Answered by Shyakh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Question: Asslamu Alaykum
I would like to know why Allah has favoured the Children of Israel over of all other nations. Wouldn’t it be unjust if He only provided the Book to one nation and favoured them? On the contrary, Islam is for all humanity, therefore, the question does not arise. Also, how do we know that the Jews have changed the Torah and are not on the right path?
Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
Thank you for your question.
The question itself is a very good one, and it highlights the need to understand the Qurʾān in Arabic as the Arabs understood it, and to seek clarification when in doubt.
Allah can do what He wants.
Allah Most High is the absolute Master of all that exists, and therefore He can select and favour anyone He wishes with whatever He wishes. He is dealing with His own property. Yet we must remember that He is wise. Never does He give or withhold without there being some great wisdom behind the matter. Our job is to have this understanding to contextualise everything,
Were the Bani Isrāʾīl preferred over everyone else?
Allah addressed the Jews who were contemporaries of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with the words ‘O Children of Israel, recall my blessings upon you and that I [once] favoured you above all other beings.’ (al-Baqara, 47) What the masters of Qurʾānic exegesis, such as Abū al-Suʿūd, Maḥmūd al-Alūsī, Burhan al-Dīn al-Biqāʿī and others said regarding this verse is that although Allah was speaking to the contemporaries of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) here, and the people who actually received these blessings were their ancestors. Consequently the people who were preferred over all others were those who lived in time of the prophet Moses (Allah bless him and grant him peace).
Why would Allah do such a thing? Allah was inviting them to believe in the revelation which he sent to the Prophet Muhammad, which was the natural conclusion to what all the other messengers brought. The Jews were people who had a strong sense of racial identity, so reminding them of what Allah had bestowed upon their forefathers was-in their eyes-a reminder of what they themselves had received through their lineage. They were proud of their ancestors, so a reminder of the blessings given to their ancestors should have been sufficient to want to believe in order to show thanks for that blessing.
According the early master of Arabic and authoritative exegete al-Zajjāj, the proof of this is in the very next verse when Allah said to them, ‘And [recall] when we spectacularly rescued you from the forces of Pharaoh…’ (al-Baqara, 48). Those who were rescued were the followers of the prophet Moses, not the people being addressed by the verse.
This brings us to the question ‘who was preferred over all others?’ What was deduced from the above proof was that it was the followers of the prophet Moses who had been given this rank – but it only extended to everyone before their time until them. At the time they were the Muslims who believed in Allah and His Messengers; they had been blessed with two tremendous prophets; and they were given the great Torah, which – as Allah put it – contained tremendous guidance and great light. However, they lost this rank when time after time they rebelled against Allah, and the messengers who were sent to them.
We know from sura Āl ʿImrān that our umma – from the companions and after – is the best umma because we not only believe, but we also perform the functions of the previous prophets: ‘You have always been the best nation who were produced for the service of mankind: [because] you command that good be done, prohibit the bad and believe in Allah.’ (Āl ʿImrān, 110).
This means that Allah knew that-when compared with other nations-the nation of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was always superior in Allah’s sight; however, up until their point in history, the followers of the Prophet Moses were the best.
Discrepancies in the Old Testament.
This is a matter which has been addressed by non-Muslims academics as well as by Muslims. You should refer to some of the works of Bart Ehrman for specific details. What we can say in brief is that we know that there were many descriptions of the Messenger of Allah in the Torah so that the Jews could recognise him when he did finally come, and we cannot find them in the modern Old Testament (Torah).
There are also historical inaccuracies, such as the ruler at the time of the prophet Joseph being referred to as ‘Pharaoh’ in the Old Testament, whereas historically it has been established that the ruling elite of the Hyksos people referred to their ruler as king – which is in accordance with the Qurʾānic narrative – and it was only the native Egyptians who referred to their ruler as Pharaoh.
Ultimately, the misguidance of the Jews contemporary to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) stemmed from their inability to submit to Allah choosing one of the Arabs as the bearer of His final message, and not a Jew. Safiyya b. Huyayy, the Jewish convert who became the wife of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) narrated that once the Prophet arrived in Madina and her father and uncle – the leading rabbis of her tribe returned home dejected, her uncle asked, ‘Is he a prophet?’ Her father replied in the affirmative, and they they would fight him as long as they lived simply because he was an Arab. In short, they preferred to reject all the great favours Allah had granted them, and to suffer a terrible torment in the afterlife rather than believe in a messenger who was not of their race.
In the words of Imam al-Ṭahāwī, ‘O Allah – ally of Islam and its people – keep us firm on Islam until we meet you with it.’
Allah knows best.
May Allah bless us all with clear understanding and certainty.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.
Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.
In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.
His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.
When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.