Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 102

وَٱتَّبَعُوا۟ مَا تَتْلُوا۟ ٱلشَّيَٰطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَٰنَ ۖ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَٰنُ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلشَّيَٰطِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ يُعَلِّمُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ ٱلسِّحْرَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَى ٱلْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَٰرُوتَ وَمَٰرُوتَ ۚ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَآ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ ۖ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِۦ بَيْنَ ٱلْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِۦ ۚ وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِۦ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ ۚ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُوا۟ لَمَنِ ٱشْتَرَىٰهُ مَا لَهُۥ فِى ٱلْءَاخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَٰقٍ ۚ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْا۟ بِهِۦٓ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا۟ يَعْلَمُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Hārūt and Mārūt. But they [i.e., the two angels] do not teach anyone unless they say, "We are a trial, so do not disbelieve [by practicing magic]." And [yet] they learn from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by permission of Allāh. And they [i.e., the people] learn what harms them and does not benefit them. But they [i.e., the Children of Israel] certainly knew that whoever purchased it [i.e., magic] would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew.

Qur'an Dictionary

Click word/image to view Qur'an Dictionary
Word Arabic word
(2:102:1)
wa-ittabaʿū
And they followed
(2:102:2)

(2:102:3)
tatlū
recite(d)
(2:102:4)
l-shayāṭīnu
the devils
(2:102:5)

(2:102:6)
mul'ki
(the) kingdom
(2:102:7)

(2:102:8)

(2:102:9)
kafara
disbelieved
(2:102:10)

(2:102:11)

(2:102:12)
l-shayāṭīna
the devils
(2:102:13)
kafarū
disbelieved
(2:102:14)
yuʿallimūna
they teach
(2:102:15)
l-nāsa
the people
(2:102:16)
l-siḥ'ra
[the] magic
(2:102:17)

(2:102:18)
unzila
was sent down
(2:102:19)

(2:102:20)
l-malakayni
the two angels
(2:102:21)

(2:102:22)

(2:102:23)

(2:102:24)

(2:102:25)
yuʿallimāni
they both teach
(2:102:26)

(2:102:27)
aḥadin
one
(2:102:28)

(2:102:29)
yaqūlā
they [both] say
(2:102:30)

(2:102:31)

(2:102:32)
fit'natun
(are) a trial
(2:102:33)

(2:102:34)
takfur
disbelieve
(2:102:35)
fayataʿallamūna
But they learn
(2:102:36)

(2:102:37)

(2:102:38)
yufarriqūna
[they] causes separation
(2:102:39)

(2:102:40)
bayna
between
(2:102:41)
l-mari
the man
(2:102:42)
wazawjihi
and his spouse
(2:102:43)

(2:102:44)

(2:102:45)
biḍārrīna
at all [be those who] harm
(2:102:46)

(2:102:47)

(2:102:48)
aḥadin
one
(2:102:49)
illā
except
(2:102:50)
bi-idh'ni
by permission
(2:102:51)
l-lahi
(of) Allah
(2:102:52)
wayataʿallamūna
And they learn
(2:102:53)

(2:102:54)
yaḍurruhum
harms them
(2:102:55)

(2:102:56)
yanfaʿuhum
profits them
(2:102:57)

(2:102:58)
ʿalimū
they knew
(2:102:59)

(2:102:60)
ish'tarāhu
buys it
(2:102:61)

(2:102:62)

(2:102:63)

(2:102:64)
l-ākhirati
the Hereafter
(2:102:65)

(2:102:66)
khalāqin
share
(2:102:67)
walabi'sa
And surely evil
(2:102:68)

(2:102:69)
sharaw
they sold
(2:102:70)

(2:102:71)
anfusahum
themselves
(2:102:72)

(2:102:73)
kānū
they were
(2:102:74)
yaʿlamūna
(to) know

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

They abandoned Divine revelations which had come to confirm their Scriptures and gave credence to myths and legends from the time of Solomon, which falsely asserted that he practised sorcery and witchcraft and owed all his extraordinary powers to them.

The Qur’ān refutes this allegation completely and talks of sorcery and deliberate rejection of the divine faith, in the same vein. Thus, the Qur’ān treats sorcery as disbelief, and attributes it to devils: “Solomon never disbelieved, but the devils did. They instruct people in witchcraft.” It further refutes the allegation that the two angels of Babylon, Hārūt and Mārūt, were sorcerers. It confirms that witchcraft “was certainly not revealed to the two angels, Hārūt and Mārūt, at Babylon.” The Qur’ān makes the truth about these two angels clear. They were testing people’s faith, for a purpose that has not been identified. Again associating sorcery, black magic and witchcraft with disbelief in God, the Qur’ān exonerates the two angels, confirming that they had explained the nature of their work to the people and given them fair warning: “Yet these two [angels] never taught anyone without first declaring, ‘We are but a temptation to evil, so do not renounce your faith.’“ Nevertheless, some people persisted with learning and practising sorcery, thus falling to temptation and causing harm: “From these two, people learned what they would use to cause discord between a man and his wife.’

At this point, the Qur’ān establishes another fundamental Islamic principle of faith: nothing happens in this world without God’s authority. “However, with that knowledge they can harm no one except by God’s leave.” Cause and effect are only valid by the will of God. When you put your hand in the fire it is burnt, but the burning itself only occurs with God’s leave; for it is He who gave fire the property to incinerate and gave human skin susceptibility to burn. This means that God is also capable at any moment of cancelling this property and rendering fire completely harmless, as was the case with the Prophet Abraham, when his people threw him into a blazing fire and he came out of it unscathed. (21: 69)

The same is true for such practices as sorcery and witchcraft: they can only work with God’s will, as must all conventional physical and metaphysical phenomena of cause and effect. The sūrah states clearly that what people learnt of practices that could bring discord between man and wife could only bring them harm: “Indeed, they learn what harms them and brings them no profit.” Since this thing that they learnt is described as disbelief in God, this is reason enough to make it pure evil that can bring no profit whatsoever. “They knew full well that whoever contracted such a deal would have no share in the life to come.” When anyone makes such a deal, he realises that he is assigning away every good share he could have in the life to come. That makes their deal a massive loss indeed: “Vile indeed is what they had sold their souls for, if they but knew it! Had they embraced the faith and been God fearing, God’s reward would have been far better for them, if they but knew it.

The Nature of Magic

Black magic, sorcery and witchcraft still hold deep fascination for many people today, while many others are taken in by the seemingly extraordinary powers of their practitioners. It is true that some individuals are seen to possess special powers or abilities not explained by scientific evidence. Science has not been able to go farther than giving a description of some of these phenomena such as telepathy, the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas other than by the known senses; and hypnosis, artificially produced sleep or the sleep-like state in which the subject acts only on external suggestion.

While recognising these powers and acknowledging their existence and effects, science has not been able to offer any satisfactory explanations as to what they are or how they come about. This, of course, applies to numerous other psychic phenomena over which scientists are in dispute and which science is still unable to understand, either through lack of scientific evidence or because such phenomena cannot be verified by empirical methods. One such method is premonitory or “prospective” dreams which foretell the future and which Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychoanalysis who was well known for his rejection of spiritual powers, was not able to dismiss or deny. How is it possible that some people are able to sense and identify future events long before they actually occur?

It is presumptuous and native to dismiss these powers of extrasensory perception simply because science has not been able to understand or explain them. This does not, however, give credence to myths or fairy tales. It is important that we should take an objective and open-minded attitude towards such experiences. While science cannot deny them completely, it should nevertheless continue to probe these phenomena and try to decipher their mystery. We have, therefore, to accept the fact that certain matters in the physical as well as the spiritual world will remain beyond human comprehension and that they must be taken into account when trying to understand life.

One of these matters is black magic, and all other feats and activities related to it, and the possibility of Satanic invasion of the human mind. The evident power possessed by some people to convey suggestions, and to psychologically influence and inspire others, mentally and physically, is quite striking. And, although the Qur’ān speaks of the sorcery performed by Pharaoh’s magicians in their challenge to Moses as delusion (20: 66), we cannot dismiss the possibility that this type of trickery could be used to create discord and dissension between friends or husbands and wives. Naturally, people’s emotions and feelings are determined by all kinds of influences and causes that are ultimately controlled by the will of God, as discussed earlier.

As to the identity of the two angels referred to here, Hārūt and Mārūt, and their location in Babylon, the story was well known in Jewish religious literature. The Jews of Madinah did not question the Qur’ānic account of their story. Qur’ānic accounts of this type, however, are often brief and general, since the aim is not to give detailed chronological or historic information, but rather to draw lessons and highlight the morals behind the events. It is not our intention in this work to pursue the myths and legends woven around the events and personalities we come across in our study of the Qur’ān, not least because of lack of authentic historical information. Human history is vastly rich in accounts of human endeavour, and the tests and tribulations people of different ages and generations encountered. The personalities and the details of those events that are cited may change in accordance with the circumstances and stage of cultural development of each human group or society, but the messages remain valid and valuable. From this story we learn of the Israelites’ misguided pursuit of myths and their preference for superstition and such-like activities, and we come to know that sorcery, black magic and witchcraft are works of the devil that undermine man’s belief in God, negate his good deeds and deprive him of all favour and privilege in the hereafter.

  • This is the only mention of Babylon in the whole Qur'an.
  • وَٱتَّبَعُوا۟ - "And they followed..." - They may have said they believed in the Book from God, but they followed a different path. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “The Qur’an....whoever makes it lead him – it leads him to Paradise and whomsoever places it behind him [the result will be] he is dragged to the Fire.” Ibn Hibban no. 124 
  • This is a warning to those who abandon the study of the Qur'an for the purposes of guidance and seek guidance in other forms of knowledge. وَمَنِ ابْتَغَى الْهُدَى فِي غَيْرِهِ أَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ "...whoever seeks guidance from other than it [the Qur'an], then Allah leaves him to stray..." Tirmidhee
  • ويستعان في تحصيله بالتقرب إلى الشيطان بارتكاب القبائح؛ قولا؛ كالرقى التي فيها ألفاظ الشرك، ومدح الشيطان، وتسخيره، وعملا؛ كعبادة الكواكب، والتزام الجناية، وسائر الفسوقالألوسي: 1/338 [Be the first to translate this...]
  • يتعلمون منهما السحر الذي يضرهم في دينهم، ولا ينفعهم في معادهمالطبري: 2/450 [Be the first to translate this...]
  • السحر لا ينفع في الآخرة، ولا يُقرّب إلى الله، وأنّ من اشتراه ما له في الآخرة من خلاق؛ فإنّ مبناه على الشرك، والكذب، والظلم، مقصود صاحبه الظلم، والفواحش. ابن تيمية: 2/287 [Be the first to translate this...]
  • " And the people learn what harms them and does not benefit them" وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ - Allah Almighty mentions in Ayat 101-102 that the Jews left the Book of Allah and followed other forms of knowledge, including magic. In essence, they learnt what harmed them and did not pursue the knowledge of that which benefits them, i.e. revelation from God.

Practical Implications

  •  استـعذ بالله من شـر حـاسـد إذا حسـد، ومن شـر النفـاثات في العقد، ﴿ ۖ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِۦ بَيْنَ ٱلْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِۦ ۚ وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِۦ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ [Be the first to translate this...]
  • كفر الساحر وتحريم تعلم السحر، واستعماله، ﴿ ۖ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَٰنُ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلشَّيَٰطِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ يُعَلِّمُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ ٱلسِّحْرَ [ Be the first to translate this...]
  •  من تعلق بالله كفاه الله شر كل ذي شر، ﴿ وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِۦ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ [Be the first to translate this...]

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The scholars are unanimous that Surah al-Baqarah is Madani and that it was the first Surah revealed in Madinah. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fath al-Bari no. 160/8].

Despite it being the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah, it contains Ayaat from a later period also. In fact, according to Ibn Abbas [as mentioned in Ibn Kathir] the last Ayat revealed to the Prophet was Ayat no. 281 from Surah al-Baqarah and this occurred 8 days or so before his death [which corresponds to the year 11 Hijri].

8. Reasons for Revelation

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

1. At Makkah, the Quran generally addressed the polytheist Quraysh who were ignorant of Islam, but at Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of Monotheism, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and Angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by God to their Prophet Moses, and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad. But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this: they had tampered with the Torah by inserting their own explanations and interpretations into its text. They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently their beliefs, their morals and their conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their utmost to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken God and begun to serve material wealth. So much so that they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel. This was their religious condition when the Prophet went to Madinah and invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one third of this Surah has been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral degeneration and their religious perversions has been made. Side by side with this, the high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have been put forward in order to bring out clearly the nature of the degeneration of the community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true religion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

e. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead. That is why God has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all the above mentioned objects.

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

9. Relevant Hadith

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  • Satan's helpers

    «إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَيَضَعُ عَرْشَهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُ سَرَايَاهُ فِي النَّاسِ فَأَقْرَبُهُمْ عِنْدَهُ مَنْزِلَةً أَعْظَمُهُمْ عِنْدَهُ فِتْنَةً وَيَجِيءُ أَحَدُهُمْ فَيَقُولُ: مَا زِلْتُ بِفُلَانٍ حَتَّى تَرَكْتُهُ وَهُوَ يَقُولُ كَذَا وَكَذَا، فَيَقُولُ إِبْلِيسُ: لَا وَاللهِ مَا صَنَعْتَ شَيْئًا، وَيَجِيءُ أَحَدُهُمْ فَيَقُولُ: مَا تَرَكْتُهُ حَتّى فَرَّقْتُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ أَهْلِهِ، قَالَ: فَيُقرِّبُهُ وَيُدْنِيهِ وَيَلْتَزِمُهُ وَيَقُولُ: نِعْمَ أَنْت»

    Jabir bin `Abdullah said that the Messenger of Allah said, "Satan erects his throne on water and sends his emissaries among the people. The closest person to him is the person who causes the most Fitnah. One of them (a devil) would come to him and would say, `I kept inciting so-and-so, until he said such and such words.' Iblis says, `No, by Allah, you have not done much.' Another devil would come to him and would say, `I kept inciting so-and-so, until I separated between him and his wife.' Satan would draw him closer and embrace him, saying, `Yes, you did well.' [Sahih Muslim]

10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

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