Commentary for Verses 117-174

Al Baqarah:125

وَإِذۡ جَعَلۡنَا ٱلۡبَيۡتَ مَثَابَةً۬ لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمۡنً۬ا وَٱتَّخِذُواْ مِن مَّقَامِ إِبۡرَٲهِـۧمَ مُصَلًّ۬ى‌ۖ وَعَهِدۡنَآ إِلَىٰٓ إِبۡرَٲهِـۧمَ وَإِسۡمَـٰعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيۡتِىَ لِلطَّآٮِٕفِينَ وَٱلۡعَـٰكِفِينَ وَٱلرُّڪَّعِ ٱلسُّجُودِ

The Kaabah, the House of Allah. Its foundation goes back by Arab tradition to Abraham. Its fourfold character is here referred to:-
1. It was the centre to which all the Arab tribes resorted for trade; for poetic contests and for worship.
2. It was sacred territory and was respected by friend and foe alike. At all seasons, all fighting was and is forbidden within its limits and even arms are not allowed to be carried, and no game or other thing is allowed to be killed. Makkah was recognized by Arab custom as inviolable for the pursuit of revenge or violence.
3. It was a place of prayer; even to-day there is a Station on Abraham.
4. It must be held pure and sacred for all purposes.

Al Baqarah:134

تِلۡكَ أُمَّةٌ۬ قَدۡ خَلَتۡ‌ۖ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتۡ وَلَكُم مَّا كَسَبۡتُمۡ‌ۖ وَلَا تُسۡـَٔلُونَ عَمَّا كَانُواْ يَعۡمَلُونَ

On the Day of Judgment, each soul would have to answer for its own deeds; it cannot claim merit from others, nor be answerable for the crimes or sins of others. Here the argument is: if the Jews or Christians claim the merit of Father Abraham and the Patriarchs or the Jesus, we cannot follow them. Because there were righteous men in the past, it cannot help us unless we are ourselves righteous. The doctrine of personal responsibility is a cardinal feature of Islam.

Al Baqarah:142

سَيَقُولُ ٱلسُّفَهَآءُ مِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَا وَلَّٮٰهُمۡ عَن قِبۡلَتِہِمُ ٱلَّتِى كَانُواْ عَلَيۡهَا‌ۚ قُل لِّلَّهِ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقُ وَٱلۡمَغۡرِبُ‌ۚ يَہۡدِى مَن يَشَآءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَٲطٍ۬ مُّسۡتَقِيمٍ۬

Qiblah = the direction to which Muslims turn in prayer. Islam lays great stress on social prayer in order to emphasize our universal brotherhood and mutual cooperation. For such prayer, order, punctuality, precision, symbolical postures and a common direction are essential, so that the Imam (leader) and all his congregation may face one way and offer their supplications to Allah. In the early days, before they were organized as a people, they followed as a symbol for their Qiblah the sacred city of Jerusalem, sacred both the Jews and the Christians, the people of the Book. This symbolized their allegiance to the continuity of Allah’s revelation. When, despised and persecuted, they were turned out of Makkah and arrived in Madinah, Al-Mustaffa under divine direction began to organize its people as an Ummah, an independent people, with laws and rituals of their own. At that stage the Kaabah was established as Qiblah, thus going back to the earliest centre, and which the name of Abraham was connected and traditionally also the name of Adam. Jerusalem still remained (and remains) sacred in the eyes of Islam on account of its past, but Islam is a progressive religion, and its new symbolism enabled it to shake off the tradition of a dead past and usher in the era of untrammeled freedom dear to the spirit of Arabia. The change took place about [16 ½] months after Hijrah.

Al Baqarah:143

وَكَذَٲلِكَ جَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ أُمَّةً۬ وَسَطً۬ا لِّتَڪُونُواْ شُہَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ شَهِيدً۬ا‌ۗ وَمَا جَعَلۡنَا ٱلۡقِبۡلَةَ ٱلَّتِى كُنتَ عَلَيۡہَآ إِلَّا لِنَعۡلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ ٱلرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيۡهِ‌ۚ وَإِن كَانَتۡ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ هَدَى ٱللَّهُ‌ۗ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـٰنَكُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِٱلنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

The Qiblah of Jerusalem might itself have seemed strange to the Arabs and the change from it to the Kaabah might have seemed strange after they had become used to the other. In reality one direction or another, or east or west, in itself did not matter. What mattered was the sense of discipline, on which Islam lays so much stress; which of us is willing to follow the directions of the chosen Prophet of Allah? Mere quibblers about non-essential matters are tested by this.

Al Baqarah:147

ٱلۡحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ‌ۖ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلۡمُمۡتَرِينَ

Truth only comes from Allah, and it remains truth, however men might try to conceal it or throw doubt on it.

Al Baqarah:154

وَلَا تَقُولُواْ لِمَن يُقۡتَلُ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ أَمۡوَٲتُۢ‌ۚ بَلۡ أَحۡيَآءٌ۬ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَشۡعُرُونَ

The “patient perseverance and prayer” mention in the last verse is not mere passivity. It is active striving in the way of Truth, which is the way of Allah. Such striving is the spending of one’s self in Allah’s way, either through our property or through our own lives, or the lives of those nearest and dearest to us, or it may be the loss of all the fruits of a lifetime’s labour not only material goods but in some intellectual or moral gain, some position which seemed in our eyes to be eminently desirable in itself, but we must cheerfully sacrifice if necessary for the Cause. With such sacrifice, our apparent loss may be our real gain: he that loses his life may really gain it; and the rewards or ‘fruits’ that seem lost were impediments on our path to real inward progress.

Al Baqarah:164

إِنَّ فِى خَلۡقِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱخۡتِلَـٰفِ ٱلَّيۡلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ وَٱلۡفُلۡكِ ٱلَّتِى تَجۡرِى فِى ٱلۡبَحۡرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ ٱلنَّاسَ وَمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مِن مَّآءٍ۬ فَأَحۡيَا بِهِ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ بَعۡدَ مَوۡتِہَا وَبَثَّ فِيہَا مِن ڪُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ۬ وَتَصۡرِيفِ ٱلرِّيَـٰحِ وَٱلسَّحَابِ ٱلۡمُسَخَّرِ بَيۡنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ لَأَيَـٰتٍ۬ لِّقَوۡمٍ۬ يَعۡقِلُونَ

This magnificent Nature passage stands out like a hill in a landscape, enhancing the beauty of our view, and preparing us for the every-day laws and ordinances which follow.
Note its literary architecture. Allah is one: and among His wondrous Sign is the unity of design in the widest diversity of Nature. The signs are taken from the features of beauty, power and utility to man himself, and lead up to an appeal to Man’s own intelligence and wisdom. We begin with the glory of the heaven and the earth, the wide spaces covered by man’s imagination, remote and yet so near to his own life. The most striking everyday phenomenon resulting from the interrelations of the heavens and the earth is the alternation of day and night, regular and yet changing in duration with the seasons and the latitudes of our globe. The night for rest and the day for work, and we can think of the work in terms of nature’s beauty; the stately ship “flowing” across the sea, for communications and merchandise as between men and men. The seas thus serve us no less than land, and the give-and-take as between sea, sky and land, is further exemplified by the rain. The rain leads to the fertility of land, and here we are reminded of the contrast between the Winter’s death of Nature and her revivification in the Spring. Here we are reminded of agriculture and the use we make of cattle and al kind of leaving creatures. The word translated “beast” has a wide meaning, including crawling creatures, insects, etc, -all contributing to the round of Nature’s operations. This leads us on to the wonderful winds, the region of the air, which man is just beginning to explore and navigate. The personified winds drive the clouds in the sky like “slaves”. Here is another aspect of clouds besides that of giving rain. The fleecy clouds are things of sunset beauty; at mid-day they temper the glare of the sun; at all times they affect radiation and other processes going on in the sky. So we come back to the sky, rounding off the argument and correlating our human life with the Will and Power of Allah, if we had the wisdom to see!!

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