The Struggle of the Prophet Moses (pbuh) Against the Magicians
Magicians came to Pharaoh from all parts of the land of Egypt to struggle against the Prophet Moses (pbuh). Pharaoh assumed to have ultimate victory. Following a successful confrontation, the authority of Pharaoh and his inner circle would have been assured. While Pharaoh and his inner circle, in accordance with their shallow mentality, were hatching such a plot, they totally ignored the fact that the greatest and most auspicious of the plotters is Allah. However, Allah forestalls all the snares of disbelievers and those who triumph at the end are always the sincere believers. The magicians, on the other hand, were curious as to the reward they would receive in return for defeating the Prophet Moses (pbuh):
The magicians of Pharaoh used to officiate at the religious ceremonies of Egyptians. Above is an illustration of the magicians during a mummification ritual.
(They said) "To bring you all the skilled magicians." The magicians came to Pharaoh and they asked, "Will we receive a reward if we are the winners?" He (Pharaoh) said, "Yes, and you will be among those brought near." (Surat al-A'raf: 112-114)
Pharaoh was taking advantage of the situation to consolidate his authority, while the magicians thought that by being honoured with being "close" to Pharaoh, they would gain certain benefits. The most able magicians of Egypt were brought against the Prophet Moses (pbuh) and the Prophet Aaron (pbuh). The Prophet Moses (pbuh) was asked to decide who should start:
They said, "Moses, will you throw or shall we be the first to throw?" He said, "No, you throw!" And suddenly their ropes and staffs appeared to him, by their magic, to be slithering about. (Surah Ta-Ha: 65-66)
When the magicians performed their magic, their ropes and staffs appeared to slither. As Allah informs us in the verse, all were deceived into seeing ropes and staffs as moving by themselves.
A certain point deserves attention here: in the above verse, we encounter the expression "appear to be slithering about." This wording indicates that there was not an actual movement, but only one perceived by the spectators. In another verse, Allah explains the illusory nature of this incident as follows:
He (Moses) said, "You throw." And when they threw, they cast a spell on the people's eyes and caused them to feel great fear of them. They produced an extremely powerful magic. (Surat al-A'raf: 116)
With their illusions, the magicians of Pharaoh won the public over. They exalted his regime by the spells they performed, which they did "by the might of Pharaoh." Pharaoh, in return, provided them financial benefits. In brief, their relationship was mutually beneficial.
In their confrontation with the Prophet Moses (pbuh), the magicians were completely aware that Pharaoh was not in possession of any kind of power other than what Allah granted him. However, purely out of a desire to be brought "close" to enjoy the resulting benefits, they threw their staffs. They did so, in their own unwise way of thinking, quite sure of their superiority over the Prophet Moses (pbuh). The fact is however, those who triumph are always only those who side with Allah.
They threw down their ropes and staffs and said, "By the might of Pharaoh we are the winners." (Surat ash-Shu'ara: 44)
Although deceitful, the magicians' show impressed some people among the crowd. Allah reminded the Prophet Moses (pbuh) not to be frightened:
The magicians of Pharaoh were authorities on subjects ranging from astronomy to medicine. They exploited their prestige to influence the public and only to reinforce the oppressive rule of Pharaoh. Above is an ancient Egyptian relief showing the magicians holding the world.
Moses experienced in himself a feeling of alarm. We said, "Have no fear. You will have the upper hand. Throw down what is in your right hand. It will swallow up their handiwork. Their handiwork is just a magician's trick. Magicians do not prosper wherever they go." (Surah Ta-Ha: 67-69)
Bolstered by this reminder from our Lord, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) immediately turned to the magicians, telling them that their performance was mere sorcery which would be rendered void by the will of Allah:
When they had thrown, Moses said, "What you have brought is magic. Allah will certainly prove it false. Allah does not uphold the actions of corrupters." (Surah Yunus, 10: 81)
Following these words related in the verses, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) threw down his staff. The result was terrifying for the magicians. The Prophet Moses' (pbuh) staff swallowed the sorcery of Pharaoh's magicians:
We revealed to Moses, "Throw down your staff." And it immediately swallowed up what they had forged. So the Truth took place and what they did was shown to be false. They were defeated then and there, transformed into humbled men. (Surat al-A'raf: 117-119)
Unlike the illusory tricks of magicians, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) worked a real miracle by his staff. The magicians had plotted against the Prophet Moses (pbuh). However, Allah, the best of plotters, aided the Prophet Moses (pbuh) with a plan which rendered their tricks utterly worthless. Thus, the plots of the magicians only worked against them. As a miracle, Allah rendered the staff into a real living being.
Consequently, contrary to what the unbelievers expected, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) defeated the magicians. So, everybody witnessed that Allah's promise was true. As a blessing from His Sight, Allah supported the Prophet Moses (pbuh) and, made him victorious over one of the most powerful systems of his time as a miracle from His Sight.