Allah, the Exalted informs that when Fir`awn and Musa agreed to an appointed meeting at a specified place and time, Fir`awn began to gather some magicians from the cities of his kingdom. Every person who had any affiliation with magic at that time was summoned, and magic was very widespread and in demand at that time. This is as Allah says,
(And Fir`awn said: "Bring me every well-versed sorcerer.'') (10:79) Then, the day came. It was the day when all of the people gathered, which was well-known, being the day of the festival. Fir`awn was there sitting upon his throne surrounded by the elite officials of his kingdom. The subjects were all standing on his right and his left. Then, Musa came forward leaning upon his stick accompanied by his brother Harun. The magicians were standing in front of Fir`awn in rows and he was prodding them, inciting them and encouraging them to do their best on this day. They wanted to please him and he was promising them and inspiring them. They said,
(Will there surely be a reward for us if we are the winners He (Fir`awn) said: "Yes, and you shall then verily be of those brought near (to myself).'') (26:41-42)
(Musa said to them: "Woe unto you! Invent not a lie against Allah...'') This means, "Do not make an illusion before the people of something that is not real, making it appear as if it were a creature, when it is not really a creature. If you do this, then you would be lying on Allah.''
(lest He (Allah) should destroy you completely by a torment.) This means, `He will destroy you with a destructive punishment that will not spare anything, or anyone.'
("...And surely, he who invents a lie will fail miserably.'' Then they debated one with another what they must do,) It has been said that this means that they argued among themselves. So one of them said, "This is not the speech of a magician, but it is the speech of a Prophet.'' Another said, "No, he is only a magician.'' There are other opinions that have been mentioned about what they discussed. And Allah knows best. Allah's statement,
(and they kept their talk secret.) means, they held secret counsel among themselves about this matter.
(They said: "Verily, these are two (Hadhan) magicians...'') This is a way of speaking with some of the Arabs and this Ayah has been recited according to the grammar of their dialect. There are also others who recite it as, (إِنَّ هَذَيْنِ لَسَاحِرَانِ) Which carries the same meaning, "Verily, these are two (Hadhayn) magicians.'' This is the popular style of language in Arabic grammar. The grammarians have extensive discussions in reply to the first recitation and its grammatical explanation, but this is not the place for such a discussion. The main point is that the magicians said among themselves, "You all know that this man and his brother (Musa and Harun) are two knowledgeable magicians who are quite aware of the skill of magic. They want to defeat you and your people today and conquer the people, causing the masses to follow them. They want to fight against Fir`awn and his armies, and they are seeking victory over him. And their ultimate goal is to expel you from your land.'' Concerning Allah's statement,
(and to take you away from your exemplary way.) This means, `they want to expose this way (of yours) openly, which is magic.' For verily, they were considered great because of their magic. They had wealth and sustenance because of this magic. They were actually saying, "If these two (Musa and Harun) are victorious, they will destroy you and expel you from your land. In doing so, they will be the first individuals to do so, and they will be given great power of leadership without you.'' Ibn `Abbas mentioned concerning Allah's statement,
(and to take you away from your exemplary way. ) "This means their kingdom, which they were in, and their livelihood.'' `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd said, "This superior way means that which they were upon.''
(So devise your plot, and assemble in line.) This means, "All of you come together in one row, and throw that which is in your hands at one time in order to dazzle the eyes (of the people) and defeat this man and his brother.''
(And whoever overcomes this day will be indeed successful.) meaning "Between you and us. As for us (the magicians), we have been promised to be given an abundance of power and sovereignty. And in reference to him (Musa), He will gain great leadership.''
(65. They said: "O Musa! Either you throw first or we be the first to throw'') (66. (Musa) said: "Nay, throw you (first)!'' Then behold! their ropes and their sticks, by their magic, appeared to him as though they moved fast.) (67. So Musa conceived fear in himself.) (68. We (Allah) said: "Fear not! Surely, you will have the upper hand.'') (69. "And throw that which is in your right hand! It will swallow up that which they have made. That which they have made is only a magician's trick, and the magician will never be successful, to whatever amount (of skill) he may attain.'') (70. So the magicians fell down prostrate. They said: "We believe in the Lord of Harun and Musa.'')
Allah, the Exalted, informs about the magicians when they met Musa, that they said to Musa,
("Either you throw first...'') meaning, "you go first.''
("...or we be the first to throw'' (Musa) said: "Nay, throw you (first)!'') This means, `you magicians should go first so that we can see what magic you are going to perform and so that the true state of their affair will become obvious to the people.'
(Then behold! their ropes and their sticks, by their magic, appeared to him as though they moved fast.) In another Ayah it says that when they threw,
(Then said: "By the might of Fir`awn, it is we who will certainly win!'') (26:44) And Allah, the Exalted, says,
(They bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them, and they displayed a great magic.) (7:116) Here, He says in this Surah,
(Then behold! their ropes and their sticks, by their magic, appeared to him as though they moved fast.) They were a large numbered group and each one of them threw a stick and a rope until the valley became full of snakes piled on top of each other. Concerning Allah's statement,
(So Musa conceived fear in himself.) This means that he feared for the people that they would be tested and deceived by their magic before he could even have a chance to throw what was in his right hand. Thus, Allah revealed to him at the right moment, to throw what was in his right hand, which was the stick. When he did so, it swallowed what they had made. It became a huge, monstrous creature with legs, a neck, a head and fangs. It went after these ropes and sticks until none of them remained, except that it was devoured and swallowed by this beast. At the same time, the magicians and all of the people were watching with their own eyes, seeing this amazing event in broad daylight. Thus, the miracle was performed and the evidence was clear. The truth prevailed and the magic was proven to be falsehood. This is why Allah said,
(That which they have made is only a magician's trick, and the magician will never be successful, to whatever amount (of skill) he may attain.) So when the magicians saw the event and witnessed it with their own eyes, while they were knowledgeable of the various tricks and methods in the sciences of magic, they knew with conviction that what Musa had done was not magic or illusionary tricks. They recognized that it was the truth without any doubt. They knew that no one had any power to do this except for One Who says for a thing "Be,'' and it is. Therefore, when this happened, they fell down into prostration to Allah. They said, "We believe in the Lord of all that exists, the Lord of Musa and Harun!'' This is why Ibn `Abbas and `Ubayd bin `Umayr both said, "At the beginning of the day they were magicians and at the end of the day they were outstanding witnesses of faith.''
Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "The magicians were seventy men who were magicians in the morning, but witnesses of faith by the time evening came.'' Ibn Abi Hatim also reported that Al-Awza'i said, "When the magicians fell down in prostration, Paradise was raised up before them until they were looking at it.'' It is reported from Sa`id bin Jubayr that he said concerning Allah's statement,
(So the magicians fell down prostrate.) "They saw their places (in Paradise) made clear before them while they were in their prostration.'' `Ikrimah and Al-Qasim bin Abi Bizzah both said the same.
(71. (Fir`awn) said: "Believe you in him before I give you permission Verily, he is your chief who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of date palms, and you shall surely know which of us can give the severe and more lasting torment. '') (72. They said: "We prefer you not over what have come to us of the clear signs and to Him (Allah) Who created us. So, decree whatever you desire to decree, for you can only' decree (regarding) this life of the world.'') (73. "Verily, we have believed in our Lord, that He may forgive us our faults, and the magic to which you did compel us. And Allah is better as regards reward in comparison to your reward, and more lasting.'')
Allah, the Exalted, informs of Fir`awn's disbelief, obstinance, transgression and haughtiness against the truth in favor of falsehood. When he saw what he saw of the magnificent miracle and the great sign, and he saw those whose help he sought accept faith in the presence of all of the people, and he was absolutely defeated, he began to behave arrogantly and cast accusations. He resorted to using his esteemed honor and might against the magicians. He warned them and threatened them saying,
(Believe you in him (Musa)) This means, "Do you have faith in him''
(before I give you permission) meaning, "I have not commanded you to do so, by which you have rebelled against me.'' Then he said a statement that he, the magicians and all creatures knew was a forgery and an utter lie.
(Verily, he is your chief who has taught you magic.) meaning "You all only took your magic from Musa and you have made an agreement with him against me and my subjects, that you would help him be victorious.'' Allah says in another Ayah,
(Surely, this is a plot which you have plotted in the city to drive out its people, but you shall come to know.) (7:123) Then he began threatening them. He said to them,
(So I will surely cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of date palms,) meaning, "I will certainly make an example of you, I will kill you in a public execution.'' Ibn `Abbas said, "Thus, he was the first person to ever do this (public execution, crucifixion).'' This was reported by Ibn Abi Hatim. Concerning Allah's statement,
(And you shall surely know which of us can give the severe and more lasting torment.) This means, "You say that my people and I are astray and that you (magicians), Musa and his people are following correct guidance, but you will come to know who will be punished and remain punished.'' So when he attacked with this and threatened them, their souls eased them because of their belief in Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. They exclaimed,
(They said: "We prefer you not over what have come to us of the clear signs...'') meaning, "We do not chose you over the guidance and conviction that we have received. ''
(and to Him (Allah) Who created us.) It could be that they were swearing, "By He Who has created us.'' It also could be connected in meaning to the clear signs mentioned before it. In this case it would mean, "We do not prefer you over our Originator and Creator, Who produced us from a beginning that was nothing. He created us from clay (or mud). Therefore, He alone deserves worship and humility and you do not (Fir`awn)!''
(So decree whatever you desire to decree,) "Do whatever you wish and whatever your hands are able to achieve.''
(for you can only decree (regarding) this life of the world.) meaning, "You only have power in this world and it is a world that will come to an end. Verily, we are hoping in the eternal abode.''
(Verily, we have believed in our Lord, that He may forgive us our faults,) "Whatever evils that we did.'' It specifically means, `which we were forced to do of magic, in order to oppose the sign of Allah and the miracle of His Prophet.' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said concerning Allah's statement,
(and the magic to which you compelled us.) "Fir`awn took forty boys from the Children of Israel and commanded that they be taught magic at Al-Farama. He said, `Teach them knowledge that no one in the land knows.''' Ibn `Abbas then said, "They were of those who believed in Musa and they were of those who said,
(We have believed in our Lord, that He may forgive us our faults, and the magic to which you did compel us.)'' `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said the same. Allah's statement,
(And Allah is better as regards reward in comparison to your reward, and more lasting.) means, "He is better for us than you.''
(and more lasting.) More lasting in reward than what you pro- mised us and made us aspire to. It is apparent that Fir`awn (may Allah curse him) was bent upon their punishment, and that what he did to them was a mercy from Allah for them. This is why Ibn `Abbas and others of the Salaf said, "They woke up in that morning as magicians, but they became witnesses of faith by the evening. ''
(74. Verily, whoever comes to his Lord as a criminal, then surely, for him is Hell, wherein he will neither die nor live.) (75. But whoever comes to Him as a believer, and has done righteous good deeds, for such are the high ranks,) (76. `Adn Gardens, under which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, and such is the reward of those who purify themselves.)