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Hast thou not Turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (That was) among them: “Appoint for us a king, that we May fight in the cause of Allah.” He said: “Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that that ye will not fight?” They said: “How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?” but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong.

Maududi writes,

This took place about a thousand years before Christ. At that time the Israelites were persecuted by the Amalekites who had deprived them of the greater part of Palestine. The Prophet Samuel, who was then ruling over the Israelites, was old. The elders of Israel, therefore, felt the need to appoint as their head someone else under whose leadership they could wage wars. By that time, however, the Israelites had become so deeply infected with Ignorance, and the customs and practices of non-Muslim nations had made such inroads into their lives that the distinction between a religious state committed to serving God and secular monarchy was lost on them. They consequently asked God to appoint a king rather than a religious ruler (khalifah) over them. The information contained in the Bible is as follows: @ @ Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. . . . Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us’. And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Hearken to the voice of the people in what they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you . . . ‘ So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking a king for him. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you; he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make the implements of war and the equipments of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take you men-servants and maid-servants, and the best of your cattle and asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And on that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’ But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said. ‘No! But we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.’ Samuel then said to the men of Israel, ‘Go every man to his city.’ (1 Samuel 7: 15; 8: 4-22.) @ @ And Samuel said to the people , ‘And when you saw that Nahash the king of Ammonites came against you, You said to me, No, but a king shall reign over us, when the Lord your God was your king. And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord and serve him and hearken to his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well; but if you will not hearken to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.’ So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for a king.’ And Samuel said to the people, ‘Fear not; you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside front following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart, and do not turn aside after vain things which cannot profit or save, for they are vain. For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and right way?’ (1 Samuel 12: 6-23). @ @ These statements from Samuel make it clear that the demand to appoint a king was disagreeable to God and to His Prophet. It might be asked, however, why the Qur’an does not contain any denunciation of this demand of the elders of Israel. The reason is that to the purpose for which this incident has been cited the appropriateness and otherwise of the demand is irrelevant. The purpose here is to show the extent to which cowardice and self-indulgence had become part of Israelite life, and to show how the lack of moral restraint had come to characterize their conduct. It is these which ultimately led to their decline. The aim of the Qur’anic narrative is to enable Muslims to derive a lesson from this and to ensure that these weaknesses do not creep into their own lives.

References:

Maududi, Abul Ala (2010). Tafhim ul Quran. https://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/27/index.html

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