18. That is, when he had attained his full mental and physical development. In this connection, different ages of the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) have been mentioned in the Jewish traditions. Some say he was 18, others have mentioned 20 years and still others 40 years. According to the New Testament, he was 40 years old. (Acts, 7: 23). But the Quran does not mention any age. For the purpose of the incident being mentioned in the following verses, it is enough to know that he had attained his full maturity at that time.
19. Hukum implies wisdom, understanding, and power of judgment. Ilm is both religious and worldly knowledge. The Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) became familiar with the teachings of his forefathers, Prophets Joseph, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham (peace be upon all of them) through his contact with his parents, and with the sciences prevalent in Egypt by virtue of his training as a prince in the king’s palace. Here the gift of Hukm (wisdom) and Ilm (knowledge) does not refer to the gift of prophethood, because prophethood was bestowed on Moses several years afterwards, as is mentioned below, and has already been mentioned in (Surah Ash-Shuaraa: Ayat 21).
Regarding his education and training while as a prince, the New Testament says: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” The Talmud says: Moses grew up, a handsome lad, in the palace of the king: he dressed royally, was honored by the people, and seemed in all things of royal lineage. He visited the land of Goshen daily, observing the rigor with which his brethren were treated. Moses urged the king of Egypt to grant the men of Goshen one day of rest from the labor, in each week, and the king acceded to his request. Moses said, “If you compel them to labor steadily their strength will fail them; for your benefit and profit allow them at least one day in the week for rest and renewal of strength”, And the Lord was with Moses, and his fame extended through all the land.
20. It might be the early morning, or midday in summer, or night in winter, when the roads were deserted and there was all quiet in the city. The words “entered the city” indicate that the royal palaces were situated outside the capital, away from the common population. The words used are “entered the city” and not “came out in the city”, because the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) lived in the royal palace.
21. The word wakaza in the original means both giving a slap and giving a blow. We have adopted “Moses gave a blow” for the reason that a blow can cause death but not a slap.
22. One can imagine the state of utter remorse and confusion in which the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) uttered these words when he saw the Egyptian fall down after receiving the blow and breathe his last. He had no intention to murder, nor is a blow struck to kill, nor can one expect that a healthy person would die on receiving a blow. That is why the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) exclaimed: “This is the work of Satan! He has made me do this in order to work some great mischief, so that I am accused of killing an Egyptian while defending an Israelite, and a violent storm of anger and indignation is aroused in the whole of Egypt not only against me but the whole Israelite community.” In this connection, the Bible gives a different version from the Quran. It declares the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) to be guilty of willful murder. It says that when Moses saw an Egyptian and an Israelite fighting, “He (Moses) looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, He slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2: 12). The same is the version of the Talmud also. Now anybody can see how the Israelites brand the characters of their elders with infamy and how the Quran exonerates them. The verdict of common sense also is that a wise and discreet person, who was to become a great Prophet in the future, and who had to give man a great code of law and justice, could not be such a blind nationalist that seeing a member of his own community fighting with a man of the other community, he would be so infuriated that he would kill the other person willfully. Evidently, it could not be lawful to kill the Egyptian only for the sake of rescuing an Israelite from his tyranny.
23. What the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) meant by this prayer was: “O my Lord, forgive this sin of mine, which you know I have not committed willfully, and also cover and conceal it from the people.”
24. This has two meanings and both are implied here: Allah pardoned Moses’ error as well as concealed his sin from the people so that neither any Egyptian, nor any official of the Egyptian government, passed that way at that time that he might witness the incident. So, the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) got an opportunity to escape undetected from the place of the occurrence of murder.
26. This pledge of the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) is in very comprehensive words. What he meant by this was that he would neither become a helper of an individual, nor of those who perpetrated cruelty and tyranny in the world. Ibn Jarir and several other commentators have rightly understood this to mean that on that very day the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) pledged to sever his relations with Pharaoh and his government, for it was a tyrannical government, which had set up a wicked system on God’s earth. He realized that it was not for any honest person to continue as a functionary of a tyrannical kingdom and become an instrument of increasing its power and grandeur.
The Muslim scholars in general have deduced from this pledge of the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) that a believer should completely refrain from helping a tyrant, whether the tyrant is an individual, or a group, or a government, or a kingdom. Somebody asked Ata bin Abi Rabah (may Allah be pleased with him), the well-known follower of the companions, “My brother is secretary to the governor of Kufah, under the Umayyids. Though he does not decide the disputes of the people, the decisions, however, are issued through his pen. He has to continue in this service because this is his only source of income.” Ata recited this verse, and said, “Your brother should throw away his pen: the Provider is Allah.”
A secretary asked Amir Shabi, “O Abu Amr, I am only responsible for writing down and issuing the judgments: I have nothing to do with passing them. Is it lawful provision for me?” He replied, “It is just possible that a sentence of murder is passed against an innocent person and it is issued under your pen; or a person’s property is confiscated unjustly; or somebody’s house is ordered to be pulled down, and the orders are issued under your pen.” Then the said Imam recited this verse, hearing which the secretary said, “After this day my pen will not be used for issuing judgments of the Umayyids.” The Imam said, “Then Allah also will not deprive you of your daily bread.”
Abdur Rehman bin Muslim had only asked Dahhak to go to Bukhara and distribute the salaries of the officials there, but he declined even this. When his friends said there was nothing wrong in it, he replied, “I do not want to be a helper of the unjust in any way.” All of Imam Abu Hanifah’s authentic biographers including Al-Muwaffaq al-Makki, lbn al-Bazzaz al- Karvari, Mulla Ali Qari, etc. have related that Hasan bin Qahtubah, the commander-in-chief of Mansur, had tendered his resignation only on his instruction, saying, “Whatever I have done to support your kingdom until today, is enough for me if it was in the cause of Allah, but if it was for injustice and tyranny, then I do not want to add to my crimes in my book of conduct.”
27. That is, “You seem to be a quarrelsome man: you have a new quarrel daily with one or the other person.”
28. Here, the Biblical version is different from the Quranic. The Bible says that the fight on the next day was between two Israelites, but according to the Quran this fight also was between an Israelite and an Egyptian. This second version seems to be credible, for the manner in which the secret of the murder of the first day became known, as is being mentioned below, could be possible only if a member of the Coptic community had come to know of the matter. An Israelite’s knowledge of it could not be so treacherous: he could not have gone to inform the Pharaonic government of such a heinous crime committed by the prince, who was a great supporter of his own community.
29. The one who cried out was the same Israelite whom the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) wanted to help against the enemy. When after scolding and rebuking him, he turned to assault the Egyptian, the Israelite thought that Moses (peace be upon him) was going to strike him; therefore, he raised a hue and cry and disclosed the secret of the previous day’s murder by this own folly.
30. This happened when in the second day’s fight, the secret of the murder became known and the Egyptian informed the authorities about the case accordingly.