LIFE IN EXILE
Although in exile for their disobedience to Allah, Allah still provided Bani Israel with beautiful sustenance. He sent them food from unimaginable places, all spread out before them without any effort on their part. He also sent them manna and quails for them to consume. They were asked to eat from the good and lawful things that Allah had provided for them, and also commanded not to cause any mischief or corruption.
When they complained of thirst, Musa AS prayed for water and was commanded by Allah to strike a rock with his staff, from which twelve springs gushed forth, one for each tribe. Hence, given the circumstances, they were never lacking in provision.
Eventually, Bani Israel found reasons to be ungrateful and complain about the bounties of Allah. Instead of enjoying the heavenly provisions, they said:
“O Musa! We cannot endure one kind of food. So invoke your Lord for us to bring forth for us of what the earth grows, its herbs, its cucumbers, its Fum (wheat or garlic), its lentils, and its onions.” (Al Qur’an 2:61)
Even Musa’s AS patience with his people had its limits. He refused, saying: “Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower? Go you down to any town and you shall find what you want!” (Al Qur’an 2:61)
Their ungrateful and discontented attitude provoked the wrath of Allah. Disgrace and humiliation were stamped upon them. Such is the reward for the transgressors and those who reject the Signs of Allah.
Bani Israel bore the trademarks of the thankless: constantly complaining about whatever they were provided with. They were unappreciative of any divine favors, and took everything for granted, and in fact, carried within them a sense of entitlement. They were quick to lament about everything and repeatedly overstepped their boundaries with Allah. We may look at unpleasant qualities with disdain, but it is also time to ponder if we ourselves have these qualities within us!
The twelve tribes wandered in the desert for decades, walking in circles and never finding their way out. This was their punishment, but also their spiritual cleansing. Sometimes calamity can also be a trial and purification from Allah to us.
Yet, by and large, their attitudes remained unacceptable. Although provided with constant food and shade from Allah, they were constantly demanding more, not just material sustenance and comfort, but proof of Allah’s divine power. They had all but forgotten how badly they were treated in Egypt, instead of behaving with a haughty sense of entitlement even to Allah. We will explore some of these stories in other articles, Insha Allah.
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For the majority of them, no matter what proof was shown to them, their hardened hearts would reject such evidence. In one incident, they declared that “O Musa! We will not believe in you until we see God openly.” (Al Qur’an 2:55) As they demanded that, a thunderbolt seized them, and they all fell dead. They were revived but still remained ungrateful and unwilling to recognize Allah’s divine power.
In another incident (and according to Ibn Abbas, in the same incident) Musa AS then stood in front of his Lord and prayed to Him to forgive the wrongdoing of his people:
And Musa chose out of his people seventy (of the best) men for Our appointed time and place of meeting, and when they were seized with a violent earthquake, he said: “O my Lord, if it had been Your Will, You could have destroyed them and me before; would You destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us? It is only Your Trial by which You lead astray whom You will, and keep guided whom You will. You are our Wali (Protector), so forgive us and have Mercy on us, for You are the Best of those who forgive. (Al Qur’an 7:155)
In another occasion, a mountain was raised over their heads, and they thought that it would fall on them so hastily prostrated to Allah. Allah said:
“Hold firmly to what We have given you [i.e. the Taurat (Torah)], and remember that which is therein (act on its commandments), so that you may fear Allah and obey Him.”(Al Qur’an 7:171) But after Allah spared them from being crushed by the mountain, they again broke their covenants and pledges with Allah.
Although they constantly challenged and defied Allah, whenever they were in need of divine intervention, they would turn to Musa AS to pray to Allah for them. After the need had passed, they would again be deniers of Allah’s signs, proving their earlier repentance and submission to be hollow lies. This eventually caused them to reach the point where they became spiritually blind and incapable of receiving any divine guidance.
MUSA AS MEETS WITH ALLAH
Earlier, we had mentioned that Musa AS left his tribe for thirty days, which then extended to forty days, for a meeting with Allah on the Mount of Tur.
At this meeting, Musa AS asked to see Allah.
“And when Musa arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, “My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You.”
[Allah] said, “You will not see Me, but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.”
But when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He rendered it level, and Musa fell unconscious. And when he awoke, he said, “Exalted are You! I have repented to You, and I am the first of the believers.” “ (Al Qur’an 7:143)
Even a mountain, which is physically stronger and firmer than a human being, was unable to endure the direct vision of Allah. When Allah manifested a very small part of Himself, the mountain crumbled into a fine dust. Musa AS lost consciousness and when he came to, repented to Allah.
Rasulullah SAW said: “Do not prefer me from among the Prophets. People will lose their consciousness on the Day of Judgment, and I will be the first to gain the consciousness. But suddenly, I will find Musa holding one of the legs of the Throne [of Allah]. I do not know whether he gained consciousness before me, or did he not lose his consciousness for his unconsciousness on Tur?” (Al Bukhari and Muslim)
In Al Qur’an:
[Allah] said, “O Musa, I have chosen you over the people with My messages and My words [to you]. So take what I have given you and be among the grateful.” (Al Qur’an 7:144)
And We wrote for him on the tablets [something] of all things – instruction and explanation for all things, [saying], “Take them with determination and order your people to take the best of it. I will show you the home of the defiantly disobedient.” (Al Qur’an 7:145)
These are all severe lessons for each of us. Arrogance is the worst trait that we can have, with severe implications on our souls. Listen to this advice:
I will turn away from My signs those who are arrogant upon the earth without right; and if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. And if they see the way of consciousness, they will not adopt it as a way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and they were heedless of them. (Al Qur’an 7:146)
The arrogance will be blinded even if they see every sign, and will not accept any guidance even if they saw every possible proof and evidence of it. This was repeatedly seen in the lives of Bani Israel, but many Muslims today are guilty of the same affliction. The majority of people fall into this category today. If you apply this description in today’s society, you will immediately know where some people stand.
THE DEATH OF MUSA AS
Narrated Abu Huraira RA: “The angel of death was sent to Musa and when he went to him, Musa slapped him severely, spoiling one of his eyes. The angel went back to his Lord, and said, “You sent me to a slave who does not want to die.” Allah restored his eye and said, “Go back and tell him (i.e. Musa) to place his hand over the back of an ox, for he will be allowed to live for a number of years equal to the number of hairs coming under his hand.” (So the angel came to him and told him the same). Then Musa asked, “O my Lord! What will be then?” He said, “Death will be then.” He (Musa) said, “(Let it be) now.” He asked Allah that He bring him near the Sacred Land at a distance of a stone’s throw. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Were I there I would show you the grave of Musa by the way near the red sand hill.” (Al Bukhari)
In the case of Musa AS, Allah allowed the angel of death to manifest itself into a human form, and be visible to Musa AS. Musa AS was expecting many tasks to be carried out before his death, including to take Bani Israel out of their wandering, but Allah ordained otherwise.
It is reported that Rasulullah SAW said: “When I was taken on the Night Journey, I passed by Musa and he was praying in his grave below the sandhill.”
The major message in this story is a warning for all of us to be careful. Arrogance is the destroyer, and has always been and will always be. Humble yourself to the glory of Allah and always try to comprehend the messages He sent you. Beg Him to make all these signs the source of guidance to you.
The opposite occurred in Bani Israel, despite all the major signs being presented to them, their wicked hearts, overflowing with arrogance, made them blind from gaining the wisdom, humbleness, and humility to the will and power of Allah SWT. An arrogant person will never be guided, and of this, the Qur’an is unequivocal in its warning. Today, for a small material achievement: a job or a flashy car, our hearts swell with arrogance, we look down on others and we become blind to Allah’s signs. Be careful!
Today, we as Muslims, have a similar attitude as what Bani Israel had. We witness major disasters, diseases, and instability all around us but ignore them. Instead, mankind has increased in arrogance and blindness, instead of having the humbleness and humility in trying to seek forgiveness and guidance from Allah SWT.
Today, we are so occupied with maintaining our materialistic life that we ignore the signs of Allah flashing before us, all of which are reminders and wake-up calls for us. What is the implication? The blindness will increase, the sign of Allah will increase, and the torture of Allah can descend upon us. This is one of the most crucial lessons that should be learned.
And among them are those who listen to you, but We have placed over their hearts coverings, lest they understand it, and in their ears deafness. And if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. Even when they come to you arguing with you, those who disbelieve say, “This is not but legends of the former peoples.” (Al Qur’an 6:25)
Do they [then] wait for anything except that the angels should come to them or your Lord should come or that there come some of the signs of your Lord? The Day that some of the signs of your Lord will come no soul will benefit from its faith as long as it had not believed before or had earned through its faith some good. Say, “Wait. Indeed, we [also] are waiting.” (Al Qur’an 6:158)