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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 18 (Verses 148 to 152)



Section/Ruku 18 [Verses 148 to 152]: The Ka‘bah as the Spiritual Centre:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

148 And everyone has a goal to which he turns (himself), so vie with one another in good works.
a Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together. Surely Allah is Possessor of power over all things.

149 And from whatsoever place thou comest forth, turn thy face towards the Sacred Mosque.a And surely it is the truth from thy Lord. And Allah is not heedless of what you do.

150 And from whatsoever place thou comest forth turn thy face towards the Sacred Mosque. And wherever you are turn your faces towards it, so that people may have no plea against you except such of them as are unjust — so fear them not and fear Me — and that I may complete My favour to you and that you may go aright.a

151 Even as We have sent among you a Messenger from among you, who recites to you Our messages and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the Wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know.a

152 Therefore glorify Me, I will make you eminent, and give thanks to Me and be not ungrateful to Me.a

 2. Commentary:

148a. In making the Ka‘bah the Spiritual Centre, the Muslims are told that their goal, as a nation, is to lead the world on to the greatest good. Their race is not a race for material benefits, a race for riches or power, but a race for the attainment of good and for the spread of good. As stated in clear words in v. 143, they are made leaders of the world, and this lead they are now told they must give in doing good, and hence they must vie with one another in doing good. In the words that follow — wherever you are Allah will bring you all together — they are told that they will be spread far and wide in the world, yet their goal must be one. The outward unity of the qiblah has a deeper meaning under it; it stands for their unity of purpose, as being a nation which strives after one goal, and it forms the basis on which rests the brotherhood of Islam; hence the saying of the Prophet: “Do not call those who follow your qiblah unbelievers” (N. under Kufr). [Back to verse 148]

149a. A great honour is thus given to the Sacred Mosque but it must be remembered that the Ka‘bah has never been supposed by any Muslim to possess any Divine attribute. The strange conclusion drawn by some Christian writers, that the honour thus given to the Ka‘bah is a remnant of the pre-Islamic Arab polytheism or idolatry, is quite erroneous. The Muslims honour the Ka‘bah because it is their Spiritual Centre; they do not worship it. Even the idolatrous Arabs never worshipped the Ka‘bah, though they had placed idols in it which they worshipped.

It should also be borne in mind that the famous Black Stone was not one of the Arab idols, nor can the kissing of it in performing the pilgrimage be looked upon as a remnant of idolatry. That Stone stands only as a monument: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head-stone of the corner” (Ps. 118:22). Ishmael was looked upon as rejected, and the covenant was considered to have been made with the children of Isaac, yet it was that rejected stone, for which the Black Stone at the Ka‘bah stands as a monument, that was to become “the head-stone of the corner”. The Black Stone is unhewn, so it is the stone that was “cut out of the mountain without hands” (Dan. 2:45). Jesus Christ made this clear in the parable of the husbandmen, when he plainly told the Israelites that the vineyard (i.e., the kingdom of God) would be taken away from them and given to “other husbandmen”, i.e. to a non-Israelite people, giving indication of that people in the words: “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?” (Matt. 21:42). And he added: “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof ” (Matt. 21:43), thus showing that he was referring to a rejected nation. Hence if the Black Stone is kissed, it is not kissed as an idol or as a god, but as a monument of the rejection of a nation which was to become the corner-stone of the Divine kingdom. [Back to verse 149]

150a. By completing of favour is meant the bestowing of spiritual favours on them. The Muslim nation was not like any other nation of the world, nor was mere advancement in the world their goal. The words with which the next verse opens are a further explanation: “Even as We have sent among you a Messenger from among you, who recites to you Our messages and purifies you”. They are thus told that they have been raised to carry the Divine message to other people and to purify them and teach them the Book and the Wisdom. Spiritual light was henceforth to shine from one Spiritual Centre alone. If that message was not conveyed to other people they had a plea against the Muslims that they had not conveyed the Truth to them. The turning of the face to the Sacred Mosque is thus equivalent to proclaiming the Truth which had its origin in the Ka‘bah to the whole world. If the Muslims did not do it, they failed in their duty to God and man.

The Prophet and his followers are told in this verse that with the change of prophethood from the Israelites to the Ishmaelites it was necessary to change the Spiritual Centre too, so that people may have no plea against you. The Ka‘bah was the house rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael, and with prophethood now being transferred to the descendants of Ishmael, the Spiritual Centre had necessarily to be changed. The Ka‘bah was moreover the first Spiritual Centre of the world (3:96), and it was in the fitness of things that it should be the last Spiritual Centre of the whole world. The words of the next verse which speak of the Messenger in almost the same words as the Messenger of Abraham’s prayer in v. 129 make this significance still more clear. In the completion of favours in the concluding words of the verse there is a reference to the Muslim nation being the exalted nation of v. 143 whose sole object was to carry the truth to the whole world. [Back to verse 150]

151a. The reference is to Abraham’s prayer in v. 129, as pointed out in the last note. The functions of the Promised Prophet there are exactly the same as here. [Back to verse 151]

152a. The opening words of the verse fa-dhkuru-ni adhkur-kum may be translated either as remember Me I will remember you or as glorify Me I will make you eminent, for the word dhikr carries either significance, remembrance or honouring. Adopting either significance, what is stated here is that if the Muslims keep God in the forefront of their programme, they will be made great as a nation. [Back to verse 152]



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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 18 (Verses 148 to 152)

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