By Dr. Iqbal Unus
3. The Team of Musa and Harun
3.1 Emphasis on the Team
It is very important to note that, having granted the request of Musa (AS) to assign Harun (AS) as his teammate, Allah SWT stresses that relationship in numerous verses in the Qur’an. The team of Musa (AS) and Harun (AS) is presented to us as one unit, addressed by Allah (SWT) as such and recognized by others as such.
Then after them sent We Musa and Harun to Pharaoh and his chiefs with Our Signs... (Yunus, 10:75) We inspired Musa and his brother with this Message:... (Yunus, 10:87) Allah said:
Accepted is your prayer (O Musa and Harun)! (Yunus, 10:89) And We commanded: Go you both, to the people who have rejected Our Signs:... (Al Furqan, 25:36)
Again, (of old,) We bestowed Our favour on Musa and Harun .....’Peace and salutation to Musa and Harun. (Al Saffat, 37:114...120) Similarly the Qur’an uses the dual form to refer to the two prophets in Surah (Ta Ha, Ayahs 42-49) again highlighting the fact that they are a team.
3.2 Acting as a Team
Musa (AS) and Harun (AS) acted as a team. The words They said and We fear in the verse that follows indicate a process of active consultation between the two of them.
They (Musa and Harun) said: ‘Our Lord! We fear lest He hasten with insolence against us, or lest he transgress all bounds.’ (Ta Ha, 20:45)
3.3 Recognition of the Team
Harun (AS) was a significant part of the team, not merely an attendant to Musa (AS). This fact was recognized by the Pharaoh, (AS) the Qur’an tells us.
(When this message was delivered, Pharaoh) said: ‘Who then, O Musa, is the Lord of you two?’ (Ta Ha, 20: 49)
The sorcerers in the court also referred, not to the Lord of Musa (AS) alone, but to the Lord of Musa (AS) and Harun (AS), recognizing the latter as a significant partner of the former.
Then did the sorcerers fall down, prostrate in adoration,
Saying: ‘We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Musa and Harun.’ (Al Shu’ara, 26:46-48)
4. Elements of Delegation
When Allah SWT asked Musa (AS) to leave his people for forty days, he put them under the supervision of Harun (AS). In other words, he delegated the leadership of the community and the management of its affairs to his teammate. In doing so, Musa (AS) defined the delegated task in broad terms as follows: .... And Musa had charged his brother Harun (before he went up): ‘Act for me amongst my people: Do right, and follow not the way of those do mischief.’ (Al A’raf, 7:142)
Musa (AS) illustrated three important aspects of effective delegation in this case. First, he delegated broadly but clearly by charging Harun (AS) to act for him amongst his people. Second, he clarified his expectation - the intended objective - by asking Harun (AS) to do right. Third, he placed appropriate limits on the delegated authority by asking Harun (AS) not to follow the way of those who do mischief.
When Musa (AS) returned to his people and found that Harun (AS) had been unable to prevent his people from being misled by Samiri, he was upset. He held Harun (AS) accountable but assumed responsibility himself, illustrating one of the most basic rules of delegation that one cannot delegate responsibility; one can only delegate authority.
Musa prayed: ‘O my Lord! Forgive me and my brother! Admit us to Your mercy! For You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!’ (Al A’raf, 7:151)
Musa (AS) asked for forgiveness for himself - for getting angry, and for being unable to fulfill his responsibility - as well as his brother - for his seeming failure in his delegated task, which was Do right.... As an effective leader, Musa (AS) went further and identified himself with his people and their role in this situation.
.... He prayed: ‘O my Lord! If it had been Your Will You could have destroyed, long before, both them and me: would You destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us? This is no more than Your trial: by it You cause whom You will to stray, and You lead whom you will into the right path...’ (Al A’raf, 7:155)
4. 3 Authority
Allah SWT teaches us another principle of delegation in this story - that, one to whom a task is delegated must be given sufficient authority and resources to carry it out - when He says: Then We sent Musa and his brother Harun, with Our Signs and authority manifest,... (Al Mu’minun, 23:45)
As in the verse above, so in the verse below, Allah SWT refers to the two prophets together and underscores two additional principles of delegation. These are: those delegated a task must be supported (We are with you), and they must be given a hearing and feedback as necessary (will listen (to your call).
Allah said: ‘By no means! Proceed then both of you, with Our Signs; We are with you, and will listen (to your call) (Al Shu’ara, 26:15)
This message of support and assistance is repeated elsewhere in the Qur’an. So go forth, both of you, to Pharaoh, and say: ‘We have been sent by the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds.’ (Al Shu’ara, 26:16) He said: ‘We will certainly strengthen your arm through your brother, and invest you both with authority, so they shall not be able to touch you: with Our Signs shall you triumph - you two as well as those who follow you.’ (Al Qasas, 28:35)
5. Some More Lessons
When Musa (AS) had gone to meet Allah (SWT), Samiri caused a rebellion among the people against the legitimately delegated leadership of Harun (AS) and misled them into deviating from the worship of Allah (SWT). When Musa (AS) returned, he did not rush to condemn anyone. He gave Samiri an opportunity to explain his action before arriving at the conclusion of expelling him. (Musa) said: ‘What then is your case. O Samiri?’ (Ta Ha, 20:95) The environment Harun (AS) faced was not the same as Musa’s (AS); hence, their priorities also differed. We see this in the exchange between the two when Musa (AS) returned to his people only to find them misled. Musa (AS) asked Harun (AS) what prevented him from following his orders when he saw his people going wrong. After asking him not be angry with him, (Harun) replied: .. Truly I feared lest you should say, ‘You have caused a division among the Children of Israel, and you did not respect my word!’ (Ta Ha, 20:94) The priority of Harun (AS) was to maintain unity among the Children of Israel. The priority of Musa (AS) was higher, to maintain the purity of worship among the people.
This episode in the life of Musa (AS) also illustrates how we should choose someone to whom we wish assign a task. The person to be chosen should have two major characteristics: competence and trustworthiness. These are the qualities that were apparent in Musa (AS) when he was hired by the elderly man whose daughters he helped during his journey in the land of Madyan. Said one of the (damsels): ‘O my (dear) father! engage him on wages: truly the best of men for you to employ is the (man) who is strong and trusty’ (Al Qasas, 28:26)
The story of Musa (AS) and Harun (AS) offers us valuable lessons in leadership and the art of working together. In these lessons, we discover the Islamic roots of contemporary concepts in human development, whose understanding and practice will enhance our ability to perform and achieve, in sha’ Allah.