The Nine miracles of Moses
Question:

Could you please tell me what were the 9 signs (ayat) given to Moses. I have read different views and scholars seem to be in disagreement about this subject, with thanks, wasalaam

Reply
:

We read in the Quran that God gave Moses “nine signs”:

We gave Moses nine clear signs.
17:101

There has been dispute among scholars as to which of the many signs and miracles narrated in the Quran in connection with Moses are to be considered to be the nine spoken of in 17:101.
To resolve this enquiry, and to determine which signs are among the nine and which are not, it is necessary to define the correct starting point for this enquiry. When we consult the Quran we find that the nine signs of Moses must fulfil both of the following conditions:

First
: The nine signs given to Moses were specifically addressed to Pharaoh and his people.

Then after them (those messengers,) We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his leaders, but they transgressed against them, so see what was the outcome of the corruptors.
7:103

Second
: The purpose of each of the nine signs was specifically to show Pharaoh that Moses was supported by the One and Mighty true God, and thus to lead him to free the Children of Israel.

Moses said, "O Pharaoh, I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds. I am truthfully bound to say nothing about God except the truth. I have come to you with a clear proof from your Lord, so send with me the Children of Israel
." 7:104-105

What this means is that the miracle of the 12 water springs which gushed out when Moses struck his staff, and also the manna and salwa (quails) which rained down on the children of Israel (7:160) are not among the “nine signs”. These signs, although being of a miraculous nature and were acts of mercy from God to the Children of Israel, yet they were not directed to Pharaoh, plus they took place after the Children of Israel had already been freed and left Egypt.

It also follows that the parting of the sea, an event which took place after the Children of Israel were freed and have already left Egypt, is not among the nine signs.
Since 17:101 tells us that Pharaoh was shown the nine signs so that he lets the Children of Israel go, thus at the time of the parting of the sea the purpose of the signs would no longer be valid. The sole purpose of the parting of the sea was to save the Children of Israel from being butchered by Pharaoh, and also to be the final nail in the coffin of Pharaoh since it was the event which led to his drowning. We also know that by that time it was too late for Pharaoh to be granted any reprieve from God since God does not accept repentance when the human is near death. It is not surprising that Pharaoh’s plea to be saved (10:92) as he was starring at death, was denied by God:

What! Now! When you had previously rebelled before and you were one of the corruptors? Today, We will preserve your body, so that you serve as a sign for those to come after you." Indeed, many people are oblivious of Our signs. 10:91-92

Finally, we read in 7:136 that God drowned them (Pharaoh and his army) in the sea because they had already rejected the signs given to them which again confirms that the nine signs were prior to the event of the parting of the sea and their drowning.
In view of the above, the nine signs given to Pharaoh, each of which fulfilled the two conditions above, were the following:

1- The staff turning into a serpent:

We read in 7:106 about Pharaoh when he asked Moses to show him a sign if he is truthful, in response Moses shows Pharaoh and his people the sign of his staff which turned into a serpent (7:107).

2- His hand becoming bright white:

Moses also shows his hand which turned white for all to see (7:108).

3- Pharaoh and his people see years of drought and shortage of crops:

We seizd Pharaoh's people with years of drought and shortage of crops so that perhaps they would be reminded.
7:130

The words
"perhaps they would be reminded" confirm that these events were indeed signs from God to Pharaoh and his people.
Further confirmation is found in the following words spoken by the people of Pharaoh after they witnessed years of drought and shortage of crops:

They said, "No matter what miracle you bring to us to bewitch us with, we still will not believe in you.
7:132

The words
"No matter what miracle you bring" again confirm that the drought and shortage of crops were among the nine signs shown to Pharaoh and his people.

4- Moses fearless and Pharaoh rendered powerless to harm him: 28:35

In 28:32 God tells Moses to do two things:
- To place his hand in his pocket then draw it out and it becomes white, this we already know about (sign 2 above).
- God also tells Moses to draw his hands by his side to ward off fear. Moses declares his fear of Pharaoh by saying:

He said, "My Lord, I killed a person from amongst them and so I fear they may kill me.
28:33

How can Moses ward off fear by simply drawing his hands to his side? It was God’s design to strengthen Moses whenever he felt fear of Pharaoh. By simply doing that would render Moses fearless. Moses was a messenger of God sent to challenge Pharaoh, thus it was necessary that Moses would not be shaking with fear whenever he faced Pharaoh but that he would speak and act with resolution and authority that would indicate that he is supported by mighty God.
God tells Moses:

He said, "We will strengthen your arm with your brother, and We will grant the two of you authority, and so they will not be able to get to you. By virtue of Our signs, the, the two of you and those who followed you, will be the victors. 28:35

Indeed the words
"By virtue of Our signs" confirm that Pharaoh was miraculously rendered powerless to touch or harm Moses and Aaron, and in that he may get a profound sign of the awesome power supporting Moses and Aaron. We learn from the Quranic narration that Pharaoh was indeed a tyrant with very little mercy. The time when he declared that he will cut off the limbs and crucify his once faithful magicians is one example to show that he was a nasty piece of work. The question is why did he never harm Moses and Aaron who were in fact the cause of all his troubles? The reason is now clear in the Quran, it is because he was physically unable to get to them or harm them, and that should have indeed been an awesome sign to Pharaoh and all his people. If Pharaoh had his way he would have surely killed Moses at the very first occasion. How frustrating for him to be totally powerless and unable to harm Moses!

The signs 5,6,7,8 and 9 are all narrated in 7:133, and they are:

5- The flood

6- The locusts

7- The lice

8- The frogs

9- The blood