ah Al Baqarah (The Cow)

Al-Baqarah (The Cow) has been so named from the story of the Cow occurring in this Surah

(Vv. 67-73). It has not, however, been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Surah. It

will, therefore, be as wrong to translate the name Al-Baqarah into “The Cow” or “The Heifer”

as to translate any English name, say, Mr. Baker, Mr. Rice, Mr. Wolf, etc., into their equivalents in

other languages or vice versa, because this would imply that the Surah dealt with the subject of

“The Cow”. Many more Surahs of the Quran have been named in the same way because no

comprehensive words exist in Arabic despite its richness) to denote the wide scope of the

subject discussed in them. All human languages suffer from the same


Sequence of Surah

Though it is a Madani Surah, it follows naturally a Makki Surah Al- Fatihah, which ended

with the prayer: “Show us the straight way.” It begins with the answer to that prayer, “This

is the Book (that)…is guidance…”

The greater part of Al-Baqarah was revealed during the first two years of the Holy Prophet’s

life at Al-Madinah. The smaller part which was revealed at a later period has been included

in this Surah because its contents are closely related to those dealt with in this Surah. For

instance, the verses prohibiting interest were revealed during the last period of the Holy

prophet’s life but have been inserted in this Surah. For the same reason, the last verses (284-

286) of this Surah which was revealed at Makkah before the migration of the Holy Prophet

to Al-Madinahhase also been included in it.

Historical Background

To understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:

1. At Makkah the Quran generally addressed the mushrik Quraish who was ignorant of

Islam, but at Al-Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted

with the creed of the Unity of Allah, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and

angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by Allah to their

Prophet Moses (Allah’s peace be upon him), and in principle, their way was the same

(Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him).

But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had

adopted many un-Islamic creeds, rites, and customs of which there was no mention

and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. Not only this: they had tampered

with the Torah by inserting their explanations and imprecations into its text.

They had distorted even that part of the Word of God which had remained intact in

their Scriptures and taken out of it the real spirit of true religion and were now

clinging to a lifeless frame of rituals. Consequently, their beliefs, their morals, and their

conduct had gone to the lowest depths of degeneration. The pity is that they were not

only satisfied with their condition but loved to cling to it. Besides this, they had no

intention or inclination to accept any kind of reform. So they became bitter enemies of

those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their worst to defeat every such

effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam

and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and

sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken Allah and begun to serve mammon. So

much so that they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the

name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel.

This was their religious condition when the Holy Prophet went to Al-Madinah and

invited the Jews to the true religion. That is why more than one-third of this Surah has

been addressed to the children of Israel. A critical review of their history, their moral

degeneration and their religious perversions have been made; side by side with this the

high standard of morality and the fundamental principles of the pure religion have

been put forward to bring out the nature of the degeneration of the

community of a prophet when it goes astray and to draw clear lines of demarcation

between real piety and formalism, and the essentials and non-essentials of the true


 At Makkah, Islam was mainly concerned with the propagation of its fundamental

principles and the moral training of its followers. But after the migration of the Holy

Prophet to Al-Madinah, where Muslims had come to settle from all over Arabia and

where a tiny Islamic State had been set up with the help of the Ansar (local

supporters), naturally the Quran had to turn its attention to the social, cultural,

economic, political and legal problems as well. This accounts for the difference

between the themes of the surahs revealed at Makkah and those at Al-Madinah.

Accordingly about half of this Surah deals with those principles and regulations

which are essential for the integration and solidarity of a community and the

solution of its problems.

. After the migration to Al-Madinah, the struggle between Islam and un-Islam had also

entered a new phase. Before this, the Bel, levers, who propagated Islam among their

own clans and tribes, had to face its opponents at their own risk. But the conditions

had changed at Al-Madinah, where Muslims from all parts of Arabia had come and

settled as one community and had established an independent city-state. Here it

became a struggle for the survival of the Community itself, for the whole of non-

Muslim Arabia was bent upon and united in crushing it. Hence the following

instructions, upon which depended not only its success but its very survival, were

revealed in this Surah:-

1. The Community should work with the utmost zeal to propagate its ideology

and win over to its side the greatest possible number of people.

. It should so expose its opponents as to leave no room for doubt in the mind of any

The sensible person that they were adhering to an absog position.

. It should infuse in its members (the majority of whom were homeless and indigent

And surrounded by enemies) that courage and fortitude which is so

indispensable to their very existence in the adverse circumstances in which they were

struggling and to prepare them to face these boldly.

. It should also keep them ready and prepared to meet any armed menace, which might

come from any side to suppress and crush their ideology, and to oppose it tooth and

nail without minding the overwhelming numerical strength and the material

resources of its enemies

7. It should also create in them that courage which is needed for the eradication of evil

ways and for the establishment of the Islamic Way instead.

That is why Allah has revealed in this Surah such instructions as may help achieve all

the above-mentioned objects.

8. During this period, a new type of “Muslims,” munafiq in (hypocrites), had begun to

appear. Though signs of duplicity had been noticed during the last days at Makkah,

they took a different shape at Al-Madinah. At Makkah some people

professed Islam to be true but were not prepared to abide by the consequences of this

profession and to sacrifice their worldly interests and relations and bear the afflictions

which inevitably follow the acceptance of this creed. But at Al-Madinah different

kinds of munafiqin (hypocrites) began to appear. Some had entered

the Islamic fold merely to harm it from within. There were the others who were Muslims and, therefore, had become “Muslims” to safeguard their

worldly interests. They, therefore, continued to have relations with the enemies so that

if the latter became successful, their interests should remain secure. There were still

others who had no strong conviction of the truth of Islam but had embraced it along

with their clans. Lastly, some were intellectually convinced of the

truth of Islam but did not have enough moral courage to give up their former

traditions, superstitions, and personal ambitions and live up to the Islamic moral

standards and make sacrifices in its way.

At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, all sorts of hypocrites had begun to appear.

Allah has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics here. Afterward, when

their evil characteristics and mischievous deeds became manifest, Allah sent detailed

instructions about them.

Theme: Guidance

This Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents, etc., revolve

around this central theme. As this Surah has particularly been addressed to the Jews, many

historical events have been cited from their traditions to admonish and advise them

that their good lies in accepting the Guidance revealed to the Holy Prophet. They

should, therefore, be the first to accept it because it was basically]y the same that was

revealed to Prophet Moses (Allah’s peace be upon him).

Topics and their Interconnection

These introductory verses declare the Quran to be the Book of Guidance: enunciate the

articles of the Faith — belief in Allah, Prophethood, and Life-after-death; divide mankind into

three main groups about its acceptance or rejection — Believers, disbelievers, and

hypocrites. 1 – 20

Allah invites mankind to accept the Guidance voluntarily and to submit to Him, the Lord

and the Creator of the Universe and to believe in the Quran, His Guidance, and in the Life-

after-death. 21 – 29

The story of the appointment of Adam as Allah’s Vicegerent on Earth, of his life in the

Garden, of his falling prey to the temptations of Satan, of his repentance and its acceptance,

has been related to show to mankind (Adam’s offspring), that the only right thing for them

is to accept and follow the Guidance. This story also shows that the Guidance of Islam is the

same that was given to Adam and that it is the original religion of mankind. 30 – 39

In this portion invitation to the Guidance has particularly been extended to the children of

Israel and their past and present attitudes have been criticized to show that the cause of their

degradation was their deviation from the Guidance. 40 – 120

The Jews have been exhorted to follow Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him)

who had come with the same Guidance and who was a descendant and follower of Prophet

Abraham whom they highly honored as their ancestor, and professed to follow as a

prophet. The story of the building of the Ka‘abah by him has been mentioned because it was

going to be made the qiblah of the Muslim Community. 121 – 141

In this portion, the declaration of the change of qiblah from the Temple (Jerusalem) to the

Ka’abah (Makkah) has been made as a symbol of the change of leadership from the children

of Israel to the Muslim Community, which has also been forewarned to guard against those

transgressions against the Guidance that had led to the deposition of the Jews. 142 – 152

In this portion, practical measures have been prescribed to enable the Muslims to discharge

the heavy responsibilities of the leadership that had been entrusted to them for the

promulgation of Guidance. Salat, Fast, Zakat, Haj, and Jihad have been prescribed for the

moral training of the Ummat. The Believers have been exhorted to obey authority, to be just,

to fulfill pledges, to observe treaties, to spend wealth, etc., in the way of Allah. Laws, rules

and regulations have been laid down for their organization, cohesion, and conduct of day-to-

day life and for the solution of social, economic, political, and international problems; on the

other hand, drinking, gambling, lending money on interest, etc., have been prohibited to

keep the Ummat safe from disintegration. In between these, the basic articles of the Faith

have been reiterated at suitable places, for these alone can enable and support one to stick to

the Guidance. 153 – 251

These verses serve as an introduction to the prohibition of lending money on interest. The

true conception of Allah, Revelation, and Life-after-death has been emphasized to keep alive

the sense of accountability. The stories of Prophet Abraham (Allah’s peace be upon him) and

of the one who woke up after a sleep of hundred years have been related to show that Allah

is All-Powerful and can raise the dead and call them to account. The Believers,

therefore, should keep this fact in view and refrain from an taking interest in money. 252 – 260

The theme of 153 – 251 has been resumed and the Believers have been exhorted to spend in

the way of Allah to please Him alone. In contrast to this, they have been warned

against the evils of lending money on interest. Instructions have also been given for the

honest conduct of day-to-day business transactions. 261 – 283

The basic articles of the Faith have been recapitulated here at the end of the Surah, just as

they were enunciated at its beginning. Then the Surah ends with a prayer which the Muslim

The community needed very much at that time when they were encountering untold hardships

in the propagation of the Guidance. 284 – 286


By Tariq Saleem

I am a student of Quran and keen to make dawah for inviting peoples to save there selves from hellfire. This life is very short then the eternal life after death every body has to think about it and do some research to walk on a true path.

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