Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 41

وَءَامِنُوا۟ بِمَآ أَنزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا مَعَكُمْ وَلَا تَكُونُوٓا۟ أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍۭ بِهِۦ ۖ وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا۟ بِـَٔايَٰتِى ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا وَإِيَّٰىَ فَٱتَّقُونِ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And believe in what I have sent down confirming that which is [already] with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And do not exchange My signs for a small price, and fear [only] Me.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

In fulfilment of this covenant, God calls on the Israelites to fear Him alone, and to believe in and accept what He has revealed to His Messenger, Muĥammad, confirming and endorsing their own Scriptures. They are urged not to hasten into rejecting it but to be among the first to believe in it: “Believe in what I have revealed, confirming that which you already have, and be not the first to reject it.

Islam, as propounded by Prophet Muĥammad, was no more than God’s one eternal religion given its final form. It is a continuation of the same message and the complement of the covenant God made with man in the beginning. It embraces past revelations and provides guidance for mankind in future generations. It brings together the Torah of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament, and adds what is required to lead mankind to further prosperity, unity and progress. Its aim has been to achieve the true brotherhood of man, eliminate racial and ethnic divisions and discrimination, and unite humanity in its submission to God under the covenant with Him.

God warns the Israelites against rejecting His final message in pursuit of temporal gain or narrow interests, such as the privileges and the status enjoyed by the rabbis through their religious function in the community: “Do not barter away My revelations for a paltry price, and fear Me alone.

Money, wealth and worldly aggrandisement have been the delight of the Jews since their early days. This verse could be referring to the fees and taxes imposed on ordinary Jews by their rabbis and clerics in return for religious services. These people were known, as stated elsewhere in the Qur’ān, to have had a monopoly on the interpretation of the Scriptures which enabled them to issue biased and tendentious rulings favouring the rich and powerful. To maintain this monopoly, Jewish elders and religious leaders would be inclined to urge their people to reject Islam and refuse to recognise it. Commenting on this verse, some companions of the Prophet and later scholars have pointed out that when compared to belief in God’s revelations and the promised rewards of the hereafter, the world and all its treasures are worthless.

  • أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ   do not become the first among the Children of Israel to disbelieve in it, for there were people from Quraysh and the Arabs in general who rejected Prophet Muhammad before the People of the Book disbelieved in him. It should be stated here that the Ayah is talking about the Children of Israel in specific, because the Jews in Madinah were the first among the Children of Israel to be addressed by the Qur'an. [Ibn Kathir]
  • مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا – There are many prophecies in the Old and New testament – examples – Abraham, Genesis, Ismail, great Nation, Paran, Musa final speech, Paran and 10,000 followers [expansion needed]
  • وهذه الآية وإن كانت خاصة ببني إسرائيل فهي تتناول من فعل فعلهم؛ فمن أخذ رشوة على تغيير حق أو إبطاله، أو امتنع من تعليم ما وجب عليه، أو أداء ما علمه –وقد تعيَّن عليه- حتى يأخذ عليه أجراً ؛ فقد دخل في مقتضى الآية. القرطبي: 2/11.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Wa Aaminoo – and come to believe..
Wa iyyaaya fattaqoon – and fear only, only Me.

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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  • مَنْ تَعَلَّمَ عِلْمًا مِمَّا يُبْتَغَى بِهِ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لاَ يَتَعَلَّمُهُ إِلاَّ لِيُصِيبَ بِهِ عَرَضًا مِنَ الدُّنْيَا لَمْ يَجِدْ عَرْفَ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ  The Prophet (ﷺ) said: "If anyone acquires knowledge that should be sought seeking the Face of Allah, but he acquires it only to get some worldly advantage, he will not experience the arf, i.e. the fragrance, of Paradise." Sunan Abi Dawud 3664

10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone


12. External Links

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