Sūrah AL-BAQARAH – The Cow    


This Sūrah has been named “AL-BAQARAH” (the Cow) because the cow’s name has been mentioned in this Sūrah (vv. 67-73).  In each Sūrah of Al-Qur’ān, vast subjects are discussed therefore according to the subject complete titles cannot be suggested for them.  However, Arabic language is very rich, but still it is language of human.  Whatever languages human speak those are so narrow and limited that they cannot provide such words or sentences, which can become complete titles for these vast scope of the subjects.  Therefore, in the Guidance of Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has suggested names instead of tiles for majority of the Sūrah that are only the symbols.  By calling this Sūrah “Al-Baqarah/Heifer” does not mean that subject of "The Cow” has been discussed in it, but it only means, “the Sūrah in which Cow has been mentioned”. 


Period of Revelation:

The most part of this Sūrah has been reveled in the early period of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam Madanni life, after migrating to Madinah and very small part has been reveled afterward that has been included in it because of the subject matter.  However, the verses prohibiting interest were revealed in the late part of the life of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but have been included in this Surah.  The ending verses of this Sūrah were reveled in Makkah before migration, but have been incorporated in this Sūrah because of the suitability of contents. 


Background of Revelation:

To understand the meaning of this Sūrah; first one should understand the historical background of it:

1.       Before the migration of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to Madinah, the address was to the Arabs Mushrik (pagans) -- during the preaching of Islam in Makkah.  The voice of Islam was unheard and unknown to them.  Now after the migration, to Al-Madinah, the interaction was with the Jews who were in the surrounding villages.  These people were believers of the Oneness of Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala, Prophethood, Revelation, Hereafter, and the Angels, they were believers of the laws, which were revealed to their Prophet Musā p.b.u.h by Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala, and in principle, their way of life (Deen) was the same Islam that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.  However, continues degeneration of centuries had astray them away from the true Deen.  The believe system was amalgamated with many un-Islamic customs for which there was no authenticity in the Torah.  In their practical lives many such rituals and customs were introduced which in fact were not the part of true Deen and for which there was no proof in Torah.  They had corrupted the Torah with human verdicts and whatever part of Divines verdicts were intact they also tempered with it by inserting their own explanations and interpretations.  The True essence of Deen had departed them and they were embracing a lifeless skeleton of the apparent Deen.  The beliefs, morals, and conduct of their Scholars, Educators, Leaders of the nation, and the public were distorted -- they loved their distortion so much that they were not ready to accept any reform.  It had been happening continuously since centuries that whenever any person came to show them the straight path they took him as their worst enemy and tried their best that he should not succeed to do any reform.  These people in fact were the distorted Muslims who had deviated from the True Islam, because of the alterations, rituals, sects division, forgetfulness of Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala and love of world, even forgot their real name “Muslim” merely became Jews and had made the Deen of Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala as heritage of the children of Israel.  Therefore, when Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam reached in Al-Madinah Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala commanded Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to invite them (Jews) to the true Deen --Islam.  For that reason the initial 15-16 sections (Rakuh) of Sūrah Al-Baqarah are comprised on this invitation (addressed to the children of Israel).  The way a criticism has been done on the Jew’s history and their moral and religious degeneration and the way the fundamental principles of the True Deen has been presented side by side in comparison to the distorted religion, it becomes very clear that what is the nature of the degeneration of the community of a Prophet, the value of True Deen in comparison of ritual religion, what are the fundamental principles of True Deen and what has the real importance in the Sight of Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala.

  1. The Islamic invitation entered into a new phase after the migration of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to Al-Madinah.  In Makkah, the work was limited to the propagation of the principles of Deen and the moral training of its followers.  But when after the migration of all those people who brought Faith from different Arab tribes started gathering at one place, and with the help of the Ansār (local supporters) a foundation of small Islamic State was laid, then Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala started sending the instructions about social, cultural, economic, political and legal issues as well and told how to establish a new way of life on the essence of Islam.  The last 23 sections of this Sūrah mainly comprise on such guidance, of which most of them were send down in the beginning -- and few miscellaneous were send down afterward on as needed basis. 
  2. The struggle between Islam and Infidels had also entered a new phase after the migration.  Before migration, the invitation of Islam was given within the families and tribes of Infidels and whosoever accepted Islam was preaching it while staying at his/her own place and in result -- had to face the torture of his/her opponent at ones own risk.  However, the situation was changed after the scattered Muslims migrated to Al- Madinah from different parts of Arabia and established an independent Islamic State.  Now on one side -- there was a small Islamic State and on the other side -- whole Arabia was united and bent upon to crush it completely.  From now the question was not only the success of this small group but also its survival was dependent on the following 5 things that Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala revealed in this Sūrah:
  1. During this period of Islamic preaching, a new issue had been started to appear, and it was an issue of hypocrites (Munāfiqūn).  Though signs of hypocrisy/treachery had been noticed during the last days in Makkah -- they were those types of people who acknowledged that Islam is true and used to confess about Islam but were not prepared to stand for this truth and to sacrifice their worldly interests and relations and bear the afflictions that began to start right after the acceptance of this true ideology.  In Al-Madinah, besides this type of hypocrite -- different kinds of hypocrites (Munāfiqūn) began to appear in the Islamic party.  The first type of hypocrites – who were completely in denial of Islam but they had entered the Muslim party merely to harm it from within.  The second type of hypocrites was who thought that their safeguard and benefit is to join Muslims because they were surrounded by Muslims.  They want to keep contact with Muslims as well as Infidels so in this way they will be saved from danger and can benefit and protect their worldly interest from both sides.  The third type of hypocrites -- who were confused between Islam and Infidelity.  They were not completely satisfied about the truthfulness of Islam -- however, they had become Muslim because many people of their families had embraced Islam and became Muslims.  In fourth type those people were included -- who were convinced by the truthfulness of Islam but their soul was in denial of rejecting the ways of ignorance, former traditions, superstitions and personal ambitions, and to abide by the burden of the Islamic morals, responsibilities and rights.

At the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, it was merely the beginning of all sorts of hypocrites.  Allāh subhaana wa ta’aala has, therefore, briefly pointed out their characteristics.  Subsequently, separate detailed verses about all sorts of hypocrites have been revealed in different Sūrahs about their characteristics according to their manifested actions and deeds.

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