Exile in Madyan

Shaykh Ahmad El Azhary explores the Lessons from the Live of the Prophets in the Quran. He unlocks their aim, which is to direct us towards Allah Almighty and the Day of Judgement. This is the third article in the series.

Allah prepared Musa in this time by taking him away from the land of Egypt, to the land of Madyan where he again appeared to be a helper.

Even his exile from Egypt was because he tried to help someone in distress. In the fight between an Israelite and an Egyptian,  tried to hinder an injustice.

In severe legal trouble, Musa (upon him be peace) left the land of Egypt. He went to the land of Madyan. We overlook, often, the distance Musa (upon him be peace) traversed. About a thousand kilometers. 

He had the experience of crossing Sinai as a way of preparing him to lead Bani Israel through Sinai later on. When he led Bani Israel into Sinai, Musa (upon him be peace) had already been there.

The Land of Madyan

He arrived in the land of Madyan. Allah facilitated him a house, a family and a father-in-law who looked after him. 

Allah says:

وَجَآءَ رَجُلٌۭ مِّنْ أَقْصَا ٱلْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَىٰ قَالَ يَـٰمُوسَىٰٓ إِنَّ ٱلْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَٱخْرُجْ إِنِّى لَكَ مِنَ ٱلنَّـٰصِحِينَ

فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَآئِفًۭا يَتَرَقَّبُ ۖ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِى مِنَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

“So it befell that a man of consequence came from the far edge of town in haste. He said, ‘O Moses, verily the nobles are taking counsel about you between themselves to slay you; So leave forthwith: Verily I am of those who sincerely mean you well.’ So he departed the city in fear, looking about him. He said, ‘My Lord, save me from the people of wrongdoers.’” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 28:20-21]

Musa arrived in the land of Madyan and met Shuayb (upon them be peace). What did Shuayb (upon him be peace) say to him?

 نَجَوۡتَ مِنَ ٱلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِینَ

“You are saved from the people of wrongdoers!” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 28:25]

Allah answered his prayers (upon him be peace) in the exact words. 

Return to Egypt

Musa (upon him be peace) became a shepherd in Madyan. This taught him patience. After those years Allah commanded Musa (upon him be peace) to return to Egypt.

On his way back, crossing the Sinai, he arrived at the sacred valley of Tua where he (upon him be peace) camped with his family. 

Allah tells us that Musa (Upon Him Be Peace) told his family:

ٱمۡكُثُوۤا۟ إِنِّیۤ ءَانَسۡتُ نَارا لَّعَلِّیۤ ءَاتِیكُم مِّنۡهَا بِقَبَسٍ

“Remain here, I have clearly discerned a fire; Haply I may fetch you a firebrand from it” [Keller, The Quran Behld 20:10]

The word قَبَس typically relates to taking some fire with the purpose of light. 

In another place:

إِذۡ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِأَهۡلِهِۦۤ إِنِّیۤ ءَانَسۡتُ نَارا سَـَٔاتِیكُم مِّنۡهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوۡ ءَاتِیكُم بِشِهَاب قَبَس لَّعَلَّكُمۡ تَصۡطَلُونَ

“And make mention to them when Moses said to his family, ‘Verily I have clearly espied a fire: I shall bring you some word of our way from it, or a burning branch of the fire, that haply you may warm yourselves.’” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 27:7]

And in Sura al-Qasas:

إِنِّیۤ ءَانَسۡتُ نَارا لَّعَلِّیۤ ءَاتِیكُم مِّنۡهَا بِخَبَرٍ 

“Verily I have clearly made out a fire; Haply I may bring you some word of our right way from it” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 28:29]

Normally the news relates to help. He went to seek light or to seek help or as the Quran says:

 أَوۡ جَذۡوَة مِّنَ ٱلنَّارِ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَصۡطَلُونَ

“Or a large burning brand from the fire, that haply you may get warm” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 28:29]

He went out seeking one of three things: finding some company to give him some help or finding some light to remove the darkness of the night or on top of that, finding some heat to possibly cook or get some form of safety. 

The Mission

In this situation, where people would normally be afraid, you’re coming, he finds his safety. He receives Prophethood. 

We learn that Allah asked:

وَمَا تِلۡكَ بِیَمِینِكَ یَـٰمُوسَىٰ

“‘And what is that in your right hand, O Moses?’” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 20:17]

قَالَ هِیَ عَصَایَ أَتَوَكَّؤُا۟ عَلَیۡهَا وَأَهُشُّ بِهَا عَلَىٰ غَنَمِی وَلِیَ فِیهَا مَـَٔارِبُ أُخۡرَىٰ

“He said, ‘It is my rod: I lean on it, and thrash down spent leaves for my sheep and goats, and it has many other uses for me.’” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 20:18]

In another place Allah says: 

ٱذۡهَبۡ إِلَىٰ فِرۡعَوۡنَ إِنَّهُۥ طَغَىٰ

“‘Go now with them and Our word to Pharaoh; Verily he has utterly transgressed.’”[Keller, The Quran Beheld 20:24]

 In another place, Musa (upon him be peace) responds:

قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّی قَتَلۡتُ مِنۡهُمۡ نَفۡسا فَأَخَافُ أَن یَقۡتُلُونِ

“He said, ‘My Lord, I have killed a man of them and fear they may slay me first.” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 28:33]

And Musa said:

وَأَخِی هَـٰرُونُ هُوَ أَفۡصَحُ مِنِّی لِسَانا

“‘And my brother Aaron is clearer in speech than I” [28:34]

Allah eliminated and removed all these barriers, reminding us:

وَٱصۡطَنَعۡتُكَ لِنَفۡسِی

“‘And I chose you with care for my very Self.” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 20:41]


Musa went to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was very cunning and evil. He said to Musa (upon him be peace):

وَفَعَلۡتَ فَعۡلَتَكَ ٱلَّتِی فَعَلۡتَ وَأَنتَ مِنَ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِینَ

“‘And you did the deed you did, while you were of the truly thankless.’” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 26:19]

Pharaoh used the verb فَعَلَ in three ways. This is a form of ambiguity: to make the claim big. In reality, Musa (upon him be peace) killed someone inadvertently and he ran away because he was not secured a fair trial. It’s as simple as that. 

Pharaoh tried to stop Musa (upon him be peace) from talking about the original mission that he has come for but Musa did not swerve.

Bear in mind that the Pharaohs in Egypt claimed that they were gods. The people of Egypt used to worship them and were very afraid of them. The Egyptians were afraid of talking to their kings. Allah empowered Musa (upon him be peace) to speak to Pharaoh one to one because he grew up in his house. 

The story of Prophet Musa (upon him be peace) shows us the sacrifices that he went through. Of the many lessons and benefits that can be gathered we would do well to realise the importance of turning to Allah in all states.