The Arabic for “the holy land” is al-ard al-muqaddasa, which in Hebrew is Eretz Kodesh
Quran-Surah Al-Ma’idah 5.20-26
(5:20) Recall when Moses said to his people: ‘My people, remember Allah’s favour upon you when He raised Prophets amongst you and appointed you rulers, and granted to you what He had not granted to anyone else in the world.
(5:21) (Moses said) My people! Enter the holy land (Israel) which Allah has ordained for you, and do not turn back for then you will turn about losers.
(5:22) They (Jews) answered: ‘Moses, therein live a ferocious people: we will not enter unless they depart from it, but if they do depart from it then we will surely enter it.’
(5:23) Two from among those (Banu Israel) who were frightened but upon whom Allah had bestowed His favour said: ‘Enter upon them through the gate – for if you do enter – you will be the victors. And put your trust in Allah if indeed you are men of faith.’
(5:24) But they said: ‘O Moses! Never shall we enter it as long as they are there. Go forth, then, you and your Lord, and fight, both of you. As for us, we will sit here.’
(5:25) Then Moses said: ‘My Lord! I have control over none but my own self and my brother; so distinguish between us and the transgressing people.’
(5:26) Allah said: ‘This land will now be forbidden to them for forty years and they will remain wandering about on the earth. Do not grieve over the condition of these transgressing people.
Numbers 14:1-9 (Old Testament)
1- That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.
2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!
3 Why is the Lord (Jehovah) bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.
6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes
7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.
8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.
9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
Comment by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi ( Published in1972)
This refers to the past glory of the Israelites that they enjoyed at a much earlier period before the advent of Moses. On the one hand, Prophets of the high rank of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were raised among them; on the other, they won great political power in Egypt during the time of the Prophet Joseph and after him. For a long time they remained the greatest rulers of their time in the then-civilized world, and their currency was in circulation not only in Egypt but also in the countries around it.
In contrast to the general belief that the glory of the Israelites begins with the advent of the Prophet Moses, the Qur’an makes it clear here that the period of their real glory and greatness had passed long before him and he himself was holding that period before his people as an instance of their glorious past.
By the Holy Land is meant Palestine, which had been the home of the Prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the Israelites left Egypt for good, God allotted this land to them and commanded them to conquer it.
This speech was made by the Prophet Moses when two years after their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were encamping in the desert of Paran which lies in the Sinai Peninsula contiguous to the northern boundary of Arabia and the southern boundary of Palestine.
It may mean that the two persons were from among those who were tilled with the fear of the mighty people, or they were from among those who were God-fearing people.
The details of their homeless wandering can be had from the books, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, of the Bible. In brief, it is this: The Prophet Moses dispatched twelve chiefs of Israel from the desert of Paran to spy out the Holy Land. Accordingly, they spied it out and returned after forty days and made a report before all the congregation of Israel. They said, “Surely it floweth with milk and honey……Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land: (and) We be not able to go up against (them)…..and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight.” At this, all the community wailed aloud and said, “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt: or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? But Joshua and Caleb, who had been among the twelve spies, rebuked the community for its cowardice. Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”
Then both declared, “If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it us……Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land…..and the Lord is with us: fear them not. But all the congregation stoned them with stones.” At last God became wrathful at their continuous misbehavior and decreed, “Doubtless ye shall now wander in the wilderness forty years until all that were numbered of you…..from twenty years old and upward shall fall as carcasses in this wilderness, (and) your little ones (grow young)……then will I bring in and they shall know the land….” According to this Divine decree, they took 38 years to reach Jordan from the desert of Paran. During this period all those who were young at the time of the exodus from Egypt died and after the conquest of Jordan the Prophet Moses also died. After this, during the time of Joshua, son of Nun, the Israelites were able to conquer Palestine.
The incident contained in vv. 20-26 has been cited here with the special object to warn the Israelites. They have been reminded that they disobeyed Moses and swerved from the right path and showed cowardice and were consequently condemned to wander homeless for forty years but if they persisted in their attitude of rebellion against the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him), the chastisement would be much more severe than that.