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Archive for April, 2015

Staff of Moses – Rod of Mastery not Mystery; Serpentine, but not Suppositious (Part I)

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Staff of Moses – Rod of Mastery not Mystery; Serpentine, but not Suppositious (Part I) 

The staff of Moses, like that of Solomon (link), has a legend built around it as well. However, the case of Moses is of a much larger lore in which when Moses is ordained as a prophet, he sees his staff transform into a serpent and his hand turns white when he withdraws it from his armpit. With these miraculous signs he goes to the Pharaoh demanding emancipation of his subjugated nation and in the process there is a sorcery match between him and the king's magicians. His staff turns into a large serpent that eats away the magical snakes of his opponents. His opponents embrace his faith even under death threat from the Pharaoh. Then, there is a period of famine, pestilence and other distress in the land that are removed only when Moses assents. Finally, Moses and his people escape towards Sinai and him using the same staff parts open the Red Sea. His people escape while the Pharaoh and his army are drowned in the previously parted sea. Thereafter, is the story of Moses going to the mountain, Moses wishes to 'see' God, receives the Law, he makes springs flow from the rocks by striking them with the same rod, Israelites eat heavenly food but get bored with it, they worship the golden calf, and so on. All this mixed legend, some fact and rest fiction, hinges on a central item, the staff, which if weren't there; no subsequent event might have happened or had been overcome.

This chapter deals only the aspect of myth where the staff[1] of Moses turns into a serpent, his hand comes forth as white and him confronting the sorcery[2]. The legend of his staff parting the Red Sea and striking twelve springs is refuted and explained in another chapter – “Staff of Moses – a Mere Walking Stick for Skirting, not Parting the Sea; Prospecting the Mountain for Water & Manna, a Bonus (Part II),” link.

With regards to the topic of this chapter, the staff of Moses turning into a serpent, it has to be made clear from outset to the reader of its occurrence in Quran – It is nowhere stated that whenever Moses threw down his rod it turned into a snake. Only on two occasions the rod is stated to have turned into a snake: (1) when Moses held communion with God before going to Pharaoh; (2) when he first came before Pharaoh, or when Pharaoh summoned the enchanters to his help.[3]

Additionally, reader also has to be cognizant of the wholesome challenge before Moses. The Pharaoh of his time ruled Egypt because of his religious authority based upon his claim to godhead:

28:38. And Pharaoh said, `O chiefs of my court! I know for you no god other than myself…[4]

Moses too, like Joseph before him, flourished under the Pharaoh of his time but with a difference. The former was raised by the Pharaoh from his infancy but only later in his life, moves out of Egypt, returns and challenges Pharaoh’s godhead, whereas, the latter was sold into slavery in his childhood, moved to Egypt, as an adult received justice at the hands of Pharaoh who then appoints him to a powerful position. Mission of Moses was not to challenge the king and his kingdom but falsity of his claim which was a source of subjugation of Israelites. In Quran, the crux of the dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh[5] is the same as that was between Abraham and Nimrod[6], who too ruled based on his claim of god-ship. Thus, all the encounters of Moses with Pharaoh and his administration are based upon arguments of monotheism and not on any showmanship. Quran summarizes the whole discourse of Moses and Pharaoh as follows:

79:15. The story of Moses has reached you.
79:16. When his Lord called out to him in the Sacred Valley of Tuwâ,
79:17. (And directed him,) `Go to Pharaoh, he has transgressed all limits.
79:18. `And say (to him), "Would you like to purify yourself;
79:19. "That I should guide you to your Lord so that you may stand in awe of Him?"'
79:20. So (Moses went to Pharaoh and) he showed him the great sign (of the staff).
79:21. But he belied (Moses) and disobeyed,
79:22. Then he turned back striving (and devising schemes against him).
79:23. And he gathered (his people) and proclaimed,
79:24. Saying, `I (- Pharaoh) am your supreme lord.'
79:25. So Allâh seized him for the punishment of (both) the next and the present life.
79:26. Indeed, there is a lesson in this (event) for him who stands in awe (of his Lord).[4a]

Staff of Moses – for what it stands in Quran

Similar to staff of Solomon (link), the staff of Moses is representative of a prophecy, authority of Moses over his nation that united under him, his mastery as a debater, his overcoming the opposition and the revival of Israelites because of him.

Abracadabra and Alleging Sorcery – an attribute of non-believers

By its very definition, sorcery is falsehood. In Quran the terms sorcerer and sorcery are used by the opposition against the prophets as an expression of their exasperation when they are dumfounded by the logic of the message presented by the prophets and when the disbelievers are warned against their practice of polytheism, for example: 

38:2. (There is nothing wrong with the Prophet,) the only thing is that the disbelievers are suffering from a sense of (false) pride and are hostile (to him).

 

 

38:3. (Do they not see that) We have destroyed so many generations before them? (They did not care to listen to the warning at first) then (later) they cried (for help) but the time for escape had passed.

38:4. They wonder that there should come to them a Warner from among themselves, and the disbelievers say, `He is a sorcerer, a great liar (in his claim).

38:5. `Has he turned (the whole lot of) gods (we worshipped) into One God? Very strange indeed is this thing.'

38:6. And the leaders among them go about saying, `Go (from here) and adhere constantly to (the worship of) your gods. This (claim of the Qur'ân about the unity of God) is a thing designed (with some purpose behind it).

38:7. `We heard nothing of its kind about any of the previous creeds. This is nothing but a forgery.[7][Emphasis added]

In these verses, on one hand the opponent of Prophet Muhammad allege him to be a sorcerer, a great liar (v. 38:4), while on the other, they substantiate their allegation by saying – We heard nothing of its kind about any of the previous creeds (v. 38:7). By common understanding sorcery is something to be witnessed, but its use in Quran is that which is heard. Essentially, the use of the words sorcerer and sorcery shows the net effect on the people’s mind of the message of the Prophet. Later in the chapter, similar usage of the term sorcery, for all its same meanings, will be repeated in case of Moses as well.

Before one divulges into nitpicking the staff of Moses, one has to read the following scene laid out in Quran, which further elucidates the principle in above set of verses:

10:76. And when there came to them the truth from Us, they said, `This is, of course, enchantment creating dissension.'

10:77. Moses said, `Is that how you talk of the truth when it has come to you? Can this be an enchantment, whereas the enchanters never attain their goal?'

10:78. They said, `Have you come to us that you may turn us away from what we found our forefathers practising and to make sure that you two reign supreme in the land [instead of us]? But (remember) we will not believe in either of you at all.'

10:79. And Pharaoh said (to his people), `Bring every skilled sorcerer [like Moses to counter him] to me.'

10:80. Now when the sorcerers came, Moses said to them, `Present whatever you have to present.'

10:81. Then, when they had presented (what they would present), Moses said, `What you have brought is a mere deception. Allâh will soon render it void (because) Allâh does not at all allow the machination of the mischief-makers to thrive.

10:82. `And Allâh will establish the truth by dint of His decrees even though the guilty may find (it) hard.' [8][Emphasis added]

In these verses, opponents of Moses and Aaron are clearly alleging that the truth brought forth by Moses is an enchantment to them. In response, Moses declares that enchanters never attain their goal. In this dialogue it is plain that there was no ‘enchantment’ with Moses, but a message and arguments that were enchanting to the audience. The opponents perceived his message as a threat to their ancestral religious practices and the bureaucratic power hierarchy that existed because of Pharaoh as its godhead. They said, `Have you come to us that you may turn us away from what we found our forefathers practising and to make sure that you two reign supreme in the land [instead of us]? But (remember) we will not believe in either of you at all.' To counter the enchantment thus created by arguments of Moses, the Pharaoh also gathers his ‘enchanters’, the spell casting debaters, orators and clergy, the sorcerers. At the start of the debate, Moses, asks the hired guns, the sorcerers, to present their arguments first – Present whatever you have to present. Like any debater, Moses first nullifies the opponent’s argument by invalidating it in his opening statement – Moses said, `What you have brought is a mere deception. If Moses had, indeed, presented his own staff as a serpent, then he had no moral right to call his opponent’s serpents a deception while claiming his own serpent as the truth. Besides, the truth of Moses was to be established not by transforming a staff into a serpent or whitening of his hand but Allâh will establish the truth by dint of His decrees, not visual illusions.

Questions to the reader: Why Quran never uses the words sorcerer or sorcery for Moses, even though by the common myth he is pandering to the same as his opponents, the sorcerers? If one goes by the myth, fact is that it is Moses who instigated the ‘sorcery,’ not Pharaoh and his sorcerers who were only acting in self-defense. Is it not incredible when the perpetrators of this magical myth cry foul when the opposition tried to pay back Moses in coin?

Answer: There is no such thing as sorcery or magic but only its metaphorical usage for spell casting effects of a discussion, debate or arguments. Neither did his opponents indulge in an ‘actual’ sorcery, nor did Moses.

Visions – a human experience[9]

Just as Quran speaks of the past and the present for their historical actualities, it also addresses the future, but in prophecies, for example life after death, Hell and Heaven.  Prophecies too by their very definition are to be interpreted and not to be read literally in the manner that miracles are sometimes erroneously translated and understood in a literal sense. Maulana Muhammad Ali sifts through a general misunderstanding that confuses a prophecy with a miracle:

As a matter of fact the faith which the fulfilment of a prophecy creates in one's heart is not even created at the occurrence of a great miracle, because a miracle may contain some elements of doubt in it, but the fulfilment of a prophecy is in fact a 'talking witness' which stands before friends and foes alike. Moreover at the occurrence of a miracle there are only a few persons present who witness its truth but a prophecy after its fulfilment does not stand in need of another evidence. It becomes an evidence itself.[10]

Additionally, prophecies are hidden in the symbols and metaphors, which only act as a veil:

42:51. It is not given to a human being that Allâh should speak to him except by direct revelation or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger (- an angel) who should reveal (to him) by His command what He pleases. Indeed, He is the Most Sublime, the All-Wise.[11] [Emphasis added]

With the passage of time, when the veil is lifted, the prophecy comes to its natural manifestation. The example of veil of symbolism in a dream is what the king saw at the time of Prophet Joseph:

12:43. Now (it so happened that one day) the king said, `I saw (in a dream) seven fat kine which seven lean ones were eating, and seven green ears of corn and (as many) others withered. You nobles of the court! explain to me the real significance of my dream if you can interpret dreams.'[12]

To the ordinary mortals, such a veil of dream and its symbols and metaphors can create confusion for its meaning:                      

12:44. They said, `(These are) confused dreams and we do not know the interpretation of such confused dreams.'[13]

Whereas, the true interpretation that lifts the veil is a felicity granted to only a few –This (my ability to interpret, you should bear in mind) is a part of that knowledge which my Lord has imparted to me [i.e. Joseph] (12:37)[14]. Prophet Joseph interpreted the king’s dream as follows:

12:47. He (- Joseph) replied, `You shall sow for seven years working hard and continuously and let what you have harvested remain in its ear excepting a little whereof you may eat.

12:48. `Then there shall follow seven (years of famine) of great severity (and) these (years) shall consume all the stores you have laid by in advance for them except a little which you may have preserved.

12:49. `Then, thereafter shall come a year of rains in which people shall be relieved and in which (season) they will press (fruit and seeds).'[15]

Thereafter, as we know from other sources as well, the king consented to Joseph’s advice and many harvest cycles occurred as predicted followed by equally long period of drought.

Serpent in a vision – a breakthrough

Similar to symbolism in king’s dream at the time of Joseph, a serpent in a vision played a very significant role in August Kekulé’s own account of discovery of benzene ring structure, a breakthrough in organic chemistry, that he narrates himself:

"I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes…My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke…"[16]

Kekule’s mind was able to perceive the symbolism in his vision of the snake and snake-like motion of carbon chains to interpret it into a benzene ring structure. This only shows that symbolism in a vision serves its purpose only for someone who has the capacity to interpret it in context of the problem that a person is facing. Just like Kekule, Moses too was facing an intractable problem, the four centuries of servitude of his nation. Like Kekule, a serpent in a vision solved his problem as well, the symbolism of which will be explained later in the chapter.

Commencement of Revelations for Moses

20:9. You must have surely received the narrative about Moses [not only because it is an oft quoted event in history, but its pertinence will be repeated in due course for Prophet Muhammad’s mission and his challenges as well, and it is as follows…].

20:10. When he saw a fire, he said to his companions, `Stay here for I perceive a fire (creating feelings of love and affection). I hope, I may bring you a fire brand from there. Rather I feel that I would find some guidance at the fire.'[17]

SIDE NOTE: Elsewhere in Quran, this incidence is repeated that refers to the earlier spiritual grooming of Moses that primed him for the office of prophethood:

28:29. And when Moses had completed the agreed term [of eight to ten years for staying under the tutelage of his father-in-law, Shuaib (Jithro) who was a prophet in Midian – v. 28:28-29] and set forth with his family [on his return journey to Egypt], he saw with feelings of warmth of affection and love, a sort of fire (on the way at a place) in the direction of the mount. He said to his family, `You stay (here) I have seen with feelings of warmth of love and affection a fire. I hope to bring you some useful and important information from there or (at least) a burning brand from the fire that you may warm yourselves.'[18]

Apparently, Moses along with his family was on a journey while it was getting dark. On perceiving a fire in distance, indicative of a dwelling, he was naturally gravitated to it so that he could probably ask for directions while he may also bring a burning brand for his companions that they could warm themselves with it. Here, Moses too, like Prophet Muhammad was sharing the chores with his companions. Prophet Muhammad – when he was out in the woods with his friends, the time for preparation of food came. Everybody was allowed a piece of work, he himself going out to pick some fuel. Spiritual and temporal lord as he was, he would yet do his share of work like an ordinary man.[19]

20:11. And when he came close to this (fire) he was hailed, `O Moses!

SIDE NOTE: Contrary to the common belief, God did not speak to Moses from a burning bush:

28:30. And when he came close to it (- the fire) a voice called out to him from a blessed spot on the right side of the valley, from the direction of a tree, `Moses! surely I am, Allâh, the Lord of the worlds. [20]

20:12. `Verily, I alone am your Lord. So take off your shoes (and stay, and make your heart free from every care) [i.e. sit back, relax, don’t be in a rush], for you are in the sacred Valley of Tuwâ.

SIDE NOTE: Tuwa comes from taiyyun and means to roll up. Thus, Tuwa really means "closeness," that is, a person on whom space has been "rolled up." The reference here is to the proximity to Allah that Prophet Moses achieved and his consequent selection as a prophet. This is why the name Tuwa has been given to this valley, otherwise it was not known by that name before by anyone in the world. In other words, it was called Tuwa because there Prophet Moses attained the distinction of achieving self-annihilation in Allah and closeness to Him.[21]

20:13. `And I have chosen you, therefore listen to what is revealed to you.

20:14. `I, and I alone am Allâh. There cannot be, is no other and will never be One worthy of worship but I, therefore worship Me alone. And observe prayer so that you may keep Me in mind.

20:15. `Surely, the Hour (of Resurrection) is bound to come. I am about to unveil it, so that every soul may be rewarded in accordance with its endeavour.

20:16. `So do not allow the person who does not believe in it but pursues his (own) low desires, turn you away from (believing) it, lest you perish. [22]

Moses separated from his companions/family in the said verses before he received his first revelation, an experience which is similar to that of Prophet Muhammad who too separated from his family before his first prophetic revelation:

`A'ishah said: The first revelation that was granted to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, was the true dream in a state of sleep, so that he never dreamed a dream but the truth of it shone forth like the dawn of the morning. Then solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira', and therein he devoted himself to Divine worship for several nights before he came back to his family and took provisions for this (retirement); then he would return to Khadijah and take (more) provisions for a similar (period), until the Truth came to him while he was in the cave of Hira';… [23] [continued below].

Moses questioned about the prophecy of his mission before it was disclosed to him

After the office of prophethood was conferred on Moses (v. 20:11-16), only then he was shown in a vision the prophecy of his mission. The mention of staff in Quran starts with the following verses, where during the first revelation, God asks Moses:

20:17. `Moses, What is that you have in your right hand?'

20:18. (Moses) replied, `This is my staff. I lean on it, and beat down leaves for my sheep with it, and it serves (also) my many other needs.' [24]

Note, only after he is made a prophet, God asks Moses a much bigger question as to what he understood about his strengths and what lay ahead in grip of his hand, his future mission. Moses, a sheep herder, a livelihood that he pursued under Jithro (Shoaib, his father in law) before his return journey to Egypt from Midian, answers quite concretely and describes what he knows about his lowly staff and its functions. It would be unreasonable to imagine that God did not know what was in Moses's right hand; rather it was a question to Moses as to what he understood by that which was in grasp of his 'right hand'.

The response of Moses is quite similar to that of Prophet Muhammad who too did not immediately comprehend the full prophecy during the initial prophetic revelation to him in which he is asked to ‘read’ and the prophet being unlettered simply replies that he cannot read:

[continued from above] …so the angel (Gabriel) came to him and said, Read. He (the Prophet) said, "I said I am not one who can read." And he continued: "Then he (the angel) took hold of me and he pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore, and then he let me go and said, Read. I said, I am not one who can read. Then he took hold of me and pressed me a second time so hard that I could not bear it any more, then he let me go again and said, Read. I said, "I am mot one who can read." (The Prophet) continued : "Then he took whole of me and pressed me hard for a third time, then he let me go and said, `Read in the name of thy Lord Who created – He created man from a clot – Read and thy Lord is most Honourable (These are the first three verses of the 96th chapter of the Holy Qur'an…).'"…[25]

Similar concreteness is found in the response of Mary when she is foretold the birth of Jesus:

3:47. She said, `My Lord! how can I and whence shall I have a child while no man has yet touched me (in conjugal relationship)?'…[26]

Zachariah’s response too was reflective of a surprised reaction when he was prophesied about his son, John:

3:40. `Lord!' he said, `How shall I have a son now that old age has already come upon me and my wife is barren?'… [27]

Staff of Moses – a prophecy in a vision and its symbolic nature

The spontaneous  replies of Moses, Mary, Zachariah and for that matter Prophet Muhammad, is a classic case of 'what the mind does not know, eyes cannot see'. They could not immediately comprehend the full nature of the prophecy in their revelation. For example, an ordinary person while looking at his hand only sees the skin, palm, palm creases, fingers and nails. Whereas, a surgeon with a more deeper knowledge, while looking at the same hand sees all the bones, joints, arteries, nerves, lymphatics, muscles, connective tissue and anatomical planes, essentially a much larger picture of form and function. Similarly, when God refers to hand and that too 'right hand', it also implies the righteous capacities and function within the grasp of a person's intellect and morality that lead to the virtuous actions and are a cause of blessing. The prophecy in a vision continues for Moses:

20:19. (The Lord) said, `Moses! cast it down.'
20:20. So he cast it down and lo! it was (like) a serpent; running about.
20:21. (The Lord) said, `Get hold of it and do not fear. We shall restore it to its former state.
20:22. `And put your hand close under your armpit, it shall come forth (shining) white, without any disease, (providing you with) another sign [28]

These verses describe a vision in which by symbolism Moses was shown various aspects of his future mission. The right hand stood for the authority that he will command over his nation. His holding it, the rod, with clenched fingers around his ‘Asa’, the staff, represented his holding the Israelites together. The ‘serpent’ signified that his message and its power to overcome the opposition and the serpent running about prophesized the vibrancy and revival of his nation which was visibly under inertia from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. The whiteness of his hand stood for clarity of truth and logic of his message. His getting hold of the serpent is indicative of the fearlessness with which he will conduct his mission. In due course, such a right hand would eventually revive his morally dead nation into a vibrant community of future.

Besides the dictionary meaning of staff in a footnote at the beginning of this chapter, in Quran the attribute of the same staff is explained by its adjective:

The staff of Moses is coupled with usage of another word, i.e. Yamana/Yamina, which in Arabic means – To meet on the right side, bless, lead to the right, be a cause of blessing.[29] [Emphasis added]

The metaphorical qualities hidden in 'right hand' of Moses are further explained in that those will also come forth (shining) white for their clarity and strength of their logical arguments.

SIDE NOTE: Recognition of faculties of self is one of the signs of Allah that each human is expected to perceive, for example:

51:20. There are signs on the earth for the people of knowledge and assured faith.
51:21. And (you have signs) in your own persons. Have you no eyes to perceive.[30]

Later in the narrative, we see that Moses is strengthened with Nine Commandments, see separately the Chapter: “Moses – The Nine Signs, not Ten Commandments, nor the Miracles?” It is the same strengthening of a believer with Revelations that Quran mentions in another place:

16:102. Say, `The Spirit of Holiness has brought this (Qur'ân) down from your Lord to suit the requirement of truth and wisdom, (Allâh has revealed it) so that He may strengthen those who believe in their faith and so that (this may serve as) a guidance and good tidings for Muslims.[31]

The metaphor under your armpit means the heart, which is the prophecy of Taurat (Torah), that was to be revealed to Moses. ‘Under your armpit’ signifies a book that is carried under the arm, a flawless book and a book of light, Taurat.[32] When it is all read together – put your hand close under your armpit, it shall come forth (shining) white, without any disease, also indicates a tranquil state of body and mind that results from following the guidance from Allah and is also pointed to in elsewhere in Quran:

SIDE NOTE: 2:248. And their Prophet (of God) [–Samuel] said to them [–Children of Israel], `The sign of his sovereignty is indeed that there shall come to you (in his reign [–Talut: Saul]) the Tâbût (- the heart) in which there will be Shechinah (- tranquility) from your Lord and legacy (of good) left by the followers of Moses and the followers of Aaron [i.e. the true spirit and message of Taurat], the angels bearing it. Verily, there is a sign for you in that, when you are true believers.'[33]

4:174. O you people! a manifest proof has indeed come to you from your Lord, and We have sent down a clear light to you which distinguishes (the right from the wrong). [34],[35]

The mention of do not fear for Moses is not a fear from a serpent but from anxiety of the burden of mission that lay ahead of him. This ‘fear’ was also expressed by Prophet Muhammad after his first revelation – "I fear for myself." The fear to which the Prophet gave expression was lest he should be unable to achieve the great task or the reformation of humanity which was imposed upon him.[36]

Moses had to recognize the signs in his own person, his potentialities, his right hand, before he could be cognizant of greater signs of God which included overcoming the Pharaoh and freedom for Israelites after hundreds of years of their slavery, an apparent impossibility at that time. Returning to the original flow of verses:

20:23. `(We have given you these signs) so that we may show you some of Our greater signs.[37]

The simple right hand and the clenched staff were no longer as Moses knew them. Before they were merely a body part and a walking stick but going forward they signified a prophecy of his intellectual and spiritual strength on which will rely his nation clenched in his hand. The implications of right hand and staff of Moses will be much broader and their impact much stronger, which will go down in history as one of the most quoted mission of a prophet..

Once Moses recognizes his hidden faculties, their potential and the goals he will pursue through them, he is assigned his mission:

20:24. `Go to Pharaoh, he has indeed exceeded (all) limits.' [38]

Mission of Moses – debates not sorcery

Anticipating the colossal mission that lay ahead of him to face the Pharaoh and all his might, his intelligentsia, his scholars/priests and his bureaucracy, in summary the hurdles the prophet will have to overcome before he gets freedom for his people, Moses becomes cognizant of the need to strengthen his 'right hand' and prays for enlightenment, clarity of thought, effective speech, a helping hand and removal of hurdles:

20:25. (Moses) said, `My Lord! (if you have chosen me for this mission) enlighten my mind,
20:26. `And make my task easy for me.
20:27. `And remove the impediments from my tongue,
20:28. `So that they may understand my speech,
20:29. `And grant me a helper from my family,
20:30. `Aaron, my brother,
20:31. `Raise my strength through him,
20:32. `And associate him in my task;
20:33. `That we may glorify You over and over;
20:34. `And spread Your name far and wide,
20:35. `Surely, You are indeed Ever-Watchful over us.'[39]

If Moses's staff, the walking stick, was all that miraculous, then one has to ponder as to why in above verses is he asking for extra ‘wherewithal’ of an enlightened mind, power of speech and aid of a counsel that are needed only for making arguments and entering into debates? It is interesting to note that Moses was facing two distinct classes of people in his mission – the Pharaoh and his elites, and the enslaved Israelites. Since he himself was raised in royalty, he knew how to converse with the former. However, he was disconnected from his nation at large, the Israelites. In order to connect with them he prayed – remove the impediments from my tongue. For them he asked for help of his brother, Aaron, who belonged to the common Israelites. It was Aaron, not Moses, who could effectively communicate with them.

In response to Moses's prayer, God answers:

20:36. (The Lord) said, `Moses! you are granted what you have prayed for.[40]

SIDE NOTE: Similar account is repeated elsewhere in Quran:

28:31. `And put down your staff on the ground.' Then, no sooner did he [and no one else] see it (- the staff) shifting like a tiny quickly moving serpent, than he turned his back and retreated and would not even look back. (God said,) `Moses! come forward, and have no fear. Surely, you are of those who are safe.

28:32. `Insert your hand into your bosom, it will come forth flawless (sparkling) white and draw back your arm towards yourself (to compose yourself) when you encounter fear [i.e. anxiety during execution of his future mission before Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s courtiers and clergy]. So these (two signs) are two proofs from your Lord to (be presented before) Pharaoh and his courtiers. For surely they are lawless and disobedient people.

28:33. (Moses) said, `My Lord! I killed a person from among them (accidentally) and I fear that they will kill me (before I am able to fulfill my mission).

28:34. `And my brother Aaron is more fluent and eloquent in speech than I [to communicate with common Israelites, unlike Moses who was raised and lived with royalty], so send him with me as a helper to bear me out (for) I fear that they will treat me as a liar.'

28:35. (God) said, `We will surely strengthen your arm with your brother and We will give both of you so much power that they shall not reach you (to do you harm). So (go armed) with Our signs; you two and your followers will come out victorious.' [41] [Emphasis added]

Note the use of another metaphor for Moses, before it was the staff in his right hand, now –  strengthen your arm with your brother.

Skeptics, who still attribute a real serpent and an actually shining hand to Moses need to read again the verse 28:35 where both, Moses and Aaron, are given the two signs – So (go armed) with Our signs; you two and your followers will come out victorious. Both, Moses and Aaron were given the prophecy in which the strength of their Truth was (like) a serpent; running about (20:20) and their message that shall come forth (shining) white (20:22).

Signs of Moses – a message, not sorcery

Another verse fully brings to light the nature of the signs that Moses took with him to Egypt:

28:32. `Insert your hand into your bosom, it will come forth flawless (sparkling) white and draw back your arm towards yourself (to compose yourself) when you encounter fear. So these (two signs) are two proofs from your Lord to (be presented before) Pharaoh and his courtiers. For surely they are lawless and disobedient people.

28:36. So when Moses came to them (- the people of Pharaoh) with Our clear signs they said, `This is but a forged and unprecedented fraud. We never heard  such a thing in the time of our forefathers.'[42][Emphasis added]

The key to comprehend the two signs of Moses i.e. the two proofs from your Lord (28:32), is reflected in the response of his audience, which is full amazement – We never heard such a thing in the time of our forefathers (28:36). Obviously, Moses presented to them something new that could only be heard and not seen, the serpent like writhing and vibrant logic and flawless arguments, simply put, Islam. The verse 28:36 is actually a commentary on the vision of Moses in which his staff is shown to him as a visible and vibrant serpent (v. 20:20) and his hand shining white (v. 20:22). We know that a vision is a personal experience and cannot be visually shared with others, except its import and message. That is exactly what Moses did in the above verse when he shared his message and the audience heard it.

Clearly, in the buildup so far, Moses is now a Sâhir, a 'Man of vast knowledge', whose dialogue had already cast its ‘spell’ on the people of Egypt (v. 28:36). With this in mind, let’s see how he goes on to address the Pharaoh next. Initially he presents his message of prophethood in plain words:

7:104. And Moses said, `O Pharaoh! truly, I am a Messenger from the Lord of the worlds;

7:105. `I stand upon it (-the prophethood), worthy to say nothing (in the name) of Allâh but the truth. I have indeed brought to you a clear proof (of my truthfulness) from your Lord, therefore let the Children of Israel go with me.'[43]

One has to bear in mind that Moses, a prophet, cannot say or present anything but the truth, which precludes any deception of an illusion.

SIDE NOTE: What Moses said – I have indeed brought to you a clear proof (of my truthfulness)(v 7:105), is the very basis of proof in Quran i.e. it is based upon reason. Prophet Muhammad stated the same for himself:

12:108. Say, `This is my path. I call to Allâh. I am on sure knowledge verifiable by reason and (so are) those who follow me…[44]

Continuing the earlier flow of verses about Moses, in response to the presentation of truth and clear proof by him, Pharaoh counters with:

7:106. (Pharaoh) said, `If you have indeed come with a sign, then bring it forth, if you are of the truthful.'[45]

In these verses, Pharaoh after hearing the claim of prophethood (v. 7:104-105) engages Moses into an elaborative discussion. So, Moses brings forth his arguments in light of his earlier prophecy (v. 20:20, 20:22) that manifested again to him as a déjà vu in presence of Pharaoh. His presentation of message had an equal effect on the beholders as well for its vibrancy, clarity and truth. For Moses, it was a plain unfolding of the prophecy given to him during his first revelation (v. 20:20, 20:22), as if he was walking through it once again:

7:107. So he (- Moses) flung down his staff, and behold! it was a serpent, plainly visible.

7:108. And he drew forth his hand then lo! it was shining white (-blemishless) for the beholders.[46]

The sign that Pharaoh is asking for are the words straight from God. Essentially he is asking for the ultimate proofs which were no more than Divine verses, because by its very definition the Divine verse is a sign and a miracle in itself:

17:101. And most certainly, We gave Moses nine clear signs. So ask the Children of Israel (about it). When he (- Moses) came to them, Pharaoh said to him, `Moses! I think you to be under a spell and a victim of deception.' [Emphasis added]

17:102. He said, `You know fully well that none other but the Lord of the heavens and the earth has revealed these signs as (means of) enlightenment. Surely, I believe you, O Pharaoh! to be doomed to perish.'[47]

SIDE NOTE: As to what were those nine clear signs that Children of Israel know to this day? They were none but the Nine (not ten) Commandments:

6:151. Say, `Come, I [-Moses, even Muhammad] will rehearse to you what your Lord has made binding on you; it is that [i] you shall associate not anything as partner with Him, and that [ii] you shall be good to parents, and that [iii] you waste not your children because of poverty. It is We Who make provisions for you as well for them too. (Allâh has also enjoined upon you that you)[iv]approach not indecencies, whether open or hidden, and that [v] you kill no soul which Allâh has made sacred, except in the cause of justice.' This has He enjoined you with, so that you may (learn to) abstain (from evil).

6:152. And (He has enjoined you) that [vi] you do not approach the property of an orphan except in the fairest manner; until he attains his maturity, and [vii] give full measure and weight with equity. We charge no soul except to its capacity, and that [viii] when you speak (giving your verdict), observe justice even though the person concerned be a relative (of yours), and [ix] fulfill the covenant (you made) with Allâh. That is what He enjoins upon you so that you may take heed,

6:153. And (the Lord says,) `This is My exact right path, so follow it, and follow not (diverse) ways, lest they should deviate you away from His (straight) way.' That is what He enjoins you with, that you may guard against evil.[48]

To repeat, Moses presents his serpent like writhing and vibrant logic with clear and blemish free arguments, that Moses was foretold in verses 20:19-22 before:

7:107. So he (- Moses) flung down his staff, and behold! it was a serpent, plainly visible.

7:108. And he drew forth his hand then lo! it was shining white (-blemishless) for the beholders.[49]

SIDE NOTE: Quran does not dwell on super-natural to prove itself; rather it ridicules anyone who expects to prove the truth in Quran on such a fantasy, e.g.

6:109. And they swear by Allâh their most solemn oaths that if there comes to them a (particular) sign they would invariably believe in it. Say, `'(Not to speak of a single sign) there are indeed many signs with Allâh, but what is there to assure you that when that (sign) comes, even then, they will not believe.'

6:110. We shall confound their hearts and their eyes, since they did not believe in it (-God's signs) in the first instance, and We shall leave them alone wandering blindly in their transgression.

6:111. Even if We should send down the angels to them, and the dead should speak to them, and even if We should bring all things together face to face (to them), they would not believe unless Allâh had (enforced) His will. The thing is that most of them persist in ignorance. [50]

Elsewhere, the interaction of Moses and Pharaoh is mentioned in following words:

51:38. And in (the case of) Moses (there is also a sign). (Remember the time) when We sent him to Pharaoh with a clear authoritative proof.

51:39. But he turned away (from Moses) in the pride of his power and said, `(He is) a sorcerer, or rather a madman.' [51]

It is a common human experience that a person may be called 'madman' only after hearing and talking to the person. It is the person's thought process and logic which determines the sanity. Whereas, an illusionist or magician, will be called for the lack of a better word, a 'smart-man', for his extraordinary feats. Factually, people will pay to see and be amused by such sorcery. Psychology of Pharaoh is obvious. Initially, he seems mesmerized by the arguments put forth by Moses and by his clear authoritative proof, but then goes into self-denial by rejecting the whole when he calls Moses – initially a sorcerer, but on a second thought rather a madman. Keep in mind that no madman is expected to do ‘magical’ tricks.

The response of Pharaoh's courtiers is in their initial awe of Moses, and then they reverse themselves by a frustrated and deflecting counter allegation to invoke the wrath of the government against him:

7:109. The chiefs of Pharaoh's people said (to each other), `This (fellow here) is most surely a skilled sorcerer,

7:110. `Who desires to turn you out from your land, now what do you advise?'[52]

SIDE NOTE: In another place, the courtiers who were benefitting from Pharaoh’s rule that was based upon his claimed status of godhead obviously felt threatened for losing their privileged status because of monotheistic ideas of Moses. Naturally, they instigated the Pharaoh:

7:127. Then the chiefs of the people of Pharaoh said (to Pharaoh), `Will you leave Moses and his people (free) to create disorder in the land and to desert you and your gods?' …[53]

20:63. They said, `Surely, these two (brothers, Moses and Aaron) are sorcerers who seek to drive you out of your country by dint of their sorcery and to do away with your ideal religious traditions. [54]

Similar arguments to invoke the might of the state to counter Jesus were put forth by his opponents as well:

5:110. …It was the time when you came to them with clear arguments, but those among them who disbelieved had said, "This is naught but a hoax cutting (us) off (from the nation)".'[55]

It is not even imaginable that the courtiers of builders of pyramids and cities were threatened by the illusion of a mere serpent, unless it was some fundamental doctrine that challenged the status quo of their exploitation of masses and their perks and their power structures under the god-ship of Pharaoh.

SIDE NOTE: Elsewhere in Quran, the same audiences attribute the convincing presentation of Moses as witchcraft:

27:13. But when Our eye-opening signs were shown to them (- Pharaoh and his people) they said, `This is plain witchcraft (to cause disruption among the people).'[56]

Similar to Pharaoh and his people calling the presentation of Moses as witchcraft, so did the opponents of Prophet Muhammad called Quran as magic:

74:24. And said, `This (Qur'ân) is nothing but an age long magic handed down (by tradition).[57]

And we know that despite Quran being called a magic, there is no recorded event of Prophet Muhammad practicing magic. Or, one must ask, is there something known as magic to begin with?

Analogous to Moses, so too was the divine revelation to Abraham enchanting for his people before, who like Pharaoh’s courtiers denied it (7:109-110, 27:13):

43:30. Yet no sooner did the lasting truth come to them than they said, `This is enchanting, but we are disbelievers in it altogether.' [58]

Paradoxically, despite alleging a prophet to be a sorcerer or the Divine revelation as witchcraft or magic, their rejection by opponents is based upon them attributing to the message of prophets its simplicity, rather than the complexities of beliefs already prevalent in them:

74:25. `This is nothing but mere words of a human being.' [59]

Is it not strange that while the disbelievers take the message of God as simple as mere words of a human beingwhereas, the ‘believers’ make it complex by attributing to it magical events, and a belief that the staff of Moses changed into an actual serpent, is just a case in point? It is ironic that believers create complexities in faith when there are none.

Counter strategy of Pharaoh – debaters vs. debater

To counter the challenge of monotheism posed by Moses, the Pharaoh’s council presented the following strategy:

7:111. (After their deliberations) they said (to Pharaoh), `Put him and his brother off a while and send to the cities heralds,

7:112. `Who would (collect and) bring to you every skilled sorcerer [to give Moses and Aaron a matching response for their arguments and their claim to prophethood].'[60]

SIDE NOTE: It sounds as a bizarre logic that after Moses had been adjudged to be a sorcerer by Pharaoh and his courtiers, what need was left to put him to a match with other sorcerers, because by its very definition a sorcerer is a fake. Seems absurd that Pharaoh expected truth to emerge from a fake vs. fake encounter, while in his own judgment Moses was a liar to begin with:

40:37. …I [– Pharaoh] consider him [– Moses] to be a liar…[61]

Irrespective of Moses winning or losing the 'sorcery' match, he still would have remained a fake to Pharaoh, unless the use of the word sorcery was linguistically different from practice of witchcraft. Rather, it meant the magical and mesmerizing impression of Moses's message on his audience in the same manner of that of Quran by Prophet Muhammad:

46:7. When Our clear Messages are recited to them, these disbelievers say with regard to the Truth when it comes to them, `This is an obvious sorcery.' [62]

As stated earlier, Moses did not challenge the Pharaoh for his rule. He challenged him on principles of monotheism. It was thus natural for Pharaoh to counter Moses in the same domain only. Essentially, Pharaoh's people gathered their scholars and theologians to rebut Moses. Interestingly, the summoned expected to be paid for their debate and were assured so by the Pharaoh. This alone points to the fact that it were the priests who were asked for their services, who in their normal course of daily livelihood were abettors of Pharaoh’s god-ship in their temples, for which they were on payroll of the state. If Moses was a military threat, the security apparatus would had been summoned, but since he was on only a theological challenge, hence priests were beckoned for a debate to prove their worth. Through common history we know that Pharaoh’s moral authority in the land was implemented through the network of temples and their priests, who in turn kept the general masses under the sway of Pharaoh as their god:

7:113. And the (most reputed) sorcerers came to Pharaoh. They said, `We shall indeed be richly rewarded if we be the prevailing ones?'

7:114. (Pharaoh) said, `Yes, and you shall also be even of those drawn near and close (to me).' [63]

‘Sorcerers’ vs. Sorcerer – strangely missing is the actual serpent, the cornerstone of the myth!

Finally the debate started. Note, there is no mention of serpent anymore in the public encounter with the ‘sorcerers’:

7:115. They said, `Moses! either you present (first what you have), or shall we be the (first) ones to present?'

7:116. (Moses) said, `You may present (first, what you have).' And when they presented (their devices) they cast a spell on the peoples' eyes and sought to strike awe into them and they came out with a mighty enchantment.[64]

SIDE NOTE: In another verse, it was ‘only’ Moses who perceived it as an enchantment, and there is no mention of the audience witnessing serpents:

20:66. (Moses) said, `Nay, you present first what you have.' (Accordingly they were the first to present. No sooner did they present them) lo! their cords and their staves, appeared to him [– Arabic: ilayhi] (- Moses) by their trickstery only as though they ran about. [65]

7:117. And We sent a revelation to Moses (saying), `Cast your staff (now).'[66]

d. to set down (the or one's) staff : to take up a fixed or settled position; to abide steadfastly by an opinion, decision, etc.; similarly to fix the staff (obs.). to set up (or †in) one's staff (of rest) : to settle down in a place, take up one's abode. Oxford English Dictionary.[67] [Emphasis added]

Essentially Moses took a settled position in the debate.

Then it [–the body of arguments of Moses] began to destroy (as he did it) all their lying show.

7:118. So was the truth established [by arguments, not by some ‘magical’ show] and all their efforts (to frustrate it) proved vain.

SIDE NOTE: `And Allâh will establish the truth by dint of His decrees even though the guilty may find (it) hard'(10:82), and not by any illusion.

7:119. Thus they (-Pharaoh and his people) were vanquished then and there, and they went back humiliated.[68]

‘Sorcerers’ vs. Sorcerer – the after game party, an analysis

Though Pharaoh and his Chiefs were humiliated, the debaters were humbled, convinced and converted to Islam:

7:120. And the sorcerer were impelled (by divine mercy) to fall down prostrate.

7:121. They (-the sorcerers) said, `We believe in the Lord of the Worlds;

7:122. `The Lord of Moses and Aaron.'[69]

SIDE NOTE: The transformed and submitting behavior of the debaters of Pharaoh is that of believers in a revelation, not sorcery:

17:107. Say, `You may believe in it (- the Qur'ân) or you may not believe, those who have been given the (spiritual) knowledge before it (- its revelation) fall down on their faces prostrating submissively (before their Lord) when it is recited to them.'

17:108. And they say, `Glory be to Our Lord! The promise of our Lord is really bound to be fulfilled.'

17:109. They fall down on their faces weeping and (as they listen to the divine words) it adds to their humility.[70]

Early Islamic history too is witness to similar transformative effect of Quran on the opponents of the prophet:

When the 53rd chapter, which ends with a commandment to prostrate oneself, was recited by the Holy Prophet in an assembly containing Muslims as well as idolaters, even the latter fell down in prostration, with the single exception of Umayya ibn Khalf, who raised some gravel to his forehead. When Abu Bakr recited the Qur'an aloud in the courtyard of his house, which was situated on a public way, the idolaters objected and sanctioned Abu Bakr's staying at Makka only on condition that he would not recite the Qur'an aloud, because, they said, women and children were carried away by it. On another occasion, when 'Utba ibn Rabi'a came to the Holy Prophet with a message from the Quraish that, if he desisted from speaking of their national gods, they were prepared to accept him as their chief and to offer what he desired, the Holy Prophet read out to him the opening verses of the 41st chapter. He was so impressed with the words and was such a changed man when he went back to the Quraish leaders and asked them not to oppose the Prophet, for what he had heard from him was neither poetry, nor magic, nor a soothsayer's utterance, that his friends had to tell him that he was under the magic spell of Muhammad. ‘Umar went out determined to put an end to the Prophet's life but, on listening to the first part of the 20th chapter, at his sister's house, his enmity gave place to devotion, and hatred was changed into admiration. The driving of the Qur'an was absolutely irresistible. It flowed as a torrent from the mountain-top and carried away everything with it.[71]

If one were to accept that Moses, a prophet, can make a serpent, then at least the non-Muslim sorcerers too did the same, albeit weak ones. Is eating up of one snake by another the basis to establish the truth of God? Fact is that Pharaoh and his chiefs took the force of Allah’s message itself as enchantment:

10:75. Then We sent after them Moses and Aaron with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they behaved arrogantly. And they were a people who had cut off their ties (with Allâh).

10:76. And when there came to them the truth from Us, they said, `This is, of course, enchantment creating dissension.'

10:77. Moses said, `Is that how you talk of the truth when it has come to you? Can this be an enchantment, whereas the enchanters never attain their goal?' [Emphasis added]

10:78. They said, `Have you come to us that you may turn us away from what we found our forefathers practising and to make sure that you two reign supreme in the land? But (remember) we will not believe in either of you at all.'

10:79. And Pharaoh said (to his people), `Bring every skilled sorcerer to me.'[72]

If Moses were to present a matching display of visual illusion to the ‘sorcerers’ then he had no moral right to call the ‘tricks’ of his opponents as ‘deception’ while he was indulging in one himself:

10:80. Now when the sorcerers came, Moses said to them, `Present whatever you have to present.'

10:81. Then, when they had presented (what they would present), Moses said, `What you have brought is a mere deception. Allâh will soon render it void (because) Allâh does not at all allow the machination of the mischief-makers to thrive.

10:82. `And Allâh will establish the truth by dint of His decrees even though the guilty may find (it) hard.'[73]

The debaters were so convinced by the writhing and vibrant logic and clear arguments of Moses that they believed in the signs of our Lord i.e. the Message by the Prophet, and they stayed firm even in face of torture and death threat by Pharaoh. They preferred dying as Muslims:

7:123. Pharaoh said, `Dared you believe in Him before I gave you permission? Surely, this is some secret device which you have devised in this (central) city that you may expel from it its inhabitants. You shall come to know then (the consequence of your doings) very soon.

7:124. `I will certainly have your hands and your feet cut off on alternate sides on account of (your) disobedience, then will I crucify you to death one and all making your death all the more painful.'

7:125. They, (however, remained firm and) said, `(Never mind) we have all to return to our Lord after all.

7:126. `And you find no fault in us but that we have believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us (and we pray to Him), "Our Lord! pour forth upon us patience and perseverance and grant that we die in a state of complete submission (to You)".'[74]

SIDE NOTE: Compare this transformation of sorcerers with their earlier state when they expected to be rewarded for their disbelief:

7:113. And the (most reputed) sorcerers came to Pharaoh. They said, `We shall indeed be richly rewarded if we be the prevailing ones?'[74a]

Pharaoh’s rage and the consequent steadfastness of former ‘sorcerers’, the new convertees of Moses, is also reflected in the unwavering resolve of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad that we find in early Islamic history as well:

The brunt of the oppression had to be borne by those not corning of some family of note among the Quraish and especially by the slaves, male as well as female. These were subjected to the most cruel tortures. Islamic teachings, however, possessed a charm too strong for all these afflictions. They would part with life itself rather than give up Islam, which had taken deep root in their hearts. Bilal the Abyssinian, was tortured in a most heartless manner by his master to make him renounce Islam. His oppressor made him lie flat on the burning ground in the scorching heat of the Arabian midday sun. Heavy slabs of stone were then placed on his chest. Notwithstanding such extremely painful torments he would loudly repeat, almost in a state of senselessness "Ahad" (One), i.e., there is but one God. Ammar’s father, Yasir, and his mother, Sumayyah, were persecuted in a most barbarous way. Yasir’s legs were tied to two camels and the beasts were driven in opposite directions. He was brutally torn to pieces. Sumayyah was killed in a similarly brutal but far more disgraceful manner. Lubainah was the hand-maid of 'Umar. The latter in his pre-conversion days used to beat her till he was tired. Then he would say: "I leave thee now not because I pity thee but because I am tired of beating thee."

Even converts of high birth were not spared. They were persecuted by their own kinsmen. 'Uthman came of a noble family and occupied a high social position. Yet his uncle tied him with a rope and gave him a severe beating. ‘Umar's treatment of his cousin and sister has already been described. Zubair was wrapped up in a matting and made to inhale smoke. Abu Bakar was not immune. They were, one and all, subjected to one form of cruelty or another; but no amount of suffering could drive the love of Islam out of their hearts. The Makkans themselves were struck with wonder at such steadfast adherence. But their fortitude only added fuel to the fire of their persecutors' rage, and the latter resorted to still more bitter persecutions.[75]

Interestingly, Pharaoh too like his sorcerers made a conversion attempt to Islam, but only before his imminent death, and with a difference:

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.'[76]

Rejection of Pharaoh’s conversion request is based upon the principle that conversion has to happen by being convinced of the arguments of faith and its logic, and not by outward witnessing a phenomenon, which in case of Pharaoh was his drowning along with his mighty army. This rejection of Pharaoh by God alone proves that the ‘sorcerers’ had a debate with Moses and were convinced of his arguments and they converted not by witnessing an alleged snake vs. snake encounter.

In sum total:  Unlike Bible, the purpose of Quran is not to repeat endless and pointless stories. Narratives from history in Quran serve only as repeatable examples of spiritual laws that ensure morality, justice and freedom of conscious. These laws are addressed to all humanity. While they are a source of admonition to the transgressors, they also act as a solace to their victims; hence accounts of Noah, Hud-Ad, Salih-Thamud, Abraham-Nimrod, Moses-Pharaoh, and others are dispersed though out the fabric of Quran and blended into its message with the only exception of Joseph who is mentioned once. In reference to the story of Moses which was revealed in various chapters of Quran while Prophet Muhammad was still in Makkah, we see similarities between the two and the fulfilling of its prophesized parallels for the latter. Prophet Muhammad too, like Moses, received his first prophetic revelation when he was separated from his family and he also could not immediately comprehend the prophecy in that revelation. Both were law givers. Both had to confront idol worshipers whose socio-economic order was based upon practice of a false creed and their Message was taken as a direct existential threat to the benefiters of that status quo. Prophet Muhammad, like Moses, was equally anxious about success of his mission and wellness of his people for which he is repeatedly comforted in the Book. He and his followers were persecuted at the hands of bureaucracy and prominent leaders of Makkah resulting in their exile, one and all. Like Exodus, Prophet Muhammad too left Makkah at night and his pursuer also gained on him in his flight but the pursuer was humiliated. When Moses was almost overtaken by Pharaoh’s army he famously uttered – my Lord is with me (v. 26:62) and so did Prophet Muhammad in Cave of Thaur when his pursuers were inches away with their swords drawn – Surely, Allâh is with us (v. 9:40). Similar to drowning of the Pharaoh, a moral saturation point was finally reached when opposition of Islam was won over. While some of the prominent leaders from the oppressors were killed because of their own aggression, the majority converted, one by one, in circumstances unique to each of them. Even before the Prophet entered Makkah as a conqueror but in a state of humility, almost all opposition to Islam had converged to the faith. Irrespective of their faith, the whole assembled town before him in Kaaba was forgiven. That event coincided for its timing when the sun was high in the sky during late month of Ramadan just before the Eid festival, with that of Moses who too had earlier confronted sorcerers and overcame them at the same hour[76a] :

20:59. (Moses) said, `The day of the festival will be the day of your appointment, and let the people be assembled when the sun is risen high.' [76b]

For a scholarly discussion about the prophecies of Moses foretelling Prophet Muhammad and also their mutual similarities as prophets, reader is referred to: “Muhammad in World Scriptures by Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi: Chapter 4 – Moses (links: 1, 2).”

With the above discussion in mind, one may read the narration in its entirety:

26:10. And (recall the time) when your Lord called to Moses (directing him ), `Go to the wrongdoing people,

26:11. `The people of Pharaoh (and say to them), "Will they not guard against evil?'"

26:12. (Moses) said, `My Lord! I am afraid they will cry me lies.

26:13. `And my bosom straitens, (and my heart fails me), and my tongue is not fluent (for feeling inadequate to deliver the message I am entrusted with), therefore send to Aaron (to help me).

26:14. `Moreover, they have a charge (of the murder of an Egyptian) against me, so I fear they will kill me (before I am able to deliver Your Message to them).'

26:15. (The Lord) said, `That shall not be, go then both of you, with Our Messages and We are assuredly with you listening (to your prayers).

26:16. `Go to Pharaoh both of you and say, "We are bearers of a Message from the Lord of the worlds.

26:17. "(Who commands you) to send the Children of Israel with us".'

26:18. (So when Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh) he said (to Moses), `Did we not bring you up among us when you were a mere babe? And you stayed with us many years of your life.

26:19. `And you have surely committed an act (of homicide), and you are of the ungrateful.'

26:20. (Moses) said, `Indeed I did it (then inadvertently and) as I was lost (for the love of my people and was in a perplexed state of mind).

26:21. `So I fled from you when I apprehended (injustice from) you; then (it came to pass that) my Lord granted me knowledge and (right) judgment and made me (one) of the Messengers.
 
26:22. `And this insignificant favour (of your bringing me up) that you (so tauntingly) remind me of (can be no reasonable excuse) for you have enslaved (the whole community of) the Children of Israel (for no fault of theirs).'
 
26:23. Pharaoh (was confounded and turning the topic of the conversation) said, `What is (this) Lord of the world (by whom you claim to be sent?)'
 
26:24. (Moses) said, `(In respect of apace) He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and of all that lies between the two; if you (and your companions) be convinced (of this true knowledge and have faith in Him).'
 
26:25. (Thereupon Pharaoh) said to those around him, `Do you not hear (what is being said)?'
 
26:26. (Moses continued, `He is the same Who is) your Lord and the Lord of your fathers of yore.'
 
26:27. (Pharaoh) said, `Most surely, this Messenger of yours who has been sent to you is a mad man indeed.'
 
26:28. (Moses) said (continuing his speech), `(In respect of time the Lord of the worlds is the same as) the Lord of the east and of the west and of all that lies between the two. (You can be rightly guided) if you could only use your senses.'
 
26:29. (Pharaoh) said, `If you worship any god other than me, I will certainly make you one of the imprisoned.'
 
26:30. (Moses) said, `(Will you do this,) even though I bring to you something that makes (the truth of my statement) clear to you?'
 
26:31. (Pharaoh) said, `Bring it then, if you are of the truthful.'
 
26:32. So he put his staff (on the ground) and behold, it was a serpent plainly visible.
 
26:33. And he stuck his hand out and lo! it was (shining) white to the beholders.
 
26:34. (Pharaoh) said to the courtiers around him, `This (man) is surely a skilled sorcerer,
 
26:35. `Who seeks to turn you out of your country by dint of his sorcery. Now, what do you advise?'
 
26:36. They said, `Detain him and his brother for a while and send heralds into the cities to collect;
 
26:37. `And bring to you all skilled and very expert sorcerers.'
 
26:38. So the sorcerers were gathered together at the appointed time and place on a fixed day.
 
26:39. And it was said to the people, `Will you (also) assemble together (in the field of contest);
 
26:40. `So that we may follow the sorcerers if they win clear supremacy.'
 
26:41. So when all the sorcerers came they said to Pharaoh, `Shall we be really and richly rewarded if we gain clear supremacy?'
 
26:42. He said, `Yes, and surely you will in that case be among my close companions.'
 
26:43. Moses said to them, `(Now) put forward (of your things of sorcery), what you have to put forward.'
 
26:44. 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.'
 
26:45. Then Moses put down (on the ground) his staff; lo! it instantly destroyed all that they had fabricated.
 
26:46. Thereupon the sorcerers were impelled to fall down prostrating;
 
26:47. And they said, `We believe in the Lord of the worlds;
 
26:48. `The Lord of Moses and Aaron.'
 
26:49. (Pharaoh) said, `Have you believed in him before I gave you leave? Indeed he is your chief, the same who taught you sorcery. So you will soon know (your horrible end). I will most surely cut off your hands and your feet on alternate sides for (your this) opposition (to me); and I will crucify you to death one and all.'
 
26:50. They said, `It does not matter at all. We have, after all, to return to our Lord.
 
26:51. `We do hope that our Lord will forgive us our offences, since we are the first to believe.'[77]
  

In another place, Quran repeats the same account:

 
20:41. `And I, (having made you perfect,) have chosen you for Myself.
 
20:42. `Go you and your brother (Aaron) with My Messages and do not be remiss in remembering Me.
 
20:43. `Go to Pharaoh, both of you, for he has transgressed all limits.
 
20:44. `But speak to him a gentle speech, maybe he pays heed and fears (the consequences).'
 
20:45. Both (Moses and Aaron) said, `Our Lord! we fear lest he (- Pharaoh) should hasten to do us some harm or exceed all limits in transgression (against You).'
 
20:46. (The Lord) said, `Have no fear. I am with you both. I hear (prayers) and I see (your condition).
 
20:47. `So go to him (- Pharaoh), both of you, and say, "We are the Messengers of your Lord, so let the Children of Israel go with us and do not torture them. We have come to you with a Message from your Lord. Peace will be upon him who follows the guidance.
 
20:48. "It has been revealed to us that the punishment comes upon him who cries lies to (His Messages) and turns away".'
 
20:49. (When they had delivered the Message of God, Pharaoh) said, `Moses! who, then, is the Lord of you two, (in whose kingdom you want to settle down)?'
 
20:50. (Moses) said, `Our Lord is He Who gives every creation its (proper) form and character and then guides them along the path (of evolution in order to attain perfection and to do proper functions).'
 
20:51. (Pharaoh) said, `What will be the fate of the former generations (who did not believe in these things)?'
 
20:52. (Moses) said, `The knowledge of that is with my Lord (recorded) in a book. My Lord neither errs nor forgets.
 
20:53. `It is He Who made the earth a bed for you and has threaded it with pathways for you. He sends down rain from the clouds. We bring forth by means of this (water) pairs of vegetation of diverse kinds.
 
20:54. `(So that you may) eat it and pasture your cattle (upon it). Verily, in all this there are signs for the people possessing sound reason.'
 
20:55. We have created you from this (universe) and into this We will make you return and from this We will raise you to life a second time.
 
20:56. And We showed him (- Pharaoh) all sorts of Our signs, but (even then) he went on denying (them) and refused (to believe).
 
20:57. He said, `Moses! have you come to us to turn us out of our country on the basis of your sorcery?
 
20:58. `But we (too) shall certainly meet you with a matching sorcery. Make an appointment of time and place between us, which (appointment) neither we nor you shall fail to keep, (let the meeting be) at a place fair (for us both).'
 
20:59. (Moses) said, `The day of the festival will be the day of your appointment, and let the people be assembled when the sun is risen high.'
 
20:60. Pharaoh then withdrew and concerted his plan then came (at the appointed time and place for the contest).
 
20:61. Moses said to them, `Woe to you, forge no lies in the name of Allâh or He shall destroy you utterly by some calamity and surely he who forges a lie in the name of Allâh has ever been unsuccessful.'
 
20:62. Upon this they (- Pharaoh and his courtiers) began arguing their affair among themselves, and kept (their) discourse secret.
 
20:63. They said, `Surely, these two (brothers, Moses and Aaron) are sorcerers who seek to drive you out of your country by dint of their sorcery and to do away with your ideal religious traditions.
 
20:64. `Therefore you had better consolidate your resources, then come forward arrayed in a body and indeed he alone who gains the upper hand (and wins) shall be successful today.'
 
20:65. (The sorcerers) said, `Moses! either you present (first what you have) or we shall be the first to present (what we have).'
 
20:66. (Moses) said, `Nay, you present first what you have.' (Accordingly they were the first to present. No sooner did they present them) lo! their cords and their staves, appeared to him (- Moses)[Arabic: ilayhi]by their trickstery only as though they ran about.
 
20:67. So Moses felt afraid in his mind (lest the people be misled by their glittering tricks).
 
20:68. We said (to him), `Have no fear. Surely, it is you who shall be the uppermost.
 
20:69. `Now, cast down (on the ground) that (staff) which you have in your right hand. It will destroy all their artifices, for all they have wrought is nothing more than a device of a sorcerer, and the beguiler shall never succeed whichever way he may choose (to beguile).'
 
20:70. Then (it so happened that) the sorcerers were instantly made to fall down prostrate. They said, `We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.'
 
20:71. Pharaoh said, `Dared you believe in him (- Moses) before I gave you permission? He (- Moses) must be your chief who has taught you sorcery. I will certainly cut off your hands and feet on alternate sides (by way of punishment) because of (your) disobedience. I will surely crucify you to death on the trunks of palm-trees and you shall, of a certainty, come to know which of us can inflict a more severe and more abiding punishment.'
 
20:72. They (- the sorcerers) said, `We will certainly never prefer you to the clear proofs and signs that have come to us, nor to Him Who originated us. You may decide what you like to decide. You can only decree concerning this present life and put an end to it (this our life).

20:73. `We have surely believed in our Lord that He may protect us against our faults and (particularly forgive us) the sorcery which you did constrain us (to practise). Allâh is the Best and Ever Abiding.'[78]
 


 [1] Staff in Arabic Language: The term which has become a source of legends is the Arabic word ‘Asâ, that means – Staff; Nation; Mastery; People; Party; Tongue; Stick; Rod; Supports.

‘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) – Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376.

Staff in English Language: The meaning of Asa in Arabic is no different from the sense of Staff in English dictionaries – stick, rod, symbol of office or authority, people, teachers, something that supports or sustains.

7.A rod or wand, of wood or ivory, borne as an ensign of office or authority; spec. as the badge of certain chief officers of the Crown. Usage in history: “1813   King George IV in Duke of Wellington Dispatches (1838) X. 552   You have sent me the Staff of a French Marshal, and I send you in return that of England.” [Oxford English Dictionary]. Link: http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/188624?rskey=7iukvR&result=1#eid

[2] Arabic terms mistaken for sorcery in Quran

Sâhir/plu. Sâhirûn/Sâharâ, which means – Wizards; Fraud; Deluder; Man of vast knowledge.
Âyatun which means – Sign; Apparent sign; Mark; Indication; Message; Evidence; Proof, Miracle; Communication; Verse of the Holy Qur’ân (as each of which is a miracle); Previous revelation; Monument; Lofty building that should acquire renown as a sign of greatness. It properly signifies any apparent thing inseparable from a thing not equally apparent so that when one perceives the former, he perceives the other which he cannot perceive by itself, e.g."The party came out with their whole company." – Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p. 38. [Emphasis added]

[3] Footnote: b (108) to verse 7:108: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[4] Al-Qasas – The Narrative: Nooruddin
[4a] Al-Naba'– The Important Announcement: Nooruddin
[5] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin. 20:49-57. (When they had delivered the Message of God, Pharaoh) said, `Moses! who, then, is the Lord of you two, (in whose kingdom you want to settle down)?' (Moses) said, `Our Lord is He Who gives every creation its (proper) form and character and then guides them along the path (of evolution in order to attain perfection and to do proper functions).' (Pharaoh) said, `What will be the fate of the former generations (who did not believe in these things)?' (Moses) said, `The knowledge of that is with my Lord (recorded) in a book. My Lord neither errs nor forgets. `It is He Who made the earth a bed for you and has threaded it with pathways for you. He sends down rain from the clouds. We bring forth by means of this (water) pairs of vegetation of diverse kinds. ` (So that you may) eat it and pasture your cattle (upon it). Verily, in all this there are signs for the people possessing sound reason.' We have created you from this (universe) and into this We will make you return and from this We will raise you to life a second time. And We showed him (- Pharaoh) all sorts of Our signs, but (even then) he went on denying (them) and refused (to believe). He said, `Moses! have you come to us to turn us out of our country on the basis of your sorcery?
[6] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin. 2:258. Have you not considered (the case of) him (- Nimrod, the then ruler of Babylon) who controversed with Abraham concerning his Lord, because Allâh had given him kingdom? When Abraham said, `My Lord is He Who fertilises (the earth) and causes desolation.' He (- Nimrod) replied, `I do bring about fertility and cause desolation.' Abraham said, `Allâh surely makes the sun rise from the east, so you should make it rise from the west.' Thereupon the one who had rejected the faith (- Nimrod) was completely confounded. Indeed, Allâh does not guide the unjust people.
[7] Sad – The Truthful God: Nooruddin
[8] Jonah – Yunus: Nooruddin
[9] This section is re-quoted from another chapter. Link: http://ahmadiyya.org/WordPress/2014/11/26/section-ii-myths/

[10] “Promised Messiah and Mahdi” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, p. 36, translated into English by S. Muhammad Tufail M.A., Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Ishaat Islam, Lahore (W. Pakistan), Third Edition, pub: 1959.
[11] Al-Shura – The Counsel: Nooruddin
[12] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[13] ibid
[14] 
ibid
[15] ibid
[16] The Ouroboros ~ A Personal Symbology, 2003. http://www.literate-lemur.com/ouroboros/
[17] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[18] Al-Qasas – The Narrative: Nooruddin
[19] Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Chapter X: The Prophet’s Sublime Morals, p. 167. Seventh edition, 1993.
[20] Al-Qasas – The Narrative: Nooruddin
[21] Explanation of the term Tuwa in verse 79:16 by Basharat Ahmad in his English Commentary of the Holy Quran: Link: http://www.aaiil.org/text/books/others/basharatahmad/anwaarulquran/anwaarulquran.shtml
[22] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[23] Manual of Hadith by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Chapter: How Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Hadith – Tradition). Link: http://www.aaiil.org/text/had/manhad/ch1had.shtml

[24] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[25] Manual of Hadith by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Chapter: How Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Hadith – Tradition). Link: http://www.aaiil.org/text/had/manhad/ch1had.shtml

[26] `Al Imran –Family of Amran: Nooruddin
[27]
ibid
[28] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[29] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p. 628.
[30] Al-Dariyat – The Scatterers: Nooruddin
[31] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[32] Explanation of the said verse by Nooruddin in his lectures published as “Haqaiqul Furqan”. Link: http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=317&region=H3&CR=
[36] Manual of Hadith by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Chapter: How Divine Revelation came to the Holy Prophet (Hadith – Tradition). Link: http://www.aaiil.org/text/had/manhad/ch1had.shtml

[37] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[38]
ibid
[39] ibid
[40] ibid
[41] Al-Qasas – The Narrative: Nooruddin
[42]
ibid
[43] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[44] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[45] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[46]
ibid
[47] Isra – The Night-Journey: Nooruddin
[48] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin
[49] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[50] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin
[51] Al-Dariyat – The Scatterers: Nooruddin
[52] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[53]
ibid
[54] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[55] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[56] Al-Naml – The Tribe of Naml: Nooruddin
[57] Al-Muddaththir – One Endowed With Excellent Capabilities: Nooruddin
[58] Al-Zukhruf – The Ornaments: Nooruddin
[59] Al-Muddaththir – One Endowed With Excellent Capabilities: Nooruddin
[60] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[61] Ghafir – Granter of Protection: Nooruddin
[62] Al-Ahqaf – The Sand Dunes: Nooruddin
[63] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[64]
ibid
[65] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[66] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[67] Link: http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/188624?rskey=7iukvR&result=1#eid

[68] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[69]
ibid
[70] Isra – The Night-Journey: Nooruddin
[71] Introduction to Study of The Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali. Chapter 1, Section: Miraculous Nature, p. 32-33.
[72] Jonah – Yunus: Nooruddin
[73]
ibid
[74] Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
[74a] ibid
[75] Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Chapter IV: The Stormy Opposition, p. 50-51. Seventh edition, 1993.
[76] Yunus – Jonah: Nooruddin

[76a] Explanation of the verse 20:29 by Nooruddin in his lectures published as “Haqaiqul Furqan”. Link:
[76b] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
[77] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[78] Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin

My reply to e-mail I received entitled ‘Drawing of Muhammad’

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

I received today an e-mail at the UK Lahore Ahmadiyya Jamaat account that I administer, with the subject "Drawing of Muhammad", and it consisted of the following message:

Attached is a drawing of your false prophet Muhammad.

The bolding is his. The sender gave his name, real e-mail and his Facebook address. I am not including these for his privacy (and perhaps other obvious reasons). The image which he attached is that of the head of a man, with beard and moustache, wearing a large turban with the Kalima on its front, and protruding above the turban is a lit fuse of a bomb.

I replied to him as follows:

Dear Mr NS

Thank you for your e-mail.

Whether our Prophet is a true or false prophet is a matter of belief, and discussions about it will go on forever, and people will disagree about it.

Whether your drawing is a true or false picture is a matter that can be determined factually. It doesn't involve any belief. So please provide evidence that it is a drawing correctly showing our Prophet's face. I have always wanted to know what our Prophet looked like. Therefore, if you can prove to me that it is his likeness, I would be very grateful to you. Until then, I will perhaps wonder whether you looked in the mirror and drew your own likeness.

Regards,
Zahid Aziz

Both the N and S in his name are Old Testament names.

Staff of Solomon – a Throne, not a Termitarium

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Staff of Solomon – a Throne, not a Termitarium[1]

Overtime, myths and nonsensical accounts creep into the folklore of religions that sooner or later find their way into their respective Scriptures as well. Quran has a distinct feature that it is incorruptible, both, for its written text and its Message – Verily, it was We, We Ourself Who have revealed this Reminder (- the Qur'an); and it is We Who are, most certainly, its Guardian (15:9).[2] However, that did not prevent leaching of the hearsay into superficial interpretations of the Quran and a kaleidoscope of fairy tales is attributed to it. When Quran is read for its simplicity and for what Quran tells its reader, rather than what is read into Quran from extraneous sources, the myths ascribed to it naturally evaporate. This chapter will clear some of the myths attributed to staff of Solomon that Quran mentions for totally different reasons.

Staff in Arabic Language

The term which has become a source of legends is the Arabic word ‘Asâ, that means – Staff; Nation; Mastery; People; Party; Tongue; Stick; Rod; Supports.

‘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)[3]

Staff in English Language

The meaning of Asa in Arabic is no different from the sense of Staff in English dictionaries – stick, rod, symbol of office or authority, people, teachers, something that supports or sustains.

7. A rod or wand, of wood or ivory, borne as an ensign of office or authority; spec. as the badge of certain chief officers of the Crown. Usage in history: “1813   King George IV in Duke of Wellington Dispatches (1838) X. 552   You have sent me the Staff of a French Marshal, and I send you in return that of England.”[Oxford English Dictionary][4]

Myth of Solomon’s Staff – terminative of a righteous rule instead of mere food for termites

“Solomon died at the age of fifty-three, having reigned forty years. As the building of the Temple was not finished at his death and he was afraid that the jinn would not continue to work thereon if he were not there to command them, the angel of death took his soul while he was leaning upon his staff, praying. His body remained in that position a year, until the jinn had finished the Temple, when a worm that had been gnawing at the staff caused it to crumble to pieces; Solomon's body fell, and the jinn discovered that he was dead. It is said that Solomon collected the books of magic that were scattered throughout his realm, and locked them in a box, which he put under his throne to prevent their being used. After his death the jinn, so as to make people believe that Solomon had been a sorcerer, declared that these books had been used by him; many believed the statement to be true, but the accusation was a malicious falsehood.”[5]

The legend of Solomon’s death is misattributed to the following verse:

34:14. Then, when We decreed (Solomon's) death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth [– Arabic: Dâbbatul ardz], which kept (slowly) gnawing away at his staff [– Arabic: ‘minsa`ah’, form of ‘asa’]: so when he fell down, the Jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating Penalty (of their Task).[6]

This legend goes against the very spirit of Quran and Islam. Solomon was a Muslim and that too a prophet. Neither was he a tyrant nor a slave master. Neither are there any supernatural entities, the genies of Arabian Nights in this world, nor is there any magic that can be found outside Disneyland and neither do they have any place in the leaves of Quran. The Jinn of Quran and magic alleged to Solomon will be dealt in separate chapters. It is an ignominious death of anyone in which a body is laying around for a year, instead of it given immediate attention and a burial. One wonders that Solomon, the king, is missing from his government and nobody even asks as to where he is. Countless scathing questions can be raised, but a myth cannot be further dignified by any more queries. We will stick to the purpose of this chapter to clarify the message of the Quran.

Staff of Solomon – for what it stands in Quran

In Quran, the staff of Solomon stands for his authority as a king, his administration and his nation that was united under him. The staff in terms of its statesmanship, grandeur, technological advancement and the prosperity that it provided for all and sundry, including the employment of even the otherwise rebellious tribes under its domain is mentioned in Quran as follows:

34:10. And certainly We bestowed Our (gracious) favours on David. (We said,) `O (you dwellers of the) mountains, obey him.' And (We assigned) the birds and the swift footed horses (their duty); and We made the iron soft and pliant for him [–the start of Iron age in Israelites, that Solomon’s father, David, earlier borrowed from Hittites of modern day Turkey].

34:11. (We said to him,) `Make full length coats of mail (to cover the whole body) forging links of proper measure (for their smooth working).' (And We also said to him and his followers,) `Do righteous deeds. I am a keen Observer of what you do.'

34:12. And We made such winds serve Solomon the blowing of which in the forenoon (and thus help sailing of his ships) was equal to (a voyage of) a month (by the other ships); similarly its blowing in the afternoon was (also) equal to (a voyage of) a month (by them).

SIDE NOTE: 14: 33. And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, both moving constantly (according to some fixed laws), and He has made subservient to you the night and the day.[7]

Similar to modern day harnessing of sun by solar technologies, subservience of the moon by lunar landings and the night by electricity, Solomon probably invented new sailing techniques, maybe the triangular sail and the keel, together which can vector the wind by which the ships could go upwind.[8]

And We made a spring of molten copper to flow for him. Also (given into his service were) some of the jinns (- wild and rebellious mountain tribes known as Amalaqites, who worked under him as trained craftsmen) [similar to modern day imported skilled labor] by the command of his Lord. And (We also told them) whoever of them deviated from and disobeyed Our command (- that they should obey Solomon) We shall make him suffer the agony of burning.

34:13. Those (jinns -handy craftsmen) made for him (- Solomon) whatever he desired, places for worship [–including Solomon’s temple with its modern day ruins around Masjid Aqsa in Jerusalem] and plans and basins (as large) as the tanks [for city water supply] and large and heavy cooking pots well-set (on their trivets due to their large size) [to cater to his large army units and possibly community kitchens]. (And We said,) `Act gratefully, O people of David.' Yet few are My people who are (really) grateful. [9]

The above set of verses give the basis of Asa or Staff of Solomon i.e. his power, authority and the prosperity of his kingdom in which trade, construction; sailing and metallurgical technologies had prospered. His rule had become a source of peace and employment for diverse people, even the eternal enemies of the Jews, the Amalekites addressed as Jinn in Quran.

Staff of Solomon – for what it fell

Despite all prosperity, Solomon had another staff (–administration, people), his inept son and the circle of peers that his son was surrounded by. Perceiving his son to be incompetent, devoid of spiritual and moral values, Solomon prayed against him. The tenet of no virtue in inheritance without the merit of righteousness in Islam is also contained in the prayer of Solomon that excluded his incompetent successors – Jeroboam[10] and his son Rehoboam[11], a flagrant philanderer:

38:34. Behold! We tried Solomon (too) and We placed on his throne (of kingdom) [in his lifetime or in a vision about the future] a (mere) body (without any spirit or faith) [–his son Rehoboam and/or Jeroboam]. Then he turned (to God seeking His mercy).

38:35. He [–Solomon] said (praying), `My Lord! grant me protection and bestow on me a [spiritual] kingdom that belongs to none (by inheritance) after me [in Israelites]. You indeed are the Great Bestower.'[12]

The prayer of Solomon was thus realized – The previous verse [38:34] speaks of the imbecile heir-apparent to Solomon’s throne. Hence we find Solomon praying here [38:35] for a spiritual kingdom, for that is the only kingdom which is not in danger of being spoiled by an heir. The glory of Solomon’s temporal kingdom was not maintained after his death; nor has a king like Solomon appeared in Israel. By anyone after me is meant anyone in Israel, not the whole world.[13]

A king, like any head of an organization, has to rely and lean on his staff. The staff of a king signifies both, the symbols of his authority – his throne, and the people in his administration. Similarly for a prophet, there are companions, spiritually and morally clean, who not only support the prophet during his lifetime, but after his death continue with his mission. If the latter is weak, it will eat away at the former. That’s what happened in the case of Solomon, where his son, Rehoboam who was morally void, ate away at Solomon’s staff of authority, his kingdom and his mission of prophethood. Solomon’s death and decay of his rule, either near the end of his life when he might had let Rehoboam on the throne or he ascended to the throne after his father’s death, is described in the verse quoted earlier and repeated below from a different translation:

34:14. And when We ordained death for him (- Solomon) the people only came to know of his death through a (worthless) creature of earth [–Arabic: Dâbbatul ardz] (- Solomon's son) that was eating away his (father's) staff ( ruling power and glory). So when it fell down the jinn realized then plainly that had they known the secret (of the hollowness of the kingdom) they would have never remained in (a state of) humiliating torment.[14]

The context of the stated verse can be found in Old Testament. The rebellion under Jeroboam took hold soon after death of Solomon. Immediately in his succession, the Northern ten tribes of Israel split away from Judah, thus dismembering the kingdom of Solomon. His son, Rehoboam, an incompetent and materialistic ruler, was left only with the tribe of Judah in his domain. He was under sway of opportunistic advisers, who like many others in history have been a source of ill policies and downfall of kingdoms.[15] He, on the advice of his cronies, will be remembered for his arrogant words with which he addressed his people, who had gathered to listen to him and were asking for reprieve from taxes:

1 Kings 12: 1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. 7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” 13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.

18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.[16] [Emphasis added]

The attitude and remarks of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12:13 are a reflective meaning of the phrase Dâbbatul ardz, which Quran uses for him:

Dâbbatul ardz: Creature of earth; Insect of earth; Materialistic person whose endeavors are wholly directed to the acquisition of worldly riches and material comforts and who has fallen on the pleasures of this world with all his might and main.[17]

The reference in the creature of the earth that ate away his staff [v. 34:14] is to his son’s weak rule, under whom the kingdom of Solomon went to pieces. It appears that Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, led a life of luxury and ease, and instead of acting on the advice of the older men, he yielded to the pleasure seeking wishes of his companions (1 Kings 12:13), and it is to his luxurious habits and easy mode of life that the Quran refers when it calls him a creature of the earth. The eating away of his staff signifies the disruption of the kingdom. The jinn, as already remarked, mean the rebellious tribes who had been reduced to subjection by Solomon, and who remained in subjection to the Israelites for a time, until the kingdom was shattered. This instance, as well as the one following, contains a warning for the Muslims as to the result of falling into luxury and ease, by which, however, they benefited little; the ultimate fate of the respective kingdoms of the Umayyads and Abbasides was the same as that of Solomon’s kingdom.[18]

The dissipating end of Solomon’s son and his kingdom is no different than that of Noah’s son who too perished before his father’s eyes:

11:45. And Noah called to his Lord and said , `My Lord! my son belongs to my family and surely Your promise is (also) true; yet You are the Most Just of the judges’.

11:46. (The Lord) said, `He decidedly does not belong to your family as he is given to unrighteous conduct, so do not ask of Me that of which you have no knowledge. I advise you not to be of those wanting in knowledge.'[19]

In conclusion, shortly after death of Solomon his staff crumbled because of Dâbbatul ardzthe creature of earth (v. 34:14), Rehoboam, his son, in the manner that Old Testament testifies to. His kingdom fragmented and his nation became disunited to the extent that the legacy of House of David has tarnished in history for Israelites – “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day (1 Kings 12:19).”


[1] Termitarium – a termites’ nest. Link: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/termitarium
[2] Al-Hijr – The Rock: Nooruddin
[3] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.376.
[4] Link: http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/188624?rskey=7iukvR&result=1#eid
[5] From Arabic Literature: Death of Solomon – Jewish Encyclopedia – References quoted: Bibliography: Bokhari, Recueil des Traditions Mahometanes, ed. Krehl, Leyden, 1864; commentaries on the Koran (Baidawi and Zamakhshari); D'Herbelot, in Bibliothèque Orientale, v. 367-375; M. Grünbaum, Neue Beiträge zur Semitischen Sagenkunde, pp. 189-240, Leyden, 1893 (cites Arabic authors); Hughes, Dictionary of Islam; Koran, suras xxi. 81, 82; xxvii. 15-45; xxxiv. 11-13; xxxviii. 29-30; Ṭabari, Annales, ed. De Goeje, i. 572-597 (see also Index); Weil, Biblical Legends of the Mussulmans, pp. 200-248. Link: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13842-solomon
[6] Saba – Sheba: Yusuf Ali
[7] Ibrahim – Abraham: Nooruddin
[8] PhysLink.com. Link: http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae438.cfm
[9] Saba – Sheba: Nooruddin
[10] Wikipedia: Jeroboam. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeroboam
[11] Wikipedia: Rehoboam. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rehoboam
[12] Sad – The Truthful God: Nooruddin
[13] Footnote to verses 38:34-35 – c (35), Sad – Sad: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[14] Saba – Sheba: Nooruddin
[15] Explanation of the verse 34:14 by Nooruddin in his lectures published as “Haqaiqul Furqan”. Link: http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=431&region=H3
[16] Bible Gateway. Link: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Kings%2012&version=NIV
[17] Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p.172.
[18] Footnote to stated verse 34:14 – e (14), Saba – Sheba: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[19] Hud – Hud: Nooruddin

Mrs Nasira Tufail passes away

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

It is with very great regret and sadness that I announce the death, early this morning 11th April 2015 in UK, of Mrs Nasira Tufail of Woking, inna li-llahi wa inna ilai-hi raji`un.

She was wife of the late Shaikh Muhammad Tufail sahib (d. 1984), former Imam of the Woking Mosque and Mission from 1960 to 1965. Since Mr Tufail went abroad from Pakistan in the early 1950s as Lahore Ahmadiyya missionary, Mrs Nasira Tufail accompanied him all the while, first in Holland in the 1950s, then at Woking from 1960 to 1965, then in Trinidad, and back again in UK from 1970. She sacrificed much for her husband's missionary work and suffered many privations purely for the sake of the service of Islam. She successfully brought up a large family under these circumstances. She was a regular visitor to our present UK centre in Wembley, until falling ill. Mrs Tufail was also a very good friend of my mother, the late Mrs Akhtar Aziz, with whom she stayed many times.

May Allah grant her forgiveness and protection, admit her to His great mercy, grant her to join His righteous servants in His gardens of bliss, and enable those left behind to emulate her noble example! Amin.

Zahid Aziz.

Inaccuracies in ‘The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan’ by Ali Usmani Qasmi

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Submitted by Rashid Jahangiri.


Inaccuracies in ‘The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan’ by Ali Usmani Qasmi

Note to readers: As I read through this book, I will point out inaccuracies in it, from Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement perspective. I will myself provide correct information. Others are also welcome to provide correct information from LAM stand point. This thread is NOT to discuss whether LAM interpretation is correct or not. It is only to provide LAM perspective. Upon completion, I will make efforts to contact author Ali Usmani Qasmi, and invite him to justify his statements that LAM considers inaccurate. As I wrote elsewhere I feel author lacked knowledge about Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib, and it is not fair for him to base his knowledge on writing of someone else who himself lacks knowledge about HMGA. Here I mean Yohanan Friedman’s ‘The Prophecy Continues: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thought and its Medieval Background’ (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003). In my opinion approach by Ali Usmani Qasmi is NOT justified.

In Notes, Chapter II, page 231, author writes:

Quote:

2. For an overview of the theological and other religious views of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, I have relied heavily on Yohanan Friedman’s ‘The Prophecy Continues: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thought and its Medieval Background’ (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003).

End quote.

Inaccuracies:

Page 37: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad held the belief that the second coming of the Christ nullified the notion of Muhammad’s finality of prophethood as understood by the ulema opposed to him. Such a belief was also in contradiction to Ghulam Ahmad’s theory of prophethood, where by Prophet Muhammad was to be considered the last of the law-bearing prophets and owner of the seal of prophethood.

Page 37: The reason Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s writings led to widespread resentment against him was his additional claim of prophethood, not just that of messianic authority.

Page 37: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s “heterodoxy” lay in arguing not only for continuation of prophecies but prophethood as well. This meant reinterpreting the term khatam-i-nabuwwat – largely understood as “finality of prophethood” – as “seal of prophethood”.

Page 37: In addition, according to him, the phrase “seal of prophethood” indicates that no prophet can be true without being confirmed by the seal of Prophet Muhammad.

Page 37: But it was almost a decade before Mirza Ghulam Ahmad gave definite shape to his ideas about prophethood and his own prophetic status. Even after he had made various statements in this regard, his views remained ambiguous and purposefully nuanced to afford any possible interpretation, as evidenced by divergence of his followers after his death.

Page 37: It was only in light of the growing strength of his followers and the spiritual experience he claimed to have undergone that he made claims to prophethood. He claimed to be a reflective (zilli) and manifestational (buruzi) prophet who was approved by the seal of Muhammad on account of his spiritual excellence and services for Islam.

Page 38: A succinct summation of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s view on Muhammad’s prophethood,  the term khatam-i-nabuwwat and his own prophethood is expressed in the following text, translated by Yohanan Friedman:

No law-bearing prophet can [ever] come [again]. A non-legislative prophet can come only if he is a member of the [Muslim] community. Accordingly, I am both a member of the [Muslim] community and a prophet. And my prophethood – this is to say the divine discourse [with me] – is a shadow of the prophethood of Muhammad. […] My prophethood is nothing except that. It is the muhammadi prophethood which became manifested in me.

This statement was made towards the end of his life. For those statements dating back to an earlier period of his life when he had denied being a prophet, he and his followers argued that he was only denying prophethood in the sense of being a law-bearing prophet or conveyer of new shari’at.

Comment:

Instead of individually correcting each inaccuracy, I would ask author to please read through different links provided in following link:

http://www.ahmadiyya.org/cont-hmga.htm

Inaccuracy:

Page 38: After Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s death, Hakim Nur-ud-Din (d. 1914) – his close aide and friend for many decades – was appointed as successor. He titled himself as a Caliph.

Comment:

Hakim Nur-ud-Din is on record of saying, “I never wrote with my hand word Caliph for myself”.

Inaccuracy:

Page 38: The nascent community of followers was split into two different groups even during Nur-ud-Din’s lifetime. One group was led by Maulana Muhammad Ali (1974—1951), […]. He was of the opinion that the Ahmadi missionary groups within India or abroad, must only emphasize the unanimous tenets of Islam. The writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad or the Ahmadi-specific aspects of religious doctrine should not be the main concern in such endeavors. Ghulam Ahmad son Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mehmud (1889—1965), who lead the other group, insisted that excluding Ghulam Ahmad from missionary efforts would be disastrous to the nascent Ahmadi community, as it would efface all the distinctive features of Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis. He said that Ahmadi preachers were hesitant to even mention the name of Ghulam Ahmad lest it would incite hatred. Nur-ud-Din’s death brought these differences into the open. Muhammad Ali insisted that the election of a new caliph should be postponed until certain modalities could be sorted out. This was opposed by Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mehmud, who had ample support among the members of the community to get himself elected as the caliph.

Comment:

Had Ali Usmani Qasmi read ‘Split in Ahmadiyya Movment’ by Maulana Muhammad Ali, his understanding of reasons would be different that what he wrote. All he needed to following link:

http://www.ahmadiyya.org/bookspdf/split/conts.htm

Inaccuracy:

Page 39: According to Friedmann, there must have been reasons of personal ambition for the split as well, and not just disagreement on organizational issues. Muhammad Ali had MA in English and had been associated with the Ahmadiyya since 1892. He could not possibly recognize the leadership of a person who was 15 years his junior and did not even have a proper secondary education.

Comment:

Although Ali Usmani Qasmi quotes Friedmann, had he read articles in following link under Discussion of the Qadiani Jama’at Beliefs, he would not be writing such demeaning comment:

http://www.ahmadiyya.org/cont-ahm.htm

Late Abdul Mannan Omar sahib (son of Hakim Nur-ud-Din) testified on behalf of Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, in 1974 Trial of Ahmadis in Pakistan National Assembly. According him, this he told me personally, Pakistan’s Attorney General Yahya Bakhtiar in his effort to prove that both Qadiani-group and Lahori-group have same belief and split between them was not based on doctrinal differences and was merely a political. He wanted to prove that there were two contenders for post of head of Ahmadiyya Movement one was Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud and other was Maulana Muhammad Ali. So, AG Yahya Bakhtiar posed a question: How many candidates were there for position of head of Ahmadiyya Jama’at? To this late Abdul Mannan Omar sahib replied: There was only one candidate and it was Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mehmud.