وَ ظَلَّلۡنَا عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡغَمَامَ وَ اَنۡزَلۡنَا عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡمَنَّ وَ السَّلۡوٰی ؕ کُلُوۡا مِنۡ طَیِّبٰتِ مَا رَزَقۡنٰکُمۡ ؕ وَ مَا ظَلَمُوۡنَا وَ لٰکِنۡ کَانُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَہُمۡ یَظۡلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۵۸﴾
وَظَلَّلۡنَا عَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلۡغَمَامَ وَأَنزَلۡنَا عَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلۡمَنَّ وَٱلسَّلۡوَىٰۖ كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَٰتِ مَا رَزَقۡنَٰكُمۡۚ وَمَا ظَلَمُونَا وَلَٰكِن كَانُوٓاْ أَنفُسَهُمۡ يَظۡلِمُونَ
97. See Exodus, 40:34-38. (close)
a. 7:161. (close)
98. Mann means a favour or gift; anything obtained without trouble or difficulty; honey or dew (Aqrab). The Manna has also been referred to in a saying of the Holy Prophet as: "The truffle is one of the things included in the Manna" (Bukhari). See also Lane under "Turanjabin." (close)
99. Salwa is (1) a whitish bird resembling a quail and found in some parts of Arabia and the neighbouring countries; (2) whatever renders a person contented and happy; honey (Aqrab). The sending down of Manna and Salwa has been mentioned at three places in the Qur’an, in the present verse and in vv. 2:58 and 7:161, and at all these three places the fact has been followed by the injunction: 'Eat of the good things that We have provided for you.' This shows that whereas the food which was provided to the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai was wholesome, palatable and of good taste, it consisted not of one but of several things; Manna (truffle) and Salwa (quails) forming the major part of them. See Exodus, 16:13-15. (close)
b. 7:161; 20:81. (close)
a. 7:161. (close)
64. Important Words:
من (Manna). The infinitive من signifies bestowing favour on or doing good to. They say من علیه i.e. he bestowed a favour on him without his labouring for it. من means: (1) a favour; (2) anything obtained without trouble or difficulty; (3) honey-dew (Aqrab).
سلوی (Salwa) is derived from سلا. They say سلا عن الشیء i.e. he was satisfied with it سلاه عن الشیء means, he satisfied him with it; he removed his grief and worry through it. سلوی is (1) a whitish bird resembling a quail and found in some parts of Arabia and the neighbouring countries. It also means, (2) whatever renders a person contented and happy; (3) honey (Aqrab).
As the Israelites were camping in hot and open country, God speaks of the clouds having been sent to give them shade. We learn from Exod. 40:34-38, that clouds spread and shaded the spot where the Israelites encamped, and that they dispersed on the day when it was time for them to resume their journey. But the verse under comment shows that the clouds meant not only shadow but also rainfall because, firstly, it is rain-clouds that are generally dark and dense; and, secondly, along with the "clouds," the Quran also mentions two eatables, Manna and Salwa, which served as complement to the favour mentioned in the shadowing clouds. In fact, there was scarcity of both water and food in that arid country, and God used to quench their thirst by sending clouds, and satisfy their hunger by providing Manna and Salwa. And, no wonder, for God shows special favours to His servants in order to remove their difficulties and promote their comfort.
The sending down of Manna and Salwa has been mentioned in Exod. 16:11-15, where we read: "And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat."
When the children of Israel got no food in the wilderness and death stared them in the face, they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron. They said to them: "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Exod. 16:3). These murmurings of the Israelites were answered in the passage quoted above.
The Holy Prophet refers to the Manna bestowed on the Israelites in the following, hadith. Says he: "The mushroom is one of the things included in the Manna, and the sap of it heals the eye" (Bukhari). He is also reported to have said: "The mushroom is among the things which God bestowed upon Moses, as a free gift" (Muhit). This shows that God provided the Israelites with a number of things in the wilderness, sometimes with one thing and sometimes with another.
The verse does not mention how the Israelites "wronged themselves". But as God speaks here of the favours bestowed upon them, it is evident that they wronged themselves by showing ingratitude and by murmuring and complaining of their lot in spite of God’s special favours. By doing so, however, they did no harm to God or His Messenger, but only harmed their own souls. (close)
وَ اِذۡ قُلۡنَا ادۡخُلُوۡا ہٰذِہِ الۡقَرۡیَۃَ فَکُلُوۡا مِنۡہَا حَیۡثُ شِئۡتُمۡ رَغَدًا وَّ ادۡخُلُوا الۡبَابَ سُجَّدًا وَّ قُوۡلُوۡا حِطَّۃٌ نَّغۡفِرۡ لَکُمۡ خَطٰیٰکُمۡ ؕ وَ سَنَزِیۡدُ الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ ﴿۵۹﴾
وَإِذۡ قُلۡنَا ٱدۡخُلُواْ هَٰذِهِ ٱلۡقَرۡيَةَ فَكُلُواْ مِنۡهَا حَيۡثُ شِئۡتُمۡ رَغَدٗا وَٱدۡخُلُواْ ٱلۡبَابَ سُجَّدٗا وَقُولُواْ حِطَّةٞ نَّغۡفِرۡ لَكُمۡ خَطَٰيَٰكُمۡۚ وَسَنَزِيدُ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ
c. 7:162. (close)
100. "Town" need not refer to any particular town. It may signify any town on the way from Sinai to Canaan that may be near; or the nearest town. As the Israelites were eager to live in towns owing to the facilities and amenities of life they afforded and owing also to their previous mode of living, they were bidden to go to some neighbouring village where they would combine the life of the desert with that of a habitation and would be free to eat wherever they liked, as is usual in a desert place where there is no private ownership. But as this change was to bring them into contact with other people and was likely to affect their morals they were at the same time bidden to be careful about themselves and to be submissive to God. (close)
a. 7:162. (close)
65. Important Words:
سجدا (submissively) is derived from سجد which means: (1) he showed submissiveness and humility. The Quran says ولله یسجد من فی السماوات والارض And to Allah submits whosoever is in the heavens and the earth (13:16); (2) he fell prostrate (Mufradat). In the verse under comment the word is used in the first mentioned sense; for, besides other reasons pointing to this significance, one cannot pass through a gate while fallen prostrate on the ground.
حطة (forgive us our sins) is derived from حط which means: (1) he descended or came down; (2) he brought down, or caused to fall, or removed a burden, etc. استحط فلانا وزره means, he requested that person to take down or relieve him of his heavy burden (Aqrab). As in theology, to seek relief from a burden is to seek forgiveness of sins, the expression حطة(literally the bringing down of a burden) would mean, remove our burden of sins or forgive us our sins.
نغفر (We shall forgive) is derived from غفر. They say غفرالشیء meaning, he covered or concealed the thing. غفرالمتاع فی الوعاءmeans, he put the things in the bag and thus covered and protected them. غفرالله له ذنبه means, God covered up his sin and forgave it. غفرالامر بغفرته means, he rectified or reformed the matter suitably (Aqrab & Lane). غفران and مغفرة both infinitives, signify God’s forgiveness or His protection of a person against the punishment of his sins (Mufradat).
The Bible is here again at fault and makes no direct mention of this incident. It, however, speaks of a battle which in those days took place between the Amalekites and the Israelites in Rephidim (Exod. 17:8) which shows that the Amalekites inhabited certain parts of this land. Though the land was a desert, yet here and there habitations were also to be found (Enc. Bib. IV. 4036, 37). In fact, the presence of a desert does not preclude the existence of habitations, because even wandering tribes make here and there small habitations which, serve as meeting places for their scattered clans.
As the Israelites were eager to live in inhabited places owing to the facilities they afforded and owing also to their previous mode of living, they were bidden to go to some neighbouring village where they would combine the life of the desert with that of a habitation and would be free to eat wherever they liked, as is usual in a desert place where there is no private ownership.
But as this change was to bring them in contact with other people and was likely to affect their morals, they were at the same time bidden to be careful about themselves and to be submissive and obedient to God and also to pray to Him that He might forgive them the sins they might commit. If they acted upon this injunction, God would be kind to them and would forgive them their sins. Nay, He would further bestow on those who acted righteously His added favours and blessings.
The words "this village" need not refer to any specified village. According to the Arabic idiom the words may mean "any village that may be near" or "the nearest village". (close)
فَبَدَّلَ الَّذِیۡنَ ظَلَمُوۡا قَوۡلًا غَیۡرَ الَّذِیۡ قِیۡلَ لَہُمۡ فَاَنۡزَلۡنَا عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ ظَلَمُوۡا رِجۡزًا مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ بِمَا کَانُوۡا یَفۡسُقُوۡنَ ﴿٪۶۰﴾
فَبَدَّلَ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ قَوۡلًا غَيۡرَ ٱلَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمۡ فَأَنزَلۡنَا عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ رِجۡزٗا مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفۡسُقُونَ
a. 7:163. (close)
66. Important Words:
رجز (a punishment) means: (1) filth; (2) punishment; (3) idol-worship (4) iniquity or sin (Aqrab).
من السماء (from heaven). For سماء see note on 2:20. As سماء means a "height" or "anything that is high above us", therefore the expression من السماء would mean "from on high" or "from God", implying that the punishment meted out to the Israelites was not brought about through earthly means but, as it were, descended from above.
This verse is a continuation of the previous one. God commanded the Israelites to behave submissively and to pray to Him for the forgiveness of their sins, but they, mischievous and arrogant as ever, disobeyed the injunctions given to them and changed the words of prayer taught by God, whereupon He chastised them with a punishment that was not of this earth, i.e. He visited them with a pestilence or plague that destroyed a number of them. Or the expression رجزا من السماء may mean that their disobedience recoiled on their own souls in the sense of moral degradation and filthiness of heart and mind.
The question of the word which the Israelites used in place of the one taught to them is immaterial. According to some, they used the word حبة or حنطة i.e. "give us corn to eat" instead of حطة i.e. "remove our sins" (Bukhari & Jarir). The words sound alike and afforded a playful opportunity to the mischief-minded among the Israelites. But as already said, the word substituted is not material. What matters is that they, i.e. many of them as the Quran hints, disobeyed the Lord and made religion a plaything. Hence the punishment. (close)
وَ اِذِ اسۡتَسۡقٰی مُوۡسٰی لِقَوۡمِہٖ فَقُلۡنَا اضۡرِبۡ بِّعَصَاکَ الۡحَجَرَ ؕ فَانۡفَجَرَتۡ مِنۡہُ اثۡنَتَاعَشۡرَۃَ عَیۡنًا ؕ قَدۡ عَلِمَ کُلُّ اُنَاسٍ مَّشۡرَبَہُمۡ ؕ کُلُوۡا وَ اشۡرَبُوۡا مِنۡ رِّزۡقِ اللّٰہِ وَ لَا تَعۡثَوۡا فِی الۡاَرۡضِ مُفۡسِدِیۡنَ ﴿۶۱﴾
۞وَإِذِ ٱسۡتَسۡقَىٰ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوۡمِهِۦ فَقُلۡنَا ٱضۡرِب بِّعَصَاكَ ٱلۡحَجَرَۖ فَٱنفَجَرَتۡ مِنۡهُ ٱثۡنَتَا عَشۡرَةَ عَيۡنٗاۖ قَدۡ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٖ مَّشۡرَبَهُمۡۖ كُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ مِن رِّزۡقِ ٱللَّهِ وَلَا تَعۡثَوۡاْ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ مُفۡسِدِينَ
b. 7:161. (close)
101. That at present there is no trace of the springs at that spot is nothing to be wondered at, because it is not yet definitely known in what particular region Moses performed his journey. Moreover, it is a matter of common experience that springs sometimes cease to flow and their mouths become closed abruptly in the mountains. The event referred to here occurred thousands of years ago and it is well known that sometimes a spring gushes forth, but soon the flow of water ceases and the spring runs dry. Often springs once flowing become so dry that no trace of them is left. Even as late as the end of the 15th century twelve springs actually flowed at this place. "The rock stands within the border of Arabia and some of his (the Prophet’s) countrymen must needs (sic) have seen it if he himself had not, as it is most probable he had. And in effect he seems to be in the right. For one, who went into those parts in the end of the fifteenth century, tells us expressly that the water issued from twelve places of the rock, according to the number of the tribes of Israel" (Al-Koran by Sale, page 8). Moreover, as there were twelve Israelite tribes with Moses, God must have caused to flow as many springs for them. One spring could not meet their needs as their number was very large—according to the Bible they were 600,000 (Num. 1:46).
The miracle of Moses on this occasion did not lie in bringing about something against the known laws of nature, but in the fact that God revealed to him the specific spot where water was just ready to flow on a blow with his rod. It is within the experience of geologists that sometimes water flows at a small depth underneath hillocks or rocks and begins to gush forth the moment the rock is struck with something heavy or pointed.
The words Idrib bi-‘Asakal-Hajara may also mean: "Go forth or hasten with thy community to the rock," ‘Asa metaphorically meaning, "a community," and Idrib meaning, "go forth or hasten." They say, Darabal- Arda or Daraba fil-Ardi, i.e. he went forth or hastened in the land (Lane). (close)
67. Important Words:
عصا (rod). عصا الرجل means, he beat the man with a rod. عصا القوم means, he brought together the people, or he made them agree on some matter of common concern. عصا means: (1) a rod strong enough to support the weight of a man; (2) communal and family life; (3) a community; (4) the shin-bone (Aqrab).
الحجر (rock) is from حجر i.e. it prevented or resisted. الحجر means, a stone; a great mass of stone; a rock (Lane).
This verse mentions another favour bestowed on the Israelites. When once they were hard pressed by thirst and no water was procurable in the desert, God saved them by revealing to Moses the knowledge of a rock from which water flowed out when struck with a rod.
The demand of the Israelites for water and their being supplied with it is mentioned at two places in the Bible. At one place mention is made of the twelve springs of Elim, but nothing is said there of Moses’ striking the rock with his rod (Exod. 15:27). At the other place, Moses, by divine command, struck the rock Horeb with his rod, and there flowed out abundant water with which the Israelites and their animals slaked their thirst (Exod. 17:1-7 Numb. 20:2-11). Here no mention is made of the number of springs. It appears that the Quran refers to the occurrence relating to the rock of Horeb because, with the only difference that the Bible does not give the number of springs whereas the Quran gives a definite number, almost all the details narrated in the Bible concur with the narrative of the Quran. As for the slight difference with regard to the number of springs, reason favours the narrative of the Quran. The Israelites numbered several thousands besides riding animals and beasts of burden, and one spring was certainly insufficient for such a large number, especially when we take into consideration the fact that the thirsty Israelites were, according to the Bible, in a state of extreme exasperation at that time and were prepared even to stone Moses to death. It is possible, however, that at the source there was only one mouth of the spring, but it divided into twelve channels as it flowed down the rock, the number being in conformity with the number of the Israelite tribes.
If at present there is no trace of the twelve springs at that spot, it is no wonder; for it is a matter of common experience that sometimes several springs rising at the same spot have some of their openings closed and cease to flow. From a testimony quoted by Sale, however, it appears that even as late as the end of the fifteenth century, twelve springs actually flowed there. He says: "The rock stands within the border of Arabia and some of his (the Prophet’s) countrymen must needs have seen it if he himself had not, as it is most probable he had. And in effect he seems to be in the right. For one who went into those parts in the end of the fifteenth century tells us expressly that the water issued from twelve places of the rock, according to the number of the tribes of Israel" (Al-Koran by Sale, page 8).
The miracle of Moses on this occasion did not lie in bringing about a thing against the known laws of nature, but in the fact that God revealed to him the specific spot where water was just ready to flow at a blow of his rod. It is within the experience of those who study geological conditions in rocky districts that sometimes water flows underneath small hillocks or rocks and gushes forth when the rock is struck with something heavy or pointed.
As Manna and Salwa had already been bestowed on the Israelites, God now fittingly asks them to eat and drink of what Allah has provided. But as a life of ease and independence is likely to make men arrogant and mischievous, God at the same time warns the Israelites to exercise self-restraint and refrain from creating trouble and disorder in the land. (close)
وَ اِذۡ قُلۡتُمۡ یٰمُوۡسٰی لَنۡ نَّصۡبِرَ عَلٰی طَعَامٍ وَّاحِدٍ فَادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُخۡرِجۡ لَنَا مِمَّا تُنۡۢبِتُ الۡاَرۡضُ مِنۡۢ بَقۡلِہَا وَ قِثَّآئِہَا وَ فُوۡمِہَا وَ عَدَسِہَا وَ بَصَلِہَا ؕ قَالَ اَتَسۡتَبۡدِلُوۡنَ الَّذِیۡ ہُوَ اَدۡنٰی بِالَّذِیۡ ہُوَ خَیۡرٌ ؕ اِہۡبِطُوۡا مِصۡرًا فَاِنَّ لَکُمۡ مَّا سَاَلۡتُمۡ ؕ وَ ضُرِبَتۡ عَلَیۡہِمُ الذِّلَّۃُ وَ الۡمَسۡکَنَۃُ ٭ وَ بَآءُوۡ بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللّٰہِ ؕ ذٰلِکَ بِاَنَّہُمۡ کَانُوۡا یَکۡفُرُوۡنَ بِاٰیٰتِ اللّٰہِ وَ یَقۡتُلُوۡنَ النَّبِیّٖنَ بِغَیۡرِ الۡحَقِّ ؕ ذٰلِکَ بِمَا عَصَوۡا وَّ کَانُوۡا یَعۡتَدُوۡنَ ﴿٪۶۲﴾
وَإِذۡ قُلۡتُمۡ يَٰمُوسَىٰ لَن نَّصۡبِرَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامٖ وَٰحِدٖ فَٱدۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُخۡرِجۡ لَنَا مِمَّا تُنۢبِتُ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ مِنۢ بَقۡلِهَا وَقِثَّآئِهَا وَفُومِهَا وَعَدَسِهَا وَبَصَلِهَاۖ قَالَ أَتَسۡتَبۡدِلُونَ ٱلَّذِي هُوَ أَدۡنَىٰ بِٱلَّذِي هُوَ خَيۡرٌۚ ٱهۡبِطُواْ مِصۡرٗا فَإِنَّ لَكُم مَّا سَأَلۡتُمۡۗ وَضُرِبَتۡ عَلَيۡهِمُ ٱلذِّلَّةُ وَٱلۡمَسۡكَنَةُ وَبَآءُو بِغَضَبٖ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمۡ كَانُواْ يَكۡفُرُونَ بِـَٔايَٰتِ ٱللَّهِ وَيَقۡتُلُونَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ بِغَيۡرِ ٱلۡحَقِّۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَواْ وَّكَانُواْ يَعۡتَدُونَ
102. Having lived for a long time in bondage and in a state of dependence, the Israelites had become cowardly and indolent. So God intended them to stay in the desert for some time and to live on game and wild herbs in order that they might shed their cowardice and indolence by living an independent life in the desert. Thus revitalized, they were to be led to the Promised Land and made rulers of Palestine. The Israelites, however, failed to understand the real purpose of God or, having understood it, failed to appreciate it and foolishly insisted upon living in a town. God wanted to prepare them for rule over the Promised Land but those unfortunate people hungered after husbandry. So they were told to go down to a town where they would get the desired things. (close)
a. 3:113. (close)
b. 2:91; 3:113; 5:61. (close)
103. The word Qatl besides its primary sense of actual killing means, to attempt or intend to kill; to beat; to curse; to have nothing to do with, and to neutralise the blighting influence of a thing; and the expression Yaqtulunan- Nabiyyin does not signify that the Israelites actually slew the Prophets, because, up to the time of Moses no Prophet is known to have been slain by them. As a matter of fact, Moses was the first Prophet who was sent to the Israelites as a nation. He and his brother, Aaron, are the only persons to whom these words can be applied, but obviously they were not killed by the Israelites, although they were sometimes bent upon killing them (Exod. 17:4). Hence, the word Qatl in the verse cannot possibly mean "actual killing." It only means that they severely opposed the Prophets and would have killed them if they could. See also 3:22 & 40:29. (close)
c. 2:88; 3:22, 113, 184; 5:71. (close)
b. 2:91; 3:113; 5:61. (close)
68. Important Words:
فومھا (its wheat). فوم means: (1) wheat; (2) any corn suitable for making bread; (3) garlic; (4) chick-pea (Aqrab).
مصر (a town) means:(1) a town or a city; (2) the frontier between two countries; (3) the thing that intervenes between two things (Aqrab).
یقتلون (would kill) is derived from قتل i.e. he killed. The infinitive means: (1) killing with a sword or with a stone or with poison or by any other means; (2) attempting to kill; (3) making up the mind to kill; (4) boycotting or cutting off all connections; (5) killing one’s carnal desires; (6) weakening the strength of a thing, as alcohol is "killed" with the addition of water, or hunger is "killed" with food, etc.; (7) humbling a person completely; (8) rendering a person like unto one killed either physically or morally or spiritually; (9) acquiring complete and certain knowledge about a thing; and (10) cursing a person or thing (Aqrab, Mufradat & Lisan)
In this verse another instance is cited to show how the Israelites made no effort to turn the favours of God to good account. When they were in the desert, God sent them Manna and Salwa. But soon after this they began to exhibit discontent with one kind of food and to clamour for a variety of grain, onions, salad and green-stuff (Num. 11:5-11). It may be noted that both Manna and Salwa taken together were considered one kind of food as they were taken continuously for a long time. It is further learnt from the Bible that the supply of Salwa was discontinued after a while and the Israelites were thus left to live on Manna alone (Num. 11:6). As the demand was not based on a right understanding of the wisdom of God Who wanted the Israelites to breathe the free air of the desert for a time, they met with disgrace and drew upon themselves the wrath of God.
God’s displeasure with the Israelites was not due to their demand for other food. The real cause lay elsewhere. Having lived for a long time in bondage and a state of dependence, they had become cowardly and indolent. So God wished them to stay in the desert for sometime, living on game and wild herbs, that they might get rid of their cowardice and indolence by living an independent life in the desert. Thus revitalized, they were to be led to the Promised Land and made rulers of Palestine. The Israelites, however, failed to understand the real purpose of God or having understood it, failed to appreciate it, and foolishly insisted upon living in a town. God pointed out their error, saying that they had asked for a life of agriculture in preference to what was to lead them to sovereignty. He wanted to prepare them for rule over the Promised Land, but they hungered for husbandry. So He indignantly ordered them to go down to a town where they would get the desired things.
The Israelites deserved punishment, because their impatience was the outcome of a want of faith in the promise of God. This lack of faith in God was due to their opposition to His Prophets and, disbelief in His Signs, and they opposed the Prophets because they were transgressors and evildoers. The Prophets invited them to guidance and virtue which they disliked, and, as a result, they opposed them. Thus the Quran admirably traces the causal sequence of every evil to its origin and strikes at its very root so as to prevent all possibility of recurrence.
The words, we will not remain content with one kind of food, contain a threat and are full of arrogance. If the Israelites had meant simply to express a wish, the words would have been "we are unable to remain content with one kind of food," and not as they stand in the Quran. The Bible gives a vivid picture of their insolent and almost rebellious attitude on this occasion (Num. 11:5-15).
The words یقتلون النبیین translated in the verse as "would kill the Prophets" do not mean that the Israelites actually killed the Prophets, because, up to the time of Moses, no Prophet is known to have been slain by them. As a matter of fact, Moses is the first Prophet who was sent to the Israelites as a nation. Thus Moses and his brother, Aaron, are the only persons to whom the words can be applied; but obviously these two Prophets were not killed by the Israelites, although the latter often opposed them and were sometimes even bent upon killing them (Exod. 17:4). Hence, the word قتل in the verse cannot possibly mean actual killing. Its only meaning here is that they severely opposed the Prophets and were even prepared to kill them. This interpretation finds corroboration not only in Arabic lexicons, for which see Important Words, but the Quran itself supports it in a number of verses where the word قتل has been used undoubtedly, not in the sense of actual killing but in that of attempting to kill or intending to kill (3:22 and 40:29). Bukhari also relates a tradition to the effect that once certain hot-headed Quraish youths brutally assaulted the Holy Prophet in the precincts of the Ka‘bah, whereupon Abu Bakr rushed to his rescue, saying, اتقتلون رجلا ان یقول ربی الله "Do you kill a man because he says Allah is his Lord and Master?" (chapter on Tafsir). In this hadith the word قتل is clearly used in the sense of attempting to kill or intending to kill and not actual killing.
It will not be out of place to point out here that the purport of verse 2:59 discussed above is altogether different from the one under comment. Though in both of them God apparently orders the Israelites to go to some habitation, yet the meaning is entirely different, rather quite the opposite in each case. As a matter of fact, whereas in verse 2:59 God Himself willingly commands the Israelites to go to some habitation, His ordering them to "go down into a town" in the verse under comment is expressive of definite displeasure and anger. In the previous verse the قریة or habitation meant only a habitation found in the desert by going into which the Israelites did not leave the free desert life but rather combined it with the facilities of a habitation. On the contrary, by "going down into" a مصر i.e. a town or city as mentioned in the verse under comment, they altogether abandoned the desert life and adopted a life of ease, as is led in towns and cities. Hence the difference. This is why the Quran uses the simple word ادخلوا i.e. "enter" in 2:59 and the word اھبطوا i.e. "go down", a term expressive of decline, in the verse under comment. Similarly, whereas in verse 2:59 the Quran follows up the commandment with the words eat therefrom plentifully wherever you like, in the present verse the commandment is followed by the words and they were smitten with abasement and destitution. The difference is apparent. The former expression is indicative of the freedom of life in the desert, and the latter of the suffocating atmosphere and mental slavery of towns and cities. (close)
اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ الَّذِیۡنَ ہَادُوۡا وَ النَّصٰرٰی وَ الصّٰبِئِیۡنَ مَنۡ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ وَ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَہُمۡ اَجۡرُہُمۡ عِنۡدَ رَبِّہِمۡ ۪ۚ وَ لَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ ﴿۶۳﴾
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَٱلَّذِينَ هَادُواْ وَٱلنَّصَٰرَىٰ وَٱلصَّـٰبِـِٔينَ مَنۡ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأٓخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَٰلِحٗا فَلَهُمۡ أَجۡرُهُمۡ عِندَ رَبِّهِمۡ وَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا هُمۡ يَحۡزَنُونَ
d. 5:70; 22:18. (close)
104. Sabi is one who forsakes his own religion for a new one. Technically, however, the word Sabians refers to certain religious sects that were found in parts of Arabia and countries bordering on it. The name was applied to (1) the star-worshipping people living in Mesopotamia (Gibbon’s Roman Empire, Murujudh-Dhahab & Enc. Rel. Eth., viii under "Mandaeans"); (2) a people who lived near Mosul in Iraq and believed in one God and in all Divine Prophets but possessed no revealed Book. They claimed to follow the religion of Noah (Jarir & Kathir). They should not, however, be confused with the Sabians mentioned by certain commentators of the Bible as people living in ancient Yemen.
The verse, as mistakenly understood, does not signify that belief in God and in the Last Day alone is sufficient for salvation. The Qur’an emphatically declares that belief in the Holy Prophet is most essential (4:151-152; 6:93) and forms an integral part of belief in God, and also that belief in the Hereafter includes belief in Divine revelation as well (4:151-152; 6:93). Elsewhere, Islam alone has been unequivocally declared to be acceptable to God as a religion (3:20, 86). The Qur’an here confines itself to a mention of belief in God and the Last Day, not because belief in revelation and in the Holy Prophet is not essential, but because the former two beliefs include the latter two, the four being essentially inseparable. In fact, the verse is intended to demolish the mistaken Jewish belief that they were "the favoured nation of God" and, therefore, were alone entitled to salvation. It signifies that it did not matter whether one was apparently a Jew, a Christian, a Sabian or, for that matter, a Muslim; if the faith was confined only to the lip, it was a dead thing, without life and without any motive power in it. The verse may also be taken as embodying a prophecy and as a safe criterion to test the truth of Islam. The prophecy is that Islam shall triumph because it is a true religion. The criterion lies in the fact that the prophecy was made at a time when Islam was fighting for its very life. The verse may also be taken as signifying that all those who claim to be believers whether they are Jews, Christians or Sabians or, for that matter, belong to any religion—if their faith in God and the Last Day is sincere and honest and they do good deeds which is the quintessence of a true religion, i.e. Islam, no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve. (close)
a. 4:137; 6:93. (close)
b. 2:113, 278; 6:49; 10:63. (close)
a. 5:70; 22:18. (close)
b. 4:137; 6:93. (close)
c. 2:113, 278; 6:49; 10:63. (close)
69. Important Words:
الذین آمنوا (The Believers). The expression signifies the people who profess to be believers in Islam, i.e. the Muslims. Thus ایمان here means only profession of Islam. The word مؤمن has been used in the sense of Muslim elsewhere also in the Quran (4:137).
الذین ھادوا (the Jews) means, those who profess the Jewish religion. The word ھادوا is derived from ھاد which literally means, he turned towards the truth or towards God with repentance (Aqrab). The word also signifies returning towards a thing slowly or walking tardily (Mufradat).
النصاری (the Christians) is derived from نصر i.e. he helped. As the disciples of Jesus sided with him as God’s helpers (3:53), so they came to be known as نصاری i.e. helpers. Or the word is connected with ناصرة (Nazareth), a village which was the scene of Jesus’ childhood. In either case نصاری has come to signify the followers of Jesus, i.e. those who profess the Christian religion (Mufradat).
الصابئین (the Sabians) is derived from صبا. They say صبا الرجل i.e. he forsook one religion and adopted another. صبا النجمmeans, the star made its appearance (Aqrab). Literally, therefore, صابی is one who forsakes his old religion and adopts a new one. Technically, however, the word الصابئین refers to certain religious sects that were found in parts of Arabia and countries bordering on it. The name was applied to the following faiths: (1) The star-worshipping people living in Mesopotamia (Gibbon’s Roman Empire, v. 440 and Murujudh -Dhahab by Mas‘udi and Enc. Rel. Eth., viii, under Mandaeans); (2) The faith which was a sort of patch-work of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism (Kathir, under 2:63); (3) A people who lived near Mosul in Iraq and believed in one God but had no known Law or Book. They claimed to follow the religion of Noah (Jarir & Kathir, under 2:63); (4) A people who lived round about Iraq and professed belief in all the Prophets of God and had a special system of prayer and fasting (Kathir). Some Muslim Jurists looked upon الصابئین as a People of the Book, allowing them the same privileges as are allowed to the latter. None of the above-mentioned peoples should, however, be confused with the Sabeans (not Sabians) mentioned by certain commentators of the Bible as people inhabiting ancient Yemen. In this connection see also R. Rel. xl. 129-132.
من آمن بالله (whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah). Here إیمان means true belief, i.e. the belief which counts true in the sight of God and not merely profession of a certain faith. The Quran uses the word إیمان in this sense in 49:15.
This verse wedged in among the verses recounting the iniquities of the Israelites seems rather misplaced. But deeper study shows that it has been most fittingly placed here. In fact, the Quran is not a book of stories but has come with the declared object of uplifting those who have fallen morally and spiritually. It follows a psychological order in perfect conformity with the mental attitude of the reader, interspersing every narrative with fitting hints for his moral and spiritual regeneration. So is the case in this verse. After enumerating certain wrongdoings of the Israelites, the Quran goes on to say that although their sins are great, yet God’s mercy is infinitely greater, and if even now the Israelites, or for that matter, Christians, Sabians or any other people, should turn to God and truly and sincerely believe in Him and the Last Day (these being the two fundamental articles of faith which in principle comprise all others) and follow up their belief with good and righteous deeds, they can become heirs to His grace and mercy.
The verse is important and much difference has arisen about its real meaning. Some who are not in the habit of making a deep study of the Quran have hastily jumped to the conclusion that, according to this verse, belief in Islam is not necessary. They say that anybody, whether he is a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian or any other, who sincerely believes in God and the Last Day and does good deeds will be saved. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Quran emphatically declares in a number of verses that belief in the Holy Prophet and in his revelation is essential. Says God: Surely those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers and desire to make distinction between Allah and His Messengers and say, 'We believe in some and disbelieve in others,' and desire to take a way in between, these indeed are veritable disbelievers; and We have prepared for the disbelievers an humiliating punishment (4:151, 152). Again, And those who believe in the Hereafter believe therein (i.e. the Quran) and they strictly observe their Prayers (6:93). From these two verses it becomes clear beyond any shadow of doubt that according to the Quran (1) belief in the Prophets is part and parcel of belief in God, and (2) belief in the Hereafter includes belief in God’s revelation as well. Elsewhere the Quran says, Surely the true religion with Allah is Islam (complete submission) and whoso seeks a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him and in the life to come he shall be among the losers (3:20, 86). This verse along with the two quoted above definitely proves that the objection mentioned above is entirely baseless and is born of utter ignorance of the real Quranic teachings. In fact, as explained in the above verses, the Quran confines itself to a mention of belief in God and the Last Day, not because belief in the Holy Prophet and the Quran is not essential, but because the former two beliefs include the latter two, the four being essentially inseparable.
What is, then, the real meaning of the verse under comment? A careful study of the verse and its context leaves no doubt that it can have only two possible meanings:
(1) One meaning is that, having recounted a number of wrongs committed by the Israelites, God invites them to an easy and decisive method of establishing which party has His support and which not, and in order to make the argument still more forceful, He includes in the proposed context Jews, Christians and Sabians, the only followers of revealed religions found in and around Arabia. It is evident that in religious matters, when everything else has been said and every other means has been tried, the final criterion for testing the truth of contesting parties is reduced to this: Which party enjoys divine succour and which does not? If God is a Living God and has Himself raised a Prophet for the regeneration of the world, it stands to reason that He would not leave His Messenger alone but would come to his help and show powerful Signs in his support. This phenomenon has repeated itself in the time of each and every Prophet of God. So why not make use of it here in order to distinguish the truth from falsehood? It is to this phase of the matter that the verse under comment invites Jews, Christians, etc. God says, there are now as many as four claimants in the field, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sabians. So let all wait and see whom God’s helping hand succours in the present struggle. In the time of Moses God helped the Israelites against the Egyptians; in the time of Jesus He helped Christians against their opponents, and in, the time of other Prophets He helped their followers against their enemies, and this served as a practical proof of the fact that the truth lay with the Prophets and not with their opponents. The same tried criterion was now available, viz., whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day shall have their reward with their Lord and no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve. The challenge was thrown out to all existing claimants of divine support and the final and unparalleled triumph of Islam against all adversaries gave the clearest of verdicts in favour of the former.
The verse under comment thus contains a mighty prophecy the fulfilment of which in the teeth of all opposition was a wonderful proof of the truth of Islam. And the fulfilment of this prophecy proves to be the more wonderful when one bears in mind the fact that this verse was revealed at a time (it was revealed in the early years of the Hijrah) when Islam was passing through the severest of trials and hardships, and the fate of the new faith was virtually trembling in the balance; nay, so far as worldly causes were concerned, its fate was practically sealed in view of the opposition that remains unparalleled in all history.
It cannot be objected here that after a few centuries of triumph, Muslims too began to decline, thus rendering the argument ineffective. Firstly, the argument, as borne out by the history of all revealed religions’ of the world, does not relate to communities in their ordinary temporal affairs but to those contending on religious issues. The argument particularlyrelates to the time when a Divine Messenger makes his appearance and extends to the period for which a newborn community sticks to the teachings of their Prophet. It would be absurd to think that divine succour should continue forever, even after a people has become dead in faith and works. Secondly, it should be remembered that the present-day decline of Muslims as well as the present-day temporal ascendancy of Christians is itself in accordance with the prophecies of the Holy Prophet of Islam, and hence it is rather a proof of the truth of Islam than a proof against it. Moreover, the wheel is fast turning and the day is not far off when, according to yet another prophecy of the Holy Prophet, Islam will once more gain ascendancy through the Promised Messiah of whom the Prophet himself has spoken as his own image.
(2) The other meaning relates to the spiritual sense. God says, there are now four claimants in the field, i.e. Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sabians. Each one of these groups claims to enjoy true spiritual contact with God. But as everything in this world possesses certain distinguishing marks and properties which go to establish its identity, so is the case with man’s spiritual connection with God which is characterized by certain distinguishing marks or special properties; and the verse goes on to say that one of these distinguishing marks is that people enjoying true spiritual connection with God "have their reward with their Lord and no fear comes upon them nor do they grieve," i.e. God’s connection brings with it perfect peace of mind and complete tranquillity of heart. One is not left in the dark, doubting all the time in the depth of his heart whether one is treading the right path or not, with gnawing grief at one’s past actions and disquieting fears about the future. The heavenly life of a true believer begins in this very world, and this is why the Quran says that a person truly related to God inherits two Heavens, one in this world and the other in the next (55:47). So in the verse under comment. God invites the different claimants to search in their hearts for the peace and tranquillity of mind attending true belief and then say whether they possess it.
Yet another significance of the verse is that lip-profession of a truth is nothing in the sight of God. The Jews professed the truth; but as it did not find its way into their hearts, they stumbled at every step and brought down God’s displeasure on their heads. The verse forcefully points out that it did not matter whether one was apparently a Jew, a Christian, a Sabian or, for that matter, a Muslim. If the faith was confined only to the lip, it was a dead thing, without life and without any motive power in it. In order to be really useful and to become really acceptable in the sight of God, ایمان or faith should not be a mere lip-profession but something rooted deep in the heart with living and healthy branches spreading all around. This was a principle of which even the newborn community of Islam needed to be constantly reminded.
As stated under Important Words, the name الصابئین has been applied to a number of peoples, and it may rightly apply to one or all of them. In fact, the larger the number, the greater the force of the argument contained in the verse. (close)
وَ اِذۡ اَخَذۡنَا مِیۡثَاقَکُمۡ وَ رَفَعۡنَا فَوۡقَکُمُ الطُّوۡرَ ؕ خُذُوۡا مَاۤ اٰتَیۡنٰکُمۡ بِقُوَّۃٍ وَّ اذۡکُرُوۡا مَا فِیۡہِ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۶۴﴾
وَإِذۡ أَخَذۡنَا مِيثَٰقَكُمۡ وَرَفَعۡنَا فَوۡقَكُمُ ٱلطُّورَ خُذُواْ مَآ ءَاتَيۡنَٰكُم بِقُوَّةٖ وَٱذۡكُرُواْ مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ
c. 2:84, 94; 4:155. (close)
d. 7:172. (close)
105. The words do not mean that Mount Sinai was physically lifted up to hang over the heads of the Israelites. They only mean that the covenant was taken at a time when the Israelites were standing at the foot of the Mount. They may also refer to the scene when the Mount Sinai was terribly shaken with an earthquake, while the Israelites were camping at its foot (Exod. 19:2). On such an occasion the shaking of a high mountain peak appears as it were hanging over the heads of those standing near it. (close)
a. 2:84, 94; 4:155. (close)
b. 7:172. (close)
70. Important Words:
میثاق (covenant) is derived from وثق i.e. it was or became firm and established. اوثقه means, he made it firm and fast; he bound or tied it firmly and strongly. میثاق means, a firmly made promise; a covenant (Aqrab & Lane). It should be noted that every commandment of God has the force of a covenant for those who believe, because once an individual or a people believe in God and accept His guidance, they, as it were, enter into a covenant with Him that they will obey all His Commandments, a formal agreement not being necessary. See also 2:28.
رفعنا (We raised high) is derived from رفع which means, he raised or lifted a thing or person; he raised a person in rank, honour, position or dignity; he took a report or complaint to a person in authority (Mufradat & Aqrab). It also means, to make a thing tower above another standing beside it. We read in a hadith رفع لنا صخرة طویلة لھا ظل i.e. a big stone giving good shade was raised above us, i.e. we found ourselves beside a high shady stone (Bukhari, ch. on Hijrah).
فوق (above) is derived from فاق meaning, he surpassed it or him; he stood higher than it or him. Thus فوق is the opposite of "beneath" meaning "above", both literally and figuratively (Aqrab). It is also used to denote a place higher than that which one is occupying. The Quran says: اذجاءوکم من فوقکم i.e. when the enemy made a descent on you from a higher position (33:11).
الطور (the Mount) means: (1) a hill or mountain; (2) the mount Tur or Sinai (Mufradat & Aqrab). Thus, it is both a common and a proper name.
In this verse the Quran again reverts to the previous subject, i.e. the iniquities of the Israelites, but in a different field. The verse refers to the time when Moses went up the Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and left his followers standing at the foot of the Mount (Exod. 19:17). So the covenant spoken of in the verse refers to the Ten Commandments which were given to Moses on this occasion.
The clause We raised high above you the Mount, does not mean that Mount Sinai was physically lifted up to hang over the heads of the Israelites. It only means that the covenant was taken at a time when the Israelites were standing at the foot of the mountain—a meaning quite consistent with the Arabic idiom as explained under Important Words. The raising of the Mount above the Israelites has been ascribed to God, because it was He Who had commanded them to come and stand at the foot of the Mount.
The verse may also refer to the scene when the Mount Sinai was terribly shaken with an earthquake, while the Israelites were camping near it (Exod. 19:18). On such an occasion the shaking of a high mountain peak appears as if it were hanging over the heads of those standing near it. (close)
ثُمَّ تَوَلَّیۡتُمۡ مِّنۡۢ بَعۡدِ ذٰلِکَ ۚ فَلَوۡ لَا فَضۡلُ اللّٰہِ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ رَحۡمَتُہٗ لَکُنۡتُمۡ مِّنَ الۡخٰسِرِیۡنَ ﴿۶۵﴾
ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيۡتُم مِّنۢ بَعۡدِ ذَٰلِكَۖ فَلَوۡلَا فَضۡلُ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَرَحۡمَتُهُۥ لَكُنتُم مِّنَ ٱلۡخَٰسِرِينَ
106. Rahmah (mercy) in contrast to Fadl (grace) is generally spoken in respect of such acts of God as relate to religious or spiritual matters. (close)
71. Important Words:
فضل (grace) is derived from the verb فضل meaning: (1) it remained, the expression being used when a portion remains out of a larger number or quantity, the rest being given away or consumed; (2) it was in excess, or it was over and above a certain measure. Thus the noun فضل means: (1) something that is in excess or additional; (2) abundance; (3) a free gift, the giving of which is not obligatory on the giver; (4) a favour or grace or bounty (Aqrab & Lane). The word فضل is generally, though not always, spoken of such favours as pertain to temporal or worldly things (e.g. 62:11). See also the word رحمةbelow.
رحمة (mercy) is derived from رحم meaning (1) he showed mercy or compassion; (2) he was kind or tender; (3) he was beneficent; (4) he forgave. Thus رحمة means, mercy or compassion or kindness or tenderness or beneficence or forgiveness or inclination to show one of these. As رحم (rihm) means the womb of a woman, the word رحمة would further give the significance of tenderness or compassion as shown by a mother (Lane). رحمة in contrast to فضل (for which see above) is generally spoken of such acts of God’s kindness or mercy as relate to religious or spiritual matters. This is why the Holy Prophet has instructed his followers to ask for God’s رحمة when entering a mosque for Prayers, and for His فضل when coming out of it after Prayers (Tirmidhi).
After receiving God’s commandments on the Mount, the Israelites, instead of strengthening their connection with the Lord, showed laxity and carelessness in observing His behests (Num. 11:1); but as God wanted to uplift them and bestow His grace and mercy on them in matters temporal as well as spiritual, He forgave them their sins and saved them from being the losers. (close)
وَ لَقَدۡ عَلِمۡتُمُ الَّذِیۡنَ اعۡتَدَوۡا مِنۡکُمۡ فِی السَّبۡتِ فَقُلۡنَا لَہُمۡ کُوۡنُوۡا قِرَدَۃً خٰسِئِیۡنَ ﴿ۚ۶۶﴾
وَلَقَدۡ عَلِمۡتُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱعۡتَدَوۡاْ مِنكُمۡ فِي ٱلسَّبۡتِ فَقُلۡنَا لَهُمۡ كُونُواْ قِرَدَةً خَٰسِـِٔينَ
a. 4:48, 155; 7:164; 16:125. (close)
b. 5:61; 7:167. (close)
107. The word "apes" has been used figuratively meaning that the Israelites became abject and mean like the monkeys, the transformation being not in body or form but in character and spirit. "They were not actually transformed into apes, only their hearts were changed" (Mujahid). "God has used the expression figuratively" (Kathir). Had the Qur’an meant their physical transformation into apes the word Khasi’ah would have been used and not Khasi’in which is used for rational beings. By the use of this word it is intended to point out that just as apes or monkeys are abject and despised animals, similarly the Jews will always remain humiliated in the world and, in spite of their great resources in wealth and education, will never be able to gain any stronghold on the earth; the root meaning of the word signifying abjectness and humiliation as well as grovelling in the dust. See also 764. (close)
a. 4:48, 155; 7:164; 16:125. (close)
72. Important Words:
السبت (the Sabbath) is derived from سبت meaning: (1) he rested.; (2) he cut or broke a thing; (3) he shaved his hair; (4) he observed the Sabbath. The noun سبت (Sabbath) signifies that day of the week which is observed as a sacred day in which no worldly work is done (Aqrab & Mufradat). Among the Jews, Saturday was (and still is) observed as a sacred day which was passed in joyfulness and rest from work as well as in contemplation, sacrifice, holy convocation, etc. (Jew. Enc. under "Sabbath").
قردة (apes) is the plural of القرد (the ape) which is derived from the verb قرد meaning, he clove to the ground; he lay in dust. اقرد means, he was or became abject or mean. القردة means, apes or monkeys (Lane).
خاسئین (despised) is the plural of خاسی which is derived from خسأ. They say خسأالکلب i.e. the dog moved away as a result of being driven away; خسأالرجل الکلب means, the man drove away the dog, despising it. Thus the word is both transitive and intransitive. الخاسی means, one who moves away despised by others or one who is spurned by others (Aqrab). الخاسی of which the plural is خاسئین is a word which, according to the rules of Arabic grammar, is used about rational beings only, the word used with regard to animals being خاسئة.
The verse speaks of the Sabbath and its violation by the Israelites. It is pointed out that God’s covenant made it binding on the Israelites, among other things, to keep the Sabbath (Exod. 20:8-11), i.e. observe Saturday as a sacred day devoted to spiritual joyfulness and holy convocation, etc. but, recalcitrant as usual, some among them violated the sanctity of the Sabbath and did not observe it, which brought on them God’s wrath, disgrace and humiliation (Neh. 13:15-18 & Jer. 17:21-23). The violation of the Sabbath was a great sin, inasmuch as it indicated that the Israelites wanted to remain engrossed in worldly affairs and did not like to pay any heed to religion, not even for a single day out of a whole week.
It is wrong to infer from the word قردة (apes) that the profaners of the Sabbath were actually transformed into apes. The incident has been related by the Quran in two other places (5:61, 62 and 7:167-169) and even a cursory study of these verses would show that these people did not actually turn into apes. The word "apes" has been used figuratively meaning that they became abject and mean, like monkeys, the transformation being not in body or form but in character and spirit.
A further proof of this is to be found in the fact that it is a general rule of Arabic grammar that the suffix ون or ین is added to the plurals of such words as refer to rational beings only. In conformity with this rule, the qualifying word used in the verse about قردة is خاسئین which shows that the قردة (apes) here alludes not to irrational but to rational beings, i.e. human beings who had developed the character of apes. Had the Quran meant their actual transformation into apes, it would have used the form خاسئة and not خاسئین.
Many learned commentators of the past have also held the above view. For instance, Mujahid who is considered to be one of the greatest commentators of the Quran, being one of the تابعین (the immediate successors of the Holy Prophet’sCompanions) says: "They were not actually transformed into apes; only their hearts were changed. God has used the expression figuratively" (Kathir). Other eminent authorities have also held the same view, interpreting the words قردة خاسئین (apes despised) as اذلة صاغرین i.e. "abject and humiliated men".
By using the word قردة (apes) about a section of the Jews, God means to point to the fact that just as apes or monkeys are an abject and despised species which, in spite of possessing, in an extraordinary degree, the habit of mimicking or copying others—a habit which, if well directed, should result in progress—ever remain where they are, as if going about in a circle and making no headway at all, similarly the Jews will always remain humiliated in the world, and in spite of wonderful resources in wealth and education will never be able to gain any stronghold on the earth. It is interesting to note that, as explained under Important Words, even in the root meaning of the word قردة there is the sense of abjectness and humiliation as well as that of grovelling in the dust. And what is still more interesting is the fact that, of all the animals found in the world, the advanced people of the West should think of man having descended from the ape. (close)
فَجَعَلۡنٰہَا نَکَالًا لِّمَا بَیۡنَ یَدَیۡہَا وَ مَا خَلۡفَہَا وَ مَوۡعِظَۃً لِّلۡمُتَّقِیۡنَ ﴿۶۷﴾
فَجَعَلۡنَٰهَا نَكَٰلٗا لِّمَا بَيۡنَ يَدَيۡهَا وَمَا خَلۡفَهَا وَمَوۡعِظَةٗ لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ
c. 5:39. (close)
a. 5:39. (close)
73. Important Words:
نکالا (an example) is derived from نکل. They say نکل بفلان i.e. he inflicted on him such a punishment as to make him an example for others (Aqrab).
All punishment, if wisely directed, should serve a twofold purpose: (1) to inflict pain on the offender so as to make him reform in future; (2) to make it a lesson for others so that they may beware of falling into a similar error. But, as the latter part of the verse points out, only such men benefit by punishment as are God-fearing. (close)