When the holy staff of Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام turned into a serpent and swallowed the snakes of the magicians, then they (the magicians) fell prostrate and embraced the true faith. But pharaoh and his followers still did not embrace the true faith. Instead, pharaoh’s unbelief and transgression increased even more and he strove even harder to torture the believers of the Bani Israel and Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام . Pharaoh used different means to tyrannize them.
Annoyed with the cruel conduct of pharaoh, Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام supplicated in the court of Allah in this way: O my Rab ( )! Pharaoh has crossed the limits and his people broke their promises, therefore, make them suffer from such torments that they deserve so that it may become a lesson of admonition for my people and future
generations. (Ruh-ul-Bayan, vol. 3, pp. 220; part 9, Surah Al-A’raf, verse 133)
After the supplication of Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام , Allah sent down five consecutive torments on the people of pharaoh. Those five torments are as follows:
All of a sudden, a cloud hovered and the darkness fell everywhere. Then it started to rain so heavily that the water entered into the homes of the people of pharaoh. They were flooded with the rainwater and water level rose up to their necks. Those who sat down drowned and killed. They were not able to get rid of it. The waves of the flood destroyed their fields and gardens. They suffered this torment for one week. Though the homes of the Bani Israel were adjacent to that of the followers of pharaoh, the water did not enter the homes of the Bani Israel and they kept living in their homes without any discomfort. When pharaoh’s followers could no longer tolerate the torment and became helpless, they came to Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام and requested him to pray for them so that the calamity is withdrawn. They also committed that they would embrace faith and send the Bani Israel to him.
Thus Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام supplicated and the torment of rainstorm was withdrawn. The earth yielded such good crop that was never happened before. Crops flourished excessively. Fruits and grains grew exponentially. Seeing this, the pharaoh’s followers commented that the storm was a great blessing unto them. Then again they deviated from their commitment and did not embrace the faith.
Once again they resumed their barbaric and sinful practices.
The pharaoh’s people lived undisturbed for one month but then once again, Allah inflicted them with the torment in the form of locusts. Thus swarms of locusts emerged from all nooks and corners which ate all their crops and gardens. They even ate the wood of their homes. The homes of pharaoh’s followers were full with locusts and it made their life miserable, but the fields and gardens of the believers of the Bani Israel remained safe from the invasion of these locusts. Upon seeing this, pharaoh’s followers learnt a great lesson and after getting exhausted by that punishment, they again reached Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام and promised him that if he supplicated for the withdrawal of that torment, they would surely embrace the true faith and will not torture the Bani Israel. Therefore, on the seventh day, the torment was withdrawn from them by virtue of the supplication of Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام .
Again, these people lived undisturbed for a month. Once again these people broke their promises and did not embrace the true faith. Their practices of unbelief and sins commenced again. They started torturing Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام and the believers and said that the residual vegetations are sufficient for them. Therefore, they will not embrace the faith renouncing their parental religion.
After one month, another torment was inflicted upon them in the form of weevils. Some scholars said that those weevils clang onto their cash crops and fruits and ate away all their food reserves. Some interpreters are of the opinion that it was a tiny vermin that eroded the ripen crops and also went under their dresses and started bruising and biting their skins and this relentless stinging to their bodies made them convulsive like a slaughtered rooster.
Their conditions worsened so much that these vermin bruised and scratched the hair of heads, beards, moustaches, eyebrows and eyelashes and they had an appearance as that of a small pox victim. These vermin also affected their food, water and utensils and due to the presence of these insects, the pharaoh’s followers were unable to eat and drink and were unable to have even a nap for a moment.
This torment continued for one week and made them very miserable. These people were compelled to howl and once again they contacted Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام and requested him to pray for their relief and assured that they will accept the faith. Feeling pity on their state of anxiety, Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام supplicated for them and consequently, the torment was shunned away. As per there habit, these insolent followers of pharaoh once again broke their promise and once again started their acts of persecutions and cruelties with a new vigour and more intensity. After one month, another torment struck them in the form of frogs.
All of a sudden, an abrupt and haphazard breeding of uncountable frogs in the homes of the people of pharaoh erupted. Wheresoever these people would sit, their gatherings would occupied by thousands of frogs. If anyone would open his mouth for talking or eating, frogs would jump and go into his mouth. The frogs would fill up their cooking utensils and would sit over their body in hundreds. They were getting no relief from these frogs while walking, sitting and sleeping. The people of pharaoh were crying desperately due to that torment and again, they contacted Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام and begged him to supplicate for them and they took oath and promised him that they would surely embrace the faith and would never trouble the believers in future.
Therefore, on the seventh day, by virtue of supplication of Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام , this torment was also withdrawn but these cursed people engaged in their devilish activities upon getting relief once again. They started torturing the believers and disrespecting Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام . Once again they were struck by torment from Allah and this time, the torment was in the form of blood.
All of a sudden, the water of all the wells and rivers turned into blood and the people of pharaoh complained pharaoh about it. The unwise pharaoh said that it was sorcery of Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام . Upon hearing his comments, his followers said that what kind of sorcery this is that their crockery and kitchenware are filled with the blood while that of the believers remain unaffected. Then pharaoh ordered them to draw out water with the believers from the same bucket – but it was a strange and miraculous manifestation of the power of Allah that when believers drew out water, it was crystal clear, pure and sweet; on the contrary, when the followers of pharaoh draw out water with the same bucket, it was pure blood. When the severe thirst struck the people of pharaoh, they came to the believers and said that they would drink water with them in the same pot and at the same time. But there was again a strange and wonderful manifestation of the power of Allah that in the same pot at the same time, when the believers and the unbelievers would collectively drink water, at the side of the believers, there was a crystal clear water but on the side of the unbelievers, the water would turn into blood whilst entering the mouth of the pharaoh’s followers.
In the state of utter helplessness, the pharaoh and his people quenched their thirst by chewing grass and extracting water from it but even the liquid that was extracted from it would turn into blood when it would enter their mouth. Exhausted by that miserable condition, the people of pharaoh again requested Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام for withdrawal of the torment. Due to prophetic kindness and compassion, Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام again prayed for them. Thus on the seventh day, the torment of that curse of blood was withdrawn from them.
There were five consecutive torments that struck the people of pharaoh and every torment was withdrawn on the seventh day. There was a gap of one month between every two torments—but the hearts of these tyrants and transgressors were so sternly sealed and they were wretched to such an extent that they did not embrace the faith. They remained stuck with their unbelief and every time they broke their promises. Finally, an ultimate torment struck them. Pharaoh and his people were drowned and destroyed in the River Nile. Thus the world was completely purified from the evil presence of those damned people. No signs of their existence were left on the face of the earth and even, no sign of their graves was left.
(Tafseer As-Saawi, vol. 2, pp. 803; Part 9, Surah Al-A’raf, verse 133)
The Holy Quran mentioned above five torments in the following words:
Then We sent upon them the flood and the locusts and the pests (or lice) and the frogs and the blood – distinct signs; in response they became arrogant and were sinful people. And whenever the punishment came upon them they said, ‘O Musa! Pray to your Lord for us, by means of His covenant which is with you; indeed if you lift the punishment from us we will surely believe in you and let the children of Israel go with you.’ Consequently when We lifted the punishment from them for a period to which they must reach, they used to then turn away. We therefore took revenge from them; so We drowned them in the river because they used to deny Our signs and were careless about them.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 9, Surah Al-A’raf, verse 133-136)
- The moral lesson we get from these events is that it is a fatal sin to break the promises and to refute and disrespect the Prophets (عزوجل و صلی اللہ تعالیٰ علیہ وسلم) of Allah . Due to these sins, different types of torments struck the people of pharaoh and they were finally drowned and destroyed in the river. Their signs were wiped away from the face of the earth. Therefore, it is obligatory for every Muslim to avoid breaking the promises and committing the sins. Otherwise severe Divine torment may strike them.
- Undoubtedly, Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام was extremely tolerant, compassionate and kind. Despite his enemies breaking promises again and again, he علیہ السلام would still feel pity and would supplicate for the withdrawal of torment whenever they would request him. We learnt from this event that it is essential for the leaders and the torchbearers of a nation to observe tolerance and kindness.
Since the religious scholars are successors of the Prophets علیہم السلام of Allah , it is utmost essential for them not to fuel the passion of revenge against their opponents and ill wishers. Instead they should observe patience and should keep on forgiving their enemies as it is the blessed Sunnah of Sayyiduna Musa علیہ السلام as well as one of the very distinct tradition of our Beloved and Blessed Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم. He صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم never took revenge from anyone for the sake of his own blessed self. Instead, he صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم would always forgive the people. As per one of his glorious teachings:
صِلْ مَنْ قَطَعَکَ وَاعْفُ عَمَّنْ ظَلَمَکَ وَاَحْسِنْ اِلٰی مَنْ اَسَاءَ اِلَیْکَi.e. whoever
breaks ties with you, bond relations with him and whoever oppresses you, forgive him and whoever misbehaves you; treat him with good conduct. In presenting the same Hadees, Sayyiduna Shaykh Sa’di has said:بدی رابدی سہل باشد جزا اگر مردی اَحْسِنْ اِلٰی مَنْ اَسَاIt is a lot easy to take revenge but if you bear true manhood, then do favour to the one who has misbehaved you.