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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 32 (Verses 243 to 248)


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Section/Ruku 32 [Verses 243 to 248]: Fighting in the cause of Truth:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

243 Hast thou not considered those who went forth from their homes, and they were thousands, for fear of death. Then Allah said to them, Die. Then He gave them life. Surely Allah is Gracious to people, but most people are not grateful.
a

244 And fight in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is Hearing, Knowing.a

245 Who is it that will offer to Allah a goodly gift,a so He multiplies it to him manifold? And Allah receives and amplifies,b and to Him you shall be returned.

246 Hast thou not thought of the leaders of the Children of Israel after Moses? When they said to a prophet of theirs: Raise up for us a king, that we may fight in the way of Allah.a He said: May it not be that you will not fight if fighting is ordained for you? They said: And what reason have we that we should not fight in Allah’s way and we have indeed been deprived of our homes and our children?b But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned back, except a few of them. And Allah is Knower of the wrongdoers.

247 And their prophet said to them: Surely Allah has raised Saul to be a king over you.a They said: How can he have kingdom over us while we have a greater right to kingdom than he, and he has not been granted abundance of wealth?b He said: Surely Allah has chosen him above you, and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique.c And Allah grants His kingdom to whom He pleases. And Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.

248 And their prophet said to them: Surely the sign of his kingdom is that there shall come to you the hearta in which there is tranquillity from your Lord and the bestb of what the followers of Moses and the followers of Aaron have left, the angels bearing it.c Surely there is a sign in this for you if you are believers.

2. Commentary:

243a. Uluf is plural either of alf, meaning a thousand, or alif, a congregation or in a state of union (LL). The thousands referred to in this verse are the Israelites who left Egypt with Moses, the whole body of the Israelites being called a congregation in the Torah, and the clear mention of the Children of Israel after Moses in v. 246 corroborates this. Here we have a people who left their homes for fear of death, and besides the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt no incident in history answers to this description. In fact, the very word kharaju (they went forth) from khuruj (meaning exodus) contains a direct hint to the exodus of the Israelites. But in one respect, the Holy Qur’an differs from the Bible. According to the latter, the number of the Israelites was over 600,000 when they left Egypt (Num. 1:46), but the Qur’an says they were thousands, not hundreds of thousands. There is no doubt, too, that the Israelites left Egypt for fear of death, for death would surely have been their fate if they had not emigrated. Not only were orders given by Pharaoh for their male offspring to be killed, but they were also kept in a state of bondage which would soon have brought them to a state of intellectual and moral death (compare v. 49).

The next incident in the history of that nation as referred to here is the Divine commandment to them, to “die”. This is more fully stated in 5:21–26. Moses told them to enter the Holy Land “which Allah has ordained for you,” but they refused and were made to wander about in the wilderness for forty years, so that that generation perished. This is also shown by their history as given in the Old Testament: “Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness ... doubtless ye shall not come into the land” (Num. 14:29, 30). This was their death. After that, we are told, Allah gave them life. This refers to the next generation, which was made to inherit the promised land: “But your little ones ... they shall know the land which ye have despised” (Num. 14:31). The whole is meant as a warning for the Muslims, who are told that if they followed the footsteps of the Israelites, death must be their fate. This warning is made clear in the next verse: And fight in the way of Allah. [Back to verse 243]

244a. See 2:190; fighting in Allah’s way is equivalent to fighting in defence of faith. [Back to verse 244]

245a. Commenting on this verse, LL says: “It means, according to AIs, the grammarian, who is he who will offer unto God a good action or gift, or any thing for which a requital may be sought; or, as Akh, one of the most famous grammarians says, who will do a good action by following and obeying the command of God ”; and he adds: “The Arabs say, qad aqradta-ni qard-an hasan-an, which signifies thou hast done to me a good deed which I am bound to requite” (T, LL). According to Zj, qard signifies anything done on which a reward may be expected (Rz). [Back to verse 245]

245b. Allah receives and amplifies means that Allah receives the gift that is offered to Him and then amplifies it; in other words, any sacrifice made in the cause of Truth is amply rewarded by Allah. Or, it is a general statement indicating that the tightening of the means of subsistence and their amplification are in the hands of Allah, for yaqbidu also means he straitens. [Back to verse 245]

246a. The prophet alluded to is Samuel: “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us ... that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:19, 20). In the history which follows, the Qur’an does not show any important difference with the Bible narrative. [Back to verse 246]

246b. 1 Sam. 15:33 shows that the Amalekites had killed the Children of Israel, while 1 Sam. 17:1 shows that they had taken lands which belonged to Judah. [Back to verse 246]

247a. Saul is here called Talut, which is of the measure of fa‘lut from tala meaning he or it was tall, and he is so called on account of the tallness of his stature: “And when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people” (1 Sam. 10:23). The proper names used in the Holy Qur’an, while differing slightly from the Hebrew originals, have a significance of their own. [Back to verse 247]

247b. The murmurings of the people on Saul’s selection as king, as recorded in the Holy Qur’an, have something corresponding to them in the Bible: “And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?” (1 Sam. 9:21). And again: “But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents” (1 Sam. 10:27). [Back to verse 247]

247c. Compare 1 Sam. 10:24: “And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?”. [Back to verse 247]

248a. The tabut mentioned here has given rise to a number of stories, because of its twofold significance. It means a chest or a box, and it also signifies the bosom or the heart (LL). Taking the first significance, the reference is said to be to the ark, to which, however, it is objected that the ark was restored to the Israelites long before the time of Saul. But we cannot be so certain of the Bible narrative as to reject as untrue everything differing from it. I prefer, however, the latter significance, and the use of the word in that sense is well known. LL quotes the proverb, ma auda‘tu tabuti shai-an faqadtu-hu, i.e., I have not deposited in my bosom anything of knowledge that I have lost. R also says that tabut denotes qalb or the heart, and he quotes ‘Umar as speaking of IMsd, “a vessel filled up with knowledge,” referring evidently to the heart. That the word is used in the Holy Qur’an in this sense is clear from the description of it that follows. Tranquillity from the Lord is not a thing which is placed in boxes, but the heart is its real repository. On five other occasions the coming down of sakinah, or tranquillity, is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, and every time it is the heart of the Prophet or the faithful that is the recipient of it. For instance in 48:4 it is said: “He it is Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they might add faith to their faith”. According to LA, sakinah means also mercy; and he quotes a saying of the Prophet: “There came down upon them mercy (Ar. sakinah), the angels bearing it.”

By the coming of “the heart in which there is tranquillity” is meant the change which came over Saul when he was made king: “And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart” (1 Sam. 10:9). This exactly corresponds with the statement made in the Qur’an. And further it is said: “And the Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied” (1 Sam. 10:10). This is no doubt the best of what the true followers of Moses and Aaron left. [Back to verse 248]

248b. The word baqiyyah means both a residue and excellence or the best of a thing (LL). You say baqiyyat al-qaum meaning the best of the people (LL). Ulu baqiyyat-in in the Holy Qur’an (11:116) means persons possessed of excellence. And baqiyyat-Allah (11:86) signifies obedience, or the state of goodness that remains. Hence baqiyyah in either sense signifies the blessings of the earlier days. And thus it became a proverb among the Israelites: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:12). [Back to verse 248]

248c. The ark of 1 Samuel 4:4 was drawn by bullocks and not by angels, and since, according to the Holy Qur’an, the bearers of the tabut were angels, it is additional reason that by tabut here is meant the heart. But see a saying of the Prophet quoted in 248a, from which it is clear that “it” in the verse may refer not to tabut but to sakinah and baqiyyah, and the meaning would thus be that the tranquillity and inspiration were borne by the angels into the heart of Saul. [Back to verse 248]

 

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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 32 (Verses 243 to 248)


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