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

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 .

﴿وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَـطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ – وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلوةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَوةَ وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ ﴾

(42. And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know (the truth).) (43. And perform As-Salah, and give Zakah, and bow down along with Ar-Raki`in.)

The Prohibition of hiding the Truth and distorting It with Falsehood
Allah forbade the Jews from intentionally distorting the truth with falsehood and from hiding the truth and spreading falsehood,

﴿وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَـطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴾

(And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know (the truth)).

So Allah forbade them from two things; He ordered them to make the truth known, as well as explaining it. Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas mentioned the Ayah,

﴿وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَـطِلِ﴾

(And mix not truth with falsehood) and said; “Do not mix the truth with falsehood and the facts with lies.” Qatadah said that,

﴿وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَـطِلِ﴾

(And mix not truth with falsehood) means, “Do not mix Judaism and Christianity with Islam,

﴿وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(while you know (the truth).) that the religion of Allah is Islam, and that Judaism and Christianity are innovations that did not come from Allah.” It was reported that Al-Hasan Al-Basri said similarly.

Also, Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Ibn `Abbas said that,

﴿وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(nor conceal the truth while you know (the truth).) means, “Do not hide the knowledge that you have of My Messenger and what he was sent with. His description, which you know about, can be found written in the Books that you have.”

It is possible that it means, “..although you know the tremendous harm that this evil will cause people, misguiding them and leading them to the Fire, because they will follow the falsehood that you mixed with the truth in your claims.”

﴿وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلوةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَوةَ وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ ﴾

(And perform As-Salat and give Zakah, and bow down along with Ar-Raki`in.)

Muqatil said, “Allah’s statement to the People of the Book,

﴿وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلَوةَ﴾

(And perform As-Salah) commands them to perform the prayer behind the Prophet ,

﴿وَآتَوُاْ الزَّكَوةَ﴾

(and give Zakah) commands them to pay the Zakah to the Prophet , and

﴿وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ﴾

(and bow down along with Ar-Raki`in) commands them to bow down with those who bow down among the Ummah of Muhammad . Allah therefore commands the People of the Book to be with, and among the Ummah of Muhammad .” In addition, Allah’s statement,

﴿وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ﴾

(And bow down along with Ar-Raki`in) means, “And be among the believers performing the best deeds they perform, such as, and foremost, the prayer.” Many scholars said that this Ayah (2:43) is proof for the obligation of performing the prayer in congregation (for men only). I will explain this ruling in detail in Kitab Al-Ahkam Al-Kabir, Allah willing.

﴿أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَـبَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ ﴾

(44. Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves, while you recite the Scripture (Tawrah))! Have you then no sense)

The Condemnation of commanding Others to observe Righteousness while ignoring Righteousness
Allah said, “How is it, O People of the Book, that you command people to perform Al-Birr, which encompasses all types of righteousness, yet forget yourselves and do not heed what you call others to And you read Allah’s Book (the Tawrah) and know what it promises to those who do not fulfill Allah’s commandments.

﴿أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ﴾

(Have you then no sense) of what you are doing to yourselves, so that you might become aware of your slumber and restore your sight from blindness” `Abdur-Razzaq said that Ma`mar stated that Qatadah commented on Allah’s statement,

﴿أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ﴾

(Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves,) “The Children of Israel used to command people to obey Allah, fear Him and perform Al-Birr. Yet, they contradicted these orders, so Allah reminded them of this fact.” As-Suddi said similarly. Ibn Jurayj said that the Ayah:

﴿أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ﴾

(Enjoin you Al-Birr on the people) “Is about the People of the Book and the hypocrites. They used to command people to pray and fast. However, they did not practice what they commanded others. Allah reminded them of this behavior. So whoever commands people to do righteousness, let him be among the first of them to implement that command.” Also, Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Ibn `Abbas said that,

﴿وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ﴾

(And you forget yourselves,) means, “You forget to practice it yourselves,

﴿وَأَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَـبَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ﴾

(While you recite the Scripture (Tawrah)! Have you then no sense) You forbid the people from rejecting the prophethood and the covenant that you have mentioned with you in the Tawrah, while you yourselves have forgoten it, meaning that `you have forgotten the covenant that I made with you that you will accept My Messenger. You have breeched My covenant, and rejected what you know is in My Book.’ ”

Therefore, Allah admonished the Jews for this behavior and alerted them to the wrongs that they were perpetrating against themselves by ordering righteousness, yet refraining themselves from righteousness. We should state that Allah is not criticizing the People of the Book for ordering righteousness, because enjoining good is a part of righteousness and is an obligation for the scholars. However, the scholar is himself required to heed, and adhere to, what he invites others to. For instance, Prophet Shu`ayb said,

﴿وَمَآ أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُخَالِفَكُمْ إِلَى مَآ أَنْهَـكُمْ عَنْهُ إِنْ أُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الإِصْلَـحَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ وَمَا تَوْفِيقِى إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ﴾

(I wish not, in contradiction to you, to do that which I forbid you. I only desire reform to the best of my power. And my guidance cannot come except from Allah, in Him I trust and unto Him I repent) (11:88).

Therefore, enjoining righteousness and performing righteousness are both required. Neither category is rendered not necessary by the practice of the other, according to the most correct view of the scholars among the Salaf (predecessors) and the Khalaf.

Imam Ahmad reported that Abu Wa’il said, “While I was riding behind Usamah, he was asked, `Why not advise `Uthman’ He said, `Do you think that if I advise him I should allow you to hear it I advise him in secret, and I will not start something that I would hate to be the first to start. I will not say to a man, `You are the best man,’ even if he was my leader, after what I heard from the Messenger of Allah .’ They said, `What did he say’ He said, `I heard him say,

«يُجَاءُ بِالرَّجُلِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامةِ فَيُلْقَى فِي النَّار فَتَنْدَلِقُ بِه أَقْتَابُهُ فيَدُورُ بِهَا فِي النَّار كَمَا يَدُورُ الْحِمَارُ بِرَحَاهُ فيُطِيفُ بِهِ أَهْلُ النَّار فَيَقُولُون: يَا فُلَانُ ما أَصَابَكَ؟ أَلَمْ تَكُنْ تَأْمُرُنَا بِالْمَعْرُوف وَتَنْهَانَا عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ؟ فَيَقُولُ: كُنْتُ آمرُكُمْ باِلْمَعْرُوفِ وَلَا آتِيهِ وَأَنْهَاكُمْ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَآتِيه»

(A man will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and thrown in the Fire. His intestines will fall out and he will continue circling pulling them behind him, just as the donkey goes around the pole. The people of the Fire will go to that man and ask him, `What happened to you Did you not used to command us to do righteous acts and forbid us from committing evil’ He will say, `Yes. I used to enjoin righteousness, but refrained from performing righteousness, and I used to forbid you to perform from evil while I myself did it.’).”’

This Hadith was also recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. eAlso, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i said, “I hesitate in advising people because of three Ayat:

﴿أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ﴾

(Enjoin you Al-Birr on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves).

﴿يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لاَ تَفْعَلُونَ – كَبُرَ مَقْتاً عِندَ اللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُواْ مَا لاَ تَفْعَلُونَ ﴾

(O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do Most hateful it is to Allah that you say that which you do not do) (61:2-3).”

And Allah informed us that the Prophet Shu`ayb said,

﴿وَمَآ أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُخَالِفَكُمْ إِلَى مَآ أَنْهَـكُمْ عَنْهُ إِنْ أُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الإِصْلَـحَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ وَمَا تَوْفِيقِى إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ﴾

(I wish not, in contradiction to you, to do that which I forbid you. I only desire reform to the best of my power. And my guidance cannot come except from Allah, in Him I trust and unto Him I repent) (11:88).

﴿وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَوةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلاَّ عَلَى الْخَـشِعِينَ – الَّذِينَ يَظُنُّونَ أَنَّهُم مُّلَـقُوا رَبِّهِمْ وَأَنَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ رَجِعُونَ ﴾

(45. And seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer) and truly, it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khashi`in.) (46 (They are those) who are certain that they are going to meet their Lord, and that unto Him they are going to return.)

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

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