The Stubbornness of the Jews
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is advising the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam not to take senseless demands of the Jews seriously. Narrating their stubbornness, He says,
يَسْأَلُكَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَـبِ أَن تُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْهِمْ كِتَـباً مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ فَقَدْ سَأَلُواْ مُوسَى أَكْبَرَ مِن ذلِكَ فَقَالُواْ أَرِنَا اللَّهِ جَهْرَةً فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الصَّـعِقَةُ بِظُلْمِهِمْ
“The People of the Book (Jews) ask you to cause a book to descend upon them from heaven. Indeed, they asked Musa for even greater than that, when they said: ‘Show us Allah in public,’ but they were struck with a bolt of lightning for their wickedness.”
Ibn Jurayj said that the Jews asked the Messenger to cause books to come down to them addressed to so-and-so among them, testifying to the truth of what he was sent with. The Jews only asked for this because of their stubbornness, defiance, rejection and disbelief. The disbelievers of Quraysh also asked for similar things from the Prophet, as is mentioned in Surah al-Isra’ ayah 90, “And they say: ‘We shall not believe in you, until you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us.'”
By narrating the incident that happened at the time of Prophet Musa aalyhi salaam, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is telling the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam not to take them seriously. If you find this shocking that they are asking you to bring a letter or written scripture from the heavens above, then know that they demanded Prophet Musa aalyhi salaam to show them Allah.
Upon their this demand, they were struck by lightning because they were doing injustice. They didn’t ask to see Allah out of love, but out of their stubbornness to not believe in Allah’s commands.
Therefore, through this ayah Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is telling the Prophet that there is no need to fulfill their demands of showing miracles, they didn’t believe at the time of Prophet Musa aalyhi salaam they wouldn’t believe now. The Prophet was not sent to show miracles, but to call people to Allah’s path.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then says,
ثُمَّ اتَّخَذُواْ الْعِجْلَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَـتُ فَعَفَوْنَا عَن ذلِكَ وَءَاتَيْنَا مُوسَى سُلْطَـناً مُّبِيناً
“Then they worshiped the calf even after Al-Bayyinat had come to them. (Even) so We forgave them. And We gave Musa a clear proof of authority.”
Despite witnessing tremendous miracles and unequivocal proofs at the hand of Musa aalyhi salaam, the Jews made a calf their idol. They also witnessed the demise of their enemy Fir’awn and his soldiers, when they all drowned in the sea. Yet soon after, when they passed by a people who were worshiping idols they said to Musa aalyhi salaam, “Make for a god as they have gods.” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala still forgave them.
What is meant by “We gave Musa a clear proof of authority”? It means that while the Jews were quite disobedient towards their Prophet Musa and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, there were instances where they could not defy him. Prophet Musa had authority over them. For example, they made a calf their idol but when they instructed to kill it, they had to comply with the instruction they couldn’t back out.
– In this ayah there is comfort for the da’ai that when one faces challenges, he should remember the obstacles that the Messengers of Allah had to face. Prophet Musa aalyhi salaam was defied by his people while Prophet Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam was asked to bring one miracle after another in order for the disbelievers to believe in him.
– When people demand miracles this indicates they are not serious in their search for guidance. True change comes from within a person and not through miracles or wishful thinking.