Saturday 7 December 2019

Surah Al Baqarah - The Cow: 2nd Chapter of Quran (Exegesis - Introduction)

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. 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.

Continuing from the Summary and Overview of the Sūrah, we now begin with the exegesis of the Sūrah from the first 39 verses of Ruku 1-4, which serve as the introduction to the Sūrah. The translation and exegesis / tafseer is in English. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles.

This 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. A reference is then made to the mental perplexity and confusion of the latter after the Quran had begun to be revealed. In this regard, the 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. This tale is actually a mirror which reflects the whole scene which was created when the Prophet (pbuh) had started disseminating the Message of Allah, and it clearly brings out the supporters and the adversaries of the new religion. The criticism of the angels on the khilaafat of man and their subsequent satisfaction over it is actually the example of those people who initially kept away from Islam because they had some doubts about it, but, later on, as soon as the truth of this religion became evident to them, they became its supporters and allies. This was because they were true seekers of the truth and were not jealous and obstinate like others who had rejected Islam merely on these bases.

On the contrary, the opposition offered by Satan is actually the example of those who were opposing the Prophet (pbuh) due to sheer pride and vanity about their creed and status. The Jews and the leaders of the Quraish are perfect representatives of this category. Such hostile factions do not end their rivalry once they are aware of the truth, instead they get more hostile. Consequently, the more they were convinced of the truth of the Prophet's mission, the more they increased their aggression.

In the light of this tale, the Jews and their supporters have been explained that their malice and jealousy for the Prophet (pbuh) and his mission is exactly the same as was shown by Satan towards the khilaafat of man. It has been emphatically stated, simultaneously, that just as the khilaafat of man was constituted against the wishes of Satan, the Prophet hood of Mohammad (pbuh) shall be established against their wishes as well.

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

Ruku / Section 1 [verses 1-7]
The first Ruku is about the Qur'an itself. This is the book, a guide for those who are God conscious. In the opening chapter God taught us how to ask for guidance and in the second chapter He presents us with a book of guidance. There is no doubt about its origin. From the beginning God stresses the fact that it is only those with God consciousness (taqwa) that will ask for and accept guidance. It is guidance for those who have taqwa, believe in the unseen, establish the prayer, give charity from what God has provided, believe in this revelation and the previous revelations, and believe in the Hereafter. These people will prosper. Those who disbelieve will not listen to Prophet Muhammad’s warning. God has covered their ears, eyes and hearts as a direct result of their arrogance and persistent sinfulness. There is a great punishment awaiting them.

Verses 1-5 Claim of Al-Quran that there it contains no doubtful statement and Al-Quran is a guide for those who are God-conscious
( 1 )   Alif, Lam, Meem. الٓمّٓۚ‏ 
"Alif Lam Meem" are *The Muqaṭṭaʿāt (Arabic: حُرُوف مُقَطَّعَات‎ ḥurūf muqaṭṭaʿāt, "mysterious letters"), a combination of between one and five Arabic letters figuring at the beginning of 29 out of the 114 chapters (surahs) of the Quran just after the opening Bismillāh, thus also called the or occasionally called Fawatih (openers). Alif, Lam, Meem here in this sūrah are also part of these letters, the meaning of which is not known.

The names of letters of the Arabic alphabet, called huruf muqatta'at, occur at the beginning of several surahs of the Qur'an. At the time of the Qur'anic revelation the use of such letters was a well-known literary device, used by both poets and orators, and we find several instances in the pre-Islamic Arabic literature that has come down to us.

Since the muqatta'at were commonly used the Arabs of that period generally knew what they meant and so they did not present a puzzle. We do not notice, therefore, any contemporaries of the Prophet (peace be on him) raising objections against the Qur'an on the ground that the letters at the beginning of some of its surahs were absurd. For the same reason no Tradition has come down to us of any Companion asking the Prophet about the significance of the muqatta'at. Later on this literary device gradually fell into disuse and hence it became difficult for commentators to determine their precise meanings. It is obvious, however, that deriving right guidance from the Qur'an does not depend on grasping the meaning of these vocables, and that anyone who fails to understand them may still live a righteous life and attain salvation. The ordinary reader, therefore, need not delve too deeply into this matter.
( 2 )   This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah
One obvious meaning of this verse is that this Book, the Qur'an, is undoubtedly from God. Another possible meaning is that nothing contained in it can be subject to doubt. Books which deal with supernatural questions, with matters that lie beyond the range of sense perception, are invariably based on conjecture and their authors, despite their brave show of competence, are therefore not immune from a degree of skepticism regarding their statements. This Book, which is based wholly on Truth, a Book which is the work of none other than the All-Knowing God Himself is distinguishable from all other books. Hence, there is no room for doubt about its contents despite the hesitation some people might express either through ignorance or folly.

This means that while the Book is potentially for all, only those who possess certain qualities can benefit from it. The first such quality is piety: those who want to benefit should be disposed to distinguish between good and evil, and to shun evil and do good. Those who lead an animal existence, who never to consider whether their actions are either good or bad, whose cynically follow the prevailing winds, who are helplessly tossed about by the animal desires that dominate their minds, such persons are all together incapable of deriving any benefit from the guidance embodied in the Qur'an.

Mufti Muhammad Shaffi/Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani's Explanation:
The second verse of the Sūrah  'Al-Baqarah' provides the answer to the prayer made in the Sūrah Al-Fatihah, " اِهۡدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِيۡمَۙ " :"Guide us in the straight path that is to say, the guidance man has prayed for is present in this book, for the Holy Qur'an is from the beginning to the end a detailed account of the straight path. Then, the Surah proceeds to divide men into three groups according to whether they accept the guidance of the Holy Qur'an or not. Three verses speak of the true and God-fearing Muslims, who not only accept but also act upon the guidance, and the next two verses of those disbelievers who oppose it openly.

Yusuf Ali's Explanation:
Taqwa and the verbs and nouns connected with the root, signify: (1) the fear of God which according to the writer of Proverbs (i.7) in the Old Testament is the beginning of Wisdom; (2) restraint, or guarding one's tongue, hand, and heart from evil; (3) hence righteousness, piety good conduct. All these ideas are implied; in the translation, only one or other of these ideas can be indicated according to the context. See also xivii 17; and ixxiv 56.

الَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِالۡغَيۡبِ وَ يُقِيۡمُوۡنَ الصَّلٰوةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنٰهُمۡ يُنۡفِقُوۡنَۙ‏ 
( 3 )   Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them,
This is the second prerequisite for deriving benefit from the Qur'an. Ghayb signifies the verities which are hidden from man's senses and which are beyond the scope of man's ordinary observation and experience, for example the existence and attributes of God, the angels. the process of revelation, Paradise, Hell and so on. 'Belief in the ghaib' means having faith in such matters, based on an absolute confidence in the Messengers of God and despite the fact that it is impossible to experience them.

According to this verse, Qur'anic guidance can prove helpful only to those prepared to affirm the truths of the supra-sensory realm. People who make their belief in these questions conditional upon sensory perception of the object of belief, and who are not prepared even to consider the possibility of the existence of things that cannot be weighed or measured, cannot profit from this Book.

This is the third requirement. It is pointed out that those to whom belief means merely the pronouncement of a formula, who think that a mere verbal confession of faith is enough and that it makes no practical demands on them, can derive no guidance from the Qur'an. To benefit from the Qur'an it is essential that a man's decision to believe should be followed immediately by practical obedience to God.

Prayer is the first and continuing sign of practical obedience. No more than a few hours can pass after a man has embraced Islam than the mu'adhin (prayer caller) calls to Prayer and it becomes evident whether or not the profession of faith has been genuine. Moreover, the mu'adhin calls to Prayer five times every day and whenever a man fails to respond to his call it becomes clear that he has transgressed the bounds of practical obedience. An abandonment of Prayer amounts to an abandonment of obedience. Obviously, if a man is not prepared to follow the directives of his guide, it is immaterial whether or not true guidance is available to him.

It should also be noted that the expression 'establishment of Prayer' has a wider meaning than mere performance of Prayer. It means that the system of Prayer should be organized on a collective basis. If there is a person in a locality who prays individually but no arrangements are made for congregational Prayer, it cannot be claimed that Prayer is established in that locality.

This, the fourth prerequisite for a person to benefit from the Qur'an, demands that the person concerned should neither be niggardly nor a worshiper of money. On the contrary, he should be willing to pay the claims on his property of both God and man, and should not flinch from making financial sacrifices for the sake of his convictions.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
All bounties proceed from God. They may be physical gifts, e.g., food, clothing, houses, gardens, wealth, etc. or intangible gifts, e.g., influence, power, birth and the opportunities flowing from it, health, talents, etc. or spiritual gifts, e.g, insight into good and evil, understanding of men, the capacity for love, etc. We are to use all in humility and moderation. But we are also to give out of every one of them something that contributes to the well-being of others. We are to be neither ascetics nor luxurious sybarites, neither selfish misers nor though less prodigals.

وَالَّذِيۡنَ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِمَۤا اُنۡزِلَ اِلَيۡكَ وَمَاۤ اُنۡزِلَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكَۚ وَبِالۡاٰخِرَةِ هُمۡ يُوۡقِنُوۡنَؕ‏ 
( 4 )   And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith].
The fifth requirement is that one should believe in the Books revealed by God to His Prophets in the various ages and regions of the world, in the Book revealed to Muhammad (peace be on him) as well as in those revealed to the other Prophets who preceded him. The door of the Qur'an is closed to all those who do not consider it necessary for man to receive guidance from God. It is also closed to those who, even if they believe in the need for such guidance, do not consider it necessary to seek it through the channel of revelation and prophethood, but would rather weave their own set of ideas and concepts and regard them as equivalent to Divine Guidance.

This door is also closed to those who believe in Divine books as such, but confine this belief to those books accepted by their forefathers, and spurn Divine Guidance revealed to anyone born beyond their own racial and national boundaries. The Qur'an excludes all such people and is prepared to open the source of its grace only to those who believe that mankind does require Divine Guidance, who acknowledge that this guidance does not come to people individually but reaches them through Prophets and Divine Books and who are not given to racial or national chauvinism but are devotees of Truth alone, and are therefore prepared to submit to Divine Guidance wherever it be found.

Belief in the After-life is the sixth and last requirement. The term al-Akhirah embraces a whole set of ideas: (i) that man is not an irresponsible being, but is answerable to God for all his conduct in this world; (ii) that the present order of the world is not timeless, but will come to an end at an appointed hour known only to God; (iii) that when this world comes to an end God will bring into being another world in which He will resurrect, at one and the same moment, all the human beings ever born on earth. He will gather them together, examine their conduct and grant each one just reward for his actions; (iv) that those who are accounted good in God's judgement will be sent to Heaven, and those judged by Him as evil-doers will be consigned to Hell; (v) that the real measure of success and failure is not one's prosperity in the present life, but one's success or failure according to God's judgement in the Next. Those who do not accept this set of beliefs can derive no benefit from the Qur'an. For if a man is merely in a state of doubt and hesitation with regard to these matters - let alone disbelieving them - he cannot advance even one step forward along the path charted out by the Qur'an.
( 5 )   Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.
Yusuf Ali's Translation:
Prosperity must be taken as referring to all the kinds of bounty which we discussed in the note to ii. 3 above. The right use of one kind leads to an increase in that and other kinds, and that is prosperity.

Verses 6-7 Warning is of no use for those who reject faith:

اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ كَفَرُوۡا سَوَآءٌ عَلَيۡهِمۡ ءَاَنۡذَرۡتَهُمۡ اَمۡ لَمۡ تُنۡذِرۡهُمۡ لَا يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ‏ 
( 6 )   Indeed, those who disbelieve - it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them - they will not believe.
Yusuf Ali's Translation:
Kafara kufr, kafr, and derivative forms of the word, imply a deliberate rejection of Faith as opposed to a mistaken idea of God or faith, which is not inconsistent with an earnest desire to see the truth. Where there is such desire, the grace and mercy of God gives guidance. But that guidance is not efficacious when it is deliberately rejected and the possibility of rejection follows from the grant of free will. The consequence of the rejection is that the spiritual faculties become dead or impervious to better influences. See also n. 93 to ii.88.
( 7 )   Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.
This does not mean that their rejection of the Truth is a consequence of God sealing their hearts. What is meant is that God sealed their hearts and ears as a consequence of their decision to reject the fundamentals of faith, of their deliberate choice of a path divergent from that charted out by the Qur'an. Anyone who has worked for the dissemination of the Truth often finds that if, after full consideration, a person decides against a doctrine, his mind begins to move in a completely opposite direction so that he fails to appreciate anything that is explained to him. His ears become deaf, his eyes are blinded to the merits of that doctrine, and one gets the distinct impression that the person's heart has indeed been sealed.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
All actions are referred to God. Therefore, when we get the penalty of our deliberate sin, and our senses become impervious to good, the penalty is referred to the justice of God.

The penalty here is the opposite of the prosperity. As we go down the path of sin, our penalty gathers momentum, just as goodness brings its own capacity for greater goodness.

Ruku / Section 2 [verses 8-20]
Verses 8-16 Hypocrites and the consequences of hypocrisy:

There are some who say they believe but they do not. They are trying to deceive God but without knowing it they are only deceiving themselves. Their hearts are diseased, and agonizing treatment awaits them because of their persistent lying. When they are told not to cause corruption they justify their actions by saying that they are only putting things right or trying to make peace. Beware of those who make mischief but do not realize what they are doing. When they are told to believe as the others do, they reply sarcastically referring to the believers as fools. When they are with the believers they pretend to believe but alone with each other they mock. God mocks those who are not rightly guided and allows them to wander blindly. They have purchased error instead of guidance. They will never return to the right way. God presents us with parables in order that we might understand His ways. If we are surrounded by light and guided He can easily remove His guidance.  And if we are afraid and sheltering from a storm, God is able to leave us in darkness because He has power over all things. 
( 8 )   And of the people are some who say, "We believe in Allah and the Last Day," but they are not believers.
Yusuf Ali's Translation:
We now come to a third class of people, the hypocrites. They are untrue to themselves, and therefore their hearts are diseased (ii. 10). The disease tends to spread, like all evil. They are curable but if they harden their hearts, they soon pass into the category of those who deliberately reject light.

Mufti Muhammad Shaffi/Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani's Explanation:
Then thirteen verses (8-20) dealing with the hypocrites who are hostile to this guidance, but, for the sake of petty worldly interests or in seeking to harm the Muslims, try to keep their disbelief concealed and to present themselves as Muslims. Thus, the first twenty verses of the Surah, in dividing men into three groups on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of the guidance, indicate that the proper criterion for dividing men into groups is neither race or colour, nor language nor geography, but religion. Hence those, who believe in Allah and follow the guidance He has provided in the Holy Qur'an, form one nation, and those who disbelieve form a different nation - the Holy Qur'an calls the former the 'party of Allah' and the latter - 'the party of Satan' (58:19-22)
( 9 )   They [think to] deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive [it] not.
These people delude themselves that their hypocritical behaviour will profit them when in fact it will prove harmful both in this world and the Next. A hypocrite may be able to fool people for a while, but it does not last long; his hypocrisy is ultimately seen through. As for the Next Life, it is obvious that his claim to be a true believer is contradicted by his own actions and is thus quite worthless.

Mufti Muhammad Shaffi/Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani's Explanation:
The ninth verse shows the basic denseness of the hypocrites - how they failed to make use of the ordinary sense of discrimination. They had grown up in a pagan society, and knew very well what the way of the infidels was. Now they had become familiar enough with Islam too, and could easily see the difference. But, in their greed, and for the sake of petty worldly profit, they still chose disbelief as against Islam, and bartered away something as invaluable as 'iman (faith) for something as worthless, and even harmful as kufr (infidelity). In giving the name of 'trade' or 'commerce' to this action, the Holy Qur'an suggests that these worldly-wise men had no understanding even of the art of trading.
( 10 )   In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they [habitually] used to lie.
' Disease' here refers to the disease of hypocrisy. The statement that 'Allah has intensified this disease' means that He does not punish the hypocrites immediately but allows them to indulge in their hypocrisy and exult in the success of their ruses. This feeling of success intensifies their hypocrisy.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
The insincere man who thinks he can get the best of both worlds by compromising with good and evil only increased the disease of his heart, because he is not true to himself. Even the good which comes to him he can pervert to evil. So the rain which fills out the ear of corn or lends fragrance to the rose also lends strength to the thorn or adds strength to the poison of the deadly night-shade.
( 11 )   And when it is said to them, "Do not cause corruption on the earth," they say, "We are but reformers."
( 12 )   Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they perceive [it] not.
Yusuf Ali's Translation:
Much mischief is caused (sometimes unwittingly) by people who think that they have a mission of peace, when they have not even a true perception of right and wrong. By their blind arrogance they depress the good and encourage the evil.
( 13 )   And when it is said to them, "Believe as the people have believed," they say, "Should we believe as the foolish have believed?" Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know [it] not.
They are being asked to become Muslims in the same manner as others of their community became Muslims

They think that those people who sincerely embraced Islam and thereby exposed themselves to all kinds of trials and persecutions, and confronted risks and dangers, were merely fools. To them it seems sheer folly to invite the hostility of the entire land merely for the sake of Truth and righteousness. In their view, wisdom consists not in bothering oneself with the distinction between truth and falsehood, but in remaining concerned only with one's own interests.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
This is another phase of the hypocrite and the cynic. "Faith" he says, "is good enough to fools." But his cynicism may be the greatest folly in the eyes of God.
( 14 )   And when they meet those who believe, they say, "We believe"; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, "Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers."
'Satan' in Arabic means refractory, rebellious and headstrong, and is used for both human beings and jinn. Although this word is generally used in the Qur'an for the satans among the jinn, it is also used occasionally for human beings possessing satanic characteristics. The context generally explains whether the word 'Satan' refers to jinn or to human beings. In this particular case the word 'satans' refers to those influential leaders of the time who were in the vanguard of opposition and hostility to Islam

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
A deeper phase of insincerity is actual duplicity. But it never pays in the end. If we compare such a man to a trader, he loses in the bargain.
( 15 )   [But] Allah mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression [while] they wander blindly.
( 16 )   Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided.
This means that two opposite effects emerged when a true servant of God radiated the light which made it possible to distinguish true from false and right from wrong, and made the straight way distinct from the ways of error. To those endowed with true perception, all truths became evident. But those who were almost blinded by the worship of their animal desires perceived nothing.

The expression, 'Allah took away the light of their perception' should not create the impression that these people were not responsible for their stumbling into darkness. Only those who do not seek the Truth, who prefer error to guidance and who are adamantly disinclined to pursue the Truth despite its luminosity, are deprived, by God, of the light of their perception. God simply enables such people to do what they wish.

Verses 17-20 Examples of hypocrite's deeds:
( 17 )   Their example is that of one who kindled a fire, but when it illuminated what was around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness [so] they could not see.
Yusuf Ali's Translation:
The man wanted light; he only kindled a fire. It produced a blaze, and won the applause of all around. But it did not last long. When the flame when out as was inevitable, the darkness was worse than before. And they all lost their way. So hypocrisy, deception, arrogant compromise with evil, cynicism, or duplicity may win temporary applause. But the true light of faith and sincerity is wanting, and therefore it must mislead and ruin all concerned. In the consternation they cannot speak or hear each other, and of course they cannot see; so they end like the deliberate rejecters of Faith (ii. 7), wildly groping about, dumb, deaf and blind.
( 18 )   Deaf, dumb and blind - so they will not return [to the right path].
( 19 )   Or [it is] like a rainstorm from the sky within which is darkness, thunder and lightning. They put their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps in dread of death. But Allah is encompassing of the disbelievers.
By thrusting their fingers into their ears they temporarily deceive themselves into believing that they can escape the catastrophic end that awaits them. However, they cannot escape that end since God with all His might, encompasses them.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
A wonderfully graphic and powerful simile applying to those who reject Faith. In their self-sufficiency they are undisturbed normally. But what happens when a great storm breaks over them? They cover their ears against thunder-claps and the lightning nearly blinds them. They are in mortal fear, but God encompasses them around - even them, for He at all times encompasses all. He gives them rope. In the intervals of deafening noise and blinding flashes, there are moments of steady light and these creatures take advantage of them, but again they are plunged into darkness. Perhaps they curse; perhaps they think that the few moments of effective light are due to their own intelligence! How much wiser would they be if they humbled themselves and sought the light of God!
( 20 )   The lightning almost snatches away their sight. Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein; but when darkness comes over them, they stand [still]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.
The first parable refers to those hypocrites who disbelieved completely but had become Muslims merely, to further their worldly interests. The second parable refers to those who were prone to doubt and hesitation or whose faith was weak; who believed in the Truth but not to the extent of exposing themselves to hardships for its sake. The 'violent rainstorm' here alludes to Islam, which came to the world as a blessing. 'Pitch-dark clouds, thunder and lightning' refer to trials, tribulations and difficulties which confronted the Islamic movement, owing to the violent opposition and resistance of those committed to Ignorance. The last part of the parable portrays the state of mind of the hypocrites. They move a little ahead when circumstances seem favourable, but when either difficulties cloud the horizon, or when they are given directives which run counter to their desires or inherited prejudices, they are seized with alarm and come to a halt.

Just as God has completely deprived the first category of hypocrites of their 'light of perception', He could have rendered these other hypocrites totally blind and deaf. But it is not God's way to deprive anyone of sight and hearing while he is willing to see and hear. Hence, God allowed them to retain their sight and hearing to the extent they were prepared to see and hear the Truth.

Ruku / Section 3 [verses 21-29]
The essence of Ruku 3 is worship of one true God and no one else:Humankind, worship God, the one who created you, and those before you, to be conscious of Him. He spread out the earth, built the sky, and sent down rain to provide you with sustenance. Do not set up rivals to God; you know there is nothing comparable to Him. If you have doubts about the revelation then produce your own chapter like it. If you need help then call upon those you have set up as rivals to God. This is not possible, you will never be able to do it, so fear the Hellfire whose fuel is humankind and stones. It is prepared for the unbelievers.
Prophet Muhammad brings good news to those who believe. They will have gardens under which rivers flow. They will be provided with fruit resembling but not the same as those they recognize from earth. They will stay there in the gardens forever with spouses.
God presents us with examples and similitudes; the believers know they are the truth. The disbelievers ask what the examples mean. God causes the rebels to go even further astray. The ones who break their covenants or spread corruption are the losers. Why would you deny God? He gave you life and will cause you to die before bringing you to life again. You will return to Him.
Verses 21-22 Allah's demand to worship Him:

Mufti Muhammad Shaffi/Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani's Explanation:

Verses (21 and 22), addressing the three groups together (the three groups were addressed separately in first 20 verses), present the message for which the Holy Qur'an has been revealed. In asking men to give up the worship of created beings and to worship Allah alone, they adopt a mode of expression which not only makes an affirmation but also supports it with arguments so clear that even an average man, only if he uses his common sense, cannot help being convinced of the Oneness of God.
( 21 )   O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous
Even though the message of the Qur'an is addressed to all, benefiting from it depends on ones willingness and on God's succour in relation to that willingness. This is why the Qur'an first explained which kind of people can and which kind of people cannot benefit from the Qur'an. As this has been explained in the foregoing verses, the quintessence of the message to which the Qur'an invites all mankind is now put forth.

So that you are saved from false beliefs and unrighteous conduct in this life, and from the punishment of God in the Next.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
For Taqwa see ii. 2. I connect this dependent clause with "adore, etc." above, though it could be connected with "created". According to my construction the argument will be as follows. Adoration is the act of the highest and humblest reverence and worship. When you get into that relationship with God, Who is your Creator and Guardian, your faith produces works of righteousness. It is a chance given you: will you exercise your free will and take it? If you do, your whole nature will be transformed.

Mufti Muhammad Shaffi/Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani's Explanation:
The sentence is addressed to all the three groups of men, and for each it has a different meaning. "Worship your Lord": the phrase calls upon the disbelievers to give up worshiping created beings and to turn to the Creator; it asks the hypocrites to be sincere and true in their faith; it commands the sinning Muslims to change their ways and try to be perfect in their obedience to Allah; and it encourages the God-fearing Muslims to be steadfast in their worship and obedience, and to make a greater effort in the way of Allah
( 22 )   [He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him].
That is, when man recognizes that all those things were done by none but God, then worship, devotion and service must be exclusively for Him. For who besides the Creator can legitimately claim these things from man?

Not to set up others as rivals to Allah means not to make anyone other than God the object of worship, service and obedience that one owes to God alone. Later on we shall see, in some detail, how the Qur'an itself specifies the forms of worship and service which we owe exclusively to God, and wherein associating anyone else amounts to shirk (associating others with God in His divinity). This, the Qur'an seeks to eradicate.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
Further proofs of God's goodness to you are given in this verse. Your whole life, physical and spiritual, depends upon Him. The spiritual is figured by the Canopy of Heaven. The truth has been brought plainly before you. Will you still resist it and go after false gods, the creation of your own fancy? The false gods may be idols, superstitions, Self, or even great or glorious things like Poetry, Art, or Science, when set up as rivals to God. They may be pride of race, pride of birth, pride of wealth or position, pride of power, pride of learning, or even spiritual pride.

Mufti Muhammad Shaffi/Maulana Muhammad Taqi Usmani's Explanation:
The two verses (21-22) proceed to enlarge upon the theme by specifying certain special qualities of the Rabb: " الَّذِىۡ خَلَقَكُمۡ وَالَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكُمۡ "Who created you and those before you." This is a quality which one cannot even imagine to belong to a created being, for it can pertain only to the Creator - that is, the quality of giving existence to what did not exist before, and of producing from the darkness and filth of the mother's womb a creature as lovely and noble as man.

In adding to the phrase: الَّذِىۡ خَلَقَكُمۡ :"who created you" the words, وَالَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكُمۡ'; "and those before you," the verse shows that Allah alone is the Creator of all mankind. It is also significant that the verse mentions only "those before you" and not "those who will come after you", and through this omission suggests that there will not be any Ummah (a traditional community formed by all the followers of a prophet) to succeed the Ummah of the Holy Prophet for no prophet will be sent down after the Last Prophet g , and hence no new 'Ummah' will arise.

The final phrase of verse 21 لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ۙ‏  has been translated here as "so that you may become God-fearing". It may also be translated to mean "So that you may save yourselves from hell", or "So that you may guard yourselves against evil." But the point is that one can hope to attain salvation and paradise only when one worships Allah alone, and does not associate anyone else with Him.

Before we proceed, we must clarify a very important doctrinal point. The phrase لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ۙ‏ which has been translated here as "so that you may become God-fearing" employs the Arabic particle I'alla which indicates an expectation or hope, and is used on an occasion when it is not definite that a certain action or event would necessarily be actualized. Now, if one does really possess 'Iman (faith) and does really believe in Tauhid, one would, in consequence definitely attain salvation and go to Heaven, as Allah Himself has promised. But here the certainty has been expressed in terms of an expectation or hope in order to make man realize that no human action by itself and in itself can bring salvation as a necessary reward. One can attain salvation and go to Heaven only by the grace of Allah alone. The ability to perform good deeds, and 'Iman itself is only a sign of divine grace, not the cause.

Verses 23-24 Claim of Al-Qur'an to be the Book of Allah
( 23 )   And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful.
Before this, in Makkah, opponents had often been challenged to produce anything of comparable merit if they believed the Qur'an to be the work of a human being. In Medina the same challenge was reiterated. (For similar challenges made elsewhere in the Qur'an, see (10: 38); (11: 13); (17: 88) and (52: 33)

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
How do we know that there is revelation, and that is from God? Here is a concrete test. The Teacher of God's Truth has placed before you many Suras. Can you produce one like it? If there is any one besides God, who can inspire spiritual truth in such noble language, produce your evidence. Or is it that your doubts are merely argumentative, refractory, against your own inner light, or conscience? All true revelation is itself a miracle, and stands on its own merits.
( 24 )   But if you do not - and you will never be able to - then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.
This suggests, in a subtle manner, that in the Next Life not only will the unbelievers become the fuel of hell-fire, but that the same fate will befall the idol-stones they worshipped and before which they had prostrated themselves. They will then know, for sure, how far their idols had any share in godhead.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
If by your own efforts you cannot match the spiritual light, and yet contumaciously reject spiritual Faith, then there will be a fire in your souls, the Punishment that burns up all your cherished idols. Perhaps you will at least fear this penalty, which your self-loving souls can understand. This fire consumes both the worshipers of the False and the Idols which they falsely worship. Can this bring them to their senses? Its power is not only over the feeling, palpitating heart of man (heart in a spiritual sense, as it persists long after the physical heart), but he cannot escape from it even if he imagines himself reduced to inertness like sticks or stones; for it is all-devouring.

Verse 25 Reward for the believers:
( 25 )   And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow. Whenever they are provided with a provision of fruit therefrom, they will say, "This is what we were provided with before." And it is given to them in likeness. And they will have therein purified spouses, and they will abide therein eternally.
The fruits of Paradise will not be so exotic in appearance as to be unfamiliar to people. They will resemble the fruits to which human beings are accustomed in this world, though infinitely excelling them in delicacy of taste. In appearance they may resemble, say mangoes, pomegranates and oranges, and the people of Paradise will be able to identify them as such. In taste, however, there will be no comparison between the terrestrial and heavenly fruits.

The Qur'anic text has the Arabic word azwaj  اَزۡوَاجٌ which means 'spouses' or 'couples', and embraces both husband and wife. The husband is the zawj of his wife, and vice versa. In the Next World, however, this relationship of spouses will be qualified by purity. If a man has been virtuous in this world while his wife has not, their relationship in the Next World will be sundered and the man will receive another spouse who will be pure and virtuous. On the other hand, if a virtuous woman has had an evil husband she will be tied in companionship with a virtuous man. Where husband and wife have both been virtuous their relationship will become everlasting.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
The word for "the lowest" in the original Arabic means a gnat, a byword in the Arabic language for the weakest of creatures. In xxix 41, which was revealed before this Sura, the similtutde of the Spider was used, and similarly in xxii 73, there is the similitude of the Fly. For similitudes taken from magnificent forces of nature, expressed in exalted language, see ii. 19 above. To God all His creation has some special meaning appropriate to itself, and some of what we consider the lowest creatures have wonderful aptitudes, e.g., the spider of the fly. Parables like these may be an occasion of stumbling to those "who forsake the path"; in other words those who deliberately shut their eyes to God's Signs, and their Penalty is attributed to God, the Cause of all causes. But lest there should be misunderstanding, it is immediately added that the stumbling and offence only occur as the result of the sinner's own choice of the wrong course. Verses 26 and 27 form one sentence and should be read together. "Forsaking the path" is defined in ii. 27, viz., breaking solemn covenants which the sinner's own soul had ratified, causing division among mankind, who were meant to be one brotherhood, and doing as much mischief as possible in the life on this earth, for the life beyond will be on another plane, where no rope will be given to evil.

Verses 26-27 Parable of gnat may confound many and enlighten many:
( 26 )   Indeed, Allah is not timid to present an example - that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, "What did Allah intend by this as an example?" He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,
Here an objection is indirectly refuted. At several places in the Qur'an, spiders, flies, gnats and so on are mentioned in order to elucidate certain points. Opponents objected to this on the grounds that such objects were too lowly to find a place in the Book of God. They indicated that had the Qur'an indeed been a revelation from God it would not have mentioned such trivial objects.

Those who do not wish to understand things and are not motivated by the urge to seek the truth become enmeshed in superficial questions relating to the Book of God, draw altogether erroneous conclusions when they encounter references to apparently insignificant things such as gnats, and are thereby thrown further and further away from the Truth. Those who seek the Truth and possess true perception, on the other hand, penetrate through these superficialities and perceive the gems of wisdom that they embody. This appreciation makes their hearts attest that such wisdom could have no other source than God Himself.

Fasiq means transgressor, disobedient.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
The word for "the lowest" in the original Arabic means a gnat, a byword in the Arabic language for the weakest of creatures. In xxix 41, which was revealed before this Surah, the similitude of the Spider was used, and similarly in xxii 73, there is the similitude of the Fly. For similitudes taken from magnificent forces of nature, expressed in exalted language, see ii. 19 above. To God all His creation has some special meaning appropriate to itself, and some of what we consider the lowest creatures have wonderful aptitudes, e.g., the spider of the fly. Parables like these may be an occasion of stumbling to those "who forsake the path"; in other words those who deliberately shut their eyes to God's Signs, and their Penalty is attributed to God, the Cause of all causes. But lest there should be misunderstanding, it is immediately added that the stumbling and offence only occur as the result of the sinner's own choice of the wrong course. Verses 26 and 27 form one sentence and should be read together. "Forsaking the path" is defined in ii. 27, viz., breaking solemn covenants which the sinner's own soul had ratified, causing division among mankind, who were meant to be one brotherhood, and doing as much mischief as possible in the life on this earth, for the life beyond will be on another plane, where no rope will be given to evil.

الَّذِيۡنَ يَنۡقُضُوۡنَ عَهۡدَ اللّٰهِ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِ مِيۡثَاقِهٖ وَيَقۡطَعُوۡنَ مَآ اَمَرَ اللّٰهُ بِهٖۤ اَنۡ يُّوۡصَلَ وَيُفۡسِدُوۡنَ فِى الۡاَرۡضِ​ؕ اُولٰٓـئِكَ هُمُ الۡخٰسِرُوۡنَ‏ 
( 27 )   Who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and cause corruption on earth. It is those who are the losers.
The injunctions or ordinances issued by a sovereign to his servants and subjects are termed 'ahd in Arabic since compliance with them becomes obligatory for the latter. 'Ahd has been used here in this sense. The 'ahd referred to signifies God's eternal command that all human beings are obliged to render their service, obedience and worship to Him alone. 'After its binding' refers to the promise made by mankind to remain faithful to the injunctions of God at the time of Adam's creation. (For details see( verse 7: 172)

That is, the transgressors strike their blows at those very relationships upon which the individual and collective well-being of mankind depends, and which God wants maintained on a sound basis. This small sentence is of great import as it embraces the whole of human morality and social life, and extends from relationships between individuals to those between nations. 'To cut asunder what Allah has commanded should he joined' does not merely signify the disruption of relationships between man and man; it forbids the establishment of all forms of human relationship except the right and permissible ones. For wrong and prohibited bonds between people have the same consequences as the disruption of the bonds of human relationship as such

In these three sentences the nature of transgression and the attitude of transgressors is fully defined. To debase the relationship between man and God, and between man and man necessarily leads to 'mischief'. Those who spread this 'mischief' on earth are transgressors.

Verses 28-29 How can you deny Allah?:
( 28 )   How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.
Yusuf Ali's Translation:
In the preceding verses God has used various arguments. He has recalled His goodness (ii. 21-22); resolved doubts (ii. 23); plainly set forth the penalty of wrong-doing (ii. 24); given glad tidings (ii. 25), shown how misunderstandings arise from a deliberate rejection of the light and breach of the Covenant (ii. 26-27). Now (ii. 28-29) He pleads with His creatures and appeals to their own subjective feelings. He brought you into being. The mysteries of life and death are in His hands. When you die on this earth, that is not the end. You were of Him, and you must return to Him. Look around you and realize your own dignity; it is from Him. The immeasurable depths of space above and around you may stagger you. They are part of His plan. What you have imagined as the seven firmaments (and any other scheme you may construct) bears witness to His design of order and perfection, for His knowledge (unlike yours) is all-comprehending. And yet will you deliberately reject or obscure or deaden the faculty of Faith which has been put into you?
( 29 )   It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.
It is difficult to explain precisely what is meant by the 'seven heavens'. In all ages man has tried, with the help of observation and speculation, to conceptualize the 'heavens', i.e. that which lies beyond and above the earth. As we well know, the concepts that have thus developed have constantly changed. Hence it would be improper to tie the meaning of these words of the Qur'an to any one of these numerous concepts. What might be broadly inferred from this statement is that either God has divided the universe beyond the earth into seven distinct spheres, or that this earth is located in that part of the universe which consists of seven different spheres.

In this sentence attention is drawn to two important facts. First, man is warned against disbelief and rebellion against God, for God knows all that man does and none of his actions are hidden from Him. Second, it is suggested to man that if he turns away from the All-Knowing God, from the One Who is the source of all knowledge, this can only leave him grouping in the darkness of ignorance and error. When there is no source of truth knowledge except God, and when that very light which alone can illuminate man's life can be obtained from none else but Him, what good can come out of deviation from the Truth?

Ruku / Section 4 [verses 30-39]
Verse 30 The story of Adam's creation:
When God told the angels He was putting humankind on earth, they asked why He would put those who cause bloodshed and damage there. They pointed out that they (the angels) only celebrate His praises and glorify His name. God answered that He knew things that they did not know.

Adam was taught the names of all things but when God showed the angels they could not tell Him the names of anything. God directed Adam to tell the angels all the names and when he had done so God reminded them that He had said that He knew things that they did not. God then asked the angels to bow down before Adam. They all bowed respectfully except for the disobedient Iblis (Satan) who was arrogant.

Adam was told to live in Paradise with his wife. They were allowed to eat freely and abundantly but ordered not to approach, or eat, from a certain tree. Satan tempted them to disobey and they were expelled from Paradise. God said He would send them all down to earth where they would live for a certain amount of time and some would be enemies to the other. He then spoke with Adam and taught him how to repent. God accepted his repentance and told Adam that although they were expelled, guidance would come, and those that accepted the guidance would have no reason to fear or grieve. But those who continued to disbelieve even after the messengers had come would abide eternally in the Fire.

وَاِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلٰٓـئِكَةِ اِنِّىۡ جَاعِلٌ فِى الۡاَرۡضِ خَلِيۡفَةً ؕ قَالُوۡٓا اَتَجۡعَلُ فِيۡهَا مَنۡ يُّفۡسِدُ فِيۡهَا وَيَسۡفِكُ الدِّمَآءَۚ وَنَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَـكَ​ؕ قَالَ اِنِّىۡٓ اَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ‏  
( 30 )   And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority." They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?" Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know."
Thus far man has been summoned to serve and obey God on the grounds that God is his creator and sustainer, that in His grasp lies man's life and death, that He alone is the Lord Who rules over the entire universe in which he lives. In view of this, the only attitude which can be deemed appropriate for man is one of service and subjection to God.

The same idea is presented in the following section, but supported on slightly different grounds

In this connection the Qur'an defines precisely the true nature of man and his correct position in the universe. It also enlightens us to a period of man's past which is otherwise inaccessible. What the Qur'an tells us here, with its practical consequences, is of far greater value than knowledge derived by unearthing bones and pottery, and piecing together scattered fragments of information with the help of conjecture.

The word malak in Arabic means 'message'

'Khalifah' or vicegerent is one who exercises the authority delegated to him by his principal, and does so in the capacity of his deputy and agent. Hence, whatever authority he possesses is not inherently his own, but is derived from, and circumscribed by, the limits set by his principal. A vicegerent is not entitled to do what he pleases, but is obliged to carry out the will of his master. If the vicegerent were either to begin thinking himself the real owner and to use the authority delegated to him in whatever manner he pleased, or if he were to acknowledge someone other than the real owner as his lord and master and to follow his directions, these would be deemed acts of infidelity and rebellion.

This was not said by way of objection or protest. It was said rather by way of inquiry and in order to satisfy their curiosity; it is inconceivable that the angels could object to any of God's decisions. The word 'vicegerent' suggested to them that the proposed species of creation would be placed on earth with some authority. It was incomprehensible to them how a species of being which had been invested with discretionary power and authority could conform with the overall order of the universe, which is based on absolute and involuntary subservience to the Will of God. They thought that investing anyone with authority in any part of the universe would lead to mischief and disorder. It is this aspect which the angels were curious about.

This does not mean that the angels considered themselves suitable for 'vicegerency'. They merely wanted to point out that God's orders were already being carried out fully, that they - the angels - were engaged in doing His will and that according to His Divine will the entire universe was kept in a state of absolute purity; moreover, God's glory was constantly being extolled and His holiness celebrated. Since all these things were being done, they wanted to ask what gap was still considered to exist that called for the creation of a new species of being to fill it.

The word tasbih has two meanings: (i) to proclaim glory and (ii) to exert oneself earnestly and energetically. In the same way taqdis has two meanings: (i) to celebrate or proclaim holiness and (ii) to purify.

This was an answer to the latter doubt expressed by the angels. The angels were told that the reason for the appointment of a vicegerent was best known to God alone and could not be understood by them. Despite the services rendered by the angels, something over and above their work was still required. God decided, therefore, to create a new species of being in the world and to invest it with some authority.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
It would seem that the angels, though holy and pure, and endued with power from God, yet represented only one side of Creation. We may imagine them without passion or emotion, of which the highest flower is love. If man was to be endued with emotions, those emotions would lead him to the highest and drag him to the lowest. The power of will or choosing would have to go with them, in order that man might steer his own bark. This power of will (when used aright) gave him to some extent a mastery over his own fortunes and over nature, thus bringing him nearer to the God-like nature which has supreme mastery and will. We may suppose the angels had no independent wills of their own; their perfection in other ways reflected God's perfection but could not raise them to the dignity of vicegerency. The perfect vicegerent is he who has the power of initiative himself, but whose independent action always reflects perfectly the will of his Principal. The distinction is expressed by Shakespeare (Sonnet 94) in those fine lines: "They are the lords and owners of their faces. Others but stewards of their excellence." The angels in their one-sidedness saw only the mischief consequent on the misuse of the emotional nature by man; perhaps they also, being without emotions, did not understand the whole of God's nature, which gives and asks for love. In humility and true devotion to God, they remonstrate; we must not imagine the least tinge of jealousy, as they are without emotion. This mystery of love being above them, they are told that they do not know and they acknowledge (in ii. 32 below) not their fault (for there is no question of fault) but their imperfection of knowledge. At the same time, the matter is brought home to them when the actual capacities of man are shown to them (ii. 31, 33).

Verses 31-33 Victory of knowledge:
( 31 )   And He taught Adam the names - all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, "Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful."
The nature of man's knowledge is such that he acquires information of different things through their names. Hence it might be said that the sum total of man's knowledge consists of the names of things. To teach Adam the names of all things means, therefore, imparting the knowledge of those things. us.43 you, only You, are All-Knowing, All Wise.'

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
The literal words in Arabic throughout this passage are: "The names of things" which commentators take to mean the inner nature and qualities of things, and things here would include feelings. The whole passage is charged with mystic meaning. The particular qualities or feelings which were outside the nature of angels were put by God into the nature of man. Man was thus able to love and understand love, and thus plan and initiate, as becomes the office of vicegerent. The angels acknowledged this. These things they could only know from the outside, but they had faith, or belief in the Unseen. And they knew that God saw all - what others see, what others do not see, what others may even wish to conceal. Man has many qualities which are latent or which he may wish to suppress or conceal, to his own detriment.
( 32 )   They said, "Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise."
It seems that the knowledge of each angel and each genre of angel is confined to its own sphere of competence. The angels appointed to administer, let us say, things relating to air have full knowledge about this subject but have no knowledge, say, about water, and so on and so forth. Man's range of knowledge, however, is comprehensive. Even if man's information in a particular area may be narrower than that of the angel directly concerned with it, the total range of his knowledge has a comprehensiveness which has not been granted to the angels.
( 33 )   He said, "O Adam, inform them of their names." And when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed."
This demonstration of Adam's capacity was an answer to the first of the doubts the angels had expressed. In this manner, they were made to realize that God had not only bestowed some authority upon man, but had also endowed him with knowledge. Fear of mischief and disorder through man's appointment as vicegerent is only one aspect of the matter. The other aspect is constructive and offsets man's potentiality for spreading mischief. For the wise will not sacrifice a major good for fear of a minor harm.

Verses 34-35 Angels show respect to Adam:
( 34 )   And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam"; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.
This signifies that all the angels whose jurisdiction embraces the earth and that part of the universe in which the earth is situated were ordered to devote themselves to man's service. Since man had been invested with authority on earth the angels were told that whenever man wanted to make use of the powers with which he had been invested by God, and which God of His own will had allowed him to use, they should co-operate with him and enable him to do whatever to do, irrespective of right and wrong.

This can be understood with reference to the manner in which government employees are required to work. When a sovereign appoints a governor or a magistrate, all government employees under his jurisdiction are duty not. But as soon as the sovereign indicates to those employees that the governor or magistrate should be barred from doing something, the effective authority of the governor or the magistrate comes to an abrupt end. In fact, were the sovereign to issue the order that the governor be dismissed or imprisoned, the same employees who until then had been moving to and fro at his bidding would not feel hesitant in putting hand on him and taking him to prison.

God's order to the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam was of a similar nature. It is possible that prostration signifies the fact of their becoming yoked to man's service. At the same time it is also possible that they, were ordered to perform the act of prostration itself as a sign of the envisaged relationship between angels and man. In my view the latter seems more plausible.

Iblis literally means 'thoroughly disappointed; utterly in despair'. In Islamic terminology the word denotes the jinn who, in defiance of God's command, refused to obey and to yoke himself to the service of Adam and his progeny and asked God to allow him a term when he might mislead and tempt mankind to evil and error. He is also called al-Shaytan (Satan)

In fact Satan (or Iblis) is not an abstract, impersonal force. Like human beings he is possessed of a specific personality. Moreover, one should not make the mistake of considering Satan an angel. Elsewhere the Qur'an itself clearly states that he was a jinn and jinn, as we know, are an independent species, distinct from the angels. See( Qur'an 18: 50.)

These words seem to indicate that in committing disobedience Iblis was probably not alone. What seems to have been the case is that a section of the jinn was bent upon rebellion and the name of Iblis is mentioned only because he was their leader and the most noted among them for his rebellion. Another translation of this sentence could be: '? and he was of the defiers (kafirin)'. If this sense is correct, these words would signify that there was already a party of rebellious and recalcitrant jinn and that Iblis belonged to that party. In the Qur'an the word shayatin (satans) denotes these jinn and their offspring. Hence, whenever the context itself does not indicate that the term has been used for human beings who possess satanic attributes, the word ' Satans' should be understood to signify these satanic jinn.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
The Arabic may also be translated: "They bowed down, except Iblis." In that case Iblis (Satan) would be one of the angels. But the theory of fallen angels is not usually accepted in Muslim theology. In xviii, 50 Iblis is spoken of as a Jinn. We shall discuss later the meaning of this word.
( 35 )   And We said, "O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers."
This indicates that before man was sent to earth Moreover, for this kind of test Paradise was the best possible place. What God wanted to impress on man was that the only place that befits man's station is Paradise, and that if man turns from the course of obedience to God as a result of Satanic allurements, he will remain deprived of it in the Next Life even as he was deprived of it once before. The only way he can recover his true status and reclaim the lost Paradise is by resisting effectively the enemy who is always trying to drive him off the course of obedience to God.

The use of the word 'wrong-doer' is highly significant. 'Wrong-doing' consists in withholding someone's rights and the wrong-doer is one who withholds those rights from their legitimate claimants. Anyone who disobeys God withholds three major rights. The first is what is due to God, for He has the right to be obeyed. Second, there are the rights of all those things which a man employs in disobeying God. The parts of his body, his mental energy, his fellow-beings, those angels who, under Divine dispensation, have been appointed to enable him to achieve his aims. both righteous and unrighteous, the material objects which he employs in his acts of disobedience - all these have a rightful claim upon him to be used in ways that please God. But when he uses them in ways which displease God he commits wrong against them all. Third, he wrongs his own self which has the right to be saved from perdition. By inviting punishment from God because of his disobedience he wrongs his own self as well. It is for these reasons that the word 'wrong' is often used in the Qur'an for sin, and the word 'wrong-doer' for sinner

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
Was the Garden of Eden a place on this earth? Obviously not. For, in verse 36 below, it was after the Fall that the sentence was pronounced: "On earth will be your dwelling." Before the Fall, we must suppose Man to be on another plane altogether - of felicity, innocence, trust, a spiritual existence, with the negation of enmity, want of faith, and all evil. Perhaps Time and Space also did not exist, and the Garden is allegorical as well as the tree. The forbidden tree was not the tree of knowledge for man was given in that perfect state fuller knowledge than he has now (ii. 31); it was the tree of Evil, which he was forbidden not only to eat of, but even to approach.

"Zulm" in Arabic implies harm, wrong, injustice, or transgression, and may have reference to oneself; when the wrong is done to others it implies tyranny and oppression; the idea of wrong naturally connects itself with darkness, which is another shade of meaning carried with the root word.

Verse 36 Shaitan caused Adam to lose paradise:
( 36 )   But Satan caused them to slip out of it and removed them from that [condition] in which they had been. And We said, "Go down, [all of you], as enemies to one another, and you will have upon the earth a place of settlement and provision for a time."
This means that Satan is the enemy of man, and vice versa. That Satan is the enemy, of man is obvious enough, for he tries to drive him off the course of obedience to God and leads him to perdition, but one might wonder how man could be referred to as the enemy of Satan. The fact is that man's essential humanity makes this enmity incumbent upon him. Man, however, is often deceived by Satan and befriends him owing to the temptations that he holds out to him. This kind of friendship does not mean that the basic, irreconcilable clash of interests between man and Satan has been resolved. It only means that one of the two (Satan) has defeated and successfully trapped the other (man).

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
"Iblis" in ii. 34 is apparently the Power of Evil, with the root idea of desperateness of rebillion. "Satan" in this verse is the Power of Evil, with the root idea of perversity or enmity. Note the appropriateness of the term on each occasion. Also, "slipping" from the Garden denotes the idea of Evil gradually tempting man from a higher to a lower state.

God's decree is the result of man's action. Note the transition in Arabic from the singular number in ii. 33, to the dual in ii. 35, and the plural here, which I have indicated in English by "All ye people." Evidently Adam is the type of all mankind, and the sexes go together in all spiritual matters. Moreover, the expulsion applied to Adam, Eve, and Satan, and the Arabic plural is appropriate for any number greater than two.

Man's sojourn in this lower state, where he is partly an animal of this earth, is for a time. But he must fulfill his lower duties also, for they too are a part of his spiritual training.
Verse 37 Adam's repentance and his forgiveness:
( 37 )   Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
This means that when Adam became conscious of his act of sin and wanted to return from his state of disobedience to that of obedience, and when he tried to seek remission for his sin from God, he was unable to find the words to use in his prayer to God. In His Mercy God taught him the words with which he could pray.

The word tawbah basically denotes 'to come back, to turn towards someone'. Tawbah, on the part of man, signifies that he has given up his attitude of disobedience and has returned to submission and obedience to God. The same word used in respect of God means that He has mercifully turned towards His repentant servant so that the latter has once more become an object of His compassionate attention.

52. The Qur'an refutes the doctrine that certain consequences necessarily follow from sins and that man must in all cases bear them. In fact this is one of the most misleading doctrines to have been invented by human imagination. If it were true it would mean that a sinner would never have the opportunity to have his repentance accepted. It is a mechanistic view of reward and punishment and thus prevents and discourages the sinner from trying to improve.

The Qur'an, on the contrary, tells man that reward for good actions and punishment for bad ones rests entirely with God. The reward that one receives for good acts is not the natural consequence of those acts; it is rather due to the grace and benevolence of God and it is entirely up to Him to reward one or not. Likewise, punishment for evil deeds is not a natural and unalterable consequence of man's acts. God has full authority to punish man for his sin as well as to pardon him.

God's grace and mercy, however, are interrelated with His wisdom. Since He is wise, He does not use His power arbitrarily. Hence, whenever God rewards a man for his good acts, He does so because the good was done with purity of intention and for the sake of pleasing God. And if God refuses to accept an act of apparent goodness, He does so because that act had merely the form or appearance of goodness, and was not motivated by the desire to please God.

In the same way God punishes man for those sins which he commits with rebellious boldness, and which whet his appetite for more rather than lead him to repentance. Similarly, in His mercy God pardons those sins which are followed by genuine repentance and readiness on the part of the sinner to reform himself. There is no need for the criminal to despair of God's grace and mercy, no matter how great a criminal he is. Nor is there any reason for even the most rabid disbeliever to despair, provided he recognizes his error, repents of his disobedience and is ready to replace his former disobedience with obedience.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
As "names" in verse 31 above is used for the "nature of things", so "words" here mean "inspiration" "spiritual knowledge". The Arabic word used for "learn" here implies some effort on his part to which God's Grace responded.

Verses 38-39 Need of Allah's revelations for guidance:
( 38 )   We said, "Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance - there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.
 The reiteration of this statement is significant. We have been told above that Adam repented and that his repentance was accepted by God. This means that the stain of sin was washed away and therefore no stain remained

On the contrary, God not only accepted Adam's repentance but also honoured him by endowing him with prophethood so that he might he able to direct his children correctly. The repetition of the order to leave Paradise and go down to earth is aimed at driving home the point that earth was not created as a place of punishment for man. On the contrary, man was put on earth to serve as God's vicegerent there. It was only to test man and thereafter to equip him for the performance of God's vicegerency that man was placed temporarily in Paradise.

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
Note the transition from the plural "We" at the beginning of the verse to the singular "Me" later in the same verse God speaks of Himself usually in the first person plural "We" it is the plural of respect and honour and is used in human language in Royal proclamations and decrees. But where a special personal relationship is expressed the singular, "I" or "Me" is used Cf. xxvi. 52, etc.
( 39 )   And those who disbelieve and deny Our signs - those will be companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally."
Ayat is the plural of ayah which means a 'sign' or 'token' which directs one to something important. In the Qur'an this word is used in four different senses. Sometimes it denotes a sign or indication. In certain other places the phenomena of the universe are called the ayat (signs) of God, for the reality to which the phenomena point is hidden behind the veil of appearances. At times the miracles performed by the Prophets are also termed ayat since they show that the Prophets were envoys of the Sovereign of the universe. Lastly, individual units of the Book of God are also called ayat because they point to the ultimate reality, and because the substantive contents of the Book of God, its phraseology, its style, its inimitable literary excellence are clear tokens of the attributes of the Author of the Book. The sense in which the word ayah has been used in a particular verse becomes evident from the context of its occurrence.

This is a permanent directive from God to mankind which is valid from the beginning of life until the Day of Judgement. It is this which has been mentioned earlier as God's covenant see (n. 31 above).

It is not for man to prescribe the way of life which his fellow human beings should follow. In his double capacity as the subject and vicegerent of God, man is required to follow the way of life prescribed by his Lord. There are only two means of access to this way: either by direct revelation from God or by following one to whom God has revealed guidance. Nothing else can direct man to the way that enjoys God's approval and good pleasure. Resorting to any other means in quest of salvation is not only fundamentally mistaken but tantamount to rebellion.

The story of the creation of Adam and the origin of the human species occurs seven times in the Qur'an, once in the verses just mentioned. For other references see (7: 11 ff), (15: 26 ff)., (17: 61 ff)., (18: 50), (20: 116 ff)., (38: 71 ff). The story also occurs in the Bible in Genesis 1, 2 and 3. A comparative reading of the Qur'anic and Biblical versions will enable the perceptive reader to detect the differences between the two.

The dialogue between God and the angels at the time of the creation of Adam is also mentioned in the Talmud. This account lacks the spiritual significance underlying the Qur'anic version. Indeed, the Talmudic version additionally contains the following oddity: when the angels ask why men are being created, God replies that they are being created so that good people may be born among them. God refrains from mentioning the bad people lest the angels disapprove the creation of man! (See Paul Isaac Hershon, Talmudic Miscellany, London, 1880, pp. 294

Yusuf Ali's Translation:
But if the soul, in spite of the Oft-Returning Mercy of God, rejects the higher light and goes on sinning against that light, the inevitable consequence must be the spiritual Fire. It is not merely a fortuitous incident. As his rejection was deliberate and definite, so the consequences must be of an abiding character.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah al-Baqarah with English subtitles:

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

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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