The Close: Blessings & Curses

In our last post we looked at the guidelines Allah gave so we could recognize true prophets – that they would foretell the future as part of their message.  Then the Prophet Musa (PBUH) himself applied this guideline – he made predictions about the future of the Israelites – ones that had to come true if his message was from Allah. These predictions were coming Curses and Blessings on the Israelites. You can read the complete Blessings and Curses here. I highlight the main ideas below.

The Blessings of Musa

The Prophet Musa (PBUH) starts out by describing the wonderful blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Commands. These blessings would be in the sight of the other nations so that they would recognize His blessing. As it is written

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)

However, if they failed to obey the Commands then they would receive Curses that were the opposite of the Blessings. The Curses would match and mirror the Blessings. Again these curses would be seen by the surrounding nations

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you. (Deuteronomy 28:37)

And the Curses would be for the Israelites themselves

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (Deuteronomy 28:46)

And Allah warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from others.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

And it would go from bad to worse

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:63-65)

These Blessings and Curses were established by a covenant (an agreement)

…to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath … also with those who are not here today. (Deuteronomy 29:12-15)

In other words this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact this covenant was directed at future generations – both Israelites and foreigners

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it. … nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. … All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt….Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. … the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:21-27)

Did The Blessings and Curses of Musa come to pass?

The Blessings promised were wonderful, but the Curses threatened were severe. However, the most important question we can ask is: ‘So did these things happen?’ In answering this we will see whether Musa (PBUH) was a true prophet and we will gain guidance for our lives today. And the answer is within our grasp. Much of the Old Testament of al Kitab is the record of the history of the Israelites and from that we can see what happens. Also we have records outside the Old Testament, from Jewish historians like Josephus, Graeco-Roman historians like Tacitus and we have found many archeological monuments. All of these sources agree and paint a consistent picture of the history of the Israelites. And this is another Sign for us. Here is an overview of the history of the Israelites pictured with Timelines to help us see better what happened in their history.

What do we see from this history? Yes indeed the Curses of Musa, terrible as they were DID come to pass – and exactly like he wrote down those thousands of years ago – before it all happened (Remember these predictions were not written down after they happened but before).

But the Curse of Musa did not end there. It continued. Here is how Musa (PBUH) concluded these curses.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)

An obvious question to ask (again) is: Did that happen? Click here to see the continuation of their history.

The Close of Taurat – The Zabur anticipated

With these Blessings and Curses, the Taurat is concluded. The Prophet Musa (PBUH) dies shortly after it is completed. Then the Israelites, under the successor to Musa – Joshua – enter the Land and live in it. As explained in the History of the Israelites, they lived there without a King and with no capital city until the great King Dawood or Dawud (or David) rose to power. He started a new section of the Old Testament which the Qur’an affirms as the Zabur. We need to understand the Zabur because it continues the Signs started in the Taurat – that will help us understand the Injil. In our next article we see how the Qur’an and Isa al Masih speak of Dawood (PBUH) and the Zabur.

Taurat's Sign of the Prophet

The Prophet Musa (PBUH) and his brother Harun (PBUH) have led the Israelites for 40 years. They have written the Commands and instituted the sacrifices.  They have written these many Signs in the Taurat.  Soon it is time for these two men to die.   Let us review the patterns that have emerged from the Taurat before we consider the close of Taurat.

Reviewing patterns in Taurat

So what is the pattern of the Signs that emerge from the Taurat?

Sacrifice in Taurat

We should notice the importance and how frequent sacrifices are.  Think about the following we looked at:

These sacrifices were all done with clean animals – either sheep, goat or bull.  They were all male except the heifer.

These sacrifices atoned for the people who offered the sacrifice.  This means that they were a covering so that the guilt and shame of the person giving the sacrifice was covered.  This started with Adam who received the Mercy of Allah in the form of skins.  These skins required the death of an animal (another sacrifice!) while covering his nakedness.  An important question to ask is:  Why are sacrifices no longer given or offered?  We will see the answer later.

Righteousness in Taurat

The word ‘righteousness’ constantly re-appeared.  We saw it first with Adam when Allah told him that the ‘raiment of righteousness was the best’.  We saw that Ibrahim was ‘credited’ righteousness when he chose to believe the promise of a coming son.  The Israelites could get righteousness if they could keep the Commandments – but they had to keep them fully – all the time.

Judgment in Taurat

We also saw the pattern that failing to keep the commands resulted in Judgment from Allah.  This started with Adam, who only had to disobey once to receive judgment.  Judgment always resulted in death.  Death was either on the person being judged or on the animal sacrificed.  Think about the following we learned:

  • With Adam, the animal sacrificed for skins died.
  • With Abel – the animal of his accepted sacrifice died.
  • With Noah people died in the flood and even Noah, after the flood, by offering a sacrifice, had an animal die.
  • With Lut, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah died in Judgment – as well as his wife.
  • With the sacrifice of Ibrahim’s son the son would have died but the ram died instead.
  • With Passover either the firstborn son (for Pharoah and the other unbelievers) died or the lamb whose blood was painted on the doors died.
  • With the Commandments of the Law, either the guilty person died or the one goat died on the Day of Atonement.

What do all these patterns mean?  We will see as we continue.  But now Musa and Harun (PBUT) are going to conclude the Taurat.  But they do so with two important messages directly from Allah, both of which looked to the future and are important for us today – the coming Prophet and the coming Curses & Blessings.  We look at the Prophet here.

The Coming Prophet

When Allah gave the Tablets at Mount Sinai He did so with a terrible display of power and majesty. The Taurat describes the scene just before the Tablets were given

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. … Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. (Exodus 19:16-18)

The people were filled with fear. The Taurat describes them this way

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18-19)

This had happened at the beginning of Musa’s (PBUH) 40 years of leading the community. At the end, Allah spoke to the prophet Musa (PBUH) about that past situation, reminding the people of their past fear, and making a promise for the future. Musa (PBUH) records in the Taurat:

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb (i.e. Sinai) on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. (Deuteronomy 18:15-22)

Allah had wanted the people to have a healthy respect so when he spoke the Commands on Tablets He did so in a way that caused great fear among the people. But now He looks to the future and promises that a time will come when a prophet like Musa (PBUH) from among the Israelites will be raised up. Then two guidelines are given:

  1. Allah himself will hold people responsible if they do not pay attention to the coming Prophet
  2. The way to decide whether Allah has spoken through a prophet is that the message should be able to predict the future and it must come true.

The first guideline did not mean that there will be only one more prophet after Musa (PBUH), but that there will be one coming who in particular we must listen to because he was to have a unique role with his message – they would be ‘My Words’. Since only Allah Himself knows the future – certainly no man does – the second guideline was a way to assist the people to decide correctly if a message actually came from Allah or not. This guidance and the promise of the Coming Prophet were kept in expectation by the Israelites – not always held well, but never entirely forgotten.  We see in the next Post how Musa (PBUH) used this second guidance to foresee the future of the Israelites in the Blessings and Curses of the Israelites – which is what the Taurat closes with.

But now for some thoughts on this ‘coming Prophet’.  Who was he?  Some scholars have suggested that this is referring to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  But notice that the prophecy states that this prophet would be “from among their fellow Israelites” – thus a Jew.  So it cannot be referring to him.  Other scholars have wondered if this could be referring to the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH).  He was a Jew and he also taught with great authority – as if Allah’s words were ‘in his mouth’.  We continue exploring the Holy Books to seek further understanding.

Sign of Harun: 1 Cow, 2 Goats

We saw in Musa Sign 2 that the Commands given on Mount Sinai were very exacting. At the end of that article I invited you to ask yourself (because this is the intent of the Law) if you always keep the Commands or not. If you do not always keep the Law you, as am I, are in serious trouble – Judgment hangs. This is no worry if you always keep the Law, but if you fail to do so what can be done? It was Harun (also called Aaron, brother of Musa), and his descendants who addressed this by administering sacrifices – and these sacrifices atoned, or covered, sins. Harun had two especially important sacrifices that were Signs to understand how Allah would cover over sins committed in the breaking of the Law. These were the sacrifices of the Cow and the Two Goats. Let’s start with the Goats.

The Scapegoat and the Day of Atonement

From Musa Sign 1 the Passover was (and still is!) celebrated by Jewish people in memory of their deliverance from Pharaoh. But the Taurat commanded other festivals as well. A particularly important one was called the Day of Atonement. Click here to read the full account in the Taurat.

Why were such careful and detailed instructions given for the Day of Atonement? We see how they begin:

The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. (Leviticus 16:1-2)

What had happened before was that two sons of Harun had died when they rashly entered the Tent where the Presence of the LORD was. But In His Holy presence, their failure to fully keep the Law (as we saw here) resulted in their deaths. Why? In the Tent was the Ark of the Covenant. The Qur’an also mentions this Ark of the Covenant. It says

And (further) their Prophet said to them: “A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the covenant, with (an assurance) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith.” Surah 2:248 (The Cow)

As it says, this ‘Ark of the Covenant’ was a Sign of authority because the Ark was the symbol of the covenant of the Law of Musa. The Stone Tablets with the Ten Commandments were kept in this Ark. And anyone who failed to keep all the Law – in the presence of this Ark – would die. The first two sons of Harun died when they had entered the Tent. So careful instructions were given, which included the command that there was only one day in the whole year that Harun could enter the Tent – this Day of Atonement. If he entered any other day he too would die. But even on this one day, before Harun could enter the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, he had to

Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household… and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. (Leviticus 16:6,13)

So a bull was sacrificed to cover, or atone, for Harun’s own sins that he committed against the Law. And then immediately after, Harun performed the remarkable ceremony of the scapegoat.

Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering.(Leviticus 16:7-9)

Once the bull was sacrificed for his own sins, Harun would take two goats and cast lots. One goat would be designated as the scapegoat. The other goat was to be sacrificed as a sin offering. Why?

“He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people … In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. (Leviticus 16:15-16)

And what happened to the scapegoat?

Aaron … shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness … The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place… (Leviticus 16:20-22)

The sacrifice and death of the bull was for Harun’s own sin. The sacrifice of the first goat was for the sin of the Israelite people. Harun would then place his hands on the head of the living scapegoat and – as a sign – transfer the sins of the people onto the scapegoat. The goat was then released into the wilderness as a sign that the sins of the people were now far removed from the people. With these sacrifices their sins were atoned for. This was all done every year on the Day of Atonement.

The Heifer, or Cow in Baqarah and Taurat

Harun also had other sacrifices to make including the sacrifice of the Heifer (a female cow instead of a male bull). It is this very heifer and its sacrifice which is the reason for the title The Cow for Surah 2. So the Qur’an speaks directly of this animal. Click here to read the account in Qur’an. As you could see, the people were startled and confused when it was commanded that a cow (ie a female) be used for this sacrifice and not the usual male animal. And it ends with

So We said: “Strike the (body) with a piece of the (heifer).” Thus God bringeth the dead to life and showeth you His Signs: Perchance ye may understand. (Surah 2:73 – The Cow)

So this is also considered one of the Signs which we need to pay attention to. But in what way is this Heifer a Sign? We read that it has to do with death and life. “Perchance we may understand” as we study the original instructions in the Taurat given to Harun about this sacrifice. Click here to see the full passage from the Taurat. We see that

the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines. The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. (Numbers 19:5-6)

Hyssop was a branch from a certain leafy tree. At the Passover when the Israelites were to paint the blood of the Passover lamb on their doors so death would pass over they were commanded to

Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the … doorframes (Exodus 12:22)

Hyssop was also used with the heifer, and the heifer, hyssop, wool and cedar were burned until there were only ashes left. Then

“A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. (Numbers 19:9)

So the ashes were mixed into ‘water of cleansing’. An unclean person would perform his ablutions (ritual washings or Wudhu) to restore cleanliness using this ash mixed in water. But the ashes were not for any uncleanness but for a particular kind.

“Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. They must purify themselves with the water (mixed with the ashes of the heifer) on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean. If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the LORD’s tabernacle. (Numbers 19:11-13)

So these ashes, mixed with water, were for wudhu (i.e. ablutions) when someone was unclean from touching a dead body. But why would touching a dead body result in such a severe uncleanness? Think about it! Adam had been made mortal because of his disobedience, and all his children (you and me!) as well. Thus death is unclean because it is a consequence of sin – it is associated with the uncleanness of sin. Someone touching a dead body would then also become unclean. But these ashes were a Sign – that would wash away this uncleanness. The unclean person, dead in his ‘uncleanness’, would find ‘life’ in the cleansing from ablutions with the Hiefer ashes.

But why was a female animal used and not a male? No direct explanation is given but we can reason from the scriptures. Throughout the Taurat and the Zaboor (and all other scriptures) Allah reveals himself as a ‘He’ – in the male gender. And the Israelite nation is spoken collectively as a ‘she’ – in the female gender. As in marital man-woman relationships, Allah led and his followers responded. But the initiative was always with Allah. He initiated the command to Ibrahim to sacrifice his son; He initiated the given of the Commandments on Tablets; He initiated the judgement of Noah, etc.. It was never a human’s (prophet or otherwise) idea to begin with – his followers merely submitted to His leading.

The ashes of the Heifer were to meet a human need – that of uncleanness. Thus to be a proper Sign for a human need, the animal that was offered was female. This uncleanness points to the shame we feel when we sin, not the guilt that we have before Allah. When I sin, not only have I broken the Law and am guilty before the Judge, but I also feel shame and regret. How does Allah provide for our shame? First of all, Allah provided a covering of clothes for us. The first humans received clothes of skin to cover their nakedness and shame. And the Children of Adam ever since have always covered themselves with clothing – in fact it is so natural to do so that we rarely stop to ask ‘why?’. These ablutions with cleansing water was another way so we could feel ‘clean’ from the things that contaminate us. The goal of the Heifer was to cleanse us.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22)

Conversely, the sacrifice of the male goats on the Day of Atonement was primarily for Allah so a male animal was used. With the Sign of the Ten Commandments, we noted that the penalty for disobedience was clearly and repeatedly specified as death (click here to check the passages). Allah was (and is!) Judge and as Judge demanded death. The death of the male bull first met Allah’s requirement that death be paid for Aaron’s sin. Then the death of the first male goat met Allah’s requirement that death pay for the sins of the Israelites. Then the sins of the Israelite community could symbolically be placed on the scapegoat by Harun, and as the scapegoat was released into the wilderness it was a sign that the sins of the community were released.

These sacrifices were celebrated by Harun and his descendants for over one thousand years. Throughout the history of the Israelites in the land given to them; when Dawood (or Dawud) became King and his sons also ruled; when the many prophets with messages warning against evil came; even through the life of Isa al Masih (PBUH) these sacrifices were performed to meet these needs.

So with these last Signs of Musa and Harun, the messages of the Taurat were coming to a close. Soon successor prophets would come and the Zabur would continue the messages from Allah. But first there was one final message in the Taurat. The prophet Musa (pbuh) was going to look into the future to the coming of a Prophet, as well as look to future blessings and curses on the descendants of Israel. These we look at in our last studies in the Taurat.

Sign 2 of Musa: The Law

We saw in the First Sign of Musa – Passover – that Allah had decreed death to all firstborn sons except for those who were in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and blood painted on the doorposts. Pharaoh did not submit so his son died and Musa (also called Moses – PBUH ) led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Pharaoh drowned while chasing them across the Red Sea.

But Musa’s role as Prophet was not only to lead them out of Egypt, but also to lead them to a new way of living – by living according to the Law established by Allah. So shortly after leaving Egypt, Musa (PBUH) and the Israelites came to Mount Sinai. Musa (PBUH) went up the mountain for 40 days to receive the Law. The Qur’an refers to this time with the following ayat.

And remember We took your covenant and We raised above you (The towering height) of Mount (Sinai) : (Saying): “Hold firmly to what We have given you and bring (ever) to remembrance what is therein: Perchance ye may fear God.” (Surat 2:63 – The Cow)

We appointed for Moses thirty nights, and completed (the period) with ten (more): thus was completed the term (of communion) with his Lord, forty nights. …” (Surat 7:142 – The Heights)

So what was the Law that Musa (PBUH) received? Though the complete Law was quite long (613 commands and regulations to decide what was and was not permitted – very much like regulations on what is haram and what is halal) and these commands make up much of the Taurat, he first received a set of specific commands written by Allah on tablets of stone. These were known as the Ten Commandments, which became the foundation for all the other regulations. These Ten were the absolute essentials of the Law – the prerequisites before all the others. The Qur’an refers to this in the ayat (which follows from those above)

And We ordained laws for him in the tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, (and said): “Take and hold these with firmness, and enjoin thy people to hold fast by the best in the precepts: soon shall I show you the homes of the wicked,- (How they lie desolate).”  Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right – them will I turn away from My signs: Even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as the way; but if they see the way of error, that is the way they will adopt. For they have rejected our signs, and failed to take warning from them. (Surat 7:145-146 – The Heights)

The Ten Commandments

So the Qur’an says that these Ten Commandments written in tablets of stone were signs by Allah himself.  But what were these commands? They are given here exactly from the Book of Exodus in the Taurat that Musa (PBUH) copied from the tablets of stone. (I will only add the numbers so you can count the commands)

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

1) You shall have no other gods before me.

2) You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3)You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4) Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5) Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

6) You shall not murder.

7) You shall not commit adultery.

8) You shall not steal.

9) You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. ”  Exodus 20:1-18

Often it seems that many of us who live in secular countries forget that these were commands. They were not suggestions. They were not recommendations. Nor were they negotiable. They were commands to be obeyed – to submit to. It was Sharia Law.  And the Israelites were in fear of God’s Holiness.

The Standard of Obedience

But an important question remains. How much or many commands were they to obey? The following verse comes just before the giving of the Ten Commandments

…they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “… if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. (Exodus 19:2-5)

And this verse was given just after the Ten Commandments

Then he (Musa) took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” (Exodus 24:7).

In the last book of the Taurat (there are five) which is Musa’s final message, he summarized the obedience to the Law in this way.

The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25)

Obtaining Righteousness

Here appears this word ‘righteousness’ again. It is a very important word. We first saw it in the Sign of Adam when Allah said to the children of Adam (us!):

“O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness – that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition” [Surat 7:26 (The Heights)]

Then we saw it in Sign 2 of Ibrahim when Allah promised him a son, and Ibrahim (PBUH) trusted this promise and it says then that

Abram believed the LORD, and he [i.e. Allah] credited it to him [i.e. Ibrahim] as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

(Please see Sign 2 of Ibrahim for a full explanation of what righteousness is).

Now here through the Law is a way to obtain righteousness because as it says “if we are careful to obey all this law … that will be our righteousness” (Deuteronomy 6:25)

But the condition to gain righteousness is severe. It says we need to ‘obey all this Law’ and only then do we get righteousness.  This reminds us of the Sign of Adam.  It took only one act of disobedience for Allah to judge and eject them from Paradise.  Allah did not wait for several disobedient acts.  It was the same with Lut’s wife in the Sign of Lut.  To help us really understand the seriousness of this I have linked here the many verses in Taurat that stress that this exact level of obedience to the Law is required.

Now let us think for a minute about what this means. Sometimes in the university courses I took, the professor would give us many questions (for example 25 questions) in the exam and then required only some of the questions of our choice to be answered. So we could, for example, choose 20 questions out of the 25 to answer in the exam. So someone might find one question too difficult and he could choose to skip that question but another student finds a different question difficult and he skips that one. In effect, we would only have to do 20 out of 25 questions of our choice. In this way the professor made the exam easier for us.

Many people treat the Ten Commandments of the Law in the same way. They think that Allah, after giving the Ten Commands, meant, “Attempt any five of your choice from these Ten”. But no, this was not how it was given. They were to obey and keep ALL the commands, not just some of them of their choice. Only in keeping all the Law would it ‘become their righteousness’.

But why do some people treat the Law like this? Because the law is very difficult to keep, especially since this is not just for a day but for your entire life.  So it is easy for us to deceive ourselves and lower the standard.  Please check these commands again and ask yourself, “Can I obey these? All? Every day? Without failing?” The reason we need to ask this question for ourselves is because the Ten Commandments are still in effect. Allah has not discontinued them even as other prophets (including Isa al Masih and Muhammad – PBUT – see here) have come after Musa (PBUH). Since these are the basic commands that deal with idolatry, the worship of One God, adultery, stealing, murder, lying etc. they are timeless and so we all need to ask if we are obeying them. No one can answer this question for another person – he can only answer it for himself. And he will answer them again on Judgment Day before Allah.

The all-important question before Allah

So I will pose a question, modified from Deuteronomy 6:25 so it is personal and you can answer for yourself. Depending on how you respond to this statement from the Law, the Law acts on you in different ways. So think carefully and then choose the answer that you think is true about you. Click on the answer that applies to you.

From Deuteronomy 6:24-25 personalized for you

The LORD commanded me to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that I might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And I have been careful to obey all this law before the LORD my God, as he has commanded me, and that will be my righteousness.”

Yes – this is true of me.

No – I have not obeyed all and this is not true of me.

Sign 1 of Musa: The Passover

About 500 years have now passed since the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and it is about 1500 BC. After Ibrahim died, his descendants through his son Isaac, now called Israelites, have become a vast number of people but also have become slaves in Egypt. This happened because Joseph, great-grandson of Ibrahim (PBUH) was sold as a slave to Egypt and then, years later, his family followed.  This is all explained in Genesis 45-46 – the First Book of Musa in the Taurat.

So we now come to the Signs of another great Prophet – Musa (PBUH) – which is told in the second Book of the Taurat , called Exodus because it is the account of how the prophet Musa (PBUH) leads the Israelites out of Egypt. Musa (PBUH) had been commanded by the LORD to meet Pharaoh of Egypt and it resulted in a contest between Musa (PBUH) and the sorcerers of Pharaoh. This contest has produced the famous nine plagues or disasters against Pharaoh which were signs for him. But Pharaoh has not submitted himself to the LORD’s will and is disobeying these signs.

The 10th Plague

So Allah is going to bring about a 10th and most fearsome plague (disaster). At this point the Taurat gives some preparation and explanation before the 10th plague comes. The Qur’an also refers to this point in the account in the following ayat

To Moses We did give Nine Clear Signs: As the Children of Israel: when he came to them, Pharaoh said to him: “O Moses! I consider thee, indeed, to have been worked upon by sorcery!

Moses said, “Thou knowest well that these things have been sent down by none but the Lord of the heavens and the earth as eye-opening evidence: and I consider thee indeed, O Pharaoh, to be one doomed to destruction!” (Surah 17 Isra’, The Night Journey: 101-102)

So Pharaoh is ‘doomed to destruction’. But how was this to happen? Allah had in the past given destruction in different ways. For the people of Noah’s day it was drowning in a world-wide flood, and for Lut’s wife it was turning into a pillar of salt. But this destruction was to be different because it was also to be a Sign for all peoples – a Great Sign. As the Qur’an says

Then did (Moses) show him the Great Sign. (Surah 79 Those Who Drag Forth: 20)

You can read the explanation of the 10th Plague in Exodus of Taurat in the link here and I hope you do so because it is a very complete account and it will help you in better understanding the explanation below.

Passover Lamb Saves from Death

This scripture tells us that the destruction decreed by Allah was that every firstborn son was to die that night except those staying in a house where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts of that house. The destruction to Pharaoh, if he did not obey, would be that his son and heir to the throne would die. And every house in Egypt would lose the firstborn son – if they did not submit by sacrificing a lamb and painting its blood on their doorposts. So Egypt faced a national disaster.

But in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts the promise was that everyone would be safe. Allah’s judgment would pass over that house. So this day and Sign was called Passover (since death passed over all houses where lamb’s blood had been painted on the doors). But for whom was the blood on doors a Sign? The Taurat tells us:

The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)

So, though the LORD was looking for the blood on the door, and when He saw it He would pass over, the blood was not a Sign for Him. It says that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people. And by extension it is a Sign for all of us who read this account in the Taurat. So how is it a Sign for us? After this event happened the LORD commanded them to:

Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’ (Exodus 12: 27)

 

Passover Starts Jewish Calendar

So the Israelites were commanded to celebrate Passover on the same day every year. The Israelite calendar is a little different from the Western one, so the day in the year changes slightly each year if you track it by the Western calendar, very similar to how Ramadan, because it is based on a different year-length, moves each year in the Western Calendar. But to this day, still 3500 years later, Jewish people continue to celebrate Passover every year in memory of this event from the time of Musa (PBUH) in obedience to the command given then by the LORD in the Taurat.

Scene from modern day when many lambs are being slaughtered for an upcoming Jewish Passover celebration

Here is a modern-day picture of Jewish people slaughtering lambs for the upcoming Passover.  It is similar to the Eid celebration.

And in tracking this celebration through history we can note something quite extraordinary. You can notice this in the Gospel (Injil) where it records the details of the arrest and trial of the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH):

“Then the Jews led Isa … to the palace of the Roman governor [Pilate]… to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” … [Pilate] said [to Jewish leaders] “…But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’? [i.e. the Masih]” They shouted back, “No not him…” (John 18:28, 39-40)

In other words, Isa al Masih (PBUH) was arrested and sent for execution right on the Passover day in the Jewish calendar. Now if you remember from Sign 3 of Ibrahim, one of the titles of Isa given to him by the prophet Yahya (PBUH) was

The next day John (i.e. Yahya) saw Jesus (i.e. Isa) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

Isa (PBUH) Condemned on Passover

And here we see the uniqueness of this Sign. Isa (PBUH), the ‘Lamb of God’, was sent for execution (sacrifice) on the very same day that all the Jews alive then (the year 33 AD in Western calendar) were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that had occurred 1500 years before. This is why the Jewish Passover celebration usually occurs every year in the same week as Easter – the remembrance of the passing of Isa al Masih – because Isa (PBUH) was sent for sacrifice on the same day. (Easter and Passover are not on the same exact date because Jewish and western calendars have different ways of adjusting the length of the year, but they are usually in the same week).

Now think for a minute about what ‘signs’ do. You can see some signs below here.

What Signs do
What do ‘signs’ do? They are pointers in our minds to make us think of something else

When we see the sign of the ‘skull and bones’ it is to make us think of death and danger. The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ is supposed to make us think about McDonalds. The sign of the ‘√’ on tennis player Nadal’s bandana is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this sign on Nadal. In other words, Signs are pointers in our minds to direct our thinking to the desired object. With this sign of Musa (PBUH) it is Allah who has given the sign for us. Why did He give this sign? Well the sign, with the remarkable timing of lambs being sacrificed on the same day as Isa must be a pointer to the sacrifice of Isa al Masih (PBUH).

The Sign of Musa - Passover
The Passover is a ‘Sign’ to me in that it points to the sacrifice of Isa al Masih.

It works in our minds like I have shown in the diagram here about me. The sign was there to point me to the giving up of Isa al Masih.  In that first Passover the lambs were sacrificed and the blood drained and spread so the people could live.  And thus, this Sign pointing to Isa is to tell us that he, ‘The Lamb of God’, was also given to death so we could find life.

The Sign of Ibrahim
The Sacrifice of the son of Ibrahim was to point us in our thinking to Isa al Masih

We saw in Sign 3 of Ibrahim that the place where Ibrahim (PBUH) was tested with the sacrifice of his son was Mount Moriah. But a lamb at the last moment was sacrificed instead of his son.  A lamb died so Ibrahim’s son could live.  Mount Moriah was the very same place where Isa (PBUH) was given for sacrifice. That was a Sign to make us think of Isa al Masih (PBUH) being given up for sacrifice by pointing to the location. Here in this Sign of Musa we find another pointer to the same event – the giving up of Isa (PBUH) for sacrifice – by pointing to the day in the calendar of the Passover Sacrifice.  A lamb’s sacrifice is once again used to point to the same event. Why? We continue with the next Sign of Musa to get further understanding. This Sign is the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.

But to finish this Sign, what happened to Pharaoh?  As we read in the passage from Taurat, he did not heed the warning and his firstborn son (the heir) died that night.  So he finally allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt.  But then he changed his mind and pursued them to the Red Sea.  There the LORD caused the Israelites to pass through the Sea but Pharaoh drowned along with his army.  After the nine plagues, the Passover deaths, and the loss of the army, Egypt was greatly diminished and never again regained her status as the world’s foremost power.  Allah had judged her.

Sign 3 of Ibrahim: Sacrifice

The great prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had been promised a son in the previous Sign. And Allah had kept his promise. In fact the Taurat continues the account of Ibrahim (PBUH) to describe how he got two sons. In Genesis 16 the Taurat tells how he got his son Ishmael with Hagar and then later Genesis 21 tells how he got his son Isaac with Sarai about 14 years later. Unfortunately for his household, this resulted in a great rivalry between the two women, Hagar and Sarai, and ended with Ibrahim sending Hagar and her son away. You can read here how this happened and how Allah blessed Hagar and Ishmael in another way.

The sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim: Basis for Eid al-adha

So with only one son left in his household Ibrahim (PBUH) encounters his greatest test but it is one that opens for us a greater understanding of the Straight Way. Please read the account from Taurat and Qur’an concerning the test of the sacrifice of his son here.  This story from the Books is the reason why the Eid al-adha is celebrated.  But this is not just a historical event.  It is more.

We can see from the account in the Books that this is a test for Ibrahim (PBUH), but it is more than just that. Since Ibrahim is a prophet this test is also a sign for us, so we could learn more about God’s care for us. In what way is this a sign? Please note the name that Ibrahim gave to the place where his son was to be sacrificed. This part of the Taurat is shown here so you can read it directly.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The LORD Will Provide’. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:13-14)

Allah had provided a ram so that his son would not have to be sacrificed.  But notice the name that Ibrahim (‘Abraham’ in the Taurat) gave to that place. He named it ‘The LORD will provide’. Is that name in the past tense, present tense or future tense? It is clearly in the future tense. And to be even more clear the comment which follows (which Musa – PBUH – inserted when he compiled this account into the Taurat about 500 years later) it repeats “…it will be provided”. Again this is in the future tense and looking to the future. Most people think that Ibrahim is referring to the ram (a male sheep) which was caught in the thicket and was sacrificed in place of his son. But when Ibrahim names the place the ram is already dead, sacrificed and burnt. If Ibrahim is thinking of the ram – already dead, sacrificed and burnt – he would have named it ‘The LORD has provided’, i.e. in the past tense. And Musa (pbuh), if he was thinking of the ram that took the place of Ibrahim’s son would have commented ‘And to this day it is said “On the mountain of the LORD it was provided”’. But both Ibrahim and Musa clearly give it a name in future tense and therefore are not thinking of the already dead and sacrificed ram.

So what are they thinking about then? If we look for a clue we see that the place where Allah told Ibrahim to go at the beginning of this Sign was:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (v.2)

This happened in ‘Moriah’. And where is that? Though it was a wilderness area in Ibrahim’s day (2000 BC), a thousand years later (1000 BC) the famous King Dawood (David) established the city of Jerusalem there, and his son Suleiman (Solomon) built the Temple there. We read in the Zabur about this that:

Then Solomon (Suleiman) began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David (Dawood) 2Chronicles 3:1

In other words, ‘Mount Moriah’ in the time of Ibrahim (and later Musa) was an isolated mountain top in the wilderness but 1000 years later with Dawood and Suleiman it became Jerusalem (Al Quds), the central and capital city of the Israelites where they built the Temple to the LORD. And to this very day it is a holy place for the Jewish people.

Isa al Masih and the sacrifice on Mount Moriah

And here we find a direct connection to Isa al Masih (PBUH) and the Injil. We see this connection when we know about one of the titles of Isa. Isa had many titles given to him. Perhaps the most well-known is the title ‘Masih’ (which is also ‘Christ’). But there is another title given to him that is very important. We see this in the Injil when the prophet Yahya (John the Baptist in the Injil) says:

The next day John (i.e. Yahya) saw Jesus (i.e. Isa) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

An important, but lesser known title of Isa (PBUH), given to him by Yahya was ‘The Lamb of God”. Now consider the end of Isa’s life. Where was he arrested and sentenced for execution?  It was in Jerusalem (which as we saw is the same as ‘Mount Moriah’). It is very clear stated during his arrest that:

When he [Pilate] learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time.’ (Luke 23:7)

In other words, the arrest, trial and sentencing of Isa happened in Jerusalem (= Mount Moriah).

Back to Ibrahim. Why did he name that place in the future tense ‘The LORD will provide’? He was a prophet and knew that something would be ‘provided’ there. When he is tested, the son of Ibrahim is saved from death at the last moment because a lamb dies in his place. Two thousand years later, Isa is called ‘Lamb of God’ and is arrested and sentenced to death on the same spot!

Jerusalem Timeline
Timeline of events at Jerusalem / Mt Moriah

The Sacrifice ransomed Ibrahim: from death

Is this important to us? I note how this sign of Ibrahim ends. In ayah 107 from the Qur’an it says of Ibrahim (PBUH) that

And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice

What does it mean to be ‘ransomed’?  To pay a ransom is to make a payment for someone who is held as a prisoner to set the prisoner free.  For Ibrahim (PBUH) to be ‘ransomed’ means that he was a prisoner of something (Yes even a great prophet!).  What was he a prisoner of?  The scene with his son tells us.  He was a prisoner of death.  Even though he was a prophet, death held him as a prisoner.  We saw from the Sign of Adam that Allah had made Adam and his Children (everyone – including the prophets) mortal – they were now prisoners of death.  But somehow in this drama of the sacrificed lamb Ibrahim (PBUH) was ‘ransomed’ from this.  If you review the sequence of signs (Adam, Cain&Abel, Noah, Ibrahim 1) thus far you will see that animal sacrifice was almost always practiced by the prophets.  They knew something about this that maybe escapes us.  And we can see that because this act also points forward into the future to Isa ‘the Lamb of God’ that it has something to do with him.

The Sacrifice: A Blessing for us

And the sacrifice of the lamb on Mount Moriah is important for us as well.  At the end of the exchange Allah declares to Ibrahim that

“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18)

If you belong to one of the ‘nations on earth’ (and you do!) this has to concern you because the promise is that you then can get a ‘blessing’ from Allah himself! Is that not worthwhile?! How does this connection of Ibrahim’s story with Isa make a blessing to us? And why? We note that Ibrahim (PBUH) was ‘ransomed’ and this is a clue for us, but apart from that the answer is not readily apparent here so we will continue with the Signs of Musa (he has two) and they will clarify these questions for us.

But here I just want to point out that the word ‘offspring’ here is in the singular. It is not ‘offsprings’ as in many descendants or peoples. The promise of a blessing was through an ‘offspring’ from Ibrahim in the singular – singular as in a ‘he’, not through many people or a group of people as in ‘they’.  The Passover Sign of Musa will now help us understand further.

Sign 2 of Ibrahim: Right-ness

What is it we all need from Allah? There are several answers to that question, but the Sign of Adam reminds us that our first and greatest need is righteousness. There we found Words addressed directly to us (The children of Adam).

O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness – that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition. (Surat 7:26)

So what is ‘righteousness’? The Taurat (in Deuteronomy 32:4) tells us about Allah that

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.

This is the picture of the Righteousness of Allah given in the Taurat. Righteousness means that one is perfect; that all (not just some or most but all) one’s ways are just, that one does no (not even a little) wrong; that one is upright. This is righteousness and this is how the Taurat describes Allah. But why do we need righteousness? We jump ahead to a passage in the Zabur to give the answer. In Psalm 15 (written by Dawood) we read:

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent…

When it is asked who may live on Allah’s ‘Holy Mountain’, that is another way of asking who may be with Allah in Paradise. And we can see from the answer that the one who is blameless and ‘righteous’ (v2) – that person can enter Paradise to be with Allah. This is why we need righteousness. Righteousness is required to be with Allah since He is perfect.

Now consider the second sign of Ibrahim (PBUH). Click here to open the passage from the Books. We see in the reading from the Taurat and Qur’an that Ibraham (PBUH) followed ‘his Way’ (Surat 37:83) and in so doing he obtained ‘righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6) – the very thing that the Sign of Adam told us we need. So the important question for us is: How did he get it?

Often I think that I get righteousness in one of two ways. In the first way (in my thinking) I get righteousness by believing in or acknowledging the existence of Allah. I ‘believe’ in Allah. And in support of this thinking, didn’t Ibrahim (PBUH) ‘believe the LORD’ in Genesis 15:6? But with more reflection I realized that this did not mean he only believed in the existence of one God. No Allah had given him a firm promise – that he would receive a son. And it was that promise that Ibrahim (PBUH) had to choose whether to believe or not. Think about it further, the devil (also known as Shaytan or Iblis) believes in the existence of Allah – and he certainly does not have righteousness. So simply believing in the existence of Allah is not what ‘the Way’ is about. That is not enough.

The second way I often think I can get righteousness is that I merit it or earn it from Allah by the good and religious things I do. Doing more good things than bad things, prayers, fasts, or doing a certain kind or amount of religious work allows me to deserve, earn or merit righteousness. But notice that is not what the Taurat says at all.

Abram believed the LORD, and he [i.e. Allah] credited it to him [i.e. Ibrahim] as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

Ibrahim did not ‘earn’ righteousness; it was ‘credited’ to him. So what is the difference? Well, if something is ‘earned’ you worked for it – you deserve it. It is like receiving wages for the work you do. But when something is credited to you, it is given to you. It is not earned or merited.

Ibrahim (PBUH) was a man who believed deeply in the existence of one Allah. And he was a man of prayer, devotion, and helping people (like helping and praying for his nephew Lut/Lot). It is not that we are to discard these things.  But ‘the Way’ described of Ibrahim here is so simple that we can almost miss it. The Taurat tells us that Ibrahim (PBUH) was given righteousness because he believed in a Promise given to him by Allah. This overturns the common understandings that we have about obtaining righteousness either by thinking that belief in Allah’s existence is enough, or by doing enough good and religious activities (prayers, fastings etc.) that I can earn or merit righteousness. This is not the way that Ibrahim took. He simply chose to believe the promise.

Now choosing to believe in this promise of a son was perhaps simple but it definitely was not easy.  Ibrahim (PBUH) could easily have disregarded the promise by reasoning that if Allah really had the desire as well as the power to grant him a son then He should have done so by now. Because at this point in his life, Ibrahim and Sarai (his wife) were old – well past the age of getting children. In the first Sign of Ibrahim that he was already 75 years old when he left his home country and went to Canaan. At that time Allah had promised him that he would get a ‘great nation’. And many years have passed since then so Ibrahim and his wife Sarai are now old indeed and have already waited a long time. And they still do not even have one child – and certainly not a ‘nation’. “Why has not Allah already given us a son if he could have done so”?, he would have wondered. In other words, he believed the promise of a coming son even though he probably had unanswered questions about the promise. He believed the promise because he trusted Allah who gave the promise – even though he did not understand everything about the promise. And to believe in that promise (a son coming past the age of child-bearing) would require believing that Allah would do a miracle for him and his wife.

Believing the promise would also demand active waiting. His whole life was, in a sense, interrupted while he was living in tents in the Promised Land of Canaan waiting (still many years) for the coming of the promised son. It would have been much easier to disregard the promise and return home to civilization in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) that he had left many years earlier where his brother and family still lived. So Ibrahim had to live with the difficulties of continuing to believe the promise – each and every day – for the many years while he waited for the promise to be given. His trust in the promise was so great that it took priority over normal goals for life – comfort and well-being. In a real sense, living in anticipation of the promise meant dying to normal goals of life. Believing the promise showed both his trust in and love for Allah.

Thus ‘believing’ the promise went far beyond just mental agreement to it. Ibrahim had to stake his life, reputation, safety, actions in the present and hopes for the future on this promise. Because he believed he actively and obediently waited.

This Sign is how Ibrahim (PBUH) believed the promise from Allah of a son, and in so doing he was also given, or credited, righteousness. In a real sense Ibrahim submitted himself to this promise. He could have chosen not to believe and returned back to the land he came from (modern-day Iraq). And he could have disregarded the promise while still believing in the existence of Allah and still continuing in his prayers,fastings, and helping other people. But then he would have only maintained his religion but not been credited ‘righteousness’. And as the Qur’an tells all us children of Adam – “the raiment of righteousness – that is the best”. This was the Way of Ibrahim.

We have learned much. Righteousness, the very thing we need for Paradise is not earned but credited to us.  And it is credited to us by trusting the Promise of Allah.  But who then pays for righteousness? We continue with Sign 3.

Sign 1 of Ibrahim: Blessing

Ibrahim! He is also known as Abraham and Abram (PBUH).  All three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam view him as model to follow. Arabs and Jews today trace their physical ancestry from him through his sons Ishmael and Isaac. He is also important in the line of the prophets because the later prophets build on him.  So we will look at the sign of Ibraham (PBUH) in several parts. Click here to read his first sign in the Qur’an and in the Taurat.

We see in the ayat from the Qur’an that Ibrahim (PBUH) was to have ‘tribes’ of people coming from him. These people were then to have a ‘great Kingdom’. But a man must have at least one son before he can have ‘Tribes’ of people, and he must also have a place before these people can have a ‘Great Kingdom’.

Promise to Ibrahim (PBUH)

The passage from the Taurat (Genesis 12:1-7) shows how Allah was going to unfold this double fulfillment of ‘tribes’ and a ‘Great Kingdom’ coming from Ibrahim (PBUH). Allah gave him a promise that was a foundation for the future. Let us review it further in detail. We see that Allah says to Ibrahim:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

 

Greatness of Ibrahim

Many people today where I live wonder if there is a God and how one can know if He really revealed himself through the Taurat.  Here before us is a promise, parts of which we can verify.  The end of this revelation records that Allah directly promised to Ibrahim (PBUH) that ‘I will make your name great‘.  We sit in the 21st century and the name of Ibrahim/Abraham/Abram is one of the most globally recognized names in history.  This promise has literally and historically come true.  The earliest copy of the Taurat that exists today is from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to 200-100 B.C.  This means that this promise has, at the very least, been in writing since that time.  At that time the person and name of Ibrahim was not well-known – only to the minority of Jews who followed the Taurat.  But today his name is great, so we can verify a fulfillment that has only come about after it was written down, not before.

This part of the promise to Ibrahim has definitely happened, as should be obvious even to unbelievers, and this gives us even greater confidence to understand the remaining part of this promise of Allah to Ibrahim.  Let’s continue to study it.

Blessing to us

Again, we can see the promise of a ‘great nation’ from Ibrahim and a ‘blessing’ to Ibrahim. But there is something else as well, the blessing is not only for Ibrahim because it says that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (i.e. through Ibrahim). This should make you and I sit up and take notice. Because you and I are part of ‘all peoples on earth’ – no matter what our religion, ethnic background, where we live, our social status, or what language we speak. This promise is for everybody alive today.  This is a promise for you.  Though our different religions, ethnic backgrounds and languages often divide people and cause conflict, this is a promise that looks to overcome these things that usually divide us. How? When? What kind of blessing? This was not clearly revealed at this point, but this Sign birthed a promise that is for you and me through Ibrahim (PBUH).  Since we know that one part of this promise has come true, we can have confidence that this other part that applies to us will also have a clear and literal fulfillment – we just need to find the key to unlock it.

We can notice that when Ibrahim received this promise he obeyed Allah and…

“So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4)

Map of Ibrahim’s journey

How long was this journey to the Promised Land? The map here shows his journey. He lived originally in Ur (Southern Iraq today) and moved to Haran (Northern Iraq). Ibrahim (PBUH) then journeyed to what was called Canaan in his day. You can see that this was a long journey. He would have traveled on camel, horse or donkey so it would have taken many months. Ibrahim left his family, his comfortable life (Mesopotamia at this time was the center of civilization), his security and all that was familiar to travel to a land that was foreign to him. And this, the Taurat tells us, when he was 75 years old!

Animal sacrifices like previous Prophets

The Taurat also tells us that when Ibrahim (PBUH) arrived in Canaan safely:

“So he built an altar there to the LORD “ (v. 7)

An altar would be where, like Qabil and Noah before him, he offered blood sacrifices of animals to Allah. We see that this is a pattern of how the prophets worshiped Allah.

Ibrahim (PBUH) had risked so much so late in his life to travel to this new land. But in so doing he submitted himself to the Promise of Allah to both be blessed and to be a blessing to all Peoples. And that is why he is so important to us. We continue with the Sign 2 of Ibrahim next.

The Sign of Lut

Lut (or Lot in the Taurat/Bible) was the nephew of Ibrahim (PBUH). He had chosen to live in a city full of wicked people. Allah used this situation as prophetic signs for all people. But what are the signs? To answer this we need to pay close attention to the different people in this account. Click here to read the account in both Taurat and Qur’an.

In the Taurat and Qur’an we can see that there are three groups of people, as well as the angels (or messengers) of Allah. Let us think about each in turn.

The men of Sodom

These men were extremely perverse. These men were hoping to rape other men (that really were angels but since the men of Sodom thought they were men they were planning to gang-rape them). This kind of sin was so evil that Allah determined to judge the entire city. The judgment was consistent with the judgment given to Adam. Back in the beginning Allah had warned Adam that the judgment for sin was death. No other kind of punishment (like beating, imprisonment etc.) was enough. Allah had said to Adam

“…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

Similarly, the punishment for the sins of the men of Sodom was that they also had to die. In fact the entire city and everyone living in it was going to be destroyed by fire from heaven. This is an example of a pattern that was later explained in the Injil:

For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

Lut’s sons-in-law

In the account of Noah, Allah judged the entire world, and consistent with the sign of Adam the judgment was death in a great flood. But the Taurat and Qur’an tell us that the entire world then was ‘evil’. Allah judged the men of Sodom but they too were perversely evil. With only these accounts I might be tempted to think that I am safe from Allah’s judgment, because I am not that evil. After all, I believe in Allah, I do many good things, and I have never committed such evil acts. So am I safe? The sign of Lut with his sons-in-law warns me. They were not part of the gang of men who were trying to commit homosexual rape. However, they did not take the warning of coming Judgment seriously. In fact, the Taurat tells us that they thought ‘he (Lut) was joking’. Was their fate any different from that of the other men of the city? No! They suffered the same fate. There was no difference in outcome between these sons-in-laws and the evil men of Sodom. The sign here is that everyone must take these warnings seriously. They are not only for perverse  people.

Lut’s wife

Lut’s wife is a great sign to us. In both Taurat and Qur’an she also perished along with the other people. She was the wife of a prophet. But her special relationship to Lut did not save her even though she also did not practice homosexuality like the men of Sodom did. The angels had commanded them:

‘let not any of you look back’ (Surat 11:81) The Hud or

‘Don’t look back’ (Genesis 19:17)

The Taurat tells us that

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26)

What exactly her ‘looking back’ means is not explained. But evidently she thought she could ignore even a small command from Allah and thought it would not matter. Her fate – with her ‘little’ sin – was the same as the men of Sodom with their ‘big’ sin – death. This is such an important sign for me to keep me from thinking that some ‘little’ sins are exempt from Allah’s judgment – Lut’s wife is our Sign to warn us against this wrong thinking.

Lut, Allah and the Angel Messengers

As we saw in the Sign of Adam, when Allah Judged he also provided Mercy. In that Judgment it was by providing clothes of skin. With Noah, when Allah Judged he again provided Mercy through the ark. Once again Allah, even in His Judgment is careful to also give Mercy. The Taurat described it:

When he (Lut) hesitated, the men (the angels that looked like men) grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. (Genesis 19:16)

What can we learn from this? As in the earlier Signs, the Mercy was universal but was provided only through one way – guiding them out of the city. Allah did not, for example, provide Mercy through also making a shelter in the city that could withstand the Fire from Heaven. There was only one way to receive the Mercy – follow the angels out of the city. Allah did not extend this Mercy to Lut and his family because Lut was perfect. In fact, in both Taurat and Qur’an we see that Lut was willing to offer his daughters to the rapists – not a noble offer. The Taurat tells us even that Lut ‘hesitated’ when the angels warned him. Even in all this, Allah extended Mercy by ‘grasping’ him and leading him out. This is a Sign for us: Allah will extend Mercy to us, and it does not depend on our merit. But we, like Lut before us, need to receive this Mercy in order for it to help us. The sons-in-law did not receive it and so they did not benefit from it.

The Taurat tells us that Allah extended this Mercy to Lut because his uncle, the great Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had prayed for him (see the passage in Genesis here). The Taurat continues through the signs of Ibrahim with the promise from Allah that ‘all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me’ (Genesis 22:18). This promise should alert us because no matter who we are, what language we speak, what religion we have, or where we live we can know that both you and I are part of ‘all nations on earth’. If Ibrahim’s intercession moved Allah to extend his Mercy to Lut, even though he did not merit it, how much more will the Signs of Ibrahim extend Mercy to us, who belong to ‘all nations’? With this thought we continue in the Taurat by looking next at the Signs of Ibrahim.

The Sign of Noah

We continue on in chronological order from the beginning (i.e. Adam/Eve and Qabil/Habil) and our next noteworthy prophet in the Taurat is Noah (PBUH), who lived about 1600 years after Adam.  Many people in the West find the story of the Prophet Noah (PBUH) and the flood unbelievable.  But the world is covered with sedimentary rock, which is formed by depositing of sediment during a flood.  So we do have physical evidence of this flood, but what was Noah’s sign that we should pay attention to?  Please click here to read the account of Noah (PBUH) in Taurat and Qur’an.

Missing vs. Receiving Mercy

When I talk to Westerners about Allah’s Judgment, the reply I often get is something like, “I’m not too worried about Judgment because He is so merciful I do not think He will really judge me”.  It is this account of Noah (PBUH) that caused me to really question that reasoning.  Yes, Allah is merciful, and since He does not change he was also full of mercy in the days of Noah (PBUH).  Yet the entire world (apart from Noah and his family) was destroyed in that judgment.  So where was His mercy then?  It was in the ark.  As Ayah 64 in Al-Araf told us:

We (Allah) delivered him (Noah PBUH), and those with him, in the Ark

Allah in His Mercy, using the prophet Noah (PBUH), provided an ark that was available for anybody.  Anyone could have entered that ark and received mercy and safety.  The problem was almost all people responded to the message in unbelief.  They mocked Noah (PBUH) and did not believe in the coming Judgment.  If only they had entered the ark they would have escaped the Judgment.

The passage in the Holy Qur’an also tells us that one of Noah’s sons did believe in Allah and the coming Judgment.  The very fact that he was trying to climb a mountain shows that he was trying to escape the judgment of Allah (thus he must have believed in Allah and the Judgment).  But again there was a problem.  He did not combine his belief with submission and chose instead to decide to work out his own way to escape the Judgment.  But his father told him:

This day nothing can save, from the command of Allah, any but those on whom He hath mercy!

This son needed the Mercy of Allah, not his own efforts to escape the Judgment.  His efforts to climb a mountain were futile.  So the result for him was exactly the same as with those who mocked the Prophet Noah (PBUH) – death by drowning.  If only he had entered the ark he would also have escaped from the Judgment.  From this we can know that merely a belief in Allah and Judgment is not enough to escape it.  In fact it is in submitting to the Mercy that Allah provides, rather than our own ideas, where we can be sure we will receive Mercy.  This is Noah’s sign to us – the ark.  It was a public Sign of Allah’s Judgment as well as His means of Mercy and escape.  While everyone could watch it being built it was that ‘clear sign’ of both coming Judgment and available Mercy.  But it shows that His mercy is only attainable through the provision that He has established.

So why did Noah find the Mercy of Allah?  The Taurat repeats several times the phrase

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him

I find that I tend to do what I understand, or what I like, or what I agree with.  I am sure that Noah (PBUH) must have had many questions in his mind about Allah’s warning of a coming flood and his command to build such a big ark on land.  I am sure he could have reasoned that since he was a good man in other areas he perhaps did not need to pay attention to building this ark.  But he did ‘all‘ that was commanded – not just what his father had told him, not what he understood, not what he was comfortable with, and not even what made sense to him.  This is a great example for us to follow.

The Door for salvation

The Taurat also tells us that after Noah, his family, and the animals entered the ark that

Then the Lord shut him in.

It was Allah that controlled and managed the one Door unto the ark – not Noah (PBUH). When Judgment came and the waters came, no amount of banging on the ark from the people outside could move Noah to open the door.  Allah controlled that one door. But at the same time those on the inside could rest in confidence that since Allah controlled the door that no wind or wave could force it open.  They were safe in door of Allah’s care and Mercy.

Since Allah does not change this also would apply to us today.  All the prophets warn that there is another coming Judgment – and this one by fire – but the sign of Noah (PBUH) assures us that along with His Judgment He will offer Mercy.  But we should look for his ‘ark’ with one door that will guarantee receiving Mercy.

Sacrifice of the Prophets

The Taurat also tells us that Noah (PBUH):

built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  (Genesis 8:20)

This fits the pattern of Adam/Eve and Qabil/Habil of sacrificing animals.  This means, once again, that by an animal’s death and draining of blood was how the Prophet Noah (PBUH) prayed to, and was accepted by, Allah.  In fact the Taurat says that just after this sacrifice Allah ‘blessed Noah and his sons’ (Genesis 9:1) and ‘made a covenant with Noah’ (Genesis 9:8) to never again judge all people with a flood.  So it seems that the sacrifice, death, and the draining of the blood of an animal by Noah was crucial in his worship of Allah.  How important is this?  We continue our survey through the Prophets of the Taurat, with Lot/Lut next.