Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 207
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his own self
(is) full of Kindness
to His servants
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
By way of contrast, the sūrah presents the other type of human being: “But there is also a kind of man who would willingly sell himself, seeking God’s pleasure. God is most Compassionate to His servants.” These people are willing to dedicate their souls and bodies to God Almighty, for nothing in return other than His pleasure. It is a deal they conclude without a moment’s hesitation, desiring nothing else but divine blessing and approval.
The Arabic expression used here may be interpreted differently to give the same message. The Arabic term denoting ‘sell’ is also used to mean ‘buy’. Thus such people buy themselves by giving up all the pleasures of this world, dedicating themselves purely to God. They are ready and willing to sacrifice all worldly success and pleasure so that they may be accepted by God and admitted into the divine fold.
It portrays a type of person to be found again and again in human societies.
We have two contrasting portraits. One is that of the hypocrite, silver-tongued who is essentially brutal, ill-mannered, contentious, and corrupt. The other is that of the true believer whose whole life is dedicated to the service of God, and who has conquered the temptations of life.
These two living portraits, which reveal some extraordinary aspects of the Qur’ānic style, are for us to study and marvel at. We cannot but stand in awe of God’s inimitable power of creation, as we learn how not to be taken in by soft-spoken words or false pretences. We are directed to look deeper into the essence of things, rather than be deceived by outward appearances. The verses also draw our attention to the values and criteria, based on faith in God, which should be used to judge people.
- Ibn `Abbas, Anas, Sa`id bin Musayyib, Abu `Uthman An-Nahdi, `Ikrimah and several other scholars said that this Ayah was revealed about Suhayb bin Sinan Ar-Rumi. When Suhayb became a Muslim in Makkah and intended to migrate (to Al-Madinah), the people (Quraysh) prevented him from migrating with his money. They said that if he forfeits his property, he is free to migrate. He abandoned his money and preferred to migrate, and Allah revealed this Ayah about him. `Umar bin Khattab and several other Companions met Suhayb close to the outskirts of Al-Madinah at Al-Harrah (flat lands with black stones). They said to him, "The trade has indeed been successful.'' He answered them, "You too, may Allah never allow your trade to fail. What is the matter'' `Umar told him that Allah has revealed this Ayah (2:207) about him. It was also reported that Allah's Messenger said, "The trade has been successful, O Suhayb!''
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 ]
In his commentary on the Qur’ān, Ibn Kathīr cites several reports suggesting that this verse was revealed with reference to one of the Prophet’s Companions, Şuhayb ibn Sinān, who was of Byzantine origin. He had accepted Islam when the Prophet was still in Makkah, but when the migration to Madinah took place and he wanted to join the Muslims, the Arab unbelievers prevented him from taking his belongings and his money with him. He decided to give it all up in return for the right to leave Makkah.
He was met at the outskirts of Madinah by a group of Muslims, including `Umar ibn al-Khaţţāb, who greeted him with the words: “Well done! You have struck a profitable bargain!”
He returned the compliment, saying, “And may God make your trade always profitable. What might be the cause of your felicitations?”
They gave him the good news that a verse of the Qur’ān, a great honour, was revealed in tribute to his deal with the Arabs of Makkah.
It is also reported that the Prophet Muĥammad had commented, “Şuhayb has struck a profitable deal.”