Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 26

۞ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحْىِۦٓ أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ ٱلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَآ أَرَادَ ٱللَّهُ بِهَٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِۦ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِى بِهِۦ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِۦٓ إِلَّا ٱلْفَٰسِقِينَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Indeed, Allāh is not timid to present an example - that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, "What did Allāh intend by this as an example?" He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note
 
At this point the sūrah speaks of the Qur’ānic use of parables. Earlier in the sūrah, the hypocrites were shown in derogatory situations. They also realised that the Qur’ān uses parables referring to insignificant creatures. One of these compares unbelievers to spiders: “Those who take beings other than God for their protectors are like a spider which makes for itself a house. The frailest of all houses is the spider’s house. Could they only understand.” (29: 41) Similarly the Qur’ān cites a parable showing the powerlessness of their false deities: “Mankind/ An aphorism is set forth; hearken, then, to it. Those beings whom you invoke instead of God cannot create a fly, even though they were to join all their forces to that end. If a fly robs them of anything, they cannot rescue it from him! Weak indeed is the seeker, and weak the sought!” (22: 73)
 
This passage suggests that the hypocrites in Madinah, and probably the Jews and the polytheists, were, in their clumsy and confused campaign against Islam, trying to exploit such use of parables to raise doubts about the Qur’ān’s divine origins, claiming that God would not speak about such insignificant creatures as spiders and flies. They thus hoped to undermine the authority and authenticity of the Qur’ān. These verses serve to refute that argument and explain the wisdom underlying the use of such parables, while warning unbelievers against taking up such a line of argument and reassuring believers that they will strengthen their faith.

God does not disdain to give a parable of a gnat, or a higher creature.” God is the Lord of all creatures, big and small. Every single creature, regardless of shape or size, is a marvel to behold, embodying the greatest secret of life, which is known only to God. Besides, parables are used to explain and illustrate concepts and ideas, and the size or shape of their subjects is irrelevant; in no case should they be slighted or scoffed at. Moreover, God, in His infinite wisdom, makes use of such parables to assess and test people’s faith. “Those who believe know that it is the truth from their Lord...

Since they believe in God, they accept what He sends with the reverence that is due to Him and with respect for His wisdom, which they do not question. The faith He bestowed upon them enlightens believers’ hearts, enhances their spirits, opens their minds, brings them closer to God and makes them more sensitive and receptive to what they receive from Him. “While the unbelievers ask, ‘What could God mean by such a parable?’” Apart from being an impertinent and inappropriate question, this reveals the unbelievers’ ignorance and their exclusion from God’s light and guidance. They have no reverence for God and no trust in His revelations.
 
Accordingly, the answer comes in the form of a swift warning: “In this way, God lets many go astray and gives guidance to many others, but none does He leave to go astray except the evildoers.” God tests people in various ways and with varying degrees of difficulty and rigour, but the effect is not the same. Ordeals and tribulations can only bring a believer much closer to God and enhance his God-fearing sense and his submission to Him, while they will shake and confound an unbeliever or a hypocrite. It is the same with prosperity and good fortune. A believer will become more conscious of, and thankful to God, while an unbeliever or a hypocrite will grow more arrogant, inconsiderate and irresponsible. Thus parables are used by God to test people’s faith, so that “In this way, God lets many go astray and gives guidance to many others, but none does He leave to go astray except the evildoers.” In consequence of their attitudes and actions, the evildoers are given even more freedom to pursue the route they have chosen for themselves.

  • ذم لمن يضل به؛ فإنه فاسق، ليس أنه كان فاسقا قبل ذلك؛ ولهذا تأولها سعد بن أبي وقاص في الخوارج، وسماهم «فاسقين» لأنهم ضلوا بالقرآن؛ فمن ضل بالقرآن فهو فاسق. ابن تيمية: 1/178 [Be first to translate this...]
  • أي: ببركة اعتقادهم الخير، وتسليمهم له الأمر، يهديهم ربهم بإيمانهم؛ فيفهمهم المراد منه، ويشرح صدورهم لما فيه من المعارف؛ فيزيدهم به إيماناً وطمأنينة وإيقانا. والمهديون كثير في الواقع، قليل بالنسبة إلى الضالين. البقاعي: 1/77 [Be first to translate this...]
  •  المؤمن إذا جاءه أمر عن الله تعالى قابله بالتسليم والامتثال، وأما المنافق فيكثر الجدال بقصد إبطاله، ﴿ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ ٱلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَآ أَرَادَ ٱللَّهُ بِهَٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ 
    الإيمان يكسب صاحبه فراسة يعرف بها الحق من الباطل، [Be first to translate this...]
     

2. Linguistic Analysis

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  • Daraba mathalan (Striking an example) = striking/hitting something which causes the attention of people.


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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  • The Prophet Muhammad [saw] said, إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْفَعُ بِهَذَا الْكِتَابِ أَقْوَامًا وَيَضَعُ بِهِ آخَرِينَ  “Indeed Allah, through this Book, raises some peoples and lowers others.[Muslim no. 996 - صحيح [Sahih]

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12. External Links

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