English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 5: Al-Maidah — Food (Revealed at Madinah: 16 sections, 120 verses)

Section 11 (Verses 5:78–5:86): Christian Nearness to Islam

Translation:

5:78 Those who disbelieved from among the Children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus, son of Mary. This was because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits.1
5:79 They did not forbid one another the hateful things they did. Evil indeed was what they did.
5:80 You see many of them befriending those who disbelieve. Certainly evil is what their souls send ahead for them, so that Allah is displeased with them, and in punishment will they abide.
5:81 And if they believed in Allah and the Prophet2 and what is revealed to him, they would not take them for friends, but most of them are transgressors.
5:82 You will certainly find the most violent of people in enmity against the believers to be the Jews and the idolaters; and you will find the nearest in friendship to the believers to be those who say, We are Christians. That is because there are priests and monks among them and because they are not proud.3
Part 75:83 And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger you see their eyes overflow with tears because of the truth they recognize. They say: Our Lord, we believe, so write us down with the witnesses.4
5:84 And what (reason) have we that we should not believe in Allah and in the Truth that has come to us, while we earnestly desire that our Lord should make us enter with the righteous people?
5:85 So Allah rewarded them for what they said, with Gardens in which rivers flow, to abide in them. And that is the reward of the doers of good.
5:86 And those who disbelieve and reject Our messages, such are the companions of the flaming fire.

Commentary:

  1. After Moses, David and Jesus, who represent the highest achievement of Israelite prophethood in temporal and spiritual glory, spoke of the advent of the Holy Prophet in unmistakable terms. The curse is used here in its original sense of being removed further off from Divine mercy. Both prophets had warned the Jews that their transgressions called for Divine punishment which should soon overtake them if they did not mend their ways. The time of both was followed by a great affliction overtaking the Jews, in the respective depredations of the Babylonian kings and the destruction wrought by Titus.
  2. By al-Nabī or the Prophet in the Quran is always meant the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and he is often spoken of and addressed as al-Nabī or al-Rasūl, the Prophet or the Messenger. In fact, he is referred to as the Prophet or that Prophet in earlier prophecy as well (John 1:21,25). The Jews professed belief in the Unity of God, yet they made a common cause with the idolatrous Quraish to uproot Islam which was a religion of pure monotheism.
  3. The Christians were nearer to Islam than the Jews, not only because the Muslims accepted Jesus as a prophet of God, but because there were still among them many people who feared and worshipped God. In the Holy Prophet’s own time, the Negus, Christian Emperor of Abyssinia, accepted Islam; Heraclius, the Byzantine ruler, was favourably disposed towards it; and even the Christian deputation of Najran towards the end of the Prophet’s life was impressed with the Prophet’s arguments. But the words here are more of a prophetical nature. In the early history of Islam, Christians in Egypt, North Africa, Syria, Persia and other countries, accepted Islam in very large numbers and at present, too, when Islam is being presented to the West, the Christians are receiving the message with an open heart.
  4. This refers to the Christians who believed. An important such person­age was the Negus of Abyssinia, in whose dominions the Muslims found shelter in the early days of the Prophet’s mission, when compelled to flee from Makkah on account of the severe persecutions of the Quraish. When the portion of the chapter of the Quran entitled ‘Mary’ dealing with Jesus Christ was read out to him, the words so impressed him that he wept and said that Jesus was not one whit more than the Quran described him to be. That he subsequently became a true convert to Islam is clearly shown by a funeral service having been held for him by the Holy Prophet when news of his death reached Madinah.

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