The place was Mount Sinai. And the time was at night. A fire was noticed from a distance, a fire not like any fire used for seeking warmth or preparing a meal. It was a divine fire flickered in preparation for a holy event about to take place. From above the heavens, the invitation was sent for Prophet Musa (as) to answer the call from the Almighty Creator. Prophet Musa (as) had lost his way and the light emanating from that divine fire was the ‘guidance’ delivered to him and his nation after him.
As Prophet Musa (as) went to fetch that fire, he heard a voice calling him,
“Oh Musa, I am Allah, the Lord of the Universe!”
It is typical that with any visit from a guest to the host, the host presents a gift out of common etiquette. The host this time was the Almighty Allah, and the gift was the 10 Holy Commandments sent as guidance for the people of Musa. The Arabic word for what the Judeo-Christian literature call “commandments” is “wasiya”– which literally translates to “will.” It is like the will of the prophets (as) for their followers that they have left behind. A will is to be acted upon and is a summary of the most important things that one wants their inheritors to do after their death.
The Ten Commandments were given to Musa (as) at a time when the people of Banu Israel were lost and in need of guidance. These commandments presented through the divine leader represented hope for peace, dignity, humanity and morality. Similarly these are lessons for us Muslims when we are lost and in need of guidance, we should resort to our Creator and place our hopes in Him via the intermediates he has specified for us.
In the first 10 days of the Islamic lunar month Dhul-Hijjah, it is highly recommended to pray a 2-unit prayer every night reciting the following verse of the Holy Qur’an: And We appointed with Musa a time of thirty nights and completed them with ten (more), so the appointed time of his Lord was complete forty nights, and Musa said to his brother Haroon: Take my place among my people, and act well and do not follow the way of the mischief-makers. [7:142] The question begs itself why this verse out of all Qur’anic verses is to be recited for 10 consecutive days? What significance does this verse carry and what message is Allah (swt) trying to deliver to us?
Upon further reflection, we realize that the context of this verse is the journey of Prophet Musa (as) to the appointed place in Mount Sinai where he had a private “dialogue” with Allah (swt). The exact place of this meeting is traced to be in the holy land of Karbala – message that conveys to us that the divine chain of revelations and prophets all emanate from one source and for one purpose. The verse further points out that during his absence in this divine journey, he left a successor and a caretaker to watch over the people. This guardian was his brother Prophet Haroon (as). With further contemplation, one can easily make the correlation of this verse to the grand event which we celebrate and honor on the 18th day of Dhul-Hijjah, Eid Al-Ghadeer.
Indeed there is great resemblance in the story of Prophet Musa and Haroon to the Holy Prophet and Imam Ali. It was the day of divine appointment of the successorship, guardianship, and leadership of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) after the Holy Prophet’s anticipated departure from this world. It is as if Allah (swt) wanted us to contemplate on the great significance of Eid Al-Ghadeer long before that day comes so that we thank Allah (swt) daily from the first day of Dhul-Hijjah!
We are to be reminded of the most authentic Hadeeth Al-Manzila (Tradition of the Ranks) where the Holy Prophet (sa) said to Imam Ali (as), “Your position to me is like the position of Haroon to Musa, except that there will be no prophet after me.” (Bukhari, Vol 5, Book 59, #700) If Prophet Musa (as) through divine commandment found it necessary to appoint a successor during his absence of merely 40 days during his lifetime, isn’t more worthy that the Seal of Prophets also have a divinely appointed successor to act as guardian after his departure from this life to safeguard a religion which is the seal of religions sent to all of mankind?!
If the people of Musa (as) easily became misguided as they worshiped a golden calf when their Prophet has only been absent for few days, shouldn’t the concern and protection be greater when Prophet Muhammad (sa) departs this world and a newly born religion has emerged? Allah (swt) mentions in the Qur’an that Prophet Haroon was “blamed” for the failure of his people and not being able to assume his role of temporary successorship. Yet after further knowledge and explanation, Prophet Musa (as) understands that Haroon is excused since the people oppressed him and neglected his role of authority. This reminds us of the common argument that Imam Ali (as) should have claimed his right for successorship by force, yet through the story of Musa and Haroon (as), we find the divine answer given to us!
The appointment of Prophet Haroon was indeed a test to the people of Bani Israel and they failed that test when they did not follow Haroon and instead they worshipped the golden calf. As cited in the Quran, Haroon said to them, “O my people! You are being tried in this, and verily, your Lord is (Allah) the Most Beneficent, so follow me and obey my order.” [20:87]
The companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa) were tested. As were the Muslims tested with the successorship of Imam Ali (as). They were tested whether they would wholeheartedly accept Imam Ali (as) or not, whether they would keep their pledge of allegiance or break it. They were tested with whether they would replace him with another “Samirite” and follow the guidance of the representatives of devil who seek the disobedience of Allah (swt) and His prophets. (Allah) said: “Verily! We have tried your people in your absence, and As-Samiri has led them astray.” [20:85]
Today the Muslims are tested. And the test results await us the moment we depart this life and our scroll of deeds become apparent to us as the truth is unveiled before our eyes.