Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 20

Reminders of Allah’s Favors towards the Jews

In the coming ayaat, we return to the transgression and disobedience of the Bani Israel. When Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the sea and Musa aalyhi salaam and his people became the masters of Egypt. Then to bless them with His added reward, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commanded them to repossess their ancestral land of Syria. He commanded them to enter Syria with the intention of jihad. And along with it they were given the good news that the victory will be theirs.

But the Bani Israel had their peculiar traits of character. They saw the blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala with their own eyes, they saw the spectacle of the drowning of Pharaoh and the conquest of Egypt, yet they failed once again, to stand by the solemn pledges they had given and elected to sit out the jihad of Syria against the Divine command. They punishment they received for this was 40 years of confinement in a limited area.

During this time Prophet Musa and Haroon aalyhi salaam passed away. Those who survived these 40 years resolved to do jihad and re-possess Syria under the prophets of that time. This is the background of these ayaat [20-26].

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states that His servant, Messenger, to whom He spoke directly, Musa, the son of Imran, reminded his people that among the favors Allah granted them, is that He will give them all of the good of this life and the Hereafter, if they remain on the righteous and straight path. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ يَـقَوْمِ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ جَعَلَ فِيكُمْ أَنْبِيَآءَ

“And (remember) when Musa said to his people: ‘O my people! Remember the favor of Allah to you, when He made Prophets among you,’”

Whenever a Prophet died, another rose among them, from the time of their father Ibraheem and thereafter. There were many Prophets among the Children of Israel calling to Allah and warning against His torment, until Eesa was sent as the final Prophet from the Children of Israel. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then sent down the revelation to the Final Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, from the offspring of Ismaeel, the son of Ibraheem, peace be upon them. Muhammad is the most honorable Prophet of all times. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said next,

وَجَعَلَكُمْ مُّلُوكاً وَءَاتَـكُمْ مَّا لَمْ يُؤْتِ أَحَداً مِّن الْعَـلَمِينَ

“made you kings and gave you what He had not given to any other among the nations.”

The hint given here is that the people of Bani Israel who were the oppressed slaves of the Pharaoh and his people for many ages saw how Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala destroyed their enemies and how they themselves were made masters and kings.

Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Ibn Abbas commented being a king means: “Having a servant, a wife and a house.” Qatadah said, “They were the first people to take servants.”

In common usage, the word “malik” applies to a person who is well-to-do, has a home, owns property and employs help. Therefore, this was a time when every individual from the Bani Israel was like a king of his castle.

A hadeeth states,

مَنْ أَصْبَحَ مِنْكُمْ مُعَافًى فِي جَسَدِهِ، آمِنًا فِي سِرْبِهِ، عِنْدَهُ قُوتُ يَوْمِهِ، فَكَأَنَّمَا حِيزَتْ لَهُ الدُّنْيَا بِحَذَافِيرِهَا

“He among you who wakes up while healthy in body, safe in his family and having the provision for that very day, is as if the world and all that was in it were collected for him.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said in Surah al-Jathiya ayah 16,

وَلَقَدْ ءَاتَيْنَا بَنِى إِسْرَءِيلَ الْكِتَـبَ وَالْحُكْمَ وَالنُّبُوَّةَ وَرَزَقْنَـهُمْ مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَـتِ وَفَضَّلْنَـهُمْ عَلَى الْعَـلَمينَ

“And indeed We gave the Children of Israel the Scripture, and the understanding of the Scripture and its laws, and the Prophethood; and provided them with good things, and preferred them above the nations.”

LESSONS:

– Musa aalyhi salaam as a Prophet, teacher, guide, leader is instilling positive thinking in Bani Israel. He is reminding them of the many blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that they should not be arrogant but grateful that they have been blessed with so much. This is a means of encouragement. He is reminding them how Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has been on their side and if He is on their side then nothing can over power them.

– When a person is blessed then he must express his gratitude. How does one express their gratitude? By doing that which Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala likes. If someone does ehsaan on you and you repel them this is ingratitude.

– In the ayah, the prophets have been mentioned before the kings. This portrays that prophets are higher in regard than the kings. Similarly, the rank of scholars or the mu’alim is higher than a person who has wealth.

– When all of a person’s wills are fulfilled, he is like a king. Previously, the Bani Israel was under the slavery of Pharaoh now they were free. Earlier they didn’t possess anything, now they had homes, families and servants. They now had food for the day, clothes to wear, family and help. No one was coming to kill or harass them. We have food in our homes for months, clothes to wear and a family to return to yet we consider ourselves poor.

–  Every person has been given some nimah or a characteristic that is exclusive for him. Instead of counting the things that we don’t possess we should look at what we have. Upon realization of what one is blessed with one should not become arrogant but be grateful. Don’t compare yourself with anyone. If you have to compare yourself with someone then do it with someone lower than you.

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