Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 196
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
The first thing to notice about this verse is the precision with which it treats the subject. It is divided into a number of short, well-defined instructions. Any exceptions or provisions relating to each ruling are made immediately before moving on to the next. The passage is rounded off with a strong emphasis on God-fearing.
The first article stresses the fact that once one has decided to perform the pilgrimage or the `Umrah, one must do so in full and dedicate one’s actions to God: “Perform to their completion both the pilgrimage and the `Umrah purely for God’s sake.” Some scholars have taken this statement as instituting the pilgrimage as a religious duty, while others have understood it to be a mere instruction that once one begins performing the pilgrimage, one should go on to complete its rites. The latter interpretation seems more accurate, since the `Umrah is not universally considered by scholars an obligatory duty. Nevertheless, the order to complete the rites, once begun, applies equally to the pilgrimage and the `Umrah. The latter involves the same rites with the exception of attending at `Arafāt, but differs in that it can be performed any time throughout the year.
Exemption from completing the pilgrimage or the `Umrah is granted when one is prevented from doing so either by an enemy or, by illness or other exceptional circumstances. This is universally accepted by all schools of thought. The same applies to the case of being prevented from completing the rites. “If you are prevented from doing so, then make whatever offering you can easily afford.” If prevented by force, a pilgrim offers a sacrifice within the means at his disposal. He would then be able to terminate his state of consecration, or iĥrām, at the point he reached, even though he might not have performed any of the rituals other than going into the state of consecration.
Such a situation arose in the sixth year of the Islamic calendar when the pagan Arabs prevented the Prophet and his Companions from entering Makkah and visiting the Sacred Mosque. The Muslims had camped at al-Ĥudaybiyah, about 25 kilometres west of Makkah, where eventually the famous truce agreement was signed between the Quraysh and the Muslims. It stipulated that the Prophet and his followers would be free to return for `Umrah the following year. Some reports indicate that this verse was revealed at that time, and, accordingly, the Prophet ordered his Companions to make their sacrifices at al-Ĥudaybiyah and terminate their state of consecration, or iĥrām. Some of them showed reluctance, finding it difficult to release themselves from iĥrām before making the offerings at the appropriate place. But once the Prophet took the initiative and offered his sacrifice there, the rest followed suit.
The verse refers to “whatever offering you can easily afford” This includes animals such as camels, cows, sheep, or goats. A pilgrim should sacrifice whatever he can easily afford, and several people may share in a single camel or cow. In the `Umrah of al-Ĥudaybiyah, as many as seven people shared in the sacrifice of one camel. On the other hand, one person may choose to offer a sheep or a goat, which would suffice. The exemption serves to mitigate hardship such as that encountered at al- Ĥudaybiyah, or which might arise as a result of illness.
The essential aim of such a religious practice is to revive one’s awareness of God and draw closer to Him. If this is disrupted by threats from a hostile quarter, a disabling illness or the like, pilgrims are not deprived of the rewards they would have received had they completed the pilgrimage or the `Umrah. They are, therefore, instructed to proceed with making the offerings as if they had completed the intended rituals. This compassionate attitude is well in line with the spirit of Islam and its view of the purpose of worship.
Then follows another rule relating to the performance of pilgrimage and `Umrah: “Do not shave your heads until the offerings have reached their appointed destination.”
This, of course, applies under normal peaceful conditions. A pilgrim is not to shave his head, which precedes the termination of the state of consecration, or iĥrām, until he has made his offerings at the designated place and time. This is done at Mind on the tenth day of Dhu’l-Ĥijjah, after attendance the previous day at the plain of `Arafāt. Once the offerings are made, a pilgrim may release himself from consecration.
Here we have another exemption: “If any of you is ill or suffers from an ailment of the head, he shall redeem himself by fasting, or alms, or sacrifice.” Islam is a practical and humane religion, and if there are grounds of health that would require shaving one’s head, one would be permitted to do so while in the state of iĥrām, even before the destination for offering the sacrifice is reached or the appropriate rituals are completed. The concession, however, is balanced with a compensation which has been set as a three-day fast from dawn to dusk, the feeding of six needy people, or slaughtering a sheep and giving its meat to the poor.
This is supported by what the Prophet Muĥammad said to Ka`b ibn `Ajrah when the latter was brought to him during the pilgrimage, having suffered a severe infection so that lice were crawling all over his face. The Prophet said: “I would not have thought you could have reached such a dire state. Can you afford a sheep?” Ka`b said he could not. The Prophet said to him: “Fast for three days, or feed six needy people, giving each half a şā` of food, and shave your head.” (One şā` is an Arabian measure equivalent to four times the fill of a man’s hands cupped together.)
The sūrah gives another ruling relating to the pilgrimage and the `Umrah: “When you are in safety, then he who takes advantage of performing the `Umrah before the pilgrimage shall make whatever offering he can easily afford.” The sacrifice is required of those who are able to complete the rituals of both duties. Let us look at the matter in more detail.
One form of tamattu`, which is referred to in this verse as ‘taking advantage of performing both duties of pilgrimage and `Umrah, involves the performance of the `Umrah separately, prior to performing the pilgrimage. To do this, one sets off for `Umrah, goes into iĥrām at the appointed location, performs the rites of `Umrah, which include ţawāf around the Ka`bah and sa`ī between Şafā and Marwah, and shaving one’s head or trimming one’s hair to release oneself from consecration. One then waits for the time of the pilgrimage to re-enter into iĥrām, or consecration, for the pilgrimage. This is valid only if the `Umrah is offered within the appointed months of pilgrimage: Shawwāl, Dhu’l-Qa’dah and the first ten days of Dhu’l-Ĥijjah.
Another form of tamattu` is when one goes into iĥrām, at the appointed location, with the intention of combining both `Umrah and pilgrimage. On arrival in Makkah, the `Umrah is performed, after which the pilgrim maintains his iĥrām until he has performed the rest of the rites of the pilgrimage at the proper time.
In both cases, pilgrims are required to make such offerings as they can afford and are available. Animals such as camels, cows, sheep and goats can be offered for this purpose.
Those who lack the means need to fulfil an alternative requirement. “He who lacks the means shall fast three days during the pilgrimage and seven more days on returning home; that is, ten days in all.” It is recommended that fasting should be undertaken over the three days before attendance at `Arafāt on the ninth day of Dhu’l-Ĥijjah. The other seven days of fasting are undertaken following one’s arrival back home, a total of ten days in all, as the Qur’ān clearly points out.
The idea here apparently is to keep the pilgrims’ hearts and minds attached to God during the interval between the `Umrah and the pilgrimage. The requirement of sacrifice or fasting perhaps aims to maintain the feeling of being closer to God in the period between the `Umrah and pilgrimage. Thus, lifting the restrictions of consecration, or iĥrām, after performing the `Umrah would not lead people away from the highly spiritual atmosphere that the pilgrimage generates.
Since those who live close to the Sacred Mosque are required to perform the pilgrimage only, and not the `Umrah, they cannot have the option of tamattu`. They have no sacrifice to offer and, consequently, the ruling of fasting ten days instead does not apply to them, either: “This applies to those whose families are not resident in the vicinity of the Sacred Mosque.”
At this juncture the sūrah draws attention to a vital and fundamental aspect of man’s relationship with God. It exhorts: “Fear God, and know well that He is severe in retribution.” The requirement for proper observance of these rulings would be an ever-present sense of God-fearing, and an appreciation of the awesome power of His retribution. By its very nature, iĥrām invokes a high sense of awareness” of God and an eagerness not to incur His displeasure, which must be maintained, with equal vigour and sincerity, during the interval when the pilgrims are relieved from the restrictions of iĥrām. Pilgrims are expected to remain vigilant and self-controlled throughout the whole period.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ 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 ]
- Hafsah said, "O Allah's Messenger! What is wrong with the people, they have finished their Ihram for `Umrah but you have not'' The Prophet said, I matted my hair and I have garlanded my Hady (animals for sacrifice), so I will not finish my Ihram till I offer the sacrifice.
[Bukhari and Muslim]
- The Prophet said I never thought that your ailment (or struggle) had reached to such an extent as I see. Can you afford a sheep (for sacrifice)' I replied in the negative. He then said, Fast for three days or feed six poor persons, each with half a Sa` of food (1 Sa` = 3 kilograms approx.) and shave your head.
- Allah's Messenger said, Do these lice in your head bother you) I said, `Yes.' He said, Shave it, then fast three days, or feed six poor people, or sacrifice an animal.