What Does Islam Say about Prophet Moses? | before Prophethood

There are many examples and stories narrated in the Holy Quran, such as the account of Prophet Moses in the Quran, the aim of which is not only to amuse us, but as signs for the “percipient” [1], for “those who think” [2], for those who “exercise their reason” [3] or for “those who possess intellect” [4]. Therefore, after reading each story, those thoughtful and insightful people will gain profound lessons from each account that will be used as a guideline in their life. 


The story of Prophet Moses (PBUH) has been mentioned in the Quran in more than 30 chapters, and more than 100 times in details, while the stories of most of the other prophets have been mentioned very briefly. 


Going through a few verses of the Quran that narrate the story of Moses and his people will help us compare our life and condition in the society, with what happened at the time of Moses (PBUH), and from its lessons, we might be able to make positive changes in our lives. 


The status of Prophet Moses (PBUH) in the Quran is very high: “And mention in the Book Moses. Indeed he was exclusively dedicated [to Allah], and an apostle and prophet.” (19: 51)


Prophet Moses's (PBUH) Childhood

Islam's view of Judaism, prophet Moses, prophethood
The finding of Moses by Salvator Rosa


Before Moses was born, the Pharaoh of the time had a dream, based on which he ordered to kill all the baby boys who were born amongst children of Israel (Bani-Israel) [i] for a specific time [5]. In such situation, Moses was born, and her mother feared his life. God revealed to her: “Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.” (28: 7)


The events that happened to Moses as a baby were particular. When his mother leaves him in the river, and water takes him to Pharaoh’s palace, Pharaoh’s wife who, according to Quranic exegesis, had no children or had no sons and was a monotheist woman (who hid her beliefs) convinces Pharaoh to adopt him as their child [6]. God had forbidden Moses to be suckled by any nurse. And therefore, he was returned to his mother and raised by her and Pharaoh’s wife (28: 12-3) [7].


The most prominent point in Moses’ childhood was that he was raised by faithful women. Quran describes his stepmother as a role model for believers: “Allah cites an example of the faithful: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord! Build me a home near You in paradise, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his conduct, and deliver me from the wrongdoing lot’” (66: 11). 
It shows the importance of the status of mothers and their vital role in raising faithful children. 


Prophet Moses's (PBUH) Youth


“When he came of age and became fully matured, We gave him judgment and knowledge, and thus do We reward the virtuous” (28: 15).


Unlike some narratives in the world that introduce Moses as a powerful and reliable man, but not very spiritual [8], the Quran presents him as one of those virtuous. It means that he had been righteous from childhood until his young age, and therefore, divine judgment and knowledge were given to him as a result of his good behavior. 


One of the bold points that should be considered in this part of Moses’ life is his companionship with Prophet Khidhr. Although in most narrations it is said that the part of his life which is referred to in the Quran belongs to his old age, it is more logical to say that this companionship takes place when he was young and still a prince. Since he is being accompanied by a slave as mentioned in the Quran: “So when they had passed on, he said to his lad, ‘Bring us our meal. We have certainly encountered much fatigue on this journey of ours’” (18: 62).


Now, if we accept that his companionship with Khidhr took place at his young age, this also becomes a significant turning point for Moses (PBUH), in which he learned a lot from a prophet. 


In the story of his youth, Quran mentions his positive attitude towards people and his support for the rights of the poor and the weak. Based on his beliefs, one time that he wants to defend a person from Bani- Israel, he unwantedly kicks his enemy in a way that he dies.



This act in the Quran is introduced as one of the significant turning points in his life. As when Pharaoh finds out, he sends someone to arrest him, and Moses runs away towards the city of Midian (Madyan) (28: 15-21).


 “And when he turned his face toward Midian, he said, ‘Maybe my Lord will show me the right way’” (28: 22).

Prophet Moses's (PBUH) Marriage 

Prophet Moses, Shuaib's daughters, youth, Islam's view on Judaism

Moses defends Zipporah and her sisters at a rather medieval-looking well painted by Saraceni


When Moses arrives at the water of Midian (Madyan), he sees “a throng of people watering [their flocks], and he found, besides them, two women holding back [their flock].” He asks the reason, and they reply “We do not water [our flock] until the shepherds have driven out [their flocks].”



And to answer the probable question in Moses’ mind about why two women are doing the hard task of watering the flocks she continues: “our father is an aged man” (28: 23). So Moses waters their flock. “Then he withdrew toward the shade (of a tree) and said, ‘My Lord! I am indeed in need of any good You may send down to me!’” (28: 24) Moses does not even mention what kind of good he is expecting from God. But he leaves everything to God and asks Him to provide him with good [9].


After a while of resting under the shade of a tree “one of the two women approached him [Moses], walking bashfully. She said, ‘Indeed my father invites you to pay you the wages for watering [our flock] for us.’


So when he came to him and recounted the story to him, he said, ‘Do not be afraid. You have been delivered from the wrongdoing lot’” (28: 25). As he had left the borders of Egypt and he was now safe in Midian (Madyan). At that point, Moses realized that he had reached an insightful and knowledgeable man. The father of two women is Prophet Shu’ayb (PBUH), who, according to the Quran, was the prophet sent to people of Midian (Madyan): “And to Midian, We sent Shu‘ayb, their brother” (29: 36) [10].


Moses stays with Prophet Shu’ayb for a while. It seems like one of Shu’ayb’s daughters was interested in Moses and his manly behavior as she offers his father “Father, hire him. Indeed, the best you can hire is a powerful and trustworthy man” (28:26). Being powerful and strong as well as being trustworthy are mentioned here as two crucial criteria for employing a person [11].


Having heard his daughter’s interests, Shu’ayb (PBUH) then said, “Indeed I desire to marry you to one of these two daughters of mine, on condition that you hire yourself to me for eight years. And if you complete ten, that will be up to you” (28:27).


There are a few great lessons in this part of the story of Moses; 

1-  Unlike what is conventional in many societies, it is not bad for a reasonable girl to choose her husband and offer him marriage (of course, by adhering to correct manners) [12].

2- The dowry of Shu’ayb’s daughter (which is Moses’ working for Shu’ayb for eight to ten years) seems to be too much, but compared to the life and conditions that Shua’yb provides for Moses is not considerable [13].

3- This dowry was a necessity for Moses to stay with Shu’ayb and to be trained under his doctrines [14].


Moses marries Prophet Shu’ayb’s daughter, and they live in Midian for a specific time. Living with a prophet for many years is one of those blessings that were given to Moses to be trained for his primary mission in life. 


Although living with Shu’ayb was a great blessing for Moses, he did not aim to stay a shepherd for the rest of his life, since he had seen significant responsibilities for himself to save the children of Israel (Bani- Israel). Therefore, he decided to travel to Egypt with his family [15].


In the next part of this article, we will follow Moses in his journey of prophethood



[i] Children of Israel (Bani-Israel) were the generation of Prophet Jacob or Israel (PBUH), who at the time of Prophet Joseph (PBUH), migrated to Egypt and settled there for years. (12: 93-9)


[1] The Quran, Hijr (15): 75

[2] The Quran, Ra’d (13) : 3

[3] The Quran, Nahl (16): 12

[4] The Quran, Aal-e Imran (3): 190

[5] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 14

[6] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 30

[7] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 34- 38

[8] Scott, R. (2014), Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2014, USA

[9] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, pp. 56-58

[10] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 59

[11] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 67

[12] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 70

[13] ibid

[14] ibid

[15] Makarem –e Shirazi, N. Tafseer-e Nemouneh, vol. 16, p. 74