The Cow or al-Baqarah (Arabic: البقرة) is the second and longest chapter (sūrah) of the Qur'an. It consists of 286 verses (āyāt), 6,201 words and 25,500 letters. It is a Medinan surah, that is to say that it was revealed at Medina after the Hijrah, with the exception of a few verses which Muslims believe was revealed during the Farewell Pilgrimage, the last Hajj of Muhammad.
|No. of Rukus||40|
|No. of verses||286|
|Opening muqaṭṭaʻāt||Alif Lam Mim|
This is the longest Surah in the Quran. It was the first Surah to be revealed at Medina, but different verses were revealed at different times, covering quite a long period so much so that the verses with regard to riba (interest or usury) were revealed in the final days of Muhammad, after the conquest of Makkah (Maariful Quran).
Verse 281 in this chapter was the last verse of the Quran to be revealed, on the 10th of Dhul al Hijjah 10 A.H., when Muhammad was in the course of performing his last Hajj, and only 80 or 90 days later he died (Qurtubi).
It is the longest Surah in the Qur’an and was revealed over a long period. It is a Mediniite Surah dealing with the Hypocrite (Munaafiqeen) and injunctions pertaining to various matters.
It includes many verses which have virtues like the first four and last three verses and the special Verse of the Throne (Aayatul Kursi). Muhammad is reported to have said,
“Do not turn your houses into graves. Verily, Satan does not enter the house where Surat Al-Baqarah is recited.” [Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmed]
Ad-Darimi also recorded that Ash-Sha`bi said that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, "Whoever recites ten Ayat from Surat Al-Baqarah in a night, then Satan will not enter his house that night. (These ten Ayat are) four from the beginning, Ayat Al-Kursi (255), the following two Ayat (256-257) and the last three Ayat.
Theme and subject matterEdit
The surah addresses a wide variety of topics, including substantial amounts of law, and retells stories of Adam, Ibrahim and Musa. A major theme is guidance: urging the pagans (Al-Mushrikeen) and the Jews of Medina to embrace Islam, and warning them and the hypocrites (Munafiqun) of the fate God had visited in the past on those who failed to heed his call.
The stories in this chapter are told to help the reader understand the theological conception of truth in Islam.
Surah Baqarah also mentions three qualities of the God-fearing (Al-Muttaqin), that is those who possess Taqwa: 1) They believe in the unseen. Faith (Imaan) is believing and accepting something one cannot see i.e. trusting in Muhammad and the Qur’an. It is believing everything which is part of Imaan, the Angels, destiny etc. 2) They establish Prayer (Salah). The major sign of a person with Taqwa is they perform Prayer/Salaah. “Establishing” Salaah is fulfilling its requirements, internally with feelings in the heart, and externally fulfilling its requirements (Wudu, compulsory elements (Fard), Sunnahs, reciting with tajwid etc.) and feeling a connection with Allah. In a tradition or hadith, Muhammad said, “Prayer is the Mi’raaj of a Mu’min” and in Mi’raaj he spoke to Allah. (In the Surah preceding Surah Al Baqarah, i.e. Surah Fatiha Muslims are believed to have a dialogue with Allah). 3) They spend from what Allah has given them, as this is a form of worship too- namely, considered a financial worship. Spending in the way of God (i.e. giving Sadaqah), is to spend from what Muslims believe that Allah Himself gave them. Sadaqah comes from “Sidq” which means “True” as it shows the truth of a Muslim's Imaan (faith).
Verses 8-20 in Surah Al Baqarah refer to the hypocrites (Munafiqun). In the Meccan phase of Muhammad, there existed two groups, the Believers and the Mushrikeen (non-believers). However, after Hijrah (Emigration to Medina) Muhammad had to deal with the opposition of those who openly accepted Islam while secretly plotting against Muslims. Their leader was Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy who was about to be crowned king before the arrival of Muhammad in Medina. The hypocrites benefitted from the Muslims while not losing their association with the disbelievers. They were considered disloyal to either parties and inclined towards those who benefited them the most in the worldly sense.
The surah also sheds light on the concept of Nifaq, which is opposite of sincerity. It is of two types:
1) Nifaq in belief: outwardly showing belief however in reality there is no belief 2) Nifaq in practice: where people believe however they act like hypocrites. The signs of a hypocrite are lying, breaking promises, not keeping an amaanah or trust and when they argue they curse or use bad language.
According to a prominent scholar, Kamaluddin Ahmed, Nifaq is something that is within the heart, hence no one knows of its existence except Allah. Therefore, no one can be called a hypocrite or Munaafiq through one's own self-assessment. This would amount to making Takfeer i.e. calling someone a Kafir (non-believer) since Nifaq (hypocrisy) in belief is kufr.
Condemnation of alcoholic beverages and gambling is also first found in the chapter, and it is one of only four chapters in the Qur'an to refer to Christians as Nazarenes instead of the more frequent terms People of the Book or "Helpers of Christ."
Al-Baqarah contains several verses dealing with the subject of warfare. Verses 2:190-194 are quoted on the nature of battle in Islam.
The surah includes a few Islamic rules related to varying subjects, such as: prayers, fasting, striving on the path of God, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the change of the direction of prayer (Qiblah) from Jerusalem to Mecca, marriage and divorce, commerce, debt, and a great many of the ordinances concerning interest or usury.
Verse 255 is "The Throne Verse" (آية الكرسي ʾāyatu-l-kursī). It is the most famous verse of the Qur'an and is widely memorized and displayed in the Islamic world due to its emphatic description of God's omnipotence in Islam.
Verse 256 is one of the most quoted verses in the Qur'an. It famously notes that "there is no compulsion in religion". Two other verses, 285 and 286, are sometimes considered part of "The Throne Verse".
Concerning the verse, "They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they return not "(2:18), Ja'far al-Sadiq has narrated that there is destruction for the servants of falsehood and there will be deafness, blindness, and muteness which Allah will make them inherit of the Day of Judgement. They will not be speaking and will not have permission to present their excuses.
It is mentioned in Kitab al-Kafi that Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq narrates that on the Day of Judgment, one dirham will weigh as much as the mountain of ’Uhud, because "One who generously lends to God will be paid back in many multiples of the loan. . . ." (2:245) and this was a special reference to the payment made to an Imam.
Surat al-Baqarah is arranged in ring composition structure. The structure of the surah has been commented on by Dr. Raymond Farrin, Arabic professor at the American University of Kuwait. He notes in his book Structure and Qur'anic Interpretation that the themes of the surah form a ring, where the first themes resemble the last themes, the second themes resemble the second last themes, and so on. The middle theme group includes verse 143 of the surah, that talks about the change in prayer direction.
A more detailed description of the ring composition of this surah is demonstrated here.
It is also worth noting that the 143rd verse of surat al-Baqarah, which is composed of 286 verses, contains the word "middle" (143 is half of 286)
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