Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 277
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1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
In contrast to the preceding example of disbelief and wrongdoing, the sūrah presents the case of faith and righteousness, highlighting the essential attributes of the community of believers and the basis of the economic system which disavows usury and has the firm foundation of the important institution of zakāt. The main element in this verse is that of zakāt which denotes giving willingly, expecting nothing from any human being in return. The verse also introduces a feature of the community of believers and one of its important pillars, before it goes on to describe the total reassurance, tranquillity and happiness such a community enjoys.
The institution of zakāt represents the foundation of a caring, sympathetic and supportive society, which has no cause to resort to usury in any aspect of its life. The image of zakāt has faded somewhat in the minds of those unfortunate generations of Muslims who have had no experience of life under Islam. They have not seen Islamic laws, ethics and principles shaping the daily lives of people, and creating a healthy, virtuous, decent society. They have had no experience of how zakāt works in practical terms to bring about economic growth and prosperity as a reward for individual diligence and honest cooperation.
These generations have become accustomed to the odious effects of the materialist usurious system, which promotes greed, unashamed self- interest and social antagonism. They have come to accept that economic and commercial life cannot be run without usury, although under this system, the transfer of wealth is often accompanied by exploitation, while people who have no money have no security in life, and industry and commerce become hostages to the moneylenders.
To contemporary eyes, zakāt appears as an outdated form of charity that does not fit into modern economic or financial systems. Yet zakāt is paid out by people educated by Islam to implement Islamic laws and regulations, and to establish a system that can hardly be imagined by those who have never experienced it. Zakāt is levied by Muslim authorities at the yearly rate of 2.5 per cent on liquid money (or 5-10 per cent on crops, and 20 per cent on mineral resources), as an incumbent duty rather than optional charity. The authorities then distribute the proceeds among those in need in the community as widely as possible, in order for the beneficiaries to meet their basic necessities and alleviate their hardships. Debtors who are insolvent are helped with zakāt money to settle their debts, whether these are personal or commercial. Poor people are helped to find appropriate work that makes them self-sufficient.
The form in which such a system operates is of secondary importance: what is important is the spirit in which the system and society come together and function as a whole to bring about genuine care and effective social welfare.
God promises those who conduct themselves according to the ethics and principles of faith, in submission to the divine will and in a spirit of cooperation, that they “shall have their reward with their Lord. They shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve.”
On the other hand, God threatens the advocates of usury that theft will live in fear, confusion, and insecurity, and that their society were to disintegrate. History has witnessed the benefits of the Islamic, non-usury system and its results in human society. It is today witnessing the disastrous and oppressive effects of the usury-based system that forms the core of contemporary civilisation. We Muslims only wish we could make others see the force of our argument against the evils of usury, but all we can do is present the facts and hope that people will listen and heed our warnings and advice.
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]