And (remember) when you (someone from the tribes of Jews) killed a man and then you disagreed about it (trying to put blame on others),31 but God wanted to expose what you wanted to hide. So God said, “Apply the (agreed upon) principle and method for solving a murder.” (This is an example of how) God brings out truth (life) from falsehood (death), and (thus) He shows His signs so that you may use your reasons. Then your (some of the followers of Moses) heart hardened so that you became like a rock; rather, harder than a rock. Yet, there are rocks which burst with streams, rocks that split so water flows from them, and then there are rocks that fall down in submission to God. And God is not indifferent to what you do. Do you (Mohammad) then hope that they will believe in you whereas a party of them used to hear the word of God and then alter it after they understood what it meant? They did this knowingly!
Some commentators consider this situation to relate to a common murder in which the Jewish custom of killing a cow and then taking a vow to speak truthfully about the murder in front of the community was to be invoked. Other commentators believe this to refer to Jesus, who was not killed on the cross but appeared to have died and for whom the Jewish community at that time was reprimanded for having conspired his death. God gives life and maintains it as long as He desires. We ought to take lessons from history and make use of our God-given capacity to understand and guide our actions and truthfully follow the guidance and principles that have been laid out for addressing our issues and disagreements.
The human mind, which is as flexible and capable as God made it to be, can also be hardened beyond any flexibility due to a lack of awareness, ignorance, arrogance, envy, evil inclinations, and evil doings. A beautiful analogy is given here of the rock that is very hard as a physical object yet can also be the source of water, which represents life. Alternatively, the human heart and soul, which are the essence of our existence, can be hardened to the point that they cease to be alive or supportive of the very lives they are intended to embody. The Prophet in particular (and Muslims in general) is here told by God not to raise his expectations, since some people (even the Jews) who are already exposed to God’s revelation may not find the Qur’anic messages acceptable because they have already tampered with previous revelations and prophetic messages for their earthly gains and would not be receptive of the new message and prophecy. It is important for Muslims to reflect on the condition of the Jews at the time of our Prophet and on our own condition now. We may have become a bit like the Jews of that time in how they used to ignore their own religious teachings and find excuses to circumvent or complicate Moses’ messages. We have fallen into the same trap and need to come out of it with organized effort and collective will.
Two key points we need to reflect on are that we have a God-given responsibility to assess what happens around us and that God will take note of what we do or do not do in response to those happenings. Too many of us think that we are responsible only for what we do, but what is equally as important is what we do not do when we should be doing something.
Being constantly aware of our responsibilities and our actions is a critical requirement of God consciousness and Islamic teaching. Some of this has to be built as part of our education in institutional settings and others need to be taught at home by parents who are serious role models for their children. Contradiction in what is being said and what is being done, inconsistent behavior, and lack of reason and clarity in explaining Islam to our children will all make them less likely to believe in the faith and become good people, as God expects of all of us. The proliferation of misinterpretations and over-reliance on so-called religious scholars, mullahs (leaders of Madrassas, a form of religious institution that takes on a narrow definition of Islam and applies rogue learning devoid of critical thinking), and imams who possess very little knowledge of the Qur’an and its practical implications in our personal and public lives in their broadest contexts are primarily responsible for the decline of progress in Muslim lands.