Thursday, November 24, 2005

Prophet Moses & his Serpent-Staff

Malaysia has just banned 9 Malay-language books published in Indonesia and one Arabic book from Egypt. Usually the banning would have something to do with the Islamic faith.

Despite the fact that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with almost 90% of its population embracing the Islamic faith, some of whom are extreme fundamentalists like certain members of the Jemaah Islamiyah, it has a fairly tolerant attitude towards religion. I suppose that's why those books were published.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our own Malaysia especially when it comes to Islam. In fact, the Home Ministry has warned that it would be an offence to publish, reproduce, offer for sale or circulate these publications.

Looking at some of those banned titles, I find them rather innocuous, admittedly without examining their contents. Those more gentle-sounding books are (excuse my loose translation):

(1) Dari Zaman Nabi Muhammad Saw Dan Para Sahabat – Since the era or times of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh and his close disciples (or Companions)

(2) Mengapa Kita Mencintai Keluarga Nabi Saw – why we love the family of the Prophet pbuh

(3) Quran Menurut Perempuan – the Koran from the female’s perspective

Maybe they have to do with viewpoints that may threatened or contradict Malaysia’s Islam, which subscribes to the Shafi’i legal school of Sunni Islam, or even promote religious agitation that may threaten public stability.

However there was one that attracted my attention despite KTemoc being not of the Ummah (the Muslim fraternity). The book is published by CV Pustaka Setia and titled Kisah Tongkat Nabi Musa by KH Abdullah Zakiy AlKaaf and Dr Maman Abdul Djaliel.

The translated title reads “The story of the Prophet Moses' staff”. Yes, that’s the Moses who parted the sea in the Book of Exodus.

Readers may wish to visit (or re-visit) what I had blogged on earlier this year in the unfinished (shame on me!) ‘Who was Abraham?’ series. I have selected 4 postings from that series that mentioned the story of Moses' staff, as follows:

[warning – my postings may be offensive to some Christians and Muslims and indeed Jews, so please don’t read if you have a low tolerance of alternative views on the Old Testament]

(1) Who was Abraham? (18)
(2) Who was Abraham? (19)
(3) Who was Abraham? (20)
(4) Who was Abraham? (21)

From one of these 4 postings mentioning Moses’ serpent-staff I have extracted the following paragraphs:


... the biblical author of the Book of Exodus writing in Aaron rather than Moses as the thrower of the serpent-staff when in front of the Egyptian, whereas Moses did it by himself when he was with God. ……...

Moses serpent rod was worshipped with incense in the Temple of Solomon until the time of King Hezekiah, who broke it up as part of his religious reforms (with political overtones).

"He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake into pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan."
(2 Kings 18:4)

The term Nehushtan might have also implied that the worship of serpents was of ancient date in Israel.


As the Old Testament went (see Numbers 21:4-9), the Hebrews were attacked by venomous snakes sent by YWVH to kill those who spoke against Him. He then instructed Moses to make the serpent staff to heal those bitten.

"21.6. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."

But several hundred years later King Hezekiah destroyed Moses' staff because he reckon it was encouraging idolatry when he saw the Hebrews burning incense before it in the Temple in Jerusalem.

I wonder whether the Indonesian book Kisah Tongkat Nabi Musa by KH Abdullah Zakiy AlKaaf and Dr Maman Abdul Djaliel has anything to do with the story I have blogged on.

Anyway, this has motivated me to resume my ‘Who was Abraham?’ series to its finale but it's not goiung to happened tomorrow – my apologies to those who became fed up waiting for me; I had a burnt out with the series because of too much reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment