Finally the time arrived for Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) to depart with his followers from the land of Egypt. With 670,000 of his Ummah – this constituted the entire Bani Israaeel — Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) set off during the mid of night for the new promised land. However, Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) together with this huge concourse of humanity lost the road out of Egypt. It was still dark, and they were unable to find the route which was a well-known established road.
Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) summoned a council of the elders of Bani Israaeel and conferred with them regarding this surprising and perplexing incident. An aged man said that there remained a very important duty which has not yet been fulfilled. As long as that obligation has not been discharged, the road will not be found. He explained:
“At the time of the demise of Hadhrat Yusuf (alayhis salaam), he had directed his heirs and brothers that when Bani Israaeel depart from Egypt they should take with them his coffin. O Musa! You have not fulfilled this directive of Nabi Yusuf (alayhis salaam), hence you are unable to find the way out of Egypt.”
Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) immediately made an announcement on this matter and urged whoever was aware of the whereabouts of Nabi Yusuf’s grave to come forward. In the entire Ummah of Bani Israaeel there was only one person who was aware of the location of Nabi Yusuf’s grave. A very old lady stepped forward.
Nabi Musa: “Mother do you know where Nabi Yusuf’s grave is?”
Old Lady: “Yes, but I shall not divulge this information gratis. I want something in return.”
Nabi Musa: “What is it that you want? Ask!”
Old Lady: “Take me along with you as your close companion out of Egypt so that on the Day of Qiyaamah I shall be regarded as your companion. I shall then show you where Nabi Yusuf’s grave is.”
Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) immediately had the old lady seated on his mount. She indicated the location of the grave which was in the bed of the River Nile. Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) with a few companions retrieved the coffin. As soon as they had taken possession of Nabi Yusuf’s coffin, the road ahead was seen. Bani Israaeel thus resumed the journey out of Egypt.
Just as Bani Israaeel had resumed the journey, Fir’oun was apprised of their flight. When Fir’oun realized that the purpose of Bani Israaeel’s assembly was not to celebrate a festival, but was in preparation for their flight, he was overwhelmed with wrath. He immediately issued orders to his army to pursue Bani Israaeel. He too accompanied the army. Fir’oun had issued orders to massacre every single soul, and not to leave alive even one person of Bani Israaeel.
Fir’oun set out in pursuit of Bani Israaeel with a massive army consisting of 100,000 men with spears, 100,000 archers, a cavalry of 70,000, and an infantry of 300,000. The army moved swiftly in the bid to overtake Bani Israaeel. Fir’oun and Haamaan were right in front leading the army. At the same time, Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) was also moving ahead swiftly with Bani Israaeel overwhelmed by fear. The fear of Fir’oun’s sudden appearance was uppermost in the minds of all.
Suddenly and surprisingly Bani Israael found itself on the shores of the Red Sea. This was not the contemplate route to lead them out of Egypt. Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) was astonished and dumbfounded. He was heading towards dry land, but by the decree of Allah Ta’ala found himself with his Ummah on the shores of the sea. To aggravate their despair, the sea on this day was excessively stormy. It was humanly impossible to traverse the sea. Mountainous waves were rising furiously in the sea.
The journey came to an abrupt halt. Fear and anxiety created panic among Bani Israaeel. How will they ever cross the sea? From where will they be able to acquire thousands of boats to transport them across the sea?
While Bani Israaeel were transfixed in fear and bewilderment, they heard the roar of Fir’oun’s approaching army nearby. There was absolute pandemonium and panic among Bani Israaeel. They lamented to Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam): “O Musa! Most assuredly, we have been overtaken (by Fir’oun).” — Qur’aan. Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) assuring them of Allah’s protection. “Then when the two groups (Fir’oun’s army and Bani Israaeel) saw each other, the companions of Musa said: “Verily, we have been overtaken.’ He (Musa) said: ‘Never! Verily, my Rabb is with me. He shall surely show me (the way).” – As-Shu’raa, aayat 62
When Fir’oun caught sight of Bani Israaeel stranded on the shores of the Red Sea, he was overwhelmed with delight. He issued orders for the assault and the final massacre of Bani Israaeel. While the army was formulating the plan for the massacre, suddenly an intensely dark fog surrounded the entire area totally concealing Bani Israaeel. The intensity of the darkness did not permit Fir’oun’s army to advance. Helpless, Fir’oun issued orders for a halt until the fog lifted. He said that in front of Bani Israaeel was the Red Sea and behind them was his army. Bani Israaeel was trapped. Convinced that there was no escape for Bani Israaeel, Fir’oun patiently waited for the fog to clear up. Fir’oun was over-confident that death had surrounded Bani Israaeel on all sides. It was only a matter of time before every soul would be put to the sword.
Meanwhile Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) was crying and supplicating in Sajdah, making dua for Allah’s aid. While Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) was still wrapped in Sajdah, Wahi descended from the Arsh of Allah Azza Wa Jal. Allah said: “O Musa! We have made the Red Sea subservient to you. Strike it with your Staff. It will provide a road for you.”
Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) lifted his head from Sajdah. Addressing his people, he said: “O my people! You have been saved from the Sea and from Fir’oun.” He then went to the sea, struck it with his Staff and commanded: “O Sea! With the permission of Allah, split open!” As Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) struck the sea with his Staff, suddenly they beheld an amazing sight. Twelve pathways opened miraculously in the sea. Each pathway had the dimensions of the sea, 11 miles long and two miles wide.
Nabi Ya’qoob (alayhis salaam) had twelve sons. The entire Bani Israaeel was the progeny of these twelve sons, hence the twelve pathways to accommodate the twelve tribes. As the pathways opened up, the sun suddenly shone with such fierceness that the sea bed was instantaneously dried to enable Bani Israaeel to move swiftly and easily. Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) ordered them to express their gratitude to Allah Ta’ala and to immediately commence the journey across the sea. But, everyone was scared. No one was prepared to enter the pathways in the sea. They protested: “O Musa! If we enter and the water closes up, what shall we do?” This they said despite observing that the sea along the entire length of the pathways had become solid ice. The pathways were like roads between mountains.
Whilst the people were in a state of trepidation, Nabi Haaroon (alayhis salaam) rode deep into the pathway with his horse. Now encouraged and assured, the twelve tribes entered their respective pathways and began the journey across the sea. Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) was the last one to follow. The group with whom Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) was, suddenly complained: “O Musa! We are with you. But what is the state of the other tribes. Are they safe or drowning?” Immediately Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) supplicated to Allah Ta’ala to put them at ease. As he was supplicating, miraculously huge windows opened up in the walls of ice separating each tribe. Now they were delighted. Their compatriots were clearly visible.
The entire Ummah of Bani Israaeel crossed safely to the other side. Once they had traversed the sea, Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) ordered them to set up tents for their stay.
When the sun had emerged to dry the sea-bed for Bani Israael’s sojourn, the fog which had stalled Fir’oun’s army had also cleared up. Fir’oun issued orders for the army to immediately advance. The army quickly reached the shores of the Red Sea. The sight of the twelve pathways in the sea struck them with wonder. They were bewildered at the amazing spectacle. The pathways with the walls of ice with windows were magnificent and awe-inspiring. When Fir’oun saw this amazing scene he proclaimed to his army that this was a manifestation of his divine power. The sea had opened up to welcome him. He claimed that the sea had opened up for him to enable him to punish his enemy (Bani Israaeel). The only reason why the sea had allowed Bani Israaeel to cross safely was to enable him (Fir’oun) to inflict his punishment on them. If they had drowned, they would have been saved from his chastisement.
But Haamaan whispered to Fir’oun: “O Fir’oun! What utter nonsense are you speaking? Do you not realize that Musa’s God has prepared these pathways for Musa. Musa has crossed safely. Alas? You are dwelling in deception by believing that these pathways are for you. Don’t dare commit the error of entering these pathways. You and your entire army will be drowned.”
Fir’oun understood this warning. He turned his horse away from the sea. As Fir’oun began moving away from the sea dejectedly, Hadhrat Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) by the command of Allah Ta’ala, appeared in human form on a beautiful mare.