Monday 19 November 2018

Surah al-Baqarah - The Cow: Chapter 2 of Quran - (Exegesis Overview)

Sūrah Al Baqarah "البقرة" is the longest Sūrah of the Qurān with 286 verses and forty ruku, spanned over Juz' 1-3. 

The name of the Sūrah is from the Parable of the Heifer in ii. 67-71, which illustrates the insufficiency of carping obedience. When faith is lost, people put off obedience with various excuses: even when at last they obey in the letter, they fail in the spirit, which means that they get fossilized, and their self-sufficiency prevents them from seeing that spiritually they are not alive but dead. For life is movement, activity, striving, fighting, against baser things. And this is the burden of the Sūrah.

There are many peculiarities of  Sūrah Al Baqarah:
  • While the the Opening Sürah Fatiha sums up in seven beautiful verses the essence of the, Qurân, so this Sürah sums up in 286 verses the whole teaching of the Qurän.
  • In it occurs the longest verse (ii. 282) of the Qurän.
  • Ayat ul Kursi, the most popular and most read ayat of the Qurän falls in this  Sürah. In fact ayat ul Kursi is one of those verses which is almost remembered by heart by every Muslim.
  • Although, the surah has been named as Al-Baqarah (the Cow) , it has not been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Sürah.
  • It is generally believed that verse 281 is the last verse that was revealed to the Prophet of Allah at the occasion of the only pilgrimage the Prophet performed after the surrender of Makkah to the Muslims,as narrated by ibn Abbas. [However, majority of the scholars in Islam are of the opinion that the last Aayat of the Holy Quran was this verse in Chapter 5 Surah Maidah Aayat 3: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”]
  • Thus Sürah Al Baqarah is considered to be the last completed Sürah of the Qurän.
  • The last two verses of Surah al-Baqarah, 285-286 are said to have great importance. The Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) has been reported as saying that one who recites these two verses during the night, these will be sufficient for him.
  • This Sürah is said to have taken the longest t be revealed.

Owing to the length of the Sürah and varied subjects mentioned therein, the exegesis has been divided into sections and parts. Already we have posted two posts which contain the Summary of the entire Sürah and it has also been explained as to why it has been named after a cow: Chapter 2 Sūrah al-Baqarah (The Cow) - Why the Surah is so named.

From here onward, we begin the lengthy journey of exegesis of the Sürah verse by verse divided into segments as mentioned herein under:

IntroductionThis section extends over the first thirty-nine verses of the surah. It begins with the mention of those among its addressees who shall accept faith and those who would reject it. Herein, Bani Ismael have been warned that this Book of Allah has revealed the truth in its ultimate form upon them. It would be extremely unfortunate for them if they are still led astray by the mischievous machinations of the Jews and thus deprive themselves of this great blessing - the Quran. The introduction ends on the tale of Satan's malicious rivalry and the khilaafat of man.

Section 1This section ranges from verse 40 to verse 121 (Ruku 5-14) and has been further divided into two parts as under:
  • Part I:  (Verses 40-63) In verses 40-46, the Bani Israel have been specifically addressed and urged to profess faith in the Prophet hood of Mohammad (pbuh) to which their own scriptures so clearly testify. In verses 47-63, it has been explained, first of all, that a person shall be rewarded in the Hereafter on account of his faith and deeds and not on the basis of his association with a particular family or clan. 
  • Part IIverses 64-121 are actually a history of the breach of promises and the traitor-ship of the Jews as to how they disobeyed the commandments of Allah and how this criminal mentality had been nurtured in them since the very beginning. A mention has also been made of their superstitions and of other activities which were instrumental in debasing the Shariah and the Book of Allah in their eyes.
Section 2: This section starts at verse 122 and ends with verse 163 (ruku 15-19), the part of life of Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham, peace be upon him) which relates to the building of the Baitullah.

Section 3This section, which ranges from verse 164 to verse 242 mainly consists of the laws and directives of the Shariah revealed to the Muslim Ummah. It has been further sub divided into three parts as under:
  • Part I: This part contains verses 164-188 and covers subjects like Tawheed, prayer/zakat, qisas/diyat, wills, fasting and Prohibition of bribery and wealth obtained through ill-means.
  • Part II: Verses 189-218 relate to matters related to Haj and then jehad and infaaq on account of the relationship of the latter two with the former because at that time the Baitullah was under the control of the idolaters (189-218),
  • Part III: Verses 219-242 relate to matters related to prohibition of intoxicants and gambling, permission of incorporating the affairs of the orphans with their guardians and prohibition of marriage among idolaters and other matrimonial issues like divorce, eela, khula`, radaa`at, naan-u-nafqah of the deceased among the spouses and other issues of marital life
Section 4: In this section (243-83), the Muslims have been induced to wage jihad against the unbelievers to liberate the Baitullah from their hold. The last three verses (284-86) are the concluding verses. explained that everything in this Universe is under the control of the Almighty. The surah ends with a prayer in which every word speaks of the tremendous responsibilities of this Book which the Jews and the Christians were unable to fulfill and which now have been passed on to the followers of this new religion.

Please look for the various parts of the exegesis of the surah in our coming posts.

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Part backwards for chapters in 30th Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Calligraphy by Shahid Rana | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, those wanting detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to sites the references of which are given above.

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