Q. To the best of my knowledge, the Jews are described in the Qur'an and the Sunnah as having incurred Allah's displeasure. Nevertheless, we see them today wielding so much power in world affairs. Their influence on the policies of both superpowers and other nations is taken for granted. Moreover, they are in the forefront in various fields of knowledge. Their propaganda machine is unsurpassed. To my mind, there seems to be some sort of contradiction here. Do you agree?
A. If we were to evaluate matters in terms of this world, in any particular period of history, then you may be right. We are, however, required by Islam to take a much broader view of things in order to achieve a clear judgment.
There are certain principles we should always bear in mind in order to maintain a proper perspective. The first is that this life is a temporary state which leads to a later life that is much wider and ever-lasting. The fortunes of this life must not be separated from the results achieved in the second life. Therefore, if a person or a group enjoy great riches, much power and unquestioned authority in this life, they are not to be considered privileged or fortunate unless what they have here ensures that, the person or community has an even better position in the life to come.
The second principle is that this life is a test, whatever a person is granted or deprived of in this life should be viewed as a means of a test. Rich people are tested with their riches, while those who exercise power may pass or fail their test on account of how they use that power. On the other hand, a person living in dire poverty is judged on the basis of how he bears his misfortune. An ultimate winner is a person who passes this test while everyone who fails is a total loser.
The third principle is that every person and every community must prove their worth through their deeds. A person may claim to be a Muslim and he may maintain all appearances of a good Muslim. A community may pretend to be Islamic and demonstrate all the marks of Islamic life, but deep in his heart neither person nor community are fully Islamic. Unless they prove their claims through a variety of circumstances, their claims cannot be accepted as true. The companions of the Prophet endured very difficult circumstances in both Makkah and Madinah during the lifetime of the Prophet before they were granted victory by Allah. It was only after they had proven themselves that power and affluence were granted to them.
If we cast a glance on history, we find that Muslims may be overpowered, losing their land and wealth, be subjected by others and suffering humiliation. All this comes as a result of turning away from the straight route Allah has mapped for them. If they neglect their duties which Allah has assigned for them, His support may be withheld from them. When they are left to their own devices, the laws of nature which Allah has set in operation will take their course. Thus, their power will be matched against that of their enemy. I am not referring here only to the duties of the individual such as prayer, fasting and zakah, but I am referring mainly to the duty of the Muslim community of implementing Islam in practical life and conveying Allah's message to the rest of mankind by word and deed.
From another point of view, Allah may give non-believers or Jews or other nations wealth and power to be enjoyed for a certain period of time. If He grants these to a nation which has received a message from Him, He wants them to prove that they are worthy of that with which He has favored them. If they fail the test, then they incur Allah's displeasure and they deserve His punishment.
Allah tells us in the Qur'an that the Jews have not been faithful to the trust Allah has given them. They killed His prophets and distorted His message. They behaved arrogantly to other nations and they placed themselves above the rest of mankind. Allah has punished them for their misdeeds by imposing on them a life of subjugation and humiliation by other nations. This is borne out by events of Jewish history. He may, however, give them periods of respite when they are able to enjoy power, and they have to prove that they are faithful to their trust. If they do not, then ignominy will be their fate again. Reflect, if you will, on this verse of the Qu'ran: "Overshadowed by ignominy are they, wherever they may be, save (when they bind themselves again) in a bond with Allah and a bond with men; for they have earned the burden of Allah's condemnation, and are overshadowed by humiliation. All this has befallen them because they persisted in denying the truth of Allah's messages and in slaying the Prophets against all rights. All this because they rebelled against Allah and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right", (3; 112).
It is certainly true that the Jews do enjoy today one of those periods when they have power and influence and when they do have a significant impact on events that take place in most parts of the world. Their glory will not last for long because they have proven yet again that their actions are diametrically opposed to Allah's law and to the message conveyed to them by Allah's prophets and messengers. Far from implementing Allah's law, they do their best to thwart it. Hence, Allah is certain to punish them in this life as well as in the life to come. However, the Muslim communities of today will need to go through a period of transformation which will put them on the right track towards the implementation of Allah's law and the creation of a society which conducts its life on the basis of Allah's message. Unless they do that, they cannot achieve the victory Allah has promised them. For Allah promises victory to those who support Him by implementing His message.