Pharaoh’s repentance in the face of death?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
According to the Christian missionaries:
According to Sura 10:90-92, Pharaoh repented “in the sight of death” and was saved. But Sura 4:18 says that such a thing can’t happen.
I am actually not sure what it means when Allah said in response to his repentance and confession of faith that “This day shall We save you in your body, …”
10:100 does say that “no soul can believe, except by the Will of Allah” and verse 103 affirms that “This is it fitting on Our part that We should deliver those who believe!” And in 10:90 Pharaoh clearly confesses “I believe that there is no god except Him whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit.” So, according to 100 and 103 this was a work of Allah and he will deliver him. But 4:18 says this is impossible.
But if this cannot be eternal deliverance from the judgment, then “as it seems” maybe it is deliverance from the drowining? I.e. physical deliverance? But this doesn’t fit either, because Sura 17:103 makes clear that Pharaoh was indeed drowned and no repentence is indicated in this passage.
Now what is left unclear by the Christian missionaries rather delibrately is that what is meant by Pharaoh being ‘saved’ in the verse 10:90-92. If we read the verse again
We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: “I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah in Islam).” (It was said to him): “Ah now!- But a little while before, wast thou in rebellion!- and thou didst mischief (and violence)! “This day shall We save thee in the body, that thou mayest be a sign to those who come after thee! but verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs!” [Qur’ân 10:90-92]
it is clear that the Pharaoh’s dead body was saved and that he was not saved from the hell fire. This is because the Pharaoh repented only when the death approached him. And repentence at the face of death is not accepted as Allah says:
Allah accept the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy: For Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil, until death faces one of them, and he says, “Now have I repented indeed;” nor of those who die rejecting Faith: for them have We prepared a punishment most grievous. [Qur’ân 4:17-18]
Further, this can be clarified by comparing verses 10:90-92, 4:17-18 with 38:42.
Pharaoh said: “O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself: therefore, O Haman! light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay, and build me a lofty palace, that I may mount up to the god of Moses: but as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” And he was arrogant and insolent in the land, beyond reason,- He and his hosts: they thought that they would not have to return to Us!
So We seized him and his hosts, and We flung them into the sea: Now behold what was the end of those who did wrong! And we made them (but) leaders inviting to the Fire; and on the Day of Judgment no help shall they find. In this world We made a curse to follow them and on the Day of Judgment they will be among the loathed (and despised). [38:42]
So, it is pretty clear that the Pharaoh instead of being admitted into the paradise, would be one of the companions of the hell-fire. Therefore, he is not saved from the Hell-fire; rather his lifeless body is saved. In other words, the verses are in perfect agreement and they clarify each other.
It is worthwhile to point here that this method of exegesis using internal relationships, i.e., al-Qur’ân yufassiru bacduhu bacdan (different parts of the Qur’ân explain each other), is widely employed in the stories of the Prophets and the people of the past. Certain themes have been treated in more than one place in the Qur’ân, including, for instance, God’s power and grace, the hereafter, stories of earlier prophets, etc. The conciseness or expansion in one place or another depends on muqtadâ’i ‘l-hâl, and an expanded statement in one place clarifies a concise one in another.
And Allah knows best!