The Pharaoh, instead of addressing Prophet Musa-AS turned to his courtiers and said: ‘What an expert wizard he-AS was, with malafide intentions. It appeared as if he-AS wanted to gain control of the empire and expel all of us from the land. The Prophet-AS, on the other hand, had only invited them towards Allah-SWT and had demanded the freedom of Bani Israil without a word on the country or the Government. Since the Pharaoh had run out of all arguments, he took to twisting the facts in order to win over his chieftains against the impending threat. He sought their counsel that whatever they decided would be done. They suggested that for the time being both Musa-AS and Harun-AS be allowed to return unhindered. And since there was no dearth of ace magicians in the country, a royal command be issued summoning all to compete with them. Prophet Musa-AS fixed a time for the contest. He-AS did not insist that his-AS miracles were not sorcery, leaving the final outcome to the proposed contest.
The Difference Between Miracle And Sorcery
The miracles given to the Prophets-AS through time always matched the expertise of the contemporary people, so that they could evaluate and recognise that the feat was possible only by Allah-SWT's Powers. Moreover, a miracle or Karamah are manifested only to uphold the truth and to reinforce the authenticity of Prophetic Message while magic is confined only to worldly gains. And magic cannot change the reality of a thing, it only appears as changed to the viewers, whereas, whatever is manifested in a miracle is real. For instance, the ropes and rods of the magicians were seen as snakes by the spectators while the staff of Prophet Musa-AS actually became a giant serpent and physically swallowed all works of the magicians.
The magicians gathered on the time fixed and the event was well advertised by the Pharaoh to encourage the public to witness the contest, and buck up the magicians. And if the magicians won they were to be taken around in a procession, celebrating the victory. The reason why the Pharaoh’s folk were so optimistic was that every magician claimed that he could make snakes and a single serpent of the Prophet-AS would obviously be no match to them.
The magicians demanded from the Pharaoh rewards commensurate to the victory in the great contest sponsored by him. They were justified as sorcery always aims at worldly gains. The Pharaoh encouraged them immensely and said that they would be rewarded beyond expectations not only in terms of wealth, but also by induction as royal courtiers.
The Effect Of Respecting Prophethood
Prophet Musa-AS permitted the magicians to demonstrate their expertise first when asked whether he-AS would like to take the lead or would permit them to do so. This respect was displayed taking him-AS to be a magician par excellence whose expertise had prompted the Pharaoh to hold the contest. This unintentional courtesy towards a Prophet-AS provided them the capacity to see the truth. Though extended without acknowledging him-AS as such, yet it did impact their hearts. Now they cast their ropes and rods brought along and soon the arena appeared infested with large snakes, hissing and crawling in all directions. The magicians proudly swore by the eminence of the Pharaoh that they were sure to win.
They swore upon the Pharaoh, as is customary today, though totally wrong, to swear upon others than Allah-SWT . It is only proper to swear upon Allah-SWT . Again swearing upon Allah-SWT on falsehood is sinful, as it is upon others even on truth; for instance, 'I swear upon you, or on your head, or on my son etc'.
So when Prophet Musa-AS cast his-AS staff, it turned into a huge serpent that swallowed all the other snakes and in no time cleared the arena. It reverted to its original state without any change in its size despite devouring all works of the magicians as soon as the Prophet-AS held it again in his-AS hands.
Shaikh Allah Yar Khan-RUA comments that the magicians realised that had the Prophet-AS performed magic, it would have simply annulled their works, leaving at least their ropes and rods intact. And he-AS would have also demanded reward for his-AS performance whereas he-AS sought only the belief in Allah-SWT . Now assured that it was a Divine Act they fell prostrate in acknowledgement. Though everyone present had witnessed the contest, yet it was only the magicians who were blessed with the capacity to accept the truth as a reward for the respect shown to a Prophet-AS. They instantly proclaimed faith in the Rabb-SWT of the universe, the Rabb-SWT of Prophets Musa-AS and Harun-AS.
The Authentication Of Faith In Allah-SWT
Mark that the magicians were specific in their belief in the Rabb-SWT of Prophets Musa-AS and Harun-AS. Similarly, according to Islamic Fiqh it is imperative to educate a child to believe in Allah-SWT , as introduced by Prophet Muhammad-SW son of ‘Abdullah’, born in Makkah and who later migrated to Madinah, to ensure that there are no misconceptions with regard to faith in Allah-SWT .
The Pharaoh was, however, exasperated. He had gathered a massive crowd being confident of victory of his magicians. But the tables had turned and the Prophet-AS’s miracle could lead to large scale conversion of masses to faith. Therefore, he alleged that the whole episode was a conspiracy of his magicians and Prophet Musa-AS who was their mentor. It was aimed at letting the Pharaoh down, and that was why the magicians had made such a significant announcement without even consulting him for the next course of action.
This was obviously a baseless accusation. The Pharaoh knew fully well that while in Egypt, Prophet Musa-AS had lived in his palace. Then he-AS had fled away from the kingdom, and could not possibly be the mentor of the magicians. He played on the peoples ignorance who, due to lack of knowledge, often tend to believe in such absurdities. Besides, he decided to punish the magicians severely, assuming that this would terrify the public into maintaining their belief in him. He announced chopping off their hands and feet on the alternate sides and crucifying them in pain so that they may taste the severity of punishment for defying him. The magicians declared that the proposed punishment was paltry as it would usher them into the Divine Court where the realization of their goal of His-SWT Forgiveness and elevation of their grades, awaits them. They wished that the Munificent Rabb-SWT may forgive all their past follies for it were only they who enjoyed the honour to be blessed with faith amongst all the spectators.
Spiritual Link With A Prophet-AS Leads To Prophetic Knowledge
The point worth considering here is that the magicians summoned by the Pharaoh had no prior knowledge of Prophet Musa-AS. When they entered the contest, they only took him-AS as a magician. But once the truth dawned upon them and Allah-SWT blessed them with the capacity to embrace faith with such a deep sincerity that the Prophetic knowledges reflected upon their hearts directly without any overt means. And they spoke out that death was of no significance and that martyrdom in His-SWT Cause was a source of attaining Allah-SWT's Nearness, the eternal salvation and an elevation in the grades, which had become their sole aim. They talked of the Akhirah in a way as if Allah-SWT had unveiled it before them and they were actually visualizing and narrating the reality although the Prophet-AS never got an opportunity of formally educating them. This honour was also enjoyed by the Companions-RAU later in history and the ignorant for years not only transformed into scholars and masters of various disciplines but also turned into Mujahids, Ghazis and Martyrs.