Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:122-123)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Being Thankful in Life
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٢٢﴾ وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا لَّا تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئًا وَلَا يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلَا تَنفَعُهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿١٢٣﴾
2:122 O Children of Israel! Remember My blessing which I bestowed upon you, and that I have favored you over all the nations.
2:123 Beware of the Day when no soul will compensate for another, neither will any ransom be accepted from it, nor will any intercession benefit it, nor will they be helped.
Commentary: Verses 40-123 of the second chapter of the Quran narrate the history of the Children of Israel. They begin with commanding the Israelites to be mindful of the blessings that Allah (SWT) had bestowed upon them and end with the same command:
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٢٢﴾
2:40 O Children of Israel, remember My blessing which I bestowed upon you, and that I have favored you over all the nations (of their times).
The phrase [(فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ)] literally means that Allah (SWT) favored the Children of Israel over all nations. However, there are two caveats worth mentioning. First, this favor included only the noble children of Prophet Yaqub (Jacob) who outshined in his submission to Allah (SWT), and did not include those who broke the divine covenant amongst the Israelites, such as those who worshipped the golden calf, violated the law of the Sabbath, etc. Second, this privilege was limited to their own time. Verses of the Quran substantiate this latter assertion, which the following paragraph explains.
The Quran mentions that Allah (SWT) had chosen Adam and Noah [Al-i-Imran, 3:33], and Ismael [Al-Anam 6:86], whom were not from the progeny of Israel, above all nations. The Quran also mentions that Muslims “are the best nation [ever] brought forth for mankind” [Al-i-Imran, 3:110]. Clearly, the verse 2:43 and 2:122 do not support the understanding that Allah (SWT) gave privileges to the Israelites over all nations until doomsday.
Intercession (شَفَاعَةٌ): The Children of Israel believed that they would benefit from the intercession of their ancestors, who were divine messengers from the lineage of Prophet Yaqub (Jacob). The next verse rebukes the Israelites false presumptions and declares that every soul will be judged solely based on the merit of its faith and deeds. In particular, the verse says:
وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا لَّا تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئًا …..﴿١٢٣﴾
2:123 Beware of the Day when no one shall avail anyone anything; ….
و…..وَلَا يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ ……﴿١٢٣﴾
2:123 …..nor shall anyone be acquitted for any (amount of) ransom;…
……وَلَا تَنفَعُهَا شَفَاعَةٌ ….﴿١٢٣﴾
2:123 …nor shall intercession be accepted from anyone (without the permission of Allah (SWT);….
……وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿١٢٣﴾
A full discussion with regard to intercession was presented in the commentary of 2:47-48.
2:123… nor shall the guilty ones be helped from any quarter.
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ اصْطَفَىٰ آدَمَ وَنُوحًا وَآلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلَ عِمْرَانَ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٣٣﴾
3:33 Indeed Allah chose Adam and Noah, and the progeny of Abraham and the progeny of Imran above all the nations;
وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَالْيَسَعَ وَيُونُسَ وَلُوطًا ۚ وَكُلًّا فَضَّلْنَا عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٨٦﴾
6:86 and Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah and Lot—each We graced over all the nations—
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ….. ﴿١١٠﴾
3:110 You are the best nation [ever] brought forth for mankind:
اللَّهُمَّ أَحْسِنْ عَاقِبَتَنَا فِي الْأُمُورِ كُلِّهَا وَأَجِرْنَا مِنْ خِزْيِ الدُّنْيَا وَعَذَابِ الْآخِرَة
2:122 [يَا] O [بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ] Children of Israel! [اذْكُرُوا] remember [نِعْمَتِيَ] My Favor [الَّتِي] which [أَنْعَمْتُ] I bestowed [عَلَيْكُمْ] upon you [وَأَنِّي] and that I [فَضَّلْتُكُمْ] preferred you [عَلَى] over [الْعَالَمِينَ] all the nations (of your time)
2:123 [وَاتَّقُوا] and fear [يَوْمًا] the Day (when) [لَّا تَجْزِي] will not avail [نَفْسٌ] person [عَن نَّفْسٍ] another person [شَيْئًا] in the least [وَلَا] nor [يُقْبَلُ] shall be accepted [مِنْهَا] from him [عَدْلٌ] any ransom (compensation) [وَلَا] nor [تَنفَعُهَا] shall benefit him [شَفَاعَةٌ] intersession [وَلَا] nor [هُمْ] they [يُنصَرُونَ] shall be helped.