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(The Pharaoh said,) “Then, we will most certainly produce before you... (Tā-Hā 20:58-59)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūrah Tā-Hā

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فَلَنَأْتِيَنَّكَ بِسِحْرٍ مِثْلِه۪ فَاجْعَلْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكَ مَوْعِدًا لَا نُخْلِفُهُ نَحْنُ وَلَۤا أَنْتَ مَكَانًا سُوًى۝قَالَ مَوْعِدُكُمْ يَوْمُ الزّ۪ينَةِ وَأَنْ يُحْشَرَ النَّاسُ ضُحًى
(The Pharaoh said,) “Then, we will most certainly produce before you sorcery like it. So appoint a meeting between us and you, which neither we nor you will fail to keep, in an open, level place convenient (to both of us).” (Moses) said: “The meeting will be on the Day of the Festival, and let the people assemble in the forenoon.” (Tā-Hā 20:58–59)

How many dazzling lights and mysteries flow into our spirits from the verses above, the first addressee of which was Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. Having had a mysterious experience of speaking to God in the valley of Tuwa in the Sinai, having seen his staff change into a snake and his right hand become a shining hand, and having felt his theoretical certainty transformed into experienced certainty, this exalted Prophet had perfect confidence in and reliance on his Lord. Therefore, when the Pharaoh challenged Moses to a contest against the sorcerers of Egypt, Moses was perfectly sure that he would defeat the Pharaoh’s sorcerers regardless of what they would do. Hence, based on his Prophetic insight, Moses made the offer, “The meeting will be on the Day of the Festival, and let the people assemble in the forenoon.” Through this counterchallenge, Moses meant the following:

  1. The competition which would distinguish right from wrong or truth from falsehood should not take place behind walls; rather, it should occur in an open, level place where people would be able to watch and witness.
  2. The competition should take place on a festive day so that whoever wanted to watch it could come.
  3. Forenoon was the most convenient time for such an encounter. It is a time when people are free from exhaustion and drowsiness and feel energetic and vigorous. Also, it is the best time for minds to think and judge.

Thus, in order to watch the competition between Moses and the sorcerers, the people of Egypt came to the meeting area in crowds in the early morning on the Day of Festival. Sorcery was a popular and esteemed occupation in Egypt at that time. Sorcerers were not ordinary people; they were the intellectual elite of the time, who could contact jinn and who had certain knowledge of spiritism or spiritualism and parapsychology. Therefore, their defeat in the face of Moses and their possible conversion would mark the beginning of a revolution in the country in favor of belief. And so it came to pass. Having understood that the miracles God created at the hand of Moses were not magic or sorcery, the sorcerers believed in Moses’ Message immediately despite the Pharaoh’s threats that he would hang them and cut off their hands and feet alternately.[1] Many among the common people who witnessed the submission of the elite to Moses came to belief, and doubts about their own religion appeared in the hearts of many others. The goal was achieved and absolute unbelief was broken. People in general came to the point where they felt hesitant to choose between Moses and the Pharaoh, who had made his subjects ascribe Divine power to him, telling them that he knew no god for them but himself.

The most significant point drawing our attention in this verse is the time and place which Moses chose for that important encounter. There are important lessons in this event that today’s Muslims will learn. First of all, a believer should never despair because of the lack of or shortage in material necessities. They should use the credit that God granted them carefully without wasting it. As the proverb says, “killing two birds with one stone,” a Muslim should always plan to be able to achieve not only two but hundreds of results with one action and search for the ways to succeed in doing so. Consider how, according to God’s usual practice, a seed buried in the earth grows into an ear containing hundreds of seeds of the same kind or into a tree producing hundreds of fruits. Thus should we try to act in a way that we sow one grain but harvest seven, seventy, or even seven hundred in return and in the name of serving belief, the Qur’ān, our nation, and the whole of humanity. This was what Moses did. When, having left the Pharaoh’s palace and come into the open, he expressed himself in front of all people and on a proper day in full trust in and reliance on God, he was able to influence thousands of people with one act, making many among them his followers.

This is what the Qur’ān teaches us by means of Moses, while the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, contributes to our understanding with a different event:[2]

According to a report from the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, a tyrant attempted to kill a young believer, who never agreed to return to the tyrant’s faith. He was thrown down from the top of a mountain, yet he came back walking. Then he was thrown into the roaring waves of a sea, but he was saved and returned. Whatever they did to kill that young believer, it proved useless. In the end, the young man said: “If you gather all the people together and shoot an arrow at me saying, ‘In the name of the Lord of this boy’, then you will be able to kill me.”

A believer should always think like this young man: “You will die in any case, and these furious people will not let you live. Therefore, you should not go to the next world at a small cost.” Indeed, a believer should make plans to be able to do something for the sake of their cause even in their last moment as they go to their Lord. However valuable it is, even the desire for martyrdom is of little significance compared to a life lived with this consideration. In other words, believers should always think about what they can do at every moment of their life on behalf of their religion, nation, and humanity. The young man in the example would have only been martyred if he had died when he had been thrown down from the top of a mountain or into the waves of a sea. He would most possibly have gained his eternal life of happiness in the other world, but his reward would have been limited only to himself. However, after he was martyred in front of the people in the way he told, he caused hundreds of people to embrace belief. Thus he both served his cause and the conversion and eternal happiness of many others.

To conclude, Muslims should know the value of the Religion with which they are favored and the value this Religion has gained them. They should be aware of the fact that this universe has been created for them, with all that it contains at their service. Therefore, aware of their exceptional value, they should not leave this world in return for a low price. Their consideration should be as follows: “I am leaving the world, but I should leave a world which has found its true orbit—which has achieved its goal of creation. My death should also be a mysterious key to open the doors of Paradise for me, and while my personal tiny light is being distinguished, innumerable new lights should begin to shine.”

[1] See Sūrah Tā-Hā 20:71.
[2] Muslim, Zuhd, 73; Tirmidhī, Tafsīru Sūrah 85:2.