Will you give information about the incident in which some people were transformed into monkeys and the name of the nation?

The Details of the Question
Will you give information about the incident in which some people were transformed into monkeys and the name of the nation?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The meaning of verses 65 and 66 of the chapter of al-Baqara mentioning the incident of transformation into monkeys is as follows:

"And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath; We said to them: ‘Be ye apes despised and rejected.’ So We made it an example to their own time and to their posterity, and a lesson to those who fear Allah."

According to the explanations of Ibn Kathir, Fakhri Razi and Abussuud, this incident is a kind of wrath inflicted upon Sons of Israel due to their disobedience to Allah. God Almighty rendered Saturday holy to Jews. He ordered them to abandon worldly affairs and to worship. Accordingly, He prohibited things like trade, shopping and hunting on Saturday. However, a tribe that lived during the era of Hz. Dawud and that lived in Madyan, according to another narration, in Ayka, did not obey this prohibition. This place, which was near the sea, became full of fish in only one month of the year. There were so many fish that the sea became invisible. This state was not seen in other months. It happened on Saturdays. When they went to the sea on other days, they could not find even one small fish. God Almighty tested them through it.

The Jews resorted to a trick in order to benefit from the fish that appeared on Saturday. They formed ponds close to the sea; they made canals between the sea and the ponds, causing the fish to enter ponds on Saturday. They started to fish on Sunday. First, they did it secretly. Then, they started to do it openly. They even started to sell the fish in the market. The tribe of Baqiyya among them warned those who did so and said that those who did this, which was prohibited by Allah, would face a disaster and that they would see the bad ending of this fraud, which they did out of their greed.

They answered these warning as follows: "We have been doing it for a long time. Allah has allowed us to succeed. We have not faced any disasters up to now." However, they still feared a misfortune that could hit them. When the tribe of Baqiyya woke up one morning, they could not see anybody from them. They felt that a misfortune had hit them. When they went to their houses, they saw that their doors had been locked. When they entered the houses, they found them in the form of monkeys. They had been transformed into monkeys. Even the women and children were like that. They lived for three days without eating or drinking anything. They did not have any children during these three days. All of them died three days later. 1

There are some scholars who say that those people were transformed into monkeys spiritually. A person who is deprived of the virtue of humanity is spiritually an animal according to his deeds though he is a human being in form.

According to the explanation of Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır, the difference between a man and a monkey does not consist of hair and tail; there exists the difference of intellect, reason and ethics. All of the skill of a monkey is imitating. If a person lights a fire in front of a monkey repeatedly and teaches it to get warm, and then if he takes it to the countryside and leave some matches and wood in front of it, it is not possible for the monkey to burn the wood alone. The people whose spirituality has been eliminated are like that. They do not think about anything except blind imitation. They may seem human beings at first glance but they are actually monkeys. They break hazelnuts and eat them but they cannot plant a hazelnut tree. 2

The lesson to be taken by humans from this incident is as follows: The people who disobey Allah are regarded to have lost their human feelings. They live as humans in appearance but they are spiritually animals due to their deeds.'

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi probably received inspiration from those verses when he meant the people who lose their humanity under the mask of civilization:

"If the inside of most of these civilized people are turned out, they may seem to be wearing skins of wolves, bears, snakes, pigs and monkeys." 3


1. Tafsiru Kabir, III/109-110; Tafsiru Ibn Kathir, I/106.
2. Hak Dini Kur'ân Dili, I/379.
3. Tarihçe-i Hayat, p. 116.

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