Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 100 & 101
Verses 100 & 101
How is it that whenever they make a covenant or a pledge, some of them throw it away? In fact, most of them do not believe. (Chapter 2:Verse 100)
God explained that Islam and the Quran contain clear proofs making it easy for the thoughtful mind to have unshakeable faith in Allah. This makes the position of those who opposed Islam, especially the Jewish people who know the Torah, hard to understand. Their stand against Islam is in direct contradiction to their faith, and to the Torah that gave them glad tidings about the last prophet. It is in contradiction to human nature which seeks a connection with the divine, and to all of the pledges they took upon themselves. God says:
God took a pledge from the prophets, saying, ‘If, after I have bestowed Scripture and wisdom upon you, a messenger comes confirming what you have been given, you must believe in him and support him. Do you affirm this and accept My pledge as binding on you?’ They said, ‘We do.’ He said, ‘Then bear witness and I too will bear witness.’ (03:81)
God took this pledge from Moses (peace be upon him) who passed it on to his people, the children of Israel. We know that the Israelites were fully aware of this pledge because they boasted about the exact description of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) years before his arrival. Sadly, they violated their promise to God, just like the violated many previous ones.
Let's look at a few examples of these broken promises: The Israelites of the village by the sea took a pledge not to work or fish on the Sabbath. Rather than honour their word, they made a mockery of it by digging trenches and setting traps during the week so that they can catch fish easily on Saturday while they sat home. Another pledge made by Moses' people was their commitment to worship Allah alone, but they soon turned to worship the golden calf. They disregarded many of the teachings in the Torah even after they solemnly swore to abide by them when God raised Mount Toor above their heads. In Arabia, right before the time of Islam, the Jewish tribes of Medina were in constant violation of the Torah. They promoted war and division, and even killed and held captive many of their Jewish brethren against God's teachings.
This pattern continued during the time of the prophet, peace be upon him. During the battle of the trench, the Jewish tribes of Medina violated their defence pact with the Muslims. They helped the disbelievers open up a passage so they can encircle and attack the Muslim armies from behind.
Take note that Allah guarded those who did not break their promise. He says: some of them throw it away‘ meaning that there were others who honoured their covenant with God. This type of expression is also known as safeguarding of probability, because on one hand it recognizes and respects those who honour their word, while, on the other hand it leaves God's doors of mercy wide open for anyone who wants to accept faith.
Sadly, those who kept their promises were a minority as illustrated in the last phrase of the verse: ' In fact, most of them do not believe.'
Let's move to the next verse in 'The Cow.' God says:
When God sent them a messenger confirming the Scriptures they already had, some of those who had received the Scripture before threw the Book of God behind their backs as if they had no knowledge (chapter 2: verse 101)
The content of the Quran, and that of the Torah are in harmony. This is because the two books come from the same heavenly source: Allah the merciful. So why would the Children of Israel claim that they believe in one, and deny the other? It is because parts of the Torah were altered, omitted and some were concealed. Over the centuries, some Jewish leaders and rabbis changed and concealed the scriptures to suit their whims and desires at the time. The Quran exposed what was concealed, and confirmed that which was not altered.
As the verse under study explains, this disregard of heavenly scriptures was not limited to the Torah. God says that ‘some of those who had received the Scripture before threw the Book of God behind their backs.’ indicating that when the Quran was revealed, they also threw it away behind their backs. It is a continuation of the pattern that started by hiding the description of Muhammad (peace be upon him) from the Torah. Weren't the Israelites the ones who, just before Islam, used to pray for God to grant them victory over the disbelievers when they the new Prophet arrives?
Here again we note that God does not generalize. The phrase 'some of those' reflects that a group of the Israelites threw the scripture behind their backs, while others did not. Take the example of Ibn Salam, one of the Jewish rabbis, who believed in Muhammad. So did Mukhayriq, a chief rabbi at the time. Allah guarded them against injustice by not generalizing. If the Quran did not make this exception, people would have made allegations that the Quran is unjust towards those who did join Islam. Similarly, if a person was considering joining the Muslims, he or she might have been turned off.
Let's examine the phrase 'threw the Book of God behind their backs.’ When you discard something, you could throw it in front of you where you could see it, and may even pick up later if you change your mind. However, if you toss something far behind your back, then you are adamant about getting rid of it. Similarly, those who abandoned God’s scripture by throwing it behind their backs were intent on disregarding it completely.
The verse ends with the phrase 'as if they had no knowledge' affirming the fact that these actions were taken not out of ignorance, rather they were malicious. It is one thing to do wrong because you did not know any better; it is quite another to intentionally do wrong and misuse the information that you have to harm others.