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‘Ashura – The Story and Lessons

{There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. Never was the Quran a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe.} (Quran 12: 111)

And among the stories that Allah has narrated to us in His Book is what happened in Allah’s month, the sacred month of Muharram, and that is the story of Prophet Musa (Moses peace be upon him) and Pharaoh, the tyrant of Egypt.

Allah Almighty Says (what means):

{We recite to you from the news of Musa and Pharaoh in truth for a people who believe. 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. And We wanted to confer favor upon those who were oppressed in the land and make them leaders and make them inheritors. And establish them in the land and show Pharaoh and (his minister) Haman and their soldiers through them that which they had feared.} (Quran 28: 3-6)

Pharaoh dominated the nation of Israel and enslaved them, killing their newborn sons but letting their females live. The reason he committed this criminal act was the fear of the truth coming out from one of those newborn males.

The nation of Israel used to know, according to what came to them from Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham peace be upon him), that someone from his lineage would destroy the king of Egypt. These glad tidings were famous among them; and the news of it was made known to Pharaoh. Pharaoh ordered his soldiers to kill all newborn boys of the nation of Israel; in order to secure himself from destruction.

However, all of the precautions that he made were not enough to protect him from what Allah wanted, which was for this newborn boy to be raised in the house of Pharaoh himself. The Will of Allah cannot be stopped by any precautions and His ability conquers anything. So, Allah chose for the Prophet Moses to be born safely, to be saved from being killed, and also to be raised in Pharaoh’s own home under the protection of Allah until he was an adult.

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Later, Moses accidentally killed a person from Pharaoh’s people by mistake. Moses was afraid that he would be captured and be killed for this, so he fled to the land of Madyan  and abided there for some time. He married there and then returned to Egypt. On the way back, Allah talked to him (by revelation) and told him he was a Prophet and the Messenger to Pharaoh. Allah told him many signs by which he will be known as the prophet of Allah and they would show that he was a true prophet.

Moses went to Pharaoh and showed him the signs of Allah but Pharaoh was arrogant and stubborn. Allah Says:

{Has there reached you the story of Moses? – When his Lord called to him in the sacred valley of Tuwa, (Saying): “Go to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed. And say to him, ‘Would you [be willing to] purify yourself And let me guide you to your Lord so you would fear [Him]?'” And he showed him the greatest sign. But Pharaoh denied and disobeyed. Then he turned his back, striving. And he gathered [his people] and called out. And said, “I am your most exalted lord.} (Quran 79: 15-24)

Pharaoh claimed that the signs Moses brought were only magic and that he had magic that would overtake the magic of Moses. So Pharaoh gathered magicians from his kingdom and they presented their magic. Moses presented what he had from the signs, which Allah had given him.

Allah Says:

{So the truth was established, and abolished was what they were doing. And Pharaoh and his people were overcome right there and became debased. And the magicians fell down in prostration (to Allah). They said, “We have believed in the Lord of the worlds, The Lord of Moosa and Haaroon (Aaron).} (Quran 7: 118-122)

At that time, Pharaoh decided to try a different plan – fear, force and retaliation. Allah told Moses to get every believer out of Egypt and direct them to where Allah would tell him. Pharaoh gathered his army and forces, which were around one million soldiers, according to some references, and he chased Moses and his people, hoping to destroy them completely. Moses ended up at the sea, with Pharaoh and his army behind him. The believers were afraid because the sea was in front of them and the enemy was behind them.

Allah Says:

{And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Moses said, “Indeed, we are to be overtaken!” [Moses] said, “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.} (Quran 26: 61-62)

Whoever is close to Allah, Allah will never let him down or leave him on his own. Allah ordered Moses to strike the sea with his staff. Moses did so and the sea opened up for them to cross. Allah Says:

{And We had inspired to Moses, “Travel by night with My servants and strike for them a dry path through the sea; you will not fear being overtaken [by Pharaoh] nor be afraid [of drowning].} (Quran 20: 77)

Moses walked across the path that opened in the sea and the last of his people left the sea and every soldier of Pharaoh’s army was inside the path. At this time Allah ordered the sea to collapse upon them, drowning Pharaoh and his army.

That was the victory of the truth over falsehood. The Promise of Allah was true – He made the people of Moses (peace be upon him) victorious over Pharaoh and his army. From this story we see how the truth is victorious, regardless of the size or seeming power of falsehood. Falsehood has its own limited time, but the truth is always victorious.

This story should enrich the hearts of the believers and make them steadfast in the face of their enemies, regardless of size or seeming power of their enemies. The believer should also benefit from this story by understanding that the people of falsehood claim that they are on the right path and are calling people to the truth. In fact, the opposite is true – they rely on lies and deception.

This great event – the victory Allah gave Moses and the believers over Pharaoh and his army – occurred on the 10th of the sacred month of Muharram and the day is called ‘Ashura. It is a day that has a great merit. Prophet Moses may fasted on that day, and ordered his people to fast that day.

We also benefit from the story of Prophet Moses by learning that the Sunnah of the Prophets is to thank and praise Allah in times of peace and when they gain victory over their enemies.

Prophet Moses fasted on the 10th, the day on which Allah made his followers victorious over Pharaoh; and this is another sign that the truth will always defeat falsehood.