Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 75
Do you really hope they will follow you in faith when a group of them heard Allah’s Word and then, after grasping it, knowingly distorted it? (Chapter 2: Verse 75)
In this verse, Allah addresses the people of Medina who had just embraced Islam. The followers of this new faith expected the Jewish tribes of Medina to join them and accept Islam because they were already people of scripture. They had a connection with the Lord, and had been boasting about the coming of a new prophet. God consoles Muhammad (peace be upon him), and tells him not to expect them to rush to believe because they have a long history of transgressing against God's messages and exhausting their Prophets.
In this, and in many other verses that comfort the Prophet, God explains to Muhammad that his task is to convey the message, not to chase after those who deny or ignore it. The Prophet wanted entire mankind whether Christians, Jews or disbelievers to come into the fold of Islam. He understood the necessity and urgency to bring everyone salvation in this world and the next. Keep in mind that their disbelief in him, their ridicule, and denial did not make the Prophet angry, resentful or wanting to seek revenge; rather it filled his heart with sorrow for them. God says describing the prophet:
Perhaps you may destroy yourself with grief, chasing after them, if they do not believe in these words. (18:6)
This is how the Muslims today should feel about those who deny, ridicule or try to harm the prophet. Sadly, we often see the opposite reaction. We see anger, resentment, and even violence from many Muslims which drives people away from Islam. Our beloved prophet is our leader and our example. When the prophet was harmed or ridiculed, He (peace be upon him) and his companions felt sorrow, not for himself, but for the loss the people harming him will experience in the hereafter. They responded by doubling their efforts to spread God's teachings and to invite people to the fold of Islam. It was their patience and compassion that spread Islam to all corners of the world.
This brings us back to the verse. Prophet Muhammad and the believers around him had true hope and desire in their heart that the Jewish tribes of Medina would embrace Islam. A person usually hopes for something very dear to him or her, and at the same time something that is beneficial. However, hope should only be for something within the person's ability. Are you able to make any person believe in God?....... Does the prophet have any ability to make a single person believe in God? The answer is simply: no. Allah tells His Messenger that this is not part of your mission. You are only responsible for delivering the message and for inviting people to faith. What each person does with the information is completely up to him or her.
This verse also informs the Prophet of the problems he will face from the Jewish residents of Medina. When you know what to expect, you can prepare and be better equipped to face any difficulties.
The verse also explains to prophet Muhammad the reason behind all their rejection. God says: 'a group of them heard Allah’s Word and then, after grasping it, knowingly distorted it' Take note that God specifically states that it was group among them causing trouble, not all of them. This is because Allah wants to guard those who did not distort His words, and give comfort to those who are considering Islam but have not joined it yet.
In other words, Allah does not generalize. He always leaves room for those who will believe, and those who may change their minds in the future. There was a group amongst the people of scripture who knew the characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad mentioned in the Gospel and the Torah, so they believed in him. Some took more time than others to leave their faith for the new message. If the Quran had generalized and put all the Jewish people under one category, then the disbelievers would have said that the Quran was wrong. More importantly, those who were considering Islam may have been turned off by being labeled and abandoned the thought of believing.
Perhaps the most important part of the verse is the following phrase describing how they 'heard Allah’s Word and then, after grasping it, knowingly distorted it' because it shows a compounded sin. Not only did God’s word reach them, but they also understood it, knew the reward and punishment of their actions, yet willingly chose to distort it. In other words, they had complete knowledge of Prophet Muhammad in the scriptures, and knew that he came with the truth; yet, they rejected him and his message, and distorted God's word to lead others astray. They changed God's words, caused great harm to the society, then claimed that their words were part of the Torah.