Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 127

وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَٰهِۦمُ ٱلْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ ٱلْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَٰعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّآ ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْعَلِيمُ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], "Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The sūrah then goes on to paint a lively picture of Abraham and Ishmael embarking on the job of constructing the House of God and preparing it for worshippers. Not only does this vivid account take the reader right into the scene of the action, but it also surrounds him with the mood and feeling of the occasion. It was a labour of love and devotion that those two pious people undertook, dedicated to God Almighty and carried out in expectation and hope that He would accept it and be pleased with it.

We almost hear the tone and music of their prayer, and we feel the atmosphere of heart-felt appeal to God. This is a special characteristic of the Qur’ānic style which brings a scene of an event long gone as though it is taking place here and now, right in front of us. In their prayer we cannot fail to note the sort of humility, devotion and profound faith that are worthy of prophets who understand the importance of true faith in this world. Such characteristics the Qur’ān tries to teach the advocates of faith and instil it in their hearts.

’Our Lord, accept this from us; You are the One that hears all and knows all.’” Their first aim is that their labour, which is dedicated purely to God, should be accepted by Him. Hence, they offer it with humility, hoping to earn God’s pleasure through it, pinning their hopes on the fact that God listens to their prayers and knows their feelings and intentions.

Practical Implication 

  • "Our Lord, accept [this] from us..." - The Believer is ever afraid that his/her deeds will not be accepted by Allah. One must ensure that they pray to Allah to accept their deeds and actions.

How the Ka'bah was built by Ibrahim

Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Prophet Ibrahim took Isma`il and his mother and went away with them until he reached the area of the House, where he left them next to a tree above Zamzam in the upper area of the Masjid. During that time, Isma`il's mother was still nursing him. Makkah was then uninhabited, and there was no water source in it. Ibrahim left them there with a bag containing some dates and a water-skin containing water. Ibrahim then started to leave, and Isma`il's mother followed him and said, `O Ibrahim! To whom are you leaving us in this barren valley that is not inhabited' She repeated the question several times and Ibrahim did not reply. She asked, `Has Allah commanded you to do this' He said, `Yes.' She said, `I am satisfied that Allah will never abandon us.' Ibrahim left, and when he was far enough away where they could not see him, close to Thaniyyah, he faced the House, raised his hands and supplicated, ﴿رَّبَّنَآ إِنَّى أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِى بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِى زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ﴾ (O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka`bah at Makkah)) until, ﴿يَشْكُرُونَ﴾ (Give thanks) (14:37). Isma`il's mother then returned to her place, started drinking water from the water-skin and nursing Isma`il. When the water was used up, she and her son became thirsty. She looked at him, and he was suffering from thirst; she left, because she disliked seeing his face in that condition. She found the nearest mountian to where she was, As-Safa, ascended it and looked, in vain, hoping to see somebody. When she came down to the valley, she raised her garment and ran, just as a tired person runs, until she reached the Al-Marwah mountain. In vain, she looked to see if there was someone there. She ran to and fro (between the two mountains) seven times.'' Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah said, "This is why the people make the trip between As-Safa and Al-Marwah (during Hajj and Umrah).'' "When she reached Al-Marwah, she heard a voice and said, `Shush,' to herself. She tried to hear the voice again and when she did, she said, `I have heard you. Do you have relief' She found the angel digging with his heel (or his wing) where Zamzam now exists, and the water gushed out. Isma`il's mother was astonished and started digging, using her hand to transfer water to the water-skin.'' Ibn `Abbas said that the Prophet then said, "May Allah grant His mercy to the mother of Isma`il, had she left the water, (flow naturally without her intervention), it would have been flowing on the surface of the earth.'' "Isma`il's mother started drinking the water and her milk increased for her child. The angel (Gabriel) said to her, `Do not fear abandonment. There shall be a House for Allah built here by this boy and his father. Allah does not abandon His people.' During that time, the area of the House was raised above ground level and the floods used to reach its right and left sides.

Afterwards some people of the tribe of Jurhum, passing through Kada', made camp at the bottom of the valley. They saw some birds, they were astonished, and said, `Birds can only be found at a place where there is water. We did not notice before that this valley had water.' They sent a scout or two who searched the area, found the water, and returned to inform them about it. Then they all went to Isma`il's mother, next to the water, and said, `O Mother of Isma`il! Will you allow us to be with you (or dwell with you)' She said, `Yes. But you will have no exclusive right to the water here.' They said, `We agree.''' Ibn `Abbas said that the Prophet said, "At that time, Isma`il's mother liked to have human company.'' "And thus they stayed there and sent for their relatives to join them. Later on, her boy reached the age of puberty and married a lady from them, for Isma`il learned Arabic from them, and they liked the way he was raised. Isma`il's mother died after that.

Then an idea occurred to Abraham to visit his dependents. So he left (to Makkah). When he arrived, he did not find Isma`il, so he asked his wife about him. She said, `He has gone out hunting.' When he asked her about their living conditions, she complained to him that they live in misery and poverty. Abraham said (to her), `When your husband comes, convey my greeting and tell him to change the threshold of his gate.' When Isma`il came, he sensed that they had a visitor and asked his wife, `Did we have a visitor' She said, `Yes. An old man came to visit us and asked me about you, and I told him where you were. He also asked about our condition, and I told him that we live in hardship and poverty.' Isma`il said, `Did he ask you to do anything' She said, `Yes. He asked me to convey his greeting and that you should change the threshold of your gate.' Isma`il said to her, `He was my father and you are the threshold, so go to your family (i.e. you are divorced).' So he divorced her and married another woman. Again Ibrahim thought of visiting his dependents whom he had left (at Makkah). Ibrahim came to Isma`il's house, but did not find Isma`il and asked his wife, `Where is Isma`il' Isma`il's wife replied, `He has gone out hunting.' He asked her about their condition, and she said that they have a good life and praised Allah. Ibrahim asked, `What is your food and what is your drink' She replied, `Our food is meat and our drink is water.' He said, `O Allah! Bless their meat and their drink.''' The Prophet (Muhammad ) said, "They did not have crops then, otherwise Ibrahim would have invoked Allah to bless that too. Those who do not live in Makkah cannot bear eating a diet only containing meat and water.'' "Ibrahim said, `When Isma`il comes back, convey my greeting to him and ask him to keep the threshold of his gate.' When Isma`il came back, he asked, `Has anyone visited us.' She said, `Yes. A good looking old man,' and she praised Ibrahim, `And he asked me about our livelihood and I told him that we live in good conditions.' He asked, `Did he ask you to convey any message' She said, `Yes. He conveyed his greeting to you and said that you should keep the threshold of your gate.' Isma`il said, `That was my father, and you are the threshold; he commanded me to keep you.'

Ibrahim then came back visiting and found Isma`il behind the Zamzam well, next to a tree, mending his arrows. When he saw Ibrahim, he stood up and they greeted each other, just as the father and son greet each other. Ibrahim said, `O Isma`il, Your Lord has ordered me to do something.' He said, `Obey your Lord.' He asked Isma`il, `Will you help me' He said, `Yes, I will help you.' Ibrahim said, `Allah has commanded me to build a house for Him there, ' and he pointed to an area that was above ground level. So, both of them rose and started to raise the foundations of the House. Abraham started building (the Ka`bah), while Isma`il continued handing him the stones. Both of them were saying, `O our Lord ! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.' (2.127).''' Hence, they were building the House, part by part, going around it and saying, ﴿رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ﴾ (Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily, You are the Hearer, the Knower.)

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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