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Surah al-Baqarah (215-221)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُمْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا تَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ (٢١٥)

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَى أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (٢١٦)

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ قِتَالٍ فِيهِ قُلْ قِتَالٌ فِيهِ كَبِيرٌ وَصَدٌّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَكُفْرٌ بِهِ وَالْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَإِخْرَاجُ أَهْلِهِ مِنْهُ أَكْبَرُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ الْقَتْلِ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ حَتَّى يَرُدُّوكُمْ عَنْ دِينِكُمْ إِنْ اسْتَطَاعُوا وَمَنْ يَرْتَدِدْ مِنْكُمْ عَنْ دِينِهِ فَيَمُتْ وَهُوَ كَافِرٌ فَأُوْلَئِكَ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَأُوْلَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ  إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَاجَرُوا  وَجَاهَدُوا  فِي  سَبِيلِ  اللَّهِ  أُوْلَئِكَ يَرْجُونَ رَحْمَةَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (٢١٧-١٨)

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِنْ نَفْعِهِمَا وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ الْعَفْوَ كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ  فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الْيَتَامَى قُلْ إِصْلَاحٌ لَهُمْ خَيْرٌ وَإِنْ تُخَالِطُوهُمْ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْمُفْسِدَ مِنْ الْمُصْلِحِ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَأَعْنَتَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ (٢١٩-٢٠)

وَلَا تَنكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكَاتِ حَتَّى يُؤْمِنَّ وَلَأَمَةٌ مُؤْمِنَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مُشْرِكَةٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ وَلَا تُنكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتَّى يُؤْمِنُوا وَلَعَبْدٌ مُؤْمِنٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ مُشْرِكٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكُمْ أُوْلَئِكَ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ وَاللَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَالْمَغْفِرَةِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَيُبَيِّنُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ (٢٢١)

 They ask you about what they should spend1. Tell them: ‘Whatever much you spend is for your parents and kinsfolk and for the orphan and the destitute and the wayfarer of your society. [And rest assured] whatever good you do [will never go waste] because God is fully aware of it’2.  (215)

Warfare is ordained for you displeasing as it may be to you [as much as it is displeasing for you to spend in the way of Allah]. It is very much possible that may dislike a thing even though it is good for you, and it is very much possible that you like a thing even though it is bad for you.3 [And in reality] God knows, but you have no knowledge [of many such things]. (216)

They ask you of warfare in the sacred month.4 Tell them: ‘Warfare in this month is a grave offence but to impede others from the path of God, to deny Him, and to stop people from going to Sacred Mosque and to expel its dwellers therefrom, is far more grave in His sight. To force people to give up their religion is more grievous than bloodshed’. And [O Prophet! you should know that these people against whom you have been directed to fight have decided between themselves that] they will not cease to fight against you until they force you to renounce your faith – if they are able to. But whoever of you recants and dies in a state of disbelief [should know that] it is such people whose deeds shall bear no fruit in this world and in the world to come5. Such men shall be the dwellers of the Fire, wherein they shall abide forever. [On the other hand], those who fully adhered to faith6and those who migrated from their land and fought for the cause of God, may hope for God’s mercy7. God is most-forgiving and ever-merciful.  (217-18)

They ask you about drinking and gambling [because in their society these are also a means of helping the poor]8. Tell them:  ‘There is great sin in both, [and no doubt] they have some benefit for people; but their sin is far greater than their benefit’.9 And they ask you [to explain] what they should spend [in charity]. Tell them: ‘Whatever is above your needs.’10 Thus God explains to you His verses so that you may reflect on the matters of both this world and of the next.11 And they ask you [that if war takes place and people are killed then] what should be done with the orphans? Tell them: ‘In whatever is their welfare is best. And if [by marrying their mothers], you share [their affairs] with yours, they are your brothers12. God knows the man who means mischief from the man who means good13. If God wished, He could have made matters difficult for you [by not giving you this permission]. Indeed, God is mighty and wise.’14  (219-20)

And [even for the welfare of the orphans], you shall not wed idolatrous women15, unless they embrace faith. And [remember] a believing slave-girl is better than an idolatrous woman, although you may fancy her. Nor shall you wed your women to the Idolaters, unless they embrace faith. And [remember] a believing slave is better than an Idolater, although you may fancy him.16 These [idolatrous people] call you to the Fire; but God calls you, by His grace, to Paradise and to forgiveness17. And explains His verses to people so that they may take heed.  (221)





1. This and other questions which follow were arising in the minds of the Hypocrites and the Muslims weak in faith regarding the Jihād and Infāq the previous verses discuss. The topic of the revival of the Sharī‘ah that began with the directive of Qisās (verse: 178) will now go on to conclude after these questions are answered.

2. This answer actually takes into account the mentality of the people who were posing it. The Qur’ān tells them that as far as the amount which they should spend in the way of Allah is concerned, they must determine it themselves keeping in view their own grit and capacity. What they should understand is the fact that they must not be unnerved if they are urged by the Almighty to spend in His way; whatever they spend would obviously not fill the coffers of the Almighty; it would fulfill the needs of their own brethren; instead of taking money from them, the Almighty would in fact reward them from ten to seven hundred times for this benevolence; the virtuous deeds that they do are in His knowledge and He would certainly not forget them.

3. This is a statement of an obvious fact: things which morally uplift and develop a person are often disliked by him and those which morally degrade and lower him are often relished by him and he is readily drawn into them.

4. Although the Qur’ān has already answered the question of warfare in the sacred months in verses 190-95, yet these people posed it again thinking that this might save them from the obligation of warfare. This time not only are they answered in detail but also explained the ultimate outcome of their attitude keeping in view their intention and inclination of relinquishing faith that their minds clearly possessed.

5. A mention of the fact that the deeds of such people would go waste in both this world and in the one to come actually implies that those who deliberately deny a Messenger of God sent to them are punished in this world and this punishment continues in the Hereafter.

6. The original word used is ‘آ مَنُوا’ (āmanū: they professed faith). The context in which it is used here shows that it denotes completeness and is translated as ‘they fully adhered to faith’, keeping in view this aspect.

7. Even after being blessed with the facility and backing by the Almighty to do deeds as great as Jihād and Hijrah (migration), a true believer only becomes hopeful for God’s mercy because salvation is in fact dependent on His mercy and grace. Consequently, the verses aptly end on the words: He is most-forgiving and ever-merciful.

8. Gambling and drinking in pre-Islamic times were a means through which the rich showed their generosity and helped the poor and needy. In winters, when cold winds blew in and caused conditions akin to drought, the courageous would gather at various places, drink liquor and, in their state of inebriation, slaughter any camels they could get hold of. They would pay the owner of the camels whatever price he demanded. They would then gamble on the meat of the slaughtered camels. Whatever parts of meat a person won in this gambling, he would generously distribute them among the poor who would gather around on such occasions. In pre-Islamic Arabia, this was a matter of great honour and people who took part in this activity were considered very philanthropic and generous. The poets would narrate the accounts of their benevolence in their odes. On the other hand, people who stayed away from this activity would be called ‘Barm’ (stingy). It was this very benefit of drinking and gambling which prompted people to make an inquiry when they were regarded as prohibited items.

9. The words in the text are ‘أَكْبَرُ مِنْ نَفْعِهِمَا وَإِثْمُهُمَا’. It is evident from the answer given by the Qur’ān that the real reason for prohibiting something is the moral harm it causes. The Qur’ān generally does not discuss the ills and harms which are not moral in nature. That the moral harm of drinking and gambling is what is implied here is evident from the fact that the word ‘نَفْع’ (nafa‘: benefit) is used in contrast with the word ‘اِثْم’ (ithm: sin). Had a comparison between their worldly benefits and harms been intended, the word ‘ضَرَر’ (darar: damage) would have been used instead ‘اِثْم’.

10. After repeated questions on this topic, the Qur’ān has replied that while setting aside money for personal and business use whether of the present or of the future what remains is the right of the society they live in. The obligation of Infāq pertains to this over and above amount. This is the utmost limit of the obligation of Infāq that is imposed on a Muslim by his Creator. He is not required to do anything over and above this.

11. The Qur’ān here has stated the real utility of the explanation of something which was originally left very brief. Writes thus Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī:

If all the questions discussed above are deliberated upon, it comes to light that these questions arose because generally a person is unable to assess in a balanced manner the benefits of this world and of the world to come. It is because of this imbalance that if people become inclined to religion they go as far as becoming ascetics and hermits so much so that to them warfare, in all circumstances, becomes something adverse to righteousness and piety; similarly, if they become inclined to mundane pursuits they go as far as to try to regard things like gambling and drinking as virtuous deeds merely because they provide a few benefits. The guidance provided by the Qur’ān to human intellect actually equips it to overcome this unbalanced and extreme attitude and view the requisites of both worlds in the correct perspective. (Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 4th ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), p. 515)

12. The implied meaning being that in this regard the real thing is the welfare of the orphans – which must always remain in consideration. If this objective can be achieved by combining their affairs, then this should be done and if it can be achieved by keeping them independent, then this measure should be resorted to.

13. A warning is sounded by these words. People must know that God is fully aware of their intentions. He knows those who intend good for the orphans by this measure and those who have evil hidden intentions behind it. They should, therefore, must never try to exploit the permission given in this matter.

14. The implication being that had not this permission of combining their affairs been given, people would have ended up in great difficulty but since the Almighty is wise (حَكِيمٌ), He has been kind enough to make things easier for them so that they are easily able to serve the society in this manner. Hence, they must be grateful to the Almighty. If they try to misuse this opportunity, they must remember that He is also Powerful (عَزِيزٌ); no one can save them from His grasp.

15. The word ‘Idolaters’ here qualifies the Idolaters of Arabia. The Qur’ān specifically uses this word for them. Other people of the world can be regarded as idolaters if they positively subscribe to idolatry (polytheism) like the Idolaters of Arabia. They cannot be called Idolaters if they have not willingly and intellectually adopted idolatry. For example, the Jews and Christians of Arabia were also involved in blatant forms of polytheism but since they were originally upholders of monotheism and shunned polytheism, they cannot be called idolaters.

16. This explanation has been made so that it becomes evident to people that the standards of likes and dislikes must change once a person professes faith. While commenting on this aspect, Islāhī  writes:

In Islam, the standards of likes and dislikes are neither looks, nor social status nor race; being a free man or a bond man is also not bases in this matter. They are in fact based upon faith and righteous deeds. Muslims have therefore been told that their relationships and associations are not bound by race, creed or brotherhood; they are in fact subservient to faith and deeds. A charming princess of the Quraysh has no worth for them if she is not decked with the ornament of faith and a jet black African lady is like the graceful Hur of Paradise for them if her heart is illuminated with the light of faith. (Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 4th ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), p. 519)

17. The verse delineates the underlying wisdom of prohibiting marriage with upholders of polytheism. If someone does so, he would actually surrendering his household to the calls of Hell. The reason is that People who ardently adhere to polytheism would never be forgiven by the Almighty nor would they ever enter His Paradise. A person who marries among polytheists is actually making his abode in Hell. No sane person can do such a blunder.

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