Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(They said: O Moses! Lo! a giant people) assassins ((dwell) therein, and lo! we go not in) this land of assassins (till they go forth from thence. When they go forth, then we will enter (not till then)).
They said, ‘O Moses, there are giants in it, those remaining of the people of ‘Ād, who were very tall and mighty; we will never enter it until they depart from it; if they depart from it then we will enter’, it.
[They said, 'O Moses] there are a tyrant people in it, in the way of the sultan of estimation and the princes of caprice, wrath, lust and all the other pharaonic attributes of the soul which they have seized by force and by subjugation and they have mastery over them, dominating them and compelling all to [follow] their whims; we have no strength against them and are unable to resist them. They said that because they had become habituated to physical pleasures and carnal appetites and because of their being overcome by caprice. Thus they were unable to pursue spiritual disciplining, or to curb desire, or to curtail the attributes of the soul through spiritual struggle; we will never enter it until they depart from it, that is, [until] God should turn them out of it withouth any spiritual discipline or struggle on our part, or [until] they depart out of [their own] nature, despite the impossibility of this, or [until] their sway be weakened as is the case with [the advent of] old age, despite the fact that they would not be able to enter it then.
Musa Reminds His People of Allah's Favors on Them; The Jews Refuse to Enter the Holy Land
Allah states that His servant, Messenger, to whom He spoke directly, Musa, the son of `Imran, reminded his people that among the favors Allah granted them, is that He will give them all of the good of this life and the Hereafter, if they remain on the righteous and straight path. Allah said,
(And (remember) when Musa said to his people: "O my people! Remember the favor of Allah to you, when He made Prophets among you,) for whenever a Prophet died, another rose among them, from the time of their father Ibrahim and thereafter. There were many Prophets among the Children of Israel calling to Allah and warning against His torment, until `Isa was sent as the final Prophet from the Children of Israel. Allah then sent down the revelation to the Final Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad, the son of `Abdullah, from the offspring of Isma`il, the son of Ibrahim, peace be upon them. Muhammad is the most honorable Prophet of all times. Allah said next,
(made you kings) `Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Ibn `Abbas commented: "Having a servant, a wife and a house.'' In his Mustadrak, Al-Hakim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "A wife and a servant, and, a
(and gave you what He had not given to any other among the nations (`Alamin).) means, during their time.'' Al-Hakim said, "Sahih according to the criteria of the Two Sahihs, but they did not collect it.'' Qatadah said, "They were the first people to take servants.'' A Hadith states,
(and gave you what He had not given to any other among the nations (Al-`Alamin).) means, during your time, as we stated. The Children of Israel were the most honorable among the people of their time, compared to the Greek, Copts and the rest of mankind. Allah said in another Ayah,
(And indeed We gave the Children of Israel the Scripture, and the understanding of the Scripture and its laws, and the Prophethood; and provided them with good things, and preferred them above the nations (Al-`Alamin).) Allah said,
(They said: "O Musa! Make for us a god as they have gods.'' He said: "Verily, you are an ignorant people.'' Musa added: "Verily, these people will be destroyed for that which they are engaged in (idol worship).'' And all that they are doing is in vain. He said: "Shall I seek for you a god other than Allah, while He has given you superiority over the nations.'') Therefore, they were the best among the people of their time. The Muslim Ummah is more respected and honored before Allah, and has a more perfect legislative code and system of life, it has the most honorable Prophet, the larger kingdom, more provisions, wealth and children, a larger domain and more lasting glory than the Children of Israel. Allah said,
(Thus We have made you, a just (the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind.) We mentioned the Mutawatir Hadiths about the honor of this Ummah and its status and honor with Allah, when we explained Allah's statement in Surah Al-`Imran (3),
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ
(You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind...) Allah states next that Musa encouraged the Children of Israel to perform Jihad and enter Jerusalem, which was under their control during the time of their father Ya`qub. Ya`qub and his children later moved with his children and household to Egypt during the time of Prophet Yusuf. His offspring remained in Egypt until their exodus with Musa. They found a mighty, strong people in Jerusalem who had previously taken it over. Musa, Allah's Messenger, ordered the Children of Israel to enter Jerusalem and fight their enemy, and he promised them victory and triumph over the mighty people if they did so. They declined, rebelled and defied his order and were punished for forty years by being lost, wandering in the land uncertain of where they should go. This was their punishment for defying Allah's command. Allah said that Musa ordered them to enter the Holy Land,
الَّتِى كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ
(which Allah has assigned to you) meaning, which Allah has promised to you by the words of your father Isra'il, that it is the inheritance of those among you who believe.
("...for then you will be returned as losers.'' They said, "O Musa! In it are a people of great strength, and we shall never enter it, till they leave it; when they leave, then we will enter.") Their excuse was this, in this very town you commanded us to enter and fight its people, there is a mighty, strong, vicious people who have tremendous physique and physical ability. We are unable to stand against these people or fight them. Therefore, they said, we are incapable of entering this city as long as they are still in it, but if they leave it, we will enter it. Otherwise, we cannot stand against them.
The Speeches of Yuwsha` (Joshua) and Kalib (Caleb)
(Two men of those who feared (Allah and) on whom Allah had bestowed His grace said...) When the Children of Israel declined to obey Allah and follow His Messenger Musa, two righteous men among them, on whom Allah had bestowed a great bounty and who were afraid of Allah and His punishment, encouraged them to go forward. It was also said that the Ayah reads in a way that means that these men were respected and honored by their people. These two men were Yuwsha`, the son of Nun, and Kalib, the son of Yufna, as Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, `Atiyyah, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and several other Salaf and latter scholars stated. These two men said to their people,
("Assault them through the gate, for when you are in, victory will be yours. And put your trust in Allah if you are believers indeed.") Therefore, they said, if you rely on and trust in Allah, follow His command and obey His Messenger, then Allah will give you victory over your enemies and will give you triumph and dominance over them. Thus, you will conquer the city that Allah has promised you. This advice did not benefit them in the least,
(They said, "O Musa! We shall never enter it as long as they are there. So go, you and your Lord, and fight you two, we are sitting right here.") This is how they declined to join Jihad, defied their Messenger, and refused to fight their enemy.
The Righteous Response of the Companions During the Battle of Badr
Compare this to the better response the Companions gave to the Messenger of Allah during the battle of Badr, when he asked for their advice about fighting the Quraysh army that came to protect the caravan led by Abu Sufyan. When the Muslim army missed the caravan and the Quraysh army, between nine hundred and one thousand strong, helmeted and drawing closer, Abu Bakr stood up and said something good. Several more Muhajirin also spoke, all the while the Messenger of Allah saying,
«أشيروا علي أيها المسلمون»
(Advise me, O Muslims!) inquiring of what the Ansar, the majority then, had to say. Sa`d bin Mu`adh said, "It looks like you mean us, O Messenger of Allah! By He Who has sent you with the Truth! If you seek to cross this sea and went in it, we will follow you and none among us will remain behind. We would not hate for you to lead us to meet our enemy tomorrow. We are patient in war, vicious in battle. May Allah allow you to witness from our efforts what comforts your eyes. Therefore, march forward with the blessing of Allah.'' The Messenger of Allah was pleased with the words of Sa`d and was encouraged to march on. Abu Bakr bin Marduwyah recorded that Anas said that when the Messenger of Allah went to Badr, he asked the Muslims for their opinion, and `Umar gave his. The Prophet again asked the Muslims for their opinion and the Ansar said, "O Ansar! It is you whom the Prophet wants to hear.'' They said, "We will never say as the Children of Israel said to Musa,
(So go, you and your Lord, and fight you two, we are sitting right here.) By He Who has sent you with the Truth! If you took the camels to Bark Al-Ghimad (near Makkah) we shall follow you.'' Imam Ahmad, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Hibban also recorded this Hadith. In the Book of Al-Maghazi and At-Tafsir, Al-Bukhari recorded that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, "On the day of Badr, Al-Miqdad said, `O Messenger of Allah! We will never say to you what the Children of Israel said to Musa,
("O my Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother, so separate us from the rebellious people!") When the Children of Israel refused to fight, Musa became very angry with them and supplicated to Allah against them,
رَبِّ إِنِّى لا أَمْلِكُ إِلاَّ نَفْسِى وَأَخِى
(O my Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother') meaning, only I and my brother Harun among them will obey, implement Allah's command and accept the call,
(So Ifruq us from the rebellious people!) Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "Meaning, judge between us and them.'' `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported similarly from him. Ad-Dahhak said that the Ayah means, "Judge and decide between us and them.'' Other scholars said that the Ayah means, "Separate between us and them.''
Forbidding the Jews from Entering the Holy Land for Forty Years
(Therefore it is forbidden to them for forty years; in distraction they will wander through the land.) When Musa supplicated against the Jews for refusing to fight in Jihad, Allah forbade them from entering the land for forty years. They wandered about lost in the land of At-Tih, unable to find their way out. During this time, tremendous miracles occurred, such as the clouds that shaded them and the manna and quails Allah sent down for them. Allah brought forth water springs from solid rock, and the other miracles that He aided Musa bin `Imran with. During this time, the Tawrah was revealed and the Law was established for the Children of Israel and the Tabernacle of the Covenant was erected.
(for forty years;) defines,
يَتِيهُونَ فِى الاٌّرْضِ
(in distraction they will wander through the land.) When these years ended, Yuwsha` bin Nun led those who remained among them and the second generation, and laid siege to Jerusalem, conquering it on a Friday afternoon. When the sun was about to set and Yuwsha` feared that the Sabbath would begin, he said (to the sun), "You are commanded and I am commanded, as well. O Allah! Make it stop setting for me.'' Allah made the sun stop setting until Yuwsha` bin Nun conquered Jerusalem. Next, Allah commanded Yuwsha` to order the Children of Israel to enter Jerusalem from its gate while bowing and saying Hittah, meaning, `remove our sins.' Yet, they changed what they were commanded and entered it while dragging themselves on their behinds and saying, `Habbah (a seed) in Sha`rah (a hair).'' We mentioned all of this in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas commented,
(Therefore it is forbidden to them for forty years; in distraction they will wander through the land.) "They wandered in the land for forty years, during which Musa and Harun died, as well as everyone above forty years of age. When the forty years ended, Yuwsha` son of Nun assumed their leadership and later conquered Jerusalem. When Yuwsha` was reminded that the day was Friday and the sun was about to set, while they were still attacking Jerusalem, he feared that the Sabbath might begin. Therefore, he said to the sun, `I am commanded and you are commanded.' Allah made the sun stop setting and the Jews conquered Jerusalem and found wealth unseen before. They wanted to let the fire consume the booty, but the fire would not do that. Yuwsha` said, `Some of you have committed theft from the booty.' So he summoned the twelve leaders of the twelve tribes and took the pledge from them. Then, the hand of one of them became stuck to the hand of Yuwsha` and Yuwsha` said, `You committed the theft, so bring it forth.' So, that man brought a cow's head made of gold with two eyes made of precious stones and a set of teeth made of pearls. When Yuwsha` added it to the booty, the fire consumed it, as they were prohibited to keep the booty.'' There is evidence supporting all of this in the Sahih.
Allah Comforts Musa
Conforting Musa, Allah said
فَلاَ تَأْسَ عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْفَـسِقِينَ
(So do not greive for the rebellious people.) Allah said: Do not feel sorrow or sadness over My judgment against them, for they deserve such judgment. This story chastises the Jews, exposes their defiance of Allah and His Messenger, and their refusal to obey the order for Jihad. They were weak and could not bear the thought of fighting their enemy, being patient, and enduring this way. This occurred although they had the Messenger of Allah and the one whom He spoke to among them, the best of Allah's creation that time. Their Prophet promised them triumph and victory against their enemies. They also witnessed the torment and punishment of drowning with which Allah punished their enemy Fir`awn and his soldiers, so that their eyes were pleased and comforted. All this did not happen too long ago, yet they refused to perform Jihad against people who had less than a tenth of the power and strength than the people of Egypt had. Therefore, the evil works of the Jews were exposed to everyone, and the exposure was such an enormous one that the night, or the tail, can never cover its tracks. They were also blinded by their ignorance and transgression. Thus, they became hated by Allah, and they became His enemies. Yet, they claim that they are Allah's children and His loved ones! May Allah curse their faces that were transformed to the shape of swine and apes, and may Allah's curse accompany them to the raging Fire. May Allah make them abide in the Fire for eternity, and He did; all thanks are due to Him.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This refers to the past glory of the Israelites that they enjoyed at a much earlier period before the advent of Moses. On the one hand, Prophets of the high rank of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were raised among them; on the other, they won great political power in Egypt during the time of the Prophet Joseph and after him. For a long time they remained the greatest rulers of their time in the then civilized world, and their currency was in circulation not only in Egypt but also in the countries around it.
In contrast to the general belief that the glory of the Israelites begins with the advent of the Prophet Moses, the Qur'an makes it clear here that the period of their real glory and greatness had passed long before him and he himself was holding that period before his people as an instance of their glorious past.
By the Holy Land is meant Palestine, which had been the home of the Prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the Israelites left Egypt for good, God allotted this land to them and commanded them to conquer it.
This speech was made by the Prophet Moses when two years after their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were encamping in the desert of Paran which lies in the Sinai Peninsula contiguous to the northern boundary of Arabia and the southern boundary of Palestine.
It may mean that the two persons were from among those who were tilled with the fear of the mighty people, or they were from among those who were God-fearing people.
The details of their homeless wandering can be had from the books, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, of the Bible. In brief, it is this: The Prophet Moses dispatched twelve chiefs of Israel from the desert of Paran to spy out the Holy Land. Accordingly, they spied it out and returned after forty days and made a report before all the congregation of Israel. They said, "Surely it floweth with milk and honey......Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land: (and) We be not able to go up against (them).....and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight." At this, all the community wailed aloud and said, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt: or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? But Joshua and Caleb, who had been among the twelve spies, rebuked the community for its cowardice. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." Then both declared, "If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it us......Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land.....and the Lord is with us: fear them not. But all the congregation stoned them with stones." At last God became wrathful at their continuous misbehavior and decreed, "Doubtless ye shall now wander in the wilderness forty years until all that were numbered of you.....from twenty years old and upward shall fall as carcasses in this wilderness, (and) your little ones (grow young)......then will I bring in and they shall know the land...." According to this Divine decree, they took 38 years to reach Jordan from the desert of Paran. During this period all those who were young at the time of the exodus from Egypt died and after the conquest of Jordan the Prophet Moses also died. After this, during the time of Joshua, son of Nun, the Israelites were able to conquer Palestine.
The incident contained in vv. 20-26 has been cited here with the special object to warn the Israelites. They have been reminded that they disobeyed Moses and swerved from the right path and showed cowardice and were consequently condemned to wander homeless for forty years but if they persisted in their attitude of rebellion against the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him), the chastisement would be much more severe than that.