Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 259

أَوْ كَٱلَّذِى مَرَّ عَلَىٰ قَرْيَةٍ وَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِهَا قَالَ أَنَّىٰ يُحْىِۦ هَٰذِهِ ٱللَّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۖ فَأَمَاتَهُ ٱللَّهُ مِا۟ئَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُۥ ۖ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ ۖ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ ۖ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِا۟ئَةَ عَامٍ فَٱنظُرْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ ۖ وَٱنظُرْ إِلَىٰ حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ ءَايَةً لِّلنَّاسِ ۖ وَٱنظُرْ إِلَى ٱلْعِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا ۚ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُۥ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Or [consider such an example] as the one who passed by a township which had fallen into ruin. He said, "How will Allāh bring this to life after its death?" So Allāh caused him to die for a hundred years; then He revived him. He said, "How long have you remained?" He [the man] said, "I have remained a day or part of a day." He said, "Rather, you have remained one hundred years. Look at your food and your drink; it has not changed with time. And look at your donkey; and We will make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones [of this donkey] - how We raise them and then We cover them with flesh." And when it became clear to him, he said, "I know that Allāh is over all things competent."

Qur'an Dictionary

Click word/image to view Qur'an Dictionary
Word Arabic word
(2:259:1)

(2:259:2)
ka-alladhī
like the one who
(2:259:3)
marra
passed
(2:259:4)

(2:259:5)
qaryatin
a township
(2:259:6)

(2:259:7)
khāwiyatun
(had) overturned
(2:259:8)

(2:259:9)
ʿurūshihā
its roofs
(2:259:10)
qāla
He said
(2:259:11)
annā
How
(2:259:12)
yuḥ'yī
(will) bring to life
(2:259:13)

(2:259:14)
l-lahu
Allah
(2:259:15)
baʿda
after
(2:259:16)
mawtihā
its death
(2:259:17)
fa-amātahu
Then he was made to die
(2:259:18)
l-lahu
(by) Allah
(2:259:19)
mi-ata
(for) a hundred
(2:259:20)
ʿāmin
year(s)
(2:259:21)

(2:259:22)
baʿathahu
He raised him
(2:259:23)
qāla
He said
(2:259:24)

(2:259:25)
labith'ta
(have) you remained
(2:259:26)
qāla
He said
(2:259:27)
labith'tu
I remained
(2:259:28)
yawman
(for) a day
(2:259:29)

(2:259:30)
baʿḍa
a part
(2:259:31)
yawmin
(of) a day
(2:259:32)
qāla
He said
(2:259:33)

(2:259:34)
labith'ta
you (have) remained
(2:259:35)
mi-ata
one hundred
(2:259:36)
ʿāmin
year(s)
(2:259:37)
fa-unẓur
Then look
(2:259:38)
ilā
at
(2:259:39)
ṭaʿāmika
your food
(2:259:40)
washarābika
and your drink
(2:259:41)

(2:259:42)
yatasannah
change with time
(2:259:43)
wa-unẓur
and look
(2:259:44)
ilā
at
(2:259:45)
ḥimārika
your donkey
(2:259:46)
walinajʿalaka
and We will make you
(2:259:47)
āyatan
a sign
(2:259:48)
lilnnāsi
for the people
(2:259:49)
wa-unẓur
And look
(2:259:50)
ilā
at
(2:259:51)
l-ʿiẓāmi
the bones
(2:259:52)
kayfa
how
(2:259:53)
nunshizuhā
We raise them
(2:259:54)

(2:259:55)
naksūhā
We cover them
(2:259:56)
laḥman
(with) flesh
(2:259:57)

(2:259:58)
tabayyana
became clear
(2:259:59)

(2:259:60)
qāla
he said
(2:259:61)
aʿlamu
I know
(2:259:62)

(2:259:63)
l-laha
Allah
(2:259:64)

(2:259:65)
kulli
every
(2:259:66)
shayin
thing
(2:259:67)
qadīrun
All-Powerful

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Still on the subject of the miraculous nature of life and death, the sūrah relates another brief tale. Again, the Qur’ān does not give details of the identity of the man or the ruined township because such details add little to the significance and impact of the story. Were these necessary, they would not have been omitted in the Qur’ān. Despite the absence of detail, however, the scene comes to life and stirs the imagination with great clarity and power. It is a scene of death, desolation and destruction; a town in ruins, with walls and columns caved in on their foundations, the effect of which is eloquently expressed in the man’s incredulity as he exclaims: “How can God bring this town back to life now that it is dead?"

The man is perfectly aware of God’s presence, but the impact of that scene of devastation is so powerful that he wonders in disbelief how life could ever be returned to that rubble. It is a most evocative and moving impression which the
 
Qur’ān, in its inimitable style, depicts with eloquence and awesome brilliance. The man was not given a rational argument as to how a dead body could be brought to life again, but was himself made to undergo that experience. Such a personal direct approach is often more effective than any logical or visible demonstration. It involves one’s senses, emotions and feelings. Its impact is sharp and overwhelming.

While he was dead, the man naturally lost all sense of time and could not tell how long he had been in that state. This is easy to understand, since human beings can misjudge things even when they are in control of their senses. Our material senses are not the only or the most accurate means of perception.

God said: “No. You have remained thus for a hundred years.” But the man had no way of telling. His provisions remained in good condition.

And look at your donkey. We will make you a sign for mankind. Look you at the bones, how We put them up and then clothe them with flesh.” Which bones are referred to here: the man’s own bones, as some commentators maintain? Had it been so, he would have immediately noticed, and would not have thought that he remained in that state for only a few hours or a day. Therefore, we are inclined to uphold the view that the reference here is to the bones of the donkey whose gathering together and covering with flesh, before the man’s own eyes, was a compelling sign of God’s power. The fact that the man, the donkey, and the provisions were affected in different ways under the same physical and environmental conditions is another sign of that absolute, limitless and unrestricted divine power. Thus the man was made to understand how God could bring that desolate town back to life again.

As to how this miracle was achieved, the answer is: in the same way as every other miracle, including the creation of life itself, which we often tend to overlook, forgetting how totally ignorant we are of its reality. All we know is that life comes from God, in the way He wills it to be.

Human beings fall into grave error when they apply human rational or ‘scientific’ assumptions to God Almighty or His actions, for a number of reasons. How can God or His actions be subjected to laws based on man’s limited knowledge and experience, and on his imperfect understanding and interpretation of that experience? Even if we assume that the laws man has discovered are final and conclusive, how can we be certain that they are the ultimate and overriding truth? The absolute divine power of God creates laws but is not restricted by them. It is completely free to decide.

We learn from this passage that in addition to granting life and causing death, God’s power and will are absolute. The Qur’ān lays particular emphasis on this fact and seeks to instil it in the hearts of believers in order to refer them directly to God, whom they should seek beyond the visible material world. The man in our present story had come to the right conclusion when he said: “I know now that God has power over all things.

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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