Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 29

هُوَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَسَوَّىٰهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَٰوَٰتٍ ۚ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This is complemented by another powerful affirmation: “It is He who created for you all that is on earth. He then turned to heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens. He has knowledge of all things.”

Commentators and scholars have spoken at length about the origin and creation of the heavens and the earth. They have spoken about the order in which various parts of the universe were created. They have delved deep into the possible ways in which God could have ‘turned’ to heaven and ‘fashioned’ it. However, they overlook the fact that such dimensions of time and space are meaningless in relation to God. These are linguistic terms used to bring infinite concepts into the sphere of our finite minds. Endless disputes have periodically erupted among Muslim scholars about these and similar terms, over many centuries. These are part of the unfortunate legacy of Greek philosophy and Jewish and Christian theological and scholastic arguments that had crept into Arabic and Islamic thought and theology. Today, we would be better advised to avoid engaging in such futile debates, which can only mar the clarity of faith and destroy the beauty of the Qur’ān.

We should, therefore, look for those facts, ideas and concepts that lie beyond these Qur’ānic expressions and relate to the creation of all that is on the earth for the benefit of man. Let us look into the purpose of human existence and man’s great role on this earth, and its value in the sight of God. What value does Islam attach to human beings, and what role does it assign to them in the social system?

It is He who created for you all that is on earth.” The key words in this sentence are “for you”. They explicitly assert that God created man for a momentous and important purpose, placing him in charge of the earth’s affairs: to own it and to play an effective part in it.

Man is the master of this expansive earthly realm, and his role in its development and well-being is the most crucial of all. Man is the master on earth, and he is the master of the tools that are available to him on it. He cannot become a slave to these tools, as he is perceived to be by modern materialistic thinking. Nor is he subservient to, or dependent on, the changes or developments brought about by technology and their influence on human relations and societies, as materialists today would have us believe. Such thinking belittles man’s role, lowers his status in the world, and renders him inferior to machines instead of being their master.

No material value should ever supersede human values, or subjugate or dominate man. Any cause that aims to depreciate man’s worth is anti-human, no matter how much material advantage it achieves. Man’s dignity and integrity override all material values and ideals, which are of secondary importance.

The grace and honour implied in these verses, of which God reminds mankind, even while He denounces their rejection of Him, are not only reflected in the fact that He has provided them with all that is on earth, but also that He has appointed man its master and set him above everything else on it. This honour is represented by the fact that man has been delegated by God to rule over the earth.

He then turned to heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens.” This can only be interpreted in the sense that God has total control over everything, and with Him rests the will and decision of creating and shaping things. There is no need to dwell on the precise meaning, shape or dimensions of the ‘seven heavens’ referred to here. It is sufficient to point out the overall import of the text as outlined above.

He has knowledge of all things.” He is the Creator of everything and has control over all things. God’s omniscience and omnipotence are strong incentives for man to believe in Him, acknowledge His favours and worship Him alone.

This brings us to the end of the first section of the sūrah, which has focused mainly on belief in God and on urging mankind to join the ranks of God-fearing believers.

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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