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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 21 (Verses 168 to 176)



Section/Ruku 21 [Verses 168 to 176]: Prohibited foods:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

168 O men, eat the lawful and good things from what is in the earth, and follow not the footsteps of the devil. Surely he is an open enemy to you.

169 He enjoins on you only evil and indecency, and that you speak against Allah what you know not.

170 And when it is said to them, Follow what Allah has revealed, they say: Nay, we follow that wherein we found our fathers. What! Even though their fathers had no sense at all, nor did they follow the right way.

171 And the parable of those who disbelieve is as the parable of one who calls out to that which hears no more than a call and a cry. Deaf, dumb, blind, so they have no sense.a

172 O you who believe, eat of the good things that We have provided you with, and give thanks to Allah if He it is Whom you serve.a

173 He has forbidden you only what dies of itself, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which any other (name) than (that of) Allah has been invoked.a Then whoever is driven by necessity, not desiring, nor exceeding the limit, no sin is upon him. Surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.b

174 Those who conceal aught of the Book that Allah has revealed and take for it a small price, they eat nothing but fire into their bellies,a and Allah will not speak to them on the day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them; and for them is a painful chastisement.

175 Those are they who buy error for guidance and chastisement for forgiveness; how bold they are to challenge the Fire!

176 That is because Allah has revealed the Book with truth. And surely those who disagree about the Book go far in opposition.a

 2. Commentary:

168a. The fundamental principle of faith, Divine Unity, having been discussed at full length, certain secondary rules and regulations are now considered, and among these the subject of prohibited foods is introduced first with a twofold object. In the first place it enjoins that only lawful and good things should be eaten. The lawful things are not only those which the law has not declared to be forbidden, but even unforbidden things become unlawful if they are acquired unlawfully, by theft, robbery, cheating, bribery, etc. The Israelites stood in special need of being reminded of this, for while they laid too much stress upon the ceremonies of religion, they were utterly indifferent to internal purity, and they would make a show of utter abhorrence to forbidden things but gladly devoured what was unlawfully acquired, a practice of which they are elsewhere condemned in plain words: “Why do not the rabbis and the doctors of law prohibit them from their sinful utterances and their devouring unlawful gain? ” (5:63).

Secondly, by adding the injunction follow not the footsteps of the devil, the real object of the prohibition is made plain. The Holy Qur’an recognizes some sort of relation between the physical and the spiritual conditions of man. There is not the least doubt that food plays an important part in the formation of character, and the heart and the brain powers are clearly affected by the quality of food. The same law is seen working in the whole of the animal kingdom. As the Holy Qur’an is meant for all stages of the development of human society, it contains rules and regulations for the betterment of the physical as well as the moral and the spiritual conditions of man. [Back to verse 168]

171a. The Prophet is likened to the crier who calls out, but the disbelievers are deaf to reason, and are like cattle which only hear the cry of the driver, but do not understand the meaning of what he says. This is in accordance with what is said in the previous verse. Some commentators are of the opinion that the crier is the disbeliever, who cries for help or guidance to his false gods, who do not know what he says. But these false gods do not hear even the cry, and hence the words cannot apply to them. [Back to verse 171]

172a. The injunction to eat of the good things is directed against the use of things which are injurious to health, though they may not be forbidden by law. [Back to verse 172]

173a. That which dies of itself and that which was torn by beasts was forbidden by the law of Moses also (Lev. 17:15); so was blood (Lev. 7:26); and the flesh of swine (Lev. 11:7). The Jews held the swine in great detestation, and the mention of the animal in the Gospels shows that Jesus Christ held it in equal abhorrence, which proves that he too regarded the animal as impure. Neither does he appear to have broken the Jewish law in this respect.

The commentators are of the opinion that the reference in that over which any other name than that of Allah has been invoked is to the animals slaughtered by the worshippers of idols, which they used to slaughter as offerings to their idols (Rz), or to that over which the name of an idol is invoked at the time of its slaughter (Bd), for among the Arabs the practice was that animals were slaughtered in the name of an idol. But the statement made in the Holy Qur’an is general, and the invocation of any name other than that of Allah makes the animal slaughtered unlawful. [Back to verse 173]

173b. Ghaira bagh-in signifies not desiring to eat it for the sake of enjoyment, la ‘ad-in means not exceeding the bare limit of want. [Back to verse 173]

174a. The physical and the spiritual are beautifully welded together in the Holy Qur’an. The prohibition to eat certain impure or injurious foods is followed by a warning against the eating of re, and thus the connection is established. Caution is always given lest too much stress should be laid upon the outward ceremonial of the law. Here we are told that even more dangerous than the prohibited foods is the eating of fire, which means the concealing of what is revealed in the Book. The concealment in this case means not acting upon the teaching of the Book. Though the Jews may serve as an example, the Muslims are equally warned of the danger of being strict in external acts of purity while neglecting internal purity. [Back to verse 174]

176a. By those who disagree about the Book are meant people who accept one part of the Divine Revelation and reject the other, as the Jews and the Christians did, the Book in this case standing for the whole of the Divine Revelation which is accepted by the Muslims only. Or, the Book stands for the Qur’an, and their disagreement means their rejection of it. The words may, however, be also translated as meaning those who go against the Book. [Back to verse 176]



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Chapter 1: Al-Fatihah (The Opening)

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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 21 (Verses 168 to 176)

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