Lesson from the Quran

Verse 86

أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالْآخِرَةِ فَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنْصَرُونَ ()

Those are the ones who bought the worldly life at the cost of the Hereafter. So, punishment shall not be lightened for them, nor shall they be helped.

This verse explains why the Jews will have to undergo such a severe punishment. They have been disobeying Allah in order to satisfy their desires and to enjoy worldly pleasures; they have also sacrificed for these things their salvation in the other world. Their sin being so great, Allah will not reduce or mollify their punishment, nor will He allow anyone to intercede on their behalf.

Verse 87

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَقَفَّيْنَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ بِالرُّسُلِ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى بْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ أَفَكُلَّمَا جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ بِمَا لَا تَهْوَى أَنْفُسُـكُمُ اسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ فَفَرِيقًا كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقًا تَقْتُلُونَ ()

And, indeed, We gave Musa the Book, and after him We sent messengers, one following the other; and We gave clear signs to Isa, the son of Mariam (Jesus, the son of Mary), and supported him with the Holy Spirit. Then, how is it that every time a prophet came to you with what does not meet your desire, you grew arrogant? So, you falsified a group (of the messengers) and killed others.

The Qur'an again reminds the Israelites how Allah in His mercy forgave them their transgressions again and again, and provided them with all the means of guidance. First of all, He gave them a Divine Book, the Torah, through Sayyidna Musa (Moses AS); then, sent them a number of prophets; and, at the end of this line, sent down Sayyidna 'Tsa (Jesus AS) along with clear and irrefutable evidences of his prophethood, like the Evangel and miracles, and appointed the Archangel Jibra'il (Gabriel AS) to give him support.

The Archangel Jibra'il has often been called "Ruh al-Qudus" (the Holy Spirit) in the Noble Qur'an and the Hadith. For example, in Verse 16:102 – قل نزّله روح القدس "Say: the Holy Spirit has brought it (the Noble Qur'an) down;" or in a couplet of the poet and blessed Companion Hassan ibn Thabit, reported in the Hadith:

و جبريل رسول الله فينا

و روح القدس له كفا

Jibra'il, the messenger of Allah, comes to us;

he is the Holy Spirit, the incomparable."

Allah helped and supported Sayyidna 'Isa (AS) through Jibra'il (AS) in several ways. (1) He was conceived through the breath of the Archangel. (2) Jibra'il (AS) protected him against being touched by Satan at the time of this birth. (3) The Archangel always accompa­nied him in order to defend him against the hostility of the Jews. (4) It was through him that Sayyidna 'Isa (AS) was raised to the heav­ens.

In spite of all these divine favours, the Jews persisted in their rebellion. They were so stubborn in the worship of their desires, that whenever the prophets brought to them certain divine injunctions which did not please them, the Jews would deny the prophets – they denied even Sayyidna 'Isa (AS) --, or would kill them outright — for example, they dealt in this vile manner with Sayyidna Zakariyya (AS) (Zachariah) and Sayyidna Yahya (AS) (John the Baptist).

Verse 88

وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا غُلْفٌ بَلْ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَقَلِيلًا مَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ()

And they said, "Our hearts are veiled." Rather, Allah has cast damnation upon them for their disbelief. So, they believe just a little.

The Jews used to say sarcastically that their hearts were "veiled", by which they meant that their hearts were so well protected against Islam that it could never touch them. This was their way of congratulating themselves on being staunch in their belief. The Holy Qur'an points out that this is not the firmness of faith, but a damnation, for they deny Islam which now is the true religion, and stick to a religion which has been abrogated. They, consequently, possess only "a little" faith ('Iman). Since a little faith is not acceptable, they turn out to be infidels.

The little faith" which they possessed pertained to the doctrines which are common to Islam and Judaism - for example, belief in Allah, or belief in the Day of Judgment. But they did not accept Sayyidna Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) as a prophet, and the Holy Qur'an as the Word of Allah. So, their faith was not complete.

If the Verse describes 'the little faith' as 'Iman, it does so only in the lexical sense, for 'Iman signifies total certitude, even if it pertains to certain things, and not to others. But from the point of view of the Shari'ah, such a partial faith cannot be described as 'Iman. The Shari'ah would accept as valid only that 'Iman which affirms with certitude each and everything that the Shari'ah requires one to affirm.

Verse 89

وَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ كِتَابٌ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِمَا مَعَهُمْ وَكَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ مَا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ فَلَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ ()

And when there came to them a Book from Allah, which confirms what was with them, while earlier, they used to seek help against those who disbelieved, yet when there came to them that they did identify, they denied it. So the curse of Allah is upon the disbe­lievers.

The Torah had in several places foretold the coming of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). In fact, the Jews themselves used to tell the Arabs that a new prophet and a new Divine Book was soon to come. But when the Holy Qur'an came down from Allah, and even when they had recognized its authenticity, the Jews denied it out of sheer spite.

The verse says that the Holy Qur'an confirms the Torah - it means that the Holy Qur'an is a concrete evidence of the truth of the prophecies made in the Torah with regard to the coming of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and of the Holy Qur'an. One who believes in the Torah cannot justifiably deny the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), for such a denial would involve a denial of the Torah itself.

Knowledge is not enough for 'Iman

One may want to know why the Holy Qur'an calls the Jews Kafirin (infidels), when they did recognize the truth as truth, which should qualify them to be called "believers." Let us explain that 'Iman (faith) does not merely mean "knowing the truth", but really signifies "accepting the truth and affirming it deed-wise." Otherwise, Satan too will have to be called a believer, for he knows fully well what the truth is. In fact, this knowledge of the truth on the part of Satan intensifies the gravity of his Kufr (infidelity) all the more.

However, the next verse attributes the infidelity of the Jews to their malice.

Verse 90

بِئْسَمَا اشْتَرَوْا بِهِ أَنْفُسَهُمْ أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ بَغْيًا أَنْ يُنَزِّلَ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ عَلَى مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ فَبَاءُوا بِغَضَبٍ عَلَى غَضَبٍ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُهِينٌ ()

Vile is that for which they have sold out their selves: that they should deny what Allah has revealed, grudg­ing that Allah should send down some of His bounty to whomsoever He wills from among His servants. So, they came out with wrath upon wrath. And for unbe­lievers there is humiliating punishment.

Prophethood cannot be earned through one's own efforts or one's own merit; it is a special grace which Allah bestows on whomsoever He likes. But the Jews were so envious and malicious that they denied the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and the Holy Qur'an out of sheer spite. In doing so, they were questioning the will of Allah Himself. Thus, they earned divine wrath in two ways - firstly, for denying a true prophet; and secondly, for their envy and malice.

The Holy Qur'an says that the Jews will have to undergo a punishment which would involve not only pain, but also disgrace and abasement. The latter condition has been added to suggest that this kind of punishment is peculiar to the infidels, and is not meant for a true Muslim at all, for a Muslim, no matter how great his sins are, will be punished for the purpose of being purified, not for being disgraced.

The next verse reports what the Jews used to say with regard to the Holy Qur'an, which clearly shows their envy and malice as well as their infidelity (Kufr).

Verse 91

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا نُؤْمِنُ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَيَكْفُرُونَ بِمَا وَرَاءَهُ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَهُمْ قُلْ فَلِمَ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنْبِيَاءَ اللَّهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ ()

And when it is said to them, "Believe in what Allah has revealed," they say, 'We believe in what has been revealed to us" — and they deny what is beyond, whereas that is the truth, confirming what is with them. Say, "Why then have you been slaying the prophets of Allah earlier, if you were believers?"

The Jews flatly refused to believe in any Book of Allah ~ like the Evangel or the Holy Qur'an - except in the Torah. This denial is a clear evidence of their infidelity (Kufr). Moreover, they also used to add that they believe in the Torah, for it had been sent down to them. This comes to mean that they denied the other Books just because they had not been sent down to them. Such an argument betrays their envy and malice.

The Holy Qur'an refutes their argument in three ways:-

1. When the truth and authenticity of the other Books has been established on the basis of irrefutable arguments, what does, then, this denial mean? If they had any doubts as to the arguments on the basis of which authenticity was being claimed for these Books, they could very well have voiced this doubt, and satisfied themselves on this point. But why this flat refusal to believe?

2. The other Books, like the Holy Qur'an, confirm the Torah., If one denies them, one at the same time denies the Torah itself.

3. To slay a prophet is tantamount to infidelity (Kufr), according to all the Divine Books. Moreover, the prophets whom the Jews had killed were themselves Israelites, and their teachings, were based on the injunctions of the Torah. But the Jews not only killed these prophets, but also accepted the killers as their chiefs. This is a direct denial of the Torah, and falsifies their claim that they believe in the Torah.

In short, nothing that the Jews say or do is acceptable and valid from any possible point of view.

The next verses proceed to refute the Jews on several other counts.

Verse 92

وَلَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مُوسَى بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمُ الْعِجْلَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَنْتُمْ ظَالِمُونَ ()

And certainly Moses came to you with clear signs, then you took to yourselves the calf thereafter - and you were transgressors.

The "clear signs" mentioned in the verse refers to the miracles which had manifested themselves even before the Torah was given to Sayyidna Musa (Moses AS) - for example, his staff that turned into a snake, the palm of his hand which shone brightly, the splitting of the sea to make a path for the Israelites, etc. These miracles were meant to affirm the Oneness of Allah and His omnipotence, and to provide an evidence for the prophethood of Sayyidna Musa (AS).

In refutation of the Jews, the verse points out that although they lay a claim to 'Iman (faith), yet have been falling into the sin of Shirk (association), which involves a denial not only of Sayyidna Musa but even of Allah Himself.

Although the Jews who were the contemporaries of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), did not themselves take part in the worship of the golden calf, yet they respected such of their forefathers as had done so, and took their side. So, for all practical purposes, they too were guilty of the same sin.

The verse also suggests that no wonder if these people, whose forefathers denied Sayyidna Musa (AS), should now be denying the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam).

Verse 93

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمُ الطُّورَ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُمْ بِقُوَّةٍ وَاسْمَعُوا قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَأُشْرِبُوا فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْعِجْلَ بِكُفْرِهِمْ قُلْ بِئْسَمَا يَأْمُرُكُمْ بِهِ إِيمَانُكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ ()

And when We took pledge from you, and raised high the (Mount of) Tur above you: "Hold fast to what We have given you, and listen" — they said, 'We have heard and disobeyed." And, on account of their denial, they were soaked with the love of the calf in their hearts. Say: "Evil is that which your faith enjoins upon you, if you are believers."

In refuting the claim of the Jews to be authentic and true believers, the Holy Qur'an again recounts an incident which it has already referred to in Verse 63. When the Israelites succeeded, with the help of Allah, in escaping from Egypt and crossing the sea, they came upon a people who used to worship idols. They found this cult so attractive that they requested Sayyidna Musa (Moses AS) to fabricate a visible and concrete god for them too. When he reprimanded them, they realized their error, and offered repentance. But repentance has many degrees. Since their repentance was not of a very high order, the darkness of their error did not altogether leave their hearts, but continued to grow, and finally manifested itself in the worship of the golden calf. As an act of penance, some of them had to be slain, and others, as some commentators report, were forgiven and not slain. Possibly the repentance of these latter was again of a low order. As for those who had not indulged in the worship of the calf, they did not hate the action of the worshippers of the calf as much as they should have. So, their hearts too carried a trace of the sin of association (shirk). So, either through the feebleness of their repentance or through a want of proper hatred for infidelity, their hearts, became indolent in religious matters, so much so that when Allah asked them to take a pledge to follow the injunctions of the Torah steadfastly, Mount Tur (Sinai) was suspended over their heads to threaten them.

This verse reports the Jews as having replied that they had heard the Command of Allah, but they would not obey, or would not be able to obey. It means that out of sheer fright they said (only with their tongues) that they had heard (that is to say, accepted) the Command of Allah. But there was no real consent in their hearts, and their posture and attitude was such as if they were saying that they would not or could not obey.

Having referred to such example of their perversity and rebellion, the Holy Qur'an asks the Jews to have a look at themselves and also at their claim to genuine faith. Could a true faith ever inspire men to such deeds? If it is their brand of "faith" which leads them into such grave sins, then it cannot be a true faith. Hence their claim to be true believers is evidently false.