Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 61

وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ يَٰمُوسَىٰ لَن نَّصْبِرَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامٍ وَٰحِدٍ فَٱدْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُخْرِجْ لَنَا مِمَّا تُنۢبِتُ ٱلْأَرْضُ مِنۢ بَقْلِهَا وَقِثَّآئِهَا وَفُومِهَا وَعَدَسِهَا وَبَصَلِهَا ۖ قَالَ أَتَسْتَبْدِلُونَ ٱلَّذِى هُوَ أَدْنَىٰ بِٱلَّذِى هُوَ خَيْرٌ ۚ ٱهْبِطُوا۟ مِصْرًا فَإِنَّ لَكُم مَّا سَأَلْتُمْ ۗ وَضُرِبَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلذِّلَّةُ وَٱلْمَسْكَنَةُ وَبَآءُو بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ ۗ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا۟ يَكْفُرُونَ بِـَٔايَٰتِ ٱللَّهِ وَيَقْتُلُونَ ٱلنَّبِيِّۦنَ بِغَيْرِ ٱلْحَقِّ ۗ ذَٰلِكَ بِمَا عَصَوا۟ وَّكَانُوا۟ يَعْتَدُونَ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And [recall] when you said, "O Moses, we can never endure one [kind of] food. So call upon your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions." [Moses] said, "Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into [any] settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked." And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allāh [upon them]. That was because they [repeatedly] disbelieved in the signs of Allāh and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing.

Qur'an Dictionary

Click word/image to view Qur'an Dictionary
Word Arabic word
And when
you said


we endure

(of) one (kind)
so pray

(to) your Lord
to bring forth


the earth

its herbs
[and] its cucumbers
[and] its garlic
[and] its lentils
and its onions
He said
Would you exchange
that which

(is) inferior
for that which

(is) better
(to) a city



you have asked (for)
And were struck

the humiliation
and the misery
and they drew on themselves



used to
in (the) Signs
(of) Allah
and kill
the Prophets
without (any)
[the] right


they disobeyed
and they were

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The Qur’ān reminds the Jews of Madinah of what their forefathers had asked of Moses and addresses the early Israelites, saying: “[And remember] when you said, Moses! We can no longer put up with one kind of food. Pray to your Lord, then, to bring forth for us some of what the earth produces of green herbs, cucumber, garlic, lentils and onions.’ He said, ‘Would you take a lesser thing in exchange for what is much better? Go down to any land and you shall have what you asked for.’ Ignominy and humiliation were stamped upon them and they incurred the wrath of God, because they denied His revelations and slew prophets against all right, and because they persisted in their disobedience and transgression.

It is clear that Moses himself was aghast at their ignoble demands. His response was that what they were asking for was worthless and could be found anywhere. In its Arabic form, Moses’s response could be interpreted in one of two ways. It could mean that their request is so mundane and available everywhere. So wherever they wish to stay, they could find what they asked for. Alternatively, Moses is telling them to go back to Egypt and resume their servile, humble, humdrum life where they can have their cucumber, lentils, garlic and onion. They would not, it seems, be strong enough for the great and noble task God had called on them to undertake.

Contrary to some commentators, I favour this second meaning because it reminds the Israelites of their misery and humiliation in Egypt, as it says: “Ignominy and humiliation were stamped upon them and they incurred the wrath of God.” Historically, this came later as a result of their disbelief in God’s revelations, their killing of some of their prophets, and their general disobedience. These developments occurred several generations after Moses, but “ignominy and humiliation” are mentioned here because they fit the context of their condescension and insolence. Moses reminded them of the suffering and the distress they had undergone in Egypt and of God’s kindness in delivering them from the Pharaoh.

  • Any group or nation that is subject to continuous injustice will eventually become comfortable and accustomed to a state of subjugation. if the period of injustice is extended, this will become a quality ingrained in the heart, in-fused in the character and mindset, deeply.

  •  It's reported in Exodus 16:3 that the Children of Israel said to Moses and Aaron: “If only we had died by the Lord's Hand in Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 

  • When Moses left them for a few days to converse with his Lord, they took the ornaments of Pharaoh they'd been carrying and constructed a golden calf that they proceeded to worship! This is how much veneration they had in their hearts for the very masters who had enslaved them. So, while they had been freed physically, they were still very much enslaved and subjugated psychologically.

  • The first way to revive and rejuvenate a person or group or nation that’s been subject to injustice and oppression is to bring about a new character and mindset that is free, independent, and based on honour - what we can call an ‘uncolonised mind’ - and combine that personality with knowledge of the Shar’iah and the application of that knowledge, in that order.

  • They started with disobedience and transgression, and ended with the killing of Prophets and disbelief in the signs of Allāh.

  • فيه تهديد لهذه الأمة بما غلب على أهل الدنيا منهم من مثل أحوالهم باستبدال الأدنى في المعنى من الحرام والمتشابه بالأعلى من الطيب. البقاعي: 1/149 [Be first to translate this....]

  • ومعنى لزوم الذلة والمسكنة لليهود أنهم فقدوا البأس والشجاعة، وبدا عليهم سيما الفقر والحاجة مع وفرة ما أنعم الله عليهم؛ فإنهم لما سئموها صارت لديهم كالعدم، ولذلك صار الحرص لهم سجية باقية في أعقابهم. ابن عاشور: 1/528 [Be first to translate this....]

2. Linguistic Analysis

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iHbitoo – Habata = come Down.
Metaphoricaly/Figuratively: This is used to humiliate another, that you were on a higher standing position before, so descend and go lower.

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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