Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(He said) Yathron said to Moses: (Lo! I fain would marry thee) O Moses (to one of these two daughters of mine on condition that thou hirest thyself to me) to look after my flock (for (the term of) eight pilgrimages) eight years. (Then if thou completest ten) ten years (it will be of thine own accord) the increase of term will be of your own accord, (for I would not make it hard for thee) by increasing the term. (Allah willing, thou wilt find me of the righteous) who fulfil their promise.
He said, ‘I desire to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine, either the elder or the younger one, on condition that you hire yourself to me, that you are employed by me to tend my flock, for eight years. And if you complete ten, that is, the tending of ten years, that, completion, shall be of your own accord. I do not want to be hard on you, by making it [the marriage] conditional on ten [years service]. God willing — [expressed] to seek [God’s] blessing — you shall find me to be one of the righteous’, of those who fulfil their covenants.
Musa, the Father of the Two Women, and His Marriage to One of Them
When the two women came back quickly with the sheep, their father was surprised that they returned so soon. He asked them what had happened, and they told him what Musa, peace be upon him, had done. So he sent one of them to call him to meet her father. Allah says:
(Then there came to him one of them, walking shyly.) meaning, she was walking like a free woman, as it was narrated from the Commander of the faithful, `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him: "She was covering herself from them with the folds of her garment.'' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `Amr bin Maymun said, `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "She came walking shyly, putting her garment over her face. She was not one of those audacious women who come and go as they please.'' This chain of narrators is Sahih.
(She said: "Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered (our flocks) for us.'') This is an example of good manners: she did not invite him directly lest he have some suspicious thoughts about her. Rather she said: "My father is inviting you so that he may reward you for watering our sheep,'' i.e., give you some payment for that.
فَلَمَّا جَآءَهُ وَقَصَّ عَلَيْهِ الْقَصَصَ
(So when he came to him and narrated the story, ) means, he told him about his story and why he had to leave his country.
(he said: "Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are wrongdoers.'') He was saying: `calm down and relax, for you have left their kingdom and they have no authority in our land.' So he said:
نَجَوْتَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّـلِمِينَ
(You have escaped from the people who are wrongdoers.)
(And said one of them: "O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.'') One of the two daughters of the man said this, and it was said that she was the one who had walked behind Musa, peace be upon him. She said to her father:
(O my father! Hire him!) as a shepherd to look after the sheep. `Umar, Ibn `Abbas, Shurayh Al-Qadi, Abu Malik, Qatadah, Muhammad bin Ishaq and others said: "When she said:
(Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.) her father said to her, `What do you know about that' She said to him, `He lifted a rock which could only be lifted by ten men, and when I came back with him, I walked ahead of him, but he said to me, walk behind me, and if I get confused about the route, throw a pebble so that I will know which way to go.''' `Abdullah (Ibn Mas`ud) said, "The people who had the most discernment were three: Abu Bakr's intuition about `Umar; the companion of Yusuf when he said, `Make his stay comfortable'; and the companion of Musa, when she said:
(on condition that you serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten years, it will be (a favor) from you.) meaning, `on the condition that you tend my flocks for eight years, and if you want to give me two extra years, that is up to you, but if you do not want to, then eight years is enough.'
(But I intend not to place you under a difficulty. If Allah wills, you will find me one of the righteous.) means, `I do not want to put pressure on you or cause you any inconvenience or argue with you.' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `Ali bin Rabah Al-Lakhmi said, "I heard `Utbah bin An-Nadar As-Sulami, the Companion of the Messenger of Allah narrating that the Messenger of Allah said:
(He said: "That (is settled) between me and you: whichever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice to me, and Allah is Surety over what we say.'') Musa said to his father-in-law, "The matter is as you say. You have hired me for eight years, and if I complete ten years, that is my choice, but if I do the lesser amount, I will still have fulfilled the covenant and met the conditions.'' So he said:
(whichever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice to me,) meaning, `there will be no blame on me. The complete term is permissible but it is still regarded as something extra.' This is like the Ayah,
(But whosoever hastens to leave in two days, there is no sin on him and whosoever stays on, there is no sin on him) (2:203). And the Messenger of Allah said to Hamzah bin `Amr Al-Aslami, may Allah be pleased with him, who used to fast a great deal and who asked him about fasting while traveling:
«إِنْ شِئْتَ فَصُمْ، وَإِنْ شِئْتَ فَأَفْطِر»
(If you wish, then fast, and if you wish, do not fast.) even though it is better to fast, according to the evidence of other reports. And there is evidence which indicates that Musa, peace be upon him, fulfilled the longer of the two terms. Al-Bukhari recorded that Sa`id bin Jubayr said: "A Jew from the people of Hirah asked me; `Which of the two terms did Musa fulfill' I said, `I do not know until I go to the scholar of the Arabs and ask him.' So I went to Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, and asked him. He said: `He fulfilled the longer and better of them, for when a Messenger of Allah said he would do a thing, he did it.''' This is how it was recorded by Al-Bukhari.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
It is not necessary that the girl said this to her father in his very first meeting with Moses. Most probably her father made the traveler stay with him for a couple of days, and the girl counseled him thus during that time. What she meant by this counsel was: "Father, you are old, and therefore, we girls have to go out to perform outdoor duties. We have no brother either, who could take up these chores. You may, therefore, employ this man as a servant: he is strong and will be able to face all kind of rigors, and he is also trustworthy. He helped us only due to his noble nature when he found us standing helpless, but he never raised his eyes at us."
It is also not necessary that the father should have said this to Moses immediately at the daughter's counsel. One feels that he must have formed this opinion after due consideration. He must have thought: "No doubt he is a noble person, but employing a healthy and strong young man like him as a servant in a house where there are grown up daughters would not be the right thing. When he is a gentle, educated and civilized man of a noble family (as he must have come to know from the story told by Moses), why shouldn't he be kept as a son-in-law in the house?" After reaching such a decision, he might have spoken to Moses at a suitable time.
Here again the Israelites have done a grave injustice to their illustrious Prophet, greatest benefactor and national hero. The Talmud says, "Moses lived with Re'uel, and he looked with favor upon Ziporah, the daughter of his host, and married her." Another Jewish tradition related in the Jewish Encyclopedia is to the effect: When Moses related his story to Jethro, the latter understood that he was the person at whose hand the kingdom of Pharaoh was to be destroyed according to prophecies. Therefore, he immediately imprisoned Moses so that he should hand him over to Pharaoh and get a reward. He remained imprisoned for seven or ten years in a dark underground cell, but Jethro's daughter, Ziporah, whom he had first met at the well of water, kept visiting him in the cell secretly and providing him with food and drink;. They had even decided to marry. After seven or ten years Ziporah said to her father, "Years ago you put a man in the cell and then forgot him altogether. He should have died by now. But if he is still alive, he must be a godly person." Hearing this when Jethro went to the prison, he found Moses alive and was convinced that he had miraculously remained so. Then he married Ziporah to him.
Have the Western orientalists who are ever on the lookout for the sources of the Qur'anic narratives ever cared to see this manifest difference that exists between the Qur'anic version and the Israelite traditions?
Some people have taken this conversation between the Prophet Moses and the girl's father for a contract of marriage, and have started the dispute whether service under the father can be looked upon as a dower of the daughters marriage, and whether such external conditions can be laid down for the marriage contract; whereas the words of the verses under discussion themselves indicate this was not the contract of marriage but the initial proposal that is generally made before the execution of the marriage contract itself. After all, how can this be taken for a contract of marriage when it had not yet been decided which of the girls was to be given away in marriage. The purport of the conversation was that the girl's father said, "I am prepared to marry one of my daughters to you provided that you promise that you will stay in my house for eight to ten years and help me in performing household chores, for I am old and have no son either, who could manage my properties. I have only daughters whom I have to send to perform outdoor duties. I want you to strengthen me as my would-be son-in-law. If you are willing to accept this responsibility, and do not intend to take away your wife soon after marriage, I will marry one of my daughters to you." The Prophet Moses himself was in search of a shelter at that time, so he accepted the proposal. Evidently, it was a sort of contract that had been agreed upon between the two parties before the marriage. After this the actual marriage must have taken place according to the law and the dower also settled. There could be no question of including the condition of service in the marriage bond itself.