Surah Al-A’raf Ayat 163 in Arabic Text
Here you can read various translations of verse 163
And ask them about the town that was by the sea – when they transgressed in [the matter of] the sabbath – when their fish came to them openly on their sabbath day, and the day they had no sabbath they did not come to them. Thus did We give them trial because they were defiantly disobedient.
Ask them concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression.
And ask the people of Moses concerning the town situated along the sea how its people profaned the Sabbath when fish came to them breaking the water’s surface on Sabbath days, and would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days. Thus did We try them because of their disobedience.
And ask them (O Muhammad SAW) about the town that was by the sea, when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday): when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day, and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial of them for they used to rebel (see the Quran: V. 4:154).
Ask them (O Muhammad) of the township that was by the sea, how they did break the Sabbath, how their big fish came unto them visibly upon their Sabbath day and on a day when they did not keep Sabbath came they not unto them. Thus did We try them for that they were evil-livers.
And ask them concerning the town which was by the (Literally: present by the sea) sea, as they were aggressors on (i.e. They broke the Sabbath) the Sabbath, as their whales came to them on the day of their Sabbath with their heads up, (i.e. They were swimming shorewards) and on the day they did not keep Sabbath, they did not come up to them. Thus did We try them for they were acting immorally..
[Prophet], ask them about the town by the sea; how its people broke the Sabbath when their fish surfaced for them only on that day, never on weekdays- We tested them in this way: because of their disobedience-
Quran 7 Verse 163 Explanation
For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah Al-A’raf ayat 163, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.
(7:163) And ask the people of Moses concerning the town situated along the sea how its people profaned the Sabbath when fish came to them breaking the water’s surface on Sabbath days, and would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days. Thus did We try them because of their disobedience.
122. Most scholars identify this place with Eilat, Eilath or Eloth. (Cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, XV edition, ‘Macropaedia’, vol. 3, art. ‘Elat’ -Ed.) The seaport called Elat which has been built by the present state of Israel (which is close to the Jordanian seaport, Aqaba), stands on the same site. It lies at the end of that long inlet of the Red Sea situated between the eastern part of the Sinai peninsula and the western part of Arabia. It was a major trading centre in the time of Israelite ascendancy. The Prophet Solomon took this city as the chief port for his fleet in the Red Sea.
The event referred to in the above verse is not reported in Jewish Scriptures. Nor do historical accounts shed any light on it. Nonetheless, it appears from the way it has been mentioned in the above verse and in al-Baqarah that the Jews of the early days of Islam were quite familiar with the event. (See Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. 1, (al-Baqarah 2: 65 and n.83, pp. 81-2 – Ed)). This view is further corroborated by the fact that even the Madinan Jews who spared no opportunity to criticize the Prophet (peace be on him) did not raise any objection against this (Qur’anic account.
123. ‘Sabbath’, which means Saturday, was declared for the Israelites as the holi day of the week. God declared the Sabbath as a sign of the perpetual covenant between God and Israel. (Exodus 31: 12-16.) The Israelites were required to strictly keep the Sabbath which meant that they may not engage in any worldly activity; they may not cook, nor make their slaves or cattle serve them. Those who violated these rules were to be put to death. The Israelites, however, publicly violated these rules. In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah (between 628 and 586 B.C.), the Israelites carried their merchandise through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day itself. Jeremiah, therefore, warned them that if they persisted in their flagrant violation of the Law, Jerusalem would be set on fire. (Jererniah 17: 21-7.) The same complaint is voiced in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (595-536 B.C.) who referred to their violation of the Sabbath rules as their major sin. (Ezekiel 20: 12-24.) In view of these Scriptural references it seems plausible that the event mentioned in the above Qur’anic verse is related to the same period.
124. Men are tested by God in a variety of ways. When a person or group of people begin to turn away from God and incline themselves towards disobedience, God provides abundant opportunities for them to disobey. This is done in order that the full potential for disobedience, which had remained hidden because of lack of such an opportunity, might come to the surface.
163. And ask them about the town that was by the sea; when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day, and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial for them, for they used to rebel against Allah’s command.
This Ayah explains Allah’s statement,
(And indeed you knew those among you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath..) ﴿2:65﴾ Allah says to His Prophet here,
(And ask them) ask the Jews who are with you, about the story of their fellow Jews who defied Allah’s command, so that His punishment overtook them all of a sudden for their evil actions, transgression and defiance by way of deceit. Also, warn the Jews (O Muhammad) against hiding your description that they find in their books, so that they do not suffer what their forefathers suffered. The village mentioned here is Aylah, on the shore of the Qulzum (Red) Sea. Muhammad bin Ishaq recorded from Dawud bin Al-Husayn from `Ikrimah that Ibn `Abbas commented on Allah’s statement,
(And ask them about the town that was by the sea…) “A village called Aylah between Madyan and At-Tur (which is in Sinai). `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Qatadah and As-Suddi said similarly. Allah’s statement,
(when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath;) means, they transgressed in the Sabbath and defied Allah’s command to them to keep it sanctified,
(when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day,) visible on top of the water, according to Ad-Dahhak who reported it from Ibn `Abbas. Ibn Jarir said, “Allah’s statement,
(and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial of them,) means, this is how We tested them by making the fish swim close to the surface of the water , on the day which they were prohibited to fish. The fish would be hidden from them on the day when they were allowed to fish,
(Thus We made a trial for them,) so that We test them,
(for they used to rebel against Allah’s command) by defying His obedience and rebelling against it.” Therefore, these were a people who used a trick to violate Allah’s prohibitions, taking an action that seemed legal on the surface. However, in reality, this action was meant to transgress the prohibition. Imam and scholar Abu `Abdullah Ibn Battah reported that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Do not repeat what the Jews committed, and violate Allah’s prohibitions using deceitful tricks.) This Hadith has a reasonable chain.
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