Why were the children of Israel "favoured" among other people - 2:122
Much has been debated about the fact that it is written in the Quran that the children of Israel, and hence all Jews, have been favoured by God above all other people.
When we read the above verse, and particularly the words “My blessings which I bestowed upon you” it becomes clear that the status of being “favoured/choen”
does not stem from the personal attributes of the children of Israel, but is only a matter derived from the blessings bestowed upon them by God. In other words they were favored in terms of the blessings given to them by God.
This blessing was two fold:
- First: In the form of being the first people to receive a fully comprehensive and fully detailed Law from God. The Quran speaks of the “suhuf” of Abraham, but this word, which literally means “pages” indicates that Abraham was given a form of scripture, but it was not a fully detailed and comprehensive scripture as the one Moses received (Torah), or the one Muhammad received (Quran).
- Second: The blessing from God was also in the fact that God showed the children of Israel much more signs and miracles than any other people. This indeed is a blessing since the signs from God are the best aid to strengthen people’s belief in God.
So in what respect where the children of Israel chosen among other people?
Well, the rule is that when a lot is given, a lot is expected:
"For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." Luke 12:48
The reply is that they were chosen for the task of upholding and delivering the Law and the Revelation of God to mankind. The duty assigned to them is what makes them chosen and not the fact that they were in any way superior as a race among all others.
The relationship between the terms “favoured/chosen”
and between being appointed for a specific task is one that is spoken of in the Quran with regards to others.
As an example, we read how God told Mary that He “chose” her from all other women (3:42). God purified Mary and assigned her the task of being the bearer of Jesus Christ. Alongside Jesus, they were both signs to mankind. People speak of the miracles of Jesus and particularly being born of no father, but they forget that this is equally a miracle of Mary for delivering a child when an untouched virgin. This task assigned to Mary made her chosen and favoured by God. This once again confirms that it is the blessing bestowed on Mary by God which made her chosen.
12- How can associating partners with God (shirk) be like falling from the sky? - 22:31
"You shall maintain your devotion absolutely to God alone. Anyone who sets up any idol beside God is like one who fell from the sky, then gets snatched up by vultures, or blown away by the wind into a deep ravine." 22:31
It is clear that God is giving us an allegory in the above words, for in reality no idol worshippers will jump out of a plane (without a parachute) nor will be literally snatched by vultures. God could have simply said that idol worshippers will be at a great loss, but with the above glorious words, we get much more precise information than if 22:31 was worded in simple words:
A- The person who is falling from the sky is in what is known as 'free fall', and the greatest natural fall we know is that of free fall, the full force of gravity is in control. So to start, this allegory gives us the knowledge that whoever commits idol worship is in the greatest fall (loss).
B- Since free fall is a state where there is no resitence to gravity, it produces weightlessness or 'zero-G'. The state of weightlessness is allegorical to someone with virtually no resistence or immunity to any danger, a totally vulnerable state.
C- The words in 22:31 which say "gets snatched up by vultures" indicate that anyone who has the tendency to commit idol worship will be easy prey to the devils and their idolatrous instigations. Such people who love to idolise humans besides God are always easy prey for the devils.
D- When we are on the ground our weight is supported by the earth below us, but a person in 'free fall' has no support whatesoever for his plunging body, and is heading towards assured death. This is also the case of an idol worshipper who has no support whatsoever from God (since idol worship is the only unforgivable sin 4:48) and is thus heading for assured damnation. In contrast, God always supports the genuine believers to lead them out of the darkness into the light.
In 33:41 God speaks to the believers, and in verse 43 God says:
"He is the One who helps you, together with His angels, to lead you out of darkness into the light. He is Most Merciful towards the believers."
13- Allegorical hints into the Glory of God - 24:35
"God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The allegory of His light is that of a concave mirror within a lamp that is placed inside a glass. The glass is like a radiant planet, which is lit from a blessed olive-producing tree that is neither eastern, nor western. It’s oil is virtually self-radiating though no fire touches it. Light upon light. God guides to His light whoever wills (to be guided) and God cites the parables for the people. God is fully aware of all things." 24:35
This beautiful Quranic verse is one which gives us a glimpse into the Glory of God, this is not easy to do since the Power and Might of God is far beyond any human’s understanding.
"They do not grasp God’s true Might. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty." 22:74
And for that reason, we see the word “allegory” in this verse to confirm that this is only an example and should not be taken literally.
This is not any different from trying to explain to someone the taste of chocolate if that person has never tasted chocolate in his life. We can say it tastes like this or like that, but we can never explain the real taste.
To give us some kind of understanding of God's Light and God's Might, God includes a number of words of great significance:
- The verse speaks of a radiant planet and the light it reflects from a star (oil producing tree). The words “oil producing” refer to the energy given off by the star. The enormous amount of energy given off by a star is allegorical to the infinite blessings from God which are multiplied for whom He pleases.
- God uses the most powerful energy known in the universe (atomic energy) to make an allegory which we can comprehend to His Might. The nuclear reactions which take place inside stars are not the same as the reactions which are given off as a result of wood burning (combustion). The words ”no fire touched it” confirms this meaning. The allegory in this is the fact that God’s power and might cannot be seen or comprehended by the human being.
- The words “self-radiating” tell us that God’s power is independent of all things.
- The word "blessed" tell us that all blessings come from God alone.
- The words “light upon light” tell us that the power of God is infinite.
- The word “neither eastern, nor western” tell us that God is everywhere and not confined to a one place or one direction.
14- How can God be called "The Believer"? 59:23
“He is God; there is no other god besides Him. The King, the Most Sacred, the Peace, the Mu’min (Believer), the Supreme, the Almighty, the Most Powerful, the Most Dignified. God be glorified; far above having partners.” 59:23
The above verse provides several names for God. One of those is the “Mu’min” which literally means “The Believer”.
For us humans, we cannot see God nor the angels, so we are required to have belief in the existence of God, the angels and various other unseen matters. But for God, how can that issue be applicable?
Accordingly, how can God have such a name (The Believer)? Believer in what when He created everything?
The reply to this question can be given through the following:
1- The definition of belief (Iman) is to have certainty in the existence of God, angels, last day and so on.
2- Among humans, there are believers and also disbelievers. When we focus on the believers we find that the best believers will still have a minute element of doubt in their hearts due to the fact that it is not possible to see God nor the angels etc.
We have the example of Abraham when he asked God to show him a sign, then God asked Abraham: “Do you not believe?" and Abraham replied: "Yes, but I wish to reassure my heart." 2:260
We also have the example of Moses when he asked to see God for the same reason and God told him:
"You cannot see Me. Look at that mountain; if it stays in its place, then you can see Me." Then, his Lord manifested Himself to the mountain, and this caused it to crumble. Moses fell unconscious. When he came to, he said, "Be You glorified. I repent to You, and I am the most convinced believer." 7:143
3- When we consider that Abraham and Moses are very sincere prophets of God, yet they still had a tiny element of doubt simply because they are human and because they could not see God with their eyes, then we realise that a small element of doubt will be within the best of believers.
4- And due to this element of doubt, we can say that no human can be called a perfect believer in an absolute sense.
5- God does not have any doubt whatsoever in anything since God is Lord and Creator of all things. As far as God is concerned all matters are absolute certainty, and for that we can say that God is the Only One who can be called the true and perfect “Believer”.