Al-Baqarah Ayah 121 70 135
(2:120) Never will the Jews be pleased with you, (O Prophet), nor the Christians until you follow their way.12 Say: “Surely Allah’s guidance, is the true guidance.” Should you follow their desires disregarding the knowledge which has come to you, you shall have no protector or helper against Allah.
121. The cause of their disconcertment with the Prophet (peace be on him) was not that they were earnest seekers after the Truth which the Prophet had failed to make clear to them. The the real cause of their unhappiness was that he had not resorted to hypocrisy and trickery, in regard to religious matters, that unlike them he did not pursue self-interest and self- indulgence under the façade of godliness and piety, that he did not twist religious principles and injunctions without scruple, as the Jews were wont to do to make them suit their desires and fancies, that he did not resort to the chicanery and duplicity which characterized the religious life of the Jews. As a result, it was no use trying to appease them.
For unless the Muslims were prepared to assume the attitude and orientation of the Jews and to follow all their errors in belief and practice, there was no question of their being able to bring about any reconciliation with them.
(2:121) Those to whom We have given the Scripture, and who recite it as it ought to be recited, they truly believe in it;!22 and those who disbelieve in it, they are the real losers.
122. This refers to the pious element among the People of the Book. Since these people read the Book with sincerity and honesty of purpose, they are inclined to accept whatever they find to be true according to it.
(2:122) Children of Israel!123 Recall My favor which I bestowed upon you and I exalted you above the nations of the world,
123. A fresh subject is now broached. To appreciate it fully, the following should be clearly borne in mind:
(1) After Noah, Abraham was the first Prophet appointed by God to spread the universal
message of Islam. At the outset, he journeyed for many years from Iraq to Egypt, and from Syria and Palestine to various parts of Arabia inviting people to serve and obey God. Later he appointed deputies in various regions to carry on his mission. He sent his nephew Lot to Transjordan, his son Isaac to Syria and Palestine, and his eldest son Ishmael to Arabia. Then he built, in Makkah, the shrine called the Kaaba which subsequently, and under God’s command, was made the center of the prophetic mission.
(2) Abraham’s progeny descended into two main branches. One of these, the Children of Ishmael lived in Arabia. The Quraysh and other Arabian tribes belonged to this branch of Abraham’s line. Even those Arabian tribes which were not related to him by blood identified themselves with Abraham since they had been influenced in varying degrees by his religious ideas. The other branch consisted of the Children of Isaac. In this branch there arose a great number of Prophets, for example, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, John, and Jesus. Since Jacob was called Israel, his offspring came to be known as the Children of Israel. Other peoples who accepted their faith as a result of preaching either lost their former identity and became assimilated with them, or remained separate from them ethnically but identified with them religiously. At the time when decadence flourished this branch of the The Abrahamic families Abrahamic first to Judaism, and subsequently to Christianity.
(3) The true mission of Abraham was to invite people to obey God and to mold the entire system of individual and collective life according to Divine Guidance. He was himself obedient to God and followed the teaching received from Him, and constantly strove to spread it and make all human beings live in obedience to it. Because of this, he was appointed the religious leader and guide of the whole world. After his death, the task of guiding the world was entrusted to the branch which had been issued from Isaac and Jacob, and which came to be known as the Children of Israel. It is in this branch that many Prophets were born. It was also This branch was also given the knowledge of the Straight way signaled to lead all the nations of the world along that Way. It is of this favor that God, again and again, reminds these people.
In the time of Solomon, this branch took Jerusalem as the center of its mission. Jerusalem maintained its central position for all devotees of God and remained the qiblah (direction) in which all worshippers of God were required to turn in their Prayer.
(4) While addressing the Children of Israel in the last ten sections, God set forth the criminal record of the Jews exposed their decadent state at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, and made it clear to them that they had lacked gratitude to God for His favors and bounties. Not only had they ceased to guide the world, but had turned away from Truth and righteousness to such an extent that nearly all of them had lost the capacity to do good and to respond to Truth.
(5) It is also intimated that the religious leaders of all mankind are not an exclusive privilege of Abrahamic blood, but rather the fruit of Abraham’s sincere obedience and service to God, to which he had wholly consecrated himself. Only those who follow the way of Abraham, and guide the world along that way, are therefore entitled to the position of guidance and leadership. And since the Jews had abandoned it and become incapable of carrying out the mission of Abraham they were being removed from that position.
(6) At the same time, it is hinted that the non-Israelite peoples who identified themselves with Abraham through Moses and Jesus had also veered from the way of Abraham. The same was true of the polytheists of Arabia, who felt proud of belonging to Abraham and Ishmael based this pride on lineage alone. For, so far as their faith and conduct were concerned, they had not even the remotest tie with Abraham and Ishmael. They did not deserve, therefore, to be entrusted with the religious leaders of the world.
(7) It is also made clear that by God’s will a Prophet, for whose advent Abraham and Ishmael had once prayed, was born in the other branch of the Abrahamic family, i.e. the Ishmaelite’s. The way propounded by this Prophet is the same as that by Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, and all, the Messengers. His followers also confirm the truth of all those designated in the past to serve as God’s Messengers and call mankind to the same message those Messengers preached earlier. Thus, leadership now naturally devolves on those who follow this Prophet.
(8) This proclamation of a transfer of leadership naturally called for the proclamation of a change in the direction of Prayer. As long as the Israelites held the reins of the world’s
religious leadership, Jerusalem remained the center of the mission of Islam and the qiblah of truth-loving people. The Arabian Prophet (peace be on him) as well as his followers had accepted Jerusalem as the qiblah until God duly proclaimed the removal of the Jews from
their position of leadership. With this proclamation, Jerusalem ceased to enjoy its central position. So it was proclaimed that from then on the center of God’s true religion would be the place from which the message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) had radiated. Since in the past it had been the center of the mission of Abraham (peace be on him), it was difficult even for the polytheists and for the People of the Book to deny that the Kaaba had a greater right to be made the qiblah. There was thus every reasonable ground for the decision to change the qiblah and its opponents could only object out of irrational adamancies.
(9) The proclamation that the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) had been designated to the religious leaders of mankind, and that the Kaaba would now be the focal point of man’s religious life was followed by directives (beginning with(_verse 153)and continuing to the end of the surah) addressed to the Muslims. These directives were aimed at enabling the Muslims to acquit themselves creditably of the duties laid upon their shoulders as the bearers of this mission.
(2:123) and beware of the Day when no one shall avail another when ransom shall be accepted from no one, when no one’s intercession will profit anyone when there shall be no help from any quarter.
(2:124) Recall when Abraham’s Lord tested him in certain matters! and when he successfully stood the test, He said: “Indeed I am going to appoint you a leader of all people.” When Abraham asked: “And is this covenant also for my descendants?” the Lord responded: “My covenant does not embrace the wrong-doers.” 225
124. At various places, the Qur’an enumerates the severe tests through which Abraham passed. It was only after these had been completed successfully that he was able to establish his worthiness to serve as the religious guide and leader of all mankind. From the moment when the truth was revealed to him till the moment he died, his life was a continuous tale of sacrifice and suffering for his cause. There is no conceivable object of man’s love and attachment in the world which Abraham did not sacrifice for the sake of the truth. Likewise, there is no conceivable danger which instinctively frightens man which Abraham did not encounter for the sake of the Truth.
125. This specifies that God’s promise of the conferment of leadership applied only to those of Abraham’s offspring who were righteous and that the wrong-doers were naturally excluded. This also makes it clear that just as the promise did not apply to the misguided Israelites, it did not apply to the polytheistic Ishmaelites.
(2:125) And We made this House (Kaaba) a resort for mankind and a place of security, commanding people: “Take the station of Abraham as a permanent place for Prayer,” and enjoined Abraham and Ishmael: “Purify My House for those who walk around it, and those who abide in devotion, and those who bow, and who prostrate themselves (in Prayer).” 126
126. ‘Purify My House’ does not merely mean keeping it clean of dirt and filth. The real purity and cleanliness of the House of God rests in the fact that in it the name of God alone should be glorified. If someone declares in its sacred precincts that anything other than God is his Lord, his object of worship and adoration, the dispenser of man’s needs and requirements, the hearer of man’s supplications, then such a person is guilty of desecrating the House of God.
This verse also contains a hint as to the evil-doing of the people of the Quraysh. They boasted that they were the inheritors of the legacy of Abraham and Ishmael, but instead of being faithful to that legacy, they trampled over it. So, just as the Children of Israel were excluded from the promise made to Abraham, were the polytheistic children of Ishmael. (See also(n. 125 above – Ed.)
(2:126) And when Abraham prayed: “O my Lord! Make this a place of security and provide those of its people that believe in Allah and the Last Day with fruits for sustenance,” Allah answered, “And I shall still provide him who disbelieves with the wherewithal for this short life,!22 and then I shall drive him to the chastisement of the Fire; that is an evil end.”
127. (Here a distinction is made between honoring a people by entrusting it with the religious leadership and guidance of the world, and bestowing on it an abundant means of livelihood – Ed.) When Abraham enquired who merited world leadership it was made clear to him that only his truly believing and righteous children, to the exclusion of the wrong- doing ones, were worthy of it. This occasioned God to clarify that the religious leadership of the world was quite distinct from its livelihood. Men of faith alone were entitled to the former, whereas both believers and unbelievers would be provided the latter. If someone enjoys abundant material wealth it should not be misconstrued to mean that God is necessarily pleased with him and that he has been designated by God to provide religious guidance to the world.
(2:127) Recall when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House, praying: “Our Lord! Accept this from us; You are All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
(2:128) Our Lord! Make us submissive to You and make out of our descendants a community that submits itself to You, and show us the ways of Your worship, and turn to us in mercy. You are Much-Relenting, Most Compassionate.
(2:129) Our Lord! Raise amid our offspring a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Your verses, and instruct them in the Book and in Wisdom, and purify their lives.128 Verily, You are the Most Mighty, the isest.”122
128. The term ‘purification’ used here embraces the purification of beliefs and outlook, morals, habits and customs, and social, cultural, and political life; the purification of man’s life in its totality.
129. This has been said to indicate that the advent of Muhammad (peace be on him) was God’s response to the prayer of Abraham (peace be on him).
(2:130) And who but a fool would be averse to the way of Abraham? For it is We Who chose Abraham for Our mission in this world, and surely in the World to Come he shall be reckoned among the righteous.
(2:131) Such was Abraham that when his Lord said to him: “Submit,”12° he said: “I have submitted to the Lord of the Universe.”
130. ‘Muslim’ signifies he who bows in obedience to God, who acknowledges God alone as his Sovereign, Lord and Master, and the only object of worship, devotion, and service, who unreservedly surrenders himself to God and undertakes to live his life by the guidance that has come down from Him. Islam is the appellation that characterizes the above -mentioned belief and outlook constitutes the core and kernel of the the religion of all the Prophets who have appeared from time to time among different peoples and in different countries since the very beginning of human life.
(2:132) And Abraham enjoined the same upon his children, and so did Jacob:12. “My children! Behold, Allah has chosen this religion for you.122 Remain till death in submission (to Allah).”133
131. Jacob is specially mentioned since the Children of Israel were his direct descendants.
132. Din is a Qur’anic technical term, signifying the way of life, the system of conduct, and the code on which man bases his entire mode of thought and action. (For the author’s views on din see his Four Basic Qur’anic Terms, tr. Abu Asad, Lahore, 1979, pp. 93-103 – Ed.)
133. In the Bible, the events connected with the death of Jacob (peace be on him) are narrated in detail. Amazingly, this narrative does not refer to his testament. However, the contents of the detailed testament embodied in the Talmud greatly resemble the Qur’anic version. The Talmudic version reads as follows:
‘Serve the Lord your God, and He will deliver ye from all trouble, even as He delivered your fathers.’
‘… Teach your children to love God, and observe His commandments, so that their days may be prolonged, for God will guard those who do justly and walk in righteousness through all His ways.’
And the sons of Jacob responded, ‘All that you have commanded us, our father, we will do.
May God be with us!’
And Jacob answered: ‘The Lord will be with you if ye depart not from His ways to the right hand or to the left.’
(The Talmud Selections by H. Polano, London, Frederick Warne & Co., , pp. 113-14.)
(2:133) Why, were you, witnesses, when death came to Jacob? He asked his children:
“Whom will you serve after me?” They said: “We shall serve your God, the God of your forefathers, Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, the One God, and unto Him do we submit.”
(2:134) Now, they were people who passed away. Theirs is what they have earned, and yours is what you have earned. You shall not be asked concerning what they did 134
134. What is being said here is that even though they might be their offspring in terms of blood – relationships they had, in fact, no true relationship with them. What right did they have to pretend to belong to them when they had departed far from their way? For God would not ask people what their forefathers did; it was rather about their conduct and action that they would be questioned.
‘ Theirs is what they have earned ‘ is a characteristically Qur’anic expression. What we ordinarily characterize as either ‘active’ or ‘doing’ is termed by the Qur’an as ‘earning’. The reason is that every human action has its ultimate effect, whether or not it is good, and will have its manifestation in God’s approval or disapproval. It is this ultimate effect which is a man’s earning. Since the Qur’an considers this to be of paramount importance, it characterizes man’s actions as his ‘earning’.
(2:135) They say: “Be Jews,” or “Be Christians.” “Then you will be rightly guided.” Say to them: “No, follow exclusively the way of Abraham who was not one of those who associate others with Allah in His Divinity.”135
135. To grasp the subtlety, of this remark two things should be borne in mind. First, that in comparison to Islam, the primordial religion, both Judaism and Christianity are later products. The name Judaism and the characteristic features and elaborate body of laws and regulations associated with it. emerged during the third or fourth century, B.C. As too to for Christianity. in the sense of the body of dogmas and theological doctrines which characterize it, it came into existence long after Jesus (peace be on him). The question that naturally arises is that, if man’s guidance depends on following Judaism or Christianity, how can Abraham and other Prophets and righteous people who are accepted as having been rightly-guided even by the Jews and Christians be considered so when they were born several centuries before the birth of Judaism and Christianity? If they were rightly-guided from whom did they receive their guidance? Their source of guidance and inspiration was neither Judaism nor Christianity since, in their times, these did not exist. So man’s rectitude does not depend on those characteristics which led to the rise of Jewish and Christian particularism; it rather depends on adopting that universal way to Truth which has guided and inspired men throughout the ages.
Second. The Scriptures of the Jews and Christians attest that Abraham believed that worship, adoration, service, and obedience were due to God alone, and that it was his mission to have none associated with God in His attributes and rights. Since polytheistic elements had made inroads into Judaism and Christianity it was obvious that both had strayed from the way of Abraham.