This surah tells us of an episode in the history of Prophet Moses( peace be upon him) and his message which is not referred to anywhere else in the Qurâan. It speaks of a man in Pharaohâs household who was a believer in the truth of the divine message and the advice he gave to his people. The believer feels that it is his duty to warn and give sound advice, and to express his view lucidly. It is also his duty to stand by the truth, regardless of what tyrants say. He then tries another argument, in the hope that their hearts will soften to it and that they will begin to see the light of the truth. He refers to the fates of earlier communities of unbelievers. They testify to how powerfully God smites arrogant tyrants: âThen said the man who believed: My people! I fear for you the like of what one day befell earlier communities; the like of what happened to Noahâs people, to the Ad, and Thamud and those who came after them. God does not will any injustice for His creatures.â Each community had its day, but the believer combines them together, making it the day when Godâs retribution strikes. The nature of these days is the same; hence, they are made to appear as just one day. God wills no injustice on anyone. He only punishes them for their sins, so that those who are close to them and those who come after them may take heed and follow the right course.
The man touches their hearts again, reminding them of another day, the Day of Resurrection, when everyone is calling out: âAnd, my people! I fear for you the Day (of Judgment) when people will call out to one another (in distress); the Day when you shall turn back and flee, with no one to defend you against God. He whom God lets go astray can never find a guide.â
On that day, the angels responsible for gathering people will be calling out to them; the people standing on the heights will call out, speaking to the people destined for heaven and to the people of hell; the people of heaven and hell will call out addressing each other. Thus, calling out takes place in different ways. Describing it as the âday of calling outâ imparts a feeling of loud clamoring emanating from everywhere, as also a day of overcrowding and dispute. The general air fits well with the believerâs words: âThe Day when you shall turn back and flee, with no one to defend you against God.â They may try to flee when they see hell, but there is no escape. Yet the image of fright and attempting to flee is the first to be shown here of those who considered themselves mighty and who behaved arrogantly, reveling in their earthly power.
Â âHe whom God lets go astray can never find a guide.â Do we see here an implicit reply to Pharaohâs earlier statement when he said: âI am guiding you to none other than the path of rectitude.â This also implies that true guidance comes only from God. Whoever God lets go astray will have no one to guide him. God knows peopleâs conditions and who of them deserves to be guided and who deserves to be left astray.
Finally, the believer reminds them of their attitude to the Prophet Joseph, Mosesâ ancestor. They also doubted him and his message despite the clear evidence he showed them. They must not adopt the same attitude toward Moses who is confirming what Joseph had brought them earlier. In fact, Mosesâ message disproves their assertions that God would not send a messenger after Joseph. For, Moses has been sent to prove them wrong: âLong before this, Joseph came to you with clear evidence of the truth; but you never ceased to cast doubt on the message he brought you. When he died, you said: âGod will never send any messenger after him.â In this way God lets go astray those who are transgressors and live in doubt.â
This is the only reference in the Qurâan to Josephâs message addressed to the people of Egypt. In the surah carrying his name we learn that he was placed in charge of Egyptâs storehouses. He also carried the title of Aziz, which probably meant the chief minister. There is an indication in the surah that he sat on Egyptâs throne, but this is not confirmed. This may be understood from the verse that says: âAnd he raised his parents to the throne, and they fell down on their knees, prostrating themselves before him. He said: Father, this is the real meaning of my dream of long ago. My Lord has made it come true.â (12: 100) The âthroneâ to which Joseph raised his parents might have been something other than Egyptâs throne. Be that as it may, Joseph attained a position of power and authority. In light of all this, we can imagine the situation to which the believer in Pharaohâs household was referring: They doubted Josephâs message, but dared not deny it outright when he was the man in power. Then they said: âGod will never send any messenger after him.â They were practically relieved when he died. Expressing their relief in this way suggests that they did not accept his message based on Godâs complete oneness. They asserted that God would not send another messenger after him, yet this expressed nothing but their own desire. It is often the case that people desire something and then believe it to be true.
At this juncture, the believer takes a strong stance against such hardened denials of the truth: âIn this way God lets go astray those who are transgressors and live in doubt." ¬