Being a believer means being really strong in belief. We see the example in the stories of the Prophets (as). Each time that they were tried by the opponents, they stood firm in their Iman. Later, it was these firm believers who came out victorious.
Moosa (as) vs. Pharaoh
When Prophet Moosa (as) spoke to Pharaoh about Allah (swt), Pharaoh threatened to get him imprisoned. Prophet Moosa (as) argued, “Musa (Moses) said: Even if I bring you something manifest (and convincing)?” (Ash-Shuara 26:30)
Pharaoh denied his prophet hood and called him a magician. Learned and skilled magicians were called to unveil Prophet Moosa’s (as) magic. The magicians arrived and asked if there was any reward for them. Pharaoh promised them a close companionship. So they threw their ropes and their staffs and said, “So they threw their ropes and their sticks, and said: By the might of Firaun (Pharaoh), it is we who will certainly win!” (Ash-Shuara 26:44)
When Moosa (as) threw his staff and it devoured their ropes and staffs, they fell down in prostration to Allah (swt) and said, “Saying: We believe in the Lord of the ‘Alamin .The Lord of Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron).” (Ash-Shuara 26:47-48)
Allah (swt) boosted up the Iman of magicians
Moments ago these skilled magicians were testifying their loyalty to Pharaoh, but upon seeing the truth, they immediately surrendered. For the tyrant, it was an unbelievable situation; hence he threatened them, “Firaun (Pharaoh) said: You have believed in him before I give you leave. Surely, he indeed is your chief, who has taught you magic! So verily, you shall come to know. Verily, I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you all.” (Ash-Shuara 26:49)
However, this threat landed on deaf ears. One sincere prostration to Allah (swt) had filled their hearts with so much peace and strength that they replied, “They said: No harm! Surely, to our Lord (Allah) we are to return; Verily! We really hope that our Lord will forgive us our sins, as we are the first of the believers (in Musa (Moses) and in the Monotheism which he has brought from Allah)” (Ash-Shuara 26:50-51). In other words, “Do what you want to do. We will return to our Lord, anyway whether you kill us or we die a natural death.”
Sincere prostration to Allah (swt) and firm belief in Him works wonders
In the morning, the magicians came in a state of shirk and in the evening they died as martyrs; earning Paradise for themselves. When Allah (swt) desires to guide someone He makes it happen. Let us never lose our hope in Him. The magicians after prostrating to Allah (swt) hoped that He will forgive them. They trusted their sincere submission will result in their forgiveness. We perform a lot of prostrations throughout the day. Let us not turn them into a mere ritual. Let us strive to be humble in our prayers with our hearts connected to Allah (swt) hoping He will forgive us for our intentional and unintentional sins. Insha’Allah!
Seek refuge in Allah (swt)
There are people of hope and there are people of despair. After this incident of the magicians, Moosa (as) had to rescue the Children of Prophet Yaqoob (as) from the tyranny of Pharaoh. He fled with them only to later halt near the mighty sea. His people complained, “And when the two hosts saw each other, the companions of Musa (Moses) said: We are sure to be overtaken.” (Ash-Shuara 26:61)
Prophet Moosa (as), on the other hand, had firm faith that Allah (swt) would show him the way out. In our lives when challenges arrive, the first reaction we display is that of despair. We tell ourselves “now there is no way out of this calamity” or “I am doomed”. While we are still lost in our thoughts and complaints, Allah (swt) inspires our hearts to see the way out. He tests us and then guides us. Moosa’s (as) words were, “Moosa (Moses) said: Nay, verily! With me is my Lord, He will guide me.” (Ash-Shuara 26:62)
Do we have the same conviction? It is He Who guides, helps, protects and rescues His servants from calamities. When tested, call out to Him for nothing is impossible for Allah (swt).
Ibrahim (as) – born to be Allah’s (swt) friend
Another Iman-inspiring story found in Surah Ash-Shuara is that of prophet Ibrahim (as), who had fought Shirk, ever since he was a young boy. He refused to worship what his community worshipped.
He said, “Verily! They are enemies to me, save the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, Jinns and all that exists); Who has created me, and it is He Who guides me; And it is He Who feeds me and gives me to drink. And when I am ill, it is He who cures me; And Who will cause me to die, and then will bring me to life (again); and Who, I hope will forgive me my faults on the Day of Recompense, (the Day of Resurrection).” (Ash-Shuara 26:77-82) Such was the state of his conviction!
After acknowledging countless favours of Allah (swt), he makes a Dua, “My Lord! Bestow Hukman (religious knowledge, right judgment of the affairs and Prophethood) on me, and join me with the righteous; And grant me an honourable mention in later generations.” (Ash-Shuara 26:83-84).
Was this Dua answered? Absolutely! Prophet Ibrahim’s (as) name is mentioned each time we send salutations and blessings on Prophet Muhammad (sa) in Salat (prayer). The Station of Ibrahim (as) in Makkah reminds us of his great service and sacrifice for the sake of Allah (swt). The Sai that the pilgrims make at Safa and Marwa and the sacrifice on Eid-ul-Adha are some of the things related to him. May Allah (swt) resurrect us with him. Ameen.
For the Day of Resurrection, Prophet Ibrahim (as) asked, “And disgrace me not on the Day when (all the creatures) will be resurrected; The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who brings to Allah a clean heart.” (Ash-Shuara 26:87-89) Despite being an excellent example of a submissive slave, he was still concerned about disgrace on that Day. Subhan’Allah!
(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)