Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 282
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
Let us now take a closer look at the principles that Islam establishes with respect to loans: “Believers, when you contract a debt for a fixed term, put it in writing, and let a scribe write it down for you with fairness.”
The general rule, therefore, is that details of all fixed-term loans must be in writing, for reasons that will become clear later, and that a third party must do the recording in order to ensure total impartiality and fairness. The writer is required to record the agreed terms of the loan faithfully, without interference, bias or prejudice. He is obliged to do his job fully and competently as a duty to God who has blessed him with the ability to write, and for which he will be appropriately rewarded: “No scribe shall refuse to write as God has taught him. So he shall write.”
Having established that the terms of loans should be committed to writing by an independent document writer, the sūrah goes on to explain how the writing should be carried out: “... and let the one who incurs the liability i.e. the debtor] dictate; and [in so doing] let him be conscious of God his Lord and not diminish anything of it. If he who incurs the liability is weak of mind or body, or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate with fairness.”
The party incurring the liability, the borrower, is the one to dictate to the writer, acknowledging the amount borrowed and his commitment to the terms and conditions of the loan, as a safeguard against any injustice to him. As the weaker party to the transaction, he would be less liable to alter the terms and conditions. This would reinforce the borrower’s commitment to the liability. For, were the creditor to dictate, there would be no guarantee that he might not tamper with the terms and conditions of the loan to his advantage. Furthermore, the sūrah appeals to the borrower’s conscience to be scrupulous and faithful in dictating the terms of the loan. It goes on to advise that if the borrower is feeble-minded, under age, or unable to dictate through ignorance or an impediment of speech, or any other reason, his guardian, attorney or trustee, may do so on his behalf, showing the same, if not greater, scrupulous fairness.
The sūrah gives detailed instructions concerning the witnessing of the contract: “Call in two of your men to act as witnesses, but if two men are not available, then a man and two women, whom you consider acceptable as witnesses, so that if either of them should make a mistake, the other will remind her.”
For the contract to be valid, it must be witnessed by two men or, if these are not readily available, one man and two women, all of whom should be of good standing in the community and deemed “acceptable as witnesses” by both parties. The reason for recommending men witnesses in the first instance is that, in a Muslim society, the majority of marketplace attendants are normally men, since women, generally, do not have to seek work to earn a living and their main preoccupation is the family home and the raising of society’s new generation. Nevertheless, if two men cannot be found to witness a contract, a man and two women will do. But why two women? Since this is a legal matter, the sūrah does not leave the answer to speculation; and explains: “... so that if either of them should make a mistake, the other will remind her.”
Such a mistake may occur for a number of reasons, such as lack of experience or knowledge, or failure to understand the subject matter or the ramifications of the contract. A woman’s impulsive nature tends to make her impressionable and more easily influenced or swayed. This emotional, sympathetic nature is necessary and, indeed, advantageous for women in their role as mothers. Human nature being indivisible, it would be present whenever women are called upon to witness or judge anything requiring deliberation, reflection and strict impartiality. Having two women rather than one, provides a greater assurance that they will balance each other and provide an objective testimony.
The sūrah calls on people not to refuse to act as witnesses if invited to do so, as it did with the writer earlier, saying: “Witnesses must not refuse when they are called in.” It is an obligation, rather than a privilege, because it is a means of establishing justice and preserving rights. Witnesses must carry out their duty willingly, honestly and without any condescension or deference towards either of the parties.
The sūrah moves on to another, more general, aspect of legal and business transactions: “Do not be averse to writing down debts, be they small or great, together with the time when they fall due; that is more equitable in the sight of God and lends greater credence to the testimony and is more likely to spare you any doubt.”
The text displays a remarkable perception of human nature, as people are often inclined to judge that certain small debt transactions are not worth writing down, but the sūrah stresses the fact that recording all debt transactions is seen by God as preferable and more fair. A written contract gives greater force to the testimony of the witnesses, since a written statement carries more weight than one based totally on memory, and it “is more likely to spare you any doubt”. Thus, the wisdom underlying these instructions becomes clear and they appear more convincing, practical and reassuring.
In spot trading, executed immediately and frequently, there is no need for writing dawn the details and the mere presence of witnesses will suffice: “In the case of a commercial deal transacted on the spot, you shall incur no sin by not writing it down. Have witnesses when you make business deals.”
At face value, the statement seems to allow the concession of not recording spot transactions while making it a condition that witnesses should be present; but, according to some considered opinion, the latter is strongly recommended rather than obligatory. Nevertheless, the weightier view is that witnesses are necessary for spot trading as well.
The sūrah proceeds to specify the rights of contract writers and witnesses, assuring them of the protection they deserve: “But let no harm be suffered by scribe or witness; if you do [harm them], that is sinful on your part. Have fear of God, for it is God who teaches you. God has knowledge of all things.”
Scribes and witnesses should come to no harm in the course of fulfilling their obligations towards God, and any wrongdoing they may suffer would be a gross violation of God’s law. This is a necessary precaution, for scribes and witnesses often incur the displeasure of one or the other of the contracting parties and must, therefore, be protected and reassured so that they fulfil their obligations fairly, honestly and with absolute objectivity.
Finally the sūrah, in keeping with the Qur’ānic way of igniting the inner powers of the human conscience, calls on believers to fear God and reminds them of His grace and favour in giving them knowledge and understanding, so that they may conduct their affairs in accordance with His will and guidance: “Have fear of God, for it is God who teaches you. God has knowledge of all things.”
- وعد من الله تعالى بأن من اتقاه علّمه؛ أي: يجعل في قلبه نوراً يفهم به ما يُلقى إليه، وقد يجعل الله في قلبه ابتداء فرقاناً؛ أي: فيصلاً يفصل به بين الحق والباطل . القرطبي: 4/464 [Be the first to translate this....]
- تقوى الله هي السبب الأول للعلم، ﴿ ۗ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ۖ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ ٱللَّهُ ۗ [Be the first to translate this....]
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
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 ]
The Messenger of Allah said, 'Whoever pays money in advance (for dates to be delivered later) should pay it for known specified measure and weight (of the dates) for a specified date. [Muslim & Bukhari]
- The Prophet said, 'Whoever kept knowledge to himself will be restrained by a bridle made of fire on the Day of Resurrection.' [Ibn Kathir]
- The Messenger of Allah said, 'O women! Give away charity and ask for forgiveness, for I saw that you comprise the majority of the people of the Fire. [Muslim]
- One eloquent woman said, "O Messenger of Allah! Why do we comprise the majority of the people of the Fire'' He said, (You curse a lot and you do not appreciate your mate. I have never seen those who have shortcoming in mind and religion controlling those who have sound minds, other than you.) She said, "O Messenger of Allah! What is this shortcoming in mind and religion'' He said, 'As for the shortcoming in her mind, the testimony of two women equals the testimony of one man, and this is the shortcoming in the mind. As for the shortcoming in the religion, woman remains for nights at a time when she does not pray and breaks the fast in Ramadan' [Ibn Kathir]
- The bedouin man said to the Prophet , "If you want to buy this horse, then buy it or I will sell it to someone else.'' When he heard the bedouin man's words, the Prophet stood up and said, "Have I not bought that horse from you'' The bedouin said, "By Allah! I have not sold it to you.'' The Prophet said, "Rather, I did buy it from you.'' The people gathered around the Prophet and the Bedouin while they were disputing, and the bedouin said, "Bring forth a witness who testifies that I sold you the horse.'' Meanwhile, the Muslims who came said to the bedouin, "Woe to you! The Prophet only says the truth.'' When Khuzaymah bin Thabit came and heard the dispute between the Prophet and the bedouin who was saying, "Bring forth a witness who testifies that I sold you the horse, '' Khuzaymah said, "I bear witness that you sold him the horse.'' The Prophet said to Khuzaymah, "What is the basis of your testimony'' Khuzaymah said, "That I entrusted you, O Messenger of Allah!'' Therefore, the Messenger made Khuzaymah's testimony equal to the testimony of two men. [Abu Dawud and An-Nasa]