Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Then, when Moses had fulfilled the term) ten years, (and was travelling with his housefolk) towards Egypt, (he saw in the distance a fire) he saw on the left side of the road a fire (and said unto his housefolk: Bide ye (here)) remain her. (Lo! I see in the distance a fire; peradventure I shall bring you tidings thence) from the Fire camp, (or a brand from the Fire that ye may warm yourselves) because they were in the cold winter.
So when Moses had completed the term, of his tending — of eight years, or of ten years, which is what is generally assumed — and was travelling with his family, his wife, with the permission of her father, in the direction of Egypt, he saw in the distance on the side of the Mount [Tūr] a fire (al-Tūr is the name of a mountain). He said to his family, ‘Wait, here; I see a fire in the distance. Maybe I will bring you from it news, about [how to rejoin] the route [to Egypt] — for he had strayed from it [along the way] — or a brand (read with any of the three vowels [jadhwa, jidhwa, or judhwa], which [either] means ‘a bundle’, or ‘a flame’) from the fire, that you may warm yourselves’ (tastalūna: the tā’ replaces the tā’ of the [8th verbal paradigm] ifta‘ala of the verb saliya, or salaya).
Musa's Return to Egypt and how he was honored with the Mission and Miracles on the Way
In the explanation of the previous Ayah, we have already seen that Musa completed the longer and better of the two terms, which may also be understood from the Ayah where Allah says:
فَلَمَّا قَضَى مُوسَى الاٌّجَلَ
(Then, when Musa had fulfilled the term,) meaning, the longer of the two; and Allah knows best.
(and was traveling with his family,) They said: "Musa missed his country and his relatives, so he resolved to visit them in secret, without Fir`awn and his people knowing. So he gathered up his family and the flocks which his father-in-law had given to him, and set out on a cold, dark, rainy night. They stopped to camp, and whenever he tried to start a fire, he did not succeed. He was surprised by this, and while he was in this state,
ءَانَسَ مِن جَانِبِ الطُّورِ نَاراً
(he saw a fire in the direction of At-Tur) he saw a fire burning from a far.
(And you were not on the western side, when We made clear to Musa the commandment) (20:44). This indicates that when Musa headed for the fire, he headed in the direction of the Qiblah with the western mountain on his right. He found the fire burning in a green bush on the side of the mountain adjoining the valley, and he stood there amazed at what he was seeing. Then his Lord called him:
(O Musa! Verily, I am Allah, the Lord of all that exits!) meaning, `the One Who is addressing you and speaking to you is the Lord of all that exits, the One Who does what He wills, the One apart from Whom there is no other god or lord, may He be exalted and sanctified, the One Who by His very nature, attributes, words and deeds is far above any resemblance to His creation, may He be glorified.
وَأَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ
(And throw your stick!) `the stick that is in your hand' -- as was stated in the Ayah,
("And what is that in your right hand, O Musa'' He said: "This is my stick, whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses.'') (20:17-18). The meaning is: `this stick, which you know so well;'
("Cast it down, O Musa!'' He cast it down, and behold! It was a snake, moving quickly.) (20:19-20). Musa knew that the One Who was speaking to him was the One Who merely says to a thing, "Be!'' and it is, as we have already stated in (the explanation of) Surah Ta Ha. And here Allah says:
(But when he saw it moving as if it were a snake, he turned in flight,) It moved so quickly, even though it was so big, and its mouth was so huge, with its jaws snapping. It swallowed every rock it passed, and every rock that fell into its mouth fell with a sound like a rock falling into a valley. When he saw that:
وَلَّى مُدْبِراً وَلَمْ يُعَقِّبْ
(he turned in flight, and looked not back.) he did not turn around, because it is human nature to flee from such a thing. But when Allah said to him:
(Put your hand into the opening of your garment, it will come forth white without a disease;) meaning, `when you put your hand in your garment and then draw it out, it will be shining white as if it were a piece of the moon or a flash of lightning.' Allah said:
مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ
(without a disease) i.e., with no trace of leukoderma.
وَاضْمُمْ إِلَيْكَ جَنَاحَكَ مِنَ الرَّهْبِ
(and draw your hand close to your side to be free from the fear.) Mujahid said, "To be free from terror.'' Qatadah said, "To be free from fear.'' Musa was commanded, when he felt afraid of anything, to draw his hand close to his side to be free from the fear. If he did that, whatever fear he felt would be gone. Perhaps if a person does this, following the example of Musa, and puts his hand over his heart, his fear will disappear or be lessened, if Allah wills; in Allah we place our trust.
فَذَانِكَ بُرْهَانَـنِ مِن رَّبِّكَ
(These are two proofs from your Lord) This refers to the throwing down of his stick, whereupon it turned into a moving snake, and his putting his hand into his garment and bringing it forth white without a disease. These were two clear and definitive proofs of the power of the One Who does as He chooses, and of the truth of the prophethood of the one at whose hands these miracles occurred. Allah said:
إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلإِيْهِ
(to Fir`awn and his chiefs.) meaning his leaders and prominent followers.
إِنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ قَوْماً فَـسِقِينَ
(Verily, they are the people who are rebellious.) means, who are disobedient towards Allah and who go against His commands and His religion.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
According to Hadrat Hasan bin `Ali bin Abi Talib, the Prophet Moses had completed the ten years term instead of the eight years. According to Ibn 'Abbas, this has been related on the authority of the Holy Prophet himself. He has said, "Moses (peace be upon him) completed the term which was more perfect and more agreeable to his father-in-law, i.e. ten years."
That the direction of the journey was towards Mt. Tur shows that the Prophet Moses might be traveling to Egypt with his family, for Tur lies on the way from Midian to Egypt. Probably Prophet Moses thought that he had stayed away from home for ten long years and the Pharaoh in whose reign he had left Egypt had also died, if he quietly went back and stayed with his people, nobody would know it.
The Biblical version of the sequence of events is different from the Qur'an's. It says that the Prophet Moses `led the flocks (of his father-in-law) to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb." There God spoke to him, and appointed him to Prophethood and commanded him to go to Egypt. Then Moses went back to Jethro, his father-in-law, took his permission and went to Egypt with his family. (Exod. 3: 1, 4: 18) Contrary to this, the Qur'an says that the Prophet Moses left Midian with his family after completing the term and during this journey Allah spoke to him and appointed him to Prophethood.
Both the Bible and the Talmud agree that the Pharaoh in whose house Prophet Moses had been brought up had died during his stay in Midian, and now another Pharaoh was the king of Egypt.
That is, in the ground which was being lit up by Divine Light.
That is, on that side of the valley which lay to the right of the Prophet Moses.
These two miracles were shown to the Prophet Moses at that time so that, firstly, he himself is fully convinced that the same Being Who is speaking to him is, in fact, the Creator and Master and Ruler of the whole system of the universe and secondly, he should have full satisfaction that he was not going unarmed before Pharaoh, to perform the dangerous mission assigned to him, but would go well armed with the two powerful weapons.
That is, "Whenever you experience the fear of any danger, fold back your arm to yourself: this will strengthen your heart and will deliver you completely from every feeling of fear and dread."
The arm probably implies the right arm. The arm can be folded back in two ways: either by bringing the arm and pressing it against the side, or by pressing one hand under the armpit of the other. Probably the first way was implied, for in that case the other person cannot perceive that one is specially doing so in order to ward off fear.
The Prophet Moses was taught this device because he was being sent to counter a tyrannical government without any army and worldly equipment. He was going to meet with many a dreadful situation when a great Prophet also could not remain safe from fear and terror. Allah said to him, "Whenever you face such a situation, just do this* and Pharaoh will not be able to shake your heart in spite of all the power of his mighty kingdom."
The words by themselves imply: "Go to Pharaoh with these Signs and present yourself as Allah's Messenger, and invite him and his chiefs to the obedience and worship of Allah, Lord of the worlds." That is why his appointment has not been specified here, though at other places it has been clearly stated, thus: 'Go to Pharaoh for he has become rebellious' "(Ta Ha: 24) And: "When your Lord called Moses, saying: "Go forth to the wicked people--the people of Pharaoh'." (Ash-Shu'araa: 10).
It did not mean that he was hesitant to go there because of the fear, but it meant this: "Kindly make some such arrangement that I am not apprehended on the charge of murder just on arrival even before I may convey to them Your message, for in that case the very object for which I am being sent will be defeated." The next verse makes it plain that the Prophet Moses, by this submission, did not at all mean to reject the office of Prophethood and refuse to go before Pharaoh because of the fear.
This meeting of the Prophet Moses with Allah and the mutual conversation has been described in much greater detail in Surah Ta Ha (vv. 9-48). Anyone possessed of fine taste, who compares this Qur'anic version with the story given in the Bible (Exod., chs. 3, 4), will be himself able to judge which of the two is Divine Revelation and which the result of human story-telling. Besides, he will also be able to judge whether the Qur'anic version is, God forbid, a plagiarism of the Bible and Israelite traditions, or that God Himself is describing the actual event, Who had honored Moses by calling him up into His Presence. (For further explanation, see E.N. 19 of Surah Ta Ha).