The Parting of the Sea
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala shares how He saved the Children of Israel from Pharaoh. When Prophet Musa ‘alayhi salaam gathered his people to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, Pharaoh and his army pursued them. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala parted the sea, drowned the army of Pharaoh and saved Musa ‘alayhi salaam with his people. All of this happened before their eyes. [The details of this incident can be found in Surah Ash-Sh’uara.]
“And saved you,” (2: 50) meaning: We saved you from them while you were watching them, bringing relief to your hearts and humiliation to your enemy.
Fasting the Day of ‘Ashura
It was reported that the day the Children of Israel were saved from Pharaoh was called the day of ‘Ashura. Imam Ahmad reported that Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came to Madina and found that the Jews were fasting the day of ‘Ashura. He asked them, “What is this day that you fast?” They said, “This is a good day during which Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy, and Musa used to fast this day.” The Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
أَنَا أَحَقُّ بِمُوسَى مِنْكُم
“I have more right to Musa than you have.” So, the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam fasted that day and ordered that it be fasted. This hadeeth was collected by Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.
Ayah 51 – the Children of Israel worshiped the Calf
From a developed country (Egypt), the Children of Israel entered the wilderness of Sinai. Now that they were free, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala called Prophet Musa ‘alayhi salaam to a meeting place for forty days to give him the Book.
Though the word layl [لَيْل] denotes ‘night’, in the Arabic language the same word is used for both day and night. This is also mentioned in Surah Al-‘Araf: “And We appointed for Musa thirty nights and added (to the period) ten (more),” [Al-‘Araf 7: 142].
It was said that these days were during the month of Dhul Qa’dah plus the first ten days in Dhul Hijjah, after the Children of Israel were delivered from Pharaoh and they safely crossed the sea.
While their prophet was away, the Children of Israel were tricked by a magician accompanying them (Samiri) and started worshiping a calf. The details of this incident appear in Surah Ta-Ha ayaat 85-98.
When a person has to move from one place in a state of emergency they carry their most precious things and leave other belongings behind. Bani Israel’s moving from Egypt was no ordinary migration it was a mass exodus. They gathered their ornaments and escaped the country. Walking such long distance carrying their burdens they got tired. While Prophet Musa ‘alayhi salaam was away, Samiri, the magician asked them to free themselves from the burden of the ornaments by throwing them into fire. He then created a calf out of the gold and informed that this was their god and the god of Musa ‘alayhi salaam that he had forgotten. The Children of Israel believed Samiri and started worshiping the calf (i.e. committed Shirk). Prophet Haroon ‘alayhi salaam tried to stop them by saying, “O my people, you are only being tested by it, and indeed your Lord is the Most Merciful, so follow me and obey my order,” (20: 90) but they replied, “We will never cease being devoted to the calf until Moses returns to us,” (20: 91).
Why did Samiri create a calf for them – and why did the Children of Israel fell for it?
Living in the slavery of the Egyptians, they had lost their power to think. They had seen the Egyptians worship gold statues hence they fell for Samiri’s trick and took the calf as their god.
In the ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala calls them zaalim because man does no injustice to anyone else but himself. By committing a wrong he deprives himself from the Rahmah (mercy) of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and calls on punishment on himself.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from going astray and may He never deprive us from His mercy, ameen.
Despite their committing Shirk, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forgave them. Shirk is a major sin, yet Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forgave it. He is indeed the Most Loving and the Most Forgiving. He says that He forgave them so that they could be grateful.
Grateful for what? For forgiveness.
When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala alleviates our pains and sorrows, then we should express our shukr. We should be grateful that He brought relief to us. We should not keep dwelling over our past and narrating stories of our affliction to others. Rather, we should now use this time in being grateful to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and become productive. Do more good deeds.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “We gave Musa the Scripture and criterion that perhaps you would be guided,” (2: 53). This is the purpose of the Book – that we may be guided. It is not to be kissed and hugged and kept high on the shelf taken out only when someone dies or we are hit by a calamity, rather we should read it, understand its content and live by it.
In Surah Qasas ayah 43, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُونَ الْأُولَىٰ بَصَائِرَ لِلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
“And We gave Musa the Scripture…as enlightenment for the people and guidance and mercy that they might be reminded,” (28: 43).
May He allow us to honor the Qur’an as it must be honored and not keep it aside or (Allah forbid) forget it, ameen.