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Quran Difficulty: Allah Tempts People To Sin Pt. 1

According to the inspired Scriptures, the true God cannot be enticed to act wickedly or corruptly, and neither does he tempt or entice anyone to sin:

When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15

Allah, on the other hand, actually entices people to commit transgressions in order to punish them for their disobedience:

Do not covet what We have granted myriads of people of the pomp and glitter of this world TO TEMPT THEM. The means your Lord has given you are better far and more enduring. S. 20:131 Ahmed Ali

Every soul will know the taste of death. WE TEMPT YOU WITH EVIL and with good as a trial; and to Us you will return. S. 21:35 Ahmed Ali

The following is an example of Allah deliberately tempting people in order to cause them to sin:

Ask them concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression. S. 7:163 Y. Ali

Here is another English version, which helps clarify the meaning of the text:

Ask them about the town which was by the sea, after they had transgressed the Sabbath; their fish would come to them openly on the day of their Sabbath, and when they were not in Sabbath, they would not come to them! It is such that We afflicted them for what they corrupted. Quran: Reformist Translation (QRT)

The one thing which the context makes clear is that this is supposed to be referring to the sin committed by a certain group of Israelites since they were the ones who were enjoined to keep the Sabbath. Beyond that fact, however, the passage fails to provide enough information to aid the readers to decipher the exact location or time when this event supposedly took place. Not only are such details vitally important in helping to make sense out of this verse, they are absolutely necessary in light of the Quran’s repeated assertion of being a comprehensive scripture which thoroughly explains all of its verses:

And (remember) the Day when We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst themselves. And We shall bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these. And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah as Muslims). S. 16:89 Hilali-Khan

A Book whereof the Verses are explained in detail; A Qur’an in Arabic for people who know. S. 41:3 Hilali-Khan

Another point that is equally clear from this text is that it was Allah who deliberately made sure that the fish would not come to the surface of the water on any day except the Sabbath. The passage is clear that the reason why Allah did this is because he wanted to tempt the Israelites to sin against him by causing them to deliberately go out fishing on the Sabbath, even though they were expressly forbidden from doing any kind of work on this specific day. As Ibn Kathir explains:

(when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath;) means, they transgressed in the Sabbath and defied Allah’s command to them to keep it sanctified…

(when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day,) visible on top of the water, according to Ad-Dahhak who reported it from Ibn `Abbas. Ibn Jarir said, “Allah’s statement…

(and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial of them,) means, this is how We tested them by making the fish swim close to the surface of the water, on the day which they were prohibited to fish. The fish would be hidden from them on the day when they were allowed to fish

(Thus We made a trial for them,) so that We test them…

(for they used to rebel against Allah’s command) by defying His obedience and rebelling against it.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold emphasis ours)

Basically, this means that Allah deliberately tempted them to sin against him, a notion captured by the following translation:

“… As such We tempted them (the people) because they had done wrong.” Hasan Al-Fatih Qaribullah

In this next example, Allah takes responsibility for tempting Israel to worship the golden calf through the agency of the Samaritan:

Said He, ‘WE HAVE TEMPTED THEY PEOPLE since thou didst leave them. The Samaritan has misled them into error.’ Then Moses returned very angry and sorrowful to his people, saying, ‘My people, did your Lord not promise a fair promise to you? Did the time of the covenant seem so long to you, or did you desire that anger should alight on you from your Lord, so that you failed in your tryst with me?’ ‘We have not failed in our tryst with thee,’ they said, ‘of our volition; but we were loaded with fardels, even the ornaments of the people, and we cast them, as the Samaritan also threw them, into the fire.’ (Then he brought out for them a Calf, a mere body THAT LOWED; and they said, ‘This is your god, and the god of Moses, whom he has forgotten.’ What? Did they not see that thing returned no speech unto them, neither had any power to hurt or profit them?… Moses said, ‘And thou, Samaritan, what was thy business?’ ‘I beheld what they beheld not,’ he said, ‘and I seized a handful of dust from the messenger’s track, and cast it into the thing. So my soul prompted me.’ S. 20:85-89, 95-96 Arberry

A couple of good questions to ask are, who or what made this lifeless calf make a lowing sound? And who was the messenger whose dust the Samaritan grabbed a handful of?

Since the Quran doesn’t tell us, we need to again go outside the Quran for the details. Note what the following Muslim authorities say about this mass confusion:

The account returns to that of al-Suddi. Then Gabriel came to take Moses to God. He approached on a horse, and al-Samiri saw him but did not know him. It is said that it was the horse of life. [Al-Samiri] said when he saw him, “Verily this is something momentous!” So he took some of the dust from the hoof of the horse. Then Moses set out, making Aaron his vice-regent over the Children of Israel, and promised to meet them in thirty nights, but God added to them ten. Aaron said to them: “O Children of Israel! Spoils are not permitted to you, and the ornaments of the Egyptians are spoils, so gather all of them together and dig a pit for them, burying all of them in it. When Moses returns, if he permits them for you, then you may take them. Otherwise, they are things you may not consume.” They assembled all the ornaments in that pit, and al-Samiri brought the handful of dust. He threw it [upon the pit] AND GOD BROUGHT FORTH FROM THE ORNAMENTS a corporeal calf of saffron color, and it gave forth a lowing sound.

The Israelites had counted the appointed time of Moses, they counted each night a day, and each day a day. When it was the twentieth day, the calf came forth. When they saw it, al-Samiri said to them: “This is your God and the God of Moses, but he has forgotten.” He said: “Moses left his God here and went looking for Him.” So they clung to the calf and worshiped it, for it could bellow and walk. Aaron said to them: “O Children of Israel! You are only being seduced with it” – meaning, you are only being tested with it, that is, the calf – “For lo! Your Lord is the Beneficent.” Aaron and those Israelites who were with him continued not to fight them, while Moses was off speaking with his God. When He spoke with him, He said: “What made you hasten from your people, O Moses!” He said: “They follow close upon my track. I hastened to You, my Lord, that You might be pleased.” He said: “Lo! We have tested your people in your absence, and al-Samiri has misled them.”

When He had related their tale to him, Moses, said, “O Lord! This al-Samiri ordered them to adopt the calf. Tell me, who breathed the soul into it?” The Lord said: “I DID.” Moses said: “THEN, MY LORD, YOU MISLED THEM.” (The History of Al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, translated by William M. Brinner [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY 1991], Volume III, pp. 72-73; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hence, this turns out to be another case where the Muslim god deliberately enticed the Israelites to sin by bringing forth a calf from the ornaments that the Israelites threw in the pit, and then made the calf low in order to tempt Israel to worship it, thereby committing the unforgiveable sin of shirk (cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116; 39:65). This is why al-Tabari quotes Moses as saying to Allah that he is the one who misled the people.

With the foregoing in perspective we can now proceed to the next part of our discussion…ople-to-sin-pt-2/.

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