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Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): Verses 83-86


When God accepted a solemn pledge from the children of Israel that you shall serve none but God, be good to your parents, to relatives, to orphans and the needy, (always) speak good words to people, maintain your prayers, and always give charity, you did not follow through, except for a few, and you were reluctant to keep (the commitment). Also (remember) when We took the pledge from you that you shall not shed blood nor turn your people out of your cities—you promised and witnessed this. Yet, it is you who would kill your people and turn a party from among yourselves out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and going beyond limits. And if they were to come to you as captives, you would ransom them, whereas it was unlawful (in the first place) for you to push them out. (The question is), do you then believe in part of the Book and disregard the other? What could then be the reward for such among you who do these things except that you would be disgraced in this world and severely punished on the Day of Resurrection? (You should realize) that God is not indifferent to what you do. Such people bargain this life for the Hereafter; consequently, their misfortunes will not be reduced nor will they have any help.


The pledge taken from the Jews by Moses is no different from what Prophet Mohammad asked of the new Muslims and people of Arabia, including the Jews living there at the time. This reflects the oneness of God and the consistency of His message.

The Bible makes many references to many of the rebellions and much of the internal strife among the Jews (e.g., Exod. 32:9, 33:3, 34:9 and Deut. 9:6–8, 23–24, 27). During the time of the Prophet in Medina, Jewish tribes aligned against one another as well as against Muslims in alliance with other Arab tribes. Unfortunately, Muslims have fallen into the same situation, as can be seen through recent history. Muslim nations are consistently fighting one another; the fights among the Arabs in collusion with the British or other European colonial rulers, the Iraq–Iran war that resulted in millions of Muslims being killed, the civil war in East Pakistan where Pakistani Muslims were killing Bengali Muslims, the oppression of the Kurds by Arabs and Turks, and the infighting among the Palestinian people are only some examples of our misguided ways. Additionally, there is widespread corruption in many Muslim countries along with a lack of civil liberties, good education, and good governance and an exploitation of national resources by irresponsible leaders, monarchs, and many others.

Our salvation is not through the hatred of other people (no matter how tyrannical they may be toward Muslims, and there are plenty of examples of this in Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, China, and Iraq, to name a few) but first through how we conduct ourselves in our own societies and with our own people and then through how we behave with others and in other societies. Our responses to our condition should not be building atom bombs or investing in the military but enlightening people with education, faith, economic development, political freedom, and goodness for everyone. 


Though these verses speak of the Jewish people, they also aptly apply to the current conditions of Muslims who have not kept their promises to God and to His Prophet, and, consequently, they will see the same level of disgrace and ruin brought upon them as was brought to the people of the past. God’s treatment of people is based on principles of fairness, worthiness, and entitlement based on faith and good work and not based on superficial religious affiliation, a chosen people, or wholesale salvation.


Nothing can be stronger and more poignant than these verses to help us understand the underlying causes of our current situation. Each and every Muslim needs to get serious about keeping his commitment as a Muslim, and we need to support each other in carrying out our individual and collective responsibilities and keeping from exploiting one another unjustly to Muslims, other nations, and people of other faiths.