Address to and Debate with the Jews
During the Makkan phase of the prophethood of Muhammad (sws), the People of the Book in general and the Jews of Yathrab in particular had been giving advice to the Quraysh about how to tackle the invitation to Islam. Even when they came to the forefront, they tried to prove that Muhammad (sws) did not have the characteristics which, according to divine books, prophets of God were supposed to possess, by raising questions and objections about the perceived lack of a foundation for the new proclamation of prophethood. Further, that their status as the real inheritors of the heavenly faith had been retained and that they occupied the position of the most favourite nation of God and were assigned the responsibility to guide others. Only they possessed the divine revelation that could lead to the right decisions among various matters related to people. The Prophet (sws)'s teachings accepted that the People of the Book had been custodians of divine revelations in the past, but their current beliefs and practices negated the divine religion. In reality, they had failed to fulfill the responsibilities that they had been charged with for the implementation of the shari'ah and for which they would be questioned on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet (sws) declared his message to be the continuation of the pure religion of monotheism and impressed upon both the Jews and Christians that it was their responsibility, as recipients of divine guidance, to recognize their obligations and move forward to accept the new guidance sent by God. Additionally, they were to declare faith in Muhammad (sws) and thereby assist in spreading God's message in the world. They were cognizant of the imminent prophethood of a highly placed messenger as written in their divine books and they had vowed to their own prophets that when that last prophet came, they would profess faith in him and help him in achieving his mission. Therefore, if at that time, the People of the Book began a confrontation against Islam, they would be acting against their promise.
In Makkah, the People of the Book were not the main addressees of the Qur'an. There, the Qur'an spoke to the idolaters of Arabia, especially the Quraysh who were the leaders of the Arabs. The situation changed after the Prophet (sws) migrated. The style of the invitation to the message changed and the People of the Book were addressed directly.
Shibli Nu'mani (1914 AD) has tried to establish that the Banu Naḍir, the Banu Qurayzah and the Bani Qaynuqa' were originally Arabs who later accepted Judaism. Had this been true, the Qur'an would not have addressed the Jews by the term " O Bani Isra'il". It is clear that the Qur'an has called the original Jews as Bani Isra'il and the converts or all Jews in general as Ahl al-Kitab) (People of the Book). Ibn Kathir has written with reference to al-Ṭabari that these three tribes had settled in the area after the attack of Nebuchadnezzar.
The main enemies of Islam were the original Jews who had great political resources and influence. They were well connected with their co-religionist tribes in the north of Hijaz and Arab tribes were impressed by their dominance in knowledge. They were friends with the Quraysh, who took advice from them in support of their anti Islam activities and learnt new ways to torment the Prophet (sws).
The Bani Isra'il (the original Jews) have always been under several misconceptions about themselves. For example, that:
- They are God's progeny and His favourite and beloved group. Because of their relationship with those He loves, they have always been worthy of His rewards and shall remain so.
- God has assigned them the responsibility of religious leadership. This status of theirs shall remain until the Day of Judgement. Hence no prophet can be born outside of the Bani Isra'il.
- Because they are children of religious elders, they will not be punished by Hell. If any Jew's serious crimes warrant a punishment, he may be punished for a few days in hell and then removed from there.
All Jews of Madinah believed the above and would try to impress the Arabs of their superiority by boasting about these presumptions. On the other hand, they had been waiting for a great messenger as predicted in their books. Their scholars opined that the time for such a messenger to come had arrived. When he came, he would bring with him only glad tidings and successes. They also believed vainly that this messenger would be from among the Bani Isra'il. When, after migration, they found the Prophet (sws) amongst them and heard his speeches, they felt frustrated because the Prophet was from the Bani Isma'il, whom the Jews had always viewed with scorn. Hence, they felt a deep sense of being undervalued. The fact that the Prophet (sws) was not from amongst the Bani Isra'il became a barrier against the Jews accepting Islam and they were consumed with envy.
Under those conditions, the first priority for the Prophet (sws) in relation to the original Jews was to remove such vain presumptions from their minds so that they could open up their hearts and minds to Islam. Since the Jews had developed their arguments for every issue and had created a web of vanity around them, it was necessary to clarify and bring to light facts through detailed discussions. This paved the way for debates with the Jews, as a result of which a few Jewish scholars accepted Islam. However, the vast majority did not change their views then, or later. It is important to identify the Prophet (sws)'s message and the key points of his arguments here.
Privileges of the Jews
When God showers blessings upon any nation, He wants it to be overcome by gratitude, to prostrate to Him with utmost sincerity and to accept His guidance. The Jews were asked to think about the conditions they were living in as slaves of the Pharaoh. Their sons were slaughtered and their daughters were left alive. God did them a favour by drowning the Pharaoh and his men in the sea and gave freedom along with their belongings to the Jews. Instead of leading their lives as grateful servants of God after gaining this freedom, they instigated His anger by worshipping a self made idol of a calf while Moses (sws) was away. At the expression of shame and repentance by a few people, God forgave them so that they may be grateful. God sent upon them a great favour by revealing a book of guidance, the Torah, but, instead of believing their prophet, they started demanding to speak with and see God themselves. Even then, God did not seize them so that they may be guided towards gratitude. After crossing a river, when the Bani Isra'il were travelling in a desert, God blessed them with a special favour by sending clouds as a protection against the sun. When they were short of water in the forest, He started the flow of twelve springs from the mountains. When there was shortage of food, He sent mann o salwa. So many blessings and favours should have been enough to create a sense of deep gratitude within the heart of any human being, but the barren hearts and minds of the Bani Isra'il remained unaffected. They complained constantly about everything and continued to bother their prophet, Moses (sws). They considered the blessings from God as their right. Favours are never anyone's right; it is up to God to give anyone whatever He decides to, and then test him to see whether he retains an element of gratitude within him or not. The Bani Isra'il were told that when they adopted an attitude of arrogance instead of penitence, God punished them. When they were told to enter the settlement, uttering words of repentance, they made fun of this injunction and God sent a divine punishment to them. When they demanded lentils and vegetables of Egypt instead of the mann o salwa sent by God, He imposed humiliation upon them. Bani Isra'il's history tells us that the favours they had were neither a result of being progeny of respected elders nor of their personal attributes. It was entirely due to God's blessings. He does not send his favours on the basis of being a member of a particular family or relationship with a group, He only values the sincerity of faith, good deeds and belief on the Day of Judgement. Only those who meet these criteria are considered worthy of reward.
The Bani Isra'il were an ungrateful people even in the past. This has been stated in the Psalms, although it is known that this book was revealed many hundreds of years after the revelation of the Torah:
He parted the sea into two to enable them reach the shore and had the water stand up as a wall. He showed them the path through clouds during the day and by the light of the fire during the night. He ripped out mountains in the forests and had them drink as if from the sea. He started springs from the mountains and had water flowing as if from rivers. Even then they continued to sin against Him and rebelled against His truth in the forest. And they demanded food according to their desires, thus trying God in their hearts. In fact, they ranted against God and said: "Can He lay a table in the forest? Look, when he struck a mountain, water sprang and rivers began to flow. Can He give bread also? Will He give meat for His people?" Hence God was angered and a fire raged against Jacob and punishment came upon Israel. This was because they did not have faith in God and in His salvation and even then He instructed the heavens and opened up the skies and showered man over them and favoured them with heavenly food. Human beings ate the food of angels and thus, by sending them food, He made them satisfied – in spite of all this, they continued to sin and did not have faith in His amazing actions, and so He destroyed their days with sluggishness and their years with terror. They flattered Him with their mouths and lied to Him through their tongues, because their hearts were not sincere towards Him and they were not loyal to Him. (Psalms, 78:13-37)
The second presumptuous belief of the Bani Isra'il which the people in Madinah held and which continues to date, is that God had made a covenant with them that He would make them the leaders of nations until the end of this world and that they would always possess the status of a special group. The characteristic of a covenant is that it is made between two parties, and is never one-sided. Hence, under it, the rights and obligations are applicable to both parties. The Jews remembered the clause relating to their status and position but forgot that whatever they were to achieve was to be achieved after fulfillment of the responsibilities which they had under the covenant. Otherwise, the covenant would become a yoke around their necks.
The Jews were informed that their responsibility under the covenant was that they hold on to the Book of God steadfastly and take guidance from it in their lives. In reality, they devised ways to escape its instructions. They would keep their prophet entangled in questions and answers, seeking to free themselves of the divine instructions. They criticized his every argument. They made changes in the word of God and gave it the meaning they desired. They wrote decrees themselves and pretended that they were from God. Their scholars, instead of making their people aware of the facts of religion, presented such a wrong picture of religion that they remained under dreams of salvation and vain presumptions. They told them that whatever their sins, they would be subjected to the fire of Hell only for a few days, because of being Jews, whereas there is no basis for this belief. God has not given such leave to anyone and He is not bound to fulfill such a wrong expectation. The belief that He has given is the same for all nations, and that is that when any person adopts a life of sin and it overpowers him, such a person shall be thrown into Hell and this will not last for a few days, but forever.
In addition, the Jews were informed of specific agreements which they had made and did not honour. For example, they had agreed that they would not worship anyone except God; they would be kind towards their parents and adopt a gracious attitude towards their relatives, the orphans and the poor. They would make arrangements for prayer and zakah. However, they acted against these instructions as a matter of routine. They had promised that they would neither kill their people, nor banish them from their homes. The Jews found a way out of this promise by using other people to kill Jews opposing them and to destroy their homes. When the revengeful activities ended, and people were taken prisoners and became homeless, the Jews would demonstrate their piety by paying ransom to free the prisoners. Then, God had made them promise that they would continue to spread the message of God amongst people and would not hide anything from them. Instead, they divided the Torah into pieces and did not let people know about it. A special clause of the covenant was that they would arrange for prayer and zakah, believe in the prophets of God and support them and help the cause of religion through financial means. But the Jews resisted every clause of this covenant and were guilty of breaking it. One particular clause was made with them regarding the last Prophet (sws). They were told that since they had been blessed with a Book and guidance, so when the last great Prophet, whose characteristics they had been informed of, came, they were to believe in him and stand up in his support. When this covenant was made, the Bani Isra'il were asked specially if they would abide by this and fulfill this responsibility. Everyone agreed without any hesitation. But, when the last Prophet (sws) came, their attitude was obvious to all, in that they were the first ones to deny him and never ceased to oppose him.
Belief in Divine Revelation
The covenant made about prophets with the Jews required that in every period of time, they should believe in the messengers who came and stand up in their support. But their history gave evidence to the fact that they would kill all such messengers who came with a message or call which the Jews did not like. In the last period, a noble prophet like Jesus (sws) was sent and the Jews conspired against him and were the cause of having him arrested by idolatrous rulers. When the Prophet (sws), for whom a special covenant had been made and they had been informed about his special characteristics, came, they denied his prophethood despite being aware of his veracity and were adamant on opposing him.
The Jews would change their stance from time to time in response to the invitation from the Prophet (sws). At one stage they said that they possessed a book already; they believed in it and their hearts did not open up to distractions. God had sealed them off from misguided utterances. The arguments for this were to question their faith which allowed the killing of God's messengers and despite clarity in what constituted idolatry, gave people freedom to make an idol and start worshipping it and that while the Book of God was present, religious scholars would give their attention to magic, amulets and spells. Did they believe, after reading the Book of God that its requirement was for them to love this world and fear death? The people of faith do not fear death, but these people did not have the courage to pray for death: instead, they wished for a life that would span over thousands of years.
At one stage, the Jews said that they were not satisfied at the Qur'an being a divine Book. They were told that no other book contained all the features of which they had been warned in their own books. That was the only book which had come with manifestation of all these characteristics. A group of the People of the Book had already recognized it and the fact they had professed faith in it was proof against the Jew's deliberate refusal. If anyone was doubtful that this was not divine revelation, he should come forward and compose a surah like it. They would realize that such a feat was not possible through human effort.
To confuse people, the Jews would also tell them that the shari'ah instructions of the Qur'an were different from those of the Torah. Had the two books been sent from a single source, why should there have been a difference? Did God change His thinking or his standards? God addressed this objection by asking them whether they were doubtful that He was in control of everything. Were they not willing to believe that the kingdom of the heavens and earth was His and that He decided which instruction to give to his people and which not to give? If The Lord of the world decided to cancel or change any of His instructions, people were given a better and wiser injunction. In the past, the Jews had made several shari'ah instructions difficult for themselves due to their mischievous ways. The time had come for these to be cancelled and replaced with simple instructions that followed the nature of humans which they could follow regardless of the period they lived in. This is why the Jews found the Qur'an different from the Torah.
Relationship with Abraham (sws)
The Prophet (sws) was given prophethood among the nation of Abraham (sws), whose religion was based solely on monotheism and close to the nature of humans. Abraham (sws) brought forth arguments from the signs around him in the world and gained access to an understanding of the attributes of God. The Jews, in contrast, were inclined towards creating difficulties. They would criticize the instructions and, through posing legal intricacies, made religion difficult for themselves. The bases of arguments in the Qur'an had been built around observations of the external world and the ability of humankind to grasp an understanding, as well as on its natural inclinations. That was also the well known approach of Abraham (sws). Although the Bani Isra'il were from the progeny of Abraham (sws), they highlighted their relationship with Isaac (sws) and Jacob (sws) much more and took great pride in it. The Prophet (sws) belonged to the Bani Isma'il, who were spread out all over Arabia and considered Abraham (sws) their ancestor and were proud of this. When the Jews saw this, they started the propaganda that Abraham (sws) had no relationship with Makkah and that he was a Jew; becoming a Jew was the only way out for salvation. This was a historically wrong statement. The Jews were told that this stance was an open lie and akin to distortion of history.
Historically, when Abraham's (sws) grandsons and great grandsons moved from Canaan to Egypt, the Bani Isra'il became one nation after several generations had passed. The Coptic nation began to oppress them and made them their slaves. It was during this stage of slavery that Moses (sws) was born and as a result of whose preaching, the Bani Isra'il came somewhat closer to religion and whose efforts brought them out of Egypt. The Torah was revealed at that stage and it was several centuries later that Judaism, as a religion was recognized. To state that Abraham (sws) was a Jew was a blatant lie.
The Jews, other People of the Book and the idolaters were informed of the true history of Abraham (sws). They were told that, firstly, just as he was an upholder of the religion of monotheism, so too were his children not in the least affected by any doubt and that he would instruct them, on his death bed, not to put any restriction in the way of the religion of nature. Secondly, all the signs of Abraham (sws) are to be found in Makkah. The Bani Isma'il in general and the Quraysh in particular, all of whom resided in Arabia, considered him as their ancestor. The building that he constructed, the Ka'bah is in Makkah. The great forms of worship, sacrifice and hajj that were established during his time are related to this centre of worship and they continue to date. The supplications he had made regarding peace in the city were accepted and this House of God is still a cradle of peace. On the other hand, no such signs associated with Abraham (sws) can be found in any sacred place of the Jews. Thirdly, at the time of construction of the Ka'bah, Abraham's (sws) only son, Isma'il (sws) was with him. At this stage, he prayed to God to send a great prophet from within his progeny, who would read out God's word to his people, educate them on the shari'ah and religion and train their morals. Thus this supplication was meant for the coming of the prophet from within the children of Ishmael: it was accepted and Muhammad (sws) was sent. His responsibilities were the same as stated in Abraham's (sws) supplication.
After clarifying these points, the Jews were invited to emerge from their shell of prejudice, if they had even a semblance of allegiance to the truth; to profess faith in the Prophet (sws) and adopt the way to piety, which was a demand of the covenant they had made with God. The Jews had no answers to such well rounded and reasonable arguments. They were burning with envy because the crown of prophethood had been taken away from them and placed on the head of an individual of the Bani Isma'il. They began to plan to make the Prophet (sws)'s invitation a failure, and in this, they made ample use of their agents and spies.
Intrigues of the Jews against the Prophet (sws)
Jews have always been famous for conspiracies. Their sense of superiority over other nations has emboldened them for every kind of oppression against their opponents. Because their population is low, they rely on their skills to plot and conspire to achieve their objectives. They are satisfied if the results of their plotting are fruitful; otherwise, they do not hesitate in harming their opponents, or, even killing them. This is the reason that they pooh-poohed any voices of reform that arose from within their ranks and denied prophets and conspired to murder them. With this historical background, how could the Prophet (sws) and his companions remain safe from the vengeful activities of the Jews? The Jews tried on their centuries old tried and tested tactics on the Prophet (sws) and his companions one after the other.
Before thearrival of the Prophet(sws) in Madinah, the Jews had kept the Arabs in awe of their alleged religiosity on account of being the People of the Book. They made a great show of it. They were also the centre of veneration by the Arabs because they were highly skilled in all sorts of magic and spells. Hence, in response to the message of the Prophet (sws), they first attempted to cash in on their supposed piety. They said that there was nothing new in the invitation for them: they were, themselves, believers in God, divine books and the Day of Judgement, and so the invitation was not meant for them. Only those who did not believe in these things earlier may profess faith in this. When the common man observed that there was essentially no difference between the basic beliefs of Islam and Judaism, he would be influenced by the stance of the Jews and agree that demanding their faith in the new religion was uncalled for. The Jews would take their argument forward and say that in the presence of the People of the Book, bringing a new message based on the same principles was the basis of anarchy in society and that Muslims were creating hatred between people whereas they (the Jews) were peace loving people and wanted to maintain harmony. There should be no distinction because of faith and idol worship among people. That would result in hostilities; hence everyone was to make a collective effort to protect the society against such a situation. When the Jews were asked that if this message was not new, why did they not accept it in the same way as Muslims, their enmity would become obvious and they would start using highly derogatory remarks about the Muslims, saying that the situation had worsened because of the stupidity of those people. Had they not been so foolish in the beginning, things would have been under control.
Some clever Jews would mingle so easily among the Muslims and talk about their faith in Islam so seriously that their own people wondered if they had accepted Islam in secret. In reality, this was a snare that was used in order to become included in Muslim groups and harm their cause. When they were in their private meetings, they defended their strategy and told their friends that they had adopted it to create a false sense of satisfaction among the Muslims and make them unaware of their real purpose. These people would ask strange questions of the Prophet (sws), apparently for the sake of enhancing their knowledge, but in fact, to torment the Prophet (sws). Examples of such questions are found within the books of Ahadith. The books on Sirah include names of severalrabbis who attended the meetings of Muslims as their friends and well wishers but did not let any opportunity to hurt the Muslims pass by.
Such an attitude is fruitful only temporarily. If conditions do not change, this hypocrisy can be maintained for long periods of time. However, in the rapidly changing scene after migration, when the struggle between truth and falsehood was at its peak, it was not possible for anyone to hide his real feelings and intentions for long. Even in the context of collective events, whenever the hidden evil of the Jews became obvious, they were unable to offer any valid justification. This period was as if there was a massive thunder storm; thick clouds had darkened the vision; lightning would strike at times and the clouds would burst. In this condition, a group would be on its way, walking a small distance in the light of the lightning, but stopping when it became dark. The thunder would bring a message of death for them and they would force their fingers into their ears every time. The situation of these Jews was exactly that of such a misguided group. The success of the Prophet (sws) was blinding their eyes. Accepting Islam called for throwing away their interests and they saw their death in making such a sacrifice. They would try to find their way by lying or deception, but were unable to get beyond that and would become fazed. With the passage of time, it became clear to them that they had to either accept Islam or openly declare themselves its enemies.
The Game of Islam and Disbelief
Some Jewish scholars used a unique tactic to dissuade people from accepting Islam by sending their agents to the Prophet (sws) with the apparent intention of accepting Islam. These people would accept Islam and it would become widely known among the Muslims that such and such Jews had professed faith. When they believed that everyone knew about their acceptance, they would suddenly declare that, having been within the fold of Islam, they had become aware of its shortcomings and they were not willing to put their faith in danger by remaining as Muslims. So they were relinquishing the new religion. When such words were spoken by those who were considered a degree above others because of their supposed religiosity, and people believed that these were not ordinary individuals, but pious scholars who had become averse to the new religion after accepting it, the result was that people stopped making a move towards the new religion and their hearts were full of doubts and apprehensions. They began to wonder whether they might have made a wrong decision, to have accepted a new faith without careful scrutiny. Jewish scholars gave the erroneous message to their nation that those lacking in knowledge were destroying their faith by being attracted to Islam. They, on the other hand, should not make this mistake. It was not acceptable for them to ignore their own scholars and accept something that others were saying.
The Claim of Hearts being sealed off to Falsehood
When ordinary people asked the Jewish scholars about why they did not accept the new reforming faith despite the fact that it was gaining popularity fast and that they had always been upholders of religion, they would answer that they were steeped in faith and were God's specially beloved group: thus they were protected against all unimportant innovations. Their hearts were full of faith and thus had been encapsulated. The new invitation could not affect them. Because the hearts of other people were not protected, they were swayed easily and lost their way. This answer would satisfy people. The Qur'an clarified this simile by explaining that one way of sealing off a heart was, when someone is guilty of continued disobedience to God, there comes a time when God seals off his heart and prevents it from having any capacity to accept the truth. In this situation, the person becomes deprived of any mercy from God and it is, indeed, a most unfortunate person who faces such a situation. Since the Jewish scholars had ridiculed the signs of God even after recognizing them, God had closed off the doors of His mercy to them and they were under the impression that this punishment was their protection!
Insult of the Prophet (sws)
After migration and support from the Aws and the Khazraj tribes, the political strength of the Prophet (sws) was no longer weak. Insulting him openly would have been an open declaration of war against the Muslims. The Jews therefore expressed their hostility by attending the Prophet (sws)'s meetings and tried to attract his attention repeatedly to impress upon the others that they were keen to seek understanding. To do this, they would use the traditional words used publicly by the Arabs. But they would distort the words by pressing or twisting their tongues so that their meanings would imply ridicule of the Prophet (sws). By doing so, they would give vent to their frustrations against the Prophet (sws). If anyone objected, they explained innocently that they had used the right word, perhaps the listener had misheard. Sometimes they would use words with dual meanings, which the Arabs used in their polite version, but they would imply insult. It was obvious from the manner in which the words were spoken that the purpose was to humiliate the Prophet (sws). Publicly spoken words are present in every language and usually they include an element of respect for the addressee. It was the evil in the Jews that they gave low meanings to polite words and used them to vent their frustrations.
One such word was ra'ina, which means "please take care of us." It is normally spoken when the addressee is requested to repeat something he has said because one could not understand it fully the first time. The Jews would stretch the word to pronounce it as ra'ina, which meant "O our shepherd." God protected his Prophet (sws) from this prank by stopping the Muslims from using it and replaced it with its synonym unzurna.
Another word was sami'na wa ata'na, which literally means- we heard and obeyed. Ordinary people used it to show their compliance with the orders of their rulers or leaders, implying that they had heard their instructions, accepted them and would obey them fully. Since the Jews had no such intentions, they would pronounce the word ata'na as 'asayna, which meant that they had heard but would not obey.
The third word used by the Jews for this purpose was isma' ghayra musma'in. When an elder is speaking, one way to praise his speech is for the listeners to bring the attention of others to particular points, as if saying that they must listen carefully; this was a new point that had not be heard before so everyone should heed it and be grateful. These words were in usage in this meaning among the Arabs. The Jews, however, would use these words in a sarcastic manner, to indicate the farfetched nature of the speech; it had never been heard before. God stopped Muslims from using the dual meaning words ghayra musma'in in order to protect the Prophet (sws) from this adverse criticism by the Jews.
Ridiculing the Tenets of Islam
The Jews not only ridiculed the Prophet (sws) but also made fun of the tenets of Islam. When the time came to inform people of the timings of the collective prayer, God guided Muslims to call the adhan instead of the established form of ringing of bells, as was done by the People of the Book. When this instruction was implemented and the adhan sounded from mosques, the Jews would imitate the mu'adhdhin coarsely and would laugh at him, despite the fact that the words of the adhan manifest the Oneness of God, express His greatness and loftiness and are a call to humankind to worship his Lord. Making fun of the adhan was in itself ridiculing God, but the misfortune of the Jews did not prevent them from this.
The enmity of the Jews could not harm either the Prophet (sws) or the message of Islam. However, it was difficult for everyone to understand the reasons behind their attitude. Hence, God Himself removed this cover. The reason was that the Jews considered it to be a defeat for their religious leadership to accept the prophethood of any individual who was not from the Bani Isra'il. It was the envy within their hearts that forced them to act in strange ways and to present contradictory points of view. The Qur'an clarified that the Jews hated the Bani Isma'il to such an extent that they considered it legitimate to commit fraud with the money given to them for protection. Here, it was a matter of the protection of the leadership of an entire nation, which was being taken from them and given to the Bani Isma'il. Such a tragedy was not acceptable to them.
Refusal to Accept the Qur'an as coming from God
One stance of the Jews was that the Qur'an was not a divine revelation, as was being claimed, but the result of human effort, and thus was to be treated as such. Firstly, the similes used in the Qur'an drew comparisons with such lowly species such as the spider, fly and mosquito and this was not appropriate for a book the source of which is allegedly God. Secondly, the angel who brought the Qur'an to the Prophet (sws) was claimed to be Gabriel, who always had enmity towards the Jews. If this was true, Gabriel had shown his true colours again and had brought Muhammad (sws) as an opponent of the Jews, pretending that God had replaced the Torah with the Qur'an. Thirdly, if the Qur'an was really the word of God, why were instructions of the two different when the source was the same. Fourthly, on the one hand, this man claimed that his faith was based on the religion of Abraham (sws), and on the other, the camel had been considered halal, whereas it was haram before. Fifthly, if Muhammad (sws) was really God's messenger, he should have shown his book coming down from the heavens so that every person would see this happening with his own eyes.
These objections of the Jews were such that they could have influenced any simple person with average intelligence. The doubt of the new book's authenticity indicated to the ordinary Jews that they were not to weaken their faith in their own book- the Torah, the revelation of which had been observed by a whole group of Jewish elders. God sent answers to these objections to the Prophet (sws) who then clarified each point to the Jews.
Clarification of Qur'anic Similes
The purpose of giving a simile is to bring significant facts and important matters within the grasp of the average mind. Hence, anything that can be useful in portraying a fact clearly is made use of in a simile, whether it was a fly, mosquito or spider. If idols, that were taken to be partners of God, were compared with lacking substance similar to a spider's web, the situation becomes absolutely clear. The futility of idols is well understood by the common man if it is explained that they are unable to disentangle any part of the food that is offered to them at their shrines that has been snatched by a fly. Such similes that manifest the reality were objected to only by those people who did not appreciate this important aspect of its use in literature. To ridicule the Qur'an on this basis was in itself proof of the foolishness of such people.
Objection on Gabriel (asm)
It was clarified that Gabriel (asm) was an honourable angel of God. He never did anything without God's permission. He did only that which he was instructed to. If he was revealing the Qur'an into Muhammad (sws)'s heart, it had nothing to do with his own wishes. Thus, criticizing him or doubting his actions was as if God's Being was being doubted. If the Jews were enemies of Gabriel, they were gaining enmity of God and all his angels. This enmity included that of those angels whom they considered to be their supporters. If the Jews accepted this as their fate, they should insist upon their drivel or take the benefit of the opportunity that God had provided them with and which had also been mentioned in previous holy books.
Cancellation of the Instructions of the Torah
The objections related to the changes in the instructions of the Torah were addressed by explaining that all such instructions were replaced by better ones. Similarly, the Jews had forgotten some instructions and these were replaced by similar ones. God was elevating his people towards better and better laws. Additionally, the injunctions were being taken out of the restrictive format of the thinking of the Jews and were widened so that they could fulfill the needs of all humankind which could obey these easily. Thus, God removed the unnatural restrictions of Judaism in this new religion. God is the Lord of the heavens and the earth: He has full authority to give any instruction and cancel any, if He wishes. He will not let go of His prerogative to change His shari'ah at the lamenting of Jews, nor can His prophet forsake his responsibilities.
Changes in the Doctrine of Abraham (sws)
In answer to the allegation of changes in the rules of halal and haram, the Qur'an informed them that they were ignorant of historical facts and that this objection was proof of their lack of knowledge. If the camel was haram for them it did not follow that it was haram also in the shari'ah of Abraham (sws). The fact was that the camel was halal. However, Abraham (sws)'s grandson, Jacob (sws) avoided eating its meat because of his health or other personal reasons. The Jews, imitating his example, restrained themselves from doing the same and then later, their scholars declared it haram. Since he teachings of Islam were exactly according to the shari'ah of Abraham (sws), there could be no question of making the flesh of the camel haram.
Bringing the Book down from Heaven
After clarification of all the above points, when the Jews still insisted that they would accept Islam only if they saw the Book descending from the heavens, the Prophet (sws) was very disheartened. He was reassured that aversion to the truth was innate to the nature of the Jews. While he was a stranger for them, that dishonourable nation had made an even greater demand upon their own prophet, Moses (sws), which was that he show God to them as a proof of his claim that God spoke with him. This demand became so intense that Moses (sws) was forced to take a group of the Bani Isra'il to the Mount of Ṭur. When God showed His Eminence, they all fell down in a stupor. Denying prophets had become second nature to these people. They would be seized by God: He closes any doors of guidance upon such people. The Prophet (sws) should not be sorrowful at their attitude.
This debate with the Jews clarified that the Bani Isra'il were a wayward nation, whose connection with faith was in name only. They were not loyal to anyone. Their claim to custodianship of the religion of God was mere vanity. They had been given several opportunities in the past but they failed to emerge from the shell of their ego. When the promised Prophet (sws), whom they had talked about among themselves, came at last, they began to envy him instead of believing in him. Their envy and arrogance did not leave them the dignity of being holders of the Book. Thus, this deviant group was to be given the minimum of importance and ways were to be sought to be safe from their evil.
(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)