I. Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)
Commentators have alluded to another meaning of 'فُوْم' viz 'corn and bread'. Ghamidihas rejected this meaning since it does not conform to the ma'ruf (common and widely accepted) meaning. This is based on the principle that the Qur'an is revealed in the ma'ruf language of the Arabs and therefore it shall not be interpreted on 'Gharib' (uncommon) meanings of a word.
The verb 'هَبَطَ' means 'to fall', 'to come down'. However, one usage of this word is 'to come or to go'. Here, in verse 30, it is used thus. A similar usage occurs in verse 38 of this surah where the words are 'اهْبِطُوا مِنْهَا' ('Go you into the land from here). While referring to this usage of the verb Ibn Manzur writes3:
وهبَط السُّوقَ إذا أَتاها ؛ قال أَبو النجم يصف إِبلاَ:يَخْبِطْنَ ملاَّحاً كذاوِي القَرْمَفَهَبَطَتْ ' والشمس لم تَرَجَّلِأَي أَتَتُه بالغَداةِ قبل ارتفاع الشمس
In this respect, the verb 'هَبَطَ' is similar to the verb 'نَزَلَ' which means 'to disembark', 'to come down'. One of its usages is 'to come' stripping the word off the element 'down'. Thus in Arabic 'نَزَلْتُ مَنْزِلَةً' would mean 'I came to a place'.
In the Arabic language, the word 'جَهَل' not only means 'to be ignorant' it also means 'to become rash and foolish'. As pointed out by Ghamidi, note 28, it is used in this latter meaning in the verse 'أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنْ الْجَاهِلِينَ '.
A Hamasi poet says:
والحلم خير فاعلمن مغبة
من الجهل الا ان تشمس من ظلم
(And remember that as regards the consequences showing forbearance is much better than being rash except if you are humiliated through oppression.)
الا لا يجهلن احد علينا
فنجهل فوق الجهل الجاهلين
(Beware! No one should express his rashness in front of us otherwise we would be forced to be rasher than the rash.)
In the following verse of the Qur'an, the word 'جَهَل' is used in this very sense:
إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوَءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُوْلَئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَلِيماً حَكِيماً (17:4)
Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in rashness and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. (4:17)
While pointing out the meaning of this word in the sentence 'الْآنَ جِئْتَ بِالْحَقِّ', Ghamidi (note 33) writes: 'The word 'اَلْحَقّ' is used in the Arabic language in various meanings. One of its meanings is 'something which is unambiguous and clear'.
In the following verse, it is used precisely in this meaning:
اَلْانَ حَصْحَصَ اللحَقَّ(12 :51)
The truth is now manifest. (12:51)
II. Style & Eloquence (الاساليب و البلاغة)
1. Use of 'مِصْراً' in 'اهْبِطُوا مِصْرًا'
The word 'مِصْر' when used for the country of 'مِصْر' (Egypt) is a Diptote (غير منصرف). However, it is a Triptote (منصرف) when used to connote 'a city'. It is precisely for this reason that most commentators take it to imply a city in this expression.
Ghamidion the other hand is of the view that to translate the expression as 'Go then into some city …' is quite meaningless. The Israelites at that time were wandering in the desert of Sinai and to ask them to go to some city where they could find various foods would seem out of place here.
According to Ghamidi, the expression means to 'Go then to some Egypt' and is actually an admonition from the Prophet Moses (sws) and a subtle allusion to the fact that to quench their penchant for delicacies, the Israelites should go back to their bonded life in Egypt – something which the Prophet Moses (sws) had liberated them from.
To connote this very meaning, the use of the word 'مِصْر' is used as a Triptote here in this expression.
2. Direction of Address
As pointed out by Ghamidi (note 20), it is very common in every language to address a nation by addressing its forefathers. Thus the charge-sheet that has been presented in this section of the surah is on the crimes committed by the forefathers of the Israelite nation that was present in the time of the Qur'an. These crimes were not perpetrated by this generation; rather by their forefathers.
III. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)
1. The 'مِيثَاقَ' in 'وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ الطُّورَ'
As pointed out by Ghamidi (note 15), the 'مِيثَاقَ' (covenant) referred to here is discussed in detail in the Qur'an in the following verses:
فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ وَرِثُواْ الْكِتَابَ يَأْخُذُونَ عَرَضَ هَذَا الأدْنَى وَيَقُولُونَ سَيُغْفَرُ لَنَا وَإِن يَأْتِهِمْ عَرَضٌ مُّثْلُهُ يَأْخُذُوهُ أَلَمْ يُؤْخَذْ عَلَيْهِم مِّيثَاقُ الْكِتَابِ أَن لاَّ يِقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْحَقَّ وَدَرَسُواْ مَا فِيهِ وَالدَّارُ الآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ وَالَّذِينَ يُمَسَّكُونَ بِالْكِتَابِ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ إِنَّا لاَ نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ وَإِذ نَتَقْنَا الْجَبَلَ فَوْقَهُمْ كَأَنَّهُ ظُلَّةٌ وَظَنُّواْ أَنَّهُ وَاقِعٌ بِهِمْ خُذُواْ مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُواْ مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ (7: 169-171)
After them succeeded an [evil] generation: they inherited the Book, but they chose [for themselves] the vanities of this world, saying: '[Everything] will be forgiven us.' If similar vanities came their way, they would [again] seize them. Was not the Covenant of the Book taken from them, that they would not ascribe to Allah anything but the truth? And they study what is in the Book but best for the righteous is the Home in the Hereafter. Will you not understand? As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular Prayer – never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish. When We shook the Mount over them, as if it had been a canopy, and they thought it was going to fall on them [We said]: 'Hold firmly to what We have given you, and bring [ever] to remembrance what is therein so that you may fear Allah'. (7:169-171)
2. The Cow Incident and the Slaying Incident
According to Ghamidi, the incident of the sacrifice of the cow mentioned in 2:67-71 and that of slaying of a person mentioned immediately after it are two separate incidents and not one as most commentators contend. The first of these incidents is actually an instance on which the divine law of Qassamah was given to the Israelites – a law which was meant to ascertain the murderer(s) whenever a person was slain. In note 25, the quotation from Deuteronomy 21:1-8 gives the details of this law. As per this law, an animal was sacrificed. At the time of revelation of this law too, a person had been slain and the law was given to ascertain the murderer. The Israelites realizing this started to ask foolish questions in order to evade receiving this law.
The second incident that begins with the words 'وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا' is actually another instance of the application of the Qassamah law; a murder had been committed and the Israelites were called to swear oaths to ascertain the killer. The Israelites this time swore false oaths on the blood of the sacrificed animal. According to Ghamidi (note 35): 'when people swore false oaths and started to blame one another for the murder, the Almighty showed them a miracle to admonish them and to sound a reminder to them of the Hereafter'.
Two points go strongly in favour of Ghamidi'sinterpretation according to which these are two separate incidents and not one as generally contended. Firstly, the expression 'وَإِذْ' clearly shows that what is mentioned subsequently is a new episode. Had it been part of the previous one the words 'وَإِذْ' would never have come. Secondly, the sequence of narration of events should have been the reverse viz a viz: the portion 'وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا' should have preceded the sacrifice of the cow referred to earlier.
An important question which arises on Ghamidi's interpretation is the occurrence and use of the pronoun 'ها'. This use apparently takes one to the conclusion that the two incidents are one since if the portion beginning from 'وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا' is taken to be a second incident then in the narration of this second incident no mention of cow sacrifice is made to which the pronoun 'ها' refers to. If the incidents are taken as one, the use pronoun 'ها' is of course right in place referring to the cow that had been sacrificed.
According to Ghamidi (note 35) here the pronoun 'ها' refers to an understood antecedent ie a cow that had been sacrificed at this instance as well.
3. Qur'anic references of 'أَمَانِيَّ'
The Qur'an has referred to the 'أَمَانِيَّ' (whims) of the Israelites in detail at other places:
وَقَالُواْ لَن تَمَسَّنَا النَّارُ إِلاَّ أَيَّاماً مَّعْدُودَةً (80:2)
And they say: 'the Fire shall not touch us but for a few numbered days.' (2:80)
قُلْ إِن كَانَتْ لَكُمُ الدَّارُ الآَخِرَةُ عِندَ اللّهِ خَالِصَةً مِّن دُونِ النَّاسِ فَتَمَنَّوُاْ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (94:2)
Say: 'If the last abode with Allah be for you specially, and not for anyone else, then ask for death if you are sincere.' (2:94)
وَقَالُواْ لَن يَدْخُلَ الْجَنَّةَ إِلاَّ مَن كَانَ هُوداً أَوْ نَصَارَى تِلْكَ أَمَانِيُّهُمْ قُلْ هَاتُواْ بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (111:2)
And they say: 'None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.' Those are their [vain] desires. Say: 'Produce your proof if you are truthful.' (2:111)
وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَى نَحْنُ أَبْنَاء اللّهِ وَأَحِبَّاؤُهُ (18:5)
The Jews and the Christians say: 'We are sons of Allah, and His beloved.' (5:18)
V. Scriptures and Testaments (العهود والصحف)
Here are some biblical parallels to the verses mentioned in this section.
1. Disobeying Allah's verses ((:612) 'يَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ')
And when the LORD sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, he said, 'Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.' But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You did not trust him or obey him. You have been rebellious against the LORD ever since I have known you. (Deuteronomy,9: 23-4)
For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them. For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made. (Deuteronomy,31:27-9)
2. Slaying Prophets ((:612) 'وَيَقْتُلُونَ النَّبِيِّينَ')
So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! 'You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. (Matthew,23:31-6)
'Why do you bring charges against me? You have all rebelled against me,' declares the LORD. 'In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravening lion. (Je, 2:29-30)
3. Lifting of Mount Sinai ((2 :63) 'وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ الطُّورَ')
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently. (Exodus, 19:16-18)
4. Violating the Sabbath:( (65:2) 'الَّذِينَ اعْتَدَوْا مِنْكُمْ فِي السَّبْتِ ')
Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. (Exodus, 31:14)
5. Hearts like Stones ((2 :74) 'فَهِيَ كَالْحِجَارَة… ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُمِْ')
But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. (Ezekiel, 3:7)
O LORD , do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. (Jeremiah, 5:3)
6. Alteration in Scriptures ((2 : 75) 'ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ')
How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? (Jeremiah, 23:26)
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (2 Corinthians 2:17)
For adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:10)
7. Vain Desires of the Jews ((78:2) 'لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا أَمَانِيَّ')
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)