(Chapter No. 2), (Revealed in Madinah).
Meanings and Explanatory Notes -
In the name of Allaah, the All-Compassionate, the Most-Merciful.
Introduction - (Sequence of the verses and chapters of Qur'aan Majeed):
Soorat-al-Faatiha (Chapter No.1) was revealed in Mecca before the Holy Prophet's (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) migration to Madinah. Soorat-ul-Baqarah was revealed in Madinah. Yet, in Qur'aan Majeed the latter immediately follows the former. It is an arrangement of Qur'aan Majeed that Soorah (Chapters) revealed in Medinah occur in it intermittently. We have to remember here that, as willed by Allaah Almighty, the arrangement of verses and chapters of Qur'aan Majeed is different from the order in which they were originally revealed from time to time. There is the consensus of Muslim Scholars regarding the fact that the verses and chapters of Qur'aan Majeed are arranged exactly as they are in Lauh-i-Mahfooz - eternally Preserved Record. Immediately on revelation of a verse or a chapter, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) used to assign, under Divine Guidance, the proper place in Qur'aan Majeed for the verse(s) or the chapter(s) concerned. This is supported by a Hadith cited by Hazrat Jaabir (Razi Allahu anhu).
Apart from the belief that the present sequence of verses and chapters in Qur'aan Majeed is as per Allaah's Will, we notice that juxtaposition of Soorat-ul-Baqarah to Soorat-ul-Faatiha is the most appropriate in as much as it is in answer to the supplication made in Soorat-ul-Faatiha. In the First Chapter one prays to Allaah for Right Path, and the Right Path is shown to him in the Chapter following it.
Distinctive virtues of Soorat-ul-Baqarah:
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has said that Soorat-ul-Baqara contains verses which embody the fundamental teachings of Qur'aan Majeed (Mishkaat - Chapter on the Cardinal Virtues of the Qur'aan Majeed).
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has also said that one who frequently recites and ponders over the meanings of Soorat-ul-Baqarah and of the Chapter following it - Chapter No. 3 Soorat Aal-i-'Imraan - gains Allaah's favours. Those who do not study the Chapters remain unaware of what they are missing. On the Day of Judgment, these Soorahs will provide protection to those who recited them and followed them in their worldly life, against the overwhelming odds of the Day. (Mishkaat - Chapter on the Cardinal virtues of Qur'aan Majeed).
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (Razi Allahu anhu) quotes the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as saying that Satan does not (dare) enter the house where Soorat-ul-Baqarah is recited.
There is a verse (No. 255) in Soorat-ul-Baqarah which extols Allaah's praises in a unique manner and is called Aayat-ul-Kursi (the Verse of The Throne). The recitation of this verse and verses No. 256 and 257 and 284 to 286 of the Soorat-ul-Baqarah attract many favours from Allaah for the reciter. Hazrat Abdullah Ibn-i-Masood (Razi Allahu anhu) quotes a tradition that if one who recites these verses at night before going to bed, these will ward off from the reciter, the evil spirits and their mischievous influence.
Verse No. 1 - Alif-Laam-Meem:
There are the three letters of the Arabic Alphabet. Such letters are prefixed to some of the Soorahs and are termed Horoof-i-Muqatta'aat (separate or segregated letters; not to be read jointly). They are recited separately and not jointly and that is why they are called segregated letters. There are 29 Soorahs of Qur'aan Majeed which have such letters prefixed to them - sometimes singly, sometimes in twos, threes, fours or fives, and in pairs too.
Commentators of Qur'aan Majeed have tried to explain variously the meanings and or the significance of these letters but none of their findings are supported by consensus of religious scholars. At best one can say that they may be symbols or code letters and their meanings have been kept a secret between Allaah Almighty and His Messenger, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Qur'aan Majeed says:
"And He revealed to His servant whatever He (wished to) reveal. (53: 10).
Verse No. 2 - Zaali-kal-kitaab-o-Laa-Raiba Feeha: This is the Book (there is) no doubt in it."
The word "Raib" has been used here in the most comprehensive sense, that is to include -
(a) There is no doubt that this book has been revealed by Allaah. This view is supported by
the Qur'aanic verses;-
"If you are in doubt of what We revealed to Our 'Abd (servant) then bring a Soorah like it and
call your witnesses (supporters) besides Allaah if you are truthful."(2: 23).
"Verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds." (26: 192).
(b) There is no doubt about the entity and the veracity of the Arch-Angel Gabriel who brought the revelation
to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Qur'aan Majeed is a witness to this:
"The Trustworthy Spirit has come down with it." (26: 193).
(c) There is no doubt about the trustworthiness of the Holy Prophet to whom the Book was revealed:
"The book has been revealed (direct) to your heart so that you may become the warner." (26: 194).
(d) The book itself is free from all doubt.
Verse No. 2 - Muttaqueem: Those who refrain from evil or guard themselves against everything evil.
The term also denotes those who are God-fearing, the pious, the righteous, the virtuous.
In short "Taqwa" signifies the natural inclination to man which enables him to adopt or accept virtue and abstain from evil. One who loses this capacity, through disguise, loses also the path of good.
The verse clearly states that Qur'aan Majeed provides Guidance to "Muttaqueen". There are other verses with the same import, for example, -
"Most surely, in this there is a lesson for him who fears." (79:26).
"And We reveal in the Qur'aan that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe; but those who transgress, it causes to them nothing but adds loss upon loss." (17: 82).
Qur'aan Majeed has its blessings for those who will study it reverently and carefully and not for others. The latter are more likely to be misguided through their own reflections.
We quote three verses from Qur'aan Majeed describing the grades of Taqwa and the blessings in store for Muttaqueen.
"...Allaah sent down His tranquility to His Prophet (Sallallhu alaihi wasallam) and the believers and made them hold fast the command of self-restraint (Kalima-tut-Taqwa) and well they were entitled to it and worthy of it. And Allaah has full knowledge of all things." (48: 26).
Kalima-tut-Taqwa here means the 1st Kalima of Islam:
"There is no God but Allaah and Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is His Messenger."
In other words one who pronounces the Kalima with complete faith and acts on it, is one of the Muttaqueen.
(2) "And if the People of the town had but believed and adopted Taqwa, we should indeed
have opened out to them blessings from Heaven and earth." (7: 96).
After reciting Kalima and embracing the religion revealed to and perfected for the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) one should adopt the conduct of Muttaqueen. If they were to prove by their attitude and actions that they are Muttaqueen, Allaah will shower His blessings on them.
(3) "But if you are constant and do the right (that is, adopt Taqwa) not the least harm
will their cunning do to you; for Allaah encompasses all that they do." (3: 120).
The lesson is that the quality of perseverance in trials and tribulations is Taqwa.
Verse No. 3 - Al-la-zeena Yomi-noona bil Ghaib: "Those who believe in matters or things hidden (from them)."
Imaan: means belief. This Islamic term stands for complete faith in the Divine revelation to and teachings of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Not only one should announce orally one's acceptance of the Faith but should also have faith in his heart of heart. Imaan also demands actions according to the dictates of the Faith in willing submission to and in accordance with the Will of Allaah and Sunnah (the practice) of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). All the three aspects of Imaan or Faith are to be present in a true Muslim or Momin.
We know that men from Quraish - the tribe of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) - and others did believe him to be the "trustworthy" and "truthful" person (Al-Ameen and As-Saadiq) (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam); yet they did not accept the Faith preached by him (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). His loving uncle Abu Taalib many times admitted that the religion preached by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was the Divine one but did not accept the same formally. Similarly the Jews and the Christians, called the People of the Book in the Holy Qur'aan, recognised the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as the great prophet predicted in the Torah and the Bible, yet they did not accept him and his teachings. Their rejection was due to their intransigence and the fear that their hegemony might be broken because of the new Faith. Similarly acceptance of the teachings of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) without heartfelt faith therein cannot be called Imaan.
Verse No. 3 - Ghaib: in Arabic grammar the word Ghaib is an 'infinite' but has been used in the
sense of a 'past participle' to denote things which are "hidden, unseen or invisible."
In the Soorah in question, the word stands for concepts which one cannot normally apprehend by one's five senses, nevertheless they are to be accepted as part of the Faith.
In short, the whole-hearted acceptance and compliance with all the teachings and guidance vouchsafed to humanity by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) come in the purview of Imaan-bil-ghaib.
"THOSE WHO ESTABLISH PRAYERS" - VERSE NO. 3
Note No. 19 Iqaamat-i-Salaat: The word Iqaamat means "to set up or to convoke." This is a term of Qur'aan Majeed which implies offering of the obligatory daily prayers according to Qur'aan Majeed and the Sunnah, which enjoin that prayers should be offered with all sincerity, utmost humility and a deep sense of submission to Allaah Almighty.
The various postures of the prayers, namely, standing (Qiyaam), bowing from the waist (Ruk'oo), prostration (Sajdah), sitting (Qai'dah), etc., recitation of verses of Qur'aan Majeed, together with other prescribed invocations, should be observed strictly as per Sunnah. At the time of prayers our body and apparel should be ritually cleaned -
"And your garments, keep them clean." (Al-Qur'aan 74: 4).
Men should offer prayers in a mosque and in congregation.
In congregational prayers the Imaam (one who leads the prayers) should ensure that those offering prayers behind him are standing shoulder to shoulder in straight lines. Prayers should be offered at the prescribed times. In reply to a question as to which of the prayers were the best, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said -
"The prayer offered on time is the best."
Note No. 20 Salaat: It stands for supplication also. Here Salaat indicates the obligatory prayers, offered at the five appointed times every day, that is -
(i) Before sunrise (Fajr)
(ii) In the early afternoon (Zuhr)
(iii) In the later afternoon ('Asr)
(iv) After sunset (Maghrib), and
(v) In the first quarter of the night ( 'Ishaa).
While detailing the qualities of Muttaqeen, prayer has been mentioned as their foremost concern because it is the basic devotion offered to Allaah by Muslims. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said -
"Salaat is a pillar of religion and whosoever establishes it, actually establishes the religion. "
"Salaat ushers man into the presence of his Creator, which is indeed a very high honour for him."
In other words he achieves ascension every time that he is in prayer. The Holy Prophet was pleased to say -
"Salaat is the comfort of my eyes."
Verse No. 3: "And spend out of what we have provided for them."
Note No. 21 Rizq: Provision comprising of material and spiritual means that is, livelihood, piety (a good heart), intelligence (an excellent mind) and so many other gifts.
Note No. 22 Infaaq: Spending of one's wealth, material or otherwise, for helping those who are in need. It may be obligatory charity (Zakaat), optional charity (Sadaqaat) or just doing a good turn to relieve distress of someone. In Qur'aan Majeed the antonym of "Infaaq" is 'Bukhl' or 'Shuhh' (miserliness). The other extreme is 'Tabzeer', extravagance, or spending without a purpose; which is forbidden, vide -
"... do not squander (your wealth) in the manner of a spend-thrift. Verily the
extravagant are the brethren of Satan, and Satan is ungrateful to his Master." (17:26, 27 and also 4:27, 9:76, 59:9 and 47:39).
The daily prayers (Salaat) result in establishing the correct relationship between God and man, as also mutual understanding and correct conduct between men.
Verse No. 4: "And who believe in the revelation sent to you and (that) sent
before your time, and have full faith in the Hereafter."
Note No. 23: The verse describes two more basic qualities of the believers -
(i) Belief in Qur'aan Majeed, as revealed to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) who preceded him, and
(ii) Belief in the Hereafter.
Islam is the only religion which enjoins (and how gracious it is!) as an article of faith, belief in all the Prophets of the past, and the Books given to them. This is one sound proof of its being the only religion and the true one. The followers of the earlier prophets have made a departure from the original teachings of their Prophets by refusing to believe in the prophets that came before and/or followed their own prophet. According to Qur'aan Majeed every place received a warner and a book - Divine guidance -
"There is not a nation but a warner has lived among them."
(15:4, 25:51, 26:208 and 35:24).
Qur'aan Majeed mentions a number of Prophets by name but not all of them -
"We did send apostles before you: of them there are some whose story We have related to you and some whose story We have not related to you." (40: 78).
It is the unique feature of Islam that it requires respectful faith in all the prophets and all the revealed Books as being from Allaah. This verse also implies that no further revelation or Prophet is to come after Qur'aan Majeed and after the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam).
Note No. 24 Aakhirat: "The Hereafter."
The Qur'aanic concept of Aakhirat implies life after death, that is, resurrection, at a particular period of time. And at a place and, then, an unending life. In Soorah Al-Faatiha and in Soorah Al-Baqarah the word "Yaum" (the Day) occurs for the Hereafter (1:3 and 2:8). In Soorah Al-An'aam (No. 6) and Soorah Al-'Ankaboot (No. 39) the word "daar" (a place or space) has been used (6:135 and 29:64) with reference to the Hereafter (Aakhirat). In Soo-rah-at-Taubah (No. 9) Life in the Hereafter has been specifically mentioned (9:38).
The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has described the life in the Hereafter in two parts - one from the time of death to the Day of Resurrection (the Day of Judgment) and the other without end, after the Final Judgment.
Belief in the Hereafter is one of the basic doctrines of Islam. It includes belief in -
(i) Rising alive from the graves, at Allaah's Command, (whoever lived on the face of the earth),
on an appointed Day after the whole universe has been brought to an end.
(ii) Final judgment (justice) as a result of which the believers and the unbelievers will get
their reward and punishment, respectively, to begin eternal life in Paradise or Hell.
Note No. 25. Yooqinoon: Iqaan or Yaqeen is complete faith as if one has actually experienced it. Yooqinoon means those who have Yaqeen. This is a very high degree of Imaan.
The foregoing four verses enunciate three Articles of Faith and two practical Acts of Devotion enjoined by Islam.
Verse No. 5: "They are on the right path from their Creator and Sustainer and it is
these who will truly be successful."
Note No. 26. Muflihoon: "Those who are to be successful, or the fortunate ones."
Soorah Almominoon (No. 23) describes additional qualities of men of faith who are the successful ones. (23:1 to 11).
The second verse of the Soorah Al-Baqarah assures that the Book (Qur'aan Majeed) is Guidance for Muttaqeen, whose qualities are defined up to the end of the fourth verse. Here it may be repeated that these are the people who are fit for Guidance and are the successful ones.
Kaafiroon: Those who have become unbelievers.
Note No. 27. Kaafir: "The one who conceals." In religion the term 'Kufr' stands for rejection of any or all articles of Faith. It is the opposite of Imaan. Here a class of disbelievers is mentioned who would not be moved by the teachings of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam), not because of any logic or reason or doubt about the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet but because of their intransigence or vested interests. The class of Kuffar (unbelievers) included those who remained sceptical about the teachings of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and the hypocrites (Munafiqeen).
Verse No. 6. A-an-zar-ta-hum: "Whether you warn them."
Note No. 28. Inzaar: The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) while preaching Islam used to warn those who would not accept him and his teachings of the displeasure of God and His punishment in this and in the life in the Hereafter. Thus Inzaar (to warn) and Tabsheer (to foretell happiness) were a part of his method of preaching. He is repeatedly addressed as Basheer (messenger of good news) and Nazeer (warner) in Qur'aan Majeed.
Verse No. 7: "Allaah has sealed their hearts and their ears, and over their eyes
is a covering, and for them is a great punishment."
Note No. 29: In the above verse a great principle has been enunciated. Allaah has afforded guidance to man through his natural inclination to accept the teachings of the Prophets, of whom the last one was the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) in whose time the religion was perfected. If a person does not let his natural instincts flourish to his practical advantage, his capacity to accept and do good is, in the first instance, weakened and is ultimately lost. A tradition of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) makes the position clear. He is reported to have said:
"Allaah Almighty bestows every child with a wholesome nature which can differentiate between good and evil. If they continue to defy Allaah's Command, they reach a stage where they will not be able to distinguish right from wrong and their minds will become heedless to (what is) good."
There is another verse of Qur'aan Majeed having similar:
"Did they not travel in the land, so that their heart (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes which go blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. (22:46).
Another tradition of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is:
"When a person commits a sin, the heart is stained with a black spot. If he repents and begs pardon from Allaah the spot gets effaced. If he does not repent and goes on committing sins or evil deeds, the black spots multiply in number till the whole heart turns black."
This condition is described in Qur'aan Majeed as the rusting of the heart -
"By no means! But on their hearts is the rust (stain) of the (evil) which they do." (83:14).
There are other verses also which point to the same fact, that is, the condition of imperviousness to good develops from oft-repeated indulgence in sin. This state is described in the verse in question:
"Allaah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing and on their eyes is a veil..." (2:7).
It could not be that Allaah should set a seal on the heart and eyes of a person and thus let him indulge in sins. This Divine action of blocking the way to goodness due to persistent and willful evil follows in the wake of constant disregard of Divine guidance. We quote some more verses of Qur'aan Majeed to illustrate this principle:
"They broke their covenant and they rejected the signs of Allaah; they slew the messengers of Allaah in defiance of right; and they said "our hearts are screened (against anything new):- no, God hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy and little is it they believe;" (4: 155).
"...Then when they went wrong, Allaah let their hearts go wrong, for Allaah guides not those who are rebellious transgressors." (61: 5).