When Allah addresses the People of the Book (Ahl-ul Kitab) in the Quran, it also includes Muslims. Why? Because Quran is also a Kitab revealed by Allah, and we are its people.
As such, the behaviors and attitudes of the Jews and Christians provide a case study for those Muslims who have inherited this religion as a matter of course. That’s why Allah talks so much about the Jews and Christians, especially the Bani Israel, in the Quran and narrates their stories and points out their mistakes.
If you study the history of Bani Israel, you’ll find many parallels with Muslims, especially those Muslims who were born to the faith.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would follow them in this also.
The Companions said:
“Allah’s Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words) ‘those before you’?”
Who else? (Muslim 2669 a)
When the Prophet and the Muhajirun arrived in Madinah for the first time:
They had expected a better treatment from the People of the Book than they had received from the idol-worshipers of Makkah. They had thought that, as the People of the Book were already familiar with the concept of monotheism, revelation and prophets, it would be easier for them to see the truth of Islam and accept it readily.
How the People of the Book actually reacted came as a shock.
To them, religion was a cultural identity more than anything. They were more in love with their race and ancestry than with their Book.
The fact that they had descended from prophets was something they boasted about. In reality, this very fact went against them, because they held on to the lineage whilst forgetting the legacy.
They were proud of having been the Chosen Nation and looked down on all other nations, whom they called “gentiles”, especially the Arabs. But they had forgotten what they were chosen for.
They were proud to be scholars, the bearers of religious knowledge. But they forgot to put their knowledge in use. The knowledge was all in their brains but didn’t reach their hearts. In fact, Allah called them donkeys bearing papers:
The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books]. Wretched is the example of the people who deny the signs of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people. (62:5)
They rejected the Prophet Muhammad because he was not a Jew but an Arab, although they knew very well that he was a real prophet. Also, over the centuries they had warped the laws of Allah to fit their own selfish desires, such as allowing taking usury from non-Jews. They didn’t want an Arab prophet to correct their ways.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) formed a treaty with the Jews of Madinah. But despite that, the Jews remained inwardly hostile. The Muslims tolerated their covert insults and plots to cause strife in the Muslim community, until one day they went too far by publicly insulting a Muslim woman’s dignity.
Born Muslims of Today
If you are a born Muslim like me, let’s ask ourselves these questions to measure how far we’ve entered into the lizard’s hole:
Do I feel like, because I’m chosen by Allah to be a Muslim, I’ll enter Paradise no matter what?
Or do I feel superior to other people because I’m chosen? Because I was given the Quran?
Do I look down on Muslims of other races – British Muslims, Nigerian Muslims, Pakistani Muslims? Muslims who know less than me?
Is my religion my way of life? Or is my religion a part of my cultural identity?
Do I obey the laws of Allah as set in the Quran and Sunnah? Or do I follow traditions passed onto me from my elders?
Do I feel angry when a new-Muslim tries to teach me something about Islam?
To New Muslims
The new Muslims of Madinah soon realized that the Jews were not similar to them despite having been given revelation before. The new Muslims had come from very different backgrounds.
Think of the Aws and Khazraj who had been battling with each other prior to Islam. The Quraysh were again different from the people of Aws and Khazraj, and there were even foreigners like Bilal and Salman al-Farisi who had nothing in common with the Arabs.
What bonded these vastly different people together was the very thing the Jews lacked – consciousness (taqwa) of Allah. They didn’t love Allah. They loved their status and their pride far better.
It was arrogance that caused them to behave so horribly with the new believers. And it was arrogance that ultimately caused their ruin in this world and the Hereafter.
New Muslims shouldn’t be surprised by a lack of welcome from born Muslims. Those whose ancestors have been Muslims are sometimes deluded by Satan to think that somehow they’re superior to reverts. But it’s not logical. Think of someone who strove hard to acquire a treasure, versus someone who received the treasure by mail. Who’s likely to appreciate and cherish it more?
Don’t let Muslims shape your image of Islam. Those who look down on you are spiritually ill. They’ve fallen into Satan’s age-old trap. Don’t let Satan trap you too. Be patient and wait for better people to come into your life.