وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ نَحْنُ أَبْنَاءُ اللَّهِ وَأَحِبَّاؤُهُ ۚ قُلْ فَلِمَ يُعَذِّبُكُم بِذُنُوبِكُم
The Jews and Christians assert, “We are God’s children and His beloved ones.” Say: “Why, then, does He punish you for your sins?...” (Al-Māedah 5:18)
What is mentioned in this verse appears in our lives in this way: while criticizing others’ wrongdoings, we tend not to include ourselves in the same criticism. For instance, we damn one because of an evil they committed and say, “Why does God not punish them for their sin?” but we expect God to forgive or reward us for any minor good deed we do.
However, when we see or hear someone commit an evil or a sin, this should lead us to remember our sins and evils, and when we see someone do good, we should think that God may forgive them because of that good in them. More than that, we should diminish others’ sins even though they are as big as mountains to the extent that they should appear to us so small as a walnut, while magnifying their good as little as an atom so great as it may cause their forgiveness and salvation. As for ourselves, we should evaluate us contrarily to this.
Thus, when we look at the claims of People of the Book in the verse under discussion with the same criteria as above, it will be apparent how outrageous and horrible it is in both God’s sight and that of people. Think that a group of people will rise to claim that they are different from other people and assert that they are “God’s children and His beloved ones!” Arrogantly, they will take a reckless stance before God. Moreover, they will look down upon other people, and thus they will open a door to many other possible errors. For example, they will commit as many sins and evils as they wish, and then they will claim that as they are (supposedly) so close to God, He will forgive them anyway. According to their whims, Ezra is the son of God, and so is Jesus. As they are the followers of such beloveds of God, they will be also regarded to be so and protected by God. Accordingly, those who are not favored with this honor and privilege, however, should worry about themselves. Punishment and torment are only for them. Even though there is nothing in their Books to justify them in their claims, they will engage in such controversies when they are threatened by the Divine Book of the Qur’ān with punishment, and they will assume that they have defeated Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his followers. With such groundless assumptions as these, they will imagine that they will succeed in the end.
It is a fact that there are the expressions of “ibnullah” (God’s child) or “abna’ullah” (God’s children) in the Bible. However, it is not possible to infer from their usage that God actually has children; it is not possible either that the Jews or Christians are children of God exclusively. First of all, this expression may well be an error of translation, for none of the present versions of the Bible, including both the Old Testament and the New Testament, are the original versions. They are all translations and have undergone many changes in the course of time. Secondly, even if we take for granted that these expressions existed in the original editions of these Books, they are not used for certain nations exclusively. They are used for all who believe in the pillars of faith and do good deeds as ordered by God Almighty. For this reason, they may well be used metaphorically. They may also refer to God’s mercy, leniency, and benevolence. For God has many Names introducing or describing Him as the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, the All-Lenient, and the All-Pitying.
Whether these expressions really exist in the Bible or whether they are used metaphorically, it is clear that by claiming that they were “God’s children and beloved ones,” the Christians and Jews who made this claim during the Messengership of our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, engaged in mere controversies. Because of this, the Qur’ān’s answer to them is silencing and refuting: “Why, then, does He punish you for your sins?” That is: Now that you are the children and the beloved ones of God, why, then, does He frequently punish you and cause you pain? Why does He sometimes expose you to destruction and sometimes to captivity, so that you never get rid of exile or ruin?