Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 142

۞ سَيَقُولُ ٱلسُّفَهَآءُ مِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَا وَلَّىٰهُمْ عَن قِبْلَتِهِمُ ٱلَّتِى كَانُوا۟ عَلَيْهَا ۚ قُل لِّلَّهِ ٱلْمَشْرِقُ وَٱلْمَغْرِبُ ۚ يَهْدِى مَن يَشَآءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَٰطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
The foolish among the people will say, "What has turned them away from their qiblah, which they used to face?" Say, "To Allāh belongs the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight path."

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

It is clear from the course of the discussion that ‘the weak-minded’ is a reference to the Jews of Madinah. They were the ones who stirred up the controversy about the change of qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah, and questioned its validity and the wisdom behind it.

Al-Barā’ ibn `Āzib reported: “When the Prophet first arrived in Madinah, he stayed at his grandparents [or maybe he said at his maternal uncles] of the Anşār. The Prophet used to pray facing Jerusalem for the first sixteen or seventeen months, though he would have preferred to face the Ka`bah. The first prayer he offered [facing the Ka`bah] was `Aşr, when he was joined by a group of people. One of them later passed by another group praying in a mosque and said to them, ‘I bear witness before God that I have just prayed with the Prophet facing the Ka`bah.’ They all turned towards it without interrupting their prayer. The Jews were happy while the Prophet faced Jerusalem in prayer, but when he now turned towards the Ka`bah they were dismayed. It was then that this verse was revealed describing the Jews as weak- minded.” [Related by Mālik, al-Bukhārī, Muslim and al-Tirmidhī]

The way the Qur’ān deals with this issue clearly indicates the enormity of the effect that the Jewish campaign was then having on some ordinary Muslims. From the first few words one is made aware that a change of the direction to be faced in prayer is going to be announced. The tone is clearly meant to forestall the doubts and questions that were inevitably going to be raised by troublemakers. But the Qur’ān was ready with the appropriate reply to the argument they would put forward.

The Qur’ān goes on to direct the Prophet to the proper course of action in dealing with the questions that would arise and how to put the whole issue in its proper perspective.

Say: ‘To God belong the east and the west. He guides whomever He wills to a straight path.’“ Places and directions carry no intrinsic merit in themselves, except in as much as God assigns them such merit, and to whatever direction one turns, God will be there. It is God’s prerogative to guide whomever He wishes to the right path. What He designates as the direction to be faced in prayer is the right and proper choice, and His designation of it is for the good of the community.

On such criteria Islam defines the relative merits of places and directions, and specifies the source of those criteria: God Almighty to whom all should turn and submit.

The sūrah goes on to outline the central position the Muslim community, or ummah, occupies in the world, and the great role it is destined to play in the history and development of mankind. A prerequisite of that status and role is that the Muslim ummah should have its own exclusive qiblah and distinct identity. It must, first and foremost, owe allegiance to none other than God Almighty, who has commissioned it for that great task.

Ibn Kathir writes, “In summary, Allah's Messenger was commanded to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (during the prayer) and he used to offer prayer towards it in Makkah between the two corners (of Ka`bah), so that the Ka`bah would be between him and Bayt Al-Maqdis8. When the Prophet migrated to Al-Madinah, this practice was no longer possible; then Allah commanded him to offer prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, as Ibn Abbas and the majority of the scholars have stated.”

  • السُّفَهَاءُ س ف هwords derived from these letters occur 11 times in the Qur’an.

  • وعن الحسن : كانت الكعبة قبلة كل الأنبياء [Ibn Ashur - 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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  • وَأَوْحَيْنَآ إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ وَأَخِيهِ أَن تَبَوَّءَا لِقَوْمِكُمَا بِمِصْرَ بُيُوتًۭا وَٱجْعَلُوا۟ بُيُوتَكُمْ قِبْلَةًۭ وَأَقِيمُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ  "And We inspired to Moses and his brother, "Settle your people in Egypt in houses and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer and give good tidings to the believers." (10:87)

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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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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