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Surah Al Baqra Verses 251-260

251 By Allah's will they routed them: and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another the earth would indeed be full of mischief but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds. 286 287 283

252 These are the signs of Allah; We rehearse them to thee in truth: verily thou art one of the apostles.

253 Those apostles We endowed with gifts some above others: to one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honor); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. If Allah had so willed succeeding generations would not have fought among each other after clear (Signs) had come to them but they (chose) to wrangle some believing and others rejecting. If Allah had so willed they would not have fought each other; but Allah fulfilleth His plan. 289 290 291 292 293

254 O ye who believe! spend out of (the bounties) We have provided for you before the day comes when no bargaining (will avail) nor friendship nor intercession. Those who reject faith they are the wrong-doers. 294 295

255 Allah! there is no Allah but He the living the Self-subsisting Eternal. No slumber can seize him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to his creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of his knowledge except as He willeth. His throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. For He is the Most High the Supreme (in glory). 296 297 298 259

256 Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. 300 301

257 Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the Evil Ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire to dwell therein (for ever).

258 Hast thou not turned thy vision to one who disputed with Abraham about his Lord because Allah had granted him power? Abraham said: "My Lord is He Who Giveth life and death." He said: "I give life and death." Said Abraham: "but it is Allah that causeth the sun to rise from the East do thou then cause him to rise from the West." Thus was he confounded who (in arrogance) rejected faith. Nor doth Allah give guidance to a people unjust. 302 303

259 Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet all in ruins to its roofs. He said: "Oh! how shall Allah bring it (ever) to life after (this) its death?" But Allah caused him to die for a hundred years then raised him up (again). He said: "How long didst thou tarry (thus)?" He said: "(perhaps) a day or part of a day." He said: "Nay thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey: and that We may make of thee a Sign unto the people look further at the bones how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh! When this was shown clearly to him he said: "I know that Allah hath power over all things." 304 305

260 Behold! Abraham said: "My Lord! show me how thou givest life to the dead. He said: "Dost thou not then believe?" He said: "Yea! but to satisfy my own understanding." He said: "Take four birds; tame them to turn to thee; put a portion of them on every hill and call to them; they will come to thee (flying) with speed. Then know that Allah is Exalted in Power Wise." 306 307 308


Commentry:

286 Note how the whole story is compressed into a few words as regards narration, but its spiritual lessons are dwelt upon from many points of view. The Old Testament is mainly interested in the narrative, which is full of detail, but says little about the universal truths of which every true story is a parable. The Qur-an assumes the story, but tells the parable. (2.251)

287 David was not only a shepherd, a warrior, a king, a wise man, and a prophet, but was also endowed with the gifts of poetry and music. His Psalms (sabur) are still extant. (2.251)

283 Carried by angels: these words refer to the Tabut or Ark, the cherubims with outstretched wings on the lid may well be supposed to carry the security or peace which the Ark symbolised. (2.251)

289 Different gifts and different modes of procedure are prescribed to God's Apostles in different ages, and perhaps their degrees are different though it is not for us mortals, with our imperfect knowledge to make any difference between one and another of God's Apostles (ii. 136). As this winds up the argument about fighting, three illustrations are given from the past, how it affected God's Messengers. To Moses God spoke in clouds of glory; he led his men for forty years through the wilderness, mainly fighting against the unbelief of his own people; he organised them to fight with the sword for Palestine, but was raised to God's mercy before his enterprise ripened, and it fell to Joshua to carry out his plan. David, though a mere shepherd boy, was chosen by God. He overthrew the greatest warrior of his time, became a king, and waged successful wars, being also a prophet, a poet, and a musician. Jesus was "strengthened with the holy spirit": he was given no weapons to fight and his mission was of a more
limited character. In Muhammad's mission these and other characters were combined. Gentler than Jesus, he organised on a vaster scale than Moses and from Medina he ruled and gave laws, and the Qur-an has a vaster scope than the Psalms of David. (2.253)

290 Moses: see note above. (2.253)

291 There is a two-fold sense: they were raised to high posts of honour, and they rose by degrees. I take the reference to be to David. (2.253)

292 Cf. ii 87. See n. 401 to iii. 62. (2.253)

293 If some power of choice was to be given to man, his selfishness inevitably caused divisions. It must not be supposed that it frustrates God's Plan. He carries it out as He will. (2.253)

294 Spend, i.e, give away in chartiy, or employ in good works, but do not hoard. Good works would in Islam include everything that advances the good of one that is in need whether a neighbor or a stranger or that advances the good of the community or even the good of the person himself to whom God has given the bounty. But it must be real good and there should be no admixture of baser motives, such as vainglory, or false indulgence, or encouragement of idleness, or playing off one person against another. The bounties include mental and spiritual gifts as well as wealth and material gifts. (2.254)

295 Cf. ii. 123 and ii. 48. (2.254)

296 This is the Ayat-ul-Kursi the "Verse of the Throne". Who can translate its glorious meaning, or reproduce the rhythm of its well-chosen and comprehensive words. Even in the original Arabic the meaning seems to be greater than can be expressed in words. (2.255)

297 After we realise that His life is absolute Life. His Being is absolute Being, while others are contingent and evanescent, our ideas of heaven and earth vanish like shadows. What is behind that shadow is He. Such reality as our heavens and our earth possess is a reflection of His absolute Reality. The pantheist places the wrong accent when he says that everything is He. The truth is better expressed when we say that everything is His. How then can any creatures stand before Him as of right, and claim to intercede for a fellow-creature? In the first place both are His, and He cares as much for one as for the other. In the second place, they are both dependent on His will and command. But He in His Wisdom and Plan may grade his creatures and give one superiority over another. Then by His will and permission such a one may intercede or help according to the laws and duties laid on him. God's knowledge is absolute, and is not conditioned by Time or Space. To us, His creatures, these conditions alwa
s apply. His knowledge and our knowledge are therefore in different categories, and our knowledge only gets some reflection of Reality when it accords with His Will and Plan. (2.255)

298 Throne; seat, power, knowledge, symbol of authority. In our thoughts we exhaust everything when we say "the heavens and the earth". Well, then in everything is the working of God's power, and will, and authority. Everything of course includes spiritual things as well as things of sense. Cf. Wordsworth's fine outburst in "Tintern Abbey": "Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And in the blue sky, and in the mind of man: A motion and a spirit that impels alll thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things." (2.255)

259 Wrong (themselves as well as others): Zalimun: for the root meaning of zulm see n. 51. ii. 35. (2.255)

300 Compulsion is incompatible with religion; because 1) religion depends upon faith and will, and these would be meaningless if induced by force; 2) Truth and Error have been so clearly shown up by the mercy of God that there should be no doubt in the minds of any persons of goodwill as to the fundamentals of faith; 3) God's protection is continuous and His Plan is always to lead us from the depths of darkness into the clearest light. (2.256)

301 Hand-hold: something which the hands can grasp for safety in a moment of danger. It may be a loop or a handle, or anchor. If it is without flaw, so that there is no danger of breaking, our safety is absolutely assured so long as we hold fast to it. Our safety then depends on our own will and faith; God's help and protection will always be unfailing if we hold firmly to God and trust in Him. (2.256)

302 The three verses 258-260 have been the subject of much controversy as to the exact meaning to be attached to the incidents and the precise persons alluded to, whose names are not mentioned. M.M.A's learned notes give some indication of the points at issue. In such matters, where the Qur-an has given no names and the Holy Apostle has himself given no indication, it seems to me useless to speculate, and still worse to put forward positive opinions. In questions of learning, speculations are often interesting. But it seems to me that the meaning of the Qur-an is so wide and universal that we are in danger of missing the real and eternal meaning if we go on disputing about minor points. All three incidents are such as may happen again and again in any prophet's lifetime, and be seen in impersonal vision at any time. Here they are connected with Mustafa's vision as shown by the opening words of verse 258. (2.258)

303 The first point illustrated is the pride of power, and the impotence of human power as against God's power. The person who disputed with Abraham may have been Nimrod or some ruler in Babylonia, or indeed elsewhere. I name Babylonia as it was the original home of Abraham (Ur of the Chaldees), and Babylon prided herself on her arts and sciences in the ancient world. Science can do many wonderful things; it could then; it can now. But the mystery of Life baffled science then, as it continues to baffle science now, after many centuries of progress. Abraham had faith and referred back everything to the true Cause of Causes. A sceptical ruler might jestingly say: "I have the power of life and death". A man of science might say: "We have investigated the laws of life and death." Different kinds of powers lie in the hands of kings and men of knowledge. The claim in both cases is true in a very limited sense. But Abraham confounded the claimer by going back to fundamentals. "If you had the ultimate power, why could you not make the sun rise from the West?" (2.258)

304 This incident is referred variously (1) to Ezekiel's vision of dry bones (Ezekiel, xxxvii. 1-10, (2) to Nehemiah's visit to Jerusalem in ruins after the Captivity, and to its re-building (Hehemiah, i. 12-20): and (3) to Uzair, or Ezra, or Esdras, the scribe, priest, and reformer, who was sent by the Persian King after the Captivity to Jerusalem, and about whom there are many Jewish legends. As to (1), there are only four words in this verse about bones. As to (2) and (3), there is nothing specific to connect this verse with either. The wording is perfectly general, and we must understand it as general. I think it does refer not only to individual, but to national, death, and resurrection. (2.259)

305 A man is in despair when he sees the destruction of a whole people, city, or civilization. But God can cause resurrection, as He has done many times in history, and as He will do at the final Resurrection. Time is nothing before God. The doubter thinks that he has been dead or "tarried thus" a day or less when the period has been a century. On the other hand, the food and drink which he left behind is intact, and as fresh as it was when he left it. But the donkey is not only dead, but nothing but bones is left of it. And before the man's eyes, the bones are reunited, clothed with flesh and blood, and restored to life. Moral: (1) Time is nothing to God; (2) It affects different things in different ways; (3) The keys of life and death are in God's hands; (4) Man's power is nothing; his faith should be in God. (2.259)

306 Verse 258, we saw, illustrated by God's power over Life and Death, contrasted with man's vain boasts or imaginings. Verse 259 illustrated how Time is immaterial to God's working; things, individuals and nations are subject to laws of life and death, which are under God's complete control, however much we may be misled by appearances. Now in Verse 200 we are shown the power of wisdom and love: if man can tame birds so that they know him and fly to him, how much more will God's creatures obey His call at the Resurrection? (2.260)

307 Abraham had complete faith in God's power, but he wanted, with God's permission, to give an explanation of that faith to his own heart and mind. Where I have translated "satisfy my own understanding", the literal translation would be "satisfy my own heart". (2.260)

308 A portion of them: Juz-an. The received Commentators understand this to mean that the birds were to be cut up and pieces of them were to be put on the hills. The cutting up or killing is not mentioned, but they say that it is implied by an ellipsis, as the question is how God gives life to the dead. Of the modern Muslim Commentators, M.P. is non-committal, but H.G.S. and M.M.A. understand that the birds were not killed, but that a "portion" here means a unit, single birds were placed on the hills, and they flew to the one who tamed them. This last view commends itself to me, as the cutting up of the birds to pieces is nowhere mentioned, unless we understand the word for "Taming" in an unusual and almost impossible sense. (2.260)

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