Two Episodes of Jewish Mischief [From Tafsir Soorah al-`Isra]
Imam Ibn Kathir
Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 5
© Darussalam 2000
Surah 17. Al-Isra’ (4-8)
4. And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture:
“Indeed you would do mischief in the land twice and you will become tyrants and extremely arrogant!”
5. So, when the promise came for the first of the two, We sent against you servants of Ours given to terrible warfare. They entered the very innermost parts of your homes. And it was a promise (completely) fulfilled. 6. Then We gave you a return of victory over them. And We helped you with wealth and children and made you more numerous in manpower.
7. (And We said): “If you do good, you do good for your own selves, and if you do evil (you do it) against yourselves.” Then, when the second promise came to pass, (We permitted your enemies) to disgrace your faces and to enter the Masjid as they had entered it before, and to destroy with utter destruction all that fell in their hands.
8. It may be that your Lord may show mercy unto you, but if you return (to sins). We shall return (to Our punishment). And We have made Hell a prison for the disbelievers.
It was mentioned in the Tawrah that the Jews would spread Mischief twice
Allah tells us that He made a declaration to the Children of Israel in the Scripture, meaning that He had already told them in the Book which He revealed to them, that they would cause mischief on the earth twice, and would become tyrants and extremely arrogant, meaning they would become shameless oppressors of people, Allah says:
And We made known this decree to him, that the root of those (sinners) was to be cut off in the early morning. (15:66),
meaning, We already told him about that and informed him of it.
The First Episode of Mischief caused by the Jews, and their Punishment for it
So, when the promise came for the first of the two, meaning the first of the two episodes of mischief.
We sent against you servants of Ours given to terrible warfare.
means, ‘We unleashed soldiers against you from among Our creatures who were given to terrible warfare,’ i.e., they had great strength and weapons and power. They entered the very innermost parts of your homes, meaning they took possession of your land and invaded the very innermost parts of your homes, going between and through your houses, coming and going freely with no fear of anyone. This was the promise (completely) fulfilled.
The earlier and later commentators differed over the identity of these invaders. Many Isra`iliyyat (reports from Jewish sources) were narrated about this, but I did not want to make this book too long by mentioning them, because some of them are fabricated, concocted by their heretics, and others may be true, but we have no need of them, praise be to Allah. What Allah has told us in His Book (the Qur’an) is sufficient and we have no need of what is in the other books that came before. Neither Allah nor His Messenger required us to refer to them. Allah told His Messenger sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam that when (the Jews) committed transgression and aggression, Allah gave their enemies power over them to destroy their country and enter the innermost parts of their homes. Their humiliation and subjugation was a befitting punishment, and your Lord is never unfair or unjust to His servants. They had rebelled and killed many of the Prophets and scholars. Ibn Jarir recorded that Yahya bin Satd said: “I heard Sa’id bin Al-Musayyib saying: ‘Nebuchadnezzar conquered Ash-Sham (Greater Syria, including Palestine), destroying Jerusalem and killing them, then he came to Damascus and found blood boiling in a censer. He asked them:
What is this blood? They said: We found our forefathers doing this. Because of that blood, he killed seventy thousand of the believers and others, then the blood stoppedboiling.”[At-Tabari 17:369.]
This report is Sahih from Said bin Al-Musayyib, and this event is well-known, as he (Nebuchadnezzar) killed their nobles and scholars, and did not leave alive anyone who knew the Tawrah by heart. He took many prisoners from the sons of the Prophets and others, and did many other things that would take too long to mention here. If we had found anything that was correct or close enough, we could have written it and reported it here. And Allah knows best.
Then Allah says:
(And We said): “If you do good, you do good for your own selves, and if you do evil (you do it) against yourselves.”
As Allah says elsewhere:
Whosoever does a righteous good deed, it is for (the benefit of) himself; and whosoever does evil, it is against himself. [45:15]
The Second Episode of Mischief
Then Allah says:
Then, when the second promise came to pass, meaning, the second episode of mischief, when your enemies came again,
(We permitted your enemies) to disgrace your faces, meaning, to humiliate you and subdue you,
and to enter the Masjid, meaning, Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).
as they had entered it before, when they entered the very innermost parts of your homes.
and to destroy wrecking and inflicting ruin upon it.
all that fell in their hands, everything they could get their hands on.
with utter destruction. It may be that your Lord may show mercy unto you , meaning that He may rid you of them.
but if you return (to sins). We shall return (to Our punishment), meaning, if you return to causing mischief,
We shall return means We will once again punish you in this world, along with the punishment and torment We save for you in the Hereafter.’
And We have made Hell a prison [Hasir] for the disbelievers, meaning, a place of permanent detention, a prison which cannot be avoided or escaped. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Hasiir here means a jail.” [At-Tabari 17:390] Mujahid said, “They will be detained in it.” [At-Tabari 17:390] Others said likewise. Al-Hasan said, “Hasir means a bed of Fire.” [At-Tabari 17:390] Qatadah said: “The Children of Israel returned to aggression, so Allah sent this group against them, Muhammad sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam and his companions, who made them pay the Jizyah, [a tax levied from People of the Book (Jews and Christians) who are under the protection of a Muslim government] with willing submission, and feeling themselves subdued.” [At-Tabari 17:389]