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O ye People of the Book! believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you, before We change the face and fame of some (of you) beyond all recognition, and turn them hindwards, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers, for the decision of Allah Must be carried out.

This passage calls on the People of the Book, but more specifically the
Jews of Madinah, to believe in the revelations given to the Prophet, as they are
said to confirm the previous scriptures given to the Jews (see, e.g., 2:89; 3:81;
6:92; 46:12). If not, a warning is issued that God will blot out faces and turn
them backwards. Since the face is a symbol for or a manifestation of the state of
the individual soul, Divine punishment is often said to be meted out upon faces
(see, e.g., 3:106; 8:50; 20:111; 88:2). Some say blot out faces means that their
facial features, notably their eyes, will be removed, so they will be blinded (Q);
turn them backwards means that their eyes will be placed behind their heads,
rendering them incapable of seeing what is before them, so that they have to
walk backwards (Ṭ). Others say it is metaphorical, meaning they will be blinded
to the path to truth and so turned back toward error (Q, Ṭ). It further warns that
He may curse them as He cursed those [who broke] the Sabbath; see 2:65,
where God curses Sabbath violators by saying, Be you apes, outcast. The present
verse may thus suggest that the Madinan Jews will be cursed in this same
manner for deriding the Prophet (Q, Ṭ). Several Madinan Jews reportedly
converted to Islam after the revelation of this verse (Ṭ), and their conversion
served to avert the punishment, threatened in this verse, from the Madinan Jews
as a whole (Q). Others assert that the verse alludes to the Jews’ eventual exile
from much of Arabia (Q, Ṭ, Z).


Nasr, Hossein (2015). Study Quran.

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