Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 145 & 146
Verses 145 & 146
And if you brought to those who were given the Scripture every sign, they would not follow your Qibla. Nor will you be a follower of their Qibla. Nor would they be followers of one another's Qibla. So if you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, indeed, you would then be among the wrongdoers. (Chapter 2: Verse 145)
In the previous verse we learned that the people of the scripture were not seeking the truth when they questioned and objected to the Muslim change of prayer direction –Qibla-. Rather, they wanted to divide the Muslims and discredit the prophet. If they had intended the truth, they would have found ample evidence within their own scriptures. The Bible and the Torah clearly informed them of Muhammad (peace be upon him), his description, and the fact that he is the prophet of two Qiblas. Thus, Allah assured Muhammad that such people would not follow him even if he brought them the strongest of evidence. They had willingly chosen ignorance and defiance. Keep in mind that following the prayer direction -Qibla- of a group is a clear indication of sharing the faith of that group. So as long as I believe in your religion, I will follow your Qibla and if I don’t, then I would pray differently. God says: ‘And if you brought to those who were given the Scripture every sign, they would not follow your Qibla.’
The verse continues ‘Nor will you be a follower of their Qibla’ informing the Muslims that their prayer direction will not be changed back to Jerusalem again, nor will it be changed to a new direction. Moreover, God wanted to make clear that the Jews and the Christians will be at odds in their prayer direction. He says: ‘Nor would they be followers of one another's Qibla.’
Then comes the warning: ‘So if you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, indeed, you would then be among the wrongdoers.’ Although Allah is addressing His beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in this verse, the true intended audience is us. Allah is aware that His Messenger will never follow the personal desires of anyone. Rather, it is you and I who are at risk of favouring worldly gains over God’s instruction. Here you may ask: What are the desires of the people of scripture that God warned us about? Their desire was for Muhammad to accept what they have altered of the Bible and the Torah as the word of God. Through this, they would receive validation that their desires and whims are scripture. Allah, on the other hand, wants you to know that whoever follows the desires of the people of scripture –in essence approving of what they have altered in religion- will be one of the wrongdoers. If God would not accept this from His beloved Messenger, then how would He accept it from any of us?
Now, Let move to the next verse in ‘The Cow.’ God says:
Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know (Chapter 2: Verse 146)
Allah informs us that those who were given the scripture before Muhammad (peace be upon him) had clear knowledge about him and his prophethood. God says:
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. (02:89)
The Jews and the Christians had all the knowledge and evidence they needed. It is inscribed in Torah and the Gospel that Muhammad is the awaited prophet, and that they are required to believe in him. Omar ibn al-Khattab asked Ka’b –one of the prominent Jewish rabbis at the time-: “Did you have knowledge of Muhammad? Did you know about his descriptions and his message?” Ka’b answered: “I knew him like I know my own son. In fact I knew him even better. His descriptions have been mentioned so specifically in our books that there is no way I could have mistaken him.”
So, lack of knowledge was not an issue for the people of scripture. Those who accepted Islam amongst them did so out of conviction. Those who chose otherwise had willingly concealed the truth out of malice. God says: “But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know” The truth naturally spreads and becomes known, while lying and hiding the truth takes effort and planning. Take the example of investigators who want to get critical information from a suspect. They do long interrogation sessions, and prevent the suspect from sleeping until he or she speaks the truth. This is because speaking the truth comes naturally and effortlessly. An exhausted person no longer has the energy to lie. Thus when God says: “But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know” indicates that they did invested time and effort in concealing the truth.
There is a silver lining to this dark cloud. When lies and deception spread in a society they cause pain and social ailments, just like when a virus or bacteria spread throughout the body they cause pain and fever. This pain causes you to seek treatment and long for health. Similarly, people who live in a corrupt society long for a social justice and start seeking the truth. Pain is the precursor of healing; it acts as an alarm that alerts the society to seek the truth and return to God’s path.