3 - Al Imran (The family of Imran)

6 Tafsir(s) related to verse 3.23

Al-Jalalayn

Have you not seen those who were given a portion, a share, of the Book, the Torah, being called to the Book of God (yud‘awna, ‘being called’, is a circumstantial qualifier), that it might decide between them, and then a party of them turned away, opposed? to the acceptance of its rulings. This was revealed concerning the Jews: two of them fornicated and they [the Jews] asked the Prophet (s) to adjudicate the case. He ruled that they be stoned, but they [the Jews] refused to do so. When the Torah was brought and consulted, the same verdict was found, and so the two were stoned, but they [the Jews] became wrathful.

Al-Qushairi

Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Book being called to the Book of God that it might decide between them and then a party of them turned away yatawallā opposedḍ [This means] “We have tested you with calling those whom We already know will not answer. So be patient with what you have been commanded regarding them. Know the misfortune of their states. They are the people who turn away ahl al-tawallī from answering ijāba because they have been deprived of the beauty of divine self-disclosure ḥusn al-tajallī by Our prior will irāda.”

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(Hast thou not seen how those who have received a portion of the Scripture…) [3:23]. There is a difference of opinion about this verse’s occasion of revelation. Al-Suddi said: “When the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, called the Jews to embrace Islam, al-Nu‘man ibn Awfa said to him: ‘Come, O Muhammad, and let the rabbis judge between us’. He said: ‘Let the Scripture of Allah be judge between us’. They said: ‘No! Let the rabbis judge’. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”. On the other hand, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr and ‘Ikrimah reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, entered in on a group of Jews in a Jewish place of study and called them to Allah. Nu‘aym ibn ‘Amr and al-Harith ibn Zayd said to him: ‘O Muhammad, which religion are you on?’ He said: ‘The religion of Abraham’. They said: ‘But Abraham was a Jew’. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘In that case, let us go to the Torah and let it judge between us’. They refused. And Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”. Said al-Kalbi: “This was revealed about those who committed fornication in Khaybar and the Jews who asked the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, about the legal punishment of fornication”. The elaboration on this will come in Surah al-Ma’idah, Allah, exalted is He, willing”.

Ibn Al Kathir

Chastising the People of the Book for Not Referring to the Book of Allah for Judgment

Allah criticizes the Jews and Christians who claim to follow their Books, the Tawrah and the Injil, because when they are called to refer to these Books where Allah commanded them to follow Muhammad, they turn away with aversion. This censure and criticism from Allah was all because of their defiance and rejection. Allah said next,

ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُواْ لَن تَمَسَّنَا النَّارُ إِلاَ أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَتٍ

(This is because they say: "The Fire shall not touch us but for a number of days.'') meaning, what made them dare to challenge and defy the truth is their false claim that Allah will only punish them for seven days in the Fire, a day for every one thousand years in this life. We mentioned this subject in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah.

Allah then said,

وَغَرَّهُمْ فِى دِينِهِم مَّا كَانُواْ يَفْتَرُونَ

(And that which they used to invent regarding their religion has deceived them.) meaning, what caused them to remain on their false creed is that they deceived themselves, believing that the Fire will only touch them for a few days for their errors. However, it is they who have invented this notion, and Allah did not grant them authority to support this claim. Allah said, while threatening and warning them,

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جَمَعْنَـهُمْ لِيَوْمٍ لاَّ رَيْبَ فِيهِ

(How (will it be) when We gather them together on the Day about which there is no doubt (i. e. the Day of Resurrection).) meaning, what will their condition be like after they have uttered this lie about Allah, rejected His Messengers and killed His Prophets and their scholars who enjoined righteousness and forbade evil Allah will ask them about all this and punish them for what they have done. This is why Allah said,

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جَمَعْنَـهُمْ لِيَوْمٍ لاَّ رَيْبَ فِيهِ

(How (will it be) when We gather them together on the Day about which there is no doubt.) meaning, there is no doubt that this Day will come,

وَوُفِّيَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ

(And each person will be paid in full what he has earned And they will not be dealt with unjustly.).

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

That is, "They are asked to acknowledge the Book of Allah as the final authority and bow before its decrees and accept as true whatever is proved to he true by it, and reject whatever is proved to be false by it. "It should be noted that here by the Book of God is meant the Torah or the Gospel and by "the people who have received a share of the knowledge of the Book" are meant the learned people of the Jews and the Christians.

As such people regard themselves to be the favourites of God, they delude themselves that they are going to enter into Paradise anyhow, irrespective of the quality of their deeds. They foolishly believe that the fire of Hell dare not touch them because they are "true" believers and the children of such pious ancestors, and the followers of such and such prophets and the disciples of such and such saints, etc., etc. And if at all they are cast into Hell, they argue, they will be kept there only for a few days and that, too, to be cleansed of the impurity of sins and then will go into Paradise permanently. Such misleading ideas and conceptions have made them so bold that they commit the gravest crimes and the most heinous sins fearlessly: so much so that they openly disown the Truth without the least fear of Allah.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

Allah mentions after this the rejection of stoning by the Banu Qurayzah and Banu'l-Nadir from among the people of Khaybar, saying: (Hast thou not seen) O Muhammad! (how those who have received the Scripture) were given knowledge about what is in the Torah regarding stoning and other things (invoke the Scripture of Allah) the Qur'an ((in their disputes) that it may judge between them) about stoning the married man and married woman who committed adultery in Khaybar, as is in their Scripture; (then a faction of them) from Banu Qurayzah and the people of Khaybar (turn away) from the judgement, (being opposed (to it)) denying that judgement.