The Degeneration of Bani Israil
Just as it is beyond human power to calculate Allah-SWT's favours on mankind, so is the calculation of human mistakes and errors. But one thing becomes evident that it is indeed Allah-SWT's Mercy, which comes to the rescue of staggering humanity. He-SWT is so Kind and Forgiving that no one else can equal Him-SWT . As for the Bani Israil their misconduct has been discussed in general before; but one specific incident is particularly amazing, as it occurred at the zenith of their golden era. It was a time when Allah-SWT's blessings and miracles were abundant and His-SWT exalted Prophet Musa-AS was amongst them. Allah-SWT commanded Prophet Musa-AS to tell his people to advance and capture the sacred land, as Allah-SWT had destined this victory for them. By sacred land is meant Syria which at the time also included the Dome of Rock. This land has been the center for the raising of Allah-SWT's Prophets-AS. Probably, after the Deluge only these areas were populated and from here mankind started to spread to other lands. Therefore, many a Prophets-AS were raised here and not only the Dome of Rock but also the entire country has been termed as the sacred land.
Prophet Musa-AS conveyed the Divine Command to his people with great acumen and reminded them of the great favours and blessings of Allah-SWT . He reminded them of the fact that Allah-SWT had chosen their nation to raise a succession of Prophets-AS from among them. The highest reward is the spiritual excellence, compared to which the material benefits are of no consequence. The climax of spiritual excellence is Prophethood, the beneficence of which confers Companionship, while its tutelage imports Wilayah through generations from one heart to another. They were reminded how Allah-SWT had showered them with His-SWT blessings by raising one Prophet-AS after the other. And when this spiritual distinction is also complemented with material and political supremacy, it is simply marvelous and a great Divine favour. So He-SWT endowed the Bani Israil with kingship and empire and at times even appointed a Prophet-AS as the king. What a glorious period it would be when the State power also belonged to a Prophet-AS. Or else the governance was given to the servants of the Prophets-AS, together with spiritual excellence and material progress of the nation as a whole. No contemporary nation was blessed with such bounties.
When the Bani Israil were subjected to the Pharaoh’s folk they were in a miserable state, and were deprived of all human rights. Allah-SWT raised Prophet Musa-AS, and they witnessed how Pharaoh, despite all his power and might, faced humiliation at every encounter. Even his court magicians abandoned him and embraced the religion of truth. And finally he was drowned along with his forces. Allah-SWT granted power and control to Bani Israil. He-SWT gave them the Book even after they had indulged in calf worship. He-SWT forgave them and accepted their repentance and they started ruling the country wherein they were not even treated as human beings. He-SWT wished to bless them further. His-SWT Law is that one must employ all possible means to achieve a goal, leaving the outcome or the reward to Him-SWT . Striving is voluntary while the rewards are bestowed. Allah-SWT had decided to give them control over entire Syria. They were only required to advance into it, earn the merit of Jihad and also to expand the boundaries of their kingdom. They were warned against turning their backs on Jihad lest they suffer, for if Allah-SWT could bless them so much, He-SWT could punish them too, for any laxity in His-SWT obedience. They set out for their mission but halfway between Egypt and Syria, decided to send some men to obtain intelligence on the dwellers of the city, their troops and defensive arrangements. For this purpose the lot were drawn which confined the choice to the chieftains. As to which city it was, the Commentators quote three or four names, but whatever it was, it certainly was a major city of Syria, which if conquered would have led to the fall of the entire country.
When the chieftains were heading towards the city they came across a native. The natives were known as 'Amalqah and were a dynasty of the few survivors from the People of 'Ad, well known for their stature and physique. The chieftains were scared and when he cross-questioned them, they panicked. The native arrested them and took them before his leader. When they saw people of such strength with a well-equipped Army they lost their nerve. The 'Amalqah thought that it would be unwise to kill them as they, on return, would certainly frighten and demoralize their people who are planning an attack on them. On release, they made their way back and related their ordeal to Prophet Musa-AS. They also informed him that the enemy were as if made of iron. The Prophet-AS pacified them and reminded them of Allah-SWT's Promise of victory for which they had only to march forward. He-SWT bid them not to be afraid, not to scare others from Jihad and not to mention their experience to the rest of the people. But they disobeyed, except for two of them. Each one confided to his close friend telling him to keep the secret to himself and so gradually the news spread on. Today, the Jews indulge in tall talk while their ancestors had said: "O’ Musa-AS, the people of that city are very strong, we cannot fight them. A human being can fight his kind but how can we bump our heads against mountains! How can we possibly fight such people when a single man from them had captured our twelve chieftains. However, if they vacate, or if Allaah-SWT puts them in such a trouble that they are forced to run away; only then we shall enter the city.
The two chieftains, who had not given away the secrets to 'Amalqah, tried their best to persuade the people. Inspite of being from the same stock they not only remained steadfast but also had the honour to invite others to the truth. This was because they feared Allah-SWT , and their actions were based on sincerity and not on false pretence. They were blessed and rewarded by Allah-SWT and their hearts and temperaments were made receptive to the Prophetic lights. Had their actions been for pretence, they would have behaved like the other ten chieftains. However, they tried their level best to make their people understand that the 'Amalqah were indeed afraid of them and had they been courageous they would have killed all the twelve chieftains but they let them come back to their people to create panic in order to prevent the impending attack. Once attacked from one gate of the city, they will escape and run away from the other and we shall be victorious. Besides, the faith calls for a complete trust in Allah-SWT, Who-SWT has promised victory through His-SWT Prophet-AS, and many promises having been fulfilled afore, there is no justification for retreating. But they did not budge an inch and said: "O’ Musa-AS! As long as those people are in the city we shall not enter it. You can fight as your Rabb-SWT is with you. Let Him-SWT fight while we wait here. The least we can do is that we shall not go back from here but marching forward is out of question"! What a nation! They went on: "O’ Musa-AS! Your Rabb-SWT is strange indeed. We were down trodden but at least we were living; He-SWT delivered us from that humiliation, saved us from the Pharaoh. He-SWT could have drowned us then but what is the reason for bringing us here and condemning us to death? All we can see around us is death; whereas life, of course, is much better than death. Granted that we were leading a miserable life, but at least we were living. We will wait here for the outcome while you and your Rabb-SWT fight them."
They camped at a plain between Egypt and Syria. Prophet Musa prayed: "O’ Allaah-SWT ! I only have control over my own self and my brother but these wicked people are beyond my control. Kindly intervene to inform us whether we separate from them, and light alone." Allah-SWT answered that since they themselves have opted to sit back so let them be here as a punishment for forty years. Now even if they want to, they cannot get out. Hence they got stranded in a ninety-miles long and twenty seven-miles wide valley. For forty years the Bani Israil roamed aimlessly in all directions trying to find an exit, but failed.
Although they had displayed impudence a couple of times before and each time they were forgiven after intercession by Prophet Musa-AS; yet every time they had to undergo punishments in atonement. On worshipping the calf, they had to suffer death and now on turning their backs to Jihad they were confined for forty years, without any police, handcuffs or prison. Purely by Allah-SWT's Will that their journey would always end up at the starting point! This went on for forty years, a generation went by, even Prophets Musa-AS and Prophet Haroon-AS passed away.
Now Yousha bin Nun-AS (Joshua) was raised as a Prophet. Under his leadership the city was stormed and conquered and Syria was brought under the rule of Bani Israil. An important point is highlighted here. Whenever a Prophet-AS is disobeyed, the worldly losses cannot be averted even if the Prophet-AS forgives the disobedient. The same is true of the relationship between a seeker and the Shaikh. Even if the Shaikh forgives the seeker and the spiritual stations are maintained, worldly losses cannot be averted.
Nevertheless, the Bani Israil enjoyed the company of two Prophets-AS and also of those sincere people who had remained loyal to the Prophets-AS. Because of this, they were granted the capacity to repent, which saved their eternal life and ameliorated it, besides yielding several worldly gains. For instance, if they complained of heat, clouds would overshadow them wherever they went.
When they needed water, twelve springs gushed out from a small rock. This rock was a medium sized stone, which they carried along as they travelled, and whenever water was required the Prophet-AS struck it by his staff and the water gushed out. For food, Mann and Salwa were sent down from the heavens. For lighting purposes Prophet Musa-AS's staff pegged in the ground would light up the entire plain. In the beginning, Prophet Musa-AS was aggrieved by this punishment; probably its severity was unexpected. But punishment is always commensurate to the misdeeds. When the Bani Israil disobeyed Allah-SWT and His-SWT Prophet-AS and opted to sit back; they were condemned to such a confinement that an entire generation passed by Prophet Musa-AS was comforted by Allah-SWT and told not to worry for the wrongdoers. Nevertheless, He-SWT continued to shower His-SWT blessings on them, because of his presence amongst them. Certainly, such is the benefit of the company of the noble people.