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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
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 Surah Al-Baqarah 2:21-29 [3/40]
  
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُO mankind!
ٱعْبُدُواْworship
رَبَّكُمُyour Lord,
ٱلَّذِىthe One Who
خَلَقَكُمْcreated you
وَٱلَّذِينَand those [who]
مِن قَبْلِكُمْbefore you,
لَعَلَّكُمْso that you may
تَتَّقُونَbecome righteous.
﴿٢١﴾
ٱلَّذِىThe One Who
جَعَلَmade
لَكُمُfor you
ٱلْأَرْضَthe earth
فِرَٲشًاa resting place
وَٱلسَّمَآءَand the sky
بِنَآءًa canopy,
وَأَنزَلَand sent down
مِنَfrom
ٱلسَّمَآءِthe sky
مَآءًwater,
فَأَخْرَجَthen brought forth
بِهِۦtherewith
مِنَ[of]
ٱلثَّمَرَٲتِthe fruits
رِزْقًا(as) provision
لَّكُمْ‌ۖfor you.
فَلَاSo (do) not
تَجْعَلُواْset up
لِلَّهِto Allah
أَندَادًاrivals
وَأَنتُمْwhile you
تَعْلَمُونَ[you] know.
﴿٢٢﴾
وَإِنAnd if
كُنتُمْyou are
فِىin
رَيْبٍdoubt
مِّمَّاabout what
نَزَّلْنَاWe have revealed
عَلَىٰto
عَبْدِنَاOur slave,
فَأْتُواْthen produce
بِسُورَةٍa chapter
مِّن[of]
مِّثْلِهِۦlike it
وَٱدْعُواْand call
شُهَدَآءَكُمyour witnesses
مِّن دُونِother than
ٱللَّهِAllah
إِنif
كُنتُمْyou are
صَـٰدِقِينَtruthful.
﴿٢٣﴾
فَإِنBut if
لَّمْnot
تَفْعَلُواْyou do,
وَلَنand never
تَفْعَلُواْwill you do,
فَٱتَّقُواْthen fear
ٱلنَّارَthe Fire
ٱلَّتِىwhose
وَقُودُهَا[its] fuel
ٱلنَّاسُ(is) [the] men
وَٱلْحِجَارَةُ‌ۖand [the] stones,
أُعِدَّتْprepared
لِلْكَـٰفِرِينَfor the disbelievers.
﴿٢٤﴾
وَبَشِّرِAnd give good news
ٱلَّذِينَ(to) those who
ءَامَنُواْbelieve,
وَعَمِلُواْand do
ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ[the] righteous deeds,
أَنَّthat
لَهُمْfor them
جَنَّـٰتٍ(will be) Gardens,
تَجْرِىflow
مِن[from]
تَحْتِهَاunder them
ٱلْأَنْهَـٰرُ‌ۖthe rivers.
كُلَّمَاEvery time
رُزِقُواْthey are provided
مِنْهَاtherefrom
مِنof
ثَمَرَةٍfruit
رِّزْقًا‌ۙ(as) provision,
قَالُواْthey (will) say,
هَـٰذَا`This (is)
ٱلَّذِىthe one which
رُزِقْنَاwe were provided
مِن قَبْلُ‌ۖbefore.`
وَأُتُواْ بِهِۦAnd they will be given
مُتَشَـٰبِهًا‌ۖ(things) in resemblance;
وَلَهُمْAnd for them
فِيهَآtherein
أَزْوَٲجٌspouses
مُّطَهَّرَةٌ‌ۖpurified,
وَهُمْand they
فِيهَاtherein
خَـٰلِدُونَ(will) abide forever.
﴿٢٥﴾
۞ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَIndeed, Allah
لَا يَسْتَحْىِۦٓ(is) not ashamed
أَن يَضْرِبَto set forth
مَثَلاًan example
مَّا(like) even
بَعُوضَةً(of) a mosquito
فَمَاand (even) something
فَوْقَهَا‌ۚabove it.
فَأَمَّاThen as for
ٱلَّذِينَthose who
ءَامَنُواْbelieved,
فَيَعْلَمُونَ[thus] they will know
أَنَّهُthat it
ٱلْحَقُّ(is) the truth
مِنfrom
رَّبِّهِمْ‌ۖtheir Lord.
وَأَمَّاAnd as for
ٱلَّذِينَthose who
كَفَرُواْdisbelieved
فَيَقُولُونَ[thus] they will say
مَاذَآwhat
أَرَادَ ٱللَّهُ(did) Allah intend
بِهَـٰذَاby this
مَثَلاً‌ۘexample?
يُضِلُّHe lets go astray
بِهِۦby it
كَثِيرًاmany
وَيَهْدِىand He guides
بِهِۦby it
كَثِيرًا‌ۚmany.
وَمَاAnd not
يُضِلُّHe lets go astray
بِهِۦٓby it
إِلَّاexcept
ٱلْفَـٰسِقِينَthe defiantly disobedient.
﴿٢٦﴾
ٱلَّذِينَThose who
يَنقُضُونَbreak
عَهْدَ ٱللَّهِ(the) Covenant of Allah
مِنۢ بَعْدِafter
مِيثَـٰقِهِۦits ratification,
وَيَقْطَعُونَand [they] cut
مَآwhat
أَمَرَ ٱللَّهُAllah has ordered
بِهِۦٓit
أَن يُوصَلَto be joined
وَيُفْسِدُونَand [they] spread corruption
فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ‌ۚin the earth.
أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَThose,
هُمُthey
ٱلْخَـٰسِرُونَ(are) the losers.
﴿٢٧﴾
كَيْفَHow
تَكْفُرُونَ(can) you disbelieve
بِٱللَّهِin Allah?
وَكُنتُمْWhile you were
أَمْوَٲتًاdead
فَأَحْيَـٰكُمْ‌ۖthen He gave you life;
ثُمَّthen
يُمِيتُكُمْHe will cause you to die,
ثُمَّthen
يُحْيِيكُمْHe will give you life,
ثُمَّthen
إِلَيْهِto Him
تُرْجَعُونَyou will be returned.
﴿٢٨﴾
هُوَHe
ٱلَّذِى(is) the One Who
خَلَقَcreated
لَكُمfor you
مَّاwhat
فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ(is) in the earth,
جَمِيعًاall.
ثُمَّMoreover
ٱسْتَوَىٰٓHe turned
إِلَىto
ٱلسَّمَآءِthe heaven
فَسَوَّٮٰهُنَّand fashioned them
سَبْعَseven
سَمَـٰوَٲتٍ‌ۚheavens.
وَهُوَAnd He
بِكُلِّof every
شَىْءٍthing
عَلِيمٌ(is) All-Knowing.
﴿٢٩﴾


يٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعۡبُدُوۡا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِىۡ خَلَقَكُمۡ وَالَّذِيۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ۙ‏  الَّذِىۡ جَعَلَ لَـكُمُ الۡاَرۡضَ فِرَاشًا وَّالسَّمَآءَ بِنَآءً وَّاَنۡزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مَآءً فَاَخۡرَجَ بِهٖ مِنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ رِزۡقًا لَّـكُمۡ​ۚ فَلَا تَجۡعَلُوۡا لِلّٰهِ اَنۡدَادًا وَّاَنۡـتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ‏  وَاِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ فِىۡ رَيۡبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلۡنَا عَلٰى عَبۡدِنَا فَاۡتُوۡا بِسُوۡرَةٍ مِّنۡ مِّثۡلِهٖ وَادۡعُوۡا شُهَدَآءَكُمۡ مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰهِ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ صٰدِقِيۡنَ‏   فَاِنۡ لَّمۡ تَفۡعَلُوۡا وَلَنۡ تَفۡعَلُوۡا فَاتَّقُوۡا النَّارَ الَّتِىۡ وَقُوۡدُهَا النَّاسُ وَالۡحِجَارَةُ  ۖۚ اُعِدَّتۡ لِلۡكٰفِرِيۡنَ‏  وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ اَنَّ لَهُمۡ جَنّٰتٍ تَجۡرِىۡ مِنۡ تَحۡتِهَا الۡاَنۡهٰرُ​ؕ ڪُلَّمَا رُزِقُوۡا مِنۡهَا مِنۡ ثَمَرَةٍ رِّزۡقًا ​ۙ قَالُوۡا هٰذَا الَّذِىۡ رُزِقۡنَا مِنۡ قَبۡلُ وَاُتُوۡا بِهٖ مُتَشَابِهًا ​ؕ وَلَهُمۡ فِيۡهَآ اَزۡوَاجٌ مُّطَهَّرَةٌ ​ۙ وَّهُمۡ فِيۡهَا خٰلِدُوۡنَ‏  اِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَا يَسۡتَحۡـىٖۤ اَنۡ يَّضۡرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا ​بَعُوۡضَةً فَمَا فَوۡقَهَا ​ؕ فَاَمَّا ​الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا فَيَعۡلَمُوۡنَ اَنَّهُ الۡحَـقُّ مِنۡ رَّبِّهِمۡ​ۚ وَاَمَّا الَّذِيۡنَ ڪَفَرُوۡا فَيَقُوۡلُوۡنَ مَاذَآ اَرَادَ اللّٰهُ بِهٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهٖ ڪَثِيۡرًا وَّيَهۡدِىۡ بِهٖ كَثِيۡرًا ​ؕ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهٖۤ اِلَّا الۡفٰسِقِيۡنَۙ ‏  الَّذِيۡنَ يَنۡقُضُوۡنَ عَهۡدَ اللّٰهِ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِ مِيۡثَاقِهٖ وَيَقۡطَعُوۡنَ مَآ اَمَرَ اللّٰهُ بِهٖۤ اَنۡ يُّوۡصَلَ وَيُفۡسِدُوۡنَ فِى الۡاَرۡضِ​ؕ اُولٰٓـئِكَ هُمُ الۡخٰسِرُوۡنَ‏  كَيۡفَ تَكۡفُرُوۡنَ بِاللّٰهِ وَڪُنۡتُمۡ اَمۡوَاتًا فَاَحۡيَاکُمۡ​ۚ ثُمَّ يُمِيۡتُكُمۡ ثُمَّ يُحۡيِيۡكُمۡ ثُمَّ اِلَيۡهِ تُرۡجَعُوۡنَ‏  هُوَ الَّذِىۡ خَلَقَ لَـكُمۡ مَّا فِى الۡاَرۡضِ جَمِيۡعًا ثُمَّ اسۡتَوٰۤى اِلَى السَّمَآءِ فَسَوّٰٮهُنَّ سَبۡعَ سَمٰوٰتٍ​ؕ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ عَلِيۡمٌ‏  
(2:21) O mankind,21 serve your Lord Who has created you as well as those before you; do so that you are saved.22 (2:22) It is He Who has made the earth a resting-place for you, and the sky a canopy, and sent down water from above wherewith He brought forth fruits for your sustenance. Do not, then, set up rivals23 to Allah when you know (the Truth). (2:23) If you are in any doubt whether it is We Who have revealed this Book to Our servant, then produce just a surah like it, and call all your supporters and seek in it the support of all others save Allah. Accomplish this if you are truthful.24 (2:24) But if you fail to do this – and you will most certainly fail – then have fear of the Fire whose fuel is men and stones25 and which has been prepared for those who deny the Truth. (2:25) (O Prophet), announce glad tidings to those who believe in this Book and do righteous deeds (in accordance with its teachings), that for them are gardens beneath which rivers flow. Their fruits will have such resemblance to those of the earth that whenever they will be provided with those fruits they will say: “It was this which was granted to us on earth before.”26 For them there shall be pure spouses,27 and there they shall abide forever. (2:26) Behold! Allah is not ashamed to propound the parable of a gnat, or even of something more lowly.28 On hearing these parables the believers know that it is the truth from their Lord, while those bent on denying the Truth say: “What does Allah mean by these parables?” Thus He causes many to go astray just as He directs many to the Right Way.29 And He thereby causes to go astray only the transgressors,30 (2:27) who break the covenant of Allah after its firm binding,31 and cut asunder what Allah has commanded to be joined,32 and spread mischief on earth.33 They are the utter losers. (2:28) How can you be ungrateful to Allah Who bestowed life upon you when you were lifeless, then He will cause you to die and will again bring you back to life so that you will be returned to Him. (2:29) It is He Who created for you all that is on earth and then turned above and fashioned it into seven heavens.34 He knows all things.35

21. 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.

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

23. 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.

24. Before this, in Makka, 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 Madina the same challenge was reiterated. (For similar challenges made elsewhere in the Qur'an, see (10: 38); (11: 13); (17: 88) and (52: 33)

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. The Qur'anic text has the Arabic word azwaj 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.

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. Fasiq means transgressor, disobedient. See also (n 33 below )

31. 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)

32. 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

33. 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.

34. 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.

35. 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?