The Quran frequently mentions Bani Israel, the Children of Israel. In truth, the Story of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and Banu Israel (the Children of Israel) makes up a significant part of the Quran. The history of the Banu Israel, including their tests and misdeeds, is extensively covered in the Quran.
However, because of present political conditions, many Muslims have a propensity to perceive all Jews as fundamentally “evil,” frequently using the Quran to support their position. But are they really this way?
The History of the Banu Israel
The reason the Banu Israel are known by this name is because the Prophet Yaqub (Jacob) was also known by the name Israel, had twelve descendants, each of whom gave rise to one of the twelve tribes that made up the Banu Israel. His entire family relocated to Egypt after Yusuf (as) was appointed as Egypt’s minister.
Banu Israel’s history thus begins in Egypt. They were contentedly residing there when the Pharaohs (Fir’aun) captured them. Their children were slain, and their women were abducted. They were treated like animals. Numerous times in the Quran, Allah (swt) refers to these terrible hardships of the Banu Israel, and He Says: ‘And in that was a great trial from your Lord.’ [Quran, 2:49]
Then Musa (as) delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grasp. Again, the Qur’an tells this story multiple times.
“And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because of what they had patiently endured. And We destroyed [all] that Pharaoh and his people were producing and what they had been building.” [Quran, 7:137]
Despite undergoing horrific suffering, the Banu Israel persisted in their faith. By making the Banu Israel His favored slaves, Allah (swt) honored them.
“And We did certainly give the Children of Israel the Scripture and judgement and prophethood, and We provided them with good things and preferred them over the worlds.” [Quran, 45:16]
Why would Allah (swt) pick an entire nation of supposedly nasty people to be His chosen slaves? They must have had something unique about them because Allah (swt) made them exceptional. This point is emphasized by Allah (swt) in the accompanying ayah:
“And We certainly chose them by knowledge over [all] the worlds.” [Quran, 44:32]
The majority of the prophets who appeared after Abraham (Ibrahim A.S.), Isaac (Ishaq A.S.), and Jacob (Yaqub A.S.) were of Jewish ancestry, with Prophet Muhammad (saw) standing out as an exception. As far as we are aware, all of Allah’s (swt) messengers were Muslims.
All Muslims of Jewish ancestry, include Dawud (A.S.) (David), Sulayman (A.S.) (Solomon), Yahya (A.S.), Zakariyah (A.S.), Jesus, and numerous others. And, May God grant them all peace, they were all truly excellent human beings.
The Banu Israel criminals mentioned in the Quran
There were people among Banu Israel who killed prophets, altered the Qur’an, and engaged in shirk (associating partners with Allah). In the Quran, Allah states this regarding them:
“Cursed were those who disbelieved among the Children of Israel by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and [habitually] transgressed.” [Quran, 5:78]
Therefore, it was specific Banu Israel groups, not all of the Banu Israel, that violated the law. Consider this: Were there any Muslims who disobeyed the law as a group?
The Bani Israel in Madina at the time of the Prophet Muhammad
Jewish scriptures were distorted by the time of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) . The scriptures had previously been lost, then “discovered” in the Temple after a period of around a hundred years, before being lost once more and being rewritten. Historians agree that all of these are true.
In actuality, the Rabbis determined what was proper and wrong for the largely illiterate populace. They had exclusive control over all religious matters and scriptures. Thus, when the Prophet arrived, these Rabbis felt scared by the potential loss of their religious authority and rebelled against him. The vast populace obeyed their Rabbis.
However, there were a few Jews who converted to Islam and joined the Prophet’s companions, even including one Rabbi himself. A devout Jewess who converted to Islam and wed Prophet Mohammed (saw) was one of the Mothers of the Believers.
Possession of Palestine
There are other Jews in the world besides those who are persecuting Palestinian Muslims. Before they arrived in Palestine, there had never been a conflict between Banu Israel and Muslims in the fourteen-hundred-year history of Islam. They identify themselves as “Zionists.” Zionism is more of a political movement for a separate Jewish homeland in Israel, rather than a religious group. Zionists want to claim Palestine as well. However, many Jewish people who migrated to the US, UK, and Europe oppose these moves by Zionists. This Video summarises it briefly.
Jews who didn’t want to offend Muslims were in fact against these Zionists. There are still a lot of Jews who oppose Israel’s establishment.
Why does the Quran frequently mention the Children of Israel?
Because they resemble Muslims the most, the Banu Israel are frequently mentioned in the Quran. They are our distant relatives in terms of biology, geography, and religion. The Quran emphasizes a lot of their errors.
Why? so that we might learn from them and avoid repeating the same errors. Don’t some people who identify as Muslims worship the dead in shrines? Allah protects the Qur’an from corruption, yet aren’t there Muslims who spread misinformation about Islam and credit the Qur’an for it?
Do Muslims not persecute other Muslims? Muslims are being degraded all around the globe because of what they have accomplished on their own. The Banu Israel was also chosen by Allah (swt), and we are making the same errors that they did in order to ruin Allah’s favor on us.
The frequent direct references to Jews in the Quran ought to alert us to something. Instead of making generalizations about Jews, Allah (swt) wants us to speak to them, give them dawah, and give them the Quran. Islam forbids stereotypes.
According to Allah (swt), Taqwa is the one quality that distinguishes certain people as outstanding to others. A beautiful quote from Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu-Talib A.S summarizes it all:
“Our enemies are not the Jews or the Christians, our enemy is our own ignorance.”
Lessons learned from Bani Israel
Our ancestors were the Bani Israel. They received blessings from Allah, just like us, and were also given unique statuses and obligations. However, they disobeyed and disregarded their duties, which is why Allah’s blessings were withheld from them. We must be aware of their errors in order to take precautions against them. These are their three main traits:
1. Being ungrateful for Allah’s blessings and desiring more
Special foods like Manna and Salwa as well as water from miraculous springs were delivered to the Bani Israel. However, they weren’t happy. Musa (as) was told by them:
“O Moses, we can never endure one [kind of] food. So call upon your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions.” (2: 61)
Asking Allah for things is not forbidden. In fact, Allah and His Messenger (saw) constantly exhort us to do so . However, the way they requested wasn’t appropriate. They did not show any appreciation for the food that had been blessed for them, which was much better than garlic and cucumber. They called the Prophet of Allah “Moses” in their addresses. Thirdly, they instructed Moses to request them from Allah rather than making a straight prayer to Allah.
“[Moses] said, “Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into [any] settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked.” (2:61)
Since they were unhappy with their current situation…
“…they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allah [upon them]. That was because they [repeatedly] disbelieved in the signs of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing.” (2:61)
Lesson learned: Always be appreciative of Allah’s exceptional favors. Ask Him in humility when you need anything, and be thankful for the blessings He has already shown you.
2. Attempting to change a Shariah law
On Saturdays, Jews were not permitted to work (Sabbath). As a result, they were unable to work for an entire day of the week. The fishermen among them began putting in nets and other gear in the water before the Sabbath started in order to circumvent that rule. Fish were captured in the nets all day long, ready for the fishermen to gather after the Sabbath.
They weren’t technically disobeying Allah. However, Allah the Magnificent is able to see straight through our “technicalities” and into our intents.
“And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the Sabbath, and We said to them, “Be apes, despised.” And We made it a deterrent punishment for those who were present and those who succeeded [them] and a lesson for those who fear Allah.” (2:65-66)
Lesson learned: Looking for gaps in Allah’s instructions will not help us. We are defying Him if we don’t obey Him. As obvious as that.
3. Questioning too far into a Divine order
Our faith is distinctive in that it fosters critical thinking. The Quran continually exhorts us to exercise reason. But when we realize that a certain action is a direct order from Allah, that’s it. Then, we must demonstrate our iman by having entire faith in Allah’s command. We stop asking questions altogether. We carry out instructions.
Unknown assailants killed a man from Bani Israel. They asked Musa (as) for assistance in locating the murderers. He revealed to them Allah’s command:
“Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow.” (2:67)
This command was simple to understand. However:
“They said, “Do you take us in ridicule?” Musa (as) said, “I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant.” (2:67)
Then they asked: “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is.”
They never stopped asking questions. And the more inquiries they made, the more challenging the order grew until they were required to pay the cow’s weight in gold.
Lesson learned: We should refrain from asking pointless inquiries when Allah (SWT) informs us of anything and we are confident in the veracity of the knowledge. Instead, we ought to view the knowledge as a gift and put it to good use.