Do Muslims believe in Moses (PBUH) and the Torah?
Moses, known as Musa (PBUH) in the Quran, is highly revered in Islam as a prophet of God and is mentioned more times than any other prophet in the Quran. He is a descendant of Joseph (known as Yusuf PBUH in the Quran) and played a definitive role in restoring freedom to the Israelites.
Yet, along with holding Moses (PBUH) in high esteem, Muslims also consider the Torah to be a divine book. God states in the Quran:
“Verily, We did send down the Taurat (Torah – to Moses), therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allah’s (God’s) Will, judged the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests (too judged the Jews by the Torah after those Prophets) for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s (God’s) Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (O Jews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price.” (Quran 5:44)
According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was revealed to Moses (PBUH) by God.
While the original Torah no longer exists, great care has been taken in preserving the remaining manuscripts of the Torah by the Jewish people. These date back centuries to a time quite close to Moses’ (PBUH) time.
Even though the Jewish scholars deem these manuscripts to be essentially the text which was revealed to Moses (PBUH), Muslims do not believe that this Torah is the one originally given to Moses (PBUH).
Furthermore, Muslims believe that the Quran supersedes the Torah since it is the final revelation of God.
In the following below, we’ll be explaining the life of Moses (PBUH) according to Islam. We strongly encourage and request our fellow Jews and Christians to take the time to read the perspective below and see the similarities between the faiths for themselves:
What happened in the early years of Moses’ (PBUH) life?
In line with the Judaic view, we find from the Quran that when Prophet Moses (PBUH) was born in Egypt, his life was in great danger as the Pharaoh was persecuting the Israelites.
“Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections depressing a group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a maker of mischief.” (Quran 28:4)
Therefore, Moses’ mother was greatly worried about her son’s fate; then, the Quran specifies that God inspired her to take an unlikely action:
“So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: “Suckle (thy child) but when thou hast fears about him cast him, into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our messengers.” (Quran 28:7)
When soldiers appeared outside, the mother of Moses (PBUT) placed the basket containing her baby into the river and watched as the current carried the basket to the river bank of the house of the Pharaoh.
Moses’ sister hid and kept watch on the progress of her brother across the river. While the Torah maintains that the Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, the Quran differs and explains that it was the Pharaoh’s wife who insisted that they adopt him:
“The wife of Pharaoh said: “(Here is) a joy of the eye for me and for thee: slay him not. It may be that he will be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not (what they were doing)!” (Quran 28:9)
When Moses (PBUH) was hungry, he refused to nurse from any of the foster mothers provided for him.
At this point, Moses’ sister, posing as a bystander, suggested that she could bring someone who may be successful in feeding him; unknown to his rescuers, she brought the mother of Moses (PBUH), a point mentioned in chapter Exodus of the Torah as well.
Moses (PBUH) readily nursed from her and the two were rejoined:
“Thus did We restore him to his mother that her eye might be comforted, that she might not grieve and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true: but most of them do not understand.” (Quran 28:13)
What was Moses’ (PBUH) first encounter with God?
Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s home and was well-acquainted with the state affairs. When he reached adulthood, he once intervened in a fight between an Israelite and an Egyptian, killing the latter inadvertently.
The Quran mentions that guilt consumed him and he asked God to forgive him. Fearing for his life, he fled and migrated to Madian, where he found refuge in a household, and married one of the daughters whilst serving her father as a worker.
After some time, Moses returned to Egypt with his family. On the way near Mount Tur, he saw a fire, and proceeded towards it:
“But when he came to the (Fire), a voice was heard from the right bank of the valley, from a tree in hallowed ground: “O Moses! Verily I am Allah (God) the Lord of the Worlds.” (Quran 28:30)
What miracles did Moses (PBUH) perform?
This was the beginning of the prophetic mission of Moses (PBUH), as also chronicled in the Torah.
According to the Quran, assisted by his brother Aaron, Moses (PBUT) was given a dual task by God: to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh’s cruelty and to advise the Egyptians to forsake their godless ways by embracing the worship of One God alone.
To further assist Moses (PBUH), God gave him the ability to perform miracles with his hand and staff; his hand could glow when placed under his arm and his staff could turn into a snake.
Moses visited the household of the Pharaoh, conveyed to him the message of One God and showed him the miracles. The Pharaoh watched, refused to accept the message and replied:
“He (Pharaoh) said, “Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Moses? Then we will surely bring you magic like it, so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned.” [Moses] said, “Your appointment is on the day of the festival when the people assemble at mid-morning.” (Quran 20: 57-59)
The day of the event was set and the best magicians within Egypt had been assembled. They threw their ropes and Moses (PBUH) looked on in apprehension as he saw a number of snakes appear:
“Allah (God) said, “Fear not. Indeed, it is you who are superior. And throw what is in your right hand; it will swallow up what they have crafted. What they have crafted is but the trick of a magician, and the magician will not succeed wherever he is.” So the magicians fell down in prostration. They said, “We have believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.” (Quran 20: 68-70)
The staff of Moses (PBUH) had turned into real snake and swallowed the illusioned snakes crafted by the magicians. The magicians realised that this was not magic – this was a miracle from God and they immediately fell down in prostration.
Moses (PBUH) continued to warn Pharaoh and a range of punishments appeared and went as the Pharaoh continued to ignore the signs, whilst accusing him of sorcery, and persecuting him and the Children of Israel.
“And they said, “No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you.” So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.” (Quran 7: 132-133)
Moses was eventually commanded to gather the Israelites; he showed his unwavering faith in God when he led his followers to the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army advanced behind them and the open sea was in front:
“And when the two bodies saw each other, the people of Moses said: “We are sure to be overtaken.” (Moses) said: “By no means! My Lord is with me! Soon will He guide me!” Then We told Moses by inspiration: “Strike the sea with your staff.” So it divided, and each separate part became like the huge, firm mass of a mountain. And We made the other party approach thither. We delivered Moses and all who were with him; but We drowned the others. Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful.” (Quran 26:61-68)
When the time for retribution came, not only did God cause Pharaoh and his army to drown. God also states in the Quran regarding the body of Pharoah that:
“Today we will preserve your body (O Pharaoh), that you may be a Sign to those who come after you! But indeed, many among mankind are neglectful of Our Signs.” (Quran 10:92)
In the nineteenth century, the body of Pharoah was indeed found. Maurice Bucaille was tasked with the responsiblity of preserving the newly discovered body which is now on display at the Museum of Cairo.
God also raised the status of the Israelites.
“And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed. And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because of what they had patiently endured.” (Quran 7:137)
Hence, Pharaoh and the Children of Israel witnessed many miracles by the Will of God, such as the glowing of the hand, the transformation of the staff into a snake and the splitting of the red sea.
What was Moses’ (PBUH) relationship like with the Children of Israel?
In the Quran, God says that He called Moses (PBUH) and spoke directly to him over a period of forty nights. During this period, God revealed religious knowledge to Moses (PBUH) and chose him to continue to lead his people:
“And We wrote for him on the tablets – instructions and explanations for all things, (saying), “Take them with determination and order your people to take the best of it.” (Quran 7:145)
When Moses (PBUH) returned to his people with the instructions, he found them worshipping a calf.
The Torah at this point incriminates Aaron (PBUH) as one of those who worshipped the calf. Yet, when Moses accuses him of this, the Quran defends Aaron (PBUT) in the following verse:
“[Aaron] said, “O son of my mother, indeed the people oppressed me and were about to kill me, so let not the enemies rejoice over me and do not place me among the wrongdoing people.” (Quran 7:150)
Moses then asked God to forgive him and his brother.
Thus began a series of events in which Moses (PBUH) repeatedly guided the Children of Israel towards the worship of One God, whilst enduring from some, their complaints and taunts:
“And remember when Moses said to his people, “O my people, why do you harm me while you certainly know that I am the messenger of Allah to you?” (Quran 61:5)
God continued to bless the Israelites by bestowing many favours upon them, as well as inflicting punishments on them for their disobedience. Both of these are greatly detailed in the second chapter of the Quran which is titled: Al Baqarah (The Cow).
When it was time for them to enter Canaan, the Children of Israel rebelled against Moses (PBUH) and the command of God. In telling this story, the Quran relates Moses’ (PBUH) powerlessness over his own people:
“He (Moses) said: “O my Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother: so separate us from the rebellious people!” (5:25)
Despite the many trials and tribulations which came their way, Moses and Aaron (PBUT) continued to submit themselves completely to the will of God. Indeed, God exonerates Moses and Aaron (PBUT) of any wrongdoing in the Quran and depicts them as His grateful servants.
In the end…
…the many similarities between the accounts of Moses in the Torah and the Quran signify the common ancestral ties of the two faiths.
Just as Muhammad (PBUH) invited the pagan Arabs to worship the One God, Moses also kept steering his wayward people toward monotheism.
The Quran, which Muslims believe has been preserved since the time it was revealed to the prophet Muhammad, contrasts with the Torah by correcting misconceptions that have developed historically about Moses (PBUT).
As such, God elevates Moses (PBUH) to a position of honour in the Quran (33:69), freeing him from any blame for the actions of his people.
Subsequently, the main difference between Islam and Judaism is the fact that the Jews refuse to acknowledge the prophethood of both Jesus and Muhammad (PBUT). In Islam, Muslims accept and acknowledge whomsoever God has chosen as His prophets:
Say, “We have believed in Allah (God) and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendants, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims (who) submit to Him (God alone).” (Quran 3:84)