Quranic Reflection No. 391 Ayat 40:26 – Claims of Reform

إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يُبَدِّلَ دِينَكُمْ أَوْ أَنْ يُظْهِرَ فِي الْأَرْضِ الْفَسَادَ
Innī akhāfu an yubaddila dīnakum aw an yuzhira fil-ardhil-fasād
Indeed I fear that he will change your religion or bring forth corruption in our land.
(Sūrat Ghāfir, No.40, Āyat 26)


The Quran discusses many aspects of the conflict between Prophet Musa ‘alayhis salām and the Pharaoh. It mentions the conversations between Moses and Pharaoh (Fir‘awn), between the Pharaoh and his ministers, and also between Fir‘awn and those who believed but hid their faith from him. The above verse is part of a conversation that the Pharaoh had with his ministers. He tries to justify his desire to get rid of Prophet Musa and claims to save the society. He explains the grave danger which Moses poses:
• he would change the religion of the people, and
• he would spread corruption on earth.

Claiming virtuous reasons for their actions as a cover up for their real motives is a standard practice for dictators wishing to impose their rule on society. They cannot stand any objection to their aim – making society completely subservient to their whims. But they disguise their aims in the garb of seeking welfare. The despot Pharaoh gives both spiritual and worldly reasons for what he wants to do but each reason is only according to his own egoistic interpretation of what is good for people. Religion to him is worship of him alone. A belief in One Supreme God would create a complete revolution in his hold over the people. If the belief in God preached by Prophet Moses were to spread among the people it would topple the status quo and endanger the power of Pharaoh and his ministers. He also discredits what the Prophet wants to do in society. Freeing the people from dictatorship both over the body and soul is declared to be corruption by Pharaoh.

Despots throughout history have been keen to get rid of any impending threats to their domination. But when doing this they glibly present themselves as well wishers of society. Whenever they see a threat to their power they declare themselves as working to protect the people, as supporters of their best interests, and as seeking reform. They incite people against the threat and make false accusations against them. All this is a cover for fulfilling their evil aims. The Quran mentions such hypocrites in Sūratul Baqarah: When they are told, ‘Do not cause corruption on the earth,’ they say, ‘We are only reformers!’ (Q 2:11)

Authoritarian measures to vilify any opposition and get rid of it is very evident today. Fake accusations are spread to dehumanize the so called enemy. Purposely contrived words are used to inflame audiences and garner support for hidden agendas. This is the state of politics in many parts of the world. Most people succumb to such propaganda and believe in them. It requires alertness and reflection to not fall into their trap. We need to be aware of the motives behind much that is said by the leaders of today. There is evident proof that many of the leaders who speak up against injustice today speak only when it benefits them. They will speak for their allies and for those who cooperate with them. But they will turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by those whom they favor. The crisis in Yemen is a stark example. The worst humanitarian crisis in a hundred years with unbelievable suffering for the children and women attract little concern. There are attempts to prevent all sort of aid reaching the neediest civilians. But nothing is done to fix the root of the problem and rein in the source of the suffering. Yet the same leaders will ‘piously’ make grand claims of helping peace and democracy in the world and get rid of factors that are not in line with their aims.

Let this verse remind you of fake politicians and dictators who have always tried to fool people. That is how they hold on to their power. But it is Allah’s plan that will eventually be victorious.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr