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Surah al-Baqarah (17-25)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


مَثَلُهُمْ كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي اسْتَوْقَدَ نَارًا فَلَمَّا أَضَاءَتْ مَا حَوْلَهُ ذَهَبَ اللَّهُ بِنُورِهِمْ وَتَرَكَهُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ لَا يُبْصِرُونَ  صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَرْجِعُونَ أَوْ كَصَيِّبٍ مِنْ السَّمَاءِ فِيهِ ظُلُمَاتٌ وَرَعْدٌ وَبَرْقٌ يَجْعَلُونَ أَصَابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِمْ مِنْ الصَّوَاعِقِ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ وَاللَّهُ مُحِيطٌ بِالْكَافِرِينَ  يَكَادُ الْبَرْقُ يَخْطَفُ أَبْصَارَهُمْ كُلَّمَا أَضَاءَ لَهُمْ مَشَوْا فِيهِ وَإِذَا أَظْلَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ قَامُوا وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (17- 20)

The similitude1 of [both these groups] is like2 that of a man who kindled fire [in a dark night]; then when the fire lighted their surroundings, Allah took away the light [for whom the fire had been kindled] and left them in utter darkness such that they cannot see anything. [They] are deaf, dumb, and blind, hence they will now never return. Or [their similitude]3 is such that it is raining from the sky,4 in it are dark clouds, and thunder and lightning. From the fear of their deaths because of lightning they insert their fingers in their ears5. In reality, Allah has encompassed such rejecters from all sides6. The lightning all but snatches away their sight; every time it lights up they walk therein and when darkness descends upon them they stand still7. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken away8 their faculty of hearing and sight; for Allah has power over all things. (17-20)


 يَاأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ  الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمْ الْأَرْضَ فِرَاشًا وَالسَّمَاءَ بِنَاءً وَأَنْزَلَ مِنْ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنْ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَكُمْ فَلَا تَجْعَلُوا لِلَّهِ أَندَادًا وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (21 -22)

 [Why do you9 ruin yourselves by following these Jews]. O People! Serve your Lord10 who created you and those before you11 so that you may be safe [from His punishment].12 [He] who made the earth a couch and the heavens a canopy, and sent down rain from this sky, then brought forth therewith different kinds of fruits for your sustenance. So do not set up rivals with Allah when you know13 [all this]14. (21-22)


وَإِنْ كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِنْ مِثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا شُهَدَاءَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ  فَإِنْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَلَنْ تَفْعَلُوا فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ وَبَشِّرْ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ كُلَّمَا رُزِقُوا مِنْهَا مِنْ ثَمَرَةٍ رِزْقًا قَالُوا هَذَا الَّذِي رُزِقْنَا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَأُتُوا بِهِ مُتَشَابِهًا وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا أَزْوَاجٌ مُطَهَّرَةٌ وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ(23 -25)

[This is the message of this Book. Accept it15] and if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to Our servant, then [go and] produce a single surah like it.16 And [for this purpose] also call your leaders17 besides Allah, if your are truthful in your claim18. But if you cannot – and of a surety you cannot – then fear the Fire whose fuel19 is these men [who do not believe] and these stones also [whom they worship20]. It has been prepared for these rejecters. And [O Prophet!] give glad tidings to those who professed faith [in this Book] and did righteous deeds that for them21 are gardens beneath which rivers flow. Every time they are fed with their fruit22, they will say23: ‘Why, this is what we were fed with before24’. In reality, it will be similar25 to [the previous one], and they would have therein wives pure26 and they will abide therein forever. (23-25)







1. From here begins a mention of two similitudes: the first one relates to people who have been referred in the previous verses by ‘إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا’ (verse 6) and the second one to the ones referred to immediately after them by the words ‘وَمِنْ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَقُولُ’ (verse 9). It needs to be appreciated that there is a great difference between a simile (تَشْبِيْه) and a similitude (تَمْثِيْل). In the former, ‘the compared’ (مُشَبَّه) and ‘the compared to’ (به مُشَبَّه) correspond to one another while in the latter a whole situation is compared to another and the individual components do have any significance.

The two similitudes are separated from one another by the particle ‘اوْ’ which is meant for distribution. This means that it assigns the first group of people to the first similitude and the second group to the second.

2. This similitude is that of a caravan which is trying to find its way in a dark night. The person who is referred to as the one who lights up the fire is the Prophet (sws). In other words, it was he who illuminated the whole path by lighting a fire but since the people of the caravan are blind, deaf and dumb, they cannot hear the calls of the caller, neither can they answer him nor can they find a way in the lit up fire around them.

3. This second similitude is of a caravan which in the dark of night has been caught somewhere in the rain. The ‘rain’ refers to the Qur’an and the words ‘dark clouds’ are meant to allude to the hardships which a person would inevitably encounter in the times of the Prophet (sws) in case he accepted the message of the Qur’an. By ‘lightning’ and ‘thunder’ are meant to be the warnings the Qur’an sounded to its rejecters, which at that time refer to the Jews in particular.

4. The word ‘sky’ has been mentioned with ‘rain’, first to portray the whole scene and second as a subtle reference to the divinity of the Qur’an, since the ‘rain’ which is the ‘Qur’an’ always descends from the skies.

5. Since this latter group of the Jews was fully convinced of the veracity of the Qur’an, these warnings of the Qur’an weighed heavily upon them. The solution they came up with to counter these warnings was to turn a deaf ear to them. Inserting fingers in the ears actually refers to this aspect.

6. The implication being that by inserting fingers in the ears they could certainly deceive themselves thinking that in this way they would be saved from their doom; however, in reality they cannot save themselves from this dreadful fate because the Almighty with His forces has encompassed them from all sides.

7. This is a depiction of the state of worry which befell them after the revelation of the Qur’an. The glitter and radiance of the Qur’an dazzled their eyes and they were unable to find loopholes in its warnings. This totally bewildered and distressed them and left them with no option aside from submission. Whenever they seemingly found a way out of their distressful and bewildered situation they would pursue it and when they could do nothing they would pause in their distress and bewilderment. The Qur’an has portrayed this very picture of their state.

8. A warning is sounded out to them that if they did not seize the opportunity provided to them, refraining from deceiving others, and did not whole heartedly accept the truth the way it was, there was a strong chance that like the previous group their light too would be taken away and they would forever be deprived of benefiting from the truth. The words ‘وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ’ (And if Allah willed, He could have taken away their faculty of hearing and sight) indicate that they still have some respite. However, this should not make them indifferent and fearless. They do not know when this period of respite will end and render them prone to divine punishment.

9. From here the addressee of the discourse shifts from the Jews to the Idolaters of Madinah (and its suburbs). The Idolaters, under the influence of these ‘enemies of God’, were guilty of promoting their objections without thinking about what they were actually saying. Thus, by following the misleading suggestions of the Jews they were depriving themselves of the Almighty’s great favor that He had bestowed upon them through His Book and the last Prophet (sws).

10. The implication being that they should serve Allah in the manner they were being asked to by the Prophet Muhammad (sws). The word used for servitude is ‘اعْبُدُوا’. In the terminology of the Qur’an, when this word is used comprehensively it means both worship and obedience.

11. The implication being that the Almighty even created the forefathers of these Idolaters in whom they acknowledge deific attributes and worship their idols.

12. The Arabic words used are ‘لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ’. The word ‘لَعَلَّكُمْ’ is also used to state the expected consequences of something. The object (مَفْعُوْل) of the verb ‘تَتَّقُونَ’ is suppressed. The subsequent verse ‘فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ’ points to this suppressed object.

13. The words ‘you know’ imply ‘you accept and acknowledge’.

14. The implication being that they know what these verses mention about the Almighty.

15. The implication is that they should serve and worship God without the slightest trace of polytheism – in the very manner this Book is asking them to.

16. The implication is that if they do not consider this Book to be from God then they should try to present one surah which has the same grand style and lofty content as this Book has. If according to their contention Muhammad (sws), who is an individual among them, without having any academic and literary background can produce such a discourse, then it should not be difficult for them to produce something similar. This is the challenge of the Qur’an which it gave to its foremost addressees and no one had the audacity to challenge it.

17. The Qur’anic word used is ‘شُهَدَاءَ’. It means ‘leaders’, ‘chiefs’ and ‘representatives’. Here it refers to the leaders among both the jinn and men folk who share this claim with them, some of whom possess divine authority in their opinion.

18. The claim that this is not a divine book and that Muhammad (sws) has actually concocted it himself.

19. That is, the fire will readily consume both the bodies of those who were deeply involved in the filth of polytheism as well as the rocks which were worshipped as deities in this world. This fire will kindle in its original color with these two types of ‘fuel’.

20. These rocks would be caste in Hell to humiliate the rock-worshippers who would as a result be ‘punished’ further by having to witness the terrible fate of their much revered idols.

21. The Qur’anic words used are ‘أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ’. The particle ‘ب’ has been suppressed before ‘أَنَّ’ in accordance with the principles of linguistic usage.

22. The Qur’anic words used are ‘كُلَّمَا رُزِقُوا مِنْهَا مِنْ ثَمَرَةٍ رِزْقًا’. The word ‘رِزْقًا’ is the second object and ‘مِنْ ثَمَرَةٍ’ is permutative (بَدَل) of ‘مِنْهَا’.

23. These words would be spoken by them in their hearts.

24. That is fed before in Paradise.

25. The implied meaning is that what will come before them will not be the same as the previous fruit. These fruits would resemble the previous ones. This is actually a delineation of the favors of Paradise. Every time that its dwellers are presented with these fruits they will have a new splendor and a new taste.

26. The Qur’anic words used are ‘أَزْوَاجٌ مُطَهَّرَةٌ’. The adjective ‘مُطَهَّرَة’ is meant to convey that these maidens would be untouched; they would have been reared and brought up with great care and would have been purified and adorned with beauty in order to make them befitting partners of the dwellers of Paradise.

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