Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
After the closing verses of our last Reading (HQ7:157-158), I feel that I must begin by saluting all our dear Brothers and Sisters who made the leap of faith, not from one ‘religion’ to another (we now know that ‘religion’ is man-made) but the leap to a higher level of awareness in their own inborn, intuitive, God-given, Standard of Accountability -‘دين’.
If only more of us realized and lived up to this Standard:
Purity in Reverence to God إسلام-!
As Muhammad Asad said:
"Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other; nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking; and the result is a structure of absolute balance and solid composure."
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of this Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view.
PAGE 171: Click for Arabic Qur’an.
1. Our Reading today starts with Verse 159 (of the previous page), in which we find that, OF مِن Moses’ followers, there were indeed such people who guided others in the Truth and acted justly in light of it.
2. Verse 160 takes us back to the narrative of Prophet Moses, peace upon him, and his people, who were divided into twelve tribes. Such narratives bore lessons for early Believers, as Yusuf Ali tells us:
“We now come to some incidents in Jewish history, which have been referred to in ii. 57-60. Here they have special reference to their bearing on the times when early Islam was preached. The Twelve Tribes and the parable drawn from them have been explained in n. 73 to ii. 60.”
Asad tells us that these verses return us to the ‘MORAL HISTORY’ of Bani Isra-eel (Verse 160 explained by Asad.
Verses 161-162 tell us of God’s bounteous offerings, with the command that they be humble, but they did not respond to that command, substituting it for another. They were ‘transgressors/those who were bent on wrongdoing’ (Ali/Asad).
3. Verse 163 begins another narrative, telling Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, to ask the Jews about a famous story which took place in a town by the sea, on a day of rest and stillness (see HQ2:65). ‘Sabt,’ سبتwhich in Arabic means ‘rest and stillness [i]’ also means Saturday when indicating a day of the week (still used in Arabic); in English it is the ‘Sabbath.’
Explained by Asad in full, here is an excerpt from his commentary:
“Since the Qur’ān does not mention the name of the town nor give any indication as to the historical period in which those offences were committed, it may be assumed that the story of the Sabbath-breakers (alluded to in several places in the Qur’ān) is a general illustration of the tendency, so often manifested by the children of Israel, to offend against their religious laws in pursuit of their passions or for the sake of worldly gain. Although, according to the teachings of Islam, the Mosaic dispensation has since been abrogated, the Qur’ān frequently points out its great role in the history of man’s monotheistic beliefs, and stresses again and again its (time-bound) importance as a means of enforcing spiritual discipline on the children of Israel.”
PAGE 172: Click for Arabic Qur’an.
4. Verses 164-166 continue the narrative, which ends with the words: ‘…and we said to them: Be ye apes despised and rejected/Be as apes despicable’ (Ali/Asad).
(We already know from when the story was first referred to in Chapter 2 that both our commentators consider this metaphorical. Others say it is literal. I see this as unimportant. The importance lies in the story itself; its aftermath is only to illustrate its lesson:
Each deed gets its consequence in kind!)
5. Some might have considered verses 157-158 ‘an interpolation’- a change of subject- as they ‘jumped’ to the Qur’an and its Messenger in the middle of verses… and verses… on Moses and his followers.. but no!
I think these narratives are directly related to the fact that this Qur’anic Message and its Messenger, are here to ‘relieve the burden and release the shackles’ borne by those who had been THE Believers on this earth, prior to its arrival! We may think that these stories only serve as timeless warnings… but why haven’t we ever seen them also as invitations?
Isn’t God speaking here to people whose burdens were great, whether by their inherited laws (such as the Jews) or by their inherited beliefs (such as the Christians who believe in original sin where even a newborn is damned)?
In commanding His Messenger to ask the Jews of such stories, and then actually giving them details even they did not know of… wasn’t God showing them the Truth of this Message AND its purpose as a route to their deliverance?
We can see that more clearly when we realize, that PUNISHMENT for breach of the Sabbath was DEATH under Mosaic Law, as explained by Yusuf Ali:
"The punishment for breach of the Sabbath under the Mosaic law was death. "Every one that defieth it (the Sabbath) shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people." (Exod. xxxi. 14).
6. Verse 167 takes us to even later generations, among whom were the righteous and those less than righteous. (Here we find ourselves on familiar ground; this could be a description of us…) Both were tried with prosperity and adversity, which actually were opportunities for them to return to God!
7. Then Verses 168-169 tell us of those who ‘inherited the Compilation..’ (we must disregard Ali’s word in brackets: ‘evil.’ Inheriting anything, in itself, makes us take it for granted!).
Indeed, if we saw the timelessness of these verses, we would NOT limit them to the tribes they mention alone, but would see much resemblance in ourselves today. WE have literally inherited the Compilation… and are now going the same way, despite having read, and studied, and pledged ourselves to what it holds. WE are the ones who consider ourselves beyond reproach, to be forgiven because of our ‘heritage’– each to our specific sect, of course! The ending says it all: the Home of the Hereafter is best for the AWARE- do we not secure comprehension??!!
Let us be of ‘those who cling fast to the Compilation and hold steady relationship’ with God and His creation; He does not allow to be lost, any rewards of the Righteous, the Doers of good deeds!
Our next Reading is from HQ 7: 171-187
Have a Blessed Weekend!
[i] (سبت) يدلُّ على راحةٍ وسكون. يقال للسَّير السهل اللّين. سَبْتٌ.