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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 10 (Verses 83 to 86)



Section/Ruku 10 [Verses 83 to 86]: Their Covenant and its Violation:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

83 And when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel:
a You shall serve none but Allah.b And do good to (your) parents,c and to the near of kin and to orphans and the needy,d and speak good (words)e to (all) men, and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate.f Then you turned back except a few of you, and you are averse.

84 And when We made a covenant with you: You shall not shed your blood, nor turn your people out of your cities; then you promised and you bear witness.a

85 Yet you it is who would slay your people and turn a party from among you out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits.a And if they should come to you as captives you would ransom them, whereas their turning out itself was unlawful for you.b Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other? What then is the reward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of Resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous chastisement. And Allah is not heedless of what you do.

86 These are they who buy the life of this world for the Hereafter, so their chastisement shall not be lightened, nor shall they be helped.

 2. Commentary:

83a. Allah’s making a covenant with a people signifies His giving commandments to them. Compare Deut. 4:13: “And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform.” [Back to verse 83]

83b. Compare Exod. 20:3: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”, and Exod. 23:25: “And ye shall serve the Lord your God”, and various other places. [Back to verse 83]

83c. Compare Exod. 20:12, and Deut. 5:16: “Honour thy father and thy mother.” [Back to verse 83]

83d. Compare Deut. 15:11: “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” [Back to verse 83]

83e. The word qaul (speaking) is used to express all kinds of deeds (N), and hence the speaking of good words to all stands for kind dealing with all. [Back to verse 83]

83f. Prayer and zakat as enjoined on the Israelites differed from the Islamic prayer and zakat in details. The directions regarding poor-rate among the Israelites are contained in Deut. 14:28, 29: “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates. And the Levite (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee), and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.” [Back to verse 83]

84a. The previous verse speaks of a covenant with the Children of Israel while this one speaks of a covenant with you. The reference here is to the important treaty of mutual obligation in writing which the Holy Prophet entered into with the Jews when he settled at Madinah. By this treaty the Muslims and the Jews were bound not only not to turn their hands against each other but also to defend one another against a common enemy. In fact, this treaty aimed at a perfect union among the discordant elements of the population of Madinah. I quote a few clauses of this treaty: “Whosoever is rebellious or seeketh to spread enmity and sedition, the hand of every man shall be against him, even if he be a son ... Whosoever of the Jews followeth us shall have aid and succour; they shall not be injured, nor shall any enemy be aided against them ... The Jewish clans in alliance with the several tribes of Madinah are one people with the believers. ... The Jews will profess their religion, the Muslims theirs. As with the Jews so with their adherents. No one shall go forth to war excepting with the permission of Muhammad, but this shall not hinder any from seeking lawful revenge. The Jews shall be responsible for their expenditure, the Muslims for theirs; but if attacked, each shall come to the assistance of the other. Madinah shall be sacred and inviolable for all that join this treaty. Controversies and disputes shall be referred to the decision of God and His Prophet. None shall join the men of Makkah or their allies, for verily the engaging parties are bound together against every one that shall threaten Madinah. War and peace shall be made in common” (IH-Muir). [Back to verse 84]

85a. There is a prophetic reference here to the Jewish attitude towards the Muslims later on when they secretly made an alliance with the Quraish who attacked Madinah. Thus in a later surah: “And He drove down those of the People of the Book who backed them (i.e. the Quraish), from their fortresses” (33:26). The reference here is to the Bani Quraizah, who were in alliance with the Prophet, but when the Quraish attacked Madinah, which, under the treaty, they were bound to repel, they secretly sided with the invading army; see 33:26a. Under the treaty, the Muslims and the Jews were one people and hence they are spoken of, in the opening words of the verse, as slaying their own people. The two Jewish tribes, the Qainuqa‘ and the Bani Nadir, were also guilty of intriguing with the enemy and violating the treaty. [Back to verse 85]

85b. The reference in these words is to the terms of the original treaty under which the Jews were bound to ransom the Muslims if they were made captives by an enemy. They did not openly repudiate the treaty but intrigued with the enemy to turn the Muslims out of Madinah. The reference in believing in a part of the book and disbelieving in the other is to this conduct of the Jews. Most commentators, however, understand that the reference here is to the alliance which the two Jewish tribes, Quraizah and Nadir, living side by side at Madinah, had made with Aus and Khazraj, the two rival tribes of Madinah respectively. When the latter fought against each other, their allies took part in the fighting, and thus one Jewish tribe slaughtered and imprisoned the other and laid waste their habitations, but afterwards collected subscriptions for the release of the Jewish prisoners, on the ground that the law commanded them to redeem the prisoners and they fought against their co-religionists for the honour of their allies. The punishment or disgrace which they are threatened with at the end of the verse was witnessed by all the three Jewish tribes of Madinah, the Qainuqa‘, the Nadir, and the Quraizah, on account of their violation of the treaty, and making secret alliances with the enemies of Islam in the hope that they would succeed in turning the Muslims out of Madinah. [Back to verse 85]



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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 10 (Verses 83 to 86)

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