Bani Isra’il: A Quranic Journey through history

Abdul Hadi Masood, Missionary UK
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Jews, also known as Bani Isra’il in the Holy Quran, have a rich history dating back to Prophet Abrahamas. This article aims to uncover the historical events mentioned in the Holy Quran about Bani Isra’il according to chronological order, focusing on the identity of Jews, their beginnings, and their connection to the promised land.

Bani Isra’il: The descendants of Hazrat Jacobas

Bani Isra’il refers to the descendants of Prophet JacobasBani meaning son and Isra’il was a title bestowed upon Prophet Jacobas. This term translates to sons of Israel. Prophet Jacobas, the son of Prophet Isaacas and the grandson of Prophet Abrahamas, played a crucial role in the formation of Bani Isra’il. Notably, Prophet Jacobas had 12 sons, each of whom went on to lead separate tribes, collectively known as Bani Isra’il.

The covenant with Prophet Abrahamas

The Quran sets the foundation for the story of Bani Isra’il with references to the covenant made with Abrahamas.

“And remember when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands which he fulfilled. He said, ‘I will make thee a Leader of men.’ [Abraham] asked, ‘And from among my offspring?’ He said, ‘My covenant does not embrace the transgressors.’” (Quran, al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.125)

From this verse, we learn:

1. The progeny of Abrahamas was destined for blessings

2. These blessings were reserved for those who did not transgress

The story of the Promised Land starts when Abrahamas embarked on a journey from Mesopotamia, a region encompassing present-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, to the land of the Canaanites, the present-day Holy Land. The Bible also recounts God Almighty’s promise to Abrahamas regarding this land “Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time, the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” So, he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:6-7)

Prophet Josephas and the eleven brothers

Prophet Abraham’s journey to Canaan set the stage for subsequent generations, with his son Isaacas and grandson Jacobas continuing to reside in the region. Jacobas was the father of 12 sons, among them Josephas, a prominent figure extensively detailed in the Holy Quran.

The sacred text reveals that the brothers harboured jealousy towards Josephas, leading them to cast him into a well when he was quite young. A passing caravan discovered Josephas, transporting him to Egypt, where he was subsequently sold. Amidst a series of events recounted in the Holy Quran, God Almighty intervened, elevating Josephas to a prestigious position within the royal court.

As the narrative unfolds, the brothers and father of Josephas eventually journeyed to Egypt, finding residence there. These 12 brothers, the progenitors of the tribes, later evolved into the 12 tribes of Israel.

Approximately 400 years later, the Bani Isra’il found themselves enslaved under the rule of the Pharaoh of that era. In response to their plight, Mosesas was divinely appointed by God Almighty to lead the Bani Isra’il to freedom.

The Exodus from Egypt

After spending approximately 400 years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40), God Almighty sent Mosesas to liberate the 12 tribes of Bani Isra’il, the descendants of Jacobas, from the tyranny of Pharaoh. With divine assistance, Mosesas led the Bani Isra’il in their escape from Pharaoh, embarking on a journey towards the Promised Land according to divine command. The Holy Quran narrates the story of the Exodus, highlighting divine intervention during the escape from Pharaoh in Surah al-Baqarah (Ch.2: V.49-50), underscoring the miracles and guidance bestowed upon Bani Isra’il.

“And [remember the time] when We delivered you from Pharaoh’s people who afflicted you with grievous torment, slaying your sons and sparing your women; and in that there was a great trial for you from your Lord. And [remember the time] when We divided the sea for you and saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people, while you looked on.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.50-51)

The covenant at Mount Sinai

Following their escape from Pharaoh, the 12 tribes of Bani Isra’il pressed on in their journey towards the Promised Land. It was during this pivotal journey that God Almighty granted the divine commandments to Bani Isra’il, marking the establishment of a covenant between God and the people. Surah al-Baqarah (Ch.2: V.64-67) details the covenant made at Mount Sinai, outlining the responsibilities assigned to Bani Isra’il and underscoring the consequences of disobedience.

The incident of the Golden Calf

Having spent a considerable amount of time under the influence of Pharaoh, Bani Isra’il absorbed some of the religious and cultural values of Egypt. Despite their covenant with God Almighty, a strong affinity for Egyptian culture lingered among them. On their journey to the Promised Land, the influence of Egyptian practices became apparent as Bani Isra’il expressed a desire for an idol or sculpture to worship. This longing for a tangible representation of God persisted, with the people requesting an image whenever they encountered other groups.

“And We brought the children of Israel across the sea, and they came to a people who were devoted to their idols. They said, ‘O Moses, make for us a god just as they have gods.’ He said, ‘Surely, you are an ignorant people.” (Surah al-A‘raf, Ch.7: V.139)

When Mosesas was commanded by God Almighty to engage in prayer and seclusion for 40 nights, Bani Isra’il resorted to crafting a golden calf, as detailed in Surah al-Baqarah. God Almighty addresses this incident in the Holy Quran, “And remember the time when We made Moses a promise of forty nights; then you took the calf for worship in his absence and you were transgressors.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.52)

Settlement in the Promised Land

The journey to the Promised Land was an opportunity given by God Almighty to Bani Isra’il to undergo both physical and spiritual growth. However, upon reaching the borders of the Promised Land, God Almighty commanded them to initiate an attack and conquer the Promised Land Despite the divine promise of victory, the Bani Isra’il refused to attack, anticipating defeat. This reluctance, even in the face of God’s promise, is underscored in the Holy Quran. “They said, ‘O Moses, we will never enter it so long as they remain in it. Therefore, go thou and thy Lord and fight, and here we sit.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.25)

Due to their disobedience to the divine commandment, the Bani Isra’il faced consequences. God declared in the Holy Quran: “‘Verily, it shall be forbidden for them for forty years; in distraction shall they wander through the land. So, grieve not over the rebellious people.’” (Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.27)

In the Five Volume Commentary, under this verse, it states, “When the Israelites behaved in a cowardly manner, God decreed that they should remain in the desert for a period of 40 years so that the life of the desert should invigorate them and strengthen their morals. In the mean-time, the old generation became practically extinct and the younger generation grew brave and strong enough to conquer the Promised Land.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-Ma’idah, Ch.5: V.27)

After the passage of 40 years, during which Prophet Mosesas and Aaronas and the old generation of Bani Isra’il had passed away, a new generation emerged under the leadership of Joshua bin Noon. This courageous generation successfully conquered the Promised Land, and it was then divided among the 12 tribes as ordained.

After 200 Years: Talut’s appointment as King; Bani Isra’il’s history post-conquest

In Chapter 2, verse 248 of the Holy Quran, God Almighty alludes to a king named Talut and narrates certain incidents involving Bani Isra’il. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, in his insightful commentary on this verse, identifies Talut as Gideon in the Bible. Gideon was king of Bani Isra’il 200 years after the conquest of Canaan. He played a key role in delivering the Israelites from the oppression of the Midianites.

In the Five Volume Commentary, we read, “For two hundred years after Moses, the Israelites were divided into different tribes and had no king and no fighting force. In 1256 B.C., owing to their iniquity, God delivered them into the hands of the Midianites who plundered and ravaged them for seven long years, and they were compelled to take refuge in caves (Judg. 6:1-2). This is why they are represented in the Quran as saying we have been driven forth from our homes. The Midianites attacked them and carried away their sheep and oxen and asses, and destroyed their crops and pillaged them as far as Gaza (Judg. 6:4-6). The Israelites then cried to their Lord, and God raised among them a Prophet; and an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, appointed him king and promised him divine help. Then Gideon said to God, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). This tallies with the description given in the Quran which represents the chiefs among the Israelites as saying with regard to the new king, how can he have sovereignty over us while we are better entitled to sovereignty than he and he is not given abundance of wealth (2:248).” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.258)

The Holy Quran tells us that “Talut” defeated “Jalut”. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra in his commentary on Chapter 2, verse 250 of the Holy Quran explains who “Jalut” is. In the Five Volume Commentary, we read: “The Jalut spoken of in this verse does not signify a person but a people, while the word جنود (forces) points to the helpers and associates of these people. The Bible refers to Jalut under the name of Midianites who pillaged and harassed the Israelites and destroyed their land for several years (Judg. 6:1-6). The Amalekites and all the eastern tribes assisted the Midianites in their raids (Judg. 6:1) and formed ‘the forces’ referred to in the verse.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.150)

Ultimately, Gideon achieved victory over the opposing forces, and this triumph is narrated in the Holy Quran “So, they routed them by the command of Allah; and David slew Jalut, and Allah gave him sovereignty and wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased. And had it not been for Allah’s repelling men, some of them by the others, the earth would have become filled with disorder. But Allah is Munificent to all peoples.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.252)

The fascinating aspect of this verse lies in its swift transition from Talut’s confrontation with Jalut to the mention of Prophet David’s slaying of Jalut. Keeping in mind that Davidas did not ascend to the throne until 200 years after Gideon. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explained this verse beautifully; he states, “Talut or Gideon was able to defeat Jalut or the Midianites and curb their rising spirits, but their crushing defeat to which the verse refers as the killing of Jalut came in the time of David about two hundred years afterwards.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.252)

A glance at David’s and Solomon’s reign 200 years after Gideon

In the Bible (1 Samuel 9-11), a pivotal moment occurs as Saul is chosen as the first monarch of the United Kingdom of Israel, marking the initiation of diverse tribes uniting to form a cohesive state. After Saul, David from the tribe of Judah is anointed as the second king (1 Samuel 16), further shaping the trajectory of Israel’s history. The Five Volume Commentary, in the description of Prophet Davidas, states, “King of Judah and Israel, David, who was of Israelite origin being from the tribe of Judah, was founder of the Judean dynasty at Jerusalem. The date of his reign is generally fixed at about 1010-970 B.C. He was a great warrior and a great statesman. His importance as the real builder of the Hebrew Kingdom can hardly be overestimated. Through him all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba became united and organized into a powerful nation whose kingdom extended from the Euphrates to the Nile. Towards the end of his life David had to suffer much at the hands of scheming slanderers, which deeply grieved him.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.85)

After the reign of Davidas, the mantle of kingship passed to his son Solomonas. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra offers illuminating insights into Solomon’s era, providing a profound understanding of the challenges, accomplishments, and wisdom that marked his distinguished kingship, “سليمان (Solomon) was the second son of David & Bath-Sheba and the third king of Israel. He reigned from about 971 to 931 B.C. He was called Jedidiah (beloved of Yehovah) by Nathan, the Prophet. But David was told by Yehovah that his son’s name should be Solomon (peaceful). […]

“The fact that he ruled for a long period of forty years shows that he must have consolidated firmly the kingdom he inherited from his father. He was a great monarch and a wise judge. He greatly extended and developed the trade and commerce of his country and contracted friendly alliances with foreign rulers. He was the master-builder among the Israelite kings and is best known for his building of the Temple at Jerusalem, which is known as the Temple of Solomon and which became the Qiblah of the Israelites for all time. In spite of the prosperity of his kingdom, Solomon’s reign was not altogether happy. Plots were hatched against him by secret societies to bring about his downfall. The Society of the Freemasons is also believed to have dated from his reign. He was followed by a worthless son (Enc. Bri., Enc. Bib. & Jew. Enc.).” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-An`am, Ch.6: V.85)

The kingdom of Israel and secret societies

During Solomon’sas era, secret societies quietly emerged, their plots surfacing fully in the reign of his son, when 10 tribes seized the northern part of Israel, leaving the southern territory for the remaining 2 tribes. The Holy Quran sheds light on this in Chapter 2, verse 103. The Five Volume Commentary describes these events in following words, “This account of Jewish secret societies and conspiracies and treacherous signs and symbols, as alluded to in this verse, finds corroboration in the Bible (1 Kings 11:1-6), where we read that the charge of idol-worship was spread against Solomon. An account of his enemies is found in I Kings 11:14, 23, 26, and a reference to secret plots is made in II Chron. 10: 2-4 where we learn that the Jews had sent for Jeroboam, a bitter enemy of Solomon, immediately after his death and had attempted to make Solomon’s son agree to some demands of theirs, involving certain imputations against Solomon, before his accession to the throne. We learn about the secret signs from I Kings 11:29-32, in which the ten tribes of the Israelites are likened to ten pieces of a garment, and Jeroboam is told that these ten tribes were on his side against Solomon; and so it proved to be, for on the death of Solomon, these ten tribes made Jeroboam their king (I Kings 12:20).” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.103)

The Babylonian captivity centuries after Solomon’s reign

After the death of Solomonas, the kingdom’s division into northern and southern realms unfolded; 10 tribes in the north and two in the south. About 200 years later, the northern part fell victim to gradual decay. The Five Volume Commentary states, “Then it fell prey to gradual decay and about 733 B.C. Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians, who annexed the whole of Israel north of Jezreel.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah Bani Isra’il, Ch.17: V.6)

Approximately 150 years later, around 586 B.C., a pivotal historical event unfolds, recorded in the Holy Quran (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.103). King Nebuchadnezzar’s devastating conquest led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon, present-day Iraq. The Five Volume Commentary offers profound insights into the manner in which the Israelites reclaimed their freedom, “In this narration, the Quran refers to the days when King Nebuchadnezzar brought the Jews as captives into Babylon and kept them there for a long time. The holy men referred to in the verse under comment were Haggai, the Prophet, and Zechariah, the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1). When Cyrus, King of Media and Persia, rose to power, the Israelites entered into a secret agreement with him and greatly facilitated his conquest of Babylon. In return for this service, he not only allowed them to return to their own country but also helped in the rebuilding of the Temple (Historians’ History of the World, ii. 126).” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.103)

Cyrus the Great, also known as Dhul-Qarnain in the Holy Quran, bestowed upon the Israelites the land of Judah and played a pivotal role in the reconstruction of the temple, echoing the grandeur of Solomon’sas time.

Divine warnings

In the verses Ch.17: V.5-8, the Holy Quran foretells and reflects on two divine punishments destined for the Israelites, if they continued their transgression. The first, inflicted by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, has been recounted. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudas details the second, occurring post Prophet Jesusas, as the Jews persecuted him. In the Five Volume Commentary, we read “This verse speaks of the Jews’ second relapse into iniquitous and evil ways and of the punishment which befell them in consequence. They persecuted Jesus and sought to kill him on the cross and stamp out his Movement. So God afflicted them with a terrible punishment when in 70 A.D. the Roman forces under Titus swept the country and, amid circumstances of unparalleled horror, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple of Solomon was burnt down (Enc. Bib., under Jerusalem). This disaster took place when Jesus was yet living in Kashmir. It was also foretold by Moses.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah Bani Isra’il, Ch.17:V.8)


While the primary focus of this article was historical, it is essential to recognise that the Holy Quran transcends mere historical documentation. In narrating events, the Quran’s intention is to guide and impart wisdom to its readers. These historical references, spanning from the promise to Abrahamas to the era of Jesusas, illuminate the fulfilment of divine promises. The history of the Israelites, marked by blessings, kings, and prophets, also carries a recurring lesson – transgressions led to the withdrawal of divine favour and the imposition of divine retribution through other nations. In these pages, we find not just history but timeless guidance embedded in the divine narrative.

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