first call: prohibition of saying “raaina”
almighty allah says (what can be translated as): “o you who have believed, do not say, “raaina” (this from of the verb was used by the jews and had a derisive connotation in hebrew. here in means “heed us”) and say, “look upon us and listen,” (literally: hear) and to the disbelievers is a painful torment. in no way would the ones who include disbelieved among the population of the book (or: the family of the book. i.e., the jews and christians) and nor (literally: and not) (among) the associators (i.e. those who associate others with allah) like that any charity (i.e., the choicest good) would always be sent down upon you from your lord. and allah appropriates his mercy to whomever he decides; and allah is the owner of the magnificent grace.” (al-baqarah: 104-105)
al-ansar1 used to say to the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) “raaina” when he recited the revelation of the qur’anic verses, which means heed us, i.e read slowly so that we understand what you recite. the jews of madinah used the same term while they were addressing the prophet (peace be upon him), pretending that they mean “give us your attention”. yet, they twisted the way they pronounced the word to make it sound like the word “ru’na” (it comes from the word “rainu” which means vicious in hebrew). almighty allah warned his prophet (pbuh) and the believers to the distortion of the word by the jews. allah (awj)2 prohibited using this word in addressing the prophet (pbuh), and ordered them to use “unthurna” (look upon us) instead of “raaina”.
allah (swt)3 promised the disbelieving jews a painful torment that he prepared for them because of their disbelief, profanity and immorality towards the benevolent prophet (peace be upon him).
in the verses, allah (awj) tells the prophet (pbuh) that the population of the book (the family of the book, i.e., the jews and christians) are jealous and envious because they don’t want any blessings or bounty to befall muslims from the lord, it is nothing new given how they were with their own prophets (peace be upon them). because of the prophethood of muhammad (pbuh) and message of islam, they became spiteful towards believers, they did not want islam to be spread and established in the region. the disbelievers have the same kind of hatred towards muslims; they envy them and wish calamities to hit muslims so that this religion might end. the envy of this kind of people only reflect how they are disobedient and discontented with allah’s wisdom and rule to establish the blessing of islam. instead of joining this religion that allah has sent to all the people in the region and the world, they opposed it and fought it with all possible means. they resist allah’s decree of blessing people with islam, but their fighting and hatred do not affect almighty allah or muslims. their envy will not stop the bounty on muslims because: “he appropriates of his mercy to whomever he decides; and allah is the owner of the magnificent grace.” (al-imran: 74) the magnificent grace here means prophethood of muhammad (peace be upon him) and message of islam to the whole world. he (awj) is the owner of bounty and grace on all his servants.
al-fakhr said: “allah (swt) addresses the believers with ‘o you who have believed!’ in eighty eight spots in the qur’an.”
ibn abbas (ra)4 said: almighty allah addressed them in the torah by ‘o, you indigents,’ and this was affirmed later in the qur’an when he (swt) addresses them with (what can be translated as): “and they were stricken with humiliation and indigence, and they incurred the anger of allah, that was for that they had disbelieved in the signs of allah, and killed the prophets (literally: prophesiers) untruthfully. that was for that they disobeyed and were (always) transgressing.” (al-baqarah: 61) another conclusion can be summed, when allah (awj) addresses this ummah with “o you who have believed” in the qur’an, by this he has given them the promise of safety from the hellfire on the day of judgment, provided that they follow righteousness and obedience to the prophet (pbuh) and avoid oppression and disbelief. the word “believer” is the highest and most honorable name and attribute, if he (awj) addresses the ummah with the highest names, then we pray to be treated in the hereafter in the best manner by getting the reward of paradise, by the will of allah (swt).
in surat al-baqrh verse number 104, allah orders believers to say “look upon us and listen”. listening is an involuntary sense, as long as the hearing ability is not impaired, and since it happens automatically then the order to listen here is not the direct meaning of the word. listening means either one of the following three:
first: dedicate your attention and listen attentively to what the prophet (pbuh) is saying so that you would not need repeating.
second: listen with acceptance and obedience, unlike the listening of the jews who said “we listen and disobey”.
third:listen to what you are ordered to do, so that you don’t reverse to what you were prohibited, as a kind of confirmation.
the jews were afraid of insulting the prophet (peace be upon him) directly, so they resorted to deceit by twisting the pronunciation of the word in arabic, to resemble a bad word with derisive connotation in hebrew, all this to insult the prophet (pbuh) in this deceitful way which is something only an impertinent person would do. this is why believers were ordered to stop using this word “raaina”, which is used as a mean of insult by the jews, and to use the synonym of the word instead “unthurna” (look upon us), which is a word that jews can’t twist into a bad word, this way they prevent them from achieving their despicable aim.
this distorted method by the jews reflects their spite and irritation; it also shows immorality, lowness and meanness in attitude. the ban to use this word from almighty allah reflects the protection and patronage he bestows upon his prophet (pbuh) and the muslim community. allah (swt) defends the believers against any kind of malice by their deceitful and cunning enemies.
then, almighty allah reveals to the muslims what the jews keep in their hearts of evil and enmity towards them. their souls are filled with envy and spitefulness because of the bounty and grace that almighty allah has appropriated to muslims by sending prophet muhammad (pbuh) with the message of islam. this clarification is to direct them to be careful and cautious towards their enemies, and to hang on faith and islam which is the bounty that their enemies hate them for. they should thank allah for his grace and bounty and be obedient and heedful and this is why allah (swt) says to the believers in the qur’an (what can be translated as): “in no way would the ones who include disbelieved among the population of the book (or: the family of the book. i.e., the jews and christians) and nor (literally: and not) (among) the associators (i.e. those who associate others with allah) like that any charity (i.e., the choicest good) would always be sent down upon you from your lord. and allah appropriates his mercy to whomever he decides; and allah is the owner of the magnificent grace.” (al-baqarah: 105)
the noble qur’an attributes disbelief to the population of the book and polytheists because they both disbelieve in the last message, namely islam. they are both equals in that regard which is denial of prophethood of muhammad (pbuh) and the message of islam. their hearts are filled with malice and hatred towards believers and they do not want any goodness happening to muslims. the greatest thing they hate about believers is this religion (islam). they hate that allah has given this bounty to believers by the revelation of the qur’an, the belief in islam and establishment of islamic nation on earth which is the biggest responsibility and trusteeship ever.
it was previously mentioned how hateful they are and spiteful of the grace that almighty allah has appropriated to his obedient servants. their resentment and bitterness reached the point of animosity towards the angel gabriel (peace be upon him) for conveying the revelation of the qur’an from heaven to the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) on earth.
allah says (what means): “and allah appropriates his mercy to whomever he decides; and allah is the owner of the magnificent grace.” this means allah knows best where and to whom he sends his message. when he (swt) has appropriated prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) and the believers with this grace, he (awj) knows that the prophet (pbuh) and the believers are worthy of this bounty.
“allah is the owner of the magnificent grace” because there is no greater blessing or grace than prophethood and islam. there is no greater grace than belief and the call to islam. it implies the contentment in the hearts of the muslims for the great bounty and kind favor they have received from their lord. also, in the warning that preceded this part in which almighty allah tells muslims of what disbelievers have in their hearts towards them, there is a clear message to muslims to be careful and very attentive. the feeling of the greatness of the bounty and carefulness are both needed to stand up to the campaign of confusion and disorder which has been launched by the jews to weaken the belief in the hearts and spirits of believers, because that belief in allah and the message of islam is the thing that they envy muslims for.
(1) al-ansar: an islamic term that literally means "helpers" and denotes the citizens of madinah that helped prophet muhammad (pbuh) and the muhajirun on the arrival to the city after the migration to madinah. they belonged to two main tribes, the banu khazraj and the banu aws.
(2) awj: aza-wa-jal [glorified and sublime be he].
(3) swt: suhanahu wa ta'ala [glorified and exalted be he]
(4) ra: radya allah anhu/anha [may allah be pleased with him/her]