The history of mankind could be considered as a history of prophets. God has communicated His Divine Revelation to people by means of His messengers throughout history. These messengers told people about God and communicated to them the words of our Lord.
The struggle a number of prophets faced in spreading the message is depicted in detail in the Qur'an. The hardships they faced, the solutions they brought and the exemplary behaviour are all clearly outlined. God communicates what His messengers endured as an example for people, for their struggle and good character are also applicable for the people of today.
In the Qur'an, the stories and experiences of various prophets, besides the Prophet Muhammad (saas), such as the Prophet 'Isa (Jesus), Sulayman (Solomon), Yusuf (Joseph), Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), and many others (peace be upon them all), are conveyed as examples. For instance, there are numerous lessons for us in the righteous conduct of the Prophet Yusuf, as well as sagacious insight about human and social psychology in Yusuf's relation with his brothers, his being thrown into a well by them, his being sold into slavery, his being thrown into prison while a slave in the King's palace because of wrongful accusations, and his being placed in authority over the state treasury.
There is indeed an important example for us in the Prophet Ibrahim, who is mentioned by God in the Qur'an as "…a great example for you…," for his conscientiousness and clemency, and for putting his trust in God and his turning towards God when he was being cast into the fire.
The prophet that is most frequently employed as an example in the Qur'an is the Prophet Musa (Moses) (as). Musa's name is referred to in 34 different suras (chapters). We can find extensive information about the life of Musa in three of the largest suras (al-A'raf, Ta Ha, and al-Qasas). All these suras and verses offer detailed accounts of his difficulties with Pharaoh, beginning in his childhood, the evil conduct of his people and his struggle in communicating the message to them. His unyielding courage under the most stringent circumstances is presented with the intention of being an example to people.
In this book we will examine the life of Musa as it is depicted in the Qur'an. We will explore the events he has lived through as it is described. Essentially, the events in the Prophet Musa's life should not be regarded merely as events of the ancient past, but rather as events and examples to shed light to our own lives today.
As all the verses mentioned so far relate, extensive references to Musa are found in many parts of the Qur'an. His life is an example that abounds with lessons and reminders for believers, beginning with the early part of his life, and some of these lessons and reminders we have dealt with in this book.
Reflecting on the meaning of these lessons leads us to recognize the extent to which destiny completely contains a man's life, and the blessings it implies for a man of faith.
The lessons to be drawn from Musa's life can be summarized as follows:
1- Destiny and its divine purposes
By the time Musa was born, his prophecy and the struggle he would pursue in the way of God were all predetermined. In fact, this was all ordained even before his birth. When we look at ourselves, we should also realize that we lead our own lives within a certain destiny. This destiny is what is best for us. It is ordained by God, Who is our Creator and our Lord. He has infinite knowledge and mercy. That is why we should submit ourselves to our destiny, and embrace whatever befalls us with joy, knowing that it is a part of the destiny our Lord has created for us.
2- Siding with the righteous
In the early parts of this book we mentioned a story in which Musa sided with a man of his own nation and unintentionally killed another. This was in order to emphasize the wrongfulness of siding unconditionally with our compatriots (family, tribe, nation, etc.). What makes a man superior is not his family, tribe or nation, but his degree of righteousness. Therefore, we should always regulate our own conduct according to justice, a value we should hold above all else.
3- Trusting God and placing faith in Him
The story of Musa greatly emphasizes the notion of placing one's faith in God. God warned and educated Musa on the need to put his trust in Him, despite the fact that it was in his nature to feel excited from time to time. In those situations he encountered throughout his life, Musa always acknowledged that God exercises absolute control over everything, and that he should trust Him unconditionally. Moreover, he would ask for forgiveness for the errors he committed and did what he had to do to mend them.
In order to place one's trust in God, one needs to know God and measure Him according to His true power. A believer is guided to such a knowledge through reflection upon God's attributes: God is the Creator of all life, He is the One that takes back one's soul, He exercises absolute power over everything, He encompasses everything, He needs only command "Be" and it is, He is the absolute and sole controller of all things, He is the Beneficent, He is the One who answers all prayers, and He guides whom He wills to righteousness. All deeds go back to God. If we could fully comprehend the might of our Creator, and appreciate His power, then we would come to realize that He is the only One to turn to and to put our trust in.
4- The temporary nature of the life of this world and of possessions
As we have explored in the example of Qarun, death renders void all the benefits of worldly possessions. Furthermore, unless spent for the cause of God, these possessions could well be a reason to exacerbate torment, both in this world and beyond. Material possessions should never be the object of man's envy. God grants a greater abundance of His blessings to whom He wills. Prosperity is worthless if not put to use for the sake of God. On the other hand, for someone compliant to the will of God, poverty is by no means a source of misery. Therefore, one should neither be remorseful nor boastful about his possessions and wealth in this world. Only living for the cause of God, and fear for God, should be the criteria upon which to base one's life.
5- Ignorance and self-purification
As related throughout this book, the children of Israel embraced the religion Musa brought, without entirely abandoning their ancient ways. Moreover, they attempted to merge their errant ways with the revealed religion. This is an important point all should be cautious of. It may be that, during the development of his personality, an individual could have inculcated some improper ways of thinking. Accordingly, after having accepted the right path, he may still keep some old beliefs and thoughts.
Also to be found in the story of Musa, the idolatrous practices of the tribe encountered on their journey became a matter of temptation for the people of Musa, who were of poor faith and who had failed to cleanse themselves from the ways of ignorance. This demonstrates that adherence to the Qur'an is the sole way of eliminating beliefs and thoughts that are rooted in ignorance.
6- Hypocrites and their attitudes
In the story of Musa, we find the example of hypocrites lurking within a community, and the great harm they can bring to a society. For instance, we can discern attributes peculiar to hypocrites in Samaritan:
Hypocrites are found among believers. In the time of Musa, for example, Samaritan was among the children of Israel. In order to stir trouble, hypocrites look for when the believers are at their weakest. Only at that point they feel they will be most successful do they take action. They make use of people's shortcomings to lead them astray. In pursuit of their cause, they appeal to man's base natures. They offer empty promises. They never openly express unbelief in the religion or in God, but rather, try to bring attention to their supposed piety. They even go to such lengths as to claim they understand the religion better than anyone else, and that therefore, are the most capable of guiding others to the right path. Another important feature of the hypocrites to be conscious of is the extent of their influence over people. A single hypocrite can negatively influence a whole nation. Samaritan was such a hypocrite.
7- The Children of Israel and their basic attitude
An examination of the verses pertaining to the Prophet Musa reveal the fact that he was faced with a struggle even against his own people. Arrogance, a tendency to idolatry, and rebelliousness, were their essential characteristics. It has been for this reason that, this nation, being ultimately undeserving of the prophets, revelations, and all other blessings bestowed upon them by God, has been stripped of such honour. This again is an important lesson for believers.
8- The story of the cow and excessive concern over details
This story reveals a specific mentality plaguing the Children of Israel: man's tendency to concern himself excessively over details… Despite the easy, uncomplicated and pure nature of the religion, some people seek to make the religion difficult, by introducing needless details into it, and by shifting the focus from its true essence to trivial issues. However, God explains that the true religion is as simple as the religion of Ibrahim. The story of the cow brings to light the error of inquiring needlessly into details. It also shows that the pursuit of trivial details only causes difficulty for people, and may ultimately lead them away from the commandments of God.
9- The story of a wise man and wisdom from God
This story conveys to us that there may well be wisdom underlying certain events that is not immediately apparent. This knowledge is a special sort of wisdom granted by God. This is explained with examples that even seemingly disastrous events may not actually be so unfortunate, and that, on the contrary, there may be some reason behind them we are incapable of recognizing.
To conclude, the most important lesson for believers were the good morals exemplified by Musa and Harun. Both of them were prophets of Islam, to whom scriptures were granted.
Although Musa strove in the way of God thousands of years ago, his conduct and manner of speech remain exemplary for us. God chose him for Himself, spoke to him and appointed him as a messenger to convey His message to the people. These noble men are remembered in the Qur'an as follows:
And left the later people saying of them, "Peace be upon Musa and Harun!" That is how We recompense good-doers. They truly were among Our servants who are believers. (Qur'an, 37: 119-122)
God was pleased with them, as He is with all His messengers. May our Lord bless us with the wisdom to better understand the lives of these messengers, and to be one of those with whom He is pleased.