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The major historical events during lifetime of Prophet Muhammad are well documented in the Quran. This chapter provides background information and context for the proper understanding of these events. All the major battles fought by Muslims against the pagan and the Jews of Arabia are described in the later chapter. In this chapter, Muhammad’s political achievements are described.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN MEDINA
SIGNIFICANCE OF HIJRAH The year of Muhammad’s migration (hijrah, hegira, 622) from the city of his nativity to the city of his missionary activity has become the starting date of the Islamic calendar. With this migration one period – the Meccan - ended and another – Medinese – began. The hijrah marks the end of the pre-Islamic era and start of the Islamic. The term hijrah (lit., “exodus”), derived from the verb hajara (“he migrated”), is used in the Quran in two senses: one of them is historical, denoting the exodus of the Prophet and his Companions from Mecca to Medina, while the other has a moral connotation - namely, man’s “exodus” from evil towards God - and does not necessarily imply the leaving of one’s homeland in the physical sense. City of Medina is a fertile oasis, about two hundred miles north of Mecca. The city is said to have been established by an Amalekite chief, whose name it bore until the advent of the Prophet Muhammad. Yathrib changed its ancient name and was henceforth styled Medinat an-Nabi, “the city of the prophet”, or in short, Medina, the city par excellence because it became the pattern of the perfect Muslim society. The structure of its population was a composite of two powerful tribes of Al Aws and Al Khazraj, three minor tribes whose members were adherents of Judaism (Qurayzah, Nadir, and Qaynuqa) and some minor groups. As compared to Mecca, the Medinese society was agricultural rather than commercial and was also in a state of transition, passing from a nomadic to an urban culture, with concomitant dislocation in the economic, social and psychological structures. BLOOD BATH AT THE BATTLE OF BUATH (618) There had been fighting in the oasis for nearly a hundred years before 620. At first it had been between single clans; then clans had joined together in ever larger groups. The Jewish clans combined with the other and were sometimes on opposing sides, where Jews killed Jews. About 618, there had been a great battle at a spot called Buath, in which nearly all the clans of oasis had been involved. In this battle there had been heavy slaughter and though fighting has ceased, there had been no agreement about the resulting claims for blood, or blood-money. They were in need of one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. One of the most powerful men in oasis, Abd Allah bin Ubayy, had along with his clan remained neutral at Buath, in the hope of becoming such an adjudicator acceptable to all. It was said that, but for the arrival of Muhammad, Abd Allah bin Ubayy would have become king of Medina. CIVIL WARS AMONG JEWISH TRIBES OF MEDINA (2:84-86) And Lo! We accepted your solemn pledge that you would not shed one another’s blood, and would not drive one another from your homelands - whereupon you acknowledged it; and thereto you bear witness [even now]. And yet, it is you who slay one another and drive some of your own people from their homelands, aiding one another against them in sin and hatred; but if they come to you as captives, you ransom them - although the very [act of] driving them away has been made unlawful to you! [This is a reference to the conditions prevailing at Medina at the time of the Prophet’s hijrah. The two
Arab tribes of Medina - Al-Aws and Khazraj - were in pre-Islamic times permanently at war with one another; and out of the three Jewish tribes living there - the Banu Qaynuqa, Banu al-Nadir and Banu Qurayzah - the first-named two were allied with Khazraj, while the third was allied with Al-Aws. Thus, in the course of their warfare, Jew would kill Jew in alliance with pagans (“aiding one another in sin and hatred”): a twofold crime from the viewpoint of Mosaic Law. Nevertheless, they would subsequently ransom their mutual captives in obedience to that very same Law - and it is this glaring inconsistency to which the Quran alludes in the next sentence.] Do you, then, believe in some parts of the divine writ and deny the truth of other parts? What, then, could be the reward of those among you who do such things but ignominy in the life of this world and, on the Day of Resurrection, commitment to most grievous suffering? For God is not unmindful of what you do. All who buy the life of this world at the price of the life to come - their suffering shall not be lightened, nor shall they be succored! ACCEPTANCE OF MUHAMMAD IN MEDINA The city of Medina lacked unified leadership and control exercised in Mecca by the Umayyads; this played in favor of a forthcoming leader. Also, contact with the Jews had familiarized the Arabs of Medina with the conception of an inspired religious leader. At the same time they could not but be aware that a neutral outsider to Medina, like Muhammad would be in a better position to act as impartial arbiter than any inhabitant of Medina. The major task lay ahead was bringing some form of harmony among various diverse groups in this divided city. At his arrival in Medina, Muhammad was warmly welcomed by its inhabitants. From the moment of his arrival at Medina, Muhammad assumes a different role. The despised preacher becomes a masterful politician; the prophet is transformed into statesman. We see him now as the leader not merely of the hearts of a handful of devotees but of the collective life of a city, its judge and general as well as its teacher. Even his enemies concede that he played his new role brilliantly. Faced with problems of extraordinary complexity, he turns out to be extraordinarily endowed as a statesman. Tradition depicts his administration as an ideal blend of justice and mercy. As chief of state and trustee of the life and liberty of his people, he exercised the justice necessary for order, unflinchingly meting out punishment to those who were guilty. When the injury was toward him, on the other hand, he was gentle and merciful even to his enemies. In all, the Medinese found him a master whom it was as difficult not to love as not to obey for he had; as one biographer has written, “the gift of influencing men, and he had the nobility only to influence them for good.” For the remaining ten years of his life, his personal history merged with that of the Medinese commonwealth of which he was the center. Exercising superb statecraft, he welded the heterogeneous and conflicting tribes of the city, two of which were Jewish, into an orderly confederation. The task was not an easy one and despite the freedom he permitted the Jews some blood was spilt in the process. But in the end he succeeded in awakening in the citizens a spirit of union unknown in the city’s history. His reputation spread and people began to flock from every part of Arabia to see the man who had wrought this achievement. BUILDING OF THE FIRST MOSQUE When Muhammad arrived in Medina one of first actions was to build a mosque, which he assisted with his own hand. It was a simple building, which expressed the austerity of the early Islamic ideals. A portion of the mosque was set aside as a habitation for homeless. Muslims met in the courtyard of the mosque to discuss all the concerns of the ummah – social, political, military and religious. Muhammad and his wives lived in small huts around the edge of the courtyard. Unlike a Christian church, which is separated from mundane activities and devoted only to worship, no activity was excluded from the mosque. In the Quranic vision there is no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. The aim was the integration of the whole of life in a unified community,
which would give Muslims intimations of the Unity which is God. THE CONSTITUTION OF MEDINA Muhammad incorporated the principle of religious toleration in his charter to the people of Medina, a document which is at once the first charter of freedom of conscience in human history and the authoritative model for those of every subsequent Muslim state. The constitution of Medina establishes a kind of alliance or federation between nine different groups, eight clans from Medina and the clan of Emigrants from the Quraysh of Mecca. It was the instrument of their alliance which confirmed the Jews in both their religion and position in society and determined their rights as well as their duties. Muhammad had no special power or authority, except that disputes endangering the peace of the oasis are to be referred to him. Following is the text of this important document: MUSLIMS OF QURAYSH AND YATHRIB “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. This is a covenant given by Muhammad to the believers and Muslims of Quraysh, Yathrib, and those who followed them, joined them, and fought with them. They constitute ummah to the exclusion of all other men.” Treating prisoners with kindness: “The Muhajirun from Quraysh are bound together and shall ransom their prisoners in kindness and justice as believers do. Following their own custom, Banu Awf are bound together as they have been before. Every clan of them shall ransom its prisoners with the kindness justice common among believers. (The text here repeats the same prescription concerning every clan of the Ansar.) The believers shall leave none of their members in destitution without giving him in kindness what he needs by way of ransom or blood wit. No believer shall take as an ally a freedman of another Muslim without the permission of his previous master.” Unity against injustices: “All pious believers shall rise as one man against whosoever rebels or seeks to commit injustice, aggression, sin, or spread mutual enmity between the believers, even though he may be one of their sons. No believer shall slay a believer in retaliation for an unbeliever; neither shall he assist an unbeliever against a believer. Just as God's bond is one and indivisible, all believers shall stand behind the commitment of the least of them. All believers are bonded one to another to the exclusion of other men. Any Jew who follows us is entitled to our assistance and the same rights as anyone of us, without injustice or partisanship. This Pax Islamica is one and indivisible.” Conduct during of war and peace: “No believer shall enter into a separate peace without all other believers whenever there is fighting in the cause of God, but will do so only on the basis of equality and justice to all others. In every military expedition we undertake our members shall be accompanied by others committed to the same objective. All believers shall avenge the blood of one another whenever anyone of them falls fighting in the cause of God. The pious believers follow the best and most upright guidance. No unbeliever shall be allowed to place under his protection against the interest of a believer, any wealth or person belonging to Quraysh.” Unjust killing: “Whoever is convicted of killing a believer deliberately but without righteous cause shall be liable to the relatives of the killed. Until the latter are satisfied, the killer shall be subject to retaliation by each and every believer. The killer shall have no rights whatever until this right of the believers is satisfied. Whoever has entered into this covenant and believed in God and in the last day shall never protect or give shelter to a convict or a criminal; whoever does so shall be cursed by God and upon him shall the divine wrath fall on the Day of Judgment. Neither repentance nor ransom shall be acceptable from him. No object of contention among you may not be referred to God and to Muhammad - may God’s peace and blessing be upon him - for
judgment.” Thus Medina and all the territories surrounding it became inviolate to their peoples who were now bound to rise to their defense and protection together. These peoples were now bound to guarantee one another in the implementation of the covenant, in the establishment of the rights arising there from, and in the provision of freedom it has called for. An old anarchic custom was discarded, which obliged the aggrieved, and the injured to rely upon his own or his kinsmen’s power in order to exact vengeance, or satisfy the requirement of justice. It constituted Muhammad as the chief magistrate of this rudimentary state and established the principle of the rule of the law. The state of peace and war shall be common to all Muslims; no one among them shall have the right of concluding peace with, or declare war against the enemies. The decision of war and peace rest with government and an individual cannot enter into peace or launch jihad on his own. The community of Medina served as the nucleus of the rising Arab nation; it government developed into a Prototype of Muslim empire, and the Islam of Medina was the basis from which the Islam of the world grew. FORMATION OF SUPER TRIBE The Exiles and the local helpers formed the kernel of Islam. The band of faithful Quraysh, who had forsaken their birthplace and every tie of home, received the name of Muhajirun or Emigrants. The honorable designation of Ansars or helpers became a common title for the Medinese Muslims, who helped Islam in its hour of great trial. These two groups became known as the Sahabah (Companions) a distinct group, the vanguard of Islam. The emigrants from Mecca, almost without exception, arrived at Medina in a state of complete destitution and the first two years were especially difficult. They had problems obtaining food and housing and adjusting to a new environment. Also, Muhammad feared that, despite the strong ties with which the new religion had bound them together; the old hatred and prejudice might some day rear its ugly head. In order to forge unity among Muslims, he asked each newly converted family of Medina to extend full hospitality to an emigrant family. In some cases, the ties of brotherhood between emigrants and ansars went so far that that it resulted in a share of the property. Every Muhajir was now bound to a member of Ansar in a bond of mutual assistance. A new, genuine brotherhood arose and thereby the proclaimed theory that the new religion was a fraternal order was put into practice. Muhammad had become the head of a collection of tribal groups – a super tribe - that were not bound by blood but by a shared ideology, an astonishing innovation in Arabian society. The Muslims, pagans and Jews all belonged to one ummah, could not attack one another and vowed to give protection to one another. The super tribe consists of the Muslims (believers), nominal believers, the so-called hypocrites, nonbelievers and the Jews
TRUE BELIEVERS (among emigrants, helpers and bedouin)
(9:99-100) However, among the bedouin there are [also] such as believe in God and the Last Day, and regard all that they spend [in God’s cause] as a means of drawing them nearer to God and of [their being remembered in] the Apostle’s prayers. Oh, verily, it shall [indeed] be a means of [God’s] nearness to them, [for] God will admit them unto His grace: verily, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace! And as for the first and foremost of those who have forsaken the domain of evil and of those who have sheltered and succored the Faith, as well as those who follow them in [the way of] righteousness - God is well-pleased with them, and well-pleased are they with Him. And for them has He readied gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide beyond the count of time: this is the triumph supreme! [In the above context, the term muhajirun - lit., “emigrants”, as “those who have forsaken the domain of evil” - applies primarily to the Meccan followers of the Prophet who migrated from Mecca to Medina at a time when Mecca was still in the possession of the enemies of
Islam; the “first and foremost” among them were the earliest emigrants, i.e., those who left Mecca in or before the year 622 of the Christian era and in the course of the next few years, when the Muslim community at Medina was still in danger of being overrun by the powerful Quraysh of Mecca. Similarly, the term ansar (lit., “helpers”) applies here to the early converts from among the people of Medina who sheltered and succored their brethren in faith - the “first and foremost” among them being those who embraced Islam before and shortly after the Prophet’s and his Companions’ exodus (hijrah) from Mecca, and particularly those who did so on the occasion of the two meetings, at Al-Aqabah near Mecca, between the Prophet and deputations of the Yathrib tribes of Al-Aws and Khazraj (a little over a year and a few months, respectively, before the Prophet’s hijrah). Apart, however, from their purely historical connotations, both the terms muhajirun and ansar bear in the Quran a spiritual meaning as well, and are often used to describe those who morally “forsake the domain of evil” and those who “shelter and succor the Faith”.] REWARDS FOR GOOD DEEDS (9:120-121) It does not behove the people of the [Prophet’s] City and the bedouin [who live] around them to hold back from following God’s Apostle, or to care for their own selves more than for him [Although this and the following verses relate, on the face of it, to the people of the Prophet’s City and to the bedouin who live around them, their purport is obviously general, and applies to all believers at all times. The specific reference to “the Prophet’s City” is due to the fact that it was the place where the revelation of the Quran was completed and Islam came to its full fruition under the Prophet’s guidance.] - for, whenever they suffer from thirst or weariness or hunger in God’s cause, and whenever they take any step which confounds those who deny the truth, and whenever there comes to them from the enemy whatever may be destined for them [I.e., victory or death or injury] – [whenever anything thereof comes to pass,] a good deed is recorded in their favor. Verily, God does not fail to requite the doers of good! And whenever they spend anything [for the sake of God], be it little or much, and whenever they move on earth [in God’s cause] - it is recorded in their favor, and God will grant them the best reward for all that they have been doing. [Lit., “cross a valley”. The term “valley” or “river-bed” is often used in classical Arabic to denote the earth - a usage which even in our days is familiar to the bedouin of the Arabian Peninsula.]
THE HYPOCRITES AND NOMINAL BELIEVERS
Muslim ranks in Medina included two kinds of people: those who entered the faith with true conviction and those who did so in search of material gains and political expediency. The latter group is described in the Quran as hypocrites (munafiq). Abd Allah B. Ubayy was the leader of the hypocrites of Medina. The popular enthusiasm compelled him and his followers to make nominal profession of Islam. Abd Allah bin Ubayy and his disaffected party were ever ready to turn against Muslims at the least opportunity. They were a source of considerable danger to the newborn commonwealth and required unceasing watchfulness on the part of the Prophet. Towards them Muhammad always showed the greatest patience and forbearance, hoping in the end to win them over to the faith. This expectation was fully justified by the result. With the death of Abd Allah bin Ubayy his party which was stigmatized as the party of hypocrites disappeared for a time from view. The term munafiq is derived from the noun nafaq, which denotes an underground passage having an outlet different from the entry, from which the animal can easily escape or in which it can outwit a pursuer. Tropically, the term munafiq describes a person who is “two-faced”, as he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage to him in the situation in which he happens to find himself. Since a person thus characterized usually pretends to be morally better than he really is, the epithet munafiq may roughly be rendered as “hypocrite”. The Western term invariably implies conscious dissembling with the intent to deceive others. The Arabic term
munafiq - which, for want of a better word, is rendered as “hypocrite” - applies both to conscious dissemblers bent on deceiving their fellow-men, as well as to people who, out of an inner uncertainty, are deceiving themselves. See 29:11 below, which probably represents the earliest instance of its use in the Quran. According to the Prophet, “the signs of a hypocrite are three: (1) whenever he speaks, he tells a lie. (2) Whenever he promises, he always breaks it. (3) If you trust him, he proves to be dishonest. HYPOCRITES OF MEDINA (2:8-16) And there are people who say, “we do believe in God and the last day,” the while they do not [really] believe. They would deceive God and those who have attained to faith - the while they deceive none but themselves, and perceive it not. In their hearts is disease, and so God lets their disease increase; and grievous suffering awaits them because of their persistent lying. [The people to whom this passage alludes are the hypocrites of Medina who, during the early years after the hijrah, outwardly professed their adherence to Islam while remaining inwardly unconvinced of the truth of Muhammad’s message. However, as is always the case with Quranic allusions to contemporary or historical events, the above and the following verses have a general, timeless import as they refer to all people who are prone to deceive themselves in order to evade a spiritual commitment.] And when they are told, “Do not spread corruption on earth,” they answer, “We are but improving things!” Oh, verily, it is they, they who are spreading corruption - but they perceive it not! [This refer to people who oppose any intrusion of religious considerations into the realm of practical affairs, and thus - often unwittingly, thinking that they are “but improving things” - contribute to the moral and social confusion referred to in the subsequent verse.] And when they are told, “Believe as other people believe,” they answer, “Shall we believe as the weak-minded believe?” Oh, verily, it is they, they who are weak-minded but they know it not! And when they meet those who have attained to faith, they assert, “We believe [as you believe]”; but when they find themselves alone with their evil impulses, they say, “Verily, we are with you, we were only mocking!” [The term shaytan is often used in the Quran to describe the satanic (i.e., exceedingly evil) propensities in man’s own soul, and especially all impulses which run counter to truth and morality]. God will requite them for their mockery, and will leave them for a while in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro: [for] it is they who have taken error in exchange for guidance; and neither has their bargain brought them gain, nor have they found guidance [elsewhere]. PARABLES OF THE PEOPLE WHO KINDLE A FIRE AND VIOLENT CLOUDBURST (2:17-20) Their parable is that of people who kindle a fire: but as soon as it has illumined all around them, God takes away their light and leaves them in utter darkness, wherein they cannot see: deaf, dumb, blind - and they cannot turn back. [In the parable of the “people who kindle a fire” we may have, an allusion to some people’s exclusive reliance on this worldly approach as a means to illumine and explain all the imponderables of life and faith, and the resulting arrogant refusal to admit that anything could be beyond the reach of man’s intellect. This overweening arrogance, as the Quran terms it, unavoidably exposes its devotees - and the society dominated by them - to the lightning of disillusion which well-nigh takes away their sight, i.e., still further weakens their moral perception and deepens their terror of death.] Or [the parable] of a violent cloudburst in the sky, with utter darkness, thunder and lightning: they put their fingers into their ears to keep out the peals of thunder, in terror of death; but God encompasses [with his might] all who deny the truth. The lightning well nigh takes away their sight; whenever it gives them light, they advance therein, and whenever darkness falls around them, they stand still. And if God so willed, he could indeed take away their hearing and their sight: for, verily, God has the power to will anything. [The obvious implication is but He does not will this - that is, He does not preclude the possibility that those who have taken error in
exchange for guidance may one day perceive the truth and mend their ways. The expression “their hearing and their sight” is obviously a metonym for man’s instinctive ability to discern between good and evil and, hence, for his moral responsibility.] FEAR OF MORAL COMMITMENT AS CAUSE OF HYPOCRISY (9:56-57) And they swear by God that they do indeed belong to you - the while they do not belong to you, but are [only] people ridden by fear: if they could but find a place of refuge, or any cavern, or a crevice [in the earth], they would turn towards it in headlong haste. [Thus the Quran shows that the innermost cause of all hypocrisy is fear - fear of a moral commitment and, at the same time, fear of an open breach with one’s social environment. In their overriding, immoral desire for social conformity, the hypocrites seek to deceive God - the while it is He who causes them to be deceived by themselves (4:142); and as “they are oblivious of God, so He is oblivious of them” (9:67).] HYPOCRITES ENJOIN THE DOING OF WHAT IS WRONG (9:67-70) The hypocrites, both men and women, are all of a kind: they enjoin the doing of what is wrong and forbid the doing of what is right, and withhold their hands [from doing good]. [I.e., their behavior is - in its effect, at least - the exact opposite of that expected of the believers (see 3:104, 110 and 114; 9:71 and 112; and 22:41).] They are oblivious of God, and so He is oblivious of them. Verily, the hypocrites - it is they, they who are truly iniquitous! [The following verses refer to the conscious hypocrites spoken of in the last sentence of the preceding verse, and not to the waverers, whose hypocrisy is an outcome of inner fears and uncertainties.] God has promised the hypocrites, both men and women - as well as the [outright] deniers of the truth - the fire of hell, therein to abide: this shall be their allotted portion. For, God has rejected them, and long-lasting suffering awaits them. [Say unto them: “You are] like those [hypocrites] who lived before your time. [A reference to the statement, in verse 67, that conscious hypocrites are intrinsically all of a kind.] Greater than you were they in power, and richer in wealth and in children; and they enjoyed their share [of happiness]. And you have been enjoying your share - just as those who preceded you enjoyed their share; and you have been indulging in scurrilous talk - just as they indulged in it. It is they whose works have come to nought in this world and in the life to come - and it is they, they who are the lost!” [And the same will happen to you unless you repent.] Have, then, the stories of those who preceded them never come within the ken of these [hypocrites and deniers of the truth]? - [The stories] of Noah’s people, and of [the tribes of] Ad and Thamud, and of Abraham’s people, and of the folk of Madyan, and of the cities that were overthrown? [I.e., Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of Lot's people. The reference to “Abraham’s people” seems to point to the Babylonians, who rejected the monotheism preached by him, and to the overthrow of their first empire, at about 1100 B.C., by the Assyrians.] To [all of] them their apostles had come with all evidence of the truth, [but they rejected them:] and so it was not God who wronged them [by His punishment], but it was they who wronged themselves. HYPOCRITES AMONG BEDOUIN (9:97-98, 101) [The hypocrites among] the bedouin are more tenacious in [their] refusal to acknowledge the truth and in [their] hypocrisy [than are settled people], and more liable to ignore the ordinances which God has bestowed from on high upon His Apostle - but God is all-knowing, wise. [Owing to their nomadic way of life and its inherent hardship and crudity, the bedouin find it more difficult than do settled people to be guided by ethical imperatives unconnected with their immediate tribal interests - a difficulty which is still further enhanced by their physical distance from the centers of higher culture and, consequently, their comparative ignorance of most religious demands. It was for this reason that the Prophet often stressed the superiority of a settled mode of life to a nomadic one: his saying, “He who dwells in the desert becomes rough in disposition”.]
And among the bedouin there are such as regard all that they might spend [in God’s cause] as a loss, and wait for misfortune to encompass you, [O believers: but] it is they whom evil fortune shall encompass - for God is all-hearing, allknowing. But among the bedouin who dwell around you there are hypocrites; and among the people of the [Prophet’s] City [too] there are such as have grown insolent in [their] hypocrisy. [I.e., Medina. Originally, the city bore the name Yathrib; but after the exodus of the Prophet from Mecca it came to be known as Medinat an-Nabi (“the City of the Prophet”) and, eventually, as Al-Medina (The City par excellence).] You do not [always] know them, [O Muhammad - but] We know them. We shall cause them to suffer doubly [in this world]; and then they will be given over to awesome suffering [in the life to come]. [I.e., first through failure in their worldly concerns, accompanied by pangs of conscience and the resulting spiritual distress, and then through a full realization, at the moment of dying, of the unforgivable nature of their sin.] HYPOCRISY DUE TO FEAR OF PERSECUTION (29:10-11) Now there is among men many a one who says [of himself and of others like him], “We do believe in God” - but whenever he is made to suffer in God’s cause, he thinks that persecution at the hands of man is as [much to be feared, or even more than,] God’s chastisement; [I.e., the suffering which is bound to befall in the hereafter all who abandon their faith for fear of being persecuted in this world. However, a mere outward renunciation of faith under torture or threat of death is not considered a sin in Islam, although martyrdom for the sake of one’s faith is the highest degree of merit to which man can attain.] whereas, if succor from thy Sustainer comes [to those who truly believe] he is sure to say. [I.e., when it is no longer risky to be counted as one of them.] “Behold, we have always been with you!” Is not God fully aware of what is in the hearts of all creatures? [Yea-] and most certainly will God mark out those who have [truly] attained to faith, and most certainly will He mark out the hypocrites. [This is probably the earliest occurrence of the term munafiq in the chronology of Quranic revelation.] REVERENCE IN PUBLIC AND SCORN IN PRIVATE (47:16-17) Now among those [hapless sinners] are such as [pretend to] listen to you, [O Muhammad,] and then, as soon as they leave your presence, speak [with scorn] unto those who have understood [your message]: “What is it that he has said just now?” [Unto those who have been given knowledge of the truth or of your message: i.e., the believers. The people spoken of are the hypocrites among the contemporaries of the Prophet as well as all people, at all times, who pretend to approach the Quranic message with a show of reverence but are in their innermost unwilling to admit that there is any sense in it.] It is such as these whose hearts God has sealed because they [always] followed but their own lusts [The sealing of their hearts is a consequence of their following but their own lusts.] - just as for those who are [willing to be] guided, He increases their [ability to follow His] guidance and causes them to grow in God-consciousness. (47:25-26) Verily, those who turn their backs [on this message] after guidance has been vouchsafed to them, [do it because] Satan has embellished their fancies and filled them with false hopes: [they do turn their backs on it] inasmuch as they are wont to say unto those who abhor all that God has revealed, “We will comply with your views on some points.” But God knows their secret thoughts. [I.e., although we cannot agree with you [atheists] as regards your denial of God, or of resurrection, or of the fact of revelation as such, we do agree with you that Muhammad is an impostor and that the Quran is but his invention. By “those who turn their backs on this message after guidance has been vouchsafed to them” are meant, in the first instance, the hypocrites and half-hearted followers of Islam at the time of the Prophet who refused to fight in defense of the Faith, in a wider sense, however, this definition applies to all people, at all times, who are impressed by the teachings of the Quran but nevertheless refuse to accept it as Godinspired and, therefore, morally binding.] (47:29-30) Or do they in whose hearts is disease think, perchance, that God would
never bring their moral failings to light? [It signifies a person’s disposition, inclination or leaning, especially in its negative aspects: hence, a moral defect or failing.] Now had We so willed, We could have shown them clearly to you, so that you would know them for sure as by a visible mark: [Implying, elliptically, that God does not grant to anyone a clear insight, as by a visible mark, into another human being’s heart or mind.] but [even so,] you will most certainly recognize them by the tone of their voice. And God knows all that you do, [O men] [Indicating that a true believer recognizes hypocrisy even without a visible mark.] HYPOCRITES AND POWERS OF EVIL (4:60-63) Are you not aware of those who claim that they believe in what has been bestowed from on high upon you, [O Prophet,] as well as in what was bestowed from on high before you, [and yet] are willing to defer to the rule of the powers of evil - although they were bidden to deny it, seeing that Satan but wants to lead them far astray? [An allusion to people who, by their deference to what the Quran describes as powers of evil, nullify all the good that they could derive from guidance through revelation.] And so, whenever they are told, “Come unto that which God has bestowed from on high, and unto the Apostle,” you can see these hypocrites turn away from you with aversion. [A reference to the hypocrites of Medina; however, this passage goes far beyond the possible historical occasion of its revelation, as it touches upon an often-encountered psychological problem of faith. People who are not fully convinced that there exists a reality beyond the reach of human perception (al-ghayb 2:3) find it, as a rule, difficult to dissociate their ethical views from their personal predilections and morally questionable desires - with the result that they are only too often willing to defer to what the powers of evil tell them. Although they may half-heartedly concede that some of the moral teachings based on revelation contain certain verities, they instinctively recoil from those teachings whenever they conflict with what their own idiosyncrasies represent to them as desirable: and so they become guilty of hypocrisy in the deepest, religious connotation of this word.] But how [will they fare] when calamity befalls them [on the Day of Judgment] because of what they have wrought in this world [An allusion to their ambivalent attitude and the confusion which it may have created in others.] - whereupon they will come to you, swearing by God, “Our aim was but to do good, and to bring about harmony”? [I.e., they will plead that their aim was no more than a harmonization of the Quranic ethics with a humanistic or man-centered world-view: a plea which the Quran implicitly rejects as being hypocritical and selfdeceptive (2:11-12).] As for them - God knows all that is in their hearts; so leave them alone, and admonish them, and speak unto them about themselves in a gravely searching manner: (4:64) for We have never sent any apostle save that he should be heeded by God’s leave. [The expression “by God’s leave” is to be understood as with God’s help or by God’s grace. As so often in the Quran, the sudden change, within one and the same sentence, from the pronoun “We” or “I” to “He”, or from “We” to “God”, is meant to impress upon the listener or reader of the Quran the fact that God is not a “person” but an allembracing Power that cannot be defined or even adequately referred to within the limited range of any human language.] If, then, after having sinned against themselves, they would but come round to you and ask God to forgive them - with the Apostle, too, praying that they be forgiven - they would assuredly find that God is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace. DEALING WITH HYPOCRITES (4:81) And they say, “We do pay heed unto you” [A reference to the hypocrites of Medina and by implication the hypocritical admirers and half-hearted followers of Islam at all times.] but when they leave your presence, some of them devise, in the dark of night, [beliefs] other than you are voicing; [They surreptitiously try to corrupt the message of God's Apostle, in secrecy, which is symbolized by the dark of night.] and all the while God records what they thus devise in the dark of night.
Leave them, then, alone, and place your trust in God: for none is as worthy of trust as God. (4:105) Behold, We have bestowed upon you from on high this divine writ, setting forth the truth, so that you may judge between people in accordance with what God has taught you. Hence, do not contend with those who are false to their trust, [The “you” refers to the Prophet; by implication, however, it is addressed to everyone who has accepted the guidance of the Quran.] (4:106-109) but pray God to forgive [them]: behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. [The hypocrites and the halfhearted followers of the Quran are accused of having betrayed the trust reposed in them, as they pretend to have accepted the Quranic message but, in reality, are trying to corrupt it (see verse 81). Since they are already aware of what the Quran demands of them and are, nevertheless, bent on evading all real self-surrender to its guidance, there is no use in arguing with them.] Yet do not argue in behalf of those who are false to their own selves: verily, God does not love those who betray their trust and persist in sinful ways. [I.e., you may ask God to forgive them, but do not try to find excuses for their behavior. It is significant that the Quran characterizes a betrayal of trust, whether spiritual or social, as being false to oneself - just as it frequently describes a person who deliberately commits a sin or a wrong as one who sins against himself or wrongs himself - since every deliberate act of sinning damages its author spiritually.] They would conceal their doings from men; but from God they cannot conceal them - for He is with them whenever they devise, in the dark of night, all manner of beliefs which He does not approve. [All manners of belief or conceptual statement - like an opinion, a doctrine, or a belief - and is often used in this sense in the Quran.] And God indeed encompasses [with His knowledge] whatever they do. Oh, you might well argue in their behalf in the life of this world: but who will argue in their behalf with God on the Day of Resurrection, or who will be their defender? PROHIBITION OF MORAL ALLIANCE WITH THE DENIERS OF THE TRUTH (4:137-147) Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth [Lit., “increase in a denial of the truth”.] - God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way. Announce you to such hypocrites that grievous suffering awaits them. As for those who take the deniers of the truth for their allies in preference to the believers - do they hope to be honored by them when, behold, all honor belongs to God [alone]? [The term allies does not indicate, in this context, merely political alliances. It alludes to a moral alliance with the deniers of the truth: that is to say, to an adoption of their way of life in preference to the way of life of the believers, in the hope of being honored, or accepted as equals, by the former. Since an imitation of the way of life of confirmed unbelievers must obviously conflict with the moral principles demanded by true faith, it unavoidably leads to a gradual abandonment of those principles.] And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine writ that whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things - or else, verily, you will become like them. [You shall not sit with them until they immerse themselves in talk other than this. The injunction referred to is found in 6:68, which was revealed at a much earlier period.] Behold, together with those who deny the truth God will gather in hell the hypocrites, who but wait to see what betides you: thus, if triumph comes to you from God, they say, “Were we not on your side?” - whereas if those who deny the truth are in luck, they say [to them], “Have we not earned your affection by defending you against those believers?” [The term believers has obviously a sarcastic implication here, which justifies the use of the demonstrative pronoun “those” instead of the definite article “the”.] But God will judge between you all on the Day of Resurrection; and never will God allow those who deny the truth to harm the believers. [This announcement has, of course, a purely spiritual meaning, and does not necessarily apply to the
changing fortunes of life - since as this very verse points out, those who deny the truth may on occasion be in luck, that is to say, may gain temporal supremacy over the believers.] Behold, the hypocrites seek to deceive God - the while it is He who causes them to be deceived [by themselves] [They would deceive God and those who have attained to faith - the while they deceive none but themselves, and are not aware of it. Both these interpretations are considered to be mutually complementary.] And when they rise to pray, they rise reluctantly, only to be seen and praised by men, remembering God but seldom, wavering between this and that, [true] neither to these nor those. But for him whom God lets go astray you can never find any way. O you who have attained to faith! Do not take the deniers of the truth for your allies in preference to the believers! Do you want to place before God a manifest proof of your guilt? Verily, the hypocrites shall be in the lowest depth of the fire, and you will find none who could succor them. But excepted shall be they who repent, and live righteously, and hold fast unto God, and grow sincere in their faith in God alone: for these shall be one with the believers - and in time God will grant to all believers a mighty reward. Why would God cause you to suffer [for your past sins] if you are grateful and attain to belief - seeing that God is always responsive to gratitude, all-knowing? [The gratitude spoken of here is of a general nature - a feeling of thankfulness for being alive and endowed with what is described as a soul: a feeling which often leads man to the realization that this boon of life and consciousness is not accidental, and thus, in a logical process of thought, to belief in God. This is the reason why “gratitude” is placed before “belief” in the structure of the above sentence.] NOMINAL BELIEVERS OUTWARD PROFESSION OF FAITH AND RITUALS The passage below is addressed in the first instance to certain contemporaries of the Prophet, but its meaning extends to all people, at all times, who think that their mere profession of faith and outward adherence to its formalities makes them believers. (49:16-18) Say: “Do you, perchance, [want to] inform God of [the nature of] your faith - although God knows all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth? Indeed, God has full knowledge of everything!” Many people think that they have bestowed a favor upon you [O Prophet] by having surrendered [to you]. [I.e., by professing to be your followers] Say you: “Deem not your surrender a favor unto me: nay, but it is God who bestows a favor upon you by showing you the way to faith - if you are true to your word!” Verily, God knows the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth; and God sees all that you do. TEST OF FAITH (29:2-5) Do men think that on their [mere] saying, “We have attained to faith”, they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test? Yea, indeed, We did test those who lived before them; and so, [too, shall be tested the people now living: and] most certainly will God mark out those who prove themselves true, and most certainly will He mark out those who are lying. [I.e., to others and/or to themselves] Or do they think - they who do evil deeds [while claiming to have attained to faith] - that they can escape Us? Bad, indeed, is their judgment! Whoever looks forward [with hope and awe] to meeting God [on Resurrection Day, let him be ready for it]: for, behold, the end set by God [for everyone’s life] is bound to come and He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing! WAVERING BETWEEN BELIEF AND DISBELIEF (22:11-15) And there is, too, among men many a one who worships God on the border-line [of faith]: [I.e., wavering between belief and disbelief, and not really committed to either.] thus, if good befalls him, he is satisfied with Him; but if a trial assails him, he turns away utterly, [He turns about on his face - the “face” of man signifying metonymically his whole
being.] losing [thereby both] this world and the life to come: [and] this, indeed, is a loss beyond compare! [By behaving thus,] he invokes, instead of God, something that can neither harm nor benefit him: [By failing to commit himself unreservedly to the faith which he professes, man is often inclined to attribute to all manner of extraneous forces, be they real or imaginary, a decisive influence on his own destiny, and thus invests them, as it were, with divine qualities.] [and] this is indeed the utmost one can go astray. [And sometimes] he invokes [another human being] one that is far more likely to cause harm than benefit: vile, indeed, is such a patron and vile the follower! [A human being who, by allowing himself to be idolized by those who worship God on the border-line of faith causes infinite spiritual harm to himself and to his followers.] Verily, God will admit those who have attained to faith and have done righteous deeds into gardens through which running waters flow: for, behold, God does whatever He wills. If anyone thinks that God will not succor him in this world and in the life to come, [I.e., that God is not enough to succor him: obviously an allusion to the type of man who worships God on the border-line of faith (verse 11 above) and therefore doubts His power to guide men towards happiness in this world and in the hereafter.] let him reach out unto heaven by any [other] means and [thus try to] make headway: [The expression “by any other means” relates to what has been said in verses 12-13 above.] and then let him see whether this scheme of his will indeed do away with the cause of his anguish. [I.e., anguish at finding himself helpless and abandoned] (24:47-54) For, [many are] they [who] say, “We believe in God and in the Apostle, and we pay heed!” - but then, some of them turn away after this [assertion]: and these are by no means [true] believers. And [so it is that] whenever they are summoned unto God and His Apostle in order that [the divine writ] might judge between them, some of them turn away; lo! [I.e., in order that the divine writ might determine their ethical values and, consequently, their social behavior.] but if the truth happens to be to their liking, they are quite willing to accept it! Is there disease in their hearts? Or have they begun to doubt [that this is a divine writ]? Or do they fear that God and His Apostle might deal unjustly with them? [I.e., by depriving them of what they choose to regard as legitimate liberties and enjoyments, or by supposedly preventing them from keeping up with the times. As in verses 47 and 48 (as well as in verse 51 below) the expression “God and His Apostle” is here a synonym for the divine writ revealed to the Apostle.] Nay, it is [but] they, they who are doing wrong [to themselves]! The only response of believers, whenever they are summoned unto God and His Apostle in order that [the divine writ] might judge between them, can be no other than, “We have heard, and we pay heed!”- [I.e., without any mental reservation. The term “saying” has here the sense of a genuine spiritual response in contrast to the mere lip-service alluded to in verse 47 above.] and it is they, they who shall attain to a happy state: for, they who pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and stand in awe of God and are conscious of Him, it is they, they who shall triumph [in the end]! Now [as for those half-hearted ones,] they do swear by God with their most solemn oaths that if you [O Apostle] should ever bid them to do so, they would most certainly go forth [and sacrifice themselves]. [This is an allusion to the ephemeral, self-deceiving enthusiasms of the halfhearted and their supposed readiness for self-sacrifice contrasting with their obvious reluctance to live up to the message of the Quran in their day-to-day concerns.] Say: “Swear not! Reasonable compliance [with God’s message is all that is required of you]. [This elliptic phrase alludes to the principle - repeatedly stressed in the Quran - that God does not burden man with more than he can easily bear.] Verily, God is aware of all that you do!” Say: “Pay heed unto God, and pay heed unto the Apostle.” And if you turn away [from the Apostle, know that] he will have to answer only for whatever he has been charged with, and you, for what you have been charged with; but if you pay heed unto him, you will be on the right way. Withal, the Apostle is not bound to do more than clearly deliver the message [entrusted to him]. ADMONITION TO THOSE
WAVERING IN FAITH (3:100-103) O you who have attained to faith! If you pay heed to some of those to whom revelation was vouchsafed aforetime, they might cause you to renounce the truth after you have come to believe [in it]. And how could you deny the truth when it is unto you that God’s messages are being conveyed, and it is in your midst that His Apostle lives? But he who holds fast unto God has already been guided onto a straight way. O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of God with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow death to overtake you before you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. And hold fast, all together, unto the bond with God, and do not draw apart from one another. And remember the blessings which God has bestowed upon you: how, when you were enemies, He brought your hearts together, so that through His blessing you became brethren; and [how, when] you were on the brink of a fiery abyss, He saved you from it. [Lit., “a pit of fire” - a metaphor of the sufferings which are the inescapable consequence of spiritual ignorance. The reminder of their one-time mutual enmity is an allusion to man’s lot on earth (see 2:36 and 7:24), from which only God’s guidance can save him (see 2:37-38).] ACCOUNTING OF HYPOCRITES ON THE JUDGMENT DAY (57:13-15) On that Day shall the hypocrites, both men and women, speak [thus] unto those who have attained to faith: “Wait for us! Let us have a [ray of] light from your light!” [But] they will be told: “Turn back, and seek a light [of your own]!” [I.e., you should have sought light while you lived on earth] And thereupon a wall will be raised between them [and the believers], with a gate in it: within it will be grace and mercy, and against the outside thereof, suffering. [The stress on there being a gate in the wall separating true believers and hypocrites or the weak of faith points to the possibility of the latters’ redemption: see the famous hadith quoted in 40:12. The “wall” spoken of here with the “barrier” (hijab) mentioned in 7:46.] They [who will remain without] will call out to those [within], “Were we not with you?” - [to which] the others will answer: “So it was! But you allowed yourselves to succumb to temptation, [By the prospect of worldly gains or by fear for your personal safety - both of which characterize the half-hearted as well as the hypocrites.] and you were hesitant [in your faith], and you were doubtful [of resurrection]; and your wishful thinking beguiled you until God’s command came to pass: [until your death] for, [indeed, your own] deceptive thoughts about God deluded you “And so, no ransom [I.e., belated repentance] shall be accepted today from you, and neither from those who were [openly] bent on denying the truth. Your goal is the fire: it is your [only] refuge - and how evil a journey’s end!” [Your goal is the fire: the only thing by which you may hope to be purified and redeemed]
JEWS OF MEDINA
The Jews of Medina constituted an influential party. They gave Muhammad a good welcome in the hope of winning him as an ally. The Jews were expecting Muhammad to help them fight against the Christians, their historical persecutors. Muhammad, too, returned their greeting with like gestures and sought to consolidate his relations with them. He bound himself to them in a bond of friendship on the ground that they were monotheists. So much so, Muhammad supported the Jews that he fasted with them on the days they fasted and prayed towards Jerusalem as they did. He proclaimed equal rights for Jews and accorded their religion an equal status. The Muslims expected that the Jews, with their monotheistic beliefs, would be the first to rally to the message of the Quran or at least stay neutral in the deadly struggle between paganism of Arabia and monotheism of Islam. A hope that was disappointed because the Jews regarded their own religion as a kind of national heritage reserved to the children of Israel alone, and did not
believe in the necessity - or possibility - of a new revelation. The Jews considered themselves God’s chosen people, the only seed of Abraham; they neither accepted others into Judaism nor did themselves leave it in favor of other religions. The expected Messiah could rise from no other tribe than theirs. Short of conversion to Judaism, Muhammad tried everything in his powers to win Jewish trust, but in the end it was of no avail. If Judaism were to be the only true religion, as Jews believed, then today a tiny minority of the world population would be monotheistic. Even with the introduction of the Christianity and Islam, the monotheistic population of today’s world is still in a minority. Unfortunately, the Jews of Medina could not grasp the bigger picture and their narrow, self-centered view of religion eventually resulted in alliance between monotheistic Jews and pagan Arabs against monotheism of Islam. (See chapters “differences with Jews and Christian,” and “sectarianism and call to unity among monotheists.”) EQUAL RIGHTS FOR JEWS Muhammad offered equal rights and complete religious freedom to the Jews as part of constitution of Medina. The following are some excerpts from the Constitution of Medina: “The Jews who attach themselves to our commonwealth shall be protected from all insults and vexations; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices: the Jews of various branches and all other domiciled in Yathrib, shall form with the Muslims one composite nation; they shall practice their religion as freely as the Muslims; the clients and allies of the Jews shall enjoy the same security and freedom. The guilty shall be pursued and punished; the Jews shall join the Muslims in defending Yathrib against all enemies; the interior of Yathrib shall be sacred place for all who accept this charter; the clients and allies of the Muslims and the Jews shall be respected as the patron.” The Constitution of Medina, which Muhammad wrote down fourteen centuries ago, establishes the freedom of religion and opinion, the inviolability of the city, human life, and property, and the forbiddance of crime. It certainly constitutes a breakthrough in the political and civil life of the time against exploitation, tyranny, and corruption. Though the Jews of Banu Qurayzah, Banu al Nadir, and Banu Qaynuqa did not sign this covenant at its conclusion, they did enter later on into like pacts with the Prophet. CONVERSION OF LEARNED JEWS Muhammad’s teachings, example, and leadership had the deepest effect upon the people. Large numbers of men joined the ranks of Islam and their conversion consolidated and increased Muslim power in Medina. It was at this stage that the Jews began to rethink their position vis-à-vis Muhammad and they asked themselves whether they should let his call, spiritual power, and authority continue to spread while remaining satisfied with the security they enjoyed under his protection and the increased trade and wealth, which his peace had brought to their city. A great number of their priesthood and a learned rabbi, Abd Allah ibn Salam, approached the Prophet and announced to him his conversion as well as that of his own household. (4:162) But as for those from among them who are deeply rooted in knowledge, [Those from among the Jews who do not content themselves with a mere observance of rituals, but try to penetrate to the deepest meaning of faith.] and the believers who believe in that which has been bestowed upon you from on high as well as that which was bestowed from on high before you, and those who are [especially] constant in prayer, [The construction of this sentence is such that it meant to stress the special, praiseworthy quality attaching to prayer and to those who are devoted to it.] and spend in charity, of and all who believe in God and the Last Day - these it is unto whom We shall grant a mighty reward. (26:196-197) And, verily, [the essence of] this [revelation] is indeed found in the ancient books of divine wisdom [as well]. [Lit., “in the scriptures of the ancients” (see 21:105). This interpretation of the above verse is in full consonance with the oftrepeated Quranic doctrine that the basic teachings revealed to Muhammad are in their purport identical with those preached by the
earlier prophets.] Is it not evidence enough for them [I.e., for those who disbelieve in the prophethood of Muhammad.] that [so many] learned men from among the children of Israel have recognized this [as true]? [And in consequence have become Muslims: for instance, Abd Allah ibn Salam, Kab ibn Malik and other learned Jews of Medina in the lifetime of the Prophet. (Kab al-Ahbar, the Yemenite and a number of his compatriots during the reign of Umar and countless others throughout the world who embraced Islam in the course of centuries) The reason why only learned Jews and not learned Christians as well are spoken of in this context lies in the fact that - contrary to the Torah, which still exists, albeit in a corrupted form - the original revelation granted to Jesus has been lost (see 3:4) and cannot, therefore, be cited in evidence of the basic identity of his teachings with those of he Quran.] THE BEGINNING OF JEWISH OPPOSITION AND VERBAL CRITICISM Both Jews and Abd Allah bin Ubayy had close business ties with the Quraysh of Mecca. At first the Jews of Medina inclined to look with some favor on the preaching of Muhammad. No kindness or generosity on the part of Muhammad would satisfy the Jews. They were enraged that they could not use Muhammad as their instrument for the conversion of Arabia to Judaism. Disappointed that the Islamic beliefs were different and much simpler in many respect from Talmudic legends, they soon broke off and aligned themselves with idolaters of Arabia. The Jews were also motivated by political considerations: in the old days, they have gained power in the oasis by throwing in their lot with one or the other warring Arab tribe. With the union of the two powerful tribes of Al Aws and Al Khazraj with the Quraysh in the new Muslim ummah, the Jews felt demoted. As they saw there position in Medina decline, the Jews became antagonistic and determined to get rid of Muhammad. The conversion of prominent members of Jewish community to Islam further triggered their suspicions of Muhammad. Those members of al Aws and al Khazraj tribes, who never entered Islam or became Muslims for ulterior motives, were quick to rally around the Jews once their opposition to Muhammad and to Islam began to crystallize. Many of the Jews had close ties with Abd Allah B. Ubayy, the potential king of Medina and may have hoped to increase their influence if he became ruler. (3:186) You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and conscious of Him - this, behold, is something to set one’s heart upon. ALLIANCE OF JEWS WITH PAGAN ARABS (5:78-81) Those of the children of Israel who were bent on denying the truth have [already] been cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary: this, because they rebelled [against God] and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right. [See Psalms lxxviii, 21-22, 31-33, and passim; also Matthew xii, 34, and xxiii, 33-35.] They would not prevent one another from doing whatever hateful things they did: vile indeed was what they were wont to do! [And now] you can see many of them allying themselves with those who are bent on denying the truth! [So] vile indeed is what their passions make them do that God has condemned them; and in suffering shall they abide. [What is alluded to here is their stubborn belief that they are God’s chosen people and, consequently, their rejection of any revelation that may have been vouchsafed to others.] If they [truly] believed in God and their Prophet [The prophet referred to is Moses, whom the Jews claim to follow.] and all that was bestowed upon him from on high, they would not take those [deniers of the truth] for their allies: but most of them are iniquitous.