The Struggle of Musa(a.s) against the magicians
Magicians came to Pharaoh from all parts of the land of Egypt to
perform their magic against Musa. Pharaoh was certain of his ultimate
victory. Following a successful confrontation, the authority of Pharaoh and
his inner circle would have been assured. The magicians, on the other
hand, were curious as to the reward they would receive in return for
(They said) "To bring you all the skilled magicians."
The magicians came to Pharaoh and they asked, "Will we receive a
reward if we are the winners?"
He (Pharaoh) said, "Yes, and you will be among those brought near."
(Qur'an, 7: 112-114)
Pharaoh was taking advantage of the situation to consolidate his
authority, while the magicians thought that by being honoured with being
"close" to Pharaoh, they would gain certain benefits. The most able
magicians of Egypt were brought against Musa and Harun. Musa was asked
to decide who should start:
They said, "Musa, will you throw or shall we be the first to throw?"
He said, "No, you throw!"
And suddenly their ropes and staffs appeared to him, by their magic,
to be slithering about. (Qur'an, 20: 65-66)
When the magicians performed their magic, their ropes and staffs
appeared to slither. As the verse informs us, all were deceived into seeing
ropes and staffs as moving by themselves.
A certain point deserves attention here: in the above verse, we
encounter the expression "appear to be slithering about." This wording
indicates that there was not an actual movement, but only one perceived
by the spectators. In another verse,
the illusory nature of this incident is
explained as follows:
He (Musa) said, "You throw."
And when they threw, they
cast a spell on the people's eyes
and caused them to feel great
fear of them. They produced an
extremely powerful magic.
(Qur'an, 7: 116)
With their illusions, the
magicians of Pharaoh won the
public over. They exalted his
regime by the spells they
performed, which they did "by the
might of Pharaoh." Pharaoh, in
return, provided them financial
benefits. In brief, their relationship
was mutually beneficial.
In their confrontation with
Musa, the magicians were completely aware that Pharaoh was not in
possession of any kind of divine power. However, purely out of a desire
to be brought "close" to enjoy the resulting benefits, they threw their staffs.
They did so, quite sure of their superiority over Musa, which they
They threw down their ropes and staffs and said, "By the might of
Pharaoh we are the winners." (Qur'an, 26: 44)
Although deceitful, the magicians' show impressed the crowd. As we
read in the Qur'an, the people were terrified. Musa too was impressed; his
heart was filled with fear since the magicians' ropes and staffs appeared to
him also as slithering about. Nonetheless, God reminded Musa not to be
Musa experienced in himself a feeling of alarm. We said, "Have no fear.
You will have the upper hand.
Throw down what is in your right
hand. It will swallow up their
handiwork. Their handiwork is just
a magician's trick. Magicians do not
prosper wherever they go." (Qur'an,
Bolstered by this reminder from
God, Musa immediately turned to the
magicians, telling them that their
performance was mere sorcery which
would be rendered void by the will of
When they had thrown, Musa said,
"What you have brought is magic.
God will certainly prove it false.
God does not uphold the actions of
corrupters." (Qur'an, 10: 81)
Then Musa threw down his staff.
The result was terrifying for the
magicians. Musa's staff swallowed the
sorcery of Pharaoh's magicians:
We revealed to Musa, "Throw down
your staff." And it immediately
swallowed up what they had forged.
So the Truth took place and what
they did was shown to be false. They were defeated then and there,
transformed into humbled men. (Qur'an, 7: 117-119)
Unlike the illusory tricks of magicians, Musa worked a real miracle by
his staff. The magicians had plotted against Musa. However, God, the best
of plotters, aided Musa with a plan which rendered their tricks utterly
worthless. Thus, the plots of the magicians only worked against them.
Provided with supernatural properties by God, the staff effected a true
Consequently, contrary to expected, Musa defeated the magicians. So,
everybody witnessed that God's promise was true. God did not leave Musa
alone and, through this miracle, made him victorious over one of the most
powerful systems of his time.