Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 189

۞ يَسْـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلْأَهِلَّةِ ۖ قُلْ هِىَ مَوَٰقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَٱلْحَجِّ ۗ وَلَيْسَ ٱلْبِرُّ بِأَن تَأْتُوا۟ ٱلْبُيُوتَ مِن ظُهُورِهَا وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلْبِرَّ مَنِ ٱتَّقَىٰ ۗ وَأْتُوا۟ ٱلْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَٰبِهَا ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, "They are measurements of time for the people and for hajj [pilgrimage]." And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allāh. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allāh that you may succeed.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Some reports suggest that the Prophet Muĥammad was asked why the moon goes through its various phases. Others say that he was asked why have the crescent moons been created, which seems to be more consistent with the answer given in the sūrah: “They are signs for people to mark fixed periods of time, and for the pilgrimage.

They serve as a means by which people fix and measure the time of important religious events and activities such as travel, pilgrimage, fasting, marriage and divorce, as well as trade transactions and loan periods.

Whatever the original enquiry, the answer had gone beyond mere abstraction and given practical, rather than ‘scientific’, information relating to the phases of the moon. The Qur’ān, without going into a detailed astronomical discussion, speaks of the function of the moon and its role in people’s daily life. The Qur’ān did not embark on an explanation of the moon’s position within the solar system or the relative movement of stars, planets and galaxies, although this is implied in the question.

What significance, then, does the answer given in the Qur’ān imply? The principal objective of the Qur’ān was the creation and promotion of a new conception of life in a new social, political and economic order. Indeed, it was working towards the creation of a new human community, with a special role of leadership in the world. It was developing a new model of human society, the like of which had not been known before, to uphold a new way of life that would firmly establish essential universal features and principles which the rest of mankind would look up to and emulate.
 
Righteousness does not mean that you enter houses from the rear, but truly righteous is he who fears God. Enter houses by their doors and fear God, so that you may be successful.

This part of the verse and the preceding one relating to phases of the moon seem to be connected by the theme of pilgrimage: the new moon as an astronomical time marker for pilgrimage and other events, and the pre-Islamic Arab pilgrimage custom of entering houses from the rear.

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim relate a report by al-Barā’, in which he said: “It was the custom of the Anşār [i.e. Muslims from Madinah] that on returning from pilgrimage they would approach their houses from the rear. When one of them broke this tradition and entered by the front door, he was severely criticised. It was at this point that the verse was revealed.” A similar report is related by Abū Dāwūd.

Whether this custom related to the pilgrimage only, which seems more probable, or to travelling in general, the Arabs had maintained the belief that it was a sign of piety and righteousness to uphold it. However, the Qur’ān refutes that as an empty gesture that could serve no religious purpose. It goes on to establish the proper religious concept of righteousness as consciousness of God and His presence at all times and in all situations, rather than as a routine gesture that had no meaning whatsoever. Therefore it gives the instruction that houses must be approached from the front, and re-emphasises the importance of God-fearing as the road to success in this life.

The verse, then, focuses our minds and hearts on taqwā, God- fearing, as a basic fact of faith, and links it with the attainment of absolute success, both in this life and in the life to come. It repeals a useless, ignorant tradition and directs the believers to appreciate God’s grace in providing them with the new moon at the beginning of every month to enable them to determine the time for pilgrimage and other human activities.

  • The word الْأَهِلَّةِ  - crescent moon - in the Ayat is the only mention of  this word in the Qur’an.
  • الْحَجِّ  The word 'Hajj' appears in the Qur’an 12 times – 8 times in Surah al-Baqarah – the most in the Qur’an.

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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Al-Bukhārī and Muslim relate a report by al-Barā’, in which he said: “It was the custom of the Anşār [i.e. Muslims from Madinah] that on returning from pilgrimage they would approach their houses from the rear. When one of them broke this tradition and entered by the front door, he was severely criticised. It was at this point that the verse was revealed.” A similar report is related by Abū Dāwūd.

9. Relevant Hadith

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  • Abdur-Razzaq reported that Ibn `Umar narrated that Allah's Messenger said: «جَعَلَ اللهُ الْأَهِلَّةَ مَوَاقِيتَ لِلنَّاسِ، فَصُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَعُدُّوا ثَلَاثِينَ يَوْمًا»"

    "Allah has made the crescents signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind. Hence, fast on seeing it (the crescent for Ramadan) and break the fast on seeing it (the crescent for Shawwal). If it (the crescent) was obscure to you then count thirty days (mark that month as thirty days)."

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