While commenting on the different narrations which highlighted the harms caused to Moosa (A.S) by the Israelites, the great Mufassir (exegete) Hafiz Ibn Jareer At Tabari writes, ‘The preferred statement which is correct to say on this matter is that the Israelites harmed a prophet of Allah with that which he detested, and Allah cleared his name from that which they harmed him with. It is possible that the harm was on account of their statement that he suffered from leprosy. It is possible that it was on account of their false allegation that he killed his brother Haroon (A.S), and it is possible that all these occurred. The gist is that they caused harm to their Prophet, and Allah cleared his name from all that they accused him of’. (Tafseer At Tabari vol.22 pg. 63 Dar Ihya At Turath)
The verse itself speaks of the great status that Moosa (A.S) had in the sight of Allah and states, ‘and he (Moosa) was extremely honorable in the sight of Allah’. In the verse, the Arabic word used to describe Moosa (A.S) as ‘extremely honorable’ is ‘Wajeeh’. This word in the Arabic language has a very deep and significant meaning when it is used to describe the status one has in the sight of Allah. It refers to one who has a great rank and high position in the sight of Allah.
While explaining this word (‘Wajeeh’) which has been used for Moosa (A.S), the great scholar Ibn Zaid (A.R) says, ‘it means that he has great acceptance in the sight of Allah. He is one whose duas (supplications) are answered. He does not ask for anything except that it is given, except having the sight of Allah in this world’. (Tafseer Al Bahrul Muheet vol.8 pg. 508 Dar Al Fikr Lebanon 1992)
Hafiz Ibn Katheer (A.R) has also explained this word in the verse, ‘And he (Moosa) was ‘Wajeeh’ in the sight of Allah’ and said, ‘It means that he had high esteem and standing in the sight of Allah. Hasan Al Basri says, ‘He was Mustajaab Ad Da’wah in the sight of Allah (one whose supplications are always accepted by Allah). Others from the pious predecessors have stated that he did not ask for anything except that he was given. However, Allah has prohibited one from seeing Him from whomsoever He wishes. Some scholars have stated that, ‘from the great standing and high esteem that Moosa (A.S) had in the sight of Allah was that he interceded to Allah to send his brother Haroon with him to Pharoah and his people, and Allah accepted his dua and deputed Haroon to accompany him on his mission. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 521 Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan 1982). The verse thus, prohibited the believers from causing harm and hurt to the Prophet (S.A) as the Israelites did to Moosa (A.S).
With respect to the harm which was caused to the Prophet (S.A) on account of which the verse was revealed, commentators have given different commentaries. In this regard, it is mentioned that after the battle of Hunain, while distributing the booty, the Prophet (S.A) happened to give some people more than others. Upon this, someone said, ‘This distribution is without justice’ or ‘This distribution was not done for the pleasure of Allah’. When the Prophet (S.A) heard this, he became angry and said, ‘If Allah and His Messenger are not just, then who is? May Allah have mercy on Moosa (A.S); he was harmed more than this, but exercised patience’. (Bukhari, Ahmad – Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 223; Tafseer Al Bahrul Muheet vol.8 pg. 508 Dar Al Fikr Lebanon)
Regarding the above incident, the scholars have stated that the wealth distributed by the Holy Prophet (S.A) on that occasion was not part of the booty itself, but it was the wealth which Allah had allotted for the Prophet (S.A) which he could have given it to whomsoever he wished. (Anwarul Bayaan vol.4 pg. 276)
Some scholars have stated that the incidents of Zaid (R.A) and that of Zainab bint Jahsh (R.A), and what people said about them caused harm to the Prophet (S.A). Some commentators have also stated that the incident of slander against Aisha (R.A) caused great pain and hurt to the Prophet (S.A). This affected him so much that on one occasion he said, ‘No prophet has been hurt in the manner that I have been hurt’. (Tafseer Al Bahrul Muheet vol.8 pg. 508)
These explanations show that on many occasions, the Prophet (S.A) was harmed by different people. Sometimes by the unbelievers, the hypocrites and even by the Muslims who were unaware of the fact that what they did or said caused harm to the Prophet (S.A). On account of this, Allah issued a general command which strictly prohibited the believers from causing any sort of harm to the Prophet (S.A).
Sura Al Ahzab continues in verse 70 and states:
70. O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth.
Having been instructed in the previous verse (i.e. 69) that they must not cause harm to the Prophet (S.A) as the followers of Moosa (A.S) caused harm to him, the believers are further ordered in verse 70 to inculcate Taqwa and fear Allah in all matters and speak the correct thing at all times. They must refrain from His disobedience and fear His punishment. Additionally, with respect to speech, they must say the correct thing and speak the truth on all occasions.
In the verse, the Arabic word used is ‘Sadeed’, which has been translated as ‘truth’ by many scholars. Hence, the meaning of the verse which states, ‘O you who believe, fear Allah and say a word which is ‘Sadeed’ (Qawlan Sadeeda), is ‘O you who believe, fear Allah and speak the ‘truth’. This word however, (‘Sadeed’, as used in the verse) has many different meanings and all are intended from the verse. Based on this, the exegetes/commentators of the Holy Quran have explained the injunction given in the verse with various meanings which in essence, are all meant from the verse.
In this regard, Hafiz Ibn Katheer says, ‘and say a word which is ‘Sadeed’ (truth), means ‘Say that which is straight. There should be no crookedness in it and no digression or deviation from the truth’. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 521 Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan 1982)
Imam Qurtubi has stated, ‘it means to speak objectively and the truth’. Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) states that ‘it means to speak that which is right and proper’. Qatada and Maqatil have stated that it means ‘to speak the correct thing regarding the matter of Zainab (R.A) and Zaid (R.A) and do not attribute to the Prophet (S.A) that which is not permissible’. Ikrama and Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) have also stated that, ‘saying the correct word’ means to say, ‘Laa ilaha illallah’. It is also stated that it means to speak in a manner that the uttered speech conforms to that which is in the heart. (That is, there must be no insincerity or dissimulation while speaking). It has been stated that it means that one’s speech must be done for the pleasure of Allah. Some have stated that it means to speak in a manner that creates peace between people’. Having mentioned these statements, Imam Qurtubi writes, ‘The correct speech or the speech of truth (Al Qawlus Sadeed) has a general meaning which includes all types of goodness. Hence, it is inclusive of all that have been mentioned’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi (Al Jami’u li Ahkaam Al Quran) vol.14 pg. 225 Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan)
While explaining this verse, the great exegete, Hafiz Ibn Jareer states that it means, ‘Speak about the Prophet (S.A) and the believers in a manner that the speech/words/statements are just, straight and pleasant and do not speak in an unjust, unpleasant and outrageous manner. Speak that which is the truth, and do not speak that which is false. (Tafseer At Tabari (Jami Al Bayaan an Ta’weel Ayah Al Quran) vol.22 pg. 63 Dar At Turath Al Arabi Beirut Lebanon)
Having outlined to the believers that they must fear Allah and speak the truth, verse 71 continues and says:
71. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (S.A) he has indeed achieved a great achievement.