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Surah al-Baqarah (40-60)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

يَابَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِي الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ  وَآمِنُوا بِمَا أَنزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ وَلَا تَكُونُوا أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِآيَاتِي ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا وَإِيَّايَ فَاتَّقُونِ  وَلَا تَلْبِسُوا الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُوا الْحَقَّ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ  وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَارْكَعُوا مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ  أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ  وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ الَّذِينَ يَظُنُّونَ أَنَّهُمْ مُلَاقُو رَبِّهِمْ وَأَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ(٢: ٤٠-٤٦)

يَابَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِي الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ  وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا لَا تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَنْ نَفْسٍ شَيْئًا وَلَا يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلَا يُؤْخَذُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ (٢: ٤٧-٤٨)

  وَإِذْ نَجَّيْنَاكُمْ مِنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ يُذَبِّحُونَ أَبْنَاءَكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَاءَكُمْ وَفِي ذَلِكُمْ بَلَاءٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ (٤٩:٢)

  وَإِذْ فَرَقْنَا بِكُمْ الْبَحْرَ فَأَنْجَيْنَاكُمْ وَأَغْرَقْنَا آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَأَنْتُمْ تَنظُرُونَ (٥٠:٢)

وَإِذْ وَاعَدْنَا مُوسَى أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةً ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمْ الْعِجْلَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَنْتُمْ ظَالِمُونَ  ثُمَّ عَفَوْنَا عَنْكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (٢: ٥١-٥٢)

 وَإِذْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَالْفُرْقَانَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ (٥٣:٢)

 وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ يَاقَوْمِ إِنَّكُمْ ظَلَمْتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ بِاتِّخَاذِكُمْ الْعِجْلَ فَتُوبُوا إِلَى بَارِئِكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ عِنْدَ بَارِئِكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ (٥٤:٢)

 وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ يَامُوسَى لَنْ نُؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّى نَرَى اللَّهَ جَهْرَةً فَأَخَذَتْكُمْ الصَّاعِقَةُ وَأَنْتُمْ تَنظُرُونَ  ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَوْتِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ  وَظَلَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ الْغَمَامَ وَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَى كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَكِنْ كَانُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ (٢: ٥٥-٥٧)

 وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُوا هَذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَدًا وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا وَقُولُوا حِطَّةٌ نَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطَايَاكُمْ وَسَنَزِيدُ الْمُحْسِنِينَ  فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا قَوْلًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَنزَلْنَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا رِجْزًا مِنْ السَّمَاءِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ (٢: ٥٨-٥٩)

 وَإِذْ اسْتَسْقَى مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبْ بِعَصَاكَ الْحَجَرَ فَانفَجَرَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْنًا قَدْ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٍ مَشْرَبَهُمْ كُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا مِنْ رِزْقِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ (٦٠:٢)


[It is for this very purpose1 that this Qur’ān has been revealed, so]2 O Progeny of Israel3, recall My favour4 which I had bestowed upon you5. Keep my covenant6, and I will keep yours and keep fearing Me only7 and profess faith in this [Qur’ān] which I have revealed in confirmation of what you have8. And be not the very first to deny it9 and do not sell My verses for a paltry price10 and fear My wrath only11. And do not mingle truth with falsehood12, nor try to deliberately conceal the truth13. And establish the Salāh and pay the Zakāh14 and bow down [before the Almighty] with these [people] who bow15. Would you enjoin what is right16 on others and forget it yourselves even though you read the book of God17. Have you no sense? [To tread on this path] seek help from [the trait of] perseverance18 and from the prayer19. Indeed, all this is exacting20, but not to those who fear the Almighty21, who know22 they have to meet their Lord23 and that to Him they have to return [one day]24. (40-46)

O Progeny of Israel, recall the favour I had bestowed upon you25, and [recall that] I exalted you above the people of the world26. And guard yourselves against the day27 when no soul shall be of use to another in anyway and no intercession shall be accepted and no compensation be taken from it nor will people be helped28. (47-48)

And recall when We rescued you from Pharaoh’s people29. They would brutally torture you, slaying your sons30 and sparing your women31 and in this there was a great trial for you by your Lord. (49)

And recall when We parted the sea taking you along with Us32 and in this manner saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people [in the same sea] before your very eyes. (50)

And recall when We made the promise33 of forty nights with Moses. Then in his absence you made that calf34 thus doing injustice to your souls. Yet after that We pardoned you so that you might be grateful. (51-52)

And recall when We gave Moses the Book which was the Criterion35 [between good and evil] so that you might receive guidance [through it]. (53)

And recall when Moses said to his people: ‘You have done injustice to your souls my people by worshipping this calf. So turn in penitence to your Creator36 and for this slay37 these people among you [with your own hands]. This will be best for you in your Creator’s sight.38’ [Consequently, when you did this], He forgave you. Indeed, He is very Forgiving, Ever Merciful. (54)

And recall when you said to Moses: ‘We will not believe in you until we see God with our own eyes’39; then a thunderbolt40 struck you while you were helplessly looking on. Then We revived you from this death41 of yours so that you might become grateful. And We made the clouds draw their shadow over you and sent down upon you Mann42 and Salwā43#. ‘Eat these pure things We have provided you44.’ [Alas! Those on which We bestowed this favour disregarded it] and [in this way], they did not do injustice to Us, but they had been doing injustice to their own souls45. (55-57)

And recall when we said: ‘Enter this city46; then eat from it to your hearts’ content and [take heed] that enter47 its gate bowing down your heads48  [in humility] and pray: “O Lord forgive our sins”49, and We shall forgive your sins and [those among you] who adopt a befitting attitude, We shall bestow more favour on them’. But the wrongdoers replaced that which they were told with other words50. So We let loose on these wrongdoers a punishment from heaven51 because of the disobedience they were [guilty of]. (58-59)

And remember when Moses prayed for water for his people; so We said to him: ‘Strike this rock with your staff’. [He struck the rock and] thereupon twelve springs gushed from it52 such that each tribe ascertained its drinking-place53. ‘Eat and drink54 of that which God has provided [O progeny of Israel] and do not embark upon spreading evil in the land’. (60)

(Translated by Shehzad Saleem)





1. This refers to the previous verse in which it is said that the Almighty would keep sending guidance to man.

2. The real discourse of the sūrah begins from this verse once its introductory portion ends on the previous one. Initially, in this first section of the discourse, the Jews are reminded of their responsibilities as per the Torah regarding the Prophethood of Muhammad (sws). After that, till the very end of this section, they are presented with a charge sheet of their crimes which made them liable to punishment in this very world.

3.إِسْرَائِيلَ’ is actually a Hebrew word having the same meaning as the Arabic word ‘عَبْدُ الله’ (servant of God).

4. This refers to the positions of ‘شُهَدَا عَلَي الْنَّاس’ (witnesses to the truth) and religious leadership of the world for which the Banū Isra’īl were once chosen by the Almighty just as certain personalities in the progeny of Adam were chosen by Him as His prophets and messengers. Other favours that were bestowed on them should be deemed subsumed in this category on a secondary basis because they were in fact a consequence of this position and status.

5. The words ‘My favour’ and ‘which I had bestowed upon you’ are meant to admonish the Jews on their foolish notion that this favour was bestowed on them because they as a race were entitled to it. The truth of the matter is that it was a blessing of the Almighty.

6. This refers to the covenant taken by the Almighty from the Jews regarding obedience to His Sharī‘ah and professing faith in His last Messenger. The following words of the Old Testament refer to the part of the covenant related to the Prophet Muhammad (sws):

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me among your own brothers. You must listen to him …I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name then I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy, 18:15-18)

7. The actual Qur’ānic words are: ‘وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ’. The word ‘رَهْبَة’ is used to convey the state of dread and fright which engulfs a person when he imagines someone grand and awesome. In this sentence the object (مَفْعُوْل) precedes the verb and it is also repeated after the verb. Similarly, the letter ‘ف’ appended to the verb incorporates in it an emphasis similar to the one found in the construction ‘اَمَّا’ and its apodosis (جَزَا). Hence the translation ‘and keep fearing Me only’. The implication being that disregarding all worries and reservations, they should only be awe-inspired by the grandeur and majesty of the Almighty and only He should be feared.

8. This refers to the predictions of the Torah regarding the last Prophet which were with the Jews and which the Qur’ān proved true and thus verified that the Torah is a Book of the Almighty. The words ‘مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ’ refer to this very meaning.

9. The actual Qur’ānic words are ‘وَلَا تَكُونُوا أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ’. Here the governed noun (مُضَاف اِلِيه) of the superlative is singular and hence implies a specification (تَمْيِيز). Had the expression ‘اَوُّلُ اْلكَافِرِيْن’ been adopted in its place, the meaning would have been that they should not become the first among the rejecters. The expression ‘أَوَّلَ كَافِر’ however does not take into account whether other rejecters exist or not. The implication of the verse is that in the land of Madīnah the Jews should have been the first ones to believe in this Book and not the first ones to reject it. Alas! They preferred the latter case; however, they still have time and should take heed and refrain from becoming its first rejecters.

10. The implication being that for the sake of worldly interests they should not breech the contracts they have made with the Almighty and also not sacrifice the directives of the Torah for this paltry gain. The words that the verses of the Qur’ān should not be sold for a paltry price do not mean that they can be sold if they fetch a high price. The imperative particle ‘لَا’ here actually relates to the verb ‘تَشْتَرُوا’ and the words ‘paltry price’ are meant to convey the fact that this trading of religious directives is being carried out in the most dishonourable manner for even if all the treasures of the world can be obtained in lieu of the verses of the Almighty, they are still very paltry. This style of expressing the dreadful nature of a crime is common in other languages also.

11. Here, similar to ‘وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ’, the actual Qur’ānic words are: ‘وَإِيَّايَ فَاتَّقُونِ’. The implication being that what really needs to be feared is the wrath and displeasure of the Almighty; He is not gentle in all situations: when His wrath does descend no one can save people from it. While explaining the words ‘رَهْبَة’, ‘تَِِقْوَى’ and ‘خُشُوْع’ which are used here and in the verse that follows, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

[These] words are but manifestations of the same reality. ‘رَهْبَة’ portrays the state of a person when he trembles and shudders while imagining someone’s exaltedness and grandeur. As a result of imagining such a personality, the state of humility and meekness, respect and obedience which a person finds himself in and the awareness which arises in him of need in place of self-sufficiency and humbleness instead of pride is called ‘خُشُوْع’. Similarly, the anxiety which arises in a person and keeps him on guard whether in public or in private so that he is able to save himself from the wrath of such an exalted being as well as is able to refrain from crossing the limits set by Him and is able to exercise care in disobeying His directives is called ‘تَِِقْوَى’. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 182)

12. This refers to what the Jews had done in altering and interpolating the Torah in order to conceal certain facts which proved the relationship of Arabia with Abraham’s sacrifice, with the geographical location of this sacrifice and with the Ka‘bah. These facts actually were an ultimate proof for the Jews regarding the advent of Muhammad (sws).

13. The actual Qur’ānic words are ‘وَتَكْتُمُوا الْحَقَّ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ’. They are co-ordinated to the previous sentence. However, the particle of negation ‘لَا’ has not been repeated in them. Hence, both these expression actually delineate the same thing. By trying to inter mingle truth and falsehood, the Jews actually wanted to conceal the truth to which the second expression refers. The primary motive of this intermingling was to create a misconception among the people by distorting the predictions found in the Torah regarding the Prophet Muhammad (sws).

14. The Jews were fully aware of the Salāh and the Zakāh. Although they no longer adhered to these practices – and for this very reason were urged by the Qur’ān to adopt them – they were fully aware of them. These rituals have always remained the primary directives of all the Sharī‘ah’s of the Almighty. All the addressees of the Qur’ān fully knew them. Hence no details, for example, regarding the posture of the Salāh or the rates and exemptions of the Zakāh needed to be known. The Prophet (sws) did not originate these practices. These practices had been initiated much before him and after reforming and reviving them, he only promulgated them in the Muslim Ummah. These practices have been mentioned here because in these verses the Jews have been called upon to accept Islam and the Qur’ān is absolutely clear in the fact that without adhering to these two practices no one can be accepted as a Muslim whether in this world or in the Hereafter.

15. The implied meaning is that the Jews should also join these servants of God before them who had taken upon themselves the mission to call people to the servitude of the Almighty and were expressing this servitude by praying day and night in the mosques. The words ‘وَارْكَعُوا مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ’ connote the Salāh. At other places in the Qur’ān also, the Salah has been named after its constituent practices like ‘قِيام’ and ‘سَجْدَه’. Here in these verses, it has been called after another of its constituent practice: ‘رُكُوْع’ (bowing down). The Jews had forsaken the ‘رُكُوْع’ in their prayers. A little deliberation shows how subtle and effective are the words ‘Go on and bow down before the Almighty with these people who are bowing before Him’ which invite them to accept the truth and to shun arrogance and haughtiness.

16. The actual Qur’ānic word used is ‘الْبِرّ’. In the Arabic language, it is used for ‘obedience, keeping promises and fulfilling rights’. It is a comprehensive Qur’ānic word that encompasses all virtues that come under goodness and piety.

17. It is evident from these words that these verses primarily address Jewish leaders and scholars and not the commoners among them. The Prophet Jesus (sws) has portrayed them in similar words:

And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. (Luke, 11:47)

18. In the Arabic language, the word ‘صَبْر’ (perseverance) is used to firmly set one’s self on one’s view while protecting one’s self from worry, frustration and anxiety. When a person, with full contentment of the heart, strongly adheres to the support of the Almighty and perseveres on his stance in every difficulty he encounters, then this attitude is called ‘صَبْر’. In 2:177, the Qur’ān has cited three instances in which a person must exercise ‘صَبْر’: poverty, sickness and war. A little deliberation shows that all hardships emanate from these three states. If a person is able to remain composed at the outbreak of these states, then he indeed should be counted among those imbued with perseverance.

19. This is the method suggested by the Qur’ān for those who want to tread and remain steadfast on the path of the truth. Without the help of the Almighty, a person can neither tread this path nor remain steadfast on it. It is only through the prayer and through exercising perseverance that one becomes worthy of God’s help. If a person makes a determined effort to lead his life with perseverance and also offers the prayer with all diligence and vigilance, his determination increases. He is not shaken in the most trying of circumstances and if ever he is the Almighty Himself comes forward and lends support to him.

20. The actual Qur’ānic words are ‘وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ’. In the opinion of this writer, the antecedent of the pronoun ‘هَا’ is all the directives given to the Israelites in this discourse. In the Arabic language, a feminine pronoun is generally used in such instances.

21. The actual Qur’ānic words are ‘إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ’. The implied meaning is that it is difficult indeed to leave aside national and racial vanity and surrender to the truth; however, if a person is cognizant of the grandeur and greatness of the Almighty and he is humble, meek and respectful to Him, and is fully aware of the fact that he needs the Almighty and is dependent on Him, then surrendering to the truth becomes easy.

22. The actual Qur’ānic word is ‘يَظُنُّونَ’. In the Arabic language, just as it is used for ‘doubt’ in contrast to ‘certainty’, it is also used to mean ‘having a thought of something and its fear’. In this second meaning, it does not have the sense of doubt associated in the first meaning.

22. This quality enumerated for those who fear the Almighty actually sheds light on their inner self. It is thus evident that if they fear the Almighty it is because they fear that after death they are going to face Him in the Hereafter.

24. That is they know that they will be called to the presence of the Almighty who is the Master of the Day of Judgement. No one in reality would be able to influence His decisions on that day and only He can save a person from His own wrath. These people know that every step is leading them to their Creator. They belong to Him in this world and in the next as well. No one will be able to help them anywhere.

25. The Jews are addressed here once again and informed that the place of exaltedness and superiority they had in this world was merely because of God’s favour. Neither were they entitled to it nor was their tribal nobility a reason for this bestowal. Therefore, they must not be overcome with conceit and vanity and evade the calls of faith they are now been given.

26. This is a mention of the general after the specific and a description of the favour of the Almighty. The implication being that the Almighty, leaving aside all other nations of the world, specially selected the Jews as His witnesses to the truth before other nations of the world. The Almighty would reveal the truth before these nations through the Jews to the extent that these nations are left with no excuse to deny it.

27.  The implication is that they should profess faith and fear the day when they shall be called to account if they do not accept it.

28. The Jews should not remain in the misconception that since they are the progeny of such great Prophets as Abraham (sws), Isaac (sws) and Jacob (sws) they would be salvaged in the Hereafter merely because of this association.

29. The actual Qur’ānic word used is ‘آل’. It does not merely connote children; in fact, if there exists an indication, it also connotes the children of a great personality, his followers, his tribe and his nation. Here in this verse and in the subsequent ones, the incidents which are referred to regarding the history of the Israelites are very famous and known to even their children. Hence no details were required. Moreover, since the Israelites of the time of the Qur’ānic times proudly presented these incidents and greatly cherished them, the Qur’ān has presented them as if it was they who had encountered them. This style, a little deliberation shows, is very effective in confronting the Jews with the truth in a manner that they are not able to deny it.

30. This is a description of the torment meted out by the Pharaoh and his people to the Israelites. The Qur’ānic expression used to describe it is ‘سُوءَ الْعَذَاب’. The Pharaoh and his people punished and tormented them in every way. What is mentioned here in this part of the verse is termed as the greatest of torments.

31. A subtle thing to be noted here is that the word ‘sons’ is used for boys in mentioning man slaughter while the words ‘your women’ is used in mentioning the fact that their girls would be left to live. While the former usage provokes the natural feelings of affection that a father has for his male offspring, the latter usage incites one’s honour and integrity that a person has for his female offspring.

32. The actual Qur’ānic words used are ‘فَرَقْنَا بِكُمْ’. If the connotation of the particle ‘ب’ is given due consideration, the implication of the expression is that just as someone crosses a stream while carrying someone in his lap, the Almighty in a similar manner took the Israelites with Him and crossed the river.

33. This refers to the promise the Almighty made with the Israelites in order to give them His Sharī‘ah after they had crossed the sea. This period of forty nights was necessary for the mental training that was required for them to become the recipients of a divine book. Initially, this period was thirty days. However, when the Prophet Moses (sws) reached the mountain before the appointed time, the Almighty extended this period to forty days in order to train and instruct him. This has been referred to in 7:142.

34. In the Book of Exodus of the Bible, this incident of the calf has been mentioned in detail. Although the Jews have incriminated the Prophet Aaron (sws) in this incident, the Qur’ān has refuted this fabrication:

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him’ ... Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ ‘I have seen these people,’ the LORD said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them’. (Exodus, 32:1-10)

35. The actual Qur’ānic words used are‘وَإِذْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ وَالْفُرْقَانَ’. Here the ‘و’ before ‘الْفُرْقَانَ’ is for explication. Hence, the Book is a criterion for good and evil so that people are able to resolve their religious differences in its light. In verse 213 of this very sūrah, the Qur’ān has pointed out the fact that the Torah, the Injīl and the Qur’ān itself have been revealed for the afore-mentioned purpose. Similarly, in 57:25 the words used are ‘لِيَقُوْمَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْط’ (so that people stand on [the path of] justice through these books).

36. The actual Qur’ānic word used is ‘بَارِئِكُمْ’. Although, there is a slight difference between it and the word ‘خَالِقْ’, generally the two are used synonymously.

37. The actual Qur’ānic words used are ‘فَاقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ’. In the Arabic language this expression can mean ‘to kill one’s self’ and can also mean ‘kill the people amongst themselves’. As per the Qur’ān, death is the extreme form of punishment for people who insist on polytheism or disbelief once the truth is made inexcusably apparent to them through Messengers of God. It is evident from this verse that when some people of that time persisted on polytheism and disbelief it was this punishment of death that was meted out to them. The monotheists among them were deputed to administer this punishment. They were directed to execute those who had deemed the calf to be God. This directive was meant to try and test the righteous and rid the Israelites of the sinners. The Bible records this incident in the following manner:

So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD [that is who is still committed to faith], come to me.’ And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour’. The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, ‘You have been set apart to the LORD today [that is revive your faith today], for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.’ (Exodus, 32:26-29)

38. The implication being that the Israelites might consider this act of execution to be a great injustice and a national loss, however their Creator deems it to be something better. The first reason for this is that the status of Witnesses to the Truth which they are being conferred upon requires that the good and evil elements among them be distinguished from one another. Secondly, this act is a manifestation of a lesser judgement before the Final Day of Judgement so that it will always keep them on guard against any deviation from monotheism. Thirdly, since this sin was committed because of their indifference, it must be atoned for. This would hopefully ensure forgiveness from the Almighty and once again make them worthy of His favours and blessings.

39. If the desire to see the Almighty is to obtain inner satisfaction, it cannot be objected to. However, the demand of Israelites to see the Almighty was just an expression of their scepticism and disbelief and an excuse to reject and deny Him. Nothing could make them believe that the Almighty spoke and communicated to Moses (sws). Hence they were punished for this attitude.

40. The actual Qur’ānic word used is ‘الصَّاعِقَةُ’. It means both ‘roar and thunder’ and ‘thunderbolt’. In 7:154, this incident has been referred to in the words ‘فَلَمَّا اَخَذَتْهُمُ اّلرَجْفَةُ’. The words ‘رَجْفَة’ means ‘earthquake’. It is evident from these words that the person of the Almighty manifested in the form of a ‘صَاعِقَة’ which shook the mountain of Tūr to such an extent that the Israelites were knocked down in utter bewilderment.

41. In the Arabic language, the word ‘مَوْت’ also means ‘sleep’ and ‘unconsciousness’ if some indication to this exists. The way it is used here and the instance it has been used at in clearly shows that refers to their state of unconsciousness. Although the Israelites did not deserve to be revived from this state because of their arrogance, it is evident from 7:155 that they were forgiven for this crime when Moses (sws) earnestly pleaded with the Almighty to forgive them.

42.مَنَّ’ was something akin to dew which would descend on the earth and then freeze like hail. The Israelites would gather it before the heat of the sun could melt it. In a barren desert, this form of subsistence was indeed a great favour for the Israelites which they were blessed with without any toil merely because they had migrated with Moses (sws) at the behest of the Almighty. The word ‘مَنَّ’ means ‘favour and blessing’. It seems that due to this very reason these edibles were named ‘مَنَّ’. The Bible gives us the following details in this regard:

And in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat ... each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. (Exodus; 16:13-21)

43.سَلْوَى’ refers to the birds which the Almighty sent upon the Israelites in the desert of Sinai. They were similar to quails and like them were easy to hunt down. The Bible says:

The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’ … The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.” ’ That evening quail came and covered the camp. (Exodus; 16:13-21)

44. The implication is that these favours by their very existence urge the Israelites to benefit from them and remain thankful to the Almighty.

45. This sentence of the discourse has not been uttered while addressing the Jews as was the case of the previous ones. It has been uttered in an indirect manner while turning away from them. Such a shift normally occurs in the Qur’ān when the addresser wants to express his disgust for the addressees.

46. The actual Qur’ānic word used is ‘الْقَرْيَة’. If its usage in the Arabic language is studied, it can be concluded that just as it is used for small villages, it is also used to connote large cities. Here it refers to some city of Palestine since the words used ‘فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَدًا’ later on are only appropriate for this land.

47. The actual Qur’ānic words used are ‘وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا’. The way the word ‘الْبَاب’ occurs after ‘الْقَرْيَة’, linguistic considerations show that it refers to the door of the city and cannot be taken to mean the ‘door of the tabernacle’.

48. The word ‘سُجَّدً’ connotes the bowing down of the head. In fact, this verse contains conclusive evidence that the verb ‘سَجَدَ’ also means ‘to bow the head’. This is in contrast to its general meaning of placing one’s forehead on the ground.

49. The actual Qur’ānic words used are ‘قُولُوا حِطَّةٌ’. The word ‘حِطَّة’ has come in place of a whole sentence to the effect ‘مَسْئَلَتُنَا حِطَّة’. It is from the verb ‘حَطَّ يَحُطُّ’ which means ‘to brush away’. Here it means ‘to brush away sins’. Since Arabic and Hebrew have similar sources, one can deduce analogously that in Hebrew also it would have meant brushing away and forgiving sins.

50. The implication being that some wretched people among the Israelites replaced ‘حِطَّة’, a word seeking forgiveness, by one which had an entirely different meaning. When the verb ‘بَدَّلَ’ which is mentioned here is used such that it takes two objects, it means ‘to replace something with another’. If this aspect is kept in consideration, the word cannot be taken to mean a mere change in attitude. It can only mean that they had replaced this word by another.

51. This punishment has been called a ‘punishment from heaven’ in the same manner as a great calamity is referred to as a ‘heavenly punishment’. Most probably, the Israelites faced this punishment in Shatīm, a city of Palestine. The Bible says that the Israelites were guilty of sexual misconduct with Maobite women, became involved in polytheistic sacrifices and thus became directly incriminated with worshipping their deity ‘Ba‘l’. In retribution of these crimes, the Almighty sent upon them an epidemic which killed twenty four thousand men and women.

52. It is evident from the Bible that this incident of water gushing forth from a rock took place in the desert of Sinai:

In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarrelled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!’ Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’ So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Numbers, 20:1-12)

53. There were twelve tribes of the Israelites. Thus when twelve springs gushed forth, every tribe fixed its own drinking place over them and there remained no apprehension that any fight would ensue among them regarding water.

54. Here this subtle point needs to be kept in consideration that earlier on after a mention of ‘Mann’ and ‘Salwā’ only the word ‘كُلُوا’ (eat) had been used because at that time only food could have been arranged for. Once, plentiful water was also made available, the words used are ‘كُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا’ (eat and drink).

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