Thought on COVID-19: Are we back to Egypt under Pharaoh? (I)

coronavirus covid-19

Probably not. Probably yes. Egypt, under Pharaoh (Firʻawn) happened to be the ‘developed’ world of the ancient period. It was like our world today which is superintended by countries in the West; countries populated in the main by people who believe in disbelief. Egypt under Pharaoh was like some countries in the East today- countries where believers are treated as viruses and infections; countries where to be Muslim is to be an outcast, an enemy-within, the familiar-stranger, the outlaw.

As it is today, so it was during the ancient period when Pharaoh, the power-that-be ruled and reigned over the land of Egypt. He was the super-power; the only earthly power known at the time. He became the king of Egypt not by accident but design. He wielded so great a power that hardly were there any needs of his people that he could not meet. “And Pharaoh called out among his people; he said, “O my people, does the kingdom of Egypt not belong to me, and these rivers flowing beneath me; then do you not see? (Quran45: 51). In other words, to be in power during the ancient period was to be in control of the economic capital, to be the sole authority over people’s means of subsistence. During that period, whoever controlled river Nile was the super-power of the era. Since Pharaoh had authority over River Nile, he ultimately became the sovereign in Egypt and the world around it.

What about our world today? Who is, or rather who are the “Pharaohs” of today? We are all aware that whoever controls the dollar is the ‘Pharaoh’ of the modern world. While the West sees itself as the world, the only world, China is equally busy ‘recreating’ another ‘world’ in its own image. China is posturing to be the super-power of tomorrow; it is making all efforts to replace the Cross with Taoism and Budhism.

Soon the first Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, began to refer to himself as god. Soon, people also began to refer to him as god. Humanity always crave an idol to worship. By nature, we are fashioned after the pursuit of the inimitable. Our souls, being of the ethereal and the indestructible, constantly yearns for an object of love, of the all-powerful. Thus when Prophet Musa (alayhi salam) eventually emerged to guide Pharaoh back to the Almighty, the path of Islam, he became angry. Pharaoh was enraged. He shot back at Prophet Musa saying: “If thou dost put forward any god other than me, I will certainly put thee in prison!” (Quran 26: 29). As if he wanted to be sure that his reference to himself as god was right, he turned to his people saying: “I know of no other god for you but me” (Quran 29: 38).  Pharaoh referred to himself as god because he was in control of Egypt’s financial capital. Like every emperor, he was not satisfied. He wanted to be in control Egypt’s spiritual capital. He strove to define and determine the choices his people could make with reference to their objects of belief. Today, there are authorities in our world that are equally trying to control their citizens’ heart in addition to their control of their physical bodies. China is today making all efforts to ensure that all monuments and milestones of Islam are wiped out of its landscape. The violence and ill-treatment that country is meting out to its citizens who are Muslims are reminiscent of the oppression and ill-treatment followers of Prophet Musa received from Pharaoh. Like the powers of today – those who usually intimidate the oppressed by saying that their oppression is for their own good. I refer to earthly powers of today who would hit the poor in the head and still forbid him from crying; powers of today who would deprive the weak of happiness and still censor them even in grief. Eventually, after many years of being in power, the Almighty decided to bring Pharaoh’s suzerainty to an ignominious end. But the All-Powerful chose not to do so without giving Pharaoh an opportunity to repent.


Thus, sequel to his refusal to listen to counsel and admonitions from Prophet Musa (a.s), the Almighty visited the land of Egypt with series of calamities. First, there occurred a downpour that lasted for eight days and nights and no one could go out. When I heard the declaration of total curfew and restriction of movement across Europe and the US, I asked myself- are we back to Egypt under Pharaoh? The downpour that occurred in Ancient Egypt was not an end in itself- the end became manifest when river Nile overflowed its banks, when there occurred large-scale destruction of houses, crops and animals. The Almighty says in the Quran: “We punished the people of Fir’awn with years (of drought) and shortness of crops; that they might receive admonition.” (Quran 7: 130).

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