Worshiping Phiraon

As it always is bound to happen–when I have a huge paper or writing assignment due for a class, I always end up blogging! D:

This might be a stretch–but it’s something I thought of recently.

In the Qur’an, Phiraon (“Pharoah” in Arabic; referring to the leader of Egypt that Prophet Moses was sent to) repeatedly claims to be the Lord of Egypt and his subjects. There are moments that highlight his eccentricity, insanity, and uncontrollable anger in the Qur’an, one of the places being Surat TaHa. (If you’d like a break-down which looks deeply at the rhetoric of the Arabic, I advise listening to Nouman Ali Khan’s “Divine Speech” and translation of Surat TaHa available on Bayyinah TV and Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda’s Surat TaHa Tafseer series available for free on YouTube.)

The way that he interacts with his cabinet, with his subjects, with Moses and Aaron–these are all so incredibly cruel, calculated, and honestly shocking. I can imagine that when a person came to talk to him, he would expect them to grovel at his feet or approach him in some ridiculous, humiliating manner that would befit his pomp and arrogance.

Tangent–I was listening to a lecture by a Christian youth minister who converted to Islam (Yusha Evans) and he spoke about the way he noticed Jesus and other Christians worshiping in the Bible. There was a phrase that stuck out to him that described their worship–“fall on his face.” When he saw Muslims engaging in prayer, when they kneel down on the ground and put their foreheads on the floor, it clicked for him that this was a preservation of the way that those pious people he had read about before used to worship God. This position in the ritualistic, Islamic prayer is called “sujood” in Arabic.

So I was recently thinking about something–how would Phiraon demand his “slaves” worship him, if he really claimed to be God? And I could imagine the groveling, humiliating version of the Muslim sajdah/sujood, with the person’s whole face pressed into the earth, elbows touching the ground, arms extended as far as they can go, belly touching the ground.

Another tangent–Islamic scholars have reflected on the position of sujood in prayer (salah) and have noted how humbling it is, and many call it the climax of prayer, when a slave of God manifests his relationship to his Master, Creator, and Owner. Putting the most noble part of the human body, your face, on the ground in submission to Him..that’s one of the biggest signs of submission. It is also taught that this position, the position where a person lowers himself the most a human can possibly lower himself, is the position in which he is closest to God. This is a way that God honors His slaves for showing obedience to Him.

Tangent off that last tangent–There are certain guidelines a Muslim follows when he prays that determines how his physical movements should be carried out and what positions his body should be in at different parts of the prayer. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught his followers how to pray. One of the narrations (not sure if it is sound or not) tells a believer to not demean himself by letting his elbows touch the ground by using the analogy of a dog who sits with his forearms and elbows on the ground.

Back to the whole point of this–if Phiraon was claiming the truth when he kept insisting that he was God, then I can’t imagine how horrid it would be to worship him. Even when the believer lowers himself in a gesture of humility, the One True God has instructed him to engage in a form of worship that is not humiliating.

Think about THAT the next time you make sujood 🙂


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