The Jews Alter and Change the Law, Such As Stoning the Adulterer

“O Messenger (Muhammad sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam)! Let not those who hurry to fall into disbelief grieve you, of such who say: “We believe” with their mouths but their hearts have no faith. And of the Jews are men who listen much and eagerly to lies – listen to others who have not come to you. They change the words from their places; they say, “If you are given this, take it, but if you are not given this, then beware!” And whomsoever Allah wants to put in Al-Fitnah [error, because of his rejecting the Faith], you can do nothing for him against Allah. Those are the ones whose hearts Allah does not want to purify (from disbelief and hypocrisy); for them there is a disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a great torment. (They like to) listen to falsehood, to devour anything forbidden. So if they come to you (O Muhammad sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), either judge between them, or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they cannot hurt you in the least. And if you judge, judge with justice between them. Verily, Allah loves those who act justly. But how do they come to you for decision while they have the Taurat (Torah), in which is the (plain) Decision of Allah; yet even after that, they turn away. For they are not (really) believers. Verily, We did send down the Taurat (Torah) [to Musa (Moses)], therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allah’s Will, judged the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests [too judged the Jews by the Taurat (Torah) after those Prophets] for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (O Jews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the Kafirun (i.e. disbelievers – of a lesser degree as they do not act on Allah’s Laws).” [Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:41-44]

These honorable Ayat were revealed about those who rush into disbelief, deviating from the obedience of Allah, His Messenger, prefering their opinions and lusts to what Allah has legislated,

“…of such who say: “We believe” with their mouths but their hearts have no faith.”; These people pretend to be faithful with their words, but their hearts are empty from faith, and they are the hypocrites.

“And of the Jews…”; the enemies of Islam and its people, they and the hypocrites all,

“who listen much and eagerly to lies…”; and they accept and react to it positively,

“listen to others who have not come to you.”; meaning, they listen to some people who do not attend your meetings, O Muhammad. Or, the Ayah might mean, they listen to what you say and convey it to your enemies who do not attend your audience.

The Jews Alter and Change the Law, Such As Stoning the Adulterer

“They change the words from their places;”; by altering their meanings and knowingly distorting them after they comprehended them,

“they say, “If you are given this, take it, but if you are not given this, then beware!””

It was reported that this part of the Ayah was revealed about some Jews who committed murder and who said to each other, “Let us ask Muhammad to judge between us, and if he decides that we pay the Diyah, accept his judgement. If he decides on capital punishment, do not accept his judgement.”

The correct opinion is that this Ayah was revealed about the two Jews who committed adultery. The Jews changed the law they had in their Book from Allah on the matter of punishment for adultery, from stoning to death, to a hundred flogs and making the offenders ride a donkey facing the back of the donkey.

When this incident of adultery occurred after the Hijrah, they said to each other, “Let us go to Muhammad and seek his judgement. If he gives a ruling of flogging, then implement his decision and make it a proof for you with Allah. This way, one of Allah’s Prophets will have upheld this ruling amongst you. But if he decides that the punishment should be stoning to death, then do not accept his decision.”

There are several Hadiths mentioning this story.

Malik reported that Nafi’ said that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “The Jews came to Allah’s Messenger and mentioned that a man and a woman from them committed adultery. Allah’s Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said to them,

“What do find of the ruling about stoning in the Tawrah?”

They said, “We only find that they should be exposed and flogged.”

‘Abdullah bin Salam said, “You lie. The Tawrah mentions stoning, so bring the Tawrah.”

They brought the Tawrah and opened it but one of them hid the verse about stoning with his hand and recited what is before and after that verse.

‘Abdullah bin Salam said to him, “Remove your hand,” and he removed it, thus uncovering the verse about stoning. So they said, “He (‘Abdullah bin Salam) has said the truth, O Muhammad! It is the verse about stoning.”

The Messenger of Allah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) decided that the adulterers be stoned to death and his command was carried out. I saw that man shading the woman from the stones with his body.”

Al-Bukhari and Muslim also collected this Hadith and this is the wording collected by Al-Bukhari. In another narration by Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said to the Jews,

“What would you do in this case?” They said, “We would humiliate and expose them.” The Prophet recited,

“Bring here the Tawrah and recite it, if you are truthful.”

So they brought a man who was blind in one eye and who was respected among them and said to him, “Read (from the Tawrah).” So he read until he reached a certain verse and then covered it with his hand. He was told, “Remove your hand,” and it was the verse about stoning. So that man said, “O Muhammad! This is the verse about stoning, and we had hid its knowledge among us.”

So the Messenger ordered that the two adulterers be stoned, and they were stoned.

Muslim recorded that a Jewish man and a Jewish woman were brought before Allah’s Messenger because they committed adultery. The Messenger of Allah went to the Jews and asked them,

“What is the ruling that you find in the Tawrah for adultery?”

They said, “We expose them, carry them (on donkeys) backwards and parade them in public.” The Prophet recited;

“Bring here the Tawrah and recite it, if you are truthful.”

So they brought the Tawrah and read from it until the reader reached the verse about stoning. Then he placed his hand on that verse and read what was before and after it. ‘Abdullah bin Salam, who was with the Messenger of Allah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), said, “Order him to remove his hand,” and he removed his hand and under it was the verse about stoning. So the Messenger of Allah commanded that the adulterers be stoned, and they were stoned.

‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “I was among those who stoned them and I saw the man shading the woman from the stones with his body.”

Abu Dawud recorded that Ibn ‘Umar said, “Some Jews came to the Messenger of Allah and invited him to go to the Quff area. So he went to the house of Al-Midras and they said, ‘O Abu Al-Qasim! A man from us committed adultery with a woman, so decide on their matter.’ They arranged a pillow for the Messenger of Allah and he sat on it and said,

“Bring the Tawrah to me.” He was brought the Tawrah and he removed the pillow from under him and placed the Tawrah on it, saying,

“I trust you and He Who revealed it to you.” He then said, “Bring me your most knowledgeable person.”

So he was brought a young man… “ and then he mentioned the rest of the story that Malik narrated from Nafi’.

These Hadiths state that the Messenger of Allah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) issued a decision that conforms with the ruling in the Tawrah, not to honor the Jews in what they believe in, for the Jews were commanded to follow the Law of Muhammad only. Rather, the Prophet did this because Allah commanded him to do so. He asked them about the ruling of stoning in the Tawrah to make them admit to what the Tawrah contains and what they collaborated to hide, deny and exclude from implementing for all that time. They had to admit to what they did, although they did it while having knowledge of the correct ruling.

What made them go to the Prophet for judgement in this matter was their lusts and desires, hoping that the Prophet would agree with their opinion, not that they believed in the correctness of his judgment. This is why they said,

“If you are given this,” referring to flogging, then take it,

“but if you are not given this, then beware!” and do not accept or implement it. Allah said next,

“And whomsoever Allah wants to put in Al-Fitnah [error, because of his rejecting the Faith], you can do nothing for him against Allah. Those are the ones whose hearts Allah does not want to purify (from disbelief and hypocrisy); for them there is a disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a great torment. (They like to) listen to falsehood, to devour Suht (anything forbidden).”

‘Suht’ refers to bribes, as Ibn Mas’ud and others stated. The Ayah states that if one is like this, how can Allah cleanse his heart and accept his supplication Allah said to His Prophet,

“So if they come to you”; so that you judge between them,

“either judge between them, or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they cannot hurt you in the least.”; meaning, there is no harm if you do not judge between them. This is because when they came to you to judge between them, they did not seek to follow the truth, but only what conformed to their lusts. We should mention here that Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, ‘Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi, Zayd bin Aslam, ‘Ata’ Al-Khurasani, and several others said that this part of the Ayah was abrogated by Allah’s statement,

“And so judge (you O Muhammad sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) between them by what Allah has revealed.” [Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:49]

“And if you judge, judge with justice between them.”; and with fairness, even if the Jews were unjust and outcasts from the path of fairness,

“Verily, Allah loves those who act justly.”

Allah then chastises the Jews for their false ideas and deviant desires to abandon what they believe is true in their Book, and which they claim is their eternal Law that they are always commanded to adhere to. Yet, they do not adhere to the Tawrah, but they prefer other laws over it, although they believe that these other laws are not correct and do not apply to them. Allah said,

“But how do they come to you for decision while they have the Taurat (Torah), in which is the (plain) Decision of Allah; yet even after that, they turn away. For they are not (really) believers.”; Allah next praises the Tawrah that He sent down to His servant and Messenger Musa, son of ‘Imran,

“Verily, We did send down the Taurat (Torah) [to Musa (Moses)], therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allah’s Will, judged the Jews.”; and these Prophets did not deviate from the law of the Tawrah, change or alter it,

“And (also) the Rabbaniyyun and the Ahbar…”; wherein Rabbaniyyun refers to the worshippers who are learned and religious, and Ahbar refers to the scholars,

“for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s Book,”; meaning, they were entrusted with the Book of Allah, and they were commanded to adhere to it and not hide any part of,

“and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (O Jews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the Kafirun (i.e. disbelievers – of a lesser degree as they do not act on Allah’s Laws).”

From – Tafseer Ibn Katheer

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