Can you please explain the story of pharaoh in detail? I have lots of confusion about it. Pharaoh was actually the title of ancient Egyptian rulers like the kings or emperors in Western context. Is the Ramses II the Pharaoh which Quran is talking about? can u please explain the entire story in the context of Islam.
Brief history of Prophet Musa (a.s) and Firaun
It is obligatory upon every believer to have firm conviction on what Allah has mentioned in the Qur’an. They must have belief that whatever is mentioned in the Qur’an is the truth and there is not a doubt on even one letter of the Qur’an. To have the slightest amount of doubt regarding the Qur’an will render a person out of the fold of Islam (may Allah preserve our faith, Ameen). It is incorrect to compare the Qur’an to historical and archeological research and judge Qur’an through their scope and understanding. Firstly, historical data has always been tampered with and has been influenced many a times by people’s emotions and understanding of history. Secondly, historians and archeologist reject anything for which they have not found any proof. Not being able to find any ‘proofs’ does not negate the whole incident and render the incident false. It merely means they weren’t able to discover any archeological proofs. Thirdly, the Word of Allah is superior than any science or history. Therefore, if even some historical information or scientific and archeological fact appears contradictory to the teachings of the Qur’an, then we will hold fast to the Qur’an and leave aside all others.
Also, one should understand that the Qur’an is not a history book where dates and names of people are mentioned in detail. The Qur’an is a book of guidance for mankind in order for people to take heed and derive lessons from it so they turn towards Allah, the Almighty.
As for your question, the term Pharaoh (Firawn) is not a name of any particular person, but it is a title for the rulers of the Coptic nation. Here under is a list of titles for rulers of various parts of the world mentioned in history.
Amir al-Mu’mineen (أمير المؤمنين) – The ruler of the Muslims
Firawn (فرعون) – The ruler of the Coptics
Najashi (نجاشى) – The ruler of the Abyssinians
Kisra (كسرى) – The ruler of the Persians
Qaysar (قيصر) – The ruler of the Romans
Khaqan (خاقان) – The ruler of the Turks
‘Aziz (عزيز) – The ruler of the Egyptians
(Sharah Muslim of Nawawi 1/309 Maktaba-e-Thanvi, Deoband)
قال العلماء والنجاشى لقب لكل من ملك الحبشة وأما أصحمة فهو اسم علم لهذا الملك الصالح الذي كان في زمن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم قال المطرز وبن خالويه وآخرون من الأئمة كلاما متداخلا حاصله أن كل من ملك المسلمين يقال له أمير المؤمنين ومن ملك الحبشة النجاشي ومن ملك الروم قيصر ومن ملك الفرس كسرى ومن ملك الترك خاقان ومن ملك القبط فرعون ومن ملك مصر العزيز ومن ملك اليمن تبع ومن ملك حمير القيل
The story of Musa (AS) and the Pharaoh is quiet lengthy and spread out in the Qur’an. We will reproduce a brief account of the story in light of the Qur’an.
The Israelites were living a life of slavery under the rule of the Pharaoh where hardship and oppression was part and parcel of their life. Once the Pharaoh saw an unusual dream for which he asked his royal wise man to interpret. They gave the meaning that a boy will be born in the family of the Israelites who will liberate them from this slavery and who will destroy the Pharaoh’s empire. Not being able to handle this devastating news, he ordered his men that all new born male children must be murdered. His men went to the Israelites’ villages and started to brutally murder all the new born male children. Musa (AS) was born at such distressing times. The mother of Musa (AS) fearing the life of her child was very perplexed on what to do. However, Allah had already destined the future of this child and had decreed that he will survive and the same Pharaoh who ordered the killing, will raise him. Allah Ta’ala describing the incident in the Qur’an says:
طسم (1) تِلْكَ آَيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ (2) نَتْلُوا عَلَيْكَ مِنْ نَبَإِ مُوسَى وَفِرْعَوْنَ بِالْحَقِّ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (3) إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ عَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَجَعَلَ أَهْلَهَا شِيَعًا يَسْتَضْعِفُ طَائِفَةً مِنْهُمْ يُذَبِّحُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (4) وَنُرِيدُ أَنْ نَمُنَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ اسْتُضْعِفُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنَجْعَلَهُمْ أَئِمَّةً وَنَجْعَلَهُمُ الْوَارِثِينَ (5) وَنُمَكِّنَ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَنُرِيَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا مِنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَحْذَرُونَ (6)وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (7) فَالْتَقَطَهُ آَلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُونَ لَهُمْ عَدُوًّا وَحَزَنًا إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا كَانُوا خَاطِئِينَ (8)
Tā Sīn Mīm. These are verses of the clear Book. We recite to you a part of the story of Mūsā and Pharaoh with truth for a people who believe. Indeed, Pharaoh had become high-handed in the land, and had divided its people into different groups; he used to persecute a group of them, slaughtering their sons and keeping their women alive. Indeed he was one of the mischief-makers, while We intended to favor those who were held as weak in the land, and to make them leaders and make them inheritors, and give them power in the land, and to show Pharaoh, Hāmān and their armies the very thing they were fearing from them. We inspired the mother of Mūsā saying, Suckle him (Mūsā). Then once you fear about him, cast him in the river, and do not fear, and do not grieve. Surely We are going to bring him back to you and appoint him one of (Our) messengers. (Al-Qasas)
The mother upon being inspired by Allah put the child in a basket and set him off in the river. She sent her daughter to look and see what will be the fate the child. The basket went and reached the house of the Pharaoh. The wife of the Pharaoh fell in love with the child as soon as her gazed fell upon him and intended to raise the child. Allah Ta’ala continuing with the story says:
فَالْتَقَطَهُ آَلُ فِرْعَوْنَ لِيَكُونَ لَهُمْ عَدُوًّا وَحَزَنًا إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ وَجُنُودَهُمَا كَانُوا خَاطِئِينَ (8) وَقَالَتِ امْرَأَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ قُرَّةُ عَيْنٍ لِي وَلَكَ لَا تَقْتُلُوهُ عَسَى أَنْ يَنْفَعَنَا أَوْ نَتَّخِذَهُ وَلَدًا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (9) وَأَصْبَحَ فُؤَادُ أُمِّ مُوسَى فَارِغًا إِنْ كَادَتْ لَتُبْدِي بِهِ لَوْلَا أَنْ رَبَطْنَا عَلَى قَلْبِهَا لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (10) وَقَالَتْ لِأُخْتِهِ قُصِّيهِ فَبَصُرَتْ بِهِ عَنْ جُنُبٍ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (11)
So the family of Pharaoh picked him up, so that he becomes for them an enemy and a (cause of) grief. Indeed Pharaoh, Hāmān and their armies were mistaken. And the wife of Pharaoh said, (to Pharaoh about Mūsā), He may be a delight of eye for me and you. Do not kill him. It is hoped that he will be of benefit to us, or we will adopt him as a son. And they were not aware (of what was going to happen). And the heart of the mother of Mūsā became restless; indeed she was about to disclose this (the real facts about Mūsā), had We not strengthened her heart to remain among those who have firm belief (in Allah‘s promise). She said to his sister, Keep track of him. So she watched him from a distance, while they were not aware. (Al-Qassas)
Allah had decreed that Musa (AS) will be returned to his mother. Naturally it was such that when the time came to feed the child, he would not accept milk of any woman. Upon seeing this, the sister of Musa (AS) presented herself and stated that there is a pious woman from the Israelites who might be able to breastfeed the child. Allah Ta’ala says:
وَحَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَرَاضِعَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَقَالَتْ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَكْفُلُونَهُ لَكُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ نَاصِحُونَ (12) فَرَدَدْنَاهُ إِلَى أُمِّهِ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ وَلِتَعْلَمَ أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (13)
And We had already barred him (Mūsā) from (accepting) any suckling women, so she (his sister) said (to Pharaoh‘s people), Shall I point out to you a family who will nurse him for you, and they will be his well-wishers? Thus We brought him back to his mother, so that her eye might have comfort and she might not grieve, and so that she might know that Allah‘s promise is true, but most of them do not know. (Al-Qassas)
Musa (AS) grew up in the house of the Pharaoh with royal treatment until he was a strong young man. Upon reaching adulthood, Allah bestowed him with wisdom and knowledge. Allah says:
وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَاسْتَوَى آَتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (14)
And when he reached his maturity and became perfect, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. This is how We reward those who are good in their deeds. (Al-Qassas)
While growing up, he realized that he is from the Israelites and does not have any relationship to the Pharaoh or any of the Coptics. Seeing the oppression of the Coptics upon the Israelites, he had a soft heart for the Israelites and would help them out to easy their difficulties. Once upon entering the city he saw a Coptic man quarreling with an Israelite. While helping the Israelite, he clouted the Coptic. Musa (AS) was given the strength of the Prophets. The Coptic not being able to bear the clout from Musa (AS) fell dead. Realizing what had happened, Musa (AS) repented to Allah and asked his forgiveness. Allah Ta’ala says:
وَدَخَلَ الْمَدِينَةَ عَلَى حِينِ غَفْلَةٍ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا فَوَجَدَ فِيهَا رَجُلَيْنِ يَقْتَتِلَانِ هَذَا مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ وَهَذَا مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَاسْتَغَاثَهُ الَّذِي مِنْ شِيعَتِهِ عَلَى الَّذِي مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَوَكَزَهُ مُوسَى فَقَضَى عَلَيْهِ قَالَ هَذَا مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ مُضِلٌّ مُبِينٌ (15) قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَغَفَرَ لَهُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (16) قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِلْمُجْرِمِينَ (17)
Once he entered the city at a time when its people were heedless; so he found in it two men fighting each other: This one was from his own group, and that one from his enemies. So the one from his own group called him for help against the one who was from his enemies. So Mūsā gave him a blow with his fist and finished him off. (Then) He (Mūsā) said (out of remorse), ‘This is some of Satan‘s act. He is indeed a clear enemy who misleads (people).’ He said, ‘O my Lord, I have wronged myself, so forgive me.’ So He forgave him. Indeed He is the most Forgiving, Very-Merciful. He (Mūsā) said, O my Lord! As You have favored me, I will never be a supporter of the sinners. (Al-Qassas)
The news of the Coptic’s murder spread in the city but none knew who had killed him. The next day Musa (AS) again went around roaming the city and coincidently the same Israelite was quarreling with another Coptic. The Israelite was calling Musa (AS) to assist him. Musa (AS) told the Israelite that you are a mischief-maker and went to help him. The Israelite thought Musa (AS) is coming to hit him and revealed that Musa (AS) was the one who killed the Coptic the previous day. Allah Ta’ala says:
فَأَصْبَحَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي اسْتَنْصَرَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَسْتَصْرِخُهُ قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَى إِنَّكَ لَغَوِيٌّ مُبِينٌ (18) فَلَمَّا أَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ يَبْطِشَ بِالَّذِي هُوَ عَدُوٌّ لَهُمَا قَالَ يَا مُوسَى أَتُرِيدُ أَنْ تَقْتُلَنِي كَمَا قَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا بِالْأَمْسِ إِنْ تُرِيدُ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ جَبَّارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا تُرِيدُ أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ (19)
Then next morning he was fearful in the city, waiting (for what comes next) when the man who sought his help the day before, shouted to him for help (again). Mūsā said to him, you are surely a clear trouble-maker. Thereafter when he intended to grasp at the one who was an enemy to both of them, he (i.e. the Israelite) said, O Mūsā, do you want to kill me as you have killed a person yesterday? Your intention is only to become a tyrant in the land, and you do not intend to be one of the peace-makers. (Al-Qassas)
Upon hearing this, the Coptic fled and informed the Pharaoh that the unknown killer of the Coptic was in fact Musa (AS). The Pharaoh passed the verdict that Musa should be captured. From the people present in the assembly of Pharaoh was a man who was a close friend of Musa. He came and informed Musa of the verdict to capture him and advised him to flee the city. Allah Ta’ala says:
وَجَاءَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَى قَالَ يَا مُوسَى إِنَّ الْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَاخْرُجْ إِنِّي لَكَ مِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ (20)
And there came a man running from the farthest part of the city. He said, ‘The chiefs are counseling each other about you, so that they kill you. So, leave (the city). I am one of your well-wishers. (Al-Qassas)
Musa (AS) acted upon his friend’s advice and left the city and proceeded toward the city of Madyan.
فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ (21) وَلَمَّا تَوَجَّهَ تِلْقَاءَ مَدْيَنَ قَالَ عَسَى رَبِّي أَنْ يَهْدِيَنِي سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ (22)
So, he went out of it (the city), looking around in a state of fear. He said, O my Lord, save me from the cruel people. When he set out towards Madyan, he said, I hope my Lord will guide me to the straight path. (Al-Qassas)
The story of Musa (AS) continues in Madyan, where he marries the daughter of Shu’ayb (AS). We will omit all the details since it is not directly related to the Pharaoh. Once, while travelling with his with his family, they got lost. At night he saw some light on the Mount Tur and proceed that maybe he might get some information or at least get some fire. Allah Ta’ala says:
فَلَمَّا قَضَى مُوسَى الْأَجَلَ وَسَارَ بِأَهْلِهِ آَنَسَ مِنْ جَانِبِ الطُّورِ نَارًا قَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آَنَسْتُ نَارًا لَعَلِّي آَتِيكُمْ مِنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِنَ النَّارِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَصْطَلُونَ (29)
So, when Mūsā completed the term and set forth with his wife, he noticed a fire from the direction of (the mount) Tūr, he said to his wife, ‘Stay here; I have noticed a fire. May be I bring to you some information or an ember from the fire, so that you may warm yourself. (Al-Qassas)
On the mount he received prophethood and was ordered to go to the Pharaoh and warn him about his actions and to liberate the Israelites. Almighty Allah also bestowed him with miracles as proofs to show Pharaoh and made his brother Harun (AS) also a prophet to aid him. Allah Ta’ala says:
فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ مِنْ شَاطِئِ الْوَادِ الْأَيْمَنِ فِي الْبُقْعَةِ الْمُبَارَكَةِ مِنَ الشَّجَرَةِ أَنْ يَا مُوسَى إِنِّي أَنَا اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ (30) وَأَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ فَلَمَّا رَآَهَا تَهْتَزُّ كَأَنَّهَا جَانٌّ وَلَّى مُدْبِرًا وَلَمْ يُعَقِّبْ يَا مُوسَى أَقْبِلْ وَلَا تَخَفْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الْآَمِنِينَ (31) اسْلُكْ يَدَكَ فِي جَيْبِكَ تَخْرُجْ بَيْضَاءَ مِنْ غَيْرِ سُوءٍ وَاضْمُمْ إِلَيْكَ جَنَاحَكَ مِنَ الرَّهْبِ فَذَانِكَ بُرْهَانَانِ مِنْ رَبِّكَ إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ (32) قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي قَتَلْتُ مِنْهُمْ نَفْسًا فَأَخَافُ أَنْ يَقْتُلُونِ (33) وَأَخِي هَارُونُ هُوَ أَفْصَحُ مِنِّي لِسَانًا فَأَرْسِلْهُ مَعِيَ رِدْءًا يُصَدِّقُنِي إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يُكَذِّبُونِ (34) قَالَ سَنَشُدُّ عَضُدَكَ بِأَخِيكَ وَنَجْعَلُ لَكُمَا سُلْطَانًا فَلَا يَصِلُونَ إِلَيْكُمَا بِآَيَاتِنَا أَنْتُمَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَكُمَا الْغَالِبُونَ (35)
So when he came to it, he was called by a voice coming from a side of the right valley in the blessed ground, from the tree, saying, O Mūsā, I AM ALLAH, the Lord of the worlds, and saying, Throw down your staff. So when he saw it moving as if it were a snake, he turned back in retreat, and did not look back. (Allah said to him), O Mūsā come forward and do not fear; you are one of those in peace. Insert your hand into your bosom, and it will come out white without any evil (disease), and press your arm to your side for (removing) fear. Thus these are two proofs from your Lord (sent) to Pharaoh and his chiefs. Indeed they are transgressing people. He said, My Lord, I have killed a person from them, therefore I fear that they will kill me. And my brother Hārūn is more eloquent than me in speech; so send him with me as a helper to bear me out. I am afraid, they will give the lie to me. He (Allah) said, We will strengthen your arm with your brother, and will give both of you such a power that they will have no access to you (to cause any harm) because of Our signs. You and your followers will be the victors. (Al-Qassas)
Thereafter, Musa (AS) and Harun (AS) were commanded to go to the Pharaoh and invited him towards the true religion and say to him to set free the Israelites. Upon this a dialogue took place between Musa (AS) and the Pharaoh. Allah says in the Qur’an:
فَأْتِيَا فِرْعَوْنَ فَقُولَا إِنَّا رَسُولُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (16) أَنْ أَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (17) قَالَ أَلَمْ نُرَبِّكَ فِينَا وَلِيدًا وَلَبِثْتَ فِينَا مِنْ عُمُرِكَ سِنِينَ (18) وَفَعَلْتَ فَعْلَتَكَ الَّتِي فَعَلْتَ وَأَنْتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ (19) قَالَ فَعَلْتُهَا إِذًا وَأَنَا مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ (20) فَفَرَرْتُ مِنْكُمْ لَمَّا خِفْتُكُمْ فَوَهَبَ لِي رَبِّي حُكْمًا وَجَعَلَنِي مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ (21) وَتِلْكَ نِعْمَةٌ تَمُنُّهَا عَلَيَّ أَنْ عَبَّدْتَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (22) قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَا رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ (23) قَالَ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُوقِنِينَ (24) قَالَ لِمَنْ حَوْلَهُ أَلَا تَسْتَمِعُونَ (25) قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آَبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (26) قَالَ إِنَّ رَسُولَكُمُ الَّذِي أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ لَمَجْنُونٌ (27) قَالَ رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (28) قَالَ لَئِنِ اتَّخَذْتَ إِلَهًا غَيْرِي لَأَجْعَلَنَّكَ مِنَ الْمَسْجُونِينَ (29)
So go, both of you, to Pharaoh and say, We both are messengers of the Lord of all the worlds, (sent with the message) that you must send the children of Isrā‘īl with us. He (Pharaoh) said, Did we not nourish you among us as a child? And you remained amidst us for years, and you did the blunder you did; still you are ungrateful. He said, I did that at a time when I was mistaken. Then I fled away from you when I feared you. Thereafter my Lord granted wisdom to me, and made me one of the messengers. As for the favor with which you are obliging me, it is that you have enslaved the children of Isrā‘īl. Pharaoh said, what is the Lord of the worlds? He (Mūsā) said, Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever there is between them, if you are to believe. He (The Pharaoh) said to those around him, are you not hearing? He (Mūsā) said, Your Lord and the Lord of your early forefathers. He (Pharaoh) said, your messenger who is sent to you is a mad man indeed. He (Mūsā) said, Lord of the East and the West and whatever lies between them, if you are to understand. He (Pharaoh) said, If you adopt a God other than me, I will certainly put you to prison. (Al-Shu’ara)
Upon this Musa (AS) said what if we have brought forward clear and apparent proofs? The Pharaoh said, bring forth if you are from the truthful. Allah says:
قَالَ أَوَلَوْ جِئْتُكَ بِشَيْءٍ مُبِينٍ (30) قَالَ فَأْتِ بِهِ إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (31) فَأَلْقَى عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ ثُعْبَانٌ مُبِينٌ (32) وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ بَيْضَاءُ لِلنَّاظِرِينَ (33) قَالَ لِلْمَلَإِ حَوْلَهُ إِنَّ هَذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ (34) يُرِيدُ أَنْ يُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ بِسِحْرِهِ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ (35) قَالُوا أَرْجِهْ وَأَخَاهُ وَابْعَثْ فِي الْمَدَائِنِ حَاشِرِينَ (36) يَأْتُوكَ بِكُلِّ سَحَّارٍ عَلِيمٍ (37)
He (Mūsā) said Will you (do this) even if I bring to you something evident? He said, Then bring it, if you are truthful. So, he threw down his staff, and in no time it was a serpent, clearly visible, and he drew out his hand, and right then it was a white light to the onlookers. He (Pharaoh) said to the chiefs around him, this man is certainly an expert sorcerer. He wants to expel you from your land with his sorcery. So what do you suggest? They said, Leave him and his brother alone for some time, and send heralds to the cities, so that they bring to you every highly expert sorcerer. (Al-Shu’ara)
The Pharaoh challenged Musa (AS) and decided to call upon his best sorcerers and they decided that they the challenge will be on a festival day in broad daylight.
فَلَنَأْتِيَنَّكَ بِسِحْرٍ مِثْلِهِ فَاجْعَلْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَا نُخْلِفُهُ نَحْنُ وَلَا أَنْتَ مَكَانًا سُوًى (58) قَالَ مَوْعِدُكُمْ يَوْمُ الزِّينَةِ وَأَنْ يُحْشَرَ النَّاسُ ضُحًى (59)
We will, then, bring to you a similar sorcery. So, make an appointment between you and us for an even place, not to be backed out, neither by us nor by you. He (Mūsā) said, your appointment is the festival day, and the people should be assembled at forenoon. (Ta-Ha)
The festival day came and people from throughout the land had gathered to see the competition. On the day, the sorcerers approached the Pharaoh and asked that what will be in turn for us for winning the match? The Pharaoh promised them gifts and high status. Allah says:
فَجُمِعَ السَّحَرَةُ لِمِيقَاتِ يَوْمٍ مَعْلُومٍ (38) وَقِيلَ لِلنَّاسِ هَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُجْتَمِعُونَ (39) لَعَلَّنَا نَتَّبِعُ السَّحَرَةَ إِنْ كَانُوا هُمُ الْغَالِبِينَ (40) فَلَمَّا جَاءَ السَّحَرَةُ قَالُوا لِفِرْعَوْنَ أَئِنَّ لَنَا لَأَجْرًا إِنْ كُنَّا نَحْنُ الْغَالِبِينَ (41) قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنَّكُمْ إِذًا لَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ (42)
So the sorcerers were assembled for the appointed time of a known day, [26:39] and it was said to the people, would you assemble, so that we may follow the sorcerers if they are victorious? So, when the sorcerers came, they said to Pharaoh, Will there be a sure reward for us, if we are the victorious? He said, yes, and of course, you will then be among the closer ones. (Al-Shu’ara)
The match began where the sorcerers said to Musa (AS) either you go first or we will go first. Musa (AS) told them to proceed with their magic. Allah says:
قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى إِمَّا أَنْ تُلْقِيَ وَإِمَّا أَنْ نَكُونَ نَحْنُ الْمُلْقِينَ (115) قَالَ أَلْقُوا فَلَمَّا أَلْقَوْا سَحَرُوا أَعْيُنَ النَّاسِ وَاسْتَرْهَبُوهُمْ وَجَاءُوا بِسِحْرٍ عَظِيمٍ (116) وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَلْقَفُ مَا يَأْفِكُونَ (117) فَوَقَعَ الْحَقُّ وَبَطَلَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (118) فَغُلِبُوا هُنَالِكَ وَانْقَلَبُوا صَاغِرِينَ (119)
They said, O Mūsā, would you throw (first) or are we to throw? He said, You throw. So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and made them frightened, and produced great sorcery. We revealed to Mūsā, Throw your staff. Then of a sudden, it began to swallow all that they had concocted. Thus the truth prevailed, and what they were doing became a nullity. So, they were overcome then and there and turned humiliated.(Al-A’raf)
The sorcerers realized that this is no magic but something divine from Almighty Allah. They accepted his religion. The Pharaoh, shocked and displeased, threatened the sorcerers of prosecution and torture. Allah says:
وَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سَاجِدِينَ (120) قَالُوا آَمَنَّا بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (121) رَبِّ مُوسَى وَهَارُونَ (122) قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ آَمَنْتُمْ بِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ آَذَنَ لَكُمْ إِنَّ هَذَا لَمَكْرٌ مَكَرْتُمُوهُ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لِتُخْرِجُوا مِنْهَا أَهْلَهَا فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ (123) لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ ثُمَّ لَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (124) قَالُوا إِنَّا إِلَى رَبِّنَا مُنْقَلِبُونَ (125) وَمَا تَنْقِمُ مِنَّا إِلَّا أَنْ آَمَنَّا بِآَيَاتِ رَبِّنَا لَمَّا جَاءَتْنَا رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِينَ (126)
The sorcerers could not but fall in prostration. They said, we believe in the Lord of the worlds, the Lord of Mūsā and Hārūn. Pharaoh said, you have believed in him before my permission. Undoubtedly, this is a plot you have designed in the city, so that you may expel its people from it. Now you shall know (its end). I will cut off your hands and your legs from opposite sides. Then I will crucify you all together. They said, we have surely to return to our Lord. For what fault would you punish us except that we have believed in the signs of our Lord when they appeared to us? O our Lord, pour out patience upon us, and cause us to die as Muslims (those who submit to you.) (Al-A’raf)
The Pharaoh still did not accept and continued to reject Allah and his Prophet Musa (AS). Allah Ta’ala had granted Musa (AS) many signs. These signs were a means to break the tyranny of the Pharaoh so he may accept the One Allah and set free the Israelites. Each sign was greater than the previous sign. Whenever the Pharaoh and his men were afflicted with one of these signs, they came to Musa (AS) and asked him to supplicate to Allah to remove them from this hardship. Upon removing the sign, they use to return to their heedlessness. Allah Ta’ala says:
وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَا آَلَ فِرْعَوْنَ بِالسِّنِينَ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ (130) فَإِذَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْحَسَنَةُ قَالُوا لَنَا هَذِهِ وَإِنْ تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَطَّيَّرُوا بِمُوسَى وَمَنْ مَعَهُ أَلَا إِنَّمَا طَائِرُهُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (131) وَقَالُوا مَهْمَا تَأْتِنَا بِهِ مِنْ آَيَةٍ لِتَسْحَرَنَا بِهَا فَمَا نَحْنُ لَكَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ (132) فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمُ الطُّوفَانَ وَالْجَرَادَ وَالْقُمَّلَ وَالضَّفَادِعَ وَالدَّمَ آَيَاتٍ مُفَصَّلَاتٍ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا مُجْرِمِينَ (133) وَلَمَّا وَقَعَ عَلَيْهِمُ الرِّجْزُ قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ بِمَا عَهِدَ عِنْدَكَ لَئِنْ كَشَفْتَ عَنَّا الرِّجْزَ لَنُؤْمِنَنَّ لَكَ وَلَنُرْسِلَنَّ مَعَكَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (134) فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمُ الرِّجْزَ إِلَى أَجَلٍ هُمْ بَالِغُوهُ إِذَا هُمْ يَنْكُثُونَ
And We seized the people of Pharaoh with years of famine and poor production of fruits, so that they may learn a lesson. When good times came to them, they said, this is our right. And if an evil touched them, they took it as an ill omen of Mūsā and those with him. Listen, their ill omen lies with Allah only, but most of them do not know. They said, whatever sign you bring to us to enchant us with, we are not going to believe in you. So We sent upon them the storm and locusts and lice and frogs and blood, as signs distinct from each other. Yet they showed arrogance, and they were a guilty people. Whenever a scourge befell them, they said, O Mūsā, pray for us to your Lord by the covenant He has made with you. If you remove the scourge from us, we will truly believe in you, and will send the children of Isrā‘īl with you. But when We removed the scourge from them for a term they had to reach, in no time they started to break their promise. (Al-A’raf)
Finally the time came when Allah revealed to Musa (AS) to take the Israelites and escape from the land of Egypt. Allah says:
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنْ أَسْرِ بِعِبَادِي إِنَّكُمْ مُتَّبَعُونَ (52) فَأَرْسَلَ فِرْعَوْنُ فِي الْمَدَائِنِ حَاشِرِينَ (53) إِنَّ هَؤُلَاءِ لَشِرْذِمَةٌ قَلِيلُونَ (54) وَإِنَّهُمْ لَنَا لَغَائِظُونَ (55) وَإِنَّا لَجَمِيعٌ حَاذِرُونَ (56) فَأَخْرَجْنَاهُمْ مِنْ جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ (57) وَكُنُوزٍ وَمَقَامٍ كَرِيمٍ (58) كَذَلِكَ وَأَوْرَثْنَاهَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (59) فَأَتْبَعُوهُمْ مُشْرِقِينَ (60) فَلَمَّا تَرَاءَى الْجَمْعَانِ قَالَ أَصْحَابُ مُوسَى إِنَّا لَمُدْرَكُونَ (61) قَالَ كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ (62) فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنِ اضْرِبْ بِعَصَاكَ الْبَحْرَ فَانْفَلَقَ فَكَانَ كُلُّ فِرْقٍ كَالطَّوْدِ الْعَظِيمِ (63) وَأَزْلَفْنَا ثَمَّ الْآَخَرِينَ (64) وَأَنْجَيْنَا مُوسَى وَمَنْ مَعَهُ أَجْمَعِينَ (65)
And We revealed to Mūsā saying, Make My servants travel at night. You will be pursued. So Pharaoh sent into the cities (his) men to muster (people) saying, these are a small band, and indeed they are enraging us, and we are a host, well-armed. Thus We expelled them (i.e. the people of Pharaoh) from gardens and springs, and from treasures and a noble abode. Thus it was. And We made the children of Isrā‘īl inherit all such things. So they (the people of Pharaoh) pursued them (the people of Mūsā) at the time of sunrise. And when the two hosts saw each other, the companions of Mūsā said, surely we are overtaken. He said, Never! Indeed with me is my Lord. He will guide me. So We revealed to Mūsā saying, Strike the sea with your staff. So it was severed apart, and each part became like a big mountain. Then We brought others close to that place. And We saved Mūsā and all those with him. (Al-=Shu’ara)
When seeing the Israelites passing the sea, the Pharaoh and his men also went into the separated sea in their pursuit. However, the sea united itself and drowned the Pharaoh and his army. The Pharaoh at the throws of death realized that his life is about to end and the unseen things of the hereafter became apparent to him. In one breath he states thrice his belief in Allah, but alas, it is too late and was doomed for eternity. Allah says:
وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ وَجُنُودُهُ بَغْيًا وَعَدْوًا حَتَّى إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ الْغَرَقُ قَالَ آَمَنْتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آَمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (90) آَلْآَنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنْتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ (91) فَالْيَوْمَ نُنَجِّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ لِتَكُونَ لِمَنْ خَلْفَكَ آَيَةً وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنَ النَّاسِ عَنْ آَيَاتِنَا لَغَافِلُونَ (92)
“And We let the children of Isrā‘īl cross the sea. So, Pharaoh and his troops chased them in transgression and hostility, until when he was about to drown, he said, I believe that there is no god but the One in whom the children of Isrā‘īl believe, and I am among those who submit to Allah. (Allah said,) is it now (that you have come to believe) while you were rebellious all along, and you were among the mischief-makers? So, today, We shall save your body, so that you may become a sign for those after you. And many of the people are heedless of Our signs.”(Yunus)
The story of the Israelites continues in the Qur’an, however the part dealing with the Pharaoh end here.
As stated before, the Qur’an is not a book of history where it takes it upon itself to discuss the names and dates of all the events. The name of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa (AS) is neither mentioned in the Qur’an nor in any narration of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam). Therefore, Shari’a does not confirm or negate any name the archeologist may present.
Regarding the facts described in the Qur’an, then there are 100% true and we have firm belief in them. The archeologists of today’s time deny many aspects of the story of Musa (AS). For example, they deny the departing of the sea for which they claim there is no proof. Some archeologists even deny that the Israelites were ever in Egypt. The whole story of Musa (AS) and the Pharaoh is questionable to them since there is ‘no proof’ for it. For the Muslims, the Qur’an, the Word of Allah, is the biggest proof and all other facts and research are rejected when in contradiction with the Qur’an.
We make dua Allah safeguard our Iman, take us from this world with Iman, and on the day of Qiyamah resurrect us with those that have perfect Iman, Ameen.
For more information on the story of Musa (AS) and the Prophet you may read:
- Qasas al-Anbiya of Ibn Kathir
- Qasas al-Quran of Mawlana Muhammad Hifz al-Rahman
- Ma’arif al-Quran of Mufti Shafi
And Allah knows best
Ml. Ehzaz Ajmeri : Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by: Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah