Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 12

Cursing the People of the Book for Breaking the Covenant

Ayah 12 clarifies that taking of pledges is not something special to Muslims. Similar pledges were also taken earlier, from other communities as well. But, they failed to fulfill them. When they broke these promises and covenants, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala cursed them as a consequence and expelled them from His grace and mercy. He also sealed their hearts from receiving guidance and the religion of truth, beneficial knowledge and righteous actions. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

وَلَقَدْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِيثَـقَ بَنِى إِسْرَءِيلَ وَبَعَثْنَا مِنهُمُ اثْنَىْ عَشَرَ نَقِيباً

“Indeed Allah took the covenant from the Children of Israel and We appointed twelve leaders among them.”

These twelve people were leaders who gave the pledge to Allah to listen and obey Allah, His Messenger and His Book on behalf of their tribes. Muhammad bin Ishaq and Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu said that this occurred when Musa went to fight the mighty enemy (in Palestine), and Allah commanded him to choose a leader from every tribe.

The Leaders of Ansar on the Night of Aqabah

Likewise, when the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam took the pledge from the Ansar in the Aqabah area, there were twelve leaders from the Ansar. There were three men from the tribe of Aws: Usayd bin Al-Hudayr, Sa`d bin Khaythamah and Rifa`ah bin Abdul-Mundhir, or Abu Al-Haytham bin At-Tayhan. There were nine people from the tribe of Khazraj: Abu Umamah As`ad bin Zurarah, Sa`d bin Ar-Rabi, Abdullah bin Rawahah, Rafi` bin Malik bin Al-Ajlan, Al-Bara’ bin Ma`rur, Ubadah bin As-Samit, Sa`d bin Ubadah, Abdullah bin Amr bin Haram and Al-Mundhir bin Umar bin Khunays. Ka`b bin Malik mentioned these men in his poem, as recorded by Ibn Ishaq. On that night, these men were the leaders or representatives of their tribes by the command of the Prophet . They gave the pledge and promise of allegiance and obedience to the Prophet on behalf of their people. Allah said,

وَقَالَ اللَّهُ إِنِّى مَعَكُمْ لَئِنْ أَقَمْتُمُ الصَّلوةَ وَءَاتَيْتُمْ الزَّكَوةَ وَءَامَنتُمْ بِرُسُلِى وَعَزَّرْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَقْرَضْتُمُ اللَّهَ قَرْضاً حَسَناً

“And Allah said: “I am with you if you perform the Salah and give the Zakah and believe in My Messengers; honor and assist them, and lend to Allah a good loan….”

The sentence, “I am with you” tells two things. First, if they stood by the pledge, Divine support will be with them which they would witness on every step they take. Secondly, they must realize that Allah is with the everywhere all the time. He is watching over this pledge.

Then come the articles of the pledge, the first being ‘the establishment of Salah and the payment of Zakah’.

The third article of the pledge is that they should believe in all prophets and messengers sent by Allah and help them achieve their objective of spreading true guidance. Since many messengers were to come to the Bani Israel, they were the ones particularly charged to do this. Though, the status of basic emaan comes ahead of actual acts such as Salah and Zakah, yet, in this pledge, what was to be actually done was what was placed first. Prophets and messengers who were to come, would be coming later. Since the matters of believing in them and helping them in their mission was to happen later, that part was placed later in the text.

The fourth article of the pledge is giving a goodly loan to Allah. it means it should be with absolute sincerity without any worldly expediency behind it. When spending in the way of Allah, one should spend what one holds dear – never trying to get away by giving out of the spare, the extra and the worthless. Spending in the way of Allah has been expressed as ‘the giving of loan’ because the return of a loan is taken as due legally, customarily and morally. So, one should spend in the way of Allah believing that it will be returned definitely.

Since the obligatory Zakah has already been mentioned at its place, the introduction of Qard Hasana here indicates that it is referring to sadaqat and khayrat [charities] other than Zakah. It also tells us that Muslims are not done with all financial responsibilities by simply paying off the Zakah due on them. There are other financial rights to be fulfilled, such as making a masjid where needed.

Towards the end of the ayah, after enumerating the articles of the pledge, it was also clarified that the fulfillment of the pledge on their part will be amply rewarded, even their past sins will be forgiven and they will have the eternal comfort and security of Paradise.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

لأُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَـتِكُمْ وَلأدْخِلَنَّكُمْ جَنَّـتٍ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهَا الاٌّنْهَـرُ

“Verily, I will remit your sins and admit you to gardens under which rivers flow.”

Sins of such people will be erased and they will not be punished. Such people will find an abode in Jannah. Thus, protecting them from what they feared and granting them what they seek.

فَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ مِنْكُمْ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَآءَ السَّبِيلِ

“But if any of you after this, disbelieved, he has indeed gone astray from the straight way.”

Should any one elect to ignore such clear statements and go on to the limits of rejection and rebellion, they should know that they have left the straight path only to their self-appointed ruin.

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