Mutiny and arrogance of the Children of Israel

Q: Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It was said to the Children of Israel, ‘Enter the gate (of Jerusalem) in prostration (or bowing with humility) and say: Hitatun [Forgive (O Allah) our sins].’ (Al-Baqarah, 2: 58) But they distorted and changed (what was asked of them). They entered creeping on their buttocks, and saying, ‘Hitatun (adding:) a grain in a barley ear.’” Narrated in the Sahih (authentic) Book of Hadith of Al-Bukhari, vol. 2, sec. And (remember) when We said: “Enter this town (Jerusalem)" , p. 643. In his book entitled “Qasas Al-Qur’an” (Qur’an Narratives), vol. 2, p. 17, Muhammad Hifzh Al-Rahman states, “It is understood from Al-Bukhari’s narration that the Children of Israel entered through the gate of Bayt-ul-Maqdis (Jerusalem) while creeping upon their buttocks. But the arrogant are not known to walk in such a fashion. They were thus likened only as a laughing stock of the people. However, the correct interpretation of the Ayah is found in ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud's exegesis of the Qur’an. He states, ‘The Children of Israel walked into the town in the manner of swaggering braggarts who strut and waddle in their steps while moving their buttocks and arrogantly swinging their chests right and left.’” This is the interpretation given in “Qasas Al-Qur’an” by Muhammad Hifzh Al-Rahman. Which of the two interpretations is correct: the one given by Al-Bukhari or that of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, ? Please give a decisive opinion based upon the Qur’an and the Sunnah. May Allah grant you good reward.


A: Allah (Exalted be He) ordered the Children of Israel to enter through the gate of Al-Aqsa Mosque while thankfully humbling themselves to Him and praying to Him to forgive their sins, and to say (as He commanded them), “Hitatun [Forgive (O Allah) our sins].” (Part No. 4; Page No. 197) Allah (Exalted be He) promised to forgive their sins and pardon their misdeeds if they obey His Order, which they did not. Instead of obeying Allah’s Order, they changed it in word and action by entering through the gate while creeping on their buttocks and saying, “Hitatun: a grain in a barley ear.” Thus, tampering with Allah’s order, they held it in mockery and twisted it in word and action instead of showing humble submission to Him and expressing gratitude for His Blessings. Allah, therefore, sent His punishment on the wrong-doers among them and thus meted out on them a just recompense, proportionate to their evil crimes, because of their twisting of His Orders and repelling against His obedience. This has been stated in the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in explanation of the two Ayahs saying (what means): And (remember) when We said: "Enter this town (Jerusalem) and eat bountifully therein with pleasure and delight wherever you wish, and enter the gate in prostration (or bowing with humility) and say: ‘Forgive us,’ and We shall forgive you your sins and shall increase (reward) for the good-doers." But those who did wrong changed the word from that which had been told to them for another, so We sent upon the wrong-doers Rijz (a punishment) from the heaven because of their rebelling against Allâh’s obedience. (Tafsir At-Tabarî). The correct interpretation of the two Ayahs should be understood in light of the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him). In addition to their ridicule and mockery, the Children of Israel behaved arrogantly and rebelled against obeying Allah. It is, therefore, erroneous to interpret their behavior as mere arrogance and haughtiness.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.

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