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Tafsir at-Tabari
  Tafsir of Surah Baqarah (2) Verse 213
Author: Ibn Jarir at-Tabari
Source: Tafsir at-Tabari
Article ID : TFS030001  [24134]  
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This may therefore remain undecided, but it should be noted that in every case the Qur'an clearly shows that those whom Allaah proclaims to have been a single umma were so designated on the basis of their belief and their religion of truth and that there was with them no unbelief and no idolatry. Allaah has said in the sura in which Jonah is mentioned: 'The people were (originally) only one umma; then they fell into disagreement. Had it not been for a word from thy Lord that preceded, a decision would already have been given between them concerning their differences' (Sura 10:19/20). Thus, Allaah has pronounced a threat against disunity and not against harmony and the existence of a single umma. If the people were in agreement in unbelief before disunity entered and if they became at variance later, then such disunity would have originated only under the assumption that some of these people turned (from unbelief) to belief. In this case, however, it would have been more appropriate to divine wisdom for a promise to be pronounced rather than a threat, since it then would have been the case that some of these people would have turned to obedience to Allaah. It is unthinkable that Allaah would pronounce a threat if such a condition for repentance and conversion existed, or that he would neglect to do so if all (people) were in agreement in unbelief and idolatry.

Indeed (at -Tabari concludes), Allaah's words then Allaah sent forth the prophets as messengers of good tidings and as warners mean that he sent messengers to those who obeyed him, bringing good tidings concerning abundant reward and precious return (to Allaah). With the expression as warners Allaah means that the prophets should warn the disobedient and the unbelievers about severe punishment, harmful revenge, and their eternal stay in the hell-fire.

And He sent down with them the Book with the truth, that He might decide between the people concerning their differences: by which Allaah means that the Book (al-kitab), that is, the Torah (at-taurat), should decide between the people concerning that about which they disagreed. Allaah has assigned the decision to the Book and has established it and not the prophets and messengers as that which decides between the people, since whenever one of the prophets or messengers had to bring down a decision, he did this on the basis of the indications which are given in the Book which is sent down by Allaah. Thus the Book was the deciding factor between the people on the basis of its indications of that which (at that time)had qualified as an indication of the right decision, since the verdict between the people was also set down from the other side (that is, from the prophets).

The discussion of the interpretation (ta'wil) of Allaah's words But those to whom it had been given disagreed concerning it, after clear signs had come to them, being insolent one to another. His words disagreed concerning it mean that they disagreed concerning the Book which Allaah had sent down, that is, the Torah. (His words) those to whom it had been given mean the Jews of the Children of lsrael.~ They are the ones who had been given the Torah and its knowledge. ... (His words) after clear signs had come to them mean: after they had received the arguments and the proofs (adilla) of Allaah indicating that the Book, concerning which they disagreed in their decisions, had come from Allaah and that it constituted the truth, concerning which they were not to disagree and which must not be disobeyed. Thus, Allaah proclaims that the Jews of the Children of Israel disobeyed the Book, the Torah, and disagreed concerning it in spite of the knowledge that it contains. Thereby they deliberately disobeyed Allaah since they violated his command and the decision of his Book.

Thus Allaah proclaims that this (disunity) occurred through mutual rebellion among themselves, when they sinned intentionally and committed disobedience by disobeying Allaah's command. ...

Allaah's words But those to whom it had been given disagreed concerning it, after clear signs had come to them, being insolent one to another mean: Those who disagreed among the Jews of the Children of Israel disagreed concerning my Book, which I sent down to them by my prophets, not because they had not known it; on the contrary, they came to disagree regarding it only after knowing it, for they disobeyed the decision of the Book, when its arguments had already been presented thoroughly. (This disunity originated) out of rebellion among themselves because some of them desired mastery over the others and regarded them with scorn. ...

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