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What the Qur'an teaches: Lessons of past communities

Published: 24/06/2011 01:31:00 AM GMT
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In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful We sent Moses with Our message to Pharaoh and his nobles; and he said: ‘I am a messenger of the Lord of all the worlds,' but when he presented Our signs to them, they laughed at them.

Published: Jun 23, 2011 20:39 Updated: Jun 23, 2011 20:39

Yet each sign We showed them was greater than the preceding one. We put them through suffering so that they might return (to the right path). They said: ‘Sorcerer, pray to your Lord for us on the strength of the covenant He has made with you. We shall now follow the right way.' Yet when We removed their suffering they still broke their word. Pharaoh proclaimed to his people, saying: ‘My people, is the kingdom of Egypt not mine, with all these rivers flowing at my feet? Do you not see? Am I not better than this contemptible wretch who can hardly make his meaning clear? Why have no bracelets of gold been given to him? Why have no angels come to accompany him?' (Gold; Al-Zukhruf: 43: 46-53)

In these verses the surah relates an episode of Moses (peace be upon him) and his encounter with Pharaoh and his people. The episode starts with a very brief reference to the first meeting between Moses and Pharaoh, as a prelude to the main point intended here, which is to portray the similarity of the objections made by Pharaoh and the pagan Arabs, as also their similar values. It sums up the nature of Moses' message in these words: “I am a messenger of the Lord of all the worlds.” It is the same truth stated by every messenger: that he is “a messenger” sent by “the Lord of all the worlds.” The surah then provides a very quick reference to the signs given to Moses, adding how the people received these: “When he presented Our signs to them, they laughed at them.” The arrogant and the ignorant always behave this way.

This is followed by a reference to the testing hardships God inflicted on Pharaoh and his people, which are detailed in other surahs: “Yet each sign We showed them was greater than the preceding one. We put them through suffering so that they might return (to the right path). They said: 'Sorcerer, pray to your Lord for us on the strength of the covenant He has made with you. We shall now follow the right way.' Yet when We removed their suffering they still broke their word."

The signs shown by Moses did not provide enough motivation for people to believe, yet each was greater than the one before it. This confirms what God says in several places that such signs do not provide guidance to a heart if it is not ready to listen, and that God's messengers cannot make the deaf hear or the blind see. What is most singular in what God describes of Pharaoh's and his people's attitude is that when they spoke to Moses, they said: “Sorcerer, pray to your Lord for us on the strength of the covenant He has made with you. We shall now follow the right way.” (Verse 49) They appeal to him to do his best to lift their hardship, yet they address him as “sorcerer”. They also say, “Pray to your Lord” while he tells them that he is “a messenger from the Lord of all the worlds,” not his own special Lord to whom only he and a few followers submit. Neither miracles nor God's messenger's words touched their hearts, despite their promise: “We shall now follow the right way.” Such promises are often forgotten: “Yet when We removed their suffering they still broke their word.”

The masses may be influenced by miracles, and the truth may find its way to their hearts that have long been deceived. To forestall this, Pharaoh appeared before them in his full regalia, adorned in splendor. He tried to deceive them with a superficial argument, one that unfortunately appeals to those who have long endured tyranny: “Pharaoh proclaimed to his people, saying: ‘My people, is the kingdom of Egypt not mine, with all these rivers flowing at my feet? Do you not see? Am I not better than this contemptible wretch who can hardly make his meaning clear? Why have no bracelets of gold been given to him? Why have no angels come to accompany him?'”

The kingdom of Egypt and the rivers flowing at Pharaoh's feet are there, before their very eyes. The masses are deluded by such apparent power and splendor. By contrast, the kingdom of the heavens and earth, and all that is between them, compared to which Egypt is no more than a little particle, requires believing hearts to perceive. Only such believers can draw the right comparison. Under the yoke of tyranny that has long subjugated them, the masses are dazzled by the glitter they see before them. They do not stretch their minds to reflect on the kingdom of the universe and to whom it belongs.

Reproduced from Arab News




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