قَالُوا يَا مُوسٰۤى إِمَّا أَنْ تُلْقِيَ وَإِمَّا أَنْ نَكُونَ نَحْنُ الْمُلْق۪ينَ قَالَ أَلْقُواۚ فَلَمَّا أَلْقَوْا سَحَرُۤوا أَعْيُنَ النَّاسِ وَاسْتَرْهَبُوهُمْ وَجَۤاءُۧوا بِسِحْرٍ عَظ۪يمٍ
“They (the sorcerers) said: “Moses! Either you throw first or we will be the first to throw!” He answered: “Throw!” And when they threw (whatever they held in their hands to make spells) they cast a spell upon the people’s eyes (i.e. overawed and deluded them), and produced a mighty sorcery.” (Al-A‘rāf 7:115–116)
There is a point in this verse which should not be overlooked: it is the fact that sorcery was the most popular phenomenon among the people in the years when Moses, upon him be peace, was charged with Divine Messengership. Performance of sorcery in a crowded area on a festive day also proves this. Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, let the people of Pharaoh demonstrate their sorcery. When the most well-known sorcerers of Pharaoh’s country performed the best of their sorcery in the view of the folk, everybody was entranced. However, when Moses invalidated their sorcery, both the sorcerers and people were astonished. The sorcerers, who were ingeniously adept in sorcery, immediately submitted to Moses’ Message in spite of Pharaoh, realizing that what Moses did was not sorcery. They actually did a great service on behalf of the Message by their immediate submission.
Think about a crowd of magicians whose lives were based on deception, a despotic elite class that impelled these magicians to this, and the masses who usually followed these two classes. They saw some thick ropes and huge poles as piled up snakes and dragons, and no matter if it was magic or the sun’s heat that made pieces of tree and leather stuffed with mercury appear as such, a stick from a dried tree, which had temporary extraordinariness in Moses’ hands, swallowed up all of those false devices. The people, who had been astonished in the face of the huge rods conducted by deception shortly before, encountered both the truth and the defeat of falsehood. It was the time for the sorcerers to declare, “We have come to believe in the Lord of the worlds” (Al-A‘rāf 7:121). When the apparent representatives of falsehood made this declaration, the same action was expected from those following them.
The Qur’ān describes what happened between Moses and sorcerers in various places, approaching the events from different perspectives and in a distinct way or style appropriate for each place. Their messages reveal themselves in many different ways in these various places in the Qur’ān. Through the doors of history opened ajar, they draw our attention to recurring occurrences in history, allowing us to draw lessons from these events according to our capacities as there is always more to be found in the narratives of Prophet Moses and the despotic elites who used various people and mediums of illusion to mask the truth.