Stories from the Quran 1: The Believer in Pharaoh’s House


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Eman Al Obaid conducts classes on Quranic exegesis (Tafseer), Hadeeth, Fiqh and other Islamic themes at AlHuda Sisters, Dubai.

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The Background

Long ago, in the land of Egypt lived a man known as Pharaoh, who disobeyed all of Allah’s (swt) commands; so much so that he started to call himself God. Allah (swt) sent Moosa (as) with the message of Tawheed, to warn Pharaoh to return to worshipping Allah (swt). We enter this story to see a battle between truth and falsehood being played out by a person from Pharaoh’s family. This believer is eloquent; he tries to show people that the truth will always prevail. He presents logical opinions; while reminding Pharaoh, Haman and Korah that the life of comfort and authority that they are enjoying, will come to an end. They will suffer a punishment from Allah (swt) like others have experienced before them.

The Elements in the Story

1

The Characters

Believer: He is the person who is a part of Pharaoh’s household, who has embraced the message of Moosa (as), but has kept it secret.

Pharaoh: The king of Egypt who calls himself God; he and Moosa (as) grew up together in the palace.

Haman: A verse in Surah Ghafir represents Haman as a person who Pharaoh trusts; He is also in charge of building projects in Egypt, which is why he is asked to build a tower that reaches the Heavens.

Korah: He is a rich person from the Banu Israel and becomes arrogant due to his wealth and position in Pharaoh’s court. He is also present during this debate.

The Setting

“And indeed we sent Moosa with Our Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), and a manifest authority…” (Ghafir 40:23-24) So Moosa (as) comes to Pharaoh’s court with the intention of guiding his childhood friend toward Allah (swt). Moosa (as) has the people and the court in awe since he has the power of truth. However, with the entire court, all the elite, the magicians and the common people are watching these three deny Allah (swt) and call Moosa (as) a sorcerer- just to safeguard their position for they felt the truth threatened Pharaoh, Haman and Korah!

“…to Pharaoh, Hâmân and Qârûn (Korah), but they called (him): A sorcerer, a liar!” (Ghafir 40:24)

The Plot

The people are not convinced by what Pharaoh says. They are starting to believe in Moosa (as). Hence, like any other tyrant, Pharaoh ordered, “then, when He brought them the Truth from us, they said: “Kill the sons of those who believe with Him and let their women live”, but the plots of disbelievers are nothing but errors!” (Ghafir 40:25)

The magicians recognized the truth and are killed; now Pharaoh is threatening to kill anyone else who sides with Moosa (as). Recall this was the same plan that had been used when Moosa (as) was a baby, but Allah (swt) is the best of planners and He saved Moosa (as).

The Story

So Pharaoh tells the people to let him take care of the problem. And that he is going to do what is best for them.

“Pharaoh said: Leave me to kill Moosa, and let him call his Lord! I fear that He may change your religion, or that He may cause mischief to appear in the land! Moosa said: Verily, I seek refuge in My Lord and your Lord from every arrogant who believes not in the Day of Reckoning!” (Ghafir 40:26-27)

At this point when everyone is quiet, the hero of our story starts his speech. He wants to convince the people that murdering someone just because of their belief in one God is preposterous. “And a believing man of Pharaoh’s family, who hid his faith said: Would you kill a man because he says: My Lord is Allah, and he has come to you with clear signs from your Lord? And if he is a liar, upon him will be (the sin of) his lie; but if he is telling the truth, then some of that (calamity) wherewith he threatens you will befall on you….” (Ghafir 40:28)

What a beautiful argument he puts forth. If Moosa is telling the truth, then you should believe in him or else the punishment will destroy you. But if he is not, then the sin is his alone, he will bear all the consequences. He is guiding them to a win/win situation with a warning, “Allah guides not one who is a Musrif (a polytheist, or a murderer who shed blood without a right, or those who commit great sins, oppressor, transgressor), a liar.” (Ghafir 40:28)

Now, he reminds the people and the court that should Allah’s (swt) wrath befall them when none can save them? Thus, they should be thankful to Allah (swt). “O my people! Yours is the kingdom this day, you are uppermost in the land. But who will save us from the Torment of Allah, should it befall us?”(Ghafir 40:29)

Pharaoh sees that this man is changing people’s minds and hearts, he interjects trying to brainwash the people, “Pharaoh said: “I show you only that which I see (correct), and I guide you only to the path of right policy!” (Ghafir 40:29)

The man reminds the people of the Prophets that have come before Moosa (as), he reminds them of Nuh (as) and Yusuf (as). “And he who believed said: O my people! Verily, I fear for you a fate like that day (of disaster) of the Confederates (of old)!” (Ghafir 40:30)

Well, Pharaoh cannot let someone steal the limelight, he uses drama, creates doubt. “And Pharaoh said: O Haman! Build me a tower that I may arrive at the ways. The ways of the heavens, and I may look upon the God of Moosa but verily, I think him to be a liar.” (Ghafir 40:36-37) This is Pharaoh’s plan to convince people he is fair, he is willing to test Moosa’s (as) claim. He even claims that Moosa (as) is a liar, but he, Pharaoh, is still giving him a chance. Satan has influenced Pharaoh, so he thinks he is taking steps to maintain peace and help others. He is blinded by his pride.

The Conclusion

Faced with such stupidity and arrogance, the believer has no choice but to make a final plea to Pharaoh, the noblemen and the people.

“And the man who believed said: O my people! Follow me; I will guide you to the way of right conduct.O my people! Truly, this life of the world is nothing but a (quick passing) enjoyment, and verily, the Hereafter that is the home that will remain forever…And O my people! How is it that I call you to salvation while you call me to the Fire…And you will remember what I am telling you, and my affair I leave it to Allah. Verily, Allah is the All-Seer of (His) slaves.” (Ghafir 40:39-44)

The believer directly challenges Pharaoh by saying that he is the one who is guiding them towards salvation, not Pharaoh. The argument is now over, he has declared the truth and it is up to each individual to decide which path he wants to follow.

The Moral

  • The believer at first hid his faith because the environment was hostile, so we can hide our faith – it is alright not to say anything because he was weak initially and the people around him could cause him harm. But when it came down to injustice of murdering Moosa (as), he spoke up.
  • Allah (swt) shows us that belief and disbelief are not inherited. Sometimes people judge another person based on their family, which is not fair; we are only responsible for what we do.
  • Allah (swt) will not guide the one who transgresses and is a liar. Allah (swt) guides the truthful – because they do not lie to themselves and the pious– because they do not exceed their boundaries.
  • There is no one other than Allah (swt) who will protect us. We cannot protect ourselves nor can anyone else.
  • Why mention Yusuf (as), when you are in the field of Dawah? Talk to people so that they can relate. Bring them to a common point to grab their attention. However, always state the truth.
  • Shaytan beautified Pharaoh’s sins for him, made it acceptable to him, and convinced him that he was just. Remember Shaytan beautifies/adorns evil deeds/sins so we don’t even realize what we are doing is wrong.
  • A Daee must be kind and caring- not expecting anything for delivering the message.

(Adapted with permission for “Hiba” by Tasneem Vali.)

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