top of page

Quran Chapter 20 [part 1] - Ta-Ha - Mission of the Quran, Story of Prophet Moses

A Meccan sura that begins and ends with mention of the Quran: it was not sent to the Prophet to cause him grief but is a clear proof from his Lord. The example of Moses is given as a lengthy account in order to encourage the Prophet and show the end of the disbelievers. The destruction of earlier generations is cited as a lesson from which the disbelievers should learn. The Prophet is ordered to be patient and to persevere with his worship.

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

1Ta Ha [a]

2 It was not to distress you [Prophet] that We sent down the Quran to you, 3 but as a reminder for those who hold God in awe, 4 a revelation from the One who created the earth and the high heaven, 5 the Lord of Mercy, established on the throne. 6 Everything in the heavens and on earth, everything between them, everything beneath the soil, belongs to Him. 7 Whatever you may say aloud, He knows what you keep secret and what is even more hidden. 8 God––there is no god but Him––the most excellent names belong to Him.

Story of Prophet Moses

9 Has the story of Moses come to you [Prophet]? [b] 10 He saw a fire and said to his people, ‘Stay here––I can see a fire. Maybe I can bring you a flaming brand from it or find some guidance there.’ 11 When he came to the fire, he was summoned, ‘Moses! 12 I am your Lord. Take off your shoes: you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa. 13 I have chosen you, so listen to what is being revealed. 14 I am God; there is no god but Me. So worship Me and keep up the prayer so that you remember Me. 15 The Hour is coming––though I choose [c] to keep it hidden––for each soul to be rewarded for its labor. 16 Do not let anyone who does not believe in it and follows his own desires distract you from it, and so bring you to ruin.’

17 ‘Moses, what is that in your right hand?’ 18 ‘It is my staff,’ he said, ‘I lean on it; restrain my sheep with it; [d] I also have other uses for it.’ 19 God said, ‘Throw it down, Moses.’ 20 He threw it down and– lo and behold!– it became a fast-moving snake. 21 He said, ‘Pick it up without fear: We shall turn it back into its former state. 22 Now place your hand under your armpit and it will come out white, though unharmed: that is another sign. 23 We do this to show you some of Our greatest signs. 24 Go to Pharaoh, for he has truly become a tyrant.’ 25 Moses said, ‘Lord, lift up my heart 26 and ease my task for me. 27 Untie my tongue, 28 so that they may understand my words, 29 and give me a helper from my family, 30 my brother Aaron– 31 augment my strength through him. 32 Let him share my task 33 so that we can glorify You much 34 and remember You often: 35 You are always watching over us.’

36 God said, ‘Moses, your request is granted. 37 Indeed We showed you favor before. 38 We inspired your mother, saying, 39 “Put your child into the chest, then place him in the river. Let the river wash him on to its bank, and he will be taken in by an enemy of Mine and his.” I showered you with My love and planned that you should be reared under My watchful eye. 40 Your sister went out, saying, “I will tell you someone who will nurse him,” then We returned you to your mother so that she could rejoice and not grieve. Later you killed a man, but We saved you from distress and tried you with other tests. You stayed among the people of Midian for years, then you came here as I ordained. 41 I have chosen you for Myself. 42 Go, you and your brother, with My signs, and make sure that you remember Me. 43 Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has exceeded all bounds. 44 Speak to him gently so that he may take heed, or show respect.’

45 They said, ‘Lord, we fear he will do us great harm or exceed all bounds.’ 46 He said, ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you both, hearing and seeing everything. 47 Go and tell him, “We are your Lord’s messengers, so send the Children of Israel with us and do not oppress them. We have brought you a sign from your Lord. Peace be upon whoever follows the right guidance; 48 it has been revealed to us that punishment falls on whoever rejects the truth and turns his back on it.”’

49 [Pharaoh] said, ‘Moses, who is this Lord of yours?’ 50 Moses said, ‘Our Lord is He who gave everything its form, then gave it guidance.’ 51 He said, ‘What about former generations?’ 52 Moses said, ‘My Lord alone has knowledge of them, all in a record; my Lord does not err or forget.’ 53 It was He who spread out the earth for you and traced routes in it. He sent down water from the sky. With that water We bring forth every kind of plant, 54 so eat, and graze your cattle. There are truly signs in all this for people of understanding. 55 From the earth We created you, into it We shall return you, and from it We shall raise you a second time.

56 We showed Pharaoh all Our signs, but he denied them and refused [to change]. 57 He said, ‘Have you come to drive us from our land with your sorcery, Moses? 58 We will confront you with sorcery to match your own: make an appointment between us which neither of us will fail to keep, in a mutually agreeable place.’ 59 He said, ‘Your meeting will be on the day of the feast, so let the people be assembled when the sun has risen high.’

60 Pharaoh withdrew and gathered his resources, [e] then he returned. 61 Moses said to them, ‘Beware, do not invent lies against God or He will destroy you with His punishment. Whoever invents lies will fail.’ 62 So they discussed their plan among themselves, talking secretly, 63 saying, ‘These two men are sorcerers. Their purpose is to drive you out of your land with their sorcery and put an end to your time-honored way of life. 64 So gather your resources and line up for the contest. Whoever wins today is sure to prosper.’ 65 They said, ‘Moses, will you throw first or shall we?’ 66 ‘You throw,’ said Moses, and––lo and behold!––through their sorcery, their ropes and staffs seemed to him to be moving. 67 Moses was inwardly alarmed, 68 but We said, ‘Do not be afraid, you have the upper hand. 69 Throw down what is in your right hand: it will swallow up what they have produced. They have only produced the tricks of a sorcerer, and a sorcerer will not prosper, wherever he goes.’

70 [So it was, and] the sorcerers threw themselves down in submission. ‘We believe,’ they said, ‘in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.’ 71 Pharaoh said, ‘How dare you believe in him before I have given you permission? This must be your master, the man who taught you witchcraft. I shall certainly cut off your alternate hands and feet, [f] then crucify you on the trunks of palm trees. You will know for certain which of us has the fiercer and more lasting punishment.’ 72 They said, ‘We shall never prefer you to the clear sign that has come to us, nor to Him who created us. So decide whatever you will: you can only decide matters of this present life– 73 we believe in our Lord, [hoping] He may forgive us our sins and the sorcery that you forced us to practice– God is better and more lasting.’


a. There is an opinion that ta ha are not isolated letters but ‘O man!’ in the Yemeni dialect of Akk (Razi). For the significance of the isolated letters as a whole, see note to 2: 1.

b. This construction is an idiom in Arabic implying ‘think well about it’ or ‘take a lesson from this’.

c. Abu Muslim interprets akadu as uridu, ‘I wish’ or ‘I choose’ (Razi).

d. Or ‘beat down leaves for my sheep with it’.

e. Literally ‘his mischief’, kaydahu. This could refer to his sorcerers or to the plots he made.

f. See note to 5: 33.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 view


bottom of page