The Jews Say the Christians Have Nothing to Stand on …: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following in his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah:

وقوله تعالى : ( وقالت اليهود ليست النصارى على شيء وقالت النصارى ليست اليهود على شيء وهم يتلون الكتاب ) يبين به تعالى تناقضهم وتباغضهم وتعاديهم وتعاندهم . كما قال محمد بن إسحاق : حدثني محمد بن أبي محمد ، عن عكرمة أو سعيد بن جبير ، عن ابن عباس ، قال : لما قدم أهل نجران من النصارى على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، أتتهم أحبار يهود ، فتنازعوا عند رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فقال رافع بن حريملة ما أنتم على شيء ، وكفر بعيسى وبالإنجيل . وقال رجل من أهل نجران من النصارى لليهود : ما أنتم على شيء . وجحد نبوة موسى وكفر بالتوراة . فأنزل الله في ذلك من قولهما ( وقالت اليهود ليست النصارى على شيء وقالت النصارى ليست اليهود على شيء وهم يتلون الكتاب ) قال : إن كلا يتلو في كتابه تصديق من كفر به ، أي : يكفر اليهود بعيسى وعندهم التوراة ، فيها ما أخذ الله عليهم على لسان موسى بالتصديق بعيسى ، وفي الإنجيل ما جاء به عيسى بتصديق موسى ، وما جاء من التوراة من عند الله ، وكل يكفر بما في يد صاحبه . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ ۚ فَاللَّـهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

The Jews say “The Christians have nothing to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on,” although they both recite the Scripture. Likewise is what those who do not know said. So Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ. [2:113]

Allah is clearly putting their contradictions, their mutual enmity and hatred, and their opposition to one another on display. This is just as Muhammad ibn Ishaaq said: that Muhammad ibn Abi Muhammad told me on the authority of ‘Ikrimah or Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, that ibn ‘Abbas said:

When the Christians of Najran came to see Allah’s Messenger, the Jewish Rabbis [of al-Madinah] came to them and the two groups argued in front of Allah’s Messenger. Raafi’ ibn Huraymilah said, “You all have nothing to stand on!” and he expressed his disbelief in ‘Eesaa and the Injeel. A man from the Christians of Najran said to the Jews, “You all have nothing to stand on!” and rejected the Prophethood of Moosaa and expressed his disbelief in the Tawrah. So then Allah revealed the following about these statements of theirs:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ

The Jews say “The Christians have nothing to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on,” although they both recite the Scripture.

Ibn ‘Abbaas went on to say:

Both groups recite affirmations of what they just disavowed in Allah’s scripture.

i.e. the Jews disbelieve in ‘Eesaa despite having the Tawrah in which one finds that Allah took an oath from them to believe in ‘Eesaa upon the tongue of Moosaa. And in the Injeel one finds that ‘Eesaa believed in Moosaa and those parts of the Tawrah which had come from Allah. So each group disbelieved in what they had right in front of them.

وقال مجاهد في تفسير هذه الآية : قد كانت أوائل اليهود والنصارى على شيء . ـ

In his explanation of this ayah Mujahid said, “The early Jews and the early Christians were on a legitimate foundation.”

وقال قتادة : ( وقالت اليهود ليست النصارى على شيء ) قال : بلى ، قد كانت أوائل النصارى على شيء ، ولكنهم ابتدعوا وتفرقوا . ( وقالت النصارى ليست اليهود على شيء ) قال : بلى قد كانت أوائل اليهود على شيء ، ولكنهم ابتدعوا وتفرقوا . ـ

Qatadah said:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ

The Jews say “The Christians have nothing to stand on” …

The early Christians actually were on a legitimate foundation, but then they began to innovate and split.

وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ

… and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on”

The early Jews actually were on a legitimate foundation, but then they began to innovate and split.

وعنه رواية أخرى كقول أبي العالية ، والربيع بن أنس في تفسير هذه الآية : ( وقالت اليهود ليست النصارى على شيء وقالت النصارى ليست اليهود على شيء ) هؤلاء أهل الكتاب الذين كانوا على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم . ـ

ِAnd there is also another narration from Qatadah which is like the statement of Abu’l-‘Aliyah and al-Rabee’a ibn Anas regarding the explanation of this ayah:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَىٰ لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَىٰ شَيْءٍ

The Jews say “The Christians have nothing to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on.”

“These are the Ahl al-Kitaab who were alive during the era of Allah’s Messenger.”

وهذا القول يقتضي أن كلا من الطائفتين صدقت فيما رمت به الطائفة الأخرى . ولكن ظاهر سياق الآية يقتضي ذمهم فيما قالوه ، مع علمهم بخلاف ذلك ; ولهذا قال تعالى : ( وهم يتلون الكتاب ) أي : وهم يعلمون شريعة التوراة والإنجيل ، كل منهما قد كانت مشروعة في وقت ، ولكن تجاحدوا فيما بينهم عنادا وكفرا ومقابلة للفاسد بالفاسد ، كما تقدم عن ابن عباس ، ومجاهد ، وقتادة في الرواية الأولى عنه في تفسيرها ، والله أعلم . ـ

This explanation would entail that each of these groups actually believed what they were accusing the other of to be accurate. However, what is apparent from the surrounding context of this ayah is that it is concerned with criticizing these parties for what they said while they both knew that it what not the truth. That is why Allah said:

وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ

… although they both recite the Scripture.

i.e., they both know the legislation of the Tawrah and the Injeel and that each one was valid in its own era, however they resorted to disputing with one another out of obstinacy and disbelief and by using falsehood to fight falsehood. This is as was explained by ibn ‘Abbaas, Mujahid and Qatadah in the first narration from him. And Allah knows best.

وقوله تعالى : ( كذلك قال الذين لا يعلمون مثل قولهم ) يبين بهذا جهل اليهود والنصارى فيما تقابلوا من القول ، وهذا من باب الإيماء والإشارة . وقد اختلف فيما عنى بقوله تعالى : ( الذين لا يعلمون ) ـ

And Allah’s statement:

كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ

Likewise is what those who do not know said.

Allah is clearly showing the ignorance of the Jews and the Christians in how they respond to these statements. This part of the ayah involves some allusion and indirect reference, so there has been some difference of opinion as to who is meant by Allah’s statement

الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

those who do not know

فقال الربيع بن أنس وقتادة : ( كذلك قال الذين لا يعلمون ) قالا وقالت النصارى مثل قول اليهود وقيلهم . وقال ابن جريج : قلت لعطاء : من هؤلاء الذين لا يعلمون ؟ قال : أمم كانت قبل اليهود والنصارى وقبل التوراة والإنجيل . وقال السدي : ( كذلك قال الذين لا يعلمون ) فهم : العرب ، قالوا : ليس محمد على شيء . ـ

al-Rabee’a ibn Anas and Qatadah said:

كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Likewise is what those who do not know said …

What the Christians said was just like what the Jews had said to them.

ibn Jurayj said: I asked ‘Ataa’, “Who are these people who do not know?” He replied, “They are the nations that lived before the Jews and the Christians, before the Tawrah and the Injeel.”

al-Suddi said:

كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Likewise is what those who do not know said …

they are the [disbelieving] Arabs who said, “Muhammad does not have anything to stand on.”

واختار أبو جعفر بن جرير أنها عامة تصلح للجميع ، وليس ثم دليل قاطع يعين واحدا من هذه الأقوال ، فالحمل على الجميع أولى ، والله أعلم . ـ

Abu Ja’far ibn Jarir al-Tabari held this part of the ayah to accommodate all of those meanings as there is not any definitive evidence to limit the meaning to any one of these explanations, so therefore understanding it to encompass all of these meanings is the most appropriate course of action. And Allah knows best.

وقوله تعالى : ( فالله يحكم بينهم يوم القيامة فيما كانوا فيه يختلفون ) أي : أنه تعالى يجمع بينهم يوم المعاد ، ويفصل بينهم بقضائه العدل الذي لا يجور فيه ولا يظلم مثقال ذرة . وهذا كقوله تعالى في سورة الحج : ( إن الذين آمنوا والذين هادوا والصابئين والنصارى والمجوس والذين أشركوا إن الله يفصل بينهم يوم القيامة إن الله على كل شيء شهيد ) [ الحج : 17 ] ، وكما قال تعالى : ( قل يجمع بيننا ربنا ثم يفتح بيننا بالحق وهو الفتاح العليم ) [ سبأ : 26 ] . ـ

Allah’s statement:

فَاللَّـهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

So Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ.

meaning that Allah will gather them all together on the Day of Return and judge between them all with His just verdict, a verdict completely free of any and all wrongdoing or oppression. This is similar to Allah’s statement in surah al-Hajj:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالصَّابِئِينَ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ وَالْمَجُوسَ وَالَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَفْصِلُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

Indeed, those who have believed and those who were Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians and the Magians and those who associated with Allah – Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, over all things, Witness. [22:17]

as well as His statement:

قُلْ يَجْمَعُ بَيْنَنَا رَبُّنَا ثُمَّ يَفْتَحُ بَيْنَنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَهُوَ الْفَتَّاحُ الْعَلِيمُ

Say, “Our Lord will bring us together; then He will judge between us in truth. And He is the Knowing Judge.” [34:26]

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 1/386]

See also: The Prophet clarified much of what the Ahl al-Kitaab used to conceal: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: How and Why the Sahabah used Israa’eeliyyaat Narrations: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Meanings of the words Yahood, Nasaara and Saabi’oon: Tafsir al-Baghawi

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