Children of Israel, remember My (God’s) favors to you and be faithful to your promises to Me so that I can fulfill My promise to you. You should stand in awe of Me alone (other than your Rabbis or so-called leaders)! Also, believe in what I have revealed (to Mohammad), which confirms what is already with you. Do not be the first one to deny this (new revelation), and do not barter away My message for a small gain. Also, mind your responsibility to Me. Do not mix up truth with falsehood, and do not hide the truth since you have the knowledge. Maintain your prayers, support the needy, and submit (join) with those who submit (to God). How is it that you lecture people to be good while you neglect your own soul and also read the Book (your Torah and this Qur’an)? Have you then lost your senses?
Seek help with patience and prayer, and this is difficult to do except for those who are humble and know with certainty that they will meet with their Sustainer and return to Him eventually.
These verses eloquently describe the universal and common message that God had sent to various prophets and explain that the revelations in the Qur’an are complimentary to those of the Old Testament. Hence, it is inappropriate for the followers of Moses to refuse to acknowledge the prophethood of Mohammad and neglect the new revelations, which refine and reinforce previous messages. Upholding truth and accepting God’s message, irrespective of whom they were delivered to, are universal responsibilities that each and every human being (Muslims and Jews alike) should respect and work toward. Just as the Jews refused to accept the message of the Prophet and his guidance, there are Muslims today showing similar tendencies, unwilling to accept goodness in other religions or acknowledge the good in people of other religions. As God said in the Qur’an, “ . . . And let not the hatred of a people— because they barred you from reaching the Sacred Mosque—incite you to acts of transgression. And help one another in righteous deeds and responsible acts and not in acts of sin and aggression and be mindful of God . . . ” (5:2). We need first to be mindful of our responsibilities and obligations and behave according to the guidance of the Qur’an before we start blaming other people for our failures and evil actions.
The dual effect of prayer (worship) and patience in life is universal in its application to sustain and nurture our lives. When we lose hope, it is only then that we stop praying, and people without patience and a balanced perspective on life can never attain total peace with themselves or with others, let alone with God, the Supreme. This duality is also consistent with the duality of human existence, in which our spirituality and our physical existence have to be nurtured on an equal footing. Many Muslims are losing this balance, as evidenced by the overemphasis on ritual worship and the tacit support of evils like suicide bombing in the face of tyranny from within or the outside.
As we read these verses (and other similar verses in the Qur’an), we need to recognize that these comments and advices apply to Jews as well as to Muslims. Or, God is telling Muslims what not to do by giving examples from Jewish history. Too many Muslims miss this point and dwell on the failures of the Jews. Yet, we are suffering from the same malaise as they did.
It is critical at this juncture of history for each Muslim to begin to self-reflect and for each Muslim leader to critically evaluate where we have gone wrong and how they are leading the Muslim masses. In order to do this, certain fundamental conditions and priorities need to be in place: (1) unification of our educational system to harmonize teachings that focus on earning a living while leading a life of purpose, (2) acceptance of fundamental unity in serving God and in serving humanity across all religions, (3) forming a strong alliance with the truth and forsaking all forms of falsehood, (4) practicing what we preach and treating others as we would like to be treated, (5) being true to the teachings of God and adhering to the compass of our conscience, and (6) fulfilling our commitments to God and to our fellow men.