Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:253)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Discord Among the Followers of the Divine Religions
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۘ مِّنْهُم مَّن كَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَهُمْ دَرَجَاتٍ ۚ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا اقْتَتَلَ الَّذِينَ مِن بَعْدِهِم مِّن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ وَلَـٰكِنِ اخْتَلَفُوا فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ آمَنَ وَمِنْهُم مَّن كَفَرَ ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا اقْتَتَلُوا وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يُرِيدُ ﴿٢٥٣﴾
2:250 Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom Allah (SWT) spoke, and God raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If Allah (SWT) had willed, those (generations) succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them disbelieved. And if Allah (SWT) had willed, they would not have fought each other, but Allah (SWT) does what God intends.
Commentary: The Divine Messengers call the people to God and free them from the yoke of ignorance and establish peace and justice in society. From this perspective, there is no difference in the mission of the divine messengers. [(لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ), Al-Baqara 2:136 & 2:285]. However, not all messengers had the same privileges or the same rank. Some messengers were given unmatched blessings, and others were exalted to a lofty position.
For instance, Prophet Musa (AS) had the privilege of speaking directly to Allah (SWT) (مِّنْهُم مَّن كَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ), as mentioned in chapter Ta-Ha (20:10-47), Al-Qasas (28:29:35), Al-Araf (7:143), and An-Nisa (4:164). In comparison, Allah (SWT) spoke to other messengers through angels or other methods of revelation. Prophet Isa (AS) had the power to perform certain miracles (وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ), such as healing the blind and the lepers and bringing dead people back to life. He also had the support of the Holy Spirit (وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ), who made it possible for him to speak in his cradle like an adult and to ascend to heaven when the enemy tried to crucify him. See chapter Al-Baqara 2:87, Aal-e-Imran 3:44-55 and Al-Ma’ida 5:110.
Some prophets were elevated to a lofty status (وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَهُمْ دَرَجَاتٍ). For instance, the Ulul’azm prophets were the only prophets who had scripture and religious laws, Ash-Shura 42:13. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) has the highest rank amongst the Ulul’azm prophets. This is because the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) will be the witness to all the prophets on the Day of Judgment (An-Nisa 4:41).
The verse raises an important question: If the divine prophets came with clear and convincing arguments to guide humanity to God, why have we witnessed violence and bloodshed between followers of divine religions? Do teachings of messengers inspire conflict between its followers?
Chapter Al-Baqara 2:213 and Aal-e-Imran 3:19 mention that the root causes of all conflicts are humans’ tendency to violate their vulnerable human beings’ rights. Both verses mention the phrase (بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ), where the word (بَغْي) means oppression and jealousy, and (بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ) means out of jealousy, envy, and oppression between them.
The verse asserts that Allah (SWT) had the power to stop the next generations of the divine prophets’ followers from fighting with each other (وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا اقْتَتَلَ الَّذِينَ مِن بَعْدِهِم) after clear signs have had come to them (مِّن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ).
But the people chose to differ and splintered into groups (وَلَـٰكِنِ اخْتَلَفُوا). Consequently, some of them believed, and some of them disbelieved (فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ آمَنَ وَمِنْهُم مَّن كَفَرَ). Indeed, this difference stems from the whims and the carnal desires of people, not the religion itself. All divine messengers, after all, invite people to the same God, goal, and objectives (Al-An’am 6:151-152).
The verse emphasizes once again that if Allah (SWT) had so willed (وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ), He could stop them from fighting (مَا اقْتَتَلُوا). But Allah (SWT) does what God will (وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يُرِيدُ), which is to give mankind freedom of choice in this world.
2:253 [تِلْكَ] These [الرُّسُلُ] messengers [فَضَّلْنَا] we have preferred [بَعْضَهُمْ] some of them [عَلَىٰ] over [بَعْضٍ] others. [مِّنْهُم] Among them [مَّن] were those with whom [كَلَّمَ] spoke [اللَّـهُ] Allah, [وَرَفَعَ] and He raised [بَعْضَهُمْ] some of them [دَرَجَاتٍ] in degrees, [وَآتَيْنَا] And We gave [عِيسَى] Isa [ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ] son of Maryam [الْبَيِّنَاتِ] the clear proofs [وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ] and we supported him [بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ] with the Holy Spirit. [وَلَوْ] And if [شَاءَ] had willed [اللَّـهُ] Allah [مَا اقْتَتَلَ] would have not fought each other, [الَّذِينَ] those who [مِن] came from [هِم بَعْدِ] after them, [مِّن بَعْدِ مَا] from after what [جَاءَتْهُمُ] came to them [الْبَيِّنَاتُ] the clear proofs. [وَلَـٰكِنِ] But they [اخْتَلَفُوا] differed [فَمِنْهُم] so of them [مَّنْ] are some who [آمَنَ] believed [وَمِنْهُم] and of them [مَّن] are some who [كَفَرَ] denied. [وَلَوْ] And if [شَاءَ] had willed [اللَّـهُ] Allah [مَا اقْتَتَلُوا] not they have fought each other. [وَلَـٰكِنَّ] And, but [اللَّـهَ] Allah [يَفْعَلُ] does [مَا] what [يُرِيدُ] He intends.
 Nuh (AS), Ibrahim (AS), Musa (AS), Isa (AS), and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)