These people (Jews of Medina), when they meet people of faith (new Muslims), say, “We also believe,” and when they come together among themselves, they say (to one another), “Do you tell them what God had disclosed to you (in the Torah) so that they may win an argument with you before your Sustainer? Don’t you think logically?” (Here is God’s response): “Do they not understand that God knows what they hide and what they reveal?” (The reality is that) some of them are illiterate and do not know the Book (of revelation) but from hearsay, which is nothing but speculation.
Woe to those who write the book in their own hands and then say, “This is from God,” so as to earn a price from it. Cursed are what they write with their hands and what they earn (from it). They also say, “Fire will not touch us except for a few days.” Ask (them): “Have you received a promise from God that He will not fail to carry out? Or do you attribute to God a commitment that does not exist?” Those who do evil things and whose sins surround them from all sides, they will inhabit the Hellfire. (In contrast), those who believe and do good work will be the residents of the Garden (Heaven), and there they will stay (in comfort with God’s grace).
When early Muslims came to Medina, they expected that the Jews, being people of earlier scripture, would corroborate what is in the Qur’an. Instead, the Jews were conspiring collectively to deny the Qur’an on the false assumption that the prophecy belonged to them and also out of envy, as the prophecy came to Prophet Mohammad, who was, as the Torah had predicted, from the lineage of Abraham and Ishmael. The last part of the sentence refers to a condition of ignorance and hearsay, which has become prevalent among the Muslims of today and is why true Qur’anic messages are being mixed with pre-Islamic cultural practices and religious fatwa (injunctions by so-called religious leaders on how Islam should be interpreted and followed) that have no basis in the Qur’an or in the Prophet’s teachings, and to the unprecedented rise of corruption and illiteracy, which is contrary to Islamic teachings and ways of life.
Just as rabbis and lawmakers changed their religion and the laws laid out by Moses, some Muslim scholars, religious leaders, and community leaders are falling into the same trap and not adhering to the true message of Islam.
Just as the Jews believed then, some Muslims today believe that they will only achieve salvation on the Day of Judgment. To keep from going astray, we all need to reread verses 2 through 62 of this chapter and once again familiarize ourselves with the proof we have against this claim.
In today’s context, Muslims need to think about three things: (1) Are we misusing our Qur’an in the same way the Jews used to hide and recast the message of Moses, as contained in the Old Testament (Torah)? (2) Are we making false promises to our people, especially to our youth who are inclined to use terror in the name of Islam to achieve temporary fame? (3) The vast majority of Muslims need to under- stand and truly believe in the message that God’s grace to Muslims will come only when we collectively demonstrate genuine faith through education, rightful practice, and righteous deeds.
We need to start changing our understanding and behaviors, which is long overdue. Instead of expecting our leaders and imams to start this process, it needs to start from individuals like you and me, individuals who comprise our families and societies. As God said in the Qur’an, “ . . . Surely God does not bring about changes in a society until they themselves bring changes in their (individual and collective) conditions . . . ” (13:11); this is a fundamental truth that should be encouraged and taught by our leaders, our teachers, and our imams. Instead, these same people have become the sources of corruption and evil in our societies.