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)
وَ اِذۡ قَالَ مُوۡسٰی لِقَوۡمِہٖۤ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یَاۡمُرُکُمۡ اَنۡ تَذۡبَحُوۡا بَقَرَۃً ؕ قَالُوۡۤا اَتَتَّخِذُنَا ہُزُوًا ؕ قَالَ اَعُوۡذُ بِاللّٰہِ اَنۡ اَکُوۡنَ مِنَ الۡجٰہِلِیۡنَ ﴿۶۸﴾
وَإِذۡ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوۡمِهِۦٓ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأۡمُرُكُمۡ أَن تَذۡبَحُواْ بَقَرَةٗۖ قَالُوٓاْ أَتَتَّخِذُنَا هُزُوٗاۖ قَالَ أَعُوذُ بِٱللَّهِ أَنۡ أَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلۡجَٰهِلِينَ
74. Important Words:
ھزوا (a jest) means: (1) jest; (2) the object or butt of a joke (Lisan). See also 2:14.
Here begins an account of another Israelite wrong which was allied to their worship of the calf. Though the calf mentioned in 2:52 was destroyed, yet veneration for the cow lingered in their hearts. The verse, along with those that follow, will be explained under verse 72 below. (close)
قَالُوا ادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُبَیِّنۡ لَّنَا مَا ہِیَ ؕ قَالَ اِنَّہٗ یَقُوۡلُ اِنَّہَا بَقَرَۃٌ لَّا فَارِضٌ وَّ لَا بِکۡرٌ ؕ عَوَانٌۢ بَیۡنَ ذٰلِکَ ؕ فَافۡعَلُوۡا مَا تُؤۡمَرُوۡنَ ﴿۶۹﴾
قَالُواْ ٱدۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُۥ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٞ لَّا فَارِضٞ وَلَا بِكۡرٌ عَوَانُۢ بَيۡنَ ذَٰلِكَۖ فَٱفۡعَلُواْ مَا تُؤۡمَرُونَ
75. Important Words:
فارض (old) is derived from فرض. They say فرضت البقرة meaning, the cow became old (Lane).
اعوان (full-grown) is derived from عان. They say عانت المراة i.e. the woman attained middle age. So عوان is said of one that has attained middle age. الحرب العوان means, the hottest and bloodiest part of a battle (Aqrab).
See under 2:72. (close)
قَالُوا ادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُبَیِّنۡ لَّنَا مَا لَوۡنُہَا ؕ قَالَ اِنَّہٗ یَقُوۡلُ اِنَّہَا بَقَرَۃٌ صَفۡرَآءُ ۙ فَاقِعٌ لَّوۡنُہَا تَسُرُّ النّٰظِرِیۡنَ ﴿۷۰﴾
قَالُواْ ٱدۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا لَوۡنُهَاۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُۥ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٞ صَفۡرَآءُ فَاقِعٞ لَّوۡنُهَا تَسُرُّ ٱلنَّـٰظِرِينَ
76. Important Words:
صفراء (of a dun colour) is the feminine from أصفر which signifies a thing having the colour of gold; yellow-coloured or saffron-coloured (Aqrab).
فاقع (pure and rich) is derived from فقع which means: (1) it was of a rich, pure and unmixed colour; or (2) its golden colour was rich and pure. فاقع means: (1) possessing pure and rich colour; (2) possessing rich and pure golden colour. Thus it is both general and particular (Aqrab).
قَالُوا ادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُبَیِّنۡ لَّنَا مَا ہِیَ ۙ اِنَّ الۡبَقَرَ تَشٰبَہَ عَلَیۡنَا ؕ وَ اِنَّاۤ اِنۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ لَمُہۡتَدُوۡنَ ﴿۷۱﴾
قَالُواْ ٱدۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَ إِنَّ ٱلۡبَقَرَ تَشَٰبَهَ عَلَيۡنَا وَإِنَّآ إِن شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَمُهۡتَدُونَ
77. Important Words:
البقر (cows) is the plural ofالبقرة (a cow). The word is used for both male and female (Aqrab).
قَالَ اِنَّہٗ یَقُوۡلُ اِنَّہَا بَقَرَۃٌ لَّا ذَلُوۡلٌ تُثِیۡرُ الۡاَرۡضَ وَ لَا تَسۡقِی الۡحَرۡثَ ۚ مُسَلَّمَۃٌ لَّا شِیَۃَ فِیۡہَا ؕ قَالُوا الۡـٰٔنَ جِئۡتَ بِالۡحَقِّ ؕ فَذَبَحُوۡہَا وَ مَا کَادُوۡا یَفۡعَلُوۡنَ ﴿٪۷۲﴾
قَالَ إِنَّهُۥ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٞ لَّا ذَلُولٞ تُثِيرُ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ وَلَا تَسۡقِي ٱلۡحَرۡثَ مُسَلَّمَةٞ لَّا شِيَةَ فِيهَاۚ قَالُواْ ٱلۡـَٰٔنَ جِئۡتَ بِٱلۡحَقِّۚ فَذَبَحُوهَا وَمَا كَادُواْ يَفۡعَلُونَ
a. 67:16. (close)
108. The Israelites had lived for a long time among the Egyptians who had great veneration for the cow. Thus reverence for this animal had crept into their minds also. This is why, when they made an idol for themselves, they made it in the shape of a calf (Qur’an 2:52 & Exod. 32:4). In order that their minds should have been purged of the feeling of veneration for the cow, they were repeatedly commanded to sacrifice it (Num. 19:1-9; Lev. 4:1-21; 16:3, 11). It seems that they had a particular cow, which served as a pet among them, and they had a misgiving that the order pertained to it. So they repeatedly asked Moses to specify the cow which God meant to be slaughtered, and as a result of their questioning some conditions were added to specify the animal. (close)
The Israelites had lived for a long time among the Egyptians who had great veneration for the cow. Thus reverence for the cow had crept into the minds of the Israelites as well. This is why, when they made an idol for themselves, they made it in the shape of a calf (Quran 2:52 & Exod. 32:4). It was, therefore, quite in the fitness of things that, in order to root out this evil inclination from the hearts of the Israelites, they should have been repeatedly commanded to sacrifice the cow. And this was actually the case (Num. 19:1-9; Lev. 4:1-21; 16:3, 11; etc.) A nation which freely slaughters an animal can never think of deifying it.
In the verses under comment, i.e. vv. 68 to 72, mention is made of Moses having ordered the Israelites to sacrifice a cow. It appears that at first they were bidden to sacrifice an ordinary cow, but it seems they had a particular cow which served as a pet among them and they had a natural misgiving that the order pertained to that cow. So they repeatedly asked Moses to specify the cow which God meant to be slaughtered, and as a result of their questionings some conditions were added to specify the animal. Finally, when the description given by Moses corresponded to the particular cow which they had in view, they had perforce to say, Now hast thou brought the truth, the words showing that from the very beginning they had in their mind some particular cow to which they thought the command pertained. Caught in their own net, they were guided aright and had to slaughter the very cow which served as a pet among them and thus a great step was taken to uproot the evil from their hearts.
This incident finds mention in the Bible also (Num. 19:1-9). The Quranic version, however, differs slightly from that of the Bible. According to the Quran, the Israelites were at first ordered to slaughter an ordinary cow, and it was only on their repeated questioning that descriptions were added to specify it. On the other hand, the Biblical version makes no mention of this questioning, but tells us that at the very outset the Israelites were ordered to slaughter a cow answering a particular description. Again, the narrative of the Quran, shows that it was with great reluctance that the Israelites finally complied with the command, but the Bible throws no light on the manner in which the divine behest was carried out. It is not difficult to see on which side the truth lies. It is too much to believe that the Israelites, who were ever ready to quarrel with Moses on receipt of an injunction against their wishes, should have carried out, without question, the order relating to the slaughter of a cow. (close)
وَ اِذۡ قَتَلۡتُمۡ نَفۡسًا فَادّٰرَءۡتُمۡ فِیۡہَا ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ مُخۡرِجٌ مَّا کُنۡتُمۡ تَکۡتُمُوۡنَ ﴿ۚ۷۳﴾
وَإِذۡ قَتَلۡتُمۡ نَفۡسٗا فَٱدَّـٰرَٰٔتُمۡ فِيهَاۖ وَٱللَّهُ مُخۡرِجٞ مَّا كُنتُمۡ تَكۡتُمُونَ
109. Qataltum means, you sought, attempted, claimed, or made up your mind, to kill (40:29), or you made him appear as dead; you almost killed him. They say Qatala-hu, i.e. he rendered him like one killed physically or morally (Lane). The famous saying of ‘Umar, viz. Uqtulu Sa‘dan, has been taken to signify, render Sa‘d like one who is, to all intents and purposes, dead. (close)
109A. Nafsan used as Nakirah, i.e. in an undefined form, according to Arabic grammar may refer to a very important personage (Mutawwal).
In the foregoing verses some of the evil practices and crimes of the Jews were mentioned. This verse refers to their crowning guilt, i.e. they sought to kill Jesus on the Cross and thus to show that according to the Bible he was a false prophet (Deut. 21:23). In this nefarious attempt they utterly failed. Jesus was taken down from the Cross alive but like one dead. For the historical fact that Jesus did not die on the Cross but was taken down alive like one dead. See 2000. (close)
109B. The clause signifies that a time will come when the truth about Jesus’s death will come to light and the mask which had so long been hanging over the incident will be lifted. (close)
79. Important Words:
قتلتم (you slew) is derived from قتل which means: (1) he killed; (2) he attempted to kill; (3) he rendered a person like unto one killed (see also 2:62).
نفساً (a person) has been used here as نکرة i.e. in an indefinite or undefined form. It may, according to the rules of the Arabic language, refer either to an unimportant person that need not be named, or to a very important personage; for sometimes a word used as نکرة denotes a sense of greatness (Mutawwal).
فادارءتم (differed among yourselves) is derived from درأ meaning, he repelled it or he thrust it back. ادارءتم is originally تدارءتمmeaning: (1) you repelled one another by casting blame or responsibility on one another; (2) you disagreed or differed among yourselves (Aqrab & Lane).
تکتمون (you concealed). See 2:34.
See under next verse. (close)
فَقُلۡنَا اضۡرِبُوۡہُ بِبَعۡضِہَا ؕ کَذٰلِکَ یُحۡیِ اللّٰہُ الۡمَوۡتٰی ۙ وَ یُرِیۡکُمۡ اٰیٰتِہٖ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَعۡقِلُوۡنَ ﴿۷۴﴾
فَقُلۡنَا ٱضۡرِبُوهُ بِبَعۡضِهَاۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُحۡيِ ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمَوۡتَىٰ وَيُرِيكُمۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَعۡقِلُونَ
110. Darb meaning the like of a thing (Lane), the verb Daraba is used in different tenses in 13:18; 16:75 & 43:58 as signifying "comparison." So the expression Idribu-hu Bi-ba‘diha may be interpreted as "compare the condition of Jesus in which he was taken down from the Cross as almost dead with the condition of persons who were considered dead while in reality they were not dead but only appeared as such; and you will discover the truth about the supposed death of Jesus." (close)
a. 2:180. (close)
110A. The clause may signify: This is how God gave Jesus a new lease of life after he was almost dead, Mauta being the plural of Mait which means, one like dead or near death (Lane). Here the word Mauta would be taken in this sense because according to the Qur’an those actually dead never come back to life (21:96 & 23:101).
The verse may also be rendered as: Then We said, "Smite him (the murderer) for a part of his offence. Thus doth Allah give life to the dead and show you His Signs that you may understand." According to this meaning this and the preceding verse will refer to the murder of a Muslim by the Jews at Medina. On his arrival at Medina the Holy Prophet had entered into a treaty of peace and mutual good relations with the Jews. But the growing prosperity and success of Islam gradually roused their jealousy and some of their leaders, Ka‘b bin Ashraf being foremost among them, began secretly to excite their people against Muslims. A short time after the Battle of Badr a Muslim lady happened to go to the shop of a Jew to make some purchases. The shopkeeper behaved very insultingly towards her. The helpless lady cried for help. A Muslim who happened to be nearby went to her help and in the scuffle which followed the shopkeeper was killed, whereupon the Jews fell upon him and murdered him. When the case came to be investigated none of the miscreants who had taken part in the heinous act would admit the guilt and every one of them sought to shift the responsibility for it to others. This murder of a Muslim was not an isolated mischievous act on the part of the Jews. Their behaviour daily had grown insulting and provocative and they were always on the look out to create fresh disturbances (Hisham), and also secretly plotted the assassination of the Holy Prophet himself (Isabah). Ka‘b bin Ashraf was the arch-enemy and the chief instigator of all these disturbances and plots. He had even gone to Mecca and with his powerful eloquence had made the Quraish, who were smarting under their ignominious defeat at Badr, take a solemn oath with the skirts of the Ka‘bah in their hands, that they would know no rest until they had destroyed Islam and its Founder. Ka‘b also got widely circulated most scurrilous poems against the ladies of the Holy Prophet’s family. So, for his repeated acts of treachery and mischief and as a punishment for the death of the innocent Muslim he was ordered to be put to death. The sentence of death was only a partial punishment of the offence, the rest of the punishment being reserved for the Hereafter. By using the word Qataltum in the plural number, the Qur’an holds the entire Jewish community of Medina responsible for the murder. For the sentence of death, however, the ring-leader was marked out, the pronoun hu referring to Ka‘b. According to this meaning of the verse the words, Thus doth Allah give life to the dead signify that retaliation is an effective form of giving life to the dead, for in this way the would-be assassins are prevented from further murders. That retaliation is a most potent means of giving life to the dead is alluded to in (2:180). Moreover, the Arabs of the "Days of Ignorance" regarded a murdered person whose blood was not avenged as dead and regarded as living the person whose blood was fully avenged. Says the famous Arab poet Harith bin Hilzah: "In Nabashtum ma Baina Milhata was-Saqib, Fihal-Amwatu wal Ahya’u, i.e. if you dig out the graves between Malhah and Saqib, you will find therein dead as well as living, i.e. those whose murder has been avenged. (close)
80. Important Words:
الموتی (the dead, i.e. dead persons) is the plural of میت (a dead person) which means: (1) one really dead; (2) one like dead (3) one dying or nearing death (Lane). See also under 2:20, 2:29 & 2:57.
In the preceding verses God related some of the misdeeds of the Israelites in order to bring home to them the fact that, in face of such conduct on their part, it was idle to expect that God would continue to bestow favours on them. In the verses under comment i.e. 2:73, 74, 75, God recounts one of their final misdeeds which filled the cup of their iniquity to overflowing and sealed their fate.
The Quran has not named the person slain, but when read with the context and the relevant facts of history, the verses appear to apply to the murder of a Companion of the Holy Prophet by the Jews at Medina. Following are some of the details of the incident which was the first public act of enmity perpetrated by the Medinite Jews against Muslims.
The Holy Prophet, on his arrival at Medina, entered into a treaty with the Jews. But the growing prosperity and success of Islam gradually roused the jealousy of the Jewish leaders and some of them began secretly to incite their people against the Muslims. The crisis came with the Battle of Badr when the jealousy of the Jews reached its highest pitch. The result was that the Jews were emboldened and assumed a highly insolent attitude towards Islam. A short time after the said battle, a Muslim lady happened to go to a Jew’s shop to make some purchases. The shopkeeper and the other Jews sitting at the shop behaved very insultingly toward her, and the shopkeeper mischievously fastened the lower part of her mantle to the upper part thereof with a thorn so that when, being unable to bear their insults, she unsuspectingly rose to depart, part of her body became naked, at which the shopkeeper and other Jews burst out laughing. This made the helpless lady cry for help. A Muslim happened to be near. Hearing her cry, he rushed to the place and in the fight that ensued the shopkeeper was killed, whereupon the Jews fell upon the Muslim and murdered him and the situation threatened to develop into a sort of a riot. This happened towards the close of the second year of the Hijrah. It is with reference to this murder that the preceding verse says, and remember the time when you slew a person and differed among yourselves about it. The Jews differed among themselves about the murder, for none of them admitted that he had committed it, though all adopted a highly insulting attitude towards the Holy Prophet when he exhorted the Jewish leaders to fear God and abstain from jeopardising the peace of the city. The result was ongoing enmity between the Jewish tribe of Banu Qainuqa‘ and the Muslims culmin-ating in the banishment of the tribe from Medina (Hisham, Tabari & Zurqani).
But the real responsibility lay on the ringleader of the Medinite Jews—Ka‘b bin Ashraf—who had taken a leading part in inciting the Jewish tribes and kindling their hatred against the Muslims. The man was looked upon as their leader by the Jews of the whole of Arabia. He was a very rich man and a poet of eminence. Ka‘b was also a party to the treaty which was concluded between the Jews and the Holy Prophet on the arrival of the latter in Medina. Inwardly, however, he harboured deep hatred against Islam and its Holy Founder which grew in intensity as Islam made progress. When the Muslims won a decisive victory at Badr, Ka‘b, realizing that Islam was taking a deep root in the soil, thought it imperative to make strenuous efforts to extirpate the new faith. So he at once started for Mecca and there, with the aid of his powerful eloquence and stirring verses, set ablaze the fire of enmity and hatred that was already smouldering in the hearts of the Quraish, and with the skirts of the sacred curtain of the Ka‘bah in their hands, he made them take a solemn oath that they would know no rest until they had destroyed Islam and its Founder. Thereafter he toured among other tribes of Arabia and stirred them up against the Prophet and the small body of his followers. Having lighted up the fire of hatred and enmity throughout the land, he returned to Medina and began to create mischief by making scurrilous poems in which mention was made of Muslim women and the ladies nearly related to the Holy Prophet, in the most offensive language. These verses were widely published and were publicly recited by the enemies of Islam. The result of these tactics was that feelings of extreme hatred were excited in the minds of the Jews who assumed an openly hostile attitude to the Holy Prophet and his Companions, throwing to the winds their treaty obligations. It was this attitude of the Jews which emboldened them to commit such offences as the one referred to above, in open defiance of the terms of the treaty they had concluded with the Holy Prophet on his arrival at Medina (Hisham, Zurqani & Dawud).
Thus the real culprit responsible for the assassination of the Muslim referred to above was no other than Ka‘b bin Ashraf, the bold and wicked Jewish leader, who had instigated the Jews to rebellion and breach of contract. He even did not hesitate to plot against the life of the Holy Prophet (Zurqani). His guilt was an established fact. He was guilty of high treason against the State and was the arch-enemy of peace. So he was put to death by the Prophet’s command in the third year of Hijrah. It is to this sentence of death that the present verse refers when it says: then We said, "Smite him (the murderer, i.e. the real culprit) for a part of the offence against him (the murdered person)”, which meant that the sentence of death was only a partial punishment of the offence, the rest of the punishment being reserved for the Hereafter. In fact, there are certain sins which are atoned for by the punishment which is inflicted for them on the offender in this world. But the offence of wilfully killing an innocent man and particularly one who is a righteous servant of the Lord, is not adequately punished with the execution of the murderer, which is only a partial punishment. The real punishment of such an offence is Hell (4:94).
By using the word قتلتم (you slew) in the plural number, the Quran hints that the whole Jewish community of Medinawas responsible for it. For the sentence of death, however, the ringleader, who had brought about a tense atmosphere of hatred and enmity, was selected.
The clause, thus Allah gives life to the dead, signifies that retaliation is an effective form of giving life to the dead, for punishing the offender prevents the would-be assassins from committing further murders, and thus many who would otherwise have been victims of assassination are saved. That retaliation is a sure means of giving life is clearly alluded to in the Quran itself. We read in 2:180, and there is life for you in the law of retaliation, O men of understanding.
Finally, it may be noted that these verses have also been applied to the attempted murder of Jesus by the Jews (for which see Part I of the Quran published by Anjuman Taraqqi Islam, Qadian, in 1916), but recent research strongly supports the above explanation. It may also be noted that the interpretation put on this verse by some commentators that a physically dead person was restored to life is quite erroneous, being unsupported by the context of the verse as well as the authentic teaching of Islam. It is a mere legend which has no foundation in fact. (close)