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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 2 (Verses 8 to 20)


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Section/Ruku 2 [Verses 8 to 20]: Lip-profession:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

8 And there are some people who say: We believe in Allah and the Last Day;
a and they are not believers.

9 They seek to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they deceive only themselves and they perceive not.a

10 In their hearts is a disease, so Allah increased their disease, and for them is a painful chastisement because they lie.a

11 And when it is said to them, Make not mischief in the land, they say: We are but peacemakers.

12 Now surely they are the mischief-makers, but they perceive not.a

13 And when it is said to them, Believe as the people believe, they say: Shall we believe as the fools believe? Now surely they are the fools, but they know not.a

14 And when they meet those who believe, they say, We believe; and when they are alone with their devils,a they say: Surely we are with you, we were only mocking.

15 Allah will pay them back their mockery,a and He leaves them alone in their inordinacy, blindly wandering on.

16 These are they who buy error for guidance, so their bargain brings no gain, nor are they guided.a

17 Their parable is as the parable of one who kindles a fire,a but when it illumines all around him, Allah takes away their light,b and leaves them in darkness -- they cannot see.

18 Deaf, dumb, (and) blind,a so they return not:

19 Or like abundant rain from the clouda in which is darkness, and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunder-peal, for fear of death.b And Allah encompasses the disbelievers.

20 The lightning almost takes away their sight. Whenever it shines on them they walk in it, and when it becomes dark to them they stand still. And if Allah had pleased, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight. Surely Allah is Possessor of power over all things.

2. Commentary:

8a. Belief in Allah and the Last Day is here equivalent to the profession of Islam; see 4b. After speaking of the two classes, the acceptors and the rejecters of the Prophet's message, the Holy Quran now speaks of a third class, the insincere people who accept the message only with their lips. The persons spoken of in this verse are the hypocrites, who were a source of constant trouble to the Prophet at Madinah. Before he came to that city, 'Abd Allah ibn Ubayy was a person of note there, and he expected to become the leader. But the Prophet's advent and his recognition by all the communities of that city, as head of the state, robbed him of those dearly cherished hopes, and he along with his followers adopted an attitude of hypocrisy. The case of the hypocrites is dealt with at length here, in 3:149-181; 4:60-152; 9:38-127, and in the 63rd chapter, and occasionally elsewhere. But apart from the particular class of people spoken of here who were really enemies of Islam in the guise of believers, there are in every religion large numbers of people whose hearts are affected with a similar spiritual disease. Their acceptance of the Truth is only with the lips, and faith does not go deep down into their hearts. They are loud in their claims but when there is a question of carrying out the precepts of the faith or of making any sacrifice in its cause, they lag behind. These verses may as well apply to them. [Back to verse 8]

9a. Khada'a signifies he strove, endeavoured or desired to deceive him. One says this of a man when he has not attained his desire (LL). Khada'a also indicates, when used concerning the Divine Being, He requited to him his deceit (T, LL); see 15a and 4:142a. Khada'a also means he forsook, he refrained (LL). [Back to verse 9]

10a. Compare 71:6, where Noah is made to say: "But my call has only made them flee the more", though the call was meant to bring them nearer to the truth. The disease here stands for the weakness of their hearts (AH), for they had not the courage to deny Islam openly, and this weakness only became the greater as the cause of Islam became more and more triumphant. [Back to verse 10]

12a. Their idea of making peace was only this, that they mixed with both parties, but they were really taking advantage of this opportunity to sow the seeds of dissension and mischief among the various parties. In fact, they were a constant source of mischief for whereas outwardly they were with the Muslims, they always plotted against them and gave help to their enemies. [Back to verse 12]

13a. They called the Muslims fools because they were undergoing all kinds of sufferings and making sacrifices for the sake of the Truth. The hypocrites were under the impression that the Muslims would soon be wiped out of existence. They are told that Truth will prosper and the half-hearted ones are really the fools. [Back to verse 13]

14a. By their devils are meant their evil companions, as plainly stated in v. 76: "And when they meet those who believe, they say, We believe; and when they are apart one with another they say." IMsd says that by their devils are meant their leaders in unbelief (IJ). Kf and Bd say that by their devils are meant those men who made themselves like the devils in their insolence and rebellion. In fact, the word shaitan (devil) signifies "every insolent or rebellious one from among the jinn and the men and the beasts" (R). [Back to verse 14]

15a. According to LA, the more preferable explanation of the words Allahu yastahzi'u bi-him is that Allah will requite them with punishment according to their mockery and thus, it is added, the punishment of an evil is spoken of in the terms of an evil, as is laid down elsewhere: "And the recompense of evil is punishment (or evil) like it" (42:40). Another explanation is that given by Kf: "The meaning is the sending down of disgrace and contempt, for the object which a mocker has in view is to hold him whom he mocks in light estimation and to bring down contempt and disgrace upon him." [Back to verse 15]

16a. They rejected the Truth and followed the error, thinking that this course would bring them worldly gain. They are told that they will have neither worldly gain nor guidance, and will be losers both temporally and spiritually. [Back to verse 16]

17a. The kindler of the fire is the Holy Prophet, who kindled the torch of light. The opening words of a hadith are: "My example is the example of a man who kindles a fire..." (B. 81:26). The personal pronouns used lend weight to this interpretation. The kindler of the fire and the illuminer is one, while those whose light is taken away are many. This interpretation of the parable is, moreover, in accordance with the next parable, where the rain is unanimously agreed upon as representing the Divine Revelation. [Back to verse 17]

17b. The light of their eyes, which alone could make them take advantage of the light which was lit up by the Prophet, was taken away. The act of taking away the light is attributed to Allah, as the remote cause of the disappearance of their sight. [Back to verse 17]

18a. The description seems to apply to those spoken of in v. 6, and accordingly the first parable may apply to them instead of to the hypocrites; or it may apply to those hypocrites who persisted in the wrong course and refused to take any advantage of the light and guidance brought by the Prophet. [Back to verse 18]

19a. Sama' is literally the higher or the upper, or the highest or the uppermost part of anything, and it means the sky or the heaven, the clouds or a cloud (T). It is a collective noun and is used both as singular and plural (LL). [Back to verse 19]

19b. This is a parable showing the condition of the hypocrites and the weak-hearted ones. When difficulties and distresses befell the Muslims -- when it became dark -- the hypocrites and the weak-hearted stood still. They refused to keep company with the Muslims in the battles which the latter had to fight. When there was a flash of lightning, and a success followed -- a success so great that it almost blinded them -- they would walk on a little and seem to be keeping company with the Muslims. The same idea is expressed in 22:11 in the following words: "And among men is he who serves Allah, (standing) on the verge, so that if good befalls him he is satisfied therewith, but if a trial afflicts him he turns back headlong." The difficulties and distresses which the Muslims experienced in the early days of Islam greatly obstructed its spread and held back many of the weak-hearted, who, under better circumstances, would have gladly joined its ranks. [Back to verse 19]

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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 2 (Verses 8 to 20)


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