Indeed Allah accepted a firm covenant from the children of Israel and We raised among them twelve chieftains. Allah said I shall be with you. If you attend to your prayers and pay the purifying alms, and believe in My messengers and support them and lend to Allah a generous loan, I shall forgive you your sins and admit you into gardens through which rivers flow. Anyone of you who, after this, disbelieves will have strayed from the right path.
Then for having broken their covenant, We have cursed them and caused their hearts, to harden. They lift (revealed) words out of their context and they have forgotten much of what they have been enjoined. You will always light upon some treachery on the part of all, save a few of them. But pardon them, and forgive. Allah loves those who do good.
(The Repast AIMaidah 5 1213)
The first of these two verses was the subject of our commentary last month, when we explained the terms and conditions of the covenant Allah had accepted from the children of Israel. We also spoke about the reward He had promised them for the fulfillment of these conditions and the penalties they would expect when they violated their pledges.
It must be said that the covenant Allah had accepted from the chieftains of the children of Israel was on behalf of their communities. They all accepted it, a fact which made it a covenant applicable to every single individual among them, and one with the whole nation they constituted. How did the Israelites subsequently fare They have indeed broken their covenant with Allah they killed their prophets, and they plotted to kill and crucify Jesus (Pbuh). They also distorted their revealed scriptures, i.e. the Torah, and abandoned its laws. They adopted a hostile attitude towards the last of all prophets. Muhammad (Pbuh). They schemed against him and betrayed him and adopted an uncompromising attitude of hostility towards his message, not hesitating to violate the treaty they signed with him. As a result, they were denied Allahs guidance and werevrejected. Their hearts were caused to harden so that they could no longer be recipients of divine guidance For having broken their covenant, We have cursed them and caused their hearts to harden. They lift revealed words out of their context and they have forgotten much of what they have been enjoined.
Indeed, Allah tells the truth. These are the distinctive features of the Jews a curse that is clearly apparent in their faces and deeply entrenched in their evil character, a hardness that leaves no room for a compassionate smile and actions that take no heed of human feelings. They may appear to be gentle, when they have something to fear or an interest to further or when they try to sow the seeds of discord among people, but their hardness will surface nevertheless to reveal that deep at heart, they are cruel, devoid of mercy. It is an essential characteristic of theirs that they lift revealed words out of their context. They have distorted their revealed book and presented it in a light, different from that which was revealed to Moses (Pbuh). They did this in more ways than one They have added to their book much of what serves their devious goals and gives them religious justification for pursuing their wicked ends through what they have falsely attributed to Allah and they have interpreted such original statements as remain in their book according to their prejudices so as to make these statements fit with their wicked designs, and they have deliberately abandoned or forgotten the tenets of their faith and left them unimplemented in their society because such implementation would have required them to adhere to a clean and pure method acceptable to Allah.
You will always light upon some act of treachery on the part of all, save a few of them. This is an address to the Prophet describing the attitude of the Jews towards the Muslim community in Madinah. They never hesitated to try to betray Allahs Messenger. Their treacherous attempts came fast on the heals of one another. Indeed, that was their standard practice during the years when they were with the Prophet in Madinah, then in the whole of Arabia. It has continued to be their practice whenever they lived within a Muslim community, despite the fact that the Muslim community has been the only one to give them safe refuge, allow them a life free of persecution, and extend to them a kindly treatment and a prosperous type of life. Nevertheless, they have continued to show the same attitude they adopted towards the Prophet, that of treacherous snakes and foxes. If they are unable to level a direct blow to destroy Muslims, they will resort to tricks and wicked designs. They scheme with every enemy of Muslims until they get chance to hit them hard, without mercy or compassion, paying no heed to any covenant or treaty. This is true of the great majority of them, as Allah described them in His Book and as He told us of their nature which they have acquired in consequence of breaking their covenant with Allah early in their history.
The Quranic description of the situation of the Jews in Madinah and their attitude towards Allahs Messenger is very interesting You will always light upon some treachery on the part of all save a few of them. Treacherous actions, intentions, words and looks are all grouped together in an Arabicexpression which states the adjective and deletes the noun it qualifies. For treachery in the English translation, we read treacherous in the Arabic original which is a mode of expression suggesting a situation full of treachery that is perpetrated by every single one of them. This is part of their nature. It is also the essence of their attitude towards the Prophet and the Muslim community.
The Quran is the teacher and the guide of the Muslim nation which marks the road it is required to follow throughout history. The Quran tells the Muslims about their enemies and their historical attitude towards Allahs guidance. Had this nation of believers referred to the Quran and listened to its directives and implemented its instructions, their enemies would have never been able to win the upper hand in any fight against Islam, But when Muslims broke their covenants with their Lord and abandoned the Quran, they have suffered the setbacks and calamities known to everyone. It is true that they continue to be enchanted with musical recitations of the Quran and may use it as charms, but this is not the purpose for which the Quran was revealed. Indeed, when the Quran is not implemented in the lives of the Muslim community, it is effectively abandoned by it, regardless of how much lip service is paid to it.
Allah has told the Muslim community of what has happened to the children of Israel and how they were cursed, rejected and suffered hardened hearts when they broke their covenants with Allah, so that the Muslim community would guard against breaking its own covenant with Him lest they suffer the same fate. It is because they have disregarded this warning and followed a way different from that of Islam, that Allah has taken away from them the role of leadership of humanity, to leave them at its tail end. They will continue to be in this tail position until they return to their Lord, adhere to their covenant, and fulfill their pledges. Then and only then, Allah will fulfill His promise to them, give them power and return them to the leadership of humanity. Allahs promise will never fail.
At the time when this Quranic verse was revealed, Allah instructed His Messenger in these terms But pardon them, and forgive. Allah loves those who do good. To pardon their evil act is to do good, and to forgive their treachery is to do good. But a time came when forgive ness and pardon .could no longer be extended. Allah instructed the Prophet subsequently to evacuate them from Madinah and later from the Arabian Peninsula altogether. These instructions were carried out.