Why did the Bani Israel act the way they did? They thought since they are the chosen people there will be no punishment on them if they caused oppression or killed the Messengers.
وَحَسِبُواْ أَلاَّ تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ فَعَمُواْ وَصَمُّواْ ثُمَّ تَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ عَمُواْ وَصَمُّواْ كَثِيرٌ مِّنْهُمْ وَاللَّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ
They thought there will be no Fitnah (trial or punishment), so they became blind and deaf; after that Allah turned to them (with forgiveness); yet again many of them became blind and deaf. And Allah is the All-Seer of what they do.
Hisban is to have an opinion about something. Fitnah has several meanings, one of which is punishment. They thought there will be no repercussions no matter what they do.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala made them blind and deaf, figuratively. They were unable to see or hear the truth. For example, when Eesa aalyhi salaam came and showed his miracles, the Bani Israel denied him. Anyone who had intellect would have accepted him as a Messenger when he saw a dead person coming back to life or a blind man being able to see.. Eesa aalyhi salaam asserted this is from Allah, yet they rejected him as a Messenger.
Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guided them and forgave them. But, with the passage of time they returned to their old practices which made them so blind and deaf once again.
How does one return to blindness and deafness? When one follows his nafs.
They become blind but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Baseer, He is seeing them. He knows exactly what people are doing, saying or what situation they are in.
In 586 B.C. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala imposed on them Nebuchadnezzar [King of Babylonia]. He took the Bani Israel as slaves. He captured and exiled them. The Bani Israel realized they have done some serious mistake which is why Allah punished them. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala enabled them to seek mercy and forgiveness. He sent a person towards them who freed them from oppression and slavery.
– The people who have been given the Book, if they don’t read or implement the Book after having it with them then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is going to let their enemy overcome them. People become so blind and deaf that they can’t even see their own mistakes. They believe it’s a conspiracy against us. They don’t realize their forgetting the teachings of the Book. Why would Allah help you when you ignore His commands?
– Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala turns in mercy to His slaves even after their reckless behavior. Allah gives His slave the tawfeeq to repent and He accepts their tawbah. This shows the mercy of Allah.
– Sometimes a person after making tawbah is not grateful. We learned that the Bani Israel prayed for forgiveness and then returned to old behavior. If a person recognizes that his ability to repent has come from Allah he will never return to his old ways. But if he fails to recognize that he will become disobedient again.
– We learn about the warning against returning to a sin after repentance. No matter how big or small a sin is. In Surah al-An’am ayah 43, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaytan made attractive to them that which they were doing.”
So, what makes one return to sin after tawbah? It is the hardness of the heart. The sin became attractive to him. And he didn’t recognize that “repentance” in itself was a blessing from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.