet Müsã-AS that those who had indulged in polytheism in his absence, became so clean-hearted in his presence that they willingly accepted execution, and a large number of them were slain. Prophet Müsã-AS then prayed to Allah-SWT, so those who survived were pardoned, while those slain were blessed with martyrdom (Shahadah). Thus, Allaah-SWT was indeed generous towards them. He-SWT accepts the repentance of people and is Most Merciful.
When Prophet Müsã-AS put forth the Torah to his people, they said that it would be easy for them to accept and believe in, if Allaah-SWT Himself spoke to them, telling them that it was His-SWT Book. The Prophet-AS agreed and took a fairly large number of selected men from all the tribes to Mount Tur. He-AS prayed to Allaah-SWT to bless them with the power and capability of hearing Him-SWT . Thus they heard Allah-SWT, which was indeed a marvel conferred upon them because of their Prophet-AS. This also proves that there can be men amongst Allaah-SWT ’s truly devoted personages who, because of their complete adherence to their Prophet-AS could be blessed with Divine-SWT audience, though by no means it could be termed as Revelation.
Addressing the Bani Isrãil, Allaah-SWT reminds them of the time when they were honoured by His-SWT audience, but instead of being grateful, they had said that they were not sure of the speaker. They insisted that they would obey only if Allaah-SWT spoke to them face to face. This was impudence going beyond limits, because no one in this world has been given the power to behold the Divinity. In fact, Prophet Müsä-AS himself had once expressed this desire but was told; “You will not be able to see Me-SWT ”.
This honour was conferred only upon Prophet Muhammad-SW in the entire creation, that he-SW was blessed with the observation of Divinity, though some scholars differ. Two points may be considered in this context. Firstly, there is no difference of opinion between Ahl-e-Sunnah, on the fact that the Holy Prophet-SW visited the Higher Realm with his physical body, so the matter no longer pertains to this world but to that Realm. Secondly all agree that the Holy Prophet-SW inspected the Paradise, and the greatest of its pleasure is the observation of the Divinity-SWT . If he did not see Him-SWT , what else did he see? This point goes in favour of the contention that the Holy Prophet-SW did observe Him-SWT and this honour is singular, which cannot be claimed by anyone else. However, the dwellers of Paradise will be blessed by this honour in accordance with their status, in the Akhirah.
And when you said, “O Müsã-AS! We shall not believe you…. become grateful.
When they demanded something far above their status, lightning struck them and they instantly perished. Whether it was lightning or a flash of Divine Light beyond their tolerance, no one knows. However, Prophet MüsãaS prayed to Allaah-SWT to give them a new life to spare him of the blame for their death. Since this was not the irreversible natural death, but had been inflicted upon them as a punishment, they were quickened again. Countless were the blessings and honours conferred upon Bani Isrãil because of their exalted Prophet Müsã-AS.
It was an occasion of showing gratitude to Allaah-SWT by the Bani Isrãil for His-SWT favours but they did just the opposite! When Prophet Y’aqub-AS had migrated to Egypt, his native land had been taken over by people called ‘Amaliqah. It was now that Allaah-SWT ordered the Bani lsräil to fight ‘Amaliqah and regain the control of their ancestral land. Moreover, they would also earn the merit of Jihãd. They moved on as directed but on their way heard about the strength and might of ‘Amaliqah. They lost their nerve and resorted to retreat saying that Prophet Müsã-AS should fight along with his Rabb-SWT , and spare them the trouble.
They walked away, travelling during the day and resting at night. Thus they walked for forty years, reaching nowhere, and finding themselves each night right where they had started from in the morning. They had been stranded in a valley, a few miles wide lying between Egypt and Syria, without food, shelter or any provisions. They begged Prophet Müsã-AS to pray for forgiveness, which he-AS did. Hence Allaah-SWT granted them provisions but they had to wander in the valley for forty years.
And We-SWT caused the cloud to provide you shade ... but harmed only themselves.
They are being further reminded of Allaah-SWT ’s blessings, how the clouds would descend to protect them from the scorching heat and ‘Mann and Salva’ would cater for their dietary needs. ‘Mann’ was a kind of honey-glue mixed with lemon juice, which would pile on the bushes overnight and was picked in the morning, while ‘Salva’ were quails, which would flock around for use as ready meat. Their garments would neither soil nor wear out, while the clothes of their children would grow in size with them. A sort of radiance overcame the darkness at night. In short, all the necessities of life were provided miraculously for them, and they were free from all worries on this account. In spite of all these Divine Favours they failed to obey Him-SWT . This arrogance and ungratefulness could not do any harm to Allaah-SWT but it sure did prove to be a great turmoil for them and resulted in the discontinuation of Divine Blessings, as will be discussed later.
And when We-SWT said “Enter this town . .. those who do good”.
They must recall the moments when Allaah-SWT granted them victory over a city and ordered them to enter it and enjoy all facilities therein. The only condition was to do Sajdah before Him-SWT while entering the gate, so as to display their humility, and acknowledge His-SWT Greatness by uttering the word, ‘Hittatun’ in repentance. Allaah-SWT would forgive them all the mistakes committed and in His-SWT Infinite Generosity would increase His-SWT favours for the virtuous. It meant that the greater the sincerity and humility displayed by these repentant sinners, the more rewards they would get, and the closer they would be to Allaah-SWT . ‘Ihsän’ is the name given to the feeling of devotion and sincerity of the heart towards Allah-SWT, and its level varies in every heart. The stronger this feeling gets in a heart, the more a person is rewarded in both the worlds. But the Bani Israil failed to obey such a simple order and some of them even changed the word.
But the transgressors changed the word ... for their (repeated) evil acts.
When they entered the city they neither did ‘Sajdah’ (prostrate), nor said ‘Hittatun’ as directed, but said ‘Hintatun’, which meant ‘bread’. Thus, as a punishment for changing the word and not doing ‘Sajdah’ before Allaah-SWT as directed, distress descended upon them from the heavens. Had they uttered another word though having the same meaning, even then it would not have been proper. But they changed the word altogether with a different meaning. The words are not to be changed in matters of worship, such as in Azan or the Ayat recited in ‘Salat’, while preserving the meanings, else these will not be acceptable (Mu’ärif al-Quran) However, there is evidence that Ahadith can be quoted based on their meanings. Qartabi has noted this from Imam Malik, Shãf’i and Abü Hanifa. This exception is valid only for the one who is an expert of the Arabic language and “can understand the subject or the meaning keeping in view the occasion and the circumstances attending a particular ‘Hadith’. It is not every one’s domain, and if someone does it without requisite knowledge, he will also suffer worldly loss.
Similarly, it is not proper for a seeker to make a change in the words prescribed by his Shaikh for recital; otherwise, he will be at a loss, in matters of religion as well as this world. The Bani Israil were punished by the outbreak of plague because of their disobedience and wrong doings.
The Philosophy of Hardships
The wrongdoers experience hardships because of their crimes, while those faced by the noble are in reality a reward. Some higher stations of Divine nearness call for certain hardships as their pre-requisite. For example, to attain martyrdom (Shahadah) it is imperative to be slain in Allah-SWT ’s cause. Sometimes it so happens that the worship of a Wali lacks in comparison to his spiritual status and this shortcoming is compensated by mundane hardships. At times these hardships are deliberated to make one struggle. This is an involuntary endeavour, which earns the desired reward. The forthcoming Ayat discuss the time, when Bani Israil were dying of thirst in the valley of ‘Tiyyah’ and Prophet Müsã-AS had prayed for water.