Category: Art & Culture




This Sura is cognate to Surat Al-Bagara (2), but the matter here is treated from a different point of view. The reference to Badr (Ramadan, Hijra 2) and Uhud (Shauwal, Hijra 3) give a clue to the dates of those passages.

Like Surat Al-Bagara 2, it takes a general view of the religious history of mankind, with special reference to the People of the Book, proceeds to explain the birth of the new People of Islam and their ordinance, insists on the need of struggle and fighting in the cause of Truth, and exhorts those who have been blessed with Islam to remain constant in Faith, pray for guidance, and maintain their spiritual hope for the Future.

The new points of view developed are: (1) the emphasis is here laid on the duty of Christians to accept the new light; the Christians are here specially appealed to, as the Jews were specially appealed to in the last Sura- Al-Bagara: (2) the lessons of the battles of Badr and Uhud are set out for the Muslim community; and (3) the responsibilities of that community are insisted on both internally and in their relations to those outside.

Summary: - God having revealed His Book, confirming previous revelations, we must accept it in all reverence, try to understand its meaning, and reject the base motives which make the Truth unacceptable to those who reject Faith. (Verses 1-20).

The Qur’an revelation has –step by step- confirmed the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus. It is a guide from God, and appeals to reason and understanding. Let us understand it rightly, in reverence and truth, non-swayed by those who reject Faith, and seeking ever the reward of the pleasure of God, through firmness, patience, discipline, and charity, and offering others the light to which we have ourselves received.

(Alif- Lam- Meem- verse 1)  a separate commentary on the abbreviated letters (Al-Mugata’a) in separate episode.

Verse 2:- see Al-Bagara 2 verse 255.

Criterion: Furgan = for the meaning see [surat A-Bagara 2 verse 53].

(V-6) Who can penetrate the mystery of life when a new life is just being born, except God? The reference to the mystery of birth prepares us for the mystery of the birth of Jesus as mentioned in verse 41 and the following verses.

(v – 7) this passage gives us an important clue to the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an. Broadly speaking it may be divided into two portions, not given separately, but intermingled: viz. (1) the nucleus or the foundation of the Book, literally [the mother of the book] , and (2) the part which is figurative, metaphorical, or allegorical. It is very fascinating to take up the latter, and exercise our ingenuity about its inner meaning, but it refers to such profound spiritual matters that human language is inadequate to it, and though people of wisdom may get some light from it, no one should be dogmatic, as the final meaning is known to God alone. The commentators usually understand the verses of “established meaning” {Muhkam} to refer to the categorical orders of the Shari’at- Jurisprudence (or the Law), which are plain to everyone’s understanding. But perhaps the meaning is wider: the “mother of the book” must include the very foundation on which all the Law rests, the essence of God’s Message, as distinguished from the various illustrative parables, allegories, and ordinances.

If we refer to Surat Hud 11 verse 1 and Al-Zumar 39 verse 23, we shall find that in a sense of the whole Qur’an has both “established meaning” and allegorical meaning. The division is not between the verses, but between the meanings attached to them. Each verse is but a Sign or Symbol: what it represents is something immediately applicable, and something eternal and independent of time and space, - “The Forms of Ideas” in Plato’s philosophy. The wise man will understand that there is an “essence” and illustrative clothing given to the essence, throughout the Book. We must try to understand it as best as we can, but not waste our energies in disputing about matters beyond our depth.

One reading –rejected by the majority of commentators- but accepted by Mujahid and others, would not make a break at the point here marked [Waqf Lazim), but would run the two sentences together. In that case the construction would run: “No one knows its hidden meanings except God and those who are firm in knowledge- The say  ...” etc.

(V-9) this is the prayer of those who are grounded in knowledge. The more they know, the more they realize how little they know of all the depths of Truth in the spiritual world. But they have Faith. The glimpses they get of Truth they wish to hold fast in their hearts, and they pray to God to preserve them from deviating even from what light they have got. They are sure of their eventual return to God, when all doubts will be solved.

(V-10-11) from the beginning of the world, in, oppression, arrogance, and want for Faith have gone together. The Pharaoh of the time of Moses relied upon his power, his armies, and his resources to mock at Moses the man of God, and to oppress the people of Moses. God saved the Israelites and punished their oppressors through many plagues and calamities.

(V-12) as Moses warned the Egyptians, so the warning is here sounded to the Pagan Arabs, the Jews, and the Christians, and all who resisted Faith that their resistance would be in vain. Already the battle of Badr (referred to in the next verse) had been a warning how Faith must conquer with the help of God. The next few decades saw the Byzantine and the Persian Empire overthrown because of their arrogance and their resistance to the Law of God.

(V-13) this refers to the battle of Badr in Ramadan in the second year of the Hijra. The little exiled community of Meccan Muslims, with their friends in Medina, had organized themselves into a God-Fearing community, but were constantly in danger of  being attacked by their Pagan enemies of Mecca, in alliance with some of the disaffected elements (Jews and Hypocrites) in or near Medina itself. The design of the Meccans was to gather all the resources they could, and with an overwhelming force, to crush and annihilate Muhammad (PPBUH) and his party. To this end Abu-Sufian was leading a richly-laden caravan from Syria to Mecca. He called for armed aid from Mecca. The battle was fought in the plain of Badr, about 50 miles south-west of Medina. The Muslim force consisted of only 313 men, mostly unarmed, but they were led by Muhammad (PPBUH), and they were fighting for their Faith. The Meccan army, well-armed and well-equipped, numbered over a thousand and had among its leaders some of the most experienced warriors of Arabia, including Abu-Jahl, the inveterate foe and persecutor of Islam. Against all odds the -Muslims won a brilliant victory, and many of the enemy leaders, including Abu-Jahl were killed.

It was impossible, without the miraculous aid of God, for such a small and ill-equipped force as was the Muslim band, defeat the large and well-found force of the enemy. But their firmness, zeal, and discipline won them divine aid. Enemy prisoners stated that the enemy ranks saw the Muslim force to be many times larger than it was.

(V-14) the pleasure of this world are first enumerated: women for love: sons for strength and pride: hoarded riches, which procure all luxuries: the best and finest pedigree horses: cattle, the measure of wealth in the ancient world: and broad acres of well-tilled land. By analogy, we may include –for our mechanized age- machines of all kinds- tractors, motor-cars aero planes, the best internal-combustion engines, etc. etc. in “Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver”, the Arabic word translated Hoards = Qanatir plural of Qintar, which literally means a Talent of 1,200 ounces of gold. That quantity of pure gold would coin into 5,097 sterling gold sovereigns, each containing 123,274 grains of gold 22 crates fine[about year 1932-1937). Heaped hoards of Qanatir would therefore be boundless wealth “as wish can claim”.

(V-15-16= see Al-Bagara 2 verse 25).

(V-17) Sabr (Sabrin) includes many shades of meaning: I have specified three here, viz. patience, firmness, and self-control. (See Al-Bagara 2 verses 45 and 153 and the appropriate notes).

The true servants of God are described in verses 16+17. They have faith, humility, and hope (v16) and they have certain virtues (verse 17) viz. (1) patience, steadfastness, self-restraint, and all that goes under the full definition of Sabr: this shows a certain attitude of mind; (2) in all their dealings they are true and sincere as they are also in their promises and words; this marks them out in social conduct: (3) further, their spiritual worship is earnest and deep, an inner-counterpart of their outward conduct; (4) their worship of God shows itself in their love of their fellow-men, for they are ready and liberal in charity; and (5) their self-discipline is so great that the first thing they do every morning is humbly to approach their God.

(V-18) God Himself speaks to us through His revelations (through angels) and through His Creation, for all Nature glorifies God. No thinking mind –if it only judges the matter fairly- can fail to find the same witness in his own heart and conscience. All this indicate and points to the Unity of God, His Exalted nature, and His Wisdom.

Baqyan: = [infringement] through envy, selfish contumacy or obstinacy, through sheer contrary-mindedness, or desire to resist or rebel. (See Al-Bagara 2 verses 90 and 213).

 (V-20) Wajh= whole self (see Al-Bagara 2 verse 112).

The People of the Book may be supposed to know something about the previous religious history of mankind. To them the appeal should be easy and intelligible, as all religion is one, and it is only being renewed in Islam, but the appeal is also made to the Pagan Arabs, who are unlearned/ illiterates, and who can well be expected to follow the example of one of their own, who received divine enlightenment, and was able to bring new knowledge to them. A great many of both of these classes did so. But the few who resisted God’s Grace, and actually threatened and persecuted those who believed; are told that God will look after His Own.

Note the literary skill in the argument as it proceeds. The mystery of birth faintly suggests that we are coming to the story of Jesus. The exposition of the Book suggests that Islam is the same religion as that of the People of the Book, next we are told that the People of the Book made their religion one-sided, and through the priesthood of the family of Imran, we are brought to the story of Jesus, who was rejected by a body of the Jews, as Muhammad (PPBUH) was rejected by a body of both Jews and Christians.