Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 238

حَٰفِظُوا۟ عَلَى ٱلصَّلَوَٰتِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ٱلْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا۟ لِلَّهِ قَٰنِتِينَ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand for Allāh, devoutly obedient.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Having evoked an atmosphere of submission to, and consciousness of, God, the sūrah interjects with a short passage on prayer, the main act of worship in Islam, before it deals with other aspects of divorce. The inference here, in the inimitable style of the Qur’ān, is that obedience to God in matters of marriage and divorce is an act of worship no less reverent or commendable than prayer itself. This is in total harmony with the comprehensive Islamic concept of worship (`ibādah) which encompasses all human activity and is seen as the central purpose of human existence, expressed in the Qur’ān: “I have not created the jinns and human beings to any end other than that they may worship Me.” (51: 56)

The sūrah says: “Attend regularly to your prayers, particularly the middle prayer, and stand up before God in devout obedience. If you are in fear, pray walking or riding. When you are again secure, remember God, since it is He who has taught you what you did not know.

This is a clear instruction to Muslims to attend regularly to the five daily prayers, offering them in the proper manner, in the correct form, and at their appointed times. The middle Prayer is generally taken to refer to `Aşr, or mid-afternoon prayer, on the basis of reports that on the day of the Battle of the Moat (627 CE), the Prophet Muĥammad was heard cursing the enemy forces for “causing us to miss the middle prayer of `Aşr. May God engulf their hearts and homes in fire.” The reason for a specific mention of the `Aşr prayer is perhaps because it falls during that part of the afternoon when people take a short rest and may easily miss it.

The sūrah also emphasises total devotion during prayers, because in the early days, Muslims used to, if they felt the need, talk and break away from the prayer to attend to urgent business. When this verse was revealed, it became clear that nothing should distract one from prayer and that worshippers must stand before God in a state of complete submission and devotion.

The sūrah points out that even in times of danger and war, Muslims must not neglect the obligatory prayers. They may perform them in the most convenient way possible under the circumstances. They are permitted to perform the prayer in whatever posture they find themselves in, walking or riding, without having to face the qiblah, the direction of the Ka`bah, or follow the prescribed procedure. This is not to be confused with Şalāt al-khawf or ‘prayer while in a state of fear’, referred to in Sūrah 4, which relates specifically to the performance of prayer in the battlefield. If fighting actually breaks out, or an enemy attack is imminent, the ruling given in the present sūrah will apply.

The great importance God attaches to prayer is very clear. It is seen as a source of inspiration and moral support, and should not be neglected no matter how dangerous or threatening the situation may be. In times of war, it is another weapon a Muslim may use in facing the enemy. It is a supply line from God Almighty at a most crucial moment.

Islam is a religion founded upon the worship of God, in various forms and in all circumstances. Prayer is the foremost manifestation of man’s submission to God. Through the worship of God, man attains the highest level of purity, gains divine support and direction, and achieves total peace of mind. Hence, prayer must never be neglected, even if one is in the line of fire.

Practical Implications

  • في ذكر الصلاة ضمن آيات الطلاق دليل على أن محافظة الأسرة على الصلاة من أهم أسباب استقرارها و سعادتها، ﴿ حَٰفِظُوا۟ عَلَى ٱلصَّلَوَٰتِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ٱلْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا۟ لِلَّهِ قَٰنِتِينَ [Be the first to translate....]
  • حافظ على جميع الصلوات في وقتها؛ وخصوصا صلاة العصر، ﴿ حَٰفِظُوا۟ عَلَى ٱلصَّلَوَٰتِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ٱلْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا۟ لِلَّهِ قَٰنِتِينَ  [Be the first to translate....]

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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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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  • Ibn Masud said, "I asked the Prophet , `Which deed is the dearest (to Allah)' He replied, الصَّلَاةُ عَلى وَقْتِها "To offer the prayers at their fixed times." I asked, `What is the next (in goodness)' He replied, «الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ الله "To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's cause.)'' I again asked, `What is the next (in goodness)' He replied, بِرُّ الْوَالِدَيْن "To be good and dutiful to your parents." `Abdullah then added, "The Prophet told me these words, and had I asked more, the Prophet would have told me more.'' (Bukhari and Muslim)


  • Allah's Messenger said during the battle of Al-Ahzab the Confederates They the disbelievers busied us from performing the Middle prayer, the `Asr prayer, may Allah fill their hearts and houses with fire. [Ahmad]


  • Prophet said On a cloudy day, perform the Asr prayer early, for whoever misses the `Asr prayer, will have his (good) deeds annulled.[Bukhari]


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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