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Surah Al Baqra Verses 121-130

121 Those to whom We have sent the book study it as it should be studied; they are the ones that believe therein; those who reject faith therein the loss is their own.

122 O Children of Israel! call to mind the special favor which I bestowed upon you and that I preferred you to all others (for my message).

123 Then guard yourselves against a day when one soul shall not avail another nor shall compensation be accepted from her nor shall intercession profit her nor shall anyone be helped (from outside). 122

124 And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands which he fulfilled; He said: "I will make thee an Imam to the nations." He pleaded: "And also (Imams) from my offspring!" He answered: "But my promise is not within the reach of evil-doers." 123

125 Remember We made the house a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma`il that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round or use it as a retreat or bow or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). 125 126

126 And remember Abraham said: "My Lord make this a City of Peace and feed its people with fruits such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He said: "(Yea) and such as reject faith for a while will I grant them their pleasure but will soon drive them to the torment of fire an evil destination (indeed)!" 127 128

127 And remember Abraham and Isma`il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): "Our Lord! accept (this service) from us for thou art the All-Hearing the All-Knowing.

128 "Our Lord! make of us Muslims bowing to Thy (Will) and of our progeny a people Muslim bowing to Thy (Will) and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in mercy); for Thou art the Oft-Returning Most-Merciful.

129 "Our Lord! send amongst them an Apostle of their own who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom and sanctify them; for Thou art the Exalted in Might the Wise." 129

130 And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly? Him We chose and rendered pure in this world: and he will be in the Hereafter in the ranks of the righteous. 130


Commentry:

122 Verses 122-123 repeat verses 47-48 (except for a slight verbal variation in ii. 123 which does not affect the sense). The argument about the favours to Israel is thus beautifully rounded off, and we now proceed to the argument in favour of the Arabs as succeeding to the spiritual inheritance of Abraham. (2.123)

123 Kalimat: literally "words" here used in the mystic sense of God's Will or Decree or Purpose. This verse may be taken to be the sum of the verses following. In everything Abraham fulfilled God's wish: he purified God's house; he built the sacred refuge of the Ka'ba; he submitted his will to God's, and thus became the type of Islam. He was promised the leadership of the world; he pleaded for his progeny, and his prayer was granted, with the limitation that if his progeny was false to God, God's promise did not reach the people who proved themselves false. (2.124)

125 The Ka'ba, the House of God. 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 certain seasons, all fighting was and is forbidden within it limits, and even arms are not allowed to be carried and no game or other thing is allowed to be killed. Like the Cities of Refuge under the Mosaic Dispensation to which manslayers could flee (Num. xxxv. 6) or the Sanctuaries in Mediaeval Europe, to which criminals could not be pursued. Mecca was recognized by Arab custom as inviolable for the pursuit of revenge or violence. (3) It was a place of prayer; even today there is a Station of Abraham within the enclosure where Abraham was supposed to have prayed. (4) It must be held pure and sacred for all purposes. (2.125)

126 Four rites are here enumerated, which have now acquired a technical meaning. (1) Compassing the sacred territory, or going round the Ka'ba: Tawaf. There are special guides who take pilgrims and visitors round. (2) Retiring to the place as a spiritual retreat, for contemplation and prayer: Itikat. (3) The posture of bending the back in prayer: Ruku. (4) The posture of prostrating oneself on the ground in prayer: Sujud. The protection of the holy territory is for all, but special cleanliness and purity is required for the sake of the devotees who undertake these rites. (2.125)

127 The root salama in the word Islam implies (among other ideas) the idea of Peace, and therefore when Mecca is the city of Islam, it is also the City of Peace. The same root occurs in the latter part of the name Jerusalem, the Jewish City of Peace. When the day of Jerusalem passed (see verse 134 or 141 below), Mecca became the "New Jerusalem" - or rather the old and original "City of Peace" restored and made universal. (2.126)

128 The territory of Mecca is barren and rocky, compared with, say Taif, a city 70-75 miles east of Mecca. A prayer for the prosperity of Mecca therefore includes a prayer for the good things of material life. This is the literal meaning. But note that the opposition in this verse is between the fruits of the Garden for the righteous and the torments of the Fire for the evil ones - a spiritual allegory of great force and aptness. (2.126)

129 How beautiful this prayer is, and how aptly it comes in here in the argument! Such Paganism or star-worship or planet-worship as there was in Abraham's time was first cleared out of Mecca by Abraham. This is the chief meaning of "sanctification" or purification in ii. 125, although of course physical cleanliness is (in physical conditions) a necessary element of purification in the higher sense. Abraham and his elder son Ismail then built the Ka'ba and established the rites and usages of the sacred city. He was thus the founder of the original Islam (which is as old as mankind) in Arabia. As becomes a devout man, he offers and dedicates the work to God in humble supplication, addressing Him as the All-Hearing and the All-Knowing. He then asks for a blessing on himself and his progeny generally, both the children of his eldest-born Ismail and his younger son Isaac. With prophetic vision he foresees that there will be corruption and backsliding in both branches of his family: Mecca will house 360 idols, and Jerusalem will become a harlot city (Ezekiel xvi. 15), a city of abomination. But the light of Islam will shine, and reclaim the lost people in both branches and indeed in all the world. So he prays for God's mercy, addressing Him as the Oft-Returning Most Merciful. And finally he foresees in Mecca an Apostle teaching the people as one "of their own", and in their own beautiful Arabic language; he asks for a blessing on Muhammad's ministry, appealing to the Power and Wisdom of God. (2.129)

130 Istafa: chose; chose because of purity; chose and purified. It is the same root from which Mustafa is derived, one of the titles of Muhammad. (2.130)

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