Verses from Surah Yunus (75 – 92)

[75] Then we sent forth, after them, Musa and Harun to Fir‘awn and his chief (executives) with Our signs. But they waxed proud. Indeed they were a criminal lot.

[76] When the truth from us reached them they said, ‘Verily, this is a manifest magic.’

[77] Musa said, ‘Do you say (that) to the truth when it has reached you? Is it magic? But magicians do not prosper!?’

[78] They asked, ‘Have you come to us to turn us away from that upon which we found our forefathers? And, so that dominance in the land should be for you two?117 (Well), We are not going to believe in you.’

Commentary

117. Sayyid Qutb comments: “This then is the justification, ancient and modern, that the rebels forward for standing up against the call to Islam, for the use of a variety of stratagems to kill the call, and for accusations that are leveled against the callers… It is the dominance in the land and what false beliefs rest on: those false doctrines that the authorities compel their masses to adopt as their faith, despite their falseness and perversion, and despite the cart load of superstitions that accompany those doctrines. Why is there such opposition to the Call to the Truth? It is because the Call opens up the hearts for right beliefs and fills the mind with a new light; and because it happens to be a threat to the inherited values. It is a threat to the ruling authorities and to the dread that they install into the hearts of their subjects. It is a threat to the founding principles over which the dread rests. It is the fear of losing the authority that banks on masses holding on to false superstitions and to idols. It is the fear of losing slavish obedience of the masses to deities other than Allah… And the Islamic call by the Prophets? Well, it aims at establishing lordship for Allah alone and for the destruction of the spurious lords who usurp the rights of the true Lord’s lordship… Therefore, it is not for these covert lords to let the word of truth reach their masses. They will not allow an open pronouncement calling for Allah’s lordship and freeing of the people from ‘slavery of the people to the people’. They will not allow this open call to reach the people’s ears. They realize very well that this is a declaration of war on their lordship, their powers and their rule, and a move in the direction of an atmosphere of freedom: a freedom which is deserving of a noble creature: Man (who is not so noble in their sight).”

[79] Fir‘awn said, ‘Bring me every skilled magician.’

[80] When the magicians came, Musa told them, ‘Cast whatever you wish to cast.’

[81] When they had cast Musa said, ‘What you have brought is magic. Surely, Allah will render it ineffective. Surely, Allah sets not right the work of the corrupters.

[82] Allah establishes the truth by His words, though the criminals be averse.’118

Commentary

118. Yusuf Ali writes: “The incidental reference here (to the story of Musa) is to illustrate a special point, viz., that the wicked are arrogant and bound up in their sin, and prefer deception to Truth: they do not hesitate to charge the men of Allah, who work unselfishly for them, with mean motives, such as would actuate them in similar circumstances.

Ibn Abi Hatim has reported through Abu Sulaym, “We have received from our previous generations that reciting these two verses of surah Yunus (81 and 82), five verses of surah Al-A‘raf (118-122) and the 29th verse of surah Taha is a cure for magic by Allah’s will. They might be recited over water in a bowl and then poured over the head of the one affected by magical spell (Ibn Kathir). That is, after reciting the verses, one must blow powerfully (to the extent of spitting) on the water (Au.).

[83] But believed not in Musa119 except a few120 of his people for fear of Fir‘awn and their chiefs that they would persecute them. Surely, Fir‘awn was mighty on the earth and indeed given to excesses.121

Commentary

119. Asad suggests a possibility: “…the sequence shows that not belief as such but its open profession is referred to here…”

120. Although literally dhurriyah is for offspring, Ibn ‘Abbas and Dahhak have explained the term as meaning a few. Mujahid and A‘mash have however held the opinion that since Musa (asws) had been commissioned after most of those among whom he was raised had died, to be replaced by their offspring, the word dhurriyah was used in reference to them. A third opinion is that the allusion is to a few people of Fir‘awn’s folk who believed in Musa (asws). This happens to be a second opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas. A few grammarians have believed that the believing ones were called dhurriyah because their fathers were Copts while their mothers Israelites (since Fir‘awn had been slaughtering the males: au.)    Ibn Jarir, Razi.

121. The Qur’an did not say “his chiefs” rather “their chiefs.” Why? One answer given by the commentators is that the allusion is to the ruling class, who were also the rulers over Israelites. A second opinion is that the allusion is to the chiefs of the Fir‘awn’s folk (and not chiefs of the Israelites). And a third is that perhaps those who believed were a few young men of the Fir‘awn’s folk who feared persecution at the hands of their own chiefs. It is also possible that the Qur’an, with the usage of this single term, meant to cover all possibilities (Au.).

[84] Musa said, ‘My people, if you have believed in Allah, then have trust in Him, if you are true Muslims.’

[85] They said, ‘In Allah we have placed our trust. (So) O Lord! Do not allow us be made an object of oppression for the transgressors.122

Commentary

122. There have been two opinions. First, as expressed in the translation. Mujahid and Ibn Zayd are behind this opinion. Tabari is with them. Abu Mijlaz however thought that the meaning is, ‘O Allah, do not expose us to them as better than them (enjoying a happier life), which will invoke their anger all the more.’ Razi, Ibn Kathir and others allow for both possibilities.

[86] And deliver us by Your mercy from an oppressive people.’

[87] So We revealed to Musa and his brother that, ‘The two of you take for your people in Egypt a shelter123 as a place of worship.124 And offer the Prayers (in good spirit)125 and give glad tidings to the faithful (that the tribulations are soon to end).’

Commentary

123. Since the directives to the Israelites about making their homes a place of worship had to pass through Musa and Harun (asws), it is they who were first addressed (Shafi‘).

124. The textual word qiblah is understood by Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibrahim, Mujahid and others as masaajid i.e., places of worship (in plural).  This is because they could not pray openly and so were ordered to pray at homes. However, Ibn ‘Abbas himself, in a second opinion, as well as Mujahid, Qatadah, Dahhak and others believe that the meaning is, “convert your houses into places of worship facing the Qiblah, albeit the Ka‘bah” (Ibn Jarir, Razi). Ibn Kathir expresses the possibility that when the tribulation grew real hard, the Israelites were ordered to resort to Prayers at home.

125. Majid quotes from the Jewish Encyclopedia that at least one Prayer a day was obligatory on the Jews from the time of Moses until Ezra’s advent.

[88] Musa prayed (when he lost hope), ‘Our Lord! You have bestowed on Fir`awn and his chiefs splendor and wealth in the life of this world in order that126 they may mislead away from Your path. Our Lord! Destroy127 their wealth and harden their hearts so that they do not believe until they have witnessed a painful chastisement.’

Commentary

126. Imam Razi discusses the probability that the laam of li yudillu is laam al ‘aaqibah meaning, “in consequence of,” or, “as a result of” although he concedes that it does not have a strong case.

127. The translation of utmus follows Mujahid’s understanding as in Ibn Jarir. Ibn ‘Abbas was of the same opinion (Ibn Kathir). Another opinion is that their gold and silver became stones (Ibn Jarir, Razi and others). Alusi however is skeptic about gold and silver becoming stones.

[89] He replied, ‘The prayer of you two has been answered.128 Therefore, follow not you two the path of the ignorant.’

Commentary

128. The clause is dual because either both supplicated, or when Musa (asws) supplicated, Harun (asws) said Aamin.

[90] And we took the Children of Israel across the sea. Fir‘awn and his army followed them in (downright) insolence and spite; until, when the drowning overtook him he cried out, ‘I confess that there is no deity save the One in whom the Children of Israel have believed, and I am of those who have submitted.’129

Commentary

129. Abu Hurayrah has reported Jibra’il as saying to the Prophet (saws), “O Muhammad. Only if you had seen me! I was filling Fir‘awn’s mouth with clay in fear that Allah’s mercy might touch him and he is forgiven” (Ibn Jarir). The hadith is in Tirmidhi and various other collections, and has been variously evaluated, from da‘if to hasan to sahih (Ibn Kathir).

Zamakhshari accepts the above hadith, but rejects the ending part which says, “… in fear that Allah’s mercy might touch him and he is forgiven.” His objection is, (a) a dying man’s faith is unacceptable anyway, (b) belief does not necessarily require utterance   faith resides in the heart as in the case of a dumb person, (c) whoever wishes a man to die on disbelief, is a disbeliever himself. Imam Razi raises similar objections.

Shawkani comes down heavily on Zamakhshari who he thinks is, after all, an upstart in hadith not capable of distinguishing between the trustworthy and the spurious. What Shawkani means is that once a hadith is proven trustworthy, it must be treated religiously, whether we can understand it or not.

Mubarakpuri has, in his Tuhfah, summed up Khazin’s answer to Zamakhshari’s objection. The said summary can be further summed up in one line as: Jibril’s action had Allah’s approval who knew that Fir‘awn would not believe until he had seen the punishment, which is the time when the disbeliever’s belief is of no profit. Every unbeliever is a passionate believer at the time of his death.

The Qur’an itself has a verse that denies acceptance of repentance in the situation of final despair. It said (4: 18),

“It is no repentance at all of those who work evil until when death comes to one of them he says, ‘Now I repent.’ Nor is there any repentance of those who die in the state of unbelief” (Rashid Rida).

It must not be overlooked though, that figuratively treated, the hadith is a beautiful illustration of Allah’s quality of mercy. Scientific precision may not be sought in religious literature (Au.).

[91] Now!? While you had disobeyed earlier and you were of the mischief makers.130

Commentary

130. When all signs of imminent death have appeared, and the Unseen becomes the Seen, then declaration of faith is of no avail. In fact, the scholars have said that it is such a difficult situation that, were a believer to utter words of disbelief, they would not be taken seriously. They are not well thought out utterances (Shafi‘).

[92] So, today We shall rescue you in body131 so that you may be a sign to those behind you.132 But surely, a great many of the people are oblivious of Our signs.

Commentary

131. It is said that after Fir‘awn’s army was drowned, the Israelites expressed the fear that Fir‘awn himself might have escaped. (They held him in such awe as to consider him above being drowned in that humiliating manner: Zamakhshari). So Allah (swt) brought his dead body to the surface. It was like a red bull (Ibn Jarir). Probably it had swollen (Au.).

Zamakhshari states that an alternative explanation of bi badanika is “body alone,” i.e., barren of clothes, or, naked, and quotes a poetic piece in support.

Interestingly, it is well known that quite often a drowned person’s body shows up on the beaches naked. This is another example of the Qur’anic usage of words and phrases that allow for a variety of reconcilable meanings (Au.).

132. Majid quotes the Jewish Encyclopedia: “His mummy has been found at Thebes, and is now in the Museum at Cairo.” But Shafi‘ has his reservations saying that Fir‘awn, a title for every ruler of Musa’s time, has not been identified beyond doubt.

But Maurice Bucaille (The Bible, the Qur’an and Science), is almost certain that the mummy discovered by Loret in 1898 at Thebes (where it lay in the underground tomb for 3000 years) and which now lies in the Cairo Museum, is of Merneptah, (son of Ramesses II) who was Musa’s contemporary (asws). In 1975, special investigations were conducted on the mummy involving radiographic studies. Endoscopic examination of the thorax and the abdomen was also conducted. Although it was not possible to determine definitely, but drowning seemed to be the cause of death, or from very violent shocks preceding the moment when he was drowned. However, deprived of its safe keeping in the tomb, and of the original wrappings, the mummy, will no doubt soon disintegrate depriving the later generations of a sign – if it is a sign.