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7: 170-171

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As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular prayer,- never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish. (verse 170)

When We shook the Mount over them, as if it had been a canopy, and they thought it was going to fall on them (We said): “Hold firmly to what We have given you, and bring (ever) to remembrance what is therein; perchance ye may fear Allah.” (verse 171)


The preceding verse (169) contained a mention of a covenant made
with the religious leaders of the Israelites in particular, that they shall
not make any changes in the Torah and shall not ascribe to Allah
anything but the truth. It has already been mentioned that they
violated this pledge and distorted the contents of the Torah for petty
amounts of money. This verse is an extension of the same theme. It
says that there are some among their religious leaders who are truthfully following the commands of the Torah and are firmly adhering to
its guidance. They established the Salah as was required. The verse
has provided with an assurance to such people that they shall not be deprived of their reward. That is, those who have been true to their faith and fulfilled its demands are righteous people among them.

There are some points of discussion related to this verse. The term
‘Book’ most probably refers to the Torah. Another possibility is that it
refers to all the heavenly books of Allah like Torah, Injil and the
Qur’an. Another point to be noted is that merely keeping the book of
Allah and showing respect to it without following its’ commandments
does not fulfil the very object of its revelation. It is why the verse has
used the word”Hold fast”, in place of “those who take
it or read it. Holding fast the Book requires to follow all it’s injunctions
and commands.

The next thing we note in this verse is that out of a large number
of doctrines of the Torah the verse has made mention of “establishing
‘Salah’ only. This is because the Salah is the most significant and
purposeful act among the precepts enjoined by Allah. This is, in fact,
the most basic and quintessential way of expressing one’s faith in, and
obedience to, Allah. Offering the Salah regularly makes one capable of
being regular in other worships more willingly and with more ease.
The Holy Prophet (S) has termed the Salah as being the pillar
of Islam. The whole edifice of Islam rests on it. Whoever has erected it
properly has built the whole structure of his faith on a stronghold. Any
one not regular in Salah, is of no worth to Allah, even if he is seen
reciting His name all the times and has unusual visions and does
extraordinary acts.

The next verse (171) described another incident of the Israelites
when they were forced to promise their obedience to the law of the
Torah. It has also been mentioned in the Shah al-Baqarah. The Arabic word () signifies drawing or lifting up. In the Surah al Baqarah the word () has been used which denotes the act of raising
up. Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (RA) has therefore, taken the
word to signify raising high. The Arabic word ‘Zullah’ means a
sunshade or a canopy.

The verse refers to the time when the Prophet Musa (pbuh) came
back from the mount of Sinai with the book of Torah. They found
therein many injunctions which they thought were difficult for them,
to follow. They started showing their unwillingness for obeying those commandments. Allah commanded the Archangel Jibra’il (AS) to raise the mount of Sinai upon their town. The area of this town is
reported to have been three square miles. When the mount of Sinai
was hanged over their heads they fell down prostrating themselves out
of fear and promised their obedience to the Law of Moses (the Torah).
The future events, however, witnessed their deviation from the Law
every now and again.

No compulsion in Faith
The above incident gives rise to a question. Why the Israelites were
forced to make a promise of their obedience while the Holy Qur’an has
declared “There is no compulsion in Faith?” (2:256) The
answer is quite simple. None of the disbelievers has ever been forced
to accept faith, nor any one is allowed to use force for this purpose.
However, those who have already entered the covenant of faith out of
their free will and, later, deviate from the commandments of Allah just
for avoiding their commitments, shall essentially be forced to abide by
the rules and regulations of the Law. In case of deviation from their
duty they must be held liable to punishments prescribed by the Law.
This is what exactly happened in this incident. They had already
believed in Allah and in His Prophet and had entered the covenant of
Faith. What they did was to deny from obeying the Law of the Torah
and rightly were forced to fulfil their commitment.

References:

Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .4 surah 7 verses 170-171)English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-4.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)

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