Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 50 & 51
Chapter 2, Verses 50 & 51
and when We parted the sea for you, so saving you and drowning Pharaoh’s people right before your eyes (Chapter 2:Verse 50)
Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) lead hundreds of thousands of his people out of Egypt to escape the grave injustice they experienced under the rule of Pharaoh. Pharaoh soon found out, gathered his army, numbering around a million, and set out after them. When the Israelites saw the army, the following conversation took place between them and prophet Moses:
and they replied, ‘We were being persecuted long before you came to us, and since then too.’ He said, ‘Your Lord may well destroy your enemy and make you successors to the land to see how you behave.’ (07:129)
As the number of soldiers chasing them became apparent, they added ‘we are sure to be overtaken.’ This was a very logical statement: the sea was before them, and the army of Pharaoh was quickly closing in. But Moses understood God's infinite ability; he appealed to Allah, and then answered his people: ‘No, my Lord is with me: He will guide me’. At that moment, events took a turn beyond the scope of causes and logic, and into the realm of the One who creates causes and logic. God inspired Moses as the following verse illustrates:
So We revealed to Moses, ‘Strike the sea with your staff.’ And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. (26:63)
The sea parted, leaving a passage free of water. Through God's command, water went against its flowing nature, and its particles became firm clinging to each other. The result was gigantic mountains with a passages in the middle for the children of Israel to cross. Some question: if the sea split into two parts then, wouldn't the ground revealed be too wet and muddy to cross. We find the answer in the following verse:
We revealed to Moses, ‘Go out at night with My servants and strike a dry path for them across the sea. Have no fear of being overtaken and do not be dismayed.’ (20:77)
As Moses and his people were crossing the sea, they asked him about the rest of their families. He assured them that everyone was crossing the sea through paths parallel to ours. They said: we want see. Moses raised his hands and supplicated: Lord! Help me face the bad traits of my people. God inspired Moses to strike the barriers with his staff, so crossways would open up between the passages and everyone can see each other.
When Moses saw Pharaoh and his people approaching the shore to cross, he wanted to strike the sea again so it would return to its flowing nature, but God revealed to him:
And leave the sea as it is; indeed that army will be drowned (44:24)
Allah wanted to leave the sea undisturbed so Pharaoh and his forces will be lured into pursuit. As the first of them were getting close to Moses' shore, and the last of them were entering on the other end, God returned the water to its natural state. This was a double blessing for the children of Israel: first, Allah saved them, and then He destroyed their enemies. It was a miracle that used the same element of water both for protection and for destruction.
This is something we often overlook in our daily life. Most of us only look at gain as the a bounty from God. Very few see the great bounty and wisdom behind prevention and protection. For example, Allah may grant you a way to earn money, but you might end up spending it on your sick child or to repair damage to your house. A much greater grant is when Allah guards you against sickness and loss in the first place.
The verse continues ' so saving you and drowning Pharaoh’s people.' Note that God did not talk about Pharaoh drowning, rather He talked about Pharaoh's people. Why? Because they were the ones who supported him in his oppression and tyranny. They were the tools Pharaoh used to torture the children of Israel. Without his supporters, Pharaoh would have no power.
The last part of the verse states: ‘right before your eyes.’ God wanted the Israelites to watch the Egyptians who wronged them drown. When a person sees his enemy dying, he feels the bitterness in his heart melt away. God gave them peace of mind as they had no doubt nor fear about any possibility that Pharaoh's men may ever come after them again. ‘right before your eyes’ May also refer to the Israelites looking at each other in disbelief about being saved from a great trial.
Let's move on to the next verse: God says:
And we appointed forty nights for Moses and then, while he was away, you took to worshipping the calf- while you were wrongdoers. (Chapter 2: Verse 51)
After the exodus from Egypt, God summoned Moses to mount Sinai for forty days and nights so that his nation, which had now achieved independence, could be taught law and morality. Moses' prior communication with God granted him prophethood and declared him the savior of his people from Pharaoh's terrible rule. At that time, God provided Moses with signs and miracles to convince the Egyptians of his prophethood, but Moses was not granted the divine revelation of the Torah. Allah revealed the scripture to Moses soon after the destruction of the Egyptians and the escape of the Israelites. God says:
We appointed thirty nights for Moses, then added ten more: the term set by his Lord was completed in forty nights. Moses said to his brother Aaron, ‘Take my place among my people: act rightly and do not follow the way of those who spread corruption.’ (07:142)
It is interesting to note that most religious times and events are related in terms of nights. This is because dates and months cannot be calculated accurately with the sun. We cannot know which part of the month we are in by looking at the sun. On the contrary, the shape of the moon gives us plenty of information about time. You and I may be able to roughly approximate the date by looking at the moon, but a Bedouin living in the dessert can tell you exactly which night of the month we are in.
Thus, all religious obligations and calculations are based on the entrance of night. For example, the first night of Ramadan starts at sunset before the first day of actual fasting. The same is true for the 15th night of the month of Sha’ban and so on. In Islamic obligations the night always precedes the day. The only exception is the day of Arafah. We do not call the preceding night the night of Arafah.
The number of months in a year in the sight of Allah is 12 as the following verse illustrates:
God decrees that there are twelve months- ordained in God’s Book on the Day when He created the heavens and earth- four months of which are sacred: this is the correct calculation. (9:36)
The Hijri (or Islamic) calendar is lunar, and thus, it is different from the Gregorian calendar which is solar. The wisdom behind the Hijri calendar is that if months were measured by the sun, then Ramadan -for example- would occur at the same time and season every year. In some parts of the world, Muslims would have to fast in the summer each and every year, while for others Ramadan will occur in winter all the time. With the Hijri calendar Muslims can enjoy fasting and other religious duties in different seasons. This is because the lunar calendar lags behind the solar one by eleven days each year, so with the passage of a few years, events linked to the moon occur at different seasons. This is how God's mercy spreads to all creations.