We like to make blanket statements, yours truly included.(See what just happened?) Maybe it’s human nature, and maybe that is why Allah teaches us through the Quran to avoid doing this. Subhanallah.
There are many examples in the Quran where Allah does this, and it can usually be recognized by the phrase وَ مِن, translated as “and from” or “and from among”. The مِن here would of تَبعِيض, meaning that it serves to distinguish a subset of something from its bigger group.
I particularly would like to showcase this ayat for this purpose:
And among the People of the Scripture is he who, if you entrust him with a great amount [of wealth], he will return it to you. And among them is he who, if you entrust him with a [single] silver coin, he will not return it to you unless you are constantly standing over him [demanding it]. That is because they say, “There is no blame upon us concerning the unlearned.” And they speak untruth about Allah while they know [it]. [Aali Imran 3:75]
And among the People of the Scripture is he who, if you entrust him with a great amount [of wealth], he will return it to you. And among them is he who, if you entrust him with a [single] silver coin, he will not return it to you unless you are constantly standing over him [demanding it].
hints to us that not all of the People of the Book are like this (discriminatory towards the gentiles). Look at Allah’s justice here. Lesson for us; just because we have had some bad experiences with a certain people, it doesn’t mean all of them are bad.
Without expounding on what the Talmud says about the discriminatory laws, let’s look inwards instead and see if Muslims do this too. One thing we should keep in mind when we read ayaat about the Children of Israel in the Quran, is that we shouldn’t jump straight to pointing fingers at them. Rather, there is a reason Allah mentions them in the Quran; as a lesson for us, not so we can bash them and feel good about us not being the Children of Israel. They are the nation that came before us. They made mistakes upon mistakes. Allah, out of His mercy, doesn’t want us to repeat their mistakes. It’s very much like a mother narrating the story of what happened to a relative or someone when s/he did something s/he was not supposed to do, in order to deter her children from falling into the same mistake.
The beneficial attitude when hearing these narrations is to look inward, self analyze and see if we do these actions. if we do, then rectify them. If we don’t, ask Allah to continue guiding us and keeping us on the straight path and forgive our shortcomings.
So, do Muslims also do this? Unfortunately yes we do. How? Examples,
“It’s ok to backbite a non Muslim.”
“It’s ok to cheat a non Muslim.”
“Oh, he’s not Muslim anyway. Doesn’t matter that I hurt his feelings.”
“Why, why would we give charity to the non Muslims?! They’re not Muslims!”
So, extracted lessons from this ayat, and these are not even comprehensive lessons that we can get from it;
- Don’t generalize. Every nation, society, people have good and bad in them.
- Always look inward when faults of a certain people are mentioned, for we may very well see something that needs rectifying within ourselves that we have never realized before.
[Taken from Taleem Quran tafseer notes taught by Sr. Taimiyah Zubayr and Sr. Aisha Altaf]