قَالُوا لَا ضَيْرَ ۖ إِنَّا إِلَىٰ رَبِّنَا مُنْقَلِبُونَ
Qālū lā dhayra innā ilā rabbanā munqalibūn
They said, ‘No harm [in that]! Indeed, we shall return to our Lord.
(Sūrat al-Shu‘arā, No.26, Āyat 50)
The recognition of truth due to hidāyah (divine guidance) can have a significant impact on the attitude of a person. It can be transformative, whether through a gradual arrival at the true understanding or an instantaneous grasp of the truth. The latter is vividly manifested in the story of the magicians in the court of Fir‘awn (Pharaoh).
The story as narrated in the Quranic chapter of al-Shu‘arā, from verses 41-51, paints a picture of men who were in awe of Pharaoh and sought to please him. These were magicians trained and knowledgeable in their field. Pharaoh used them to fool the people and strengthen his power. Now he wanted them to disprove the validity of Prophet Moses’ claim as a Messenger from God. The day chosen for the contest was a day of festival so a maximum number of people could attend.
The magicians asked for a reward before they began the contest with Nabī Musa ‘alayhis salām: Shall we have a reward if we were to be the victors?(Q 26:41). Pharaoh tells them they would receive a position close to him: Of course; and you will be among members of my inner circle (Q 26:42). When Moses was able to overcome them through the transformation of his stick into a snake the magicians realized the evident truth of his claim. They submitted immediately. This angered Pharaoh as it was an open undermining of his power over the people. He threatened them with torture and death.
The reply of the magicians is intriguing. ‘No harm’ they say. The words ‘la-dhayr’ can mean no matter, not important, it’s fine. Why the threats don’t matter to them is revealed in the words after it, ‘we shall return to our Lord’. Anticipation of the Return to the Lord cancels out the negativity of the process, including torture, they may face before it. The worldly threats cannot affect them in their life in the Hereafter. According to Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī the words ‘la-dhayr’ show that:
a. Faith in the Hereafter changes the horizons of thought.
b. Going back to Allah ‘azza wa-jall through martyrdom is not harm or destruction.
c. Faith through recognition of truth steels the resolve and makes a person immune to fear of others
This verse shows an amazing transformation in the attitude of the magicians. From wanting to please Pharaoh and gaining reward from him, they switch to an eager desire to return to the true Lord and a complete disregard for what Pharaoh thinks about them and threatens them with. They understand that the pain they may go through is fleeting while the pleasure and reward of Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘āla is eternal. The recognition of truth could have been brought about by the natural and inherent instinct that was lying dormant within them. It came out in full force at the witnessing of the miracle. It could also be because these were educated and knowledgeable people who could see the difference between the tricks they themselves played and the divinely gifted miracle that Prophet Moses performed. Thus the story shows the importance of inclining towards natural instincts and seeking knowledge. Both play a vital role in the recognition of truth.
Recite this verse to remind yourself that nothing can be of harm so long as you return to Allah having believed in and submitted to Him. That is a lesson from the magicians of Pharaoh.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr; http://www.alketab.org/