Two Women Who Stood Up To Pharaoh
“And Allah has set forth an example for those who believe: the wife of Fir’awn, when she said: ‘My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise, and save me from Fir’awn and his work, and save me from the wrong-doers.’” (Qur’an, 66:11)
Qatadah said while explaining the verse: “Fir’awn (Pharaoh) was the most tyrannical and hardened disbeliever on Earth, and by Allah, his disbelief did not affect his wife when she decided to obey her Lord.”
Abu ‘Uthman An-Nahdi reported that Sulayman said: “Fir’awn’s wife was tortured in the heat of the sun. When her torturers would take a break and walk away, the angels would shade her with their wings, and she would see her home in Paradise.”
Al-Qasim Bin Abi Bazzah said: “Fir’awn’s wife asked who won, and it was said to her: ‘Musa and Harun won.’ So, she would say: ‘I believe in the Lord of Musa and Harun.’ Fir’awn said to those around him: ‘Look for the largest rock you can find. If she sticks to what she said, throw it on her. If she retracts what she said, she will remain my wife.’ When they came to her, she looked towards the sky and saw her home in Paradise. So, she stuck to what she said and her soul was taken, and the rock was thrown on her lifeless body after her soul had been taken.’ “
The scholars say regarding her statement: “My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise” that she chose her neighbor (Allah) before mentioning where she wanted to live (a home in Paradise).
Abu Al-Aliyah said that Fir’awn’s wife turned to believer because of the wife of Fir’awn’s treasurer. What happened was that this woman was sitting and combing the hair of Fir’awn’s daughter one day, and the comb fell from her hand. So, she said: “May whoever disbelieves in Allah be destroyed!” Fir’awn’s daughter said to her: “You have a lord besides my father?” She replied: “The Lord of me, your father, and everything is Allah.” So, Fir’awn’s daughter hit her and went to tell her father.
Fir’awn sent for her, saying: “You worship a lord besides me?” She said: “Yes. Your Lord, mine, and of everything is Allah, and I worship Him.” So, Fir’awn tortured her by putting her on a stake and stretching out her arms and legs and setting loose snakes on her body. One day, when she was in such a state, he came to her and said: “Will you give up?” She replied: “Your Lord, mine and of everything is Allah.” He said to her: “I will kill your son if you do not do not retract what you said.” She said: “Do whatever you want,” and he killed her son, and she could hear his soul calm her down by saying to her: “Be happy, my mother! You have such and such reward with Allah!”
She remained patient until Fir’awn came to her another day, and she said the same to him as she had before. So, he killed another of her sons, and she could hear his soul calming her down as well.
Fir’awn’s wife heard all this, and this caused her to become a believer. Allah took away the soul of the wife of Fir’awn’s treasurer, and Fir’awn’s wife suddenly realized the reward, status, and honor that this woman had in Paradise.
So, she increased in her faith and certitude until Allah caused Fir’awn to discover her faith, and he said to his followers: “What do you know about Asyah Bint Muzahim?” They replied by praising her, and he said to them: “She worships someone besides me!” They said: “Kill her,” and he placed her on a device that stretched her arms and legs away from her body. So, Asyah called upon her Lord, saying: “My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise!” Fir’awn happened to walk by when she said this, and she smiled because she saw her home in Paradise, and Fir’awn said to those watching: “Aren’t you amazed at her insanity? She smiles while we are torturing her?!”
So, Allah took her soul away to Paradise, and may Allah be pleased with her.
– Tafsir Ibn Kathir (4/504-505)