Quranic Reflection No. 480. Āyat 20:40 – Acquiring a measure of perfection
ثُمَّ جِئْتَ عَلَىٰ قَدَرٍ يَا مُوسَى
Thumma ji’ta ‘alā qadarin yā Mūsā
Then you turned up as ordained, O Mūsā
(Sūrat TāHā, No 20, Āyat 40)
Verses 11 to 47 of Sūrat TāHā talk about the conversation that Allah ‘azza wajall had with Prophet Mūsā ‘alayhis salām at the encounter on Mt Sinai. There are a lot of matters discussed in these verses and they show the status of Prophet Mūsā and the responsibility bestowed upon him. After accepting his request to let his brother Hārūn accompany him on the mission to Fir‘awn, Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā reminds him of the different ways He has blessed him in the past. Perhaps this is to tell him that Allah has been with him all this time, and He will still be with him when he goes to Fir‘awn.
In verse 40 Allah (swt) lists some of the trials Prophet Mūsā goes through and then says that he has come to this meeting at Mt Sinai in a certain manner. The word used is qadarin. This can have different meanings:
1. From the word taqdīr – to decree, to ordain. It was ordained that Prophet Mūsā should go through all the trials and then come to meet His Lord.
2. From the word miqdar – a measure. By going through the various difficulties of leaving Egypt and then staying in Madyan, Prophet Mūsā achieved a certain measure of perfection. He increased in experience, action, knowledge, etc. So, he came to Allah ‘azza wajall after reaching a required measure or amount of nobility and virtue.
The word qadarin has also been used elsewhere in the Quran to signify a certain measure. Allah says in Sura al-Hijr, verse 21: There is not a thing but that its sources are with Us, and We do not send it down except in a known measure (Q 15:21).
According to Allāmah Tabātabā’ī, the aftermath of the unintentional killing of the Egyptian, the escape from Egypt, and the stay in Madyan with Prophet Shu‘ayb ‘alayhis-salām were all a favor of the Almighty on Prophet Mūsā so he could acquire a measure of growth in various aspects. The ordeals were a cleansing and nurturing for the Prophet. They were also a favor in terms of the rewards associated with going through such ordeals. Imam Mūsā al-Kāzim ‘alayhis-salām has said: You will not be believers until you consider the ordeal as a bounty and ease as an affliction, for patience during an ordeal is greater than oblivion during ease (Mīzān al-Hikmah, H 2895). Imam Hasan al-‘Askarī (a) says: Every single ordeal contains a favor from Allah that encompasses it (Ibid, H. 2896).
For Prophet Mūsā, staying in Madyan with a great Prophet of Allah allowed him to also acquire increased perfection. These were all necessary prerequisites for the eventual meeting with Allah (swt) at Mt Sinai. That meeting and the conversation that took place there needed some form of readiness from Prophet Mūsā. He had to go through a process of trials before he was worthy of that meeting and the ensuing tasks he was entrusted with. Allāmah Tabātabā’ī also says the personal address at the end of this verse of yā Mūsā (O Mūsā) is a manifestation of the status he had achieved.
This verse is a reminder that to carry out an important task, Allah (swt) equips us with a certain measure of perfection. That measure cannot be acquired in comfortable and pleasant conditions. There is unrest, discomfort, unhappiness, and many other ‘negative’ states that we must go through before we are purified enough to fulfill the role Almighty Allah has deemed us worthy of. It happened to Prophet Mūsā and to some degree it will happen to all of us.
Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; https://hadith.academyofislam.