بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم
In this entry I aim to explain one of the opening verses of Sura Bani Israel, the seventeenth chapter of the holy Qur’an:
وَقَضَيْنَا إِلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ فِي الْكِتَابِ لَتُفْسِدُنَّ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَّتَيْنِ وَلَتَعْلُنَّ عُلُوًّا كَبِيرًا۞
And We decreed for the children of Israel in the Book, “Surely, you will cause corruption in the land twice, and surely you will reach great haughtiness.”
Allah Most High decreed that the Israelites would become extremely arrogant and haughty, while dwelling in the Holy Land, twice. This is like how Allah fulfilled the petition of Moses:
وَاشْدُدْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُوا حَتَّىٰ يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيمَ
“And harden their hearts so that they will not believe until they see the painful punishment.”
While Moses was entreating Allah with these words, his elder brother Aaron was saying “Amen”, and so Allah said:
قَدْ أُجِيبَت دَّعْوَتُكُمَا
“Verily, the invocation of both of you has been answered.”
For by simply saying “Amen” after the words of Moses, Aaron was considered as partaking in the prayer. This is a proof that “Amen” is a du’a and ought to uttered softly according to the Hanafi school.
So Allah Most High hardened the hearts of the Egyptians, particularly Pharaoh, as is mentioned several times in the Book of Exodus: “for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials” (Exodus 10:1), “I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:17). This hardening of the hearts of the arrogant disbelievers was the act of Allah Himself, it is from His Sunna, and so likewise, He decreed that the Israelites would become extremely haughty, twice, while dwelling in the Holy Land. And He did that because of the corruption they caused. The corruption of the Israelites was of various kinds, but the most serious was their repeated lapse into idolatry and their opposition to their Prophets:
لُعِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ عَلَىٰ لِسَانِ دَاوُودَ وَعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوا وَّكَانُوا يَعْتَدُونَ۞
Cursed were those who disbelieved from among the Children of Israel by the tongue of David and Jesus son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and they were transgressing.
This verse reveals the two periods of time in which the curses upon Israelites by both David and then Jesus materialized into actual punishment and destruction for them, mentioned in the next verse of Sura Bani Israel:
فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ أُولَاهُمَا بَعَثْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ عِبَادًا لَّنَا أُولِي بَأْسٍ شَدِيدٍ فَجَاسُوا خِلَالَ الدِّيَارِ ۚ وَكَانَ وَعْدًا مَّفْعُولًا۞
So when the promise came for the first of the two, We raised against you servants of Ours, those of great military might, and they entered the inner most part of the homes, and it was a promise fulfilled.
This first punishment that was inflicted upon the Israelites through the agency of a nation of great military might was sometime after the era of King David, who, as has preceded, had cursed them. It refers to the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, destruction of the Temple, and taking of the Israelites into captivity in 587 BCE. Hence, Allah describes the Neo-Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar, as “servants of Ours, those of great military might”. This is not a praise of Babylon or Nebuchadnezzar, as they were pagan disbelievers. Rather, Allah used them as the agents through which He punished the Children of Israel, and this was because of the first curse that was invoked against them by the tongue of David.
ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَا لَكُمُ الْكَرَّةَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَمْدَدْنَاكُم بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ أَكْثَرَ نَفِيرًا۞
Then We gave back to you the return over them. And We reinforced you with wealth and sons and made you more numerous.
This refers to the end of the Babylonian captivity in 539 BCE, after the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon and permitted the Jews to return to the Holy Land. Shortly thereafter, the Jews reconstructed the Temple in Jerusalem. Allah says they once again became wealthy and increased in population. Nevertheless, they once again returned to their previous state of sinful rebellion and transgression, particularly in their rejection of and opposition to the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, who cursed them upon his tongue as David had done before him. This resulted in the fulfillment of the second promise against them of a great punishment:
إِنْ أَحْسَنتُمْ أَحْسَنتُمْ لِأَنفُسِكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ أَسَأْتُمْ فَلَهَا ۚ فَإِذَا جَاءَ وَعْدُ الْآخِرَةِ لِيَسُوءُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَلِيَدْخُلُوا الْمَسْجِدَ كَمَا دَخَلُوهُ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَلِيُتَبِّرُوا مَا عَلَوْا تَتْبِيرًا۞
If you do good, you do good for yourselves. But if you do evil, then it is for it. So when the last promise came to sadden your faces and to enter the Masjid just as they had entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had conquered with destruction.
Shortly after the time of Jesus, after he had cursed them, as punishment for the Jews, the Roman legions entered Jerusalem and razed the Temple in 70 CE. As Allah says, this saddened their faces, and was a punishment quite similar to the one that had happened to them the first time some six centuries before. Again the Jews were forced into exile, and remained dispersed throughout the world until the relatively recent establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948.
Allah Most High ends the narrative with a warning relevant to the Jews today:
عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَن يَرْحَمَكُمْ ۚ وَإِنْ عُدتُّمْ عُدْنَا ۘ وَجَعَلْنَا جَهَنَّمَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ حَصِيرًا۞
It may be that your Lord has mercy upon you. But if you return, We will return. And We have made Gehinnom, for the disbelievers, a prison-bed.
The final and permanent punishment for these disbelievers is in the afterlife. Yet the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has predicted a final defeat of the Jews, despite their recent ascent in the Holy Land in the form of the modern State of Israel, at the hands of the coming Messiah, Jesus son of Mary. He will slay the Antichrist, that false prophet whom the Jews will follow, and the Muslims shall enter the Holy Land and kill off the remaining Jewish forces.
This narrative in Sura Bani Israel also contains a warning for the Muslim Umma not to imitate the Jews in their evil deeds and corruption, otherwise they too may be subject to a disastrous punishment in the form of foreign powers subjugating them. When the Muslims became morally corrupt, Allah Most High raised up the terrible Genghis Khan and his Golden Horde to inflict a painful punishment upon them. One by one the great cities of the Muslims fell to the Mongols, including Bukhara, Samarqand, Termez, Balkh, Merv, Nishapur, and finally Baghdad, the seat of Muslim power for centuries, in the year 1258. The Muslims never fully recovered psychologically from this devastation. But then the Mongol scourge ended and the Muslims returned to a state of relative peace and security. Only when they once again became morally corrupt did the Muslim world suffer its second great calamity in the form of European colonialism. The Ottoman empire ended after the First World War, the State of Israel established in 1948, and then the greatest disaster happened in 1967 when the Zionists captured Jerusalem from the Arabs following the Six Day War. These two episodes are remnicient of the two punishments the Israelites had to undergo in their history.