Say, “Shall I inform you of what is worse than that as penalty from Allah? It is that of those whom Allah has cursed and with whom He became angry and made of them apes and pigs and slaves of oppression. Those are worse in position and further astray from the sound way.” (Qur’an 5:60)
Now, this text does not say in particular that either any from the children of Israel or from among the Jews were made into apes or pigs. It says those whom Allah (swt) cursed and became angry with them.
We also do not know if this is in response to the curses pronounced by either David (a.s) or Jesus (a.s).
“Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses.” (Qur’an 5:78)
It is possible that this text can be interpreted literally that Allah (swt) made rebellious humans into apes and swine. It is also possible that Allah (swt) made them into people who had qualities of apes and swine.
Abu Huraira reported that Allah’s Messenger (saw) said: A group of Bani Isra’il was lost. I do not know what happened to it, but I think (that it ‘underwent a process of metamorphosis) and assumed the shape of rats. Don’t you see when the milk of the camel is placed before them, these do not drink and when the milk of goat is placed before them, these do drink? Abu Huraira said: I narrated this very hadith to Ka’b and he said: Did you hear this from Allah’s Messenger (saw)? I (Abu Huraira) said: Yes. Did you hear this from Allah’s Messenger (saw)? I (Abu Huraira) said: Yes. Did you hear this from Allah’s Messenger (saw)? I (Abu Huraira) said: Yes. Did you hear this from Allah’s Messenger (saw)? I (Abu Huraira) said: Yes. Did you hear this from Allah’s Messenger (saw)? I (Abu Huraira) said: Yes. He said this again and again, and I said: Look! Am I reading the Torah?’ Source: (Sahih Muslim Book 042, Number 7135) & (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 3060)
The Blessed Messenger (saw) if we are to believe this narration at all is supposed to have made this statement about rats based on his observation that rats did not drink the milk of a she-camel as Jews did not deem it lawful for them.
Allah knows best and Allah’s help is sought.
One of the top scholars from Ahl Sunnah also known as the ‘spotless‘ and ‘immaculate‘ Imam made sure there was some clause with this narration.
The great scholar Hafiz Ibn Hajr Al Asqalani (May Allah’s mercy be upon him) wrote:
“And the majority has responded to this saying that the Prophet –may Allah bless him- said this before the revelation came to him about the reality of this matter. And for this reason, there is no dogmatic assertion from him on this, but it is there in the denial of this as found in Ibn Mas’ud’s narration.” (Fath al-Bari 11/166)
In other words, there is plausible deniability. Perhaps Ibn Hajr himself performed an experiment with camel’s milk and rats and found that rats do indeed drink camel’s milk. Therefore it is plausible that Ibn Hajr wanted to find a way to save this narration because of its chain while at the same time not ascribing falsehood to the Blessed Messenger (saw). Also, the hadith says a group from bani isra’il not the whole of isra’il.
It says that they were transformed into rats meaning that rats already existed. So this could also be a rare phenomenon that the Blessed Messenger (saw) witnessed that is not be expected in all cases. (Rats not drinking camels milk) but only in this particular case. Allah (swt) knows best.