Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)

Verses 89 & 90

(This session is also available in audio and video)

Session 105

Chapter 2

Verses 89 & 90

Now that God has sent them this Book, which confirms their Scriptures, they deny it! even though before that they were praying for victory over the disbelievers, Yet when it was sent to them, they recognized it and chose to disbelieve in it! The disbelievers are cursed by God. (Chapter 2: Verse 89)

              The Israelites had used several excuses for their rejection -and even killing- of prophets.  One excuse we discussed in the previous verse was the false claim that their hearts were sealed and that they could no longer receive new guidance from God after the Torah.  In this verse God illustrates how they met the new message of Islam with denial.  God says:  'Now that God has sent them this Book, which confirms their Scriptures, they deny it!' indicating that the Quran's teachings matched those in the Torah, the book the Israelites claimed to follow.  In fact, the Jewish tribes of Medina used to tell its Arab residents that a new prophet and a new divine book was soon to come.  They proclaimed their belief in the new Prophet and the new book even before their arrival.  They went a step further and declared themselves ready to lay their lives for the new cause against the disbelievers.  Islam arrived shortly after.......the Quran confirmed the teachings of the Torah, and resolved many issues that were not clear Israelites as the following verses illustrate:

We sent to you the Scripture with the truth, confirming the Scriptures that came before it, and with final authority over them: so judge between them according to what God has sent down. Do not follow their whims, which deviate from the truth that has come to you. We have assigned a law and a path to each of you. If God had so willed, He would have made you one community, but He wanted to test you through that which He has given you, so race to do good: you will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about.(5:48)

and in another verse:

Truly, this Quran explains to the Children of Israel most of what they differ about (27:76)

              So, how did the Jewish tribes of Medina treat this new message? How did they react when the truth they were eagerly awaiting came exactly as they described? Sadly, they rushed to disbelief and supported those fighting against Islam.  

              Interestingly, the defiance of the Jewish tribes of Medina was one of the main reasons Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) received a large following and a solid support in Medina.  Let's clarify this point: For years before the prophet, the Aus and the Khazraj heard the Israelites boast about the coming of a new prophet.  They made his description famous, and the signs of his truthfulness known.  As a result, when the Aus and Khazraj heard about a person named Muhammad in Mecca, they quickly recognised him as God's promised messenger. 

              Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to travel to Ta’if to invite people to Islam but they showed nothing but hostility.  Likewise, in Mecca, he waited for the hajj season and used this opportunity to invite the pilgrims to God.  Again, this effort was mostly fruitless as many Meccans fought him because they did not want any distraction from the best trade season of the year.  This all changed, however, when two tribes: the Aus and the Khazraj came to Mecca seeking out the prophet.  He did not go to them, nor did he have a chance to tell them about Islam.  They came willingly, accepted faith, pledged allegiance to Muhammad and promised to spread his teachings.  Then they asked him to migrate to Medina, the new home of Islam, and live amongst them.  Allah, through His knowledge and mercy, used the defiance and hypocrisy of the Jewish tribes of Medina to spread the news about prophet Muhammad even before his arrival. 

              The logical question to ask is: Why would the Israelites reject exactly what they were looking forward to? God gives us the answer in the next verse: He says:

What an evil thing they have sold themselves for in rejecting what Allah has sent down, outraged that Allah should send down His favour on whomever He wills of His servants. They have brought down anger upon anger on themselves; and there is a humiliating punishment for the faithless. (chapter 2: Verse 90)

              The verse starts with ‘What an evil thing they have sold themselves for.' In normal trade you pay money to purchase an item.  Suppose, however, that you urgently need medicine but have no money, what would you do?  In this case you would look for anything valuable you have -such as your watch or jewellery- in order to exchange it for medicine.  Your watch or jewellery becomes the price you pay for medicine.  This was the case that faced every person who was invited to join the new faith of Islam.  He or she could temporarily sell worldly desires in exchange for believing in the message of Muhammad.  In the hereafter, this person would earn paradise and everlasting bliss.  It is a very profitable deal: exchange what is temporary and unpredictable, with what is permanent and blissful.

              Sadly, as this verse mentions, many people made the opposite deal.  They bought disbelief and temporary worldly freedom in exchange for salvation.  It is truly a huge loss.  Not only did they earn disgrace and humiliation in this world, but they will also suffer great punishment in the hereafter.  God says describing this transaction: ' What an evil thing they have sold themselves for in rejecting what Allah has sent down.'