Tafsir of Surah Ta-Ha Ayat 1-39


Which was revealed at Makkah

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

{1. Ta Ha. 

2. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress, 

3. But only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah). 

4. A revelation from Him Who created the earth and high heavens. 

5. The Most Gracious Istawa the Throne. 

6. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and all that is between them, and all that is under the soil. 

7. And if you speak aloud, then verily, He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden. 

8. Allah! There is no God but Him! To Him belong the Best Names.}

The Qur’an is a Reminder and a Revelation from Allah

We have already discussed the separated letters at the beginning of Surah Al-Baqarah, so there is no need to repeat its discussion here. Allah says, “We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress” Juwaybir reported that Ad-Dahhak said, “When Allah sent the Qur’an down to His Messenger, he and his Companions adhered to it. Thus, the idolators of the Quraysh said, ‘This Qur’an was only revealed to Muhammad to cause him distress.’ Therefore, Allah revealed, “Ta Ha. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress, but only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah).” (Al-Qurtubi 11:167)

The matter is not like the people of falsehood claim. Rather, whomever Allah gives knowledge to, it is because Allah wants him to have an abundance of good. This like what is confirmed in the Two Sahihs on the authority of Ibn Masud, who said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Whomever Allah wants good for, then He gives him the understanding of the religion.” (Fath Al-Bari 1:197, Muslim 2:719)

Mujahid commented on Allah’s statement, “We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress” “This is like His statement, “So recite as much of the Qur’an as may be easy (for you).” (73:20) For, the people used to hang ropes at their chests (to hang on to when tired) in the prayer. (At-Tabari 18:269) Qatadah said, “We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress” “No, by Allah, He did not make it a thing of distress. Rather, He made it a mercy, a light and a guide to Paradise.” (At-Tabari 18:269)  Allah said, “But only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah).” Allah revealed His Book and sent His Messenger as a mercy for His servants, so that the person who reflects may be reminded. Thus, a man will benefit from what he hears of the Book of Allah, it is a remembrance in which Allah revealed what He permits and prohibits. His saying, “A Revelation from Him (Allah) Who has created the earth and high heavens.” means, ‘This Qur’an, which has come to you, O Muhammad, is a revelation from your Lord. He is the Lord of everything and its King. He is Most Able to do whatever He wills. He created the earth with its low depths and dense regions. He created the lofty heavens with their high altitudes and subtleties.’ It has been reported in a Hadith, which At-Tirmidhi and others graded as authentic, that the density of each sky of the heavens is the distance of five hundred years travel and the distance between it and the next heaven is also five hundred years. (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 9:185 the scholars this text to be authentic only from one of the companions)

Concerning Allah’s statement, “The Most Gracious Istawa the Throne.” A discussion concerning this has already preceded in Surat Al-Araf, so there is no need to repeat it here.  (See Tafsir of Surat Al-Araf 7:54) The safest path to take in understanding this, is the way of the Salaf (predecessors). Their way was to accept that which has been reported concerning this from the Book and the Sunnah without describing it, reinterpreting it, resembling it to creation, rejecting it, or comparing it to attributes of the creatures.

Concerning Allah’s statement, “To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and all that is between them, and all that is under the soil.” This means all of this is owned by Him and in His grasp. It is all under His control, will, intent and judgement. He created all of this, He owns it and He is the God of all of it. There is no true God other than He and no Lord other than He. Concerning Allah’s statement, “and all that is under the soil.” Muhammad bin Kab said, “This means that which is beneath the seventh earth.” (At-Tabari 18:271)

Concerning Allah’s statement, “And if you speak aloud, then verily, He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden.” This means that He Who revealed this Qur’an, has also created the high heavens and the earth and He knows that which is secret and what is even more hidden. As Allah says, “Say: “It has been sent down by Him Who knows the secret of the heavens and the earth. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (25:6) Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden.” “The secret is what the son of Adam hides within himself, and “that which is yet more hidden.” is the deeds of the son of Adam, which are hidden before he does them. Allah knows all of that. His knowledge encompasses that which has passed and that which is in the future and it is one, complete knowledge. In this regard, all of the creatures are as one soul to Him. That is the meaning of His statement, “The creation of you all and the resurrection of you all are only as a single person.” (31:28) (At-Tabari 18:272)

Concerning Allah’s statement,“Allah! There is no God but Him! To Him belongs the Best Names.” This means, ‘He Who revealed this Qur’an to you (O Muhammad), He is Allah, there is no God except Him. He is the Owner of the Best Names and the most lofty attributes.’

{9. And has there come to you the story of Musa 

10. When he saw a fire, he said to his family: “Wait! Verily, I have seen a fire; perhaps I can bring you some burning brand therefrom, or find some guidance at the fire.”}

A Discussion of the Message of Musa

From this point, Allah begins to mention the story of Musa, how revelation began to come to Him, and Allah’s speaking directly to him. This occurred after Musa had completed the time agreed upon between he and his father-in-law that he would herd sheep. He was traveling with his family, and it has been said that he was headed for the land of Egypt, after having been away from it for more than ten years. He had his wife with him and he became lost on the way during a cold, wintery night. Therefore, he settled down, making a camp between some mountain passes and mountains that were covered with snow, sleet, dense clouds, darkness and fog. He began to try to make a fire with a kindling device he had with him, in order to produce some light, as was customary. However, it would not kindle anything and it even stopped giving off sparks. While he was in this condition, he saw a fire from the side of the mountain. It appeared to him to be a fire glowing from the right side of the mountain from where he was. He then announced the good news to his family saying, “Verily, I have seen a fire; perhaps I can bring you some burning brand” This means a flame from a fire. In another Ayah he said, “or a burning firebrand.” (28:29) This is a coal that has a burning flame. “that you may warm yourselves.” (28:29) This proves that it was in fact cold weather at that time.

Concerning his statement, “some burning brand” This proves that it was dark. In reference to his statement, “or find some guidance at the fire.” This means someone who can guide me to the road. This proves that he lost the road. This is as Ath-Thawri reported from Abu Said Al-Awar, from Ikrimah, from Ibn Abbas that he said concerning Allah’s statement, “or find some guidance at the fire.” “This means someone who will guide me to the road. They were cold and had lost their way. Then, when he (Musa) saw the fire he said, ‘Either I will find someone who can guide us to the road, or at least I can bring you all some fire that you can kindle with.” (At-Tabari 18:277)

{11. And when he came to it (the fire), he was called by name: “O Musa!” 

12. “Verily, I am your Lord! So take off your shoes; you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa.” 

13. “And I have chosen you. So listen to that which will be revealed (to you)” 

14. “Verily, I am Allah! There is no God but Me, so worship Me, and perform Salah for My remembrance.” 

15. “Verily, the Hour is coming – and I am almost hiding it – that every person may be rewarded for that which he strives.” 

16. “Therefore, let not the one who believes not therein, but follows his own lusts, divert you therefrom, lest you perish.”}

The First Revelation to Musa

Allah, the Exalted, says, “And when he came to it” This is referring to the fire when he approached it. “He was called by name: “O Musa!” In another Ayah it says, “He was called from the right side of the valley, in the blessed place, from the tree: “O Musa! Verily, I am Allah.” (28:30) However, here Allah says, “Verily, I am your Lord!” meaning, ‘the One Who is talking to you and addressing you,’ “So take off your shoes” Ali bin Abi Talib, Abu Dharr, Abu Ayyub and others of the Salaf said, “They (his sandals) were from the skin of a donkey that was not slaughtered.” It has also been said that he was only commanded to remove his sandals due to respect for the blessed spot.

Concerning Allah’s statement, “Tuwa” Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn Abbas said, “It is the name of the valley.” (At-Tabari 18:281) Others have said the same. This is merely mentioned as something to give more explanation to the story. It has also been said that it is a figure of speech, which comes from the command to place his feet down. It has also been said that it means ‘doubly sacred’ and that Tuwa is something that has repetitious blessings. However, the first opinion is most correct. It is similar to Allah’s statement, “When his Lord called him in the sacred valley of Tuwa.” (79:16)

Allah’s statement, “And I have chosen you.” is similar to His statement, “I have chosen you above men by My Messages, and by My speaking (to you).” (7:144) This means over all human beings of that time. It has also been said that Allah said, “O Musa, do you know why I chose to speak to you directly out of all of the people” Musa said, “No.” Allah then said, “Because I have not made anyone humble himself as much as you have humbled yourself.”

Concerning Allah’s statement, “So listen to that which will be revealed.” “Now listen to what I say to you and what I reveal to you.” “Verily, I am Allah! There is no God but Me” This is the first obligation upon all responsible people of age, that they know that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah alone, Who has no partners.

Concerning Allah’s statement, “so worship Me,” This means, “Single Me out alone for worship, and establish My worship without associating anything with Me.” “and perform Salah for My remembrance.” It has been said that this means, “Pray in order to remember Me.” It has also been said that it means, “And establish the prayer whenever you remember Me.” There is a supporting evidence for this second statement in a Hadith recorded by Imam Ahmad from Anas, who said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Whenever one of you sleeps past the prayer, or he forgets to pray, then let him pray when he remembers it. For verily, Allah said, (And perform Salah for My remembrance.)” (Ahmad 3:184)

In the Two Sahihs it is reported from Anas that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Whoever slept past the prayer, or forgot it, then his expiation is that he prays it when he remembers it. There is no expiation for it other than that.” (Fath Al-Bari 2:84, Muslim 1:477)

Concerning Allah’s statement, “Verily, the Hour is coming” This means that it is established and there is no avoiding it. It will be and it is inevitable. Concerning Allah’s statement, “I am almost hiding it” Ad-Dahhak related from Ibn Abbas that he used to recite it as, “I almost kept it hidden – from myself.” (Fath Al-Qadir 3:361)  Ibn Abbas then would say, “Because nothing is ever hidden from Allah’s Self.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 5:563) Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn Abbas that he said,“I am almost hiding it.” “This means that no one knows its appointed time except Me (Allah).” (At-Tabari 18:285) Allah also said, “Heavy is its burden through the heavens and the earth. It shall not come upon you except all of a sudden.” (7:187) This means that its knowledge weighs heavily upon the dwellers of the heavens and the earth.

Concerning Allah’s statement, “that every person may be rewarded for that which he strives.” “I will establish it and it is inevitable. I will certainly reward every person who does something, according to what he did.” “So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom shall see it.” (99:7-8) “You are only being requited for what you used to do.” (52:16) Allah said, “Therefore, let not divert you the one who believes not therein,” The address here is directed towards all individuals who are responsible “and capable of taking heed to this message”. This means, “Do not follow the way of the person who does not believe in the Hour (Day of Judgement) and he only pursues his desires in this worldly life. He disobeys his Lord and only follows his desires. Whoever behaves like these people, then verily he has failed and lost. “lest you perish.” This means that you will be destroyed and ruined. “And what will his wealth avail him when he goes down (in destruction)” (92:11)

{17. “And what is that in your right hand, O Musa” 

18. He said: “This is my stick, whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses.” 

19. (Allah) said: “Cast it down, O Musa!” 

20. He cast it down, and behold! It was a snake, moving quickly.  

21. Allah said: “Grasp it and fear not; We shall return it to its former state.”}

The Stick of Musa turned into a Snake

This was a proof from Allah for Musa and a great miracle. This was something that broke through the boundaries of what is considered normal, thus, it was a brilliant evidence that none but Allah could do. It was also a proof that no one could come with the likes of this (from mankind) except a Prophet who was sent (by Allah).

Concerning Allah’s statement,“And what is that in your right hand, O Musa” Some of the scholars of Tafsir have said, “He (Allah) only said this to him in order to draw his attention to it.” It has also been said, “He only said this to him in order to affirm for him what was in his hand. In other words, that which is in your right hand is a stick that you are familiar with. You will see what We are about to do to it now.” “And what is that in your right hand, O Musa” This is an interrogative phrase for the purpose of affirmation. “He said: “This is my stick, whereon I lean…”  I lean on it while I am walking. “and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep” This means, ‘I use it to shake the branches of trees so that the leaves will fall for my sheep to eat them.’ Abdur-Rahman bin Al-Qasim reported from Imam Malik that he said, “[It is] when a man places his staff into a branch and shakes it so that its leaves and fruit will fall without breaking the stick. It is not the same as striking or beating.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 5:564) Maymun bin Mahran also said the same.

Concerning his statement, “and wherein I find other uses.” This means other benefits, services and needs besides this. Some of the scholars took upon themselves the burden of mentioning many of these obscure uses.

Concerning Allah’s statement, “(Allah) said: “Cast it down, O Musa!” “Throw down this stick that is in your right hand, O Musa.” “He cast it down, and behold! It was a snake, moving quickly.” This means that the stick changed into a huge snake, like a long python, and it moved with rapid movements. It moved as if it were the fastest type of small snake. Yet, it was in the form of the largest snake, while still having the fastest of movements. “moving quickly.” moving restlessly. Concerning Allah’s statement, “We shall return it to its former state.” the form that it was in, as you recognized it before.

{22. “And press your (right) hand to your (left) side: it will come forth white (and shining), without any disease as another sign,” 

23. “That We may show you (some) of Our greater signs.” 

24. “Go to Firawn! Verily, he has transgressed.” 

25. He said: “O my Lord! Open for me my chest.” 

26. “And ease my task for me” 

27. “And loosen the knot from my tongue,” 

28. “That they understand my speech.” 

29. “And appoint for me a helper from my family,” 

30. “Harun, my brother.” 

31. “Increase my strength with him,” 

32. “And let him share my task,” 

33. “That we may glorify You much,” 

34. “And remember You much,” 

35. “Verily, You are ever seeing us.”} 

The Hand of Musa turning White without any Disease

This is the second sign of Musa. That is Allah has commanded him to place his hand into the opening of his garment, as is clearly stated in another Ayah. It mentioned here merely as a passing reference, saying: “And press your hand to your side” Allah said in another Ayah, “And draw your hand close to your side to be free from fear. These are two signs from your Lord to Firawn and his chiefs.” (28:32) Mujahid said, “And press your hand to your side”“This means put your palm under your upper arm.” (At-Tabari 18:297)  When Musa put his hand into the opening of his garment and brought it out, it came out shining as if it were a half moon. Concerning His statement, “it will come forth white, without any disease” This means without any leprosy, ailment, or disfigurement. This was stated by Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ikrimah, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, As-Suddi and others. (At-Tabari 18:297) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “He brought it out, and by Allah, it was as if it were a lamp. From this Musa knew that he had surely met his Lord, the Mighty and Sublime.” (At-Tabari 18:298) This is why Allah says, “That We may show you (some) of Our greater signs.” 

Allah commanded Musa to go to Firawn to convey the Message 
Allah said, “Go to Firawn! verily, he has transgressed.” This means, “Go to Firawn, the king of Egypt, whom you left Egypt fleeing from, and invite him to the worship of Allah alone, Who has no partners. Command him to treat the Children of Israel well and to not torment them. For verily, he has transgressed, oppressed, preferred the worldly life and forgotten the Most High Lord.”
The Supplication of Musa
“(Musa) said: “O my Lord! Open for me my chest, and ease my task for me.” Musa requsted his Lord to expand his chest for his mission. For verily, He was commanding him with a great task and a weighty affair. He was sending him to the mightiest king on the face of the earth at that time. He was the most arrogant and severe of all people in his disbelief, and He had the largest army and the most powerful kingdom. He was the most tyrannical and the most obstinate of rulers. His case was such that he claimed not to know Allah at all, and that he knew of no god for his subjects other than himself. Along with this, Musa lived in his home for a period of time as a child. He stayed in Firawn’s own room and slept on his bed. Then, after this, he killed one of their people and feared that they would retaliate by killing him in return. Thus, he fled from them and remained an outlaw during this entire time. Then, after all of this, His Lord sent him to them as a warner calling them to worship Allah alone, without associating partners with Him. This is why he said, “O my Lord! Open for me my chest, and ease my task for me.” This means, “I cannot perform this task if You do not help me, aid me and support me.” “And loosen the knot from my tongue, that they understand my speech.” This is referring to the lisp that he had. This lisp was a result of an incident when he was presented a date and a hot coal stone and he placed the coal on his tongue instead of the date. A detailed explanation of this story is forthcoming in the following chapters. However, he did not ask Allah to remove this affliction all together. Rather, he asked for removal of his stammering so the people would understand what he intended in his speech. He was only asking for what was necessary to deliver his message. If he had asked for the removal of his affliction in its entirety, it would have been cured for him. However, the Prophets do not ask for any more than what is required. Therefore, he was left with the remnants of this accident that took place with his tongue. Allah informed of what Firawn said concerning him, “Am I not better than this one who is despicable and can scarcely express himself clearly” (43:52)This means that he is not eloquent in speech.
Concerning Allah’s statement, “And appoint for me a helper from my family, Harun, my brother.” This was also a request from Musa concerning something not pertaining to himself. That was his request for the assistance of his brother, Harun. Ath-Thawri reported from Abu Said, from Ikrimah, who said that Ibn Abbas said, “Harun was made a Prophet at the same moment that Musa was made a Prophet.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 5:567)  Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Aishah went out intending to perform Umrah and stopped to camp among some bedouins. While she was among them she heard a man say, “Which brother in this life was the most beneficial to his brother” The people said, “We do not know.” The man said, “By Allah, I know.” Aishah said, “I said to myself about his swearing, that he should not swear such an oath, singling himself out as knowing what person was of most benefit to his brother.” The man said, “It is Musa, when he asked for prophethood to be bestowed upon his brother.” Then Aishah said, “By Allah, he has spoken truthfully.” This is why Allah commended Musa by saying, “And he was honorable before Allah.” (33:69)
Concerning Musa’s statement, “Increase my strength with him.” Mujahid said, “This means to make my back strong.” “And let him share my task.” make him my consultant in this matter. “That we may glorify You much, and remember You much.” Mujahid said, “A servant of Allah is not considered of those who remember Allah much until he remembers Allah while standing, sitting and lying down.” (Al-Qurtubi 14:186)
Concerning his statement, “Verily, You are ever seeing us.” This means in Your choosing us, giving us the prophethood and sending us to Your enemy, Firawn. So unto You is all praise for this.

{36. (Allah) said: “You are granted your request, O Musa!” 

37. “And indeed We conferred a favour on you another time (before).” 

38. “When We inspired your mother with that which We inspired.” 

39. “Saying: ‘Put him (the child) into the Tabut and put it into the river; then the river shall cast it up on the bank, and there, an enemy of Mine and an enemy of his shall take him.’ And I endued you with love from Me, in order that you may be brought up under My Eye.”}

Glad Tidings of the acceptance of Musa’s Supplication and the Reminder of the Previous Blessings

This is a response from Allah to His Messenger, Musa, for what he requested from His Lord. It also contains a reminder of Allah’s previous favors upon him. The first was inspiring his mother when she was breastfeeding him and she feared that Firawn and his chiefs would kill him. Musa was born during a year in which they (Firawn’s people) were killing all of the male children. So she placed him in a case and cast him into the river. The river carried him away and she became grieved and distressed, as Allah mentioned about her when He said, “And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclose his (case) had We not strengthened her heart.” (28:10)

So the river carried him to the home of Firawn. “Then the people of Firawn picked him up, that he might become for them an enemy and a (cause of ) grief.” (28:8) Means that this was a destined matter, decreed by Allah. They were killing the male children of the Israelites for fear of Musa’s arrival. Therefore, with Allah having the great authority and the most perfect power, He determined that Musa would not be raised except upon Firawn’s own bed. He would be sustained by Firawn’s food and drink, while receiving the love of Firawn and his wife. This is why Allah said, “and there, an enemy of Mine and an enemy of his shall take him. And I endued you with love from Me” This means that I made your enemy love you. Salamah bin Kuhayl said, “And I endued you with love from Me,” “This means, ‘I made My creatures love you.’ (At-Tabari 18:303) “in order that you may be brought up under My Eye.” Abu Imran Al-Jawni said, “This means, ‘You will be raised under Allah’s Eye.” (Fath Al-Qadir 3:367)

Concerning Allah’s statement, “When your sister went and said: ‘Shall I show you one who will nurse him’ So We restored you to your mother, that she might cool her eyes” When he was accepted into the house of Firawn, women were brought in attempts to find someone who might be able to nurse him. But he refused to breast feed from any of them. Allah, the Exalted, says, “And We had already forbidden (other) foster suckling mothers for him” (28:12) Then, his sister came and said, “Shall I direct you to a household who will rear him for you, and look after him in a good manner?” (28:12) She meant, “Shall I guide you to someone who can nurse him for you for a fee?” So she took him and they went with her to his real mother. When her breast was presented to him, he took it and they (Firawn’s family) were extremely happy for this. Thus, they hired her to nurse him and she achieved great happiness and comfort because of him, in this life and even more so in the Hereafter. Allah, the Exalted, says here, “So We restored you to your mother, that she might cool her eyes and she should not grieve.” This means that she should not grieve over you.

“Then you killed man” This means that he killed a Coptic person (the people of Egypt, Firawn’s people). “but We saved you from great distress” This is what he was feeling due to Firawn’s family intending to kill him. So he fled from them until he came to the water of the people of Madyan. This is when the righteous man said to him, “Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are wrongdoers.” (28:25)

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 6 Pages 320- 341