The two highly qualified expert magicians consulted with their aged mother who was also an expert magician. The two sorcerers requested their mother to accompany them to the grave of their father. When the three reached the grave, the mother, employing her magic, addressed her dead husband. When the inmate of the grave spoke, one of the sons explained the purpose of their mission. The father’s voice from the grave informed them that all the magicians of the world would be defeated by Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam). His Staff changing into a deadly serpent was not an act of magic.
Despite this message the two experts together with their 72 students who were all qualified sorcerers responded to the summons of Fir’oun. When they arrived at Fir’oun’s palace, thousands of sorcerers from all over Egypt had already assembled. Four sorcerers who were the most famous and the best qualified were selected to lead the thousands of other magicians. The two brothers were included in the four who would be pitted against Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam).
According to the Qur’aan, Fir’oun promised the sorcerers huge sums of wealth and high positions of proximity to him if they defeated Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam). Fear and shame for Fir’oun and the thousands of sorcerers had constrained the two brothers into the arena to confront Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam).
The day for the confrontation was announced. It was the nations day of festival. According to some narrations it was the Day of Aashura (10th Muharram). Thousands of people from all parts of the country and from even beyond assembled to witness the event. It was a great and tumultuous occasion. A huge stadium had been erected. Fir’oun surrounded by his noblemen was seated on a throne on an elevated place. The thousands of sorcerers marched with great fanfare. They prostrated at the throne of Fir’oun. The awe-inspiring scene of the thousands of sorcerers adorned in their splendid and colourful robes had boosted the morale of Fir’oun. He and his men were in high spirits. They were convinced that Musa (alayhis salaam) would today be defeated and humiliated.
When all the sorcerers were in the arena standing in ranks, the announcement was made for Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) to present himself. Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) donning a simple black woollen qamees (kurtah) appeared in the arena with his brother Haaroon (alayhis salaam). The two mendicants were a pitiful sight in front of the thousands of sorcerers. When they faced the sorcerers, a group advanced from their ranks and exclaimed: “O Musa! Will you begin to cast (your staff) or shall we begin?” Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam), responded: “You begin the casting.”
The thousands of magicians, with signs of their fingers and eyes transformed their thousands of rods, staffs, wands, swords and spears into serpents and huge scorpions. An ocean of slithering serpents and scorpions had appeared. It was indeed a fearful sight. As far as the eyes could see, there were only serpents and scorpions. The thousands of spectators screamed in terror. Describing this event, the Qur’aan says: “Indeed they produced a mighty sihr (display of magic).” Even Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) and Hadhrat Haaroon (alayhis salaam) became fearful. Suddenly he heard the Divine Voice: “Don’t fear! Most assuredly, I am with you. I hear and I see. Cast your Staff, O Musa! It will swallow what they have fabricated.”
Musa’s heart was inspired with confidence. He threw down his Staff. Instantaneously there appeared such a gigantic serpent which no one had ever seen. The sight of Hadhrat Musa’s serpent send chills of fear down Fir’oun’s spine. According to the narrations, when the serpent opened its mouth, it was 40 metres wide. The huge fangs were several metres. Its eyes were like huge flames of fire. The first act of this miraculous monster was to raise its mouth towards the sky, then bring its head down in prostration. It made its Sajdah for Allah, The One, Who has no partner. After its prostration, the mighty serpent moved like a dark storm. It opens its mouth and with two or three gasps it swallowed the thousands of serpents and scorpions fabricated by the sorcerers. The field in front of it was bare. The magic of the sorcerers had disappeared.
After eliminating the serpents and scorpions, the Serpent of Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) turned its gaze towards Fir’oun and his army. There was panic and pandemonium. The panic-stricken Fir’oun screamed in terror and pleaded with Musa (alayhis salaam) to grab his Serpent. Hadhrat Musa’s mission was only to defeat the sorcerers and to demonstrate the triumph of the Truth. His mission was not to take the lives of people. He therefore placed his hand on the serpent which instantaneously was once again transformed into the Staff.
The sorcerers were the first to understand the manifestation of the Truth. They all fell down in prostration proclaiming their Imaan in Allah and Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam). It was a wonderful sight. Thousands of sorcerers prostrating to Allah Ta’ala, not to Fir’oun. They exclaimed: “We believe in the Rabb of Musa and Haaroon.” They specifically mentioned the names of the two Nabis to convey to Fir’oun that the prostration was not for him. Fir’oun in anger bellowed: “Do you believe in him before I have permitted you?” He accused them all of having learnt magic from Musa (alayhis salaam) and being in a conspiracy with him. He threatened to nail them to trees.
According to tafseer narrations, 80,000 sorcerers had accepted Imaan on that day. All had prostrated to Allah Ta’ala in defiance of Fir’oun. When Fir’oun threatened to nail them to trees, they said in unison: “We shall surely be returning to our Rabb.” The threats of Fir’oun had no effect on them. Allah Ta’ala had transformed all the sorcerers instantaneously into Aarifeen (Auliya of lofty status). Jannatul Firdous was shown to them. They said to Fir’oun: “Do as you please.” Fir’oun issued orders for the execution of the sorcerers. Their hands and feet were cut off and they were nailed to trees.
The grief-stricken Musa was shedding tears profusely when he beheld the scene of this brutality. But he was helpless. Without the command of Allah Ta’ala, he could not utilize the Staff at will. Mu’jizaat (Miracles) are rare exceptions. They are not the rule and the norm of earthly life. The celestial veils were removed and Hadhrat Musa (alayhis salaam) was shown the wonderful and lofty status of the souls of the sorcerers. The soul of every sorcerer who was killed had taken up its abode under the Divine Arsh in a wonderful celestial form of indescribable beauty. This wondrous celestial scene brought solace to the heart of Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam).
Besides the sorcerers a group of others had also accepted Imaan. But they were very fearful of Fir’oun. Nevertheless, with the encouragement of Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam), they persevered and continued to worship Allah Ta’ala in their homes. Allah Ta’ala commanded that Bani Israaeel constructs places of worship in their homes. When Fir’oun was informed that the followers of Musa (alayhis salaam) had constructed prayer rooms and were worshipping Allah Ta’ala, he ordered the places of worship to be demolished. His persecution of Bani Israaeel increased while Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) imparted the lesson of repentance and patience to his people.