Ayah 57 of surah al-Baqarah reads:
وَظَلَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْغَمَامَ وَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَىٰ ۖ كُلُوا مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ ۖ وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَـٰكِن كَانُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ
"And We shaded you with clouds, and We sent down to you manna and quails: ‘Eat of the good things We have provided for you.’ And they did not wrong Us, but they used to wrong [only] themselves." (2:57)
After having saved the Israelites from the clutches of Pharaoh and his troops, God commanded them to set off towards the land of Palestine but they did not submit to God’s command on various pretexts.
Thus divine wrath encompassed them and they became perplexed and wondered in confusion in the Sinai desert for forty years without finding their way out. During this period a group of the Israelites became regretful of what they had done and God once more showed them His mercy and sent them some bounties some of which are mentioned in the Ayah. God shaded them in the parching desert and the sizzling sun with clouds and sent down to them manna which was a food resembling honey taken from the sap of the trees, and also birds called Salwa.
Ayah 58 of this surah reads:
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُوا هَـٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَدًا وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا وَقُولُوا حِطَّةٌ نَّغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطَايَاكُمْ ۚ وَسَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
"And when We said, ‘Enter this town, and eat thereof freely whencesoever you wish, and enter prostrating at the gate, and say, “Relieve [us of the burden of our sins],” that We may forgive your iniquities, and soon We will enhance the virtuous." (2:58)
Having wondered for forty years in confusion in the Sinai desert the Israelites were commanded by God to enter the sacred edifice of Bayt al-Moqaddas by expressing the word ‘Hittah’ repeatedly as a sign of repentance in order to be forgiven. This word means ‘O God remove our sins and forgive us.
God promised to accept their repentance, forgive all their sins and add to the reward of the good doers if they uttered this word sincerely while entering the holy place. Thus even today one of the gates of Masjid al-Aqsa is called Bab al-Hittah or the Door of Repentance. This Ayah indicates that to enter sacred places one must observe some regulations and keep the due respect. Thus we should learn the norms and etiquettes of praying, supplication and repenting.
The next Ayah reads:
فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا قَوْلًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا رِجْزًا مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ
"But the wrongdoers changed the saying with other than what they were told. So We sent down on those who were wrongdoers a plague from the sky because of the transgressions they used to commit." (2:59)
A group of the Israelites, out of derision, changed the word ‘Hitta’ to Hinta which means wheat in the Semitic languages. To make mockery of Divine Commandment caused the Israelites to be afflicted with fresh chastisement which was the breakout of a plague among them. However it was only the disbelievers who were afflicted with the plague and not all people.
The 60th Ayah of surah al-Baqarah reads:
وَإِذِ اسْتَسْقَىٰ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ فَقُلْنَا اضْرِب بِّعَصَاكَ الْحَجَرَ ۖ فَانفَجَرَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْنًا ۖ قَدْ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٍ مَّشْرَبَهُمْ ۖ كُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا مِن رِّزْقِ اللَّـهِ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ
"And when Moses prayed for water for his people, we said, ‘Strike the rock with your staff.’ Thereat twelve fountains gushed forth from it; every tribe came to know its drinking- place. ‘Eat and drink from Allah’s provision, and do not act wickedly on the earth, causing corruption." (2:60)
Although Moses as Prophet was duty bound to guide the Israelites, but like all divine leaders he was considerate about people’s welfare and condition of life. That’s why he asked God to provide them drinking water.
God accepted his call and miraculously provided the Israelites with water. Allah ordered Moses to strike the staff with which he had parted the waters while escaping from Egypt, to bring water out of the stone to show the Israelites that God is able to do anything.
The Israelites were twelve groups and tribes; so there gushed forth twelve fountains so that each tribe could have its own fountain independently. Now let’s review the lessons we learn from these Ayahs:
1. God is the Giver of Providence and He sustains man with whatever he needs, yet we are not mere animals to only think of our animalistic desires and instincts. We are human beings and we should be very heedful of the way we obtain our daily sustenance to be legitimate and clean.
2. God is All-Forgiving but repentance has conditions such as cordial humbleness and confessing one’s wrong deeds before God and regretting over the bad sins.
3. One should be submissive in worshipping. That is to say one must perform the divine orders exactly as God has ordained and not the way he wishes. Otherwise it won’t be servitude but adamancy and obstinacy.
4. Divine leaders always think of fulfilling material needs of people, too, and they do this indiscriminately; i.e. they put sheer justice into action.
At the end of this episode we beseech God to help us to be thankful of His innumerable bounties and to exert our utmost on the divine path.