[Dr. Saad Al-Faqih:] We’re talking about the ways and means used by tyrants, in the example of Pharaoh, and the description of him given in the Quran, and his way of ruling, and his way of dealing with his people, and his way of dealing with his opponents, in which case it is the Prophet of Allah, Moses, [pbuh]. Then, we will compare this case as described by the Quran with today’s tyrants, particularly the Al-Sauds. Perhaps, you will come to the conclusion that Pharaoh’s case, despite all his tyranny and the Quran’s rebuke of him, is much better than our rulers in particular, in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques (Saudi Arabia). This may baffle you, but stick with me and see the comparison for yourself, and you might become convinced of that. Generally, tyrants who have the ability to rule with an iron fist and impose a totalitarian rule, also have the ability to boast of their power.
Sometimes, it’s the tyrants themselves that engage in self-lauding, like Pharaoh did, (saying), “I am your Lord, Most High.” ((Quran, 79:24)) “(witness) these streams flowing underneath my (palace)” ((Quran, 43:51)) “I know not that you have a god other than me”” ((Quran, 28:38)) and other such descriptions. However, the tyrant can also assign the task of praising himself to his media apparatus, his religious scholars, writers and intellectuals, who would praise him as a great leader. He doesn’t need to sing his own praise. And so, he turns into a great and venerated figure, like many tyrants do, with our rulers of today being the primary examples of that.
Among Pharoah’s tactics is also to pit his own people against each other. “Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their [newborn] sons and keeping their females alive. He was certainly an evil-doer.” ((Quran, 28:4)) A tyrant can’t wield power except if he has the clergy/religious scholars or intellectuals who give him legitimacy, and security forces that repress the people, and media pundits that shower praise on him, and other ancillary forces, such as businessmen and wealthy people who support him with their wealth, as well as the tribal sheikhs that subjugate their tribes. But, specifically, the first three groups are the most crucial in propping up the ruler. The clergy/religious scholars or intellectuals, the media, and the armed forces, i.e. the authorities, those that keep the people under control through the force of arms.
This is what Pharaoh had, and is also what our current rulers have today, as they use the tribesmen of the same tribe and same region and same part of this nation to subjugate the other part of the nation. They divide them, and enslave a segment of them, and pit the other segment against them. However, Pharaoh would give preferential treatment to a segment of the people so that they would think that they’re special and above the rest. This is why the Quran described his people saying, “Thus he (Pharaoh) befooled and misled his people, and they obeyed him.” ((Quran, 43:54)) He fooled them with this division, and this is the situation in many nations living under tyrants.
Among the traits of tyrants in general and Pharaoh in particular is that when they fail have a convincing argument, whether it be religious, intellectual or rational, they resort to making false accusations. Moses was accused of being possessed or a sorcerer. “Moses, I believe that you are bewitched,” ((Quran, 17:101)) and in the other verse, “Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Moses?” ((Quran, 20:57)) So, either he is possessed or a sorcerer, just like what many peoples said to their prophets, i.e., that they are possessed. Of course, Moses [pbuh] gave him a reply he deserved, “Pharaoh, I believe that you are doomed to perdition.” ((Quran, 17:102)) meaning that he was cursed and will not get any reprieve and Allah will not be pleased with him. Among the traits of tyrants is that he wields control over the belief system of his people. He not only controls the general system, order, etc., but he also controls the beliefs. “You believe in him (Moses) before I give you permission.” ((Quran, 26:49)). You have to ask for permission if you want to change your faith, you have to ask permission from that tyrant. In the other verse, the Quran recounts what Pharaoh said, “I do not show you except what I see, and I do not guide you except to the way of right conduct.” ((Quran, 40:29)).
So, Pharaoh claims a monopoly on truth. In the other verse also, “The Pharaoh said, “Let me kill Moses and let him call for help from his Lord. I am afraid that he will change your religion or spread evil through the land.” ((Quran, 40:26)). He is the one that decides what is the correct religion, and what is the correct way of thinking and correct ideology, and what is bad and corrupt. So, Moses is the corrupt one, and Pharaoh is the one who is upholding the truth. May Allah curse him. This trait is common to all tyrants. Also, among the traits of tyrants is accusing those who differ with conspiring, because he does not have any convincing argument, so he has to accuse them of conspiring against him. As long as he is in a position of authority, anyone who disagrees with him is engaging in conspiracy. “Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic,” ((Quran, 26:49)). There must be someone who taught you magic, and that person orchestrated this conspiracy so that you would be defeated in this contest against Moses. In the other verse, “Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know.” ((Quran, 7:123)). ‘Conspired’, meaning there was a conspiracy, i.e. a plot that was hatched. So, those who disagree must be tarnished with the accusation of conspiracy so that the tyrant can justify his repression. This is what the Al-Sauds, Sisi, the UAE and other tyrants that we know do. They don’t have any convincing argument. It’s impossible for them to have a convincing argument, or transparency.
Rather, dissenters are accused of conspiracy, sorcery, witchcraft, deviancy, everything. What else? There’s also the use of force, and the threat of force. “I shall cut your hands and feet on alternate sides, and crucify you on the trunk of the palm-tree. You shall certainly find which among us can afflict a more severe and lasting punishment” ((Quran, 20:71)). Some tyrants make such threats themselves, while others leave it to their media mouthpieces to do so, claiming it’s about maintaining law and order, and there are those religious scholars, preachers, media pundits that will promote these claims, i.e. that this heavy-handed repression is a means to maintain order, and that being lax on this matter would result in insecurity.
Among the traits of tyrants is arrogance and disdain toward those who disagree with them. When Moses [pbuh] invited him to Allah, Pharaoh said, “Pharaoh said: And what is the Lord of the Worlds?” ((Quran, 26:23)), in a disdainful and arrogant manner. “Or am I [not] better than this one (Moses) who is despicable and who can barely express himself?” ((Quran, 43:52)) Moses, one of the prophets of Allah, and one of the ‘Ulul ‘Azm’ (arch-prophets), came to him with all the signs (of prophethood), but he remained unmoved. (Pharaoh:) “I, the one with these rivers flowing under me, and enjoying such glory, I am the great one, and he is the despicable one who can barely speak clearly.” Moreover, he considered all those who were with Moses [pbuh] to be ignorant and naive. “Then Pharaoh sent into the cities summoners, (Saying): “These (Israelites) are but a small band” ((Quran, 26:53-54)).
This is indeed the way of tyrants today. Dissidents are insignificant and worthless people, and those who side with them are a tiny minority that broke away from the overwhelming majority that have joined the ranks of the ruler. “Who are with you? Who knows about you? Who is aware of you?”, etc. “These (Israelites) are but a small band,” ((Quran, 26:53-54)). Among the traits of a tyrant is that he reminds all people of his favors on them, and he even boasts of his favors to the one whom Allah has chosen and blessed, i.e. Moses [pbuh]. [Pharaoh] said, “Did we not raise you among us as a child, and you remained among us for years of your life? And [then] you did your deed which you did, and you were of the ungrateful.” ((Quran, 26:18-19)) How did Moses [pbuh] respond? His response was dumbfounding, “And is this a favor of which you remind me – that you have enslaved the Children of Israel?” ((Quran, 26:22)) Okay, you’ve raise me in your house, and you kept silent over the killing of that Coptic individual, but you have enslaved the Israelites, and humiliated them, and killed their progeny, and denigrated, tortured and harmed them. Now, you’re coming to me to brag of your favors on me, while you’re the one who harmed thousands of Israelites? I am in no need of this bragging.
The same thing happens today. They’d say, the Al-Saud (ruling family) gave you education, and kept silent about you, and endured you, etc. But, what’s the use of this, if the Al-Sauds have denied the rights of millions of this nation, and imprisoned hundreds and thousands of preachers and reformers? Among their traits is to give the appearance of practicing Shura (consultation), which is one of the traits of tyrants. He himself is the one who said, “I show you only what I think is proper.” ((Quran, 40:29)). He himself is the one who said, “I do not know of any god for you besides myself,” ((Quran, 28:38)). He himself is the one who said, “and these rivers flowing under me.” ((Quran, 43:51)). He himself is the one who said, “Let me kill Moses.” ((Quran, 40:26)). Okay, what’s holding back from killing Moses? He wasn’t held back from killing Moses because they advised him not to, as the believer who was a relative of Pharaoh said. What held him back is that he was afraid, because he knews that Moses [pbuh] who had that stick which transformed into that huge serpent which almost swallowed him, and who also came with these seven great divine signs, that there is no way he can kill him.
However, he made it look like he was consulting them. The proof is that when the believer relative of Pharaoh spoke, who opposed the idea of killing Moses, and instead invited them to accept Moses’ message — He was a man who concealed his faith — Pharaoh’s reply was, “I do not show you except what I see, and I do not guide you except to–” i.e. when matters became serious, and there was no more room for maintaining the appearance of consultation, [Pharaoh said:] “I do not show you except what I see, and I do not guide you except to the way of right conduct.” ((Quran, 40:29)). Similarly, Sisi has a parliament, Bashshar has a parliament, Saudi Arabia has a Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura), and the Gulf countries all have parliaments and consultative councils. So, the existence of a consultative council or parliament does not mean necessarily that there is actual consultation. On the contrary, this consultative council could be a cover for tyranny and a justification of tyranny.
Listen to the statements made by some of the members of the Consultative Council (in Saudi Arabia) and how they make all kinds of justifications and further entrench tyranny, like the members of the House of Representatives in Egypt and the members of parliament of Bashshar as well as others. So, this is a typical set of traits of tyrants which are found in Pharaoh, Nimrod, the Roman emperors, and the tyrants of the East and West, and is found in every tyrant, even tyrants that claim to be Muslims and that they rule according to Islam. However, despite all this evil that Pharaoh embodies, let me present to you a brief comparison with the Al-Sauds, so that you can see clearly that Pharaoh is in some respects better than the Al-Sauds. Pharaoh is open about his disbelief. He makes it known that he is a disbeliever and he declares himself to be god and lord, and that he is a tyrant, and his autocratic rule, and that he owns the land and everything that’s on it. He has no problem with that, and he does not claim that he’s implementing the law of Islam or that of any other gods.
So, Pharaoh is upfront and frank about his own lordship, while our guys (the Al-Sauds) are hypocrites. They claim to be implementing the law of Islam, and they claim to be adhering to Islam, and that was particularly true before Mohammed Bin Salman. They claim to respect islamic scholars. They claim to respect the sanctities of Islam, when they are the enemies of Islam itself. They are the ones hatching plots together with the enemies of Islam in order to wage war against Islam, both at home and abroad, and they conspire against Islam 24 hours a days, 365 days a year. The second point is that Pharaoh is confident, and is ready to meet any challenge and debate. He said, “Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Moses? Then we will surely bring you magic like it,” ((Quran, 20:57-58)). In the other verse, “so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned.” ((Quran, 20:58)). So, he’s ready to engage in debate and confrontation.
Of course, he lost the debate, but he was ready for it because he was confident in himself, and he knew that even if he lost the debate, he would not lose his power. Our guys (the Al-Sauds), it’s impossible for them to engage in debate or to even allow their religious scholars to debate the dissenters. They have nothing but imprisonment, whereas Pharaoh had the self-confidence to assemble the people in a popular gathering where everyone could watch those that represented Pharaoh and those that represented Moses [pbuh]. Also, Pharaoh was his own leader. He was the leader of a superpower. There was no one above him. He wasn’t a puppet of America or Britain or Russia or others. He was himself a superstate, and was not a client of others. Most of our tyrants are clients, whether it be Sisi, the UAE, Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, they spend massive amounts of money and they use the resources of our countries in order to gain the favor of the US and Israel.
So, this is one of the respects in which Pharaoh is better than them. Pharaoh gave preferential treatment to the Copts (if that’s the right name for them, since ‘Copt’ is a new term). Pharaoh treated those that are thought to be the natives (of Egypt) better than the Israelites. He treated them well while he turned the Israelites into slaves or servants for them, in addition to other social groups that he persecuted. So, he reserved a better treatment for a segment of his people. Al-Saud and our tyrants don’t treat any group well. They persecute all with their tyranny, and everyone suffers, and they’ve exploited that differences between the various segments of society. In our country, they tell the people of Hijaz that the people of Najd are out to get you, and they tell the people of Najd that the people of Hijaz are out to get them, and they pit tribes against each other. The situation is not one where they (the Al-Saud) have treated a group of people well. Some people believe that the Al-Saud have treated a particular group of people who live in the central region (of Saudi Arabia). That’s not true at all. Only the Al-Saud are given preferential treatment.
But, now, after (crown prince) Mohammed Bin Salman came on the scence, not even the Al-Saud are given that good a treatment. So, Pharaoh treated his people well, his own people, the Copts, if that’s a proper appellation, and he turned the others into servants and slaves for them. Pharaoh allowed trade and commerce activities, even for those not of Coptic descent. He allowed Qarun, who is one of Moses’ people. He belonged to Moses’ people, and he (Pharaoh) allowed him to engage in trade, and he accumulated so much wealth that he became a historical icon for the amount of wealth he had. Whereas in our country, there is no businessperson who gains great wealth except that the ruler lays his hands on it, whether it be in our country (Saudi Arabia) or in Sisi’s country (Egypt) or in Bashshar’s country (Syria) or others.
Pharaoh is himself the commander of his army. Pharaoh is the one who led the army who chased Moses, whereas our guys (our tyrannical rulers), not even a single ruler has ever engaged in battle. Not a single ruler among these tyrants ever engages in battle. Whereas Pharaoh, he himself led the army, and Allah made him perish. The fact that Allah made him perish is proof that he himself was the one leading the army, chasing Moses. So, who among our tyrants leads the army by himself? All of them are busy indulging their desires, while leaving combat to others. So, judging by these comparisons, despite the fact that Pharaoh is an iconic figure for tyranny, and despite the fact that he was mentioned in the Quran as being cursed and in a bad light, he is still better comparatively than our tyrants. This is not a defense of Pharaoh, but rather to show the even worse image that our rulers represent.