The Quran

Commentaries for 2.61

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.61 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when you said: O Moses! We will not endure one kind of food) we will not endure eating just honey and quails; (so pray unto your Lord) ask your Lord (for us that He bring forth for us of that which the earth groweth of its herbs and its cucumbers and its corn and its lentils and its onions. He) i.e. Moses (said: Would you exchange that which is higher) i.e. that which is better and more honourable: honey and quails (for that which is lower) that which is much worse: lentils and onions? (Go down to any city) where you came from; and it is also said that this means any city, (thus you shall get that which you demand) what you have requested is to be found there. (And humiliation) the capitation tax (and wretchedness) the attire of poverty (were stamped upon them) were imposed on them (and they were visited with wrath from Allah) as they deserved to be forsaken by Allah. (That) being forsaken by Allah and visited by humiliation and wretchedness (was because they disbelieved in Allah's revelations) they disbelieved in Muhammad (pbuh) and in the Qur'an (and slew the prophets wrongfully) without any right and for no crime whatsoever. (That) Allah's wrath (was for their disobedience) on the Sabbath (and transgression) slaying the prophets and declaring transgressions to be lawful.
2.61 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
And when you said, ‘Moses, we will not endure one sort of food, that is to say, manna and quails; pray to your Lord for us, that He may bring forth for us, something, of (min here is explicative) what the earth produces — green herbs, cucumbers, garlic, lentils, onions’, he, Moses, said, to them, ‘Would you exchange what is better, more noble, that is, do you substitute this, with what is lowlier?’ (the hamza of a-tastabdilūna is for rebuke); they thus refused to change their mind and he [Moses] supplicated to God, and He, exalted be He, said, ‘Go down to a city, whichever city it may be; you shall have, there, what you demanded’ of vegetable produce; And abasement, submissiveness, and wretchedness, that is, the signs of poverty on account of their submissiveness and debasement that always accompany them, even if they be rich, in the same way that a coin never changes its mint; were cast upon them, and they incurred, ended up with God’s wrath; that, that is, that affliction and wrath, was because they used to disbelieve the signs of God and slay prophets, such as Zachariah and John, without right, that is, unjustly; that was because they disobeyed, and they were transgressors, overstepping the bounds in disobedience (here the repetition [dhālik bi-mā ‘asaw wa-kānū ya‘tadūn] is for emphasis).
2.61 Kashani - Kashani
[And when you said,] 'Moses, we will not endure one sort of food, that is, spiritual nourishment in the way of science, gnosis and widsom; pray to your Lord for us, [that He may bring forth for us of what the earth produces - green herbs, cucumbers, garlic, lentils, onions'; He said, 'Would you exchange what is better with what is lowlierḍ'] Pray to your Lord that provide for us generously and grant us dispensation with regard to what the earth of our souls produces in the way of vile passions, base pleasures and cold amusements and [with regard to] all that comprehends the shares of the soul and its chastisement.
'Go down to a city, the city of the body, you shall have, therein, what you demanded'; And abasement, the concomitant of the pursuit of passions and the eager desire to acquire possessions, and wretchedness, that is, constant need and constant abiding in the lower aspect [were cast upon them]; and they incurred, they deserved, God's wrath, distance and banishment, that was because, of their veiling themselves from God's signs and His self-disclosures: the remainder is manifest [enough]. According to the second sense, [because of] their slaying of the prophets of the hearts without any established motive against them that would require such [a response], nay by their sheer falsehood in disobeying the commands of the hearts and the intellects and their animosity towards the manifestation [of these commands] they used to disbelieve the signs of God and slay prophets without right; that was because they disobeyed, and they were transgressors.
2.61 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Children of Israel preferred Foods inferior to Manna and Quails
Allah said, "And remember My favor on you when I sent down the manna and quails to you, a good, pure, beneficial, easily acquired food. And remember your ungratefulness for what We granted you. Remember how you asked Musa to exchange this type of food for an inferior type that consists of vegetation, and so forth.'' Al-Hasan Al-Basri said about the Children of Israel, "They were bored and impatient with the type of food they were provided. They also remembered the life they used to live, when their diet consisted of lentils, onions, garlic and herbs.'' They said,
يَـمُوسَى لَن نَّصْبِرَ عَلَى طَعَامٍ وَحِدٍ فَادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُخْرِجْ لَنَا مِمَّا تُنبِتُ الأَرْضُ مِن بَقْلِهَا وَقِثَّآئِهَا وَفُومِهَا وَعَدَسِهَا وَبَصَلِهَا
(O Musa ! We cannot endure one kind of food. So invoke your Lord for us to bring forth for us of what the earth grows, its herbs, its cucumbers, its Fum, its lentils and its onions). They said,
عَلَى طَعَامٍ وَحِدٍ
(One kind of food) meaning, the manna and quails, because they ate the same food day after day. The Ayah mentioned lentils, onions and herbs, which are all known types of foods. As for the Fum, Ibn Mas`ud read it, Thum (garlic). Also, Ibn Abi Hatim narrated that Al-Hasan said about the Ayah,
(Its Fum), "Ibn `Abbas said that Fum means, garlic.''
He also said that the expression, `Fumu-lanna' means, `bake for us', according to the languages of old. Ibn Jarir commented, "If this is true, then `Fum' is one of the words whose pronounciation were altered, the letter `fa' was replaced by the letter `tha', since they are similar in sound.'' And Allah knows best. Others said that Fum is wheat, the kind used for bread. Al-Bukhari said, "Some of them said that Fum includes all grains or seeds that are eaten.''
Allah's statement,
قَالَ أَتَسْتَبْدِلُونَ الَّذِى هُوَ أَدْنَى بِالَّذِى هُوَ خَيْرٌ
(He said, "Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower'') criticized the Jews for asking for inferior foods, although they were living an easy life, eating tasty, beneficial and pure food. Allah's statement,
اهْبِطُواْ مِصْرًا
(Go you down to any Misr) means, `any city', as Ibn `Abbas said. Ibn Jarir also reported that Abu Al-`Aliyah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that the Ayah refers to Misr, the Egypt of Fir`awn. The truth is that the Ayah means any city, as Ibn `Abbas and other scholars stated. Therefore, the meaning of Musa's statement to the Children of Israel becomes, "What you are asking for is easy, for it is available in abundance in any city that you might enter. So since what you asked for is available in all of the villages and cities, I will not ask Allah to provide us with it, especially when it is an inferior type of food. '' This is why Musa said to them,
أَتَسْتَبْدِلُونَ الَّذِى هُوَ أَدْنَى بِالَّذِى هُوَ خَيْرٌ اهْبِطُواْ مِصْرًا فَإِنَّ لَكُم مَّا سَأَلْتُمْ
(Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower Go you down to any town and you shall find what you want!)
Since their request was the result of boredom and arrogance and since fulfilling it was unnecessary, their request was denied. Allah knows best.
وَضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الذِّلَّةُ وَالْمَسْكَنَةُ وَبَآءُوا بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ يَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَـتِ اللَّهِ وَيَقْتُلُونَ النَّبِيِّينَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ذلِكَ بِمَا عَصَواْ وَّكَانُواْ يَعْتَدُونَ
(61. And they were covered with humiliation and misery, and they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah. That was because they used to disbelieve in the Ayat (proofs, evidence) of Allah and killed the Prophets wrongfully. That was because they disobeyed and used to transgress the bounds (in their disobedience to Allah, i.e. commit crimes and sins.)) (2:61)
Covering the Jews in Humiliation and Misery
Allah said,
وَضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الذِّلَّةُ وَالْمَسْكَنَةُ
(And they were covered with humiliation and misery). This Ayah indicates that the Children of Israel were plagued with humiliation, and that this will continue, meaning that it will never cease. They will continue to suffer humiliation at the hands of all who interact with them, along with the disgrace that they feel inwardly. Al-Hasan commented, "Allah humiliated them, and they shall have no protector. Allah put them under the feet of the Muslims, who appeared at a time when the Majus (Zoroastrians) were taking the Jizyah (tax) from the Jews.'' Also, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and As-Suddi said that `misery' used in the Ayah means, `poverty.' `Atiyah Al-`Awfi said that `misery' means, `paying the tilth (tax).' In addition, Ad-Dahhak commented on Allah's statement,
وَبَآءُوا بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ
(and they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah), "They deserved Allah's anger.'' Also, Ibn Jarir said that,
وَبَآءُوا بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ
(and they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah) means, "They went back with the wrath. Similarly, Allah said,
إِنِّى أُرِيدُ أَن تَبُوءَ بِإِثْمِى وَإِثْمِكَ
(Verily, I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours) (Al-Ma'idah 5:29) meaning, `You will end up carrying my, and your, mistakes instead of me'. Thus, the meaning of the Ayah becomes, `They went back carrying Allah's anger; Allah's wrath descended on them; they deserved Allah's anger.'''
Allah's statement,
ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ يَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَـتِ اللَّهِ وَيَقْتُلُونَ النَّبِيِّينَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ
(That was because they used to disbelieve in the Ayat (proofs, evidences, etc.) of Allah and killed the Prophets wrongfully.) means, "This is what We rewarded the Children of Israel with: humiliation and misery.'' Allah's anger that descended on the Children of Israel was a part of the humiliation they earned, because of their defiance of the truth, disbelief in Allah's Ayat and belittling the carriers of Allah's Law i.e. the Prophets and their following. The Children of Israel rejected the Messengers and even killed them. Surely, there is no form of disbelief worse than disbelieving in Allah's Ayat and murdering the Prophets of Allah.
Meaning of Kibr
Similarly, in a Hadith recorded in the Two Sahihs the Messenger of Allah said,
«الْكِبْرُ بَطَرُ الْحَقِّ وَغَمْطُ النَّاس»
(`Kibr, is refusing the truth and degrading (belittling) people.)
Imam Ahmad recorded, `Abdullah bin Mas`ud saying that the Messenger of Allah said,
«أَشَدُّ النَّاسِ عَذَابًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ رَجُلٌ قَتَلَهُ نَبِيٌّ أَوْ قَتَلَ نَبِيًّا: وَإِمَامُ ضَلَالَةٍ وَمُمَثِّلٌ مِنَ الْمُمَثِّلِين»
(The people who will receive the most torment on the Day of Resurrection are: a man who was killed by a Prophet or who killed a Prophet, an unjust ruler and one who mutilates (the dead).) Allah's statement,
ذلِكَ بِمَا عَصَواْ وَّكَانُواْ يَعْتَدُونَ
(That was because they disobeyed and used to transgress the bounds) mentions another reason why the Children of Israel were punished in this manner, for they used to disobey and transgress the limits. Disobedience is to do what is prohibited, while transgression entails overstepping the set limits of what is allowed and what is prohibited. Allah knows best.
2.61 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
It does not mean: "You are asking, instead of manna and salva which you get gratis, things for which you will have to till and cultivate the land." But it means: "You are neglecting that grand purpose the purification of your hearts and the preparation for the leadership of the world for which you are being made to travel in the desert: instead of this, you are after the gratification of your taste and palate and cannot forego those things even for some time. " (For comparison, see Numbers, 11: 4-9).
They rejected the Revelations in different ways: (a) They refused to accept anything as revealed, if it went against their own ideas or desires; (b) they brazen-facedly violated the clear injunctions of Allah, knowing full well that they were discarding His Commandments; and (c) they distorted and twisted the meaning of Revelations in order to suit their desires and lusts.
The history of the Israelites abounds in instances of the persecution of their own Prophets. We cite here a few from the Bible: (1) After the death of the Prophet Solomon, the kingdom of the Israelites was split into two states the kingdom of Judah with its capital at Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria. As the two were often at war with each other, the things came to such a pass that the kingdom of Judah asked for help from the Aramaic kingdom of Damascus against their own brethren. At this the Prophet Hanani by God's command severely rebuked Asa king of Judah for relying on the king of Syria instead of relying on "the Eternal your God." But Asa instead of heeding the warning sent the Prophet of God to the prison house. (2 Chronicles, 16: 1-10). (2) When the Prophet Elijah rebuked the Israelites for serving and worshipping Baal, and asked them to serve and worship One God alone, they became his mortal enemies. King Ahab of Samaria threatened to kill him because his idolatrous wife incited him against the Prophet Elijah. In terror he ran for his life to the mountains in the Sinai Peninsula. During the period of affliction, he said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even 1 only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away". (1 Kings, 19: 1-10). (3) King Ahab sent another Prophet, Micaiah, to prison for speaking out the truth. "And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; and say, "Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace." (1 Kings, 22: 26-27). (4) When the people of Judah began to worship idols openly and to do what was evil in the sight of Allah, the Prophet Zecharia raised his voice against these evils, saying: "Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord. " (2 Chronicles, 24: 20-21) (5) When the Israelite state of Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians, and the Jewish state at Jerusalem was threatened with imminent danger, the Prophet Jeremiah began to bewail and warn his people of their degeneration and its evil consequences. He lamented and cried, "Mend your ways otherwise you will meet with a far worse doom than Samaria." In answer to this the Jews cursed him, beat him and imprisoned him. They accused him of treachery against the nation and shouted, "You are deserting to the Chaldeans." He was arrested and flogged and confined in the dungeon cells. Then they put him into an underground cistern, lowering him down with ropes so that he should sink in the mud and die on the spot from starvation. (For details please refer to Jeremiah, 15: 10, 18: 20-23; 20:1-18 and Chapters 36 to 40.) (6) About the Prophet Amos, it is written that when he rebuked the Israelite state of Samaria for its evil and immoral doings and warned them of their evil are doing. These are the people who have preferred the worldly life to the life in the Hereafter. Therefore their torment shall not be lightened nor shall help be given to them (from any quarter). consequences, he was served with the notice:"O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah and prophesy there." (Amos, 7: 10-13). (7) When John the Baptist raised his voice against the immoralities which were being openly practised in the court of Herod, king of Judah, he was arrested and bound in prison. Then at the request of Herodias, his wife, who had a grudge against him, he sent one of the guards to bring his head. The man went and beheaded him in the prison and brought, his head on a dish to be presented to her. Thus, the Prophet of God was killed without any cause. (ark, 6: 17-29.) (8) The last victim of the evil designs of the high priests and the elders of the jews was Jesus Christ, who took them to task for their sins and hypocrisies and advised them to lead a righteous life. For this"crime" of his, they plotted against him: bought Judas, one of his twelve disciples, and sent a large mob with swords and cudgels to seize him and take him away to the house of the high priest. After binding him, they led him off, and handed him over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. They tried to procure false evidence against him in order to have him put to death. They had become so hardhearted that they asked Pilate to release Barabbas, a murderer, as a boon at the festival but to "crucify him". In this verse, the Qur'an briefly refers to this most shameful chapter of the history of the Israelites and declares that they fully deserved the curses and condemnation of Allah. They chose their worst offenders against law and morality and made them their chiefs and leaders, and sent their most pious and righteous men to the gaol or the gallows.
2.61 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
And when you said “Moses we will not endure one sort of food; pray to your Lord for us that He may bring forth for us of what the earth produces-green herbs cucumbers garlic lentils onions”; He said “Would you exchange what is better with what is lowlierḍ” “Go down to a city you shall have what you demanded”; And abasement and wretchedness were cast upon them and they incurred God's wrath; that was because they used to disbelieve the signs of God and slay prophets without right; that was because they disobeyed and they were transgressors. They were not content with the goodness of [God] choosing for them nor were they patient in His managing what He desired for them in basic food and clothing. In their confusion they fell back to their customary behavior of eating impure food and finding contentment in a lower state so He returned them to the suffering of ignominy muqāsāt al-hawān and bound them to perpetual disappointment idāmat al-khidhlān. They went so far as to shed the blood of prophets and violated the sanctity of [God's] command with their lack of shame. They did not repent so He punished them for their ugly acts qabīḥ fiʿālihim and returned them to what He had chosen for their souls in their contemptible states khasāÌis aḥwālihim. When sincere counsel naṣīḥa did not succeed with them retribution and humiliation faḌīḥa overtook them. It is said that the children of Israel were divided in their aspirations and scattered in their objectives. They were not content to have just one food for themselves nor were they satisfied with one object of worship in their religion; [this was true] to the point that they said to Moses عليه السلام when they saw people worshiping idols “O Moses make for us a god just as they have gods” [7:138]. This is the attribute of the masters of separation arbāb al-tafriqa. Patience with the One al-wāḥid is hard. God most high said “And when you mention the Lord alone waḥdahu in the QurÌān they turn their backs in aversion” [17:46].