Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:91:93, Part-2)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ قَالُوا نُؤْمِنُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَيَكْفُرُونَ بِمَا وَرَاءَهُ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ ۗ قُلْ فَلِمَ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنبِيَاءَ اللَّـهِ مِن قَبْلُ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٩١﴾ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَكُم مُّوسَىٰ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ اتَّخَذْتُمُ الْعِجْلَ مِن بَعْدِهِ وَأَنتُمْ ظَالِمُونَ ﴿٩٢﴾ وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمُ الطُّورَ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاسْمَعُوا ۖ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَأُشْرِبُوا فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْعِجْلَ بِكُفْرِهِمْ ۚ قُلْ بِئْسَمَا يَأْمُرُكُم بِهِ إِيمَانُكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٩٣﴾
2:91 And when they are told, ‘Believe in what Allah has sent down,’ they say, ‘We believe in what was sent down to us(Torah),’ and they disbelieve what is besides it (the Quran), though it (the Quran) is the truth confirming what is with them (Torah). Say, ‘Then why would you kill the prophets of Allah formerly, should you be faithful?’
2:92 Certainly Moses brought you manifest proofs (miracles), but then you took up the Calf in his absence and you were wrongdoers.
2:93 And when We took covenant with you and raised the Mount above you, [declaring], ‘Hold on with power to what We have given you, and do listen!’ They said, ‘We hear, and disobey,’ and their hearts had been imbued with [the love of] the Calf, due to their unfaith. Say, ‘Evil is that to which your faith prompts you, should you be faithful!’
Commentary: The descendants of the Children of Israel who lived in Medina in the era of the Prophet (SAW) declared that they would believe only in the Israelite prophets and scriptures and would disregard anything or anyone beyond that (i.e. the holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW)).
The Qur’an challenged the Israelites by asking them: if they would believe only in the Israelite prophets and scriptures, why did they kill the Israelite prophets in the past? Why did they worship Samiri’s Golden Calf despite Prophet Harun’s (Aaron’s) objection? Why did they breach the divine covenant despite their pledge to abide by?
Notice that the descendants of the Israelites were not involved in any above events. However, the verse delineates them as accomplices in the sins of their ancestors. Were they guilty simply because they were Israelites? Of course not! The Qur’an in Chapter Al-Imran 3:113 praises a group of Israelites who offered prayers and recited scripture during the night:
لَيْسُوا سَوَاءً ۗ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّـهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ ﴿١١٣﴾
3:113 Yet they are not all alike. Among the People of the Book is an upright nation; they recite Allah’s signs in the watches of the night and prostrate.
Ideological Empathy: Answering this question relies on understanding the importance of sympathizing and supporting a cause in Islam. Imam Reza (AS) narrates:
وَ مَنْ رَضِيَ شَيْئاً كَانَ كَمَنْ أَتَاهُ وَ لَوْ أَنَّ رَجُلًا قُتِلَ بِالْمَشْرِقِ فَرَضِيَ بِقَتْلِهِ رَجُلٌ فِي الْمَغْرِبِ لَكَانَ الرَّاضِي عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ شَرِيكَ الْقَاتِلِ
Whoever sympathized with an action is like who has committed it. Even, if someone in the west pleased with a murder that has happened in the east, that individual is accomplice in the murder in the sight of Allah (SWT).
After winning a victory in the battle of Jamal, one of the companions of Imam Amir al-Mu’minin Ali (AS) said to the Imam that he wished that his brother was present in the battle so he could benefit from the virtue of supporting the Imam. Imam Ali (AS) asked his companion [sermon 12 of Nahj al-Balagha]:
فَقال لَهُ عَلَیْهِ السَّلامُ: اَهَوى اَخیکَ مَعَنا؟ فَقالَ: نَعَمْ. قالَ: فَقَدْ شَهِدَنا،
“Would your brother sympathize with our cause?” The companion replied “Yes”. Then the Imam said to him, indeed he was with us. Then, the Imam (AS) went a step further and said:
وَ لَقَدْ شَهِدَنا! فی عَسْکَرِنا هذا اَقْوام فی اَصْلابِ الرِّجالِ وَ اَرْحامِ النِّساءِ، سَیَرْعَفُ بِهِمُ الزَّمانُ، وَ یَقْوى بِهِمُ الإیمانُ
“Not only him but also future generations who sympathize with us are present here. Shortly, time will bring them out and faith will get strength through them.”
The common denominator between the companion of the Imam and future generations is the ideological empathy with Imam Ali (AS).
The concept of ideological empathy is deeply rooted in the Qur’an. History shows us the incidence of the one individual slaughter of the She-Camel of God [the Qur’an: (نَاقَةَ اللَّـهِ)], the miracle of Prophet Salih. However, Allah (SWT) punished the whole nation of Thamud, since they consented to the slaughter of the She-Camel. Imam Ali (AS) stated in sermon 201 in Nahj al-Balagha:
اَیُّهَا النّاسُ اِنَّما یَجْمَعُ النّاسَ الرِّضى وَ السُّخْطُ وَ اِنَّما عَقَرَ ناقَةَ ثَمُودَ رَجُل واحِد فَعَمَّهُمْ اللهُ بِالْعَذابِ لَمّا عَمُّوهُ بِالرِّضا
O people, certainly, what gathers people together (in categories) is (their) consent and dissent (to good or bad), for only one individual killed the camel of Thamud but Allah held all of them accountable since all of them consented to it.
Story of Jabr-ibn-Abdullah Ansari: [Arabic: (جابر بن عبدالله انصارى)] Jabr, along with his friend Atiyyah al-‘Awfi [Arabic: (عطیه الوفی)], visited the grave of the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Hussain (AS), forty days after his martyrdom. Jabr, a companion of the Prophet (SAW), greeted the Imam (AS) and said:
أَشْهَدُ أَنَّكُمْ أَقَمْتُمُ الصَّلَاةَ وَ آتَيْتُمُ الزَّكَاةَ وَ أَمَرْتُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَ نَهَيْتُمْ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَ جَاهَدْتُمُ الْمُلْحِدِينَ وَ عَبَدْتُمُ اللَّهَ حَتَّى أَتَاكُمُ الْيَقِينُ
“I bear witness that you established prayer, gave the Zakat, enjoined good and forbad wrong. In addition, I bear witness that you fought the deniers of religion and worshiped Allah until your last breath.”
Then, Jabr said:
وَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ مُحَمَّداً بِالْحَقِّ لَقَدْ شَارَكْنَاكُمْ فِيمَا دَخَلْتُمْ فِيهِ
“I swear by the One Who sent Mohammad as a Prophet with truth; surely we participated with you in what (blessings and rewards that) you encountered.”
Atiyyah said to Jabr: “How can that be possible? We did not fight with sword; we descend neither any valley nor ascend any mountainous. Whereas Imam Hussain (AS) along with his companions fought the denier of religion and were martyred; their children became orphans and their women became widows!” Jabir said “O ‘Atiyyah, I heard from my beloved Prophet who said:
مَنْ أَحَبَّ قَوْماً حُشِرَ مَعَهُمْ وَ مَنْ أَحَبَّ عَمَلَ قَوْمٍ أُشْرِكَ فِي عَمَلِهِمْ
‘Whosoever loves a nation, he would be resurrected with them, and whoever loves the deed of a nation, would be considered one who has participated in the deed.
Then Jabir said, “I swear by the One Who Sent Mohammad as a Prophet in truth, surely my intention is the same as the intention of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions.”
Conclusion: In conclusion, Imam Sadiq (AS) said that Allah (SWT) knew that the descendants of the Israelites did not kill Israelite prophets. Nevertheless, Allah (SWT) considered them accomplices in the murder [Arabic: (فَسَمَّاهُمُ اللَّهُ قَاتِلِينَ)] for three reasons:
They sympathized with the murderer of the Israelite prophets [Arabic: (فَقَدْ كَانَ هَوَاهُمْ مَعَ الَّذِينَ قَتَلُوا)]
Their hearts and mindsets were similar to the hearts and mindsets of the murderers of the Israelite prophets [Arabic: (لِمُتَابَعَةِ هَوَاهُمْ)]
They had consented to their ancestors’ misdeeds [Arabic: (وَ رِضَاهُمْ لِذَلِكَ الْفِعْلِ)]
وَ قَدْ عَلِمَ أَنَّ هَؤُلَاءِ لَمْ يَقْتُلُوا وَ لَكِنْ فَقَدْ كَانَ هَوَاهُمْ مَعَ الَّذِينَ قَتَلُوا فَسَمَّاهُمُ اللَّهُ قَاتِلِينَ لِمُتَابَعَةِ هَوَاهُمْ وَ رِضَاهُمْ لِذَلِكَ الْفِعْلِ
The Naqat Allah (Arabic: نَـاقـة الله, “She-Camel of God”) was a miraculous female camel sent by Allah to the people of Thamud in Al-Hijr, after they demanded a miracle from the Islamic Nabi (Arabic: نَـبِي, Prophet) Salih. The narrative and story of the she-camel is recorded in the Qur’an.