Commentary for Verses 175-232

Al Baqarah:177

لَّيۡسَ ٱلۡبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمۡ قِبَلَ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقِ وَٱلۡمَغۡرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلۡبِرَّ مَنۡ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأَخِرِ وَٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕڪَةِ وَٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ وَٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَءَاتَى ٱلۡمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ ذَوِى ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰكِينَ وَٱبۡنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَٱلسَّآٮِٕلِينَ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ وَٱلۡمُوفُونَ بِعَهۡدِهِمۡ إِذَا عَـٰهَدُواْ‌ۖ وَٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ فِى ٱلۡبَأۡسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَحِينَ ٱلۡبَأۡسِ‌ۗ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُواْ‌ۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُتَّقُونَ

As if to emphasise again a warning against deadening formalism, we are given a beautiful description of the righteous and God-fearing man. He should obey salutary regulations, but he should fix his gaze on the love of Allah and the love of his fellow-men. We are given four heads:-
1. Our faith should be true and sincere;
2. We must be prepared to show it in deeds of charity to our fellow-men;
3. We must be good citizens, supporting social organization; and
4. Our own individual soul must be firm and unshaken in all circumstances.
They are interconnected and yet can be viewed separately.

Faith is not merely a matter of words. We must realize the presence and goodness of Allah. When we do so, the scales fall from our eyes; all the falsities and fleeting nature of the Present cease to enslave us, for we see the Last Day as if it were to-day. We also see Allah’s working in His world and in us: His Angles, His Messengers and His Message are no longer remote from us, but come within our experience.



Al Baqarah:184

أَيَّامً۬ا مَّعۡدُودَٲتٍ۬‌ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ۚ وَعَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ ۥ فِدۡيَةٌ۬ طَعَامُ مِسۡكِينٍ۬‌ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيۡرً۬ا فَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّهُ ۥ‌ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡ‌ۖ إِن كُنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ

The Muslim fast is not meant for self-torture. Although it is stricter than other fast, it also provides alleviations for special circumstances. If it were merely a temporary abstention from food and drink, it would be salutary to many people, who habitually eat and drink to excess. The instincts for food, drink and sex are strong in the animal nature, and temporary restraint from all these enables the attention to be directed to higher things. This is necessary through prayer, contemplation and acts of charity, not of the showy kind, but by seeking out those really in need. Certain standards are prescribed, but much higher standards are recommended



Al Baqarah:187

أُحِلَّ لَڪُمۡ لَيۡلَةَ ٱلصِّيَامِ ٱلرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَآٮِٕكُمۡ‌ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ۬ لَّكُمۡ وَأَنتُمۡ لِبَاسٌ۬ لَّهُنَّ‌ۗ عَلِمَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّڪُمۡ كُنتُمۡ تَخۡتَانُونَ أَنفُسَڪُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَعَفَا عَنكُمۡ‌ۖ فَٱلۡـَٔـٰنَ بَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَٱبۡتَغُواْ مَا ڪَتَبَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمۡ‌ۚ وَكُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡخَيۡطُ ٱلۡأَبۡيَضُ مِنَ ٱلۡخَيۡطِ ٱلۡأَسۡوَدِ مِنَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِ‌ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّواْ ٱلصِّيَامَ إِلَى ٱلَّيۡلِ‌ۚ وَلَا تُبَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمۡ عَـٰكِفُونَ فِى ٱلۡمَسَـٰجِدِ‌ۗ تِلۡكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا تَقۡرَبُوهَا‌ۗ كَذَٲلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَّقُونَ

Men and women are each other’s garment; i.e they are for mutual support, mutual comfort and mutual protection, fitting into each other as a garment fits the body. A garment also is both for show and concealment. The question of sex is always delicate to handle; here we are told that even in such matters a clear, open and honest course is better than fraud or self-deception. The sex instinct is classed with eating and drinking, an animal thing to be restrained, but not to be ashamed of. The three things are prohibited during the fast by day, but permitted after the fast is broken at night till the next fast commences.



Al Baqarah:188

وَلَا تَأۡكُلُوٓاْ أَمۡوَٲلَكُم بَيۡنَكُم بِٱلۡبَـٰطِلِ وَتُدۡلُواْ بِهَآ إِلَى ٱلۡحُڪَّامِ لِتَأۡڪُلُواْ فَرِيقً۬ا مِّنۡ أَمۡوَٲلِ ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلۡإِثۡمِ وَأَنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ

Besides the three primal physical needs of man, which are apt to make him greedy, there is a fourth greed in society, the greed of wealth and property. The purpose of fasts is not completed until this fourth greed is also restrained. Ordinarily honest men are content if they refrain from robbery, theft or embezzlement. Two more subtle forms of the greed are mentioned here. One is where one uses one’s own property for corrupting others-judges or those in authority-so as to obtain some material gain even under the cover and protection of the law. The words translated “other people’s property” may also mean “public property”. A still more subtle form is where we use our own property or property under our own control – “among yourselves” in the Text-for vain or frivolous uses. Under the Islamic standard this is also greed. Property carries with it its own responsibilities. If we fail to understand or fulfill them, we have not learnt the full lesson of self-denial by fasts.



Al Baqarah:189

يَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلۡأَهِلَّةِ‌ۖ قُلۡ هِىَ مَوَٲقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَٱلۡحَجِّ‌ۗ وَلَيۡسَ ٱلۡبِرُّ بِأَن تَأۡتُواْ ٱلۡبُيُوتَ مِن ظُهُورِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلۡبِرَّ مَنِ ٱتَّقَىٰ‌ۗ وَأۡتُواْ ٱلۡبُيُوتَ مِنۡ أَبۡوَٲبِهَا‌ۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّڪُمۡ تُفۡلِحُونَ

There were many superstitions connected with the New Moon, as there are to the present day. We are told to disregard such superstitions. As a measure of time, where the lunar calendar is used; the New Moon is one great sign, for which people watch with eagerness. Muslim festivals, including the Pilgrimage, are fixed by the appearance of the New Moon. The Arabs, among other superstitions, had one which made them enter their houses by the back door during or after Pilgrimage. This is disapproved, for there is no virtue in any such artificial restrictions. All virtue proceeds from the love and fear of Allah.

This is a Muslim proverb now, and much might be written about its manifold meanings. A few may be noted here:-
1. If you enter a society, respect its manners and customs.
2. If you want to achieve an object honourably, go about it openly and not “by a backdoor”.
3. Do not beat about the bush.
4. If you wish success in an undertaking, provide all the necessary instrument for it.
The subject of the New Moon provides a good transition between the Ramadhan fast, which begins and ends with the New Moon, the Pilgrimage, whose ten days commence with the New Moon, and the War, who wanted to exclude them from the Pilgrimage after they had driven them out of house and home.



Al Baqarah:191

وَٱقۡتُلُوهُمۡ حَيۡثُ ثَقِفۡتُمُوهُمۡ وَأَخۡرِجُوهُم مِّنۡ حَيۡثُ أَخۡرَجُوكُمۡ‌ۚ وَٱلۡفِتۡنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ ٱلۡقَتۡلِ‌ۚ وَلَا تُقَـٰتِلُوهُمۡ عِندَ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدِ ٱلۡحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَـٰتِلُوكُمۡ فِيهِ‌ۖ فَإِن قَـٰتَلُوكُمۡ فَٱقۡتُلُوهُمۡ‌ۗ كَذَٲلِكَ جَزَآءُ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ

This passage is illustrated by the events that happened at Hudaibiyah in the sixth year of the Hijrah, though it is not clear that it was revealed on that occasion. The Muslims were by this time a strong and influential community. Many of them were exiles from Makkah, where the Pagans had established an intolerant autocracy, persecuting Muslims, preventing them from visiting their homes and even keeping them out by force from performing the Pilgrimage during the universally recognized period of truce. This was intolerance, oppression and autocracy to the last degree, and the mere readiness of the Muslims to enforce their rights as Arab citizens resulted without bloodshed in an agreement which the Muslims faithfully observed. The Pagans, however, had no scruples in breaking faith and it is unnecessary here to go into subsequent events.
In general, it may be said that Islam is the religion of peace, goodwill, mutual understanding and good faith. But it will not acquiesce in wrong-doing, and its men will hold their lives cheap in defence of honour, justice and the religion which they hold sacred. Their ideal is that of heroic virtue combined with unselfish gentleness and tenderness, such as is exemplified in the life of the Prophet. They believe in courage, obedience, discipline, duty and a constant striving by all the means in their power, physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual, for the establishment of truth and righteousness.



Al Baqarah:212

زُيِّنَ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ ٱلۡحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَيَسۡخَرُونَ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ‌ۘ وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّقَوۡاْ فَوۡقَهُمۡ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَرۡزُقُ مَن يَشَآءُ بِغَيۡرِ حِسَابٍ۬

Allah’s gift in this world seems unequal and sometimes those get them who seem to deserve them least. Allah’s bounty is unlimited to the just as well as the unjust. In His wisdom He may give to whomsoever He pleases. The account is not taken now, but will be taken in the end, when the balance will be redressed.



Al Baqarah:215

يَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ‌ۖ قُلۡ مَآ أَنفَقۡتُم مِّنۡ خَيۡرٍ۬ فَلِلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ وَٱلۡأَقۡرَبِينَ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰكِينِ وَٱبۡنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ‌ۗ وَمَا تَفۡعَلُواْ مِنۡ خَيۡرٍ۬ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِهِۦ عَلِيمٌ۬

Three questions arise in charity:
1. What shall we give?
2. To whom shall we give?
3. How shall we give?
The answer is here. Give anything that is good, useful, helpful, and valuable. It may be property or money; it may be a helping hand; it may be advice; it may be a kind word; “whatever you do that is good” is charity. On the other hand, if you throw away what is useless, there is no charity in it. Or if you give something with a harmful intent, e.g a sword to a madman, or a drug or sweets or even money to someone whom you want to entrap or corrupt, it is no charity but a gift of damnation. To whom should you give? It may be tempting to earn the world’s praise by a gift that will be talk about, but are you meeting the needs of those who have the first claim on you? If you are not, you are like a person who defrauds creditors; it is no charity. Every gift is judged by its unselfish character: the degree of need or claim is a factor which you should consider; if you disregard it, there is something selfish behind it. How should it be given? As in the sight of Allah; this shuts out all pretence, show and insincerity.



Al Baqarah:223

نِسَآؤُكُمۡ حَرۡثٌ۬ لَّكُمۡ فَأۡتُواْ حَرۡثَكُمۡ أَنَّىٰ شِئۡتُمۡ‌ۖ وَقَدِّمُواْ لِأَنفُسِكُمۡ‌ۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّڪُم مُّلَـٰقُوهُ‌ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ

Sex is not a thing to be ashamed of, or to be treated lightly, or to be indulge to excess. It is as solemn a fact as any in life. It is compared to a husbandman’s tilth; it is a serious affair to him; he sows the seed in order to reap the harvest. But he chooses his own time and mode of cultivation. He does not sow out of season nor cultivate in a manner which will injure or exhaust the soil. He is wise and considerate and does not run riot. Coming from the simile to human beings, every kind of mutual consideration is required, but above all, we must remember that even in this matter there is a spiritual aspect. We must never forget our soul and that we are responsible to Allah

Our highest spiritual ambition should be the hope of meeting Allah. To uphold such a hope is to give glad tidings to people of faith. It would only be unrepentant sinners who would fear the meeting. Note how the most sensuous matters are discussed frankly and immediately taken up into the loftiest regions of spiritual upliftment.



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