Al-Baqara

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Sura 2 of the Quran
البقرة
Al-Baqarah
The Heifer
Classification Medinan
Position Juzʼ 1–3
No. of Rukus 40
No. of verses 286
Opening muqaṭṭaʻāt Alif Lam Mim
First verses of al-Baqarah

The Cow or Sūrah al-Baqarah (Arabic: سورة البقرة‎, "The Cow") is the second and longest chapter (Surah) of the Qur'an.[1] It comprises of 286 verses, 6201 words and 25500 letters (Ibn Kathir), it is a Mediniite surah, that is to say that it was revealed at Medina after the Hijrah, with the exception of few verses which Muslims believe was revealed during the last Hajj of Muhammad The Farewell Pilgrimage.[2]

This is the longest Surah in the Quran, it was the first Surah to be revealed at Medina, but different verses were revealed at different times, covering quite a long period so much so that the verses with regard to riba (interest or usury) were revealed in the final days of Muhammad, after the conquest of Makkah (Maariful Quran).

The verse 281 in Surah Baqarah, is the last verses of the Quran to be revealed, this happened on the 10th of Dhul al Hijjah 10 A.H., when Muhammad was in the course of performing his last Hajj, and only eighty or ninety days later he died (Qurtubi).

Surah al-Baqarah enjoins fasting on the believer during the month of Ramadan.[3]

Background[edit]

It is the longest Surah in the Qur’an and was revealed over a long period, it is a Mediniite Surah dealing with the Hypocrite (Munaafiqeen) and injunctions pertaining to various matters.

It includes many verses which have virtues like the first four and last three verses and the special Verse of the Throne (Aayatul Kursi). Muhammad is reported to have said,

“Do not turn your houses into graves. Verily, Satan does not enter the house where Surat Al-Baqarah is recited.” [Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmed]

Ad-Darimi also recorded that Ash-Sha`bi said that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, "Whoever recites ten Ayat from Surat Al-Baqarah in a night, then Shaytan will not enter his house that night. (These ten Ayat are) four from the beginning, Ayat Al-Kursi (255), the following two Ayat (256-257) and the last three Ayat.

Theme and subject matter[edit]

The surah addresses a wide variety of topics, including substantial amounts of law, and retells stories of Adam, Abraham and Moses. A major theme is guidance: urging the pagans (Al-Mushrikeen) and the Jews of Medina to embrace Islam, and warning them and the hypocrites (Munafiq) of the fate God had visited in the past on those who failed to heed his call.[4]

The stories in this chapter are told to help the reader understand the theological conception of truth in Islam.[5]

Surah Baqarah also mentions three qualities of the God-fearing (Muttaqeen), that is those who possess Taqwa: 1) They believe in the unseen. Faith (Imaan) is believing and accepting something one cannot see i.e. trusting in Muhammad and the Qur’an. It is believing everything which is part of Imaan, the Angels, destiny etc. 2( They establish Prayer (Salaah). The major sign of a person with Taqwa is they perform Prayer/Salaah. “Establishing” Salaah is fulfilling its requirements, internally with feelings in the heart, and externally fulfilling its requirements (Wudhu, compulsory elements (wajibaat), Sunnahs, reciting with tajweed etc.) and feeling a connection with Allah. In a tradition or hadith, Muhammad said, “Prayer is the Mi’raaj of a Mu’min” and in Mi’raaj he spoke to Allah. (In the Surah preceding Surah Al Baqarah, i.e. Surah Fatiha Muslims are believed to have a dialogue with Allah). 3)They spend from what Allah has given them, as this is a form of worship too- namely, considered a financial worship. Spending in the way of God (i.e. giving Sadaqah), is to spend from what Muslims believe that Allah Himself gave them. Sadaqah comes from “Sidq” which means “True” as it shows the truth of a Muslim's Imaan (faith).

Verses 8-20 in Surah Al Baqarah refer to the Munafiqeen, the hypocrites; in the Meccan phase of Muhammad, there were existed two groups, the Believers and the Mushrikeen (non-believers). However, after Hijrah (Emigration to Medina) Muhammad had to deal with the opposition of those who openly accepted Islam while secretly plotting against Muslims, their leader was Abdullah ibn Ubayy who was about to be crowned king before the arrival of Muhammad in Medina. The hypocrites benefitted from the Muslims while not losing their association with the disbelievers, they were considered disloyal to either parties and inclined towards those who benefitted them the most in the worldly sense.

The surah also sheds light on the concept of Nifaaq, which is opposite of sincerity, it is of two types:

1) Nifaaq in belief: outwardly showing belief however in reality there is no belief 2) Nifaaq in practice: where people believe however they act like hypocrites. The signs of a hypocrite are lying, breaking promises, not keeping an amaanah or trust and when they argue they curse or use bad language.

According to a prominent scholar, Kamaluddin Ahmed, Nifaaq is something that is within the heart, hence one knows of its existence except Allah. Therefore, no one can be called a hypocrite or Munaafiq through one's own self assessment, this would amount to making Takfeer i.e. calling someone a Kafir (non believer) since Nifaaq (hypocrisy) in belief is kufr.

Condemnation of alcoholic beverages and gambling is also first found in the chapter,[6] and it is one of only four chapters in the Qur'an to refer to Christians as Nazarenes instead of the more frequent terms People of the Book or "Helpers of Christ."[7]

Al-Baqarah contains several verses dealing with the subject of warfare. Verses 2:190-194 are quoted on the nature of battle in Islam.


The surah includes a few Islamic rules related to varying subjects, such as: prayers, fasting, striving on the path of God, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the change of the direction of prayer (Qiblah) from Jerusalem to Mecca, marriage and divorce, commerce, debt, and a great many of the ordinances concerning interest or usury.[4]

Notable verses[edit]

The Throne Verse (Ayat Al-Kursi) in the form of a calligraphic horse, India, Deccan, Bijapur - 16th century

Verse 255 is "The Throne Verse" (آية الكرسي ʾāyatu-l-kursī). It is the most famous verse of the Qur'an and is widely memorized and displayed in the Islamic world due to its emphatic description of God's omnipotence in Islam.

Verse 256 is one of the most quoted verses in the Qur'an. It famously notes that "there is no compulsion in religion". Two other verses, 285 and 286, are sometimes considered part of "The Throne Verse".[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Salwa M. S. El - Awa, Introduction to Textual Relations in Qur'an, pg. 1. Part of the Routledge Studies in the Qur'an series. London: Routledge, 2005. ISBN 9781134227471
  2. ^ Mahmoud Ayoub, The Qurʾan and its interpreters, pg. 55. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984. ISBN 9780791495469
  3. ^ Michael Binyon, Fighting is 'allowed' during the holy month of fasting The Times, 18 December 1998
  4. ^ a b Sadr-'ameli Sayyid Abbas. "Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter 2, Introduction". Al-islam. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  5. ^ R. G. Ghattas and Carol B. Ghattas, A Christian Guide to the Qur'an: Building Bridges in Muslim Evangelism, pg. 40. Kregel Academic, 2009. ISBN 9780825493423
  6. ^ Kathryn Kueny, The Rhetoric of Sobriety: Wine in Early Islam, pg. 66. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. ISBN 9780791450536
  7. ^ Karen Steenbrink, "Muslims and the Christian Other: Nasara in Qur'anic Readings." Taken from Mission is a Must: Intercultural Theology and the Mission of the Church, pg. 200. Eds. Frans Jozef Servaas Wijsen and Peter J. A. Nissen. Volume 40 of Church and Theology in Context Series. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. ISBN 9789042010819
  8. ^ Prana Dev (2010). Spiritual Quest of a Baby Yogi: Journey Through Islam, Christianity, and Beyond. ISBN 978-1-4502-6904-9. 

External links[edit]