The Quran

Commentaries for 2.96

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.96 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And thou) O Muhammad! (wilt find them) the Jews (greediest of mankind for any life) to remain in this world (and (greedier) than the idolaters) even greedier than the Arab idolaters. ((Each) one of them would like) would hope (to be allowed to live a thousand years. And to live (that long) would by no means remove him) save him (from the doom) if he were to live a thousand years. (And Allah is Seer of what they do) of contraventions, rebellion and what they conceal about the description and traits of Muhammad (pbuh).
2.96 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
And you shall find them (the lām of la-tajidannahum is for oaths) the people most covetous of life, and, more covetous of it than, the idolaters, who reject the [idea of the] Resurrection, for the former know that their journey’s end will be the Fire, while the idolaters do not believe even in this; any one of them would love, wishes, that he might be given life for a thousand years (law yu‘ammar, ‘[if only] he might be given life’: the particle law, ‘if only’, relates to the verbal noun and functions with the sense of an, ‘that’, and together with its relative clause explains the [implicit] verbal noun in the object of the verb yawaddu, ‘he would love’); yet, any one of them, his being given life (an yu‘ammara, ‘that he should be given life’, constitutes the subject of the verb muzahzihihi, ‘that it should budge him’ [this verb comes later], as though it were ta‘mīruhu, ‘the giving of life to him’) shall not budge, remove, him from the chastisement, of the Fire. God sees what they do (ya‘malūna may be alternatively read ta‘malūna, ‘you do’), and will requite them. [‘Abd Allāh] Ibn Sūryā asked the Prophet (s), or ‘Umar [b. al-Khattāb], about which angel brings down the revelation, and he replied that it was Gabriel; he [Ibn Sūryā] then said, ‘He is our enemy, because he brings chastisement with him; had it been Michael, we would have believed in him, because he brings fertility and security.’ Then, the following was revealed:
2.96 Kashani - Kashani
And you shall find them the people most covetous of life, and the idolaters; any one of them would love that he might be given life for a thousand years; yet, his being given life shall not budge him from the chastisement. God sees what they do.
2.94-96 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Calling the Jews to invoke Allah to destroy the Unjust Party
Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah said to His Prophet,
قُلْ إِن كَانَتْ لَكُمُ الدَّارُ الاٌّخِرَةُ عِندَ اللَّهِ خَالِصَةً مِّن دُونِ النَّاسِ فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنْتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ
(Say to (them): "If the home of the Hereafter with Allah is indeed for you especially and not for others, of mankind, then long for death if you are truthful.'') meaning, `Invoke Allah to bring death to the lying camp among the two (Muslims and Jews).' The Jews declined this offer by the Messenger of Allah.''
وَلَن يَتَمَنَّوْهُ أَبَدًا بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّـلِمينَ
(But they will never long for it because of what their hands have sent before them (i.e. what they have done). And Allah is Aware of the Zalimin (polytheists and wrongdoers).) meaning, "Since they know that they recognize you, and yet disbelieve in you.'' Had they wished death that day, no Jew would have remained alive on the face of the earth. Moreover, Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ
(Then long for death), means, "Invoke (Allah) for death.'' Also, `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas commented,
فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ
(Then long for death if you are truthful), "Had the Jews invoked Allah for death, they would have perished.'' Also, Ibn Abi Hatim recorded Sa`id bin Jubayr saying that Ibn `Abbas said, "Had the Jews asked for death, one of them would have choked on his own saliva.'' These statements have authentic chains of narration up to Ibn `Abbas. Further, Ibn Jarir said in his Tafsir, "We were told that the Prophet said,
«لَوْ أَنَّ الْيَهُودَ تَمَنَّوُا الْمَوْتَ لَمَاتُوا وَلَرَأَوْا مَقَاعِدَهُمْ مِنَ النَّارِ، وَلَوْ خَرَجَ الَّذِينَ يُبَاهِلُونَ رَسُولَ اللهِصلى الله عليه وسلّم لَرَجَعُوا لَا يَجِدُونَ أَهْلًا وَلَا مَالًا»
(Had the Jews wished for death, they would have died and seen their seats in the Fire. And, those who invoked such curse against Allah's Messenger would have found no families or property had they returned to their homes).''
Similar to this Ayah is Allah's statement in Surat Al-Jumu`ah,
قُلْ يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ إِن زَعمْتُمْ أَنَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَآءُ لِلَّهِ مِن دُونِ النَّاسِ فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ - وَلاَ يَتَمَنَّونَهُ أَبَداً بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْديهِمْ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّـلِمِينَ - قُلْ إِنَّ الْمَوْتَ الَّذِى تَفِرُّونَ مِنْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مُلَـقِيكُمْ ثُمَّ تُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَـدَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
((Say (O Muhammad ): "O you Jews! If you pretend that you are friends of Allah, to the exclusion of (all) other mankind, then long for death if you are truthful. ''But they will never long for it (death), because of what (deeds) their hands have sent before them! And Allah knows well the Zalimin. Say (to them): "Verily, the death from which you flee will surely meet you, then you will be sent back to (Allah) the Knower of the unseen and the seen, and He will tell you what you used to do.'') (62:6-8).
So they claimed that they are Allah's sons and loved ones and said, "Only those who are Christian or Jews shall enter Paradise.'' Therefore, they were called to invoke Allah to destroy the lying group, be it them or the Muslims. When the Jews declined, every one was sure of their wrong, for had they been sure of their claims, then they would have accepted the proposal. Their lies were thus exposed after they declined the offer to invoke the curse.
Similarly, the Messenger of Allah called a delegation of Najran's Christians to curse after he refuted them in a debate in which they demonstrated stubbornness and defiance. Allah said,
فَمَنْ حَآجَّكَ فِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْاْ نَدْعُ أَبْنَآءَنَا وَأَبْنَآءَكُمْ وَنِسَآءَنَا وَنِسَآءَكُمْ وَأَنفُسَنَا وأَنفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَتُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْكَـذِبِينَ
(Then whoever disputes with you concerning him (`Isa) after (all this) knowledge that has come to you (i.e. `Isa) being a servant of Allah, and having no share in divinity), say (O Muhammad ): "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves ـ then we pray and invoke (sincerely) the curse of Allah upon those who lie.'') (3:61).
When the Christians heard this challenge, some of them said to each other, "By Allah! If you do such with this Prophet, none of you will have an eye that blinks.'' This is when they resorted to peace and gave the Jizyah (tax) in disgrace. The Prophet accepted the Jizyah from them and sent Abu `Ubaydah bin Al-Jarrah with them as a trustee. Similar to this meaning is Allah's command to His Prophet to proclaim to the polytheists:
قُلْ مَن كَانَ فِى الضَّلَـلَةِ فَلْيَمْدُدْ لَهُ الرَّحْمَـنُ مَدّاً
(Say (O Muhammad ) whoever is in error, the Most Gracious (Allah) will prolong him (in it).) (19:75) meaning, "Whoever among us has deviated, may Allah increase and prolong his deviation.'' We will mention this subject later, Allah willing.
The Mubahalah (invocation to Allah to destroy the liars) was called a `wish' here, because every just person wishes that Allah destroy the unjust opponent who is debating with him, especially when the just person has a clear, apparent proof for the truth he is calling to. Also, the Mubahalah involves invoking Allah for death of the unjust group, because to disbelievers, life is the biggest prize, especially when they know the evil destination they will meet after death.
Disbelievers wish They could live longer
This is why Allah said next,
وَلَن يَتَمَنَّوْهُ أَبَدًا بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالظَّـلِمينَ وَلَتَجِدَنَّهُمْ أَحْرَصَ النَّاسِ عَلَى حَيَوةٍ
(But they will never long for it because of what their hands have sent before them (i.e.what they have done). And Allah is Aware of the Zalimin. And verily, you will find them (the Jews) the greediest of mankind for life.) meaning, greedy to live longer, because they know their evil end, and the only reward they will have with Allah is total loss. This life is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the disbeliever. Therefore, the People of the Book wish they could delay the Hereafter, as much as possible. However, they shall certainly meet what they are trying to avoid, even if they are more eager to delay the Hereafter than the polytheists who do not have a divine book.
Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Ibn `Abbas commented on,
وَمَا هُوَ بِمُزَحْزِحِهِ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ أَن يُعَمَّرَ
(But the grant of such life will not save him even a little from (due) punishment.) "Long life shall not save them from torment. Certainly, the polytheists do not believe in resurrection after death, and they would love to enjoy a long life. The Jews know the humiliation they will suffer in the Hereafter for knowingly ignoring the truth.'' Also, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said, "The Jews are most eager for this life. They wish they could live for a thousand years. However, living for a thousand years will not save them from torment, just as Iblis' - Satan - long life did not benefit him, due to being a disbeliever.'' t
وَاللَّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ
(And Allah is Seer of what they do.) meaning, "Allah knows what His servants are doing, whether good or evil, and will compensate each of them accordingly.''
2.94-96 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This was a retort which implied that if they really were sure and enamoured of the Hereafter, they would not dread death, but would prefer it to the life in this world. They, however, were (and are) so much given to this worldliness that they were terrified by the very thought of death and the Hereafter.
The literal translation of the word ala hayat-in"is "any kind of life". It means that they wished to live without giving any consideration to the kind of life they led. It did not matter whether that was a life of honour and grace, or a life of dishonour and disgrace.
2.96 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
And you shall find them the people most covetous of life and the idolaters; any one of them would love that he might be given life for a thousand years; yet his being given life shall not budge him from the chastisement. God sees what they do. Love of life in this world is the result of heedlessness ghafla of God. The worst heedlessness is their excessive love to remain in this world. The state of the believer is the opposite of this. Those who are heedless and insolent are eager for life only because they know of their failure to be obedient. The runaway slave does not want to be returned to his master. But for believers the transition [of death] to One from whom only good is expected is better than remaining with those against whose evil they are not secure. The prolonging of life in spite of the certainty of death holds no value for them since [death] comes unexpectedly and life is cut off. What is coming is near. When [one's] life span is completed there is no averting the assaults of the appointed time from the shoulders of hope fa-lā maradda li-hujūmi al-ajal ʿalā aktāfi al-amal.