Musa AS and Harun AS were the agents of change, and the countdown to the destruction of Pharaoh's empire had begun, starting with the mass conversion of the magicians.
There was another shocking conversion, by Pharaoh's own queen, Asiah AS. Allah had instilled love in her heart for Musa AS from the time he was washed ashore as an infant onto the banks of the river by her palace. When Musa AS returned to spread the message of Islam, she became one of those who embraced the message.
Asiah AS had everything to lose: her regal position, social status, treasures and jewellery and the luxuries of palace life. And more: she risked losing her life by becoming Muslim.
Pharaoh was furious by his wife’s actions. Upon his orders, she was debased and tortured. One account mentions that the torturers hung her by the hair, nailed her hands and feet, and sliced her flesh little by little with blades. In the midst of this suffering, Musa AS went to the torture chamber, and found her smiling serenely – at how Allah was so patient with the behaviour of her torturers!
As the agony intensified, she supplicated to Allah to reveal her place in jannah, and begged Him to build her a palace next to Him in Paradise. Within a few days, Allah took her soul.
In a short span of time, Asiah AS relinquished all she possessed in this world, but in return attained the highest station in jannah. She will spend eternity in a palace beside Allah and will have Prophet Muhammad SAW as her husband. Imagine the level of her iman and what she endured for her Lord, and how vast the reward.
Meanwhile, the chiefs of Pharaoh were outmanoeuvred and disgraced by Musa AS. Therefore, they incited Pharaoh to harm Musa AS and his people:
And the eminent among the people of Pharaoh said, "Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?" [Pharaoh] said, "We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them." (Qur'an 7:127)
Thus another wave of hardship hit the community of Bani Israel. Pharaoh in his fury continued the oppression upon Bani Israel to make them feel helpless and humiliated. Their sons were again slaughtered to reduce the male population, removing their resistance and power.
Musa AS advised them that if they were really believers, the provocations from Pharaoh should not frustrate or affect them.
Said Moses to his people, "Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah . He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous." (Qur'an 7:128)
The Israelites complained to Musa AS that they were harmed twice and their male offspring killed twice: before he was born, and when he returned to them as a Prophet.
They said, "We have been harmed before you came to us and after you have come to us." He said, "Perhaps your Lord will destroy your enemy and grant you succession in the land and see how you will do." (Qur'an 7:129)
The Smear Campaign
Pharaoh knew deep down that Musa AS was a true prophet, and that his opposition was based on arrogance. Numerous signs had already been presented to him, but Pharaoh rejected them nevertheless. He still proclaimed himself as God, in his delusions, believing that the monotheistic call by Musa AS was leading his people to the wrong path.
Pharaoh sought comfort in his power and glittering wealth, and was so entrenched in his spiritual blindness that he was no longer capable of distinguishing truth from falsehood. This is what happens when the wealthy think that this life is their only life. Pharaoh relished in his enjoyment of dunia, and thought its flavours, richness and pleasures could last eternally and grant him immortality.
Not being content with denying the God of Musa AS, Pharaoh then also created further distractions by asking his chief minister, Haman, to build a tower for him in order to have access to the heavens to see the God of Musa AS.
And Pharaoh said, "O eminent ones, I have not known you to have a god other than me. Then ignite for me, O Haman, [a fire] upon the clay and make for me a tower that I may look at the God of Moses. And indeed, I do think he is among the liars." (Qur'an 28:38)
The cronies surrounding Pharaoh knew that it was a fruitless endeavour, but in order to make a mockery of the religion of Musa AS, they wasted resources in building the tower. Never before had a tower of such dimensions been built. The disbeliever is always arrogant, ignorant and blind in his actions.
Tribulations and Signs
The disobedience of Pharaoh and his people persisted. They rejected sign after sign from Allah, until Allah placed the Coptic Egyptians through intense hardship as a divine wake up call.
At first, the people of Pharaoh suffered years of drought and famine. However, they felt a sense of entitlement – any good that came towards them was attributed as their right, and any calamity that befell them was blamed on Musa AS and his faith.
And they said, "No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you." (Qur'an 7:132) The people were stubborn and refused to follow the way of Musa AS, still believing that he was a magician. Therefore, Allah increased their torment, and trial succeeded trial.
So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people. (Qur'an 7:133)
The locusts eradicated all the crops and fruits. Frogs used to be found everywhere, even in the food and household dishes. According to Ibn Kathir, when someone opened his mouth to put a bit of food in it, or drink water, a frog jumped from somewhere and landed in it. Fresh blood welled up in everything: water of the rivers and wells. Not even a cup of water or milk could be drunk without blood being found in it. Finally, a flood came and wiped out all the fertile land, rendering it barren.
At each stage whenever the situation became intolerable for the Coptic Egyptians, they turned to Musa AS for help. They knew that Musa AS was connected to Allah, but were too arrogant to pray to Allah directly.
And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, "O Moses, invoke for us your Lord by what He has promised you. If you [can] remove the punishment from us, we will surely believe you, and we will send with you the Children of Israel." (Qur'an 7:134)
So Musa AS prayed to Allah, and Allah removed their suffering. However, each occasion the calamity was diminished, the Egyptian Copts did not fulfil their promise. Instead, they resumed their disbelieving ways. Therefore, the calamity at the next stage was worsened, and the affliction increased. Repeatedly, they turned to Musa AS for help, and again reverted into their old pattern once the suffering was lifted.
Allah provided the Coptic Egyptians many opportunities to repent and turn to Him. However, they repeatedly rejected the evidences, and broke their covenants at every turn. They continued making a mockery of the faith instead of admitting the truth.
The smear campaign against Musa AS persisted. Pharaoh belittled him for his lack of eloquence, status and wealth, as compared to his own mighty kingdom and position. As with the corrupted politics utilised everywhere today, Pharaoh also employed propaganda designed to mislead and deceive his people from the truth.