The day I met Pharaoh


I seek refuge in God from satan the accursed.

In the name of God Most Compassionate Most Merciful.


I still remember the day I met Pharaoh.  My husband and I were visiting Cairo, Egypt in March of 2007.  We got to the Egyptian Museum really early that morning, our cameras ready.   The guards finally opened the heavy wrought iron gates, and we walked in quickly with a stream of fellow, eager tourists.  But to our dismay, we were told that no cameras or cell phones were allowed inside, and so got busted at the security check, and were forced to place them in a safe after our failed attempt to secretly smuggle them in our pockets.


We roamed around the museum, astounded by the wealth of ancient treasures lining each hallway.  We saw paintings, artifacts, and relics.  But the grandeur of all the artifacts combined paled in front of the one small room that housed the most famous pharaohs of ancient Egypt.  The rest of the museum was brimming with tourists and visitors, but this room was sectioned off, and required an extra payment for visitation.  It was in a quiet corner of the building, and to our surprise, had very few visitors at the same time as us.


Walking into the dimly lit and uncomfortably small room, I saw the row of clear glass cases holding the delicate remains of what were once the most powerful rulers of the world.  I immediately began to search for the Quranic pharaoh, the one who had made the life our our great Prophets Musa AS and Haroon AS very difficult.  My husband pointed to his coffin and I walked up to it, opening my eyes as wide as I could to fully take in all the details of his remains.


Strangely, there was nothing really great or intimidating about his remains.  He was a small, shriveled up creature, his eyes, that once looked upon prophet Musa AS with contempt, sealed forever.   His skeletal nose and mouth almost pointed upwards, not in arrogance, but in agony, as though his damned soul, full of torment, cried out from the depths of hell.  The first thought that came to mind was the chilling verse in the Quran:

“But this day We save thee in thy body that thou mayst be a portent for those after thee. Lo! most of mankind are heedless of Our portents.” (10:92)


This verse is chilling because Allah SWT did indeed save Pharaoh’s body, but his body was misplaced, and was not found and identified until the late nineteenth century, and I got to be one of the few people to see his body in person.  So there must have been a reason for why I was brought thousands of miles away to meet this man.  There was indeed a lesson for me in that moment, as I stood there gawking at his frail and bony remains.  I saw first hand a man who believed everything his ego dictated, who fed it what ever it demanded, until his ego grew so big that it suffocated his soul and as a result, snuffed out the remaining flicker of light from his existence.  Pharaoh was an example of a man who crossed all boundaries of sanity, drowning not just in water, but also in the delusion of self-glorification.  His story has a bitter end, one where he decides to raise the white flag of defeat a little too late, as wave upon wave obeys the One real God, the Almighty, the Avenger, the Humiliator, and pounds his flesh and bones until his soul, utterly humbled and defeated, crawls on its knees away from this world into the realm of divine justice.  Imagine that.  A man who once had the world in the palm of his hands, gone in an instant.


But we have to be careful when reflecting on this story, because we are not immune to such delusions of grandeur.  There is a pharaoh in all of us, pushing and shouting at us to let it out.  It is that voice inside that muddles what would have been otherwise a pure intention.  It is that persistent nagger inside that tells you to make sure everyone can see you, can hear you, and most importantly, everyone adores you.  Your inner pharaoh finds the simplicity of respect and dignity boring and tasteless, and instead commands your mind and body to put together a spectacle that will dazzle the world until everyone is drunk with your name on their lips.


So let’s keep that pharaoh locked up where it belongs, and instead, fall down in humble prostration in front of our Maker, because He is also our Maintainer.  Every breath that comes out of our mouths, and every thought that we comprehend, analyze, and respond to, is all because of His loving mercy, all because of His perfect design.  Even as I write this post, I must bow down to the Most High because it is His inspiration that has allowed me to commit to my duty of reminding others about the straight path, and I am just one in millions, all of whom are reminding others of good in their own way.


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