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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 11 (Verses 104 to 112)



Section/Ruku 11 [Verses 87 to 96]: They Reject the Prophet:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

87 And We indeed gave Moses the Book and We sent messengers after him one after another; and We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear arguments and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.
a Is it then that whenever there came to you a messenger with what your souls desired not, you were arrogant? And some you gave the lie to and others you would slay.b

88 And they say: Our hearts are repositories.a Nay, Allah has cursed themb on account of their unbelief; so little it is that they believe.

89 And when there came to them a Book from Allah verifying that which they have, and aforetime they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved — but when there came to them that which they recognised, they disbelieved in it; so Allah’s curse is on the disbelievers.a

90 Evil is that for which they sell their souls — that they should deny that which Allah has revealed, out of envy that Allah should send down of His grace on whomsoever of His servants He pleases; so they incur wrath upon wrath. And there is an abasing chastisement for the disbelievers.

91 And when it is said to them, Believe in that which Allah has revealed, they say: We believe in that which was revealed to us.a And they deny what is besides that, while it is the Truth verifying that which they have. Say: Why then did you kill Allah’s prophets before (this) if you were believers?b

92 And Moses indeed came to you with clear arguments, then you took the calf (for a god) in his absence and you were wrongdoers.

93 And when We made a covenant with you and raised the mountain above you: Take hold of that which We have given you with firmness and obey.a They said: We hear and disobey.b And they were made to imbibe (the love of) the calf into their hearts on account of their disbelief.c Say: Evil is that which your faith bids you if you are believers.

94 Say: If the abode of the Hereafter with Allah is specially for you to the exclusion of the people, then invoke death if you are truthful.a

95 And they will never invoke it on account of what their hands have sent on before, and Allah knows the wrongdoers.

96 And thou wilt certainly find them the greediest of men for life, (greedier) even than those who set up gods (with God). One of them loves to be granted a life of a thousand years, and his being granted a long life will in no way remove him further off from the chastisement. And Allah is Seer of what they do.a

 2. Commentary:

87a. The Hebrew for Jesus is Yasu, but in Arabic it is always ‘Isa, and generally the epithet Ibn Maryam (son of Mary) is added to it, to show that he was a mortal like other prophets of God. The long chain of prophets that came after Moses ended in Jesus, Moses being the first and Jesus the last prophet of the Israelite dispensation.

Jesus is here spoken of as having been given clear arguments and strengthened with the Holy Spirit, yet he too was rejected by the Jews. The idea of the Holy Ghost as met with in Christian religious literature is quite different from and opposed to the Jewish conception of the Holy Spirit which Islam accepts. The Christians believe in the Holy Ghost as one of the three persons of Divinity and not as a creation of God, for which there is not the least ground in Jewish religious thought. Even among the Christians the idea was of a later growth, as we find both Zacharias and John spoken of as being filled with the Holy Ghost.

According to the Holy Quran, the Holy Spirit is the angel which brought revelation: “The Holy Spirit has revealed it (i.e., the Quran) from thy Lord” (16:102). The Holy Spirit is mentioned by two other names, Gabriel (v. 97) and the Faithful Spirit (26:193). So Jesus’ being strengthened with the Holy Spirit only means that he was granted Divine revelation like other prophets before him. [Back to verse 87]

87b. The change of tense from the past to the optative is an allusion to the attempts which were then being made on the life of the Holy Prophet. Rz thus explains this change: “For you seek by devices the murder of Muhammad, were it not that I had protected him from you.” [Back to verse 87]

88a. Ghulf carries two significances. It is plural of ghilaf, which means a covering, a case or a repository. The meaning in this case would be that their hearts were repositories of knowledge and they stood in no need of any further knowledge. Ghulf is also plural of aghlaf which means enclosed in a covering (LL), and the significance in this case is that their hearts were covered from hearing and accepting what the Prophet said. [Back to verse 88]

88b. Curse, as implying an imprecation of evil, is not the exact equivalent of la‘nat, which implies the banishing and estranging of one from good (LA), though it must necessarily be adopted as such for want of another simple equivalent. The allegation of the Israelites was that, being descendants of prophets, their hearts were the repositories of knowledge, and being already, as it were, full of knowledge, they did not stand in need of more. They are told that it was really their disbelief which became the cause of their estrangement from the good which the Holy Prophet had brought. [Back to verse 88]

89a. The Jews expected that when the Prophet spoken of in Deut. 18:18 came, he would make them victorious over their disbelieving opponents: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God” (Deut. 28:1, 2). Read it along with Deut. 18:15–19, and the significance of “hearkening” becomes clear. As to the fact that the Jews were still waiting for the appearance of the Promised Prophet, see John 1:25; “Why baptisest thou, then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet”; that prophet, as in John 1:21, referring to the promised prophet of Deut. 18:15 and 18. This shows clearly that they waited for three different prophets. Acts 3:21–23 also shows that the Prophet spoken of in Deut. 18:18 was still waited for after the death of Christ. [Back to verse 89]

91a. By saying that they believed in that which was revealed to them, they asserted that they could accept only a revelation granted to an Israelite. The reply to this is that the revelation of the Holy Prophet is the truth verifying that which is contained in their own Scriptures, the reference being to the prophecies of the advent of the Holy Prophet contained in Deut. 18:15–18 and other places. [Back to verse 91]

91b. They are shown guilty out of their own mouths. Their contention was that they would believe only in a revelation which was granted to an Israelite prophet. Yet they tried to kill even Israelite prophets, which shows that it was their hard-heartedness which prevented them from accepting the truth, whether that truth was revealed through an Israelite or a non-Israelite prophet. [Back to verse 91]

93a. The original word is isma‘u, meaning primarily hear or listen, but it may also mean obey (AH), a meaning given to it in the Quran itself in 36:25. It may also mean accept (LL). The sense of the word as used here is made clear by the similar expression in v. 63: “And when We made a covenant with you and raised the mountain above you: Hold fast that which We have given you, and bear in mind what is in it”. [Back to verse 93]

93b. They did not utter these words with their tongues, but it is an expression of their condition, for the word qaul is used to denote what is expressive of the condition of a thing. Qalati-l-‘ainani means the eyes showed (not spoke) (T). Kf explains the words as meaning, we hear the words and we disobey the command. [Back to verse 93]

93c. The words used here signify that they had imbibed the love of the calf. The use of the word qulub (hearts) shows clearly that it was a thing that had gone deep down into their hearts; nothing was taken by mouth. According to Exod. 32:20 and Deut. 9:21 the Israelites were actually made to drink of the water on which the ashes of the calf were strewed. The Holy Quran makes it clear in 20:97 that the ashes of the calf were scattered by being thrown into the sea. [Back to verse 93]

94a. According to I‘Ab tamannawu-l-mauta (lit., desire death) signifies invoke death on the party that lies or is false in its assertion (IJ). A similar challenge, but in fuller words, is contained in 3:61: “Whoever then disputes with thee in this matter after the knowledge that has come to thee, say: Come! let us call our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and our people and your people, then let us be earnest in prayer and invoke the curse of Allah on the liars”. This challenge is given to the Christians, and the same challenge in fewer words is given here to the Jews. [Back to verse 94]

96a. By those who set up gods with God, are meant the Christians, because they also hold the polytheistic belief of the Divinity of a man. They too refused to accept the Prophet’s challenge of the mubahalah (3:61) on account of the love of this life. As to their desire of living for a thousand years and its fulfilment, as indicated here, see 20:103a. It would thus mean the life of a people in prosperity and not the life of an individual. Or, the reference may be to the Zoroastrians who, when invoking a blessing on anyone, prayed that he should live for a thousand years. [Back to verse 96]



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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 11 (Verses 87 to 96)

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