Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 116

وَقَالُوا۟ ٱتَّخَذَ ٱللَّهُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ ۖ بَل لَّهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ كُلٌّ لَّهُۥ قَٰنِتُونَ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
They say, "Allāh has taken a son." Exalted is He! Rather, to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him,

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note 

The sūrah then discusses certain distorted concepts of Godhead held by Jews and Christians. It highlights the contrast between those and the beliefs held by the pagan Arabs, emphasising the striking similarities, before it corrects those erroneous concepts and presents the true unitarian belief of Islam.

Indeed, the totally misguided notion of “God the Father” was not restricted to the Christians who take Jesus to be the son of God; for some Jews also believed that Ezra was a son of God, while the Arab idolaters believed that the angels were God’s daughters. The sūrah condemns these three groups, all fiercely antagonistic towards Islam in Arabia at the time, without going into details of their beliefs.

It is interesting to note here that those groups compare very closely with the three groups that are opposed to Islam today, as represented by world Zionism, the crusading Churches and international Communism, the last being even more hostile to Islam than the Arab idolaters ever were.

By grouping all three camps together, the Qur’ān equates the absurd Jewish and Christian beliefs with those of idolatry, and it implicitly refutes their claims to exclusive righteousness and salvation by putting forward the correct version of unitarian belief: “Limitless is He in His Glory. His is all that is in the heavens and on earth; all things are obedient to Him. He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He wills something to be, He need only say, ‘Be’, and it is.

Here we come to the pure and clear Islamic concept of the nature of God and His relationship with His creation, and how creatures come into being. This is the clearest and noblest understanding of all these facts.

The universe was created directly by God through an act of His free, absolute and omnipotent will, expressed in the simple word “Be”. The mere intention of God to create anything would bring it instantaneously into existence in the form chosen for it, without the need for intermediaries of any kind. As to how this actually happens, this remains one of life’s most profound mysteries. In fact, the human mind is not equipped to fathom the secret of life. Such understanding is not necessary for the fulfilment of man’s role, which is to build human life on earth.

God has given man numerous skills, talents and resources that have enabled him to discover and unravel a great many of the natural laws that govern the world around him. But, much as man has been able to learn about the world and exploit that knowledge for his own progress and advancement, other aspects have been kept away from him, as these have no impact on man’s role on earth.

Philosophers and thinkers throughout human existence have attempted to unravel the secrets of creation, and a number of theories of life and the universe have been advanced, including some absurd and ridiculous notions. Man’s failure in this area has been due to the fact that human science and philosophy have ventured into a realm of thought for which man does not possess the necessary intellectual and analytical tools. They have merely been groping in the dark, adrift in uncharted waters.

Some Muslim thinkers and philosophers have also been lured into this controversial and complicated area of human thinking but failed to come up with any satisfactory conclusions. When some of them sought help in Greek philosophy, itself none the wiser, they were thrown into even deeper confusion. This has inevitably and surreptitiously found its way into Islamic thought but only as an alien body.

The Islamic view draws a distinct line between Creator and creation. The Creator is unique and matchless, which leaves no room in Islamic thought for the idea of “the unity of creation” or pantheism. Non- Muslim philosophy relies on this idea to indicate that creation and the Creator are one and the same; that creation is a mere reflection of the Creator and the physical manifestation of its Maker. A Muslim views existence as a unity in a different sense: it is created by one will, follows the same laws of nature, demonstrates absolute harmony and submits humbly to its Lord:“His is all that is in the heavens and on earth; all things  are obedient to Him.

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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  • قَالَ اللهُ تَعَالَى: كَذّبَنِي ابْنُ آدَمَ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ ذلِكَ، وَشَتَمَنِي وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ ذلِكَ، فَأَمَّا تَكْذِيبُهُ إِيَّايَ فَيَزْعُمُ أَنِّي لَا أَقْدِرُ أَنْ أُعِيدَهُ كَمَا كَانَ، وَأَمَّا شَتْمُهُ إِيَّايَ فَقَوْلُهُ لِي وَلَدًا فَسُبْحَانِي أَنْ أَتَّخِذَ صَاحِبَةً أَوْ وَلَدًا

    Ibn `Abbas said that the Prophet said, Allah said, `The son of Adam has denied Me, and that is not his right. He has insulted Me, and that is not his right. As for the denial of Me, he claimed that I am unable to bring him back as he used to be (resurrect him). As for his insulting Me, he claimed that I have a son. All praise is due to Me, it is unbefitting that I should have a wife or a son.' [Bukhari]
  • The Messenger of Allah is reported to have said, "No one is more patient when hearing an insult than Allah. They attribute a son to Him, yet He still gives them sustenance and health." [Bukhari and 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…

11. Tafsir Zone


12. External Links

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