VERSES
286
PAGES
2-49

Name

Why the name Al-Baqarah?

Al-Baqarah (the Cow) has been so named from the story of the Cow occurring in this Surah (vv. 67-73). It has not, however, been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Surah. It will, therefore, be as wrong to translate the name Al-Baqarah into "The Cow" or "The Heifer" as to translate any English name, say Mr. Baker, Mr. Rice, Mr. Wolf etc., into their equivalents in other languages or vice versa, because this would imply that the Surah dealt with the subject of "The Cow". Many more Surahs of the Quran have been named in the same way because no comprehensive words exist in Arabic (in spite of its richness) to denote the wide scope of the subject discussed in them. As a matter of fact all human languages suffer from the same limitation.

Sequence

Though it is a Madani Surah, it follows naturally a Makki Surah Al- Fatihah, which ended with the prayer: "Show us the straight way." It begins with the answer to that prayer, "This is the Book (that)...is guidance..."

The greater part of Al-Baqarah was revealed during the first two years of the Holy Prophet's life at Al-Madinah. The smaller part which was revealed at a later period has been included in this Surah because its contents are closely related to those dealt with in this Surah. For instance, the verses prohibiting interest were revealed during the last period of the Holy prophet's life but have been inserted in this Surah. For the same reason, the last verses (284-286) of this Surah which were revealed at Makkah before the migration of the Holy Prophet to AI-Madinah have also been included in it.

Historical Background

In order to understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:

  1. At Makkah the Quran generally addressed the mushrik Quraish who were ignorant of Islam, but at Al-Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of the Unity of Allah, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by Allah to their Prophet Moses (Allah's peace be upon him), and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him). But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this : they had tampered with the Torah by inserting their own explanations and interpretations into its text. They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently their beliefs, their morals and their conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their worst to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken Allah and begun to serve mammon. So much so that they had even given up their original name "Muslim" and adopted the name "Jew" instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel.

    This was their religious condition when the Holy Prophet went to Al-Madinah and invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one third of this Surah has been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral degeneration and their religious perversions has been made; side by side with this the high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have been put forward in order to bring out clearly the nature of the degeneration of the community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true religion.

  2. At Makkah Islam was mainly concerned with the propagation of its fundamental principles and the moral training of its followers. But after the migration of the Holy Prophet to Al-Madinah, where Muslims had come to settle from all over Arabia and where a tiny Islamic State had been set up with the help of the Ansar (local supporters), naturally the Quran had to turn its attention to the social, cultural, economic, political and legal problems as well. This accounts for the difference between the themes of the surahs revealed at Makkah and those at Al-Madinah. Accordingly about half of this Surah deals with those principles and regulations which are essential for the integration and solidarity of a community and for the solution of its problems.

  3. After the migration to Al-Madinah, the struggle between Islam and un-Islam had also entered a new phase. Before this the Believers, who propagated Islam among their own clans and tribes, had to face its opponents at their own risk. But the conditions had changed at Al-Madinah, where Muslims from all parts of Arabia had come and settled as one community, and had established an independent city state. Here it became a struggle for the' survival of the Community itself, for the whole of non- Muslim Arabia was bent upon and united in crushing it totally. Hence the following instructions, upon which depended not only its success but its very survival, were revealed in this Surah :-

    1. The Community should work with the utmost zeal to propagate its ideology and win over to its side the greatest possible number of people.

  4. It should so expose its opponents as to leave no room for doubt in the mind of any sensible person that they were adhering to an absolutely wrong position.

  5. It should infuse in it's members (the majority of whom were homeless and indigent and surrounded on all sides by enemies) that courage and fortitude which is so indispensable to their very existence in the adverse circumstances in which they were struggling and to prepare them to face these boldly.

  6. It should also keep them ready and prepared to meet any armed menace, which might come from any side to suppress and crush their ideology, and to oppose it tooth and nail without minding the overwhelming numerical strength and the material resources of its enemies

  7. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead.

    That is why Allah has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all the above mentioned objects.

  8. During this period, a new type of "Muslims," munafiqin (hypocrites), had begun to appear. Though signs of duplicity had been noticed during the last days at Makkah, they took a different shape at Al-Madinah. At Makkah there were some people who professed Islam to be true but were not prepared to abide by the consequences of this profession and to sacrifice their worldly interests and relations and bear the afflictions which inevitably follow the acceptance of this creed. But at Al-Madinah different kinds of munafiqin (hypocrites) began to appear. There were some who had entered the Islamic fold merely to harm it from within. There were others who were surrounded by Muslims and, therefore, had become "Muslims" to safeguard their worldly interests. They, therefore, continued to have relations with the enemies so that if the latter became successful, their interests should remain secure. There were still others who had no strong conviction of the truth of Islam but had embraced it along with their clans. Lastly, there were those who were intellectually convinced of the truth of Islam but did not have enough moral courage to give up their former traditions, superstitions and personal ambitions and live up to the Islamic moral standards and make sacrifice in its way.

    At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, all sorts of hypocrites had begun to appear. Allah has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics here. Afterwards when their evil characteristics and mischievous deeds became manifest, Allah sent detailed instructions about them.

Theme: Guidance

This Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents etc., revolve round this central theme. As this Surah has particularly been addressed to the Jews, many historical events have been cited from their own traditions to admonish and advise them that their own good lies in accepting the Guidance revealed to the Holy Prophet. They should, therefore, be the first to accept it because it was basically]y the same that was revealed to Prophet Moses (Allah's peace be upon him).

Topics and their Interconnection

These introductory verses declare the Quran to be the Book of Guidance : enunciate the articles of the Faith -- belief in Allah, Prophethood and Life-after-death; divide mankind into three main groups with regard to its acceptance or rejection -- Believers, disbelievers and hypocrites. 1 - 20

Allah invites mankind to accept the Guidance voluntarily and to submit to Him, the Lord and the Creator of the Universe and to believe in the Quran, His Guidance, and in the Life-after-death. 21 - 29

The story of the appointment of Adam as Allah's Vicegerent on Earth, of his life in the Garden, of his falling a prey to the temptations of Satan, of his repentance and its acceptance, has been related to show to mankind (Adam's offspring), that the only right thing for them is to accept and follow the Guidance. This story also shows that the Guidance of Islam is the same that was given to Adam and that it is the original religion of mankind. 30 - 39

In this portion invitation to the Guidance has particularly been extended to the children of Israel and their past and present attitude has been criticized to show that the cause of their degradation was their deviation from the Guidance. 40 - 120

The Jews have been exhorted to follow Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) who had come with the same Guidance and who was a descendant and follower of Prophet Abraham whom they highly honoured as their ancestor, and professed to follow as a prophet. The story of the building of the Ka`abah by him has been mentioned because it was going to be made the qiblah of the Muslim Community. 121 - 141

In this portion, the declaration of the change of qiblah from the Temple (Jerusalem) to the Ka`abah (Makkah) has been made as a symbol of the change of leadership from the children of Israel to the Muslim Community, which has also been fore-warned to guard against those transgressions against the Guidance that had led to the deposition of the Jews. 142 - 152

In this portion practical measures have been prescribed to enable the Muslims to discharge the heavy responsibilities of the leadership that had been entrusted to them for the promulgation of Guidance. Salat, Fast, Zakat, Haj and Jihad have been prescribed for the moral training of the Ummat. The Believers have been exhorted to obey authority, to be just, to fulfill pledges, to observe treaties, to spend wealth etc., in the way of Allah. Laws, rules and regulations have been laid down for their organization, cohesion and conduct of day-to-day life and for the solution of social, economic, political and international problems; on the other hand, drinking, gambling, lending money on interest etc., have been prohibited to keep the Ummat safe from disintegration. In between these, the basic articles of the Faith have been reiterated at suitable places, for these alone can enable and support one to stick to the Guidance. 153 - 251

These verses serve as an introduction to the prohibition of lending money on interest. The true conception of Allah, Revelation and Life-after-death has been emphasized to keep alive the sense of accountability. The stories of Prophet Abraham (Allah's peace be upon him) and of the one who woke up after a sleep of hundred years have been related to show that Allah is All-Powerful and is able to raise the dead and call them to account. The Believers, therefore, should keep this fact in view and refrain from taking interest on money. 252 - 260

The theme of 153 - 251 has been resumed and the Believers have been exhorted to spend in the way of Allah in order to please Him alone. In contrast to this, they have been warned against the evils of lending money on interest. Instructions have also been given for the honest conduct of day-to-day business transactions. 261 - 283

The basic articles of the Faith have been recapitulated here at the end of the Surah, just as they were enunciated at its beginning. Then the Surah ends with a prayer which the Muslim Community needed very much at that time when they were encountering untold hardships in the propagation of the Guidance. 284 - 286

Source: Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Quran

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2:248

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Dr. Ghali

And their Prophet said to them, "Surely the sign of his kingship is that the coffer (In earlier Scriptures it is said to be the " Ark", and Serenity is said to be "Shechina") will come up to you; in it (are) a Serenity from your Lord, and a remnant of what the house of Musa (Moses) and the house of Harun (Aaron) left (behind), the Angels carrying it. Surely in that is indeed a sign for you, in case you are believers".

2:249

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Dr. Ghali

Then as soon as Talut (Saul) departed with the hosts, he said, "Surely Allah will be trying you with a river; so whoever drinks of it, then he is not of me, and whoever does not taste (Literally: does not feed on it) it, then surely he is of me, excepting him who scoops up (a scoop) with his hand." Then they drank of it except a few of them. Then, as soon as he passed over it, he and the ones who believed with him, they said, "We have no capability today against Jalut (Goliath) and his hosts." (But) the ones who expect that they will be meeting Allah said, "How often a little community has overcome a much (larger) community by the permission of Allah; and Allah is with the patient."

2:250

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Dr. Ghali

And as soon as they went forth against Jalut (Goliath)and his hosts, they said, "Our Lord, pour out upon us patience, and make firm our feet, and give us victory over the disbelieving people!"

2:251

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Dr. Ghali

So they routed them, by the permission of Allah, and Dawud (David) killed Jaul?t; (Goliath) and Allah brought him the kingship, and (the) Wisdom, and He taught him (part of) whatever (knowledge) He decides. And had it not been for the repelling by Allah of mankind, some by means of others, (Literally: by means of some) the earth would indeed have corrupted; but Allah is The Owner of Grace over the worlds.

2:252

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Dr. Ghali

Those are the signs of Allah. We recite them to you with the Truth, and surely you are indeed (one) of the Emissaries.

2:253

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Dr. Ghali

Those are the Messengers; We have graced some of them over some others; of them (there are some) to whom Allah spoke, and some He raised in degrees. And We brought Isa son of Maryam (Jesus son of Mary) the supreme evidences and aided him with the Spirit of Holiness. (The Angel Jibril) And if Allah had (so) decided, the ones who (came) after them would not have fought against each other, after the supreme evidences had come to them. But they differed among themselves. So of them are the ones who believed, and of them are the ones who disbelieved. And if Allah had (so) decided, they would not have fought against each other; but Allah performs whatever He wills.

2:254

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Dr. Ghali

O you who have believed, expend of that which We have provided you even before there comes up a Day on which (there) will be no selling, nor (close) fellowship, nor intercession; and the disbelievers, they are the unjust.

2:255

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Dr. Ghali

Allah. There is no god except He, The Ever-Living, The Superb Upright Sustainer. Slumber does not overtake Him, nor sleep; to Him (belongs) whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Who is there that intercedes for His Providence except by His Permission? He knows whatever is in front of them (Literally: between their hands) and whatever is behind them, and they do not encompass anything of His Knowledge except whatever He has decided. His Chair embraces the heavens and the earth; the preserving of them (Literally: them both) does not tire Him; and He is The Ever-Exalted, The Ever-Magnificent.

2:256

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Dr. Ghali

There is no compulsion in the religion; right-mindedness has already been evidently (distinct) from misguidance. So whoever disbelieves in the Taghut (i.e. false gods, idols, devils and seducers) and believes in Allah, then he has already upheld fast the most binding Grip, with no disjunction (ever); and Allah is Ever-Hearing, Ever-Knowing.

2:257

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Dr. Ghali

Allah is The Ever-Patronizing Patron of (the ones) who have believed. He brings them out of the darknesses into the light. And for (the ones) who have disbelieved, their constant patrons are the Taghut (i.e. false gods, idols, devils and seducers) who bring them out of the light into the darknesses; those are the companions of the Fire; they are therein eternally (abiding).

2:258

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Dr. Ghali

Have you not regarded him who argued with Ibrahim (Abraham) about his Lord, that Allah had brought him the kingship? As' Ibrahim said, "My Lord is He Who gives life and makes to die, " he said, "I give life and make to die." Ibrahim said, "Yet surely Allah comes up with (i.e., brings) the sun from the East, so come up with (i.e., bring) it from the West." Then the one who disbelieved was confounded; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.

2:259

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Dr. Ghali

Or (such as) he who passed by a town, and it was completely devastated upon its trellises. He said, "However will Allah give life to this (town) after its death?" So Allah made him die a hundred seasons; (i.e., years) thereafter He made him rise again. He Allah) said, "How long have you lingered?" He said, "I have lingered a day or part of a day." He said, "No indeed, you have lingered a hundred seasons; So, look at your food and drink; it has not spoiled. And look at your ass, and, that We would make you a sign for mankind. And look at the bones, how We shall re-animate them, and afterwards dress them with flesh". So, as soon as it was evident to him, he said, "I know that Allah is Ever-Determiner over everything."

2:260

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Dr. Ghali

And as Ibrahim (Abraham) said, "Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead." He Allah) said, "And have you not believed?" He (Ibrahim) said, "Yes indeed, but that my heart be composed." Said He, "So take four of the birds, then wring them to you (and divide them); thereafter set a portion of them on every mountain; thereafter call them; they will come up to you with hasty diligence (and) know that Allah is Ever-Mighty, Ever-Wise."

2:261

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Dr. Ghali

The likeness of (the ones) who expend their riches in the way of Allah is as the likeness of a grain that grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. And Allah gives manifoldly to whomever He decides; and Allah is Ever-Embracing, Ever-Knowing.

2:262

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Dr. Ghali

(The ones) who expend their riches in the way of Allah (and) thereafter do not follow up whatever they have expended with reproach or hurt, have their reward in the Providence of their Lord, and no fear will be upon them, neither will they grieve.

2:263

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Dr. Ghali

A beneficent saying and forgiveness are more charitable than a donation followed by hurt. And Allah is Ever-Affluent, (Literally: Ever-Rich) Ever-Forbearing.

2:264

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Dr. Ghali

O you have believed, do not void your donations with obliging (reproach) and hurt, as one who expends his wealth (for the sake) of showing off to mankind and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. So, the likeness of him is as the likeness of a smooth rock on which is dust, then a shower hits (Literally: afflicts) it; so it leaves (the rock) solid. They are unable (to do) anything with whatever they have earned; and Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.

2:265

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Dr. Ghali

And the likeness of the ones who expend their riches, seeking gracious satisfaction of Allah and confirming themselves, is as the likeness of a garden upon a mound; a shower hits it, so it brings forth its crop twofold; yet in case no shower hits it, then a drizzle; and Allah is Ever-Beholding of whatever you do.

2:266

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Dr. Ghali

Would any of you like to have a garden of palms and vineyards with rivers running from beneath it, (and) he has all (kinds) of products therein, and greatness (with years) afflicts him, and he has a weak offspring, then a whirlwind with fire therein afflicts it, so it is burned away? Thus Allah makes evident the signs to you, that possibly you would meditate.

2:267

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Dr. Ghali

O you who have believed, expend of the good things you have earned and of what We have brought out for you from the earth, and do not have recourse to the wicked of it for your expending, and you would not take it (yourselves) except you closed an eye on it, and know that Allah is Ever-Affluent, (Literally: Ever-Reich) Ever-Praiseworthy.

2:268

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Dr. Ghali

Ash-shaytan (The all-vicious, the Devil) promises you poverty and commands you to obscenity; and Allah promises you forgiveness from Him, and Grace; and Allah is Ever-Embracing Ever-Knowing.

2:269

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Dr. Ghali

He brings (the) Wisdom to whomever He decides; and whoever is brought (the) Wisdom, then he has been brought much charity (i.e., benefit); and in no way does anyone constantly remember except the ones endowed with intellects.

2:270

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Dr. Ghali

And whatever expenditure you expend or whatever vow you vow, then surely Allah knows it; and in no way (can) the unjust have any vindicators.

2:271

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Dr. Ghali

In case you display (your) donations, then how favored (you are) by them, and in case you conceal them and bring them to the poor, then it is more charitable for you; and He will expiate for you (some) of your odious (deeds); and Allah is Ever-Cognizant of whatever you do.

2:272

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Dr. Ghali

Their guidance is not upon you, but Allah guides whomever He decides. And whatever charity (benefit) you do expend, (then) it is for yourselves; and whatever you expend (should be) for nothing except for your seeking the Face of Allah; and whatever charity you do expend will be (paid) to you in full, and you will not be done an injustice.

2:273

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Dr. Ghali

(It is) for the poor who are detained in the way of Allah, (and) are unable to strike (i.e. journey in the land) in the earth. The ignorant man reckons them rich because of (their) regular abstinence. You recognize them by their mark; they do not ask of mankind importunately, and whatever charity you expend, then surely Allah is Ever-Knowing of it.

2:274

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Dr. Ghali

The ones who expend their riches by night and day time secretly and in public, then they have their reward from the Providence of their Lord, and no fear will be on them, neither will they grieve.

2:275

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Dr. Ghali

The ones who eat (up) riba (Interest or other unlawful gain; usury) will not rise up except as he whom Ash-shaytan (The all-vicious, i.e., the Devil) ever smites with the touch rises up. That is because they have said, "Surely selling is only like rib'a." And Allah has made selling lawful, and has prohibited riba." So, he to whom an admonition has come from his Lord (and) so has refrained (in obedience), then he will have whatever is bygone, (i.e. he is forgiven for his parts gains) and his case (Literally: command, i.e. the command of Allah to him) is for Allah; and whoever goes back, then those are the companions (i.e., the inhabitants) of the Fire, and they are therein eternally (abiding).

2:276

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Dr. Ghali

Allah expunges riba (Interest or other unlawful) and He augments donations, and Allah does not love every most disbelieving most-vicious person.

2:277

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Dr. Ghali

Surely, (the ones) who have believed and done deeds of righteousness and kept up the prayer and brought (forth) the Zakat, (i.e. paid the poor-dues) they have their reward from the Providence of their Lord, and no fear will be on them, neither will they grieve.

2:278

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Dr. Ghali

O you who have believed, be pious to Allah and leave behind what remains of rib'a, in case you are believers.

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