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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Al-Baqara 2:168-176 [21/40]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُO mankind!
مِمَّاof what
فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ(is) in the earth -
طَيِّبًا(and) good.
وَلَاAnd (do) not
خُطُوَٲتِ(the) footsteps (of)
ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ‌ۚthe Shaitaan.
إِنَّهُۥIndeed, he
لَكُمْ(is) to you
عَدُوٌّan enemy
يَأْمُرُكُمhe commands you
بِٱلسُّوٓءِto (do) the evil
وَٱلْفَحْشَآءِand the shameful
وَأَنand that
تَقُولُواْyou say
تَعْلَمُونَyou know.
وَإِذَاAnd when
قِيلَit is said
لَهُمُto them,
أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُAllah has revealed,`
قَالُواْthey said,
نَتَّبِعُwe follow
أَلْفَيْنَاwe found
عَلَيْهِ[on it]
ءَابَآءَنَآ‌ۗour forefathers (following)`.
أَوَلَوْEven though
ءَابَآؤُهُمْtheir forefathers
لَا يَعْقِلُونَ(did) not understand
وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَand they were not guided?
وَمَثَلُAnd (the) example
ٱلَّذِينَ(of) those who
كَمَثَلِ(is) like (the) example
ٱلَّذِى(of) the one who
بِمَاat what
لَا يَسْمَعُ(does) not hear
وَنِدَآءً‌ۚand cries -
عُمْىٌ(and) blind,
فَهُمْ[so] they
لَا يَعْقِلُونَ(do) not understand.
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَO you who
مِن طَيِّبَـٰتِfrom (the) good
رَزَقْنَـٰكُمْWe have provided you
وَٱشْكُرُواْand be grateful
لِلَّهِto Allah
إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَworship Him alone.
حَرَّمَHe has forbidden
عَلَيْكُمُto you
ٱلْمَيْتَةَthe dead animals,
وَٱلدَّمَand [the] blood,
وَلَحْمَand flesh,
ٱلْخِنزِيرِ(of) swine,
وَمَآ أُهِلَّand what has been dedicated
بِهِۦ[with it]
لِغَيْرِto other than
فَمَنِSo whoever
ٱضْطُرَّ(is) forced by necessity
بَاغٍ(being) disobedient
وَلَاand not
فَلَآthen no
عَلَيْهِ‌ۚon him.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَIndeed, Allah
غَفُورٌ(is) Oft-Forgiving,
رَّحِيمٌMost Merciful.
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَIndeed, those who
مَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُwhat Allah (has) revealed
مِنَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِof the Book,
وَيَشْتَرُونَand they purchase
بِهِۦthere with
ثَمَنًاa gain
مَا يَأْكُلُونَnot they eat
فِى بُطُونِهِمْin their bellies
ٱلنَّارَthe Fire.
وَلَا يُكَلِّمُهُمُ ٱللَّهُAnd Allah will not speak to them
يَوْمَ(on the) Day
ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ(of) [the] Judgment
وَلَا يُزَكِّيهِمْand He will not purify them,
وَلَهُمْand for them
عَذَابٌ(is) a punishment
ٱلَّذِينَ(are) they who
ٱلضَّلَـٰلَةَ[the] astraying
بِٱلْهُدَىٰfor [the] Guidance,
وَٱلْعَذَابَand [the] punishment
بِٱلْمَغْفِرَةِ‌ۚfor [the] forgiveness.
فَمَآSo what (is)
أَصْبَرَهُمْtheir endurance
ٱلنَّارِthe Fire!
بِأَنَّ(is) because
ٱلْكِتَـٰبَthe Book
بِٱلْحَقِّ‌ۗwith [the] Truth.
وَإِنَّAnd indeed,
ٱخْتَلَفُواْwho differed
ٱلْكِتَـٰبِthe Book
لَفِى(are) surely in

يٰٓاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوۡا مِمَّا فِى الۡاَرۡضِ حَلٰلًا طَيِّبًا  ۖ وَّلَا تَتَّبِعُوۡا خُطُوٰتِ الشَّيۡطٰنِؕ اِنَّهٗ لَـكُمۡ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِيۡنٌ‏  اِنَّمَا يَاۡمُرُكُمۡ بِالسُّوۡٓءِ وَالۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَاَنۡ تَقُوۡلُوۡا عَلَى اللّٰهِ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ‏  وَاِذَا قِيۡلَ لَهُمُ اتَّبِعُوۡا مَآ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰهُ قَالُوۡا بَلۡ نَـتَّبِعُ مَآ اَلۡفَيۡنَا عَلَيۡهِ اٰبَآءَنَا ؕ اَوَلَوۡ كَانَ اٰبَآؤُهُمۡ لَا يَعۡقِلُوۡنَ شَيۡـًٔـا وَّلَا يَهۡتَدُوۡنَ‏  وَمَثَلُ الَّذِيۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِىۡ يَنۡعِقُ بِمَا لَا يَسۡمَعُ اِلَّا دُعَآءً وَّنِدَآءً ؕ صُمٌّۢ بُكۡمٌ عُمۡـىٌ فَهُمۡ لَا يَعۡقِلُوۡنَ‏  يٰٓاَ يُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُلُوۡا مِنۡ طَيِّبٰتِ مَا رَزَقۡنٰكُمۡ وَاشۡكُرُوۡا لِلّٰهِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ اِيَّاهُ تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ‏  اِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيۡکُمُ الۡمَيۡتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحۡمَ الۡخِنۡزِيۡرِ وَمَآ اُهِلَّ بِهٖ لِغَيۡرِ اللّٰهِ​ۚ فَمَنِ اضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٍ وَّلَا عَادٍ فَلَاۤ اِثۡمَ عَلَيۡهِ​ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ‏  اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ يَكۡتُمُوۡنَ مَآ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰهُ مِنَ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ يَشۡتَرُوۡنَ بِهٖ ثَمَنًا قَلِيۡلًا ۙ اُولٰٓٮِٕكَ مَا يَاۡكُلُوۡنَ فِىۡ بُطُوۡنِهِمۡ اِلَّا النَّارَ وَلَا يُکَلِّمُهُمُ اللّٰهُ يَوۡمَ الۡقِيٰمَةِ وَلَا يُزَکِّيۡهِمۡ ۖۚ وَلَهُمۡ عَذَابٌ اَ لِيۡمٌ‏  اُولٰٓٮِٕكَ الَّذِيۡنَ اشۡتَرَوُا الضَّلٰلَةَ بِالۡهُدٰى وَالۡعَذَابَ بِالۡمَغۡفِرَةِ​ ۚ فَمَآ اَصۡبَرَهُمۡ عَلَى النَّارِ‏  ذٰلِكَ بِاَنَّ اللّٰهَ نَزَّلَ الۡکِتٰبَ بِالۡحَـقِّؕ وَاِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ اخۡتَلَفُوۡا فِى الۡكِتٰبِ لَفِىۡ شِقَاقٍۢ بَعِيۡدٍ‏ 
(2:168) O people! Eat of the lawful and pure things in the earth and follow not in the footsteps of Satan.166 For surely he is your open enemy; (2:169) he only commands you to do evil and commit acts of indecency and to ascribe to Allah the things concerning which you have no knowledge (that He really is their source).167 (2:170) And when they are told: “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say: “No, we shall follow what we found our forefathers adhering to.”168 What! Even if their forefathers were devoid of understanding and right guidance? (2:171) Those who have refused to follow the Way of Allah resemble cattle; when the shepherd calls them they hear nothing except shouting and crying;169 they are deaf, dumb and blind, and so they understand nothing. (2:172) Believers! Eat of the pure things wherewith We have provided you for sustenance and give thanks to Allah170 if it is Him that you serve. (2:173) He has made unlawful to you only carrion and blood and the flesh of swine and that over which there has been pronounced the name of anyone other than Allah’s.171 But he who is constrained (to eat of them) – and he neither covets them nor exceeds the indispensable limit incurs no sin: Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.172 (2:174) Those who conceal anything of the Book revealed by Allah and sell it away for a trifling gain are merely filling their bellies with Fire.173 Allah will neither address them on the Day of Resurrection, nor shall He pronounce them “pure”.174 A painful chastisement lies in store for them. (2:175) They are the ones who bought error in exchange for true guidance, and chastisement in exchange for forgiveness. How patient they are in enduring the Fire! (2:176) This is so because Allah revealed the Book with the Truth, but those who disagreed concerning the Book veered far away from the Truth.

166. The demand made here is that they should violate all those taboos in matters of food and drink which have their basis in superstitious beliefs or irrational usages.

167. The notion that all superstitious customs and taboos are God-given religious teachings is an example of satanic deception, pure and simple, since there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that they are from God.

168. The only possible argument and justification for these taboos was that they had been sanctified by the practice of their forefathers from whom they had allegedly come down generation after generation. Fickle-minded as they were, they deemed this argument to be sufficiently persuasive.

169. This parable has two aspects. On the one hand, it suggests that these people are like herds of irrational animals, dumb cattle, that always follow their herdsmen, moving on as they hear their calls without understanding what they mean. (Thus these people follow their leaders even though they do not grasp where it is they are being led to - Ed.) On the other hand, it also suggests that when the Truth is preached to them they show such insensitivity to it that one may as well be addressing animals who merely comprehend sounds but are incapable of understanding their meaning. The expression lends itself to both interpretations.

170. The believers are told that if by having believed they have committed themselves to following the Law of God as they claim then they should abandon all taboos and prohibitions imposed by the pundits and priests, by the rabbis and church fathers, by the monks and recluses, and by their own forefathers. Although they were required to abstain from whatever had been prohibited by God, they ought to feel no compunction with regard to consuming all that He had permitted. This has also been alluded to in the saying of the Prophet reported in a Tradition in the following words: 'Whoever prays in our manner, turns towards our qiblah (in Prayer), and eats (the flesh) of our slaughtered (animals), that person is Muslim. (Bukhari, 'K. al-Salah', 28; 'K. al-Adahi', 12; Muslim, 'K. al-Adahi', 6; Nasai, 'K. al-lman', 9; 'K. al-Dahaya', 17 - Ed.) This means that in spite of praying and facing towards the qiblah, a person is not fully assimilated into Islam as long as he maintains the pre-Islamic taboos in matters of eating and drinking and holds on to the fetters of superstition forged by the victims of Ignorance. A person's adherence to these taboos is indicative of the fact that the poison of Ignorance continues to flow in his veins.

171. This applies to the flesh of an animal slaughtered in the name of anything and anyone other than God as well as to the food prepared as an offering to someone other than God. God alone is the master of everything - of the animal whose flesh we consume as well as of every other kind of food - and it is He Who has mercifully provided us with them. Hence, if it is appropriate to pronounce any name as an expression of gratitude, of consecration, it can only be the name of God. To use anyone else's name means that we believe that there is some other being either instead of or in addition to God which deserves to be acknowledged as our Lord and Benefactor.

172. This verse grants permission to use prohibited things with three stipulations. First, one must be in a state of extreme compulsion, for example, being gravely ill or being so hungry and thirsty that one's very life is in danger, and a prohibited thing is all that is available to save one's life. Second, the person concerned should have no inclination to violate the Law of God. Third, in consuming the prohibited thing one should not exceed the limits of bare necessity. If a few bites or a few drops are enough to save one's life, one ought not to go beyond the absolute minimum.

173. This means that the blame for the growth of whole new codes consisting of superstitions, perverted customs, and unjustifiable taboos lay squarely on the shoulders of those religious scholars who had knowledge of the Scriptures but failed to transmit their knowledge to the common people. Moreover, later, when erroneous practices began to spread among them they remained mute spectators of this drama. Indeed, some of them kept wilfully silent about these matters thinking that their interests would be better served if the Scripture remained a sealed book and its injunctions were kept beyond the access of the common people.

174. This is a refutation of the false claims made by their religious leaders and a clarification of the misconceptions regarding their positions and privileges which these leaders had been spreading among the common people. They spared no efforts to give the impression that they were sacred beings and that anyone who attached himself to them would necessarily earn God's forgiveness through their intercession. Here God is telling them that He takes no notice of people who are unworthy to intercede for themselves, let alone able to intercede for others.