The most mentioned antagonist in the Holy Qur’an is Pharaoh. About him, Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
…surely he was arrogant, one of the extravagant (44:31).
However, the discussion of Pharaoh within the Qur’an is not a mere historical account; instead, it serves as an educational tool in which human beings can ascertain a deeper understanding of the inclinations and tendencies of human nature. Pharaoh was a proud monarch who believed that immortality and success could be achieved through the accumulation of wealth and power. His arrogance and love of his own self caused him to go against the guidelines of justice and equity, as he mercilessly oppressed all those around him.
In truth, “Pharaoh” still exists to this day, and in various magnitudes and degrees. A “pharaohic” personality is anyone who mirrors the principles and actions of that very Pharaoh mentioned in Quranic discussion. It is essentially anyone possessing the egotistical idea that they are above the guidelines of justice and equity, which are ingrained in the human nature and subjective consciousness.
Recently, the world has been closely watching the pharaohs of our era, as the tyrant, Hosni Mubarak, is called to step-down from his illegitimate position as President of Egypt. However, Mubarak only serves as a servant and instrument of the greater and actual Pharaoh of global society. One cannot miss the blatant injustices performed by the arrogant Western superpowers, who point fingers in the direction of Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere in their self-righteous endeavors to spread democracy, while at the same time hypocritically supporting and maintaining the very terrorists they seem to be fighting against. Does not this sound familiar? Does not the verse mentioned above, “…surely he was arrogant, one of the extravagant” (44:31), fit almost perfectly in describing these Western tyrants?
What’s more is that these bona fide pharaohs of the world have produced lesser pharaohs within our own smaller societies and communities. One of these pharaohs faced by MAPS (Mentors for Academic and Peer Support), an organization created by the MSA at UCLA to assist students within impoverished communities, is the marginalization and unequal economic treatment, by not just the Los Angeles school districts, but the State of California and the United States schools systems as a whole. In fact, the history of the United States education system is saturated with racism, bias, and the unequal treatment of the poor. MAPS sets out to struggle against and essentially remove these pharaohs by offering students within these unequally treated school districts a fair chance at attaining higher education.
Indeed, the only way to remove these corrupt and oppressive pharaohs from our world is by following the footsteps of Prophet Moses, who eventually ended the reign of Pharaoh despite the vast differences in their access to power and resources. In the same way, the marginalized poor of Egypt have risen up and successfully uprooted a man who had billions of dollars to his name, as well as the backing of the world’s nuclear-equipped superpowers. This teaches us that–as cliché as it might sound–truth and justice do always prevail.
One must realize, however, that every single one of us has a “Pharaoh” within us. ‘Ali ibn abi Talib has said: “If you want to eliminate evil from the hearts of others, then first uproot it from your own.” It is easy for us to observe the tyrants and oppressors of today and shake our heads in disapproval, but how many of us actually put into practice our understandings of justice within our daily lives? In reality, the moment we utter a word that might break someone’s heart, or disrespect our parents, or speak ill of someone behind their back, or unlawfully take something that is not ours, or fundamentally view ourselves as better than others–we have undeniably become Pharaoh. Thus, when putting on the garb of activism and speaking out against injustices, we must make sure not to be the very ones we are speaking out against; because not only would be oppressors, we would become hypocrites as well. Therefore, if we can strive to reform and develop ourselves, the upsetting conditions of our world can and will also change, God willing.