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The Jews transgress the Sanctity of the Sabbath

This Ayah explains Allah's statement,

﴿ وَلَقَدۡ عَلِمۡتُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱعۡتَدَوۡاْ مِنكُمۡ فِى ٱلسَّبۡتِ

(And indeed you knew those among you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath..) (2:65) Allah says to His Prophet here,

﴿ وَسۡـَٔلۡهُمۡ

(And ask them) ask the Jews who are with you, about the story of their fellow Jews who defied Allah's command, so that His punishment overtook them all of a sudden for their evil actions, transgression and defiance by way of deceit. Also, warn the Jews (O Muhammad) against hiding your description that they find in their books, so that they do not suffer what their forefathers suffered. The village mentioned here is Aylah, on the shore of the Qulzum (Red) Sea. Muhammad bin Ishaq recorded from Dawud bin Al-Husayn from `Ikrimah that Ibn `Abbas commented on Allah's statement,

﴿ وَسۡـَٔلۡهُمۡ عَنِ ٱلۡقَرۡيَةِ ٱلَّتِى ڪَانَتۡ حَاضِرَةَ ٱلۡبَحۡرِ

(And ask them about the town that was by the sea...) "A village called Aylah between Madyan and At-Tur (which is in Sinai). `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Qatadah and As-Suddi said similarly. Allah's statement,

﴿ إِذۡ يَعۡدُونَ فِى ٱلسَّبۡتِ

(when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath;) means, they transgressed in the Sabbath and defied Allah's command to them to keep it sanctified,

﴿ إِذۡ تَأۡتِيهِمۡ حِيتَانُهُمۡ يَوۡمَ سَبۡتِهِمۡ شُرَّعً۬ا

(when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day,) visible on top of the water, according to Ad-Dahhak who reported it from Ibn `Abbas. Ibn Jarir said, "Allah's statement,

﴿ وَيَوۡمَ لَا يَسۡبِتُونَ‌ۙ لَا تَأۡتِيهِمۡ‌ۚ ڪَذَٲلِكَ نَبۡلُوهُم

(and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial of them,) means, this is how We tested them by making the fish swim close to the surface of the water , on the day which they were prohibited to fish. The fish would be hidden from them on the day when they were allowed to fish,

﴿ ڪَذَٲلِكَ نَبۡلُوهُم

(Thus We made a trial for them,) so that We test them,

﴿ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفۡسُقُونَ

(for they used to rebel against Allah's command) by defying His obedience and rebelling against it.'' Therefore, these were a people who used a trick to violate Allah's prohibitions, taking an action that seemed legal on the surface. However, in reality, this action was meant to transgress the prohibition. Imam and scholar Abu `Abdullah Ibn Battah reported that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

« لَا تَرْتَكِبوُا مَا ارْتَكَبَتِ الْيَهُودُ فَتَسْتَحِلُّوا مَحَارِمَ اللهِ بِأَدْنَى الْحِيَل »

(Do not repeat what the Jews committed, and violate Allah's prohibitions using deceitful tricks.) This Hadith has a reasonable chain.

﴿ وَإِذۡ قَالَتۡ أُمَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡہُمۡ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوۡمًا‌ۙ ٱللَّهُ مُهۡلِكُهُمۡ أَوۡ مُعَذِّبُہُمۡ عَذَابً۬ا شَدِيدً۬ا‌ۖ قَالُواْ مَعۡذِرَةً إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَّقُونَ فَلَمَّا نَسُواْ مَا ذُڪِّرُواْ بِهِۦۤ أَنجَيۡنَا ٱلَّذِينَ يَنۡہَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلسُّوٓءِ وَأَخَذۡنَا ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ بِعَذَابِۭ بَـِٔيسِۭ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفۡسُقُونَ فَلَمَّا عَتَوۡاْ عَن مَّا نُہُواْ عَنۡهُ قُلۡنَا لَهُمۡ كُونُواْ قِرَدَةً خَـٰسِـِٔينَ

(164. And when a community among them said: "Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment'' (The preachers) said: "In order to be free from guilt before your Lord (Allah), and perhaps they may fear Allah.'') (165. So when they forgot the reminder that had been given to them, We rescued those who forbade evil, but with a severe torment We seized those who did wrong, because they used to rebel against Allah's command.) (166. So when they exceeded the limits of what they were prohibited, We said to them: "Be you monkeys, despised.'')

Those Who breached the Sabbath were turned into Monkeys, but Those Who prohibited Their Actions were saved

Allah said that the people of this village were divided into three groups, a group that committed the prohibition, catching fish on the Sabbath, as we described in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah. Another group prohibited them from transgression and avoided them. A third group neither prohibited them, nor participated in their action. The third group said to the preachers,

﴿ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوۡمًا‌ۙ ٱللَّهُ مُهۡلِكُهُمۡ أَوۡ مُعَذِّبُہُمۡ عَذَابً۬ا شَدِيدً۬ا‌ۖ

("Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment''). They said, `why do you forbid these people from evil, when you know that they are destroyed and have earned Allah's punishment' Therefore, they said, there is no benefit in forbidding them. The preachers replied,

﴿ مَعۡذِرَةً إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمۡ

("In order to be free from guilt before your Lord (Allah),'') `for we were commanded to enjoin righteousness and forbid evil,

﴿ وَلَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَّقُونَ

("and perhaps they may fear Allah'') for on account of our advice, they might stop this evil and repent to Allah. Certainly, if they repent to Allah, Allah will accept their repentance and grant them His mercy.' Allah said,

﴿ فَلَمَّا نَسُواْ مَا ذُڪِّرُواْ بِهِۦۤ

(So when they forgot the reminder that had been given to them, ) when the evil doers refused the advice,

﴿ أَنجَيۡنَا ٱلَّذِينَ يَنۡہَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلسُّوٓءِ وَأَخَذۡنَا ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ

(We rescued those who forbade evil, but We seized who did wrong,) who committed the transgression,

﴿ بِعَذَابِۭ بَـِٔيسِۭ

(with a severe torment). Allah stated that those who enjoined good were saved, while those who committed the transgression were destroyed, but He did not mention the end of those who were passive (the third group), for the compensation is comparable to the deed. This type did not do what would warrant praise, nor commit wrong so that they are admonished. `Ikrimah said, "Ibn `Abbas said about the Ayah: `I do not know whether or not the people were saved who said;

﴿ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوۡمًا‌ۙ ٱللَّهُ مُهۡلِكُهُمۡ

("Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy...'') So I continued discussing it with him until I convinced him that they were. Then he gave me ﴿the gift of a garment.'' Allah said,

﴿ وَأَخَذۡنَا ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ بِعَذَابِۭ بَـِٔيسِۭ

(and We seized those who did wrong with a Ba'is torment) indicating that those who remained were saved. As for `Ba'is', it means `severe', according to Mujahid, or `painful', according to Qatadah. These meanings are synonymous, and Allah knows best. Allah said next,

﴿ خَـٰسِـِٔينَ

(despised), humiliated, disgraced and rejected.

﴿ وَإِذۡ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكَ لَيَبۡعَثَنَّ عَلَيۡهِمۡ إِلَىٰ يَوۡمِ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ مَن يَسُومُهُمۡ سُوٓءَ ٱلۡعَذَابِ‌ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَسَرِيعُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ‌ۖ وَإِنَّهُ ۥ لَغَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

(167. And (remember) when your Lord declared that He would certainly keep on sending against them, till the Day of Resurrection, those who would afflict them with a humiliating torment. Verily, your Lord is quick in retribution and certainly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.)

Eternal Humiliation placed on the Jews
﴿ تَأَذَّنَ

(Ta'dhdhana) means `declared', according to Mujahid, or `ordained', according to others. This part of the Ayah indicates a vow,

﴿ لَيَبۡعَثَنَّ عَلَيۡهِمۡ

(that He will keep on sending against them) against the Jews,

﴿ إِلَىٰ يَوۡمِ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ مَن يَسُومُهُمۡ سُوٓءَ ٱلۡعَذَابِ‌ۗ

(till the Day of Resurrection, those who would afflict them with a humiliating torment.) on account of their disobedience, defying Allah's orders and Law and using tricks to transgress the prohibitions. It was reported that Musa required the Jews to pay the production tax for seven or thirteen years, and he was the first to do so. Also, the Jews fell under the humiliating rule of the Greek Kushdanin, Chaldeans and later on the Christians, who subjugated and disgraced them, and required them to pay the Jizyah (tribute tax). When Islam came and Muhammad was sent, they became under his power and had to pay the Jizyah, as well. Therefore, the humiliating torment mentioned here includes disgrace and paying the Jizyah, as Al-`Awfi narrated from Ibn `Abbas. In the future, the Jews will support the Dajjal (False Messiah); and the Muslims, along with `Isa, son of Mary, will kill the Jews. This will occur just before the end of this world. Allah said next,

﴿ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَسَرِيعُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ‌ۖ

(Verily, your Lord is quick in retribution), with those who disobey Him and defy His Law,

﴿ وَإِنَّهُ ۥ لَغَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

(and certainly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) for those who repent and go back to Him. This Ayah mentions both the mercy, as well as, the punishment, so that no despair is felt. Allah often mentions encouragement and warning together, so that hearts always have a sense of hope and fear.

﴿ وَقَطَّعۡنَـٰهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ أُمَمً۬ا‌ۖ مِّنۡهُمُ ٱلصَّـٰلِحُونَ وَمِنۡہُمۡ دُونَ ذَٲلِكَ‌ۖ وَبَلَوۡنَـٰهُم بِٱلۡحَسَنَـٰتِ وَٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَرۡجِعُونَ
﴿ فَخَلَفَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهِمۡ خَلۡفٌ۬ وَرِثُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ يَأۡخُذُونَ عَرَضَ هَـٰذَا ٱلۡأَدۡنَىٰ وَيَقُولُونَ سَيُغۡفَرُ لَنَا وَإِن يَأۡتِہِمۡ عَرَضٌ۬ مِّثۡلُهُ ۥ يَأۡخُذُوهُ‌ۚ أَلَمۡ يُؤۡخَذۡ عَلَيۡہِم مِّيثَـٰقُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ أَن لَّا يَقُولُواْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا ٱلۡحَقَّ وَدَرَسُواْ مَا فِيهِ‌ۗ وَٱلدَّارُ ٱلۡأَخِرَةُ خَيۡرٌ۬ لِّلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ‌ۗ أَفَلَا تَعۡقِلُونَ وَٱلَّذِينَ يُمَسِّكُونَ بِٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ وَأَقَامُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ إِنَّا لَا نُضِيعُ أَجۡرَ ٱلۡمُصۡلِحِينَ

(168. And We have broken them (the Jews) up into various separate groups on the earth: some of them are righteous and some are away from that. And We tried them with good (blessings) and evil (calamities) in order that they might turn (to Allah).) (169. Then after them succeeded an (evil) generation, which inherited the Book, but they chose (for themselves) the goods of this low life saying: "(Everything) will be forgiven to us.'' And if (again) the offer of the like (evil pleasures of this world) came their way, they would (again) seize them (would commit those sins). Was not the covenant of the Book taken from them that they would not say about Allah anything but the truth And they have studied what is in it (the Book). And the home in the Hereafter is better for those who have Taqwa. Do not you then understand) (170. And as to those who hold fast to the Book (act on its teachings) and perform the Salah, certainly We shall never waste the reward of those who do righteous deeds.)