The Second Surah


Al-Baqarah (The Cow)

Medina Period


Ayah 1-100


2: 101

And [even now,] when there has come unto them an apostle from God, confirming the truth already in their possession, some of those who were granted revelation aforetime cast the divine writ behind their backs as though unaware [of what it says],* (2:102) and follow [instead] that which the evil ones used to practice during Solomon's reign - for it was not Solomon who denied the truth, but those evil ones denied it by teaching people sorcery** -; and [they follow] that which has come down through the two angels in Babylon, Harilt and Mirfit-although these two never taught it to anyone without first declaring, "We are but a temptation to evil: do not, then, deny [God's] truth!"*** And they learn from these two how to create discord between a man and his wife; but whereas they can harm none thereby save by God's leave, they acquire a knowledge that only harms themselves and does not benefit them - although they know; indeed, that he who acquires this [knowledge] shall have no share in the good of the life to come.**** For, vile indeed is that [art] for which they have sold their own selves -had they but known it!


*The divine writ referred to here is the Torah. By disregarding the prophecies relating to the coming of the Arabian Prophet, contained in Deuteronomy xviii, 15, 18 (see note 33 above), the Jews rejected, as it were, the whole of the revelation granted to Moses (Zamakhshart; also `Abduh in Mandr I, 397).


**The expression ash-shayd(Th, here rendered as "the evil ones", apparently refers to human beings, as has been pointed out by Tabari, Razi, etc., but may also allude to the evil, immoral impulses within man's heart (see note 10 on verse 14 of this surah). The above parenthetic sentence constitutes the Qur'anic refutation of the Biblical statement that Solomon had been guilty of idolatrous practices (see I Kings xi, 1-10), as well as of the legend that he was the originator of the magic arts popularly associated with his name.


***This "declaration" circumscribes, metonymically, man's moral duty to reject every attempt at "sorcery" inasmuch as - irrespective of whether it succeeds or fails - it aims at subverting the order of naturre as instituted by God. - As regards the designation of Harut and Marut, most of the readings of the Qurlan give the spelling malakayn ("the two angels"); but it is authentically recorded (see Tabari, Zamakhshari, Baghawi, Razi, etc.) that the great Companion of the Prophet, Ibn `Abbas, as well as several learned men of the next generation - e.g., Al-Hasan al-Basri, Abu '1-Aswad and AdDahhak-read it as malikayn ("the two kings"). I myself incline to the latter reading; but since the other is more generally accepted, I have adopted it here. Some of the commentators are of the opinion that, whichever of the two readings is followed, it ought to be taken in a metaphorical sense, namely, "the two kingly persons", or "the two angelic persons": in this they rely on a saying of Ibn'Abbas to the effect that Harut and Maxat were "two men who practiced sorcery in Babylon" (Baghawi; see also Manar I, 402). At any rate, it is certain that from very ancient times Babylon was reputed to be the home of magic arts, symbolized in the legendary persons - perhaps kings - Harutand Marot; and it is to this legend that the Qur'an refers with a view to condemning every attempt at magic and sorcery, as well as all preoccupation with occult sciences in general.


****The above passage does not raise the question as to~whe~her there is an objectiXe truth in the occult phenomena loosely described as "magic", or whether they are based on self-deception: The intent here is no more and no less than to warn man that any attempt at influencing the course of events by means which-at least in the mind of the person responsible for it -havoa "supernatural" connotation is a spiritual offence, and must inevitably result in a most serious damage to their author's spiritual status.


2: 103

And had they but believed and been conscious of Him, reward from God would indeed have brought them good-had they but known it!


2: 104

O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not say [to the Prophet], "Listen to us," but rather say, "Have patience with us," and hearken [unto him], since grievous suffering awaits those who deny the truth.*


*This admonition, addressed in the first instance to the contemporaries of the Prophet, has - as so often in the Quean-a connotation that goes far beyond the historical circumstances that gave rise to it. The Companions were called upon to approach the Prophet with respect and to subordinate their personal desires and expectations to the commandments of the Faith revealed through him: and this injunction remains valid for every believer and for all times.


2: 105

Neither those from among the followers of earlier revelation who are bent on denying the truth, nor those who ascribe divinity to other beings beside God, would like to see any good* ever bestowed upon you from on high by your Sustainer; but God singles out for His grace whom He wills-for God is limitless in His great bounty.


*I.e., revelation - which is the highest good. The allusion here is to 1he unwillingness of the Jews and the Christians to admit that revelation could have been bestowed on any community but their own.


2: 106

Any message which, We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or a similar ones.* Dost thou not know that God has the power to will anything? (2: 107) Dost thou not know that God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and that besides God you have none to protect you or bring you succour?


*The principle laid down in this passage - relating to the supersession of the Biblical dispensation by that of the Quiz' an - has given rise to an erroneous interpretation by many Muslim theologians. The word ayah ("message") occurring in this, context is also used to denote a "verse;" of the Quran (because every one of these verses contains a message). Taking this restricted meaning of the term ayah, some scholars conclude from the above passage that certain verses of the Qur'an have been "abrogated" by God's command before the revelation of the Quran was completed. Apart from the fancifulness of this assertion-which calls to mind the image of a human'author correcting, on second thought, the proofs of his manuscript. deleting one passage and replacing it with another-there does not exist a single reliable Tradition to the effect that the Prophet ever, declared a verse of the Qurlan to have been "abrogated". At the root of the so-called "doctrine of abrogation" may lie the inability of some of the early commentators to reconcile one Qur'anic passage with another: a difficulty which was overcome by declaring that one of the verses in question• had been "abrogated". This arbitrary procedure explains also why there is no unanimity whatsoever among the upholders of the "doctrine of abrogation" as to which, and how many, Qur'an-verses have been affected by it; and, furthermore, as to whether this alleged abrogation implies a total elimination of the verse in question from the context of the Qur'an, or only a cancellation of the specific ordinance or statement contained in it. In short, the "doctrine of abrogation" has no basis whatever in historical fact, and must be rejected. On the other hand, the apparent difficulty in interpreting the above Qur'anic passage disappears -immediately if the temp ayah is understood, correctly, as "message", and if we read this verse in conjunction with the preceding one, which states that the Jews and the Christians refuse to accept any revelation which might supersede that of the Bible: for, if read in this way, the abrogation relates to the earlier divine messages and not to any part of the Quedn itself.


2: 108

Would you, perchance, ask of the Apostle who has been sent unto you what was asked aforetime of Moses? But whoever chooses to deny the [evidence of the] truth, instead of believing in it,* has already strayed from the right path.


*Lit.. "whoever takes a denial of the truth in exchange for belief"-i.e., whoever refuses to accept the internal evidence of the truth of the Qur'anic message and demands, instead, an "objective" proof of its divine origin (Manor I, 416f.).-That which was "asked of Moses aforetime" was the demand of the children of Israel to "see God face to face" (cf. 2 :55). The expression rendered by me as "the Apostle who has been sent unto you" reads. literally, "your Apostle", and obviously refers to the Prophet Muhammad. whose message supersedes the earlier revelations.


2: 109

Out of their selfish envy, many among the followers of earlier revelation would like to bring you back to denying the truth after you have attained to faith - [even] after the truth has become clear unto them. None the less, forgive and forbear, until God shall make manifest His will: behold, God has the power to will anything.


2: 110

And be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues; for, whatever good deed you send ahead for your own selves, you shall find it with God: behold, God sees all that you do.


2: 111

AND THEY claim,* "None shall ever enter paradise unless he be a Jew" - or, "a Christian". Such are their wishful beliefs! Say: "Produce an evidence for what you are claiming,** if what you say is true!"


*This connects with verse 109 above: "Many among the followers of earlier revelation would like to bring you back to denying the truth", etc.


**Lit., "produce your evidence" - i.e.. "from your own scriptures".


2: 112

Yea, indeed: everyone who surrenders his whole being unto God,* and is a doer of good withal, shall have his reward with his Sustainer; and all such need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve.**


*Lit., "who surrenders his face unto God". Since the face of a person is the most expressive part of his body, it is used in classical Arabic to denote one's whole personality, or whole being. This expression, repeated in the Qur'an several times, provides a perfect definition of isldm, whichderived from the root-verb aslama, "he surrendered himself" -means "self-surrender [to God]": and it is in this sense that the terms isldm and muslim are used throughout the Qurlan. (For a full discussion of this concept, see my note on 68 :35, where the expression muslim occurs for the first time in the chronological order of revelation.)


**Thus, according to the Qur'an, salvation is not reserved for any particular "denomination", but is open to everyone who consciously realizes the oneness of God, surrenders himself to His will and, by living righteously, gives practical effect to this spiritual attitude.


2: 113

Furthermore, the Jews assert, "The Christians have no valid ground for their beliefs," while the Christians assert, "The Jews have no valid ground for their beliefs" - and both quote the divine writ! Even thus, like unto what they say, have [always] spoken those who were devoid of knowledge;"* but it is God who will judge between them on Resurrection Day with regard to all on which they were wont to differ.**


*An allusion to all who assert that only the followers of their own denomination shall partake of God's grace in the hereafter.


**In other words, "God will confirm the truth of what was true [in their respective beliefs] and show the falseness of what was false [therein]" (Muhammad `Abduh in Mandr I, 428). The Quc'an maintains throughout that there is a substantial element of truth in all faiths based on divine revelation, and that their subsequent divergencies are the result of "wishful beliefs" (2: 111) and of a gradual corruption of the original teachings. (See also 22: 67-69.)



2: 114

Hence, who could be more wicked than those who bar the mention of God's name from [any of] His houses of worship and strive for their ruin, [although] they have no right to enter them save in fear [of God]?* For them, in this world, there is ignominy in store; and for them, in the life to come, awesome sufferidg.


*It is one of the fundamental principles of Islam that every religion which has belief in God as its focal point must be accorded full respect, however much one may disagree with its particular tenets. Thus, the Muslims are under an obligation to honour and protect any house of worship dedicated to God, whether it be a mosque or a church or a synagogue (cf. the second paragraph of 22: 40); and any attempt to prevent the followers of another faith from worshipping God according to their own lights is condemned by the Qur'an as a sacrilege. A striking illustration of this principle is forthcoming from the Prophet's treatment of the deputation from Christian hiajran in the year 10 H. They were given free access to the Prophet's mosque, and with his full consent celebrated their religious rites there, although their adoration of Jesus as "the son of God" and of Mary as "the mother of God" was fundamentally at variance with Islamic beliefs (see Ibn Sad Ill, '84 f.).


2: 115

And God's is the east and the west: and wherever you turn, there is God's countenance. Behold, God is infinite, all-knowing.


2: 116

And yet some people assert, "God has taken unto Himself a son!" Limitless is He in His glory!* Nay, but His is all that is in the heavens and on earth; all things devoutly obey His will. (2: 117) The Originator is He of the heavens and the earth: and when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, "Be" -and it is.


*I.e., far from any imperfection such as would be implied in the necessity (or logical possibility) of having "progeny" either in a literal or a metaphorical sense. The expression subhdna -applied exclusively to God-connotes His utter remoteness from any imperfection and any similarity, however tenuous, with any created being or thing.


2: 118

AND [only] those who are devoid of knowledge say, "Why does God not speak unto us, nor is a [miraculous] sign shown to us?" Even thus, like unto what they, say, spoke those who lived before their time* their hearts are all alike. Indeed, We have made all the signs manifest unto people who are endowed with inner certainty.


*I.e., people who were not able to perceive the intrinsic truth of the messages conveyed to them by the prophets, but rather insisted on a miraculous "demonstration" that those messages really came from God, and thus failed to benefit from them. - This verse obviously connects with verse 108 above and, thus, refers to the objections of the Jews and the Christians to the message of the Qur'an. (See also note 29 on 74 :52.)


2: 119

Verily, We have sent thee [O Prophet] with the truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner: and thou shalt not be held accountable for those who are destined for the blazing fire.


2: 120

For, never will the Jews be pleased with thee. nor yet the Christians, unless thou follow their own creeds. Say: "Behold, God's guidance is the only true guidance."

And, indeed, if thou shouldst follow their errant views after all the knowledge that has come unto thee. thou wouldst have none to protect thee from God, and none to bring thee succour.


2: 121

Those unto whom We have vouchsafed the divine writ [and who] follow it as it ought to be followed*-it is they who [truly] believe in it; whereas all who choose to deny its truth -it is they, they who are the losers!


 *Or: "apply themselves to it with true application" -i.e.. try to absorb its meaning and to understand its spiritual design.


2: 122

O CHILDREN of Israel! Remember those blessings of Mine with which I graced you, and how I favoured you above all other people; (2: 123) and remain conscious of [the coming of] a Day when no human being shall in the least avail another, nor shall ransom be accepted from any of them, nor shall intercession be of any use to them, and none shall be succoured.*


*See 2 : 48. In the above context, this refers, specifically, to the belief of the Jews that their descent from Abraham would "ransom" them on the Day of Judgment -a belief which is refuted in the next verse.


2: 124

And [remember this:] when his Sustainer tried Abraham by [His] commandments and the latter fulfilled them,* He said: "Behold, I shall make thee a leader of men."

Abraham asked: "And [wilt Thou make leaders] of my offspring as well?"

[God] answered: "My covenant does not embrace the evildoers."**


*The classical commentators have indulged in much speculation as to what these commandments (kalimdt, lit., "words") were. Since, however, the Qur'an does not specify them, it must be presumed that what is meant here is simply Abraham's complete submission to whatever commandments he received from God.


**This passage, read in conjunction with the two preceding verses, refutes the contention of the children of Israel that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, whom God made "a leader of men", they are "God's chosen people". The Qur'an makes it clear that the exalted status of Abraham was not something that would automatically confer a comparable status on his physical descendants, and certainly not on the sinners among them.


2: 125

AND LO! We made the Temple a goal to which people might repair again and again, and a sanctuary: * take then, the place whereon Abraham once stood as your place of prayer."**

And thus did We command Abraham and Ishmael: "Purify My Temple for those who will walk around it,*** and those who will abide near it in meditation, and those who will bow down and prostrate themselves [in prayer]."


*The Temple (al-bayt)-lit., "the House [of Worship]"'-mentioned here is the Ka`bah in Mecca. In other places the Qur'an speaks of it as "the Ancient Temple" (al-bayt al= atrq), and frequently also as "the Inviolable House of Worship" (al-masjid al-hardm ). Its prototype is said to have been built by Abraham as the first temple ever dedicated to the One God (see 3 : 96), and which for this reason has been instituted as the direction of prayer (giblah) for all Muslims, and as the goal of the annually recurring pilgrimage (hajj). It is to be noted that even in pre-Islamic times the Ka`bah was associated with the memory of Abraham, whose personality had always been in the foreground of Arabian thought. According to very ancient Arabian traditions, it was at the site of what later became Mecca that Abraham, in order to placate Sarah, abandoned his Egyptian bondwoman Hagar and their child Ishmael after he had brought them there from Canaan. This is by no means improbable if one bears in mind that for a camel-riding bedouin (and Abraham was certainly one) a journey of twenty or even thirty days has never been anything out of the ordinary. At first glance, the Biblical statement (Genesis xii, 14) that it was "in the wilderness of Beersheba" (i.e., in the southernmost tip of Palestine) that Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael would seem to conflict with the Qur'anic account. This seeming contradiction, however, disappears as soon as we remember that to the ancient, town-dwelling Hebrews the term "wilderness of Beersheba" comprised all the desert regions south of Palestine, including the Hijaz. It was at the place where they had been abandoned that Hagar and Ishmael, after having discovered the spring which is now called the Well of Zamzam, eventually settled; and it may have been that very spring which in time induced a wandering group of bedouin families belonging to the South-Arabian (Qahtani) tribe of Jurhum to settle there. Ishmael later married a girl of this tribe, and so became the progenitor of the musta `ribah ("Arabianized") tribes -thus called on account of their descent from a Hebrew father and a Qahtani mother. As for Abraham, he is said to have often visited Hagar and Ishmael; and it was on the occasion of one of these periodic visits that he, aided by Ishmael, erected the original structure of the Ka`bah. (For more detailed accounts of the Abraham'c tradition, see Bukhari's Sahfh, Kitdb al- '11m, Tabari's Ta'rfkh al-Umam, Ibn Sad, Ibn Hisham, Mas'fidi's Murai adh-Dhahab, Yaqut's Mu'jam alBulddn, and other early Muslim historians.)


**This may refer to the immediate vicinity of the Ka'bah or, more probably (Manor I, 461 f.), to the sacred precincts (haram) surrounding it. The word amn (lit., "safety") denotes in this context a sanctuary for all living beings.


***The seven-fold circumambulation (fawdf) of the Ka'bah is one of the rites of the pilgrimage, symbolically indicating that all human actions and endeavours ought to have the idea of God and His oneness for their centre.


2: 126

And, lo, Abraham prayed: "O my Sustainer! Make this a land secure, and grant its people fruitful sustenance - such of them as believe in God and the Last Day."

[God] answered: "And whoever shall deny the truth, him will I let enjoy himself for a short while -but in the end I shall drive him to suffering through fire: and how vile a journey's end!"


2: 127

And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the Temple, [they prayed:] "O our Sustainer! Accept Thou this from us: for, verily, Thou alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!


2: 128

"O our Sustainer! Make us surrender ourselves unto Thee, and make out of our offspring* a community that shall surrender itself unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and accept our repentance: for, verily, Thou alone art the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace!


* The expression "our offspring" indicates Abraham's progeny through his first-born son, Ishmael, and is an indirect reference to the Prophet Muhammad. who descended from the latter.


2: 129

"O our Sustainer! Raise up from the midst of our off spring* an apostle from among themselves, who shall convey unto them Thy messages, and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom, and cause them to grow in purity: for, verily, Thou alone art almighty, truly wise!"


*Lit., "within them".


2: 130

And who, unless he be weak of mind, would want to abandon Abraham's creed, seeing that We have indeed raised him high in this world, and that, verily, in the life to come he shall be among the righteous?


2: 131

When his Sustainer said to him, "Surrender thyself unto Me!" - he answered, "I have surrendered myself unto [Thee,] the Sustainer of all the worlds."


2: 132

And this very thing did Abraham bequeath unto his children, and [so did] Jacob: "O my children! Behold, God has granted you the purest faith; so do not allow death to overtake you ere you have surrendered yourselves unto Him."


2: 133

Nay, but you [yourselves, O children of Israel,] bear witness* that when death was approaching Jacob, he said unto his sons: "Whom will you worship after I am gone?"

They answered: "We will worship thy God, the God of thy forefathers Abraham and Ishmael** and Isaac, the One God; and unto Him w;1l we surrender ourselves."


*I.e., "in the religious traditions to which you adhere". It is to be noted that the conjunction am which stands at the beginning of this sentence is not always used in the interrogative sense ("is it that ... ?"): sometimes -and especially when it is syntactically unconnected with the preceding sentence, as in this case - it is an equivalent of bat ("rather", or "nay, but"), and has no interrogative connotation.


**In classical Arabic, as in ancient Hebrew usage, the term a%6 ("father") was applied not only to the direct male parent but also to grandfathers and even more distant ancestors, as well as to paternal uncles: which explains why Ishmael, who was Jacob's uncle, is mentioned in this context. Since he was the first-born of Abraham's sons, his name precedes that of Isaac.


2: 134

Now those people have passed away; unto them shall be accounted what they have earned, and unto you, what you have earned; and you will not be, judged on the strength of what they did.*


* Lit., "you will not be asked about what they did". This verse, as well as verse 141 below, stresses the fundamental Islamic tenet of individual responsibility, and denies the Jewish idea of their being "the chosen people" by virtue of their descent, as well as-by implication-the Christian doctrine of an "original sin" with which all human beings are supposedly, burdened because of Adam's fall from grace.


2: 135

AND THEY say, "Be Jews" - or, "Christians" - "and you shall be on the right path." Say: "Nay, but [ours is] the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false,* and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God."


* The expression hanif is derived from the verb hanafa, which literally means "he inclined [towards a right state or tendency]" (cf. Lane II, 658). Already in pre-Islamic times, this term had a definitely monotheistic connotation, and was used to describe a man who turned away from sin and worldliness and from all dubious beliefs, especially idol-worship; and tahannuf denoted the ardent devotions, mainly consisting of long vigils and prayers, of the unitarian God-seekers of pre-Islamic times. Many instances of this use of the terms hanif and tahannuf occur in the verses of pre-Islamic poets, e.g., Umayyah ibn Abi 's-Salt and Juan al-`Awd (cf. Lisdn al-'Arab, art. hanafa).


2: 136

Say: "We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and ,their descendants,* and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them.** And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves."


* Lit., "the grandchildren" (al-asbdt, sing. sibt) - a term used in the Qur'an to describe, in the first instance, Abraham's, Isaac's and Jacob's immediate descendants, and, consequently, the twelve tribes which evolved from this ancestry.


** Le., "we regard them all as true prophets of God".


2: 137

And if [others] come to believe in the way you believe, they will indeed find themselves on the right path; and if they turn away, it is but they who will be deeply in the wrong, and God will protect thee from them: for He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing.


2: 138

[Say: "Our life takes its] hue from God! And who could give a better hue [to life] than God, if we but truly worship Him?"


2: 139

Say [to the Jews and the Christians]: "Do you argue with us about God?* But He is our Sustainer as well as your Sustainer - and unto us shall be accounted our deeds, and unto you, your deeds; and it- is unto Him alone that we devote ourselves.


*I.e., about God's will regarding the succession of prophethood and man's ultimate salvation. The Jews believe that prophethood was a privilege granted to the children of Israel alone, while the Christians maintain that Jesus - who, too, descended from the children of Israel - was God's final manifestation on earth; and each of these two denominations claims that salvation is reserved to its followers alone (see 2: 111 and 135). The Quean refutes these ideas by stressing, in the next sentence, that God is the Lord of all mankind, and that every individual will be judged on the basis of his own beliefs and his own behaviour alone.


2: 140

"Do you claim that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants were `Jews' or `Christians'?"* Say: "Do you know more than God does? And who could be more wicked than he who suppresses a testimony given to him by God?** Yet God is not unmindful of what you do.


* Regarding the term asbat (rendered here as well as in verse 136 as "descendants"), see note I li above. In the above words the Qur'an alludes to thb fact that the concept of "Jewry" came into being many centuries after the time of the Patriarchs, and even long after the time of Moses, while the concepts of "Christianity" and "Christians" were unknown in Jesus' time and represent later developments.


** A reference to the Biblical prediction of the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (see note 33 on verse 42 of this sarah), which effectively contradicts the Judaeo-Christian claim that all true prophets, after the Patriarchs, belonged to the children of Israel.


2: 141

"Now those people have passed away; unto them shall be accounted what they have earned, and unto you, what you have earned; and you will not be judged on the strength of what they did."


2: 142

THE WEAK-MINDED among people will say, "What has turned them away from the direction of prayer which they have hitherto observed?"*

Say: "God's is the east and the west; He guides whom He wills onto a straight way."**


* Before his call to prophethood, and during the early Meccan period of his ministry, the Prophet-and his community with him-used to turn in prayer towards the Ka`bah. This was not prompted by any specific revelation, but was obviously due to the fact that the Ka`bah-although it had in the meantime been filled with various idols to which the pre-Islamic Arabs paid homage -was always regarded as the first temple ever dedicated to the One God (cf. 3 : 96). Since he was aware of the sanctity of Jerusalem - the other holy centre of the unitarian faith - the Prophet prayed, as a rule, before the southern wall of the Ka`bah, towards the north, so as to face both the Ka`bah and Jerusalem. After the exodus to Medina he continued to pray northwards, with only Jerusalem as his giblah (direction of prayer). About sixteen months after his arrival at Medina, however, he received a revelation (verses 142-150 of this sarah) which definitively established the Ka`bah as the giblah of the followers of the Quc'an. This "abandonment" of Jerusalem obviously displeased the Jews of Medina, who must have felt gratified when they saw the Muslims praying towards their holy city; and it is to them that the opening sentence of this passage refers. If one considers the matter from the historical point of view, there had never been any change in the divine commandments relating to the giblah: there had simply been no ordinance whatever in this respect before verses 142-150 were revealed. Their logical connection with the preceding passages, which deal, in the main, with Abraham and his creed, lies in the fact that it was Abraham who erected the earliest structure of the temple which later came to be known as the Ka'bah.


**Or: "He guides onto a straight way him that wills [to be guided]".


2: 143

And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way,* so that [with your lives] you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you.**

And it is only to the end that We might make a clear distinction between those who follow the Apostle and those who turn about on their heels that We have appointed [for this community] the direction of prayer which thou [O Prophet] hast formerly observed: for this was indeed a hard test for all but those whom God has guided aright.*** But God will surely not lose sight of your faith-for, behold, God is most compassionate towards man, a dispenser of grace.


* Lit., "middlemost community"-i.e., a community that keeps an equitable balance between extremes and is realistic in its appreciation of man's nature and possibilities, rejecting both licentiousness and exaggerated asceticism. In tune with its oft-repeated call to moderation in every aspect of life, the Qur'an exhorts the believers not to place too great an emphasis on the physical and material aspects of their lives, but postulates, at the same time, that man's urges and desires relating to this "life of the flesh" are God-willed and, therefore, legitimate. On further analysis, the expression "a community of the middle way" might be said to summarize, as it were, the Islamic attitude towards the problem of man's existence as such: a denial of the view that there is an inherent conflict between the spirit and the flesh, and a bold affirmation of the natural, God-willed unity in this twofold aspect of human life. This balanced attitude, peculiar to Islam, flows directly from the concept of God's oneness and, hence, of the unity of purpose underlying all His creation: and thus, the mention of the "community of the middle way" at this place is a fitting introduction to the theme of the Ka`bah, a. symbol of God's oneness.


**I.e., "that your way of life be an example to all mankind, just as the Apostle is an example to you„,


***I.e., "whom He has given understanding" (Razi). The "hard test" (kabirah) consisted in the fact that ever since their exodus to Medina the Muslims had become accustomed to praying towards Jerusalem - associated in their minds with the teachings of most of the earlier prophets mentioned in the Qur'an -and were now called upon to turn in their prayers towards the Ka`bah, which at that time (in the second year after the hijrah) was still used by the pagan Quraysh as a shrine dedicated to the worship of their numerous idols. As against this, the Qur'an states that true believers would not find it difficult to adopt the Ka`bah once again as their giblah: they would instinctively realize the divine wisdom underlying this commandment which established Abraham's Temple as a symbol of God's oneness and a focal point of the ideological unity of Islam. (See also note 116 above.)


2: 144

We have seen thee [O Prophet] often turn thy face towards heaven [for guidance]: and now We shall indeed make thee turn in prayer in a direction which will fulfil thy desire. Turn, then, thy face towards the Inviolable House of Worship; and wherever you all may be, turn your faces towards it [in prayer].

And, verily, those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime know well that this [commandment] comes in truth from their Sustainer; and God is not unaware of what they do.


2: 145

And yet, even if thou wert to place all evidence* before those who have been vouchsafed earlier revelation, they would not follow thy direction of prayer; and neither mayest thou follow their direction of prayer, nor even do they follow one another's direction. And if thou shouldst follow their errant views after all the knowledge that has come unto thee thou wouldst surely be among the evildoers.


* Lit., "every sign (dyah)", i.e., of its being a revealed commandment.


2: 146

They unto whom We have vouchsafed revelation aforetime know it as they know their own children: but, behold, some of them knowingly suppress the truth - (2: 147) the truth from thy Sustainer!*

Be not, then, among the doubters: (2: 148) for, every community faces a direction of its own, of which He'is the focal point.** Vie, therefore, with one another in doing good works. Wherever you may be, God will gather you all unto Himself: for, verily, God has the power to will anything.


* This refers, in the first instance, to the fact that the Ka`bah was Abraham's giblah, as well as to the Biblical prophecies relating to Ishmael as the progenitor of a "great nation" (Genesis xxi, 13 and 18) from whom a prophet "like unto Moses" would one day arise: for it was through Ishamel's descendant, the Arabian Prophet, that the commandment relating to the giblah was revealed. (Regarding the still more explicit predictions of the future advent of the Prophet Muhammad, forthcoming from the canonical Gospels, see 61 : 6 and the corresponding note.)


**Lit., "everyone has a direction. . .", etc. Almost all of the classical commentators, from the Companions of the Prophet downwards, interpret this as a reference to the various religious communities and their different modes of "turning towards God" in worship. Ibn Kathyr, in his commentary on this verse, stresses its inner resemblance to the phrase occurring in 5 : 48: "unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life". The statement that "every community faces a direction of its own" in its endeavour to express its submission to God implies, firstly, that at various times and in various circumstances man's desire to approach God in prayer has taken different forms (e.g., Abraham's choice of the Ka'bah as his giblah. the Jewish concentration on Jerusalem, the eastward orientation of the early Christian churches, and the Qur'anic commandment relating to the Ka`bah); and, secondly, that the direction of prayerhowever important its symbolic significance may be-does not represent the essence of faith as such: for, as the Quean says, "true piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west" (2: 177), and, "God's is the east and the west" (2: 115 and 142). Consequently, the revelation which established the Ka`bah as the giblah of the Muslims should not be a matter of contention for people of other faiths, nor a cause of their disbelief in the truth of the Qur'anic revelation as such (Manor 11, 21 f.).


2: 149

Thus, from wherever thou mayest come forth, turn thy face [in prayer] towards the Inviolable House of Worship-for,. behold, this [commandment] comes in truth from thy Sustainer; and God is not unaware of what you do. (2: 150) Hence, from wherever thou mayest come forth, turn thy face [in prayer] towards the Inviolable House of Worship; and wherever you all may be, turn your faces towards it, so that people should have no argument against you unless they are bent upon wrongdoing.* And hold not them in awe, but stand in awe of Me, and [obey Me,] so that I might bestow upon you the full measure of My blessings., and that you might follow the right path.


* Lit., "except such among them as are bent upon wrongdoing" (regarding the intent implied in the use of the past tense in expressions like alladhrna zalama or alladhrna kafaru, see note 6 on verse 6 of this sarah). The Qur'an stresses repeatedly that the Muslims are true 1ollowers of Abraham. This claim, however, might have been open to objection so long as they prayed in a direction other than Abraham's giblah, the Ka`bah. The establishment of the latter as the giblah of the followers of the Quean would invalidate any such argument and would leave it only to "those who are bent upon wrongdoing" (in this case, distorting the truth) to challenge the message of the Qur'an on these grounds.


2: 151

Even as We have sent unto you an apostle from among yourselves to convey unto you Our messages, and to cause you to grow in purity, and to impart unto you revelation and wisdom, and to teach you that which you knew not: (2: 152) so remember Me, and I shall remember you; and be grateful unto Me, and deny Me not.


2: 153

O YOU who have attained to faith! Seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: for, behold, God is with those who are patient in adversity.


2: 154

And say not of those who are slain in God's cause, "They are dead": nay, they are alive, but you perceive it not.


2: 155

And most certainly shall We try you by means* of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of [labour's] fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity - (2: 156) who, when calamity befalls them, say, "Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return." (2: 157) It is they upon whom their Sustainer's blessings and grace are bestowed, and it is they, they who are on the right path!


*125 Lit., "with something".


2: 158

[Hence,] behold, As-Safa and Al-Marwah are among the symbols set up by God;* and thus, no wrong does he who, having come to the Temple on pilgrimage or on a pious visit, strides to and fro between these two:** for, if one does more good than he is bound to do-behold, God is responsive to gratitude, all-knowing.***


*Lit., "God's symbols". The space between the two low outcrops of rock called As-Safa and AI-Marwah, situated in Mecca in the immediate vicinity of the Ka`bah, is said to have been the scene of Hagar's suffering when Abraham, following God's command, abandoned her and their infant son Ishmael in the desert (see note 102 above). Distraught with thirst and fearing for the life of her child, Hagar ran to and fro between the two rocks and fervently prayed to God for succour: and, finally, her reliance on God and her patience were rewarded by the discovery of a spring-existing to this day and known as the Well of Zamzam - which saved the two from death through thirst. It was in remembrance of Hagar's extreme trial, and of her trust in God, that As-Safa and Al-Marwah had come to be regarded, even in pre-Islamic times, as symbols of faith and patience in adversity: and this explains their mentionen the context of the passages which deal with the virtues of patience and trust in God (Razi).


**127 It is in commemoration of Hagar's running in distress between As-$afa and Al-Marwah that the Mecca pilgrims are expected to walk, at a fast pace, seven times between these two hillocks. Because of the fact that in pre-Islamic times certain idols had been standing there, some of the early Muslims were reluctant to perform a rite which seemed to them to be associated with recent idolatry (Raz!, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas). The above verse served to reassure them on this score by pointing out that this symbolic act of remembrance was much older than the idolatry practiced by the pagan Quraysh.


*** From the phrase "if one does more good. than he is bound to do", read in conjunction with no wrong does he who..." (or, more literally, "there shall be no blame upon him who..."), some of the great Islamic scholars - e.g., Imam Abu Hanifah - conclude that the walking to and fro bettween As-$afa and Al-Marwah is not one of the obligatory rites of pilgrimage but rather a supererogatory act of piety (see Zamakhshari and Razi). Most scholars, however, hold the view that it is an integral part of the pilgrimage.


2: 159

BEHOLD, as for those who suppress aught of the evidence of the truth and of the guidance which We have bestowed from on high, after We have made it clear unto mankind through the divine writ - these it is whom God will reject, and whom all who can judge will reject.* (2: 160) Excepted, however, shall be they that repent, and put themselves to rights, and make known the truth: and it is they whose repentance I shall accept-for I alone am the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace.


*Lit., "whom all who reject will reject" - i.e., all righteous persons who are able to judge moral issues. God's rejection (la`nah) denotes "exclusion from His grace" (Manor II, 50). In classical Arabic usage, the primary meaning of ia'nah is equivalent to ib'dd ("estrangement" or "banishment"); in the terminology of the Qur'an, it signifies "rejection from all that is good" (Lisan al-Arab). According to Ibn `Abbas and several outstanding scholars of the next generation, the divine writ mentioned here is the Bible; thus, the above verse refers to the Jews and the Christians.


2: 161

Behold, as for those who are bent on denying the truth and die as deniers of the truth -their due is rejection by God, and by the angels,, and by all [righteous] men. (2: 162) In this state shall they abide; [and] neither will their suffering, be lightened, nor will they be granted respite.


2: 163

AND YOUR GOD is the One God: there is no deity save Him, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace. (2: 164) Verily, in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and the succession of night and day: and in the ships that speed through the sea with what is useful to man: and in the waters which God sends down from the sky, giving life thereby to the earth after it had, been lifeless, and causing all manner of living creatures to multiply thereon: and in the change of the winds, and the clouds that run their appointed courses between sky and earth: [in all this] there are messages indeed for people who use their reason.


*This passage is one of the many in which the Qur'an appeals to "those who use their reason" to observe the daily wonders of nature, including the evidence of man's own ingenuity ("the ships that speed through the sea"), as so many indications of a conscious, creative Power pervading the universe.


2: 165

And yet there are people who choose to believe in beings that allegedly rival God,* loving them as [only] God should be loved: whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else.

If they who are bent on evildoing could but see - as see they will when they are made to suffer** [on Resurrection Day] -that all might belongs to God alone, and that God is severe in [meting out] punishment!


* Lit., "there are among the people such as take [to worshipping] compeers beside God". Regarding the term andad, see note 13 on verse 22 of this surah.


** Lit., "when they see the suffering" (or "chastisement").


2: 166

[On that Day] it will come to pass that those who had been [falsely] adored* shall disown their followers, and the latter shall see the suffering [that awaits them], with all their hopes** cut to pieces! (2: 167) And then those followers shall say: "Would that we had a second chance [in life],*** so that we could disown them as they have disowned us!"

Thus will God show them their works [in a manner that will cause them] batter regrets; but they will not come out of the fire.****


*Lit., "followed" -i.e., as saints or alleged "divine personalities".


** Asbdb (sing. sabab) denotes, in its primary meaning, "ties" or "attachments", and in a tropical sense, "means [towards any end]" (cf. Lisdn al-'Arab, and Lane IV, 1285). In the above context, asbdb obviously refers to means of salvation, and may thus be rendered as "hopes".


***Lit., "Would that there were a return for us".


**** Sc., back to the life of this world, with a second chance before them (Mandr 11, 81).


2: 168

O MANKIND! Partake of what is lawful and good on earth, and follow not Satan's footsteps: for, verily, he is your open foe, (2: 169) and bids you only to do evil, and to commit deeds of abomination, and to attribute unto God something of which you have no knowledge.*


*This refers to an arbitrary attribution to God of commandments or prohibitions in excess of what has been clearly ordained by Him (Zamakhshari). Some of the commentators (e.g., Muhammad `Abduh in Mandr 11, 89 f.) include within this expression the innumerable supposedly "legal" injunctions which, without being clearly warranted by the wording of the Qur'an or an authentic Tradition, have been obtained by individual Muslim scholars through subjective methods of deduction and then put forward as "God's ordinances". The connection between this passage and the preceding ones is obvious. In verses 165-167 the Qur'an speaks of those "who choose to believe in beings that supposedly rival God": and this implies also a false attribution, to those beings, of a right to issue quasi-religious ordinances of their own, as well as an attribution of religious validity to customs sanctioned by nothing but ancient usage (see next verse).


2: 170

But when they are told, "Follow what God has bestowed from on high," some answer, "Nay, we shall follow [only] that which we found our forefathers believing in and doing." Why, even if their forefathers did not use their reason at all, and were devoid of all guidance?


2: 171

And so, the parable of those who re bent on denying the truth is that of the beast which hears the shepherd's cry, and hears in it nothing but the sound of a voice and a call.* Deaf are they, and dumb, and blind: for they do not use their reason.


* This is a very free rendering of the elliptic sentence which, literally, reads thus: "The parable of those who are bent on denying the truth is as that of him who cries unto what hears nothing but a cry and a call." The verb na'qa is mostly used to describe the inarticulate cry with which the shepherd drives his flock.


2: 172

O you who have attained to faith! Partake of the good things which We have provided for you as sustenance, and render thanks unto God, if it is [truly] Him that you worship.


2: 173

He has forbidden to you only carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which any name other than God's has been invoked; * but if one is driven by necessity - neither coveting it nor exceeding his immediate need -no sin shall be upon him: for, behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.


*I.e., all that has been dedicated or offered in sacrifice to an idol or a saint or a person considered to be "divine". For a more comprehensive enumeration of the forbidden kinds of flesh, see 5:3.


2: 174

VERILY, as for those who suppress aught of the revelation* which God has bestowed from on high, and barter it away for a trifling gain - they but fill their bellies with fire. And God will not speak unto them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He cleanse them [of their sins]; and grievous suffering awaits them. (2: 175) It is they who take error in exchange for guidance, and suffering in exchange for forgiveness: yet how little do they seem to fear the fire!


* This term is used here in its generic sense,. comprising both the Qur'an and the earlier revelations.


2: 176

Thus it is: since it is God who bestows* the divine writ from on high, setting forth the truth, all those who set their own views against the divine writ** are, verily, most deeply in the wrong.


* Lit., "has been bestowing". Since the form nazzala implies gradualness and continuity in the process of revelation, it can best be rendered by the use of the present tense.


** Lit., "who hold discordant views about the divine writ"-i.e., either suppressing or rejecting parts of it, or denying its divine origin altogether (Razl').


2: 177

True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west* - but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation,** and the prophets; and spends his substance - however much he himself may cherish - it - upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer,*** and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage;**** and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God.


*Thus, the Qur'an stresses the principle that mere compliance with outward forms does not fulfil the requirements of piety. The reference to the turning of one's face in prayer ip this or that direction flows from the passages which dealt, a short while ago, with the question of the giblah.


** In this context, the term "revelation" (al-kitdb) carries, according to most of the commentators, a generic significance: it refers to the fact of divine revelation as such. As regards belief in angels, it is postulated here because it is through these spiritual beings or force's (belonging to the realm of al-ghayb, i.e., the reality which is beyond the reach of human perception) that God reveals His will to the prophets and, thus, to mankind at large.


*** The expression ibn as-sabrl (lit., "son of the road") denotes any person who is far from his home, and especially one who, because of this circumstance, does not have sufficient means of livelihood at his disposal (cf. Lane IV, 1302). In its wider sense it describes a person who, for any reason whatsoever, is unable to return home either temporarily or permanently: for instance, a political exile or refugee.


**** Ar-ragabah (of which ar-rigdb is the plural) denotes, literally, "the neck", and signifies also the whole of a human person. Metonymically, the expression fi 'r-rigdb denotes "in the cause of freeing human beings from bondage", and applies to both the ransoming of captives and the freeing of slaves. By including this kind of expenditure within the essential acts of piety, the Qur'an implies that the freeing of people from bondage = and, thus, the abolition of slavery - is one of the social objectives of Islam. At the time of the revelation of the Qurlan, slavery was an established institution throughout the world, and its sudden abolition would have been economically impossible. In order to obviate this difficulty, and at the same time to bring about an eventual abolition of all slavery, the Quean ordains in 8 : 67 that henceforth only captives taken in a just war (jihad) may be kept as slaves. But even with regard to persons enslaved in this or-before the revelation of 8 : 67-in any other way, the Qur'an stresses the great merit inherent in the freeing of slaves, and stipulates it as a means of atonement for various transgressions (see, e.g., 4 : 92, 5 : 89, 58: 3). In addition, the Prophet emphatically stated on many occasions that, in the sight of Gocj, the unconditional freeing of a human being from bondage is among the most praiseworthy acts which a Muslim could perform. (For a critical discussion and analysis of all the authentic Traditions bearing on this problem, see IVayl al-Awtar VI, 199 ff.)


2: 178

O YOU who have attained to faith! Just retribution is ordained for you in cases of killing: the free for the free, and the slave for the slave, and the woman for the woman.[*1] And if something [of his guilt] is remitted to a guilty person by his brother,[*2] this [remission] shall be adhered to with fairness, and restitution to his fellow-man shall be made in a goodly manner.[*3]

This is an alleviation from your Sustainer, and an act of His grace. And for him who, none the less, [*4] wilfully transgresses the bounds of what is right, there is grievous suffering in store: (2: 179) for, in [the law of] just retribution, O you who are endowed with insight, there is life for you, so that you might remain conscious of God! [*5]


[*1] After having pointed out that true piety does not consist in mere adherence to outward forms and rites, -the Qur'an opens, as it were, a new chapter relating to the problem of man's behaviour. Just as piety cannot become effective without righteous action, individual righteousness cannot become really effective in the social sense unless there is agreement within the community as to the social rights and obligations of its members: in other words, as to the practical laws which should govern the behaviour of the individual within the society and the society's attitude towards the individual and his actions. This is the innermost reason why legislation plays so great a role within the ideology of Islam, and why the Qur'an consistently intertwines its moral and spiritual exhortation with ordinances relating to practical aspects of social life. Now one of the main problems facing any society is the safeguarding of the lives and the individual security of its members: and so it is understandable that laws relating to homicide and its punishment are dealt with prominently at this place. (It should be borne in mind that "The Cow" was the first surah revealed in Medina, that is, at the time when the Muslim community had just become established as an independent social entity.)

As for the term gisds occurring at the beginning of the above passage, it must be pointed out that-according to all the classical commentators-it is alfiost synonymous with musawah, i.e., "making a thing equal [to another thing]": in this instance, making the punishment equal (or appropriate) to the crime -a meaning which is best rendered as "just retribution" and not (as has been often, and erronepusly, done) as "retaliation". Seeing that the Qur'an speaks here of "cases of killing" (fi 'I-gatla, lit., "in the matter of the killed") in general, and taking into account that this expression covers all possible cases of homicide -premeditated murder, murder under extreme provocation, culpable homicide, accidental manslaughter, and so forth-it is obvious that the taking of a life for a life (implied in the term "retaliation") would not in every case correspond to the demands of equity. (This has been made clear, for instance, in 4: 92, where legal restitution for unintentional homicide is dealt with.) Read in conjunction with the term "just retribution" which introduces this passage, it is clear that the stipulation "the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman" cannot - and has not been intended to - be taken in its literal, restrictive sense: for this would preclude its application to many cases of homicide, e.g., the killing of a free man by a slave, or of a woman by a man, or vice-versa. Thus, the above stipulation must be regarded as an example of the elliptical mode of expression (ijdz) so frequently employed in the Qur'an, and can have but one meaning, namely: "if a free man has committed the crime, the free man must be punished; if a slave has commited the crime. ..", etc.-in other words, whatever the status of the guilty person, he or she (and he or she alone) is to be punished in a manner appropriate to the crime.


[*2] Lit., "and he to whom [something] is remitted by his brother". There is no linguistic justification whatever for attributing-as some of the commentators have done-the pronoun "his" to the victim and, thus, for assuming that the expression "brother" stands for the victim's "family" or "blood relations". The pronoun "his" refers, unquestionably, to the guilty person; and since there is no reason for assuming that by "his brother" a real brother is meant, we cannot escape the conclusion that it denotes here "his brother in faith" of "his fellow-man" -in either of which terms the whole community is included. Thus, the expression "if something is remitted to a guilty person by his brother" (i.e., by the community or its legal organs) may refer either to the establishment of mitigating circumstances in a case of murder, or to the finding that the case under trial falls within the categories of culpable homicide or manslaughter - in which cases no capital punishment is to be exacted and restitution is to be made by the payment of an indemnity called diyyah (see 4 : 92) to the relatives of the victim. In consonance with the oft-recurring Qur'anic exhortation to forgiveness and forbearance, the "remission" mentioned above may also (and especially in cases of accidental manslaughter) relate to a partial or even total waiving of any claim to indemnification.


[*3] Lit., "and restitution to him in a goodly manner", it being understood that the pronoun in ilayhi ("to him") refers to the "brother in faith" or "fellow-man" mentioned earlier in this sentence. The word add' (here translated as "restitution") denotes an act of acquitting oneself of a duty or a debt (cf. Lane I, 38), and stands here for the act of legal reparation imposed on the guilty person. This reparation or restitution is to be made "in a goodly manner" -by taking into account the situation of the accused and, on the latter's part, by acquitting himself of his obligation willingly and sincerely (cf. Mandr II, 129).


[*4] Lit., "after this"-i.e., after the meaning of what constitutes "just retribution" (gisds) has been made clear in the above ordinance (Razi).


[*5] I.e., "there is a safeguard for you, as a community, so that you might be able to live in security, as God wants you to live". Thus, the objective of qisds is the protection of the society, and not "revenge".


2: 180

IT IS ordained for you, when death approaches any of you and he is leaving behind much wealth, to make bequests in favour of his parents and [other] near of kin in accordance with what is fair:* I this is binding on all who are conscious of God. (2: 181) And if anyone alters such a provision._ after having come to know it, the sin of acting thus shall fall only upon those who have altered it.** Verily, God is all-hearing, all-knowing.


*The word khayr occurring in this sentence denotes "much wealth" and not simply "property": and this explains the injunction that one who leaves much wealth behind should make bequests to particularly deserving members of his family in addition to - and preceding the distribution of-the legally-fixed shares mentioned in 4: 11-12. This interpretation of khayr is supported by sayings of `A'ishah and `All ibn AM Talib, both of them referring to this particular verse (cf. Zamakhshari and Baydawi).


**Lit., "and as for him who alters it" -i.e., after the testator's death- "after having heard it, the sin thereof is only upon those who alter it": that is, not on anyone who may have unwittingly benefited by this alteration. It is to be noted that the verb sami'a (lit., "he heard") has also the connotation of "he came to know".


2: 182

If, however, one has reason to fear that the testator has committed a mistake or a [deliberate] wrong, and thereupon brings about a settlement between the heirs,* he will incur no sin [thereby]. Verily, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.


*154 Lit., "between them" - i.e., a settlement overriding the testamentary provisions which, by common consent of the parties concerned, are considered unjust.


2: 183

O YOU who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God: (2: 184) [fasting] during a certain number of days.* But whoever of you is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days; and [in such cases] it is incumbent upon those who can afford it to make sacrifice by feeding a needy person.**

And whoever does more good than he is bound to do*** does good unto himself thereby; for to fast is to do good unto yourselves - if you but knew it.


* I.e., during the twenty-nine or thirty days of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar (see next verse). It consists of a total abstention from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset. As the Qur'an points out, fasting has been widely practiced at all times of man's religious history. The extreme rigour and the long duration of the Islamic fast-which is incumbent on every healthy adult, man or woman - fulfils, in addition to the general aim of spiritual purification, a threefold purpose: (1) to commemorate the beginning of the Qur'anic revelation, which took place in the month of Ramadan about thirteen years before the Prophet's exodus to Medina; (2) to provide an exacting exercise of self-discipline; and (3) to make everyone realize, through his or her own experience, how it feels to be hungry and thirsty, and thus to gain a true appreciation of the needs of the poor.


** This phrase has been subject to a number of conflicting and sometimes highly laboured interpretations. My rendering is based on the primary meaning of alladhfna yutfqunahu ("those who are capable of it" or "are able to do it" or "can afford it"), with the pronoun hu relating to the act of "feeding a needy person".


*** Some commentators are of the opinion that this refers to a voluntary feeding of more than one needy person, or to feeding the needy for more than the number of days required by the above ordinance. Since, however, the remaining part of the sentence speaks of the benefits of fasting as such, it is more probable that "doing more good than one is bound to do" refers, in this context, to supererogatory fasting (such as the Prophet sometimes undertook) apart from the obligatory one during the month of Ramadan.


2: 185

It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur'an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see* this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days. God wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but [He desires] that you complete the number [of days required], and that you extol God for His having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks [unto Him].


* Lit., "witnesses" or "is present in".


2: 186

AND IF My servants ask thee about Me - behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way.


2: 187

IT IS lawful for you to go in unto your wives during the night preceding the [day's] fast: they are as a garment for you, and you are as a garment for them. God is aware that you would have deprived yourselves of this right,* and so He has turned unto you in His mercy and removed this hardship from you. Now, then, you may lie with them skin to skin, and avail yourselves of that which God has ordained for you,** and eat and drink until you can discern the white streak of dawn against the blackness of night,*** and then resume fasting until nightfall; but do not lie with them skin to skin when you are about to abide.in meditation in houses of worship.****

These are the bounds set by God: do not, then, offend against them - [for] it is thus that God makes clear His messages unto mankind, so that they might remain conscious of Him.


* Lit., "deceived" of "defrauded yourselves [in this respect]": an allusion to the idea prevalent among the early Muslims, before the revelation of this verse, that during the period of fasting all sexual intercourse should be avoided, even at night-time, when eating and drinking are allowed (Razi). The above verse removed this misconception.


** Lit., "and seek that which God has ordained for you": an obvious stress on the God-willed nature of sexual life.


*** Lit., "the white line of dawn from the black line [of night]". According to all Arab philologists, the "black line" (al-khayt al'-aswad) signifies "the blackness of night" (Lane II, 831); and the expression al-khaytdn ("the two lines" or "streaks") denotes "day and night" (Lisdn al-Arab).


**** It was the practice of the Prophet to spend several days and nights during Ramadan-and occasionally also at other times - in the mosque, devoting himself to prayer and meditation to the exclusion of all worldly activities; and since he advised his followers as well to do this from time to time, seclusion in a mosque for the sake of meditation, called i'tikdf, has become a recognizedthough optional- mode of devotion among Muslims, especiahy during the last ten days of Ramadan.


2: 188

AND DEVOUR NOT one another's possessions wrongfully, and neither employ legal artifices* with a view to devouring sinfully, and knowingly, anything that by right belongs to others.**


* Lit., "and do not throw it to the judges" - i.e., with a view to being decided by them contrary to what is right (Zamakhshari, Baydaw!).


** Lit., "a part of [other] people's possessions".

2: 189

THEY WILL ASK thee about the new moons. Say: "They indicate the periods for [various doings of] mankind, including the pilgrimage."*

However, piety does not consist in your entering houses from the rear, [as it were,] but truly pious is he who is conscious of God.** Hence, enter houses through their doors, and remain conscious of God, so that you might attain to a happy state.


* The reference, at this stage, to lunar months arises from the fact that the observance of several of the religious obligations instituted by Islam - like the fast of Ramadan, or the pilgrimage to Mecca (which is dealt with in verses 196-203)-is based on the lunar calendar, in which the months rotate through the seasons of the solar year. This fixation on the lunar calendar results in a continuous variation of the seasonal circumstances in which those religious observances are performed (e.g., the length of the fasting-period between dawn and sunset, heat or cold at the time of the fast or the pilgrimage), and thus in a corresponding, periodical increase or decrease of the hardship involved. In addition to this, reckoning by lunar months has a bearing on the tide and ebb of the oceans, as well as on human physiology (e.g., a woman's monthly courses -a subject dealt with later on in this surah).


**I.e., true piety does not consist in approaching questions of faith through a "back door", as it were - that is,'through mere observance of the forms and periods set for the performance of various religious duties (cf. 2 : 177). However important these forms and time-limits may be in themselves, they do not fulfil their real purpose unless every act is approached through its spiritual "front door", that is, through God-consciousness. Since, metonymically, the word bab ("door") signifies "a means of access to, or of attainment of, a thing" (see Lane I, 272), the metaphor of "entering a house through its door" is often used in classical Arabic to denote a proper approach to a problem (Razi).


2: 190

AND FIGHT in God's cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression-for, verily, God does not love aggressors.* (2: 191) And slay them wherever you may come upon them, and drive them away from wherever they drove you away - for oppression is even worse than killing.** And fight not against them near the Inviolable House of Worship unless they fight against you there first;*** but if they fight against you, slay them: such shall be the recompense of those who deny the truth.


* This and the following verses lay down unequivocally that only self-defence (in the widest sense of the word) makes war permissible for Muslims. Most of the commentators agree in that the expression la ta'tadu signifies, in this context, "do not commit aggression"; while by al=mu'tadin "those who commit aggression" are meant. The defensive character of a fight "in God's cause" - that is, in the cause of the ethical principles ordained by God - is, moreover, self-evident in the reference to "those who wage war against you", and has been still further clarified in 22: 39 - "permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged" - which, according to all available Traditions, constitutes the earliest (and therefore fundamental) Queanic reference to the question of jihad, or holy war (see Tabari and Ibn Kathir in their commentaries on 22: 39). That this early, fundamental principle of self-defence as the only possible justification of war has been maintained throughout the Quean is evident from 60: 8, as well as from the concluding sentence of 4: 91, both of which belong to a later period than the above verse.


** In view of the preceding ordinance, the injunction "slay them wherever you may come upon them" is valid only within the context of hostilities already in progress (Razi), on the understanding that "those who wage war against you" are the aggressors or oppressors (a war of liberation being a war "in God's cause"). The translation, in this context, of fitnah as "oppression" is justified by the application of this term to any affliction which may cause man to go astray and to lose his faith in spiritual values (cf. Lisdn al-Arab).


*** This reference to warfare in the vicinity of Mecca is due to the fact that at the time of the revelation of this verse the Holy City was still in the possession of the pagan Quraysh, who were hostile to the Muslims. However - as is always the case with historical references in the Qur'an - the above injunction has a general import, and is valid for all times and circumstances.


2: 192

But if they desist-behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.


2: 193

Hence, fight against them until there is no more oppression and all worship is devoted to God alone;* but if they desist, then all hostility shall cease, save against those who [wilfully] do wrong.


* Lit., "and religion belongs to God [alone]" - i.e., until God can be worshipped without fear of persecution, and none is compelled to bow down in awe before another human being. (See also 22: 40.) The term din is in this context more suitably translated as "worship" inasmuch as it comprises here both the doctrinal and the moral aspects of religion: that is to say, man's faith as well as the obligations arising from that faith.


2: 194

Fight during the sacred months if you are attacked:* for a violation of sanctity is [subject to the law of] just retribution. Thus, if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him just as he has attacked you - but remain conscious of God, and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him.**


* This is a free rendering of the phrase "the sacred month for the sacred month", which is interpreted by all commentators in the sense given above. The "sacred months" during which, according to ancient Arab custom, all fighting was deemed utterly wrong, were the first, seventh, ; eleventh and twelfth months of the lunar calendar.


**Thus, although the believers are enjoined to fight back whenever they are attacked, the concluding words of the above verse make it clear that they must, when fighting, abstain from all atrocities, including the killing of non-combatants.


2: 195

And spend [freely] in God's cause, and let not your own hands throw you into destruction;* and persevere in doing good: behold, God loves the doers of good.


*173 Le., "you might bring about your own destruction by withholding your personal and material contribution to this common effort".


2: 196

AND PERFORM the pilgrimage and the pious visit [to Mecca]  [*1] in honour of God; and if you are held back, give instead whatever offering you can easily afford. And do not shave your heads until the offering has been sacrificed; [*2] but he from among you who is ill or suffers from an ailment of the head shall redeem himself by fasting, or alms, or [any other] act of worship. And if you are hale and secure, [*3] then he who takes advantage of a pious visit before'the [time of] pilgrimage shall give whatever offering he can easily afford; [*4] whereas he who cannot afford it shall fast for three days during the pilgrimage and for seven days after your return: that is, ten full [days]. All this relates to him who does not live near the Inviolable House of Worship.[*5]

And remain conscious of God, and know that God is severe in retribution.[*6]


[*1] The Mecca pilgrimage (hajj) takes place once a year, in the month of Dhu '1-Hijjah, whereas a pious visit (`umrah) may be performed at any time. In both hajj and `umrah, the pilgrims are required to walk seven times around the Ka`bah and seven times between As-$afa and AI-Marwah (see notes 127 and 128 above); in the course of the hajj, they must, in addition, attend the gathering on the plain of 'Arafat on the 9th of Dhu '1-Hijjah (see note 182 below). irrespective of whether they are performing a full hajj or only an `umrah, the pilgrims must refrain from cutting or even trimming the hair on their heads from the time they enter the state of pilgrimage (ihram) until the end of the pilgrimage, respectively the pious visit. As mentioned in the sequence, persons who are ill or suffer from an ailment which necessitates the cutting or shaving of one's hair are exempted from this prohibition.


[*2] Lit., "until the offering has reached its destination" - i.e., in time or in place; according to RAzl, the time of sacrifice is meant here, namely, the conclusion`of the pilgrimage, when those who participate in the hajj are expected-provided they can afford it-to sacrifice a sheep, a goat, or the like; and to distribute most of its flesh in charity.


[*3] The expression idhd amantum (lit., "when you are safe") refers here to safety both from external dangers (e.g., war) and from illness, and is, therefore, best rendered as "hale and secure" - the implication being that the person concerned is in a position, and intends, to participate in the pilgrimage.


[*4]  This relates to an interruption, for the sake of personal comfort, of the state of pilgrimage (ihram) during the time intervening between the completion of an `umrah and the performance of the hajj (cf. Mandr 11, 222). The pilgrim who takes advantage of this facility is obliged to sacrifice an animal (see note 175 above) at the termination of the pilgrimage or, alternatively, to fast for ten days.


[*5] Lit., "whose people are not present at the Inviolable House of Worship" -i.e., do not permanently reside there: for, obviously, the inhabitants of Mecca cannot remain permanently in the state of ihrdm.


[*6] This refers not merely to a possible violation of the sanctity of the pilgrimage but also, in a more general way, to all deliberate violations of God's ordinances.


2: 197

The pilgrimage shall take place in the months appointed for it.[*1] And whoever undertakes the pilgrimage in those [months] shall, while on pilgrimage, abstain from lewd speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling; and whatever good you may do, God is aware of it.

And make provision for yourselves - but, verily, the best of all provisions is God-consciousness: remain, then, conscious of Me, O you who are endowed with insight! (2: 198) [However,] you will be committing no sin if [during the pilgrimage] you seek to obtain any bounty from your Sustainer.[*2]

And when you surge downward in multitudes from `Arafat, [*3] remember God at the holy place, and remember Him as the One who guided you after you had indeed been lost on your way;[*4] (2: 199) and surge onward together with the multitude of all the other people who surge onward,[*5] and ask God to forgive you your sins: for, verily, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.


[*1] Lit., "in the well-known months". Since the haii culminates in one particular month (namely, Dhu 'I-Hijjah), the plural apparently refers to its annual recurrence. It should, however, be noted that some commentators understand it as referring to the last three months of the lunar year.


[*2] I.e., by trading while in the state of ihrdm. Muhammad `Abduh points out (in Manar II, 231) that the endeavour "to obtain any bounty from your Sustainer" implies God-consciousness and, therefore, constitutes a kind of worship-provided, of course, that this endeavour does not conflict with any other, more prominent religious requirement.


[*3] The gathering of all pilgrims on the plain of `Arafat, east of Mecca, takes place on the 9th of Dhu '1-Hijjah and constitutes the climax of the pilgrimage. The pilgrims are required to remain until sunset on that plain, below the hillock known as Jabal ar-Rahmah ("the Mount of Grace") - a symbolic act meant to bring to mind that ultimate gathering on Resurrection Day, when every soul will await God's judgment. Immediately after sunset, the multitudes of pilgrims move back in the direction of Mecca, stopping overnight at a place called Muzdalifah, the "holy place" referred to in the next clause of this sentence.


[*4] Lit., "and remember Him as He has guided you, although before that you had indeed been among those who go astray".


[*5] Lit., "surge onward in multitudes whence the people surge onward in multitudes": thus the pilgrims are called upon to submerge their individualities, at that supreme moment of the pilgrimage, in the consciousness of belonging to a community of people who are all equal before God, with no barrier of race or class or social status separating one person from another.


Ayah 1-100

Ayah 200-286

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