Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 61..........Part 2
Chapter 2, Verse 61
Remember when you said, ‘Moses, we cannot bear to eat only one kind of food, so pray to your Lord to bring out for us some of the earth’s produce, its herbs and cucumbers, its garlic, lentils, and onions.’ He said, ‘Would you exchange better for worse? Go to Egypt and there you will find what you have asked for.’ They were struck with humiliation and wretchedness, and they incurred the wrath of God because they persistently rejected His messages and killed prophets contrary to all that is right. All this was because they disobeyed and were lawbreakers. (Chapter 2, Verse 61)
Humiliation refers to hardship and tragedy that lead to failure and defeat. However, Humiliation can be overcome by seeking the support and protection of someone stronger, someone with the ability to lift hardship and protect from danger. God says:
They will be plunged into abasement wherever they are found, unless they have a treaty with Allah and with the people. They have brought down anger from Allah upon themselves, and they have been plunged into destitution. That was because they rejected Allah’s Signs and killed the Prophets without any right to do so. That was because they disobeyed and went beyond the limits. (03:112)
Take the example of the treaty made between Prophet Muhammad and the Jewish tribes of Medina. They were granted protection and security and spared defeat. This is similar to modern weak countries signing security and trade pacts with the United States to insure protection and avoid humiliation.
The term ‘struck with' is the term we use to describe the process of striking metal coins to imprint them with the markings for money; meaning the mark is visible and everlasting. When God used the phrase ‘struck with humiliation,’ it indicates that humiliation has been made visible, public and well known. It all started in Egypt where the children of Israel were forced into slave labor and burdened with very heavy taxes. Even their rich used to walk the streets dressed in wretched torn clothes in order to hide their wealth and avoid taxes.
'and they incurred the wrath of God.’ Why did they earn such anger from God? 'because they persistently rejected His messages and killed prophets contrary to all that is right. All this was because they disobeyed and were lawbreakers'. Remember that the Israelites were blessed with many prophets to guide them and keep them on the right path. However, often this guidance was exchanged for small worldly gain. God says:
Those are the ones who have purchased error in exchange for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided (2:16)
The real problem went much deeper, because on many occasions things went as far as killing the Prophets.
Let's take a moment here to clarify the difference between prophets and messengers. Allah sent mankind Prophets and Messengers to convey his teaching and to lead by example. A Messenger caries a new heavenly message, teaches it to his people, and practices it among them. A Prophet, on the other hand, serves as a practical example, and a reminder for his people, but he does not carry a new message. Thus, every Messenger is a Prophet, but not every Prophet is a Messenger. For example Messengers Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, David (peace be upon them) all brought new messages and new scriptures, they were also prophets because they practiced the new message and lead by example. Prophets Ismail, Solomon, Lot, John and many others (peace be upon them) were sent to bring people back to the right path and to the scriptures they already had. They were not messenger, because they did not bring new revelations. Allah protects His Prophets and Messengers from sin and mistakes. They are infallible in delivering and practicing God's teachings. And since messengers are the carriers of new revelation, Allah gives them the added protection from being killed.
God sent Prophets for the benefit of the children of Israel, but they killed many of them. Why? Because the Prophets exposed their denial, disobedience and rejection of the scripture. Many Israelites were benefiting from unlawful means, unlawful trade and usury. Many of their scholars abused religion to gain status and misguide people. All this was exposed, and all the worldly benefits were under threat when a new Prophet came to help the people. The children of Israel conspired against and killed some of their Prophets in order to protect their worldly gains, and thus earned God's anger and punishment .
This model continues till today. When you look around, you often see corrupt greedy people -regardless of their declared faith- trying to harm those who are fair and follow God's path. In corrupt societies, the honest person is often viewed as an obstacle that needs to be removed.