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December 29th, 2014

Staff of Moses – a Mere Walking Stick for Skirting, not Parting the Sea; Prospecting the Mountain for Water & Manna, a bonus (II)

Besides changing the staff of Moses into a serpent, which is discussed in a separate chapter, there are two more incidences attributed to the same staff in Quran, the alleged parting of the sea and Moses making water flow from the rocks by parting the mountain, both by striking his staff in an apparent wizardry. We deal with each of them separately below.

As discussed repeatedly throughout this book, Quran is not a book of history but always in step with history. If there were neither wizards nor their magical wands in history, none will be found in Quran either. If no staff today can part a  sea or a mountain, neither would it be so in history, nor in Quran.

The mention of Moses, Aaron, Israelites and Pharaoh and his entourage including Haman and Korah in Quran is not to recount a script for a Hollywood movie for an edge of the seat thriller but to bring out a working example from history of rescue of the helpless and destruction of  tyranny in a manner that the outcome of which against all odds is none short of a miracle. Truth must triumph else truth will lose credibility.


Before we tackle the event of Pharaoh and his army drowning from an unrecorded history it might be even more interesting to recount the recent recorded history in which Napoleon and his army had almost similar experience in the same Red Sea and that too out of a natural phenomenon, though equally unexpected for them as well. Excerpted below are various accounts of near drowning of Napoleon and his entourage in Red Sea with the sections relevant to our discussion underlined:


EXCURSION TO THE RED SEA: Napoleon, in person, made an expedition to Suez, to inspect the proposed route of a canal to connect the waters of the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. With indefatigable activity of mind, he gave orders for the construction of new works to fortify the harbor of Suez, and commenced the formation of an infant marine. One day, with quite a retinue, he made an excursion to that identical point of the Red Sea which, as tradition reports, the children of Israel crossed three thousand years ago. The tide was out, and he passed over to the Asiatic shore upon extended flats. Various objects of interest engrossed his attention until late in the afternoon, when he commenced his return. The twilight faded away, and darkness came rapidly on. The party lost their path, and, as they were wandering, bewildered, among the sands, the rapidly returning tide surrounded them. The darkness of the night increased, and the horses floundered deeper and deeper in the rising waves. The water reached the girths of the saddles, and dashed upon the feet of the riders, and destruction seemed inevitable. From this perilous position, Napoleon extricated himself by that presence of mind and promptness of decision which seemed never to fail him. It was an awful hour and an awful scene; and yet, amid the darkness and the rising waves of apparently a shoreless ocean, the spirit of Napoleon was as unperturbed as if he were reposing in slippered ease upon his sofa. He collected his escort around him in concentric circles, each horseman facing outward, and ranged in several rows. He then ordered them to advance, each in a straight line. When the horse of the leader of one of these columns lost his foothold, and began to swim, the column drew back, and followed in the direction of another column which had not yet lost the firm ground. The radii, thrown out in every direction, were in this way successively withdrawn, till all were following in the direction of one column which had a stable footing. Thus escape was effected. The horses did not reach the shore until midnight, when they were wading breast-deep in the swelling waves. The tide rises on that part of the coast to the height of twenty-two feet. "Had I perished in that manner, like Pharaoh," said Napoleon, "it would have furnished all the preachers in Christendom with a magnificent text against me." [HISTORY OF NEPOLEAN BONEPART by John C. Abbot, Volume I, Chapter X II, THE SYRIAN EXPEDITION, p 204-205, Copyright, 1883, by Susan Abbot Mead.][1]

BUONAPARTE AT SUEZ: As yet, however, there was no appearance of an enemy; and Napoleon seized the opportunity to explore the Isthmus of Suez, where a narrow neck of land divides the Red Sea from the Mediterranean, partly with the view of restoring the communication which in remote times existed between them, and partly of providing for the defence of Egypt, should the Ottomans attempt their invasion by the way of Syria. He visited the Maronite monks of Mount Sinai, and, as Mahomet had done before him, affixed his name to their charter of privileges; he examined also the fountain of Moses: and nearly lost his life in exploring, during low water, the sands of the Red Sea, where Pharaoh is supposed to have perished in the pursuit of the Hebrews. "The night overtook us," says Savary in his Memoirs, "the waters began to rise around us, the guard in advance exclaimed that their horses were swimming. Buonaparte saved us all by one of those simple expedients which occur to an imperturbable mind. Placing himself in the centre, he bade all the rest form a circle round him, and then ride out each man in a separate direction, and each to halt as soon as he found his horse swimming. The man whose horse continued to march the last, was sure, he said, to be in the right direction; him accordingly we all followed, and reached Suez at two in the morning in safety, though so rapidly had the tide advanced, that the water was at the poitrels of our horses ere we made the land." On his return to Cairo, the General despatched a trusty messenger into India, inviting Tippoo Saib to inform him exactly of the condition of the English army in that region, and signifying that Egypt was only the first post in a march destined to surpass that of Alexander! "He spent whole days," writes his secretary, "in lying flat on the ground stretched upon maps of Asia." [THE HISTORY OF NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE by JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART, CHAPTER XII, p. 99. First issue of this edition: February 1906, Reprinted: April 1906; May 1907; July 1909; November 1910; November 1912; March 1915][2]

EGYPT: Then, journeying on, he [–Napoleon] visited the fountains of Moses; but it is not true that (as stated by Lanfrey) he proceeded to Mount Sinai and signed his name in the register of the monastery side by side with that of Mahomet. On his return to the isthmus he is said to have narrowly escaped from the rising tide of the Red Sea. If we may credit Savary, who was not of the party, its safety was due to the address of the commander, who, as darkness fell on the bewildered band, arranged his horsemen in files, until the higher causeway of the path was again discovered. [The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by John Holland Rose, CHAPTER VIII, EGYPT][3]

FOUNTAINS OF MOSES – BONAPARTE IN THE RED SEA: On the morning of the 28th we passed the Red Sea dry footed, on our way to the Fountains of Moses, which are upwards of six miles from the eastern shore, and a little south-east of Suez. The Arabic Gulf terminates three and a quarter miles to the north of that city. Opposite the port, the Red Sea is not more than two and three quarter miles broad. It is always fordable at low water. The caravans of Tor and Mount Sinai cross here, both in going to, and returning from, Egypt. This shortens the road between six and seven miles [footnote: From time immemorial this part has been denoted by an Arabic name, signifying The Passage. The metres of the original I have reduced to English miles." Translator]. The tide rises from five to six, or, when the wind blows with force, from nine to ten, feet. We passed some hours at the fountain of the lawgiver, seated on the margin of the most considerable spring, which is transparent, constantly flowing and renewed, and having no very disagreeable odour. Here we made our coffee, which, however, was rendered scarcely drinkable from the bitterness of the water.

On our return, we struck off to the left, in order to visit a large reservoir, constructed, it is said, by the Venetians, when in possession of the commerce of the East. In descending again to the coast, Bonaparte was the first to discover a canal, from three to four hundred paces in length, constructed in good masonry, and capable of being easily repaired. The night had now fallen dark when we reached the seashore. The tide was flowing and pretty high; we wandered a little from the track followed in the morning, through the guide either deceiving us, or losing his way, and attempted the passage too far down. Disorder soon arose in our little troop, we were not lost in the quick sands, as has been said, "there being none. We could not see our companions, but we shouted and called to each other. General Caffarelli, near whom I chanced to be in this confusion, incurred some danger from his wooden leg, which prevented his keeping a firm seat in the saddle, while thus surrounded by the waves. We struggled to his assistance, supporting-him on each side. I have read, but certainly did not see, nor hear at the time, that the flowing tide would have become the grave of Bonaparte, had not a guide of his escort saved and brought him off on his shoulders. In the circumstances, the thing was impossible, or all who had not men to carry them, the danger being equal, would have perished; but there was no one lost. The guide must have got into the water up to his chin; how could a man be so safe on his back, as in the saddle of a charger? Besides, his horse and that of the General, left to themselves in the darkness, would have still more endangered the safety, and increased the confusion of the whole party, and we should thus, to our experience, have been informed of the General's situation. This incident is pure invention. The relation which Bonaparte has given long after at St Helena, is correct. Our little pilgrimage to the Fountains of Moses brought us into the same danger as of old assailed Pharaoh, and we might have perished like him, but without a miracle, as will appear to those who have visited the scene [footnote: The reader will not fail to observe, that, in certain insidious remarks, Bourrienne seems to hint the same opinion as Volney, and other infidel writers, on the subject of the passage of the Red Sea. The reasoning of these gentlemen furnishes a striking example of a non sequitur. What possible connection can exist between crossing a part of the sands dry, at low tide, and traversing the "crystal strait," cleft by the hand of Jehovah, for the passage of his chosen people? Or the whole may be simply answered by the reflection, that, since the Egyptians were the best informed among the nations then upon the earth " since, indeed, Moses was celebrated for knowledge, because "skilled in all the learning of the Egyptians" – we cannot suppose either the one to have been unacquainted with so common an event as the flowing of the tide, or the other to have thus overreached his masters in wisdom." Translator.] [MEMOIRS OF NAPOLEAN BONAPARTE, Vol 1 of 4, FROM THE FRENCH OF M. FAUVELET DE COURRIENNED by JOHN S. MEMES LL.D., CHAPTER XIII, p. 158-160, originally published 1831][4]

In case of Napoleon, even though he got trapped in the high tide at night, he had the advantage that all his men were on horses thus sitting high and additionally horses are good swimmers. The account of high tide in above narratives is up to twenty-two feet deep, enough to drown even a tall person standing on his feet. Unlike mounted entourage of Napoleon, in the case of Pharaoh, as is commonly known, some of his army was either on foot and others riding on chariots. Both conditions made Pharaoh’s army more vulnerable to drowning even during daylight. The same water level that a horse can wade or swim thorough with its rider can possibly drown a person on foot, especially if that person is further weighed down by armor –`[Pharaoh said] And we are, (as compared with them [–the fleeing Israelites]) a united multitude, fully equipped and vigilant.' –26:56[5]. To make the matters worse, the Egyptians unlike Pacific islanders are less likely to be swimmers.

Parting or Skirting of the Sea?

It all started with centuries of unremitting persecution, exploitation and helplessness of Israelites in Egypt, the kingdom of the Pharaohs:

2:49. And (recall) when We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh who subjected you to the worst torment. They went on slaying your sons and sparing your women to make them immodest, and indeed that was a great ordeal from your Lord.[6]

It was against this background of incessant servitude and hopelessness that Moses and Aaron prayed:

10:88. And Moses said (praying and Aaron joined him in prayer), `Our Lord! You have given Pharaoh and his chiefs pomp and wealth in the present life with the result, Our Lord! that they lead people astray from Your path. Our Lord! destroy their wealth and attack their hearts, so that they believe not until they see the grievous punishment.'

10:89. (The Lord) said, `The prayer of you both has been accepted, so remain you two steadfast and follow not the way of those who do not know.'[7]

To get them out of their misery the strategy disclosed to Moses for his people included first congregating them together at one place and then taking advantage of night to escape en masse under the cover of darkness on a predetermined path as one body in which timing was paramount:

10:87. And We spoke to Moses and his brother (Aaron saying), `You both should prepare lodging for your people (bringing them together from different parts of the country) in the central town (of Egypt) and make your houses so as to face one another and perform worship.' And (We also revealed to them to) proclaim good tidings (of success) to the believers.[8]

44:23. Then (the order was), `Set forth with My servants in a watch of the night, (for) you are going to be chased.[9]

Of note is that for Exodus it was a predetermined path coupled with predetermined timing for the whole operation. Additionally, in modern terminology, the Israelites were to walk through the ‘path’ which was only to prove a minefield for the pursuing Egyptian army that was bound to follow, a classical military tactic in which the home forces have mapped out the path and avoid the landmines or traps whereas the enemy that is ignorant of it can be doomed when it enters that booby-trapped area to their detriment:

44:24. `And leave (when) the sea (is calm and not in tide) by its depressed portion (crossing on the dunes). Surely, these (pursuers, Pharaoh and his people) are a host (of people) doomed to be drowned.'[10]

20:77. And We directed Moses by revelation, `Take away My servants by night and take them along a dry path through the wide plane. You will not be afraid of being overtaken nor will you have any cause of fear (of being drowned).'[Emphasis added]

20:78. Now Pharaoh pursued them with his armies. But there covered them (- Pharaoh and his host) that (tide of the) sea which engulfed them completely.[11][Emphasis added]

Note – when v. 44:24 is read with v. 20:77 above, it becomes obvious that the tide behavior of sea is taken into account in which when the sea retreats in low tide it leaves on the shore a dry path, commonly called ‘intertidal zone’ that naturally is covered up by the water on subsequent high tide. It seems that the dry path taken during Exodus was in a wide intertidal zone (wide plane) from which it was difficult for the army to get out of when it flooded during the high tide. Quite expectedly, no one will enter that area where there is water i.e. during high tide. But, if someone walking on the same dry path is unaware of impending high tide, that person will be trapped and engulfed, even possibly drown, especially if there are high cliff walls on the shore side and/or this previously dry path is too long and that too if it is in a wide plane to reach its edge/end in time to survive.

Additionally, v. 44:24 also alludes to low tide when the sea is receded from shore and it is on this spot the Pharaoh and his army will be entrapped unaware and drowned subsequently when high tide comes on them. High tide, i.e. water encroaching on to the shore on a given point on globe is due to moon's gravitational pull of water body below it and the earth pulling away from the water body on the opposite end of the globe. Thus there are corresponding high tide points on the opposite sides of the globe. Whereas, the low tide points are at the sides of the earth, at 90 degrees from the high tide points on the earth. The average time interval between two consecutive high tides on a given point on the globe is about 12 hours and about 25.5 minutes, though the frequency of high tides can be as low as once in 24 hours. This corresponds to earth rotating 180 degrees every 12 hours, while the moon rotates 6 degrees around the earth in the same time. Due to this extra 25.5 minutes shift, each tidal point varies over time for its low and high tides. Besides, sun also exerts its superimposed effects on sides of the earth facing or away from it. As to how high a water can rise in a high tide from its low tide level, commonly called as ‘tidal range,’ varies according to local topography, e.g. in Eastern Canada it can be as much as fifty feet.

Whether the Red Sea at Suez in case of Napoleon or the Sea of Reeds at Eilat [Yam Suph – I Kings 9:26] experiences its tidal ranges that would drown an army is left best to history and science. At least in the accounts of Napoleon’s adventure the tidal range is between five and twenty-two feet high and the intertidal zones have extended flats. Still, what prevented a storm surge that was not expected at the time or a tsunami from happening, and it being foreknown to a Prophet, who by the very definition of the word can foretell? Of note are the wordings `And leave (when) the sea (is calm and not in tide) by its depressed portion (crossing on the dunes) – 44:24. It was this depressed portion that once filled with water because of its depth would have multiplicative effect on the drowning possibility because of the sea surge that was to engulf the Pharaoh and his army i.e. Surely, these (pursuers, Pharaoh and his people) are a host (of people) doomed to be drowned.' – 44:24.

Thus, either it was the time window of 12 hours and 25.5 minutes or the apparent calm before the storm that was the escape hatch for the Israelites. Essentially, time and the timing were of the essence in the Divine strategy that Moses had to follow.

The strategy and its consequent events thus unfolded. Israelites had a head-start under the cover of the night:

26:52. And We revealed to Moses (directing him), `Take away My servants by night for you shall certainly be pursued.'[12]

Once Moses and his people had already left in the night, the Pharaoh responded by gathering his troops and set the pursuit at sunrise which separated the parties by many hours (Israelites left at night while the Pharaoh’s army followed at sunrise):

26:53. Pharaoh (when he came to know of the exodus) sent heralds to the towns to collect (troops and announce saying),

26:54. `These (Israelites) are indeed a despicable party, a few in number,

26:55. `Yet they have offended us (by defying us and making good their escape),

26:56. `And we are, (as compared with them,) a united multitude, fully equipped and vigilant.'

26:57. So We made them (- Pharaoh and his troops) leave the land of gardens and springs,

26:58. As well as (every place with) treasures and every abode of honour (and grandeur).

26:59. That is what We did (for their wrong- doings). And We gave (the like of) these (- gardens and springs) as a free gift to the Children of Israel.

26:60. And they (- the hosts of Pharaoh) pursued them at sunrise.[13] [Emphasis added]

Apparently, the pursuing Pharaoh gained on the fleeing Israelites to a point that they saw each other from a distance. Seeing the Pharaoh and his troops was a source of anxiety for the fleers who earlier thought otherwise in light of information as outlined in verses 20:77-78 above:

26:61. And when the two hosts sighted each other the companions of Moses said, `We are surely overtaken.'[14]

Despite the anxieties of his companions, Moses was firm on what was revealed to him before (verses 20:77-78):

26:62. (Moses) said, `No, not at all, my Lord is with me, He will lead me out of the impasse (and to safety).'[15][Similar to these verses 26:61-62 about exiling Moses and his companions is the event of Cave of Thaur during flight of the Prophet Muhammad in verses 9:40-41[16]]

The next revealed instructions to Moses were for him to keep moving through and to catch the time window referred to in verses 44:24 and 20:77 before:

26:63. Then We revealed to Moses (saying), `Strike the sea with your staff. (And as he did) so it parted[17] [Arabic: Infalaqa – Became separated; It parted], and each part (of the two hosts) looked like a huge mound.[18]

The full meanings of Asâ [19] are ‘Staff; Nation; Mastery. Thus, if read in context the verse 26:63 above states Idzrib bi Asâka al-bahra[20]: ‘Strike with your staff on the sea; Go forth with your people’. Essentially Moses is instructed to keep journeying with his people along the seashore and the timing was such that the water had receded or separated from the shore, Infalaqa – ‘Became separated; It parted’, as is pointed to in the verse.

The said behavior of the sea is repeated in another place:

2:50. And when We parted[21][Arabic: Faraqnâ – We parted, distinguished] the sea for you, and rescued you and drowned the people of Pharaoh, while you were beholding.[22]

Even though traditionally the word used in translation of above verses 26:63 and 2:50 is ‘parted’, it also means ‘separated’ which seems more appropriate in context of events that unfolded where the sea separated from the shore in low tide in which the dry path was exposed temporarily. The above verse paints a picture where, unlike his scared companions (26:61) Moses is directed to move on undeterred i.e. Strike the sea with your staff and keep going with vigor and 'hit the road' or 'hit the ground running', and Moses strikes i.e. takes a dry path on the seashore for others to follow in his footsteps and his group moves along and finally there were two sets of people grouped apart, each part (of the two hosts) looked like a huge mound on either end of the intervening dry path that separated them, Israelites on one end and Egyptian on the other end of the dry path. Thus the whole strategy comes together, the aggrieved party in the assured safety, while the aggressors, unbeknownst taking the same booby trapped path in the epic manner of a bridge soon to crumble or a valley soon to be flooded or a canyon to experience a landslide.

Pharaoh, just like Napoleon, who is oblivious of the time window between low and high tides pursues with his army onto the dry path on wide plane (v. 20:77), in the intertidal zone that Moses had struck earlier, all in an effort that his army can close in on the Israelite party at its far end. Quran is quite clear in specifying a particular point on the seashore that had the tidal behavior discussed so far as is identified in the next verse:

26:64. And We caused the others (the pursuers, the people of Pharaoh,) draw near the same place. [Emphasis added]

The next two verses give further details of the event in that Israelite party is saved first by its moving through the vulnerable area pointed in previous verse 26:64 and only then the pursuers were drowned once they reached the said vulnerable spot which was a wide plane (v. 20:77), spacious enough for the whole contingent to be trapped together once and all:

26:65. And We saved Moses and those who were with him all together.

26:66. Then We drowned the others.

26:67. Behold! there is a (marvelous) sign in this (episode), yet most of them would not be believers.

26:68. And indeed your Lord, He is the All-Mighty (to crush His enemies), the Ever Merciful (towards His servants).[23]

Of note is that drowning of Pharaoh and his cohorts was by water moving in on them, the high tide, while they were still on the same dry path:

20:78. Now Pharaoh pursued them with his armies. But there covered them (- Pharaoh and his host) that (tide of the) sea which engulfed them completely. [24]

It is obvious from the above verse(s) that Pharaoh witnessed a natural phenomenon of a low tide by the seashore where there was a dry path on a wide plane through which an army could easily move. On the contrary Pharaoh and his army or for that matter anyone, if they had witnessed an unnatural parting of sea, no one would had dare enter that path because if we recall that elsewhere in Quran it is the same Pharaoh[25] and his people calling Moses as sorcerer[26] and having already witnesses the sorcery win of Moses against the magicians of Egypt[27]. It would be preposterous to think that anyone would enter an apparent wizardry trap in which there were allegedly high water walls on either side of the dry path at the bottom of seabed as if the sea had parted and as commonly depicted in legends.

Interestingly, Pharaoh made a conversion attempt to Islam before his death:

10:90. And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his legion pursued them in wanton aggression and for no justified cause till when he (Pharaoh) was about to be drowned, he cried, `I (confess and) believe that there is no One worthy of worship but He in Whom the Children of Israel have believed in, and I am of those who submit (to Him).'

10:91. (The Lord) said, `What! (do you remember) now (while dying), whereas you had (always) disobeyed before (this), and you had been of the miscreants!

10:92. `So, on this day We will preserve you in your body (only) that you may be a sign (to learn a lesson from) for the coming generations, though most of the people are quite heedless of Our signs.'[28]

What Pharaoh said above in verse 10:90 . …he cried, `I (confess and) believe that there is no One worthy of worship but He in Whom the Children of Israel have believed in, and I am of those who submit (to Him)' was the fruition of what Moses had asked for in 10:88. …Our Lord! destroy their wealth and attack their hearts, so that they believe not until they see the grievous punishment.'

Moses striking water (in the manner of a prospector striking gold) and Israelites provided Manna:

With the 'parting of the sea' out of the way, let’s address Moses 'parting the rock' by striking it with his staff. It is a common knowledge that usually the source of springs is mountains, vegetables are from farming and one seeks daily livelihood in towns and cities, a relationship that will be noticed in various verses about Israelites. After the Israelites moved out of Egypt, in their destitute state they were provided with food, water, shelter and livelihood, the account of which is laid out in the following verses. These are basic elements for rehabilitating displaced people even today:

7:160. We divided them (- the people of Moses) into twelve tribes[29] according to the ancestral lineage (to which they belonged). And We sent Our revelation to Moses when his people asked of him (something) to drink (saying), `Strike that rock with your staff [Arabic: Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer – Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people].'[30] Then (as he did), there gushed out from it twelve springs, so that all the people now knew their (respective) drinking place. And We outspread the rain clouds to be a shade over them and We sent down for them Manna and quails (saying), `Eat of the pure things wherewith We have provided you.' And they did Us no harm (when they went wrong) but it was to themselves that they had been doing harm.

7:161. And (recall the time) when it was said to them, `Dwell in this township (-Yathrib) and eat therefrom when you will and pray, "Relieve us of the burden of our sins," and enter its gate submissively. (If you do so) We will protect you against (the consequences of) your sins. We shall multiply the reward of the doers of excellent deeds.'[31]

In verse 7:160 there is no novelty when Moses is asked to `Strike that rock with your staff' for the mere fact that to uncover a water hole, the rock covering had to be removed first with an instrument, in this case the staff. Quran does not mention the size of the rock, but by implication it must have been a large rock or many rocks which were covering the source for twelve springs. The rock(s) was impeding the reservoir of water which was waiting to gush out but was only prevented by a plug that needed the weight of a rock(s) to block its flow. Alternatively, Moses is commanded to seek water in a particular mountain i.e. that rock. It is a daily experience to tap ground with one's walking stick while going up on a mountain – `Strike that rock with your staff.' On the contrary, identifying the area to prospect for water is the actual novelty.

The above para dealt with an apparent concrete meaning of ‘staff’ as commonly interpreted, however full meanings of Asâ[32] are ‘Staff; Nation; Mastery.' Thus, if read in context the verse 7:160 above states Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer: ‘Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people’. Essentially, Moses is instructed to go to the mountain along with twelve Israelite tribes so that each one of them gets their (respective) drinking place from the equal number of springs pointed to in the verse.

Thus, Moses could have used staff as merely a walking stick to go up the mountain, or used it as instrument to uncover the source of springs or that he took his people (staff) to the source of water on the mountain, there is no wizardly in all three instances. The real ‘miracle’ is in him being guided by God to source of life sustenance, water, for his nation, be it spiritual or physical.

The Manna and quails and that too which was sent down by God is clearly a metaphorical reference of provisions and means that were made available to the exiled, else it would be ridiculous to seek and Eat of the pure things wherewith We have provided you from the Manna and quails that were 'heavenly' to begin with and were not supposed to have anything impure in them.

Manna and quails and eating of the pure things wherewith We have provided you is mentioned further:

20:80. O Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy and made a covenant with you on the right and blessed side of the Mount (Sinai), and We got Manna and quail to be sent down to you.

20:81. (And it was also said,) `Eat of the good and pure things We have provided you, and do not exceed the limits in this respect or My displeasure shall descend upon you. Indeed, lost are those on whom My displeasure descends.'[33]

All this comes to light in another set of verses:

2:60. And (recall the time) when Moses prayed for water for his people and We said (to him), `Go with your people and smite that particular rock with your staff.' So (when he did so) there gushed forth from it twelve springs so that every tribe came to know of its drinking place. (We said,) `Eat and drink of sustenance provided by Allâh and commit not transgression in the land like peace-breakers.' [Emphasis added]

2:61. And when you said, `Moses! (we are weary of one kind of food so) we will not at all remain content with one and the same food, pray, therefore, to your Lord for us that He may bring forth for us some of that which the earth produces, of its vegetables, of its cucumbers, its corn, its lentils and its onions.' He (- God) said, `Would you take in exchange that which is inferior (- delicious food) for that which is superior (- the realisation of the noble object of your life)? (If this is so) then go to some town and you will certainly have (there) all that you have demanded.' And lo! it so happened, they were smitten with abasement and destitution and they incurred the displeasure of Allâh. That was because they denied the Messages of Allâh and sought to kill His Prophets unjustly and that was because they disobeyed and had been transgressing.[34]

As to the Manna and quails, the above verses, if read concretely, further makes them less of ‘heavenly’ and more of ‘earthly’. Belonging to lower socio-economic class the Israelites who migrated from the fertile Egypt seem to have a different food tastes than the food options in Palestine where it was mostly poultry (quails). It is generally known that meat is expensive and poor Israelites might had little habit of eating it, which is obvious from their boredom with it, and they expressed it to Moses asking for vegetarian choices – we will not at all remain content with one and the same food, pray, therefore, to your Lord for us that He may bring forth for us some of that which the earth produces, of its vegetables, of its cucumbers, its corn, its lentils and its onions.' There is no time period mentioned in Quran for how long the Israelites sustained themselves on the said food or provisions. Despite the menu items mentioned, Quran speaks of food and provisions given to refuges as a free aid beyond concreteness of words, rather draws attention to higher moral and intellectual values that one must ascertain even in earthly things and food being just a case in point – He (- God) said, `Would you take in exchange that which is inferior (- delicious food) for that which is superior (- the realisation of the noble object of your life)? This discussion about food seems no different than Biblical style of asking for spiritual food – Matthew 6:11. ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’[35]

The verses below, which are in continuation with verses in reference above, allude to Israelites changing the purpose and spirit of Divine Message given to them. The very purpose of this book at hand is to correct the same errors of Israelites that have crept into reading of the Quran in which the philosophy and purpose of Divine Message gets replaced with make belief of nonsensical miracles, myths and mistakes[36] by concrete reading of Book in a zealotry that tries to save its body while killing its soul:

2:59. But those who were bent on doing wrong, gave a different version to the order that was given them, (and thus acted contrary to the Divine will). So We sent down upon those who did wrong a pestilence from heaven because they had been transgressing persistently[37][Numbers – 25:9. Those who died of the plague numbered twenty-four thousand].[38]

7:162. But those amongst them who were unjust changed the word to something different from that which they were told. So We sent down upon them unavoidable punishment from heaven because they had always been wrongdoers.[39]

However, Quran in adjoining verse to above also recognizes the Israelites who were guided aright by Moses and Aaron:

7:159. There is a community among the people of Moses who guide (the people) to the truth and with it they dispense justice.[40]

In the summary, both Moses and Pharaoh and their peoples faced a natural phenomenon, one was saved by it while the other was destroyed by it. The sequence of events is nothing short of a miraculous moment in history and a living example of destruction of tyranny and prevailing of truth. Such ‘miracles’ are not time-locked in history but according to Quran occur under natural moral law that will prevail into future. After removal of their calamity, the Israelites were provided with ‘heavenly sustenance’ then and the world has Quran now. Like Israelites, any nation that ignores and distorts the purpose of the Divine Message, is bent on doing wrong… transgressing persistently (2:59), and is lost in its mere rituals is destined to face ignominy if not destruction.

[1] Link: Pdf download:
[2] Link:
[3] Link:
[4] Read online:
[5] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[6] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[7] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
[8] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Dukhan – The Drought: Nooruddin
[10] Al-Dukhan – The Drought: Nooruddin
[11] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[12] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[13] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[14] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[15] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[16] 9:40-41. If you do not help him (- the Prophet), then (know) Allâh has already helped him when those who disbelieved turned him out (from Makkah with only one companion); he being the second of the two when they were both in the cave (of Thaur); and when he said to his companion (- Abû Bakr), `Grieve not (about me). Surely, Allâh is with us.' Then Allâh sent down His Shechinah (- peace and tranquility) upon him, and helped him with troops which were not visible to you, and He humbled the word of those who disbelieved to the lowest, and it is the word of Allâh alone which is the supermost (and so prevails). Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise. Go forth (all whether) light (- being ill-equipped) or heavy (- being well-equipped) and strive hard with your possessions and your persons in the cause of Allâh. That is better for you, if only you knew (your own gain or loss). : Al-Taubah – The Repentance: Nooruddin [Emphasis added]
[17] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.434. Infalaqa (prf. 3rd. p. m. sing. VII.): Became separated; It parted (26:63).
[18] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[19] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376. ‘Asâ (n.): Staff; Nation; Mastery. ‘Isiyyun (n. plu.): The staffs. The root with its above two forms has been used in The Holy Qur’ân about 12 times.
[20] See footnote 30
[21] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.424. Faraqnâ (prf. 1st. p. plu.): We parted, distinguished. Yafraqûna (imp. 3rd. p.m. plu.): They fear, are too timid a people (to appear in their true colours). Ufruq (prt. prayer. m. sing.): Decide; Bring about separation. Yufraqu (pip. 3rd. p. sing.): It is separated out, explained distinctly. Yufarriqûna (imp. 3rd. p. m. plu. II.): They make division; distinction, separation. Yufarriqû (imp. 3rd. p. m. plu. final Nûn dropped): They make a distinction.
[22] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[23] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[24] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[25] 51:39. But he [–Pharaoh] turned away (from Moses) in the pride of his power and said, `(He is) a sorcerer, or rather a madman.' Al-Dhariyat – The Scatterers: Nooruddin
[26] 7:109. The chiefs of Pharaoh's people said (to each other), `This (fellow here [–Moses]) is most surely a skilled sorcerer. Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[27] 26:44-45. So they put down (on the ground) their ropes and their staffs and said, `By Pharaoh's honour and might it is we who will certainly be the winners.' Then Moses put down (on the ground) his staff; lo! it instantly destroyed all that they had fabricated. Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[28] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin
[29] Twelve Tribes of Israel. Link:
[30] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376. ‘Asâa – To strike with a stick. ‘Asiya/Ya‘sa: To take a stick, come together; Collection; Accumulation; Amazing; Gathering; Assemblage; Congregation. Staff is called. ‘Asâ as the fingers of a hand come together and are collected and united on its handle. ‘Asâ: Staff; Stick; Rod; Supports; Nation; People; Party; Tongue; Skin; Bone. ‘Asâutu al-
Qauma: I gathered the nation. Shaq al-‘Asâ: Divergence; Dissension; Disagreement of the nation or organisation. It is said, Khawârij shaqqû ‘Asâ al-Muslimîn: The Khawârij split the concord, harmony and unity of Islamic nation. Idzrib bi Asâka al-Hajer: Strike with your staff on the rock; Go forth with your people. (L; T; R; LL; Zamkhsharî)
[31] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[32] See footnote 19
[33] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[34] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[35] New King James Version. Link:
[36] Miracles – Clarified, Myths – Confuted, Mistakes – Corrected, Matters – Contended, in Manifest Conjectures. Link:
[37] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[38] Bible Gateway. Link:
[39] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[40] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin

3 Responses to “Staff of Moses – a Mere Walking Stick for Skirting, not Parting the Sea; Prospecting the Mountain for Water & Manna, a bonus (II)”

  1. March 22nd, 2015 at 8:52 am
    From Muhammad Naeem Khan:


    I really like your article. Could you please share the article regarding "changing of Moses staff into serpent". I have tried to search on your blog but couldn't find it. If you please share it here or send it to me via email.



  2. Dear Muhammad Naeem Khan, Assalam-u-Alaikum. The topic that you identified will be addressed in the near future. The chapter ‘Staffs of Solomon and Moses – Rods of Mastery not Mystery (I)’ in table of contents is a placeholder for it. (link)

  3. September 12th, 2017 at 6:15 am
    From Reza Ghafoerkhan:

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