At the time of drowning, pharaoh said I have accepted faith. Second
time, he there is no True God except The One
in Whom the Children of Israel believe. And third time, he said
i.e. I am a Muslim. (Part 11, Surah Yunus, Ayah 90)
It is narrated that by the command of Allah,Sayyiduna Jibra ‘eel filled the mouth of pharaoh with mud and he could not pronounce the article of faith. (Tafseer Jalalayn, pp. 178; part 11, Surah Yunus, Ayah 90)
Another parable is also reported: When pharaoh used to claim to be a god
whilst sitting on his throne, once Sayyiduna Jibra ‘eel went to him in the guise of a man to seek verdict about:
What do you say about such a bondman who was nourished through the livelihood and blessings of his master, then he became ungrateful to his master and violated his rights by claiming himself to be the master and even claimed to be god?
Pharaoh wrote in reply:
A bondman who became rebellious to his master showing ingratitude, should be drowned into some river in punishment.
Therefore, at the very instant of his death whilst drowning, Sayyiduna
Jibra ‘eel showed him the same verdict that he had signed. After
this, pharaoh died. (I’afseer As-Saawi, vol. 3, pp. 891; part 11, Surah Yunus, Ayah 90)
Allah has mentioned this event in the Glorious Quran and said:
And We took the Children of Israel across through the river; and Fir’awn and his army pursued them with rebellion and injustice, until when he was close to becoming overpowered by drowning, he said, ‘I have accepted faith; that there is no True God except The One in Whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am a Muslim.’ (It was told to Fir’awn) ‘Now do you (believe)? Whereas you were disobedient from the onset and you were a mischief-monger. This day We shall save your (dead) body (as a confirmation of your death); so that you may be a sign for those after you; and indeed most people are neglectful of Our Verses.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Yunus, Ayah 90-92)
Even after the drowning of pharaoh, Bani Israel were still under his influence and were doubting the death of pharaoh. Therefore, Allah brought the corpse of pharaoh to the surface and waves of the river brought it to the bank so that people may believe in his death by looking at his corpse and also take heed from his tragic end. It is famous that it was since then the water stopped accepting corpses and it always either makes them float on surface or throws them at the bank. (Iafseer As-Saawi, vol. 3, pp. 892; part 11, Surah Yunus, Ayah 92)
Even though pharaoh proclaimed his faith thrice, but still it was not accepted, so what was the reason behind it? In this context, the commentators of the Holy Quran have described three reasons:
1. Pharaoh proclaimed embracing of faith at the time when the torment from Allah and the agonies of death had caught him and Allah has said:
So their (invalid) faith did not benefit them when they saw Our punishment.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 24, Surah Al-Mu ‘min, Ayah 85)
As pharaoh embraced faith at the time when the torment and agonies of death had been inflicted upon him, Allah did not accept his faith. Moreover, Allah ordered Sayyiduna Jibra ‘eel to fill the mouth of pharaoh with mud and to ask him why he was embracing faith at that time, since he would always reject embracing the true faith before that and kept causing havoc by misguiding the people.
2. The second interpretation is: Along with the oneness of Allah , it is also mandatory to believe in the Prophethood of His Rasool. Pharaoh said 1 he proclaimed belief only in the oneness of Allah and did not proclaimed belief in the Prophethood of Sayyiduna Musa – Therefore, he could not become a believer.
3. Third reason is that pharaoh did not pronounce the article of faith with the intention of embracing the faith, but did so to get saved from drowning. It was his habit to incline towards Allah by supplicating with deep devotion whenever he would get struck by any calamity or torment. But when calamities would get over, he would start proclaiming
to be a god again saying .
(Part 30, Surah An-Nazi’aat, Ayah 24)
So we learnt that in order to become a true believer, it is not sufficient to just pronounce the words of embracing the true faith when the intention is not to embrace the faith, but just to save life. Therefore, pharaoh’s embracing of faith was not accepted. The correct verdict is that pharaoh died of drowning in the state of Kufr. It is proven from different Ayahs of Holy Quran and Ahadees. That’s why, ‘Allamah Saawi has mentioned in his exegesis that all those who say that pharaoh died in the state of faith, are at wrong.
1 Part 11, Surah Yunus, Ayah 90