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Surah Al Baqra Verses 81-90

81 Nay those who seek gain in Evil and are girt round by their sins they are Companions of the Fire therein shall they abide (for ever). 86

82 But those who have faith and work righteousness they are Companions of the Garden therein shall they abide (for ever).

83 And remember We took a covenant from the children of Israel (to this effect): worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and practice regular charity. Then did ye turn back except a few among you and ye backslide (even now). 87

84 And remember We took your Covenant (to this effect): shed no blood amongst you nor turn out your own people from your homes; and this ye solemnly ratified and to this ye can bear witness. 88

85 After this it is ye the same people who slay among yourselves and banish a party of you from their homes; assist (their enemies) against them in guilt and rancor; and if they come to you as captives ye ransom them though it was not lawful for you to banish them. Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in and do ye reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do. 89

86 These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter; their penalty shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped.

87 We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of Apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you an Apostle with what ye yourselves desire not ye are puffed up with pride? Some ye called impostors and others ye slay! 89 90 91

88 They say "Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah's word we need no more)." Nay Allah's curse is on them for their blasphemy; little is it they believe. 92 93

89 And when there comes to them a Book from Allah confirming what is with them although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without faith when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognized they refused to believe in it; but the curse of Allah is on those without Faith. 94

90 Miserable is the price for which they have sold their souls in that they deny (the revelation) which Allah has sent down in insolent envy that Allah of His Grace should send it to any of His servants He pleases; thus have they drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath. And humiliating is the punishment of those who reject Faith. 95


Commentry:

86 This is many degrees worse than merely falling into evil: it is going out to "earn evil" as the Arabic text has it, i.e., to seek gain in evil. Such a perverse attitude means that the moral and spiritual fortress erected around us by the Grace of God is voluntarily surrendered by us and demolished by Evil, which erects its own fortress, so that access to Good may be more and more difficult. (2.81)

87 So far from the Covenant being of the kind you suggest in ii. 80, the real Covenant is about the moral law, which is set out in ii. 83. This moral law is universal and if you break it, no privileges will lighten your punishment or help you in any way (ii. 86). "Speak fair to the people" not only means outward courtesy from the leaders to the meanest among the people, but the protection of the people from being exploited, deceived, defrauded, or doped with things to lull their intelligence. (2.83)

88 Verse 83 referred to the universal moral law. This verse 84 refers to its application under a special Covenant entered into with the Jews of Medina by the new-born Muslim Commonwealth under its Guide and teacher Muhammad. This Covenant is given in Ibn Hisham's Sivat-ur-Rasul, and comments on it will be found in Ameer Ali's Spirit of Islam (London 1922), pp. 57-61. It was entered into in the second year of the Hijra, and was treacherously broken by the Jews almost immediately afterwards. (2.84)

89 I understand "ransom them" here to mean "take ransom for them" though most of the Commentators take it to mean "give ransom for them". Mustafa had made a Pact which, if it had been faithfully observed by all parties, would have brought a reign of law and order for Medina. But some of the treacherous Jews never intended to observe its terms. They fought and slew each other and not only banished those who were obnoxious to them but intrigued with their enemies. If by chance they came back into their hands as captives, they demanded ransom for them to return to their homes although they had no right to banish them at all. If we understand by "ransom them" pay "ransom for them to release them from the hands of their enemies," it would mean that they did this pious act for show, although they were themselves the authors of their unlawful banishment. I think the former makes better sense. (2.85)

89 I understand "ransom them" here to mean "take ransom for them" though most of the Commentators take it to mean "give ransom for them". Mustafa had made a Pact which, if it had been faithfully observed by all parties, would have brought a reign of law and order for Medina. But some of the treacherous Jews never intended to observe its terms. They fought and slew each other and not only banished those who were obnoxious to them but intrigued with their enemies. If by chance they came back into their hands as captives, they demanded ransom for them to return to their homes although they had no right to banish them at all. If we understand by "ransom them" pay "ransom for them to release them from the hands of their enemies," it would mean that they did this pious act for show, although they were themselves the authors of their unlawful banishment. I think the former makes better sense. (2.87)

90 As to the birth of Jesus, cf. xix. 16-34. Why is he called the "Son of Mary"? What are his "clear signs"? What is the "holy spirit" by which he was strenghtened? We reserve to a later state a discussion of the Quranic teaching on these questions. See iii. 62, n. 401. (2.87)

91 Notice the sudden transition from the past tense in "some ye called imposters" to the present tense in "others ye slay." There is a double significance. First, reviewing the long course of Jewish history, we have come to the time of Jesus; they have often given the lie to God's Apostles, and even now they are trying to slay Jesus. Secondly, extending the review of that history to the time of Muhammad, they are even now trying to take the life of that holy Apostle. This would be literally true at the time the words were promulgated to the people. And this transition leads on naturally to the next verse, which refers to the actual conditions before Muhammad in Medina in the second year of the Hijra. Sections 11/13 (ii. 87-121) refer to the People of the Book generally, Jews and Christians. Even where Moses and the Law of Sinai are referred to, those traditions are common to both Jews and Christians. The argument is about the people who ought to have learnt from previous Revelations and welcomed Muhammad's teaching, and yet they both took up an attitude of arrogant rejection. (2.87)

92 The Jews in their arrogance claimed that all wisdom and all knowledge of God were enclosed in their hearts. But there were more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in their philosophy. Their claim was not only arrogance but blasphemy. In reality they were men without Faith. (I take Gulfan here to be the plural of Gilafun the wrapping or cover of a book, in which the book is preserved.) As usual, there is a much wider meaning. How many people at all times and among all nations close their hearts to any extension of knowlege or spiritual influence because of some little fragment which they have got and which they think is the whole of Allah's Truth? Such an attitude shows really want of faith and is a blasphemous limitation of Allah's unlimited spiritual gifts to His creatures. [According to another view, the verse refers to the Jewish claim that a covering had been placed over their hearts which prevented them from grasping the message of the Prophet (peace be on him). See Ibn Kathir's commentary on the verse. See also verse iv. 155.] (2.88)

93 The root kafara has many shades of meaning: (1) to deny God's goodness, to be ungrateful, (2) to reject Faith, deny His revelation, (3) to blaspheme, to ascribe some limitation or attribute to God which is derogatory to His nature. In a translation, one shade or another must be put forward according to the context, but all are implied. (2.88)

94 The Jews, who pretended to be so superior to the people without Faith - the Gentiles - should have been the first to recognize the new Truth - or the Truth renewed - which it was Muhammad's mission to bring because it was so similar in form and language to what they had already received. But they had more arrogance than faith. It is this want of faith that brings on the curse, i.e., deprives us (if we adopt such an attitude) of the blessings of God. Again the lesson applies to a much wider circle than the Jews. We are all apt, in our perverseness, to reject an appeal form our brother even more summarily than one from an outsider. If we have a glimmering of the truth, we are apt to make ourselves impervious to further truth, and thus lose the benefit of Allah's Grace. (2.89)

95 Racial arrogance made the Jews averse to the reception of Truth when it came through a servant of God, not of their own race. Again the lesson is wider. Is that averseness unknown in our own times, and among other races? Yet how can a race or a people set bounds to God's choice? God is the Creater and Cherisher of all races and all worlds. (2.90)

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