The Second Surah


Al-Baqarah (The Cow)

Medina Period


Ayah 1-100

Ayah 101-199


2: 200

And when you have performed your acts of worship, [continue to] bear God in mind as you would bear your own fathers in mind-nay, with a yet keener remembrance!* For there are people who [merely] pray, "O our Sustainer! Give us in this world" -and such shall not partake in the blessings of the life to come. (2: 201) But there are among them such as pray, "O our Sustainer! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come, and keep us safe from suffering through the fire": (2: 202) it is these. that shall have their portion [of happiness] in return for what they have earned. And God is swift in reckoning.


* Most of the commentators see in this passage a reference to the custom of the pre-Islamic Arabs to extol, on the occasion of various gatherings, the greatness and the supposed virtues of their ancestors. Some of the earliest Islamic scholars, however-e.g., Ad-Dahhak, Ar-Rabi and Abu Muslim - are of the opinion that what is meant here are actual fathers (or, by implication, both parents), whom a child usually considers to be the embodiment of all that is good and powerful (see Razi's commentary on this verse).


2: 203

And bear God in mind during the appointed days;* but he who hurries away within two days shall incur no sin, and he who tarries longer shall incur no sin, provided that he is conscious of God. Hence, remain conscious of God, and know that unto Him you shall be gathered.


* These are the days following the "Festival of Sacrifices" (`id al-adha'), which takes place on the 10th of Dhu'1-Hijjah. The pilgrims are obliged to spend at least two of these days in the valley of Mina, about half-way between `Arafat and Mecca.


2: 204

NOW THERE IS a kind of man* whose views on the life of this world may please thee greatly, and [the more so as] he cites God as witness to what is in his heart and is, moreover, exceedingly skillful in argument.** (2: 205) But whenever he prevails, he goes about the earth spreading corruption and destroying [man's] tilth and progeny:*** and God does not love corruption. (2: 206) And whenever he is told, "Be conscious of God," his false pride drives him into sin: wherefore hell will be his allotted portion-and how vile a resting-place!


*Lit., "among the people there is he" (or "such as"). Since there is no valid reason to suppose, as some commentators do, that this refers to a particular person-a contemporary of the Prophet-the most reliable authorities hold that the above passage has a general meaning (cf. Razi). As the context shows, it is a further elaboration of the allusion, made in 2:200-201, to two contrasting attitudes: the attitude of people whose only real concern is the life of this world, and that of people who are mindful of the hereafter as well as, or even more than, their present life.


** Lit., "the most contentious of adversaries in a dispute". According to Az-Zajjaj (quoted by Razi), this signifies a person who is always able to defeat his opponent in a controversy by the use of extremely adroit and often misleading arguments. It is obvious that this passage refers to people who hold plausible and even admirable views regarding a possible improvement of human society and of man's lot on earth, but at the same time refuse to be guided by what they regard as "esoteric" considerations-like belief in a life after death-and justify their exclusive preoccupation with the affairs of this world by seemingly sound arguments and a stress on their own ethical objectives ("they cite God as witness to what is in their hearts"). There is an inescapable affinity between the mental attitude described in the above passage and the one spoken of in 2: 8-12.


*** Lit., "he hastens about the earth [or "strives on earth"] to spread corruption therein and to destroy tilth and progeny". Most of the commentators see in this sentence an indication of a conscious intent on the part of the person thus described; but it is also possible that the particle li in li-yufsida (generally taken to mean "in order that he might spread corruption") plays in this context the role of what the grammarians call a lam al- dgibah, "the [letter] lam used to denote a consequence"-i.e., regardless of the existence or non-existence of a conscious intent. (By rendering the sentence the way I do it, both possibilities are left open.) As regards the expression harth (rendered by me as "tilth"), its primary significance is "gain" or "acquisition" through labour; and thus it often signifies "worldly goods" (see Lane II, 542), and especially the crops obtained by tilling land, as well as the tilled land itself. If harth is understood in this context as "tilth", it would apply, metaphorically, to human endeavours in general, and to social endeavours in particular. However, some commentators - basing their opinion on the Qur'anic sentence, "your wives are your tilth" (2: 223)-maintain that harth stands here for "wives" (cf. Razi, and the philologist Al-Azhari, as quoted in Manar II, 248): in which case the "destruction of tilth and progeny" would be synonymous with an upsetting of family life and, consequently, of the entire social fabric. According to either of these two interpretations, the passage has the following meaning: As soon as the mental attitude described above is generally accepted and made the basis of social behaviour, it unavoidably results in widespread moral decay and, consequently, social disintegration.


2: 207

But there is [also] a kind of man who would willingly sell his own self in order to please God:* and God is most compassionate towards His servants.


*Lit., "there is such as would sell his own self out of a desire for God's pleasure": i.e., would give up all his personal interests if compliance with God's will were to demand it.


2: 208

O you who have attained to faith! Surrender yourselves wholly unto God,* and follow not Satan's footsteps, for, verily, he is your open foe. (2: 209) And if you should stumble after all evidence of the truth has come unto you, then know that, verily, God is almighty, wise.


*Lit., "enter wholly into self-surrender". Since self-surrender to God is the basis of all true belief, some of the greatest commentators (e.g., Zamakhshari, Razi) hold that the address, "O you who have attained to faith" cannot refer here to Muslims -a designation which, throughout the Qur'an, literally means "those who have surrendered themselves to God" - but must relate to people who have not yet achieved such complete self-surrender: that is, to the Jews and the Christians, who do believe in most of the earlier revelations but do not regard the message of the Qur'an as true. This interpretation would seem to be borne out by the subsequent passages.


2: 210

Are these people* waiting, perchance, for God to reveal Himself unto them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels - although [by then] all will have been decided, and unto God all things will have been brought back?**


* Lit., "they"-obviously referring to the people addressed in the preceding two verses.


** I.e., it will be too late for repentance. All commentators agree in that the "decision" relates to the unequivocal manifestation of God's will on the Day of Judgment, which is alluded to in the words, "when unto God all things will have been brought back". Since, in the next verse, the children of Israel are addressed, it is possible that this rhetorical question is connected with their refusal, in the time of Moses, to believe in the divine message unless they "see God face to face" (cf. 2 : 55).


2: 211

Ask the children of Israel how many a clear message We have given them! And if one alters God's blessed message* after it has reached him - verily, God is severe in retribution!


* Lit., "God's blessing".


2: 212

Unto those who are bent on denying the truth the life of this world [alone] seems goodly;* hence, they scoff at those who have attained to faith: but they who are conscious of God shall be above them on Resurrection Day.

And God grants sustenance unto whom He wills, beyond all reckoning.**


* Lit., "has been made beauteous".


** I.e., He cannot be called to account for the way in which He distributes worldly benefits, sometimes granting them to the morally deserving and sometimes to sinners.


2: 213

ALL MANKIND were once one single community; [then they began to differ - ] whereupon God raised up the prophets as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, and through them bestowed revelation from on high, setting forth the truth, so that it might decide between people with regard to all on which they had come to hold divergent views.* Yet none other than the selfsame people who had been granted this [revelation] began, out of mutual jealousy, to disagree about its meaning after all evidence of the truth had come unto them. But God guided the believers unto the truth about which, by His leave, they had disagreed: for God guides onto a straight way him that wills [to be guided].**


*By using the expression ummah wdhidah ("one single community") to describe the original state of mankind, the Qur'an does not propound, as might appear at first glance, the idea of a mythical "golden age" obtaining at the dawn of man's history. What is alluded to in this verse is no more than the relative homogeneity of instinctive perceptions and inclinations characteristic of man's primitive mentality and the primitive social order in which he lived in those early days. Since that homogeneity was based on a lack of intellectual and emotional differentiation rather than on a conscious agreement among the members of human society, it was bound to disintegrate in the measure of man's subsequent development. As his thought-life became more and more complex, his emotional capacity and his individual needs, too, became more differentiated, conflicts of views and interests came to the fore, and mankind ceased to be "one single community" as regards their outlook on life and their moral valuations: and it was at this stage that divine guidance became necessary. (It is to be borne in mind that the term al-kitdb refers here - as in many other places in the Qur'an - not to any particular scripture but to divine revelation as such.) This interpretation of the above Qur'anic passage is supported by the fact that the famous Companion `Abd Allah ibn Mas'dd used to read it thus: "All mankind were once one single community, and then they began to differ (fakhtalafu)-whereupon God raised up ...... etc. Although the word fakhtalafu interpolated here by Ibn Mas'ud does not appear in the generally-accepted text of the Qur'an, almost all of the authorities are of the opinion that it is implied in the context.


** Or: "God guides whomever He wills onto a straight way." As is made clear in the second part of verse 253 of this sarah, man's proneness to intellectual dissension is not an accident of history but an integral, God-willed aspect of human nature as such: and it is this natural circumstance t6which the words "by His leave" allude. For an explanation of the phrase "out of mutual jealousy", see 23:53 and the corresponding note 30.


2: 214

[But] do you think that you could enter para dise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you?* Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle, and the believers with him, would exclaim, "When will God's succour come?"**

Oh, verily, God's succour is [always] near!


 * Lit., "while yet there has not come to you the like of [what has come to] those who passed away before you". This passage connects with the words, "God guides onto a straight way him that wills [to be guided]", which occur at the end of the preceding verse. The meaning is that intellectual cognition of the truth cannot, by itself, be a means of attaining to ultimate bliss: it must be complemented by readiness to sacrifice and spiritual purification through suffering.


** The preceding reference to "those who passed away before you" makes it obvious that the term "the apostle" is used here in a generic sense, applying to all the apostles (Manar II, 301).


2: 215

THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof."


2: 216

FIGHTING is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know.*


*Insofar as it relates to fighting, this verse must be read in conjunction with 2 : 190-193 and 22: 39: but it expresses, in addition, a general truth applicable to many situations


2: 217

They will ask thee about fighting in the sacred month.* Say: "Fighting in it is an awesome thing; but turning men away from the path of God and denying Him, and [turning them away from] the Inviolable House of Worship and expelling its people therefrom - [all this] is yet more awesome in the sight of God, since oppression is more awesome than killing."

[Your enemies] will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of the truth - these it is whose works will go for nought in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.


* For an explanation of the "sacred months", see note 171 above.


2: 218

Verily, they who have attained to faith, and they who have forsaken the domain of evil* and are striving hard in God's cause - these it is who may look forward to God's grace: for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.


*The expression alladhFna hdjara (lit., "those who have forsaken their homelands") denotes, primarily, the early Meccan Muslims who migrated at the Prophet's bidding to Medina - which was then called Yathrib - in order to be able to live in freedom and in accordance with the dictates of Islam. After the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims in the year 8 ft., this exodus (Mjrah) from Mecca to Medina ceased to be a religious obligation. Ever since the earliest days of Islam, however, the term hijrah has had a spiritual connotation as well-namely, a "forsaking of the domain of evil" and turning towards God: and since this spiritual connotation applies both to the historical muhafran ("emigrants") of early Islam and to all believers of later times who forsake all that is sinful and "migrate unto God", I am using this expression frequently.


2: 219

THEY WILL ASK thee about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: "In both there is great evil* as well as some benefit for man; but the evil which they cause is greater than the benefit which they bring."**

And they will ask thee as to what they should spend [in God's cause]. Say: "Whatever you can spare." In this way God makes clear unto you His messages, so that you might reflect (2: 220) on this world and on the life to come.

And they will ask thee about [how to deal with] orphans. Say: "To improve their condition is best." And if you share their life, [remember that] they are your brethren:*** for God distinguishes between him who spoils things and him who improves. And had God so willed, He would indeed have imposed on you hardships which you would not have been able to bear:**** [but,] behold, God is almighty, wise!


* Lit., "sin", or anything that is conducive to sinning. As some of the classical commentators (e.g., Razi) point out, the term ithm is used in this verse as the antithesis of manafi` ("benefits"); it can, therefore, be suitably rendered as "evil".


** Lit., "their evil is greater than their benefit". For a clear-cut prohibition of intoxicants and games of chance, see 5 : 90-91 and the corresponding notes.


*** The implication is that if one shares the life of an orphan in his charge, one is permitted to benefit by such an association - for instance, through a business partnership - provided this does not damage the orphan's interests in any way.


**** Le., "by putting you under an obligation to care for the orphans, and at the same time prohibiting you from sharing their life" (see preceding note).


2: 221

AND DO NOT many women who ascribe divinity to aught beside God ere they attain to [true] belief: for any believing bondwoman [of God]* is certainly better than a woman who ascribes divinity to aught beside God, even though she please you greatly. And do not give your women in marriage to men who ascribe divinity to aught beside God ere they attain to [true] belief: for- any believing bondman [of God] is certainly better than a man who ascribes divinity to aught beside God, even though he please you greatly. [Such as] these invite unto the fire, whereas God invites unto paradise, and unto [the achievement of] forgiveness by His leave; and He makes clear His messages unto mankind, so that they might bear them in mind.


* Although the majority of the commentators attribute to the term amah, occurring in this context, its usual connotation of "slave-girl", some of them are of the opinion that it stands here for "God's bondwoman". Thus, Zamakhshar? explains the words amah mu'minah (lit., "a believing bondwoman") as denoting "any believing woman, whether she be free or slave; and this applies to [the expression] `believing bondman' as well: for all human beings are God's bondmen and bondwoman". My rendering of the above passage is based on this eminently plausible interpretation.


2: 222

AND THEY will ask thee about [woman's] monthly courses. Say: "It is a vulnerable condition. Keep, therefore, aloof from women during their monthly courses, and do not draw near unto them until they are cleansed; and when they are cleansed, go in unto them as God has bidden you to do."*

Verily, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance** and He loves those who keep themselves pure.


* This is one of the many references in the Qur'an to the positive, God-ordained nature of sexuality.


** I.e., if they have transgressed against the above restriction.


2: 223

Your wives are your tilth; go, then, unto your tilth as you may desire, but first provide something for your souls,* and remain conscious of God, and know that you are destined to meet Him. And give glad tidings unto those who believe.


*In other words, a spiritual relationship between man and woman is postulated as the indispensable basis of sexual relations.


2: 224

AND DO NOT allow your oaths in the name of God to become an obstacle to virtue and God-consciousness and the promotion of peace between men:* for God is all-hearing, all-knowing. (2: 225) God will not take you to task for oaths which you may have uttered without thought, but will take you to task [only] for what your hearts have conceived [in earnest]: for God is muchforgiving, forbearing.


* Lit., "do not make God, because of your oaths...", etc. As can be seen from verse 226, this injunction refers primarily to oaths relating to divorce but is, nevertheless, general in its import. Thus, there are several authentic Traditions to the effect that the Prophet Muhammad said: "If anyone takes a solemn oath [that he would do or refrain from doing such-and such a thing], and thereupon realizes that something else would be a more righteous course, then let him do that which is more righteous, and let him break his oath and then atone for it" (Bukhari and Muslim; and other variants of the same Tradition in other compilations). As regards the method of atonement, see 5:89.


2: 226

Those who take an oath that they will not approach their wives shall have four months of grace; and if they go back [on their oath]* -behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenseer of grace. (2: 227) But if they are resolved on divorce -behold, God is all-hearing, all-knowing.


* I.e., during this period of grace.


2: 228

And the divorced women shall undergo, without remarrying,* a waiting-period of three monthly courses: for it is not lawful for them to conceal what God may have created in their wombs,** if they believe in God and the Last Day. And during this period their husbands are fully entitled to take them back, if they desire reconciliation; but, in accordance with justice, the rights of the wives [with regard to their husbands] are equal to the [husbands'] rights with regard to them, although men have precedence over them [in this respect].*** And God is almighty, wise.


* Lit., "by themselves".


** The primary purpose of this waiting-period is the ascertainment of possible pregnancy, and thus of the parentage of the as yet unborn child. In addition, the couple are to be given an opportunity to reconsider their decision and possibly to resume the marriage. See also 65 : 1 and the corresponding note 2.


*** A divorced wife has the right to refuse a resumption of marital relations even if the husband expresses, before the expiry of the waiting-period, his willingness to have the provisional divorce rescinded; but since it is the husband who is responsible for the maintenance of the family, the first option to rescind a provisional divorce rests with him


2: 229

A divorce may be [revoked] twice, whereupon the marriage must either be resumed in fairness or dissolved in a goodly manner.*

And it is not lawful for you to take back anything of what you have ever given to your wives unless both [partners] have cause to fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by God: hence, if you have cause to fear that the two may not be able to keep within the bounds set by God, there shall be no sin upon either of them for what the wife may give up [to her husband] in order to free herself.**

These are the bounds set by God; do not, then, transgress them: for they who transgress the bounds set by God-it is they, they who are evildoers!


* Lit., "whereupon either retention in fairness or release in a goodly manner". In other words, a third pronouncement of divorce makes it final and irrevocable.

** All authorities agree in that this verse relates to the unconditional right on the part of the wife to obtain a divorce from her husband; such a dissolution of marriage at the wife's instance is called khul`. There exist a number of highly-authenticated Traditions to the effect that the wife of Thabit ibn Qays, Jam-flah, came to the Prophet and demanded a divorce from her husband on the ground that, in spite of his irreproachable character and behaviour, she "disliked him as she would dislike falling into unbelief after having accepted Islam". Thereupon the Prophet ordained that she should return to Thabit the garden which he has given her as her dower (mahr) at the time of their wedding, and decreed that the marriage should be dissolved. (Several variants of this Tradition have been recorded by Bukhari, Nasa'i, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Bayhagi, on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas.) Similar Traditions, handed down on the authority of `A'ishah and relating to a woman called Hubaybah bint Sahl, are to be found in the Muwaya' of Imam Malik, in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, and in the compilations of Nasa'i and Abu Dfi'ud (in one variant, the latter gives the woman's name as Hafsah bint Sahl). In accordance with these Traditions, Islamic Law stipulates that whenever a marriage is dissolved at the wife's instance without any offence on the part of the husband against his marital obligations, the wife is the contract-breaking party and must, therefore, return the dower which she received from him at the time of concluding the marriage: and in this event "there shall be no sin upon either of them" if the husband takes back the dower which the wife gives up of her own free will. An exhaustive discussion of all these Traditions and their legal implications is found in Nayl al-Awtar VII, pp. 34-41. For a summary of the relevant views of the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence, see Biddyat al-Mujtahid 11, pp. 54-57.


2: 230

And if he divorces her [finally], she shall thereafter not be lawful unto him unless she first takes another man for husband; then, if the latter divorces her, there shall be no sin upon either of the two if they return to one another-provided that both of them think that they will be able to keep within the bounds set by God: for these are the bounds of God which He makes clear unto people of [innate] knowledge.


2: 231

And so, when you divorce women and they are about to reach the end of their waiting-term, then either retain them in a fair manner or let them go in a fair manner. But do not retain them against their will in order to hurt [them]: for he who does so sins indeed against himself.

And do not take [these] messages of God in a frivolous spirit; and remember the blessings with which God has graced you, and all the revelation and the wisdom which He has bestowed on you from on high in order to admonish you thereby; and remain conscious of God, and know that God has full knowledge of everything.


2: 232

And when you divorce women, and they have come to the end of their waiting-term, hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair manner. This is an admonition unto every one of you who believes in God and the Last Day; it is the most virtuous [way] for you, and the cleanest. And God knows, whereas you do not know.


2: 233

And the [divorced] mothers may nurse their children for two whole years, if they wish to complete the period of nursing; and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing. No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear: neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it. And the same duty rests upon the [father's] heir.

And if both [parents] decide, by mutual consent and counsel, upon separation [of mother and child],* they will incur no sin [thereby]; and if you decide to entrust your children to foster-mothers, you will incur no sin provided you ensure, in a fair manner, the safety of the child which you are handing over.** But remain conscious of God, and know that God sees all that you do.


* Most of the commentators understand the word fisdl as being synonymous with "weaning" (i.e., before the end of the maximum period of two years). Abu Muslim, however, is of the opinion that it stands here for "separation" -i.e., of the child from its mother (Razi). It appears to me that this is the better of the two interpretations inasmuch as it provides a solution for cases in which both parents agree that, for some reason or other, it would not be fair to burden the divorced mother with the upbringing of the child despite the father's obligation to support them materially, while, on the other hand. it would not be feasible for the father to undertake this duty single-handed.


** Lit., "provided you make safe [or "provided you surrender"] in a fair manner that which you are handing over". While it cannot be denied that the verb sallamahu can mean "he surrendered it" as well as "he made it safe", it seems to me that the latter meaning (which is the primary one) is preferable in this context since it implies the necessity of assuring the child's future safety and well-being. (The commentators who take the verb sallamtum in the sense of "you surrender" interpret the phrase idha sallamtum and dtaytum bi'l-ma'ruf as meaning "provided you hand over the agreed-upon [wages to the foster-mothers] in a fair manner" - which, to my mind, unduly limits the purport of the above injunction.)


2: 234

And if any of you die and leave wives behind, they shall undergo, without remarrying,* a waitingperiod of four months and ten days; whereupon, when they have reached the end of their waiting-term, there shall be no sin** in whatever they may do with their persons in a lawful manner. And God is aware of all that you do.


*Lit., "by themselves".


** Lit., "you will incur no sin'". Since, obviously, the whole community is addressed here (Zamakhsharl), the rendering "there shall be no sin" would seem appropriate.


2: 235

But you will incur no sin if you give a hint of [an intended] marriage-offer to [any of] these women, or if you conceive such an intention without making it obvious: [for] God knows that you intend to ask them in marriage.* Do not, however, plight your troth with them in secret, but speak only in a decent manner; and do not proceed with tying the marriage-knot ere the ordained [term of waiting] has come to its end. And know that God knows what is in your minds, and therefore remain conscious of Him; and know, too, that God is much-forgiving, forbearing.


*Lit., "if you conceal [such an intention] within yourselves: [for] God knows that you will mention [it] to them". In classical Arabic usage, the expression dhakaraha ("he mentioned (it] to her") is often idiomatically synonymous with "he demanded her in marriage" (see Lane III, 969). The above passage relates to a marriage-offer - or to an intention of making such an offer - to a newly-widowed or divorced woman before the expiry of the prescribed waiting-term.


2: 236

You will incur no sin if you divorce women while you have not yet touched them nor settled a dower upon them;* but [even in such a case] make provision for them - the affluent according to his means, and the straitened according to his means - a provision in an equitable manner: this is a duty upon all who would do good.**


* The term farrdah denotes the dower (often also called mahr) which must be agreed upon by bridegroom and bride before the conclusion of the marriage-tie. While the amount of this dower is left to the discretion of the two contracting parties (and may even consist of no more than a token gift), its stipulation is an essential part of an Islamic marriage contract. For exceptions from this rule, see 33 :50 and the corresponding note 58.


** Lit., "upon the doers of good" - i.e., all who are determined to act in accordance with God's will.


2: 237

And if you divorce them before having touched them, but after having settled a dower upon them, then [give them] half of what you have settled - unless it be that they forgo their claim or he in whose hand is the marriage-tie* forgoes his claim [to half of the dower]: and to forgo what is due to you is more in accord with God-consciousness. And forget not [that you are to act with] grace towards one another: verily, God sees all that you do.


*According to some of the most prominent Companions of the Prophet (e.g., `Alt) and their immediate successors (e.g., Said ibn al-Musayyab and Said ibn Jubayr), this term denotes the husband (cf. Tabari, Zamakhshari, Baghawi, Razi and Ibn Kathir).


2: 238

BE EVER mindful of prayers, and of praying in the most excellent way;* and stand before God in devout obedience. (2: 239) But if you are in danger, [pray] walking or riding;** and when you are again secure, bear God in mind - since it is He who taught you what you did not previously know.


* Lit., "the midmost [or "the most excellent"] prayer". It is generally assumed that this refers to the mid-afternoon (`asr) prayer, although some authorities believe that it denotes the prayer at dawn (fair). Muhammad `Abduh, however, advances the view that it may mean "the noblest kind of prayer-that is, a prayer from the fullness of the heart, with the whole mind turned towards God, inspired by awe of Him, and reflecting upon His word" (Manor II, 438). - In accordance with the system prevailing throughout the Qur'an, any lengthy- section dealing with social laws is almost invariably followed by a call to God-consciousness: and since God-consciousness comes most fully to its own in prayer, this and the next verse are interpolated here between injunctions relating to marital life and divorce.


** This relates to any dangerous situation - for instance, in war- where remaining for any length of time at one place would only increase the peril: in such an event, the obligatory prayers may be offered in any way that is feasible, even without consideration of the giblah.


2: 240

AND IF any of you die and leave wives behind, they bequeath thereby to their widows [the right to] one year's maintenance without their being obliged to leave [the dead husband's home].* If, however, they leave [of their own accord], there shall be no sin in whatever they may do with themselves in a lawful manner.** And God is almighty, wise.


*Lit., "[it is] a bequest to their wives [of] one year's maintenance without being dislodged". (As regards the justification of the rendering adopted by me, see Manor II, 446 ff.). The question of a widow's residence in her dead husband's house arises, of course, only in the event that it has not been bequeathed to her outright under the provisions stipulated in 4 : 12.


** For instance, by remarrying-in which case they forgo their claim to additional maintenance during the remainder of the year. Regarding the phrase "there shall be no sin", see note 222 above.


2: 241

And the divorced women, too, shall have [a right to] maintenance in a goodly manner:* this is a duty for all who are conscious of God.


*231 This obviously relates to women who are divorced without any legal fault on their part. The amount of alimony - payable unless and until they remarry - has been left unspecified since it must depend on the husband's financial circumstances and on the social conditions of the time.


2: 242

In this way God makes clear unto you His messages, so that you might [learn to] use your reason.


2: 243

ART THOU NOT aware of those who forsook their homelands in their thousands for fear of deathwhereupon God said unto them, "Die," and later brought them back to life ?*

Behold, God is indeed limitless in His bounty unto man -but most people are ungrateful.


* After the conclusion of the injunctions relating to marital life, the Qur'an returns here to the problem of warfare in a just cause by alluding to people who-obviously under a hostile attack-"forsook their homelands for fear of death". Now, neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition offers any indication as to who the people referred to in this verse may have been. The "historical" explanations given by some of the commentators are most contradictory; they seem to have been derived from Talmudic stories current at the time, and cannot be used in this context with any justification. We must, therefore, assume (as Muhammad `Abduh does in Mandr II, 455 ff.) that the above allusion is parabolically connected with the subsequent call to the faithful to be ready to lay down their lives in God's cause: an illustration of the fact that fear of physical death leads to the moral death of nations and communities, just as their regeneration (or "coming back to life") depends on their regaining their moral status through overcoming the fear of death. This is undoubtedly the purport of the elliptic story of Samuel, Saul and David told in verses 246-251.


2: 244

Fight, then, in God's cause,* and know that God is all-hearing, all-knowing.


* I.e., in a just war in self-defence against oppression or unprovoked aggression (cf. 2 : 190-194).


2: 245

Who is it that will offer up unto God a goodly loan,* which He will amply repay, with manifold increase? For, God takes away, and He gives abundantly; and it is unto Him that you shall be brought back.


* I.e., by sacrificing one's life in, or devoting it to, His cause.


2: 246

Art thou not aware of those elders of the children of Israel, after the time of Moses, how they said unto a prophet of theirs,* "Raise up a king for us, [and] we shall fight in God's cause"?

Said he: "Would you, perchance, refrain from fighting if fighting is ordained for you?"

They answered: "And why should we not fight in God's cause when we and our children have been driven from our homelands?"**

Yet, when fighting was ordained for them, they did turn back, save for a few of them; but God had full knowledge of the evildoers.


* The prophet referred to here is Samuel (cf. Old Testament, I Samuel viii ff.).


** Obviously a reference to the many invasions of their homelands by their perennial enemies, the Philistines, Amorites, Amalekites and other Semitic and non-Semitic tribes living in and-around .Palestine; and, by implication, a reminder to believers of all times that "fighting in God's cause" (as defined in the Qur'an) is an act of faith.


2: 247

And their prophet said unto those elders:* "Behold, now God has raised up Saul to be your king." They said: "How can he have dominion over us when we have a better claim to dominion than he, and he has not [even] been endowed with abundant wealth?"

[The prophet] replied: "Behold, God has exalted him above you, and endowed him abundantly with knowledge and bodily perfection. And God bestows His dominion** upon whom He wills: for God is infinite, all-knowing."


* Lit., "to them" - but the next sentence shows that the elders were thus addressed by Samuel.


** An allusion to the Qur'anic doctrine that all dominion and all that may be "owned" by man belongs to God alone, and that man holds it only in trust from Him.


2: 248

And their prophet said unto them: "Behold, it shall be a sign of his [rightful] dominion that you will be granted a heart* endowed by your Sustainer with inner peace and with all that is enduring in the angel-borne heritage left behind by the House of Moses and the House of Aaron.** Herein, behold, there shall indeed be a sign for you if you are [truly] believers."


* Lit., "that there will come to you the heart". The word tabat - here rendered as "heart" - has been conventionally interpreted as denoting the Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the Old Testament, which is said to have been a highly-ornamented chest or box. The explanations offered by most of the commentators who adopt the latter meaning are very contradictory, and seem to be based on Talmudic legends woven around that "ark". However, several authorities of the highest standing attribute to tabat the meaning of "bosom" or "heart" as well: thus, Baydawi in one of the alternatives offered in his commentary on this verse, as well as Zamakhshari in his Asds (though not in the Kashshdf ), Ibn al-Athir in the Nihdyah, Raghib, and Tdi al= Aras (the latter four in the article tabata ); see also Lane I, 321, and IV, 1394 (art. sakfnah). If we take this to be the meaning of tdbat in the above context, it would be an allusion to the Israelites' coming change of heart (a change already indicated, in general terms, in verse 243 above). In view of the subsequent mention of the "inner peace" in the tdbat, its rendering as "heart" is definitely more appropriate than "ark".


** Lit., "and the remainder of that which the House (al) of Moses and the House of Aaron left behind. borne by the angels". The expression "borne by the angels" or "angel-borne" is an allusion to the God-inspired nature of the spiritual heritage left by those two prophets; while the "remainder" (baqiyyah) denotes that which is "lasting" or "enduring" in that heritage.


2: 249

And when Saul set out with his forces, he said: "Behold, God will now try you by a river: he who shall drink of it will not belong to me, whereas he who shall refrain from tasting it - he, indeed, will belong to me; but forgiven shall be he* who shall scoop up but a single handful."

However, save for a few of them, they all drank [their fill] of it.

And as soon as he and those who had kept faith with him had crossed the river, the others said: "No strength have we today [to stand up] against Goliath and his forces!"

[Yet] those who knew with certainty that they were destined to meet God, replied: "How often has a small host overcome a great host by God's leave! For God is with those who are patient in adversity."


* Lit., "excepting him". The symbolic implication is that faith - and, thus, belief in the justice of one's cause - has no value unless it is accompanied by heightened self-discipline and disregard of one's material interests.


2: 250

And when they came face to face with Goliath and his forces, they prayed: "O our Sustainer! Shower us with patience in adversity, and make firm our steps, and succour us against the people who deny the truth!"


2: 251

And thereupon, by God's leave, they routed them. And David slew Goliath; and God bestowed upon him dominion, and wisdom, and imparted to him the knowledge of whatever He willed.

And if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another,* corruption would surely overwhelm the earth: but God is limitless in His bounty unto all the worlds.


*Lit., "were it not that God repels some people by means of others": an elliptic reference to God's enabling people to defend themselves against aggression or oppression. Exactly the same phrase occurs in 22: 40, which deals with fighting in self-defence.


2: 252

THESE are God's messages: We convey them unto thee, [O Prophet,] setting forth the truth-for, verily, thou art among those who have been entrusted with a message. (2: 253) Some of these apostles have We endowed more highly than others: among them were such as.were spoken to by God [Himself], and some He has raised yet higher.'* And We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration.**

And if God had so willed, they who succeeded those [apostles] would not have contended with one another after all evidence of the truth had come to them; but [as it was,] they did take to divergent views, and some of them attained to faith, while some of them came to deny the truth. Yet if God had so willed, they would not have contended with one another: but God does whatever He wills.***


* This appears to be an allusion to Muhammad inasmuch as he was the Last Prophet and the bearer of a universal message applicable to all people and to all times. By "such as were spoken to by God" Moses is meant (see the last sentence of 4 : 164).


** The mention, in this context, of Jesus by name is intended to stress the fact of his having been a prophet, and to refute the claims of those who deify him. For an explanation of the term huh al -qudus (rendered by me as "holy inspiration"), see note 71 on verse 87 of this surah.


*** Once again - as in verse 213 above - the Qur' an alludes to the inevitability of dissension among human beings: in other words, it is the will of God that their way to the truth should be marked by conflicts and trial by error.


2: 254

O YOU who have attained to faith! Spend [in Our way] out of what We have granted you as sustenance ere there come a Day* when there will be no bargaining, and no friendship, and no intercession. And they who deny the truth -it is they who are evildoers!


* Le., the Day of Judgment. With this exhortation. the Qur'an returns to the subject of verse 245: "Who is it that will offer up unto God a goodly loan?" We may, therefore, infer that the "spending in God's way" relates here to every kind of sacrifice in God's cause, and not merely to the spending of one's possessions.


2: 255

GOD - there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being.

Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave?

He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them,* whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills [them to attain].

His eternal power** overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And he alone is truly exalted, tremendous.


* Lit., "that which is between their hands and that which is behind them". The commentators give most conflicting interpretations to this phrase. Thus, for instance, Mujahid and `Ata' assume that "that which is between their hands" means "that which has happened to them in this world", while "that.which is behind them" is an allusion to "that which will happen to them in the next world"; Ad-Dahhak and Al-Kalbi, on the other hand, assume the exact opposite and say that "that which is between their hands" refers to the next world, "because they are going towards it", while "that which is behind them" means this world, "because they are leaving it behind" (Razi). Another explanation is "that which took place before them and that which will take place after them" (Zamakhshari). It would seem, however, that in all these interpretations the obvious meaning of the idiomatic expression and bayna yadayhi ("that which lies open between one's hands") is lost sight of: namely, that which is evident. or known, or perceivable; similarly, ma khalfahu means that which is beyond one's ken or perception. Since the whole tenor of the above Qur'an-verse relates to God's omnipotence and omniscience, the translation given by me seems to be the most appropriate.


**Lit., "His seat [of power]". Some of the commentators (e.g., Zamakhshari) interpret this as "His sovereignty" or "His dominion", while others take it to mean "His knowledge" (see Muhammad `Abduh in Mandr III, 33); Razi inclines to the view that this word denotes God's majesty and indescribable. eternal glory.


2: 256

THERE SHALL BE no coercion in matters of faith.* Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil** and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.


* The term din denotes both the contents of and the compliance with a morally binding law; consequently, it signifies "religion" in the widest sense of this term, extending over all that pertains to its doctrinal contents and their practical implications, as well as to man's attitude towards the object of his worship, thus comprising also the concept of "faith". The rendering of drn as "religion", "faith","religious law" or "moral law" (see note 3 on 109: 6) depends on the context in which this term is used. - On the strength of the above categorical prohibition of coercion (ikrah) in anything that pertains to faith or religion, all Islamic jurists (fugahd'), without any exception, hold that forcible conversion is under all circumstances null and void, and that any attempt at coercing a non-believer to accept the faith of Islam is a grievous sin: a verdict which disposes of the widespread f allacy that Islam places before the unbelievers the alternative of "conversion or the sword".


**250 At-tdghut denotes, primarily, anything that is worshipped instead of God and, thus, all that may turn man away from God and lead him to evil. It has both a singular and a plural significance (Razi) and is, therefore, best rendered as "the powers of evil".


2: 257

God is near unto those who have faith, taking them out of deep darkness into the light - whereas near unto those who are bent on denying the truth are the powers of evil that take them out of the light into darkness deep: it is they who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.


2: 258

ART THOU NOT aware of that [king] who argued with Abraham about his Sustainer, (simply] because God had granted him kingship?

Lo! Abraham said: "My Sus'tainer is He who grants life and deals death."

[The king] replied: "I [too] grant life and deal death!"

Said Abraham: "Verily, God causes the sun to rise in the east; cause it, then, to rise in the west!" Thereupon he who was bent on denying the truth remained dumbfounded: for God does not guide people who [deliberately] do wrong.*


*251 According to Muhammad `Abduh, the wrong (zw1m) referred to here consists in "one's deliberately turning away from the light [of guidance] provided by God" (Manor III, 47).


2: 259

Or [art thou, O man, of the same mind] as he* who passed by a town deserted by its people, with its roofs caved in, [and] said, "How could God bring all this back to life after its death?" **

Thereupon God caused him to be dead for a hundred years; whereafter He brought him back to life [and] said: "How long hast thou remained thus?"

He answered: "I have remained thus a day, or part of a day."

Said [God]: "Nay, but thou hast remained thus for a huncjred years! But look at thy food and thy drinkuntouched is it by the passing of years - and look at thine ass!*** And [We did all this so that We might make thee a symbol unto men. And look at the bones [of animals and men] - how We put them together and then clothe them with flesh!"****

And when [all this] became clear to him, he said: "I know [now] that God has the power to will anything!"


*Lit., "Or like him". The words interpolated by me between brackets are based on Zamakhshari's interpretation of this passage, which connects with the opening of the preceding verse.


** The story told in this verse is obviously a parable meant to illustrate God's power to bring the dead back to life: and, thus, it is significantly placed between Abraham's words in verse 258, "My Sustainer is He who grants life and deals death", and his subsequent request, in verse 260, to be shown how God resurrects the dead. The speculations of some of the earlier commentators as to the "identity" of the man and the town mentioned in this story are without any substance, and may have been influenced by Talmudic legends.


*** Sc., "and observe that it is alive": thus pointing out that God has the power' to grant life indefinitely, as well as to resurrect the dead.


**** The Qur'an frequently points to the ever-recurring miracle of birth, preceded by the gradual evolution of the embryo in its mother's womb, as a visible sign of God's power to create-and therefore also to re-create- life.


2: 260

And, lo, Abraham said: "O my Sustainer! Show me how Thou givest life unto the dead!"

Said He: "Hast thou, then, no faith?"

(Abraham) answered: "Yea, but [let me see it] so that my heart may be set fully at rest."

Said He: "Take, then, four birds and teach them to obey thee;*. then place them separately on every hill [around thee]; then summon them: they will come flying to thee. And know that God is almighty, wise."**


* Lit., "make them incline towards thee" (Zamakhshari; see also Lane IV, 1744).


** My rendering of the above parable is based on the primary meaning of the imperative surhunna ilayka ("make them incline towards thee", i.e., "teach them to obey thee"). The moral of this story has been pointed out convincingly by the famous commentator Abu Muslim (as quoted by Razi): "If man is able - as he undoubtedly is - to train birds in such a way as to make them obey his call, then it is obvious that God, whose will all things obey, can call life into being by simply decreeing, .Be!"'


2: 261

THE PARABLE of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain out of which grow seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is infinite, all-knowing.


2: 262

They who spend their possessions for the sake of God and do not thereafter mar* their spending by stressing their own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy] shall have their reward with 'their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. (2: 263) A kind word and the veiling of another's want** is better than a charitable deed followed by hurt; and God is self-sufficient, forbearing.


* Lit., "do not follow up".


** For the rendering of maghfarah (lit.; "forgiveness'') in this context as "veiling another's want" I am indebted to Baghawi's explanation of this verse.


2: 264

O you who have attained to faith! Do not deprive your charitable deeds of all worth by stressing your own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy], as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen and praised by men, and believes not in God and the Last Day: for his parable is that of a smooth rock with [a little] earth upon it - and then a rainstorm smites it and leaves it hard and bare. Such as these shall have no gain whatever from all their [good] works: for God does not guide people who refuse to acknowledge the truth.


2: 265

And the parable of those who spend their possessions out of a longing to please God, and out of their own inner certainty, is that of a garden on high, fertile ground: a rainstorm smites it, and thereupon it brings forth its fruit twofold; and if no rainstorm smites it, soft rain [falls upon it]. And God sees all that you do.


2: 266

Would any of you like to have a garden of date-palms and vines, through which running waters flow, and have all manner of fruit therein - and then be overtaken by old age, with only weak children to [look after] him-and then [see] it smitten by a fiery whirlwind and utterly scorched?

In this way God makes clear His messages unto you, so that you might take thought.


2: 267

O you who have attained to faith! Spend on others out of the good things which you may have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that God is self-sufficient, ever to be praised.


2: 268

Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and bids you to be niggardly, whereas God promises you His forgiveness and bounty; and God is infinite, all-knowing, (2: 269) granting wisdom unto whom He wills: and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted wealth abundant. But none bears this in mind save those who are endowed with insight.


2: 270

For, whatever you may spend on others, or whatever you may vow [to spend], verily, God knows it; and those who do wrong [by withholding charity] shall have none to succour them.


2: 271

If you do deeds of charity openly, it is well; but if you bestow it upon the needy in secret, it will be even better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. And God is aware of all that you do.


2: 272

It is not for thee [O Prophet] to make people follow the right path,* since it is God [alone] who guides whom He wills.

And whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God's countenance: for, whatever good you may spend will be repaid unto you in full, and you shall not be wronged.


* Lit., "their guidance is not upon thee"-i.e., "thou art responsible only for conveying God's message to them, and not for their reaction to it": the people referred to being the needy spoken of in the preceding verses. It appears that in the early days after his migration to Medina, the Prophet - faced by the great poverty prevalent among his own community - advised his Companions that "charity should be bestowed only on the followers of Islam" - a view that was immediately corrected by the revelation of the above verse (a number of Traditions to this effect are quoted by Tabari, Razi and Ibn Kathir, as well as in Mandr III, 82 f.). According to several other Traditions (recorded, among others, by Nasa'i and Abil DR'ud and quoted by all the classical commentators), the Prophet thereupon explicitly enjoined upon his followers to disburse charities upon all who needed them, irrespective of the faith of the person concerned. Consequently, there is full agreement among all the commentators that the above verse of the Qur'an - although expressed in the singular and, on the face of it, addressed to the Prophet- lays down an injunction binding upon all Muslims. Razi, in particular, draws from it the additional conclusion that charity-or the threat to withhold it-must never become a means of attractidg unbelievers to Islam: for, in order to be valid, faith must be an outcome of inner conviction and free choice. This is in consonance with verse 256 of this surah: "There shall be no coercion in matters of faith."


2: 273

[And give] unto [such of] the needy who, being wholly wrapped up in God's cause, are unable to go about the earth [in search of livelihood].* He who is unaware [of their condition] might think that they are wealthy, because they abstain [from begging]; [but] thou canst recognize them by their special mark: they do not beg of men with importunity. And whatever good you may spend [on them], verily, God knows it all.


* I.e., those who have devoted themselves entirely to working in the cause of the Faith - be it by spreading, elucidating or defending it physically or intellectually-or to any of the selfless pursuits extolled in God's message, such as search for knowledge, work for the betterment of man's lot, and so forth; and, finally, those who, having suffered personal or material hurt in such pursuits, are henceforth unable to fend for themselves.


2: 274

Those who spend their possessions [for the sake of God] by night and by day, secretly and openly, shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.


2: 275

THOSE who gorge themselves on usury* behave but as he might behave whom Satan has confounded with his touch; for they say, "Buying and selling is but a kind of** usury" - the while God has made buying and selling lawful and usury unlawful. Hence, whoever becomes aware of his Sustainer's admonition,*** and thereupon desists [from usury], may keep his past gains, and it will be for God to judge him; but as for those who return to it -they are destined for the fire, therein to abide!


* For a discussion of the concept of ribs ("usury"), see note 35 on 30: 39, where this term occurs for the first time in the chronological order of revelation. The passage dealing with the prohibition of ribs, which follows here, is believed to have been among the last revelations received by the Prophet. The subject of usury connects logically with the preceding long passage on the subject of charity because the former is morally the exact opposite of the latter: true charity consists in giving without an expectation of material gain, whereas usury is based on an expectation of gain without any corresponding effort on the part of the lender.


** Lit., "like".

*** Lit., "he to whom an admonition has come from his Sustainer".


 2: 276

God deprives usurious gains of all blessing, whereas He blesses charitable deeds with manifold increase.* And God does not love anyone who is stubbornly ingrate and persists in sinful ways.


* Lit., "whereas He causes [the merit of] charitable deeds to increase with interest (yurbi)".


2: 277

Verily, those who have attained to faith and do good works, and are constant in prayer, and dispense charity - they shall have their reward with their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.


2: 278

O you who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God. and give up all outstanding gains from usury, if you are [truly] believers;* (2: 279) for if you do it not, then know that you are at war with God and His Apostle. But if you repent, then you shall be entitled to [the return of] your principal :** you will do no wrong, and neither will you be wronged. (2: 280) If, however, [the debtor] is in straitened circumstances, [grant him] a delay until a time of ease; and it would be for your own good -if you but knew it -to remit [the debt entirely] by way of charity.


* This refers not merely to the believers at the time when the prohibition of usury was proclaimed, but also to people of later times who may come to believe in the Qur'anic message.


** I.e., without interest.


2: 281

And be conscious of the Day on which you shall be brought back unto God, whereupon every human being shall be repaid in full for what he has earned, and none shall be wronged .*


*268 According to the uncontested evidence of Ibn `Abbas. the above verse was the last revelation granted to the Prophet, who died shortly afterwards (Bukhari: see also Fath al -Bdrf VIII. 164 f.).


2: 282

O YOU who have attained to faith! Whenever you give or take credit[*1]  for a stated term, set it down in writing. And let a scribe write it down equitably between you; and no scribe shall refuse to write as God has taught him:[*2] thus shall he write. And let him who contracts the debt dictate; and let him be conscious of God, his Sustainer, and not weaken anything of his undertaking.[*3] And if he who contracts the debt is weak of mind or body, or, is not able to dictate himself,[*4] then let him who watches over his interests dictate equitably. And call upon two of your men to act as witnesses; and if two men are not available, then a man and two women from among such as are acceptable to you as witnesses, so that if one of them should make a mistake, the other could remind her.[*5] And the witnesses must not refuse [to give evidence] whenever they are called upon.

And be not loath to write down every contractual provision,[*6] be it small or great, together with the time at which it falls due; this is more equitable in the sight of God, more reliable as evidence, and more likely to prevent you from having doubts [later]. If, however, [the transaction] concerns ready merchandise which you transfer directly unto one another, you will incur no sin if you do not write it down.

And have witnesses whenever you trade with one another, but neither scribe nor witness must suffer harm;[*7] for if you do [them harm], behold, it will be sinful conduct on your part. And remain conscious of God, since it is God who teaches you [herewith] - and God has full knowledge of everything.


[*1] The above phrase embraces any transaction on the basis of credit. be it an outright loan or a commercial deal. It relates (as the grammatical form taddyantum shows) to both the giver and taker of credit, and has been rendered accordingly.


[*2] I.e., in accordance with the laws promulgated in the Qur'an.


[*3] Lit., "and do not diminish anything thereof". Thus. the formulation of the undertaking is left to the weaker party, i.e., to the one who contracts the debt.


[*4] E.g., because he is physically handicapped, or does not fully understand the business terminology used in such contracts, or is not acquainted with the language in which the contract is to be written. The definition "weak of mind or body" (lit.. "lacking in understanding or weak") applies to minors as well as to very old persons who are no longer in full possession of their mental faculties.


[*5] The stipulation that two women may be substituted for'one male witness does not imply any reflection on woman's moral or intellectual capabilities: it is obviously due to the fact that, as a rule. women are less familiar with business procedures than men and, therefore, more liable to commit mistakes in this respect (see `Abduh in Manar 111, 124 f.).


[*6] Lit., "to write it down" - i.e., all rights and obligations arising from the contract.


[*7] E.g., by being held responsible for the eventual consequences of the contract as such, or for the non-fulfilment of any of its provisions by either- of the contracting parties.


2: 283

And if you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe, pledges [may be taken] in hand: but if you trust one another, then let him who is trusted fulfil his trust, and let him be conscious of God, his Sustainer.

And do not conceal what you have witnessed* - for, verily, he who conceals it is sinful at heart; and God has full knowledge of all that you do.


* Lit., "do not conceal testimony". This relates not only to those who have witnessed a business transaction, but also to a debtor who has been given a loan on trust - without a written agreement and without witnesses - and subsequently denies all knowledge of his indebtedness.


2: 284

Unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. And whether you bring into the open what is in your minds or conceal it, God will call you to account for it; and then He will forgive whom He wills, and will chastise whom He wills: for God has the power to will anything.


2: 285

THE APOSTLE, and the believers with him, believe in what has been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer: they all believe in God, and His angels, and His revelations, and His apostles, making no distinction between any of His apostles;* and they say:

"We have heard, and we pay heed. Grant us Thy forgiveness, O our Sustainer, for with Thee is all journeys' end!


*Lit., "we make no distinction between any of His apostles": these words are put, as it were, in the mouths of the believers. Inasmuch as all the apostles were true bearers of God's messages, there is no distinction between them, albeit some of them have been "endowed more highly than others" (see verse 253).


2: 286

"God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear: in his favour shall be whatever good he does, and against him whatever evil he does.

"O our Sustainer! Take us not to task if we forget or unwittingly do wrong!

"O our Sustainer! Lay not upon us a burden such as Thou didst lay upon those who lived before us!* O our Sustainer! Make us not bear burdens which we have no strength to bear!

"And efface Thou our sins, and grant us forgiveness, and bestow Thy mercy upon us! Thou art our Lord Supreme: succour us, then, against people who deny the truth!"


*A reference to the heavy burden of rituals imposed by the Law of Moses upon the children of Israel, as well as the world-renunciation recommended by Jesus to his followers.



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