December 2, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9660

Article In Qatari Daily On The Islamic Tale Of Allah's Punishment Of The Jews By Changing Them Into Apes And Pigs

December 2, 2021
Qatar | Special Dispatch No. 9660

In his column in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq, 'Abdallah Al-'Amadi, former media advisor to the Qatari education minister, wrote about the importance of preaching good and forbidding evil. As a "point of departure," and in order to "clarify the approach," he discussed at length the well-known Islamic tale, mentioned in the Quran and the Hadith, according to which Allah transformed the Jews into apes and pigs as punishment for violating their Sabbath.

The story of the divine punishment of turning the Jews to apes and pigs is mentioned in the most important Islamic sources. The Quran mentions it in three verses: "... They are those whom Allah has cast aside and on whom His wrath has fallen and of whom He has made some as apes and swine..." (5:60); "...You have surely known the end of those from amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath, in consequence of which we condemned them: Be ye like apes, despised" (2:65); and "when, instead of amending, they became more persistent in the pursuit of that which they were forbidden, we condemned them: Be ye as apes, despised" (7:166). In addition, the story is also mentioned in the reliable collections of hadiths Sahih Al-Muslim and Sahih Al-Bukhari.[1]

In his article in the Qatari daily, Al-'Amadi presents the story in which Allah transforms a group of Jews into apes after they disobey him by fishing on the Sabbath despite the prohibition on it. He adds that according to tradition, two other groups of Jews obeyed the Lord's decree and refrained from fishing on the Sabbath; the first group actively advised the rebellious ones to heed Allah, while the second group remained indifferent. Al-'Amadi states that the first group, that exhorted the wrongdoers to heed Allah, was spared punishment, and that this underlines the importance of and obligation to counsel and preach good and forbid evil.

The Islamic trope of the transformation of the Jews, or their distant forefathers, into apes and pigs features prominently in Arab antisemitism in the modern era. The reference to this traditional tale in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq demonstrates its prevalence.[2]

The following are excerpts from Al-'Amadi's column: [3]

"When in their insolence they[the Jews] transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: 'Be ye apes, despised and rejected.'" Quran 7:166, Yusuf Ali.

"You speak to this person and that, you write here and there, you act for good and to prevent evil, you persist and don't give up, and endure indefinitely, but then someone comes and says to you: You're wasting your time and efforts on people who pay you no mind, therefore you should focus on yourself and your loved ones, and keep your door closed unless you know for certain [that your actions will bear fruit]!

"This is a negative approach which can instill despair in the hearts of people – one [approach] among many which existed in the past and present, and which will endure in the future until Allah inherits the earth and everything upon it. So as not to stray from the topic, we turn to the tale of the people of the Sabbath [i.e. the Jews], in a city by the sea,[4] in order to clarify the approach and turn the story into a point of departure for my ultimate aim.

"[The Jews] were mentioned in the Quran when some of the Jews of the city of Medina boasted before the Prophet Muhammed, trying to demonstrate their high stature among the nations and their descent from Abraham, Israel, and Moses, and then Allah instructed his Prophet [Muhammad]: '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."[5] That is, [Allah said:] Oh Muhammad, ask your Jewish neighbors about the chronicles of their ancient ancestors whom Allah turned into apes and pigs. Did I not punish them for their sins...?

"The Tale Of The People Of The Sabbath

"The people of the city – about whom Allah provided no geographical or historical details, other than the fact that they were Jews, based on the context of the preceding verses – relied on the sea for a living. Their test became harder when masses of fish would appear on the Sabbath, while the number decreased significantly during the rest of the week.

"So, one group circumvented the Lord's decree: they spread their [fishing] nets before the Sabbath, the fish would come during the Sabbath and become tangled in them, and then they gathered them the next day! Another group, which did not approve of this circumvention of the Lord's decree, promptly forbade it, condemned [the other group's] actions, and ordered them to stop, to prevent the Lord's vengeance from descending and harming the entire city, but they refused.

"The matter remained [a dispute] between the two groups, and after some time, a third group appeared, and said to the [second] group which had forbidden the act: 'Why do you preach to those whom Allah will soon annihilate?'[6] That is, continuing to forbid, condemn, and counsel this group is a waste of time, since there is no point in preaching and forbidding [the acts] of such a group of wicked sinners, who undoubtedly will be annihilated due to their disobedience of what their God has commanded.

"Did The Group That Ordered [The Sinners] To Stop Their Evil Acts Indeed Stop [Preaching Good]?

"The group did not stop, of course, and responded briefly to those who viewed its actions as pointless by saying: Our actions are 'to discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him.'[7] That is, our actions are a duty we perform for the sake of Allah... Thus, after this trickery and the various responses to it, the city split into three groups: the deceivers; those who forbade [the evil acts], and a third group, which agreed with neither.

"In other words, the city's residents split into three groups... a mutinous, cunning group; a group taking an active stance against this rebellion and trickery through condemnation and counsel, and a group that disavowed those who condemned [evil] and took a passive stance of condemnation without taking action.

"When preaching and advising proved to be useless, leaving that group with no recourse, Allah's word came to pass and his warning was fulfilled: Those who forbade evil were protected from evil; the rebels were severely punished, as will be explained shortly; and, regarding the third group, the text remains silent, possibly indicating contempt [for them] – although they were not punished – because they did not actively condemn [the acts] and were content with condemning them passively, and therefore deserved to be ignored, if not punished, as was written: 'When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrongdoers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected."'[8]

"The Duty to Inform

"The events of the tale of the city point to the vital importance of acting to eliminate evil from society through all the means outlined in the shari'a, as was said in the hadith [compilation] of Sahih Al-Muslim:[9] 'He who witnesses an evil [act] must change it with his own hands; if he cannot, let him [do so] with his tongue; and if he cannot, let him [do so] in his heart; and this [acting within one's heart] is the lowest level of faith.'

"Society's laziness in failing to perform the duty of deterrence... or [the duty] to counsel and call for improvement by all possible means, which are fundamentally expressed in the duty [of every Muslim] to decree good and forbid evil – this laziness can sometime cause the ruin of all, not just that of the rebellious group...

"In every society, there must be a group that decrees that good be done and evil forsworn, and that will act in every way and by all means necessary. This role cannot be left to a group that is wrong and leads other astray, or to [a group] that believes only in the righteousness of its own actions and of its own agenda [and ignores the actions of others]... Laziness and dismissal of groups that circumvent the shari'a and its laws constitute steps toward bringing about an unpleasant end for everyone, including the decent and the devout.

"This is where the Quran directs our attention, with Allah's words: 'And fear tumult or oppression, which affecteth not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong: and know that Allah is strict in punishment.'[10] Allah has commanded the believers not to accept evil amongst them, because then the punishment will include them [as well]..."



[2] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 442, Arab and Islamic Antisemitism, May 29, 2008; and dozens more references.

[3] Al-Sharq (Qatar), November 11, 2021.

[4] "The city by the sea" is mentioned in Quran 7:163 as a city of Jews.

[5] Quran 7:163, Yusuf Ali.

[6] Quran 7:164, Yusuf Ali.

[7] Quran 7:164. Yusuf Ali.

[8] Quran 7:165-6. Yusuf Ali.

[9]  Sahih Al-Muslim is one of the six most important collections of hadiths for Sunni Muslims, who consider this collection of hadiths the most verified after Sahih Al-Bukhari.

[10] Quran 8:25. Yusuf Ali.

Share this Report:

Help Fight Extremism - Support MEMRI

MEMRI is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax-deductible and kept strictly confidential.