Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:211)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Tampering with Divine Blessings
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
سَلْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَمْ آتَيْنَاهُم مِّنْ آيَةٍ بَيِّنَةٍ ۗ وَمَن يُبَدِّلْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّـهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ ﴿٢١١﴾
2:211 Ask the Children of Israel how many a sign of evidence We had given them (and what happened when they heeded them or rejected them). And whoever exchanges the favor of Allah (SWT) (for disbelief) after it had come to him – then indeed, Allah (SWT) is severe in penalty.
Commentary: Allah (SWT) has abundantly bestowed Divine Blessings and Favors upon us. We do perceive and acknowledge some of them, but in general, we are oblivious of God’s benedictions and benevolence. Chapter Luqman reminds us:
أَلَمْ تَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ سَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَأَسْبَغَ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعَمَهُ ظَاهِرَةً وَبَاطِنَةً ۗ ….﴿٢٠﴾
25:20 Do you not see that Allah (SWT) has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you God’s favors, [both] apparent and unapparent?…
Amongst God’s blessings, the verse speaks of divine guidance. Allah (SWT) has sent messengers to lead humankind to eternal prosperity. Unfortunately, some exchanged their faith in Allah (SWT) for disbelief and eventually led their nations to destruction.
For instance, when Prophet Musa (AS) approached Firon (pharaoh) and presented his miracles, Firon knew the truth of the Prophet Musa’s (AS) prophetic credentials but accused him of sorcery:
27:13 But when there came to them [Firon] Our visible signs, they said, “This is clear magic.”
27:14 And they rejected them, while their souls were convinced thereof, out of injustice and haughtiness. So see how was the end of those who acted corruptly!
With the advent of Islam, the idolaters of Mecca renounced the Prophet’s mission and impugned the authenticity of the Quran. Similarly, the Children of Israel, who lived in Medina, refused to believe in the Prophet knowingly that his prophetic signs matched with the prophesied signs in their scripture.
Verse 2:111 states:
سَلْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَمْ آتَيْنَاهُم مِّنْ آيَةٍ بَيِّنَةٍ ۗ … ﴿٢١١﴾
2:211 (O! Prophet) Ask the Children of Israel how many a sign of evidence We had given them (and what happened when they heeded them or rejected them).
The verse proceeds to warn of severe penalties (شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ) for those who exchange divine guidance for disbelief:
… وَمَن يُبَدِّلْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّـهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ ﴿٢١١﴾
2:211 … And whoever exchanges the favor of Allah [for disbelief] after it has come to him – then indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.
The term (يُبَدِّلْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّـهِ) is translated “to change the favor of Allah (SWT)” and implies rejecting and tampering divine evidences and sinfully using God-given resources. The word (الْبَيِّنَاتُ) means “clear reason” and has a broad concept that includes both rational reasons and also whatever is explained through the divine revelations and miracles.
2:211 [سَلْ] Ask [بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ] the Children of Israel [كَمْ] how many [آتَيْنَاهُم] we gave them [مِّنْ] of [آيَةٍ] the signs [بَيِّنَةٍ] clear [وَ] and [مَن] whoever [يُبَدِّلْ] changes [نِعْمَةَ] favor [اللَّـهِ] of Allah [مِن] from [بَعْدِ] after [مَا] what [جَاءَتْهُ] it has come to him [فَإِنَّ] then indeed [اللَّـهَ] Allah [شَدِيدُ] is severe [الْعِقَابِ] in the chastising.