Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 153

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱسْتَعِينُوا۟ بِٱلصَّبْرِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allāh is with the patient.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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* Prayer is also a workout for the soul. Just like one release pent up aggression during a physical workout, the prayer – du’a in particular – is a chance to let out your inner feelings to the Hearer and Responder. Every complaint, every desire, every worry, every hope, every anguish, every emotion – this is the time to let it all out. Let those tears flow. Let it come from the heart. Stand up in qunut in Witr prayer in the depths of night and converse with your Lord – your own personal Lord, Who will listen and respond to you personally and specifically – and simply express to Him what you feel.

* When you stand with your head pointed to the ground, or you are bowing or prostrating, you are physically reminding yourself that you are the controlled praying to the Controller. This makes is so much easier to live comfortably with whatever befalls you of your status, putting you in your place as a subject to a Master. The same Master for Whom you touch your noble face to the ground is the Master that put you where you are, or gave you that disease, or deprived you of wealth, or struck you with that crisis. When your face is glued to the ground and you are obediently repeating ‘Subhan Rabi al-A’la’ [glory be to my Lord the most high], you are making that connection. You are reminding yourself that just as you surrender your face to the ground before Him, you are to surrender yourself to the reality that He has chosen for you. Controller and Controlled.

Explanatory Note

Believers, seek strength in patience and prayer. God is with those who are patient.” Patience is mentioned frequently in the Qur’ān. God is aware that patience is an essential element in maintaining a steady and balanced pace in the face of the inevitable hardships and adversities of life. It is a prime requirement for the Muslim community in its universal responsibility for establishing God’s order on earth.

Patience is required on the personal level for observing one’s religious duties, for resisting temptation, misfortune, poverty, oppression and injustice, and for carrying out one’s responsibilities towards the establishment of the Islamic way of life in society. Patience and perseverance are required to remain always on the alert, ready to give whatever sacrifice may be needed. When those who are hostile to God’s cause seem to wield power, when falsehood seems too strong, when help seems to be endlessly delayed and the destination too far away patience and perseverance are the most important qualities to have. They are also needed to face those who are deviant, erring, harsh and persistent in their opposition to the truth.

When victory seems far away and the going gets really tough, people tend to lose heart and give up. To avoid that state of despair, God links patience with prayer, as an inexhaustible source of strength and energy. The two combine to infuse the heart with boundless confidence and fortitude and to impart to the believer total tranquillity, happiness and inner peace.

When man, weak as he is, faces a task that seems beyond his limited resources, when he faces the powers of evil, when he finds temptations and allurements very hard to resist, when tyranny and corruption are too powerful, seeking support from God Almighty is the only way forward. As the goals of one’s endeavour seem to recede and life becomes shorter and shorter, despair starts to creep into one’s heart and mind. As the twilight of one’s life approaches and all achievements seem trivial and meaningless, one realises the value and significance of prayer. It is a spring that never ceases to flow with spiritual strength and tender compassion.

The value and role of prayer lie in its being the direct link between God and man. It is the means by which man, an insignificant mortal, draws strength, reassurance and help from God’s infinite power and everlasting mercy. It is the source from which man, a frail creature, replenishes his energy and renews his power and strength to face and resist his own inner temptations and prejudices, as well as the temptations and pressures of the world around him. It is the key to the treasures of God’s grace, and the fountain of light which illuminates man’s heart with inner peace and tranquillity and leads him through the darkness of doubt and confusion to the certainty of faith and trust in God Almighty. It is an occasion for rest, serenity and peace of mind. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Prophet Muĥammad (peace be upon him) used to resort to prayer whenever things became difficult to cope with. He used to ask Bilāl, his Companion, to make the call to prayer, saying: “Bring us its comfort.

Worship is the essence of the Islamic way of life, which revolves around its mysteries and hidden qualities. It is a source of sustenance in the long journey of life; it purifies the heart and gives the human spirit its inner powers. It goes hand in hand with responsibility and obligation, because it is the key to our appreciation of our responsibilities and obligations in life and to the satisfaction and benefits we draw from fulfilling them.

When God Almighty commissioned Muĥammad for his great and historic task, He said to him: “Stand up in prayer at night, all except for a small portion of it; or half the night or a little less, or a little more, and recite the Qur’ān in a calm and distinct manner. We are about to address you with words of surpassing gravity” (73: 2-5)

Prayer during the night and recitation of the Qur’ān were the essential means of preparing Muĥammad for the stupendous task of conveying God’s message to mankind. Prayer opens the human heart to hope and enlightenment, reinvigorates one’s relationship with God, mitigates the struggle for life, and provides one with inspiration and confidence.

For the believers in that small fledgling Muslim community, poised to embark on their momentous task, the sūrah reinforces that reassurance by saying: “God is with those who are patient.” God is always there to provide the believers with help and comfort, to lend them His support and replenish their sapping morale and fading enthusiasm. It is noteworthy that the verse starts by making its address exclusively to the believers, and concludes by reassuring them that patience ensures God’s help.

Numerous reports have been handed down that tell us how highly the Prophet himself viewed the qualities of patience and perseverance, and how deeply he had thought about them. Some of them are quite relevant to our discussion.

The Prophet’s Companion, Khabbāb ibn al-Aratt, said: “A group of us once appealed to God’s Messenger while he was resting in the shade of the Ka`bah. We said, ‘Would you please appeal to God to help us? Would you kindly pray for us?’ He replied, ‘In days gone by, believers like yourselves used to be put in ditches and have their heads sawed in halves, and have their flesh scraped off the bone with iron combs. They withstood all that torture, held on to their faith, and never wavered. I swear that God Almighty will establish this religion so that a man can travel from San ‘ā’ [in western Yemen] to Ĥadramawt [in eastern Yemen] fearing none but God, and the wolf for his sheep. But you are impatient!” [Related by al-Bukhārī, Abū Dāwūd and al-Nasā’ī]

Another Companion of the Prophet, `Abdullāh ibn Mas`ūd says: “I can almost see God’s Messenger in the same position as an earlier prophet who was beaten by his people until he bled. But even while he was wiping the blood off his face he said: ‘Lord, forgive my people, for they do not know the truth.’” [Related by al-Bukhārī and Muslim]

The Prophet is also quoted as saying: “A Muslim who mixes with people and puts up with their maltreatment is better than one who neither mixes with people nor suffers their abuse.” [Related by al- Tirmidhī]

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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  • The order in this Ayat is similar to what Allah Almighty told the Children of Israel earlier in the Surah.

    وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ  "And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah]" (2:45)

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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  • The Prophet is reported to have said, 

    «عَجَبًا لِلْمُؤْمِنِ لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لَهُ قَضَاءً إلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ: إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ فَشَكَرَ كَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ وإنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ فَصَبَرَ كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»

    "Amazing is the believer, for whatever Allah decrees for him, it is better for him! If he is tested with a bounty, he is grateful for it and this is better for him; and if he is afflicted with a hardship, he is patient with it and this is better for him."

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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