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Saturday, 22 September 2018
 

Surat Al-A’raf/The Heights (The Wall with Elevations) 7- Meccan – Ayats 206-Section Eleven – Verses from 142-157

 

And We appointed for Moses thirty nights, and completed (the period) with ten (more), thus was completed the term (of communion) with his Lord, Forty Nights. And Moses had charged his brother Aaron (before he went up):”Act for me amongst my people; do right, and follow not the way of those who do mischief”. (142) 

وَوَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى ثَلَاثِينَ لَيْلَةً وَأَتْمَمْنَاهَا بِعَشْرٍ فَتَمَّ مِيقَاتُ رَبِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً وَقَالَ مُوسَى لِأَخِيهِ هَارُونَ اخْلُفْنِي فِي قَوْمِي وَأَصْلِحْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (142)

And when Moses came (at the time and place) appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him; he said: “O’ my Lord! Show (Yourself) that I may look upon you”. God said:”By no means you can see Me (direct), but look upon the mountain; if it stands still in its place then you shall see Me”. So when his Lord manifested His Glory on the mountain, He made it collapse to dust, and Moses fell down in swoon/ unconscious. When he recovered his senses he said: “Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance, and I am the first of the believers”. (143)

وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَى لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنْظُرْ إِلَيْكَ قَالَ لَنْ تَرَانِي وَلَكِنِ انْظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّى رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ مُوسَى صَعِقًا فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (143)

(God) said:”O’ Moses! I Have chosen you above (other) men by the Mission I (have given you) and the Words (I have Spoken to you); take then the (Revelations/Messages) and be of those who give gratitude and thanks”. (144)

قَالَ يَا مُوسَى إِنِّي اصْطَفَيْتُكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ بِرِسَالَاتِي وَبِكَلَامِي فَخُذْ مَا آَتَيْتُكَ وَكُنْ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ (144)

And We ordained laws for him in the Tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, (and said) “Take and Hold these with firmness, and enjoin your people to hold fast by the best in the precepts; soon I Shall Show you the homes of the wicked, (how they lie desolate)”. (145)

وَكَتَبْنَا لَهُ فِي الْأَلْوَاحِ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَوْعِظَةً وَتَفْصِيلًا لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَخُذْهَا بِقُوَّةٍ وَأْمُرْ قَوْمَكَ يَأْخُذُوا بِأَحْسَنِهَا سَأُرِيكُمْ دَارَ الْفَاسِقِينَ (145)

I shall turn away from My Signs those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right. Even if they see all the Signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of the right conduct, they will not adopt it as the way; but if they see the way of error, that is the way they will adopt, because they have rejected Our Signs, and were heedless and failed to take warning from them. (146)

سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آَيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آَيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ (146)

Those who deny and reject Our Signs and the Meeting in the Hereafter; it is vain are their deeds. Can they expect to be rewarded, except as they have wrought/ except the way they used to do? (147)

وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَلِقَاءِ الْآَخِرَةِ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ هَلْ يُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (147)

The people of Moses made –in his absence- out of their ornaments the image of a calf (for worship). It had a sound (as if it was mooing). Did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor show/guide them to the way? They took it (for worship), and they were wrongdoers/iniquitous. (148)  

وَاتَّخَذَ قَوْمُ مُوسَى مِنْ بَعْدِهِ مِنْ حُلِيِّهِمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ أَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّهُ لَا يُكَلِّمُهُمْ وَلَا يَهْدِيهِمْ سَبِيلًا اتَّخَذُوهُ وَكَانُوا ظَالِمِينَ (148)

When they repented/regretted, and saw that they had erred and went astray, they said:”if our Lord have not mercy upon us and forgive us, we indeed shall be of those who perish/losers”.(149) 

وَلَمَّا سُقِطَ فِي أَيْدِيهِمْ وَرَأَوْا أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ ضَلُّوا قَالُوا لَئِنْ لَمْ يَرْحَمْنَا رَبُّنَا وَيَغْفِرْ لَنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (149)

And when Moses returned/came back to his people, angry and grieved, he said:”How wretched, miserable and evil is that you have done in my place in my absence? Were you hasty and impatient to bring (hasten) the Judgment of your Lord?”;- and he threw/ put down the Tablets, and seized his brother (by the hair of) his head, and dragged him towards him. (Aaron said):”O’ son of my mother! Indeed the people oppressed me, reckoned and judged me as weak and naught, and went near to slaying me! So let not the enemies over my misfortune, nor count me amongst the people of sin/wrongdoers/iniquitous. (150) 

وَلَمَّا رَجَعَ مُوسَى إِلَى قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَانَ أَسِفًا قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِي مِنْ بَعْدِي أَعَجِلْتُمْ أَمْرَ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَلْقَى الْأَلْوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ إِلَيْهِ قَالَ ابْنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ الْقَوْمَ اسْتَضْعَفُونِي وَكَادُوا يَقْتُلُونَنِي فَلَا تُشْمِتْ بِيَ الْأَعْدَاءَ وَلَا تَجْعَلْنِي مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (150)

Moses (prayed) said:”O my Lord! Forgive me and my brother! And admit us into Your Mercy! For You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!” (151)

قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِأَخِي وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (151)

COMMENTARY:-
(Verse 142)- A/ There is much mystic doctrine in this section, and the parallel between Israel and Islam continues throughout. The Forty Nights communion of Moses with God on the Mount may be compared with the forty days’ fast of Jesus in wilderness before he took up his ministry (Matt. Iv-2(Jesus ate nothing for 40 days and nights. After this, he was very hungry.), and with the forty years of Al-Mustafa’s [PPBUH] preparation in life before he took his Ministry. In each case the Apostles lived alone apart from their people, before they came into the full blaze of the events of their Ministry. The Forty is divided into thirty and ten, pre-figuring the thirty days of the Ramadan fast, and the ten days of the Zul-al-Hijja pilgrimage in Islam. B/ When for an reason the man of God is absent from his people, his duty of leadership (????? =Khilafa) should be taken by his brother;- not necessarily a blood-brother, but one of his society or brotherhood. The deputy should discharge it in all humility, remembering three things: (1) that he is only a deputy, and bound to follow the directions of his Principal, (2) that right and justice are of the essence of power, and (3) that mischief gets its best chance to raise its head in the absence of the Principal, and that the deputy should always guard against the traps laid for him in the Principal absence.
(Verse 143)- A/ Even the best of us may be betrayed into overweening confidence of spiritual ambitions not yet justified by the stage we have reached. Moses had already seen part of the glory of God in his Radiant Whit Hand, that shone with the glory of Divine Light (verse 108). But he was still in the flesh, and the mission to his people was to begin after the Covenant of Sinai. It was premature of him to ask to see God. B/ But God -the Cherisher of all His creatures- treats even our foolish requests with mercy, compassion, and understanding. Even the reflected glory of God is too great for the grosser substance of matter. The peak on which it shone became as powder before the ineffable glory, and Moses could only live by being taken out of his bodily senses. When he recovered from his swoon, he saw the true position, and the distance between our grosser bodily senses and the true splendor of God’s glory. He at once turned in penitence to God, and confessed his faith. Having been blinded by the excessive glory, he could not see with the physical eye. But he could get a glimpse of the reality through faith, and he hastened to proclaim his faith. C/ First to believe: the expression “first of those who bow to God in Islam”, in Surat Al-An’am 6 verse 14 and 163 “First” means here not the first in time, but most zealous in faith. It has the intensive and not the comparative meaning.
(Verse 144)- A/ ‘Above (other) men’: i.e. among his contemporaries. He had a high mission, and he had the honor of speaking to God. B/God’s revelation is for the benefit of His creatures, who should receive it with reverence and gratitude. While Moses was having these great spiritual experiences on the Mount, his people below were ungrateful enough to forget God and make a golden calf for worship. (verse 147).
(Verse 145)- A/The Tablets of the Law contained the essential spiritual Truth, from which were derived the positive injunctions and prohibitions and interpretations, which it was the function of the prophetic office to hold up for the people to follow. The precepts would contain –as the Shari’at-canonical (jurisprudence)does- matters absolutely prohibited, matters not prohibited but disapproved, matters about which there was no prohibition or injunction, but in which conduct was to be regulated by circumstances; matters of positive and universal duty, matters recommended for those whose zeal was sufficient to enable them to work on higher than minimum standards, and matters which were sought by persons of the highest spiritual eminence. No soul is burdened beyond its capacity; but we are asked to seek the best and highest possible for us in conduct.  B/Notice the transition from the ‘WE’ of Authority and honor and impersonal dignity, to the ‘I’ of personal concern in specially guiding the righteous. C/There are two meanings, one literal and the other figurative. Literally, the homes of the wicked –both individuals and nations- lie desolate, as in the case of the ancient Egyptians, the ‘Ad, and the Thamud. Figuratively, the ‘home’ shows the inner and more intimate condition of people, if you are dazzled by the outward prosperity of the ungodly, examine their inner anguish and fear and insecurity, and you will thank God for His gracious guidance.
(Verses 146-147)- A/The argument may be simplified thus in paraphrase. The right is established on the earth as God created it: Nature recognizes and obeys God’s Law as fixed for each portion of Creation. But man –because of the gift of Will- sometimes upsets this balance. The root-cause is his arrogance, as it was in the case of Iblis (Satan/Devil/Lucifer). God’s Signs are everywhere, but if they are rejected with scorn and blasphemy, God will withdraw His grace, for sin hardens the heart and makes it impervious to the truth. Want of faith produces a kind of blindness to spiritual facts, and a kind of deafness to the warnings of the Day of Account, when the best of us will need His Mercy for our Salvation, which may be described spiritually as our “Seeing God”. If we had contumaciously rejected faith, can we hope for anything but justice;- the just punishment for our sins? B/Rejected Our Signs: again a return to the Plural of impersonal Dignity and Authority, from the singular of personal concern in granting grace and guidance to the righteous.
(Verses 148-149)- A/The making of the golden calf and its worship by the Israelites during the absence of Moses on the Mount were referred to in Surat Al-Bagara 2 verse 51 and some further details are given in Surat Taha 20 verses 85-97. Notice how in each case only those points are referred to which are necessary to the argument in hand. A narrator whose object is mere narration, tells the story in all its details, and is done with it. A consummate artist, whose object is to enforce lessons, brings out each point in its proper place. Master of all details, he does not ramble, but with supreme literally skill, just adds the touch that is necessary in each place to complete the spiritual picture. His object is not a story but a lesson. Here notice the contrast between the intense spiritual communion of Moses on the Mount and the simultaneous corruption of his people in his absence. We can understand his righteous indignation and bitter grief (verse 150). The people had melted all their gold ornaments, and made the image of a calf like the bull of Osiris in the city of Memphis in the wicked Egypt that they had turned their backs upon. B/Image of a Calf: ??? –Jasad is literally a body, especially the body of a man (according to Khalil- quoted by Raqib). In Surat Al-Anbiya’ 21 verse 8 it is used obviously for the human body, as also in Surat Sad 38 verse 34; but in the latter case, the idea of an image, without any real life or soul, is also suggested. In the present passage I understand many suggestions: (1) that it was a mere image, without life: (2) as such, it could not low; therefore the appearance of lowing, mentioned immediately afterwards, was a fraud: (3) unlike its prototype, the bull of Osiris, it had not even the symbolism of Osiris behind it; the Osiris myth, in the living religion of Egypt, had at least some ethical principles behind it. C/The lowing of the golden calf was obviously a deception practiced by the Egyptian promoters of the cult. Lytton in his “Last Days of Pompeii” exposes the deception practiced by the priests of Isis. Men hidden behind images imposed on the credulity of the commonalty.
(Verse 150)- A/Did you make haste…? ‘In your impatience, could you not wait for me? Your lapse into idolatry has only hastened God’s wrath. If you had only waited, I was bringing to you in the Tablets the most excellent teaching in commands of God.’ There is subtle irony in the speech of Moses. There is also a play upon words: ‘Ijl-???  = calf; ‘ajila-????? = to make haste; no translation can bring out these niceties. B/Threw/Put down the Tablets: we are not told that the Tablets were broken; in fact in the coming verse 154 shows that they were whole. They contained God’s Message. There is a touch of disrespect (if not blasphemy) in supposing that God’s Messenger broke the Tablets in his incontinent rage, as is stated in the Old Testament: “Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands, and brake them beneath the Mount”(Exod. xxxii-10). On this point and also on the point that Aaron (in the Old Testament story) ordered the gold to be brought, made a molten calf, fashioned it with a graving tool, and built an altar before the calf (Exod. xxxii. 2-5), our version differs from that of the Old Testament. We cannot believe that Aaron –who was appointed by God to assist Moses as God’s Messenger- could descend so low as to seduce the people into idolatry, whatever his human weaknesses might be. C/Moses was but human. Remembering the charge he had given to Aaron (verse 142), he had a just grievance at the turn events had taken. But he did not wreak his vengeance on the Tablets of God’s Law by breaking them. He laid hands on his brother, and his brother at once explained. D/Aaron’s speech is full of tenderness and regret. He addresses Moses as “son of my mother”, an affectionate term. He explains how the turbulent people nearly killed him for resisting them. And he states in the clearest terms that the idolatry neither originated with him nor had his consent. In Surat Taha 20 verse 85 we are told that a fellow described as the Samiri = ??????? had led them astray. We shall discuss this when we come to that passage.
(Verse 151)- As Moses was convinced that his brother was guiltless, his wrath was turned to gentleness. He prayed for forgiveness, for himself and his brother; for himself because of his wrath and for his brother because he had been unable to suppress idolatry among his people. And like a true leader that he is, he identifies himself with his lieutenant for all that has happened. Even more, he identifies himself with his whole people in his prayer [as in verse 155 to come]. Herein, again, is a type of what the Holy Prophet Muhammad [PPBUH] did for his people.