2. Surah Al Baqarah (The Cow)
1. The names of letters of the Arabic alphabet, called huruf mugatta’at, occur at the beginning of several surahs of the Qur’an. At the time of the Qur’anic revelation, the use of
such letters was a well-known literary device, used by both poets and orators, and we find
several instances in the pre-Islamic Arabic literature that has come down to us.
Since the muqatta’at were commonly used the Arabs of that period generally knew what they meant and so they did not present a puzzle.
(2:1) Alif, Lam, Mim.1
raries of the Prophet (peace be on him) raising objections against the Qur’an on the
ground that the letters at the beginning of some of its surahs were absurd. For the same
reason no Tradition has come down to us of any Companion asking the Prophet about the
significance of the muqatta’at. Later on, this literary device gradually fell into disuse and
hence it became difficult for commentators to determine their precise meanings. It is obvious,
however, that deriving the right guidance from the Qur’an does not depend on grasping the
meaning of these vocables, and that anyone who fails to understand them may still live a
righteous life and attain salvation. The ordinary reader, therefore, need not delve too deeply
into this matter.
(2:2) This is the Book of Allah, there is no doubt in it;? it is a guidance for the pious,
2. One obvious meaning of this verse is that this Book, the Qur’an, is undoubtedly from God.
Another possible meaning is that nothing contained in it can be subject to doubt. Books
which deal with supernatural questions, with matters that lie beyond the range of sense
perception, are invariably based on conjecture and their authors, despite their brave show of
competence, are therefore not immune from a degree of skepticism regarding their
statements. This Book, which is based wholly on Truth, a Book which is the work of none
other than the All-Knowing God Himself is distinguishable from all other books. Hence,
there is no room for doubt about its contents despite the hesitation some people might
express either through ignorance or folly.
3. This means that while the Book is potentially for all, only those who possess certain
qualities can benefit from it. The first such quality is piety: those who want to benefit should
be disposed to distinguish between good and evil and to shun evil and do good. Those who
lead an animal existence, who never to consider whether their actions are either good or bad,
whose cynically follow the prevailing winds, who are helplessly tossed about by the animal
desires that dominate their minds, such persons are altogether incapable of deriving any
benefit from the guidance embodied in the Qur’an.
(2:3) for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of
perception, who establish Prayers and spend out of what We have provided them,’
4. This is the second prerequisite for deriving benefit from the Qur’an. Ghayb signifies the
verities which are hidden from man’s senses and which are beyond the scope of man’s
ordinary observation and experience, for example, the existence and attributes of God, the
angels. the process of revelation, Paradise, Hell, and so on. ‘Belief in the ghaib’ means having
faith in such matters, based on absolute confidence in the Messengers of God and despite
the fact that it is impossible to experience them.
According to this verse, Qur’anic guidance can prove helpful only to those prepared to
affirm the truths of the supra sensory realm. People who make their belief in these questions
conditional upon sensory perception of the object of belief, and who are not prepared even
to consider the possibility of the existence of things that cannot be weighed or measured,
cannot profit from this Book.
5. This is the third requirement. It is pointed out that those to whom belief means merely the
pronouncement of a formula, who think that a mere verbal confession of faith is enough and
that it makes no practical demands on them, can derive no guidance from the Qur’an. To
benefit from the Qur’an it is essential that a man’s decision to believe should be followed
immediately by practical obedience to God.
Prayer is the first and continuing sign of practical obedience. No more than a few hours can
pass after a man has embraced Islam than the mu’adhin calls to Prayer and it becomes
evident whether or not the profession of faith has been genuine. Moreover, the mu’adhin
calls to Prayer five times every day, and whenever a man fails to respond to his call it
becomes clear that he has transgressed the bounds of practical obedience. An abandonment
of Prayer amounts to an abandonment of obedience. of man is not prepared too
follow the directives of his guide, it is immaterial whether or not true guidance is available
It should also be noted that the expression ‘establishment of Prayer’ has a wider meaning
The han mere performance of Prayer. It means that the system of Prayer should be organized on
a collective basis. If there is a person in a locality who prays individually but no
arrangements are made for congregational Prayer, it cannot be claimed that Prayer is
established in that locality.
6. This, the fourth prerequisite for a person to benefit from the Qur’an, demands that the
person concerned should neither be niggardly nor a worshipper of money. On the contrary,
he should be willing to pay the claims on his property of both God and man, and should not
flinch from making financial sacrifices for the sake of his convictions.
(2:4) who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before
you, and have firm faith in the Hereafter.’
7. The fifth requirement is that one should believe in the Books revealed by God to His
Prophets in the various ages and regions of the world, in the Book, revealed to Muhammad
(peace be on him) as well as in those revealed to the other Prophets who preceded him. The
Do the or of the Qur’an is closed to all those who do not consider it necessary for man to receive
guidance from God. It is also closed to those who, even if they believe in the need for such
guidance, do not consider it necessary to seek it through the channel of revelation and
prophethood, but would rather weave their own set of ideas and concepts and regard them
as equivalent to Divine Guidance.
This door is also closed to those who believe in Divine books as such but confine this belief
to those books accepted by their forefathers, and spurn Divine Guidance revealed to anyone
born beyond their own racial and national boundaries. The Qur’an excludes all such people
and is prepared to open the source of its grace only to those who believe that mankind does
require Divine Guidance, who acknowledge that this guidance does not come to people
individually but reaches them through Prophets and Divine Books and who are not given to
racial or national chauvinism but are devotees of Truth alone and are therefore prepared to
submit to Divine Guidance wherever it is found.
8. Belief in the Afterlife is the sixth and last requirement. The term al-Akhirah embraces a
The whole set of ideas: (i) that man is not an irresponsible being, but is answerable to God for all
his conduct in this world; (ii) that the present order of the world is not timeless, but will
come to an end at an appointed hour known only to God; (iii) that when this world comes to
an end God will bring into being another world in which He will resurrect, at one and the
same moment, all the human beings ever born on earth. He will gather them together,
examine their conduct and grant each one just reward for his actions; (iv) that those who are
accounted good in God’s judgment will be sent to Heaven, and those judged by Him as
evil-doers will be consigned to Hell; (v) that the real measure of success and failure is not
one’s prosperity in the present life, but one’s success or failure according to God’s judgment
in the Next. Those who do not accept this set of beliefs can derive no benefit from the Qur’an.
For if a man is merely in a state of doubt and hesitation about these matters – let
alone disbelieving them – he cannot advance even one step forward along the path charted
out by the Qur’an.
(2:5) Such are on true guidance from their Lord; such are truly successful.
(2:6) As for those who have rejected (these truths),2 it is all the same whether or not
you warn them, for they will not believe.
9. That is, those people who do not meet these six requirements, or reject all or any one of
the fundamentals set out above.
(2:7) Allah has sealed their hearts! 2 and their hearing, and a covering has fallen over
their eyes. They deserve severe chastisement.
10. This does not mean that their rejection of the Truth is a consequence of God sealing their
hearts. What is meant is that God sealed their hearts and ears as a consequence of their
decision to reject the fundamentals of faith, of their deliberate choice of a path divergent
from that charted out by the Qur’an. Anyone who has worked for the dissemination of the
Truth often finds that if, after full consideration, a person decides against a doctrine, his
mind begins to move in an opposite direction so that he fails to appreciate
anything that is explained to him. His ears become deaf, his eyes are blinded to the merits of
that doctrine, and one gets a distinct impression that the person’s heart has indeed been
(2:8) Thsome “We believe in Allah and the Last Day,” while in fact
they do not believe.
(2:9) They are trying to deceive Allah and those who believe, but they do not realize
that in truth they are only deceiving themselves.
11. These people delude themselves that their hypocritical behavior will profit them when
in fact it will prove harmful both in this world and the Next. A hypocrite may be able to fool
people for a while, but it does not last long; his hypocrisy is ultimately seen through. As for
Next Life, it is obvious that his claim to be a true believer is contradicted by his
actions and is thus quite worthless.
(2:10) There is a disease in their hearts and Allah has intensified this disease.2 A
painful chastisement awaits them for their lying.
12. ‘ Disease’ here refers to the disease of hypocrisy. The statement that ‘Allah has intensified
this disease’ means that He does not punish the hypocrites immediately but allows them too
indulge in their hypocrisy and exult in the success of their ruses. This feeling of success
intensifies their hypocrisy.
Credit to My mentor Syed Nowdudi