The Narration is an eighty-eight verse chapter revealed in Mecca. It takes its name from the twenty-fifth verse in which the Arabic word for narration is used. The Narration is also a suitable title because the chapter tells a detailed story about Prophet Moses. Its main theme is the punishment that comes to those who are arrogant and spread corruption. This chapter and the two preceding it go together to tell the complete story of Prophet Moses. Polytheism is condemned, and Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, is reminded that he cannot make the people believe but nevertheless he must remain steadfast in his mission.
Chapter twenty-eight begins with the combination of letters ta, seen, meem. They are three letters from amongst various combinations of fourteen letters that open twenty-nine chapters of the Quran. God did not reveal any specific meaning regarding them. Immediately after these letters we are informed that these verses from the Quran make things clear and understandable. The story of Prophet Moses and Pharaoh is true beyond doubt. Pharaoh consolidated his leadership by dividing the people into groups and setting them against one another. He loved to spread corruption and oppressed one group in particular. God however wanted to favour those who were oppressed, to make them leaders and establish them in the land, and Pharaoh and Haman, and those like them would then face their greatest fears.
Moses’ mother was inspired by God. He made her understand that she should suckle her baby but when the time comes when she is afraid for him she should put him in the river. She must not grieve or be afraid because God will return the baby to her and he will grow up to be one of His messengers. A member of Pharaoh’s family found baby Moses little realizing that later he would become a source of grief for the evildoers. Pharaoh’s wife was able to convince her husband to adopt the baby and they took him into the family.
The following day Moses’ mother was bereft but God strengthened her. She sent Moses’ sister to find out what happened. God had ordained that Moses would refuse to feed from any of the palace wet nurses so Moses’ sister was able to tell them about her mother that could feed the baby. In this way Moses was restored to his mother so she would feel comforted and know that God’s promise was true.
Moses reached full maturity and was wise and intelligent. One day when walking in the city he came upon two people fighting. One was from his own people and appealed to Moses for help. Moses did help and killed the person with one blow. He realised that Satan must have had a hand in this and appealed to God for forgiveness. When forgiven, he promised never to support evildoers. The next day he came upon the same man fighting and realised he was a troublemaker. Moses was reluctant to be drawn into another fight but was going to attack the troublemaker who was accusing Moses of being a tyrant. At that moment a man rushed up to Moses and told him that the authorities were looking for him, possibly intending to kill him. So Moses left the city. He was fearful and wary and prayed to God to save him from the wrongdoers.
Moses made his way to Midian. When he arrived at the waterhole there he found a group of men watering their livestock while two women were standing back fearful of watering their sheep whilst the men were there. Moses watered the sheep for them and then sat in the shade and prayed to God for assistance. He asked God for any good thing at all and just then one of the two women returned saying that their father wanted to speak to him and reward him.
Moses went with the woman and met her father, Prophet Shuaib. The old man listened to Moses’ story and reassured him. One of the daughters encouraged her father to hire Moses, and so Prophet Shuaib offered one of his daughters in marriage if Moses worked for him for eight years adding that ten would be better though. Moses agreed to fulfil one of the terms.
And when the agreed upon term had been completed Moses set out to travel with his family. One night he noticed a fire on the side of a mountain. He told his family to wait while he went to find the source of the fire and perhaps learn some news or in the very least bring back a flaming branch so that they could light their own fire. When Moses reached the fire a voice called out to him.
The voice seemed to come from the right side of the valley, from a tree. The voice said, "I am God, Lord of the worlds". Throw down your staff the voice commanded. When Moses did so the staff slithered away like a snake. Moses fled in fear. God called him back telling him he had nothing to fear. Moses was then told to put his hand inside his shirt. When he withdrew it, it was white and shinning. God informed him that these two things would be signs Moses was to deliver from Him to Pharaoh and his ministers.
Moses then told God about the man he had killed and that he feared he would be killed himself if he returned to Egypt. He also asked that his eloquent brother Aaron be able to accompany him on his mission. God replied that he would strengthen Moses with his brother, and that they would not be harmed and would triumph.
When Moses and Aaron presented themselves before Pharaoh they were accused of trickery and sorcery because they had never seen such a thing before. Moses said that God knows best who is guided and who will have the best home in the Hereafter. Arrogantly Pharaoh told Haman to build a high tower so that he could climb up and see this God of Moses, and accused Moses of lying. Pharaoh and his armies were arrogant, thinking they would never have to face God. God seized them and flung them into the sea and that was an end to them. They were the leaders calling only to the Hellfire but on the Day of Resurrection they will have no help. They were cursed in this world and on the Day of Resurrection they will be despised. Moses was given the scripture to provide insight, guidance and mercy.
God tells Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, that he was not present there on the mountain when He (God) gave Moses the law, nor was he among the people of Midian. Prophet Muhammad was also not there when God spoke to Moses on the side of Mount Sinai. You (Prophet Muhammad) had no direct means of obtaining the information of earlier nations; all this is being revealed to you. You were sent as an act of grace and mercy to warn a people that had never been warned before, that they must take heed and never be able to say that a warner did not come to them. Now that the truth has come to them they ask why Prophet Muhammad was not given a law like Moses’ law. They call the Torah and the Quran sorcery and refuse to accept either of them. Ask these disbelievers to bring forth a scripture that is more guiding. If they do not respond you will know that they only follow their own desires. God does not guide the wrongdoers.
The disbelievers of Mecca have repeatedly been given the words of the Quran. Some of those who were given the scripture before the Quran had no trouble believing in it (the Quran), and said that we already believed in One God and were sincerely responding to His commands even before the Quran came. They will be given their reward twice because they have endured. They repel evil with good, give in charity from what has been provided for them, and turn away when they hear frivolous speech. Oh Muhammad you do not decide who will be guided; God guides whoever He pleases and knows which people will accept guidance. They do not wish to be guided. They say that if they accept guidance they will be driven from the land. But God has already given them a sanctuary (Mecca) and provided everything they could possibly need.
In your travels you (Meccans) have seen the cities that God destroyed. And God would never destroy a city or its people without first sending a messenger. Whatever you have in this world is temporary and that which is with God is better and more lasting. So why not use your power of reasoning? Is the person who strives for the Hereafter and is rewarded with eternal bliss like the one who merely enjoys a few days of this life and is then punishment in the next?
A Day will come when God will ask, where are the ones
you called My partners? Those waiting for punishment will point them out, but
the accused will say we did not compel them to obey; they followed their own
desires and inclinations. They will try to invoke their gods but they will not
respond, and then they will see the punishment and wished they had followed guidance.
God will ask them how they responded to the messengers but all their previous
arguments will seem obscure and they will not be able to talk with one another.
However, those who repented, believed, and acted righteously will be successful.
God creates and chooses, you do not choose for yourselves.
Glory to God, He is far above the partners ascribed to Him. And God knows what their hearts conceal and what they reveal. He is God; there is no deity except Him. All praise in this life and in the Hereafter belongs to Him. His is the Judgement and everyone will be brought back to Him.
Oh Prophet Muhammad, ask them what would happen if God made the night perpetual. Who other than God could bring light? If God were to make the day perpetual who other than God could bring night? Out of His Mercy God made the night for rest and the day a time in which to seek bounty. The Day of Judgement will come, and God will ask about the whereabouts of the partners you ascribed to Him. A witness from every nation will be asked to produce proof of the false deities. And then they will know that the truth belongs to God and the gods they invented have forsaken them.
Qarun was one of Moses’ people but he rebelled against them. God gave him so many treasures that even the keys to open the containers the treasures were kept in would have been heavy for strong men to carry. The people said to him do not gloat because God does not like those people who gloat. Use what God has given you to attain a good abode in the Hereafter. Be good to others as God has been good to you, and do not cause mischief; God does not love the mischief makers. But Qarun replied all that I have is only because of my own knowledge and ability. Did he not understand that God has destroyed many people before him, many that were mightier in strength and richer in wealth? But criminals are not always called immediately to account.
One day he came out of his house in all his worldly adornment. Some people wished they had what he had while others said the reward from God is better but we can only attain it with patience and gratitude. God caused the earth to swallow him and his house. There was nobody to help him and he was unable to defend himself. Then the same people who had envied Qarun changed their minds. They said, we had forgotten that it is God who enlarges provision and it is God that can take it away. If it was not for God’s graciousness He could have caused the earth to swallow us all. Those who deny the truth will never prosper.
The home of the Hereafter is for those who seek neither glory nor spread corruption. The best outcome is for those who are mindful of God. Those who come to God on the Day of Judgment with good deeds will be rewarded with what is better. Those who come with bad deeds will be recompensed only to the extent of their bad deeds. Prophet Muhammad is reassured that he will be brought to the best destination. God knows that Prophet Muhammad brought guidance to those who were in manifest error. Prophet Muhammad did not expect the Quran to be revealed but it is a mercy. Do not help the disbelievers by giving them concessions in their religion and do not let any of them try to turn you away from what has been revealed to you. Call the people to God and never become one of those who ascribe partners to Him. Do not call out to any other deity besides Him; none has the right to be worshipped except God. Everything will be destroyed except Him. The Judgment belongs to God and you will be returned to Him.
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