Thursday, June 01, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 11, 1444 H
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The Story of the Sabbath Breakers

Stories from the Quran
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Allah the Almighty says :{ And ask them about the town by the sea, when they violated the Sabbath. When they observed the Sabbath, their fish would come to them surfacing. But when they violated the Sabbath, they would not come to them. Thus We tried them because they disobeyed. And when a group of them said, “Why do you counsel a people whom Allah will annihilate, or punish with a severe punishment?” They said, “As an excuse before your Lord, and so they may abstain.” And when they neglected what they were reminded of, We saved those who prohibited evil, and We seized those who did wrong with a terrible punishment—because of their sinfulness. And when they stubbornly rebelled against the command to refrain, We said to them, “Be despicable apes.”} Surah al A’raf

This story relates to a small fishing community comprised of Bani Israel. One of these injunctions was the observance of the Sabbath (Saturday), where Bani Israel was completely prohibited from doing any work or lighting a fire. For this fishing village, it meant that they were not allowed to fish on Saturdays.

This injunction was particularly difficult to comply with, because, the seas in which they fished proved to be poor fishing grounds for six days of the week, but every Saturday, all types of fish would appear.

On all other days, the fish would vanish and the fishermen would come back empty-handed.

The appearance of the plentiful fish was a trial from Allah to test the faith, obedience, and patience of the community. This greatly frustrated the fishermen. They could not tolerate the observance of the Sabbath any longer, but at the same time, did not want to outrightly disobey Allah.

Therefore, they devised a scheme to circumvent Allah’s order. They would lay out their fishing traps on Fridays, and the fish that come on Saturdays were caught in the traps. On Sundays, the fishermen would collect the fish. In doing so, they deliberately disobeyed Allah – even if technically they did not fish on Saturdays, the fish in fact were caught because of their trickery and deception.

They understood that they were breaching the observance of the Sabbath in substance. The rest of the villagers, who did not participate in such sinful acts, were divided into two groups. The first actively disapproved of the actions and warned the wrongdoers to rectify their ways before the punishment and torment of Allah fell upon them.

The second remained silent in the face of all this wrongdoing. They did nothing to reprimand the wrongdoers. They allowed the disobedience to continue, even though they did not actively participate in such wrongdoing. Finally, the curse and wrath of Allah fell upon the community. So when they exceeded the limits of what they were prohibited, we said to them: “Be you monkeys, despised and rejected.” (Surah al A’raf 7:163 -7:166)

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