﴿4﴾ إِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ عَلاَ فِي الاَرْضِ وَجَعَلَ أَهْلَهَا شِيَعاً يَسْتَضْعِفُ طَآئِفَةً مّـِنْهُمْ يُذبّـِحُ أَبْنَآءَهُمْوَيَسْتَحْيِي نِسَآءَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
4. “ Verily Pharaoh exalted himself in the land (of Egypt) and divided its people into sections, weakening a group of them, he slaughtered their sons and spared alive their females, verily he was of the mischief- makers.”
The Arabic word /šiya‘/ is the plural form of /šī‘ah/ which originally means ‘following’ and ‘obeying’, but since in a group there are some persons who usually follow some others, this word is used in the sense of a group, too.
The Arabic word, /nisā’/ means ‘women’, but in this verse it may mean ‘daughters’ because it has come as the opposite of ‘sons’.
The word /fir‘aun/ is not the name of a person, but it had been the title of the kings of Rome.
However, in this verse, the Qur’ān says:
Pharaoh was a very weak person who, as the result of ignorance, lost his own personality and went astray so far that he claimed to be deity.
The application of the Arabic word /’al ’ard/ (the land) in the verse is an indication to the land of Egypt and around it, and since a great part of the habituated land of the earth at that time was that area, this term has been used in an absolute form. This is also probable that the existence of Alif and Lām at the beginning of the word /‘ard/ is for agreement and points to the land of Egypt.
However, in order to strengthen the bases of his cruel oppression, Pharaoh committed a number of crimes:
At first, Pharaoh tried to produce disunity among people. This was the same policy that had been forming the main foundation of the oppressors in the length of history. The dominion of a little minority over a great majority is often impossible save by the principle of: ‘cast division and govern’.
They have always been afraid of ‘the unity of the word’ and ‘the word of unity’. They terribly feared of the close relation of the rows of people with each other, and for this reason the only way of their protection is ‘class government’, the same thing that Pharaoh and the like have done in any age. The verse continues saying:
Yes, Pharaoh divided the people of Egypt into two separate groups: Coptic group and Sebtian group. Coptic ones were the native people of that land, and all the governmental positions, means of comfort, and castles and wealth were under their control.
Sebtians were the emigrant Children of Israel who were in the grips of Coptic ones as slaves, retainers, and handmaidens. Poverty and deprivation had fully surrounded them and they had to do the most labour-some works without enjoying any interest. (The Arabic word /’ahl/ is used in the verse for this group, because the Children of Israel had lived for a long time in that land and they had verily become the people of it.)
When we hear that for building a grave such as the famous Pyramid called ‘Khofo’ and to be located close to the capital of Egypt, Cairo, the kings of Egypt make one hundred thousand slaves work during twenty years and thousands of them are killed in this event by means of lash or because of the pressure of working, we may guess the whole things.
His second crime was that he oppressed a group of the people of that land. The verse says:
and spared alive their females, …”
Pharaoh had ordered his men to find the boys born among the Children of Israel and slay them and if the child was a girl they should keep her alive to become a slave maid.
What did he want to do by this action of his?
It is said that he had seen in his dream that a piece of fire came from Jerusalem and covered all the houses of Egypt. It burnt the houses of Coptic ones but the houses of the Children of Israel remained safe. He wanted the learned people and interpreters of dreams to explain his dream. They said that there would come out a man from Jerusalem who might have the power of destruction of Egypt and the government of its kings.
It is also said that some of soothsayers told him that there would be born a boy among the Children of Israel who could destroy his government.
At last, this event caused that Pharaoh decided to slay the new born boys of the Children of Israel.
This is also probable that the former Divine prophets had delivered the glad tidings of the advent of Moses (a.s.) and his specialties, thus, the people of Pharaoh, being informed of this fact, were terrified and tried to stand against it. (Tafsīr-i-Fakhr-i-Rāzī, following the verse)
But the occurrence of the phrase: “… he slaughtered their sons …”next tothe phrase:“… weakeninga group of them,…” points to another matter. It implies that, in order to weaken the
 Majma'-ul-Bayān, Vol. 7, P. 239, and Fakhr-i-Rāzī, in Tafsīr-i-Kabīr, following the verse.
Children of Israel, the people of Pharaoh had designed this evil plan that they would annihilate the male generation of the Children of Israel who could stand against the people of Pharaoh and fight with them, and to keep their females alive in order that they could serve them, because those girls and women alone had not the power of struggling against them.
Another clear evidence for this statement is Sura Mu’min (Qāfir), No. 40, verse 25 which implies that the act of slaying boys and keeping girls alive continued even after the rising of Moses (a.s.). It says: “So when he brought to them the truth from Us, they said: ‘Slay the sons of those who believe with him and keep their women alive’; and the struggle of the unbelievers will only come to a state of perdition.”
The phrase: ‘keep their women alive’ apparently indicates that they wanted to keep the girls and women alive either for that those females might serve them, or for their lusts, or both of them.
In the last sentence of this verse, as a conclusion and also for stating the reason, the Qur’ān says:
Shortly speaking, the act of the people of Pharaoh was wholly making mischief in the land. His self-superiority was a mischief. Inventing a kind of life with class division in Egypt was another mischief. Torturing the Children of Israel, slaying their sons and using their daughters as slaves was their third mischief.In additionto these,there weremany othercorruptions in them, too.
It is natural that those who seek their self-superiority are only the protectors of their own interests; and protecting the personal interests never agrees with protecting the social interests, which needs justice, benevolence, and donation.
Therefore, whatever it may be, its result is mischief in all dimensions of life.
By the way, the Arabic word /yuŏabbihu/, derived from /ŏabaha/, shows that the behaviour of the people of Pharaoh with the Children of Israel in slaying them was like killing animals.
There have been cited many stories concerning this crime of the people of Pharaoh. Some of the commentators say that Pharaoh had ordered his men to take the pregnant women of the Children of Israel under an exact control, and only the Coptic midwives were allowed to be the mission of their child-birth; so that if the child was a boy they would immediately inform the Egyptian authorities about the event and they would come and take their prey.
It is not exactly clear that how many of the babies of the Children of Israel were killed in this program. Some have said that its number was about ninety thousand, while some others said it was one hundred thousand.
They imagined that by these horrible crimes, they could hinder the rising of the Children of Israel and the certain accomplishment of the will of Allah.
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 Tafsīr-i-Kabīr-i-Fakhr-i-Rāzī, following the verse