By Osman Umarji
Surat-ul-Baqara is the longest surah of the Quran, spanning about two and a half juz. The name of the Surah is in reference to incidents that occurred with Bani Israil, those whom Musa was sent to.
This surah covers many things, amongst them are multiple events concerning the transgression, disobedience, and deviations of Bani Israil. The reader may pull hundreds of lessons from these stories, as countless scholars have written and spoken about. I would like to highlight one important method of how we can approach the stories of the Quran. Instead of reading the stories as simply stories of history, we should attempt to put the stories in a perspective that would facilitate practical application in our lives. Therefore, in regards to the multiple stories of Bani Israil, we should ask ourselves one question: Are we committing any of the same mistakes with respect to our own Islamic lives?
Allah begins the discussion about Bani Israil by mentioning all the favors He bestowed upon them, but how they did not thank Allah for them.
Allah chastised them for commanding people to be righteous while neglecting their own selves with respect to righteousness and honesty, and this should cause the believer to question himself. Do we ever command justice, righteousness, fairness, and mercy from others and fail to deliver on these virtues ourselves?
Then when Allah further scolds them for believing in a portion of the scripture and disbelieving in other portions, we should reflect upon our own commitment to the Quran. Do we obey some portions and purposely overlook and ignore others? Do we truly believe and sincerely apply all that we can? This is the type of introspection that the Quran is demanding from us so that we don’t follow in the footsteps of other nations who transgressed the commands of their Prophets and scriptures.
Lastly, Allah mentions how the hearts of Bani Israil hardened to the level of stones and even harder. What is the state of our hearts? Are they soft or hard? One way to check is how to we react to our own sins? Do we feel shame and guilt and turn back to Allah, seeking his forgiveness and feeling remorse and pain for disobeying the Most Merciful and Most Kind? Or have our hearts hardened to a point where sins are normal and we have become so desensitized to our own shortcomings and actions? Furthermore, check your heart for how it feels the pain and suffering of Muslims all over the world. If it is unmoved and heedless of their pain, then know it is indeed hardening.
These are just a few thoughts that hit me during reading the first portion of this beautiful surah. May Allah allow us all to benefit from the stories of the Quran.