We are told in the Quran that the Children of Israel annoyed Moses to such a point that Allah had to intervene on Moses’ behalf:
“O ye who believe! Be ye not like those who hurt Moses, but Allah cleared him of the (calumnies) they had uttered: and he was honorable in Allah’s sight.” S. 33:69
The Muslim traditions provide the reason why this verse was allegedly “sent down”:
Volume 4, Book 55, Number 616:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “(The Prophet) Moses was a shy person and used to cover his body completely because of his extensive shyness. One of the children of Israel hurt him by saying, ‘He covers his body in this way only because of some defect in his skin, either leprosy or scrotal hernia, or he has some other defect.’ Allah wished to clear Moses of what they said about him, so one day while Moses was in seclusion, he took off his clothes and put them on a stone and started taking a bath. When he had finished the bath, he moved towards his clothes so as to take them, but the stone took his clothes and fled; Moses picked up his stick and ran after the stone saying, ‘O stone! Give me my garment!’ Till he reached a group of Bani Israel who saw him naked then, and found him the best of what Allah had created, and Allah cleared him of what they had accused him of. The stone stopped there and Moses took and put his garment on and started hitting the stone with his stick. By Allah, the stone still has some traces of the hitting, three, four or five marks. THIS IS WAS WHAT ALLAH REFERS TO IN HIS SAYING:– “O you who believe! Be you not like those Who annoyed Moses, But Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, And he was honorable In Allah’s Sight.” (33.69)
Volume 1, Book 5, Number 277:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “The (people of) Bani Israel used to take bath naked (all together) looking at each other. The Prophet Moses used to take a bath alone. They said, ‘By Allah! Nothing prevents Moses from taking a bath with us except that he has a scrotal hernia.’ So once Moses went out to take a bath and put his clothes over a stone and then that stone ran away with his clothes. Moses followed that stone saying, ‘My clothes, O stone! My clothes, O stone!’ till the people of Bani Israel saw him and said, ‘By Allah, Moses has got no defect in his body.’Moses took his clothes and began to beat the stone.” Abu Huraira added, “By Allah! There are still six or seven marks present on the stone from that excessive beating.”
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “When the Prophet Job (Aiyub) was taking a bath naked, golden locusts began to fall on him. Job started collecting them in his clothes. His Lord addressed him, ‘O Job! Haven’t I given you enough so that you are not in need of them.’ Job replied, ‘Yes! By Your Honor (power)! But I cannot dispense with Your Blessings.’”
Book 030, Number 5850:
Abu Huraira reported that Moses was a modest person. He was never seen naked and Banu Isra’iI said: (He was afraid to expose his private part) because he had been suffering from scrotal hernia. He (one day) took bath in water and placed his garments upon a stone. The stone began to move on quickly. He followed that and struck it with the help of a stone (saying): O stone, my garment; O stone, my garments, O stone; until it stopped near the big gathering of Israi’l, AND THIS VERSE WAS REVEALED (PERTAINING TO THE INCIDENT): “O you who believe, be not like those who maligned Moses, but Allah cleared him of what they said, and he was worthy of regard with Allah” (xxxiii. 69).
Book 003, Number 0669:
Amongst the traditions narrated from Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) on the authority of Abu Huraira, the one is that Banu Isra’il used to take a bath naked, and they looked at the private parts of one another. Moses (peace be upon him), however, took a bath alone (in privacy); and they said (tauntingly): By Allah, nothing prohibits Moses to take a bath along with us, but sacrotal hernia. He (Moses) once went for a bath and placed his clothes on a stone and the stone moved on with his clothes. Moses ran after it saying: O stone, my clothes, O stone, my clothes, and Banu Isra’il had the chance to see the private parts of Moses, and said: By Allah, Moses does not suffer from any ailment. The stone then stopped, till Moses had been seen by them, and he then took hold of his clothes and struck the stone. Abu Huraira said: By Allah, there are the marks of six or seven strokes made by Moses on the stone. (see also Book 030, Number 5849)
O you who believe, do not behave, towards your Prophet, as did those who harmed Moses – when they would say, for example, ‘The only reason he does not wash with us is that he has an inflammation in his testicles’ – whereat God absolved him of what they alleged: when Moses placed his robe on a rock to go to wash, the rock hurtled away with it until it came to a halt amid a group of men from the Children of Israel. As Moses chased it and took his robe to cover himself, they saw that he had no such inflammation (udra is an inflammation of the testicle). And he was distinguished in God’s sight. An instance of our Prophet (s) being subjected to hurt was when [on one occasion] while dividing up the spoils a man said to him, ‘This division has not been done to please God!’, whereat the Prophet (s) became enraged and said, ‘May God have mercy upon Moses, for truly he was hurt with worse than this, but endured’ – reported by al-Bukhārī. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; underline emphasis ours)
Tafsir of Ibn Abbas
(O ye who believe! Be not) in harming the Prophet (pbuh) (as those who slandered Moses) they accused him of having swollen testicles, (but Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, and he was well esteemed in Allah’s sight) he has a high standing and status in Allah’s sight. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; source; underline emphasis ours)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
The Fabrications of the Jews against Musa
Al-Bukhari recorded in the Book of Hadiths about the Prophets, that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messengers of Allah said …
((Musa, peace be upon him, was a shy and modest man who would never show anything of his skin because of his shyness. Some of the Children of Israel annoyed him by saying: “He only keeps himself covered because of some defect in his skin, either leprosy or scrotal hernia or some other defect.” Allah, may He be glorified, wanted to clear Musa, peace be upon him, of what they were saying. One day Musa was alone, so he took off his garment and put it on a rock, then he took a bath. When he had finished, he turned back to pick up his garment, but the rock moved away, taking his garment with it. Musa picked up his stick and chased the rock, saying, “My garment, O rock! My garment, O rock! Until he reached a group of the Children of Israel, who saw him naked and found that he was the best of those whom Allah created. Thus, he was cleared of what they said about him. Then the rock stood still, so he took his garment and put it on. He started hitting the rock with his stick, and by Allah, the marks of that beating were left on the rock, three or four or five. This is what is referred to in the Ayah: <O you who believe! Be not like those who annoyed Musa, but Allah cleared him of that which they alleged, and he was honorable before Allah.>))
This Hadith is one of those which were recorded by Al-Bukhari but not Muslim.
Imam Ahmad recorded that ‘Abdallah (bin Mas’ud) said: “One day, the Messenger of Allah distributed some booty and a man from the Ansar said, ‘This division was not done for the sake of Allah.’ I said, ‘O enemy of Allah! I am going to tell the Messenger of Allah what you have said.’ So, I told the Prophet about it. His face reddened and he said …
((May Allah have mercy on Musa. He was annoyed with worse than this, yet he remained patient.))
This was recorded in the two Sahihs. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 8, Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 51 to the end of Surat Ad-Dukhan, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition: September 2000], pp. 51-52; bold emphasis ours)
Ibn Kathir is wrong for claiming that Muslim did not record this incident since the above quotes from his Sahih collection show that he did.
Hence, we see that the earliest Muslim commentators interpreted S. 33:69 in connection with Israel’s accusation against Moses, and Moses’ vindication by Allah through the use of a running stone or rock. They based this on the statements allegedly made by Muhammad to one of his closest associates.
Interestingly, one finds that talking stones, trees and even food to be a common feature of the Hadith literature:
Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
The Prophet used to stand by a tree or a date-palm on Friday. Then an Ansari woman or man said. “O Allah’s Apostle! Shall we make a pulpit for you?” He replied, “If you wish.” So they made a pulpit for him and when it was Friday, he proceeded towards the pulpit (for delivering the sermon). The date-palm cried like a child! The Prophet descended (the pulpit) and embraced it while it continued moaning like a child being quieted. The Prophet said, “It was crying for (missing) what it used to hear of religious knowledge given near to it.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 784; see also Volume 4, Book 56, Number 783 and Volume 2, Book 13, Number 41)
We used to consider miracles as Allah’s Blessings, but you people consider them to be a warning. Once we were with Allah’s Apostle on a journey, and we ran short of water. He said, “Bring the water remaining with you.” The people brought a utensil containing a little water. He placed his hand in it and said, “Come to the blessed water, and the Blessing is from Allah.” I saw the water flowing from among the fingers of Allah’s Apostle , and no doubt, we heard the meal glorifying Allah, when it was being eaten (by him). (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 779)
“I asked Masruq, ‘Who informed the Prophet about the Jinns at the night when they heard the Qur’an?’ He said, ‘Your father ‘Abdullah informed me that a tree informed the Prophet about them.’” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 199)