By Shaykh Mohammed Mahmoud, Senior Imam at the East London Mosque

The Qur’an is filled with stories from the previous prophets, nations and people before us. It is through using stories does Allah in His Book convey life lessons for us all, so that we may know right from wrong, to know where the path of righteousness leads and to take heed of the path of falsehood. And Musa’s story is the most frequently mentioned story in the Qur’an,

“We recite to you from the news of Moses and Pharaoh in truth for a people who believe.” [Qur’an 28:3]

The Qur’an chronicles the life of Musa in great detail and emphasis, from his birth until his final days.

His incredible story, in its totality, represents the eternal struggle and conflict between truth and falsehood; between tyrants and the tyrannised; between oppressors and the oppressed.

This struggle is one that will last until the day Allah inherits the earth and who is upon it. And like every conflict, there is always an end, and that end is always in the favour of the party of truth, in favour of the party of Allah. That end is always the defeat and obliteration of falsehood, tyranny and oppression.

The Qur’an mentions many tyrants, but none more tyrannical than the Pharoah of Moses. Where is he now? Where are Qaaroon and Haamaan? Where are ‘Aad and Thamud? Where are Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab?

“And say, ‘Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart.’" [Qur’an 17:81]

They were stripped of their powers; humiliated after their arrogance and their kingdoms and empires have perished. They are an example for the tyrants whose overreaching hopes have deluded them into thinking themselves immortal. Moreover, they are a lesson to the believers, that regardless of the power, might, reach, influence and tyranny launched against them, the opening from Allah is always near.


“Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” [Qur’an 2:214]

The story of Musa perfectly exemplifies the flawless, precise, divine plans of Allah for His righteous slaves against all probabilities. When the odds were stacked against him, when the future appeared bleak, when hope was lost by most; when men were weakened and helpless – Allah’s divine will intervened, to determine the outcome He had planned. The outcome we could never have forecasted. The outcome we – with our little knowledge and obscured vision – could never have seen.

The Birth of Musa

There will always be critics who will lament and despair at the first sign of hardship. When Musa was born, one could have easily said “Musa was born on the wrong year!”; the year Pharoah decided to cull the male new-borns of the Israelites in light of a prophecy of a boy being born that will ruin his kingdom. However, Allah reassured his mother, in the magnificent verse where He issued two commands, two prohibitions and two promises!

“And We inspired to the mother of Moses, ‘Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers.’” [Qur’an 28:7]

Against her natural maternal instincts, she obeyed His command with absolute trust and reliance on Allah.

Despite Allah not commanding us with such drastic measures, we continue to doubt His wisdom and His promises. We place our perceived interests before His pleasure, not realising that our interest is only in His obedience. So we neglect our prayers assuming our time is being saved; we neglect our fast assuming that we are more productive at work because of it; we neglect the zakat and inheritance thinking that our wealth will stay with us. All the while, being deceived by the false promises of the shaytaan (the devil) that only lead to destruction in this life as well as the next.

Now, what were the chances a new born baby survives in a weaved basket tossed around by the currents of a flowing river? But Allah saved Musa from drowning. And then on whose shores did he wash up? The very tyrant who ordered his execution!

“And the wife of Pharaoh said, ‘[He will be] a comfort of the eye for me and for you. Do not kill him; perhaps he may benefit us, or we may adopt him as a son.’ And they perceived not.” [Qur’an 28:9]

She was barren and wanted a son and heir. Only Allah knew what He had in stall for him and his future.

The lesson we can derive from this is that sometimes when hardship comes to us, we may be inclined to say ‘Why me?’. But, the truth is we do not know the benefits that Allah has put into this hardship, if we only handle it correctly by relying on Allah and turning to him for relief. Just as with Musa, we will see relief come from where we never expected.

Moreover Allah returned Musa to his mother as He had promised and on top of that, she received payment for her service!

“And We had prevented from him [all] wet nurses before, so [the sister of Musa] said [to the house of Pharoah], “Shall I direct you to a household that will be responsible for him for you while they are to him [for his upbringing] sincere?’” [Qur’an 28:12]

“So We restored him to his mother that she might be content and not grieve and that she would know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of the people do not know.” [Qur’an 28:13]

Household of corruption

Musa grew up in a household of corruption, oppression and disbelief. Pharaoh claimed to be a god! Some might look at their environment and circumstances and lament at their situation. But Allah protected and guided Musa.

Another lesson here is that yes, the environment is essential to our children’s upbringing, but know if Allah wills to guide our children while the entire world seeks to corrupt them, Allah’s decree will overpower theirs. The Prophet Nuh’s son was raised in a home of Prophethood, but Allah tested Nuh with his son’s disobedience, defiance and misguidance.

So while the people meant harm for him, Musa was protected from the Lord most High.

We are all under Allah’s ever-watchful gaze. If we know He sees us, and knows how we feel, how we pain, how we grieve, how we fear, then let us entrust Him with our affairs, and don’t be hasty. But wait patiently, for He dispenses relief when He knows is best:

“And be patient, [O Muhammad], for the decision of your Lord, for indeed, you are in Our eyes. And exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord when you arise.” [Qur’an 52:28]

Exiled from Egypt

After Musa accidently killed a man from the people of Pharaoh, unbeknownst to him, a plot was being conceived to execute him. But before they could seize him, Allah’s relief came to him in the form of a warning from a secret believer from Pharaoh’s inner circle:

“And a man came from the farthest end of the city, running. He said, ‘O Moses, indeed the eminent ones are conferring over you [intending] to kill you, so leave [the city]; indeed, I am to you of the sincere advisors.’” [Qur’an 28:20]

Against the tyrannical regime in power at the time, who would’ve thought Musa would find an ally in the most unlikely of places!

Then he fled Egypt. A fugitive, pursued and with a death sentence passed against him. Until he eventually reached a land called Madyan where he saw two women who were unable to take their animals to the well for watering due to men dominating the space with their animals. Musa was a man of chivalry, principles and strength, so moved the men and their animals to make space for their animals. Thereafter, he went and sat under a tree and with the utmost humility asked Allah:

“[He] said, ‘My Lord, indeed I am, for whatever good You would send down to me, in need.’" [Qur’an 28:24]

Upon seeing his strength, trustworthiness, manners and piety, the father of the girls offered to wed one of his daughter to him, in exchange for work. From a homeless fugitive who was single, to a married man, with a house and a job! Tell me by Allah, who could have foreseen that?!

The work agreement was set for 10 years. Conveniently, the exact duration of time after which, in Pharaoh’s law, murder charges are dropped! 

My dear brothers and sisters: His life is evidence that the impossible for us, is possible for Allah; the unimaginable is in fact conceivable.

The believer cannot and must not doubt this.

"Can there be doubt about Allah, Creator of the heavens and earth?” [Qur’an 14:10]

Calling to Allah

Musa is also an example for every caller to Allah. From the moment he was commissioned with the task of conveying the message to pharaoh, he sought aid from Allah:

[Moses] said, "My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance], And ease for me my task, And untie the knot from my tongue, so that they may understand my speech.” [Qur’an 20:25 – 28]

We learn from Musa, as well as his mother, unflinching trust in Allah. After he had done as Allah commanded, and Bani Israel obeyed Musa in leaving Egypt, Pharaoh pursued them intent on eliminating them in their entirety. But who was it who was in fact eliminated in their entirety?!

“And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Moses said, ‘Indeed, we are to be overtaken!’ [Moses] said, ‘No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.’ Then We inspired to Moses, ‘Strike with your staff the sea,’ and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. And We advanced thereto the pursuers. And We saved Moses and those with him, all together. Then We drowned the others.” [Qur’an 26:61-66]

A wisdom deduced from Allah commanding Musa to strike the sea with his staff is to show us that victory can be due to the feeblest of means. Exertion of effort is obligatory, while the result is from Allah.

Then came the conclusion of the saga, with Allah’s party prevailing over the party of disbelief.

“So We took retribution from them, and We drowned them in the sea because they denied Our signs and were heedless of them. And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed. And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because of what they had patiently endured. And We destroyed [all] that Pharaoh and his people were producing and what they had been building.” [Qur’an 7:137-138]

Looking ahead

Musa’s life, and those of all of the prophets, starting with The Messenger Muhammad (pbuh), are not stories to entertain ourselves with. They are not tales that we tell our children to amuse them with or put them to sleep. They are the immortalised memory of the struggle between Allah’s greatest creations against His most wretched of creation. They are constants that exist during every era; history repeats itself, time and again throughout the ages; events that are governed by laws that do not change, laws that we must acquaint ourselves with if we wish to reform ourselves and those around us.

From the inseparable names of Allah are Al-Qaabid Al-Baasit.

Allah is Al-Qaabid – He grasps, seizes, clutches, withholds, contracts, constricts, suppresses.

Allah is Al-Baasit – He releases, outspreads, enlarges, expands, extends, gives in abundance.

An individual’s current state is not necessarily a sign of Allah’s favour or anger. For He may give to ultimately take, and may take to ultimately give.

Allah took Musa from his mother, only to return him with his safety guaranteed. He removed Musa from Egypt, only to return as a Messenger. He cornered Bani Israel between the sea and pharaoh’s army, only to eliminate their enemy from existence.

Look not to the present, but be sure of what is greater and yet to come.