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Answering Islamophobic Claims

Why does the Quran refer to some Jews as apes and pigs?

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The Quran is often labeled as an anti-Semitic book because it has certain passages that talk about turning Jews into apes and pigs. It must be said, that while it is true that some such verses do exist in the Quran, the Quran does not claim that all Jews are or were turned into apes and pigs.

So let us quote the passages in their proper context to gain an understanding:

And remember We took your covenant and We raised above you (The towering height) of Mount (Sinai) : (Saying): "Hold firmly to what We have given you and bring (ever) to remembrance what is therein: Perchance ye may fear Allah."But ye turned back thereafter: Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah to you, ye had surely been among the lost.And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected."So We made it an example to their own time and to their posterity, and a lesson to those who fear Allah. (2:63-66)

As we read, these verses were referring to a specific group of Jews who had sinned during the time of Moses.

Note that also verse 66 says that they were made to be an example. So this happened to a specific group of Jews, who had disobeyed God, so God gave them this harsh punishment, and made this punishment as an example to the severity of their disobedience, specifically for going against the Sabbath.

Let us post the Ibn Kathir’s tafsir (interpretation-explanation) of the verse:

The Jews breach the Sanctity of the Sabbath

‫(And indeed you knew). This Ayah means, O Jews! Remember that Allah sent His torment on the village that disobeyed Him and broke their pledge and their covenant to observe the sanctity of the Sabbath. They began using deceitful means to avoid honoring the Sabbath by placing nets, ropes and artificial pools of water for the purpose of fishing before the Sabbath. When the fish came in abundance on Saturday as usual, they were caught in the ropes and nets for the rest of Saturday. During the night, the Jews collected the fish after the Sabbath ended. When they did that, Allah changed them from humans into monkeys, the animals having the form closest to humans. Their evil deeds and deceit appeared lawful on the surface, but they were in reality wicked. This is why their punishment was compatible with their crime. This story is explained in detail in Surat Al-A`raf, where Allah said (7:163),‬


‫(And ask them (O Muhammad ) about the town that was by the sea; when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday): when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day, and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial of them, for they used to rebel (disobey Allah).)(7:163)‬

‫In his Tafsir, Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said,‬

‫ (We said to them: "Be you monkeys, despised and rejected'') means, "Allah changed their bodies into those of monkeys and swines. The young people turned into monkeys while the old people turned into swine.'' Shayban An-Nahwi reported that Qatadah commented on,‬


‫(We said to them: "Be you monkeys, despised and rejected''), "These people were turned into howling monkeys with tails, after being men and women‬

The Monkeys and Swine that exist now are not the Descendants of Those that were transformed

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Those who violated the sanctity of the Sabbath were turned into monkeys, then they perished without offspring.'' Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah turned them into monkeys because of their sins. They only lived on the earth for three days, for no transformed person ever lives more than three days. They did not eat, drink or have offspring. Allah transformed their shapes into monkeys, and He does what He wills, with whom He wills and He changes the shape of whomever He wills. On the other hand, Allah created the monkeys, swines and the rest of the creation in the six days (of creation) that He mentioned in His Book.''‬

Ibn Kathir in his tafsir also mentions as we have been saying, that it was only the sinners who transgressed against the Sabbath were the ones to be punished, not all the Jews:

Those Who breached the Sabbath were turned into Monkeys, but Those Who prohibited Their Actions were saved

Allah said that the people of this village were divided into three groups, a group that committed the prohibition, catching fish on the Sabbath, as we described in the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah. Another group prohibited them from transgression and avoided them. A third group neither prohibited them, nor participated in their action. The third group said to the preachers,

‫ ("Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment''). They said, `why do you forbid these people from evil, when you know that they are destroyed and have earned Allah's punishment' Therefore, they said, there is no benefit in forbidding them. The preachers replied,‬

‫ ("In order to be free from guilt before your Lord (Allah),'') `for we were commanded to enjoin righteousness and forbid evil,' r‬

‫ ("and perhaps they may fear Allah'') for on account of our advice, they might stop this evil and repent to Allah. Certainly, if they repent to Allah, Allah will accept their repentance and grant them His mercy.' Allah said,‬

‫ (So when they forgot the reminder that had been given to them, ) when the evil doers refused the advice,‬

‫ (We rescued those who forbade evil, but We seized who did wrong,) who committed the transgression,‬

‫ (with a severe torment). Allah stated that those who enjoined good were saved, while those who committed the transgression were destroyed, but He did not mention the end of those who were passive (the third group), for the compensation is comparable to the deed. This type did not do what would warrant praise, nor commit wrong so that they are admonished. `Ikrimah said, "Ibn `Abbas said about the Ayah: `I do not know whether or not the people were saved who said;‬

‫ ("Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy...'') So I continued discussing it with him until I convinced him that they were. Then he gave me [the gift of] a garment.'' Allah said,‬

‫ (and We seized those who did wrong with a Ba'is torment) indicating that those who remained were saved. As for `Ba'is', it means `severe', according to Mujahid, or `painful', according to Qatadah. These meanings are synonymous, and Allah knows best. Allah said next,‬

‫ (despised), humiliated, disgraced and rejected.‬

So in conclusion, when the Quran talks about turning some Jews into apes and pigs, it is specifically referring to Jews who went against the Sabbath. If one were to even read the Bible, they would see that in the Bible transgressing the Sabbath is a major sin, a sin to be punished by death according to the Bible, will people argue that that is anti-Semitic? 

 

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