Surah al-A`raf (The Elevated Places) 7 : 138

وَجَٰوَزْنَا بِبَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ ٱلْبَحْرَ فَأَتَوْا۟ عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَىٰٓ أَصْنَامٍ لَّهُمْ ۚ قَالُوا۟ يَٰمُوسَى ٱجْعَل لَّنَآ إِلَٰهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ ءَالِهَةٌ ۚ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And We took the Children of Israel across the sea; then they came upon a people intent in devotion to [some] idols of theirs. They [the Children of Israel] said, "O Moses, make for us a god just as they have gods." He said, "Indeed, you are a people behaving ignorantly.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This picture of the Children of Israel after having crossed the sea is the seventh scene in this story. We clearly see here the deviant, incorrigible nature of those people encumbered by their long history. It has not been long since they were subjected to cruel oppression under the paganism of Pharaoh and his people. A short while earlier, they were saved from that oppression at the hands of their Prophet and leader, Moses, in the name of God, the only Lord in the universe, who destroyed their enemy and parted the sea for them to cross. Yet hardly had they crossed the sea than they came upon pagan people, dedicated to the worship of idols. At that moment, they asked Moses, the Prophet sent by the Lord of the universe preaching self-surrender to the One God, to set up for them a deity to worship. “We led the Children of Israel across the sea; and thereupon they came upon people who were dedicated to the worship of some idols of theirs. Said [the Children of Israel]: ‘Moses, set up a god for us like the gods they have.’” (Verse 138)
 
Diseases of the soul are contagious just like diseases of the body, yet the infection cannot be passed on except to souls that are ready to receive it. As accurately and faithfully portrayed in the Qur’ān, the nature of the Children of Israel is weak, totally lacking in resolve. It hardly begins to follow proper guidance when it relapses into deviation. Scarcely does it begin to elevate itself before it tumbles again. When it has gone only a short distance along the straight path, it suffers a sudden setback. All this is accompanied by a rigid and hardened attitude that will not abide by the dictates of the truth. Here we see their nature brought out in full relief. Hardly had they come across people engaged in worshipping deities than they began to overlook what they had been taught over a period extending more than twenty years since Moses first called on them to believe in God’s oneness. Some reports mention that Moses spent twenty-three years in Egypt from the day when he first put his message to Pharaoh and his people to the day when he crossed the sea with the Children of Israel. They even forgot the miracle that had only a short while ago saved them from Pharaoh and drowned him and his army. Those who were with Pharaoh subjugated and oppressed the Children of Israel in the name of idolatry. Pharaoh’s aides tried to provoke him so that he would punish Moses and his followers. They said to him: “Will you allow Moses and his people to spread corruption in the land and to forsake you and your gods?” (Verse 127) Yet those very Children of Israel forgot all this and made their singular request of Moses, the messenger sent by the Lord of the universe, to set up a god for them! Had they themselves made such gods, the matter would appear less strange than asking Moses to provide them with one. But such is the nature of the Israelites.
 
Motivated by his faith in God, the Lord of the universe, Moses was very angry. He could not understand how his people could relapse into paganism. He said to them: “You are indeed an ignorant people.” (Verse 138) He did not specify what they were ignorant of, because he wanted this description to apply in its fullest sense. In the Arabic original, the term “ignorant” is used in two senses, contrasting with knowledge and wisdom. Such a request betrays a total lack of both. This tells us that deviation from the faith based on God’s oneness into paganism can only happen to those who are both ignorant and stupid. Knowledge and wisdom will inevitably lead to believing in God’s oneness. No true knowledge or true wisdom can lead anywhere else. When science and reason look at this universe and the laws that operate in it they understand that all these laws point to the single Creator who has set everything in motion. These laws do not reflect only God’s careful planning, but also the unity, the complementarity and coherence between these laws and the effects of their operation. All this would readily appear to anyone who reflects properly on the universe and what takes place in it. No one will turn a blind eye to all that except ignorant and stupid people, although they may claim to have knowledge, as they often do.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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A study of its contents clearly shows that the period of its revelation is about the same as that of Surah 6: al-An’am (The Grazing Livestock), i.e. the last year of the Prophet's life at Makkah, but it cannot be asserted with certainty which of these two were sent down earlier. The manner of its admonition clearly indicates that it belongs to the same period. [Ref: Mawdudi]

It is considered the longest surah revealed during the Makkan period. Some consider this surah to have been revealed after Surah 38: Sad. [Ref: Tafsir al-Maudheei, Dr. Mustafah Muslim, vol. 3, p. 2]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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