It has been reported that about seventy thousand men from the people of Sayyiduna Dawood عَلیہِ السلاَم used to live in the sea-side village of Eelah, near ‘Uqbah. These people were living a luxurious and prosperous life. Allah عزوجل tested them by way of prohibiting them from fishing on Saturday (the day of Sabbath) and permitted them to catch fish on all other days of the week. Allah عزوجل tested their faith by way of making many fish available on Saturday and none on other days. However, upon listening to the whispers of Satan, they began to dig drains from the sea into the land, resulting in the formation of ponds in the dry land. Satan further misguided them by giving them the evil idea that on Sabbath (Saturday), when fish come into the pond through these drains, close the passage of the drains and do not catch fish that day. Instead, catch them the next day. They liked this satanic idea but they did not realize the fact that the day when they trapped fish in ponds, would still be considered as fishing day. Therefore, capturing fish turned out to be on the day of Sabbath (Saturday) which Allah عزوجل had prohibited for them. On this occasion, Jews divided into three groups:
- There were some who prevented themselves from fishing according to the command of Allah عزوجل, and tried to advise others to do the same. They showed anger and hatred towards this transgression.
- Another group also disliked and hated this act but remained silent. They did not restrain people from indulging in it. Instead they said to those who tried to prevent others that why they advise such people whom Allah عزوجل is either about to destroy or going to inflict His severe torment upon them.
- There was a group of insolent and disobedient people who openly opposed the commandment of Allah عزوجل following the evil temptation of Satan by fishing on Saturday. They ate as well as sold those fish.
When the disobedient people did not refrain from their evil act despite being forbidden from it, then those who attempted to prevent them said that they would no longer keep any ties with them. Therefore, they built a wall to separate themselves from the wrongdoers. The village was divided and separate entrance and exit were made. Wrathfully, Sayyiduna Dawood عَلیہِ السلاَم cursed those who fished on Saturday. Consequently, no one among the disobedient came outside one day. Some people climbed up the wall to see them and saw that all of them were deformed into monkeys. When the people entered by opening the door of wrongdoers, the monkeys would recognize their relatives, come close to them and sniff their clothes and weep bitterly. But the people could not recognize the ones turned into monkeys. Those who became monkeys were twelve thousand in number. They lived for three days and could not eat or drink anything in between and all of them died out of thirst and hunger. The group of people who prevented from fishing remained safe from destruction. According to more trustworthy report, Allah عزوجل also saved those who considered it evil even in their hearts and remained silent. (Tafseer As-Saawi, vol. 1, pp. 72; part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 65)
This event is also mentioned in detail in Surah Al-A’raf. Its translation is as following:
And ask them of the condition of village that was on the seashore; when they used to exceed in the matter of the Sabbath (Saturday prohibition) – when their fish used to come swimming on the top of the water in front of them on the day of Sabbath, and not come on the days it was not Sabbath; this is how We used to test them, due to their disobedience. And when a group among them said, ‘Why do you preach to the people whom Allah is going to destroy or to inflict upon them a severe punishment?’ They said, ‘To have an excuse before your Lord, and that perhaps they may fear.’ And when they forgot the advices they had been given, We rescued those who used to forbid evil, and seized the unjust ones with a dreadful torment – the recompense of their disobedience. Consequently when they rebelled against the command to prohibition, We said to them, ‘Be apes, despised!’ [Kanz-ul-Iman (Translation of Quran)] (Part 9, Surah Al-A’raf, verse 163-166)
Moral: Therefore, we learnt how dangerous it is to disobey the commandments of Allah عزوجل and to fall into the trap plotted by Satan. Furthermore, we learnt how wretched are those cursed by a Prophet of Allah. Even their signs are wiped away from the face of the earth by Divine torment, they are destined for Hellfire and they are rendered unsuccessful in both the worldly life and the afterlife. (نَعُوذُبِاللہِ مِنہ)
There are many lessons and words of advice that the Muslims can derive from this heart-trembling event of the people of Eelah. May the fear of Allah عزوجل thrive in the hearts of the Muslims after reading it, may they stay away from evil temptations and remain steadfast upon the straight path and become successful in both the worlds!