Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 279

فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا۟ فَأْذَنُوا۟ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ ۖ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allāh and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal - [thus] you do no wrong, nor are you wronged.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The alternative is far more gloomy. “If you do not, then war is declared against you by God and His Messenger. If you repent, however, you shall remain entitled to your principal. Thus, you shall commit no wrong, nor suffer any wrong yourselves.” What a terrifying prospect! How could the frail and powerless humans even contemplate going to war against God and His Messenger; the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Following the revelation of these verses, the Prophet instructed his governor in Makkah to use force against the wealthy clan of al-Mughīrah if they refused to cease dealing with usury. In his farewell speech in `Arafāt, about three months before his death, the Prophet also declared that all usury originating in pre-Islamic times, and still due at the time, is written off, starting with that of his own uncle al-`Abbās. This crucial step in the transition into a fully-fledged, mature Islamic life came only many years after the start of the Islamic mission, when the ideological and ethical foundations of the society were firmly established.

In that speech, the Prophet said: “Every usury gain accrued according to the un-Islamic practices of jāhiliyyah is under my feet, and I start with that of al-`Abbās.” He did not, however, order repayment of any gains made during the pre-Islamic era.

Every Muslim ruler is required to combat usury and those who pursue it, even if they declare themselves to be Muslims. The Prophet’s successor, Abū Bakr, used force to crush groups of Muslims who, following the Prophet’s death, refused to pay the zakāt they owed to the Muslim treasury, without renouncing any other precepts or obligations of Islam. A person who refuses to implement God’s law, in daily life is certainly not a Muslim.

The war that God and His Messenger are ready to wage against the perpetrators of usury is much wider in concept than the use of armed force by a worldly ruler. It is a warning of a total condemnation of all societies adopting usury as a basis for their social and economic life. It is a war affecting the psychological, economic, and emotional aspects of life. It is the social strife, acrimony and antagonism brought about by the exploitative usurious system, as well as the regional and international conflict and instability suffered in consequence by all humanity. It is a war instigated, directly or indirectly, by moneylenders and international capitalists who, like sharks, prey on corporations, businesses, industries, commerce, governments and states. Their predatory activities are the root cause of runaway inflation, high taxation, crippling international debts, recession and poverty, all of which are capable of starting wars and fuelling bloodshed and destruction all over the world. The outcome of this vicious circle of misery is economic deprivation, moral degradation, social disintegration and the inevitable collapse of human civilisation.

It is a relentless war that spares nothing, and it is currently eating into the very fabric of human society as a result of the domination of the usury-based capitalist system, even though this is registering astronomical levels of industrial production and material consumption. This unprecedented industrial and material success should have ensured man’s happiness, progress and well-being, but it has proved suffocating and destructive for all mankind, except for the small section of privileged financiers and capitalists, who are relatively unaffected by this misery and suffering.

Nevertheless, as it once called on that first community, Islam continues to call on every generation of mankind to desist from the evil of usury and adopt clean and wholesome monetary and commercial practices, assuring them that: “If you repent, however, you shall remain entitled to your principal. Thus, you shall commit no wrong nor suffer any wrong yourselves.

The objective of the persistent campaign against usury is to rid human society of this universal evil and take life back to God’s pristine way, that humanity may be spared the psychological, moral and social effects of the exploitation and injustice that inevitably set in under a usury-based socio-economic system.

  • `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said about, "And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allah and His Messenger," whoever kept dealing with Riba and did not refrain from it, then the Muslim Leader should require him to repent. If he still did not refrain from Riba, the Muslim Leader should cut off his head.'' [Quoted by Ibn Kathir]

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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