Quranic Reflection No 684. Āyat 7:142 – The Sacred Seclusion


Prophet Mūsā ‘alayhis-salām was summoned to Mount Sinai for a divine seclusion with his Lord. He informed his people, the Banū Israel, that he was going to be away from them for thirty days. He appointed his brother, Hārūn to be his successor during his absence. This divine seclusion with Allah ‘azza wajall went beyond thirty days and was extended to an additional ten days. The commentators of the Quran elaborate on why this verse apportions the forty nights of seclusion to thirty and ten nights, instead of mentioning the cumulative total of forty nights. Shaykh Tabarsī mentions three main reasons in his tafsīr Majma‘ul-Bayān:

i).   The Ten Blessed Nights – The initial appointment of thirty nights falls in the month of Dhul-Qa‘dah. This verse highlights the additional ten nights that took place at the beginning of the month of Dhul-Hijjah (Qummī, Safinat al-Bihār, 21:209). These nights carry numerous blessings that have been enumerated in the Quran and the traditions of the Ahlul-Bayt (a). Allah ‘subhānahu wata‘ālā  swears by these nights in the opening verses of Surat Al-Fajr, وَٱلْفَجْرِ وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍۢ By the dawn, and the ten nights (Q 89:1,2)The Holy Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam has said: There are no days when Allah (swt) is as pleased with good deeds as He is in these ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. These ten days are famously known as al-ayyam al-ma‘lūmāt (The Stated Days) in the Quran (See Q 22:28).

ii).  A Spiritual Cleanse – Allah (swt) prepared the heart of Nabī Mūsā (a) to receive the Tawrāt through a period of spiritual purification. During the first thirty nights, he occupied himself with prayer, fasting and periods of contemplation during the night. Upon the completion of thirty days, Mūsā (a) was able to engage in intense najwa (whispered conversation) with Allah (swt). A similar practice was seen in the life of the Holy Prophet (s). Prior to the first revelation, he had periods of seclusion on Mount Hira (near Makkah), where he engaged in acts of worship and contemplation. 

The traditions from the Ahlul-Bayt (a) indicate the spiritual benefits of dedicating ourselves in the service and worship of Allah (swt) for forty days. The Holy Prophet (S) says: He who sincerely worships Allah for forty days, springs of wisdom shall appear from his heart to his tongue. (‘Uyūn Akhbār al-Ridhā, Hadith 322)

iii).  A Test for the Banū Israel – Imam Muhammad al-Baqir ‘alayhis-salām states that the reason for extending the encounter with Allah (swt) for another ten days was to test the Banū Israel.  When Prophet Mūsā (a) was initially summoned by Allah (swt), He did not inform him that the seclusion would be for forty days. The Almighty wanted to see if the Banū Israel, would continue to believe in His promise or if they would turn away. Unfortunately, many of them lost hope in the return of Mūsā (a) and took a calf for their god. (Q 2:51)

It is highly recommended to recite this full verse in the two rakā‘at prayer that is recited between Maghrib and ‘Ishā prayers during the first ten nights of Dhul-Hijjah. The reward for offering this prayer is like the rewards showered on those who go for Hajj. Some of the other recommended acts of this blessed ten days include fasting, reciting the recommended dhikr and engaging in worship and supplication on the Day of ‘Arafah.

We pray to the Almighty to enable us to optimise the blessings of the special nights in the month of Dhul-Hijjah. We continue to pray for the believers around the world who are suffering from oppression, poverty and hardships. May the Almighty raise the status of all the martyrs of Islam, especially those who recently lost their lives.

Resources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh, Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ul-Bayān; Shaykh Mohammed Saeed Bahmanpour, Understanding Surah Al-Baqarah, A‘māl of Dhul-Hijjah, Tayyiba Publishers and Distributors.