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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 9 (Verses 72 to 82)


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Section/Ruku 9 [Verses 72 to 82]: They Grow in Hard-heartedness:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

72 And when you (almost) killed a man,
a then you disagreed about it. And Allah was to bring forth that which you were going to hide.b

73 So We said: Smite him with it partially.a Thus Allah brings the dead to life,b and He shows you His signs that you may understand.

74 Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness. And surely there are some rocks from which streams burst forth; and there are some of them which split asunder so water flows from them; and there are some of them which fall down for the fear of Allah.a And Allah is not heedless of what you do.

75 Do you then hope that they would believe in you, and a party from among them indeed used to hear the word of Allah, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know (this).a

76 And when they meet those who believe they say, We believe, and when they are apart one with another they say: Do you talk to them of what Allah has disclosed to you that they may contend with you by this before your Lord? Do you not understand?a

77 Do they not know that Allah knows what they keep secret and what they make known?

78 And some of them are illiterate;a they know not the Book but only (from) hearsay, and they do but conjecture.

79 Woe! then to those who write the Book with their hands then say, This is from Allah; so that they may take for it a small price.a So woe! to them for what their hands write and woe! to them for what they earn.

80 And they say: Fire will not touch us but for a few days.a Say: Have you received a promise from Allah? Then Allah will not fail to perform His promise. Or do you speak against Allah what you know not?

81 Yea, whoever earns evil and his sins beset him on every side, those are the companions of the Fire; therein they abide.a

82 And those who believe and do good deeds, these are the owners of the Garden; therein they abide.a

 2. Commentary:

72a. The story generally narrated by the commentators to explain this passage is not based on any saying of the Holy Prophet; nor is it met with in the Bible. The very indefiniteness of the incident is an indication that it refers to some well-known event in history, and as almost all incidents of the stubbornness of the Jewish nation prior to the time of Jesus have been mentioned, it becomes almost certain that this incident refers to Jesus himself, as it was with respect to his death that disagreement took place and many doubted his death. This inference becomes stronger when we compare the incidents narrated here with the same incidents as narrated in the fourth chapter in vv. 153–157, where, after enumerating almost all the incidents narrated here in the three previous sections, the Quran goes on to accuse the Jews in the following words: “And for their saying: We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah, and they killed him not, nor did they cause his death on the cross, but he was made to appear to them as such. And certainly those who differ therein are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge about it, but only follow a conjecture” (4:157). The part quoted answers exactly to vv. 72 and 73, only that the name is omitted here. This comparison makes it clear that it is the apparent killing of Jesus that is referred to here. The words you killed (Ar. qataltum) are used, because in the first place the Jews asserted that they had killed him, and secondly because metaphorically a person may be said to have been killed when he is made to appear as if he were dead. Thus in the well-known saying, idha ma mata mait-un (lit., when a dead man dies), the word dead really signifies not the dead man, but one who is about to die. ‘Umar’s saying, uqtulu S‘ad-an, is explained by LA as meaning, make him like one who is slain. LA also allows the use of the word qatl for a severe punishment in cases in which the drunkard and the habitual thief are spoken of as deserving of qatl in certain sayings of early-day judges. [Back to verse 72]

72b. The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, but God ordained that he should not die. This was the bringing forth of that which they were going to hide. [Back to verse 72]

73a. The construction of the phrase, idribu-hu bi-ba‘di-ha, is rather difficult, but a comparison with 4:157 makes the meaning clear. Darb, as shown in 60a, conveys a number of significations. It means striking as well as likening, and an instance of the latter significance we find in the Quran itself, where it is said yadribu-llahu-l-haqqa wa-l-batila, Allah compares truth and falsehood (13:17). In ba‘di-ha (lit., a part of it), the personal pronoun ha, i.e., it, refers to the act of murder. The act of murder was not completed in the case of Jesus, as the Gospels show, for after he was taken down from the cross his legs were not broken, as in the case of the thieves. The meaning of the sentence is therefore according to the signification of darb that we adopt: strike him with partial death, or liken his condition to that of the partially dead man; and thus he was made to appear as a dead man, as stated in 4:157. There is no other case of a murder or an attempted murder in Jewish history of which the whole nation could be said to have been guilty, and which might answer to the description of these two verses. [Back to verse 73]

73b. This was really a case of giving life to the dead, for Jesus Christ was dead to all appearance. Those actually dead do not return to life in this world; see 21:95a, 23:100a and 39:42a. [Back to verse 73]

74a. The hardened hearts are likened to rocks, and then they are metaphorically spoken of as bursting forth so that streams of water flow from them; others are spoken of as splitting asunder so that water flows from them; others still as falling down for fear of Allah. The significance is clear; even hardened hearts would receive life — nay more, they would give life to others, be a source of spiritual life for others as water and streams are sources of life in the physical world. [Back to verse 74]

75a. That the Israelites did not preserve their sacred books in their purity is a constant charge laid by the Holy Quran against the Jews. In fact, the alteration and corruption of the various books of the Bible is now proved beyond all doubt; see 79a. [Back to verse 75]

76a. They remonstrate with their less careful co-religionists who would talk of the prophecies of the advent of the promised Prophet, telling them that the Muslims would benefit by these disclosures in the sight of their Lord. The absurdity of this argument is made clear in the next verse. Truth was truth in the sight of Allah whether they made it known or not. [Back to verse 76]

78a. The word translated here as illiterate is ummiyyun, plural of ummi, which signifies one who neither writes nor reads a writing (R). The word is, therefore, specially applied to the Arabs, who were generally unacquainted with reading and writing, exceptions being rare. It is, however, here applied to the illiterate Jews; see also 7:157a. The Jewish masses had no access to their own sacred books which were known only to their learned men, and therefore religious ideas were based only on stories which they knew from hearsay. The word amani is plural of umniyyah which means a desire and also carries the significance of lying, because desire leads to lies (R). Some understand by it the repetition of words without knowing their significance. What is said here about the Jews is to a very large extent true of the Muslims of our day. In the early days of Islam, every individual Muslim, man as well as woman, sought light direct from the Quran. Not so the Muslims in this age who depend entirely on their learned men. They do read the Quran but look upon mere recitation as a meritorious deed without trying to learn what it says, and then act upon it. [Back to verse 78]

79a. The alteration and corruption of the Bible, the Old as well as the New Testament, spoken of in v. 75 and repeated here, is now an established fact. That the alteration spoken of in v. 75 was an alteration of the words of the text is made manifest here: “They write the Book with their hands then say: This is from Allah.” These alterations they effected for their own selfish ends. “That they may take for it a small price.” I give below a few quotations from Rev. Dummelow, which prove the alteration of the Bible text beyond all doubt: “On close examination, however, it must be admitted that the Pentateuch reveals many features inconsistent with the traditional view that in its present form it is the work of Moses. For instance, it may be safely granted that Moses did not write the account of his own death in Dt. 34. The statement in Dt. 1:1 that Moses spoke these words beyond Jordan is evidently made from the standpoint of one living in Canaan, which Moses never did .... Other passages which can with difficulty be ascribed to him are Ex. 6:26, 27; 11:3; 16:35, 36; Lv. 18:24–28; Nu. 12:3; Dt. 2:12” (Bible Commentary, p. xxiv). And again: “A careful examination has led many scholars to the conviction that the writings of Moses formed only the rough material or purport of the material, and that in its present form it is not the work of one man, but a compilation made from previously existing documents” (p. xxvi). Still again: “Similarly in the legislative portions of these books we find apparent contradictions and these not in minor or insignificant details, but in fundamental enactments” (p. xxvi). The text of the New Testament is still more unreliable. The same author says: “To begin with, the writers of the Gospels report in Greek ... the sayings of Jesus Christ, who for the most part probably spoke Aramaic ... Not even in later centuries do we find that scrupulous regard for the sacred text which marked the transmission of the Old Testament. A copyist would sometimes put in not what was in the text, but what he thought ought to be in it. He would trust a fickle memory, or he would even make the text accord with the views of the school to which he belonged” (p. xvi). [Back to verse 79]

80a. “It is a received opinion among the Jews at present that no person, be he ever so wicked, or of whatever sect, shall remain in hell above eleven months, or at most a year, except Dathan and Abiram and atheists, who will be tormented there to all eternity” (Sale). [Back to verse 80]

81a. The inmates of the Fire are here stated to be those who earn evil, and find themselves beset on every side by their evil deeds. These are the men who give themselves up to evil, and who therefore ultimately find themselves in the power of evil, which even in this life, but more palpably in the life after death, assumes the form of a burning fire. It should be noted that the man who struggles against evil, however long that struggle may take, to overcome an evil inclination, is not the man who earns evil, because the earnest struggle in which the fighter against evil hates and detests evil, and seeks to overcome it, always ends in a victory for the good and noble qualities in man. [Back to verse 81]

82a. This verse speaks of those whose lives are devoted to the doing of good as against those who earn evil, spoken of in the last verse. It should be noted that, though refraining from evil is a praiseworthy thing, the doing of good occupies a much higher place. Sinlessness is simply a preparatory ground for the development of self, while that development consists in the doing of good.

The doers of good are called ashab al-Jannat or owners of the Garden. The word ashab is pl. of sahib which means a companion or an owner. I have translated ashab al-nar as companions of the Fire but ashab al-Jannat as owners of the Garden, because while the inmates of the Fire will be taken out of it after being purged of the evil, of the inmates of paradise it is said that it is “a gift never to be cut off ” (11:108), and that those in it will never be ejected from it (15:48). As to the reason for calling the righteous the owners of the Garden or describing the fruit of their labour as Gardens in which rivers flow, see 25a. [Back to verse 82]

 

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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 9 (Verses 72 to 82)


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