Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:89-90)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
A Great Lesson to Reflect Upon
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ كِتَابٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ وَكَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُم مَّا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ ۚ فَلَعْنَةُ اللَّـهِ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٨٩﴾ بِئْسَمَا اشْتَرَوْا بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ أَن يَكْفُرُوا بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ بَغْيًا أَن يُنَزِّلَ اللَّـهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ عَلَىٰ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۖ فَبَاءُوا بِغَضَبٍ عَلَىٰ غَضَبٍ ۚ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ ﴿٩٠﴾
2:89 And when a scripture (the Quran) came to them from God, confirming what they have (Torah)—although previously they (the offspring of the ancient Israelites) were seeking victory against those who disbelieved—but when there came to them what they recognized, they disbelieved in it. So God’s curse is upon the disbelievers.
2:90 Miserable is what they sold their souls for—rejecting what God has revealed, out of resentment that God would send down His grace upon whomever He chooses from among His servants. Thus they incurred wrath upon wrath. And there is a demeaning punishment for the disbelievers.
Commentary: The sacred book of the Israelites had prophesied the advent of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) in the Arabian Peninsula, in a region situated between the two mountains of “Ayr” and “Uhud”, [Arabic: (عیر) & (احد)]. The offspring of the ancient Israelites began a journey to find “Ayr” and “Uhud”. Their journey took them to a mountain called “Haddad” [Arabic: (حدّاد)], which is very similar in pronunciation and spelling to “Uhud”;
They said to themselves; “Haddad” could be another name for “Uhud”. Hence, they decided to disperse and settle down in the nearby area. They split into three groups; some of them chose to live at Tayma’ [Arabic: (تیماء)] and some others at Fadak [Arabic: (فدک)] and others at Khaybar [Arabic: (خیبر)]. Years passed, until those at Tayma’ decided to travel and visit some of their brethren. They hired a bedouin from the tribe of Qays [Arabic: (قیس)] as a guide and rented his camels for the trip.
The bedouin told them that he would take them from a route that passed through the two mountains of “Ayr” and “Uhud”. They became very excited and asked their guide to let them know when they reached there.
When the “Ayr” and “Uhud” become visible from a distance, the bedouin pointed out the mountains to the offspring of the ancient Israelites. When they reached “Ayr” and “Uhud”, they discontinued the trip, decided to settle down in this area, and wait for the coming of Prophet Mohammad (SAW).
After some time, they wrote a letter to their brethren at Fadak and Khaybar and broke the news that they had found the mountains of “Ayr” and “Uhud” and invited their brethren to join them. In reply, their brethren in Fadak and Khybar wrote them that they had acquired land, built homes and lives and had already settled down in their fortresses. However, they would rush to join them once news of the arrival of the Promised Prophet had reached them.
The offspring of the Israelites who settled down near “Ayr” and “Uhud” gradually acquired land, wealth and earned a prosperous living. The news of their prosperities reached a king with the name of “Tubba” [Arabic: (تبع)].
Tubba coveted their wealth, and thus attacked and besieged their fortresses. Their siege lasted for quite some time until both sides decided to negotiate. Tubba told them that he liked their land and would like to settle down there.
The offspring of the Israelites responded that a prophet would eventually migrate and also live there, and that no one could rule on this land until his arrival. Tubba said just in that case, he would then leave some members of his clan to stay there and support the Promised Prophet. They agreed with the proposal and from the clan of the king Tubba, the two tribes of “Aws” and “Khazraj” were formed.
When the numbers of the Aws and Khazraj numbers increased, they confiscated the properties of the offspring of the Israelites. The offspring sought divine help and prayed for the coming of the Promised Prophet to help them overcome their adversaries.
When Prophet Mohammad (SAW) migrated from Mecca to Medina, the offspring of the ancient tribes of Israelites recognized the Prophet from his prophesied traits and characteristics that were mentioned in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel). Despite the fact that they were praying for the advent of the Promised Prophet, they nevertheless turned away and denied his credentials. Within this context, the verse begins:
وَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ كِتَابٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ وَكَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا …… ﴿٨٩﴾
2:89 And when a scripture (the Quran) came to them from God, confirming what they have (Torah)—although previously they (the offspring of the ancient Israelites) were seeking victory against those who disbelieved (Aws and Khazraj)
…..فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُم مَّا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ ۚ فَلَعْنَةُ اللَّـهِ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٨٩﴾
2:89 ……. —but when there came to them what they recognized, they disbelieved in it. So God’s curse is upon the disbelievers!
Indeed, the descendants of the ancient tribes of Israel sold themselves very short. They moved from the comfort of their home and migrated from place to place until reached the place that was prophesied to hold the arrival of Prophet Mohammad (SAW). They waited for him many years and prayed for his coming. Yet, they objected him shortly after his arrival to Medina. The verse 2:90 says that metaphorically, they had traded the opportunity of their lifetime with disbelief instead of belief in the Prophet:
بِئْسَمَا اشْتَرَوْا بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ ……﴿٩٠﴾
2:90 what a demeaning price did they trade their sole for! (Please check for grammar)
The descendants of the ancient Israelites were expected to be the first nation to embrace Islam. Ironically, the two tribes of “Aws” and “Khazraj” took the lead, believed in the Prophet, and supported him with their life and wealth. In this, there is a great lesson for us to ponder!
The descendants of the ancient Israelites had a false presumption that any divine messengers would exclusively be from the lineage of Prophet Yaqub (Jacob). When the truth came through Prophet Mohammad, who was not from among the Israelites, they rejected the divine message out of spite [بَغْيًا]. They did not believe in the fact that Allah (SWT) bestows the revelation and prophecy [فَضْلِ] on whom He pleases:
……أَن يَكْفُرُوا بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ بَغْيًا أَن يُنَزِّلَ اللَّـهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ عَلَىٰ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۖ ……. ﴿٩٠﴾
2:90 They rejected the revelation of Allah (SWT) out of spite that Allah (SWT) should bestows His grace on any of His servants as He pleases
The Quran asserts that race and types of people does not set bounds on Allah (SWT)’s choice. Only He knows best where to place His apostleship, [the Quran: 6:124 (اللَّـهُ أَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُ)]. The verse ends with the following phrase:
……فَبَاءُوا بِغَضَبٍ عَلَىٰ غَضَبٍ ۚ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ ﴿٩٠﴾
2:90 …Thus, they incurred wrath upon wrath. And there is a demeaning punishment for the disbelievers.
2:89 [وَلَمَّا] and when [جَاءَهُمْ] came to them [ كِتَابٌ] a book [مِّنْ عِندِ] from [اللَّـهِ] Allah [مُصَدِّقٌ] confirming [لِّمَا] what [مَعَهُمْ] is with them [وَكَانُوا] though they were [مِن قَبْلُ] aforetime [يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ] invoke for victory [عَلَى] over [الَّذِينَ] those who [كَفَرُوا] disbelieved [فَلَمَّا] and when [جَاءَهُم] came to them [مَّا] what [عَرَفُوا] they recognized [كَفَرُو] they disbelieved [بِهِ] in it [فَلَعْنَةُ] so the curse [اللَّـهِ] of Allah [عَلَى] be on [الْكَافِرِينَ] the disbelievers
2:90 [بِئْسَمَا] how bad is that [اشْتَرَوْا] they bought [بِهِ] for it [أَنفُسَهُمْ] their ownselves [أَن] that [يَكْفُرُوا] they should disbelieve [بِمَا] in that which [أَنزَلَ] revealed [اللَّـهُ] Allah [بَغْيًا] grudging [أَن] that [يُنَزِّلَ] reveals [اللَّـهُ] Allah [مِن] of [فَضْلِهِ] His Grace [عَلَىٰ] unto [مَن] whom [يَشَاءُ] He wills [مِنْ] of [عِبَادِهِ] His servants [فَبَاءُوا] they have drawn (incurred) [بِغَضَبٍ] anger [عَلَىٰ] upon [غَضَبٍ] anger [وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ] and for the disbelievers [عَذَابٌ] torments [مُّهِينٌ] there is a disgracing
Notice that [مَا] in [بِئْسَمَا] is an indefinite noun and according to this interpretation, the phrase [بِئْسَمَا] means, “How bad a commodity” [اشْتَرَوْا بِهِ] they traded with [أَنفُسَهُمْ] their soul.
The Arabic word [Arabic: (بَاءُوا)] means to return and to choose a place of living. The phrase [Arabic: (فَبَاءُوا بِغَضَبٍ)] means they took the divine wrath as a place of living.