The Exodus in Islam: Citationality and Redemption

  • Babak RahimiEmail author
Part of the Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences book series (QMHSS)


Classical Muslim exegetes, drawn from both Quranic and non-Quranic sources, have described the exodus as an illustration of divine punishment imposed on the Israelites for their transgression against God. This study, however, understands the Quranic accounts of the exodus in terms of a salvational drama. The revelation of Torah, central to the exodus story, is about the deliverance of God’s will in the act of law giving. Moses as both a prophet and a legislator plays a key role in manifesting God as the word in the citation of an authentic divine intention through the Torah. Divine presence is also found through miracles when God orders Moses to return the sea to its original form, and so the Israelites would be saved from Pharaoh. For their lack of gratitude for God’s help, the Israelites are punished for their transgression against his command. In 5:20–25, God commands the Israelites to enter the “holy land,” but they refuse because of giants. In turn, God condemns the Israelites with 40 years of wandering (5:26). In 7:148–158 and 20:80–98 the Israelites are described to transgress God’s command for worshiping the golden calf when Moses was absent for 40 nights. In turn, Moses orders the killing of those who worshiped the golden calf. However, while the Israelites are punished for their disobedience, they are also blessed with God’s mercy and generosity. When Moses’s anger subsides after throwing down the tables after finding the Israelites worshiping of the golden calf, he took up the tablets for “those who fearful of their Lord” (7:154). Throughout the Quran, the exodus narrative provides numerous instances when God would provide numerous blessings to the Israelites. Beyond punishment and blessing, however, the exodus identifies a metanarrative of spiritual liberation. In such account, the Israelites partake in a redemptive experience of a trial through adversity that ultimately reveals divine grace, a self-reflexive reference that unravels the God it cites into existence, and hence a promise for salvation. The exodus story therefore becomes a chronicle about God’s presence in the enactment of his will through the performance of delivering the laws, even as he appears to abandon his people, even as he appears to be invisible to all.


Islamic Tradition Divine Revelation Spiritual Liberation Divine Grace Divine Presence 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, San Diego (UCSD)La JollaUSA

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