The majority tilts towards the hope that they will be forgiven if they had kept adhering to the religion which had survived with them as originating from Sayyidna Musa or Sayyidna 'Isa عليه السلام irrespective of its authenticity again, subject to the condition that they had not been hostile to the principle of Tauhid, the Oneness of Allah, and had nothing to do with the practice of Shirk. The reason is that the Principle of Tauhid! needs no reported proof. Any human being who ponders over it could himself reason it out.
A Question and its Answer
A question may arise here that the Jews and Christians, the people of the Book, who are being addressed in this verse did have the Torah and the Evangile and their sages and scholars with them even if no messengers reached them during this gap. How then could they come up with the excuse on the Day of Judgement that they had received no guidance? The answer is that by the time of the Holy Prophet (SM) the original Torah and the Evangile had gone extinct. There were alterations in texts and additions of false narratives. Thus, the availability of non-original scriptures were no better than its extinction. The likelihood of an original manuscript surviving at some unknown place with someone would not be contrary to the assertion made. In fact, some scholars including Ibn Taymiyyah have written that the original copies of the Torah and Evangile were present at some places.
The Unique Perfection of the Last among Prophets (SM) When, by addressing the people of the Book in this verse, it was said that 'Our Messenger, Muhammad al-Mustafa has come after a long gap,' there emerges a subtle hint towards the need that people who have been honoured with his presence among them should consider this as a matchless blessing and a supreme asset because the line of prophets had remained suspended since a long time and it has been opened for them once again.
Yet another indication given here is towards the fact that the world has been blessed with his presence in an age and at a place which lacked the light of knowledge and faith. The creation of God had lost its link with God only to be immersed in the worship of self-made idols. In the backdrop of a time such as this, the mission of reviving a people so lost was no easy task. This time was the notorious Jahiliyyah, commonly identified as the Age of Ignorance, and the people from it who were entrusted with the Prophet of Islam were spoiled, selfcentered and uncompromising. Yet, such was the bliss of his company and so bracing was the light of his mission that this very set of people became, in a very short time, role models and teachers for the whole world in all departments of life in knowledge, deed, morals, dealings, social living, to name only a few. This, then, becomes a widely witnessed and authentically verified proof that he was a Prophet and Messenger of Allah and that his prophetic teachings were the most effective and the most surpassing among those coming from all past prophets (SM). Imagine the mission of a physician who treats a hopeless patient and does it at a place which lacks medical instruments, and medicines too, yet he succeeds in his effort to treat the patient to the limit that this patient, not simply that he rises from his death-bed to become a healthy person, but that he goes way ahead and himself turns into an expert physician and healer as well if so, who can doubt the perfection of the master healer!
With this in view, we can see that following the long gap when disbelief in and disobedience to God reigned supreme everywhere, his teaching and training spread out the kind of universal light which remains unparalleled by any age previous to it: In short, out of all miracles, this one miracle alone could compel human beings to have faith in him.
Verses 20 - 26
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ جَعَلَ فِيكُمْ أَنبِيَاءَ وَجَعَلَكُم مُّلُوكًا وَآتَاكُم مَّا لَمْ يُؤْتِ أَحَدًا مِّنَ الْعَالَمِينَ
يَا قَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الْأَرْضَ الْمُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِي كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنقَلِبُوا خَاسِرِينَ
قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّ فِيهَا قَوْمًا جَبَّارِينَ وَإِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا حَتَّىٰ يَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا فَإِن يَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا فَإِنَّا دَاخِلُونَ
قَالَ رَجُلَانِ مِنَ الَّذِينَ يَخَافُونَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمَا ادْخُلُوا عَلَيْهِمُ الْبَابَ فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُمُوهُ فَإِنَّكُمْ غَالِبُونَ ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَتَوَكَّلُوا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
قَالُوا يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنَّا لَن نَّدْخُلَهَا أَبَدًا مَّا دَامُوا فِيهَا ۖ فَاذْهَبْ أَنتَ وَرَبُّكَ فَقَاتِلَا إِنَّا هَاهُنَا قَاعِدُونَ
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي لَا أَمْلِكُ إِلَّا نَفْسِي وَأَخِي ۖ فَافْرُقْ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَ الْقَوْمِ الْفَاسِقِينَ
قَالَ فَإِنَّهَا مُحَرَّمَةٌ عَلَيْهِمْ ۛ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً ۛ يَتِيهُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ فَلَا تَأْسَ عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْفَاسِقِينَ
And when Musa said to his people, "O my people, remember the blessing of Allah upon you when He made prophets from among you, made you kings and gave you what He did not give to anyone in the worlds.  O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has destined for you, and do not turn back, for then you will turn losers."  They said, "O Musa, there is a nation of tyrants over there and we shall never go in there until they get out of it. If they do get out of it, we are ready to go in."  Said two men from among the God-fearing, on whom Allah had bestowed His favour, "Enter the gate (charging) upon them. And once you have entered it, you are the ones to overcome. And in Allah you must place your trust, if you are believers."  They said, "O Musa, we shall never enter it, in any case, so long as they are there. So go, you and your Lord, and fight. As for us, we are sitting right here."  He said, "O my Lord, I have no control except over myself and my brother. So, make a separation between us and the sinning people."  He (Allah) said, "This (land) is prohibited to them for forty years. They shall be wandering around the earth. So, do not grieve for the sinning people."
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