Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 56 & 57
Chapter 2, verses 56 & 57
Then We revived you after your death, so that you might be thankful. (Chapter 2: Verse 56)
We continue with the story of the Children of Israel who demanded to see the Lord with their own eyes. If you recall, Prophet Moses was also struck by the thunderbolt when he asked God to make Himself visible to him. But there is a difference between the two incidents. Let's examine. God says:
When Moses came for the appointment, and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show Yourself to me: let me see You!’ He said, ‘You will never see Me, but look at that mountain: if it remains standing firm, you will see Me,’ and when his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain, He made it crumble: Moses fell down unconscious. When he recovered, he said, ‘Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance! I am the first to believe!’ (07:143)
The case of the Israelites was different. Moses wanted to see Allah out of shear love and longing to be with his creator. As we discussed earlier, the human form in this world cannot see God. Moses became unconscious, and he later regained consciousness. As for Moses' people, they asked to see Allah out of defiance and disbelief. They also were struck by thunderbolt, and actually died. God later resurrected them so perhaps they would be thankful.
We now move to the next verse in 'The Cow'. God says:
We made the clouds cover you with shade, and sent manna and quails down to you, saying, ‘Eat the good things We have provided for you.’ It was not Us they wronged; they wronged themselves. (Chapter 2: Verse 57)
This verse illustrates more of the great favors God showered the Israelites with when they were wandering in the desert under the scorching sun. Allah provided food and sustenance. Manna is a sweet exudate which appears on tree leaves in the shape of red drops at daybreak. It can still be found today in some regions of Iraq. The Israelites used to gather it in the early morning by spreading white sheets under the trees and shaking the branches to collect the delicious dessert. It was easy to digest, providing energy and strength for life in the desert. Quail is a type of fatty bird. This bird approached the Israelites in flocks, and remained around making it an easy catch. It was a great source of protein and nourishment.
Perhaps the harshest element to deal with in the desert is the heat of the sun. Allah provided cloud cover as protection against the sun's rays. All of these blessings came directly from the heavens with minimal need for work or effort. Thus, this kind of sustenance required faith and trust in the provider. This is kind of trust is difficult for those who were materialistic. What if they woke up one day to find no manna? What if the flocks of quail stopped coming? True believers would have thought differently, and would have had faith that that One who provided manna and quail will not let down or let them starve.
God answers this doubt and ingratitude with the phrase: ‘It was not Us they wronged; they wronged themselves.’ It is the third time Allah had mentioned that the people of Moses wronged themselves. In the 51st verse of 'The Cow' God says: ‘you took to worshipping the calf- while you were wrongdoers;' in the 54th verse He says: ‘indeed you have wronged yourselves’ and in this verse ‘It was not Us they wronged; they wronged themselves.’
We have already discussed that no one has the ability to wrong God because He is the ever-living, the all-powerful with His ability, wisdom, and grandeur. These attributes will not be affected whatsoever if you believe in God and follow His teachings, or if you choose to go the other way. Rather, it is you who will face the consequences of your choices and actions. In your hand right now is the key for your own success and salvation.
We live in a world where everything is subjected to change. The blessings that you enjoy will either depart you over time, or you may depart them when you die. The only lasting elements are your words and your actions. Thus, if you disobey God and rebel against His teaching, you would have certainly wronged yourself and did it harm. The joys of this world will end, and only the consequences of your actions will remain.