Tafseer of Surah al-Baqarah: vs. 55-91

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(ins) The saying of the Exalted, “and sent down to you Manna and quails”: This noble verse shows that Allah blessed the Children of Israel with two types of food – Manna and quails. But there is another verse which indicates that they only had one type of food, and this is the saying of Allah,

  55) And (remember) when you said: “O Moses! We shall never believe in you till we see Allah plainly.” But you were seized with a thunderbolt while you were looking on.

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56) Then We raised you up after your death, so that you might be grateful.

57) And We caused the clouds to overshadow you and sent down to you al-Manna and quails, (saying): “Eat of the good, lawful things We have provided for you.” (But they rebelled) and they did not wrong Us but they wronged themselves.

58) And (remember) when We said: “Enter this town and eat bountifully therein with pleasure and delight wherever you wish, and enter the gate in prostration (or bowing with humility) and say: “Forgive us,” and We shall forgive you your sins and shall increase ( the reward) for the good-doers.

59) But those who did wrong changed the word from that which had been told them for another, so We sent upon the wrongdoers a punishment from the heaven because of their rebelling.

60) And (remember) when Moses asked for water for his people, We said: “strike the stone with your stick.” Then gushed forth therefrom twelve springs. Each (group of) people knew it’s own place for water. “Eat and drink of that which Allah has provided and do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth.”

61) And (remember) when you said: “O Moses! We cannot endure one kind of food. So invoke your Lord for us to bring forth for us of what the earth grows: its herbs, its cucumbers, its wheat, its lentils, and its onions.” He said: “Would you exchange that which is better for that which is worse? Go you down to any town and you shall find what you want!” And they were covered with humiliation and misery, and they drew on themselves the Wrath of Allah. That was because they used to disbelieve in the signs of Allah and killed the Prophets wrongfully. That was because they disobeyed and used to transgress the bounds.

  “And (remember) when you said: O Moses! We cannot endure one type of food.” (2:61)

The reconciliation between these verses can be attained via a number of ways:

  1. That al-Manna, according to the opinion of the majority, a type of drink. Therefore the one type of food would then be the al-Salwa which, according to the majority opinion, is quails.

  2. All that is placed on one table is called ‘one food’ in the language of the Arabs even if the table-spread consists of many different types of food. For example the saying: “I ate the food of the host” even if the food be of different types. It is clear that this explanation is more correct then the first because specifying al-Manna to a type of drink is rejected by the hadeeth reported by both Bukhari and Muslim, “ mushrooms are a type of Manna.”[29] That they called it ‘one type of food’ because it was always the same and never changed from day to day. This is clear.


[The saying of the Exalted,“verily! Those who believe and the Jews and the Christians, and the Sabians, whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous deeds shall have their reward with their Lord”: as-Suddi said, ‘the verse was revealed with regards to companions of Salmaan al-Faarisee about whom he informed the Prophet ﷺ that ‘they prayed, fasted, believed in you and bore witness that you had been sent as a Prophet.’ So when Salmaan had finished extolling them the Prophet ﷺ said, “ O Salmaan they are from the People of the Fire.” This weighed down heavily on Salmaan and then Allah revealed this verse. So the Imaan of the Jews referred to those Jews who held fast to the Tawrah and the sunnah of Moses until Jesus was sent. When Jesus (AS) came then whosoever held fast to the Tawrah and the sunnah of Moses (and did not follow Jesus) was destroyed. The Imaan of the Christians referred to those who held fast to the Injeel and the laws of Jesus – these people were the believers who accepted him. This held true until Muhammad ﷺ came, so whosoever did not follow Muhammad ﷺ and did not leave what he had been following was destroyed.’

This does not negate what Alee bin Abee Talha reports from ibn Abbaas that after this verse was revealed Allah revealed the verse, “whosoever desires a religion other than Islaam then it shall not be accepted from him and in the Hereafter he shall be of the losers.” (3: 85) Here ibn Abbaas is informing that the only thing accepted from someone will that which is in conformity to the Sharee`ah of Muhammad ﷺ after he had been sent. As for those who came before him, then whosoever followed the Messenger of his time then he was upon guidance and the victorious way. So the Jews referred to are the followers of Moses who used to judge by the Tawrah in their time.] [30]

The saying of the Exalted, “ and We raised above you the Mount “: This is further clarified with His saying,

  62) Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and the Sabians, whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.

63) And (remember) when We took your covenant and We raised above you the Mount (saying): “Hold fast to that which We have given you, and remember that which there is therein so that you may become pious.”

  “And (remember) when We raised the mountain over them as if it had been a canopy, and they thought that it was going to fall on them.” (7:171)

The saying of the Exalted, “ hold fast to that which We have given you “: There is no clarification here as to what has been given them, but it is explained in another place that this is the Book that distinguishes between truth and falsehood. This in His saying,

  And (remember) when we gave to Moses the Scripture and Criterion so that you may be guided.” (2:53)


The saying of the Exalted,“and indeed you knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath”: Their story is summarised here but mentioned in detail in Surah al-A`raaf commencing with the verse, “and ask them about the town that was by the sea, when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath.” (7:163)
[The saying of the Exalted,“indeed Allah orders you to slaughter a cow”: “from Ubaydah as-Salmaanee who said:

  64) Then after that you turned away. Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you, indeed you would have been amongst the losers.

65) And indeed you knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. We said to them: “Be you monkeys, despised and rejected.”

66) So we made this punishment an example to their own and to succeeding generations, and a lesson to those who are pious.

67) And (remember) when Moses said to his people: “Indeed, Allah orders you to slaughter a cow.” They said: “Do you make fun of us?” He said: “I seek refuge with Allah from being amongst the ignorant.”

68) They said: “Call upon your Lord for us that He may make plain for us what it is!” He said: ” He says, ‘Verily, it is a cow neither too old nor too young, but it be in-between these two conditions,’ so do what you are commanded.”

69) They said: “Call upon your Lord for us to make it plain to us it’s colour.” He said, “He says, ‘it is a yellow cow, bright in its colour, pleasing to the beholders.’”

70) They said: “Call upon your Lord for us to make plain to us what it is. Indeed all cows are alike (to us). And indeed if Allah Will, we will be guided.”

71) He (Moses) said: “He says, ‘it is a cow neither trained to till the soil nor water the fields, sound, having no colour save bright yellow.’” They said: “Now you have brought the truth.” So they slaughtered it though they were near to not doing it.

72) And (remember) when you killed a person and fell into dispute among yourselves as to the crime. But Allah brought forth that which you were hiding.

73) So We said: “Strike him (the dead man) with a piece of the cow.” Thus Allah brings the dead to life and shows you His signs so that you may understand.

  a person from the Children of Israel was sterile and he had a great deal of wealth. The son of his brother was the inheritor of this wealth, so he killed the sterile man, then he carried him by night and placed him on the door of someone else. In the morning he claimed that this other person had killed the sterile man. A war broke out between them, and some of the people who were endowed with reason said, ‘why fight each other when the Messenger of Allah is amongst you?’ They then went to Moses and mentioned the incident to him and He said, ‘ Indeed Allah orders you to slaughter a cow…’”[31]

The saying of the Exalted,“call upon your Lord for us that He may make plain for us what it is!”: there is no explanation as to what their purpose was behind their asking, ‘that He may make plain for us what it is’except that the answer to their question in the first instance indicates that they were enquiring about it’s age. The evidence for this lies in His saying, “he said, ‘He says: Verily it is a cow neither too old nor too young.’ “

And that that the purpose in their asking the question in the second instance was to ascertain whether it was used for work, or if it had any deficiencies, or if it had any blemishes that differed from it’s normal colour. The evidence for this lies in His saying, “he said, ‘He says: Indeed it a cow neither trained to till the soil nor water the fields, sound, having no colour save bright yellow.’”

The saying of the Exalted, “and (remember) when you killed a person and fell into dispute among yourselves as to the crime”: There is no clarification here as to the sex of this person, but his being male is indicated in His saying, “ Strike him with a piece of the cow.

The saying of the Exalted,“thus Allah brings the dead to life and shows you His signs”: indicating in this verse that in the resurrection of the one killed by the Children of Israel lies an evidence for the resurrection of mankind after their death. This because the One Who is able to resurrect one soul after it’s death is able to resurrect all of the souls after their death. This is clarified in His saying,

  “The creation of you all and the resurrection of you all are only as (the creation and resurrection) of a single person.” (31:28)


The saying of the Exalted,“then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones”: There is no explanation here as to reason behind their hearts becoming hardened, but the reason is indicated in other places such as His sayings,

  74) Then, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness. And indeed, there are stones out of which rivers gush forth, and indeed, there are of them that split asunder so that water flows from them, and indeed, there are of them that fall down for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.

75) Do you covet that they (the Jews) will believe in your religion despite the fact that a party of them used to hear the Word of Allah, then they used to distort it knowingly after they understood it?

76) And when they meet those who believe, they say, “we believe,” but when they meet one another in private, they say, ‘shall you tell them what Allah has revealed to you so that they may argue with you about it before your Lord?”[32 ] Have you no understanding?

77) Know they not that Allah Knows what they conceal and what they reveal?

78) And there are among them unlettered people, who know not the Book but they trust their false desires and do but guess.

[There hearts were not likened to iron, even though it is harder than rock because iron can be softened by fire as it was softened for Daawood (AS) while stones can never be softened. Then Allah went on to declare the rocks to be superior to these hardened hearts by saying,‘and indeed there are stones out of which rivers gush forth and indeed there are some of them that split asunder so that water flows from them.’][33]
[The saying of the Exalted,“and indeed, there are some of them, that fall down for fear of Allah”: while your hearts, O you Jews, do not become soft and do not fear Allah! So if it is said, ‘but the stones are inanimate objects that do not possess the faculty of understanding so how can they fear?’ It is said in reply, ‘Allah makes them to understand and inspires them to fear Him.’

The madhhab of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa`ah is that Allah has created a type of knowledge in the inanimate objects, in fact in all of the creatures, which is not the same as our intelligence and cannot be comprehended by others. So they pray, glorify Allah and fear Him as He, Magnificent is He, said,

  “So because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard.” (5:13)

“Has not the time come for those who believe to be affected by Allah’s Reminder, and that which has been revealed of the Truth, lest they become like those who received the Scripture before and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts became hardened.” (57:16)

So it is obligatory upon the believer to have faith in this, and relegate the knowledge (of the nature of this) to Allah, the Exalted.][34]
The saying of the Exalted, “and there are among them unlettered people, who know not the Book but trust their false desires ( Amaaniyya)”: The scholars differed about the meaning of Amaaniy falling into two opinions:
1.That the meaning of amniyyah is reading. Meaning that they did not know anything of the Book except for the mere recitation of its words but without any understanding of its meanings. But this opinion bears no relation to His saying, “and there are among them unlettered people” because the unlettered one cannot read.

2. That the exception has been left incomplete, and the meaning is that they do not know the Book, but they put their hopes in false desires. This is opinion is proven by His sayings,

  “The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein glorify Him, and there is not a thing but glorifies His praise.” (17:44)

“And the birds with wings outspread (in flight), each one knows its prayer and glorification.” (24:41)

“See you not that to Allah prostrates whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the animals, and many of mankind?” (22:18)


  “And they say: ‘none shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.’ These are their own vain desires (Amaaniyyuhum)” (2:111)

“It will not be in accordance with your (Muslims) desires (Amaaniyyukum) and neither the desires (Amaaniy) of the People of the Book. Whosoever works evil, will have the recompense thereof, and he will not find any protector or helper besides Allah.” (4:123)

The saying of the Exalted,“but inspite of this, it is you who kill one another (lit: yourselves)”: meaning you kill your brothers (in faith), and what clarifies that this is the intended meaning is the frequent occurrence of this phrase in the Qur`aan, such as His saying, “ do not defame yourselves” (49:11) meaning: one of you is not to defame his brother. And like His saying, “ why then, did not the believers, men and women, when you heard it (the slander) think good of themselves and say: ‘this is an obvious lie,’” (24:12) meaning: think good of their brothers. And like His saying, “and kill yourselves,” (2:54) meaning: that the one free of worshipping the calf should kill the one guilty of this. And other such verses.

This meaning is further clarified with his ﷺ saying,

  79) So woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say, “this is from Allah,” to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn thereby.

80) And they (the Jews) say: “the Fire shall not touch us save for a few numbered days.” Say: “have you taken a covenant from Allah, so that Allah will not break His Covenant? Or is it that you say of Allah what you know not?”

81) Yes! Whosoever earns evil and his sin has surrounded him are the dwellers of the Fire, and they will abide therein forever.

82) And those who believe and do righteous deeds, they are dwellers of Paradise to abide therein forever.

83) And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, (saying): “Worship none but Allah and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and the poor who beg, and speak good to the people, and establish the prayers, and give the Zakat.” Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you paid no heed.

84) And (remember) when We took your covenant (saying): “shed not the blood of your people, nor turn out your own people from their dwellings.” Then (this) you ratified and (to this) you bear witness.

85) But inspite of this, it is you who kill one another and drive out a party of you from their homes, and assist (their enemies) against them in sin and transgression. And if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, although their expulsion was forbidden to you. Then do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do so amongst you except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Judgement they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.

86) Such are the ones who have bought the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter. Their torment shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped.

 “ “indeed the similitude of the believers with respect to their mutual mercy and love is as a single body. If one organ of it is afflicted then the whole body is afflicted with sleeplessness and fever.”

The saying of the Exalted,“then do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in the rest?”: it is clear from what has preceded this verse that the part that they believed in was their ransoming the captives, and the part they disbelieved in was their expelling their brothers in faith from their homes, killing them and helping their enemies against them even though they may disbelieve in other parts of the Book and believe in yet other parts.


The saying of the Exalted, “ and We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs”: there is no explanation here as to what these signs were but this is explained in other places, such as in His saying,

  87) And indeed We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of Messengers. And We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs and supported him with the Holy Spirit. Is it that whenever there came to you a Messenger with what you yourselves desired not, you grew arrogant? Some you disbelieved in and some you killed.

88) And they say: “our hearts are wrappings.” Nay, Allah cursed them for their disbelief, so little is it that they believe.

89) And when there came to them (the Jews) a Book from Allah confirming what is with them, although aforetime they had invoked Allah in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved, then when there came to them that which the recognised, they disbelieved in it. So let the curse of Allah be on the disbelievers.

90) Evil is that for which they have sold themselves, that they should disbelieve in that which Allah has revealed, grudging that Allah should reveal of His Grace unto whom He Wills of His slaves. So they have drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath. And for the disbelievers, there is a humiliating torment.

91) And when it is said to them: “believe in what Allah has sent down,” they say, “we believe in what was sent down to us.” And they disbelieve in that which came after it, while it is the truth confirming what is with them. Say: “why then have you killed the Prophets of Allah aforetime, if indeed you have been believers?”

  “And will make him a Messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you out of clay, as it were a figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by the leave of Allah, and I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by the leave of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Surely, therein is a sign for you, if you believe.’” (3:49)

And other verses.

The saying of the Exalted, “and supported him with the Holy Spirit”: meaning Gabriel according to the correct opinion, this is proven by His sayings,

(ins) The saying of the Exalted, “ is it that whenever there came to you a Messenger with what you yourselves desired not, you grew arrogant? Some you disbelieved in and some you killed.”: This verse shows that they killed some of the Prophets and likewise His saying,

  “And truly this is a revelation from the Lord of the universe. Which the Trustworthy Spirit (i.e. Gabriel) has brought down.” (26: 192-193)

“She (Mary) placed a screen (to screen herself) from them, then We sent Our Spirit (Gabriel) to her, and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.” (19:17)

  “Say: Indeed there came before me Messengers, with clear signs and even with what you speak of, why then did you kill them if you are truthful?” (3:183)

But there are other verses that prove that the Messengers shall be victorious and aided by Allah, such as His sayings,

At the end of this verse Allah has explained that this help shall also be realised in this world (and not just the hereafter) and He has clarified this further in another place,

  “Allah has decreed: Verily! It is I and My Messengers who shall be the victorious.” (58:21)

“And indeed Our Word has gone forth of old for Our slaves – the Messengers that they verily would be made triumphant, and that Our hosts, they verily would be the victors.” (37: 171-173)

“And those who disbelieved said to their Messengers: ‘Surely, we shall drive you out of our land, or you shall return to our religion.’ So their Lord inspired them: ‘Truly We shall destroy the wrong-doers. And indeed We shall make you dwell in the land after them.’” (14:13-14)

  “Verily, We shall certainly make Our Messengers victorious, and those who believe, in the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand forth.” (40:51)

The clear answer to this (apparent inconsistency) is that the Messengers are of two types: the type that has been commanded to fight in the Path of Allah and the type that has been commanded to be patient and persevere the harms of the people. So Allah has promised those who have been commanded to fight with help and victory. As for those that have been commanded to persevere then they are the ones who were killed so that Allah may raise their already exalted station due to their being oppressed. This understanding is clearly derived from these verses, because the promise of help and victory contains a clear indication towards the duty of Jihaad and war.

Also taking to the opinion that the help and victory for the Messengers lay in their being given clear evidences and proofs leaves no difficulty in understanding these verses. Allah knows best.


Footnotes

{29} From Sa’eed bin Zayd that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “the Kam’a (a type of edible fungus) is from the Manna and its water is a cure for eye trouble.” [Saheeh Bukhari Eng. Trans 6/7 no.5]

{30} ‘Tafseer ibn Katheer’ (1/182)

{31} ‘Tafseer ibn Katheer’ (1/194)

{32} Meaning that when the Jews were alone they used to acknowledge the truth of what Muhammad ﷺ came with but forbade each other from making this known lest the Arabs gain an upper hand over them.

{33}‘Mu’aalim at-Tanzeel’ (1/110) of Imaam al-Baghawee

{34} Ibid. (1/111)

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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