Moses (موسیٰ) is one of the greatest prophets of God in Islam, and one of the five great prophets after Abraham who had his own Holy Scripture as well as sharia (religious code of practice). He is revered by all Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moreover, the name of this noble prophet has been mentioned the most in the Quran compared to other prophets. That is, his name has been mentioned 135 times in various surahs of the Quran. Above all, the story of Moses in the Quran teaches us many lessons. God has given the title Kalīmullāh (کَليمُ الله) to Moses because God spoke to him directly. In this article, we will take a look at the story of Moses in verses of the Quran and the Bible, who the pharaoh (فِرعَون) of that time was, Moses’ miracles, and his family tree.
- Verses About Moses in the Quran
- Moses in the Quran: The Pharaoh
- Pharaoh in the Bible
- Moses in the Quran: Moses’ Family Tree
- The Story of Moses in the Quran
- The Birth of Moses in the Quran
- Adoption and Nursing
- Adulthood of Moses in the Quran
- The Repentance of Moses in the Quran
- Escape of Moses in the Quran From the City
- Arrival in Midian
- Marriage of Moses in the Quran
- God Speaks With Moses for the First Time
- God Gives Two Miracles to Moses
- The Supplication of Moses in the Quran
- Read More
- Moses’ and Aaron’s Mission Begins
- The Confrontation of Moses in the Quran With the Pharaoh
- Moses in the Quran Introduces God to the Pharaoh
- Moses in the Quran Shows God Signs to the Pharaoh
- Moses in the Quran: Moses vs. the Sorcerers
- Moses in the Quran: The Sorcerers’ Reaction
- Moses in the Quran: The Exodus
- Moses in the Quran: The Pharaoh Drowns
- Moses in the Quran: The Israelites’ Settlement
- The Covenant of Moses in the Quran With God
- Moses in the Quran: The Tablets of Stone
- Moses in the Quran: The Golden Calf
- Moses in the Quran: The Punishment and Repentance
- Moses in the Quran: The Slaughtering of a Cow
- Other Stories of Moses in the Quran
Verses About Moses in the Quran
The story of Moses is the most repeated of all stories that have been mentioned in the Quran. This is because, as Prophet Muhammad has said, the people of his nation would go through many of the hardships and sufferings that the Israelites (بَني إِسرائيل) went through. 1 In other words, they share many parallels and by listening to verses about Moses, Muslims would be able to compare the events that took place at the time of Moses to their own time.
For example, both the Israelites and Muslims were downtrodden and persecuted at the beginning. Consequently, God sent a savior from among them who freed them from their shackles. Likewise, both the nations of Moses and Muhammad were forced to migrate away from their enemies so that they could freely practice their religion. That is to say, Moses and his people migrated from Egypt toward the east of the Red Sea, a migration known as the Exodus. Likewise, the Prophet and the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina, a migration known as the Hijra. Most importantly, both prophets appointed a vizier or vicegerent from their own family to lead their people in their absence. That is, Moses made his brother Aaron (هارون) his vizier and vicegerent, while the Prophet made his cousin ‘Ali (عَلي) his vizier both during his life and after it. And of course, there are many other similarities.
Moses in the Quran: The Pharaoh
Since long ago, a group of kings emerged in Egypt who were known as pharaohs. Most of them considered themselves as gods and demanded people to worship them. As regards the Pharaoh that lived at the time of Moses, it may have been Merneptah. In fact, a French medical doctor by the name of Maurice Bucaille who was very much interested in examining mummies of pharaohs studied the mummified body of Merneptah, and found out that he most probably died as a result of drowning, due to the remains of salt that were in his body.
After Dr. Bucaille was informed that this incident and the survival of the Pharaoh’s body has been mentioned in the Quran, he converted to Islam because the Quran had drawn attention to this fact several centuries ago before modern scientific advancements that enabled scientists to arrive at such a conclusion.
Later on, Dr. Bucaille wrote many books such as one titled The Bible, the Quran and Science that talks about the agreements that exist between modern science and the Quran in various scientific fields.
Pharaoh in the Bible
The story of Moses has been told in great detail in the Hebrew Bible. Most of what has been told in the Quran has also been stated in the Hebrew Bible. Albeit, there are some major differences. For example, the Bible states that Aaron who was Moses’ second-in-command made a golden calf for the Children of Israel, who are also known as the Israelites, to worship when Moses had gone to Mount Sinai. On the other hand, the Quran states that a man named Samiri (سامِريّ) made the golden calf. As a matter of fact, the Quran states that Aaron dissuaded the Israelites from worshipping the golden calf. There are also many other differences between the story of Moses in the Quran and the Bible.
Moses in the Quran: Moses’ Family Tree
Ibrahim & Sareh
Isaac & Rebecca
Jacob & Leah
Amram & Jochabed
Aaron & Moses
The Story of Moses in the Quran
The story of Moses has been told and repeated in various surahs of the Quran from different perspectives. For example, surahs such as A‘rāf, Ṭāhā, Shu‘arā’, and Qaṣaṣ give detailed accounts of different aspects of Moses’ story. Despite the fact there are certain similarities between them, the wording is different in each surah such that it conforms to the occasion, context, and flow of the verses. Likewise, some other chapters of the Quran tell other fragments of the story of Moses that may have not been mentioned in the aforementioned surahs. Nonetheless, none of these stories are contradictory to each other. In fact, they complement each other and give extra information.
The Birth of Moses in the Quran
The Quran goes into the details of almost all aspects of Moses’ life. First of all, it states how Moses was born at a time when the male children of the Israelites were killed by the Pharaoh and their women kept alive. 2 This was due to a prophecy which one of the sages of the Pharaoh had made about a child from the Israelites who would be born to topple the Pharaoh. As a result, the Pharaoh would kill any male child that was born to the Israelites.
It has been stated in Islamic narrations that the birth of Moses was a miracle. That is to say, his mother Jochabed (يوكابِد) had no sign of pregnancy prior to Moses’ birth. This was so Moses’ life would be spared and he would grow up to lead the Israelites who were enslaved by the Pharaoh. Shortly after his birth, Moses’ mother would try her best to hide Moses from the people of the Pharaoh lest they would kill him. Therefore, just as it has been mentioned in surah Qaṣaṣ and Ṭāhā, 3 God revealed to her to place Moses in a basket and cast him into the sea. Then, He promised her that He will restore Moses to her and make him one of the prophets. 4
We can learn from this passage that:
- If God wills something, it will definitely happen. Despite the fact the Pharaoh killed every male child born to the Israelites, he was unable to prevent the birth and survival of his future enemy, Moses.
- God is protective of all of His prophets and vicegerents on earth. No one will be able to inflict harm on them by the will of God, until they accomplish their mission.
Adoption and Nursing
Subsequently, Moses was found by the family of the Pharaoh. The wife of the Pharaoh, whose name has been said to be Asiyah (آسيَة) in narrations, felt love for baby Moses. Therefore, she said to the Pharaoh: Do not kill him! He is the light of our eyes, which is an Arabic idiom meaning a source of comfort. So, she said: He may be of benefit to us or we may adopt him as a son. 5
Meanwhile, Moses’ mother missed his son very much. As a result, she was about to reveal this to others, had God not strengthened her faith in His promise. 6 She told Moses’ sister, whom the Bible names as Miriam, to follow the baby. She watched Moses from a distance so they would not recognize her and become suspicious of her. 7 God had willed that Moses would be forbidden to wet nurses other than his mother. 8
Therefore, Moses’ sister went to the family of Pharaoh and informed them of a family who could nurse the child, and who were his well-wishers. 9 Consequently, Moses was restored to his mother whereat she nursed him and became very happy. As a result, the mother and child were reunited. In addition, Jochabed came to know that God’s promise shall always be fulfilled. 10
We learn from this part of the story that:
- God made the Pharaoh raise his own enemy in his palace without him knowing anything about it. This shows God’s power and knowledge over all things and the ignorance of His enemies.
- God’s promise will always be fulfilled no matter what. Who would have thought the same baby that was adopted by the Pharaoh would be returned to his mother to be nursed by her?
Adulthood of Moses in the Quran
The Quran continues the story of Moses by relating how he was raised by the Pharaoh and his family to become a fine young man, after which God gave him judgment and knowledge. 11 Despite being raised in the court of the Pharaoh, Moses was a monotheist and a distinguished man of the Israelites.
Once, he was in the city away from the eyes of his family whereupon he saw two men fighting. One of them was his follower (i.e. an Israelite) and the other was his enemy (an Egyptian). Moses came to the help of his follower and punched his enemy. As a result, the Egyptian fell to the ground and died. Moses said that what they were doing, that is, fighting, was the deed of the Satan, an enemy who is in manifest error. 12
Some lessons we can learn are:
- It is possible for an individual such as Moses to safeguard his faith in God and be immune from corruption despite being raised in a pagan and corrupt environment.
- It is the duty of all of God’s prophets to come to the aid of their followers when they are in need of urgent help. Had Moses not helped his fellow Israelite, perhaps he would have been killed by the Egyptian.
- Moses was such a strong young man who just by dealing one blow to his enemy, killed him.
The Repentance of Moses in the Quran
Moses felt he had wronged himself by unintentionally killing the Egyptian and asked for God’s forgiveness. So, God forgave him as He is forgiving and merciful. 13 However, because all prophets are infallible and never commit any sins or error, what Moses did was an action known as tark al-awlā (تَركُ الأَلیٰ), meaning an action that is neither a sin nor mistake, but better avoided.
Some of the lessons we learn from this fragment of the story is:
- The great prophets of God who have a very high station ask for God’s forgiveness even if what they have done is not a sin. This shows that they are very conscious of their actions.
- God is very forgiving and merciful to such an extent that right after asking for his forgiveness, God forgives Moses without any delay.
Escape of Moses in the Quran From the City
The next day, Moses was walking in the city when he found the same Israelite whom he had helped the other day fighting again with another Egyptian. Once again, he called for Moses’ help. When he was about to help his comrade, the Egyptian shouted: Do you want to kill me like the way you killed someone yesterday?! You only wish to be a tyrant in the land and not a reformer! 14
Subsequently, a man rushed from the outskirts of the city telling Moses to immediately leave the city as the elites of the Pharaoh want to kill him for killing one of their men. 15
Therefore, Moses left the city cautiously. He supplicated to God saying: My Lord! Save me from the wrongdoers. 16
Arrival in Midian
Moses left to a faraway place known as Midian (مَديَن). He once again invoked God to guide him. 17 Then, he came close to a well and saw a group of people who watered their flock. Among them, he came upon two ladies who distanced themselves from those men. Therefore, Moses said to them: What are you doing? Why are you holding your flock back and away from them? They said: We cannot water our flocks until the shepherds finish watering their flocks and leave. This was probably because, due to their modesty and chastity, these two women did not wish to mingle with male strangers (i.e. non-mahram men). Then they continued: Our father is an old man and cannot help us. 18
Therefore, Moses watered their flocks for them. Then, he sat in the shade in seclusion and pleaded his Lord saying: My Lord! I am indeed in need of any good You may send down to me! 19 Subsequently, one of the two ladies approached Moses while walking with modesty and said: My father summons you to give you the reward for watering our flock. Then, Moses went to their father, who is said to be Prophet Shu‘ayb (شُعَيب: possibly the biblical Jethro), the prophet of the people of Midian whose story has been mentioned in the Quran as well. 20
Marriage of Moses in the Quran
When Moses told his story to Shu‘ayb, he said to Moses: Have no fear. You have been saved from the wrongdoing lot. 21 Then one of his daughters said: Father! Hire him as he is a very strong and trustworthy man! 22 Then Shu‘ayb said to Moses: I wish to marry one of my daughters to you, provided that you work eight years for me. If you want you can work ten years, but I do not wish to be hard on you. God willing, you will find me as a righteous individual. 23
You can work for me for either eight or ten years. This is something between me and you. Whichever of the terms I complete, it is not forced on me and God is witness to what we say. 24 Therefore, Moses married one of Shu‘ayb’s daughters whose name in the Bible is Zipporah, which in Arabic it is Ṣafūrah (صَفورَة).
God Speaks With Moses for the First Time
When Moses completed his term, he set out with his wife toward Egypt. He then felt the warmth of a fire nearby Mount Sinai. He said to his family: Wait here, perhaps I can bring some news from it, or bring some of it here so we can get warm. 25 When Moses reached it, he saw that a tree was on fire. Then he heard a voice: Moses! Indeed it is I God, Lord of the worlds. 26 God had manifested Himself in the form of a fire to Moses.
God continued, “I have chosen you. So listen to what I reveal to you. Indeed it is I God; there is no deity but Me. Therefore, worship me and establish the prayer for My remembrance. Indeed the Resurrection day is near; however, I wish to conceal it from others so that I may reward or punish every soul for what they do. But do not let those who do not believe in it and follower their desires distract you from it. Otherwise you will perish.” 27
God Gives Two Miracles to Moses
Then God said to Moses: Throw down your staff! So he did. The staff turned it a huge snake. Consequently, Moses became afraid of it and began to flee. Then God said: Moses! Do not be afraid. 28 Take hold of the snake and it will be returned to its former state. 29 God was showing Moses His miracles so that he could prove the veracity of his prophetic mission.
Then God said: Put your hands under your arm and bring it out. It will be white without fault. This is yet another miracle to prove your veracity to the oppressive Pharaoh and his men. 30 Go to Pharaoh as he has transgressed. Because God spoke to Moses directly, he became known as Kalīmullāh, that is, one who is spoken to by God.
The Supplication of Moses in the Quran
Moses supplicated to God and asked God to grant him a few requests. Moses said: O my Lord! Open my breast for me. 31 That is, give me the necessary patience and willpower to carry out my task. He continued: Make my affair easy for me. Remove my speech impediment, so that they may understand me. 32
In this regard, narrations have stated that when Moses was a young infant, he grabbed the Pharaoh’s beard and would not let go. Whatever Pharaoh’s close ones did to make Moses let go of Pharaoh’s beard was to no avail. Finally, Moses himself let go of Pharaoh’s beard. As a result, the Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses for this. However, Asiyah, the Pharaoh’s wife told her husband that what he did was a childish act. So, she said: Test him by putting a gold coin and a hot coal before him and see what he does. When they did that, Moses grabbed the hot coal. As a result, he burned his hand. So, he put the coal in his mouth. That is when he acquired a speech impediment. 33
Then Moses said another prayer: Make a person from my family my vizier; Aaron my brother, as he his more eloquent in speech than me. 34 Send him to help me. God said: I have fulfilled your requests O Moses. 35 Then God reminded Moses all the blessings He bestowed on him since the time he was born until his adulthood. 36
Moses’ and Aaron’s Mission Begins
Moses then returned to his brother Aaron and informed him of their mission. Then God revealed to them both saying: Go to the Pharaoh with My signs (i.e. the two miracles). Indeed, he has transgressed. Speak to him softly so that he may take admonition or fear. Moses and Aaron said: We fear lest he plots against us and exceeds the limits. God said: Do not fear! I am with you, hearing and watching you. Go both of you to him and say that you are messengers of your Lord. Then say: Send the Israelites with us and do not punish them. May peace be on all those who follow guidance! 37
The Confrontation of Moses in the Quran With the Pharaoh
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh with the two miracles God had given them and said to him: We are Messengers from the Lord of the worlds. Free the Israelites and let them come with us. 38 I have come with a sign from your Lord. The Pharaoh was enraged by the words spoken by Moses. He said: Were we not the one who raised you while you were a child and were it not you who lived with us for several years? Then it was you who killed one of our men. Indeed, you are ungrateful. 39
Moses replied, I committed that act while I was not yet guided by my Lord (i.e. to become a prophet). Therefore, I ran away from you as I was afraid of you. After that, God gave me sound judgment and made me a prophet. Are you imposing an obligation on me by enslaving the Israelites? 40
Moses in the Quran Introduces God to the Pharaoh
The Pharaoh said, who do you say is your Lord O Moses that you call the Lord of the worlds? Moses said: Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation and then guided it. 41 He is the Lord of the heavens, the earth, and whatever is between them, should you have conviction. 42 The Pharaoh said: What about the former generations? 43 Moses replied: Their knowledge is with my Lord, in a Book, My Lord neither makes any error nor forgets. 44 Then the Pharaoh said to his courtiers: Did you hear what he said? Then mockingly continued: Your Lord and the Lord of your ancestors! This man who has been sent as your prophet has indeed gone mad! 45
Moses ignored this comment of the Pharaoh and instead further described God saying: He is the Lord of the east and the west, do you not apply reason? 46 He is the one who made the earth for you a cradle, and in it threaded for you ways, and sent down water from the sky, and with it He brought forth various kinds of vegetation. Then God said: ‘Eat and pasture your cattle.’ There are indeed signs in that for those who have sense. God then said: We created you from earth, into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you forth another time. 47
Moses in the Quran Shows God Signs to the Pharaoh
The Pharaoh once again said: If you worship any God besides me, I will imprison you! Moses replied: What if I bring a manifest proof of my truthfulness? The Pharaoh said: Fair enough, bring it if you speak the truth. 48
Therefore, Moses threw down his staff, and it turned into a giant snake. He then placed his right hand in his shirt, then brought it out after which his hands became bright like a lamp. The Pharaoh retorted: Moses is indeed a skilled sorcerer! He wants to drive us away from our land with his sorcery. The Pharaoh asked his elite: What do you say we do? 49 They said: First, grant him and his brother respite. Second, send heralds to cities to bring the most adept and knowledgeable sorcerers. 50
Moses in the Quran: Moses vs. the Sorcerers
So Pharaoh summoned all the skilled sorcerers from different cities and they were placed against Moses and Aaron. Next, he invited all people to witness the duel between Moses and the sorcerers. Then, when the sorcerers came to Pharaoh, they said: Will we have a reward from you if we are victorious? The Pharaoh replied: Of course! You would be my nearest courtiers! 51
The sorcerers said: O Moses! Will you throw first or shall we? Moses replied, No, you throw first. 52 Therefore, they threw down ropes that appeared to people as giant snakes. They said: In honor of the Pharaoh, we shall be victorious! Moses felt fear lest the people are deceived by their false magic. However, God assured him and said: “Do not be afraid. You have the upper hand. Throw down what is in your right hand and it will swallow what they have conjured. What they have conjured is only a magician’s trick, and the magician does not fare well wherever he may show up.’” 53 Then Moses threw down his staff and it turned into a huge serpent that devoured all the fake snakes. 54
Moses in the Quran: The Sorcerers’ Reaction
When the sorcerers witnessed this, they fully realized that this is not sorcery but a miracle. Therefore, they fell prostrate and said: We believe in the Lord of the worlds; the Lord of Moses and Aaron! The Pharaoh cried: You believed before I gave you the permission! I shall cut off your hands and feet from opposite sides and shall crucify you! 55 Then you will know which of us has a severer and more lasting punishment! 56
The sorcerers said: No matter! We shall return to our Lord then. We only want that God forgives our sins and we become among the first who believe! 57
Moses in the Quran: The Exodus
After Moses gathered the Israelites, God revealed to Moses: Quickly travel with My servants by night, as the Pharaoh is pursuing you! 58 Therefore, Moses and the Israelites immediately moved toward the east, until they reached the Red Sea. Meanwhile, the Pharaoh sent heralds to all nearby cities to look for them and surround them. He said: They are just a small group of people. Surely they have made us angry. However, we are fully prepared. Were we not the ones who expelled them from gardens and springs, and made them abandon their treasures and homes? The Pharaoh was right, but God had made the Israelites the heirs of such things. 59
So Pharaoh and his entourage chased them at sunrise. 60 Therefore, Moses and the Pharaoh confronted one another by the Red sea. The Israelites were frightened. They said, this is our end, the Pharaoh will now capture us. Moses said: Do not worry, my Lord is with me and He shall guide me. Consequently, God commanded Moses to strike the sea with his staff. As a result, the sea parted and each part was a like a huge mountain. Then, Pharaoh and his men marched toward the parted sea. When all of Moses and his followers passed the sea, God brought the sea together once again, and the Pharaoh and his men drowned. 61
Moses in the Quran: The Pharaoh Drowns
While the Pharaoh was drowning, he shouted, “I believe that there is no god except Him in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of those who submit [to Him]!’” He was told, “What! Now? When you have been disobedient heretofore and were among the agents of corruption?!” Then God said, “Today We shall deliver your body so that you may be a sign for those who come after you. Indeed many of the people are oblivious to Our signs.” 62 Therefore, God caused Pharaoh’s dead body to remain intact, so the future generations would draw a lesson from it. 63
Moses in the Quran: The Israelites’ Settlement
After making a successful escape from the Pharaoh, Moses and the Israelites settled on the right side of Mount Sinai, a region that is situated east of the Red Sea. The Israelites were then split into twelve tribes. They were in a desert were there was no water or anything to eat. 64 Therefore, God ordered Moses to strike his staff on a rock. Consequently, twelve springs gushed forth. Each tribe was told from which spring to drink from. Then God sent down food for the Israelites that was called manna and quails (مَنَّ والسَّلوی). 65 According to the Book of Exodus 16:31, manna was a form of bread that was white and sweet as honey, and quail is a kind of small fleshy bird. It is said that its meat and egg is very nutritious.
The Covenant of Moses in the Quran With God
God made a covenant with Moses that he stays thirty nights atop Mount Sinai in order to worship Him, fast, and receive instructions. Then Moses was told to stay ten more nights making it a total of forty nights. Before leaving his people, Moses said to his brother and vizier Aaron: Take my place among my people, be good and do not follow the agents of corruption. 66
When Moses reached the meeting place with his Lord, God spoke to him. Moses said: My Lord! Show Yourself to me so I can see You! God said: You can never see me. But look at the mountain, if it stands in its place, then you will see me. Therefore, when God manifested Himself on the mountain, the Mountain levelled and Moses lost his consciousness. When he regained his consciousness, he said: My Lord, You are clear of any false attribution. I repent to you and I am the first one of those who show faith in You. 67 We can conclude from this incident that God does not have a physical body. Therefore, eyes cannot see Him, but the hearts can.
Moses in the Quran: The Tablets of Stone
God said to Moses, I have chosen you over your people with My messages and speech. Now I will give you tablets of stone that contain everything that is to be known and explanation of all things. Then God continued: Hold on to them firmly O Moses and tell your people to do so as well to the best of their ability. Then God said: I will soon show you the abode of the transgressors. 68
God said: “Soon I shall turn away from My signs those who are unduly arrogant in the earth: [even] though they should see every sign, they will not believe in it, and if they see the way of rectitude they will not take it as [their] way, and if they see the way of error they will take it as [their] way. That is because they deny Our signs and are oblivious to them.’ Those who deny Our signs and the encounter of the Hereafter, their works have failed. Shall they not be requited for what they used to do?” 69
Moses in the Quran: The Golden Calf
Meanwhile Moses’ absence, a man named Samiri told the Israelites to bring him all their ornaments and gold. Then he made a golden calf out of them. He struck it with the soil on which an angel had stepped while they were crossing the sea. As a result, the calf would give out a sound. Samiri said: This is your God and the God of Moses that he forgot to tell you! 70 Meanwhile, Aaron who was Moses’ deputy said to them: O my people! You are being tested by this calf. Indeed, your Lord is the one only, All-beneficent God. So follow me and obey command. 71 However, the Israelites said to Aaron: We will keep on worshipping this calf until Moses returns. 72
God informed Moses of what his people had done saying: Indeed, We tried your people in your absence and Samiri has misled them. So Moses returned to his people angrily and said to them: You have done evil in my absence! Do you wish to hasten God’s punishment on you?! 73 Then he threw down the tablets and grabbed Aaron’s head and beard and pulled it toward himself and said: O son of my mother! O my brother! What kept you when you saw them going astray and disobeying my commands? 74
Aaron addressed Moses in the same way as he did saying: O son of my mother! Do not grab my beard or head. I feared lest you say: You have caused discord among the Israelites and did not listen to my words of advice. 75 Indeed, our people considered me weak and were about to kill me. Do not take me with the wrongdoers. 76 Therefore, Moses asked God to forgive him and his brother and show His mercy to them. 77 Subsequently, Moses threw the golden calf into fire and scattered its ashes into the sea and told Samiri: Now look at your god and see how it is burned. 78 Then Moses said: Indeed your God is the one and only God and there is no god but Him. He has knowledge of all things. 79
Moses in the Quran: The Punishment and Repentance
The Children of Israel regretted their action. They said if God does not forgive us, we will be miserable. 80 After Moses’ anger subsided, he once again picked up the Tablets of Stone that contained guidance and mercy. 81 Moses said to his people: Indeed you have wronged yourselves by taking up the Calf as your deity. Now repent to your Lord and slay yourselves. 82 The only way their repentance would be accepted was for a group of them who had not worshipped the calf to fight another group that had done so. As a result, 70,000 of them were killed. Afterward, God commanded Moses to tell them to stop as God has forgiven the rest of those who were still alive as well.
It was quite unexpected from a group of people who had seen so many miracles and signs of God from Moses such as the staff turning to a serpent, the white hand, the parting of the sea, the descent of manna and quail, and the springs that gushed out from a rock after Moses struck it with his staff. After witnessing all of these signs, they deserved to be punished in this way so that their sin would be forgiven. This shows how grave the sin of idolatry and polytheism is.
Moses in the Quran: The Slaughtering of a Cow
Surah Baqarah which is the second chapter of the Noble Quran relates the story of how the Israelites were commanded to slaughter a cow as a test from God. This is actually the reason this surah is named Baqarah which means cow.
Narrations tell the whole of this wonderful story. There was a righteous man who was very good to his parents. One day, his father was asleep. Meanwhile, he was about to make a lucrative deal with someone. However, his shop was closed and its key was in the hands of his father who was sleeping. Therefore, the only way to seal this deal was for him to wake up his father and get the key to the shop. However, that righteous man, due to his respect for his father, did not wake him up and rejected the deal. As a result, he lost the customer.
When his father woke up and found out what had happened, he thanked his son and gave a cow he had as a present to him and said: I hope a great deal of blessing comes to you from this cow.
Meanwhile, one of the righteous youths of the Israelites proposed marriage to a girl. She accepted his proposal. On the other hand, the youth’s paternal cousin who was a corrupt and sinful youth proposed to the same girl. She rejected his proposal. The young man got very angry and killed his cousin out of jealousy and lay his body in the middle of one of the neighborhoods. The next day, he went beside the dead body, started crying, and demanded his blood money. He said: Whoever killed him must give his blood money to me! And, if the murderer is not found, the whole neighborhood should pay me the blood money!
Moses in the Quran: The Search for the Murderer
Finding the murderer was practically impossible. The situation was leading to chaos. Therefore, they went to Moses and asked him to ask God to introduce the murderer to them. Moses said to his people: God commands you to slaughter a cow in order to find the killer. His people were surprised and said: Are you making fun of us? Moses said: I seek refuge in God should I be doing that! 83
Moses in the Quran: The Israelites Make Excuses
Instead of obeying God’s command, the Israelites made such a duty difficult for themselves by asking Moses to describe the cow. First, they said: Ask your Lord to tell us how the cow should be. Moses said: God says that she is a cow that is neither old nor young and of a middle age. Now do what you are commanded. 84
Second, they said: Ask your Lord what her color is. Moses said: My Lord says that she is a yellow cow that is bright and pleasing to those who look at it. 85 Third, they asked Moses to ask God to tell them more about the cow. 86 Moses said: God says that she is a cow that has not been tamed to till the earth or water the tillage, yet sound and without any other defect 87 Finally, the Israelites said: Now you have told the truth! 88
Moses in the Quran: The Cow is Found
The Israelites searched thoroughly and found such a cow. The cow was in the house of the same righteous man who respected his parents and treated them well. So they bargained hard with him and eventually they bought the cow at a hefty price, meaning filling its skin with gold coins. They brought the cow to Moses. Then they slaughtered it and touched a part of the body of the cow on the dead body and with God’s leave, the young man returned to life. He said: My cousin who demands blood money is the one who killed me. Therefore, the problem was solved. After that, the guilty man was punished, while the righteous man got married to the girl he had proposed to.
The Quran says in this regard: “And when you killed a soul and accused one another, God exposed what you were concealing. So God said: Strike him with a piece of the cow. Thus does God revive the dead, and He shows you His signs so that you may exercise reason.” 89
Other Stories of Moses in the Quran
Some other stories concerning Moses have also been related in the Quran that are actually substories. For example, there is one story about Moses’ encounter with a wise and knowledgeable servant of God who is identified as Prophet Khidr (خِضر) in narrations. This story has been told clearly and precisely in surah Kahf 18:61-82. For this reason, those who are interested can refer to those verses. There is also a very brief mention about a man named Korah (قارون) who was a wealthy man among the Israelites who was arrogant and disobedient to Moses. Ultimately, as a punishment, God caused the earth to swallow him and his house. 90
The story of Moses in the Quran teaches us many lessons, because his life was filled with many remarkable events such that everyone can relate to it. In truth, these are all news of the Unseen that were revealed to Prophet Muhammad and he and his people did not know anything about them before these verses were revealed. 91 It is also very important that we read the Quran and these verses in the original language of the Quran, that is, Arabic. As a matter of fact, it is highly recommended that all Muslims learn how to read the Quran so that they can receive great reward and appreciate the importance of the Quran.
- Biḥār al-Anwār, vol. 28, p. 7.
- Cf. Quran 2:49; 14:6; 28:4.
- Cf. Quran 20:39; 28:7.
- Quran 28:7.
- Quran 28:9.
- Quran 28:10.
- Quran 28:11.
- Quran 28:12.
- Quran 28:12.
- Quran 28:13.
- Quran 28:14.
- Quran 28:15.
- Quran 28:16.
- Quran 28:18-19.
- Quran 28:20.
- Quran 28:21.
- Quran 28:22.
- Quran 28:23.
- Quran 28:24.
- Cf. Quran 7:85-93; 11:84-95.
- Quran 28:25.
- Quran 28:26.
- Quran 28:27.
- Quran 28:28.
- Quran 28:29.
- Quran 28:30.
- Quran 20:13-16.
- Quran 28:31.
- Quran 20:21.
- Quran 20:22; 28:32.
- Quran 20:25.
- Quran 20:26-28.
- Qutb al-Din Rawandi (قُطبُ الدّين راوندي), Saeed ibn Hebatullah (سَعيد ابن هِبَةُ الله), Qaṣaṣ al-Anbiyā’ (قَصَصُ الأَنبياء), p. 152.
- Quran 20:29-30; 28:33.
- Quran 20:36.
- Cf. Quran 20:37-41.
- Quran 20:42-47.
- Quran 26:16-17.
- Quran 26:18-19.
- Quran 26: 20-22.
- Quran 20:50.
- Quran 26:23-24.
- Quran 20:49-51.
- Quran 20:52.
- Quran 26:25-27.
- Quran 26:28.
- Quran 20:53-55 (Qarai).
- Quran 26:28-31.
- Quran 26:32-35.
- Quran 26:36-37.
- Quran 26:38-42.
- Quran 20:65-66.
- Quran 20:65-69 (Qarai).
- Quran 26:43-45.
- Quran 26:46-49.
- Quran 20:71.
- Quran 26:50-51.
- Quran 26:52.
- Quran 26:53-59.
- Quran 26:60.
- Quran 26:61-66.
- Quran 10:90-91 (Qarai).
- Quran 10:92.
- Quran 20:80.
- Quran 7:160.
- Quran 7:142.
- Quran 7:143.
- Quran 7:144-145.
- Quran 7:146-148 (Qarai).
- Quran 7:148; 20:88, 96.
- Quran 20:90.
- Quran 20:91.
- Quran 7:150.
- Quran 20:92-93.
- Quran 20:94.
- Quran 7:150.
- Quran 7:151.
- Quran 20:97.
- Quran 9:98.
- Quran 7:149.
- Quran 7:154.
- Quran 2:54.
- Quran 2:67.
- Quran 2:68.
- Quran 2:69.
- Quran 2:70.
- Quran 2:70.
- Quran 2:71.
- Quran 2:72-73 (Qarai).
- Quran: 28:76-82.
- Quran 11:49.
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