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About Israel and the Israelite Tribes within a Quranist Vision


About Israel and the Israelite Tribes within a Quranist Vision 

Published in August 8, 2017

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy


1- The establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 made so many generations in Egypt and the Arab world hate the word ''Israel'' though it refers to Jacob. The Arab tyrants who rule Arab countries incite more hatred and animosity of Arab nations toward Israel, within myths and Israel, the USA, and the West countries in general conspire against Arabs, Muslims, and Islam! At the same time, Arab tyrannical rulers blindly obey commands of Israel, the USA, and the West countries which are masters to Arab tyrants; masters do not need to conspire against their obedient, docile slaves; even Arab monarchs transfer their ill-gotten money to banks in the West countries, as they never trust Arab nations betrayed by them. Arab tyrants are the worst arch-enemies to Arab nations, and the fates of these tyrants/slaves are linked to masters' commands in the USA and elsewhere. Arab tyrannical rulers humiliate, oppress, and rob their people, and eventually, they find no safe haven unless between feet of their West masters, when these tyrants are in power in Arab countries or when their authority is threatened.       

2- With such myths, the Arab mentality is formed decades ago to hate the word ''Israel'', though the number of victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict is never 10% of the number victims of Arab tyrants who murdered their citizens or caused their death in lost military adventures and Arab-Arab conflicts among tyrants, from Abdel-Nasser, Kaddafi, and Saddam Hussein, till the KSA, Wahabism, and ISIS and other Wahabi terrorist organizations    

3- Such hatred has extended to Quranic stories about the Israelites, or the tribes who were descendants of Jacob, named Israel, whose stories occupy a prominent place in the Quranic text. Yet, hatred toward modern Israel led some people to hate these Quranic stories, and this is manifested in many ways as follows.

3/1: Many scholars of the Quran have deliberately ignored to tackle these stories altogether, and this is typical of servile and obsequious clergymen (and their followers) eager to please anyone in authority in any Arab country. 

3/2: Many scholars of the Quran have focused their ponderings and writings on Quranic verses that attack the Jews; they never understand that the Quranic term (Jews) as nothing to do with the modern sense of this word. The Quranic term refers to a group of sinners who disobeyed God among the Israelites, NOT all Israelites. This term applies specially to Jews in Arabia during the 7th century A.D. when the Quran was being revealed, as these Jews worshipped Osir as a deity and a son of God (i.e., most probably 'Osir' refers to Osiris, the Pharaonic god of the dead) and allied themselves to Christians who committed military aggressions against the Yathreb city-state of Muhammad, as per the Quran, and these historical events are never mentioned in the first fake biography of Muhammad authored by Ibn Ishaq who fabricated this biography using his own imagination and he ascribed lies and falsehoods to Muhammad, including that he massacred some Jewish captured men! Ibn Ishaq disregarded the fact that Muhammad was sent as a mercy to the humankind (see 21:107), not to massacre humankind. Thus, Sunnites focused on attacking and verbally abusing all Israelite  tribes (or the Israelites) while disregarding the good people among the Israelites. This is in total disregard of the Quranic fact that followers of the Quran – and , in fact, all human beings – are subdivided into three categories as per the Quranic Chapter 56: (1) forerunners: those who are monotheists and performed so many good deeds, and they deserve the best levels of Paradise, (2) those on the right: those who are monotheists and performed good deeds that atone for their many sins and bad deeds, and they deserve to enter into Paradise in levels lower than the ones for the forerunners, and (3) the vast majority of human beings in all eras who will enter into Hell for their disbelief, disobedience, polytheism, and sins.     

3/3: Sadly, some biased, prejudiced researchers misinterpret Quranic terminology and distort their meanings to serve their purposes and prove a prior view conceived by their strange, illogical whims; e.g., some researchers assume wrongly that the term (Egypt) mentioned in the Quran does not refer to Egypt the country we know and in which we were born, that the Quranic word/proper name (Israel) does no refer to Jacob, and that the Quranic term (tribes) does not refer to the Israelites! We assert that these are grave sins; as these bad researchers put the Quran under their feet by subjugating it to their whims and prejudices and making it submit to their biases and desires. We feel so sorry that some Quranists who write within our website commit this grave error and fall into this sin; we invoke and implore our Lord God to forgive and guide them.    

4- We have asserted repeatedly in our writings that pondering the Quran entails that one contemplates and reflects on the Quranic text while seeking guidance from God, without prior notion(s) that one desires to prove or to undermine and without prejudices or biases. True Quranist researchers must seek only to reach the Quranic view (i.e., God's opinion) regarding a given issue or topic at hand. These Quranist researchers must be ready to discard any previously held notions or views if they contradict Quranist research results. These Quranist researchers must gather and collect all verses related to the issue or topic at hand, while examining their local context (i.e., verses before and after them) and in its larger context (i.e., the whole Quranic text), as well as verses linked directly and indirectly to the topic at hand. After examining all these verses and contexts meticulously and  carefully within scrutiny, one can define the Quranic terminology in the research, while asserting eventually that any conclusions are the result of the researchers' minds, NOT an absolute truth, as any human ijtihad (innovative thinking) may require criticism and correction and it is never infallible.    

5- Within this methodology explained in the above, we offer our own Quranist vision of the terms: "Israel" and "the Israelites" or "the Israelite tribes".


Firstly: some features of the Quranic methodology within Quranic stories of prophets and messengers:  

1- The Quran does NOT mention all names/stories of all prophets and messengers: "We sent messengers before you. Some of them We told you about, and some We did not tell you about..." (40:78).

2- The Quranic stories cover in detail the lives of some prophets and messengers (e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and Jesus) and tackle briefly the lives of some others (e.g., Jonah, Lot, Davis, Job, Solomon, and David, Isaac, and Jacob).

3- The Quran mentions briefly the stories of some prophets and messengers without mentioning their names; e.g., in these verses, we read the name of a king, Talut, and not the prophet in this story: "Have you not considered the notables of the Israelites after Moses? When they said to a prophet of theirs, "Appoint a king for us, and we will fight in the cause of God."...Their prophet said to them, "God has appointed Talut to be your king."..." (2:246-247). Likewise, we are not given the location and names of the three messengers in this Quranic story: "And cite for them the parable of the landlords of the town - when the messengers came to it. We sent them two messengers, but they denied them both, so We reinforced them with a third. They said, "We are messengers to you."" (36:13-14).  

4- The Quran sometimes mentions very brief accounts of some prophets and messengers, while mentioning their names, and their stories are NOT repeated elsewhere in the Quranic text; e.g., the prophet Elias: "Also Elias was one of the messengers. He said to his people, "Do you not fear? Do you call on Baal, and forsake the Best of creators? God is your Lord, and the Lord of your ancestors" But they called him a liar, and thus they will be brought forward. Except for God's sincere servants. And We left with him for later generations. Peace be upon the House of Yaseen." (37:123-130).

5- In other cases, the Quran mentions the names of some prophets/messengers without narrating their stories; e.g., we know that Elyassa and Zi Al-Kifl are prophets from the progeny of Jacob/Israel, grandson of Abraham: "That was Our argument which We gave to Abraham against his people. We elevate by degrees whomever We will. Your Lord is Wise and Informed. And We gave him Isaac and Jacob - each of them We guided. And We guided Noah previously; and from his descendants David, and Solomon, and Job, and Joseph, and Moses, and Aaron. Thus We reward the righteous. And Zechariah, and John, and Jesus, and Elias - every one of them was of the upright. And Ishmael, and Elyassa, and Jonah, and Lot - We favored each one of them over all other people. " (6:83-86); "And mention Ishmael, Elyassa and Zi Al-Kifl; all are among the outstanding." (38:48).

6- Some prophets are mentioned without their names in the Quran as "the tribes", and they were among the Israelites of course. We infer that the term ''the tribes'' are prophets as God inspired them: "We have inspired you, as We had inspired Noah and the prophets after him. And We inspired Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and Jesus, and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and Solomon. And We gave David the Book." (4:163). And then God repeats the fact that not all prophets and messengers are mentioned in the Quranic text: "Some messengers We have already told you about, while some messengers We have not told you about. And God spoke to Moses directly." (4:164).


Secondly: the meaning of the term "the tribes":

1- Hence, we get to know the meaning of the Quranic term "the tribes": they are a group of prophets/messengers sent by God to the Israelites. We notice that the term "the tribes" comes directly after the name of Jacob, their grandfather, in the verse 4:163.

2- In the Arabic tongue, the Arabic word for the term "the tribes" mentioned in 4:163 literally means 'the branches' of date in palm-trees, as they stem from one root/origin, and this is why this term is used to denote that these tribes are descendants of Jacob/Israel. These tribes included many prophets/messengers sent by God to the Israelites, and some of these prophets/messengers are mentioned in the Quran by name and some others not, but all of them are given the name "the tribes".    

3- The term "the tribes" has yet another meaning; i.e., the twelve Israelite tribes who are the children of Israel or the Israelites who multiplied in Egypt before their exodus with Moses and their division into 12 tribes remained the same after and before Moses' lifetime, as we infer from this verse about the Israelites as Moses' people and descendants of Jacob/Israel: " We divided them into twelve tribes. And We inspired Moses, when his people asked him for something to drink: "Strike the rock with your staff." Whereupon twelve springs gushed from it. Each tribe recognized its drinking-place..." (7:160); "And recall when Moses prayed for water for his people. We said, "Strike the rock with your staff." Thereupon twelve springs gushed out from it, and each tribe recognized its drinking-place..." (2:60). This means that they were twelve tribes who were descendants of Jacob/Israel, at the time of Moses, and this is why they are called the Israelites, and the heads of these tribes came to settle in Egypt, along with their father Jacob/Israel, upon being invited by Joseph, as per the Quranic Chapter 12, and their number increased as they multiplied unto the era of Moses who led them out of Egypt and God made Moses miraculously get twelve sources of water for them during this exodus so that each tribe would have its own source of water.        


Thirdly: the meaning of the term "Israel":

1- The term Israel is mentioned only twice in the Quran to denote the prophet named Jacob. The Quran descended and was revealed in Arabia, in the 7th century A.D., within an environment that combined the Ishmaelites (Arabs who included the Qorayish tribe in Mecca) and some of the People of the Book (that included some Jews, Christians, Israelite persons, and guided monotheists).    

2- In contrast to expectations and deep-seated notions of some people, at the time when the Quran was revealed, the gentile Arabs in Arabia knew about the major prophets/messengers of the Israelites; i.e., the religion of Abraham persisted and existed at the time in Arabia despite distortions occurring to it. The Quranic proof of this is that the gentile Arabs of Arabia used to debate with Muhammad by what they know about stories of ancient prophets/messengers; see the verses 43:57-65. The People of the Book in Arabia, in particular, were more knowledgeable than gentile Arabs about these stories of prophets/messengers, and the Quran makes some learned persons among the People of the Book as witnesses/judges; God has said to Muhammad the following: "If you are in doubt about what We revealed to you, ask those who read the Scripture before you. The truth has come to you from your Lord, so do not be of those who doubt." (10:94). God mentions in the Quran that one of the miraculous signs of the Quran is that knowledgeable persons among the People of the Book knew about it: "Is it not a sign for them that the scholars of the Children of Israel recognized it?" (26:197), and among these People of the Book knew the Book (i.e., the Quran) as much as they recognize their offspring, and yet, they deny it and conceal the truth knowingly because they were bent on disbelieving in the Quranic message: "Those to whom We have given the Book recognize it as they recognize their own children. But some of them conceal the truth while they know." (2:146); "Those to whom We have given the Book recognize it as they recognize their own children; but those who have lost their souls do not believe." (6:20).          

3- Within this environment of knowledge and culture in Arabia, the real, undistorted, and unadulterated Torah and Gospel existed, as we infer from the Quran. Proof: when those believers in Torah and these believers in the Gospel discarded these Scriptures and sought Muhammad to be their judge or arbiter, God has told Muhammad the following: "But why do they come to you for judgment, when they have the Torah, in which is God's Law?..." (5:43). God has defied the People of the Book in Arabia by telling Muhammad to tell them the following about the Torah they had in their possession: "...Say, "Bring the Torah, and read it, if you are truthful."" (3:93). God has commanded those in possession of the Gospel to apply it: "So let the people of the Gospel rule according to what God revealed in it..." (5:47). This means that the authentic Gospel and Torah existed in Arabia at the time.    

4- As for the verse 3:93, we notice that Jacob is named Israel: "All food was permissible to the Children of Israel, except what Israel forbade for itself before the Torah was revealed. Say, "Bring the Torah, and read it, if you are truthful." Whoever forges lies about God after that-these are the unjust. Say, "God has spoken the truth, so follow the religion of Abraham the monotheist; he was not a polytheist."" (3:93-95). This means that before the Torah was revealed and it included prohibited and permissible food items, all food items were permissible for the Israelites except the items Jacob/Israel prohibited for himself as per his will, not by the command of God.

5- This does NOT imply that Jacob/Israel was in the wrong when he did so; unlike the reproach addressed by God to Muhammad when he did the same; see 66:1. The grounds upon which we infer that Jacob/Israel was not in the wrong are as follows.

5/1: God does not mention in 3:93 that Jacob/Israel made a mistake and He never rebukes him, though other Quranic verses contain rebuke addressed by God to other prophets/messengers. Thus, if Jacob/Israel was wrong, God would have said so in the Quran. by the way, God mentions some faults and mistakes of prophets/messengers and the debates with polytheists and the People of the Book around topics of food items; see 6:118-121 and 6:145-155.  

5/2: We understand from the context of 3:93 that Jacob/Israel forbade some food items for himself to get nearer to God through asceticism, unlike the mistake made by Muhammad who prohibited some food items only to please his wives: "O prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has permitted for you, seeking to please your wives? God is Forgiving and Merciful." (66:1).

5/3: Thus, within the 66:1, we infer that Muhammad made a mistake by disobeying a repeated legislative command, which is not to prohibited permissible food items. This legislation was NOT given to Jacob/Israel at all, otherwise, God would have rebuked him as well. This legislation is repeated in the Quranic text, and Muhammad is rebuked in 66:1 for disobeying it to please his wives; this is why God has rebuked him. 

5/4: We would like readers to ponder deeply upon the verses, revealed in Mecca, about the command not to prohibit permissible food items: "Say, "Have you considered the sustenance God has sent down for you, some of which you made unlawful, and some lawful?" Say, "Did God give you permission, or do you fabricate lies and attribute them to God?" What will they think-those who fabricate lies and attribute them to God-on the Day of Resurrection? God is bountiful towards the people, but most of them do not give thanks." (10:59-60). We find here a severe tone of warning against prohibiting permissible food items or any legal items at all, as prohibited items are few exceptions; this is repeated in these verses, revealed in Mecca: "Eat of the lawful and good things God has provided for you, and be thankful for God's blessings, if it is Him that you serve. He has forbidden you carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and anything consecrated to other than God. But if anyone is compelled by necessity, without being deliberate or malicious, then God is Forgiving and Merciful. And do not say of falsehood asserted by your tongues, "This is lawful, and this is unlawful," in order to invent lies and attribute them to God. Those who invent lies and attribute them to God will not succeed." (16:114-116). The same warning is repeated in these verses revealed in Yathreb: "O you who believe! Do not prohibit the good things God has permitted for you, and do not commit aggression. God does not love the aggressors. And eat of the lawful and good things God has provided for you; and be conscious of God, in whom you are believers." (5:87-88); this is why Muhammad is rebuked severely in 66:1. This asserts the greatness of Muhammad as a mortal human being who committed some mistakes and then was guided by the divine Quranic revelation. All prophets/messengers are the greatest human beings despite their being mortals. We conclude here that we cannot compare the case of Muhammad in 66:1 to that of Jacob/Israel in 3:93.     

6- A query is posed: why does God mention Jacob in 3:93 by the name of "Israel" and not "Jacob"? The answer: as God has defied the People of the Book in Arabia at the time using the Torah and telling them to read it, and at this point in history, Jacob was named Israel. In fact, the verse 3:93 is one of two verses that mention the name ''Israel'' to refer to Jacob. 

7- The other verse, within the Quranic Chapter 19, that mentions the name ''Israel'' to refer to Jacob is revealed in Mecca: "These are some of the prophets God has blessed, from the descendants of Adam, and from those We carried with Noah, and from the descendants of Abraham and Israel, and from those We guided and selected..." (19:58). We notice within 19:58 the following points. 

7/1: The verse 19:58 comments on Quranic stories of ancient prophets/messengers, as it talks about all prophets in human history and ascribes them to the great prophets/messengers who were patriarchs/fathers to a progeny of other prophets/messengers: Adam, Noah, Abraham, an Jacob/Israel. This means that Israel's progeny (the Israelites or the Israelite tribes) continued this lineage of so many prophets/messengers. Thus, prophets/messengers before Noah were the progeny of Adam, and those before Abraham were the progeny of Noah, because Noah was a second Adam to humanity after the deluge/flood. Of course, the prophet/messenger who was a son of Abraham and not Israel/Jacob was Ishmael, who was the paternal uncle of Jacob son of Isaac son of Abraham, and the only prophet/messenger from the progeny of Ishmael was Muhammad, who was not an Israelite, but an Arab Ishmaelite.      

7/2: Thus, the verse 19:58 combines all prophets/messengers briefly as all of them were the descendants of the great patriarchs/fathers: Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob/Israel.   

7/3: The same meaning is repeated elsewhere in the Quranic text: "We sent Noah and Abraham, and established in their line Prophethood and the Scripture. Some of them are guided, but many of them are sinners." (57:26). This verse talks about the prophets/messengers after the era of Noah, and it ascribes Abraham to Noah, and this means that Noah was the great patriarch/father to all prophets/messengers and not Adam whose most of his progeny drowned in the flood/deluge; this is why Noah was like a second Adam to humanity. This verse ascribes Abraham to Noah, and Abraham begot two prophets/messengers: Ishmael and then Isaac. Abraham lived to witness his grandson Jacob/Israel as another great prophet/messenger. Jacob/Israel had the 12 sons who begot the 12 tribes called the Israelites and this progeny had so many prophets/messengers, the last of which was Jesus. The last prophet/messenger, the seal of them all, to all humanity till the end of days in the Last Day was Muhammad, the descendant of Ishmael. Muhammad was born within the Meccan Qorayish tribe, the largest and most famous tribe whose great grandfathers were descendants of Ishmael. This is why the verse 57:26 links Noah and Abraham together as they were fathers to a lineage of prophets/messengers, but most of their progeny were sinners, with a minority of really guided believers – this applies to all human beings in all eras. We conclude here that prophets/messengers of the Israelites (who are so many prophets/messengers) had but one father/patriarch: Jacob/Israel son of Isaac son of Abraham.    


Lastly: let us briefly repeat the story detailed above:

1- At first, as per 22:26, Abraham was with his eldest son and first-born, Ishmael, building the Kaaba while imploring the Lord God to accept their deed and to provide Ishmael with good progeny of monotheists. They implored the Lord God to send a prophet to people in Arabia and in Mecca; see 2:127-130. This supplications and prayers were answered centuries later when Muhammad was sent as a prophet/messenger conveying the Quranic message of God. this last prophet was the descendant of Ishmael son of Abraham, and Ishmael (the first branch of Abraham's offspring) was the father of northern Arabs of Adnan, one of the great two factions of Arab tribes, as the second was the southern Arabs of Yemen, of Qahtan.        

2- Within the second branch of Abraham's offspring, Isaac/Israel begot Jacob who begot twelve sons that established the 12 Israelite tribes. Abraham and his wife Sarah in their old age received the glad tidings from angels that they live and see Isaac and his son Jacob. God thus wanted to reward Abraham after he passed many tests; and this is why he saw three prophets/messengers from his progeny: Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel, as we infer from this verse: "And We granted him Isaac and Jacob as a gift; and each We made righteous." (21:72). 

3- God granted twelve sons to Jacob/Israel, including Joseph who brought all this family into Egypt at one point in history: ""Take this shirt of mine, and lay it over my father's face, and he will recover his sight. And bring your whole family to me."" (12:93); "Then, when they entered into the presence of Joseph, he embraced his parents, and said, "Enter Egypt, God willing, safe and secure."" (12:99).

4- Of course, as we know, the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel multiplied in Egypt where they settled and the twelve Israelite tribes were descendants of Jacob/Israel, and they are named the Children of Israel or the Israelites as a result, as we read in the Quranic story of Moses.

5- As the story of Israelites (tribes who were descendants of Jacob/Israel) is unique in religious history of human beings, the Quran mentions many of its details, unlike the case of other prophets whose stories are briefly mentioned and those whose names are not mentioned, and those whose names and stories are not mentioned. We have no doubt that the regions like the two Americas, China, the Eskimo, and till Argentina had their own prophets/messengers whom we do not know. This is the verse that proves this view: "...There is no nation but a warner has passed through it." (35:24). The prophets/messengers known worldwide are the ones whose names are mentioned in the Quran and the Old Testament. This is part of the miracles of the Quran. We guess that other prophets/messengers of other regions were deified and turned into myths.   

6- We do not wonder at this previous point above; we are wondering that while the Quran mentions some stories of ancient prophets/messengers of ancient nations as part of the divine revelation protected and preserved by God till the end of days as no one can distort the Quranic text (unlike the true Torah and other scriptures distorted by the wicked, sinning ones), there are some fake researchers that distort meanings of Quranic verses and terminology, by making, for instance, Egypt in the Quran as if not the geographic location and the country we know so well, the Israelite tribes as if referring to other totally different people, and Israel as I someone else and not Jacob. Shame on this type of fake researchers!      

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