Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 13

Forgive and Overlook Their Misdeeds

The Bani Israel were heedless to clear instructions given to them. They kept breaking one covenant after another.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala mentions in this ayah the punishment that befell those who broke His covenant and the pledge they gave Him,

فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَـقَهُمْ لَعنَّـهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً

“So because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them and made their hearts grow hard …”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states, because of their breaking the promise that He took from them, He cursed them meaning deprived them of His blessings. Since they were not interested in truth or guidance, they were deviated from it.

Their hearts were hardened, therefore they did not heed any word of advice that they heard. A person whose is hardened is devoid of any emotions or heedfulness. It makes no effect on him whether you advice him for his betterment or leave him on his own.

In a hadeeth, Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said when someone commits a sin for the first time, a black dot gets stamped on the heart. He feels the pinch of this evil presence all the time. It is like a black stain on a white cloth which is a constant sore of the eye. If he gets chastened, repents and resolves not to do it again, that dot is erased; and should be become carefree and start of spree of other sins, a black dot for each subsequent sin will keep adding up so much so that the clean slate of his heart will turn jet black with these dots of stain.

At that stage, the state of his heart will become very much like a pot placed upside down in which nothing goes in but to come out instantly. Therefore, nothing good settles down in his heart for he has fallen into a state of moral inertia – to him nothing good is good and no evil is evil. Rather, the opposite becomes his more likely approach – he starts taking defect as merit, vice as virtue and sin as reward. Thus armed with his crooked thinking, he goes on riding high in his rebellion. This is an on the spot punishment of his sin which he gets right here in this world.

The instant reward of a good deed is that one get the taufeeq of doing another good deed. Similarly, the reward of a sin is that one’s heart starts being attracted to other sins soon after the first. [Maroof-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then gives the reasons for such a punishment,

يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ وَنَسُواْ حَظَّا مِّمَّا ذُكِرُواْ بِهِ

“They change the words from their (right) places and have abandoned a good part of the Message that was sent to them…”

The word yuharifoona is from the root letters ha-ra-fa [harf].

Since their comprehension became corrupt, they behaved treacherously with Allah’s ayaat, altering His Book from its apparent meanings which He sent down, and distorting its indications. They attributed to Allah what He did not say. We have learned some of these examples previously in Surah al-Baqarah.

When Bani Israel complained about eating same food every day [mann o salwa], Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala advised them to migrate to a nearby settlement. One condition that He placed was to enter it with humility uttering the word “hitatun” which implied repentance or forgiveness. But they altered it.

When they met the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam they would say “Assam alaykum”. They hid and denied the description of the Prophet mentioned in their Book. They altered the meaning of the ayaat of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to what suited them. [We seek refuge with Allah from such behavior, aameen].

The misconduct of the Bani Israel was such that it could have compelled the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam to hold them in contempt and never allow them to come to him. Therefore, in the last sentence of this ayah Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands the Prophet to forgive them and overlook their misdeeds. He says,

 وَلاَ تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى خَآئِنَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِّنْهُمُ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ 

“And you will not cease to discover deceit in them, except a few of them. But forgive them and overlook (their misdeeds). Verily, Allah loves the doers of good.”

They kept breaking their promises with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala how could they keep their promises with anyone else? Therefore it was said you will not cease to discover deceit in them. Anyone who doesn’t have haya of Allah has no haya or respect for others.

Despite their condition being what it is, it is better that the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam abstains from doing what is otherwise quite natural. In other words, he should not treat them with contempt or hatred because after knowing what they are – hardhearted and cold – the chances that any good counsel would affect them are remote.

Tolerance and civility of morals are virtues which can put some sense and sensibility into insensate people. This, indeed, is the ultimate victory and triumph. Some of the Salaf said, “You would never treat those who disobey Allah with you better than obeying Allah with them.” This way, their hearts will gather around the truth and Allah might lead them to the right guidance. This is why Allah said that He loves the muhsineen – the ones who show excellence of conduct.


– Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is just. He doesn’t punish without reason. Bani Israel kept repenting and disobeying showing no regard for Allah’s commands made them eligible for this punishment.

– When a person does not follow the commands that he has been given he receives the lanah of Allah. We can’t pick and choose. If this is our behavior towards the commands of Allah we are caling upon His curse. This is not acceptable. When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given us commands, we have to show respect by implementing them in our lives. We can’t play with the deen. Examples of past generation are not mentioned for our entertainment but for us to take heed from them.

– When a person deliberately chooses to disobey a command of Allah, his heart becomes hard. He listens to the ayaat of Allah but they have no effect on his heart. He is deprived of guidance and truth and keeps falling into one sin after another. The more obedient a person is the more receptive his heart becomes. The cure for a hard heart is obedience of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

– Disobedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is a lack of understanding of His words. When a person distorts the words of Allah it is either arrogance or ignorance. On the other hand, those who are obedient, it is easier for them to understand the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

– Hardness of the heart leads to treachery by which a person can betray his loved ones, his friends, his colleagues or anyone that he comes across.

– We are encouraged to forgive those people who hurt or betrayed us because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala loves those who do ehsaan. 

– Islam teaches us to forgive our enemy.


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