The Children of Israel were saved from Pharaoh and His Army
In this ayah, the Children of Israel are being commanded to recall when they were in the slavery of *Pharaoh and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala saved them.
Pharaoh had a dream in which he saw a fire emerge from Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), and then the fire entered the houses of the Coptics of Egypt with the exception of the Children of Israel. Its purport was that his kingship would be toppled by a man among the Children of Israel. It was also said that some of Pharaoh’s entourage said that the Children of Israel were expecting a man among them to arise who would establish a state for them.
After the dream, Pharaoh ordered that every newborn male among the Children of Israel be killed and that the girls be left alone. He also commanded that the Children of Israel be given tasks of hard labor and assigned the most humiliating jobs. They were to build the pyramids without any sophisticated machinery of today.
“…afflicting you with the worst torment,” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala explains this as killing of their sons and leaving behind their women. It would have been enough to say “they killed your sons,” but by talking about their women their ghairah has been stirred that when your men are few in number and there are more women then what will become of your nation, more importantly what will become of your women.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala adds “And in that was a great trial from your Lord,” meaning that although Pharaoh was tormenting them it was in fact a trial from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
When people lose their path Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala puts them in a trial this is a favor on us to shake us up and give us a wake-up call. In Surah Al-Anbiya, He says,
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ
“Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned,” [Al-Anbiya 21: 35]
In Surah Al-‘Araf, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
وَبَلَوْنَاهُم بِالْحَسَنَاتِ وَالسَّيِّئَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
“And We tested them with good [times] and bad that perhaps they would return [to obedience],” [Al-‘Araf 7: 168]
We ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for peace. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught us to make du’a in the following words:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ ، وَمِنْ عَذَابِ جَهَنَّمَ ، وَمِنْ فِتْـنَةِ الْمَحْيَا وَالْمَمَاتِ ، وَمِنْ شَرِّ فِتْـنَةِ الْمَسِيحِ الدَّجَّالِ
“O Allah, I seek refuge with You from the torment of the grave, from the torment of the Fire, from the trials and tribulations of life and death and from the evil affliction of Al-Maseeh Ad-Dajjal (the Antichrist). [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daw’oud, At-Tirmidhi]
What should be our attitude when we are being tested?
WHEN YOU ARE
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala intends to teach me something through this trial.
I must have committed a mistake and through this test He is allowing me a chance to repent and rectify my error.
WHEN OTHERS ARE BEING TESTED
Do not think that they committed some wrong.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is angry with them.
Do not ever think bad or negative about others. Be more concerned about your own wrongdoings and negative behavior.
THE WAY OUT
Acknowledge your mistakes and do istighfar. Recite Prophet Yunus’s du’a:
لَّا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
“There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers,” [21: 87]
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows best why we are tested. We should, however, remember He is never Unjust. He who abundantly recites istighfar is shown a way out of the calamity.
We should also remember that both blessing and deprivation are tests. When we are blessed with something we should not feel as if we have a special status with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. No, it is a test. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is watching what we will do after being blessed. Will we forget Him? Will we become haughty and look down upon those who are not blessed?
Anas bin Malik radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
عِظَمُ الْجَزَاءِ مَعَ عِظَمِ الْبَلاَءِ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ إِذَا أَحَبَّ قَوْمًا ابْتَلاَهُمْ فَمَنْ رَضِيَ فَلَهُ الرِّضَا وَمَنْ سَخِطَ فَلَهُ السُّخْطُ
“The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) loves a people He tests them. Whoever accepts that wins His pleasures but whoever is discontent with that earns His wrath.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
May we not become of those who earn His wrath, ameen.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was asked who were the most severely tested. He replied, “The Prophets (‘alayhi salaam), then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trails will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin with him.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Tests are wake-up calls therefore, we should not forget to reflect on our past doings and seek forgiveness. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught us the following words for forgiveness:
اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِي مَا قَدَّمْتُ وَمَا أَخَّرْتُ ، وَمَا أَسْرَرْتُ وَمَا أَعْلَنْتُ ، وَمَا أَسْرَفْتُ ، وَمَا أَنْتَ أَعْلَمُ بِهِ مِنِّي أَنْتَ الْمُقَدِّمُ وَأَنْتَ الْمُؤَخِّرُ ، لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
“O Allah, forgive me for [sins] I committed beforehand as well as those which shall come to pass, and those I have committed in secret as well as those I have committed in public, and where I have exceeded all bounds as well as those things about which You are more knowledgeable. You are Al-Muqaddim (the Expediter) and Al-Muakhkhir (the Delayer). None has the right to be worshipped except You.” [Muslim, Abu Daw’oud, At-Tirmidhi]
He who denies committing any mistake is not liked by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala because human beings are bound to err. The word insaan [human being] is from nisyan which means forgetful. We are bound to slip and make mistakes. But he is beloved to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala who gets up, realizes his mistake and turns to the Most Loving.
In Surah Az-Zumar, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
“O My servants who have transgressed against themselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful,” [Az-Zumar 39:53].
A question might arise: Why were the Children of Israel being repetitively tested?
They were the chosen nation. They were assigned the task to convey the message of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and they got deluded by the charms of this world.
When the Children of Israel turned their backs on the Book of Allah they were humiliated and disgraced. They abandoned the Book of Allah and followed their desires, so Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala abandoned them.
Today, Muslims are the new chosen nation. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala assigned us the responsibility of conveying His message to others, but we are chasing and competing in the worldly pleasures. We have lost track of our mission and hence, we are afflicted by one calamity after another.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us and help us get back on the right track. May He allow us to study His Book with excellence, understand the message, practice it and convey it to others, ameen. If we desire a respectable status in this world then we must rise above living an average life and understand our real purpose of creation.
*Pharaoh (Fir’awn) is a title that was given to every disbelieving king who ruled Egypt whether from the ‘Amaliq (Canaanites) or otherwise, just as Caesar (Qaysar) is the title of the disbelieving kings who ruled Rome and Damascus. Also, Khosrau (Kisra) is the title of the kings who ruled Persia while Tubb’a is the title of the kings of Yemen, and the kings of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) were called Negus (An-Najashi).