Surat Al-Baqarah - The Cow
Period of Revelation: Though it is a Madani Surah (revealed at Madinah), it follows naturally a Makki Surah (revealed at Makkah) Al-Fatiha, which ended with the prayer: “Guide us to the Right Way.” This Surah begins with the answer to that prayer, “This is the guidance that you have asked for.” The greater part of Al-Baqarah was revealed during the first two years of the Prophet’s life at Madinah. Major Issues, Divine Laws and Guidance:
- Claim of the Quran: “This is the Book which contains no doubt.”
- Creation of Adam, man’s nature, and his destiny.
- The Children of Israel and the People of the Book (Jews and Christians).
- Israelites’ sin of worshipping the statue of a calf.
- Punishment of Israelites violation of Sabbath.
- Nature of Jews’ belief.
- Allah orders not to prevent the people from coming to Masajid.
- Ibraheem and his sons were neither Jews nor Christians but were Muslims.
- Abraham (Ibraheem), Ishmael (Isma’il), and their building of Ka’bah.
- Change of Qiblah (direction in prayers) towards Ka’bah in Makkah.
- Allah orders not to profess any faith blindly.
- The moon is created to determine the time periods, that is, months and years.
- Hypocrisy vs. True faith.
- Ayat-ul-Kursyyi (Verse of the Throne of Allah).
- Allah orders the believers to enter into Islam completely.
- Punishment of a murtad (a Muslim who becomes a Non-Muslim).
- It is unlawful to marry a mushrik (who worship someone else besides Allah).
- Victory is not by numbers but by Allah’s help.
- Confrontation of Ibraheem and Namrud (the king of his time).
- What makes charity worthless.
- Taking usury is like declaring war against Allah and His Rasool.
- All business dealings relating to deferred payments must be in writing.
- Retaliation against oppression.
- Non compulsion in religion.
- Divine Laws are promulgated relating to the following categories:
Food Retribution Wills Fasting Bribery Jihad Self-defense Evidence Pilgrimage Charity Drinking Bloodwit Gambling Marriage Orphans Menstruation Oaths Divorce Alimony Nursing Widows Usury Buying on credit Debts Loans Pledge/Mortgage
- Believers supplication to Allah.
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following the muslims’ emigration from Makkah and their settlement in Madinah around 622 ac, all attention was focused on building the ﬁrst Muslim autonomous community there. By embracing the new religion, members of that community had, each in his/her own right, succeeded in breaking away from idolatry, polytheism, and other forms of pagan traditions and practices of Arabia. They had now found security and safety in their new sanctu- ary where they could group together and set up a state of their own. Nevertheless, they were to face fresh hostilities from a rather unexpected source. The Jewish rabbis had always believed that reli- gion was the prerogative of their own people and a monopoly of their ‘Chosen Race.’ Predictably, they were somewhat rufﬂed and unhappy at the arrival in Madinah of Prophet Muhammad and his followers preaching Islam. They quickly embarked on preparations for how to react to that threat and for the best way to deal with it. Scheming, overt as well as covert, began. The Hebrew tribes who had settled in Madinah, or Yathrib as it was known then, in the fertile northwestern part of the Hijaz, had gone there as refugees to escape the oppression and persecution of Byzantine, the Eastern Roman Empire whose capital was Cons- tantinople. Although welcome to live among the illiterate Arab tribes, they rather looked down upon them. The Jews made no effort to combat idol worship, which was widespread in the area; nor did they feel the need to pass on the teachings of their religion to their native hosts. They recognized no obligation to propagate surah 2 • Al-Baqarah God’s message or establish His order to replace the existing man- made one. Their view of the Arabs was wholly sanctimonious, adopting the proverbial condescending ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, holding jealously onto their religious heritage, and totally beholden to the erroneous belief that religion was their privilege and theirs alone. What, then, was their (or, more speciﬁcally, their elders’) reac- tion to Islam? They rejected it. They began to distort, conceal and otherwise obliterate religious and historical facts in order to pre- empt the spread of the new religion. In contrast, Prophet Muhammad, the last of God’s prophets and the benefactor of the new religion, spared no effort in appealing to them and soliciting their understanding and cooperation. However, their malaise was deep and irrepressible, and increasingly their hos- tile intentions began to be reﬂected in their behavior. In view of this the Muslims found themselves, in their new sanctuary, building their community on the one hand and defending it on the other. They were laying the foundations of their nascent state, under the guidance and direction of the divine Revelation being received by Muhammad, while at the same time having to ward off the impend- ing threat posed by enemies living in their midst, who were intent on undermining their existence and everything they were building. It was in this atmosphere that al-Baqarah, the longest and most wide-ranging chapter in the Qur’an, was received. The surah obliquely cited the fallacy of Jewish claims of exclusivity by descri- bing the Qur’an as “the Book over which there is no doubt, a guidance to those who fear God” (2), thereby highlighting the view that other ‘Books’ or scriptures were less viable as sources of gui- dance and law, and less authoritative as references for or expressions of the divine will. In over thirty different places, the surah elaborates extensively on the features and merits of the God-fearing category of human beings. This aspect is unique to the surah. Fear (alternatively, A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an awareness) of God is a quality required of human beings by all reli- gions. God says in the Qur’an: “To God belongs all that is in the heavens and on the earth; and We have recommended to those who had received the Book before you, as We have recommended to you, that you should all fear God” (al-Nis¥’: 131). The surah is also remarkable for referring to all the ﬁve principles of the religion of Islam in the following verses: Taw^Ïd: “People; worship your Lord who had created you and those before you” (21); Salah: “Observe salah, especially the middle one, and submit to God” (238); Zakah: “Believers; spend of what We have given you before a day comes when there will be no trade and no friendship and no intercession” (254); Sawm: “Believers, sawm has been prescribed for you as it had been for your predecessors” (183); and Hajj: “Complete the Hajj and the ¢umrah for God’s sake”(196). The revelation of the surah was completed over a period, with the Prophet adding verses and passages that related to its subject matter when he was directed to do so through revelation. According to established sources, the last Qur’anic verse revealed to Muhammad was number 281 of this surah, which says, “Fear the day when you shall return to God; when each soul shall be requited according to its deserts and none shall be wronged.” The Prophet instructed the scribes to include it with the verses dealing with usury, which appear towards the end of the surah. Reading through the early part of the surah, we ﬁnd that it des- cribes God-fearing people in three verses, the unbelievers in two, and the hypocrites in thirteen, an indication of the last’s wickedness and the threat they pose to the whole Muslim community. Following a general call for belief in God and the Day of Judgment, and a brief surah 2 • Al-Baqarah account of the miraculous aspects of the Qur’an itself, the veracity of Muhammad, its proponent, and the ill-fate awaiting his opponents, the surah returns to the description of the various human groups: the believers, the rejectionists, and the renegades, and how each reacted to God’s message. The surah then inquires whether God deserves to be understood and addressed in such an improper and ungrateful manner by the unbelievers and the skeptics who fail to acknowledge His grace and benevolence. It asks them pointedly: How can you deny God when He gave you life, after you were dead, and He will cause you again to die and then restore you to life so that you eventually return unto Him? (28) Having dealt with that subject, it would follow naturally to address the issue of creation and how humans came to be charged with their role in this world, and the perennial confrontation between Adam, father of the human race, and Satan, humankind’s archetypal enemy, along with his supporters. This confrontation was reenacted in a bitter conﬂict between Muhammad, the last of God’s prophets to humankind, and some descendants of Israel who in that instance chose to take Satan’s side in a crucial battle between truth and falsehood. Being the ﬁrst surah revealed in Madinah, it was imperative that it should deal with the issue of the Jews; their elders’ negative atti- tude towards the message of Islam, and their history, both ancient and recent. This begins in the surah with: Children of Israel, remember the favors I have bestowed upon you, keep your covenant and I shall keep Mine and fear Me. Believe in what I have revealed, conﬁrming that which you had received [the scriptures], and do not be the ﬁrst to deny it. (40–41) The conﬁrmation in the Qur’an of the scriptures of which the A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an Jews had possession was a conﬁrmation in general terms and not in all details. The People of the Book, Jews and Christians, were seen as different from other religious groups because they believed in the One and only God. Unlike the idolaters and the pagans, they did not deny the existence of God and divine Revelation. The Qur’an endorsed the claims of the Jews with regard to their belief in the One God, revelation, and the responsibility and accountability of human- kind. But it did not endorse, among other things, the allegation in their scriptures that God regretted bringing about the Great Flood or His needing to be reminded not to do it again. Likewise, the Qur’an does not endorse the Old Testament tale of God walking on earth, leaning towards Abraham, and eating with him. Nor does it accept the story of God’s wrestling with Jacob one long night, and not being released until He promised Jacob the name ‘Israel.’ The Qur’an’s endorsement of the Jewish scriptural legacy was general and not speciﬁc nor total. Furthermore, the Qur’an cites those parts of Jewish scriptures it endorses mainly to hold their elders accountable for their faithfulness to and respect for those scriptures and their teachings. All in all, this surah cites sixteen different issues concerning Jewish dissent all through the people’s long and checkered history as docu- mented in the Torah. In all these cases, the dissenters prove disap- pointing even to their own prophets, and wanting in their obser- vance of God’s commands and their gratitude to and reverence for Him. The account begins with the verse: “Remember how We deli- vered you from Pharaoh’s people, who had inﬂicted upon you the worst type of torture” (49). Did the rebellious among the Jews appreciate that favor? Although God went on to drown their enemy before their eyes, did they recognize God’s justice or acknowledge His grace as He destroyed their oppressors? These issues are debated over several passages, always inquiring whether the Jewish con- science had been aroused or the Jewish faith in God rekindled. Would the Jews of Arabia, after such a detailed interrogation and surah 2 • Al-Baqarah analysis of their ancestors’ record, persist with their obduracy and rejection of Prophet Muhammad, to whom the Qur’an was being revealed? The outcome of this discussion of the long history of the Jews is an assertion of the veracity and efﬁcacy of the concept of reli- gious unity as expounded in the Qur’an. In the face of narrow-minded religious fanaticism, Islam emerged to promote a tolerant religious unity, addressed to and embracing all of humankind, built on pristine human nature and sound common sense. The Jewish and the Christian establishments had grown accus- tomed to seeing truth as their own monopoly, and salvation as theirs alone. Islam questioned that judgment and the attitudes underlying it. We read in the surah: They [the Jewish and the Christian elders] declared, “Only Jews and Christians shall enter Paradise!” Such are their wishful fancies. Say, “Bring forth your proof, if you were really truthful.” (111) There are other people in the world who have come to know God truly, and who have submitted themselves to Him and dedicated their lives and energies to His service, and whose efforts should not be allowed to go to waste. The surah thus afﬁrms: Indeed, those who surrender themselves to God and do good works shall be rewarded by their Lord; they shall have nothing to fear or to regret. (112) It was on this basis that the Qur’an called upon the People of the Book to believe in God and all His messengers, and to cast aside their religio-centricity which led each group to claim a monopoly on truth. The surah cites their spokesmen’s allegations: A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an They said, “Accept the faith of the Jews or the Christians and you shall be rightly guided.” Say, “By no means! We shall accept the religion of Abraham, the pious one, who was never an idolater.” (135) It also advised them to believe in all the prophets sent by God to guide humanity, since there would be no meaning in excluding any one of them. The surah says: Say, “We believe in God and in that which is revealed to us, and that which was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in what Moses, Jesus, and the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them, and to God we have surrendered ourselves.” (136) These are the basic principles of the unity of religion as expoun- ded in this surah and presented to the Jews and the Christians, for them to adopt and share with the Muslims. At the beginning of this exposition, the Qur’an makes it clear that Islam, as such, is not a new religion but the same religion preached by all preceding messengers. Jews have always taken pride in the fact that they are the sons of Jacob, known also as Israel, after whom the modern Jewish state is named. But who was Jacob? He was a pious man who acknow- ledged God and surrendered to Him, and who taught his children to do likewise. Before he passed away, he made sure that his legacy continued intact in his descendants. The surah relates: Were you present when death came to Jacob, and he said to his chil- dren: “What will you worship after I die?” They said: “We shall worship your God and the God of your forefathers Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac; the One God to whom we all surrender.” (133) surah 2 • Al-Baqarah Surrender to God or, to use the Arabic term, Isl¥m, is the only natu- ral and logical position creation can assume in relation to the Creator, the deﬁnitive bond between humankind and God. It is only natural for creation to surrender to its Creator and yearn for His mercy and pleasure. This is the essence of true religion rather than rebellion against God; it is neither transgression nor adherence to manmade religions. Muhammad restored for religion its true and proper place in the world and chartered a unique and sure way towards God, as the surah states: So if they accept what you have believed in, they shall be rightly guided; but if they reject it, they shall be in schism. God will defend you against them; He hears all and knows all. (137) The verse advances two morals, the ﬁrst being to offer the Jews of Madinah the choice of accepting the new faith, and the second being neither to condemn nor scold them for their rejection of it. They were merely left to their own devices, and if they were to initiate hos- tilities, God would help and protect the Muslims against them. Thus was the overall framework of religious unity as presented in this surah. However, one possible misunderstanding remains to be clariﬁed: this concerns the statement that all messengers were Muslims, although we know that Islam was the message that Muhammad, the last Prophet and Messenger, had established. The answer lies in the fact that religion has always been one. It entails faith in God and a righteous life of good deeds, which are the very essence of the religion of Islam. For faith to be complete, mere or abstract knowledge is not sufﬁcient. A believer has to attest to his or her belief and indicate to God that he or she has received the message and is ready and willing to obey Him; or as the Qur’an puts it: “We hear and we obey, grant us Your forgiveness, Lord; to You we shall all return” (285). Satan’s knowledge of the fact that one God was the A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an Creator of all things did not spare him, because knowledge has to be supported by submission to God’s commands and followed by exer- tions to please Him. Having refused to do so, Satan was ostracized and banished from God’s grace. All messengers have declared their knowledge of the true God and demonstrated their obedience to Him. This was the case with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. To list the Qur’anic verses that conﬁrm this would take much space, but sufﬁce it to say that they were all advocates of surrender to the will and power of God, despite the minor variations in what they had taught and preached at various periods of human history. When people are born, they are given names which remain with them right through to their old age, although their personalities and spheres of activity widen quite extensively. Likewise, it would be naive to think that the scope and sphere of religion today can be com- pared to those during Noah’s time, for example. The focal point and the central theme may remain the same in both cases, but the outer limits can expand according to the needs and level of development of the period. In today’s technological terms, the national power grid in certain small towns can extend to only a few square kilometers, whereas in big cities it has to cover hundreds or perhaps thousands of times that area; however, the electric current ﬂowing through both grid systems remains the same and performs the same function. Muhammad was preceded by the tumultuous experiences of Moses and Jesus, and it would not be unusual that his commission should introduce certain amendments and corrections, or make alterations and additions that had become necessary by the passage of time. It would also have been quite normal for him to throw a new light on, or reveal fresh aspects of, religion that may not have been dealt with by his predecessors. Thus his coming was a matter of urgency to correct the direction of human history and to alert the People of the Book to the malaise and confusion they had brought upon themselves and humankind as a whole. surah 2 • Al-Baqarah As far as Christians were concerned, it was necessary to reempha- size the concept of taw^Ïd, to reinstate the identity of Jesus as a human being, and to point out that he and his disciples were ordi- nary mortal advocates of the true religion of Islam. In the case of the Arabian Jews, there was a need to reprimand them for their arro- gance, to weaken their encroachment on authentic divine reve- lation, and to reafﬁrm the fact that God had no biased afﬁnity towards any particular ethnic group of the human race. The surah stresses the fact that sincere and honest followers of Moses and Jesus are one with those of Muhammad in the beliefs they hold and the fate they are to receive: The believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabaeans; whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good deeds, shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret. (62) But those of the People of the Book who discarded revelation, neglected their obligations towards the Lord, and chose to pursue their capricious worldly desires, vying with idolaters, would have no claim to godliness. Their plight would be made worse by their envy and hostility towards the believers. The surah inquires: Who is more wicked than those who seek to destroy the mosques of God and forbid His name to be invoked in them? These perpetrators can only enter mosques in fear. They shall be held up to shame in this world and shall receive stern punishment in the hereafter. (114) Having been revealed immediately after the Prophet’s emigration from Makkah to Madinah, during the formative days of the new Muslim community, the surah lays down the fundamentals upon which relations among followers of various religions ought to be conducted. At the same time it calls for the unity of religion by advo- cating a return to the common basic teachings of all messengers. A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an When Islam ﬁrst emerged, the elders of the Jewish community in Arabia received it with cynicism, denial, and disdain, since they believed in their God-given monopoly over religion, and in the notion that after their race, religion would never be revealed to another human group. When the Muslims emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, Islam became too close for comfort for some Jews who were already settled there. They resolved to ﬁght it by all available means and to scheme against its followers. Prophet Muhammad offered them a charter as a code of conduct for their relationship with the Muslims and other inhabitants of the area. The agreement was based on peace and mutual cooperation. It seems that the local Jews accepted that agreement with reluctance, for they continued to deride the new religion, to lobby against it in a hostile manner, and to undermine its veracity and stability. Meanwhile, the Qur’anic revelations also continued with their relentless scolding and rebuke of certain Jewish attitudes in the past. However, this had little effect in subduing the more recent arro- gance or softening hardened hearts. The detractors persisted in their belief in the exclusivity of their religion and in the assertion that God could not and should not have chosen prophets from outside their race. The Qur’an rejects all their claims, querying their denial of the new religion which endorsed, supported, and blessed what had been revealed to their forefathers. We read in the surah: And when it is said to them, “Believe in what God had revealed,” they reply, “We [only] believe in what was revealed to us,” but they deny what had since been revealed, although it is the truth, corrob- orating what they had already received. Say, “Why did you then kill the prophets of God, if you were true believers?” (91) The surah lists over ten different reminders of this kind, in the hope that the Jews of Madinah would heed God’s advice and come surah 2 • Al-Baqarah to their senses. While those reminders might not have dissuaded Jewish zealots from pursuing their policy, they were extremely instructive for the Muslims themselves and served as a warning to them. God had said to the Jews, “Keep My covenant and I shall keep yours” (40), and He advised the Muslims saying, “Remember Me and then I shall remember you; be thankful to Me and do not deny Me. Believers, seek help in patience and prayer” (152–53). It is say- ing to the Muslims that whereas other groups had clung to the outward form of their religion but ignored its essence and true spirit, and drained it of its authentic universal meaning, they, the Muslims, should look into the heart and the essence of their religion and live it with sincerity and true faith. The surah puts it thus: “Righteousness does not come about by turning your faces towards the East or the West. It is belief in God and the Last Day” (177). The surah then gets down to the task of laying the solid ground on which the new community was to emerge and grow. It outlines the ﬁve basic foundations or pillars of Islam and turns to dealing with Muslim family affairs, giving many of the principles on which they should be established, strengthened, and preserved. From time to time references to narrow-minded or rebellious attitudes by previous groups and nations serve as a timely, if oblique, warning to the Muslims themselves: “To whoever tampers with God’s boon after it has been bestowed on him God would mete out a severe chastisement” (211). The surah also deals with the question of protecting the larger community by means of sacriﬁce and hard work (Arabic: jihad) as well as protecting the smaller one, the family unit, with a number of rules and provisions that ensure its health, safety, and welfare—two counts on which we, the Muslims, have unfortunately been so negligent. Let us for the time being leave the family issue aside and deal brieﬂy with the subject of war and the manner in which the Qur’an has presented it, contending, in the process, with some persistent misconceptions about jihad. We Muslims abhor war, and dislike the destruction and loss of A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an life it causes. Our natural disposition and tendency favor peace, harmony, and stability among relatives, neighbors, and friends. However, while condoning and encouraging these tendencies, the Qur’an also says: Much as you dislike it, ﬁghting has been prescribed for you. But you may despise something that is good for you, and you may love something that is bad for you. God knows, but you do not. (216) Peace is to be welcomed when rights are protected and beliefs are respected; but if peace means abject surrender and subjugation, it cannot be easily defended on moral or realistic grounds. This deli- cate balance is well presented in the verse: “They ask you whether ﬁghting is permitted during the sacred month. Say, ‘ﬁghting in it is a grave matter’” (217), meaning it is not permitted. However, what should be done if aggression is perpetrated, terrorizing peaceful communities and jeopardizing their rights of worship and belief? Should not aggression be repelled, in order to protect one’s rights? The verse continues: …but to deny God and debar people from His path and prevent them from worshiping in the Holy Mosque, and to drive its inhabi- tants away, is far more grave in the sight of God… (217) In short “sedition [Arabic: ﬁtnah] is a greater threat than killing” (217), and ﬁghting or armed resistance should be permitted in defense of one’s integrity and beliefs. However, in circumstances in which we are faced with enemies who will not be satisﬁed until we forsake our religion and way of life and adopt theirs, defensive action becomes obligatory and the blame for instigating the conﬂict will not fall on us but on those who were the cause of it. These introductory remarks enable us to appreciate fully the meaning of the following verse; “ﬁght for the cause of God those surah 2 • Al-Baqarah who ﬁght against you, but do not commit aggression because God does not love the aggressors” (190). This is an eternal principle, and everything else the Qur’an has to say on this subject agrees with it. Some commentators have been erroneously misled into believing that surah al-Tawbah contains injunctions that contradict this princi- ple. The command given in that surah to undertake to ﬁght back does not, however, prescribe ﬁghting against fair-minded, neutral, or reasonable people. It condones it against groups who have grudges against the Muslims and are actively undermining their peace and security and inﬂicting harm upon them. That is the reason for the Qur’an’s condemnation that: “Evil is what they [the unbe- lievers] have done; they respect no pacts or agreements with the believers and they are the aggressors” (al-Tawbah: 9–10). Further- more, the Qur’an emphasizes the need to confront those aggressors in a just and clean ﬁght, by asking: Would you not ﬁght against those who have broken their oaths and conspired to drive the Messenger out, and attacked you ﬁrst? Do you fear them? Surely you should fear God instead, if you are true believers. (al-Tawbah: 13) It is difﬁcult to see how this can be seen as prescribing waging war against those who do not commit aggression, or that it overrides the principle given in al-Baqarah which states clearly that ﬁghting is undertaken only in response to aggression. This—when propoun- ded by some Muslims—is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst an objectionable undermining of eternal Islamic principles, inviting noxious charges against Islam, for which we have only ourselves to blame. Here it is worth stressing that the Qur’an prescribes legiti- mate defensive war on condition that it is undertaken for the cause of God and not for personal glory nor to gain a special advantage; nor should wars be prescribed for the sake of vainglorious and bigo- ted nationalist interests to prove that a particular country is supreme A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an and master of all! Wars conducted in recent times have been organ- ized to usurp the wealth and the resources of weaker nations, and to colonize and control their lands and destinies for the beneﬁt of strong and mighty ones. Far from being “just wars,” fought in the name of God, they are true works of evil. Wars are said to be con- ducted for God’s cause when they are fought to uphold God’s supremacy and drive out godless powers. True believers have always undertaken such proper ﬁghting in order to keep alive the belief in and worship of the One God. The surah asks: “Who is more wicked than those who forbid God’s name being invoked in His mosques and seek to destroy them?” (114). The Qur’an observes: And if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, corruption would surely overwhelm the earth: but God is limitless in His bounty unto all the worlds. (251) Indeed, right can only triumph and become ﬁrmly established when those who defend it are selﬂess, brave, and totally devoted to uphold and preserve it. Al-Baqarah contains a long and detailed discussion of family affairs. Since it appears at the beginning of the Qur’an, some may be misled into thinking that what it has to say about this subject is the ﬁrst to be presented in the Qur’an. However, about two thirds of the Qur’an had been revealed before this surah, and the subject was dealt with extensively. In studying what the surah says about family affairs, one has to refer to what has already been said elsewhere in the Qur’an. One of the topics under the family heading is equality between the sexes, expressed in al-Na^l in these words: “Those who do good, be they male or female, and are true believers, We shall certainly grant them a good life and give them their rewards according to surah 2 • Al-Baqarah their best deeds” (al-Na^l: 97). The same principle was advocated by a believer from Moses’ generation who deﬁed Egypt’s Pharaoh and his henchmen, and is quoted elsewhere in the Qur’an to have said: Those who do evil shall be rewarded with like evil, but whoever do good, be they males or females, and are true believers, shall enter Paradise, and therein receive limitless blessings. (Gh¥ﬁr: 40) In another surah, we read: “One of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you may ﬁnd peace and harmony with them, and induce among you love and kindness” (al-R‰m: 21). This was stressed again in surah al-Na^l, when listing God’s favors upon people, which included giving them “spouses from among yourselves, and through them He gave you children and grandchildren” (al-Na^l: 72). Since the status of women and the position of the family in soci- ety have already been dealt with in other parts of the Qur’an, it will not come as a surprise that al-Baqarah should deal with details relat- ing to family disputes or other aspects of family life that may arise for which God’s rulings and guidance have to be sought. Hence, we ﬁnd the surah dealing with oaths, divorce, child-bearing, breast- feeding, and so on. However, family legislation cannot endure and be effective without a ﬁrm basis of morality, faith, and piety. The surah points out that divorcees, men and women, might have sec- ond thoughts and choose not to sever the relationship altogether. They should use reason and common sense, on which the surah gives eight successive guidelines, for it says: If you divorce women and they have reached [the end of] their waiting period,
- retain them with honor, or
- let them go with dignity.
- You shall not detain them to harm them or to do them wrong.
- Whoever does this will wrong his own soul.
- Do not take God’s revelations in vain;
- remember God’s favors upon you and what He had revealed to you of the Book and wisdom in order to enlighten you.
- Fear God and
- remember that He is aware of all things. (231)
ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ مِن قَبْلِكَ وَبِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ
أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَىٰ هُدًى مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ
يُخَادِعُونَ اللَّهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلَّا أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ