Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 151
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and purifies you
and teaches you
and the wisdom
and teaches you
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
The sūrah goes on to remind the Muslims of more divine favours reserved for them. By one such special favour God has sent them a Messenger, Muĥammad, in fulfilment of the prayer made by Abraham, the first custodian of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, the permanent and universal qiblah of all Muslims.
The same words of Abraham’s prayer (Verse 129) are used here, thus establishing a direct and significant link between the two Prophets and their religion. Islam was not, then, invented or born out of expediency, but had its origins firmly rooted in history. The direction of prayer that was being instituted had not been chosen haphazardly or without purpose. It was the answer to Abraham’s passionate and sincere prayers.
As a result of this boundless divine grace, the Muslims were sent a messenger, one of their own number, who was to be the last human Messenger from God to mankind, and had their own exclusive direction of prayer designated for them by God, thereby giving them a distinctive character and a privileged status in the world.
Another aspect of God’s favour is that, through Muĥammad, He was addressing the Muslims, a humble and insignificant band of believers, with His own words. Who were those people? What did they represent, for God and for mankind? What did they do or have to deserve God’s attention and special favour?
“Thus We have sent forth to you a Messenger from among yourselves to recite to you Our revelations, purify you...” The fact that Muĥammad had come from that society, and was chosen to receive God’s revelations, the Qur’ān, represented God’s limitless favour. God’s Messenger, Muĥammad (peace be upon him) was also sent to cleanse the Arabs of the sad misconceptions, corruption and ignorance that went with their idolatrous beliefs and lax way of life. Those whose souls are not purged by submission to God, at whatever time or place they may live, sink into a stinking depth of worldly desires that are unbecoming of man. In such a condition, man sinks lower than animals, controlled as animals are by their desires. The Prophet also purges their society of usury, cheating, looting and illegal earnings; all of which are impurities that contaminate souls, feelings, society and human life altogether. He further purges their lives of injustice, putting in place a superior standard of justice to which their community aspires.
“... And instructs you in the Book and in wisdom...“ This incorporates what has been mentioned earlier about reciting God’s revelations included in His book, and emphasizes its essential subject matter, i.e. wisdom. Wisdom is acquired as the fruit of instruction in this book, i.e. the Qur’ān. It is a quality which ensures that anyone who has it views matters in their proper perspective and evaluates them correctly. He has the necessary understanding to appreciate the aims behind God’s commandments and teachings.
Before Islam, the Arabs were a heedless and xenophobic people, living in total darkness and moral corruption, given to inhuman practices such as usury, infanticide, slavery, piracy and other forms of crime. Islam had come to purge that vile and destructive way of life and transform the Arabs into a pioneering society that would uphold justice and strive to promote and preserve the humanity of man.
Muĥammad had also been sent to “instruct you in the Book and in wisdom and teach you what you did not know”. One of Muĥammad’s duties was to teach his followers how to understand and interpret the Qur’ān, and translate it into a practical code for daily life. Through the Qur’ān they acquired the wisdom and the ability to appreciate and understand God’s commands, evaluate ideas and concepts, and judge values and objectives.
It was through that slow and painstaking process of education and development that the first group of Muslims was raised out of an almost uncultured tribal desert people. Out of that community, within a phenomenally short time, came a nation with a rich ideology and a dynamic spirit, fit to assume a leading role in the world.
That pioneering generation was raised on the ideas and teachings of the Qur’ān and under the instruction of the Prophet Muĥammad, which was inspired by and derived from the Qur’ān. The Prophet’s mosque in Madinah was the focal point of Muslim life and its centre of learning, which produced a unique civilisation and a community that has been unrivalled throughout history.
That divine legacy and those teachings, which were responsible for raising the first generation of Islam, remain intact and accessible today. It is vital for Muslims to return to their original source of knowledge and greatness, and to look at the Qur’ān as a guide and an instrument for change, rather than as lyrics to be melodiously chanted for idle pleasure.
Ibn Kathir writes, “Allah reminds His believing servants with what He has endowed them with by sending Muhammad as a Messenger to them, reciting to them Allah's clear Ayat and purifying and cleansing them from the worst types of behavior, the ills of the souls and the acts of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic era). The Messenger also takes them away from the darkness (of disbelief) to the light (of faith) and teaches them the Book, the Qur'an, and the Hikmah (i.e., the wisdom), which is his Sunnah. He also teaches them what they knew not. During the time of Jahiliyyah, they used to utter foolish statements. Later on, and with the blessing of the Prophet's Message and the goodness of his prophecy, they were elevated to the status of the Awliya' (loyal friends of Allah) and the rank of the scholars. Hence, they acquired the deepest knowledge among the people, the most pious hearts, and the most truthful tongues.”
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُواْ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَـتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ
"Indeed, Allah conferred a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad ) from among themselves, reciting unto them His verses (the Qur'an), and purifying them (from sins)" (3:164)
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
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[ edit ]
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, Islam 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 Quran 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[ edit ]
Allah's Messenger said, 'Allah the Exalted said, `O son of Adam! If you mention Me to yourself, I will mention you to Myself. If you mention Me in a gathering, I will mention you in a gathering of the angels (or said in a better gathering). If you draw closer to Me by a hand span, I will draw closer to you by forearm's length. If you draw closer to Me by a forearm's length, I will draw closer to you by an arm's length. And if you come to Me walking, I will come to you running'