Al Baqara

Encouraging the Children of Israel to embrace Islam

2.40-41 Kathir – Ibn Al Kathir

Encouraging the Children of Israel to embrace Islam

Allah commanded the Children of Israel to embrace Islam and to follow Muhammad. He also reminded them with the example of their father Israel, Allah’s Prophet Ya`qub, as if saying, “O children of the pious, righteous servant of Allah who obeyed Allah! Be like your father, following the truth.” This statement is similar to one’s saying, “O you son of that generous man! Do this or that” or, “O son of the brave man, engage the strong fighters,” or “O son of the scholar, seek the knowledge,” and so forth. Similarly, Allah said,

ذُرِّيَّةَ مَنْ حَمَلْنَا مَعَ نُوحٍ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَبْدًا شَكُورًا

(O offspring of those whom We carried (in the ship) with Nuh (Noah)! Verily, he was a grateful servant) (17:3).

Israel is Prophet Ya`qub (Jacob)

Israel is Prophet Ya`qub, for Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that `Abdullah Ibn `Abbas said, “A group of Jews came to the Prophet and he said to them,

«هَلْ تَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ إِسْرَائِيلَ يَعْقُوبُ؟»

(Do you know that Israel is Jacob) They said, “Yes, by Allah.” He said,

«اللَّهُمَّ اشْهَد»

(O Allah! Be witness.)”

At-Tabari recorded that `Abdullah Ibn `Abbas said that `Israel’ means, `the servant of Allah.’

Allah’s Blessings for the Children of Israel

Allah said,

اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِى أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ

(Remember My favor which I bestowed upon you).

Mujahid commented, “Allah’s favor that He granted the Jews is that He made water gush from stones, sent down manna and quails for them, and saved them from being enslaved by Pharaoh.” Abu Al-`Aliyah also said, “Allah’s favor mentioned here is His sending Prophets and Messengers among them, and revealing Books to them.” I – Ibn Kathir – say that this Ayah is similar to what Musa said to the Children of Israel,

يَـقَوْمِ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ جَعَلَ فِيكُمْ أَنْبِيَآءَ وَجَعَلَكُمْ مُّلُوكاً وَءَاتَـكُمْ مَّا لَمْ يُؤْتِ أَحَداً مِّن الْعَـلَمِينَ

(O my people! Remember the favor of Allah to you: when He made Prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the nations (of their time) (5:20) meaning, during their time. Also, Muhammad bin Ishaq said that Ibn `Abbas said,

اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِى أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ

(Remember My favor which I bestowed upon you,) means, “My support for you and your fathers,” that is saving them from Pharaoh and his people.

Reminding the Children of Israel of Allah’s Covenant with Them

Allah’s statement,

وَأَوْفُواْ بِعَهْدِى أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ

(And fulfill (your obligations to) My covenant (with you) so that I fulfill (My obligations to) your covenant (with Me),) means, `My covenant that I took from you concerning Prophet Muhammad, when he is sent to you, so that I grant you what I promised you if you believe in him and follow him. I will then remove the chains and restrictions that were placed around your necks, because of the errors that you committed.’ Also, Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “The `covenant’ is in reference to Allah’s statement, i

وَلَقَدْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِيثَـقَ بَنِى إِسْرَءِيلَ وَبَعَثْنَا مِنهُمُ اثْنَىْ عَشَرَ نَقِيباً وَقَالَ اللَّهُ إِنِّى مَعَكُمْ لَئِنْ أَقَمْتُمُ الصَّلوةَ وَءَاتَيْتُمْ الزَّكَوةَ وَءَامَنتُمْ بِرُسُلِى وَعَزَّرْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَقْرَضْتُمُ اللَّهَ قَرْضاً حَسَناً لأُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَـتِكُمْ وَلأدْخِلَنَّكُمْ جَنَّـتٍ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهَا الاٌّنْهَـرُ

(Indeed, Allah took the covenant from the Children of Israel (Jews), and We appointed twelve leaders among them. And Allah said: “I am with you if you perform As-Salah and give Zakah and believe in My Messengers; honor and assist them, and lend a good loan to Allah, verily, I will expiate your sins and admit you to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise)) (5:12).”

Other scholars said, “The covenant is what Allah took from them in the Tawrah, in that, He will send a great Prophet – meaning Muhammad – from among the offspring of Isma`il, who will be obeyed by all peoples. Therefore, whoever obeys him, then Allah will forgive his sins, enter him into Paradise and award him two rewards.” We should mention here that Ar-Razi mentioned several cases of information brought by the earlier Prophets regarding the coming of Muhammad. Further, Abu Al-`Aliyah said that,

وَأَوْفُواْ بِعَهْدِى

(And fulfill (your obligations to) My covenant (with you)) means, “His covenant with His servants is to embrace Islam and to adhere to it.” Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said, “`I fulfill My obligations to you’ means, `I (Allah) will be pleased with you and admit you into Paradise.”’ As-Suddi, Ad-Dahhak, Abu Al-`Aliyah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said similarly.

Ibn `Abbas said that Allah’s statement,

وَإِيَّـىَ فَارْهَبُونِ

(And fear Me and Me alone.) means, “Fear the torment that I might exert on you, just as I did with your fathers, like the mutation, etc.” This Ayah contains encouragement, followed by warning. Allah first called the Children of Israel, using encouragement, then He warned them, so that they might return to the Truth, follow the Messenger, heed the Qur’an’s prohibitions and commands and believe in its content. Surely, Allah guides whom He wills to the straight path.

Allah said next,

وَءَامِنُواْ بِمَآ أَنزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا مَعَكُمْ

(And believe in what I have sent down, confirming that which is with you (the Tawrah and the Injil)) meaning, the Qur’an that Allah sent down to Muhammad, the unlettered Arab Prophet, as bringer of glad tidings, a warner and a light. The Qur’an contains the Truth from Allah and affirms what was revealed beforehand in the Tawrah and the Injil (the Gospel). Abu Al-`Aliyah said that Allah’s statement,

وَءَامِنُواْ بِمَآ أَنزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا مَعَكُمْ

(And believe in what I have sent down (this Qur’an), confirming that which is with you (the Tawrah and the Injil)) “means, `O People of the Book! Believe in what I sent down that conforms to what you have.’ This is because they find the description of Muhammad recorded in the Tawrah and the Injil.” Similar statements were attributed to Mujahid, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and Qatadah.

Allah said,

وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ

(and be not the first to disbelieve therein).

Ibn `Abbas commented, “Do not become the first to disbelieve in the Qur’an (or Muhammad ), while you have more knowledge in it than other people.” Abu Al-`Aliyah commented, “`Do not become the first to disbelieve in Muhammad, ‘ meaning from among the People of the Book, `after you hear that he was sent as a Prophet.”’ Similar statements were attributed to Al-Hasan, As-Suddi and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. Ibn Jarir stated that the Ayah (disbelieve therein 2:41) refers to the Qur’an, mentioned earlier in the Ayah,

بِمَآ أَنزَلْتُ

(in what I have sent down (this Qur’an),)

Both statements are correct because they are inter-related. For instance, whoever disbelieves in the Qur’an will have disbelieved in Muhammad, and whoever disbelieves in Muhammad will have disbelieved in the Qur’an. Allah’s statement,

أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ

(the first to disbelieve therein) means, do not become the first among the Children of Israel to disbelieve in it, for there were people from Quraysh and the Arabs in general who rejected Muhammad before the People of the Book disbelieved in him. We should state here that the Ayah is talking about the Children of Israel in specific, because the Jews in Al-Madinah were the first among the Children of Israel to be addressed by the Qur’an. Hence, their disbelief in the Qur’an means that they were the first among the People of the Book to disbelieve in it.

Allah’s statement,

وَلاَ تَشْتَرُواْ بِآيَـتِي ثَمَنًا قَلِيلاً

(and buy not with My verses a small price,) means, “Do not substitute faith in My Ayat and belief in My Prophet with the life of this world and its lusts which are minute and bound to end. ” Allah said,

وَإِيَّـىَ فَاتَّقُونِ

(and have Taqwa of Me and Me alone).

Ibn Abi Hatim reported that Talq bin Habib said, “Taqwa is to work in Allah’s obedience, on a light from Allah, hoping in Allah’s mercy, and to avoid Allah’s disobedience, on a light from Allah, fearing Allah’s punishment.” Allah’s statement,

وَإِيَّـىَ فَاتَّقُونِ

(and fear Me and Me alone) means, that Allah warns the People of the Book against intentionally hiding the truth and spreading the opposite of it, as well as, against defying the Messenger.

tafsir ibn kathir

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