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Sura 7
Aya 163
وَاسأَلهُم عَنِ القَريَةِ الَّتي كانَت حاضِرَةَ البَحرِ إِذ يَعدونَ فِي السَّبتِ إِذ تَأتيهِم حيتانُهُم يَومَ سَبتِهِم شُرَّعًا وَيَومَ لا يَسبِتونَ ۙ لا تَأتيهِم ۚ كَذٰلِكَ نَبلوهُم بِما كانوا يَفسُقونَ

Muhammad Asad

And ask them about that town which stood by the sea: how its people would profane the Sabbath whenever their fish came to them, breaking the water's surface, on a day on which they ought to have kept Sabbath - because they would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days!1 Thus did We try them by means of their [own] iniquitous doings.
  • Lit., "on a day when they did not keep Sabbath". Under Mosaic Law, they were obliged to refrain from all work - and, therefore, also from fishing - on Sabbath-days, with the result that the fish were more plentiful and would come closer to the shore on those days: and the inhabitants of the town took this as an excuse to break the Sabbath-law. Since the Qur'an does not mention the name of the town nor give any indication as to the historical period in which those offences were committed, it may be assumed that the story of the Sabbath-breakers (alluded to in several places in the Qur'an) is a general illustration of the tendency, so often manifested by the children of Israel, to offend against their religious laws in pursuit of their passions or for the sake of worldly gain. Although, according to the teachings of Islam, the Mosaic dispensation has since been abrogated, the Qur'an frequently points out its great role in the history of man's monotheistic beliefs, and stresses again and again its (time-bound) importance as a means of enforcing spiritual discipline on the children of Israel. Their repeated, deliberate breaches of the Mosaic Law are shown as evidence of their rebellious attitude towards that discipline and, thus, towards God's commandments in general.