Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 28: Al-Qasas (The Stories) [29-37]


[29] Then, when Musa had completed the term,53 and was journeying with his family,54 he perceived a fire in the direction of the Tur. He said to his family, ‘Wait. I have indeed perceived a fire. Perhaps I will bring to you some information from there, or a burning firebrand that you may warm yourselves.55


53. What term was it? Was it the term of the marriage contract? Sayyid has an entirely different perspective in mind. Could it be the term of training and preparation? He elaborates: “Life in palaces is spent in a special kind of environment where it follows its own customs. The milieu there leaves a certain kind of impression on the heart, no matter how well a soul is possessed of knowledge, understanding, and purity of heart. But Messengership is in the service of all kinds of people. Among them are the rich and the poor, the possessed and the deprived, the pure and the impure, the cultured and the coarse, the good and the bad, the strong and the weak, the patient and the grumbling ones, and so on. Moreover, the poor have their own manners of eating, drinking, dressing and conducting their affairs. Their way of understanding the affairs, their notions concerning this life, their way of talking and moving, and their way of expressing feelings, are those that are a bit hard for those to appreciate who have been brought up in the comforts of palaces. Little chance the latter have of even seeing the life of the lowly ones, far from attempting to reform them – no matter how good the hearts of the poor ones, and how ready for improvement they are. The basic problem is that their lives and manners are something to which the residents of palaces do not open their hearts.

“Messengership on the other hand, means discomforts, some ruggedness, and of course requires some hard work, while the hearts of those who live in palaces, however prepared for sacrifices, however used to humbleness and equanimity, cannot bear long in patience when faced with deprivations, hardships, and difficulties of sorts in a life of very different settings and atmosphere than those they are used to.

“Allah (swt) wished then – who was moving Musa’s steps – that he should descend down from what he was used to, into the company of shepherds, and to make him realize the blessing there is in shepherding a flock of sheep, having found, after hunger and hardships, a refuge and provision … and that he should root out from his inner self any repugnance there could have been for poverty, and the poverty-stricken, … root out the feelings of any revulsion against their ways and manners, their rustic  ways and simplicity, their ignorance, poverty and shabbiness. He was forced deep into the wide sea, before he was ready to face its waves at the shore … all this in order to train him in the burden of Messengership that he was destined to bear…

“Thus we see, how Musa was prepared by Allah (swt), under His own supervision, and how he was readied for the hardships he was about to face as he started on this in his way.”

54. Some of the Salaf have said that Musa had with him his wife and two children (Au.), which is also reported in the Bible. (Majid)

55. As mentioned earlier, it was a dark, rainy and cold night in which Musa (asws) had lost his way. (Ibn Kathir and others)

[30] When he came to it he was called from the edge of the valley on the right side,56 in a hallowed (piece of) ground, coming from a tree, ‘O Musa. Verily I, I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’57


56. Most scholars have understood this to mean, “from the right side of Musa.” Nonetheless, there is room to believe that the word “ayman” has been used in the sense of “hallowed.” (Ibn Kathir, Asad and others)

57. Mahdawi has said that Allah (swt) spoke to Musa (asws) from above His `Arsh and made him hear His voice from the tree. Allah (swt) should not be attributed with movements that are the attributes of His creations. Abu Is-haq, on the other hand, said that Allah (swt) created a meaning within Musa’s mind with the help of which he was able to grasp the words of Allah (swt) when He spoke to him – His speech being a specialty to Him. (Qurtubi)

Al-Ash`ari and Imam Ghazali maintain that Musa (asws) heard Allah’s own Eternal Voice, which was devoid of any sound, and devoid of any words.

[31] And that, ‘Cast your staff.’ Then, when he saw it quivering as if a snake,58 he turned back in retreat and did not retrace his steps. ‘O Musa, come forward and fear not, you are of those who are secure.


58. Jann” according to most commentators, though not all, is a little snake, fearsome for its swift movement. Tho`ban used elsewhere in the Qur’an, is for a large, and hence slow-moving snake, a python, whereas “hayyah” is a common noun for snakes. It has been explained that, firstly, it took several shapes, suitable to the occasions, and secondly, it evinced all qualities of snakes at once, i.e., even when it became a python, it moved as swiftly as a thin little snake, stirring great panic in the crowds. (Au.)

[32] Thrust your hand in your pocket,59 it will come forth (shining) bright without any blemish. And draw your hand to your side against any fear.60 These are two proofs61 from your Lord unto Fir`awn and his chiefs. Indeed, they have been a people given to transgression.’


59. This is how Ibn Jarir understands the textual word “jayb.”

60. That is, ‘whenever fear or terror strikes you, press your hand to your side, you will be cured of it.’ That is how Mujahid and Qatadah understood it. (Ibn Kathir and others)

Literally, ‘Draw thy wing close to thy side, (away) from fear’. When a bird is frightened, it ruffles its wings and prepares to fly away, but when it is calm and composed, it sits with its wings drawn close to its sides, showing a mind secure from danger. (Yusuf Ali)

The following we quote to demonstrate the decency among the Salaf and to show the extent to which their minds were filled with the Qur’an, to come to fore at a moment when you would expect an ordinary person to betray a smile. Qurtubi reports that once wind escaped a secretary of `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz. He felt embarrassed, threw down his pen in disgust and stood up. `Umar told him, “Take your pen, draw your hand to your side, and do away with any embarrassment for I have not heard it from anyone more than I heard it from myself.”

61. That is, the staff which turned into snake, and the hand which turned shiny white when brought out of the pocket. (Ibn Kathir and others)

[33] He said, ‘My Lord! I have indeed killed one of their men. So I fear that they will slay me (instantly).’62


62. That is, “before I get time to deliver the message.” (Majid)

[34] And my brother Harun, he is more eloquent than I in speech, therefore, send him with me as a support, to corroborate me.63 I am indeed afraid they will lay the lie on me.


63. Musa did not mean when he said, “to corroborate me” that when he claimed Messengership before Fir`awn, Harun would attest and confirm his claim, but rather he would use his eloquent tongue to offer convincing arguments on his behalf. (Zamakhshari, Razi)

‘It is not that Moses is not reassured from all fear on account of the apparent snake which his rod had become, or from the sacred and unfamiliar surroundings in which he found himself. On this point his heart has been completely assured. But he is still new to his mission, and the future is obscure to his mind. Pharaoh was after him, to take his life, and apparently with good cause, because one of Pharaoh’s men had been slain at his hands. And now he is commanded to go to Pharaoh and rebuke him and his Chiefs. The inner doubts and difficulties of his human mind he frankly lays before his Lord, and asks for a little human and visible support, which is granted him at once, viz.; the help of his brother Aron. (Yusuf Ali)

[35] He said, ‘We shall surely strengthen your arm with your brother64 and shall vouchsafe unto you both an authority,65 so that they shall not be able to reach you:66 with Our signs, you two, and those who followed you, shall be the overcomers.’67

[36] Then, when Musa came to them with Our clear signs, they said, ‘This is nothing but faked magic, we have not heard of this among our fathers of old.’

[37] Musa said, ‘My Lord knows best who has brought guidance from Him, and for whom will be the ultimate Abode. Surely, wrongdoers will not prosper.’



64. That is, ‘We shall strengthen your cause through your brother.’ This was done by making Harun (asws) a Prophet, for which Musa (asws) had prayed. Hence some of the Salaf have said that no one did a brother greater good than Musa to Harun when he prayed for his Prophethood. See 19: 53. (Ibn Kathir)

65. The Bible has a twist here. It reports (Ex. 7: 1), “And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” Thus Musa became a god unto Fir`awn and Harun his, and not Allah’s, prophet (Au.).

66. That is, they will not be able to do you any harm (Zamakhshari, Razi).

This is similar to what was said to our own Prophet (5: 67):

O Messenger, proclaim what has been sent down to you by your Lord. If you did not, you would not have delivered His message. Allah will protect you from the people.” (Ibn Kathir)

67. As Allah (swt) said (58: 21):

Allah has written that He and His Messengers shall overcome.

He also said (40: 51):

Surely, We shall help Our Messengers and those who followed them in the life of this world.” (Ibn Kathir)

(To be continued)

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