And Pharaoh called out among his people; he said, "O my people, does not the kingdom of Egypt belong to me, and these rivers flowing beneath me; then do you not see? Or am I [not] better than this one who is insignificant and hardly makes himself clear? Then why have there not been placed upon him bracelets of gold or come with him the angels in conjunction?" So he bluffed his people, and they obeyed him. Indeed, they were [themselves] a people defiantly disobedient [of Allah]. (Qur'an 43:51 to 43:54)
At the same time, Allah placed a trial on the followers of Musa AS, to test their faith in Him. Musa AS advised his people:
"O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then rely upon Him, if you should be Muslims. So they said, "Upon Allah do we rely. Our Lord, make us not [objects of] trial for the wrongdoing people. And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people." (Qur'an 10:84 – 86)
Musa AS and Harun AS were also instructed by Allah to make the houses of Bani Israel distinct from the dwellings of the Coptic Egyptians. And We inspired to Moses and his brother, "Settle your people in Egypt in houses and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer and give good tidings to the believers." (Qur'an 10:87)
One opinion offers that it was to make it easy for them to communicate with each other in case of departure from Egypt when commanded to do so. Another speculates that that since the people were unable to disclose their belief or offer their prayers openly, they were commanded to pray in their own houses to compensate for what they missed of their worship and devotion.
Parting of Ways
Each Prophet and Messenger has a tipping point, when it is evident that the society in which they are preaching can no longer be moved to worship Allah. At this moment, their supplication for the destruction of the society is accepted by Allah.
And Moses said, "Our Lord, indeed You have given Pharaoh and his establishment splendour and wealth in the worldly life, our Lord, that they may lead [men] astray from Your way. Our Lord, obliterate their wealth and harden their hearts so that they will not believe until they see the painful punishment." [Allah] said, "Your supplication has been answered." So remain on a right course and follow not the way of those who do not know." (Qur'an 10:88 – 10:89)
Musa AS was commanded to depart with Bani Israel under the cover of the night. This was not an easy exercise logistically – Bani Israel was comprised of men, women and children that numbered thousands, rather than a stealthy army that could travel with speed. Meanwhile, Pharaoh had already deployed heralds to all the cities to be on the lookout for Musa AS and his followers.
The two groups met at sunrise, with Bani Israel being outnumbered by Pharaoh and his army. Bani Israel, many of whose faith in Allah was shaky despite the countless signs they had witnessed, were frightened by the approaching army. However, Musa AS said:
"No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me." (Qur'an 26:62) The reference was only to Musa AS himself, as many of his men were still weak in faith.
Musa AS was inspired to lead his community to the Red Sea, where it seemed that they were at a dead end. The deep sea with its swirling waves lay before them, and the army of Pharaoh was behind them. There was no escape in sight.
The people of Bani Israel started panicking and getting angry. Even after all the signs from Allah, they did not fully trust Allah to protect them. At this time, Allah gave Musa AS a revelation: Then We inspired to Moses, "Strike with your staff the sea," and it parted, and each portion was like a great towering mountain. (Qur'an 26:63)
Suddenly, the whole sea transformed. The waters parted, standing like mountains on either side, and by some reports into twelve paths, one for each tribe of the Israelites. Then the wind blew, drying the paths to make it easy to walk through.
Musa AS and the Israelites crossed the sea. They started descending into the miraculous paths, happy that divine rescue had been sent to them.
Pharaoh viewed this miracle with arrogance, presuming that if Musa AS could cross the waters, so could he. As the last of Bani Israel passed through it, Pharaoh and his army entered. Musa AS wanted to strike his staff against the sea again to block the passage of the pursuers, but was commanded by Allah not to react.
Some reports mention that Pharaoh knew at this moment that Musa AS had the true God on his side. However, Pharaoh could no longer recant, because of his arrogance! Even with such convincing evidence before him, he could not submit and be humble to Allah.
Once Pharaoh and his men entered the passage, the wall of water collapsed around them. There was no salvation. It did not matter if he knew how to swim, the waves pulled him down. Recognising that his death was inevitable, Pharaoh declared his belief in the God of Bani Israel.
And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, "I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims." (Qur'an 10:90)
However, this declaration came too late! He had missed his chance, having spent years playing games with his life, waiting too long before acknowledging the truth.
So today We will save you in body that you may be to those who succeed you a sign. And indeed, many among the people, of Our signs, are heedless. (Qur'an 10:92)
The rest of Bani Israel were saved and continued onto their journey into the new land.
Lessons to be learnt
In the stories of Lut AS and Nuh AS, we saw how a wife can be a disbeliever despite having the most pious of husbands. Conversely, Asiah AS demonstrated that a wife can be the best of believers despite having the worst of husbands.
The story of Musa AS in the Qur'an takes precedence in terms of volume compared to all the other Prophets and Messenger. His story is repeated over and over again, from different perspectives.
Stories of Messengers, Prophets and their communities are lessons and wisdom for us. They were inserted in the Qur'an for a purpose. In the case of Musa AS, one of the early Muslim scholars observed that at any point in time, there will be a "Pharaoh" and a "Musa AS". He meant that in history, one will always find a man or a group of people with power and wealth, who are blind and arrogant. They spread mischief and spread it to their own people, disguising it as truth and goodness. In the meantime, they slander and persecute the truth-bearing minority who are always low in numbers, wealth and status.
We can observe from our own lives how many people, once they achieve status and richness, become arrogant and deny the truth. They become perpetrators of corruption, aggression and oppression. They always look down upon the less fortunate and cloak their ears from any words of wisdom or goodness. This is a repeating pattern in the history of mankind. The people of the truth are seen as the wrongdoers and the wrongdoers are seen as the people of the truth. We see this even in so-called Muslim countries and amongst Muslim people, on a personal level, family level, nation and ummah.
Ask Allah SWT to open our eyes, for heart to see the sign of Allah and receive the guidance of Allah, and beg Allah to be in the path of and supporter of the truth, and to hold to the truth until we die.
From this story we can also see another recurring pattern. Allah SWT places us under overwhelming odds, not to finish us, but rather to make us trust Him and rely on him. Once reduced to zero, the believer has to believe in and reply only on Allah, and never lose hope. The believer knows that the victory of Allah is close at hand.
However, if one's belief is shaky, or one has hypocrisy or association with Allah, he will not be able to withstand the test, and he will never be able to rely on Allah. This is the crux of the message: Allah will check who is steadfast with the rope of Allah and who will deviate.
The themes in the story of Musa AS will always be repeated in the same manner and with the same promise. The time, location and names may differ, but the principles are constant.
May Allah SWT allow us to be among the believers who can comprehend the sign of Allah, be a believer, rely on Allah only and elevate His message until we die, ameen.