Lesson From The Quran

Verse 80

وَقَالُوا لَنْ تَمَسَّنَا النَّارُ إِلَّا أَيَّامًا مَعْدُودَةً قُلْ أَتَّخَذْتُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَهْدًا فَلَنْ يُخْلِفَ اللَّهُ عَهْدَهُ أَمْ تَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ()

And they say, 'The fire shall not touch us but for a few days." Say, "Have you taken a pledge from Allah and Allah will not go against His promise? Or, do you say about Allah what you do not know?'

The claim of the Jews that they would not be sent to Hell for their sins, or, if at all, only for a few days, has been interpreted by the Commentators in different ways. One of them is as follows:-

The principle is common to all the Shari'ahs that if a believer commits sins, he will receive a punishment in Hell for some time and in accordance with the degree and nature of his sins, but as he possesses '/man (faith), he will not be assigned to Hell for ever, and will be released after having served his term. Now, the argument on which the assertion of the Jews was based was that since the Shari'ah of Sayyidna Musa (Moses AS) had not, in their view, been abrogated, they were true believers (Mumins), and had not turned into infidels (Kafirs) by denying the prophethood of Sayyidna 'Isa (Jesus AS) and of Sayyidna Muhammad js£ ; hence - so the argument ran - if they were sent to Hell in punishment of some sin, they would again' be taken out after a few days. This false assertion is, thus based on another false assertion. The Torah never declares that the Shari'ah of Sayyidna Musa (AS) it is meant to last for ever. To claim perpetuity for it is an unfounded and false assertion, and hence the Jews who made such a claim and denied the prophethood of Sayyidna 'Isa (AS) and of Sayyidna Muhammad (S), must on account of this denial be held to be infidels and disbelievers (Kafirs). And no Book of Allah holds out to the infidels the promise that they would be released from Hell after a while. The present verse refers to such a promise as the "pledge" of Allah. Since Allah has never made such a promise, it goes to show that the Jews were making a baseless claim.

Verses 81 – 82

بَلَى مَنْ كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيئَتُهُ فَأُولَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ () وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أُولَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ ()

Why not? Those who commit evil and are besieged by their sin, those are people of the Fire - there they shall remain for ever. And those who believe, and do good deeds, such are people of Paradise - there they shall remain for ever.

Having refuted the claim of the Jews as baseless, the Holy Qur'an lays down the divine law in this regard. Those who commit evil deeds knowingly and deliberately so that evil takes hold of them completely, leaving no trace of goodness - such men shall go to the Hell, and live there for ever, without any intermission or release. But those who believe in Allah and the Holy Prophet (S) - whose Shari'ah has now abrogated all the earlier Shari'ahs and who do good deeds in conformity with the Islamic Shari'ah,- it is these men who shall go to Paradise, and will live there for ever.

Let us explain how evil can take hold of a man so completely that no trace of goodness is left. This kind of thing happens only to infidels (Kafirs), and not to Muslims, even when they are sinners. For, no good deed on the part of an infidel is acceptable to Allah on account of his infidelity; even the good deeds he has done before his apostasy and infidelity are lost, and rendered null and void. That is why on the Day of Judgment, infidels will have to show nothing but evil, in punishment of which they shall live in Hell for ever. On the contrary, men of faith will, to begin with, have the greatest and highest good deed to their credit - namely, faith ('Iman) itself. Then, their secondary good deeds too are recorded in their account. So, they cannot be devoid of all goodness, and evil cannot be said to have taken hold of them completely.

In short, the infidel, according to this divine law, must always live in Hell. Since Sayyidna Musa (Moses (AS) was not the last proph­et, but was followed by two other prophets, Sayyidna 'Isa (Jesus AS) and Sayyidna Muhammad (S), the Jews turned into infidels by denying these two prophets. So, in accordance with this law, they too will be assigned to Hell for ever like other infidels, and their claim that they would be released from Hell after few days can now be seen to be totally false and baseless.

Verse 83

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ ()

And when We made the children of Israel take a pledge: "You shall not worship anyone but Allah; and to parents you shall be good, and to near of kin and to orphans and the needy. And say to the people what is good, and be steadfast in Salah, and pay Zakah" Then, you went back (on your word), all but a few among you, and you are used to turning away.

This verse speaks of the pledge which Allah had made the Israelites take, and the few people it refers to as having been true to the pledge were those who acted upon the Shari'ah of Sayyidna Musa (Moses AS) as long as it was in force, and when it was abrogated, followed the Shari'ah of Sayyidna Muhammad (S).

Injunctions and related considerations

This verse brings out the basic elements common to Islam and all the earlier Shari'ahs: Tauhid (the doctrine of Unity or Oneness); service to one's parents, relations, orphans and the needy; being gentle in speaking to all human beings; Salah and Zakah.

The verse asks us to adopt a gentle tone and an open-hearted manner in speaking to others, whether they are good or evil, pious or impious, orthodox or aberrant, followers of Sunnah or adherents to partitive innovations in it. In religious matter, however, one should not try to hide the truth for the sake of pleasing people or of winning their approval. The Holy Qur'an tells us that when Allah sent Sayyidna Musa and Sayyidna Harun (Moses and Aaron AS) to the Pharaoh, He instructed them to use gentle and soft words (20:42). None of us who addresses another today can be superior to Sayyidna Musa (AS), nor can the man addressed be viler than the Pharaoh.

Talha ibn 'Umar recounts that once he said to the great master of the Sciences of Exegesis and Hadith, 'Ata', "One can see around you people who are not quite orthodox in their beliefs. As for me, I am rather short-tempered. If such people come to me, I deal with them harshly." 'Ata' replied, "Do not behave like this," and, reciting the present verse, he added, "Allah has commanded us to speak to people politely. When Jews and Christians all are to be treated like this, would this commandment not apply to a Muslim, no matter what kind of a man he is?" (Qurtubi)

Verse 84

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لَا تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءَكُمْ وَلَا تُخْرِجُونَ أَنْفُسَكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ ()

And when We made you take a pledge: 'You shall not shed one another's blood, and you shall not drive out one another from your homes." Then you agreed being yourselves the witness. (Verse 84)

This verse is a supplement to the previous verse, and speaks of the other articles of the pledge taken by the Israelites. They had agreed not to kill one another by engaging themselves in an internecine war, and also not to send their men into exile - that is to say, not to harass a man so as to force him to migrate.

They had willingly taken this pledge. Now, it may sometimes happen that one does not express one's willingness in so many words, but the manner of his speech suggests it. The agreement of the Israelites was not of this order, but as clear and explicit as the statement of a witness usually is.

Verse 85

ثُمَّ أَنْتُمْ هَؤُلَاءِ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقًا مِنْكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَإِنْ يَأْتُوكُمْ أُسَارَى تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ فَمَا جَزَاءُ مَنْ يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ مِنْكُمْ إِلَّا خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ()

Yet, here you are, killing one another, and driving a group of your own out of their homes, supporting each other against them in sin and aggression ~ and if they came to you as prisoners, you would ransom them, though their very expulsion was unlawful for you! Do you, then, believe in some part of the Book, and disbe­lieve in some other? So, what can be the recompense of those among you who do that, except disgrace in present life? And, on Doomsday, they shall be turned to the most severe punishment. And Allah is not una­ware of what you do.

This verse recounts how the Israelites broke the pledge they had willingly made. Allah had laid down three special injunctions for the Israelites: (1) They should not kill one another in an internecine war. (2) They should not force their own people into exile. (3) If they found a man from amongst them a prisoner of war, they should pay a ransom, and get him released. The Israelites disregarded the first two injunctions, and acted upon the third alone which they supposed easier to be carried out.

It happened like this. There lived in Madinah two tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, who were hostile to each other, and would often go to war. In the environs of Madinah, there also lived two tribes of the Jews, the Bani Qurayzah and the Bani Nadir. The former had friendly relations with the Aws, and the latter with the Khazraj. When the Aws and the Khazraj went to war against each other, the two tribes of the Jews also took part in the battle, each on the side of its own friends. In these battles, many Jews lost their lives or were rendered homeless as much as the non-Jews. In other words, the Jews of the Bani Qurayzah tribe had a share in the slaughter and exile of the Jews of the Bani Nadir tribe, and vice versa. However, when some of the Jews became prisoners of war, each of the two Jewish groups would persuade their respective friends among the non-Jews to accept a ransom and to release the prisoners. When they were asked why they showed such a solicitude for the prisoners, they would say that it was obligatory for them to get prisoners released. But when someone objected to their helping the non-Jews in slaughtering the Jews, they used to reply that it would be a real disgrace if they did not go to the aid of their friends, even if they were not Jews.

So, the present verse exposes their duplicity and their perversity. The Holy Qur'an indicts their behaviour as "sin and aggression," and this suggests that the Israelites were infringing on two kinds of rights -- the right of Allah, by disobeying Him; and the right of His creatures, by inflicting pain and loss on them.

The verse proceeds to reprimand them for accepting certain injunctions laid down in the Torah, while rejecting others, and following their own whims in both the cases. At the end, this long verse announces the grave punishment for such misdeeds the Israelites will have to bear in this world as well as in the other.

Let it be clearly understood that the Jews referred to in this verse had already become infidels (Kafirs) by refusing to accept and affirm the prophethood of Sayyidna Muhammad (S). But instead of referring to this aspect of their infidelity, the verse points out another aspect. It reprimands them for having faith ('Iman) only in some part of the Book (Torah) and not having faith in some other. If we take the words of the present verse literally, it means that the Jews had become infidels by not having faith in some parts (that is to say, some injunctions) of the Torah. For, a Divine Book has to be accepted as a whole; to reject a part is to reject the whole, and clearly amounts to disbelief and infidelity (Kufr). But if we interpret the present verse in a different way, and take it to be reprimanding the Jews for not acting upon certain injunctions, then a question would arise here: How is it that the verse delineates their infringement of certain commandments as Kufr or infidelity, although a believer cannot be considered an infidel so long as he accepts, at least in principle, the distinctions between the Halal (lawful) and the Haram ( unlawful) exactly as laid down by the Shari'ah? The answer to the question is that when a sin is very grave, the idiom of the Shari'ah sometimes delineates it as Kufr (infidelity) in order to emphasize its gravity and its moral nature. This is also what the hadith intends to do when it says: من ترك الصلوة متعمد فقد كفر “He who gave up the Salah wilfully became an infidel."

This second interpretation does not, however, attenuate or modify the Kufr (infidelity) of the Jews of which they had already been guilty by denying the prophethood of Sayyidna Muhammad (S).

The verse announces that the Jews will have to bear a punishment not only in the other world, but in this world too - in the shape of humiliation and disgrace. It took place as it had been foretold. In the time of the Holy Prophet (S) himself, the Jews of the Bani Qurayzah tribe had to lose their lives or to undergo imprisonment, and those of the Bani Nadir tribe were expelled for having broken the pact they had earlier made with the Muslims.

A doctrinal point

Verse 85 announces the "punishment" for Jews. One may very well ask here why the direst punishment should be reserved for the Jews, and not for atheists, for the Jews at least believe in Allah. The famous Commentator 'Alusi says in his "Ruh al-Ma'ani" that every punishment meted out to the infidels will be "the direst" in the sense that it will have no end or limit. So, what the verse implies is not that the punishment given to the Jews will be more severe than the one given to all the other infidels, but that they will be given the kind of punishment which is "the direst" in the sense of having no end or limit. In other words, the verse suggests that the punishment given to the infidels will be more severe than the one given to Muslim sinners. But if there are going to be different degrees in the punishment meted out to different kinds of infidels, it does not in any way go against the implications of this verse. (Bayan al-Qur'an)