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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 40 (Verses 284 to 286)



Section/Ruku 40 [Verses 284 to 286]: Muslims shall be made victorious:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

284 To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. And whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it. So He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases. And Allah is Possessor of power over all things.

285 The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. They all believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His messengers. We make no difference between any of His messengers.a And they say: We hear and obey; our Lord, Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course.

286 Allah imposes not on any soul a duty beyond its scope. For it, is that which it earns (of good), and against it that which it works (of evil). Our Lord, punish us not if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us. Our Lord, impose not on us (afflictions) which we have not the strength to bear. And pardon us! And grant us protection! And have mercy on us! Thou art our Patron, so grant us victory over the disbelieving people.a

 2. Commentary:

284a. This verse has generally been misunderstood. It does not signify “Allah will call you to account for it”, but that “He will call you to account according to it”; so that he who hides (i.e. keeps under control) his evil inclinations and he who manifests (i.e. gives vent to them) shall not be dealt with in the same manner, but according to their deserts. Almost the same statement is contained in 3:29, where it is said: “Say: Whether you hide what is in your hearts or manifest it, Allah knows it”. Evil thoughts are not unpunishable; but evil inclinations which a man keeps suppressed, and which therefore gradually disappear, cannot be included in the category of evil thoughts; it is these that are meant here. [Back to verse 284]

285a. The breadth of the Muslim faith, which has been dealt with on several occasions in this chapter, is again mentioned in reference to the triumph of the Muslims; for even if the Muslims were triumphant, their religion could not triumph over other religions unless established on very broad principles which should commend themselves to all. The triumph of the Muslim religion, it is hinted, would not be due to political supremacy but to the excellence and breadth of its principles. Hence, even in these days of Muslim political decadence, Islam is making spiritual conquests. This is no doubt due to the breadth of its principles. [Back to verse 285]

286a. Some of the words in which these prayers are addressed require to be explained. Isr means a burden which restrains one from motion, and, therefore, the burden of sin, as sin hampers the spiritual progress of man and restrains him from advancing spiritually. U‘fu is from ‘afw, which means effacing or obliteration (R), and generally indicates the effacing or pardoning of sins. Ighfir is from ghafr, which means covering with that which protects a thing from dirt (R). In religious terminology, the word ghafr is used, as Barmawi explains in Qasalani (commentary of Bukhari), as meaning protection which, he says, is of two kinds, protecting man from the commission of sin or protecting him from the punishment of a sin that he has committed. This is in accordance with what is said in the Nihayah where the Divine attributes Ghafir and Ghafur are explained as meaning One Who protects men from the commission of sins and faults and One Who passes over their sins and faults ? Al-Satiru li-dhunubi ‘ibadi-hi wa ‘uyubi-him al-mutajawizu ‘an khataya-hum wa dhunubi-him.

It may be noted here that as a preliminary to the prayer for victory over the disbelievers, there is one set of three petitions in the first part of the verse and another set of three petitions in the second part. The first three petitions made to God are punish us not, lay not on us the burden of sins, impose not on us afflictions which we have not the strength to bear. Corresponding to these three petitions respectively are the three petitions in the second part, pardon us, grant us protection, have mercy on us. Thus corresponding to the desire to be saved from punishment is the petition that God may pardon His servant whatever faults he has committed; corresponding to the desire that one may not be burdened with sins is the petition that one may be granted protection from the commission of sins; and corresponding to the desire to be saved from afflictions which one has not the strength to bear is the petition for the mercy of God.

It is further necessary to remember that the two words ‘afw and ghafr and their derivatives, and the two corresponding Divine attributes ‘Ufuww and Ghafur, are of very frequent occurrence in the Holy Qur’an, and they are generally taken as meaning pardoning and forgiving, but there is really a fine distinction between the significance of the two, as pointed out above. And when the two words are used together as here, ‘afw always implies the pardoning of sins so that one may be saved from the punishment which the commission of sin brings and ghafr protection from the commission of sin. Istighfar is thus really a prayer for sinlessness.

This, the concluding prayer of this chapter, is given very great importance in the Prophet’s sayings. According to the hadith, “whoever prays as taught in the last two verses of the Baqarah, they are sufficient for him” (B. 64:12).

It is noteworthy that if the Muslims are taught to pray for victory over disbelievers, they are at the same time taught to be humble and forgiving. What a spirit of humility does the Holy Word breathe even in the hour of triumph! The aspiration of the soul to be led to the promised victory is still subjected to the holier yearnings of the soul.

The end of the chapter shows that the triumph of Islam is its real object, and this is plainly outlined in the opening and closing sections of the chapter. [Back to verse 286]



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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 40 (Verses 284 to 286)

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