Monday, May 29, 2006

A Call From on High.


A commentary by Sayyid Qutb

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent

When Moses had fulfilled his term, and was traveling with his family, he perceived a fire on the slope of Mount Sinai. So he said to his family: “Wait here, for I perceive a fire. Perhaps I may bring you from there some information or a burning brand from the fire so that you may warm yourselves.”

However, when he came close to it, he was addressed from the right-side bank of the valley, out of the tree on the blessed site: “Moses! Truly, I am God, the Lord of all the worlds.”

“Throw down your staff!” But when he saw it moving, as if it were a serpent, he turned and fled, with no thought of turning back. (God said): “Moses! Draw near and have no fear! You are certainly secure.”

“Now place your hand inside your garment, and it will come out (shining) white without blemish. Then draw your arm close to your side to allay your fear. These, then, are two proofs from your Lord to Pharaoh and his nobles. They are indeed wicked people.

He said: “My Lord! I have killed one of them and I fear that they will kill me. And my brother, Aaron, is better in speech than I am. So send him with me as a helper, so that he would confirm what I say, for I fear that they will accuse me of lying.”
(The Story, Al-Qasas: 28: 29-34)


“When Moses had fulfilled his term, and was traveling with his family, he perceived a fire on the slope of Mount Sinai. So he said to his family: Wait here, for I perceive a fire. Perhaps I may bring you from there some information, or a burning brand from the fire so that you may warm yourselves.” (Verse 29)

What might have occurred to Moses to take him back to Egypt when the term of his contract with the old man was over? He had left Egypt in fear, expecting danger as a result of his killing of a man there. What caused him to forget such danger when it was Pharaoh and his chiefs that were plotting to get rid of him? It is the hand that guided his footsteps throughout his life. It might have guided him this time through the natural feeling of nostalgia to one’s home and people. It might have reduced his sense of danger to a minimum, so that he would take up the mission for which he was created and prepared.

Anyway, we see Moses on his way back, with his family, in the dark night, having lost his way. It is a cold night, which makes him pleased with the sight of fire from a distance. He aims there to get some information or a brand of fire. This is the first scene in this episode.

The second scene tells us of the great surprise prepared for Moses: “But when he came close to it, he was addressed from the right-side bank of the valley, out of the tree on the blessed site.” (Verse 30)

We see him aiming toward the fire he had perceived, and here he is on the right-side bank of the valley, and the site is blessed from this moment. Now the whole universe echoes the sublime address Moses receives “out of the tree”, which might have been the only tree there.

Moses receives the direct call: “Moses! Truly, I am God, the Lord of all the worlds.” (Verse 30)

He received it alone in that solitary valley, in the depth of the night, but the whole universe responded, with the heavens and the earth echoing it in all corners. We do not know how, or with which faculty of perception, or through which sense, he received it, but he certainly received it with his whole being, as it filled the entire universe around him. He was able to receive it because he was reared under God’s watchful eye until he was ready for this moment. The universe recorded this sublime address, and the site where it took place became blessed as God in all His majesty revealed His presence there. The valley became distinguished by this great event, and Moses stood there in the noblest position a human being ever stood.

The sublime address continued to give God’s instructions to His servant: “Throw down your staff!” (Verse 31)

Moses complied with the order and threw down his staff, but what happened then? It was no longer his staff that was with him for a very long time. It is now a serpent moving very quickly like a young serpent, but in fact it was big like a snake: “But when he saw it moving, as if it were a serpent, he turned and fled, with no thought of turning back.” (Verse 31)

He was much unprepared for this sudden surprise. With his spontaneous nature, he was completely taken aback, turned and set to flight. He did not even think of going back to find out what happened to his staff, or see this preternatural happening. Such is the natural reaction of spontaneous people.

He then listened to his Lord’s address: “Draw near and have no fear! You are certainly secure.” (Verse 31)

Therefore, Moses was experiencing fear and security in quick succession throughout his life. The succession provides the basic element in his life’s atmosphere. In fact, this continuous interaction is indeed deliberately instilled in him so as to counterbalance the Israelite inactivity and habitual acceptance of their humble position. His spontaneity is part of what God has granted him in order to fulfill his role.

He is told to come near and to have no fear. Needless to say, a person whose every step is shown to him by God who is looking after him will always be safe and secure.

“Now place your hand inside your garment, and it will come out (shining) white without blemish.” (Verse 32)

Again, Moses did as he was instructed; putting his hand inside his garment’s top opening, and it gave him the second shock within a minute. It came out shining white, but it was clearly healthy. Its original color was rather dark. Its change of color symbolized the clear truth supported by undeniable, irrefutable evidence.

Again, Moses’ spontaneous personality caught up with him, and he was trembling, struck with awe. However, God’s care was soon forthcoming, giving him another instruction to calm him down: “Then draw your arm close to your side to allay your fear.” (Verse 32)

His hand is described here as a wing which he draws over himself like a bird, giving himself reassurance which is described here most vividly.

So Moses has been given something, and seen some clear signs that gave him fear at first before he was reassured. Now it is time to know what lies ahead of him. He is given the assignment for the fulfillment of which he was being prepared ever since he was a little child: “These, then, are two proofs from your Lord to Pharaoh and his nobles. They are indeed wicked people.” (Verse 32)

He is given a message to deliver to Pharaoh and his lieutenants, in fulfillment of the promise his mother was given when he was still a newborn baby: “We shall restore him to you, and shall make him one of Our messengers.” (Verse 7) Despite the passage of many years, the promise remained true, given by God who always says the truth.

Moses remembers now that he had killed one of Pharaoh’s people and had to flee their land when they plotted to kill him. As he was in the presence of his Lord who has honored him beyond his wildest expectations, bringing him to meet Him, giving him clear signs and bestowing on him His care in abundance, he felt the need to take precautions so that his message should not be brought to an abrupt end if he were to be killed: “He said: ‘My Lord! I have killed one of them and I fear that they will kill me.’” (Verse 33)

He does not say this by way of apology, or to find a way out of his commission. He only wanted to ensure that the message of the truth would continue to be advocated should his fears come to be true. This reflects a keen desire to fulfill his task - a desire that is in line with Moses’ character as a man of strength, worthy of trust. He elaborates: “And my brother, Aaron, is more eloquent than I am. So send him with me as a helper, so that he would confirm what I say, for I fear that they will accuse me of lying.” (Verse 34)

Aaron is more eloquent and better able to defend the message. He can provide much needed support, and can succeed Moses in case he is killed.

End.

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