Loyola University Chicago

Campus Ministry

Division of Student Development


Fear, Despair, and the Inauguration

January 29, 2017

Assalamu Alaykum Dear Students -


I hope you receive this letter with the best of health, Iman, and Consciousness.


In Qur’anic study, we find that commentators use the Pharaoh as the archetype of a tyrant. Perhaps the first such usage in our traditions is by the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, in reference to one of the fiercest oppressors of his generation, Abu Jahl. One of the most common uses is in reference to Yazid, whose forces slaughtered the grandson of the Prophet, Husayn. In the modern era, Pharaoh has been a designation -- of all places -- in Egypt by critics of its dictators for the last few decades.


In studying the Pharaoh, we may get tips on engagement and techniques.


First, let us look at his personality traits.


When speaking of the Pharaoh, Allah states that he was arrogant. This is the same attribute used for the accursed Devil. Looking deeper into the attribute, we see this form of arrogance as a trait that someone hides behind, as though seeking cover or protection by way of arrogance.


It follows then, that he has very deep fear. Such is common among kings and tyrants: they fear rebellion or revolution, so they respond with subjugation. Likewise, an internal (avoided) emptiness leads them to overcompensate with aggression.


Thus, another attribute of the Pharaoh is that he is defiant. Again looking deeper into the attribute, he is someone who pushes against boundaries and limitations. His was the behavior not merely of sin, but deliberate sin, and such was the case of those working for him. His minions are as corrupt as he is.


He is fiercely competitive. He regards himself as a god, and gives no space for the service to any other gods. In our modern language, this would be the ultimate megalomania: not only does he consider himself a god, but refuses acknowledgement of any other.


In considering himself to be divine, he also believes in the fantastic or miraculous things about himself. Meaning, along with the megalomania, he finds attraction in grandiose works, language, and mischief.


Then, let us look at his techniques, resulting from the above personality traits.


He amasses tremendous wealth. He behaves criminally, bypassing the law. He rules with tremendous private strategizing and cunning, making mischief and corruption in the land.


He accuses others of lying and corrupting the world, as he did with Moses, may peace be upon him. He speaks as though he is the defender and preserver of the land. Meaning, he regards people of truth as being charlatans seeking to deceive. Likewise, he deceives the masses not just with lies, but with organized means of deception (i.e. magicians). Further, he claims to be speaking in defense of the people. In turn, he calls on the people to defend him against the people of truth.


He has advisers who often speak for him, threatening the masses, as well as the Pharaoh’s minions.


Further, in ruling, he is quick to command large instructions so as to either prove his own greatness or to challenge the greatness of others. He brings people who help him, close to him. They have the feeling of being honored insiders, while he acts as though he owns them. He isolates people who fail him, often with violent threats, if not violence itself.


He keeps the masses divided into factions, elevating some, and subjugating others. He keeps elevating himself above the people. He keeps the people afraid of him, though young people are less afraid. He keeps monitors among the masses, regarding it as a technique of caution against subversion and dissension. And, when he fears a threat, he sweeps through with violence.


And, the wife of the Pharaoh is trapped and isolated in his world. In our traditions, the wife of the Pharaoh is among the most pious of women.


When we read narrations about end time prophecies, we have a natural desire to see them as commentaries on the present. Likewise, I’m sure that the above seems a bit familiar. Thus, in future letters, we will look at the ways Allah prescribes in dealing with such leaders. But, the most important point to understand is that they cannot outlast God. Today, the Pharaoh lies wrapped up in a box, sitting in a museum as gawkers glare at him and walk on, forgetting about him.


And, before looking to any leaders in our world, we must also look to our own inner Pharaohs. How much of the above describes you?


And Allah knows best.

Omer M