Islamic Web Library

An Islamic Resource Center

7:111-122 Prophet Moses vs the Sorcerers

7 min read

They said: “Keep him and his brother in suspense (for a while); and send to the cities men to collect (7:111)

And bring up to thee all (our) sorcerers well-versed.” (7:112)

So there came the sorcerers to Pharaoh: They said, “of course we shall have a (suitable) reward if we win!” (7:113)

He said: “Yea, (and more),- for ye shall in that case be (raised to posts) nearest (to my person).” (7:114)

They said: “O Moses! wilt thou throw (first), or shall we have the (first) throw?” (7:115)

Said Moses: “Throw ye (first).” So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them: for they showed a great (feat of) magic. (7:116)

We put it into Moses’s mind by inspiration: “Throw (now) thy rod”:and behold! it swallows up straight away all the falsehoods which they fake! (7:117)

Thus truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect. (7:118)

So the (great ones) were vanquished there and then, and were made to look small. (7:119)

But the sorcerers fell down prostrate in adoration. (7:120)

Saying: “We believe in the Lord of the Worlds,- (7:121)

“The Lord of Moses and Aaron.” (7:122)

These verses narrate the remaining part of the story of the prophet – – Musa (pbuh) Seeing these wonders of staves turning into serpents and making his hand emitting strong white light, the Pharaoh should – –
have been convinced and have believed in Musa (pbuh) as the logic and sense demanded. But it is the common practice of the wrong-doers that they always seek false interpretations of the truth in order to
conceal it, the Pharaoh and his people belied him instead, and said to
the people that he was a great sorcerer and that he wanted to expel
them from their homes and take over the rule of the country. The
people of the Pharaoh suggested:

“leave him and his brother alone for a while, and send men to
the cities to collect and bring to you every expert sorcerer 111,112.”

The people of the Pharaoh said that there were many expert sorcerers
in their cities who were capable of defeating Musa (pbuh).

Some soldiers should be sent to collect and bring the sorcerers for
this purpose. Sorcery and magic, being the custom of the day, the
sorcerers enjoyed a high status among people. Allah sent Musa (pbuh)
with the miracles of the staff and white-lit hand so that people may
clearly observe the misery of the sorcerers after entering into a contest
with Musa (pbuh). It is the usual practice of Allah that He sends His
prophets with miracles that are appropriate to the demand of the time.
For instance, in the time of the prophet ‘Isa (the Jesus), Greek philosophy and medical sciences were at their zenith. He was, therefore, sent with the miraculous powers of restoring the sight of those who
were born blind and cure the lepers instantly with a touch of his hand.
In the time of the Holy Prophet (S) the Arabs were boastful of their
oratory and linguistic capabilities. The Holy Qur’an was sent as the
greatest of all miracles of the Holy prophet (S). It’s diction and style so
bewildered the Arabs that they instantly acknowledged a super
human element in it.

The sorcerers came to Pharaoh and said:

“There must be a reward for us, if we are the victors.” (113)

He said,

“Yes, and of course, you will be among the closer ones.” (114)

The sorcerers were invited from all over the country. When they all came to Pharaoh they asked him of some reward if they gain victory over Musa (pbuh). He promised that in addition to their reward they
shall be included among those close to him. The historical reports about the number of these sorcerers give us different information. These give us a number from nine hundred to three hundred thousand. The quantity of the staves and strings used in this contest is reported to be as great as was loaded on three hundred camels. (Qurtubi)

It may be noted that the first thing the sorcerers did, was to have
an assurance about the reward they will get in return of their performance. It is because worldly people are always after worldly gains. They do nothing unless they are sure of their gains, while on the
contrary, the prophets and their disciples always declare:

I do not ask you for a reward, as my reward is with the Lord
of all the worlds.’ (26:109)

That is, the prophets of Allah preach and convey the message of
Allah only for the good and guidance of people and they seek no financial gain against it. They seek their reward from Allah alone. After this discourse with Pharaoh the sorcerers got the place and date fixed
for the great encounter. An open land was chosen for the purpose and
the time was fixed after the sunrise on their festival Day. It is also
mentioned in a verse of the Holy Quran: Musa (pbuh) “your appointed day is the day of ‘zinah’ so that
people may be gathered after sunrise.” (20:59)

Some reports say that the prophet Musa (pbuh) had a short
conversation with the chief of the sorcerers and asked him if they
would accept the faith in case he defeated them? He said that there
was no question of their being defeated as they possessed such great
magical powers that could not be overcome by any one. And in case
‘you bring defeat to us we shall declare our faith openly in the presence of the Pharaoh’. (Mazhari and Qurtubi)

They said,

“0 Musa either you throw (first) or shall we be the ones to

The Arabic word: ‘ilqa’ means to drop something down. On the day of encounter the sorcerers asked the prophet Musa (pbuh) if he would drop down his staff first or should they throw theirs first? This
question of the sorcerers was perhaps to show their complacency about
their art, though the mode of their sentence indicated that they
wanted to start first, but for giving an impression of power to their opponent they put that question. Since the prophet Musa (pbuh) had nothing to fear about, he invited them saying ‘you drop.’

Ibn Kathir has said that the prophet Musa (pbuh) behaved with
them politely by inviting them to have their turn first. The effect of
this behaviour was that they accepted the faith after their defeat. Here
we are faced with a question. The sorcery is an impermissible act,
specially when it is used to oppose a prophet sent by Allah it becomes
an act of infidelity. How then the prophet Musa (pbuh) gave permission of magic to the sorcerers by saying ‘you drop’? With a little thought we can find the answer. It was certain that the sorcerers will
show their magic by all means. The point of conversation was to decide
who should start the contest. The prophet Musa (pbuh) allowed them
to begin. Another advantage of this strategy was that the people could
see their performance and the sorcerers had all the time to show their
art and turn the staves into snakes. Then the staff of the prophet Musa (pbuh) should turn into a serpent and eat up all the snakes, thus the open defeat of magic should be exhibited before the people.
(Bayan- al- Qur’an)

So, when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people,
and made them frightened, and came out with great sorcery.

This verse indicates that this demonstration of their magic was just a bewitching of the eyes of the people which made them see the staffs and strings as snakes leaping on the ground, while the strings and the staffs did not change physically. It was a kind of mesmerism hypnotising the minds of the onlookers. This does not mean that sorcery is confined only in this kind and that it cannot change something into another, as we do not have any proof against it. On the contrary, many forms and kinds of magic have been taken as being reality. The terms magic and sorcery are usually applied for all the acts that seem to be happening in unusual way. Sleight of hand, telepathic influences and mesmerism are sometimes called magic. Transformation of one thing into another through magic may be a possibility
but we have no valid reason or proof for or against it.

The next verse 117 said, “And We revealed to Musa ‘Throw your staff.’ Then, of a sudden it began to swallow all that they had concocted.” We find it reported in history, when thousands of staffs and ropes were turned into snakes leaping all over the ground, Allah commanded Musa to drop down his staff on the ground. It turned into a great snake and instantly began to eat up the snakes of the sorcerers. The crowd stood bewildered and stunned at this sight. Within no time all the snakes were eaten up by the great snake of the prophet Musa (pbuh). Next, the verse said:

“So, the truth prevailed and what they were doing became a
nullity. So there they were overcome and turned humiliated.
And the sorcerers were constrained to fall in prostration. They
said, “We believe in the Lord of the worlds, the Lord of Musa
and Harun.”

The sorcerers were so overawed by the miracle of the prophet Musa
(pbuh) that they fell in prostration. This may also imply that Allah
blessed them with favour and put them in prostration. They added the
phrase, the Lord of Musa (pbuh) and Harun after saying, the Lord of
the worlds, to make it clear that the Lord worshipped by Musa and Harun is, in fact, the Lord of the Universe, and not the Pharaoh as he pretended to be.


Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .4 surah 7 verses 111-122)English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-4.pdf (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.