And indeed you knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday). We said to them: "Be you monkeys, despised and rejected." So We made this punishment an example to their own and to succeeding generations and a lesson to those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious). (Al Qur'an 2:65 – 2:66)
"Or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath¬ breakers." (Al Qur'an 4:47)
From the above verses, there is no doubt of the severity of Allah's anger upon the Sabbath breakers and how they were cursed in this world and the next.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNT
The Price of Disobedience
When Allah prohibits something, it is not wise for one who claims to believe in Allah to find loopholes, technicalities and other excuses to get around the prohibitions. These actions are not justified at all, and will place one in great peril. Obedience to Allah should be in substance, not just in technical terms.
It goes without saying that sins bring the calamity of Allah upon us. Do not think that you are smarter than Allah, for this is a challenge that you will most definitely lose.
The Sabbath breaker's community was split into three:
Righteous people – those who stayed on the path of Allah and actively called upon others to do the same
Sinners – those who disobeyed the message of Allah and tried to suppress the believers, together with their supporters
"In-betweeners" - those who did not participate with the sinners, but who refused to participate in the calling of goodness or the prohibition of evil
The "in-betweeners" want to be left alone, to live in their own bubble, too indifferent and cowardly to stand up for goodness or speak up against falsehood. These are the people who assume that as long as they are worshipping Allah, what anyone else does is not their problem.
Why did Allah give us a story of a community that lived and died hundreds of generations ago? It is because there is an alarming parallel between the above communities and the Muslim ummah.
Allah gave us the difference between the quality of the believer and the quality of Bani Israil. Today, many so-called Muslims want to be left alone and remain in their spiritual status quo. They do not want to be involved in spreading the deen or guiding the rest of society. They adhere to Allah's teachings, but are wishy-washy with others (even other Muslims) who disobey. They even indirectly participate in the wrongdoing without realizing the gravity of their actions.
This is the exact behaviour of the Sabbath breakers, and the curse of Allah will continue to all the people bearing these characteristics until the end of time. In public they appear to be devout and compliant, but in their hearts, they behave just like the cursed monkeys of the Sabbath breakers.
This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Commanding the right and prohibiting the wrong is a collective responsibility for all the Muslims. Rasulullah (SAW) warned that the one who stays silent from telling the truth is a silent devil. The story of the Sabbath breakers prove that there is no rescue from Allah's torment unless we remind and advise others to fear Allah and remedy their behaviour.
The one who invited others towards goodness were spared the torment and humiliating punishment of Allah. That is the only way you will be saved from a time of calamity when the rest of the mass majority Muslim society around you is falling into evil ways and not enough are engaged in the correction of their behaviour or giving da'wah. There is no other option: just being good is not good enough. If you believe in Allah, it is incumbent to continue inviting others to goodness, in order to preserve your own safety in this world and the next. We cannot just sit passively and take no action.
And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers. (Al Qur'an 11:117)
An important note: commanding the right and forbidding the wrong has manner and protocol to it. There are certain measures that we have to take, sequences that we have to observe and corrective actions which are prohibited. Please study this topic and consult with a scholar or a learned person who is superior to you in Islamic knowledge, to make sure that you are on the right track and discharge these duties with wisdom.