How are Jews Depicted in the Quran?

There are many verses that mention Jews in the Quran. Quran recounts the story of the Children of Israel (Bani-Israel) who were children of Prophet Jacob (also known as Israel) and were waiting for a savior for many years. Prophet Moses (PBUH) was sent to them and rescued them from Pharaoh.


“[Remember] when We delivered you from Pharaoh’s clan who inflicted a terrible torment on you… And when We parted the sea with you, and We delivered you and drowned Pharaoh’s clan as you looked on” (2: 49 -50).


Allah mentions this blessing as a great gift for Jews in the Quran (Bani-Israel) and warns them not to forget God’s blessings:


O Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy, and We appointed with you a tryst on the right side of the Mount … but do not overstep the bounds therein, so My anger should descend on you…” (20: 80- 1).


 Now, let’s see what happens to them after they pass the sea by Moses’ miracle.


Jews in the Quran, Salam Islam, Judaism in Islam

The Israelites crossing of the Red Sea, Second Half of the 19th cen. Found in the collection of the State Museum of History, Architecture and Art, Rybinsk.


The appointment of Moses by God and Worshipping the Calf


He (God) said, ‘O Moses, I have chosen you over the people with My messages and My speech. So take what I give you, and be among the grateful.” (7: 142) In this appointment, Moses was given the book which was “advice concerning all things and an elaboration of all things” (7: 145).


Moses had told his people that he would be going for a task for thirty days, but he came back after forty days. Ten days’ delay weakened Children of Israel’s (Bani-Israel) faith, and in Moses’ absence, they started to worship a calf made from their jewels. [1]


The people of Moses took up in his absence a calf [cast] from their ornaments; a body that gave out a lowing sound.” (7: 148) However, when Moses returned and guided them again and they “realized they had gone astray, they said, ‘Should our Lord have no mercy on us, and forgive us, we will be surely among the losers’” (7: 149).


Bani-Israel’s ludicrous objections


One of the most important points that have repeatedly been narrated about the Jews in Quran is the complaints that they used to make. In different orders that were given to them by Moses, Jews in the Quran kept questioning and complaining in different situations, some of which are as follows:


  1. Asking to see God


After spending forty nights in seclusion and dedicated worship, Moses was given the Tablets in which there were guidance and mercy for the believers. One might expect that Prophet Moses’ companions were ecstatic to witness the unique historical moments of the revelation of the Torah. However, instead, they said, “O Moses, we will not believe [that] you [received the Tablets] unless we see Allah visibly” (2:55).


Naturally, Moses tried to convince the Children of Israel about the impossibility of seeing God visually. However, they insisted on that irrational demand and consequently, they were seized by a thunderbolt [2].


  1. Asking for specific foods


After the Israelites left the sea and started to march towards the promised land, Allah out of His mercy protected them from the blistering heat of the sun by sending clouds to move over their head, provided water for them from the miraculous stone, and sent the Mann and Salwa for them as food.



However, they complained to Moses that they no longer could put up with one kind of food. They asked him to call upon his Lord to make the barren land of Sinai produce edible vegetables such as green herbs, cucumbers, garlic, lentils, and onions.



Moses asked them which one would be better, to live free with honor and have one type of food or to live as slaves at the price of enjoying food variety?



And when you said, ‘O Moses, ‘We will not put up with one kind of food. So invoke your Lord for us, so that He may bring forth for us of that which the earth grows—its greens and cucumbers, its garlic, lentils, and onions.’ He said, ‘Do you seek to replace what is superior with that which is inferior? Go down to any town, and you will indeed get what you ask for!’ So they were struck with abasement and poverty, and they earned Allah’s wrath. That, because they would deny the signs of Allah and kill the prophets unjustly. That, because they would disobey and commit transgressions” (2: 62).


Jews in the Quran, Moses in Islam, Salam Islam

Moses draws water from the Rock  by Francois Perrier
  1. Mocking the rituals


After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Children of Israel eventually defeated the Amalekites under the leadership of Joshua and entered Jericho.



To thank this victory, Allah directed the Children of Israel to implore for divine forgiveness by entering with humbleness and by saying the word “hittatun.”  The word “hittatun” was a plea for divine forgiveness. In return, Allah promised to accept their prayers out of His mercy and increase the rewards of the righteous. However, most of them refused to utter the word “hittatun” properly and instead changed it to “hintattun” which meant give us wheat. They were so materialized in their mindset that they were ready to exchange the mercy of God with a handful of wheat grains [i].


  1. Slaughtering a cow


A mysterious murder happened among the Jews in the Quran. The murderer accused an innocent man and because the murdered person was his uncle he made a huge fitna over it.
The Israelites kept guessing who might be the killer. In a short time, the guessing became rumors, rumors became accusations, and those accusations led to serious dispute and hostility.



The elders came to Prophet Moses and asked him to resolve the case. Moses implored for God’s help. Honouring his request, Allah instructed him to ask the Children of Israel to slaughter a cow and strike a part of its body (the tongue) with the corpse of the murdered man. In this way, Allah would reveal the murderer’s identity.


And when Moses said to his people, ‘Allah commands you to slaughter a cow,’ they said, ‘Are you mocking us?’ He said, ‘I seek Allah’s protection lest I should be one of the ignorant!’” (2: 67)



However, the Israelites started to ask ludicrous questions about the qualities of the cow they were supposed to slaughter to the extent that in the end, they barely found one cow with the exact attributes.  


Their hearts became hard


They kept making so many complaints, and most of them forgot their hard days and the blessings that God had sent down to them, as a result of which their hearts hardened “so they (their hearts) are like stones, or even harder...” (2: 74).



Therefore, many years after Prophet Moses had passed away, Jews started to use religion as a tool to gain power by deceiving ignorant people under the mask of religion. They did it using many ways, most importantly by distorting the words of God: “a part of them would hear the word of Allah and then they would distort it after they had understood it, and they knew [what they were doing]?” (2: 75)



They also started writing new books in the name of God’s book, in which they brought into the religion of Moses what they wished: “So woe to them who write the Book with their hands and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a paltry gain. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn!” (2: 79)


Jewish racism at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)


The huge amount of blessings and miracles that God gave exclusively to Bani-Israel made them believe that they are the higher race. Jews in the Quran were told in their book that the last prophet would be born in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, some of them migrated to that land to wait for him.


Those who follow the Apostle, the untaught prophet, whose mention they find written with them in the Torah and the Evangel… they are the felicitous” (7: 157).


But when they saw that the last prophet was an Arab, they denied him. This racism existed among them from a long time ago and is remaining. They consider themselves as the superior race, “And they say, ‘The Fire shall not touch us except for a number of days.’ Say, ‘Have you taken a promise from Allah? If so, Allah will never break His promise. Do you ascribe to Allah what you do not know?’” (2: 80) “And they say, ‘No one will enter paradise except one who is a Jew or Christian.’ Those are their [false] hopes! Say, ‘Produce your evidence, should you be truthful’” (2: 111).



As they denied the last prophet out of ignorance and racist beliefs, God invited them to a challenge: “Say, ‘If the abode of the Hereafter was exclusively for you with Allah, and not for other people, then long for death, should you be truthful’” (2: 94).


Virtuous Jews in the Quran


Although the huge amount of racism among some of the Jews in the Quran is mentioned and is also observable these days worldwide, Allah excludes the real followers of Prophet Moses (PBUH) and emphasizes that “Among the people of Moses is a nation who guide [the people] by the truth and do justice thereby” (7: 159).



God would like the real Jews in the Quran who were not amongst the distorters of the book to know that their honest belief in God, His prophet, and the hereafter is accepted: “As for those who hold fast to the Book and maintain the prayer—indeed, We do not waste the reward of those who bring about reform” (7: 170).



In the next part of the article, we will see what happened to the religion of Moses (PBUH) that these days we face huge crimes and massacres in the name of Judaism. Is that Judaism or are a group of people, using the name of Judaism, trying to gain power using people’s purity and faithfulness? 



[i] “And when We said, ‘Enter this town, and eat thereof freely whatever you wish, and enter while prostrating at the gate, and say, ‘‘Relieve [us of the burden of our sins],’’ so that We may forgive your iniquities and We will soon enhance the virtuous.’ But the wrongdoers changed the saying to other than what they were told. So We sent down on those who were wrongdoers a plague from the sky because of the transgressions they used to commit” (2: 58 -9).


[1] The Quran, Taha (20), 83-87

[2] The Quran, Al-Baqarah (2), 55