“I used to rule the world / Seas would rise when I said the word.” – Coldplay, Viva La Vida
A post by a fellow blogger has inspired me to write about the importance of looking to God for validation and looking inward rather than constantly seeking the approval of others. I want to approach this topic by exploring the Biblical/Quranic story of Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. His story is filled with ups and downs and it should remind us that while popular opinion fluctuates, our values should be rooted in solid foundations that do not shake.
Moses, Moshe, Musa, or Moyses, depending on the language one uses, was born to the Children of Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt. The Egyptians thought so little of the Israelites that they slaughtered their male children. They used them like beasts of burden in building their temples and pyramids. So Moses began life with no status.
But Allah inspired his mother, whom the Jews called Yocheved, to place the baby Moses in a basket and place him in the Nile. One etymological theory suggests that Musa got his name from being brought out of the river near a stand of trees, “mu” being a word for water and “sha” trees. The Nile carried Moses to the wife of Pharaoh, known to Muslims as Asiya, who chose to adopt the baby as her own, not knowing he was an Israelite. The baby deemed worthless suddenly became part of the royal household in the most powerful empire of the age.
When Moses grew up, he discovered his true identity as a Levite, a member of the family of the Hebrew priests. He went to see how the Israelites were being treated and he saw an Egyptian accosting one of his tribe. Moses must have felt conflicted, knowing that he was Egyptian by upbringing but Hebrew by blood. He struck the Egyptian and killed him. Moses was facing an identity crisis to which many people throughout history could relate. He didn’t know who he was, whom to trust, and with whom to identify.
When the Egyptians discovered what Moses had done, they wanted to execute him for murder. After being tipped off, Moses fled. He wound up in Midian where he encountered a family of herders. The patriarch, Jethro or Shueyb, had several daughters. Moses was kind to them and they repaid his kindness by welcoming him into their family, allowing him to marry Zipporah, one of Jethro’s daughters. Moses knew that Egypt saw him as a wanted criminal, a murderer, but he knew he was better than that. He did not become mired in self-doubt and depression, but instead found a way to do what in modern parlance would be called “reinventing” himself.
Moses would later be exalted with the unique honor of speaking directly with God. God told him to return to Egypt and lead his people out of oppression. Again Moses experienced a head-spinning change in status, going from wanted criminal to messenger of Allah. Yet Moses stayed remarkably placid through whatever he went through. He was also empowered to do miracles, at one point, parting the Red Sea, recounted in the Coldplay lyric with which I began this post. Even after speaking to God, he never acted arrogant or proud. He stayed true to the values of kindness and equity which guided him through his struggle.
There is so much to say about Moses and I have only scratched the surface. What I hope my readers will take away is that life has ups and downs. One will get jobs and lose jobs. We find love and we get our hearts broken. People we love are born and they die. One will be loved and be hated. We will be lost if we allow these events to break us. Yet if we can remain strong in our faith in Allah and cherish the best virtues within us, we can succeed in this world and the next.