What the Qur’an Teaches: In Defense Of Prophet Moses
In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful
A believing man of Pharaoh’s family, who until then had concealed his faith, said: Would you kill a man because he says, “God is my Lord,” when he has brought you all evidence of the truth from your Lord? If he is a liar, his lie will fall back on him; but if he is speaking the truth, something of what he warns you against is bound to befall you. God will not grace with His guidance anyone who is a lying transgressor. My people! Yours is the dominion today, having the upper hand in the land; but who will rescue us from God’s punishment should it befall us? Pharaoh said: “I am only putting before you what I see myself, and I am guiding you to none other than the path of rectitude.” (The Forgiving; Ghafir: 40: 28-29)
At this point in the story of Moses, a man from Pharaoh’s own household who had accepted the truth but kept his faith secret begins his argument in defense of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).
In his address to Pharaoh and his courtiers, the man tries to touch their hearts with his advice and makes very convincing arguments that combine facts with the prospect of dreadful consequences.
This is a long, powerful argument advanced by a believer against the conspirators in Pharaoh’s court. His argument relies on the sound logic of uncorrupted human nature. It is a skillful argument that combines caution with power. He begins first by describing the enormity of what they propose to do: “Would you kill a man because he says, God, is my Lord?” Do such innocent words that imply personal conviction deserve killing the person who says them? Can such words be answered by murder? Shown in this way, your action appears to be gruesome, horrid, and repugnant.
He then takes a step forward, saying that this person, Moses, supports his own statement with solid and clear evidence: “He has brought you all evidence of the truth from your Lord.” Here, he is referring to the signs Moses had shown them. They certainly saw these signs, and when they were together, away from the masses, they could not argue about such signs nor their import.
The believer then puts to them the worst possible situation, taking an objective attitude to allow them to reflect on such a scenario: “If he is a liar, his lie will fall back on him.” If he is lying, he will bear the consequences of his lie and suffer his punishment. However, this does not justify killing him. There is, however, the other possibility that what he says is true. It is, then, prudent to be careful and not to expose oneself to its consequences: “But if he is speaking the truth, something of what he warns you against is bound to befall you.” Again this is the least that can be expected in this case. The man did not ask them to consider anything beyond this. His purpose was to make an objective stand, one that provided the most convincing argument.
He then delivers an implicit warning: one that applies to them and to Moses alike: “God will not grace with His guidance anyone who is a lying transgressor.” If this applies to Moses, God will not allow him to escape unscathed. Leave him to God, then, to receive his due punishment. However, you must be careful lest you be the ones who are lying transgressors because this will mean your inescapable doom.
The believer then gives them a strong warning against incurring God’s punishment, reminding them that should it befall them, no power can avert it. Their kingdom and power will then be of little use. They should remember this and be grateful to God for having given them what they enjoyed: “My people! Yours is the dominion today, having the upper hand in the land; but who will rescue us from God’s punishment should it befall us?”
At heart, the man feels what a true believer should feel: God’s punishment is closest to those who are in power. Therefore, they are the ones who should be most careful and should try their best to avoid it. It could come upon them at any moment of the night or day, so they must dread such a possibility. The man reminds them of the power and authority they enjoyed and includes himself among them as he reminds them of God’s punishment:
“Who will rescue us from God’s punishment should it befall us?” He, thus, shows them that what happens to them is a matter of great concern to him; he is one of them, awaiting the same destiny. Hence, his kind and caring advice. He hopes that they will take this to heart, realizing that it is meant most sincerely and that they stand no chance against God’s punishment should it befall them.
At this point, Pharaoh demonstrates the feeling that possesses any tyrant receiving honest advice. He turns in arrogance, perceiving detraction from his authority and encroachment on his dominion: “Pharaoh said: I am only putting before you what I see myself, and I am guiding you to none other than the path of rectitude.” I am only telling you what I know to be true and useful. It is indeed the proper path to follow. Has anyone ever heard of a tyrant who did not feel that what he said was right and full of wisdom? Would any tyrant allow for someone to imagine that he be wrong? Do tyrants allow anyone to uphold a view other than theirs? How else do they become tyrants?