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Surah al-Baqarah (1-7)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

ا لم ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِلْمُتَّقِينَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ وَبِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ أُوْلَئِكَ عَلَى هُدًى مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (١-٥)

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (٦-٧)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

[This is Sūrah] Alif Lām Mīm1. This is the Book of God2.

There is no doubt in this fact3. [O Prophet] this is guidance for those who fear God4; those who are professing faith [in certain realities] without observing [them]5, and establishing the prayer and spending [in Our way] from what We have given them6.

They are believing in what has been revealed to you and in what was revealed before you7, and, in reality, are certain of the Hereafter8. It is these who were guided from their Lord [before]9 and it is they who shall [now] be among the successful [also]10. (1-5)

[On the other hand],11 those who have decided to reject12 [this Book], it is the same to them whether you warn them or not they will not believe. Allah has [now] set a seal on their hearts and on their ears13 [in accordance with His law14], and on their eyes is a veil15 and great is the penalty that awaits them on the Day of Judgment. (6-7)





1. The enunciative (مُبْتَدَا) of this sentence is suppressed. If this suppression is revealed, the sentence would read thus: ‘هَاذِهِ الم’ (This is Alif Lām Mīm). In religious parlance these letters found at the beginning of some sūrahs are called the Hurūf-i-Muqatta‘āt (the separated letters). The way they are placed in the beginning of some twenty nine sur#ahs of the Qur’ān and the way they are referred to by the demonstrative pronouns ‘ذَلِكَ’ (dhālika) and ‘تِلكَ’ (tilka) show that they are the names of the respective surāhs. However, the question may arise regarding their meanings. Many scholars have attempted to answer the question but what they have come up with is not very satisfactory. Farāhī (d: 1930 AD), a scholar of the sub-continent, has presented an explanation which might hold the key to the problem. He is of the view that the letters of the Arabic alphabet are primarily the same as those that were used in ancient Arabia which do not represent phonetic sounds only, but, as the Chinese alphabet, symbolize certain meanings and objects, usually assuming the shape of the objects and meanings they convey. Farāhī presents Sūrah Nūn in support of his theory. The letter Nūn, even in today’s alphabet denotes its ancient meaning of fish. In this sūrah, the Prophet Jonah (sws) has been addressed as Sāhibu’l-Hūt (Companion of the Fish). Farāhī opines that it is because of this reference that the sūrah is called Nūn.

2.The demonstrative pronoun ‘ذَلِكَ’ in the sentence ‘ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ’ refers to the name of the sūrah mentioned in the earlier verse. The word ‘اَلْكِتَابُ’ means the ‘the Book of God’. Sometimes, a word becomes specific for an exalted entity of its genre as has happened here in the case of the word ‘book’: It denotes the Book of God. In the Qur’ān, it is used in this meaning at a number of instances.

3. The connotation being that there is no doubt that this is a book of God. This is the most appropriate interpretation of this verse and other parallel verses of the Qur’ān reinforce this interpretation.

4. The reason for mentioning this and other attributes which follow is neither to state certain pre-requisites of receiving guidance from the Qur’ān nor to allude to the fact that these attributes are the consequences of accepting this guidance. A little deliberation shows that the real reason behind this mention is to highlight the traits of those people who at that time were accepting the message of the Qur’ān. These attributes, it needs to be appreciated, are directly opposite to the ones that were found in the Jews as a nation in those times. Further down in this sūrah, the Qur’ān has alluded to these attributes in detail. The Qur’ān points out that instead of becoming fearful of God, these Jews showed arrogance and haughtiness against Him; they contended that they would believe in God only if they were able to see Him; they abandoned the prayer and instead of spending in the way of Allah went as far in its negation as urging people to miserliness; they denied the Messengers of God because of prejudice; their belief in the Hereafter was nothing more than a dogma and this belief seemed to have no effect on the way they conducted themselves in their lives.

5.ب’ in the expression ‘يؤمنون بالغيب’ denotes a ‘ظرف’ (nomen locus). The implication being that they accept certain realities without observing them because their existence can be intellectually deduced. Thus, they do not profess faith only in tangible and material facts. They believe in all these realities because present in the Qur’ā#n, in their nature and intuition and in the various phenomena of nature are signs which testify to these realities. These realities may be beyond the perception of senses, but they are certainly not beyond the perception of reason. Thus they are always willing to fulfill the obligations entailed by professing faith in these realities and are also ready to go as far as to sacrifice their material needs to fulfill them.

6. In Arabic, the expression ‘establish the prayer’ means to be watchful over the prayer and to be steadfast in offering it. The prayer was well known to the Arabs. As a practice of the religion of Abraham (sws) they were aware of its methodology and utterances. The righteous among them also diligently offered it. For this very reason, the Qur’ān has not mentioned any details regarding the prayer. Besides the prayer, spending in the way of Allah is also mentioned here. These are the two foremost virtues in the eyes of the Qur’ān. The Prophet Jesus (sws) is reported to have said something similar in essence:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with a question: ‘Teacher which is the greatest commandment of the Law’. Jesus

replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matt. 22:37-40)

7. The implication being that they are accepting it disregarding any prejudice against it.

8. The implication being that they do not merely believe in the Hereafter, they are certain of it. It is for this reason that no prejudice can stop them from accepting the truth and no indifference can overcome them so as to prevent them from fulfilling its requisites.

9. This sentence and the next are noun sentences, which do not have a time frame. Their time frame is determined from the context.

10. The word ‘Falāh’ means the success which one may achieve after a lot of effort and struggle, but once it is achieved one is blessed with favours which are uncountable and thus beyond expectation.

11. From these introductory verses of the sūrah begins an assurance for the Prophet (sws) and admonishment for his adversaries. Thus, what is implied is that if people are not paying heed to him, it is not his fault nor is there anything flawed in his preaching efforts; in fact, it is their own venom that has made them enemies of the truth. Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

They can now be punished in accordance with the law of the Almighty after their persistent denial of the obvious truths in His religion. This insolent behavior has rendered their hearts incapable of being melted by the truth; their eyes can no longer see in order to learn lessons and their ears are closed to the calls of truth. The Prophet (sws) should now lose hope that these people will ever mend their ways. Only the wrath and punishment of the Almighty now awaits them, which they are certain to face. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 116

12. The Arabic words are ‘إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا’. Here the verb ‘كَفَرُوا’ connotes decision and refers to people who have rejected the Qur’ān and the Prophet (sws), after being convinced of the veracity of both, out of sheer arrogance and obduracy.

13. The Arabic words are ‘وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ’. The word ‘سَمْعٌ’ used here is a verbal noun and hence is used in the singular form.

14. That is according to the law mentioned at several places in the Qur’ān. As per this law, when a person becomes arrogant enough to deliberately deny the truth, he is given respite by the Almighty. Then if he does not mend his ways in this period, his heart and mind are sealed and in this manner he is punished in this world by the Almighty. In such a situation, his nature and taste become so perverted and his faculties of comprehension become so contaminated that he relishes evil only. All his interests revolve around sins. Virtue and piety become alien to him and he feels an aversion to them. He is never ready to hear words of virtue with the proper willingness and readiness of the heart.

For an explanation of this law, see: 4:155, 7:100-2, 16:106-8, 61:5.

15. It is evident from these words that the call of faith and guidance enters a person through his heart, ears and eyes. If he keenly observes the various manifestations of Allah’s signs in the world around and within him, reflects on them and lends his ears to the message of God and the representatives of truth, he receives guidance. If he refuses to see, hear and reflect he ends up losing his way and going astray. The path to truth and guidance is then closed to him forever.

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