God gave Moses the revelation, and God sent messengers after him, one after another. God also sent Jesus, son of Mary, with clear signs of truth and strengthened him with the divine inspiration. How is it that you (Jews and, by implication, Christians) became arrogant whenever God sent messengers whose messages did not agree with your desires? Some of them you denied, and others you would kill! They said, “Our hearts are full (not in need of further knowledge).” No, God curses them for their denial—there is very little that they believe. They (Jews and Christians) used to pray for victory against the disbelievers, but whenever a Book was brought to them from God confirming that which they used to have and they recognized the Book, they disbelieved in it (knowingly); therefore, God’s curse is on the disbelievers (even if they have the Book). Evil is the way they direct their souls, and out of envy they deny what God has revealed, envious that God had sent (His message) to someone He had chosen out of His servants (other than one of them). Therefore, they incurred affliction after affliction, and there waits humiliating punishment for those who persist in their disbelief. When they are told, “Believe in what God has revealed,” they say, “We only believe in what was revealed to us.” They deny anything other than their own, even though it is the Truth that verifies what they have. Ask them then, “Why did you kill God’s prophets before this if you claim to be believers?”
Moses and Jesus are mentioned as two of the Jewish prophets, there also being many in between. Jesus in the Qur’an is always referred to as the son of Mary to indicate his human origin and to refute the Christian claim of Godhead. On another level, the Qur’an also very strongly supports Jesus’ prophethood and refutes the Jewish claim that he was a false prophet.
It is interesting to note the arrogance of the Jewish people when they claimed during the times of Prophets Jesus and Mohammad that they had all the knowledge and were not in need of further divine guidance. Some so-called Muslim scholars exhibit a similar arrogance when they issue fatwas or opinions that are not grounded in facts, Islamic fundamentals, or the God-given power of analytics or reasoning and are based on their limited understanding of the Qur’an and very little understanding of science and world affairs. Simple and noncritical issues such as how to declare a moon sighting, women’s modesty, music, and poetry, among many others, continue to cause disunity among Muslims based on limited understanding and cultural predisposition. Some of these religious leaders even go to the extent of calling a Muslim a nonbeliever if he disagrees with their personal positions on these matters of minimal significance. Proper education and understanding of Islam is critically needed, and our leaders and community members have to assume responsibility for our condition instead of blaming others and over-relying on self-proclaimed religious leaders.
These verses make the point that Jews, primarily, and Christians, later on, refused to believe the revelation from God that came after them. Perhaps some Muslims today behave like the Jews and Christians when they declare all Jews and Christians to be disbelieving people.
We need to respect other religions, especially Judaism and Christianity, knowing that God reprimanded their followers for denying our Prophet, and we should not commit the same mistakes. As God said in the Qur’an, “Repel what is evil with what is good . . .” (23:96). How far away we have moved from following this simple guidance!
Key Arabic Terms
*Definitions can be found in the Glossary*