A commentary by Sayyid Qutb.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
[i.] By the morning an aching void came over the heart of Moses’ mother, and she would indeed have disclosed his identity had We not strengthened her heart so that she could continue to have faith. (10)
[ii.] She said to his sister: ‘Follow him.’ So she watched him from a distance, while they were unaware. (11)
[iii.] Right from the very beginning We caused him to refuse all nurses’ breasts. So, his sister said: ‘Shall I direct you to a family who might bring him up for you and take good care of him?’ (12)
[iv.] Thus We restored him to his mother, so that she might rejoice in him and grieve no more, and that she might know that God’s promise always comes true; even though most people do not know this. (13)
[v.] When he attained his full manhood and became fully mature, We bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge. Thus do We reward those who do good. (14)
[The Story, Al-Qasas: 28: 10-14]
Having cast her son in the Nile as she was told, Moses’ mother was exceedingly worried about him, but trusted to God to save him. However, she continued to exert her efforts to know what happened to the child: “She said to his sister: ‘Follow him.’” (Verse 11) She asked her daughter to follow the child thrown in a wooden box in the river, so as to know whether he survived or not. The girl went ahead, trying to find out what happened to him. She went into different quarters and markets, and she soon saw him from a distance, carried by some of Pharaoh’s servants who were looking for someone to suckle him:
So she watched him from a distance, while they were unaware. Right from the very beginning, We caused him to refuse all nurses’ breasts. So, his sister said: ‘Shall I direct you to a family who might bring him up for you and take good care of him?’ (Verses 11-12)
Here we see the working of God’s will completing its scheme to thwart Pharaoh. It brings the child to them and they pick him up, and they are made to love him from the very first moment. Thus, they look for a suckling mother for him, but God made him refuse all breasts to increase their confusion and make them feel helpless. Every time a new breast was offered to him, he refused. Thus, they feared for the child’s life. They continued in this situation until his sister saw him at a distance and recognized him. She soon realized how eager they were to find anyone who could take care of him. She carefully approached them: “Shall I direct you to a family who might bring him up for you and take good care of him?” (Verse 12) They were so delighted with what she said; hoping that it could be true and the child would be saved.
This fourth scene is over, and the next one starts immediately, showing the child back with his mother, thriving and well protected by Pharaoh and cared for by his wife. While fear was everywhere around him, he was in complete security: “Thus We restored him to his mother, so that she might rejoice in him and grieve no more, and that she might know that God’s promise always comes true; even though most people do not know this.” (Verse 13)
The surah does not tell us anything about the many years that separate its first two episodes: The one of Moses’ birth and savior and the other showing him as a mature adult in his prime. We do not know what happened after he was restored to his mother for suckling, how he was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace, what sort of relation he had with his real mother after he was weaned, what position he had in the palace or outside it when he grew up, until we are informed of the later events in the story. Nor are we told anything about Moses’ faith in these years, during which God took care of him and prepared him, in the midst of Pharaoh’s worshippers and priest, for the mission that would in time be assigned to him.
The surah is silent on all these points. As it starts the second episode, we see Moses in full maturity, having been endowed with wisdom and knowledge, and granted the reward of righteous people:
“When he attained his full manhood and became fully mature, We bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge. Thus do We reward those who do good.” (Verse 14)
The stage of life mentioned in this verse indicates full physical growth and complete mental maturity, which are normally attained when a person is around 30 years of age. Did Moses stay in Pharaoh’s palace as an adopted son of Pharaoh and his wife until he reached such an age? Did he move out, as he must have felt uncomfortable with the prevailing state of affairs? How could Moses, with his pure and untainted mentality, feel otherwise? His mother must have informed him of his identity, the community to which he belonged, and its faith. He certainly witnessed the sort of injustice and persecution meted out to his people, and he was fully aware of the extensive corruption that prevailed in that environment.
We have no evidence pointing to any of this, but the development of events imparts a feeling of how things moved. The granting of wisdom and knowledge to Moses is followed by this comment: “Thus do We reward those who do good.” This suggests that he did well, and God rewarded him with superior knowledge and wisdom.
All this is given as a prelude to an event that was to have a great impact on Moses’ character as he was being prepared to the great task he would have to undertake. We will be speaking about this next week, God willing, as we relate an event that occurs as a shock even to Moses himself, the main player in it.