Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 12:24 pm
Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is one of the most important Prophets in the history of Islam. He also happens to be the most talked about Prophet in the Quran. His name appears in the Quran for 136 times. He is also known as Kaleem Allah, the one who has the honor of directly speaking with Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.
Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was born in Egypt. This was when Egypt was ruled by Ramses II, the Firaun (commonly known as Pharaoh in English). The life of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ is full of determination, supported by various miracles. His birth and childhood are quite an extraordinary sequence of events. It was when Firaun had ordered the killing of newborn baby boys. However, Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was not only kept alive by the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى but more interestingly was brought up right in the house of Firaun, by his wife, Asiyah.
Family Background of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ belongs to the old Egyptian tribe Bani Israel (children of Israel). Historically, the Bani Israel are the descendants of the Prophet Yaqoob عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ (commonly known as Jacob in English). During the kingship of Firaun, the entire population was divided into four categories. Bani Israel was the most oppressed and lowest faction of the society. They were kept in bondage by the rulers. The rulers used to force them to work for them without any remunerations.
Birth of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
There are various traditions about the Firaun getting afraid of the birth of a boy who would kill him in the future. So, he ordered to kill the newborn boys instantly. Later on, his advisors told him that by doing so, he would lose the manpower required to run the affairs of his kingdom. Hence, he decided to kill the boys born in one year, not those born in the other year.
When Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was born, this was the year when boys were to be killed, per the orders of Firaun. But it did not happen due to the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى as narrated in Surah Al-Qasas, verse number 7.
We suggested to the mother of Moses: “Suckle your child, but when you fear for his life cast him into the river and be not fearful nor grieve, for We shall restore him to you and make him one of the Messengers.”
So, the mother of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ put him in a basket and threw the basket in the historic river Nile. By the command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, the basket carrying the new-born got settled on the shores near the outskirts of the royal palace of Firaun. Again, by the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى the wife of Firaun named Asiyah, decided to take care of the boy found in the basket, as narrated in the 9th verse of Surah Al-Qasas.
The wife of Pharaoh said: “Here is a delight of the eye to me and to you. Do not kill him. Maybe he will prove useful for us, or we may adopt him as a son.” They were unaware of the end of it all.
Hence, prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was adopted by the wife of Firaun. Meanwhile, the fortunes turned in the favor of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and his mother. She was selected by the wife of Firuan to feed the boy. Verses number 10 to 13 of Surah Al-Qasas, tell how it happened.
On the other hand, the heart of Moses’ mother was sorely distressed. Had We not strengthened her heart that she might have full faith (in Our promise), she would have disclosed the secret.
She told the sister of Moses: “Follow him.” So she kept watch over him unperceived (by the enemies).
And We had already forbidden the breasts of the nurses for the child. (So seeing the girl) said: “Shall I direct you to the people of a household that will rear him with utter sincerity?”
Thus did We restore Moses to his mother that her eyes might be comforted and she might not grieve, and realise that the promise of Allah was true. But most people are unaware of this.
Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ left Egypt in a Haste
So, with the command and will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, he grew up a perfect manhood right in the palace of Firaun, under the nurturing of his mother. Things were going smoothly for him, but then an unfortunate incident happened.
An Egyptian was killed by Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ as he was passing by and saw two men fighting with each other, one of whom was an Egyptian while the other was from Bani Israel. When Firaun heard this incident, he ordered to kill the Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. He hurriedly escaped from Egypt. Verses 15 to 21 of Surah Al-Qasas, explain this incident in detail.
Traveling of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ towards Midian
Fearing the assault by Firaun, Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ instantly left the city without informing anyone and without any preparation. He even did not have any means of traveling. He just left the city all alone and started moving towards Midian. Midian was the nearest populated place between Egypt and Syria at that time. The entire route was a hot desert, where Prophet Musa traveled without anything to eat or drink.
When he reached the well of Midian, he came across a group of shepherds watering their herds. He noticed two women staying back with their herds. Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ helped them water their herds, as narrated in Surah Al-Qasas, verses 22-24
When (after his departure from Egypt) Moses headed towards Midian, he said: “I hope my Lord will show me the right Path.”
When he arrived at the spring of Midian, he found there a crowd of people watering their flocks, and he found apart from them two women holding their flocks back. He asked the women: “What is it that troubles you?” They said: “We cannot water our flocks until the shepherds take their flocks away, and our father is a very old man.”
On hearing this Moses watered their flocks for them, and then returned in a shaded place and said: “My Lord, I am truly in great need of any good that You might send down to me.”
So, the two women asked Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to meet their father. The father of the women offered him to stay with them for at least 8 to 10 years and look after his herds. He also showed his intention to marry one of his daughters to him. So, Prophet Musa agreed and became a shepherd. This event is also narrated in the Surah Al-Qasas, verse number 25 to 28.
Eventually, Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ stayed with this family for 10 years and married one of the two sisters. This entire period of 10 years was a period of preparation for the big event to come in his life. He used to spend most of his day and night in seclusion, observing the wonders of nature. This was also a period of his spiritual preparation. Finally, he decided to go back to Egypt.
Prophet-hood of Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
While on his way back to Egypt, when he reached near the mount Tur, he saw a big fire. He ventured to reach the fire. When he reached the valley of Tuwa, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى commanded him that he had been selected as a Prophet and Messenger. He practically heard the voice of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى calling his name, commanding him about his Prophet-hood. This important event appears in verse number 29 and 30 of Surah Al-Qasas.
Miracles Granted to Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ on His Prophet-Hood
Right after the grant of Prophethood, he was commanded to throw his stick. When he did so, it turned into a snake, moving quickly. He was then ordered by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to press his right hand towards his left side, it will turn shining and white, so these are the signs which your creator wanted to show you, as narrated in verse 31 and 32 of the Surah Al-Qasas.
Musa and Haroon Invite Firaun to Worship Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى
Once Musa was granted prophet-hood, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى ordered him to go to Firaun and invite him to worship Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ had a speech impediment from the early days of his life. So, he requested Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to get his speech right and assign his brother Haroon to assist him. The whole request appears in the Quran in Surah Taha, from verses 25 to 32.
Moses said: “Lord!
Open my breast for me;
and ease my task for me,
and loosen the knot from my tongue,
so that they may understand my speech;
and appoint for me, from my household, someone who will help me bear my burden –
Aaron, my brother.
Strengthen me through him
and let him share my task
Dialogue Between Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and Firaun
So, both Musa and his brother Haroon went to the court of Firaun to invite him to the message of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Firaun was surprised to listen to his speech and treated it as his contempt. Here a historic dialogue happened between Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and Firaun. This dialogue is elaborately narrated in Surah Ash-Shuara, verses 16 to 31.
Go, then, to Pharaoh and say to him: ‘The Lord of the Universe has sent us
that you let the Children of Israel go with us.'”
Pharaoh said: “Did we not bring you up among us when you were a child?
You spent many years of your life among us and then you committed that deed of yours. You are very ungrateful indeed.”
Moses replied: “I committed that act erringly.
Then I fled for fear of you. Then my Lord bestowed wisdom and authority on me and made me one of the Messengers.
Now this is the favour that you tauntingly remind me of: that you enslaved the Children of Israel!”
Pharaoh said: “And who is this Lord of the Universe?”
Moses answered: “The Lord of the heavens and the earth and of all that is between them, if you were only to believe.”
Pharaoh said to those around him: “Do you hear (what he says)?”
Moses said: “(He is) Your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers of yore.”
Pharaoh said to the audience: “This Messenger of yours who has been sent to you is simply mad.”
Moses continued: “(He is) the Lord of the east and the west, and all between them. If you only had any understanding!”
Pharaoh said: “If you take any god other than me, I will certainly make you one of those (who are rotting) in prison.”
Moses said: “Even if I were to bring a Clear Sign to you?”
Pharaoh said: “Then bring it if you are truthful at all.”
Responding to the challenge, Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ threw his stick, which turned into a snake. Then he drew his hand out of his collar, which turned shining white. But Firaun and his companions rated it as a magical trick. So, he decided to call his magicians to challenge Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. This event is also narrated in the Quran in Surah Taha, verses number 58 to 71.
Reaction of Firaun Musa’s Success
So, ultimately Musa returned triumphant, defeating all the magicians of Firaun with the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. But unfortunately, the reaction of the elite Egyptians to this success of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was cold. They did not react as they should have. All of them stood silent and motionless on this very important development.
On the other hand, Firaun got angry with his companions. He asked his close companion Haman, Am I a liar? Why did Musa say there is a Lord of the Heavens? Build me a tower, so I may reach the heavens to see the God of Musa, as narrated in Surah Ghafir, verses 36-37.
Pharaoh ordered, “O Hamân! Build me a high tower so I may reach the pathways
leading up to the heavens and look for the God of Moses, although I am sure he is a liar.”1 And so Pharaoh’s evil deeds were made so appealing to him that he was hindered from the ˹Right˺ Way. But the plotting of Pharaoh was only in vain
Events after the defeat of Firaun’s magicians
Despite a clear defeat at the hands of Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, Firaun continued his oppressive moves against the Bani Israel. This proved to be a difficult time for Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. The situation even worsened for him and his followers when a group of Bani Israel, led by Korah revolted against Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.
On the other side of the story, Egypt faced a series of natural disasters, obviously as a punishment from Allah. Egypt was hit by floods, droughts and the destruction of their crops by Locust. Egypt was hit by an infestation of lice and frogs.
Crossing the Red Sea
However, the oppression of Firaun did not end, and life continued to be difficult for the followers of Prophet Musa. Eventually, Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was commanded by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىto migrate from Egypt along with his companions. Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ did so but Firaun chased him with his army.
When the Bani Israel reached the seaside, Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى commanded Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to strike the sea with his stick and the sea would tear apart giving way to them to cross the sea. So, Musa did it and he safely crossed the Red Sea along with the people of Bani Israel. By this time, Firaun also reached there with his army. However, when Firaun tried to follow them through this passage, it closed on them by the will of Allah. So, he along with his army was drowned in the Red Sea.
But the struggle of Prophet Musa did not end there. A series of events happened right after they crossed the Red Sea.
Demand of an Idol
Despite the miracle of parting the Red Sea and the death of Firaun, the Bani Israel demanded from Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to give them a physical Idol to whom they should worship, as narrated in Surah Araaf, verse number 138-141.
Favors of Allah for Bani Israel
Allah favored the people of Bani Israel with food and water. With the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ struck rock with his stick that resulted in fountains of gushing water for Bani Israel. This event is narrated in the Surah Baqarah in verse number 60 and 61.
Allah’s Punishment to Bani Israel
When Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ felt that his people had not been able to come out of their oppressiveness at the hands of Firaun, and they were still in the same mindset, he approached Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. He said I have done what I could have. So, separate us from those who are disbelievers. Allah commanded that they be forbidden from the Holy Land for forty years. So, they kept wandering for 40 years, as narrated in Surah Al-Maidah, verse number 25 and 26.
Musa’ request to Allah
With the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ fasted for 40 days, before he can speak to Him. Musa completed this term and left the affairs of his followers at the hands of his brother Prophet Haroon. Then Prophet Musa reached the place, set by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Here Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى spoke to Musa. Prophet Musa requested Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, I want to see you, physically. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى said you will not be able to bear this. But Musa insisted. So, when Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى appeared on the mountain, it turned into dust, and Musa fell unconscious. This event is narrated in Quran in Surah Al-Araaf, verse number 142 to 147.
It is believed that Musa got the holy book Taurat, comprising 10 commandments, right after this event.
Bani Israel return to Idolatry
When Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ returned from the mount Tur, he saw his people worshiping the statue of a Calf. He was so disappointed in this act of his people. He was informed that Samiri tricked the people and molded a golden calf from the golden jewelry. So, people started to worship that golden calf. He also became angry with his brother Haroon but later realized that Haroon was helpless against the people, so he could not keep them on the right path. This entire event is narrated in Surah Taha, verse number 87 to 91.
Musa told his people that this act of worshiping the statue of Calf will not be left unpunished by Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى Almighty, so they need to apologize. He selected a group of people out of them and asked them to request Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى to forgive their sins. Verse number 54 of Surah Baqarah narrates this event.
Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ and Khidr
Once Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ was addressing a gathering of his followers. One of his followers asked, is there anyone whom Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى has given the entire knowledge. Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ said, yes I am the one. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى admonished him and commanded that he is not given the entire knowledge; there’s one slave of Mine who knows more than you. Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ said can I meet him. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى guided him how he can reach him. So, Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ finally met that person, known as Khidr and wished to accompany him to seek knowledge. Khidr said you will not be able to accompany me because you will not have the required patience to learn. Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ said, I will have the patience with the will of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. Khidr said you can come with me, but you will not ask any questions about my acts; you need to remain silent. If you will show impatience, our ways will part. Eventually, Khidr committed the following three acts, which Musa could not resist and asked questions about.
- He damaged the boat they were sailing on.
- He killed a young boy without any obvious reason.
- He repaired a damaged wall without seeking any returns.
On all these occasions Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ could not resist and asked about the reasons. Khidr then told Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, after he repaired the wall, that this is the time of our parting because of your impatience. However, he explained the reasons for his acts as under.
- The king is very cruel and seizes all boats forcibly. I damaged their boat to save it from the cruel king’s seizure.
- The parents of the boy killed by me are believers, but the boy was not and would have harmed them. So, I killed him with Allah’s will so they may get another son who would be a believer and righteous person.
- The wall belonged to young orphans and their treasure was buried beneath it. I repaired it with the intention of saving the treasure for them when they were strong enough to take care of it.
This entire event is narrated in the Quran in detail in Surah 18, verse number 60 to 82
Death of Prophet Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ
It is believed that when the angle of death approached Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, he refused to accept death at this stage and slapped the angel in his eyes. The Angel apprised Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى of this incident. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى asked the Angel to go back and tell Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ to put his hand on the back of the animal. He will be granted life equal to one year of age for each hair under his hand. Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ asked what will happen after that. He was told “the Death”. Musa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, in response said then I accept the death right now.
So, with that the story of a Great Prophet of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى came to an end, whose life was a symbol of piety, righteousness, efforts, struggle and firm belief in Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.