The Command to Enter the Holy Land
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states next that Musa aalyhi salaam encouraged the Children of Israel to perform Jihad and enter Jerusalem, which was under their control during the time of their father Yaqoob. Yaqoob and his children later moved with his children and household to Egypt during the time of Prophet Yusuf. His offspring remained in Egypt until their exodus with Musa. They found a mighty, strong people in Jerusalem who had previously taken it over. Musa, Allah’s Messenger, ordered the Children of Israel to enter Jerusalem and fight their enemy, and he promised them victory and triumph over the mighty people if they did so. They declined, rebelled and defied his order and were punished for forty years by being lost, wandering in the land uncertain of where they should go. This was their punishment for defying Allah’s command.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said that Musa ordered them to enter the Holy Land,
يَاقَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الاٌّرْضَ المُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِى كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلاَ تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَى أَدْبَـرِكُمْ فَتَنْقَلِبُوا خَـسِرِينَ
“O my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and turn not back; for then you will be returned as losers.”
It means enter the land that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has promised to you by the words of your father Israel, that it is the inheritance of those among you who believe. When you enter the city do not turn back out of the fear of the enemy. If you don’t obey the command of Allah then consequently you are going to end up as losers.
Which land is the Holy Land?
Apparently, commentators differ about it. Some say that it means Bayt-ul-Muqadas – Jerusalem. Some identify the city of Quds and Eliah as fitting the description of the Holy Land. Still others point out to city of Ariha which was located between Jordan river and Bayt-ul-Muqadas and was reported to be one of the oldest cities of the world.
Then, there are other narrations which indicate that the Holy Land means Damascus and Palestine or Jordan according to some others. And Qatadah has said that the entire land of Syria is the Holy Land. Ka’ab al-Ahbar has said that he has seen in the Book of Allah [perhaps, the Torah] that the country of Syria is a special treasure of Allah on this entire earth and there are in it Allah’s special and dear servants. This land has been called holy because it has been home to the blessed prophets of Allah. [Maroof-ul-Qur’an]
Please note that the present day Syria is a limited land only. Many centuries ago Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and some part of Iraq all formed Syria. Due to the wars and colonization, Syria was divided into several countries.
– This shows us the virtue of the Holy Land. This was the original home of Bani Israel.
– Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ordained the Holy Land for Bani Israel. They were most deserving of this land “when they were believers”, when they were known as the best nation. Now this is no more applicable. They have left belief and entered disbelief therefore it’s not their right anymore. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Anbiya ayah 105, “And We have already written in the book [of Psalms] after the [previous] mention that the land is inherited by My righteous servants.”
Tafseer Ayah 22
قَالُوا يَامُوسَى إِنَّ فِيهَا قَوْماً جَبَّارِينَ وَإِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا حَتَّى يَخْرُجُواْ مِنْهَا فَإِن يَخْرُجُواْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّا دَخِلُونَ
“They said, “O Musa! In it are a people of great strength, and we shall never enter it, till they leave it; when they leave, then we will enter.”
Their excuse was that this town you have commanded us to enter and fight, its people are mighty, strong and vicious; people who have tremendous physique and physical ability. We are unable to stand against these people or fight them. Therefore, they said, we are incapable of entering this city as long as they are still in it, but if they leave it, we will enter it. Otherwise, we cannot stand against them.
The Sunnah of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is that you struggle for what you want to attain. The Bani Israel didn’t want to do anything. They want Allah to do it for them just like He saved them from Pharaoh.
We learn about the cowardice of Bani Israel. They did not even want to make an effort and wanted Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to do it for them. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says take the first step and then I will help you. Therefore, the Prophet sallAllahu taught us the du’a for seeking refuge from cowardice and laziness.