Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Story of Moses (part 6 of 12): An Amazing Conversation

On a dark night, in the shadow of Mount Tur, God conferred Prophethood on Moses. His first command to him was go to Pharaoh.

“Go To Pharaoh! Verily! He has transgressed (all bounds in disbelief and disobedience, and has behaved as an arrogant tyrant).” (Quran 20:24)

Moses fled Egypt in fear for his life; he had spent 10 years in a country outside the jurisdiction of Pharaoh. Now God was telling him that he must face his biggest fear. He must face the corrupt Pharaoh; the man Moses was sure would want to see him executed. Moses once again felt the fear that had sustained him during his long journey across the desert. He responded to God’s words.

“My Lord! I have killed a man among them, and I fear that they will kill me” (Quran 28:33)

Moses was afraid but understood that God was completely able to provide him with all the support he needed for a mission that appeared to be virtually impossible. Moses made supplication; he begged for strength and ease in this most difficult mission. He asked God to open his chest, and grant him eloquence, self-confidence, and contentment. He also called upon God to strengthen him with a trusted and capable companion in prophethood, his brother Aaron.

The dialogue between God and Moses is one of the most amazing conversations contained in the pages of Quran. The words of God are delivered with eloquence and clarity. They paint a portrait of a strong yet humble man, enthralled by his encounter with God. They deliver the ethereal sense that God is all-powerful, omnipotent, yet filled with mercy and love towards His slaves.

“Moses said, “O my Lord! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness). And ease my task for me; and make loose the knot (the defect) from my tongue, (remove the incorrectness of my speech) that they understand my speech, and appoint for me a helper from my family, Aaron, my brother; increase my strength with him, and let him share my task (of conveying God’s Message and Prophethood), and we may glorify You much, and remember You much, Verily! You are of us ever a Well-Seer.”

God said, “You are granted your request, O Moses! And indeed, We conferred a favor on you another time before. When We inspired your mother with that which We inspired, saying, “Put him (the child) into a box or a case or a chest and put him into the river (Nile), and then the river shall cast it up on the bank, and there, an enemy of Mine and an enemy of his shall take him.’ And I endured you with love from Me, in order that you may be brought up under My Eye, when your sister went and said; “Shall I show you one who will nurse him?’ So We restored you to your mother that she might cool her eyes and she should not grieve. Then you did kill a man, but We saved you from a great distress and tried you with a heavy trial. Then you stayed a number of years with the people of Midian. Then you came here according to the term which I ordained (for you), O Moses!

“And I have chosen you for My Inspiration and My Message for Myself. Go you and your brother with My proofs, lessons, verses, evidences, signs, revelations, and do not, you both, slacken and become weak in My Remembrance.

“Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, verily, he has transgressed all bounds in disbelief and disobedience and behaved as an arrogant tyrant. And speak to him kinldy, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear God.”

They said, “Our Lord! Verily! We fear lest he should hasten to punish us or lest he should transgress all bounds against us.”

He (God) said: “Fear not, Verily! I am with you both, Hearing and Seeing. So go you both to him, and say, “Verily, we are Messengers of your Lord, so let the children of Israel go with us, and torment them not; indeed, we have come with a sign from your Lord! And peace will be upon him who follows the guidance! Truly, it has been revealed to us that the torment will be for him who denies (believes not in the Oneness of God, and in His Messengers, etc) and turns away’ (from the truth and obedience of God)” (Quran 20:25-48).

This short astonishing conversation changed Moses’ life. It taught him lessons about himself, about his world, about the nature of humankind and most importantly of all, about the nature of God. To this day it continues to teach important lessons to humankind. On a daily basis, the words of Quran change lives. The lessons learned in the story of Moses are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.

By reading the story of Moses so far, we have learned the importance of trusting God; we have learned that human beings plan and scheme, but God’s plan can overcome any triumph, test, or trial. The story of Moses has taught us that there is no relief from the torments of this world accept with remembrance and closeness to God.

The story of Moses teaches us that God can replace weakness with strength and failure with victory; and that God supports the righteous from sources unimaginable. Now as God confers prophethood on Moses and his brother Aaron we learn the true meaning of brotherhood and the true meaning of why choosing righteous companions can be the key to Paradise.

Moses wanted his brother to be his companion in prophethood and on this dangerous mission to confront Pharaoh because Aaron was strong and trustworthy, he was also an articulate, persuasive speaker. Whenever a person stands with his brother united in a common sense of purpose, united in their worship of God, united in righteousness they are unbeatable against even the most formidable enemy.

Ibn Kathir narrates that Moses and Aaron went together to Pharaoh and delivered their message. Moses spoke to Pharaoh about God, His mercy and His Paradise and about the obligation of humankind to worship God Alone.

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Moses (part 1 of 12): Who is Moses?
The Story of Moses (part 2 of 12): Trust in God
The Story of Moses (part 3 of 12): Moses flees Egypt
The Story of Moses (part 4 of 12): A Stranger in a Strange Land
The Story of Moses (part 5 of 12): Moses Hears the Voice of God

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Story of Moses (part 5 of 12): Moses Hears the Voice of God

Moses, may God praise him, married one of the women he had initially helped at waterhole and spent the next ten years working with her father and raising his own family. His new life was quiet and contemplative, he did not have to endure the intrigue of the Egyptian court or the humiliation of his people, the Children of Israel. Moses was able to ponder the wonders of God and the universe.

Any account of Moses’ life is filled with lessons and guidance, for Moses and for humankind. God put Moses through experiences that would hold him in good stead in his coming mission. Moses had been brought up in the house of the Pharaoh of Egypt; therefore, he was well aware of the politics and intrigue of the Egyptian government. Moses also had first hand experience of the corruption of Pharaoh himself – the man who had declared himself God.

It was through God’s grace and mercy that Moses was able to escape from Egypt and travel about in the lands. He was able to experience other cultures and people. Travel then and now broadens horizons and opens hearts and minds to the differences and the similarities between people of diverse backgrounds.God says:

“O humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” (Quran 49:13)

During his time in Midian, Moses was a shepherd. Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, informed us that all the prophets of God had spent time tending flocks of sheep. It may seem a strange profession but on careful examination, we can see that shepherds learn some valuable lessons while tending to their flocks. A shepherd has a lonely quiet life; there is time for personal reflection and contemplation of the wonders of life.

However, at the same time a shepherd must be constantly on alert for danger. Sheep in particular are weak animals requiring constant care and attention. If even one sheep wanders away from the protection of the flock, it becomes easy prey. A prophet usually has the job of protecting a whole nation, he must be alert and aware of any danger threatening his followers, especially the weak, poor and oppressed among them.

After Moses had completed his term of service that he had pledged to his father in law, he was overcome by homesickness. He began to miss his family and the land of Egypt. Even though he was afraid of what would happen if he returned, he experienced a strange longing to return to the land of his birth. Moses gathered his family together and made the long journey back to Egypt.

“Then, when Moses had fulfilled the term, and was travelling with his family, he saw a fire in the direction of Mount Tur. He said to his family, “Wait, I have seen a fire; perhaps I may bring to you from there some news, or a burning fire-brand that you may warm yourselves”. (Quran 28:29)

While Moses was trekking back across the desert, he became lost. It was a cold dark night. Moses saw what appeared to be a fire burning in the distance. He told his family to stay where they were. He had hopes of either getting directions or being able to carry some fire back to warm his family. Unbeknownst to Moses, he was about to participate in one of history’s most amazing conversations. He walked towards the fire, and as he did, he heard a voice.

“…Blessed is whosoever is in the fire, and whosoever is round about it! And far removed is God from every imperfecction, the Lord of all that exists. “O Moses! Verily! It is I, God, the All-Mighty, and the All-Wise.” (Quran 27:8&9)

God spoke to Moses. He asked Moses to remove his shoes for he would be standing on scared ground. God revealed to Moses that he had been chosen for a special mission and bid him listen to what was about to be said.

“Verily! I am God, none has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me, and perform prayer for My Remembrance. Verily, the Hour is coming and I am almost hiding it that every person may be rewarded for that which he strives. Therefore, let not the one who believes not therein (i.e. in the Day of Resurrection, Reckoning, Paradise and Hell, etc.), but follows his own lusts, divert you, lest you perish.” (Quran 20:14-16)

In a direct conversation between God and Moses, prayer was prescribed upon Moses and his followers. Prayer was also prescribed upon Prophet Muhammad and his followers in much the same way on the night of Prophet Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent into the heavens.

At this time, Moses must have been mesmerised. He set out for Egypt, following a strange yearning to return to his homeland. He had become lost in the dark and cold and was searching for light and guidance. He walked towards what he thought was a burning fire and found the light and guidance of God.

Moses was holding a stick or staff in his hand. God spoke to him and said what is this stick Moses, tell me about it. Moses answered, “This is my stick, whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses.” (Quran 20:18) Moses knew his stick very well; he knew it had no miraculous qualities. God asked Moses to throw the stick to the ground and when he did, it began to slither and shake. The stick had been transformed into a snake.

Moses was afraid; he turned on his heels and began to run away. It is a natural human inclination to be afraid of strange and unknown things, but God wanted to remove this fear from Moses’ heart. He was about to embark on a difficult mission and it was important that he began with complete trust that God would protect him, knowing that there was absolutely no reason for him to be fearful.

“And throw your stick!” But when he saw it moving as if it were a snake, he turned in flight, and looked not back. (It was said): “O Moses! Draw near, and fear not. Verily, you are of those who are secure”. (Quran 28:31)

God then instructed Moses to put his hand inside his cloak, He revealed to him another sign of his magnificence and omnipotence. Signs, which Moses would need in his coming mission, proof for those who are disobedient and rebellious.

“Insert your hand into the opening of your garment, it will come out white without disease, and draw your hand close to your side to be free from fear (that which you suffered from the snake, and also by that your hand will return to its original state). These are two signs, (miracles, evidences, proofs) from your Lord to Pharaoh and his chiefs. Verily, they are the people who are rebellious, and disobedient towards God.” (Quran 28:32)

God intended to send Moses to Pharaoh. The man he feared most, the man Moses thought would surely put him to death. His heart constricted on fear but God reassured him.

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Moses (part 1 of 12): Who is Moses?
The Story of Moses (part 2 of 12): Trust in God
The Story of Moses (part 3 of 12): Moses flees Egypt
The Story of Moses (part 4 of 12): A Stranger in a Strange Land

The Story of Moses (part 4 of 12): A Stranger in a Strange Land

After walking for more than a week across the burning desert, Moses arrived at an oasis where groups of men were watering their animals. They were pushing, fighting, joking, and laughing, behaving in a rough, and tumble manner. Moses flung himself onto the ground grateful for the shade of a tree. As he caught his breath, he noticed two women and their flock of sheep. They were standing well back, hesitant to approach the waterhole.

Moses was a man of honour. Even though he was exhausted and dehydrated Moses could not bear to see the women standing back afraid to move toward the waterhole. He approached them, and asked why the men in their family did not look after the sheep. The two young women explained that their father was an old man and the task of caring for the sheep was now their responsibility.

Moses took the women’s sheep to the waterhole, where he easily pushed in amongst the men already there. After completing this task, Moses’ energy was totally spent. He sat under the shade of the tree and began to supplicate God. He said, “O Lord, whatever good you can bestow on me, I am surely in need of it”.

“And when he arrived at the water of Midian he found there a group of men watering their flocks, and besides them he found two women who were keeping back their flocks. He said, “What is the matter with you?” They said, “We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take their flocks. And our father is a very old man.” Therefore, he watered their flocks for them, and then he turned back to shade, and said, “My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!” (Quran 28:22-24)

Quran relates to us the stories of the prophets of God in order that we might learn from them. The Prophets are worthy role models and their lives are not so different from our own. How many times has each one of us sunk to the ground or into a chair in despair? How many times have we felt so physically or mentally exhausted that it seems we will be unable to go on for even one more second?

Moses once again turned to the only real source of help for humankind – God, and before his supplication was finished help was on its way. Moses was probably hoping for a slice of bread or a handful of dates but instead God gave him safety, provisions and a family.

One of the two women returned to Moses. She conducted herself with modesty and shyness and said to Moses, “My father wants to reward you for your kindness and invites you to our home’. Consequently, Moses roused himself and went to see the elderly man. They sat together and Moses related his story. The elderly man allayed his fears and told Moses that he had safely crossed the Egyptian border; he was now in Midian and was safe from any authorities that may have been pursuing him.

“Then there came to him one of the two women, walking shyly. She said, “Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered our flocks for us.” So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said, “Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are polytheists, disbelievers, and wrong-doers.” (Quran 28:25)

After Moses had been invited to stay with the family, one of the women approached her father privately and advised him to hire Moses. When her father asked why, she answered because he is strong and trustworthy. Two qualities that Islam tells us are signs of leadership. In the years immediately following the death of Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, the leaders of the Muslim nation were chosen for these two qualities. They learned their politics from Quran, from the stories of their righteous predecessors.

The elderly man, who some scholars believe was Prophet Shuaib, although there are no authentic sources either confirming or denying this, offered Moses the safety and security of his own family. He gave one of his daughters in marriage to Moses on the condition that he work for eight years, or ten if Moses agreed to stay on for the further two years. Moses was a stranger in a strange land. Exhausted and alone, but God heard his supplication and provided for him from sources that Moses could never have imagined.

And said one of them (the two women): “O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.” He said, “I intend to wed one of these two daughters of mine to you, on condition that you serve me for eight years, but if you complete ten years, it will be a favour from you. But I intend not to place you under a difficulty. If Allah wills, you will find me one of the righteous.” He (Moses) said, “That is settled between me and you whichever of the two terms I fulfil, there will be no injustice to me, and Allah is Surety over what we say.” (Quran 28:26-28)

As believers we must never forget that God hears our prayers and supplications, and answers. Sometimes the wisdom behind the answers is beyond our comprehension but God desires only good for us. Putting our trust in God and submitting to His will allow the believer to weather any storm, and to stand tall in the face of adversity. We are never alone, just as Moses was not alone as he trudged across the desert fleeing the only life and land he had ever known.

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Moses (part 1 of 12): Who is Moses?
The Story of Moses (part 2 of 12): Trust in God
The Story of Moses (part 3 of 12): Moses flees Egypt

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Story of Moses (part 3 of 12): Moses flees Egypt

Chapter 28 of the Quran is named, ‘The Narration’, the first 45 verses focus solely on the story of Moses. It is from here that we learn about the strength and piety of his mother, and how God rewarded her righteousness and trust in Him by returning her son. Some scholars believe that Moses and his mother retuned to their home among the Children of Israel, others, including Ibn Kathir believe that Moses and his mother lived in the palace while she was breast feeding him and that as he grew up she was allowed the privilege of visiting him.

The Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, are silent about this period of Moses life, although it would be fair to say that by the time Moses was a man, he probably knew about his origin and identified with the children of Israel. The traditions of Prophet Muhammad describe Moses as a tall, well-built, dark skinned man with curly hair. Both his character and physique are described as strong.

“And when he attained his full strength, and was perfect (in manhood), We bestowed on him Hukman (Prophethood, right judgment of the affairs) and religious knowledge (of the religion of his forefathers, Islamic Monotheism). And thus do We reward the Muhsineen (good-doers).” (Quran 28:14)

We will discover in the story of Moses that he was a forthright man. He believed in speaking his mind and standing up for the weaker members of society. Whenever he witnessed oppression or cruelty, he found it impossible to stop himself from intervening.

Ibn Kathir narrates that one day while walking in the city; Moses came upon two men fighting. One was an Israelite and the other an Egyptian. The Israelite recognised Moses and cried out to him for help. Moses stepped into the fight and struck the Egyptian one ferocious blow. He immediately fell to the ground and died. Moses was overcome with grief. He was aware of his own strength but did not imagine that he had the power to kill someone with one blow.

“And he entered the city at a time of unawareness of its people, and he found there two men fighting, one of his party and the other of his foes. The man of his own party asked him for help against his foe, so Moses struck him with his fist and killed him. He said, “This is of Satan’s doing, verily, he is a plain misleading enemy.”

He said, “My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, so forgive me.” Then He forgave him. Verily, He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.

He said, “My Lord! For that with which You have favoured me, I will never more be a helper for the criminals, disobedient to God, polytheists, sinners, etc.!” (Quran 28:15-17)

Either because the streets were relatively deserted or because the people had no wish to be involved in a serious assault, the authorities had no idea that Moses was involved in the melee. However, the next day Moses saw the same Israelite man involved in yet another fight. He suspected that the man was a troublemaker and approached him to warn him about such behaviour.

The Israelite saw Moses striding towards him and became afraid, he called out, “Would you kill me as you killed the wretch yesterday?” The man’s opponent, an Egyptian heard this remark and rushed away to report Moses to the authorities. Later on that day, Moses was approached by a person unknown who informed him that the authorities were planning to arrest him and possibly put him to death for the crime of killing an Egyptian.

So he became afraid, looking about in the city (waiting as to what will be the result of his crime of killing), when behold, the man who had sought his help the day before, called for his help again. Moses said to him, “Verily, you are a plain misleader!” Then when he decided to seize the man who was an enemy to both of them, the man said, “O Moses! Is it your intention to kill me as you killed a man yesterday? Your aim is nothing but to become a tyrant in the land, and not to be one of those who do right.”

And there came a man running, from the farthest end of the city. He said, “O Moses! Verily, the chiefs are taking counsel together about you, to kill you, so escape. Truly, I am to you of those who give sincere advice.”

So he escaped from there, looking about in a state of fear. He said, “My Lord! Save me from the people who are polytheists, and wrong-doers!” (Quran 28:15-21)

Moses immediately left the confines of the city. He did not take the time to return to his home to change his clothes or prepare provisions. Moses strode into the desert towards Midian, the country that lay between Syria and Egypt. His heart was filled with fear and he was afraid that he would turn around and see the authorities pursuing him. He walked, and walked, and when his feet and legs felt like lead, he continued walking. His shoes wore away on the rough desert ground and the hot sand burned the soles of his feet. Moses was exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and bleeding but he forced himself to continue, some say for more than a week, until he came to a watering hole. Moses threw himself under the shade of a tree.

Death in the dry dusty heat of the Egyptian desert should have been the likely outcome of Moses journey. Tracking across the inhospitable landscape with no provisions and inappropriate clothing would have been an expedition doomed to failure. Yet once again, the story of Moses reveals a fundamental truth. If a believer submits fully to the will of God, God will provide for him from sources unimaginable. God will replace weakness with strength, and will replace failure with victory.

Moses arrived safely at the desert oasis, the smell of water and the shade of the trees must have seemed like paradise on earth. Moses however was not alone in his newfound paradise; the waterhole was surrounded by shepherds watering their flocks.

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Moses (part 1 of 12): Who is Moses?
The Story of Moses (part 2 of 12): Trust in God

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Story of Moses (part 2 of 12): Trust in God

There are lessons for humankind throughout the story of Moses, which are not only learnt after his prophethood; rather, they are found even when he was a newborn. His righteous mother’s behavior gives us numerous lessons that are relevant even today. Put your trust in God!

Moses was born in a year in which the sons of the Children of Israel were put to death the moment they were born. Imagine the sense of fear that permeated every aspect of life under such conditions. Pregnancy was not an event to be celebrated and cherished but a source of fear and insecurity.

Security guards roamed the streets and invaded homes searching for pregnant women, therefore Moses’ mother concealed her pregnancy. Imagine the conditions under which she gave birth: fearful, silent, possibly shrouded in darkness. Was she surrounded by women or alone? Did her husband hold her hand praying that she did not cry out revealing herself to the neighbours or guards?

Whatever the conditions, Moses was born. A boy. His parents’ heart must have constricted with joy and fear simultaneously. What were they to do now, how would they conceal a newborn baby? Moses’ mother was a righteous woman, pious and God fearing, therefore in her hour of need she turned to God and He inspired her next actions.

“And We inspired the mother of Moses saying, suckle him, but when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve. Verily! We shall bring him back to you, and shall make him one of (Our) Messengers.” (Quran 28:2-7).

Moses’ mother has just spent the last months concealing her pregnancy for fear that her child would be put to death, now as she holds him to her breast God inspires her to cast him into the river. Not a gentle stream but the Nile River, a huge powerful river with a strong current. Her initial reaction must have been that such an action would be condemning him to certain death.

Moses’ mother put her trust in God. “Do not fear and do not grieve, for We will bring him back to you.” She made a waterproof basket, placed her tiny son inside, and cast him into the river. Ibn Kathir narrates that as the basket touched the water the raging current became calm and gentle, sweeping the basket silently downstream. Moses’ sister was instructed by her mother to slip silently through the reeds and follow the basket on its journey.

The basket with its precious cargo courses down the Nile River, passing houses, boats, and people, unnoticed until it stops at Pharaoh’s palace. Moses’ sister watches in fear, as someone from Pharaoh’s household removes the basket from the river. Moses was cast into the river to escape certain death and now his resting place is the palace of Pharaoh. This is surely too much for a mother to bear, however events about to unfold will demonstrate that the promise of God is true.

“...And whosoever fears God and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in God, then He will suffice him. Verily, God will accomplish his purpose. Indeed God has set a measure for all things.” (Quran 65:2-3)

Baby Moses was taken to Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh. Asiya, in contrast to her arrogant, proud husband was a righteous, merciful woman. God opened her heart and Asiya looked down up on the tiny baby and felt overcome by her love for him. The royal couple were unable to conceive a child and this tiny baby awakened her maternal instincts. Asiya clutched him to her chest and asked her husband to accept the child into family.

Possibly, against his better judgement Pharaoh accepted the child, who was part of God’s plan to bring down the royal house. Far from abandoning him, God set Moses up as a royal son of Egypt, he provided him with the strongest human support in the land. Asiya and Pharaoh now had a son, who was now protected by the very person who had sought to kill him.

“Then the household of Pharaoh picked him up, that he might become for them an enemy and a cause of grief. Verily! Pharaoh, Haman, and their hosts were sinners. And the wife of Pharaoh said; ‘A comfort of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he maybe of a benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’ And they perceived not (the result of that).” (Quran 28:8-9)

Asiya summoned wet nurses to the palace, but the tiny child refused to suckle. This was a cause of great distress; in those days there were no baby formulas or supplements to offer the child. At this stage the royal palace was in turmoil, the women of the household were fussing over Asiya and her new baby therefore no one noticed the presence of Moses’ sister amongst the servants. She summoned all her courage and stepped forward offering a solution. She said she knew of a woman who would suckle the child affectionately. Why would the royal household take the advice of an unknown child, if not to fulfil God’s plan. Moses’ sister was ordered to rush and fetch the woman.

“And We had already forbidden (other) foster suckling mothers for him, until she (his sister came up and) said: "Shall I direct you to a household who will rear him for you, and sincerely they will look after him in a good manner?” (Quran 28:12)

Moses’ mother was in her home. Was she pacing, or weeping silently? We do not know, but God tells us that her heart was empty and that she was about to reveal herself. Was she considering dashing down to the river and searching frantically through the reeds? God relieved her of her torment when her daughter rushed into the house breathlessly relating the story of what had happened to Moses.

Mother and daughter lost no time returning to the palace. When Moses was handed to his real mother, he settled immediately and began to suckle. According to Ibn Kathir, the household, including Pharaoh himself, was astonished. Pharaoh asked the woman who she was and she replied, "I am a woman of sweet milk and sweet smell, and no child refuses me." Pharaoh accepted this answer, and thus Moses was returned to the arms of his mother and raised in the palace as a prince of Egypt.

“So did We restore him to his mother, that she might be delighted, and that she might not grieve, and that she might know that the Promise of God is true. But most of them know not.” (Quran 28:13)

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Moses (part 1 of 12): Who is Moses?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Story of Moses (part 1 of 12): Who is Moses?

In both Judaism and Christianity Moses is a central figure. He is the man from the Old Testament most mentioned in the New Testament, he led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, communicated with God and received the Ten Commandments. Moses is known as both a religious leader and a lawgiver.

In Islam, Moses is loved and respected; he is both a Prophet and a Messenger. God mentions him more than 120 times, and his story ranges across several chapters. It is the longest and most detailed story of a prophet in the Quran and is discussed in elaborate detail.

The word Prophet (Nabi in Arabic) is derived from the word Naba, meaning news. God’s message is revealed and the Prophet spreads the news amongst his people. A Messenger, on the other hand, comes with a specific mission, usually to convey a new ordainment from God. Every Messenger is a Prophet, but not every Prophet, is a Messenger.

Islam teaches that all prophets came to their people with the same proclamation, “O my people, worship God, you have no other God but Him”. (Quran 11:50). Moses called the children of Israel to worship God alone and he laid down the laws prescribed in the Torah.

“Verily, We did send down the Torah to Moses, therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to God's Will, judged the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests too judged the Jews by the Torah for to them was entrusted the protection of God's Book, and they were witnesses thereto.” (Quran 5:44)

Quran is a book of guidance for all of humankind. It is not a history book; however, it does contain historical information. God asks us to reflect and contemplate on the stories of the Prophets in order that we may learn from their trials, tribulations, and triumphs. Moses’ story contains many lessons for humankind. God says that the account of Moses and Pharaoh in Quran is the truth. It is a story of political intrigue and of oppression that knew no bounds.

“We recite to you some of the news of Moses and Pharaoh in truth, for a people who believe. Verily, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people sects, weakening (oppressing) a group (i.e. Children of Israel) among them; killing their sons, and letting their females live. Verily, he was of those who commit great sins and crimes, oppressors, tyrant.” (Quran 28:3&4)

Moses was born into one of the most politically charged times in history. The Pharaoh of Egypt was the dominant power figure in the land. He was so incredibly powerful that he referred to himself as a god and nobody was inclined or able to dispute this. He said, “I am your lord, most high”, (Quran 79:24)

Pharaoh effortlessly exerted his authority and influence over all the people in Egypt. He used the strategy of divide and conquer. He set up class distinctions, divided the people into groups and tribes, and set them against one another. The Jews, the children of Israel, were put at the lowest level of Egyptian society. They were the slaves and servants. Moses’ family was from amongst the children of Israel.

Egypt at the time was the known world’s superpower. The ultimate power rested in the hands of very few. Pharaoh and his trusted ministers directed matters as if lives of the population were of little or no consequence. The political situation was in some ways similar to the political world of the 21st century. In a time when the young people of the world are used as cannon fodder for the political and military games of the most powerful, the story of Moses is particularly pertinent.

According to Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir the children of Israel talked vaguely about one of their nation’s sons arsing to wrest the throne of Egypt from Pharaoh. Perhaps it was just a persistent daydream from an oppressed people, or even an ancient prophecy but the story of Moses begins here. A yearning for freedom coupled with a tyrannical king’s dream.

The people of Egypt were influenced by dreams and the interpretation of dreams. Dreams featured prominently in the story of prophet Joseph and once again, in the story of Moses the fate of the children of Israel is affected by a dream. Pharaoh dreams that a child from the children of Israel grows to manhood and seizes his throne.

True to character, Pharaoh reacts arrogantly and gives the order that all male children born to the children of Israel be killed. His ministers however perceive that this would lead to the complete annihilation of the children of Israel and economic ruin for Egypt. How, they ask, would the empire function without slaves and servants? The order is changed; the male children are killed in one year but spared in the next.

Pharaoh becomes so fanatical he sends spies or security agents to seek out pregnant women. If any woman gives birth to a male child, he is immediately put to death. When Moses’ mother becomes pregnant with the child destined to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, she conceals her pregnancy. However, God wished to do a favour to those who were weak and oppressed, and pharaoh’s plans are thwarted.

“And We wished to do a favour to those who were weak (and oppressed) in the land, and to make them rulers and to make them the inheritors, And to establish them in the land, and We let Pharaoh and Haman (Egypt’s Chief Minister) and their hosts receive from them that which they feared.” (Quran 28:5&6)

The scene is set, and the child is born. The winds of change begin to blow and God demonstrates that humans may plan and scheme but He Alone is the best of planners.

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Moses (part 2 of 12): Trust in God 
The Story of Moses (part 3 of 12): Moses flees Egypt
The Story of Moses (part 4 of 12): A Stranger in a Strange Land
The Story of Moses (part 5 of 12): Moses Hears the Voice of God
The Story of Moses (part 6 of 12): An Amazing Conversation
The Story of Moses (part 7 of 12): Magic & Illusion
The Story of Moses (part 8 of 12): Signs of God’s Magnificent Power
The Story of Moses (part 9 of 12): We Drowned Them in the Sea
The Story of Moses (part 10 of 12): The Ten Commandments
The Story of Moses (part 11 of 12): The Death of Moses
The Story of Moses (part 12 of 12): Lessons from the life of Prophet Moses

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Story of Joseph (part 7 of 7): Patience Rewarded

The golden bowl was found in Benjamin’s belongings and his brothers were astonished. They quickly realised the Chief Minister (Joseph) would follow their own law and keep Benjamin as a slave. This upset them greatly. They were afraid of returning to their father without his beloved youngest son. One of the brothers offered to accept the punishment on Benjamin’s behalf, but the offer was refused. Another brother, probably the eldest, chose to stay in Egypt while the others returned to their homeland to face their father Jacob. When the brothers arrived home they went immediately to their father and said,

“O our father! Verily, your son (Benjamin) has stolen, we testify not except according to what we know, and we could not know the unseen! And ask (the people of) the town where we have been, and the caravan in which we returned, and indeed we are telling the truth.” (Quran 12:81-82)

Prophet Jacob had heard this all before. When the brothers betrayed Joseph and threw him in the well, they went to their father pleading and crying yet their words were nothing but lies. This time Jacob refused to believe them. He turned away from them saying, “Nay, but your own selves have beguiled you into something. So patience is most fitting (for me).” (Quran 12:83) Jacob had spent years grieving for Joseph and trusting in God. When this new sorrow overwhelmed him, his first reaction was to be patient. He knew, without a shred of doubt, that the affairs of his beloved youngest sons were controlled by God.

Even though he trusted God completely, Jacob behaved as any father would in the same circumstances. He was overcome with grief and wept uncontrollably. He remembered Joseph, and wept until he became ill and lost his sight. The brothers were concerned about his pain and sorrow and questioned his constant grief. They asked him, “Will you cry until the day you die?” Jacob answered that he only complained of his grief and sorrow to God and that he (Jacob) knew, from God, things that they did not. (Quran 12:86)

Though many years had passed, Jacob had not forgotten his son Joseph. Jacob reflected on Joseph’s dream and understood God’s plan would come to fruition. Jacob was deeply hurt by the loss of his sons, but his faith in God sustained him, and he ordered his sons to go back to Egypt in search of Joseph and Benjamin.

Joseph revealed

The brothers once again set off on the long journey to Egypt. The famine had taken its toll on the surrounding areas and people were poor and weak. When the brothers stood before Joseph, they too were amongst the poor. Their level of weakness forced them to ask for charity. They said:

“O ruler of the land! A hard time has hit our family, and we have brought but poor capital, so pay us full measure and be charitable to us. Truly, God does reward the charitable.” (Quran 12:88)

Joseph could not bear to see his family in this position, even though these were the men who had betrayed him. He looked at his family and could keep his secret no longer, he said,

“Do you know what you did with Joseph and his brother, when you were ignorant?” (Quran 12:89)

The brothers recognised Joseph immediately, not because of his looks, for they had seen him many times before, however who else could know the true story of Joseph, but Joseph himself.

“I am Joseph, and this is my brother (Benjamin). God has indeed been Gracious to us. Verily, he who fears God with obedience to Him (by abstaining from sins and evil deeds, and by performing righteous good deeds), and is patient, then surely, God makes not the reward of the good doers to be lost.” (Quran 12:90)

The brothers were afraid, their past deeds were grave sins, and they were now in a position of weakness. They stood in fear before the Chief Minister of Egypt no longer a small, beautiful boy named Joseph. Through his trials and tribulations, Joseph, like his father, found comfort in submission to the One God. He understood patience and the qualities of mercy and piety imbedded in true patience. He looked down at his brothers who were trembling in fear and said, “No reproach of you this day, May God forgive you.” (Quran 12:91)

Joseph immediately made plans to reunite his family. He requested the brothers return to their father and cast an old shirt of his (Joseph’s) over his face. This, he said, would cause him to become clear sighted. Immediately, although the old man was so far away he turned his face towards the heavens and sniffed, believing that he could smell Joseph in the air. This is one of the miracles, made possible by God, of Prophet Joseph. When the brothers arrived, they cast the shirt over Jacob’s face and he became clear sighted. He cried out, “Did I not say to you, I know from God, that which you know not.” (Quran 12: 96)

The family of Prophet Jacob gathered their belongings together and travelled to Egypt. Jacob was eager to be reunited with his sons. They went straight to Joseph and found him sitting on an elevated throne. Joseph spoke to his family saying, enter Egypt, if God wills, in security.

The beginning of chapter 12 of the Quran, Joseph, began with the young boy Joseph describing his dream to his beloved father Jacob. He said, “Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves to me.” (Quran 12:4) Quran concludes the story of Joseph in the same way as it began, with the interpretation of the dream. The eleven stars were his brothers, the sun his father and the moon was his mother.

“And he raised his parents to the throne and they fell down before him prostrate. And he said, “O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream of old! My Lord has made it come true! He was indeed good to me, when He took me out of prison, and brought you all here out of the Bedouin life, after Satan had sown enmity between my brothers and me. Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will. Truly He! Only He is the All Knowing, the All-Wise.” (Quran 12:98-100)

The essence of the story of Joseph is patience in the face of adversity and sorrow. Joseph faced every trial with patience and complete trust in God. His father Jacob bore his grief and misery with patience and submission. All the chapters of Quran were revealed at particular times, in response to particular situations. This chapter was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in a time of great sorrow. In fact, the year of its revelation is known as “the year of sorrow’. Prophet Muhammad had to bear the death of his beloved first wife Khadijah and his Uncle Abu Talib. Both had provided him with comfort and support. God was advising Prophet Muhammad that the road may be long and difficult but the ultimate victory belongs to those with God consciousness and patience. The story of Joseph is a lesson for us all. True patience, what the scholars of Islam call beautiful patience is a key to the gate of Paradise.

Parts of This Article
The Story of Joseph (part 1 of 7): The Tale Begins
The Story of Joseph (part 2 of 7): Treachery and Deception
The Story of Joseph (part 3 of 7): Sold into Slavery
The Story of Joseph (part 4 of 7): Beauty and a Test
The Story of Joseph (part 5 of 7): From Prison to Palace
The Story of Joseph (part 6 of 7): The Importance of Dreams

Friday, November 11, 2011

•• 10 Tips How to be a Successful Husband ••

1. Dress up for your wife, look clean and smell good.When was the last time us men went shopping for designer pajamas? Just like the husband wants his wife to look nice for him, she also wants her husband to dress up for her too. Remember that Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - would always start with Miswak when returning home and always loved the sweetest smells.

2. Use the cutest names for your wife. Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - had nicknames for his wives, ones that they loved. Call your wife by the most beloved names to her, and avoid using names that hurt their feelings.

3. Don't treat her like a fly. We never think about a fly in our daily lives until it 'bugs' us. Similarly, a wife will do well all day - which brings no attention from the husband - until she does something to 'bug' him. Don't treat her like this; recognize all the good that she does and focus on that.

4. If you see wrong from your wife, try being silent and do not comment! This is one of the ways Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - used when he would see something inappropriate from his wives - radi Allahu 'anhunn. It's a technique that few Muslim men have mastered.

5. Smile at your wife whenever you see her and embrace her often. Smiling is Sadaqah and your wife is not exempt from the Muslim Ummah. Imagine life with her constantly seeing you smiling. Remember also those Ahadith when Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - would kiss his wife before leaving for Salah, even if he was fasting.

6. Thank her for all that she does for you. Then thank her again! Take for example a dinner at your house. She makes the food, cleans the home, and a dozen other tasks to prepare. And sometimes the only acknowledgement she receives is that there needed to be more salt in the soup. Don't let that be; thank her!

7. Ask her to write down the last ten things you did for her that made her happy. Then go and do them again. It may be hard to recognize what gives your wife pleasure. You don't have to play a guessing game, ask her and work on repeating those times in your life.

8. Don't be little her desires. Comfort her. Sometimes the men may look down upon the requests of their wives. Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam set the example for us in an incident when Safiyyah - radi Allahu 'anha - was crying because, as she said, he had put her on a slow camel. He wiped her tears, comforted her, and brought her the camel.

9. Be humorous and Play games with your wife. Look at how Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - would race his wife Aisha - radi Allahu 'anha - in the desert. When was the last time we did something like that?

10. Always remember the words of Allah's Messenger - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam: "The best of you are those who treat their families the best. And I am the best amongst you to my family." Try to be the best!

In conclusion: Never forget to make Dua to Allah - azza wa jall - to make your marriage successful. And Allah ta'ala knows best !!

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Story of Joseph (part 6 of 7): The Importance of Dreams

Prophet Mohammad said: “Every Prophet was sent to his nation exclusively, but I was sent to all mankind.”[1] God sent Joseph, son of Jacob, to the people of Egypt and supported him with abilities that were observable and made sense to the people the Joseph had been sent to guide. At the time of Joseph, dreams and dream interpretation were very important, and this is clear throughout the story of Joseph. Prophet Jacob (Joseph’s father), the companions of the prison and the King of Egypt all have dreams.

When the King heard Joseph’s interpretation of his dream, he was astonished, and set Joseph free. However, Joseph refused to leave the prison with out clearing his name of any wrongdoing. He wanted his master Al Aziz to be completely sure that he (Joseph) had not betrayed his trust. Joseph respectfully demanded that the King investigate the affair of the women who cut their hands. The King became curious and called for the wife of Al Aziz and her associates.

“(The King) said (to the women), ‘What was your affair when you did seek to seduce Joseph?’ The women said, ‘God forbid! No evil know we against him!’ The wife of Al-’Aziz said, ‘Now the truth is manifest (to all), it was I who sought to seduce him, and he is surely of the truthful.’” (Quran 12:51)

Once his innocence was established, Joseph appeared before the King. After hearing, Joseph’s words the King became even more impressed and entrusted him to a position of high rank. Joseph said, “Set me over the storehouses of the land; I will indeed guard them with full knowledge.” (Quran 12:55) In the religion of Islam, it is not permissible for one to ask for a position of authority or two talk about oneself in a boastful manner. However when Joseph asked the King to put him in charge of the storehouses he did both of those things.

The scholars of Islam explain that when you are the only person fit for that position then it is permissible to ask for it, and if you are new to a community, it is permissible to introduce yourself. Joseph knew the trials about to face Egypt and he knew he was capable of averting the danger inherent in a time of famine. For Joseph, not asking for this position would have been irresponsible. The young boy betrayed and thrown into the well was now established as the finance Minister of Egypt. His patience and perseverance, and above all his total submission to the will of God had already resulted in great reward. Joseph knew however that the greatest reward for patience and righteousness would be in the hereafter.

Joseph Meets His Brothers

The time passed. During the seven good years, Joseph prepared for the time of famine to come. The drought and famine correctly prophesized by Joseph did not only affect Egypt, but also the surrounding lands including the place where Jacob and his sons were living. Joseph managed the affairs of Egypt so well there was enough grain to feed the people of Egypt and those in the surrounding areas. As life became difficult and food scarce, people began to flock to Egypt to buy the grain Joseph was selling at a fair price.

Among those seeking provisions were Joseph’s ten older brothers. When the brothers were ushered into Joseph’s presence, they did not recognise him. Joseph looked at his brothers and his heart filled with longing for his father and his young brother Benjamin. He greeted them respectfully, asked questions about their family and homeland, and explained that the rations of grain would be distributed per head; therefore, if they had bought their younger brother they would have received more rations. Joseph was hoping to encourage them to bring Benjamin, in fact Joseph went far as to say that without their young brother they would receive no provision at all.

“But if you bring him not to me, there shall be no measure (of grain) for you with me, nor shall you come near me.” (Quran 12:60)

When they returned to their father, Prophet Jacob, they explained to him that no more grain would be provided to them unless they travelled with their young brother. Benjamin had become very close to his father, especially after Joseph’s disappearance. Remembering his previous loss, Jacob did not want to part with his young son. Once again, the brothers promised to safeguard their youngest brother, and once again Jacob felt his heart constrict with fear. The brothers then found that the money they paid for the grain had been secretly returned to them.

Jacob had complete trust in God and gave them permission to take Benjamin only after they had sworn an oath in God’s name to protect him. Although Prophet Jacob was particularly close to his sons Joseph and Benjamin, he loved all his sons dearly. They were strong, handsome, capable men, and Jacob was afraid that some harm might befall them on yet another trip to Egypt. To minimise the risks, he made his sons promise to enter the city by different gates. Jacob said to them,

“O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, and I cannot avail you against God at all. Verily! The decision rests only with God. In Him, I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him.” (Quran 12:67)

The brothers returned to Egypt, entered by different gates and went to Joseph for the promised provisions. During this meeting, Joseph took Benjamin aside and revealed that he was his long lost brother. The two embraced and their hearts were filled with joy. Joseph, however, asked Benjamin to keep their meeting a secret for the time being. After providing the brothers with their rations of grain, Joseph arranged for golden bowl to be covertly placed in Benjamin’s bag, then according to Joseph’s arrangements someone cried out, “O you in the caravan, surely you are thieves.” (Quran 12:70)

The brothers were astonished because they were not thieves. They inquired about the stolen item, and were astounded to hear it was a golden bowl belonging to the King. Whoever returned it, they were told, would be rewarded with camel’s load of grain. The brothers of Joseph claimed to have no knowledge of this theft. They asserted that they were not thieves and did not come to Egypt to create mischief. One of Joseph’s men asked, “What is your punishment for one who steals?” The brothers replied that under the law of Prophet Jacob, the one who steals is taken as a slave. Joseph did not want his brother punished under the laws of Egypt but wanted the opportunity to keep his brother with him while the others retuned to their father Jacob. The bags were searched, and the golden bowl was found amongst Benjamin’s possessions.


[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari.

Parts of This Article
The Story of Joseph (part 1 of 7): The Tale Begins
The Story of Joseph (part 2 of 7): Treachery and Deception
The Story of Joseph (part 3 of 7): Sold into Slavery
The Story of Joseph (part 4 of 7): Beauty and a Test
The Story of Joseph (part 5 of 7): From Prison to Palace

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Story of Joseph (part 5 of 7): From Prison to Palace

The story of Joseph is an example of patience in the face of adversity. Throughout his life so far, Joseph faced trials and tribulations with complete trust in God. Yet once again, he was in an extremely difficult situation. Once more, he was forced to fend off the advances of the wife of Al Aziz, this time in front of her associates. Joseph called out to God for help. He said,

“O my Lord! Prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one of those who commit sin and deserve blame or those who do the deeds of the ignorant.” (Quran 12:33)

Joseph believed living in prison was preferable to living in the house of Al Aziz. The environment was filled with lust and greed, and with unlawful beauty and seduction, perhaps similar to many societies today. He believed prison would be preferable to succumbing to the fitnah[1] around him. God answered Joseph’s supplication and rescued him.

“So his Lord answered his invocation and turned away from him their plot. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. Then it appeared to them, after they had seen the proofs (of his innocence) to imprison him for a time.” (Quran 12:34-35)

Although convinced of Joseph’s innocence, Al Aziz, chief Minister of Egypt put Joseph in prison. He could see no other way of safeguarding the reputation of his name and position.
Joseph in Prison

Imprisoned with Joseph, were two men who recognised his piety and righteousness. Both had been plagued by vivid dreams and now hoped Joseph would be able to interpret the dreams for them. One man saw a dream in which he was pressing wine, the other; saw a dream in which birds were eating bread from his head. Joseph said, “I will inform you of the meaning of these dreams before your next meal is served”.

“He said, ‘No food will come to you (in wakefulness or in dream) as your provision but I will inform (in wakefulness) its interpretation before it (the food) comes. This is of that which my Lord has taught me. Verily, I have abandoned the religion of a people that believe not in God and are disbelievers in the Hereafter. And I have followed the religion of my fathers, - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to God. This is from the Grace of Allah to us and to mankind, but most men think not (i.e. they neither believe in Allah nor worship Him).’” (Quran 12:37-38)

Notice the demeanor of Joseph. When they ask him a question about dreams he immediately reminds them that it is God who provides their sustenance, as well as his own knowledge of dream interpretation. Joseph is very careful to make a distinction between what is from God and what is from himself. He makes his religion clear. He does not believe the religion being practiced around him but believes in the true religion that includes belief in the Hereafter. Joseph asserts that his family, the family of Abraham, hold the knowledge of the Oneness of God, and that his religion and family do not attribute partners to God. Although the people of Egypt knew about God they choose to worship other deities as partners or intercessors.

After informing his companions that false gods have no substance and explaining the Omnipotence of God, Joseph interprets the dreams. He says, one of you will become a close associate of the King, the other will be crucified and birds will eat from his head.

“As for one of you, he (as a servant) will pour out wine for his lord to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire.” (Quran 12:41)

Joseph approached the companion who destined to be close to the King and said “please remember me to your King”. He hoped that the King would look into his case, see his oppression and free him. However, the whisperings and subterfuge of Satan, caused the companion to forget to mention Joseph and consequently he remained in prison for a few more years. The scholars of Islam hold two different opinions about the nature of the forgetfulness. Ibn Katheer mentions that the companion forgot to mention Joseph, whereas other scholars focus on the possibility that Joseph forgot to seek the help of God, and thus the companion forgot to mention him. Whatever the case, Joseph remained in prison and continued to trust in God with patience and fortitude.
The King’s Dream

The King dreamed he was standing on the banks of the Nile watching seven fat cows emerge from the river, followed by seven lean ones. The seven lean cows devoured the fat ones. Next, the dream changed and he watched seven green ears of grain growing on the banks of the Nile. They disappeared into the mud and on the same spot grew seven dry ears of grain. The King awoke shocked and frightened, and sent for his sorcerers, priests and ministers. They failed to interpret the dream and reached the unanimous conclusion that it was just a nightmare. Joseph’s companion from the prison came to hear of the dream and remembered Joseph. With the King’s permission, he rushed to the prison and asked Joseph to interpret the dream.

“Joseph said, ‘For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that the harvest which you reap you shall leave in ears, all --except a little of it which you may eat. Then will come after that seven hard years, which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, all except a little of that which you have guarded (stored). Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press wine and oil.’” (Quran 12:47-49)

The King was astonished at this interpretation, not only did Joseph give the meaning but also recommended a course of action. The King demanded Joseph be bought before him. However, Joseph refused to leave prison and insisted the messenger return to the King and ask him, “What happened to the women who cut their hands?” (Quran 12:50) Joseph did not want to leave the prison until his innocence was established.


[1] Fitnah is an Arabic word that does not translate easily into English. It means a time of trial or tribulation. Most particularly a situation that prevents one from worshipping God correctly, or causes acts of disobedience or disbelief..

Parts of This Article
The Story of Joseph (part 1 of 7): The Tale Begins
The Story of Joseph (part 2 of 7): Treachery and Deception
The Story of Joseph (part 3 of 7): Sold into Slavery
The Story of Joseph (part 4 of 7): Beauty and a Test

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Story of Joseph (part 4 of 7): Beauty and a Test

Although betrayed and sold into slavery, Joseph, the son of Prophet Jacob, settled into one of the great houses of Egypt. His master, Al Azeez, Chief Minister of Egypt vowed to treat Joseph kindly, and Joseph, who was grateful for the relative safety, replied that he would be loyal to his new master. He thanked God for rectifying his situation and placing him in a place devoid of maltreatment and abuse. Joseph went from the position of beloved son to the dark depths of the well, from iron shackles to a position of ease. Joseph’s life twisted and turned, but the house of Al Aziz was where he grew into manhood.

The scholars of Islam have estimated that Joseph was around 14 years old when betrayed by his brothers. Imam Ibn Katheer, one of the most respected Quran scholars, explained in his work, “Stories of the Prophets”, that Joseph was most probably the personal attendant of Al Aziz’s wife. Ibn Katheer described Joseph as obedient, polite and exceedingly handsome. Prophet Muhammad also described Joseph, and called him “The embodiment of half of all beauty”[1]. As Joseph grew, God gave him wisdom and good judgement, and Chief Minister Al Aziz recognised these qualities in his loyal servant and therefore put him in charge of all household affairs. All who knew him, including the wife of Al Aziz, acknowledged Joseph’s beauty, honesty, and nobility. She watched Joseph grow into a handsome man and became more attracted to him as each day passed.

The Trial

“And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: ‘Come on, O you.’” (Quran 12:23)

The beautiful wife of Al Aziz closed the doors and tried to seduce the slave Joseph, but he resisted her advances and sought refuge with God. He sought help in God. Joseph told her he would not betray her husband. Joseph said, “He has been good to me and treated me with respect.” Joseph knew that those who commit evil acts will never be successful. The wife of al Aziz had an evil desire and tried to act upon it; Joseph however resisted the temptation and tried to escape. Prophet Muhammad tells us that if you make the intention to commit an evil act and actually carry out that act, God will have it written against you as one evil act. However if you think about committing an evil act and then do not do it, God will have it written as a good act.[2]

Joseph drove any thoughts of sleeping with the wife of his master from his mind, sought refuge with God and attempted to remove himself from the complicated situation. Perhaps Joseph had been resisting her advances for many years. A rich beautiful woman from the highest echelons of Egyptian society would not stoop immediately to such behaviour. Her beauty, status and wealth meant that most men or boys would succumb to her desires easily. Joseph however was no ordinary man, and when he immediately turned to God for help, God rescued him.

“Indeed she did desire him and he would have inclined to her desire had he not seen the evidence of his Lord. Thus, it was that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our chosen, guided slaves.” (Quran 12:24)

Joseph is one of the leaders of those who will be shaded by God on the Day of Judgement. Prophet Muhammad explained that the heat of the Day of Judgment would be fierce, and people will be mingling with fear as they wait to be judged by God. There will be however, certain categories of people shaded from this brutal heat. One of them is a man who resisted the temptations of a beautiful, desirable woman by seeking refuge with God.[3]

Joseph’s refusal only increased her passion. He tried to flee and they raced with each other to the door. The wife of Al Aziz reached for Joseph’s shirt and tore it from his back. At that moment, the door opened and her husband walked in. Immediately, with out even one second’s hesitation, the wife of al Aziz attempted to turn the situation around. She cried out to her husband, “What is the punishment for one who had an evil design against your wife?” This was a clear lie, yet she pronounced it easily and suggested that Joseph be put in prison. Joseph tried to defend himself and said, “No, it was she that sought to seduce me”. (Quran 12:25 – 26) One of their relatives suddenly appeared and offered a way to solve this dilemma. He said,

“If it be that his shirt is torn from the front, then her tale is true, and he is a liar! But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then she has told a lie and he is speaking the truth!” (Quran 12:27 – 28)

If his shirt was torn from the back, which it was, it meant that he was trying to escape and she was running after him, tearing the shirt from his back. The proof was unmistakeable. The Chief Minister, although clearly upset, was more concerned with covering up this affair. He did not want his good name and position to be sullied by a scandal. He asked Joseph to be silent about the situation and told his wife to ask forgiveness from God. This should have been an end to the matter, but as is common in more wealthy societies, people have a lot of time on their hands. Many hours are wasted having meals and gossiping about the affairs of their friends, neighbours and relatives.

The Women

The women of the city began to talk about the wife of Al Aziz and her infatuation with her slave Joseph. The news was spreading and the women asked themselves how she could desire a slave and put her reputation in jeopardy. The wife of Al Aziz thought she would teach these women a lesson and show them just how beautiful and desirable Joseph was. She invited them to have lunch with her, laid a beautiful table before them and handed them knives to cut the food. The room was probably full of tension and silent looks as the women hoped for a glimpse of this slave, while at the same time considering themselves better then the wife of Al Aziz. The women started eating, and at that moment, Joseph walked into the room. They looked up, saw his beauty and forgot that they had knives in their hands. The women were so entranced by his shape and form that they cut clear through their own flesh. They described Joseph as a noble angel. The wife of Al Aziz, confident and haughty said to her guests,

“This is he (the young man) about whom you did blame me (for his love) and I did seek to seduce him, but he refused. And now if he refuses to obey my order, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and will be one of those who are disgraced.” Quran 12:32)

What was to become of Joseph? Once again, with total humility, he turned to God saying that prison was preferable to succumbing the women’s desires. Therefore, his Lord answered his invocation.


[1] Saheeh Muslim

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari.

[3] Ibid.

Parts of This Article
The Story of Joseph (part 1 of 7): The Tale Begins
The Story of Joseph (part 2 of 7): Treachery and Deception
The Story of Joseph (part 3 of 7): Sold into Slavery

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Story of Joseph (part 3 of 7): Sold into Slavery

Lead astray by the whisperings of Satan and filled with jealousy and pride, the brothers deceived their father Jacob and betrayed their young brother. Thrown deep into a well by his older brothers, Joseph the beloved son of Prophet Jacob, clung throughout the long night to a ledge and tried to put his trust in God. The time passed slowly and the heat of the morning sun beat down heavily on the scorched earth. Later that day a caravan travelling to Egypt approached the well.

When the caravan arrived. the travellers went about their business, some tethering camels, others tending to the horses, some unpacking, and others preparing food. The water drawer went to the well and lowered his bucket, happy in anticipation of cool, clear water. Joseph was startled as the bucket hurtled towards him. but before it hit the water, he reached out and clung to the rope. Surprised by the weight of the bucket, the man peered over the edge of the well. He was shocked and excited when he saw a child clinging to the rope. The man called his companions to help him draw the child from the well and all were amazed at the sight of this beautiful child, not quite a youth, who stood before them.

Looking at the boy, the water bearer could not hide his excitement and cried aloud, “What good news!” (Quran 12:19) The man was overjoyed; he immediately decided to sell Joseph, knowing that he stood to make a lot of money in the slave market. Just as the brothers had predicted, the men of the caravan took Joseph to Egypt expecting to sell him for a handsome price. The slave markets of Egypt were teeming with people, some buying, and some selling, others just watching the proceedings. The beautiful boy found in the well attracted many onlookers, and bidding for him was swift. The price continued to rise beyond their expectations, and Joseph was eventually purchased by Azeez, the Chief Minister of Egypt.

However, God tells us in the Quran that they sold him for a low price. (12:20) This does not seem to make sense since the men of the caravan were jubilant by the price they received. God described the price as low because Joseph was actually worth more then they could ever have imagined. The men did not realise just who this child would grow up to be. They believed that although beautiful, Joseph was insignificant. Nothing could have been further from the truth, if they had of sold him for his weight in gold, it would have been a cheap price for the man who would grow up to be Joseph, Prophet of God.

In the House of Azeez

The Chief Minister, Azeez, sensed immediately that this was no ordinary child. He took him to his home, one of the great mansions of Egypt, and said to his wife,

“‘Make his stay comfortable, may be he will profit us or we shall adopt him as a son.’ Thus did We establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of events.” (Quran12:21)

God placed Joseph into the home of the second most important person in Egypt. Chief Minister Azeez was more then just a prime minister, he was also the treasurer of Egypt. God established Joseph in the land in order to teach him wisdom and understanding. The struggling and striving required by Joseph to overcome the separation from his father and family, the difficulty of being betrayed by your older presumably protective brothers, the ordeal in the well and the humiliation of being sold into slavery were all trials designed to mould Joseph’s character. They were the first steps on the ladder to greatness. God used the treachery of Joseph’s brothers to fulfil His plan for Joseph’s establishment as a Prophet of God.

The brothers of Joseph believed they had matters under control when they put their brother in the well, but in reality, the matter was out of their hands. God is the one in control of all affairs. God was decisive in His action, and His plan was carried out despite the treachery, jealousy and pride of others. Joseph found himself in the decision making centre of Egypt with a man who seemed kind and somehow aware of Joseph’s special qualities. While longing for his father and brother Benjamin, Joseph was well taken care, and lived in luxurious surroundings. Joseph grew to manhood in the house of Azeez and God bestowed on him good judgement and knowledge.

“And when he (Joseph) attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge (the Prophethood), thus We reward the doers of good.” (Quran12:22)

God granted Joseph both knowledge and wisdom. Not one just one, but both qualities. He was given the ability to understand and the ability to use good judgement when applying his knowledge. This is not always the case. There are many people throughout the history of the world, up to and including the present day, who have knowledge but do not have the ability or judgement to apply that knowledge in an effective way.

One of the great scholars of Islam, Imam Abu Haneefa, held regular learning circles in which presented a topic for debate. The topic would be discussed and opinions given, then Imam Abu Haneefa would give a final verdict. This way of teaching was unique at that time. There was amongst this circle of learning a scholar of the narrations of Prophet Muhammad; he recited one that Imam Hanifa had never heard before. Just at that time, a woman approached the circle and asked a question. The scholar replied that he did not know the answer, but Imam Abu Hanifa was able to answer her question. He then turned to the members of the learning circle and said. “I know the answer to this question from the hadeeth our brother had just mentioned”. Thus, it is possible to have the knowledge but not know how to apply it. Prophet Joseph, as with all the Prophets of God was given the knowledge and the wisdom to understand and apply it.

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Parts of This Article
The Story of Joseph (part 1 of 7): The Tale Begins
The Story of Joseph (part 2 of 7): Treachery and Deception