09-08-07

The period of Disasters and The folly of Pharaoh

THE PERIOD OF DISASTERS

and

THE FOLLY OF PHARAOH

One after another, God sent various disasters upon Pharaoh and his

subjects, a people obstinate in denial. First, there began a period of

extreme drought in Egypt. Water was terribly crucial for the Egyptians, the

drought directly threatening their very livelihood. As a result, agricultural

products diminished in availability and famine ensued:

We seized Pharaoh's people with years of drought and scarcity of

fruits so that hopefully they would pay heed. (Qur'an, 7: 130)

As the above verse informs us, the famine lasted for several years.

After his confrontation with the magicians, Musa stayed many years in

Egypt to communicate the message of God. Within that time, God asked

Musa to build houses for his people so as to fulfil their prayers in safety.

In this way too, the believers aided in staying together:

We revealed to Musa and his brother: "Settle your people in houses in

Egypt and make your houses places of worship and establish prayer

and give good news to the believers." (Qur'an, 10: 87)

In these houses, Musa and his adherents performed their prayers and

remembered God. The people of Egypt, on the other hand, continued to

encourage one another in ignorance, and blamed Musa and his adherents

for the calamities inflicted on them:

Whenever a good thing came to them, they said, "This is our due." But

if anything bad happened to them, they would blame their ill fortune

on Musa and those with him. No indeed! Their ill fortune will be with

God. But most of them did not know. (Qur'an, 7: 131)

Disasters were occurring everywhere in the land. In spite of them

however, Pharaoh and his inner circle did not abandon their perverse

polytheistic practices; they were zealously devoted to the "religion of their

ancestors." Not even Musa's two miracles, that is, his hand appearing white

and his staff turning into snake, helped them abandon their superstitious

beliefs. In fact, they stated that they would not believe in him, even if he

were to bring another miracle:

They said, "No matter what kind of Sign you bring us to bewitch us, we

will not have faith in you." (Qur'an, 7: 132)

Because of their conduct, God inflicted upon them a number of

calamities as
"signs, clear and distinct" (Qur'an, 7: 133), in order for

them to taste torment in this world too. The first one of these was the

drought mentioned earlier, which caused a detrimental decline in the

production of agricultural goods.

The Egyptians' agricultural system was based on the Nile river, and

thus was not effected by changes in natural conditions. Even in the hottest

seasons when no rain fell on the Egyptian soil, the Nile river carried an

abundance of water from inland Africa. However, because Pharaoh and his

inner circle remained arrogant and proud towards God, a disaster that had

been heretounexpected befell them; a drought. This drought clearly

refuted the words of Pharaoh when he said
"'My people, does the

kingdom of Egypt not belong to me? Do not all these rivers flow

under my control? Do you not then see?"
(Qur'an, 43: 51)

Nonetheless, instead of "taking heed," the unbelieving people

regarded these disasters as a misfortune brought upon them by Musa and

the children of Israel. They were convinced of such a delusion because of

their conviction to superstitions and the religion of their ancestors. They

suffered a great deal, but what was to befall them was not limited to these

initial disasters. These were but the beginning. God inflicted upon them a

series of calamities. They are described in the Qur'an as follows:

So We sent down on them floods, locusts, lice, frogs and blood, Signs,

clear and distinct, but they proved arrogant and were an evildoing

people. (Qur'an, 7: 133)

The disasters that befell Pharaoh's people are also referred in ancient Egyptian

sources. On the left is an excerpt from the famous Ipuwer Papyrus (Chapter 2,

pages 5-6): "Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere…"

Despite all such disasters, they continued in their denial. Even when

they had grasped that these disasters were a result of their denial, they

persisted in their denial. Pharaoh and his companions sought to deceive

Musa, and in consequence, God. When these terrible disasters came upon

them, one after another, they called Musa and implored him to save them

from them:

Whenever the plague came down on them they said, "Musa, pray to

your Lord for us by the contract He has with you. If you remove the

plague from us, we will definitely believe in you and send the tribe of

Israel away with you." But when We removed the plague from them—

for a fixed term which they fulfilled—they broke their word. (Qur'an,

7: 134-135)

We should note that the behaviour of the disbelievers were very

similar to that of Satan. Satan refused to obey God despite acknowledging

His existence. In like manner, the people of Pharaoh rejected submitting

to God and His messenger, despite their acknowledgement of the fact that

these disasters came from God, who they dared to refer to the "Lord of

Musa." Ultimately, they acknowledged the existence of God, but

nevertheless rejected submitting to Him due to their arrogance and blind

adherence to the religion of their ancestors.

For a long time, Musa warned his tribe and communicated to them

the religion of God. Furthermore, he effected a series of miracles as signs

from God. God sent down many disasters to these people, so that they

might turn to Him: however, none of the idolaters abandoned their

polytheistic religion or turned to their real Lord, their Creator. In the

Qur'an, God informs us that despite all of Musa's efforts, Pharaoh resisted

him:

In Musa, too, there was a sign. We sent him to Pharaoh with clear

authority. But he turned away with his forces... (Qur'an, 51: 38-39)

Rebuffed by this firm refusal, Musa prayed to his Lord to inflict

torment upon this rebellious nation:

Musa said, "Our Lord, You have given Pharaoh and his ruling circle

finery and wealth in the life of the world, Our Lord, so that they may

be misguided from Your Way. Our Lord, obliterate their wealth and

harden their hearts so that they do not have faith until they see the

painful punishment."

He (God) said, "Your request is answered, so go straight and do not

follow the way of those who have no knowledge." (Qur'an, 10: 88-89)

God answered the prayer of Musa. Pharaoh and his people, who did

not accept the path of righteousness despite all warnings, met a "painful

punishment." Their end was representative of their attitude, having been

buried with all their possessions.

Do they not see that they are tried once or

twice in every year? But still they do not

turn back. They do not pay heed.

(Qur'an, 9: 126)

 

 

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