Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:83-84)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّـهَ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنكُمْ وَأَنتُم مُّعْرِضُونَ ﴿٨٣﴾ وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ لَا تَسْفِكُونَ دِمَاءَكُمْ وَلَا تُخْرِجُونَ أَنفُسَكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ ثُمَّ أَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ ﴿٨٤﴾
2:83 When We took a pledge from the Children of Israel, [saying]: ‘Worship no one but Allah, do good to your parents, relatives, orphans, and the needy, speak kindly to people, maintain the prayer, and give the zakat,’ you turned away, except a few of you, and you were disregardful.
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 homes,’ you pledged, and you testify [to this pledge of your ancestors].
Commentary: Allah (SWT) took a covenant from the Children of Israel; the articles of the divine covenant are mentioned in the aforementioned verse and verse 5:12 in Chapter Al-Maida. Articles of the covenant according to verse 2:83-84 are as follows:
Worship no one but Allah (SWT)
Do good to your parents, relatives, orphans, and the needy,
Speak kindly to people,
Establish the prayer,
Give the zakat,
Do not shed your [own people’s] blood,
Do not expel your folks from the homeland
Obtain the release of your prisoners of war by making a payment demanded (ransom) for freeing your prisoners of war. This is implied from verse 2:84 which will be explained later.
Two additional articles also cited in the verse 5:12 in Chapter Al-Maida:
وَآمَنتُم بِرُسُلِي وَعَزَّرْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَقْرَضْتُمُ اللَّـهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا
Have faith in Allah’s messengers, honor and support them
Lend Allah (SWT) a good loan
The above articles are examples of our responsibilities toward Allah (SWT) and toward our family and fellow brethren in creation, which had been communicated to us through His messengers. Hence, one may deduce that “Allah’s covenant” is synonymous to divine instructions (permissible and forbidden acts/behaviors) found in the divine religion.
The verse 2:83 states that the Children of Israel, except for a few of them, turned away from fulfilling their pledges:
…..ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنكُمْ ….. ﴿٨٣﴾
2:83 you (the Children of Israel) turned away, except a few of you, ….
The verse ends with the phrase:
……وَأَنتُم مُّعْرِضُونَ ﴿٨٣﴾
2:83 …..and you turned away.
In the above phrase, the words [Arabic: (مُّعْرِضُونَ)] comes from the word [Arabic: (اعراض)] and means “to turn away”.
Some commentators hold the opinion that [Arabic: (وَأَنتُم مُّعْرِضُونَ)] “you turned away” emphasized the defiance of the Children of Israel which was mentioned earlier [Arabic: (ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ)]
A majority, including those such as Tabarsey, had commented that [Arabic: (وَأَنتُم مُّعْرِضُونَ)] is a nominal sentence and indicative of continuous and unwavering defiance of the ancient Israelites [Tasneem, Vol 5, Page 368]
In the context of the next verse, the third opinion is that [Arabic: (ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ)] addresses the ancient tribes of Israel and [Arabic: (وَأَنتُم مُّعْرِضُونَ)] and refers to the offspring of the Children of Israel who lived in Medina at the era of the Prophet (SAW).
Innate Covenant: How did Allah (SWT) take His covenant from the Children of Israel?
The Qur’an mentions that Allah (SWT) has created the nature of man [Arabic: (فِطْرَتَ)] to be harmonious with the divine religion [Ar-Rum 30:30]. Then again, in Chapter Al-Hujurat (49:7) it was mentioned that Allah has endeared faith within our nature and made it appealing to our hearts. For instance, being good to one’s parents, relatives, orphans, and the needy are innately appealing to human nature. The will of the human in question decides as to whether be kind or mean to others.
Therefore, one might argue that upholding the divine covenant is innate to human nature. Allah (SWT) has instilled the spirit of monotheism, the exclusive obedience and servitude to Him and moral values in human nature. Therefore, the phrase “We took a covenant from the Children of Israel” [Arabic: (وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ)] means, “We instilled the divine covenant in the nature of the Children Israel”.
Allah (SWT) is the only one who knows the Truth.
2:83 [وَإِذْ] and when [أَخَذْنَا] we took [مِيثَاقَ] a covenant from [بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ] the Children of Israel [لَا] not [تَعْبُدُونَ] worship [إِلَّا] but [اللَّـهَ] Allah [وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ] and to parents [إِحْسَانًا] be good [وَذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ] and to kindred [ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ] and to orphans [ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ] and the poor and needy [وَقُولُوا] and speak [لِلنَّاسِ] to people [حُسْنًا] good & kindly [ وَأَقِيمُوا] and perform [ الصَّلَاةَ] the prayer [وَآتُوا] and give [الزَّكَاةَ] Zakat [ ثُمَّ] then [تَوَلَّيْتُمْ] you turn away [إِلَّا] except [قَلِيلًا] a few [ مِّنكُمْ] of you [وَأَنتُم] while you are [مُّعْرِضُونَ] averse (backsliders)
2:84 [وَإِذْ] and when [أَخَذْنَا] we took [مِيثَاقَكُمْ] your covenant [لَا تَسْفِكُونَ] do not you shed [دِمَاءَكُمْ] your blood [ وَلَا تُخْرِجُونَ] and do not you turn out [أَنفُسَكُم] yourselves [مِّن] from [دِيَارِكُمْ] your dwelling [ثُمَّ] then [أَقْرَرْتُمْ] you ratified [وَأَنتُمْ] and you [تَشْهَدُونَ] bear witness.