Cherry-Picking” the Divine Book: Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:85-86) By: Mohammad Sobhanie

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Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:85-86)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie

“Cherry-Picking” the Divine Book
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لَا تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءَكُمْ وَلَا تُخْرِجُونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾ ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقًا مِّنكُم مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَإِن يَأْتُوكُمْ أُسَارَىٰ تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ ۚ أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ ۚ فَمَا جَزَاءُ مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَٰلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلَّا خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ ۗ وَمَا اللَّـهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٨٥﴾ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالْآخِرَةِ ۖ فَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿٨٦﴾

Translation:
2:84 And when We took a pledge from you, [saying]: ‘You shall not shed your [own people’s] blood, and you shall not expel your folks from your homelands,’ you pledged, and you testify [to this pledge of your ancestors].
2:85. Then there you were, killing your folks and expelling a part of your folks from their homelands, backing one another against them in sin and aggression! And if they came to you as captives, you would ransom them, though their expulsion itself was forbidden you. What! Do you believe in part of the Book and deny another part? So what is the requital of those of you who do that except disgrace in the life of this world? And on the Day of Resurrection, they shall be consigned to the severest punishment. And Allah is not oblivious of what you do.
2:86 They are the ones who bought the life of this world for the Hereafter; so their punishment shall not be lightened, nor will they be helped.

Commentary:
Allah (SWT) took a covenant [مِيثَاقَ] from the Children of Israel; amidst its articles was the prohibition from killing and driving one another from their homes. The Israelites ratified the aforementioned covenant and gave their pledge to abide by it. Ratification of the divine covenant are cited in verses 2:63, 2:93, 4:154 and 7:171 of the Noble Quran and are explained briefly at the end.
Their offspring, who lived in Medina in the era of Prophet, were also aware of the authenticity and truthfulness of their ancestor’s pledge, and the punitive consequences of breaching the divine law as stated in the verse 2:84:
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لَا تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءَكُمْ وَلَا تُخْرِجُونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾
2:84 And when We took a pledge from you, [saying]: ‘You shall not shed your [own people’s] blood, and you shall not expel your folks from your homelands,’ you pledged, and you (the offspring) testify [to this pledge of your ancestors].
The phrase [ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ] is translated to “you ratified”, where the pronoun “you” refers to ancient tribes of Israel who ratified the divine covenant. The phrase [أَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ] is translated to “you bear witness”, where the pronoun “you” refers to the Jewish tribes (the offspring of the Israelites) who lived in Medina in the era of Prophet.
The Jews of Medina were witness and signatory to the divine covenant [أَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ]. Nevertheless, they killed their folks [تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ] and evicted (وَتُخْرِجُونَ) a party of their people (فَرِيقًا مِّنكُم) from their homelands [مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ]. In the process, they support one another [تَظَاهَرُونَ] in sin and aggression [بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ] against [عَلَيْهِم] their brethren:
…..وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾ ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقًا مِّنكُم مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ … ﴿٨٦﴾
2:85 …..and you testify [to this pledge of your ancestors]. Then there you were, killing your folks and expelling a part of your folks from their homelands and backing one another against them (those who have been driven out of their homes) in sin and aggression!

History of Jewish Tribes in Medina: In early Medina, there were the two tribes of Aws [Arabic: (اوس)] and Khazraj [Arabic: (خززج)] who were idolaters, and the three Jewish tribes of Banu Nadir [Arabic :(بنو نضیر)], Banu Qurayza [Arabic:(بنو قریظه)] and Banu Qaynuqa [Arabic: (بنو قینقاع)] who were offspring of the ancient tribes of Israel. The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza were allied with Aws and the Banu Qaynuqa were allied with Khazraj.
There were reports of long-standing feuds, hostility and wars between the two tribes of Aws and Khazraj. In wars between these two clans, the Jewish tribes inevitably were split between different sides of the conflict. The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza would support Aws and the Banu Qaynuqa would support Khazraj.
In pursuit of supporting their allies, the three Jewish tribes shed each other’s blood and destroyed each other’s homes and properties, which was clearly in violation of the divine covenant.
After the fighting subsided, each Israeli tribe would go to its respective allied tribe and secure the freedom of coreligionist war captives with ransom. The Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza would approach to Aws and secure freedom of the war captives of the tribe of Banu Qaynuqa. Similarly, the tribe of Banu Qaynuqa would approach to Khazraj and secure freedom of the war captives of the tribe of Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza.
Granted, securing freedom of the war captive were praiseworthy actions. Nevertheless, the divine covenant prohibited the Jewish tribes to fight with each other in the first place. If they honored the divine covenants and refused to fight with each other, there would not be any captives to release. Therefore, they were to blame for the death, destruction of homes and properties of their brethren in religion.
…..وَإِن يَأْتُوكُمْ أُسَارَىٰ تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ ۚ …… ﴿٨٥﴾
2:85 And if they came to you as captives, you would ransom them, though their expulsion itself was forbidden you.

Cherry-Picking the Book: The Jewish tribes of Medina were “cherry-picking” the divine covenant; that is, they chose to emphasize some articles of the divine covenants and ignored others. They obeyed the parts of the covenant, which were convenient for them given the situation, and ignored parts which hindered the fulfillment of their immediate worldly desires. In this instance, they chose to pay ransom and secure freedom of their war captives, but ignored the commandment to not shed each other’s blood.
……أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ ۚ …. ﴿٨٥﴾

What! Do you believe in part of the Book and deny another part?
In the end, the Quran warns the cherry-picking believers with a disgraceful life in this world and severe punishment in the hereafter. Allah (SWT) in the end of verse assures us that He is not oblivious of what we do.
….. فَمَا جَزَاءُ مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَٰلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلَّا خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ ۗ وَمَا اللَّـهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٨٥﴾
2:85: So what is the requital of those of you who do that (cherry-pick the divine book) except disgrace in the life of this world? And, on the Day of Resurrection, they shall be consigned to the severest punishment. And Allah is not oblivious of what you do.
Life is the precious and nonpareil asset of human; one cannot even regain a minute of his life. The Quran asserts that humans should invest the time of their lifespan on earth to secure eternal prosperity instead of chasing after temporary, worldly gains.
Those who cherry-pick divine religion, are indeed trading a prosperous eternity in Paradise next to their Lord with an abode in the Hell, a place that neither the intensity of its torments will be lightened nor any shield can be found from its pain and suffering.
أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا بِالْآخِرَةِ ۖ فَلَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿٨٦﴾
2:86 They are the ones who bought the life of this world [in exchange] for the Hereafter; so their punishment shall not be lightened, nor will they be helped.

Ratification of the Divine Covenant: Shortly after Prophet Musa (AS) received the Torah, the Israelites forsook the divine covenant and disregarded the teachings of the Torah. Afterwards, Allah (SWT) in His grace made the Israelites realize consequences of breaching the divine covenant. He plucked Mountain (Sinai) and precariously held it above their head as if it was a canopy about to fall. He called the Israelites to “take [their] religion seriously and put into practice”, otherwise they would face the adverse consequences of their decisions. The Israelites acknowledged their faults and solemnly pledged to abide by their promise. Nevertheless, they went back on their pledge again.
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمُ الطُّورَ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُوا مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿٦٣﴾
2:63: And when We took a pledge from you, and raised the Mount above you, [declaring], ‘Hold on with power to what We have given you and remember that which is in it so that you may be Godwary.’
وَإِذْ نَتَقْنَا الْجَبَلَ فَوْقَهُمْ كَأَنَّهُ ظُلَّةٌ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُ وَاقِعٌ بِهِمْ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُوا مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿١٧١﴾
7: 171 When We plucked the mountain [and held it] above them as if it were a canopy (and they thought it was about to fall on them): ‘Hold on with power to what We have given you and remember that which is in it, so that you may be Godwary.’

Word-for-Word Translation:
2:85 [ثُمَّ] then [أَنتُمْ] you (are) [هَـٰؤُلَاءِ] those (who) [تَقْتُلُونَ] kill [أَنفُسَكُمْ] yourselves [وَتُخْرِجُونَ] and drive out [فَرِيقًا] a party [مِّنكُم] of you [مِّن] from [دِيَارِهِمْ] their homeland [تَظَاهَرُونَ] (assist) aiding one another [عَلَيْهِم] against them [بِالْإِثْمِ] in sin [وَالْعُدْوَان] and transgression [وَإِن] and if [يَأْتُوكُم] they come to you [أُسَارَى] as captive [تُفَادُوهُمْ] you ransom them [وَهُوَ] though this [مُحَرَّمٌ] forbidden [عَلَيْكُمْ] to you [إِخْرَاجُهُمْ] their expulsion. [أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ] then do you believe [بِبَعْضِ] in part
[الْكِتَابِ] of the scripture [وَتَكْفُرُونَ] and you reject [بِبَعْضٍ] some of it [فَمَا] then what [جَزَاءُ] is the recompense [مَن] of those [ يَفْعَل] do [ذَٰلِكَ] that [مِنكُمْ] among you [إِلَّا] except [خِزْيٌ] disgrace [فِي] in [الْحَيَاةِ] the life [الدُّنْيَا ] of this world [وَيَوْمَ] and on the Day [الْقِيَامَةِ] of resurrections [يُرَدُّونَ] they would be consigned [إِلَى] to [أَشَدِّ] most grievous [الْعَذَابِ] torment [وَمَا] and not [اللَّـهُ] Allah [بِغَافِلٍ] is unaware [عَمَّا] of what [تَعْمَلُونَ] you do.
2:86 [أُولَـٰئِكَ] those are [الَّذِينَ] they who [اشْتَرَوُا] bought [الْحَيَاةَ] the life [ الدُّنْيَا] of this world [بِالْآخِرَةِ] for the Hereafter [فَلَا] so not [يُخَفَّفُ] shall be lightened [ عَنْهُمُ] on them [ الْعَذَابُ] the torment [ وَلَا] nor [ هُمْ] they [ يُنصَرُونَ] shall be helped

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