بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم 

Have you noticed that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala sometimes praises certain people in the Qur’an and reveals their names? Other times, their names are not revealed but their sacrifice was still immense in the Sight of Allah. Amongst those unnamed heroes in the Qur’an were the magicians who duelled against Prophet Musa 'alayhis-salaam (AS). But they were Fir’aun’s men, right? So how come they were praised by Allah? In today’s article, I’m inviting the reader to ponder on their eye-opening story.

We begin this narrative at the point where Fir’aun rejected the da’wah of Prophets Musa and Harun ‘alayhumas-salaam, and decided to challenge them instead. He summoned magicians from all over Egypt to duel against Prophet Musa (AS) in a public setting, at Dhuha time on their day of festival, so that everyone could witness it. Some said there were hundreds of magicians, others said thousands, and they came with great enthusiasm — this was their profession after all. It was the norm in Egypt at that time for its people to dabble in shirk.

Rasulullah salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Spells, charms, and love-potions are shirk.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 3883 | Graded Sahih by Al-Albani]

And so the magicians stepped into the arena to challenge Prophet Musa (AS): “They asked: O Musa! Will you cast, or shall we be (the first) to cast?’ He (Prophet Musa) said: ‘Throw you (first).’” [Al-A’raf 7: 115-116]

You know how performers always save their best performance for last for that WOW factor? Imam Ibn Kathir rahimahullah wrote in his tafsir that there was wisdom behind Prophet Musa’s (AS) response — it allowed the spectators to witness the magicians' sorcery first, before the clear and unequivocal truth came at the hands of Allah’s Prophet. The magicians’ tricks may capture the eyes, but it is the ayaat (signs) of Allah that truly capture the hearts.

“So when they (the magicians) threw, they deceived the eyes of the people, stunned them, and made a great display of magic.” [Al-A’raf 7: 116] 

Thus the magicians began throwing their thick ropes and long sticks, bewitching the eyes of the spectators so that they saw many moving snakes, and striking terror into their hearts. It was truly a great display of magic! Then Allah says:

“And We inspired Musa: ‘Throw down your staff,’ and —behold!— it devoured the objects of their illusion! So the truth prevailed and their illusions failed. So they were defeated right there and put to shame. And the sorcerers fell down, prostrating.” [Al-A’raf 7: 117-120] 

When Allah ta'ala inspired Prophet Musa (AS) to throw his staff, it manifested into a big, actual snake. This was a legitimate, real, huge snake — not an illusion — which then opened its mouth, and swallowed all of the magicians' ropes and sticks! 

As this scene unravelled, and the magicians were witnessing this amazing yet fearsome display, they knew instantly that this was not mere trickery, but something far greater! And so the magicians crumbled, falling into prostration, while declaring:

“We believe in the Rabb of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)! The Rabb of Musa and Harun!” [Al-A’raf 7: 121-122]

Have you ever had such an iman-rush situation that made your hearts tremble, eyes welled up with tears, and your lips automatically praised Allah? There was a time when I was witnessing a revert taking the shahada with the help of our local sheikh, and the moment the sister finished the shahada, she couldn’t help but weep. It was a mixture of profound happiness and awe that couldn’t be expressed with words.

So imagine when the magicians saw the ayaat of Allah with their own two eyes, something that was so powerful, far greater than their cheap illusions. It was a moment of intense epiphany that made their hearts humbled, their whole body automatically went into sujood, prostrating towards the One True God - Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.

“Fir'aun said: How dare you believe in him before I give you permission! This must be a conspiracy you devised in the city to drive out its people, but soon you will see! Surely I will cut off your hands and your feet from opposite sides, then I will crucify you all!” [Al-A’raf 7: 123-124]

When the magicians proclaimed their iman in Allah in front of all the spectators, Fir’aun began to rage! He started accusing the magicians, implicating that they were allies of Prophet Musa (AS), and that this was their plot to betray their king and country! He was grabbing at whichever lies he could throw to deceive his people. Then he bellowed for the death penalty! In those moments of fear and panic, what did the magicians do?

They said: “Verily, we are returning to our Rabb. And you take vengeance on us only because we believed in the ayaat of our Rabb when they reached us. Our Rabb, pour out on us patience, and cause us to die as Muslims.” [Al-A’raf 7: 125-126] 

In the face of inhumane torture and death penalty, the magicians who earlier were eager to serve Fir’aun, now chose to remain and die as Muslims. The magicians who dabbled in shirk their whole life, now chose to remain steadfast upon Tawheed. The more Fir’aun threatened them, the more they clung to the rope of Allah. Their faith remained unwavered, unflinching.

And this is the gem that I want us to ponder: The magicians were wallowing in shirk and working with the shayateen for the majority of their life. When the ayaat of Allah reached them, they entered into the fold of Islam immediately. But remember! They didn’t become Muslims for a long duration of time — not a month, not a week, not even a full day. They accepted Islam after the time of Dhuha, and were executed that very same night!

It was an extremely short duration, yet the scholars said: 

“The magicians started the day as sorcerers, and ended as honourable martyrs.” Allahu akbar!

The story about the magicians teaches us how our last deeds are important in the Sight of Allah ta’ala. There is a beautiful quote that goes: “Scars show us where we've been. They don't dictate where we're going.” Don’t let yourself be defined by the mistakes you made in the past.

From this we also learn to not belittle people for their honest mistakes and shortcomings, because we can never be certain how their story ends. Perhaps they may one day reach an even higher station than us in the Sight of Allah.

Do not be impressed with our good deeds, because we do not know how our story ends either. Be grateful to Allah, but never feel proud, self-conceit, and self-reliant with the good that we did. None of us knows whether we will attain husnul-khatimah (a good end) or su'ul-khatimah (an evil end). So strive to remain istiqamah in doing what is pleasing to Allah, and give words of encouragement to others so that they will do the same. Remain steadfast, and live in such a way that we will receive our book of deeds in our right hand.

Rasulullah salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Verily, deeds are only judged by how they were at the end of life (i.e. the final deeds determine one’s fate in the Hereafter).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari 6607]

Your sister in Deen,

Aida Msr