Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 16
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(are) the ones who
for [the] guidance
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
Then comes a final statement to sum up. They spurned the opportunity to be rightly guided, and forfeited their right to it. They are left miserable and totally lost on all counts.
We note that more space is devoted to the delineation of the character of the third group, the hypocrites, than to either of the preceding ones. This is because each of the first two types is, in a sense, simple and straightforward. The first picture shows people with clear vision and honest purpose, while the second paints those moving aimlessly, devoid of guidance. In the third picture we see those with a devious, restless, complex and sick disposition. Its delineation requires more touches and finer detail to be clearly and fully defined.
A detailed description of this third group also suggests that the role played by the hypocrites in Madinah in undermining the Muslim community during those formative years was a very serious one, and that they instigated trouble and instability in that community. It is also an indication of how far-reaching a role hypocrites can play in any Muslim community, and that there is a need to expose their activities and maleficent scheming against the Muslims.
أي: رغبوا في الضلالة رغبة المشتري بالسلعة التي من رغبته فيها يبذل فيها الأثمان النفيسة، وهذا من أحسن الأمثلة؛ فإنه جعل الضلالة التي هي غاية الشر كالسلعة، وجعل الهدى الذي هو غاية الصلاح بمنزلة الثمن. السعدي: 43 [Be first to translate this...]
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
muhtad – someone who makes an effort to be guided.
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
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 ]
10. Wiki Forum
11. Tafsir Zone
Ibn Kathir (English)
الطبري - جامع البيان
ابن كثير - تفسير القرآن العظيم
القرطبي - الجامع لأحكام
البغوي - معالم التنزيل
ابن أبي حاتم الرازي - تفسير القرآن
ابن عاشور - التحرير والتنوير
ابن القيم - تفسير ابن قيّم
السيوطي - الدر المنثور
الشنقيطي - أضواء البيان
ابن الجوزي - زاد المسير
الآلوسي - روح المعاني
ابن عطية - المحرر الوجيز
الرازي - مفاتيح الغيب
أبو السعود - إرشاد العقل السليم
الزمخشري - الكشاف
البقاعي - نظم الدرر
الهداية إلى بلوغ النهاية — مكي ابن أبي طالب
القاسمي - محاسن التأويل
الماوردي - النكت والعيون
السعدي - تيسير الكريم الرحمن
عبد الرحمن الثعالبي - الجواهر الحسان
السمرقندي - بحر العلوم
أبو إسحاق الثعلبي - الكشف والبيان
الشوكاني - فتح القدير
النيسابوري - التفسير البسيط
أبو حيان - البحر المحيط
البيضاوي - أنوار التنزيل
النسفي - مدارك التنزيل
ابن جُزَيّ - التسهيل لعلوم التنزيل
علي الواحدي النيسابوري - الوجيز
السيوطي - تفسير الجلالين
المختصر في التفسير — مركز تفسير
Overview (Verses 8 - 16)
The Mark of Hypocrisy
We now move on to the third model. The picture that the verses paint of this type of people is neither as bright and noble as the first nor as dark and base as the second. It is an elusive, evanescent image, constantly changing. These are the hypocrites: “There are some who say: “We believe in God and the Last Day’, yet, in truth, they do not believe. They seek to deceive God and the believers, but they are only deceiving themselves, though they may not realize it. There is sickness in their hearts, and God has aggravated their sickness. Painful suffering awaits them for the lies they keep telling. When it is said to them: “Do not spread corruption in the land’, they say: “We are but doers of good.’ But, they indeed are the ones who do spread corruption, though they do not realize it. When it is said to them, ‘Believe as other people have believed’, they say, Are we to believe as the fools believe?’ It is indeed they who are fools, though they do not know it. When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We believe’, but when they are alone with their devilish allies, they say, ‘We are with you, we are only mocking.’ God will put them to derision and let them continue their transgression, blundering blindly along. These are the ones who barter away guidance for error. Their transaction is profitless and they will receive no guidance.” (Verses 8-16)
This was a description of a number of people in Madinah, but the picture can be identified in every human generation. Such people are to be found among the elite of society who lack the moral courage to either openly accept the truth or clearly reject it. They are ever assuming the moral high ground, placing themselves above all others, deriding their understanding. We should, therefore, take these verses in their absolute sense, as being descriptive of hypocrites in all generations. They indeed address the human soul which is one in all societies.
Typically, the hypocrites claim belief in God and the Last Day when they in fact entertain no such belief. They simply do not possess the resolve to declare their true feelings and convictions.
They delude themselves into thinking that they are so clever and cunning as to be able to deceive the ‘naive’ believers, but God uncovers the truth about their actions. They are trying to deceive not only believers, but God Himself: “They seek to deceive God and the believers.” (Verse 9)
This and similar Qur’ānic verses reveal a great truth and an honour that God has bestowed on believers, for they emphasize the special relationship He has with them. God always takes the believers’ side and makes their concern His concern. He protects them and stands against their enemy, and repels any attacks directed at them. This great honour elevates the status of believers among the rest of mankind, and affirms the fact that belief in God is the noblest and most honourable of all concepts in this life. It is the source of boundless reassurance to the believer that God supports his cause, nurtures him and fights on his side. The scheming and intrigue of other mortals is not to be feared.
This statement also carries a stiff warning to those who seek to deceive believers, harm them or scheme against them. It tells them that they will have to confront not only believers, but God Almighty. Waging war against believers means having to fight against God Himself and face His wrath and His retribution.
Both aspects of this fact should be appreciated and carefully considered by believers, so that they may be fully satisfied and reassured of their ultimate success. They need not be perturbed by the scheming and hostility of their detractors or the harm that these people may inflict upon them. Equally, the enemies of the believers should reflect on them, in order to appreciate the true nature and magnitude of the force they are contending with.
Going back to the verse, we find that it mocks their behaviour, pointing out that “they are only deceiving themselves, though they may not realize it.” (Verse 9) They are so oblivious of the reality of their position, and so careless, that they deceive no one but themselves. God is aware of their schemes and deception. The believers are under God’s protection. The thinking of these foolish hypocrites is so warped that they believe they have triumphed and achieved their goal, whereas in fact they have earned themselves nothing but doom and have condemned themselves to a terrible fate.
But why, we may ask, do these hypocrites resort to such behaviour? The answer is: “There is sickness in their hearts.” (Verse 10) There is something wrong with their attitude and their hearts are not pure, which causes them to deviate and incur further displeasure from God, who has “aggravated their sickness.” (Verse 10)
This type of sickness begins as a minor deviation and grows gradually, according to the established laws of human social and psychological behaviour. Predictably, such behaviour will only lead to one end, as befits those who deceive God and the believers: “Painful suffering awaits them for the lies they keep telling.” (Verse 10)
Other characteristics of the hypocrites, which were certainly evident in the case of those notorious ones encountered by the early Muslims at Madinah, such as Abdullāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, is obstinacy and justification of their corrupting behaviour, together with an arrogant belief that they will escape punishment. “When it is said to them: Do not spread corruption in the land’, they say: “We are but doers of good.’ But, they indeed are the ones who do spread corruption, though they do not realize it...” (Verses 11-12) It is not sufficient for them simply to tell lies and resort to deception. They have to make false claims, adding insult to injury.
People of this type can be found in every generation. They perpetuate evil and corruption but claim to be proponents of reform and proper behaviour. Their standards of responsibility towards society and dedication to the common interest are distorted, and so is their evaluation of good and evil. Lack of faith and sincerity towards God blurs their vision of right and wrong, allowing their actions to be influenced by personal whims and desires. Their criteria of good and evil, right and wrong, are not dictated by the standards laid down by God. Therefore they are strongly and severely reprimanded: “They indeed are the ones who do spread corruption, though they do not realize it.” (Verse 12)
Hypocrites are also distinguished by their arrogance, their contempt for other people and their pretence to be what they are not. The description continues: “When it is said to them, ‘Believe as other people have believed’, they say, Are we to believe as the fools believe?’ It is indeed they who are fools, though they do not know it.” (Verse 13)
It is clear that what the hypocrites of Madinah were being called on to demonstrate was sincere, unwavering faith, free of personal desire or caprice. They were being urged to join those who accepted Islam in its totality, submitted themselves completely to God, and opened their hearts and minds to the teachings and instructions of the Prophet Muĥammad (peace be upon him).
But it is also clear that they were too proud to accept. They thought of Islam as a religion for the meek and the poor in society, which did not become the lofty elite. This was reflected in their response. They are quoted as saying: “Are we to believe as the fools believe?” which is appropriately met by: “It is indeed they who are fools, though they do not know it.” (Verse 13) Fools are seldom aware of their predicament and are always willing to delude themselves that they are righteous and proper.
Then comes the last characteristic, which reveals the common ground that the hypocrites of Madinah shared with the grudging Jews. Their lies and deceptions are compounded by treachery and murky scheming against the Muslims: “When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We believe’, but when they are alone with their devilish allies, they say, ‘We are with you, we are only mocking.’” (Verse 14)
To some people wickedness means strength and scheming is an art; yet the opposite is true. A strong person never feels the need to resort to treachery or intrigue. The hypocrites were too cowardly to come into the open and could only adopt a two-faced attitude. With the Muslims they professed belief in order to protect themselves and have access to the Muslim community and undermine it from within, but with their allies, who were often the Jews, they would say otherwise. Their rapport was matched by their cooperation in wicked schemes.
As soon as this aspect of their conduct is revealed, God delivers the sternest warning of all: “God will put them to derision and let them continue their transgression, blundering blindly along.” (Verse 15)
What a degrading, humiliating and terrifying end: they are left wandering heedlessly, without guidance or direction, until the hand of God picks them up again, like feeble mice walking unawares into a trap. This is the true irony of their situation, which makes their mockery of the believers appear even more petty and ignoble.
Here again we are faced with the timeless truth mentioned earlier: that God always takes care to defend the believers, reassuring them and thwarting their enemy, who will blunder arrogantly in the dark, deceived by God’s temporary clemency and brief remission, towards their inevitable and dreadful fate.
Then comes a final statement to sum up: “These are the ones who barter away guidance for error. Their transaction is profitless and they will receive no guidance.” (Verse 16) They spurned the opportunity to be rightly guided, and forfeited their right to it. They are left miserable and totally lost on all counts.