Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 256
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has become distinct
the right (path)
in false deities
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
Here again, we see how a tenet of faith is immediately translated into a code of conduct in real life. Islam looks at religious faith as a matter of conviction, once the basic facts are provided and explained. Faith is never a matter of coercion or compulsion. To achieve this conviction, Islam addresses the human being in totality. It addresses the human mind and intellect, human common sense, emotions and feelings, the innermost human nature, and the whole human conscious being. It resorts to no coercive means or physical miracles that confound the mind or that are beyond human ability to rationalise and comprehend.
By the same token, Islam never seeks converts through compulsion or threats or pressure of any kind. It deploys facts, reasoning, explanation and persuasion.
In contrast, we find that Christianity, the last revealed religion before Islam, was imposed by force after Constantine, the Roman Emperor, made Christianity the official religion throughout his empire. He adopted the same brutal means his predecessors had used against Christian minorities. These were not restricted to subjects who did not convert to Christianity, but were also used against Christians who would not accept the official doctrine sanctioned by the emperor.
Islam came to declare and establish the great universal principle that: “There shall be no compulsion in religion. The right way is henceforth distinct from error.” This reflects the honour God has reserved for man and the high regard in which man’s will, thought and emotions are held, and the freedom he is granted to choose his beliefs, and the responsible position he is afforded to be judge of his own actions.
Freedom of belief is the most basic right that identifies man as a human being. To deny anyone this right is to deny him or her humanity. Freedom of belief also implies the freedom to express and propagate one’s belief without fear of threat or persecution; otherwise, that freedom is hollow and meaningless.
The sūrah reinforces the principle with a gentle, but firm, touch to arouse the human conscience and guide it along the path of enlightenment, saying simply: “The right way is henceforth distinct from error.”
The sūrah elaborates the theme further, saying: “He who rejects false deities and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a most firm support that never breaks.” It is false deities that must be rejected, while faith must be reserved for God, who alone deserves faith and trust.
The Arabic term for ‘false deities’ is ţāghūt, meaning tyranny, a word denoting anything or anyone that takes hold of the mind or suppresses the truth, or transgresses the laws and limits set by God. It refers to forces and systems that disregard the divine religious, moral, social and legal order and operate in this life on values and principles not sanctioned by God or derived from His guidance and teachings. To resist such forces, in all their manifestations, and to believe in God’s oneness is the only certain path to success and salvation.
The sūrah presents us, yet again, with another vivid image to express an abstract truth. Faith in God provides the believer with a strong and unshakeable support that guarantees him certain liberation. In its essence, faith is a recognition of the most fundamental truth, the existence of God, upon which all reality stands, and acknowledgement of the laws God has laid down for the world and by which the world exists and operates. Believers who hold to God’s Guidance are assured of never drifting away from God’s path or losing their way.
“God hears all and knows all.” He hears what is uttered and knows what is in people’s innermost souls. Those who believe in God will never be denied justice or be disappointed.
Tawhid is the Most Trustworthy Handhold - Umar [ra] said, "Jibt means magic, and Taghut means Shaytan. Verily, courage and cowardice are two instincts that appear in men, the courageous fights for those whom he does not know and the coward runs away from defending his own mother. Man's honor resides with his religion and his status is based upon his character, even if he was Persian or Nabatian." [Ibn Kathir]
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
- وَمَن يُسْلِمْ وَجْهَهُۥٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ ۗ وَإِلَى ٱللَّهِ عَٰقِبَةُ ٱلْأُمُورِ "And whoever submits his face to Allah while he is a doer of good - then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to Allah will be the outcome of [all] matters." (31:22)
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 ]
- Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said to a man, "Embrace Islam.'' The man said, "I dislike it.'' The Prophet said, "Even if you dislike it.''
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11. Tafsir Zone
Overview (Verses 256 - 257)
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 256 - 257)