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The Hadith about Musa or Moses (pbuh) and the Angel of death can widely be found in Hadith collections (at least sunnah.com gives 4 search results) here just the two major sources:

Abu Huraira reported that the Angel of Death was sent to Moses (peace be upon him) to inform of his Lord's summons. When he came, he (Moses) boxed him and his eye was knocked out. He (the Angel of Death) came back to the Lord and said:
You sent me to a servant. who did not want to die. Allah restored his eye to its proper place (and revived his eyesight), and then said: Go back to him and tell him that if he wants life he must place his hand on the back of an ox, and he would be granted as many years of life as the number of hair covered by his hand. He (Moses) said: My Lord what would happen then He said: Then you must court death. He said: Let it be now. And he supplicated Allah to bring him close to the sacred land. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said: If I were there, I would have shown you his grave beside the road at the red mound. http://sunnah.com/muslim/43/206

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The angel of death was sent to Moses and when he went to him, Moses slapped him severely, spoiling one of his eyes. The angel went back to his Lord, and said, "You sent me to a slave who does not want to die." Allah restored his eye and said, "Go back and tell him (i.e. Moses) to place his hand over the back of an ox, for he will be allowed to live for a number of years equal to the number of hairs coming under his hand." (So the angel came to him and told him the same). Then Moses asked, "O my Lord! What will be then?" He said, "Death will be then." He said, "(Let it be) now." He asked Allah that He bring him near the Sacred Land at a distance of a stone's throw. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h) said, "Were I there I would show you the grave of Moses by the way near the red sand hill." http://sunnah.com/bukhari/23/95

  • How can this Hadith be explained?
  • Is it really authentic?
  • I mean how can such a person like a Prophet and Messenger be willing to live and even attack the Angel of death?
  • Shouldn't he accept that his lifetime has ended instead of -as it seems- opposing to Allah's wish?
  • How can the expansion of lifetime be explained?
  • Is it a deal with Allah and why should Allah make such a deal ...?
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  • Is the Angle of Death associated with the banned group Al Gebra? :) (It should be spelt "Angel")
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 18, 2016 at 12:08
  • Good points Sheikh al-Ghazaly in his book "As sunnah an-Nabawiya bayna ahli-l-Fiqh w ahl al-Hadith" (The prophetic sunnah between people of fiqh (Jursiprudence) and people of Hadith) mentioned this very hadith and the attempts to explain it.
    – Medi1Saif
    Oct 18, 2016 at 12:15
  • Angles are part of mathematics, and algebra is part of mathematics.
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 18, 2016 at 12:15
  • 2
    @Medi1Saif maybe you could post an answer based on that?
    – Jamila
    Oct 18, 2016 at 12:25
  • 2
    That would be a whole chapter from a book... it needs time!
    – Medi1Saif
    Oct 20, 2016 at 8:16

2 Answers 2

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Scholars have given various explanations for the hadith, some are as follows:

It is possible that the angel of death came inside the home of Moses عليه السلام without permission and in human form. Moses عليه السلام did not recognize him and mistook him for an intruder. When the angel said: "أجب ربك" Moses عليه السلام perceived it as a death threat from someone who wished to murder him, hence he attacked him.

  • It is possible for an angel to come in the form of a human. It is also possible for a prophet to not recognize an angel in this form. This is proven from the example of Abraham عليه السلام , Lot عليه السلام and Mary عليه السلام in the Quran:

    فلما جاء آل لوط المرسلون قال إنكم قوم منكرون

    And when the messengers came to the family of Lot, He said, "Indeed, you are people unknown."

    Quran 15:61-62

    هل أتاك حديث ضيف إبراهيم المكرمين إذ دخلوا عليه فقالوا سلاما قال سلام قوم منكرون

    Has there reached you the story of the honored guests of Abraham? - When they entered upon him and said, "[We greet you with] peace." He answered, "[And upon you] peace, [you are] a people unknown.

    Quran 51:24-25

    فأرسلنا إليها روحنا فتمثل لها بشرا سويا قالت إني أعوذ بالرحمن منك إن كنت تقيا

    Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man. he said, "Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah."

    Quran 19:17-18

  • The angel of death came to Moses عليه السلام in the shape of a human. And it is likely that Moses عليه السلام did not recognize him. This is evident from some versions of the hadith::

    إن ملك الموت كان يأتي الناس عيانا، فأتى موسى بن عمران فلطمه موسى ففقأ عينه

    The angel of death came to people openly i.e. in human form. So he came to Moses, Moses slapped him and put out his eye

    Musnad Ahmad , Mustadrak al-Hakim

    When the angel came he did not identify himself as an angel, nor did he explain his task, rather it seems that he only said the following words (which can be misunderstood):

    جاء ملك الموت إلى موسى عليه السلام . فقال له : أجب ربك قال فلطم موسى عليه السلام عين ملك الموت ففقأها

    The Angel of Death came to Musa and said: “Answer the call of your Lord.” Musa, slapped the eye of the Angel of Death and put it out.

    Muslim

    When the angel returned with a healed eye, Moses عليه السلام realized that he was an angel and that is why he listened and did not attack him again.

  • Attacking an intruder in your home is permissible.

    لو أعلم أنك تنظر لطعنت به في عينك

    Had I known that you were looking I would have pierced your eye

    Bukhari

    من اطلع في بيت قوم بغير إذنهم ، فقد حل لهم أن يفقؤوا عينه

    Whoever looks into a house without the people's permission, it is permissible for them to put out his eyes

    Muslim

    Similarly, attacking someone who wishes to kill you is permissible.

  • Allah giving Moses عليه السلام a choice and allowing him the possibility of living longer is not problematic, nor is it opposition to Allah's wish. Rather, it is an honor which He confers on every Prophet:

    لا يموت نبي حتى يخير بين الدنيا والآخرة

    No Prophet dies till he is given the option to select either the worldly life or the life of the Hereafter

    Bukhari

  • Allah's command does not necessarily reflect His wish. We know that He commanded Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael, but His wish was to test Abraham عليه السلام and to save Ishmael عليه السلام - hence when Abraham عليه السلام had passed the test He later changed His command and told him to sacrifice a sheep. In the same way, Allah's wish was for this event to unfold and then to give Moses the choice.


Other scholars have proposed that Moses عليه السلام recognized the angel but was given permission by Allah to hit and repel him. This event was ordained by Allah as a test for the angel of death, i.e. to check what he would do in this situation. And Allah tests His creation as He wills. Allah also tested the angels at other times, such as at the creation of Adam عليه السلام .

Some have also proposed that Moses عليه السلام attacked the angel to chastise him, as he felt that he was not following protocol.

  • As mentioned before, Allah has ordained a general protocol for the angel to follow before taking the soul of a prophet: when the time of death approaches, the prophet is to be given a choice to either continue living or to die.

    لا يموت نبي حتى يخير بين الدنيا والآخرة

    No Prophet dies till he is given the option to select either the worldly life or the life of the Hereafter

    Bukhari

    While in this instance the angel on his first visit simply said:

    Respond (return) to your Lord

  • Moses عليه السلام is more senior in status to the angel of death and hence can chastise him. We already know from the Quran that he also chastised his brother, Prophet Aaron عليه السلام :

    قال يا ابن أم لا تأخذ بلحيتي ولا برأسي إني خشيت أن تقول فرقت بين بني إسرائيل ولم ترقب قولي

    [Aaron] said, "O son of my mother, do not seize [me] by my beard or by my head. Indeed, I feared that you would say, 'You caused division among the Children of Israel, and you did not observe [or await] my word.' "

    Quran 20:94

    And chastising an angel is less than this.

References: Fath al-Bari , Sharah Nawawi - Sahih Muslim, Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Mufhim lima Ashkala min Talkhees Muslim, Ikmaal al-Mu‘lim bi Fawaa’id Muslim , https://shamela.ws/book/95991/320 , https://shamela.ws/book/146418/4273

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Although it is outdated question, I want to answer to this question.

Let's consider Hud 69:70. We can see that Allah sent angels in the form of human. As Ibrahim did not know that they are angels and prepared them a cow. They did not eat it, and Ibrahim became afraid. Up to that moment Ibrahim was not aware that there are angels. But they revealed themselves as angel. So, we decide that angels can come in the form of humanbeing.

Now, death of angel at that time appeared as in the form of human being and warned Musa that it will take his life. And of course as everyone would, Musa slapped it. What would you do if someone appears in front of you inside your house and warn that it will kill you. That is the point here. First we need to look at Quran and understand that angels could and came in the form of human being (visually). That is what happened to Musa and in the form of self-defense Musa slapped it.

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  • And where is the proof that Musa (AS) didn't know that this was angel of death?
    – user44632
    Jan 9, 2022 at 14:50
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    Nice question, but you should ask it to abu huraira who fabricated tons of "hadiths" and put them into Muhammad's mouth.
    – Sunuba
    Jan 13, 2022 at 9:04
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    This was also reported by a the shi'a scholars Muhammad ibn Nabi -Tawisarkani محمد نبي التويسركاني (Persian scholar) in his La'ali' al-Akhbaar لئالي الأخبار on the autorithy of imam as-Sadiq (see here), also by the Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jazairi نعمة الله الجزائري in his al-Anwar an-Nu'maniyah الأنوار النعمانية and so did al-Irbili الأربلي in his Kashf al-Ghummah كشف الغمة (see here).
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 8, 2022 at 12:42

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