Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Then Allah mentioned the favour of saving them from drowning and the drowning of Pharaoh and his folk, saying (And when We brought you through) split (the sea and rescued you) from drowning,(and drowned the folk of Pharaoh) and his folk (in your sight) while you were looking at them, three days later.
And, remember, when We divided, split in two, for you, on account of you, the sea, such that you were able to cross it and escape from your enemy; and We delivered you, from drowning, and drowned Pharaoh’s folk, his people with him, while you were beholding the sea crashing down on top of them.
And when We divided, by your presence (wujūd), [for you] the sea, that is, the black clamouring sea that is the corporeal substratum when it was parted by your presence as the earth is parted by [rising] plants; and We delivered you, by disengaging you therefrom, and drowned Pharaoh's folk, namely, [drowning] the ego-centric power in it by forcing it to cling to it and its destruction on account of its corruption, while you were [beholding], witnessing that. Accordingly one can interpret the Children of Israel at the beginning of the address as [representing] those spiritual powers; the favour by which He favoured them as the guidance [He gave them] to the acceptance of the lights effusing upon these [powers] from the world of the spirit and [to] the reception of the gnostic sciences and wisdoms and their fulfilment of the covenant and their projecting forth of what is centred in these [powers] in accordance with the initial preparedness in the way of the proofs of unity and the universal meanings that lie dormant within them through purification and the performance of acts specific to these. His fulfilment of the covenant with them is the effusion of the light of perfection upon these [powers] when they give what is due to the light of preparedness by way of purification and employing what they possess in the way of meanings. If you are to be in awe of something, then be in awe of the veiling [from you] of My lights upon the disappearance of your preparedness; and believe, that is to say, and accept what is effused upon you by Me in the way of luminous radiations and auspicious thoughts form the Unseen as verification [from Me] of the light of primordial nature [contained] within your preparedness. And do not be among the foremost rank of those veiled from the acceptance of these [from Me] by orienting yourselves towards the lower aspect. And do not exchange these for the pleasures of the soul and what it seeks. And do not muddle the truth of the spiritual sciences and the holy lights with the false demands of the senses and the attributes of the soul, suppressing those lights and sciences by allowing these to manifest themselves upon you. And establish and maintain your orientation towards the Presence of the Spirit and towards the fulfilment of Its command.
And pay the alms [due] upon those things known to you, which are your wealth, by perusing them and composing them so that you might secure thereby the reward of the results and the concomitants [of such knowledge]. And expend these [alms] upon the poor in your presence, [these poor] being the natural corporeal powers so that these [latter] can survive on them and acquire through them virtuous character traits and beautiful dispositions. Teach these to the children of your species so that they might reach perfection thereby. Bow and submit to the acceptance of intelligible commands, spiritual lights and the acts of the heart: Will you bid others to piety and forget yourselves … [Q. 2:44], [that is to say], will you direct the faculties below you through [imposing on them] beautiful devotions and virtuous manners to rise to your station and to assume your manners but forget to edify your souls in the presence of God with the manners of the spiritual folk, to practise self-examination, to illumine yourselves by the lights of the spirit at the station of witnessing and to rise to His station upon being annihilated in the Unity; [all this] while you recite from the Book of intelligibles sent down from the Lord of the spirit by means of the angel of the intellect to the Prophet of the heart. Will you not understand by means of the intellect that is disengaged from the blemishes of caprice (hawā) and illusion (wahm). And seek assistance through patience against what manifests itself upon you and comes [upon you] as a result of the sway of the lights of the authority of the Spirit and its stipulations and the overwhelming power of the self-disclosures of the Greatness and [by] the presence of the Truth. And verily the seeking of such assistance is burdensome except to the humble, the satisfied, who submit to the obedience of the commands of the heart and the spirit, those who are certain that they are in His Presence and upon His encounter and that they are returning to Him by the acceptance of His lights. Their being favoured over the worlds is the honour they enjoy over all the faculties that man possesses.
(And (remember) when We delivered you from Fir`awn's (Pharaoh) people, who were afflicting you with a horrible torment,) meaning, `I - Allah - saved you from them and delivered you from their hands in the company of Musa, after they subjected you to horrible torture.' This favor came after the cursed Pharaoh had a dream in which he saw a fire emerge from Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), and then the fire entered the houses of the Coptics in Egypt, with the exception of the Children of Israel. Its purport was that his kingship would be toppled by a man among the Children of Israel. It was also said that some of Pharaoh's entourage said that the Children of Israel were expecting a man among them to arise who would establish a state for them. We will mention the Hadith on this subject when we explain Surat Ta Ha (20), Allah willing. After the dream, Pharaoh ordered that every newborn male among the Children of Israel be killed and that the girls be left alone. He also commanded that the Children of Israel be given tasks of hard labor and assigned the most humiliating jobs.
The torment here refers to killing the male infants. In Surat Ibrahim (14) this meaning is clearly mentioned,
(Who were afflicting you with horrible torment, and were slaughtering your sons and letting your women live.) (14:6)
So Allah mentioned saving their children from being slaughtered in order to remind them of the many favors that He granted them.
We should state here that `Pharaoh' (Fir`awn) is a title that was given to every disbelieving king who ruled Egypt, whether from the `Amaliq (Canaanites) or otherwise, just as Caesar (Qaysar) is the title of the disbelieving kings who ruled Rome and Damascus. Also, Khosrau (Kisra) is the title of the kings who ruled Persia, while Tubb`a is the title of the kings of Yemen, and the kings of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) were called Negus (An-Najashi).
وَفِى ذَلِكُمْ بَلاَءٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ
(And therein was a mighty trial from your Lord.)
Ibn Jarir commented that this part of the Ayah means, "Our saving your fathers from the torment that they suffered by the hand of Pharaoh, is a great blessing from your Lord.'' We should mention that in the blessing there a is test, the same as with hardship, for Allah said,
وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً
(And We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good) (21:35) and,
(And (remember) when We separated the sea for you and saved you and drowned Fir`awn's (Pharaoh) people while you were watching) means, `After We saved you from Fir`awn and you escaped with Musa; Fir`awn went out in your pursuit and We parted the sea for you.' Allah mentioned this story in detail, as we will come to know, Allah willing. One of the shortest references to this story is Allah's statement,
(And saved you) meaning, "We saved you from them, drowning them while you watched, bringing relief to your hearts and humiliation to your enemy.''
Fasting the Day of `Ashura
It was reported that the day the Children of Israel were saved from Fir`awn was called the day of `Ashura'. Imam Ahmad reported that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah came to Al-Madinah and found that the Jews were fasting the day of `Ashura'. He asked them, "What is this day that you fast'' They said, "This is a good day during which Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy, and Musa used to fast this day.'' The Messenger of Allah said,
«أَنَا أَحَقُّ بِمُوسَى مِنْكُم»
(I have more right to Musa than you have.)
So the Messenger of Allah fasted that day and ordered that it be fasted. This Hadith was collected by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah.
When We divided for you the sea and We delivered you and drowned Pharaoh's folk while you were beholding. The perceptive faculties baṣāÌir of the children of Israel had become diminished so He showed them miracles openly ʿayānan whereas the perceptive faculties of this community [Muslims] were sharp so He unveiled His signs to them secretly sirran. This is His سبحانه way sunna. For those who are sharper in the perceptive faculty the matter will be more subtle for them and the allusions within it more abundant. [The Prophet] ﷺ said “I was given the all-comprehensive words jawāmiʿ al-kalim and then the speech kalām was shortened for me.” When [the children of Israel] saw these manifest signs in the splitting of the sea and the drowning of the people of Pharaoh they were seized with doubt and said “They did not drown even though they were cast into the sea” but the children of Israel did see them drowning. On the other hand in this community because of their being foremost in their belief in the Messenger of God ﷺ and because of the power of their perceptive faculties one youth said “It is as if I was with the people of the garden exchanging visits and as if I was with the people of the fire clamoring to one another and as if I saw the throne of my Lord in plain sight.” What a difference [there is] between one who sees with his own eyes yet doubts and one who only hears [about something] and yet sees it like an eyewitness because of the power of his belief!