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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 26 (Verses 211 to 216)



Section/Ruku 26 [Verses 211 to 216]: Trials and tribulations:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

211 Ask of the Children of Israel how many a clear sign We gave them! And whoever changes the favour of Allah after it has come to him, then surely Allah is Severe in requiting (evil).

212 The life of this world is made to seem fair to those who disbelieve, and they mock those who believe. And those who keep their duty will be above them on the Day of Resurrection. And Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure.a

213 Mankind is a single nation.a So Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners, and He revealed with them the Book with truth, that it might judge between people concerning that in which they differed.b And none but the very people who were given it differed about it after clear arguments had come to them, envying one another.c So Allah has guided by His will those who believe to the truth about which they differed.d And Allah guides whom He pleases to the right path.

214 Or do you think that you will enter the Garden,a while there has not yet befallen you the like of what befell those who have passed away before you. Distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently, so that the Messenger and those who believed with him said: When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!b

215 They ask thee as to what they should spend. Say: Whatever wealth you spend, it is for the parents and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatever good you do, Allah surely is Knower of it.a

216 Fighting is enjoined on you, though it is disliked by you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you; and Allah knows while you know not.a

 2. Commentary:

211a. By the favour of Allah is here meant the Qur’an and its change implies its rejection. Compare the buying of error for guidance in v. 16 and elsewhere. The clear signs which were given to the Israelites include the prophecies of the advent of the Prophet, which were repeatedly made known to them through their prophets, as well as the clear arguments of the truth of the Prophet’s mission, which were clearly convincing when compared with the arguments they possessed of the truth of their own prophets. [Back to verse 211]

212a. The Emigrants, having left everything behind and being thus reduced to the last straits of poverty, were mocked by the wealthy Jews, whose trade of lending money at usurious rates brought to them the riches of other peoples. The concluding words not only show that moral worth which raised a man above another did not depend on wealth, but also contain a prophetic reference to the time when those who were mocked at on account of their poverty would have abundance even of the provisions of this life. [Back to verse 212]

213a. The word kana does not necessarily refer to the past, but is often used in the Holy Qur’an to convey the idea of a general truth, or to express what is like an attribute of a thing (R). Kan al-insanu kafur-an (17:67) does not mean man was ungrateful but man is ever ungrateful or that the quality of ungratefulness is met with in him very frequently. Similarly, the Divine attributes are often expressed by the use of kana, as in kan-Allahu ‘Aziz-an Hakim-an (48:7) which means not that Allah was Mighty, Wise, but that Allah is ever Mighty, Wise; or kan-Allahu Ghafur-an Rahim-an (48:14) which means Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. Hence the significance adopted. The oneness of humanity is a truth on which the Qur’an lays the greatest stress. They are sometimes told that they have all been “created of a single being” (4:1); again that they are all descended from the same parents (49:13); still again that they are as it were dwellers in one home, having the same earth as a resting-place and the same heaven as a canopy (v. 22). It thus lays down the principle of the oneness of humanity in the clearest words. Hence also the conclusion that prophets were raised among all nations which is conveyed in the words that follow. [Back to verse 213]

213b. A universal law of Divine Revelation has been disclosed in these words. As all people are a single nation, God, too, has been revealing Himself to all. This Law of Divine Revelation has, we are told, found expression through prophets, to every one of whom a revealed Book was given to show them the right way. [Back to verse 213]

213c. The universal law given expression to in this part of the verse is that corruption followed guidance. As time passed on, the very people to whom the Book was given so that they might follow it, went against it. Thus, though a prophet had been raised in every nation, yet every nation had forsaken the right way, and acted against the very directions which had been given to it. Thus differences again arose, which necessitated the advent of another prophet. Hence it was necessary to raise a prophet who should show the right way to all nations, and this is what is stated in the words that follow. [Back to verse 213]

213d. Allah’s guiding those who believe refers to the raising of the Prophet Muhammad, through whom the Muslims were guided to the right path, to the truth, regarding which differences had arisen among all people. If a prophet was needed by every nation to settle its own differences, one was surely now needed to settle the differences of the various nations, for the truth which had been shown to different nations by different prophets had again become obscured. Thus among the different national religions of the world, Islam occupies the position of an international religion. [Back to verse 213]

214a. The Garden stands for triumph in this life and Paradise in the next. The concluding words of the verse, the help of Allah is nigh, make the reference to the triumph of the cause of Truth very clear. Truth will only triumph when the upholders of the cause of Truth make sacrifices for it and undergo the severest trials for its sake. [Back to verse 214]

214b. This verse inculcates faith and perseverance under the hardest trials and is an indication of the Prophet’s own unequalled endurance and faith. It refers not only to the great trials and the hardships which the Muslims had already suffered at Makkah and the privations which they had to undergo in their exile, but more particularly to the hardships which were yet in store for them, and which they could clearly see in the massing of all forces that could be used to annihilate them. As regards the trials and tribulations of the former prophets, the case of Jesus Christ crying “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ” on the cross was the most recent in the history of prophets. [Back to verse 214]

215a. As the fund for the defence of the Muslim society was also utilised for the help of the parents of some and relatives of others, and the fatherless children and the poor men who had not the means to quit their homes, who were still being oppressed at Makkah by the unbelievers, and for the wayfarer who had no security, the Muslims are told that what they spent on wars was really for the good of their own helpless relatives and brethren. [Back to verse 215]

216a. Let those ponder who think that the Muslims fought for plunder! They were too weak to carry on the struggle against the mighty forces that were bent upon their destruction, and they disliked the war. Only a diseased brain could come to the conclusion that the Prophet “had now determined to resort to the sword to accomplish what his preaching had failed to do”. Where were the military forces with which the Prophet was going to convert the proud and warring Arabs who had not listened to his word? His first army at Badr, when the Quraish of Makkah were marching upon Madinah with a thousand of their most experienced warriors, was 313, including boys of thirteen years of age. Could any sensible man say that the Prophet was now going to convert the hundreds of thousands of Arab warriors with his 313 unequipped and inexperienced followers? And do not the very words of the verse give the lie to this most irrational conclusion? A picture of distresses and afflictions to which the few converts to Islam were subjected is drawn in v. 214. They were few in numbers, poor, exiled, and distressed, yet it became inevitable that they should fight in self-defence or they would be destroyed. It was their utter weakness and the enormous disparity of numbers that made them dislike the fighting. And I may add that not a single instance is recorded in the whole of the Prophet’s history showing the conversion of an unbeliever under pressure of the sword, not a single case is met with of an expedition undertaken to convert a people. If ever in the world’s history a people were compelled to fight in the defence of a great cause, no nobler instance of it could be given than that of the Prophet with his few faithful followers braving the whole of Arabia, with enemies on all sides who had taken up the sword to annihilate them. If ever there was a just cause for war, there never was one more just than the cause of humanity at large, the combined cause of the Christian church, of the Jewish synagogue, of the Sabian’s house of worship, and of the Muslim mosque, which the early Muslims set before themselves (22:40). Read along with this verse what is stated in v. 190 and 22:39, and the conditions under which this injunction was given will become clear. It was an injunction to fight against those who took up the sword first and turned the Muslims out of their homes. It was an injunction to fight to end persecution and to establish religious freedom, and to save the houses of worship of every religion from being ruined. [Back to verse 216]



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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 26 (Verses 211 to 216)

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