Children of Israel in the Quran is a very intriguing topic that deserves close attention. As a matter of fact, one of the nations and peoples that the Quran addresses very much is a group of people who came to be known as the “Children of Israel.” Israel is the name of Prophet Jacob (یَعقوب) and his children and descendants who came to be known as the Children of Israel or the Israelites . The most prominent of the Israelites were the people of Prophet Moses who lived in Egypt as a result of the immigration that Jacob and his family had to that region after Prophet Joseph became one of the governor of Egypt. In addition, the people of Jesus were also the Children of Israel but they mostly did not believe in him. In this article on Islam4u, we will take a look at:
The Children of Israel in the Quran: Surah Baqarah
Surah Baqarah (البَقَرَة) mentions the Israelites the most among the other surahs of the Quran. In fact, the first time their name has been mentioned is in surah Baqarah in the following verse:
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ ﴿40﴾
O Children of Israel, remember My blessing which I bestowed upon you, and fulfill My covenant that I may fulfill your covenant, and be in awe of Me [alone]. 1
The following verses also address them with God telling them that to believe in what He has revealed to them. Moreover, God says that they should not be the first ones who disbelieve in it. Furthermore, verse 41 of surah Baqarah tells them that they should not sell God’s signs for a paltry gain, meaning something of little value.
God Tells the Children of Israel in the Quran not to Mix the Truth with Falsehood
Verse 42 of surah Baqarah reads:
وَلَا تَلْبِسُوا الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُوا الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿42﴾
Do not mix the truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know. [Translation by Qara’i]
Mixing the truth with falsehood is something that we have witnessed from the Children of Israel. They would do this for their selfish desires and gains. There are numerous verses in the Quran that censure the Children of Israel for some of their actions and activities. As an illustration, take the following verse:
فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَـٰذَا مِنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ لِيَشْتَرُوا بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۖ فَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ ﴿79﴾
So woe to them who write the Book with their hands and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a paltry gain. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn! 2
This verse is about some scribes among the Children of Israel who would write certain things and then would claim that they are from God, while in reality they were not from God. In other words, they wrote things that appealed to their taste in order to sell them for some money. God in this verse censures a group of people from the Children of Israel who used to do that.
Children of Israel in the Quran: Surah Baqarah Verse 122-123
In verse 122-123 of surah Baqarah, God addresses the Children of Israel directly:
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿122﴾
O Children of Israel, remember My blessing which I bestowed upon you, and that I gave you an advantage over all the nations.
وَاتَّقُوا يَوْمًا لَّا تَجْزِي نَفْسٌ عَن نَّفْسٍ شَيْئًا وَلَا يُقْبَلُ مِنْهَا عَدْلٌ وَلَا تَنفَعُهَا شَفَاعَةٌ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ ﴿123﴾
Beware of the Day when no soul will compensate for another, neither will any ransom be accepted from it, nor will any intercession benefit it, nor will they be helped. [Translation by Qara’i]
The Children of Israel in the Quran appear to be a very privileged nation. From the above verse, we understand that God blessed them with many blessings and made the superior to other nations. However, they deviated from the straight path and became corrupt. God had taken a pledge from them that they should:
- Worship no one but Allah
- Be good to their parents, relative, orphans, and the needy
- To speak kindly to people
- Maintain the prayer
- Give zakat
However, they disobeyed except a few of them. 3
God Shows Many Signs to the Children of Israel in the Quran
The Children of Israel in the Quran are a group of people who had seen many signs and miracles of God from their prophets, specifically Moses. The Quran says:
سَلْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَمْ آتَيْنَاهُم مِّنْ آيَةٍ بَيِّنَةٍ ۗ وَمَن يُبَدِّلْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّـهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ ﴿211﴾
Ask the Children of Israel how many a manifest sign We had given them. Whoever changes Allah’s blessing after it has come to him, indeed Allah is severe in retribution.
In fact, the Children of Israel had seen the staff of Moses turn into a serpent. They had seen the white hand of Moses. They had seen how the sea was split and then moved through it and once again it went together to drown Pharaoh and his men. Nevertheless, a group of them transgressed and did not obey their prophet. Therefore, God cursed them in the Quran:
فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَاقَهُمْ لَعَنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً ۖ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ ۙ وَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِّمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ ۚ وَلَا تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَىٰ خَائِنَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنْهُمْ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿13﴾
Then, because of their breaking their covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard: they pervert words from their meanings, and have forgotten a part of what they were reminded. You will not cease to learn of some of their treachery, excepting a few of them. Yet excuse them and forbear. Indeed Allah loves the virtuous. 4
Raising of the Mountain Above the Children of Israel
When Moses came with the Torah and told the Children of Israel to obey God and His commands, they did not want to obey him. Therefore, God caused part of a mountain to move above their heads, that if they did not obey Moses, the Mountain would crumble on their heads. Then, God took a covenant with them:
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَكُمْ وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَكُمُ الطُّورَ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُوا مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿63﴾
And when We took a pledge from you, and raised the Mount above you, [declaring], ‘Hold on with power to what We have given you and remember that which is in it so that you may be Godwary.’ 5
Another verse mentions the raising of the mountain above their heads:
وَإِذْ نَتَقْنَا الْجَبَلَ فَوْقَهُمْ كَأَنَّهُ ظُلَّةٌ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُ وَاقِعٌ بِهِمْ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُوا مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ ﴿171﴾
When We plucked the mountain [and held it] above them as if it were a canopy (and they thought it was about to fall on them): ‘Hold on with power to what We have given you and remember that which is in it, so that you may be Godwary.’ 6
King Saul and the Children of Israel in the Quran
There were a group of people among the Children of Israel after the death of Moses who asked their prophet to appoint a king for them. This prophet according to commentaries of the Quran was Prophet Samuel. The Israelites needed a king to govern them and help them fight the polytheists of their time headed by Goliath (جالوت). Their prophet appointed Saul (طالوت). However, Saul was not a rich man, but was very wise and well-built in terms of physique. The Israelites protested against their prophet for not choosing someone who is rich like them, but God had willed it. 7
The Sign of Saul’s Kingship for the Children of Israel in the Quran
Prophet Samuel had told the Israelites:
وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ آيَةَ مُلْكِهِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ التَّابُوتُ فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ آلُ مُوسَىٰ وَآلُ هَارُونَ تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿248﴾
Their prophet said to them, ‘Indeed the sign of his kingship shall be that the Ark will come to you, bearing tranquillity from your Lord and the relics left behind by the House of Moses and the House of Aaron, borne by the angels. There is indeed a sign in that for you, should you be faithful.’ 8
This was a miracle in that the Ark of the Covenant , which was something like a big chest, would move in midair without anyone touching it. In fact, the angels moved it who could not be seen.
The Battle Begins
When Saul and his troops set out to go to battle, they reached a stream of water. Saul said:
قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مُبْتَلِيكُم بِنَهَرٍ فَمَن شَرِبَ مِنْهُ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَمَن لَّمْ يَطْعَمْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي إِلَّا مَنِ اغْتَرَفَ غُرْفَةً بِيَدِهِ ۚ فَشَرِبُوا مِنْهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنْهُمْ ۚ
He said, ‘Allah will test you with a stream: anyone who drinks from it will not belong to me, but those who do not drink from it will belong to me, barring someone who draws a scoop with his hand.’ But they drank from it, [all] except a few of them. 9
Then he and those who passed the test who were few in number crossed the river. They said:
لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا الْيَوْمَ بِجَالُوتَ وَجُنُودِهِ
‘We have no strength today against Goliath and his troops.’ 10
However, there were a number of people who had faith in God and knew they would encounter him. They said:
كَم مِّن فِئَةٍ قَلِيلَةٍ غَلَبَتْ فِئَةً كَثِيرَةً بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
‘How many a small party has overcome a larger party by Allah’s will! And Allah is with the patient.’ 11
David, a Prophet from the Children of Israel in the Quran, Fights Goliath
In the heat of battle, a young man named David (داود), who was a prophet, killed the head of the polytheists named Goliath. Goliath was a very strong, tall, muscular, and giant man. No one was able to defeat him and he seemed invincible. However, a man from the Israelites named David killed Goliath using a rock and slingshot according to Quranic commentaries. The Quran then states:
فَهَزَمُوهُم بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُودُ جَالُوتَ وَآتَاهُ اللَّـهُ الْمُلْكَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُ مِمَّا يَشَاءُ ۗ
Thus they routed them with Allah’s will, and David killed Goliath, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom and taught him whatever He liked. 12
So after Samuel, David became the prophet and king of the Children of Israel.
The Temple as the Place of Worship of the Children of Israel in the Quran
History reports that God commanded Prophet David to build the Sacred Temple that Muslims now know as Masjid al-Aqṣā (مَسجِدُ الاقصی). However, David was living his last moments of his life and was unable to complete its construction owing to his death. Therefore, his successor Solomon, who was also his son, became the prophet after him and God commanded him to finish the construction of the Temple. That is why, this temple later became known as the Temple of Solomon. The Children of Israel including the Jews pray toward the direction of this place of worship. God had commanded the Prophet to pray toward Masjid al-Aqsa initially, but afterwards the direction changed to the Kaaba (کَعبَة).
Jesus: A Prophet to the Children of Israel in the Quran
After the arrival of many prophets from among the Children of Israel such as Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and others, the last prophet of the Children of Israel who God sent to them was Jesus the Messiah, son of Mary. Jesus came with many proofs and miracles. The Quran quotes him as saying:
أَنِّي أَخْلُقُ لَكُم مِّنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَأُبْرِئُ الْأَكْمَهَ وَالْأَبْرَصَ وَأُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا تَأْكُلُونَ وَمَا تَدَّخِرُونَ فِي بُيُوتِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿49﴾
“I have certainly brought you a sign from your Lord: I will create for you the form of a bird out of clay, then I will breathe into it, and it will become a bird by Allah’s leave. I heal the blind and the leper and I revive the dead by Allah’s leave. I will tell you what you have eaten and what you have stored in your houses. There is indeed a sign in that for you, should you be faithful. 13
Jesus Confirms the Torah for the Children of Israel in the Quran
God quotes in the Quran Jesus as saying:
وَمُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَلِأُحِلَّ لَكُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي حُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَجِئْتُكُم بِآيَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ ﴿50﴾
And [I come] to confirm [the truth of] that which is before me of the Torah, and to make lawful for you some of the things that were forbidden you. I have brought you a sign from your Lord; so be wary of Allah and obey me. 14
Jesus was sent to the Children of Israel meaning the Jews. He was also considered to be Jewish by them because he believed in the religion of Moses. However, we Muslims believe that prophets such as Moses and Jesus were the followers of the religion of Prophet Ibrahim. Muslims do not consider any of the prophets as being Jews or Christians, but rather Muslims in that they submitted themselves fully to God. Jesus came to guide the Children of Israel but they did not accept him. They planned to crucify him but failed to do so according to Muslims. Instead, Judas Iscariot was made by God to resemble Jesus and was crucified in his stead.
Killing a Soul and Saving a Soul for the Children of Israel in the Quran
After the Quran tells the story of how Cain killed Abel and did not know what to do with his brother’s dead body, and how God sent a crow to show him how to bury his corpse. Then the Quran says the following to the Children of Israel:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُم بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْأَرْضِ لَمُسْرِفُونَ ﴿32﴾
That is why We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul, without [its being guilty of] manslaughter or corruption on the earth, is as though he had killed all mankind, and whoever saves a life is as though he had saved all mankind. Our apostles certainly brought them manifest signs, yet even after that, many of them commit excesses on the earth. 15
However, the Children of Israel in the Quran used to kill their prophets that is why God censures them:
فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَاقَهُمْ وَكُفْرِهِم بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ وَقَتْلِهِمُ الْأَنبِيَاءَ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ وَقَوْلِهِمْ قُلُوبُنَا غُلْفٌ ۚ بَلْ طَبَعَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهَا بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ﴿155﴾
Then because of their breaking their covenant, their defiance of Allah’s signs, their killing of the prophets unjustly and for their saying, ‘Our hearts are uncircumcised’… Indeed, Allah has set a seal on them for their unfaith, so they do not have faith except a few. 16
The Children of Israel in the Quran are depicted as a group of people whom God had favored at first and made them superior to other nations. They were the descendants of Prophet Jacob whose other name was Israel, and mostly they are now known as the Jews. In other words, the Children of Israel are the people of Moses and some of them became followers of Jesus such as the twelve disciples of Jesus. All in all, the Children of Israel defied God’s commands except for some of them. Moreover, most of them did not accept the religion of Islam owing to their bias. As a final word, the Quran has many verses about the Children of Israel, which gives them an ultimatum to accept the true faith of Islam.
- Quran 2:40 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:79 (Qara’i).
- Cf. Quran 2:83.
- Quran 5:13 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:63 (Qara’i).
- Quran 7:171 (Qara’i).
- Cf. Quran 2:246-247.
- Quran 2:248 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:249 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:251 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:49 (Qara’i).
- Quran 3:50 (Qara’i).
- Quran 5:32 (Qara’i).
- Quran 4:155 (Qara’i).