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Researcher’s Companion to Ghamidi’s Surah al-Baqarah (178-195)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I. Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)

1. ‘قصاص’ (Qisas)

While explaining the meaning of this word, Ghamidi writes (note 1): ‘The word ‘Qisas’ is from ‘Qasas’ which means to follow someone along his footsteps. From this meaning, it was used for the punishment in which the criminal is treated in the same way as he himself had treated the other person while committing the crime.’

In the following verses, this root meaning of the word is evident:

وَقَالَتْ لِأُخْتِهِ قُصِّيهِ فَبَصُرَتْ بِهِ عَن جُنُبٍ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (١١:٢٨)

And she said to his sister: ‘Follow him’. She watched him from a distance, unseen by others. (28:11)

قَالَ ذَلِكَ مَا كُنَّا نَبْغِ فَارْتَدَّا عَلَى آثَارِهِمَا قَصَصًا (٦٤:١٨)

‘This is what we have been seeking,’ said Moses. They went back following the way they came. (18:64)

2. ‘َالْمَعْرُوف ’ (Ma‘ruf)

As pointed out by Ghamidi (note 5), the word Ma‘ruf in the Qur’an has two meanings:

1. the good and the equitable.

2. the norms and customs of a society.

For example, it is said in the Qur’an that Muslims enjoin the Ma‘ruf and forbid Munkar:

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ (٧١:٩)

And believing men and women are friends to each other. They enjoin what is Ma‘ruf and forbid what is Munkar. (9:71) 

 Since the word Munkar means ‘evil’, one can easily conclude that here the word Ma‘ruf is used in the first meaning ‘good,’ given above.

In the given verse (2:178), it is said that if a Muslim has murdered a Muslim and if the family of the slain person forgives him, then he should pay Diyat (fine) to them according to the Ma‘ruf:

فَمَنْ عُفِيَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ شَيْءٌ فَاتِّبَاعٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَأَدَاء إِلَيْهِ بِإِحْسَانٍ (٢: ١٧٨)

Then for whom there has been some pardon from his brother, this should be followed according to the Ma‘ruf and [whatever is the Diyat] should be paid with kindness. (2:178)

Here the word Ma‘ruf is used in the second meaning ‘custom’ because first, the imperative verb used is ittiba‘ (to follow) which collocates with this meaning and second, the latter part of verse 2:178 (pay it [– the Diyat –] with grace) becomes redundant if the first meaning is thought to be implied.

Similar usage of the word Ma‘ruf to connote ‘customs’ and ‘conventions’ can be seen in the following verses:

وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ (٢: ٢٣٣)

And [after divorce also] mothers shall suckle their offspring for two whole years, for those who desire to complete the term. And the child’s father [in such a case] shall have to bear the cost of their food and clothing according to the custom. (2:233)

 وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ(٢: ٢٣٤)

And those of you who die and leave widows behind, they should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten days; then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you about what they do with themselves in accordance with the custom [of the society]. (2:234)

3. ‘فتنه’ Fitnah

The word ‘فتنه’ (2:217) literally means ‘trial’ and ‘test’1. One form of this trial is that people are subjected to torture for following a particular ideology and thereby forced to give it up (see note: 59). Since at the time of revelation of the Qur’an this practice was rampant in the Arab society, the Qur’an used this word in the above sense. When used in this sense it becomes equivalent to the English word ‘persecution’. The following verses bear witness to this usage:

فَمَا آمَنَ لِمُوسَى إِلَّا ذُرِّيَّةٌ مِنْ قَوْمِهِ عَلَى خَوْفٍ مِنْ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِمْ أَنْ يَفْتِنَهُمْ وَإِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ لَعَالٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنْ الْمُسْرِفِينَ (٨٣:١٠)

But none believed in Moses except some children of his People; because of the fear of Pharaoh and his chiefs, lest they should persecute them; and certainly Pharaoh was mighty on the earth and one who transgressed all bounds. (10:83)

 ثُمَّ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لِلَّذِينَ هَاجَرُوا مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا فُتِنُوا ثُمَّ جَاهَدُوا وَصَبَرُوا إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنْ بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ(١١٠:١٦)

But surely your Lord – to those who leave their homes after they are subjected to persecution – and who thereafter strive and patiently persevere – your Lord, after all this, is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (16:110)

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيقِ (١٠:٨٥)

Those who persecute the believers, men and women, and do not turn in repentance, will face the torment of Hell and they will have [to endure] the torment of the Burning Fire. (85:10)

4. ‘خَيْر’ (Khayr)

As pointed out by Ghamidi (note: 10), the word ‘خَيْر’ is used to connote ‘wealth’. Some other verses of the Qur’an in which this word is used in this connotation are:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ (٢١٥:٢)

They ask you about what they should spend. Tell them: ‘Whatever wealth you spend is for your parents and kinsfolk and for the orphan and the destitute and the wayfarer. (2:215)

وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلأنفُسِكُمْ وَمَا تُنفِقُونَ إِلاَّ ابْتِغَاء وَجْهِ اللّهِ وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ يُوَفَّ إِلَيْكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تُظْلَمُونَ  (٢: ٢٧٢)

And whatever wealth you give shall be for your own benefit and do not spend except to please God. And whatever wealth you spend shall be repaid to you in full: you shall not be wronged. (2:272)

5. ‘خوف’ (Khawf)

Writes Ghamidi (note 15) regarding the usage of the word ‘خوف’ in 2:182: ‘In this verse, it means ‘to be apprehensive’. In the Arabic language it primarily occurs to mean ‘to expect’, ‘to think’ and ‘to be apprehensive’. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi has presented an example of this usage in his commentary on the Qur’an.’

The referred to couplet is of Yahya Ibn Ziyad Al-Harithi, a Hamasi poet:

و لو خفت أنى إن كففت تحيتي

تنكب عنى رمت أن يتنكبا

(If I had any expectation that if by not welcoming old age, it would not come then I would have tried to stop it by not welcoming it.)

6. ‘صوم’ (Sawm)

While tracing the meaning of this word, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes2:

The words ‘صوم’ and ‘صيام’ are verbal nouns and literally mean ‘to abstain from something’ and ‘to leave something’. The expression ‘صام الفرس صوما’ would mean ‘the horse did not eat his fodder’. Nabigha says:

خيل صيامه و خيل غير صائمة

تحت العجاج واخري تعلك اللجما

(Many hungry horses and many satisfied ones were standing in the dust of the battlefield and others who were chewing their reins.)

Mawlana Farahi while presenting his research on the word ‘صوم’ in his book ‘Usul Al-Shara‘i’ writes:

The people of Arabia would formally train their horses in order to make them used to hunger and thirst so that they would be able to bear great hardships in difficult circumstances. Similarly they would train and instruct their horses to combat strong winds. This training would be of great utility in times of war and travel when they would have to face strong gusts of wind… Jarir says:

 ظللنا بمستن الحرور كاننا

لدي فرس مستقبل الريح صائم

(We stood our ground against the gusts of warm wind as if we were standing beside a horse which was fighting against a strong wind and was fasting)

In this couplet, the poet has compared himself and his companions with a man who is standing beside his horse and training him to combat hunger and strong winds. It should be kept in consideration that the Arabs would make comparisons with things which are in common observation; they would not go after rarities for comparisons … in short, there are many couplets which depict the ‘صوم’ of horses.

 II. Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)


1. Interpretation of ‘وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ

The general interpretation3 of the above verse is that initially since the people of Arabia were not very used to fasting, they were given the option to omit a fast and in its place they had to feed a needy person. Later, however, this permission was revoked and people had to make up for fasts by fasting in other months. Technically speaking, commentators who are of this view say that the antecedent of the accusative pronoun ‘هُ’ in the expression ‘يُطِيقُونَهُ’ is ‘صَوْم’ and the meaning of the expression would be that people who in spite of being able to fast do not fast should feed a needy.

In the opinion of Ghamidi (as is evident from his translation), the antecedent of the accusative pronoun in ‘يُطِيقُونَهُ’ is ‘طَعَام’ and the meaning of the expression is that people who are able to feed a needy should redeem their fast by feeding a needy.

Islahi4 has criticized the majority opinion on two grounds: firstly, if people who were allowed to miss a fast by feeding a needy in place of it in spite of the fact that they were able to fast then the initial verses which say that fasting is an obligation imposed on the Muslims become needless; secondly, a great anomaly that results from this interpretation is that while the sick and the travellers must make up for the missed fasts by fasting in other days there is a general permission to all others to fast if they want to or leave it if they cant.

He goes on to quote and then criticize the opinion of those who by realizing this anomaly make a ‘unique’ interpretation of the word ‘يُطِيقُونَهُ’. In their opinion it means ‘those who are able to fast with Difficulty’. Islahi says that if interpreted thus, although the above two objections stand answered, yet a greater objection arises: this meaning of the word is not established.  

2. The Interpretation of ‘الْحُرُّ بِالْحُرِّ وَالْعَبْدُ بِالْعَبْدِ وَالأُنثَى بِالأُنثَى

While summarizing the views of the Jurists on the interpretation of the above verse Zamakhshari5 says that in the opinion of Imam Malik and Imam Shafi‘ as per this verse a free man shall not be killed in place of a slave and a man shall not be killed in place of a woman. Imam Abu Hanifah on the other hand says that equality must be observed in matters of murder and thus a free man shall be killed in place of a slave because of the Hadith ‘المُسْلِمُوْن تَتَكَافَأُ دِمَاؤُهُم’ (Abu Da’ud, No: 2751), (The sanctity of life of all the Muslims is equal) and because in such matters the fact that a particular person is superior to the other is not worth entertaining since if a whole group of people kills one person, then it will be killed in its place.

This view of the jurists has arisen because of an erroneous understanding of the verse. Although technically the translation of the verse ‘the woman for the woman’ can mean only a woman shall be killed in place of a woman implying that if a man kills a woman then that man will not be killed, yet what is meant here is equality in Qisas. In other words, in the expression ‘the woman for the woman’ actually does not relate to the slain woman and the slayer. Both ‘words’ refer to the slayer. Similar is the case with ‘the man for the man’ and ‘the slave for the slave’.

III. Scriptures and Testaments (العهود  و الصحف)

 1. The Law of Qisas in the Bible

“ ‘If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution-life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death. You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’” (Leviticus 24:17-22)

But if there is serious injury, you are always to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:24-25)

 The following verse shows complete equality in taking Qisas:

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16)

The following verse shows that cases of murder could not be pardoned for a ransom of Diyat:

Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death. (Numbers 35:31)

 2. The Ritual of Fasting in the Bible

In the Shari‘ah of the People of the Book too, the fast is a common worship ritual. The Bible mentions fasts at a number of places and besides using this word it has used certain other expressions like ‘to sadden one’s self’ and ‘self denial’ to connote it.

It is recorded in Exodus:

Then the LORD said to Moses: ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel’. Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments. (34:27-28)

It is recorded in Leviticus:

This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must sadden and not do any work – whether native born or an alien living among you – because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must sadden yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. (16: 29-31)

It is recorded in Judges:

Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD. (20:26)

It is recorded in Samuel:

They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. (2 Samuel 1:12)

David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. (2 Samuel 1:12)

It is recorded in Nehemiah:

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. (9:1-2)

It is recorded in the Psalms:

Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered. (35:13)

It is recorded in Jeremiah:

So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated. (36:6)

 It is recorded in Joel:

The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (2:11-13)

It is recorded in Zechariah:

Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.’ (8:18-19)

It is recorded in Matthew:

‘When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (6:16-18)

It is recorded in Acts:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (13:2-3)







1. Says Ibn Manzur: ‘جماع معنى الفتنه الابتلاء و الامتحان والاختبار’. (Ibn Manzur, Lisanu’l-‘Arab, 1st ed., vol. 13, (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1400 AH), p. 317

2. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 444-45

3. See for example: Zamakhsahri, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Dar Ahya Al-Turath Al-‘Arabi, 1997), p. 250-52

4. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), pp. 447-48

5. Zamakhsahri, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Dar Ahya Al-Turath Al-‘Arabi, 1997), p. 246

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