Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 255

ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ٱلْحَىُّ ٱلْقَيُّومُ ۚ لَا تَأْخُذُهُۥ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ ۚ لَّهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۗ مَن ذَا ٱلَّذِى يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُۥٓ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِۦ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَىْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِۦٓ إِلَّا بِمَا شَآءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ ۖ وَلَا يَـُٔودُهُۥ حِفْظُهُمَا ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَلِىُّ ٱلْعَظِيمُ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Allāh - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursī extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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  • This is the greatest Ayat of the Qur'an - as it is mentioned in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Explanatory Note

A verse that summarises, in powerful and succinct Words, the basic principles of the Islamic faith, citing those attributes of God that most aptly assert the meaning and significance of the basic Islamic principle of tawĥīd: the oneness of God.

Every one of these attributes reflects a fundamental aspect of the universal Islamic view of the world. Although the subject matter of this verse would normally be expected to fall within the themes of the Qur’ānic parts received by the Prophet in Makkah, we do find that on several occasions, parts received in Madinah also cover these most important aspects of Islam. For the overall Islamic system to be understood and appreciated, the fundamentals have to be established and firmly implanted in the minds of the believers.

In our commentary on Sūrah al-Fātiĥah, we pointed out the crucial importance of clearly and fully appreciating the significance of God’s attributes. The religious and doctrinal confusion preceding the advent of Islam was almost entirely due to misinterpretation or distortion of God’s position and attributes. Not until Islam had presented its clear view were the concept and identity of God distinguished from myth and superstition and from the blurred philosophical polemics that had enshrouded them.

The sūrah most clearly and unequivocally states: “God: there is no deity but Him...“ This statement clearly and definitively distinguishes the Islamic concept of God from that of the Trinity, adopted and advanced by Christian church councils long after Jesus, and from the pagan beliefs of the ancient Egyptians who confused God with the sun and recognised the existence of lesser gods beside Him.’

This clear and uncompromising concept is the foundation of Islamic belief and of the whole Islamic system of life. It defines the object of worship and submission for all, so that man submits to none other than God, who alone should be worshipped, obeyed and revered. It gives rise to the principle that God alone should be the source of law and legislation for human life on this earth. The laws and rules that people may lay down should derive from those that God has laid down. This would in turn imply that values and concepts originate with God and that all ethics, traditions and moral systems must be judged in relation to them.

The verse describes God as “the Ever-Living, the Eternal Master of all”. This implies a self-generating, self-sustaining being that is unique and independent of everything else. It is also a being without a beginning or an end, totally outside the dimension of time which defines the beginning and end of other ephemeral beings. Furthermore, this being, God Almighty, is absolute and cannot be defined in conventional terms applicable to all creation. He is unique in every respect, and nothing can be compared with Him. Thus, all other definitions or representations of God, conjured up by the human mind throughout the ages, are false and inadequate.

The Eternal Master of all”, implies that God has power over all things and that He is the supreme and ultimate cause, the raison d’etre, of everything, without whom there can be no existence or action.

This is diametrically opposite to the misguided view of Aristotle, the most eminent of Greek philosophers, that God takes no interest in His creation, because He is too great to preoccupy Himself with anything else. Aristotle took this to be a glorification of God, but in effect it means the elimination of God from the daily affairs of the world He created. The Islamic view of God, on the other hand, is a positive one, based on the principle that God is actively and constantly sustaining all existence, and that the existence of everything emanates from His will and design.

The Islamic view of God gives total assurance and relates a Muslim’s conscience and being, as well as everything around him, directly to God, the power that controls all existence, according to the divine scheme and order. A believer thus draws all his values, norms and standards from God’s order and watches God in all his actions and behaviour.

Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him.” This statement reinforces, in simpler and more graphic terms, the preceding one: that God is the everlasting power sustaining everything in existence. It also distinguishes God from other beings by pointing out that He is not affected by sleep to any degree, in any shape or form.

God’s unique being and His total and absolute control over all things, large and small, at all times, are awesome concepts to comprehend. No matter how much the limited human mind may be able to grasp the size and variety of creatures and events of this vast universe, it would not be possible for man to adequately perceive how God exercises His power and control over the world. What we are able to appreciate is bound to fill us with amazement, and also give us endless reassurance of God’s presence and protection over us.

His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth.” God’s claim over the cosmos is total and absolute; unconditional and incontestable. This is another aspect of the principle of God’s oneness which confirms that God is supreme, ever-present, eternal, master and owner of all. It completely invalidates the assumption that God has partners in His power or actions.

This concept gives a new definition of ownership as applied to individual human beings. For, since God is the ultimate owner of all that exists, no one else can claim ownership of anything in this world. People are, therefore, mere custodians of what they possess, which is entrusted to them by God. Accordingly, they are bound by the terms of that custodianship, as set out by God Almighty, the ultimate owner, in the divine code of living revealed to mankind. Any violation of these terms leads to disqualification and censure of the trustee.

Here we can see how Islamic principles are directly translated into law for immediate application in life. When God says: “His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth,” He is not merely stating a principle of faith, but also laying down a fundamental rule of the order of life He envisages for mankind.

Once the belief is firmly established in our consciousness that everything in this world belongs to God and that what we own is merely on loan for a limited period of time, greed and lust to accumulate wealth and worldly possessions by any means will not be difficult to hold in check. This belief is bound to fill our hearts with contentment, humility, tolerance, and magnanimity. One will face wealth and poverty with equal ease and steadfastness, and if impoverished will not be in the least bitter or grudging.

Who is there that can intercede with Him, except by His permission?” This statement underlines yet another aspect of the concept of God’s oneness, distinguishing clearly the Supreme Being, God, and His subordinate creation. All creatures stand in total humility and submission to the Master, never arrogating to themselves powers or authorities not delegated to them by Him. Above all, they are not to intercede on behalf of anyone without God’s permission, and when they are granted such permission, they will act within its limits, as set out by God Almighty. Some will certainly attain a higher degree of approval than others, but none of them will overstep their set limits.

The tone of the statement is plainly one of divine majesty and authority, enhanced by its rhetorical form which seems to question the legitimacy of the proposition that anyone can intercede on behalf of another without God’s permission and authority.

In the light of this fact, the vulgar absurdity of certain religious notions of God and godhead, upheld by some communities to whom God has sent messengers, becomes glaringly obvious, often verging on the grotesque and outrageous. Some of these allege that God has partners, sons or others, who share His authority, or associates whose intercession He will not refuse. Others recognise certain human individuals as divine representatives of God who, in some mysterious way, draw their earthly powers from Him directly.

The Islamic concept of God is crystal-clear and unambiguous. It makes a sharp distinction between God, the Master, and all creation, His subordinates, leaving no room whatsoever for any confusion or overlap between the essence or status of the two. Islam complements this distinction by emphasising God’s merciful, caring, compassionate and munificent attitude towards His creation. All believers can enjoy His grace without the need for distorting their conception of God’s omnipresence and omnipotence, or perverting the nature of their relationship with Him.

He knows all that lies open before them and all that lies hidden from them; whereas they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save as He wills.” This statement expresses God’s omniscience. He has full and total knowledge of the present, the past and the future, which human beings cannot possibly know or perceive. He is ever aware of what human beings know and what they do not, and will not, know. They can learn only what He allows them to learn.

The fact that God knows our present, past and future actions and deeds, and beyond, ought to fill us with dread and awe, for being totally and permanently exposed before God Almighty. It inspires total humility and submission to the one omniscient God. It is also poignant to reflect on the corollary of this principle, that “... they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save as He wills”. Human beings may learn only what God wills them to know and learn which, in an age of such tremendous expansion of scientific knowledge, is a compelling truth to ponder.

God alone possesses full and absolute knowledge of all existence. He is able, in His infinite wisdom, to impart whatever He chooses of His knowledge to mankind, as He has promised: “We will show them Our signs in all the regions of the earth and in their own souls, until they clearly see that this is the truth.” (41: 53)

This fact is often forgotten, and so is the fact that whatever knowledge God imparts to man, whether relating to the physical or to the metaphysical world, entails a certain degree of responsibility and accountability. Despite this, men often forget that God is the source of the knowledge they have acquired, while others deny the fact altogether.

God has been giving man knowledge ever since the day He appointed man His vicegerent on earth and undertook to guide him and show him the way forward, unfolding before him the secrets of the physical world and all the principles, laws and tools that facilitate human life and progress on earth.

While God has generously enabled man to acquire vast amounts of knowledge and made him privy to many of the world’s mysteries, He has withheld many others. These are not required for man to know in order to fulfil his role on earth. These include the secret of life, which continues to elude human knowledge and which man continues to pursue with zeal but little success. The same applies to knowledge of the future, which remains hidden behind an impregnable wall, despite man’s persistent efforts to predict and determine the future. Occasionally, however, with God’s permission certain individuals are given glimpses of the future, but the curtain soon falls, leaving that world firmly inaccessible.

All the stores of knowledge that are not necessary for man’s role in this world remain locked, and the great leaps man has made have barely reached beyond planet earth, a mere speck in a vast immeasurable universe. Nevertheless, man is beguiled and overwhelmed by the little knowledge he has acquired, which he owes to God’s grace and generosity, and has assumed for himself a quasi- divine status, a demigod, denying the very existence of God, the Creator. In recent decades, scientists have begun to show a certain degree of humility in recognising the inadequacy and shortcomings of human knowledge. There are, however, many fools who continue to think that they know everything there is to know.

His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Most High, the Most Great.” Here we have another example of the unique style of the Qur’ān in expressing an abstract idea by means of a visual image, in order to make the meaning clear and accessible. The word kursī, meaning ‘seat’ or ‘chair’ and translated here as “throne”, is usually used to denote realm or sovereignty. The idea here is that God’s sovereignty and authority extend over the entire cosmos, and the image makes it clear, easy to grasp and comprehend.

Likewise, the phrase, “the preservation of both does not weary Him,” is an expression of God’s omnipotence, depicting in simple but powerful terms how easy it is for God to sustain and preserve the heavens and the earth.

Qur’ānic expressions of this kind have provoked a great deal of controversy, largely because commentators ignored the Qur’ānic syntax and leaned heavily on alien and absurd philosophies which distorted much of the clarity and simplicity of the Qur’ān.

There is authentic statements of the Prophet that explain precisely the meanings of ‘seat, chair or throne’ as used in the Qur’ān, therefore, i would rather not speculate further on their meaning.

The verse ends with two more attributes of God: “He is the Most High, the Most Great,” exalting God above all else. The Arabic words make it clear that these attributes are exclusive to God Almighty. No human being, or any other creature, could aspire to these qualities, and those who try shall be humbled and disgraced. Elsewhere in the Qur’ān, God says: “As for the [happy] life to come, We grant it exclusively to those who seek neither to exalt themselves on earth nor yet to spread corruption.” (28: 83) It also castigates Pharaoh for being “a tyrant and a transgressor” (44: 31)

No matter how powerful or great a human being may grow, he can never rise above being a servant of God. Once this fact is firmly established in man’s mind, it will enhance his status as subordinate to God and restrain his pride and transgression. He will truly fear God and appreciate His majesty and power, and will seek to be more humble towards God and less haughty in dealing with his fellow human beings.

  • { ولا يحيطون بشيء من علمه إلا بما شاء } لها معنيان؛ المعنى الأول: لا يحيطون بشيء من علم نفسه؛ أي لا يعلمون عن الله سبحانه وتعالى من أسمائه، وصفاته، وأفعاله، إلا بما شاء أن يعلمهم إياه، فيعلمونه؛ المعنى الثاني: ولا يحيطون بشيء من معلومه - أي مما يعلمه في السموات، والأرض - إلا بما شاء أن يعلمهم إياه، فيعلمونه؛  [Ibn Uthaymeen - Be the first to translate this....]

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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  • This is the only Ayat of the Qur'an which mentions the 'Kursi' of Allah.

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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  • Abu Umaamah said: “The Messenger of Allaah said: “Whoever recites Aayat al-Kursiy immediately after each prescribed prayer, there will be nothing standing between him and his entering Paradise except death.” [This is how it was narrated by al-Nasaa’i in al-Yawm wa’l-Laylah, from al-Hasan ibn Bishr. It was also narrated by Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh from Muhammad ibn Humayr, who is al-Homsi, and is also one of the men of al-Bukhaari. The isnaad meets the conditions of al-Bukhaari.]
     
  • Asmaa’ bint Yazeed ibn al-Sakan said: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say about these two aayahs (interpretation of the meanings) -- “Allah, none has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists…” (2:255) and Alif-Laam-Meem. Allah! None has the right to be worshipped but He), Al-Hayyul-Qayyoom (the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists)” (3:1-2) – that they contain the greatest name of Allah.’” [Musnad Imaam Ahmad - Abu Dawud from Musaddid and by al-Tirmidhi from ‘Ali ibn Khashram, and by Ibn Maajah from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah, all three of them narrating from ‘Eesa ibn Yoonus from ‘Ubayd-Allaah ibn Abi Ziyaad . Al-Tirmidhi said: it is saheeh hasan.]
     
  • Ibn Kathir narrates, "It was narrated from Ubayy [ibn Ka’b] that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked him which aayah in the Book of Allaah was the greatest. He said, “Allaah and His Messenger know best.” He repeated it several times, then he said, “Aayat al-Kursiy.” The Prophet [saw] said, “Congratulations upon your knowledge O Abu’l-Mundhir. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, it has a tongue and two lips, and it glorifies the Sovereign (i.e., Allaah) at the foot of the Throne.” This was also narrated by Muslim, without the phrase “By the One in Whose hand is my soul…”.

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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