Ambassador Abdullahi Ibrahim Atta: Reminiscences with Ambassador Abdullahi Ibrahim Atta

DAILY TRUST. SUNDAY 26TH AUGUST 2018.
General Reminiscences with Ambassador Abdullahi Ibrahim Atta

By Temitayo Odunlami & Risikat Ramoni, Lagos | Publish Date: Aug 26 2018 2:00AM

Ambassador Abdullah Ibrahim Atta, at 90 years old, is so clear of speech, sharp of sight and nimble on the foot. Plus his memory remains so retentive, he recalls names and dates of activities since childhood with unequivocal accuracy. A prince of the famous Atta family of Ebiraland, Amb Atta reminisces with Daily Trust on Sunday on his childhood, legacies of his father the late Atta of Ebiraland, his steps up the career ladder and how a disciplined lifestyle is causal to longevity and sound health

The Atta name, from Kogi State, is phenomenal, with the family believed to be one of the largest in Nigeria.

How memorable was it for you growing up in such a family?

I was born in Okene, the present day Kogi State on August 10, 1928. My father was a traditional ruler, Alhaji Ibrahim Atta, the late Atta of Ebiraland. My mother was the daughter of the town head. Her name was Aminatu. Her father produced so many beautiful women. My uncle was the one who first married her elder sister, who, for several years, had no child. My mother was always being sent to her sister’s matrimonial home. My father’s mother, Hajia Zainab, upon sighting my mother, asked about her and instantly said this lady would be married to her son.
The idea was not welcomed as it was said that two brothers cannot marry two sisters.
In those days, traditional rulers had so much power; when they said they wanted a woman for themselves, their authority cannot be challenged. My mother’s father had no choice but to give her daughter’s hand in marriage to my father. That was in 1926. In August 1928, I was born. By then, my grandmother, the motivator had died. She didn’t live to witness my birth as she had died in December 1927, not long after my mother had taken in.
After I was born, three or four others were born after me, so I had three brothers and one sister. My sister, the youngest, is deceased. She was a matron in a hospital. Two of my brothers are businessmen. One was in the Nigerian Navy. One of my businessmen brothers passed on last year. Now, there are only three of us left from my mother.
In the Atta general household, we are still many. What we now have are Atta’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and there are almost a thousand of them. When we celebrated my father’s passing in 1964, there were so many of us, some living in Nigeria and some abroad. There have also been a lot of inter-tribal marriages in the family. We are spread all over.

You have been a civil servant, a diplomat, an Intelligence officer, and a lot more. How did it all start?

I was born in the palace and I grew up there. I went to the only primary school at that time in Okene, from 1936 to 1942. From 1943, I went to Ondo Boys High School; there were no secondary schools in our province at the time. The only secondary school was the Okene Middle School, which was government-owned and stopped at Middle Four. The intake was very restricted and it admitted only 24 students a year in the whole province. These 24 students were divided into four divisions from each province. Each division supplied only six students a year. The colonialists were very restrictive because they didn’t really want us to be educated.
My father wanted to establish schools but they refused. That was why he decided to send us to Ondo Boys High School in the Western region. He had friends in Ondo, the Reverend Adeyemi, and another one, Deacon Lennon, who was in charge of the Ikare Diocese of Ondo. Ebiraland was within the Ikare Diocese. My father sought their assistance for a school for his children. He sent 12 of us to Ondo Boys High School.
Out of the 12, only eight were his biological children, four were his friends’ children. There were also the sons of his chief driver, two sons of his chief messenger and the brother of his chief of police. He sponsored them all to the school and was paying the fees for all of us.
In 1945, a problem arose at the school when the Principal was accused of over-admitting people and some of us had to leave. I moved to Oduduwa College with two of my brothers, including the present Ohinoyi (Atta) of Ebiraland. We got admission through the Reverend and the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, who was also my father’s friend. We were there for two years and finished our secondary education there in 1948.

Did you start your civil service career immediately after that?

Yes. In March 1949, I was recruited by the Nigerian Railways as a station staff and posted to the traffic and commercial department. I was sent to the Railway training school at Ebute Meta (West) for six months. There were new entrants from all over the country at the school, from the East, North and West, including Lagos. The federal character was what was used then, but we didn’t know. From Lagos, I remember Mr Bamgbose and Mr Apena. From the West, I remember Mr Adedoyin from Ijebu Ode and Mr Tayero from Ilesa. From the East, I remember Mr Ebong, Mr Itu and Mr Okoro, who later became the General Manager of Railways.
From the North, there was me, Abdullahi Atta. I used to be called Ibrahim but my full name is Abdullahi Ibrahim Atta. There was Mr Iyemba. There were two boys from Kano: one was called Wudil and the other Sani. There were also two boys from Zaria: one was called Yerosain and the other Abdullahi Aliyu. These were my contemporaries at the training school.
When we finished our course, we were taken back to our regions. From the headquarters in Zaria, we were all posted to different places. Aliyu and I were posted to Jos.
I was in Jos from October 1949 to September 1954 when I was posted to Kafanchan as a relief station master. My duty then was to relieve any station master in small stations who was ill or proceeding on leave. I was in my 20s then and those people I went to relieve were my father’s age. They would tell me, ‘You small boy, you are holding a position that has taken us many years to get here and you just got the position easily.’
In one instance, I was somewhere to relieve someone in the West and I was getting off the train when I heard him telling his wife in Yoruba, ‘It is a small boy that they sent.’ And the wife replied, ‘Maybe he is educated. He is a college graduate.’ They didn’t know I understood the language; I had studied Yoruba in school. So I just smiled. In that region at that time, their highest qualification was mostly the primary school level. When they had people with secondary school education, we became a class above them. That was very dangerous for us because the old men were very envious of young boys who they considered a threat to them.
Some of them got the post of a station master by paying for it. One of them actually sat me down and told me a story. He said it took him 30 years to be a station master. He said to get to such a position, they would need to go to Ebute Meta, the railway headquarters, to see a Chief Clerk who they would give some form of gratification (I don’t want to say bribe) who would work it for them. To them, being a station master was a great achievement.
After I had spent three years at railways, I didn’t like the job anymore because I didn’t see any future in it for me. In the career, you didn’t know where you would be going next. There was no encouragement. And those people were living a frivolous life that I didn’t like. So I wrote a letter to go back to administration, but they refused. Their excuse was that they had spent a lot of money to train me so I couldn’t go anywhere, I must work there. They asked me to withdraw my application but I insisted I wouldn’t and it should rather be on record. And it was on record until 1957 when they changed the Railway to a Corporation. It was before then known as Government railway, not corporation.
All members of staff were asked to sign transferring their services to the new corporation. That was my opportunity and I grabbed it. I insisted I wanted to remain a government official and wouldn’t be a part of the corporation. I was then in a small station called Karazau near Gusau. They sent a white man to interview me and try to convince me to sign. The man came with his wife. He inspected my work, signed my register and asked me to see him in his coach.
When going there, I took some fresh corn and eggs to him as gifts. He was shocked and said since he became a Traffic Inspector, no African ever did that for him. After enquiring where I came from and I told him, he said he knew my father, that he was a very tough man. He asked why I didn’t wish to continue with railway. I answered that I didn’t see any future for myself in railway services and would rather go to administration where I believed there was a promising future for me. I also told him I had spent seven years working in the bush and didn’t find that encouraging. I made him realise that truly somebody had to work in the bush, but not a young man like me and I wanted to go to the city.
His wife, a young, beautiful woman who also interviewed me, said, ‘The young man is quite right.’ And that made him angry, retorting, ‘Why will you support him?’ Somehow, he went back to Zaria and told them I was adamant and refused to sign. They quickly prepared a transfer letter for me to the Prime Minister’s office in Lagos.
My wife had gone to have our first baby in Kaduna. After I got the message of the transfer, I packed my things and went to Kaduna to tell her I’ve left the railways, without the details. She asked what would happen to us as I had lost my job and we had our first baby to take care of. It was then I made her realise my job was still intact, but no more with the railways. I gave her the news I would be going to Lagos and she would have to stay with my brother in Kaduna, with a promise that as soon as I have an accommodation in Lagos, she would join me. And that was what we did.
In November 1957, I travelled to Lagos and stayed with a friend on Queens Street, Yaba, for two months. He assisted me to get a room at No. 11, Little Road, Yaba. In February, I sent for my wife and she came with our baby. Unfortunately, we lost the boy at age seven. But God blessed us with other children.
Pa Oguntolu, our landlord was an elderly, retired postmaster who later became like my father. We stayed with him for four years before I was given an apartment in Ikoyi. The day I packed my things to leave, Baba could not bear it. He entered his room and locked the door. I also shed tears. His children are still my best friends till today. Just last week, they came visiting. They were young people then and it was their mother who looked after us. Mama Oguntolu looked after my wife whenever we had a baby. They were our family.
In August 1962, I moved to Ikoyi, and in November, I was asked to go on posting to the Republic of Guinea where we opened our Mission there.

Were you still working in the Prime Minister’s office then?

When I arrived in Lagos and reported to the Prime Minister’s office, the management posted me to the Finance Division of that office, particularly the Exchange Control department. I was dealing with foreign exchange, and this was all before the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was established. After the CBN emerged, that section was transferred to the CBN. I didn’t know they were planning to send me to the CBN. The Foreign Affairs people spotted me and said I must join them. It became an argument between the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and that of Finance, who relied on me. It was a battle between the two of them, but finance eventually allowed me to go.
It was within a few months of joining Foreign Affairs that I was posted to Guinea in 1962, with another senior officer, to open the Mission there. I was there for six months. It was while in Guinea that I realised how great a nation Nigeria is. Unless you go out to other African countries, we do not appreciate what we have.
In Guinea, there was no food. Apparently, what happened was that when they got independence from the French colonialists, their French masters took everything away with that independence, including electricity plugs, telephone and everything else.

But it’s been widely believed that the French colonialists loved the people they colonised, courtesy their assimilation policy, so why did you say this?

Yes, but the Guineans were insisting on absolute independence, while the colonialists were after a partial one. So that made them rip off everything and the poor Guineans had to start all over again. There was no food. The American government had to be sending a boatful of rice to Guinea every month, and whenever this boat was slightly late, there was chaos and the people were hungry. When we were there, we would queue every Sunday for a loaf of bread, which we had to manage for one week.
We had our transport vehicle, a Land Rover, and Sierra Leone’s Freetown is 205 miles away by rough road from Conakry. We would usually go to Freetown to get our supplies of rice, yam, beans, palm oil and everything we needed in the house. If we forgot anything as small as a tooth paste, we would be sorry. One day, I took the jeep and drove around Guinea for over 100 miles in search of a chicken or goat, but I couldn’t get any.
Where I lived, my neighbours were Guineans. But I observed there was one thing wrong with them, which was laziness. Their land was very fertile. At the rear of where I was staying, I cultivated the ground to plant seeds of maize and within three months, I was plucking ripe maize for consumption. The Guineans would come to beg for some. They saw me clearing and planting but they wouldn’t plant. When I asked the most elderly of them why they were not planting, he replied they had no strength for farming. They were waiting, always waiting for American rice.
I spent only seven months there before I was posted to Ghana in July 1963. In Ghana, I worked with Leslie Harriman, who was my High Commissioner. Alhaji Isa Wali came to replace Harriman after he left.
I got another promotion and I had to return to Lagos in October 1964. In February 1965, I was sent to Britain for a three-month course at the Intelligence academy of the British Foreign Office. Two other officers and I had a training on intelligence work. We came back after three months, spent some time at the ministry and were then posted to Cairo, Egypt in September 1965.

The Atta family fame is legendary. How many children exactly did your father have?

148. The 149th, born after his death, is now more than 50 years old. My father was nearly 80 years old when he died in 1964. The Attas known by all are my father’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

How was he able to manage such a large family without rancour?

Polygamous life was very common in those days; it was actually a way of life. Many men married many wives in those days for various reasons, but the most significant of the reasons is that they needed help on the farm. The women would have many children who would be useful on the farm. There was only manual farming then and no technology to assist, so many hands were required.
Another reason many women were in one man’s house is that the men needed hands to fight off wars. Whenever there was war, men required large households to defend families. For example, the Fulani, in those days, would go to villages, capture people and sell them to the white men. Under the guise of religion or other reasons, they would raid villages and capture the women. My father fought off the Fulani and the Nupe when they attacked Ebiraland in the early 20th century.
My father had a very strong mother who was a business woman and was very rich. My father was a young man in his 20s when the Europeans came and the man they initially installed as the community head was not capable enough. The white men saw that my father could speak many languages – Hausa, Yoruba, Nupe, several other local languages around us and pidgin English. He was able to communicate with the white men, so they regarded him as someone competent and decided to put him as the head. At that time, he was already 30. He was installed as the Atta of Ebiraland.

Was he the first Atta?

The first Atta was only a clan head but my father was the first Atta who was a traditional ruler in Ebiraland. He was the one who united the Ebira people because, earlier in Ebiraland, people were living clan by clan, village by village. He was the one who harmonised everybody. He was very exposed and knew what to do. He linked Ebiraland with Kabba, Auchi, Ajaokuta and the Yorubaland. The Ebira people started going to Yorubaland to do business, farming and so on. He established a very sound administration.
He wanted to build a school but the white men did not agree, but they later allowed him to build one up to Primary Four only in Okene. The missionaries came and he encouraged them to build another school. The Catholic and Anglicans each built their own schools and many people were able to send their children to school. That was how my father also sent his own children to school.
The missionaries were at loggerheads with the colonialists who didn’t want the schools built. But the missionaries insisted they needed more educated people to preach their gospel, and that provided an opportunity to educate many more people in Ebiraland and environs.
Initially, the Ebira people didn’t like the idea of my father putting their children in school because they kept asking who would help them on the farm. It was a problem. Parents had to be begged to bring their children forward for school enrolment and sometimes, coercion needed to be used to intimidate parents to send their children to school.
When the missionary schools were charging school fees, a shilling per child, many parents could not pay. My father had to beg the missionaries to reduce the fee and he encouraged them to build the church and school in the same compound, for both the Anglican and Catholic.
When the whites persuaded him to become a Christian, he told them he brought Islam to Ebiraland and he remained a Muslim, but that wouldn’t stop him from educating his people even if it would mean building churches alongside schools.
He had to marry many women as some parents brought their daughters and gave to him. They wanted to associate with royalty. There were some parents who told my father they would give their daughters to his sons if he himself would not marry them. That was how the family became large.
My father was a big farmer and hunter. Once we returned from school (and boarding school later), and we were many, he would take us to the farm to work. We never bought food, and that was how he was able to sustain his family. The salary he was getting then was a large amount; it was 100 pounds sterling a month. It’s like earning N1 billion a month today.
My father’s farm was so big that he was selling cocoa and cotton to the UAC and would use the proceeds to buy lorries to trade, which made him to easily afford our school fees. He later sent some of my brothers and sisters to England. He arranged with the UAC to pay the school fees of those abroad, while he paid them back with cocoa here. He had a lot of economic sense.

How many wives did he have?

I cannot say exactly how many but the minimum I can give you is about 30. He married four wives Islamically, but then parents started bringing their daughters to him and consequently, that was how there were so many.

Did you toe your father’s path on polygamy?

No. Going away from home helped me a lot regarding marriage. I married my wife in 1955 and we have been together till now. God blessed us with 10 children. We have eight alive – five girls and three boys – and lost two. Not having too many children helped me in terms of bringing up those we have and educating them. They all did well, graduated from the university, and all married. I am very proud of the children God has given me.
My father was a good man. He strove hard to educate us. But it wasn’t completely easy for him. Some of his wives didn’t want him to send their daughters to school. In one instance, one of my sisters in primary school was slapped by her teacher. On getting home, she told her mother she had a headache, and after much persuasion, she revealed that a teacher had slapped her in school. My step-mother vowed to deal with the mother of the teacher. She went to meet her own husband, held him by the collar and shouted it was he who insisted her daughter be sent to school. Women are very powerful I must say. He had to beg her.
When some of the girls were approaching puberty, their mothers would stop them from going to school, vowing no teacher would impregnate them. They would rather tell the girls to learn cloth weaving, and do domestic chores and general home management.
Later on, when some of my sisters who went to the university graduated, got good jobs and started driving cars, those mothers began regretting their decision and wanted to send their daughters to school, but, for most of the girls, it was late.
That was one irony my father had to contend with: while some of his wives were fighting him not to send their children to school or fighting him to withdraw them from school, some women outside were begging him to take their children to school.

You have been talking about all seriousness when you were growing up. Didn’t you play pranks as a youth?

I couldn’t play enough pranks because God gave me consciousness very early and I knew it’s an opportunity that I must never abuse. My father had so many children and there was a rivalry about whose children would go to school. Of my father’s 148 children, I can remember that about 100 went to school. Education among them was so competitive it was a special privilege to be selected among them for school. Bida, Lokoja, Ikare and Ondo were the nearest available education options.
At home, my father was a strict disciplinarian; whoever messed up would get the bulala (cane), so there was no room for pranks. But there was one prank. School began by 7am and closed by 1pm. Whenever we returned from the primary school, we must resume at the Arabic school by 2pm right in the palace. The Quranic teacher, Mallam Bello, had a horse whip which he was always using to whip us – for no reason.
There were about a 100 children in a hall not big enough for all of us. Despite the fact we were ceaselessly shouting the Arabic alphabets and surahs, the mallam was always whipping us on our naked body.
Because of this cruelty, we decided not to be coming home directly whenever we finished from school. We would find somewhere to hide until about 5pm when the Quranic lesson would have ended, then we would go home. One day, my father went to the mosque adjacent to the school within the palace and noticed the school was half-filled. He asked Mallam Bello why his children were absent and asked for a list of the absentees. Later, he lined us up, about six or seven of us, and asked why we were not in the Quranic school, but we couldn’t answer that it was due to the excessive beating Mallam was always giving us, because Mallam was right there. My father directed that each of us should be given three strokes of the bulala for running away from school.
After that, it didn’t happen again. But we started abusing Mallam Bello and were telling our father’s confidants that the Mallam was only beating us and wasn’t teaching us anything. And truly, I didn’t benefit from what he taught me; I had to learn about Islamic worship all by myself after leaving school. That was the only prank I played.

You just celebrated your 90th birthday anniversary. But you are still so agile, with a clear speech and a sharp memory. What is the secret behind your enviable health?

The real secret is, first, God. Nobody can say there is any secret for good health or longevity. No amount of good food can do it. Sometimes, even the good food becomes a hazard.
Of course, lifestyle matters too. Be moderate in whatever you do; your eating, your drinking, etc. If you are a woman’s man, don’t go after too many girls because you will collapse early. Don’t go after too much money; when you become rich, it’s another problem as there will be sleepless nights because you don’t want to exhaust your riches.
That’s the problem rich men face. I am not a rich man, but I am rich in other ways. God has given me a good health, a good wife and good children. I am grateful to God for all these. I don’t have money but I have peace of mind. I retired in 1987, although I was called back to work for six years after my retirement.
Then, if you are not active, you will break down. Lying down in bed all day, not getting up to be active to do some things yourself rather than be asking people to do them for you will render you weak. The food you eat will not digest well and it becomes a problem for you.
I get up in the morning, and under the monitoring of my wife who does not give me trouble, I use the treadmill to exercise my body. If I can’t go out, I use it for 10 to 15 minutes, I get warm and I’m okay for the day. If it’s a day I can walk, I go for a walk. That’s how I keep fit.

Looking at your photograph, when you were young – you were very handsome – one wonders how you kept the girls away. Or did you play any pranks in that direction?

If you don’t go after women, they will come after you. When I first came to Lagos, I noticed it was different from the North where there was a lot of discipline in man-woman relationships. In Lagos, there were many girls working in my office when I was in the Ministry of Finance. There were only two boys when I was head of the section, the rest were girls. Many of my colleagues didn’t know I could speak Yoruba. They kept calling me an impotent man in Yoruba language because they never saw any woman visit me. Sometimes I would smile; other times I would pretend not to hear what they were saying.
One day, I surprised them. I wanted to take my family for shopping and my three children came to the office. One of them was eight years old. My boy was so hyperactive that he went straight to my boss’ (a white man) cubicle and asked for his pen to paint something. My boss asked whose children were they and I answered mine. My wife also came in. They were all surprised to see that I did have a wife, and kids too.

You have so many books in your library. Do you still have the energy and good sight to read books at 90?

Reading is my hobby. I have loved reading from childhood. I have not read all the books in my library (over 300 to 400 books) but I have read most of them. Some of them were stolen while we were always travelling here and there.

Culled from Daily Trust. Sunday 26TH August 2018.

Advertisements

Prophet Musa (AS) – Part II

A NEW LIFE

Having killed a man, and knowing that the Pharaoh and his men were hot on his heels, Musa AS escaped Egypt. He did not know exactly where to head, for he had never stepped outside of Egypt before. Nevertheless, he went towards Madyan, and said that “I hope that my Lord will lead me to the right path.” (Qur’an 28:22)

He had no mode of transportation, cash or any provisions. He only had the clothes on his back. Imagine if we were in his position, fleeing without credentials, money, or even an ATM card to pay for the next meal! Ibn Abbas RA reported that Musa AS went from Egypt to Madyan eating only plants and leaves. He was barefooted and his stomach was stuck to his back as a result of his hunger, a direct contrast to the palace luxuries.

When he reached the wells of Madyan (if we recall, it was the same location that Shuaib’s AS community used to live before they were destroyed), he observed a group of shepherds watering their flocks. He also spotted two women modestly keeping themselves and their own flocks segregated from the men. He enquired what the matter was, and the women explained that they were sisters and to protect their chastity and personal security, could only draw water from the well once the men had dispersed. Their father was elderly and unable to perform the task himself.

According to reports, once the men were done, they would cover the mouth well with a big rock to protect it, leaving the women the only option of using the leftover water from the previous flock. According to Umar RA, the rock was so heavy that it required the strength of ten men to carry it, however, Musa AS had been bestowed with exceeding strength. On this day, Musa AS removed the rock and helped the sisters water the flock.

Then, tired and hungry, he went into the shade and said “My Lord! I am in need of any good that You may send to me! (Qur’an 28:24) This humble manner was befitting of a Prophet and teaches us how to ask Allah for help.

When the sisters came home from their daily tasks earlier than usual, their father was surprised. They related the incident to him, upon which he asked one of them to fetch Musa AS and bring him home. According to the Qur’an, one of the two returned to Musa AS, approached him with shyness, and explained that that her father had invited Musa AS to reward him for his kind act. Musa AS complied, and explained his circumstances to their father. The latter, who himself was a righteous man, reassured him not to be afraid, for he had done well to escape from the evildoers.

A MARRIAGE PROPOSAL

While Musa AS was in conversation, one of the sisters hinted to her father that he should hire Musa AS. She suggested that he should “Engage him on wages, surely, the best of those you can employ is the one who is strong and trustworthy.” (Qur’an 28:26)

She was alluding that because of his character, Musa AS was a choice prospect for a son in law. Musa AS was without any means of providing for his future wife. However, he was clearly of sound character. Therefore, in consideration of marrying his daughter, the father offered Musa AS employment for eight years, and if Musa AS felt gracious, for an additional two years. However, the older man clarified that it was not his intention to impose hardship upon Musa AS, and thus Musa AS could, of his own volition, work either duration. Musa AS agreed to the terms, and most reports say that he worked for the entire tenure of ten years. He had remained employed for that time, solely for food and for his modesty, and not for wealth.

All Prophets and Messengers have to spend some portion of their lives as shepherds, to isolate and sever themselves from the distractions of the worldly life. Tending a flock requires the type of patience and vigilance that can only be learnt on the job rather than through observation. This patience and self-awareness is key for them to focus on their relationship with God as a preparation for the difficult task ahead. This time is also known as the waqfat tarbiyah, the time and place for Allah to teach them of His Oneness and to train their manner and character. This was the kind of training that cannot be gleaned from books. Musa AS was no different, and further, his time in the desert eradicated the influence that the corrupt lifestyle at the palace might have had on him. This stage of his life was the final preparation for his great destiny as one of the mightiest Prophets and Messengers of Allah.

In the final year, as a reward for his hard work, his father in law offered that for the next breeding season, all lambs born with a particular rare colour would belong to Musa AS. According to some reports, by the will of Allah, the next season, every ewe bore twins, and each alternate sheep was of that rare colour. Therefore, from owning virtually nothing, he amassed a modest amount of wealth.

CONVERSATION WITH ALLAH – THE FIRST REVELATION

Years passed, and Musa AS missed his family in Egypt. Once his contract with his father in law was fulfilled, he set back with his wife and family back towards his homeland. We have to remember that he was still, as far as Egypt was concerned, a fugitive.

It was at this time that events took a strange turn. To reach Egypt, they had to cross the Sinai desert. On one particularly cold and dark night, they seemed to have lost their way. As Musa AS walked in the darkness, he saw a light in the distance, on the side of Mount Tur. He directed his family: “Stay here, I see a fire, I hope I may bring you from that you may warm yourselves.” (Qur’an 28:29) The same incident was also reported in Surah Ta Ha, 20:9, and Surat An Naml, 27:7.

He approached the light and found something wondrous – there was a green tree but it was glowing and burning with an unusual fire and light! Musa AS was, at this time, in the valley of Tuwa, facing the Qibla, when his Lord called out to him. Surah Ta Ha sets out the conversation beautifully:

And when he came to it, he was called, “O Musa,

Indeed, I am your Lord, so remove your sandals. Indeed, you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa.

And I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed [to you].

Indeed, I am Allah . There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.(Qur’an 20:11 – 20:14)

The message continued:

Indeed, the Hour is coming – I almost conceal it – so that every soul may be recompensed according to that for which it strives.

So do not let one avert you from it who does not believe in it and follows his desire, for you [then] would perish. (Qur’an 20:15-16)

How great a guidance it was, for this was the beginning to the revelations to Musa AS. From a firsthand introduction by Allah Almighty Himself, and the order to worship Him, Musa AS was immediately directed not to be distracted from such worship by the non believers. In the first few powerful sentences, Allah has comprehensively reminded Musa AS, and by extension, us as the readers of the Qur’an, of the impending destruction of this temporary world, and of our reckoning thereafter. Imagine the magnitude of the Message and the impact it had on Musa AS!

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE STAFF

Barely had Musa AS the time to absorb the first revelation when the conversation shifted to another topic: his staff, or walking stick. This is the cadence of the Qur’an – it sometimes presents a general snapshot of the scenario, before suddenly narrowing onto a specific topic or object.

Surah Ta Ha continues:

And what is that in your right hand, O Musa?”

He said, “It is my staff; I lean upon it, and I bring down leaves for my sheep and I have therein other uses.” (Qur’an 20:17-18)

Of course, Allah knew what the staff was for, and needed no explanation. However, here, we are drawn to the qualities of a simple walking stick, an everyday, nondescript and inanimate object.

[Allah] said, “Throw it down, O Musa.”

So he threw it down, and thereupon it was a snake, moving swiftly. (Qur’an 21:20)

His staff miraculously transformed into a writhing snake, pulsing with life and according to some reports, with huge fangs. Musa AS was naturally terrified by this unnatural metamorphosis and ran away. While attributed with strength of faith, Musa AS was also as human as the rest of us, and was freaked out by what he saw.

However:

[Allah] said, “Seize it and fear not; We will return it to its former condition. (Qur’an 20:21)

Musa stopped in his tracks and picked the fearful reptilian by the head. Here was the first test of Musa’s AS faith. Within minutes of the first revelation, he was commanded to subordinate his natural terror to the obedience of Allah. Suppressing his fright, he picked up the snake by its head. As Allah promised, the serpent was restored into a staff.

Allah commanded him further:

And draw in your hand to your side; it will come out white without disease – another sign,

That We may show you [some] of Our greater signs. (Qur’an 20:22-23)

Reports say that Musa AS suffered from leprosy. He obeyed Allah’s command to put his arms around himself, to calm himself down. Lo and behold, when he withdrew his hand, his skin was flawless and free of disease.

Hence, the purpose of Allah’s question about the staff encapsulates the message of all messages: that Allah is the holder of the possible and the impossible. We tend to arrogantly rely on our intellect and forget that our knowledge and ability are so limited. The crucial message to Musa AS was the power and might of Allah, which is what Allah wanted him to grasp. The objects that can benefit can also harm, and the objects that can harm can also benefit, by the will of Allah.

This was the shortest journey in iman and yaqeenever amongst human beings.

THE PROPHETIC MISSION

Musa AS had spent over a decade in the desert as he was afraid of facing a murder trial in Egypt. Therefore, the next commandment from Allah must have been the last thing in the world that Musa AS wanted to do:

“Go to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed.” (Qur’an 21:24)

Now that Allah had given Musa AS some signs of His Might, the next order was to go back to the lion’s den and spread the message of Islam to the Pharaoh! Within minutes of the first revelation, Musa AS was asked to expose himself to the treacherous elements that he had been trying to hide from in the first place. What’s more, to do the impossible – preach Islam to the most tyrannical disbeliever in the world!

To complicate matters, Musa AS reportedly had a stammer, which surfaced whenever he was upset or agitated. Imagine if we had to debate with our President or Prime Minister, who was already hostile and ready to execute us – and we had a speech impediment to put us at a more severe disadvantage!

However, Musa AS knew that only Allah was the one able to override his physical shortcomings and increase his eloquence. It was only Allah who could grant him confidence.

[Musa] said, “My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance]

And ease for me my task

And untie the knot from my tongue

That they may understand my speech

And let him [i.e. his brother Harun] share my task

That we may exalt You much

And remember You much.

Indeed, You are of us ever Seeing.” (Qur’an 20:25-35)

Allah gently recounted Musa’s AS entire life history – from how it was Allah Who had inspired his mother to place him in the basket when he was an infant, to restoring him to her and later, saving him from the reach of Pharaoh’s punishment. Further it was Allah who had ensured that he was provided for in Madyan. Musa’s AS entire life was an impossibility from the outset, yet it became possible because he had been in Allah’s care and sustenance throughout, simply because Allah had ordained it so.

At Musa’s AS request. Allah permitted his brother, Harun AS to accompany him for his mission. Then, Allah said:

“Go, you and your brother, with My signs and do not slacken in My remembrance. And speak to him [Pharaoh] with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear.” (Qur’an 20:44)

Here is a wonderful lesson on how to spread the message of Islam. Gentleness is a fundamental point in da’wah. Pharaoh was the worst tyrant on earth and proclaimed that he was the greatest God. Even with such despicable arrogance, Allah neither cursed him nor called him names. Instead, Allah still gave him a chance to repent and mend his ways. Musa AS was commanded to approach the Pharaoh and invite him towards Allah with kind speech.

Musa AS then expressed fear of punishment by the Pharaoh for the murder he had committed. Allah assured him:

“Fear not. Indeed, I am with you both; I hear and I see.”(Qur’an 20:46)

This was a reassurance from Allah to go, and in return, He will give them support and victory. The power and victory of Allah now lay with a man, who in a few hours, was transformed from a shepherd into a prophet and messenger for the people of Egypt.

LESSONS FOR US

Proposals by women

The way the future wife of Musa AS proposed to him demonstrates that women are permitted to choose their husbands, and moreover, offer themselves in marriage in a discreet manner, either directly, or through an appropriate intermediary. People of the old days were quick to recognise quality, and women were, and still are, allowed to initiate the marriage proposal in order to gain a husband of good character and attributes. We see this again in the life of Prophet Muhammad SAW, whose first wife, Khadijah RA recognised his exemplary character and proposed to him.

The Power of Allah

The demonstrations of Allah’s power were just a glimpse of Allah’s Might. Within minutes of Musa AS being introduced to Allah, his faith was immediately put to the test, but Allah showed him just a sliver of His abilities, to give Musa AS enough signs to fortify his faith. It is the same for us. When one claims belief in Allah, that faith is not just professed by the tongue, but by the total obedience to commands of Allah, even if they are opposite one’s natural desires and instincts.

Look around us, and we see the evidence of Allah’s powers everywhere we go, through every miracle of creation that we see. The miracle witnessed by Musa AS was not in the snake, the staff or his skin condition, but rather, the Owner of such power to change any circumstance and situation. The staff was merely a tool to demonstrate that nothing is impossible in the Kingdom of Allah, the One who is able to change all conditions in ways beyond our limited human imagination. If we understand the overwhelming and all encompassing power of Allah, then obedience will follow easily.

The Fundamentals of Da’wah

Today when we give da’wah we start with halal and haram, when we ignore fundamental Oneness of the Creator illustrated in the incident of the staff.

Allah asked His own Prophet to address Pharaoh nicely, even though they were on the opposite extremes in the spectrum of good and evil. None of the Prophets and Messengers were bad mannered, and therefore, we do not have the license to spread Islam through aggression, argumentation and debates, most of which are centred around our inflamed egos and self righteousness, rather than a genuine compassion to save our brothers and sisters in humanity from the flames of hellfire.

Around eighty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad SAW, a Bedouin was granted an audience with a tyrant ruler in Iraq. He was notorious for slaughtering many Muslims, and it was said that at one point, the Ka’bah was flooded by the blood of those he had slain. The Bedouin addressed the ruler harshly, and the ruler asked: Are you better than Musa AS? Am I worse than Pharaoh? How harsh we can be sometimes in comparison to those we are trying to persuade towards Islam! Sometimes we get worked up, forgetting that none of us are at the level of Prophets, and neither are the people we speak to at the level of Pharaoh.

Another basic element is that, Allah is not assessing us based on our result, but rather, on the sincerity of our efforts. Nuh AS preached for over 950 years, which resulted in a small number of followers. Similarly, Musa AS was sent down to one of the most stubborn and disbelieving communities in mankind. Yet, both of them are amongst the greatest five Prophets and Messengers, for their ever-continuing perseverance in preaching to their communities, even though the results were sparse. Similarly, Allah will not judge us by numbers, but rather, by our effort and obedience. Our mission is to try, but the results rest with Allah alone

Prophet Musa (AS) – Part III

THE DA’WAH OF MUSA AS

Musa AS carried with him two commands for Pharaoh. The first was an invitation to Allah and the second was to release Bani Israel from all the torture and oppression imposed on them by Pharaoh’s regime. Proof was going to be required in this confrontation, and Musa AS was already armed with two of the nine signs that Allah would bestow upon him, his hand and his staff.

The Qur’an mentions: So go to him and say, ‘Indeed, we are messengers of your Lord, so send with us the Children of Israel and do not torment them. We have come to you with a sign from your Lord. And peace will be upon he who follows the guidance. Indeed, it has been revealed to us that the punishment will be upon whoever denies and turns away. (Qur’an 20:47-49) Therefore, Musa AS was to spread a message of peace, together with a warning for those who refused to follow the path of the truth.

Together with his brother, Harun AS, he went to Pharaoh. It is reported that they had to persist for two years before the palace guards plucked up the courage to ask permission from Pharaoh to grant them an audience.

If we recall, Musa AS had lived under Pharaoh’s roof for almost 40 years and had to flee Egypt to escape the death penalty when he accidentally killed a man. Therefore, Musa AS was already on thin ice in Pharaoh’s estimate. He was risking his life by engaging Pharaoh in such a controversial dialogue.

Nevertheless, once he faced Pharaoh and his assembly, Musa AS said, “O Pharaoh, I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds, [Who is] obligated not to say about Allah except the truth. I have come to you with clear evidence from your Lord, so send with me the Children of Israel.” (Qur’an 7:104-105)

Naturally Pharaoh was astonished at what he perceived to be sheer audacity on Musa’s AS part. He seized the opportunity to remind Musa AS of his upbringing and also to remind Musa AS of his crime – a veiled threat to Musa AS and his personal liberty. He did not respond to the call by Musa AS, but instead, employed tactics to discredit him.

[Pharaoh] said, “Did we not raise you among us as a child, and you remained among us for years of your life? And [then] you did your deed which you did, and you were of the ungrateful.” (Qur’an 26:18-19)

[Musa] said, “I did it, then, while I was of those astray. So I fled from you when I feared you. Then my Lord granted me wisdom and prophethood and appointed me [as one] of the messengers. (Qur’an 26:20-21)

Musa AS continued with a counter argument: “And is this a favour of which you remind me – that you have enslaved the Children of Israel?” (Qur’an 26:22), meaning, how can this tyrannical act ever be interpreted as a favour?

Instead of refuting this claim, Pharaoh asked, “And what is the Lord of the worlds?” (Qur’an 26:23) Musa AS replied “The Lord of the heavens and earth and that between them, if you should be convinced.” (Qur’an 26:24)

Pharaoh was incredulous and asked those around him, “Do you hear that?” The da’wah of Musa AS was only met with ridicule and laughter. Pharaoh then asked of his forefathers, to which Musa AS replied “Your Lord and the Lord of your first forefathers.” [Pharaoh] said, “Indeed, your ‘messenger’ who has been sent to you is mad.” (Qur’an 26:26-27) From a criminal, Musa AS was then relegated to the category of insane. Throughout history, the accusation of insanity was a common reaction against any Prophet or Messenger who was trying to establish the truth in his community.

Undeterred, Musa AS continued: “Lord of the east and the west and that between them, if you were to reason.” (Qur’an 26:28) This was a rational argument, for Pharaoh’s authority did not range as far as east to west, earth to heaven. The existence of all of that existed could only be attributed to the Creator, and anyone with understanding could see that plainly.

Refusing to accept Musa’s AS rationale, Pharaoh changed tactics and tried to intimidate both Musa AS and Harun AS: “If you take a god other than me, I will surely place you among those imprisoned.”Like all tyrants, Pharaoh wanted to play the role of judge, jury and executioner. [Musa] said, “Even if I brought you proof manifest?” [Pharaoh] said, “Then bring it, if you should be of the truthful.” (Qur’an 26:29-31)

In response to the challenge, Musa AS threw his staff, and it suddenly transformed into a serpent. He also drew out his hand, and it became white and radiant for all the observers to see.

By his own rules, Pharaoh had already lost the argument. However, in debates, the arrogant and ignorant are blind to the truth, no matter how glaring, and instead deflect logic and reality with distractions, smokescreens and digressions. If you were to ever rationalize with anyone stubborn or arrogant, he will not even stick to the original ground rules of the argument, but will keep changing the regulations as and when he pleases, going off tangent from one topic to the next. Just as there is a certain sunnah (an established way or sequence) in good, there is also a certain sunnah in evil. This trait was evident in Pharaoh.

Therefore, rather than accepting his defeat with integrity, Pharaoh said, “Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Musa?” (Qur’an 20:58) Again, he failed to acknowledge the reason supporting Musa’s AS mission, which was to spread truth and justice. Just like strategy of all corrupted leaders and politicians, he played the role of the good guy while slinging accusations at the innocent.

[Pharaoh] said to the eminent ones around him, “Indeed, this is a learned magician. He wants to drive you out of your land by his magic, so what do you advise?” (Qur’an 26:34-35) Ever the manipulator, Pharaoh played on the fear and paranoia of his self-serving counsel, uniting all of them against Musa AS. In a few short minutes, the accusations changed from criminal, madman, magician to usurper!

They said, “Postpone [the matter of] him and his brother and send among the cities gatherers, Who will bring you every learned, skilled magician.” (Qur’an 26:36-37). Realising that their positions and status in Pharaoh’s court were at stake, Pharaoh’s sycophants and cronies banded against Musa AS, asking for time to gather their own forces so that the defeat of Musa AS and Harun AS would be absolute.

Pharaoh announced to both brothers: “Then we will surely bring you magic like it, so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned.” (Qur’an 20:58)

Musa knew that Allah would grant him victory, and played this to his advantage. He asked for the contest between magicians and prophets to take place on the day of a prominent festival, during the mid-morning. At this time and place, the contest would unfold in broad daylight and in clear visibility of the crowd. This way, once the magicians were defeated, it would be in everyone’s plain view, obviating any opportunity to deny the defeat of Pharaoh and his magicians.

Their appointment agreed, Musa AS and Harun AS were imprisoned while the magicians were given the opportunity to coordinate and make preparations.

THE DAY OF THE FESTIVAL

The day of the festival drew upon them.

Prophets and Messengers are not sent to bring us harm. Their role is to guide us to the truth. Hence, this match was not a battle of ego for Musa AS, but rather a means of guiding people to the truth. With this in mind, he warned the congregation of magicians that had gathered to pitch their skills against him:

“Woe to you! Do not invent a lie against Allah or He will exterminate you with a punishment; and he has failed who invents [such falsehood]. (Qur’an 20:61).

This caused some consternation amongst the magicians. They discussed this privately – was he indeed a Prophet as he had claimed, or a magician like them? Finally, they declared, in a manner that would instigate hostility against the two Prophets amongst the swelling crowd: “Indeed, these are two magicians who want to drive you out of your land with their magic and do away with your most exemplary way. So resolve upon your plan and then come [forward] in line. And he has succeeded today who overcomes.” (Qur’an 20:63-64)

They sought confirmation from Pharaoh that the winner of this event would be granted favours and other rewards from him, including being elevated in status to be closer to him. Pharaoh agreed.

This must have been the event of a lifetime for the audience. The magicians came in rank and faced Musa AS and Harun AS. They asked Musa AS who would be the first to cast, and Musa AS deferred to them and let them throw first.

The magicians threw their instruments of magic, such as their ropes and staffs, and suddenly it seemed is if such instruments were moving like snakes. These were not in fact snakes, but rather, the Qur’an explains: When they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people and struck terror into them, and they presented a great [feat of] magic. (Qur’an 7:116)

It would probably be akin to mass hypnosis, where the audience were made to see something that was not there. While the magicians used sorcery, such modern day tools still exist through other means, such as the mass media, which is often utilised as a means of baffling and fooling the general public to believe something false.

The magicians were triumphant and declared themselves the winners: “By the might of Pharaoh, indeed it is we who are predominant.” (Qur’an 26:44)

Musa AS, seeing these repulsive and ungodly objects slithering towards him, felt a momentary apprehension. However, Allah said, “Fear not. Indeed, it is you who are superior. And throw what is in your right hand; it will swallow up what they have crafted. What they have crafted is but the trick of a magician, and the magician will not succeed wherever he is.” (Qur’an 20:68-69)

It must have been a momentous sight to watch. Musa AS threw his staff to the ground and it immediately became a snake, which devoured all the snakes one by one. There was bedlam, the onlookers were terrified by this spectacle and started fleeing to watch this event from a safe distance.

This was the tipping point! Pharaoh and his magicians were speechless, their public defeat was incontrovertible. The truth was established, and the magicians’ trickery and sorcery were proven false in the eyes of all the spectators. None of Pharaoh or his magicians saw this coming!

What did this defeat mean to the magicians? At this time, magicians were not in the business of show business like today. Rather, magic and sorcery were taken seriously and played a large role in Egyptian politics. Sorcerers formed the scholarly elite and learned of society, many of them holding high positions and having the role of advising Pharaoh and his inner sanctum. Yet, they immediately recognised the truth. From being the disbelievers who dabbled in the dark arts, something miraculous happened. They knew that what they saw was not some cheap sleight of hand, but rather, the power of Allah at work.

Before the crowd, they unanimously fell down in prostration to the Lord of all the worlds. Here they were, esteemed and highly regarded by society. By embracing Islam, they had everything to lose – their positions, salaries, political connections and even their lives. But this did not stop them.

So the magicians fell down in prostration. They said, “We have believed in the Lord of Harun and Musa.” (Qur’an 20:70)

This was probably the last thing Pharaoh expected or needed! He was furious by the turn of events and true to his arrogant and cruel nature said:

“You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring.” (Qur’an 20:71)

Again, even though Musa AS had won the contest in accordance with Pharaoh’s own rules, the latter refused to acknowledge defeat. Instead, he made a ridiculous assertion that Musa AS had conspired with the magicians and had taught them – a claim made even more absurd given that both Musa AS and Harun AS were locked up in prison during the time the magicians were gathered for this event.

Further, Pharaoh was not issuing an empty warning. The punishment he promised was horrific, disgraceful and agonising. The magicians knew that Pharaoh would deliver his threat and more. Yet, they held firm to their newfound faith:

They said, “No harm. Indeed, to our Lord we will return. Indeed, we aspire that our Lord will forgive us our sins because we were the first of the believers.” (26:50-51)

They also said, “Never will we prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and [over] He who created us. So decree whatever you are to decree. You can only decree for this worldly life. Indeed, we have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and what you compelled us [to do] of magic. And Allah is better and more enduring.” (Qur’an 20:72-73)

How magnificent was their faith and their courage! In a split second, Allah had altered their vision and allowed them to see the truth, gave them the humility to admit the error of their ways and instilled in their hearts steadfastness against the physical torture that lay ahead for them. In a few minutes, they changed from being disbelievers to one of the best Muslims. Their faith took root in their hearts so quickly and firmly – in the morning, they were trying to defeat and humiliate the Messenger of Allah, and now, they were willing to martyred for his faith and theirs. There was no turning back for them, no matter what the earthly consequences. It is reported that when the magicians fell in prostration, they saw their palaces and houses in Jannah, and this is why they did not feel threatened by Pharaoh. They knew that everlasting Paradise awaited them. Such was the magnitude of their faith, and such was the comfort provided by Allah in the last moments of their lives.

Their conversion was also unique because in respect of previous Prophets and Messengers, the elite had disdained the message while it was the weak and the poor who embraced Islam.

Meanwhile, upon the conversion of his esteemed magicians, Pharaoh was afraid of his authority unravelling. However, a greater shock was to come, the conversion of someone within his own household!

LESSONS LEARNT

Faith is not something that comes with age. Many of us are born into Islam, yet only a few of us have the absolute iman and taqwa demonstrated by the magicians. Their submission to Allah is mentioned a few times in the Qur’an, and when we read this, we should ask ourselves how highly we value our own faith, and how much we are willing to sacrifice for it. Many of us have deep rooted Islamic knowledge, yet when we are put under the spotlight, are we willing to stand up for Islam the way these people did? Within a few minutes, they were ready to lay their lives down for Islam, not because they had a complete understanding of the intricacies associated with the faith, but because they had firmness and conviction of belief. Such firmness which gave them the strength to put Allah above all else, even their own lives.

Today, we are so quick to give in. Our priorities are misplaced, we tend to bend over backwards for difficult bosses and clients, but are lax when it comes to doing our utmost for Allah. We make excuses – the job environment is tough, financial pressures are tough, society is hostile to Muslims – but this is actually our test of faith and conviction. If we know that Allah is watching, we should also know that Allah is with us if we are with Him. Compromises on this should be minimal, in fact they should not even exist.

We are afraid of losing our assets, or getting left behind, and play the politics of office and life to get ahead in the material world. Yet, look at the magicians. They had everything to lose, and from the perspective of the worldly life, they did in fact, lose everything. However, what awaited them in the eternal hereafter was much greater, better than this world and what it contains. They understood that.

Further, what of the audience? Instead of realising Pharaoh’s fallibility and taking heed from the magicians, they stood by passively in face of the truth. We have seen the power of the people, if they could pool together to reach critical mass, they can topple governments. Yet, the community did nothing.

In every time and place, there is Pharaoh, the oppressor, the tyrant and the corrupt. And in every time and place, there is Musa AS, the embodiment of good and justice. Which one are we, and which one do we choose to ally ourselves with

Prophet Musa (AS) – Part I

THE PROPHECY

If we were to apply human laws, Musa AS should not have existed. Set against its historical context, his story should have ended before it began. Yet, in the face of the impossible, he did exist, and he grew up to be one of the Ulul Azm, the mightiest five Messengers and Prophets, simply because Allah ordained it so.

His life account is widely reported in the Qur’an and is contained in almost fifty chapters, mainly in Surat Ta Ha, Al Qasas, Fussilat and Al A’raf. His life is an example of divine destiny, defying all the odds, and illustrating how the plot, plan and grand design of Allah SWT are beyond any human challenge or resistance. The account of his life will show us the triumph of faith in God over all adversities. We should take inspiration from all its twists and turns, because nothing of the tribulations in our lives will ever match his life story.

Let us first understand the background of the society that Musa AS was sent down to. By ancestry, Musa AS was the son of Imran bin Qahath, who was in turn one of the direct descendants of Yaqub AS, himself the grandson of Ibrahim AS. Yaqub AS was also known as Israel, and from the story of Yusuf AS, we are informed that Yaqub AS had twelve sons, who, together with their descendants, would be referred to in history as Bani Israel or the sons of Yaqub AS.

Before his death Yaqub AS asked his sons whom they would worship after he died. His sons affirmed their belief in the Oneness of the Creator, and vowed that they were Muslims and would worship the Lord of Ibrahim AS.

When Bani Israel stayed in Egypt, they used to study the scriptures, and one of these prophesised that one of the sons of Bani Israel will cause the downfall of the Egyptian kingdom. In parallel, we should also recall that generations previously, when Ibrahim AS and his wife Sara travelled through Egypt, the king of Egypt at that time attempted to violate Sara. However, a result of her piety, Allah not only protected her from harm, but also ordained that one of her progeny be the cause of the destruction of the Egyptian empire.

As time elapsed, this prophecy of Bani Israel became subsumed in legend, passing down from one generation to the next.

Over the years, Firaun or Pharaoh came into being and ruled Egypt. He was one of the mightiest rulers in history, and his civilisation was so technologically advanced that that we are still unable to understand or even replicate much of it today. However, he was also the most tyrannical and oppressive leader in history. Power made him exceedingly arrogant, and he expressed himself to be the lord of creation. He, together with his ministers, Qarun and Haman, ruled the land with an iron fist.

The prophecy of Bani Israel inevitably reached Pharaoh’s ears through his council of advisors. Pharaoh was greatly disconcerted by these predictions, and as a precaution, ordered that all the pregnant women of Bani Israel be strictly observed and monitored. No woman delivered a baby boy without the wide network of the Pharaoh’s army knowing about it, and these newborns were immediately annihilated in a cold blooded and systematic infanticide. As for the rest of Bani Israel, the women were spared, but the whole population was brutally exploited, forced to live the life of subservience, being permitted to take up only the lowest professions and most menial tasks.

Allah mentions in Surah Al Qasas that: Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their [newborn] sons and keeping their females alive. Indeed, he was of the corrupters. (Qur’an 28:2)

The routine killings of the male population proved to be unsustainable, and before long, it adversely impacted the economic and social structure of Egypt. There was a shortage of manpower and the rest of the Egyptian society refused to perform the lowly tasks which were customarily assigned to the men of Bani Israel. Hence, at the advice of his ministers, Pharaoh ordered what he thought was a feasible solution – that the newborn males of Bani Israel were only to be slaughtered on alternate years, to facilitate a controlled increase in the population of the male workforce.

THE PIOUS MOTHER

During one of the years of pardon in which boys were permitted to live, Harun AS, the older brother of Musa AS was born. However, Musa AS was born on the year that the male infants were to be killed. Therefore, according to all the law of the land, Musa AS should have been killed. However, Musa’s AS life demonstrates the journey of faith in Allah, and the power of predestination above all human planning.

It is said that the signs of pregnancy did not even show on Musa’s AS mother when she carried him. Hence, with all the soldiers on the lookout for pregnant women, she went completely unnoticed. The birth was discreet, but when he was born, she knew that if he was discovered, death was unavoidable. The situation was precarious – the smallest sound of the crying infant would bring the soldiers upon them and they would kill Musa AS before her very eyes. How was a mother, still tender from the strain of childbirth, and already under months of severe emotional pressure of the concealed pregnancy, to endure the horror?

Let us see what Allah revealed in her heart, through a divine inspiration (which is not to be confused with revelation – the latter is only reserved for Prophets and Messengers). Surah Al Qasas says that:

“And We inspired to the mother of Musa, ‘Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers.’” (Qur’an 28:7)

In these short sentences, came instructions, commands, reassurance, comfort, advice and glad tidings.

Now try to visualise yourself in the mother’s shoes. She feared for his life, and the improbable solution to hurl him into the river would have run against any maternal instincts. What were the odds of his survival in its swirling waters? How can a river, which only flows in one direction, bring him back to her? How could she not feel ripped apart by the hopelessness of the situation?

Yet, what viable alternative did she have but to obey Allah’s commandment if she wanted her son to live?

THE ADOPTION

With a heart steadfast and full of trust in Allah’s promise, she suckled him and then placed Musa AS into a basket. As instructed, she then flung him into the swift currents of the Nile, but she asked her daughter, his older sister, to secretly keep track of his whereabouts.

Here, it is to be noted, that a river, like all creations of Allah, is a slave of Allah. Not a drop of its rushing waters could move without Allah willing it so. By Allah’s command, the currents navigated the baby to safety, and lodged the basket and its precious content by the riverbank. Again, Allah’s plan was in motion, and the basket was dispatched to the most unlikely place – by the palace of Pharaoh!

And the family of Pharaoh picked him up [out of the river] so that he would become to them an enemy and a [cause of] grief. Indeed, Pharaoh and Haman and their soldiers were deliberate sinners. (Qur’an 28:8)

By some reports, the basket was spotted by Asiah AS, the wife of Pharaoh, and by others, the basket was discovered by the slaves close to the river bank, who, having no authority to open the basket, presented it to their queen. The moment Asiah AS laid eyes on the baby, Allah placed in her heart a love of this little boy, a kind of love of goodness that can only originate from Allah. At the same time, Pharaoh was approaching and commanded that the baby be killed, but his queen persuaded him otherwise.

And the wife of Pharaoh said, “[He will be] a comfort of the eye for me and for you. Do not kill him; perhaps he may benefit us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not. (Qur’an 28:9)

She was correct, the presence of the baby altered the course of her life. Years later, she would come to embrace Islam, and through this baby that she had rescued, she would be led to her palace in Paradise.

Hence the biggest irony: the tyrant king who had heartlessly commanded for all newborn boys to be murdered, was unwittingly the one who would raise the very person whose existence he tried to prevent. Thus adopted, Musa grew up under the wing of Pharaoh and lived in the comfort of his palace until he reached adulthood. As stated in the Qur’an, they were to be mutual enemies, but until then, it was written by Allah that Pharaoh was to take care of Musa AS.

REUNITED AT LAST

Meanwhile, the heart of Musa’s AS mother was void but for the thoughts of him; she was distressed and worried about his fate. She would have reached breaking point and blurted the secret of his identity had Allah not placed steadfastness and faith in her heart.

Allah in His infinite wisdom prevented Musa AS from suckling all the wet nurses presented to him at the palace. He refused to eat or drink, and eventually, the situation became critical. They sent the hungry baby, under the care of a group of midwives and other women, to the market in order to seek someone who could be hired to feed him. His sister, without revealing her true identity, offered to introduce them to a woman who could breastfeed him. She led the entourage to her house, and once reunited with his birth mother, Musa AS immediately started suckling, much to everyone’s relief.

A messenger was sent to Asiah AS to relay the happy news. Not knowing the true identity of Musa’s AS mother, she offered for her to live in her palace in order to continue suckling the child, but Musa’s AS mother declined, explaining that she had a husband, children and other obligations at home to attend to. So, a deal was struck, where they mutually agreed for Musa AS to be dropped off at her home every day to suckle, and moreover, that she was to be given a grant to cover all her expenses. Again, what a strange turn of events, that the Pharaoh who had set out to kill him ended up paying for his upkeep and that of his family!

As Allah had promised: So We restored him to his mother that she might be content and not grieve and that she would know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of the people do not know. (Qur’an 28:13)

The very circumstances of Musa’s AS birth is the epitome of the journey of faith in Allah. It shows that if one relies and has faith in Allah, Allah can take any situation and make it work in his favour. The wisdom of Allah is above our limited wisdom. For example, to us a river denotes drowning and peril, while in the case of Musa AS, it became a passage of transportation to lead him peacefully to safety.

This is what we have to learn, that the only owner of destiny is Allah. The calamities that occur in life are designed to test our faith, on whether we believe in the condition, or whether our faith lies in the Owner of the condition. If we overlook the mirage of the condition, the Owner of the condition will take care of us, for all situations were created and generated by Him. This is why when we are met with calamities, one of our responses should be “innalillahi inna ilaihi rajiun” – loosely meaning, from Allah we come and to Allah we will return. However, we cannot dwell on our calamities, and instead, we should place our complete faith and trust in Allah SWT.

The story of Musa AS reinforces a major point about qadr, fate or destiny. It shows us the wisdom of Allah, and that what He has written will never be changed. Such stories are to be listened to by the heart, not just with the eyes and mental faculties. The story teaches us to recognise that the plan of Allah is above all else. The very life of Musa AS is in itself the journey of faith, and we shall see from beginning to end, is a journey against all rules and conventions. The underlying message is simple, all we need to get by in life is to have faith in Allah.

THE KILLING AND THE ESCAPE

Musa AS stayed in the palace of the Pharaoh until “he reached his full age and was firmly established” (Qur’an 28:14), which according to many scholars, meant that he stayed there until he was approximately forty years old.

One afternoon, he was walking in the city when he witnessed a fight between a man from his own people, and another from his enemy, an Egyptian Copt. The man from Bani Israel pleaded for Musa AS to help, and the latter responded by striking the Egyptian Copt with his fist. However, this blow was so forceful that the man died, such was Musa’s AS strength. This death blow was unintentional, and Musa AS prayed “O My Lord! I have wronged myself, so please forgive me.” (Qur’an 28:16) Allah forgave him. He said, “My Lord, for the favour You bestowed upon me, I will never be an assistant to the criminals.” (Qur’an 28:17)

He feared exposure for his crime and was walking in the city when suddenly he saw that the man who sought his help the previous day was in a fight with another Egyptian man. He cried out to Musa AS again for help. Musa AS said to him, “Indeed, you are an evident, [persistent] deviator.” He was about to hit the Egyptian when the man said: “O Musa, do you intend to kill me as you killed someone yesterday? You only want to be a tyrant in the land and do not want to be of the amenders.” (Qur’an 28:19)

This stinging statement made Musa AS stop in his tracks. It was evident that the news of his alleged crime had spread throughout town. According to the Qur’an: “And a man came from the farthest end of the city, running. He said, ‘O Musa, indeed the eminent ones are conferring over you [intending] to kill you, so leave [the city]; indeed, I am to you of the sincere advisors.’” (Qur’an 28:20)

This messenger provided the dreaded confirmation that the news had reached Pharaoh, and an army of Pharaoh’s police had already been deployed to capture Musa AS.

With Pharaoh’s net closing in around him, Musa’s AS only option was to leave the city. Thus his stay at the palace came to an abrupt end. So he left it, fearful and anticipating [apprehension]. He said,“My Lord, save me from the wrongdoing people.” (Qur’an 28:21) With just the clothes on his back, he fled and headed to Madyan, where he stayed in exile for over a decade.

Sex before marriage?

The dignity of human beings and especially the dignity of women is something that is utterly valued and highly sanctified in Islam.

A woman’s womb in Arabic ‘rahm’ is extracted from the name of Allah Himself ‘ArRahman’ (The Most Merciful). This is a sign of elevation and closeness the woman has with The Creator Himself, The King of kings, the Giver of Life. Allah chose women to be the carriers of life into existence and this is an honorable position.

Wherever she is, the woman must be taken care of, protected and honored. If she is in her dad’s house, then raising her and spending on her is an act of worship for him that he’ll be rewarded for by Allah. If she is in her husband’s house, then spending on her and treating her kindly and gently are acts of worship for him that he’ll be rewarded for by Allah. This is all in the most authentic narrations of this religion.

When Islam came, it empowered women with rights and dignity, something that was abused in their time. And that’s not in pre-Islam time only … it seems to be in our time today as well!

One manifestation of this is the idea of girlfriends/boyfriends and having premarital relations.

Some think that this is liberating for women, and they blame Islam/Muslims for being uptight or oppressive.

But let’s think about this together.

Honestly and objectively, which is a more dignified scenario:

That a woman gives her body, emotions, time and care freely to someone who can enjoy all that and leave her whenever he wants without owing her anything or committing to her in anyway or giving her any rights…

Or

That a woman’s body, feelings and needs are sanctified and guarded by The Creator Himself; if someone wishes to enjoy her, then he has to testify before Allah and witnesses and provide a contract stating that he will be responsible for providing her with her financial needs, emotional needs, physical needs and legal rights. And if any harm or injustice is inflicted on her by him, then he will be held accountable for it before The Creator on The Day of Judgment…

Which scenario better dignifies and protects women?

Is the first scenario really liberating, or is it humiliating and degrading to the woman’s body, feelings, needs and rights?

Is the second scenario really old fashioned and oppressive, or is it dignifying and elevating?

If you contemplate this issue with open mind and heart, you’ll realize that Allah doesn’t want for the woman to be abused, sexualized or made easily available, cheap or accessible to men to use as they please. And Allah doesn’t want for the man to be a slave of his desires and commit injustices against himself or others on account of his lusts and physical urges.

That’s not real love and that’s not honorable or elevating type of relationships for human beings.

Allah says:

“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” (Qur’an 17: 70)

Allah specifically honored us above other creations.

But the first scenario for many people seem easier… Fulfilling physical needs is easy; any creature can do that — even those who are below us in rank and are not gifted with intellect or ability to purify and discipline their beings and desires.

It’s easy to submit to the basic physical needs. But what Allah and Islam are calling us for is to elevate above the physical and explore meanings that are much deeper, richer and more everlasting than that.

Marriage in Islam is more than fulfilment of physical urges. It is peace, mercy and tranquillity to the heart, mind and soul. It is meant to be a journey of intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical growth and elevation.

It is considered an act of worship! It follows the path that the Creator has revealed to His Messengers to teach humanity.

It is a completion of one’s faith.

Faith in marriage is a language and a deep bond between the couple. Those who are connected through their love for their Creator, their gratitude towards Him, their desire for His Closeness, their pursuit of His Knowledge….. All of this creates a major common ground brought into the relationship between the partners. It’s like they bring an eternal bond that connects them with their Eternal Creator, and they hope and pray to remain connected for eternity in the afterlife.

This is what’s meant to go on between believing partners. When we pray for partners, we ask for someone who could help us get closer to our Creator, help us learn more about Him, fall more in love with Him and be persistent on our journey towards Him.

The bond between spouses is beautifully described in the Qur’an by Allah who says about spouses:

“[…] They are your garment and you are their garment”, “ […] They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them” (Qur’an 2: 187). Meaning they’re so close to you, they cover you, they fulfill your every need and you fulfill them…

Even more significantly, marriage is described in the Qur’an as a sign of the Creator:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought” (Qur’an 30: 21)

A sign leads to a destination. He said that this relationship is one of His signs. This is because when we experience mercy, we get reminded that Allah’s Name/Attribute is The Most Merciful, The Source of Mercy… any mercy we experience is a fraction of His Infinite Mercy. This helps us long for Him. When we experience deep affection (or wud in Arabic), we remember that His Name is Al Wadud, The Source of Ultimate Pure Affection. When we love our partners, we also fall deeply in love and gratitude to The One Who created them. A husband and wife smiling at each other is an act of worship that is rewarded by Him. There are so many experiences we go through and they are a reflection of His Presence, His Names and His Gifts…

But when we devoid man and woman’s relationship of those everlasting meanings and lower it to fulfillment of temporary physical needs and infatuations…are we really doing ourselves any justice?

There is a notion among some people that premarital relations are necessary so that the couples get to ‘know and test’ one another. But this is really a delusion and it is degrading and humiliating. There is no way one will know what will happen in the future, no matter how long they ‘test drive’ their partners. Only Allah The Knower of the future and the unseen know that. And if couples are united for His Sake and with His Guidance, then He will be The One who descends peace, mercy, love and tranquility upon them– at the end, He is The Owner of Peace, Love and Mercy.

The idea of “let me try her/him first and if I didn’t feel that he/she is perfect enough for me or I don’t feel like I want to continue in this relationship, then I’ll easily ditch him/her. No worries. No strings attached,” this – if anything- is selfishness and lack of responsibility.

We are not going to have ‘perfect’ partners. But we choose people based on values of true faith, righteousness, responsibility, good reputation and initial attraction… and then we commit and ask the Creator to bless and ease and aid both partners on their path and place between them His eternal bond, His mercy, affection and tranquility.

Al Hassan Al Basri, one of the most renowned theologians and scholars of Islam, said: “marry your daughter to one with sound religion (knowledge of Allah and the deen), so if he loved her, he’ll honor her and if he ever disliked her, he will not commit injustice against her.”

These are the basis upon which we choose partners.

Long term premarital relationships did not and will not prevent divorces or disagreements. This is a delusion.

Most importantly, married partners are meant to learn deep meanings of patience, humility, selflessness and commitment. Premarital relations are simply an easy way out. It’s no longer about “for sickness and for health, for better and for worse”, but rather “for my own benefit, my own satisfaction and if I don’t like it, I’m out.”

Who is really the winner in this situation?

Women? Not at all.
Men? Maybe at first, but if they remain on this path, they’ll end up being alone or die alone and miss an opportunity of learning what makes them true noble men who commit, not neglect or abandon.

Again, in Islam, relationships outside of marriage are not allowed given how unfair they are especially to the woman, even if she doesn’t recognize that. It is part of a woman’s honor and right to have a marriage contract. This is a testimony from the man in front Allah and witnesses that this man will be responsible for taking care of her emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and financial needs. This is a commitment because the woman is highly precious and submitting herself, her emotions, time, thinking and physical being to someone who doesn’t owe her anything and can leave her at any point… THIS is not fair or befitting of women, and women are really meant to be much more honored than that.

How many sisters in humanity are left alone struggling to support children whose fathers have left off without committing to supporting them or covering their needs?

The deprivation of rights and deprivation of full attention and commitment is not fair or just to human beings. Those innocent children deserve to have a healthy household with committed parents who acknowledge them fully and commit to their upbringing and growth on all levels.

On the other hand- and if bringing up children is not the point of the relationship- then isn’t it injustice for the woman to make her body a dump for strange men’s physical urges? How is this dignifying or liberating to her?

What about children that result from the intimate bond between a man and a woman…. is it justice for them to be created/raised in secrecy, or get dumped and aborted eventually as though their existence is a mistake and glory was meant to the temporary physical lusts not the precious dignified human life?

Ask your heart if this is what’s really honorable and dignifying for human beings.

What happens with the blessing of Allah, The Light of the Heavens and The Earth, will surely have His light. What happens without the blessings of The Source of Light, will only be a means of darkness to the heart, mind and soul.. even if it was initially pleasurable, but it will never be truly and durably a fulfilling source of peace, mercy and Tranquility.

Never settle for darkness. Always seek The Light…

Dua’a for our dear Parents

1. Tonight let’s make a special dua for parents. Some of us take our parents for granted, thinking they will always be here to love and comfort us but one day they won’t be here. So treasure your time with them. Look after them like they looked after you. We could have been neglected when we were small but we were all loved and blessed. So let’s make a dua that Allah blesses all parents, past and present with Jannah. May Allah grant us the patience to deal patiently with them in their old age as they dealt patiently with us when we were small and young. May Allah always bless them and reward them for loving and protecting us. No-one is perfect. But we owe our parents A GREAT DEAL. May Allah grant them Jannah. Ameen.

2. Let’s start this weekend with a special dua. A special prayer for our parents. Past and Present. Wherever they are, whatever they are doing may Allah keep all our parents so safe and away from harm. As children, we owe our parents so much. I don’t think I could do for my kids, what our parents did for us. I hope Allah grants them Jannah. Ameen

3. Asalaam Alaykum. Tonight let’s make a dua for our special amazing & wonderful parents. They raised us with such love & commitment. I hope we are showing them the same love and commitment today. When we were young they walked slowly so we could keep up, in their old age let’s not walk too fast so they can’t keep up. May Allah grant my parents and your parents, past and present the highest level of Jannah. Ameen

4. Asalaam Alaykum. So who shall we do a dua for today? How about fathers? Fathers aren’t perfect but neither are we. One thing is for sure our fathers have loved & protected us when we were young & helpless. They did more for us than we can possibly imagine. May Allah protect my wonderful father & may Allah protect your father too. Tonight HOTD remembers fathers. May Allah bless them all with Jannah. Ameen!!

5. Tonight let’s make a dua for our parents. Past or Present. May Allah grant us the patience to deal patiently with them in their old age as they dealt patiently with us when we were small and young. May Allah always bless them and reward them for loving and protecting us. No-one is perfect. But we owe our parents A GREAT DEAL. May Allah grant them Jannah. Ameen

6. Today let’s make a special dua for our mothers. For our gorgeous amazing loving mothers. Who do so much for us. Who have sacrificed so much for us. Who put up so much from us! Do we ever tell them how special they are? Maybe we should. Today HOTD is praying all mothers (and fathers) receive Allah’s blessing and that as children, we all appreciate them every… single…. day….Ameen!

7. Today let´s make a special dua for our parents. May Allah keep our parents away from harm. May Allah give us the patience to deal with them in their old age as they dealt with us in our young age. When we were small and couldn´t walk fast our parents slowed their walking down to suit us, are we slowing our walking now to suit them as they are old. May we never forget how much they have done for us. Ameen

8. Tonight let’s make a dua for someone really special. I mean, really REALLY special. Our wonderful Mother. Whether past or present, may Allah bless our amazing mothers with Jannah. May Allah give us the intelligence & Imaan to really look after them. Tonight Hadith of the Day pays tribute to all mothers and prays Allah grant them Jannah. Ameen!

9. We all love our parents. I make a dua this evening that all our parents, past and present enter Jannah safely. Ameen.

10. Today let’s make a special dua for our mothers, Past or Present. May Allah bless them with Jannah. May we never forget how much our mothers have done for us when we were small & helpless. Are we showing them the same support & love? Today I make a dua that Allah keeps all mothers safe. Ameen!

11. Tonight let’s make a special dua for our Mothers. Not only have they loved & protected us all our lives, but they’ve kept us safe. When was the last time we all sat our mothers down & said ‘I love and appreciate you’ Just imagine how happy that would make our mothers. So may Allah bless all our mothers, past and present with Jannah because no-one deserves it more than they do.

Ameen