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Ashura And The Doom Of A Pharaoh

EsinIslam Ramadan Explorer

Dr. Ragheb El-Sergany

No doubt, the day when a tyranny dies is remarkable!!

Even if oppressed subjects are non-Muslims, we hate and condemn oppression and rejoice to see its end. Indisputably, oppression is by no means acceptable. In this regard, Allah said in a Qudsi (sacred) Hadith reported by Muslim on the authority of Abu Dharr who reported Allah's Messenger to have reported that Allah says, "O My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another." [Reported by Muslim]

«يا عبادي! إني حرمت الظلم على نفسي وجعلته بينكم محرما» رواه مسلم

After the Hijrah (emigration to Madinah), Ibn 'Abbas reported, as related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) found the Jews fasting on the tenth of Muharram. The Prophet (peace be upon him) inquired of them, "What is the significance of this day on which you fast?" They replied, "This is a good day, the day on which Allah rescued the children of Israel from their enemy. So, Musa (Moses) fasted this day." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "We have more claim over Musa than you." And the Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted on that day and ordered Muslims to fast on that day.

قدم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة، فرأى اليهود تصوم يوم عاشوراء، فقال: «ما هذا» . قالوا: هذا يوم صالح، هذا يوم نجى الله بني إسرائيل من عدوهم، فصامه موسى. قال: «فأنا أحق بموسى منكم». فصامه وأمر بصيامه متفق عليه

Fasting on the Day of 'Ashura' was prescribed before the fast of Ramadan. When the latter was prescribed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made fasting on the Day of 'Ashura' supererogatory. However, aiming at giving Muslims stronger motivation to fast on that day, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, as related by Muslim on the authority of Abu Qatadah, "Fasting on the Day of 'Ashura' will blot out all the sins of the preceding year."

«وصيام يوم عاشوراء، أحتسب على الله أن يكفر السنة التي قبله» رواه مسلم

A question has to arise here; why this day is so significantly celebrated? In fact, the reason is clear as the Prophet (peace be upon him) obviously did not want such a memory to pass without enough contemplation and reflection. He perhaps wanted us to carefully examine this greatly inspirable event even once a year.

Actually, the Children of Israel lived for so long feeling that victory is very far-reached and that there is hardly any hope for a change. They further felt that Pharaoh's tyranny will continue forever and that their persecutors will remain to enjoy their authorities regardless of whatever efforts exerted be the persecuted children of Israel.

So what happened?

Actually, we know in detail what happened but we just forget!

We came to know that Pharaoh, who led his army trying to break into the sea after eye-witnessing the miracle of dividing the sea waters, was drowned along with his soldiers and retinue at a moment. No doubt, we know about this event indicating that Allah is Omnipotent and of infinite power and that tyrants have to come to an end no matter how long they continued in power and tyranny. In this regard, it is very interesting to read the Prophet's words, as related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari (may Allah be pleased with him), "'Indeed Allah prolongs the life of an oppressor so that when he is taken, nothing can release him.' He then recited: 'Such is the Seizure of your Lord when He seizes the (population of) towns while they are doing wrong. Verily, His Seizure is painful, and severe.' [Hud 10:102]"

«إن الله ليملي للظالم، حتى إذا أخذه لم يفلته. قال: ثم قرأ: {وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَخْذُ رَبِّكَ إِذَا أَخَذَ الْقُرَىٰ وَهِيَ ظَالِمَةٌ}» رواه البخاري

Indeed, this is the lesson Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) wanted us to learn. We should never lose heart, for Allah the Almighty is capable of saving Muslims from whatever calamity they suffer. Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted) said, {... and the (blessed) end is for the Muttaqun (pious).} [Al-A'raf 7:128]

{...وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ} الأعراف: 128

Transliteration: waalAAaqibatu lilmuttaqeena

Moreover, the Divine law of destroying oppressors is not applied to a unique event that took place only during the lifetime of Musa (peace be upon him) through the destruction of Pharaoh; rather, it is frequently applied along the world history. To this effect, Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted) said, {How many a town (community), that were wrong- doers, have We destroyed, and raised up after them another people!} [Al-Anbia' 21:11]

{وَكَمْ قَصَمْنَا مِن قَرْيَةٍ كَانَتْ ظَالِمَةً وَأَنشَأْنَا بَعْدَهَا قَوْمًا آخَرِينَ} الأنبياء: 11

Transliteration: Wakam qasamna min qaryatin kanatthalimatan waanshana baAAdahaqawman akhareena

The account given in the Qur'an for Pharaoh does not merely represent a historical narration of a past figure. Rather, it gives an accurate embodiment of a recurrent type of oppressive tyrants, giving a detailed explanation of their biographies, way of thinking, means of tyranny and how believers face them. However, it culminates by giving an account of the doomed end of their tyranny and oppression.

Through his wonderful statement, the Prophet (peace be upon him) presented the Qur'an as a realistic book pulsating with life. Thus, when a Muslim browses through the Qur'an and comes to the occurrences of Pharaoh will understand them in the context of the Pharaohs of his time. In fact, how many Pharaohs there are and how many forms they take! They sometimes take the form of disbelieving pagans, sometimes of the Crusaders, sometimes of Tatars, sometimes of European colonialists and many times of Muslims!

Indeed, how many Pharaohs there are!

However, they will sure come to their fatal end, for, certainly, Allah does not fail in His Promise.

This is the notion Allah's Messenger wanted us to comprehend and this is the actual reason why we celebrate this day. Undoubtedly, this is the lesson we are to learn from this event. Moreover, we should not give mass media or some sects the opportunity to keep us from understanding this perspective. Furthermore, we may not allow them to fool us or make us concern for such objectives and principles as totally different from those taught to us by our ideal and Prophet (peace be upon him).

Undoubtedly, the Day of 'Ashura' is a good day, during which tyranny came to an end, faith was granted victory and the infinite power of the Lord of the Worlds was dominating.

I pray Allah to confer upon us such a vicarious day, in which honorable believers of this Ummah raise the flags of glory and dignity. Amen.


Dr. Ragheb ElSergany
islamstory website
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EsinIslam Ramadan Team

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