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Surah Al Baqra Verses 101-110

101 And when came to them an Apostle from Allah confirming what was with them a party of the people of the Book threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs as if (it had been something) they did not know! 102

102 They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon; the blasphemers were not Solomon but the evil ones teaching men magic and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut and Marut. But neither of these taught anyone (such things) without saying: "We are only for trial so do not blaspheme." They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife. But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's permission. And they learned what harmed them not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls if they but knew! 103 104 105

103 If they had kept their faith and guarded themselves from evil far better had been the reward from their Lord if they but knew!

104 O ye of Faith! say not (to the Apostle) words of ambiguous import but words of respect; and hearken (to him); to those without faith is a grievous punishment. 105

105 It is never the wish of those without faith among the people of the Book nor of the Pagans that anything good should come down to you from your Lord. But Allah will choose for His special Mercy whom He will for Allah is Lord of grace abounding.

106 None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar; knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things? 107

107 Knowest thou not that to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And besides Him ye have neither patron nor helper.

108 Would ye question your Apostle as Moses was questioned of old? But whoever changeth from faith to unbelief hath strayed without doubt from the even way. 108 109

109 Quite a number of the people of the Book wish they could turn you (people) back to infidelity after ye have believed from selfish envy after the truth hath become manifest unto them; but forgive and overlook till Allah accomplish His purpose; for Allah hath power over all things. 110 111 112

110 And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: and whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you ye shall find it with Allah; for Allah sees well all that ye do. 113


Commentry:

102 I think that by "the Book of God" here is meant, not the Qur-an, but the Book which the People of the Book had been given, viz., the previous Revelations. The argument is that Muhammad's Message was similar to Revelations which they had already received, and if they had looked into their own Books honestly and sincerely, they would have found proofs in them to show that the new Message was true and from God. But they ignored their own Books or twisted or distorted them according to their own fancies. Worse, they followed something which was actually false and mischeivous and inspired by the evil one. Such was the belief in magic and sorcery. These are described in the next verse in terms referring to the beliefs and practices of the "People of the Book." (2.101)

103 This is a continuation of the argument in ii. 101. The People of the Book, instead of sticking to the plain Books of Revelations, and seeking to do the will of God ran after all sorts of occult knowledge, most of which was false and evil. Many wonderful tales of occult power attributed the power of Solomon to magic. But Solomon dealt in not arts of evil. It was the powers of evil that pretended to force the laws of nature and the will of God; such a pretense is plainly blasphemy. (2.102)

104 This verse has been interpreted variously. Whe were Harut and Marut? What did they teach? Why did they teach it? The view which commends itself to me is that of the Tafsir Haqqani following Baidhawi and the Tafsir Kabir. The word "angels" as applied to Harut and Marut is figurative. It means "good men, of knowledge, science (or wisdom) and power." In modern language the word "angel" is applied to a good and beautiful woman. The earlier tradition made angels masculine, and applied to them the attributes which I have mentioned, along with the attribute of beauty, which was implied in goodness, knowledge, wisdom, and power. (2.102)

105 What the evil ones learnt from Harut and Marut (see last note) they turned to evil. When mixed with fraud and deception, it appeared as charms and spells of love potions. They did nothing but cause discord between the sexes. But of course their power was limited to the extent to which God permitted the evil to work, for His grace protected all who sought His guidance and repented and returned to Him. But apart from the harm that these false pretenders might do to others, the chief harm which they did was to their own souls. They sold themselves into slavery to the Evil One, as is shown in the allegory of Goethe's Faust. That allegory dealt with the individual soul. Here the tragedy is shown to occur not only to individuals but to whole groups of people, for example, the People of the Book. Indeed the story might be extended indefinitely. (2.102)

105 What the evil ones learnt from Harut and Marut (see last note) they turned to evil. When mixed with fraud and deception, it appeared as charms and spells of love potions. They did nothing but cause discord between the sexes. But of course their power was limited to the extent to which God permitted the evil to work, for His grace protected all who sought His guidance and repented and returned to Him. But apart from the harm that these false pretenders might do to others, the chief harm which they did was to their own souls. They sold themselves into slavery to the Evil One, as is shown in the allegory of Goethe's Faust. That allegory dealt with the individual soul. Here the tragedy is shown to occur not only to individuals but to whole groups of people, for example, the People of the Book. Indeed the story might be extended indefinitely. (2.104)

107 The word which I have translated by the word "revelations" is Ayat. See C.41 and n. 15. It is not only used for verses of the Qur-an, but in a general sense for God's revelations, as in ii. 39 and for other Signs of God in history or nature, or miracles, as in ii. 61. It has even been used for human signs and tokens of wonder, as, for example, monuments or landmarks built by the ancient people of Ad (xxvi. 128). What is the meaning here? If we take it in a general sense, it means that God's Message from age to age is always the same, but that its form may differ according to the needs and exigencies of the time. That form was different as given to Moses and then to Jesus and then to Muhammad. Some commentators apply it also to the Ayat of the Qur-an. There is nothing derogatory in this if we believe in progressive revelation. In iii. 7 we are told distinctly about the Qur-an, that some of its verses are basic or fundamental, and others are allegorical, and it is mischievous to treat the allegorical verses and follow them (literally). On the other hand, it is absurd to treat such a verse as ii. 115 as if it were abrograted by ii. 144 about the Qibla. We turn to the Qibla, but we do not believe that God is only in one place. He is everywhere. See second note to ii. 144. (2.106)

108 Moses was contantly harassed with foolish, impertinent, or disingenuous questions by his own people. We must not follow that bad example. Questions should be asked only for real instruction. (2.108)

109 "Even way": the Arabic word sawaa signifies smoothness as opposed to roughness: symmetry as opposed to want of plan; equality or proportion as opposed to want of design; rectitude as opposed to crookedness; a mean as opposed to extremes; and fitness for the object held in view as opposed to faultiness. (2.108)

110 There words are used in the Qur-an, with a meaning akin to "forgive" but each with a different shade of meaning. Afa (here translated "forgive") means to forget, to obliterate from one's mind. Safaha (here translated "overlook") means to turn away from, to ignore, to treat a matter as if it did not affect one. Gafara (which does not occur in this verse) means to cover up something as God does to our sins with His grace; this word is particularly appropriate in God's attribute of Gaffar, the One who forgives again and again. (2.109)

111 The word Amr is comprehensive and includes (1) an order or command as in xcvi. 12; or (2) a purpose, design, will as in xviii. 82; or (3) affairs, working, doing, carrying out or execution of a design, as in lxxxix 5. In many cases some of these meanings run together. (2.109)

112 Note how this phrase, seemingly repeated from ii. 106, and occurring in many other places, has an appropriate signification in each place. In ii. 106 we were told about progressive revelation, how the same thing may take different forms and seeming human infirmity contribute to the fulfillment of God's design, for God's power is unlimited. Here we are told to be patient and forgiving against envy and injustice: this too may be fulfilling God's purpose, for His power is infinite. (2.109)

113 Cf. ii. 95 n. (2.110)

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