THE INGRATITUDE OF
THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
After his confrontation with the magicians, Musa stayed in Egypt for
an extended period of time, marked by more severe oppression meted out
by Pharaoh against Musa and the children of Israel. On one hand, Musa
confronted Pharaoh and his oppression, while on the other, he summoned
the children of the Israel to steadfastness. Some among the children of the
Israel disrespectfully criticised Musa, saying that his presence did not
alleviate the repression they were subjected to:
Musa said to his people, "Seek help in God and be steadfast. The earth
belongs to God. He bequeaths it to any of His servants He wills. The
successful outcome is for those who have fear for God."
They said, "We suffered harm before you came to us and after you
came to us."
He said, "It may well be that your Lord is going to destroy your enemy
and make you the successors in the land so that He can see how you
behave." (Qur'an, 7: 128-129)
The disrespect of the children of Israel towards Musa is an indication
of their spiritual weakness. God had sent a prophet, to save them from the
cruelty of Pharaoh, who asked them to be steadfast. Due to the weakness
of their faith and their utter lack of wisdom, they were not able to forebear.
Instead, with ingratitude, they began to complain and grumble to Musa.
However, no matter what befalls him, a sincere believer feels grateful to
God, and submits himself to everything that God had predetermined for
him. In times of trouble, hardship, hunger or even under oppression or
torture, a Muslim must always be in such a state of spiritual submission.
This state of mind was explained by God's Messenger, the Prophet
Muhammad (saas) with the words "Praise be to God who created everything
as is necessary, who does not hasten anything He defers and determines.God is enough for me and sufficient." (Ibn Majah) Only such submission
and putting one's trust in God can change troubles into great spiritual
With the example of Musa, God shows us that the majority of the
children of Israel lacked this kind of a conscientiousness. As will be made
clear in the following pages, the complaints of the children of Israel, as
described above, would later turn to ingratitude, and ultimately, into
rebellion against God. God informs us of these events that we may take
lessons from them. Just as in the case of the denial of Pharaoh, so in the
weak faith and ill-hearts of the children of Israel is there a lesson for us.
He (God) has given you everything you have
asked Him for. If you tried to number God's
blessings, you could never count them.
Man is indeed wrongdoing, ungrateful.
(Qur'an, 14: 34)
A MAN OF FAITH AND THE PALACE
Despite the supernatural events and miracles they witnessed, Pharaoh
and his inner circle resisted Musa. They insisted on denying the truth, due
to their arrogance and obstinacy, and went to such lengths as to claim that
Musa was a magician who performed a spell. Furthermore, they devised
new plans to subject Musa and his adherents to more severe torture and
We sent Musa with Our Signs and clear authority to Pharaoh, Haman
and Qarun. But they said, "A lying magician." When he brought them
the truth from Us they said, "Slaughter the sons of those who have
faith with him but let their women live." The stratagems of the
unbelievers are nothing but errors. Pharaoh said, "Let me kill Musa
and let him call upon his Lord! I am afraid that he may change your
religion and bring about corruption in the land." Musa said, "I seek
refuge in my Lord and your Lord from every proud man who does not
believe in the Day of Reckoning." (Qur'an, 40: 23-27)
Pharaoh intended to kill Musa. He was committed to preventing the
establishment of a new order in the land of Egypt which would hinder his
further enrichment. If Musa were to attain more power, Pharaoh would not
be able to rule over the Egyptian people as he desired. That is why he tried
to justify killing Musa by suggesting that Musa's intentions were solely evil.
However, there appeared a man from the family of Pharaoh who
supported Musa and objected to Pharaoh's cruelties:
A man among Pharaoh's people who had faith, but kept his faith
concealed, said, "Are you going to kill a man for saying 'My Lord is
God' when he has brought you Clear Signs from your Lord? If he is
telling a lie, be it on his own head. But if he is telling the truth, then
some of what he is promising you will certainly happen to you. God
does not guide any unbridled inveterate liar. My people! The kingdom
is yours today, as masters in the land, but who will help us against
God's violent force, if it comes upon us?"
Pharaoh said, "I only show you what I see myself and I only guide you
to the path of rectitude."
The man who had faith said, "My people! I fear for you a fate like that
of the factions (of old), the same as happened to the people of Noah
and 'Ad and Thamud and those who followed after them. God does not
want any injustice for His servants. My people! I fear for you the Day
of Calling Out, the Day when you will turn your backs in flight, having
no one to protect you from God. Whoever God misguides will have no
guide. Yusuf brought you the Clear Signs before, but you never
stopped doubting what he brought to you to the extent that when he
died, you said, 'God will never send another Messenger after him' That
is how God misguides those who are unbridled and full of doubt."
Those who argue about the Signs of God without any authority coming
to them do something hateful in the sight of God and in the sight of
the people who believe. That is how God seals up the heart of every
arrogant oppressor. (Qur'an, 40: 28-35)
The warning from the believer in the palace did not affect Pharaoh,
whose heart was filled with arrogance and blinded in denial. In order to
render his words ineffective, he tried to ridicule this Muslim who had
warned him and all the people of Egypt. In a derisive manner, Pharaoh
turned to his assistant Haman, asking him to build a tower:
Pharaoh said, "Haman, build me a tower so that perhaps I may gain
means of access, access to the heavens, so that I can look on Musa's
God. Truly I think he is a liar." That is how Pharaoh's evil actions were
made attractive to him and he debarred others from the path.
Pharaoh's scheming led to nothing but ruin. (Qur'an, 40: 36-37)
Pharaoh was aiming to regain control merely by derision. He did not
grasp the importance of the message, that is, the existence and oneness of
God, communicated by Musa. Pharaoh thought that Musa suggested God
was up in the air and knew that nothing would be seen once one ascends
there. It was based on this premise that he founded his denial of Musa.
Recognizing the error of Pharaoh's understanding, the believer from
Pharaoh's family, who had concealed his belief, started to explain the
existence of God and the hereafter to Pharaoh and his people. He warned
them against a never-ending torment. He summoned them to the right way
and pleaded them to follow him:
The man who believed said, "My people! Follow me and I will guide
you to the path of rectitude. My people! The life of the earth is only
fleeting enjoyment. It is the hereafter, which is the abode of
permanence. Whoever does an evil act will only be repaid with its
equivalent. But whoever acts rightly, male or female, being a believer,
such a person will enter Paradise, provided for in it without any
reckoning. My people! How is it that I call you to salvation while you
call me to the Fire? You call me to reject God and to associate
something with Him about which I have no knowledge, while I call
you to the Almighty, the Endlessly Forgiving. There is no question that
what you call me to has no foundation neither in the world nor the
hereafter, that our return is to God, and that the profligate will be
Companions of the Fire. You will remember what I say to you. I
consign my affair completely to God. Truly God sees His servants."
So God safeguarded him from the evil things they plotted and a most
evil torment engulfed Pharaoh's people. (Qur'an, 40: 38-45)
Pharaoh and his companions did not heed the warnings of this
devout believer who was from among them. Nevertheless, in return for
their denial and their arrogance, a great torment awaited them.
There are some of the stories of communities that We relate you:
of them, some are standing, and some have been mown
down (by the sickle of time). (Qur’an 11:100)
THE NAME "HAMAN" IN THE QUR'AN IS ALSO MENTIONED
IN THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN INSCRIPTIONS
Some of the information the Qur'an provides about ancient Egypt reveals
many historical facts that were not disclosed until recently. This information also
indicates that every word in the Qur'an is used in accordance with divine reason.
"Haman" is another person, along with Pharaoh, whose name is mentioned
in the Qur'an. In six separate verses, Haman is referred to as one of the closest
men to Pharaoh.
Surprisingly however, we never encounter the name of Haman in that section
of the Torah where the life of Musa is related. However, there is reference to
Haman in the latter chapters of the Bible, as the counsellor of a Babylonian king,
who lived approximately 1100 years after Pharaoh, and who was notorious for his
cruelty against Jews.
Some non-Muslims, who claim the Qur'an to be a compilation of the Bible by
the Prophet Muhammad (saas), allege the fallacy that the Prophet incorrectly
copied some of the material from the Bible into the Qur'an.
However, this claim has been proven to be groundless, thanks to the
decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet approximately 200 years ago.
Through this achievement, the name "Haman" was found in the ancient Egyptian
Until then, the writings and scrolls in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs had
remained unread. The language of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs had remained in
use for many centuries, but with the spread of Christianity, and its ultimate
cultural influence in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D, brought an end to the
knowledge of it. The last example of the hieroglyphic writing known to us was a
scroll dated 394 A.D. After this date, hieroglyphic had become an extinct
language, leaving behind no one who could speak it until the 19th century.2
The mystery of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs was solved only in 1799, by the
discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which dated back to 196 B.C. The use of three
different languages made this stone decipherable: hieroglyphic, demotic (a
simplified form of hieroglyphics used by the ordinary literate class) and Greek.
The ancient Egyptian writings were decoded mainly by the help of the Greek
script. The transcription was completed by a Frenchman, Jean-François
Champollion, and an extinct language, as well as the history conveyed by it, had
finally been brought to light. Thus, ancient Egyptian civilization, representing an
entirely different religion and social life, was resurrected.3
Thanks to the decoding of hieroglyphic, we also attained an essential piece
of information related to our subject: the name of "Haman" was indeed mentioned
in the Egyptian texts. This name was inscribed on a monument displayed today
in the Hof Museum of Vienna. The inscription also stressed the nearness of
Haman to Pharaoh.4
In the "Dictionary of Personal Names of the New Kingdom," a dictionary based
on the information gathered from a complete collection of scrolls, Haman is
mentioned as "the chief of workers in the stone-quarries."5
THE NAME "HAMAN" IN THE QUR'AN IS ALSO MENTIONED
IN THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN INSCRIPTIONS
Until the 19th century, when hieroglyphic was finally decoded, the name of "Haman" was
unknown. With the decoding of hieroglyphic, it became clear that Haman was an
important assistant of Pharaoh and "the chief of stone quarry workers." (Above are the
construction workers of Egypt). What deserves mention here is that, according to the
Quran'ic account, Haman is the person who was in charge of construction projects under
the command of Pharaoh. That is, the Qur'an presented an item of information which
was otherwise impossible to know at that time.
Unlike the claims of its opponents, Haman was a person that had lived in
Egypt at the time of Musa, just as was indicated in the Qur'an. Again, as mentioned
in the Qur'an, he was a man close to Pharaoh who was responsible for
Similarly, the verse conveying how Pharaoh asked Haman to build a tower is
also in compliance with evidence in this archaeological finding:
Pharaoh said, "Council, I do not know of any other god for you apart
from Me. Haman, kindle a fire for me over the clay and build me a
lofty tower so that perhaps I may be able to climb up to Musa's god! I
consider him a blatant liar." (Qur'an, 28: 38)
In conclusion, the existence of the name of Haman in the ancient Egyptian
scrolls not only rendered these fabricated claims totally unfounded, but also
reinforced the fact that the Qur'an is the infallible word of God. Miraculously, the
Qur'an reveals to us a piece of historical information which had been otherwise
impossible to attain or resolve during the time of the Prophet.
MAGICIANS EMBRACE FAITH
The result of the confrontation was completely unexpected for
Pharaoh, the magicians and the spectators alike. The magicians, who had
been so self-assured and arrogant of their superiority, were defeated.
Furthermore, this total defeat took place right before the eyes of the people
of Egypt. The impact of the defeat was even greater for the magicians.
Their spectacle, which was merely an illusion, they knew very well not to
have been real. They had devised tricks to deceive people into believing
that their system—and consequently Pharaoh's system—was divinely
powerful. However, Musa's miracles presented something different. They
grasped that his feat was neither illusion, nor a magician's tricks. The staff
of Musa had actually devoured their trickery. The magicians, therefore,
grasped that this was a real miracle, and a sign of the existence of God,
and an evidence of God's support to Musa. Thereupon, they embraced
The magicians threw themselves down in prostration. They said, "We
have faith in the Lord of all the worlds, the Lord of Musa and Harun."
(Qur'an, 7: 120-122)
At that moment, the whole system was turned on its head. Pharaoh,
who openly challenged Musa, being so overly confident that he would
win, was in fact defeated, with his magicians finally believing in Musa.
Pharaoh could not accept the decision of the magicians. According to his
perverted rationale, he was the sole owner of the land—even of the
people—, and thought himself entitled to authorize whether or not people
be allowed to convert to another belief:
Pharaoh said, "Have you believed in him before I authorised you to do
so? This is just some plot you have concocted in the city to drive its
people from it." (Qur'an, 7: 123)
Deluded by his own distorted mind, Pharaoh tried to rationalize the
An obvious miracle had just occurred, and followed by an
ignominious defeat, the magicians came to have faith in the Lord of Musa.
What should have been expected of Pharaoh then was to openly admit the
occurrence of a miracle and to accept to be rightly guided. On the
contrary, however, he offered himself false interpretations, fabricating
scenarios which he himself knew were imaginary. Thus, he convinced
himself that Musa and the magicians were conspiring to seize power over
Egypt. Furthermore, he assumed that it was Musa who had taught them
"…He is your chief, the one who taught you magic…" (Qur'an, 20: 71)
That is how Pharaoh witnessed the irrefutable signs and miracles of
God but resisted and denied the truth. In fact, his behaviour was typical of
all those who deny the truth. Those people, resolved to remain in disbelief,
adhere to it no matter how incontrovertible are the signs put forth to them.
They resort to any form of delusion in order to legitimise their denial. In
every society and in every age, we will find countless disbelievers infected
with the resolute obstinacy of Pharaoh, who have denied the existence,
oneness and the righteousness of God's religion.
Nevertheless, Pharaoh knew that his obstinacy would not save him.
The defeat of his magicians and their acceptance of faith in the Lord of
Musa greatly destabilised his authority. In one way or another, he would
have to defuse the situation and re-establish his power. For this purpose,
he resorted to violence, threatening the believing magicians with torture
and death. However, already cognisant of the truth of the message of God,
the magicians turned to God in submission. In several verses of the Qur'an,
we find the magicians expressing their resolve in their belief:
"…I will cut off your hands and feet alternately and have you crucified
on palm trunks. Then you will know for certain which of us has the
harsher and longer lasting punishment."
They said, "We will never prefer you to the Clear Signs which have
come to us nor to Him who brought us into being. Decide on any
judgement you like. Your jurisdiction only covers the life of the earth.
We have had faith in our Lord so that He may forgive us for our
mistakes and for the magic, which you forced us to perform. God is
better and longer lasting." (Qur'an, 20: 71-73)
They said, "We are returning to our Lord. You are only avenging
yourself on us because we had faith in our Lord's Signs when they
came to us. Our Lord, pour down steadfastness upon us and take us
back to You as Muslims." (Qur'an, 7: 125-126)
They said, "We do not care! We are returning to our Lord. We remain
hopeful that our Lord will forgive us our mistakes for being the first
of the believers." (Qur'an, 26: 50-51)
As is explained in the above verses, these people of faith did not yield
to the threats of Pharaoh, or submit to him, because they grasped that if
they were to be killed, they would return to God, who is the Creator of
everything. All the while, they dearly hoped that God would forgive their
indulging in denial prior to accepting belief, and their adversarial attitude
they had adopted against the religion. Because God is the forgiver and the
From then on, Pharaoh's rule over the people became increasingly
malicious. He sought to steer the people through his power. Due to the
oppression he meted out, no one, except for a small group of young
people from the people of Musa, followed Musa. Only these few young
people showed the courage and sincerity to follow in the magicians'
footsteps. The majority, on the other hand, did not appreciate the power
of the Almighty God, and, having no fear of Him, rejected faith. This is
conveyed in the Qur'an as follows:
No one believed in Musa, except for a few of his people, out of fear that
Pharaoh, and the elders, would persecute them. Pharaoh was high and
mighty in the land. He was one of the profligate. (Qur'an, 10: 83)
One of those to have put her faith in Musa was the wife of Pharaoh.
This noble woman, who previously shared so many worldly favours with
Pharaoh, not only dared to leave all such riches behind, but also to make
herself the object of Pharaoh's violence. Her choice is clearly the sign of a
very profound and sincere faith. Indeed, along with Maryam (Mary) (as),
Magicians Embrace Faith
the Qur'an refers to the wife of Pharaoh as a faithful woman whose
conduct was exemplary:
God has made an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh
when she said, "My Lord, build a house in Paradise for me in Your
presence and rescue me from Pharaoh and his deeds and rescue me
from this wrongdoing people." (Qur'an, 66: 11)
The sincere devotion of Pharaoh's wife to God is a great example for
all Muslims. This true believer abandoned the riches of this world, and
acknowledged that the real life would be in the hereafter. She preferred
the blessings of the hereafter over the benefits of this short, though
deceptively dazzling life. She prayed to God only for a house in Paradise.
Without a doubt, such a sincere prayer, filled with a spiritual devotion
towards the hereafter, is a fine example for all those who believe.
...Those who believe and do
right actions will be in the lush
meadows of the Gardens.
(Qur’an, 42: 22)
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.
TITLES OF EGYPTIAN RULERS IN THE QUR'AN
Musa was not the only prophet to have lived in ancient Egypt. The
Prophet Yusuf had also lived in Egypt long before the time of Musa.
In the stories of Musa and Yusuf in the Qur'an, we come across a
detail which is worth mentioning. To refer to the Egyptian ruler at the time
of Yusuf, the word "malik" (the King) is used in the Qur'an:
The King (Malik) said, "Bring him (Yusuf) to me straight away! So I
may draw him very close to me." When he had spoken with him, he
declared, "Today you are trusted, established in our sight." (Qur'an,
In the time of Musa, however, the Egyptian ruler is referred to as the
We gave Musa nine Clear Signs. Ask the tribe of Israel about when he
came to them and Pharaoh said to him, "Musa, I think you are
bewitched." (Qur'an, 17: 101)
Historical records now available provide the reasons for the different
names used to refer to these two rulers of Egypt. In ancient Egypt, the
term "pharaoh" originally referred to the royal palace. During the reign of
the ancient kingdoms, the rulers did not hold such a title. The word
"pharaoh" came to be used as a synonym for the Egyptian king under the
New Kingdom (starting in the 18th dynasty, 1539-1292 B.C.), and by the
22nd dynasty (c. 945-c. 730 B.C.) it had been adopted as an epithet of
Here again, the miraculous qualities of the Qur'an are evidenced once
again: because the Prophet Yusuf lived much before the New Kingdom, the
Qur'an refers to the Egyptian king who was comtemporary of Yusuf with
the word "malik" and not "pharaoh." Musa, on the other hand, lived during
the time of the New Kingdom, and, therefore, the Egyptian ruler who was
contemporary of Musa was referred to in the Qur'an as "pharaoh."
Clearly, such a distinction implies a certain knowledge of the history of the
ancient Egypt. However, as mentioned earlier, the history of Ancient Egypt was
completely forgotten by the 4th century, since hieroglyphic writing was not
deciphered until the 19th century. Therefore, during the period the Qur'an was
revealed, no in-depth knowledge of Egyptian history was available. This fact is yet
another piece of evidence, among countless of others, proving the fact that Qur'an is
the word of God.
THE CORRUPTED REASONING OF PHARAOH
On Mount Sinai, together with the revelation, Musa was bestowed
with great wisdom from his Lord. There, God enlightened Musa on two
subjects especially: destiny and putting one's trust in God. Musa had
grasped that his entire life had been within the confines of a certain
destiny, and had pursued his journey in line with that destiny. Also, he had
comprehended that he should not fear Pharaoh, but put his trust in God
because God is with him, sees him, and helps him. With this mindset, Musa
and Harun had gone to Pharaoh and his inner circle, referred to in the
Qur'an as "a people of evildoers":
Then after them We sent Musa and Harun with Our Signs to Pharaoh
and his ruling circle, but they were arrogant and were a people of
evildoers. (Qur'an, 10: 75)
The dialogue between Musa and Pharaoh is related in the Qur'an. A
close examination of the answers Pharaoh gave to Musa discloses his
highly unreasonable and irrational way of thinking. From what he said, we
understand that, rather than considering the words of Musa, he sought to
defeat him and denounce him. To this purpose, Pharaoh tried to win over
the people around him or impose his crooked rationale on others. The
dialogue between Musa and Pharaoh was as follows:
Pharaoh said, "Who then is your Lord, Musa?"
He said, "Our Lord is He who gives each thing its created form and
then guides it."
He (Pharaoh) said, "What about the previous generations?"
He said, "Knowledge of them is with my Lord in a Book. My Lord does
not misplace nor does He forget."
It is He who made the earth a cradle for you and threaded pathways
for you through it and sent down water from the sky by which We
have brought forth various different types of plants. Eat and pastureyour cattle. Certainly there are Signs in that for men of understanding.
From it We created you, to it We will return you, and from it We will
bring you forth a second time. (Qur'an, 20: 49-55)
Rather than evaluating this message with a sound mind and clear
conscience, Pharaoh and his inner circle assessed it based on their
accustomed way of thinking, founded on the religion of their ancestors.
According to their superstitious beliefs, Pharaoh was a deity, far from
admitting the idea of the existence of God:
But when Musa brought them Our Clear Signs they said, "This is
nothing but trumped-up magic. We never heard anything like this
among our earlier forefathers." (Qur'an, 28: 36)
As the above verse makes clear, Pharaoh's people thought Musa's
intention in proclaiming the existence and unity of God, was to seize
power in the land, by abolishing the system inherited from their ancestors.
The ancient religion entitled Pharaoh and his inner circle to obvious
advantages, and the change of this religion implied a loss of power for
Pharaoh and the shift of authority to Musa. Therefore, they believed that
Musa had simply come to oppress the people, just as Pharaoh had. This
narrow understanding of theirs is best expressed in the answer of Pharaoh
and his inner circle offered to Musa and Harun:
They said, "Have you come to us to turn us from what we found our
fathers doing, and to gain greatness in the land? We do not believe
you." (Qur'an, 10: 78)However, the accusation expressed in the words "Have you come to
us to gain greatness in the land" by Pharaoh and his followers was merely
an insincerely motivated attempt at slander. Musa's intention was far from
desiring to rule Egypt; he had only asked Pharaoh to send the tribe of
Israel away with him. Musa's request was the release of the children of
Israel, an enslaved nation who had been living under grief-ridden
Musa said, "Pharaoh! I am truly a Messenger from the Lord of all the
worlds, duty bound to say nothing about God except the truth. I have
come to you with a Clear Sign from your Lord. So send the tribe of
Israel away with me." (Qur'an, 7: 104-105)
Nonetheless, Pharaoh, denying his request, tried various other
methods against Musa. One such ruse was emotional abuse. By reminding
Musa of how he had been brought up in the palace, he was attempting to
remind him of the loyalty he owed to him and his inner circle.
Furthermore, he tried to coerce him by mention of the Egyptian man he
unintentionally killed. Musa's response to all such mistreatment was one
A figure illustrating Pharaoh ruling among the slaves brought to him.
particular to a true believer, who unconditionally submits to his destiny,
and has a full grasp of its implications:
He (Pharaoh) said, "Did we not bring you up among us as a child and
did you not spend many years of your life among us? Yet you
committed the deed you did and were ungrateful."
He (Musa) said, "At the time I did it I was one of the misguided and so
I fled from you when I was in fear of you but my Lord gave me right
judgement and made me one of the Messengers." (Qur'an, 26: 18-21)
Musa explained to Pharaoh that his growing up in the palace was not
a favour but a result of his cruel oppression:
And anyway you can only reproach me with this favour because you
made the tribe of Israel into slaves! (Qur'an, 26: 22)
Despite any hesitation he may have previously felt, Musa delivered
the message fearlessly and forthrightly to Pharaoh and his circle of rulers,
mindful that God had reminded him of His companionship. Pharaoh first
asked Musa about his Lord:
Pharaoh said, "What is the Lord of all the worlds?'
He (Musa) said, 'The Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything
between them if you knew for sure."
He (Pharaoh) said to those around him, "Are you listening?"
He (Musa) said, "Your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers, the
previous peoples." (Qur'an, 26: 23-26)
In his response, Musa was explaining that the religion of Pharaoh's
ancestors was invalid since they were also transgressors. God was the Lord
of those ancestors as well. Having nothing to say in reply, Pharaoh resorted
to slandering and threatening Musa:
He (Pharaoh) said, "This Messenger, who has been sent to you, is mad."
He (Musa) said, "The Lord of the East and the West and everything
between them if you used your intellect."
He (Pharaoh) said, "If you take any god other than me, I will certainly
throw you into prison." (Qur'an, 26: 27-29)
As is evident, Musa's concise explanations and clear evidence put
Pharaoh in a difficult position, which led him to accuse Musa of insanity.
Here, Pharaoh's primary concern was to counteract the powerful influence
Musa was having on the people. The forthright and convincing manner of
Musa's speech infuriated Pharaoh. Ultimately, he threatened Musa with
imprisonment if he continued denying his divinity. This action was merely
another manifestation of Pharaoh's cruel character.
At this point, Musa declared that he had come with signs proving his
prophecy, and performed the two miracles granted to him by God:
He (Musa) said, "Even if I were to bring you something undeniable?"
He (Pharaoh) said, "Produce it then if you are someone telling the
So he threw down his staff and there it was, unmistakably a serpent.
And he drew out his hand and there it was, pure white to those who
looked. (Qur'an, 26: 30-33)
Pharaoh, and his inner circle, witnessing the two great miracles of
God performed by the hand of Musa, thought they could have been
possible only through sorcery. In order to refuse being impressed by these
miracles, they inspired each other to think in the following way:
He (Pharaoh) said to the High Council round about him, "This
certainly is a skilled magician who desires by his magic to expel you
from your land, so what do you recommend?" (Qur'an, 26: 34-35)
The mentality exemplified here is typical of those who deny the truth.
In many stories related in the Qur'an, there are numerous examples of
similar people and their responses evidencing a flawed rationale. This
condition of mind, blindly committed to following the faith of their
ancestors, and rejecting the truth despite clear signs, was not particular
only to Pharaoh and his inner circle. Throughout history, deniers always
sought a similar way out. The mindset of the arrogant is conveyed in the
Qur'an as follows:
I will divert from My Signs all those who are arrogant in the earth
without any right. If they see every Sign, they will not believe in it. If
they see the way of right guidance, they will not take it as a way. But if
they see the way of error, they will take that as a way… (Qur'an, 7: 146)
Pharaoh and his inner circle clearly preferred taking the route of
denial and evil rather than choosing to be rightly guided. Despite these
miracles, they decided to defy Musa. To this purpose, they sought out
would-be opponents to Musa, who they believed to be a "magician":
They said, "Detain him and his brother and send out marshals to the
cities, to bring you all the skilled magicians." (Qur'an, 7: 111-112)
Pharaoh claimed the miracles of Musa were a magician's tricks, and
believed that they could be undone by his own magicians. Therefore, he
planned to defeat Musa to regain his leverage. He could have killed Musa
and Harun. However, in hopes of a greater and longer lasting victory, he
took the advise of those around him. It seemed to make sense to him. In
reality, however, they were doomed to an all-out defeat by God. Moreover,
their defeat came from the least expected source.
Certain of their ultimate victory, they allowed Musa to appoint the
time and place for the confrontation:
He said, "Have you come to us to expel us from our land by means of
your magic, Musa? We will bring you magic to match it. So fix a time
between us and you which neither we nor you will fail to keep at a
place where we can meet halfway."
He (Musa) said, "Your time is the day of the festival. The people should
gather in the morning." (Qur'an, 20: 57-59)
Musa chose "the day of the festival" so that all the people could
witness the encounter. This was a truly wise choice indeed; in this way, all
the people would hear the message of Musa and witness the defeat of
Pharaoh and his magicians. Pharaoh accepted the appointed time:
So Pharaoh went away and concocted his scheme and then he arrived.
Musa said to them, "Woe to you! Do not fabricate lies against God or
He will annihilate you with His punishment. Fabricators of lies are
bound to fail."
They argued among themselves about the matter and had a secret
They said, "These two magicians desire by their magic to expel you
from your land and abolish your most excellent way of life, so decide
on your scheme and then arrive together in force. He who gains the
upper hand today will definitely prosper." (Qur'an, 20: 60-64)
and THE PROPER MANNER
IN WHICH IT WAS TO BE DONE
God warned Musa and Harun prior to their visit to Pharaoh, and
reminded them to always remember Him, and to never slacken in
"Go, you and your brother, with My Signs and do not slacken in
remembering Me." (Qur'an, 20: 42)
God commanded Musa and Harun to go to Pharaoh, the ruler of
Egypt. God explained to them that Pharaoh was arrogant and contentious,
but nevertheless, He commanded them to adopt a gentle manner in
communicating His message to him:
"Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with
gentle words so that hopefully he will pay heed or show some fear."
(Qur'an, 20: 43-44 )
As stressed in the verses above, using gracious language is a highly
effective approach that should always be adopted while communicating
the religion. In many verses of the Qur'an, the importance of choosing
kind words is stressed as a general rule. In fact, God commands man to
speak gently even when the one he is conversing with is arrogant, making
evident the clear importance of using such a manner in communicating the
message of God.
Upon this command of God, Musa once more candidly expressed the
fear he felt in his heart. He told God about his concern, that is, being killed
They said, "Our Lord, we are afraid that he might persecute us or
overstep the bounds." (Qur'an, 20: 45)
He (Musa) said, "My Lord, I killed one of them and I am afraid they will
kill me." (Qur'an, 28: 33)
Here, God once again reminded Musa that He was with him, seeing
and hearing everything he did. Furthermore, God commanded Musa and
Harun to go to Pharaoh and ask him to let children of Israel go:
Go to him and say, "We are your Lord's Messengers so send the tribe
of Israel away with us and do not punish them. We have brought you
a Sign from your Lord. Peace be upon those who follow the guidance."
(Qur'an, 20: 47)
It is worth noting that it is not only Pharaoh who was being tested
here. It was a trial for Prophet Musa as well. Musa feared the possibility of
being killed by Pharaoh. However, what God demanded from Musa was
more than a mere visit to Pharaoh; Musa would go and ask Pharaoh to let
all the children of Israel leave away with him. Going before the
indisputable ruler of the land, to whom the whole nation submitted like a
deity, was certainly a very hazardous task. Even more dangerous was
telling Pharaoh explicitly that he was on the wrong path, and then to ask
him to give freedom to an enslaved nation, that is, to the children of Israel.
Nevertheless, aware that they were under the total protection of God, Musa
and Harun pursued their task with the assurance and ease their Lord
bestowed upon them. God reminded them of this truth, commanding them
not to fear:
He (God) said, "Have no fear. I will be with you, All-Hearing and All-
Seeing." (Qur'an, 20: 46)
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair
admonition, and argue with them in the kindest
way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from
His way. And He knows best who are guided.
Pharaoh's rule was based on oppression and cruelty, for
which he was proud. The relief above depicts Pharaoh