Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:40; Part-2)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Obligations of the Children of Israel
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ ﴿٤٠﴾
Translation: O Children of Israel, remember My blessing which I bestowed upon you, and fulfill My covenant (Religion) that I may fulfill your covenant (eternal prosperity), and be in awe of Me [alone].
Commentary: In this verse, Allah (SWT) directs the Children of Israel to remember His bounties and blessings, fulfill their religious obligations, and only have awe of Him alone.
Remembrance of the Divine Blessings: Human beings have the tendency to forget that they are trustees of God’s bounties and blessings, and that Allah (SWT) is the true owner of the universe. Therefore, those with a weaker faith in God become selfish, arrogant and rebellious in times of ease and prosperity.
For instance, Qaroun was from the Children of Israel who lived during the time of Prophet Musa. He was wealthy and affluent, so much so that carrying the keys to his treasure was a burden only given to the strongest of men.
Righteous people advised him to be benevolent to his kinsmen, as God had gifted him in abundance. He refused to listen to their advice on the basis of the argument that only he had earned his wealth, so he was entitled to do with it as he wished.
One day, when he went on to show off his wealth amongst the people, the earth swallowed him, along with his treasure. Qaroun failed to accept that blessings are endowed only through the benediction of Allah (SWT). Without His will, these tidings would have been unattainable, and could be taken from him at any time.
Remembrance of divine blessings brings mankind closer to Allah (SWT); remembrance and gratitude inculcate the spirit of servitude towards God, and helps individuals to develop a conscious gratefulness towards life’s blessings.
The Divine Covenant “Ahd” [Arabic: (عَهْدِ)]: When Adam and Eve arrived on Earth, Allah (SWT) assured them that the Divine guidance (religion) would come to them; those who would follow His religion would have no fear or grief on the Day of Judgment:
فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّي هُدًى فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ﴿٣٨﴾
So surely there will come to you a guidance from Me, those who follow My guidance shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
This is a covenant between Allah (SWT) and mankind, in which Allah (SWT) enjoins mankind to follow His religion, and for mankind to strive an eternal prosperity through following the divine religion. Within this context, the meaning of “fulfill my covenant so I may fulfill your covenant” is:
وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ
And fulfill My covenant (Religion) that I may fulfill your covenant (eternal prosperity).
Indeed, Allah (SWT) has fulfilled His promise and has sent divine messengers, along with Holy Scriptures, throughout history. In particular, Prophet Musa and Isa came to the Children of Israel and gave them the glad tidings of the coming of Prophet Mohammad (SAW). This next verse asked with subtlety: is it not the time to fulfill Allah’s covenant and believe in His last messenger?
Fear only God: In the end, the verse asserts that one should submit to the authority of Allah (SWT) with awe and reverence. Possessing a baseless fear of others should not deter one in the fulfillment of religious obligations.