References to the Conduct of
the Ancient People. Death caused by Allah against those who refused to fight when they were ordained - Muslims enjoined to sacrifice their lives and their wealth in the cause of Allah - Saul's kingdom over Israel and their demur against Saul being chosen as their king.
(243) أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ خَرَجُواْ مِن دِيَارِهِمْ وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللّهُ مُوتُواْ ثُمَّ أَحْيَاهُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَشْكُرُونَ
243. " Have you not considered those (of old) who fled their homes, though they were thousands (in number) , for fear of death?
Then Allah said to them: ' Die! ' (and they died) ; then He restored them to life. Truly Allah is gracious to people, but most people are not thankful. "
Occasion of Revelation
Once, one of the cities of Syria became smitten with a plague and people passed away one after another. At that time, some people, hoping that they might flee from the grips of death, abandoned their homeland. After leaving their environment and escaping from death, they felt powerful and independent in them. They, neglecting the Will of Allah and expecting the natural phenomena to help them, became proud and haughty. Therefore, the Lord destroyed them in that desert by the same sickness.
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This verse indirectly and also instructively points to the awesome fate of one of the old nations. They encountered with a terrible infectious disease in their environment where thousands of them fled from.
" Have you not considered those (of old) who fled their homes, though they were thousands (in number) , for fear of death? ..."
Then it refers to their fate, saying:
"...Then Allah said to them: ' Die! ' (and they died) ;
They died by the same sickness that they had used as the pretext of their flight.
Then Allah brought them back to life, maybe, in order that the story of their lives might serve as a warning for others who can take an example from it.
This creative command is similar to the command cited in Sura Yasin No. 96, verse 82, where it says: " His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: ' Be ', so it is."
The phrase: / qumma 'ahyahum / (then He restored them to life) , mentioned in the verse, hints to the story of those people who, after death, were quickened by the invocation of Ezekiel, the Prophet, (a.s.) . Since their coming back to life was one of the clear blessings of Allah both from their points of view and from the point of warning other people, the verse finally says:
"...Truly Allah is gracious to people, ..."
Not only this group of people received, but also all humankind always receive the grace, kindness, and blessings of Allah, while they are usually not grateful.
"...but most people are not thankful."
The Late Saduq, a great famous scholar from Shi'ah school of thought, reasoning on this verse for the possibility of resurrection, says:
" One of our convictions is belief in resurrection (that some former people
return to life again in this very world) ." (1)
This holy verse can also be a document for the problem of the Resurrection and raising the dead in the Hereafter.
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The explanation of Ezekiel's invocation, as has been cited upon the description of the concept of the Qur'anic phrase: " Then He restored them to life ", is as follows:
Owing to the repeated visits of the plague, the children of Israel numbering several thousands left their homes for fear of death. It happened so that the disease once again pested the town and the people in a huge number of thousands got out of the town being confident of their escape from death which evidently indicated lack of faith in God.
Allah commanded all of them to die and they were all dead and reduced to dust, only their bones were lying on the earth. One of the Israelite prophets, Ezekiel, passed that way and prayed to the Lord to raise the people to life. Ezekiel, was inspired by Allah to pray to Him reciting a particular name and to sprinkle water on the rotten bones of the dead, which ' Ezekiel ' did and the people were once again quickened. Thus it was manifested for the knowledge of the faithless people that Allah does whatsoever He pleases and they could never go their own way against the Will of the Lord.
(1) Tafsir-Nimunah, vol. 2, p. 159