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Tablets of Moses (a)

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Tablets of Moses (a) or Alwāḥ Mūsā (Arabic: ألواح موسی) are two tablets sent down to the prophet Moses (a) on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Upon witnessing the Israelites worshiping a calf, Moses (a) was infuriated and threw the tablets on the ground. According to Islamic sources, the broken pieces of tablets survived among the Israelites and were kept in the Ark of the Covenant. However, according to the Torah, Moses (a) went to Mount Sinai again, where another set of Tablets were sent down to him.

Divine Revelation

The divine revelation was inscribed on stone tablets and was then sent down to Moses (a). The Torah narrates the story as follows:

Although the Qur'an is not explicit on the tablets being sent down in the "tryst" (miqat)[1], it does say that when Moses (a) returned from the "miqat" and witnessed people worshiping a calf, he (a) threw down the tablets[2], and when he (a) calmed down, he (a) picked up the broken pieces of the tablets again[3].

Some Exegetes of the Qur'an such as 'Allama Tabataba'i believe that the tablets mentioned in the Qur'an are the same tablets mentioned in the Torah. Others maintain that they were sent down before the revelation of the Torah. Rashid Rida, the author of al-Minar, says about the relationship between the tablets and the Torah: "The Tablets were the first part of shari'a (religious law). Indeed, they were a concise version of the Torah, and then detailed rulings regarding worships, transactions, and the like were gradually revealed on different occasions. The same type of revelation is true of the Qur'an as well".

The tablets were kept in the Ark of the Covenant in the Solomon's Temple. Eventually, after Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant and tablets inside it were lost.

According to some hadiths, after his reappearance, Imam al-Mahdi (a) will bring out the Ark of the Covenant and tablets inside it from a cave in Antioch.

Number

The Torah is explicit that there were two Tablets: "The two Tablets of the covenant"[4]. The Qur'an talks about "alwah"[5] without referring to the number. Thus, there are different views among exegetes of the Qur'an with respect to the number of the tablets. Some of them believe that "alwah", which is in plural form, was used instead of the dual form (muthanna), that is "lawhayn" (Arabic:لَوْحَیْن), so the tablets were two.

Contents

The Qur'an characterizes the contents of the Tablets as follows without going into the details:

The Torah cites the whole content of the two Tablets which is known as the Ten Commandments.

Breakage of the Tablets

The prophet Moses (a) spent 40 days in Mount Sinai. When he returned, he brought with him the tablets on which the revelation was engraved. But when he witnessed the Children of Israel worshiping a calf, he was infuriated and threw down the tablets, and they broke. Some exegetes of the Qur'an believe that the reason why Moses (a) broke the Tablets was his anger of calf-worshiping by the Israelites.

Here is how the Torah narrates the story:

Renewed Descent of the Tablets

The Torah narrates the story of the second Tablets as follows:

However, the Qur'an and other Islamic sources are not explicit about the second Tablets. Many exegetes of the Qur'an believe that the broken pieces of the first tablets survived among the Israelites and were kept in the Ark of the Covenant.

Notes

  1. The concept of "tryst" -"miqat" in Arabic"- is taken from the Qur'an7:142.
  2. Qur'an7:150: When Moses returned to his people, angry and indignant, he said, ‘Evil has been your conduct in my absence! Would you hasten on the edict of your Lord?’ He threw down the tablets.
  3. Qur'an7:154: When Moses’ indignation abated, he picked up the tablets whose inscriptions contained guidance and mercy for those who are in awe of their Lord.
  4. Exodus 32:15
  5. "Alwah" is a plural noun in Arabic and the plural form in this language equals at least three.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from الواح موسی in Farsi WikiShia.
  • THE BIBLE.New Revised Standard Version.