Islam is God’s True Religion and traces its history back to the first human, Adam. It is the Way of Life of every Messenger of God throughout history. We are taught to follow the guidance and example of all the Messengers of God who taught the universal message of ‘Worship the One True God on His terms and follow His commandments.’ In doing so, Muslims have a stronger claim to the Messengers of God than any other group who may claim to follow them. Others may claim these messengers but have unfortunately adulterated and corrupted their teachings.
The Messenger Muhammed is quoted to have said, ‘We have a better claim to Moses than them,’ and ‘I have the best claim of Jesus.’ These statements took place on different occasions and about different communities who claim these Messengers of God. Muhammad’s claim to these great Messengers of God is manifest in following in their tradition of worshipping the same God that they did according to His terms. Muhammad’s role was to affirm the truth of those that came before him and to correct the false doctrines that people attribute to these great men of God.
The most oft-repeated story in the Quran is that of Moses and his people. Moses is from the Israelites, the family, and the offspring of Jacob. Jacob was a Messenger of God and the patriarch who had migrated to Egypt with his family during the time of his son Joseph. The Israelites settled there as nobility due to the status of their kin in Egypt. Several generations would pass and the social conditions would change as the Israelites assimilated more into Egyptian society and culture, and they lost the edge they had in devotion and dedication to God.
The biggest change however was that the King of Egypt felt threatened by the Israelites and started persecuting them, turning them into the lowest class in society and killing their male children out of his fear and paranoia. Moses was born in this environment and was spared the fate of other male children by a miracle of God, which resulted in him being raised in the house of Pharaoh from infancy. As a young adult, Moses left Egypt in a long self-imposed exile that led to his commission by God to be a Messenger to the Israelites and to confront Pharaoh. Upon his return to Egypt, God gave Moses many miracles and gave Pharaoh many chances. Close to the end of this story, God commands Moses to take the Israelites out of Egypt to the Land of their ancestors, the Holy Land. When Pharaoh found out, he was not having it and decided to mobilize his army to capture the Israelites. God showed the Israelites a great miracle by splitting the sea for them to pass unharmed. When Pharaoh and his army also tried to cross, God made them drown.
The greatest event in that story was the day God saved Moses and the Israelites from the tyrannical king of Egypt, the Pharaoh and his army. This event is known in the Bible as Exodus, which is also the name of the second book in the Old Testament. The version of the story in the Quran is very powerful. (See Quran, 20:9-82, 26:10-66, 28:3-44, 40:23-46, 44:17-33, 7:103-137, 10:75-93, 17:101-104, 51:38-40 )
“Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you…. Remember when We saved you from Pharaoh’s people, who subjected you to terrible torment, slaughtering your sons and sparing only your women – this was a great trial from your Lord – and when We parted the sea for you, so saving you and drowning Pharaoh’s people right before your eyes.”
In Islam, we are told that Moses and his followers fasted to God in gratitude for having saved them that day. The Jewish community in Medina at the time of the revelation of the Quran used to consider this day a day of celebration. Muhammed, the Messenger of God, taught his followers, the Muslims, that we are more deserving of Moses than others who falsely claim to follow him. Furthermore, we should fast to God in gratitude as Moses and the believers with him did. Thanksgiving is a day of fasting, not of feasting.
The event took place on the 10th day of the first lunar month of the Islamic calendar, called Muharram, hence the name Ashura (The Tenth). It is recommended for us to fast this day by refraining from food, drink, and intimate relations from dawn to sunset. The reward we are promised and the incentive for fasting this day is an expiation for the sins of the past year. If one is also able to, it would be best to fast a day before the 10’th to follow the statement of the Messenger Muhammed in being different than those of other traditions.
It should be noted that the month of Muharram is one of the four sacred months in Islam. This month is called God’s Sacred Month. It is highly recommended to fast voluntarily throughout this month as it is beloved to God to do so.
As new Muslims, we should make sure that we are connected to sacred history and to the tradition of the Messengers of God by fasting on this day. Let’s plan to learn more about the stories of the Messengers of God in the Quran and to keep their legacy alive, ‘Worship the One True God on His terms and follow His commandments.’
For more on the story of Moses in Islam please see: