The Quran

Commentaries for 28.23

Al Qasas (The narrative) - القصص

28.23 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when he came unto the water of Midian) a well in Midian (he found there a whole tribe of men) a group of 40 men, (watering) their flocks. (And he found apart from them two women keeping, back (their flocks)) until the men finished watering their flocks, due to their weakness. (He said: What aileth you) what holds you back? (The two said: We cannot give (our flocks) to drink till the shepherds return from the water) until they finish watering their flocks; (and our father is a very old man) and does not have anyone to help him except us.
28.23 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
When he entered upon the water of Midian.
He entered the water of Midian with his outwardness, and he entered the influxes of intimacy with his heart. The influxes of intimacy are the courtyards of tawḤīd. When the servant enters the courtyards of tawḤīd, the lights of contemplation are unveiled for him and he becomes absent from his senses in his soul. Rulership then belongs to God alone, for there is no soul, no sense perception, no heart, no intimacy. This is dissolution in the self-sufficiency and total annihilation.
When the servant reaches the courtyards of tawḤīd, he is drowned in the light of contemplation, absent from himself, and present with the Real. Seeking ceases to be in the Found, recognition ceases to be in the Recognized, and seeing ceases to be in the Seen-attachments cut, causes dissolved, traces nullified, limits come to nothing, allusions and expressions negated. When rain arrives at the ocean, it arrives. Stars disappear in daytime. He who arrives at the Patron arrives at himself.
The Pir of the Tariqah said, “O Found and Findable! What mark is given of a drunkard but selflessness? Everyone's tribulation is because of distance, but this poor wretch's because of nearness. Everyone is thirsty from not finding water, but I from being quenched.
“O God, all friendship is between two, with no room for a third. In this friendship, all is You, with no room for me. If this work is from my side, I have nothing to do with it. If it is from Your side, all is You. What business have I to meddle and make claims?”
28.23 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
And when he arrived at the Water of Midian, [the name of] a well therein, he found a group of people there watering, their flocks, and he found, besides them, two women holding back their flock, from the water. He, Moses, said, to the two: ‘What is your business?’, that is, ‘What is the matter with you, that you are not watering?’ They said, ‘We do not water [our flock] until the shepherds have moved on (ri‘ā’u, ‘shepherds’, the plural of rā‘in) that is to say, until they have returned from the watering, for fear of being crushed [by the throng], after which we go to water (a variant reading [for yasdiru, ‘move on’] is the 4th form [subjunctive] yusdira, ‘to drive away’, meaning, until they [the shepherds] have driven their flocks away from the water’) and our father is a very old man’, unable to [come and] water.
28.21-24 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Musa, peace be upon him, in Madyan, and how He watered the Flocks of the Two Women
When the man told Musa about how Fir`awn and his chiefs were conspiring against him, he left Egypt on his own. He was not used to being alone, because before that he had been living a life of luxury and ease, in a position of leadership.
فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَآئِفاً يَتَرَقَّبُ
(So he escaped from there, looking about in a state of fear.) meaning, turning around and watching.
قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِى مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّـلِمِينَ
(My Lord! Save me from the people who are wrongdoers!) means, from Fir`awn and his chiefs. It was mentioned that Allah sent to him an angel riding a horse, who showed him the way. And Allah knows best.
وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَآءَ مَدْيَنَ
(And when he went towards (the land of) Madyan,) means, he took a smooth and easy route -- and he rejoiced because of that.
قَالَ عَسَى رَبِّى أَن يَهْدِيَنِى سَوَآءَ السَّبِيلِ
(he said: "It may be that my Lord guides me to the right way.'') meaning, the most straight route. And Allah did indeed do that, for He guided him to the straight path in this world and the Hereafter, and caused him to be guided and to guide others.
وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَآءَ مَدْيَنَ
(And when he arrived at the water (a well) of Madyan,) means, when he reached Madyan and went to drink from its water, for it had a well where shepherds used to water their flocks,
وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ يَسْقُونَ وَوَجَدَ مِن دُونِهِمُ امْرَأَتَينِ تَذُودَانِ
(he found there a group of men watering, and besides them he found two women who were keeping back.) means, they were stopping their sheep from drinking with the sheep of those shepherds, lest some harm come to them. When Musa, peace be upon him, saw them, he felt sorry for them and took pity on them.
قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا
(He said: "What is the matter with you'') meaning, `why do you not water your flocks with these people'
قَالَتَا لاَ نَسْقِى حَتَّى يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَآءُ
(They said: "We cannot water until the shepherds take...'') meaning, `we cannot water our flocks until they finish.'
وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ
(And our father is a very old man.) means, `this is what has driven us to what you see.'
فَسَقَى لَهُمَا
(So he watered (their flocks) for them, )
ثُمَّ تَوَلَّى إِلَى الظِّلِّ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلْتَ إِلَىَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ
(then he turned back to shade, and said: "My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!'')
إِلَى الظِّلِّ
(to shade,) Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud and As-Suddi said: "He sat beneath a tree.'' `Ata' bin As-Sa'ib said: "When Musa said:
رَبِّ إِنِّى لِمَآ أَنزَلْتَ إِلَىَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ
("My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!'') the women heard him.''
28.22-23 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Both the Bible and the Qur'an agree that after leaving Egypt the Prophet Moses had gone to live in Madyan (Midian). But the Talmud tells the absurd story that Moses fled to Ethiopia and became a great favorite with the king there. After the king's death the people made Moses their king and leader and gave him the widow of the king for a wife, but during the 40 years of his reign there he never had intercourse with his African wife. Then the queen of Ethiopia, who was a wife to Moses in name only, said to the people, "Why should this stranger continue to rule over you '? He has never worshiped the gods of Ethiopia." At this the people of Ethiopia deposed him and made him many rich presents and dismissed him with great honors. Then he came to Midian and met with the events being mentioned below. At this time he was 67 years old.
A clear proof of this story's being absurd is that according to it Assyria (northern Iraq) in those days was under Ethiopia, and the Prophet Moses and the Ethiopian king, his predecessor, had led military campaigns to crush the Assyrian revolts. Now anybody who has a little acquaintance with the history and geography can have a look at the map and see things for himself. Assyria could be under Ethiopian domination and have been attacked by the Ethiopian army only in case Egypt and Palestine and Syria had been under its subjugation, or the whole of Arabia under its sway, or, at least the Ethiopian navy so powerful as to have conquered 'Iraq across the Indian ocean and the Persian Gulf. History, however, does not support the view that the Ethiopians ever held sway over these countries, or their naval force was ever so powerful. This indicates how imperfect was the Israelites' knowledge of their own history, and how the Qur'an corrects their errors and presents the true facts in their pure form. Nevertheless, the Christian and the Jewish orientalists are never ashamed of asserting that the Qur'an has plagiarized the Israelite traditions for its narratives.
The right path: "The path that may take me to Midian safely." It should be borne in mind that Midian in those days was outside Pharaoh's empire. Egypt did not have control over the whole of the Sinai Peninsula but only on its western and southern parts. The Midianites who inhabited the eastern and western coasts of the Gulf of 'Agabah were free from Egyptian influence and authority. That is why the Prophet Moses had headed for Midian after leaving Egypt, because that was the nearest free and inhabited land. But to reach Midian he had to pass through Egyptian territories; avoiding the Egyptian police and military posts on the way. That is why he prayed to God to put him on the right track which should take him to Midian safely.
This place where the Prophet Moses had arrived was situated, according to the Arab tradition, on the western coast of the Gulf of 'Agabah, a few miles to the north of Magna. Today it is called Al-Bid, and is a small habitation. I visited this place in December, 1952, when I was traveling from Tabuk to 'Agabah. The natives told me that, as they had heard from their elders, Midian was situated there. From Josephus to Burton, all ancient and modern explorers and geographers, have generally confirmed this very place as the location of ancient Midian. Nearby there is the place now called Magha`irShu'aib or Magharat Shu'aib. There are some Thamudic monuments here. A mile or so away, There are some ancient ruins, where we saw two dry wells, one of which was said to be the well where the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had watered the goats. The same has been related by Abu Fida' (d. 732 A.H.) in Taqvim al-Buldan and Yaqut in Mu jam al-Buldan, on the authority of Abu Zaid Ansari; (d. 216 A.H.), that the natives point to the same well there as the well of Moses. This indicates that the tradition is being handed down since centuries among the people, and therefore, it can be confidently asserted that this is the same place which has been mentioned in the Qur'an. See some photographs of this on the opposite page.
That is, "We are women: it is not possible for us to water our animals by resisting these shepherds. Our father is too old to perform this rigorous duty. There is no other male member in the house either. Therefore we, the womenfolk, have to come out to perform these chores, and until all the shepherds have watered their animals and left, we have to wait." This whole meaning was conveyed by the ladies in a brief sentence, which is indicative of their modesty. They did not want to have a lengthy conversation with a stranger, but at the same time, they did not like that he should form a wrong impression about their family, thinking how lethargic were the manfoIk who sat back in their homes and sent the women to perform outdoor duties.
About the father of these ladies traditions that have become current among the Muslims are that he was the Prophet Shu`aib (peace be upon him), but the Qur'an makes no allusion to this, although Prophet Shu`aib is a prominent character of the Qur'an. If he were really the father of the ladies, it would have been clearly mentioned here. No doubt there are some traditions in which his name has been mentioned, but both 'Allama Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir concur that none of them has been authentically reported. That is why great commentators like Ibn `Abbas, Hasan Basri, Abu `Ubaidah and Said bin Jubair have relied on the Israelite traditions and mentioned the same names of this personage which appear in the Talmud. etc. Evidently, if the name of Shu'aib had actually been reported froth the Holy Prophet these scholars would not have mentioned any other name.
The Bible mentions him as Re'uel in one place and Jethro in another (Exod. 2: 16-18, 3: 1, 18: 5), and says that he was the priest of Midian. In the Talmudic literature he has been variously called as Re'uel, Jethro and Hobab. The present-day Jewish scholars are of the view that Jethro was a synonym for "his excellency' and his real name was Re'uel or Hobab. Similarly, they differ about the meaning of the word Kohen. Some regard it as a synonym of priest and others of prince.
According to the Talmud Re'uel used to visit Pharaoh from time to time before the birth of Prophet Moses, and pharaoh relied on his knowledge and good counsel and mature opinion. But when the royal council of Egypt started consultations for the subduing of the Israelites and it was decided that their male children be killed on their birth, he did his best to stop Pharaoh from enforcing this wrong decision, warned him of its evil consequences and counselled that if he found the Israelites unbearable, he should let them go to Canaan, the laud of their forefathers. These words of Re'ue angered Pharaoh, and he sent him in shame front his presence. Re'uel then left Egypt for his country. Midian, and settled there ever afterwards.
As to his religion it is commonly believed that, like the Prophet Moses, he was a follower of Prophet Ibraham's Faith, for just as the Prophet Moses was a ' Descendant of Isaac, son of Abraham (peace be upon bath of them), so was he a descendant of Midian, son of Abraham. Probably due to this relationship he tried to prevent Pharaoh from persecuting the Israelites and angered him. Nisaburi, the commentator, writes on the authority of Hasan Basri: "He was a Muslim: he had embraced the religion of the Prophet Shu`aib." The Talmud says that he publicly condemned the idol-worship of the Midianites as a folly. Due to this the people of Midian had turned his opponents.