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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 13 (Verses 104 to 112)


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Section/Ruku 13 [Verses 104 to 112]: Previous Scriptures are abrogated:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

104 O you who believe, say not Ra‘i-na and say Unzur-na,
a and listen. And for the disbelievers there is a painful chastisement.

105 Neither those who disbelieve from among the people of the Book, nor the polytheists, like that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord. And Allah chooses whom He pleases for His Mercy; and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace.a

106 Whatever message We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or one like it. Knowest thou not that Allah is Possessor of power over all things?a

107 Knowest thou not that Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and that besides Allah you have not any friend or helper?

108 Rather you wish to put questions to your Messenger, as Moses was questioned before. And whoever adopts disbelief instead of faith he indeed has lost the right direction of the way.a

109 Many of the people of the Book wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from themselves, after truth has become manifest to them.a But pardon and forgive, till Allah bring about His command. Surely Allah is Possessor of power over all things.

110 And keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate. And whatever good you send before for yourselves, you will find it with Allah. Surely Allah is Seer of what you do.

111 And they say: None shall enter the Garden except he who is a Jew, or the Christians.a These are their vain desires. Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful.

112 Nay, whoever submits himself entirely to Allah and he is the doer of good (to others), he has his reward from his Lord, and there is no fear for such nor shall they grieve.a

 2. Commentary:

104a. Ra‘i-na is equivalent to give ear to, hearken, or listen to us, but with a slight change of accent it becomes ra‘ina, which means he is foolish or stupid or unsound in intellect, the derivation in the first case being from ra‘y, to pasture or to be mindful, and in the second case from ra‘n, i.e., being foolish (LL). The Jews in derision changed the accent, “distorting” the word, as stated in 4:46, and thus made it a term of reproach. The word unzur-na, which means wait for us or grant us a little delay, is suggested instead, because it cannot be distorted like its equivalent ra‘i-na. The Muslims are here forbidden to use a certain form of expression, but the real object is to show how great was the hatred of the Jews towards the Holy Prophet, so that they did not observe even the ordinary rules of decency. Morally the injunction is one worthy of the highest regard, as it disapproves of the use of words bearing a sinister meaning. [Back to verse 104]

105a. Khair, lit., good, and rahmat, lit., mercy, both stand here for Divine revelation, for it was this good which the Jews would not like to be sent down to the Muslims, and it was this mercy for which the Muslims had been chosen (AH). [Back to verse 105]

106a. Reading the verse under discussion in the light of the context, it is clear that the Jews are addressed here. The two previous sections deal, more or less, with a particular Jewish objection to the revelation of the Prophet, viz., that they could not accept a new revelation which was not granted to an Israelite. This is plainly stated in vv. 90 and 91. The same subject is continued, the Jews being addressed throughout. Their objection was: Why was another revelation sent down to Muhammad, and why was a law containing new commandments promulgated? That objection was to be answered. The answer is given partly in v. 105, and partly in the verse under discussion. In the former of these they are told that Allah chooses whom He pleases for His revelation. In the latter, that if one law (i.e. the Jewish law) was abrogated, one better than it was given through the Holy Prophet. It should be noted that the new law is here stated to be better than the one abrogated or like it. It is a fact that though the law of the Quran is decidedly superior to and more comprehensive than the previous laws in most respects, yet there are many points of likeness in the two. Hence the words one like it are added.

In the verse that follows, attention is called to the laws of nature as prevailing in the universe. Is it not true that the old order in nature gives place to a new one, the inferior to the better? It was therefore quite natural that the Mosaic law, which was in the main given for a particular people in a particular age, and suited only their requirements, should give place to a new and universal law, the law of Islam. The old law had been partly forgotten, and what remained was now abrogated to give place to one better and in certain matters one like it. It will thus be seen that the reference here is to the abrogation of the Jewish law, the statement being really an answer to the objection of the Jews.

That some of the Quranic verses were abrogated by others, though a generally accepted doctrine, is due to a misconception of the words of this verse. The word ayat occurring here has been wrongly understood to mean a verse of the Quran. Similar words occur elsewhere: “And when We change a message (ayat) for a message (ayat) — and Allah knows best what He reveals — they say: Thou art only a forger” (16:101). This is a Makkan revelation and it is an undisputed fact, admitted by all upholders of abrogation in the Quran, that there was no abrogation at Makkah, because the details of the law were not revealed there. Therefore the word ayat, occurring there twice, could only mean a message or a communication from God, and the first message meant the previous scriptures and by the second message was meant the Quran.

The interpretation adopted by the commentators generally is not based on any saying of the Prophet; it is their own opinion. Nor is there a single report traceable to the Prophet that such and such a verse was abrogated. A companion’s opinion that he considered a certain verse to have been abrogated by another could not carry the least weight. It was the Prophet only on whose authority any verse was accepted as being a part of the Holy Quran, and it was he only on whose authority any verse could be considered as having been abrogated. But there is not a single hadith of the Prophet speaking of abrogation.

Another consideration which shows the erroneousness of the doctrine that any verse of the Quran was abrogated by another is the hopeless disagreement of the upholders of this view. In the first place there is no agreement as to the number of the verses which are alleged to have been abrogated; while some accept no more than five verses to be abrogated, others carry the number to hundreds. This shows that the view is based simply on conjecture. Secondly, if one commentator holds a certain verse to be abrogated, another calls this an erroneous view. In Bukhari especially do we find opposite views cited side by side. What happened really was this that when a commentator could not reconcile one verse with another, he held the verse to be abrogated by the other, but another who, giving deeper thought, was able to effect a reconciliation between the two, rejected abrogation. This seems to be the basis on which the theory of abrogation of Quranic verses rests, and this basis is demolished by the Holy Quran when it says: “Will they not then meditate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy” (4:82). There are no discrepancies in the Quran, and it is want of meditation on it that is responsible for the theory of abrogation. [Back to verse 106]

108a. The Jews are addressed here, because it is they who vexed Moses with different demands and different questions. The words whoever adopts disbelief instead of faith do not signify a change of disbelief for belief, but the adoption of the former instead of the latter, and therefore these words also apply to the Jews. [Back to verse 108]

109a. The Jews were so inimical to Islam that, knowing it to be a religion based on the Unity of God as their own religion was, and knowing that it led men to a life of righteousness and turned them away from the path of evil, they longed, and in fact did their best by joining hands with the idolatrous enemies of Islam, to turn them back into idolatry. Elsewhere the following words occur about the Jews: “Hast thou not seen those to whom a portion of the Book was given? They believe in sorcery and diviners and say of those who disbelieve: These are better guided in the path than those who believe” (4:51). The Muslims are, however, told to pardon and forgive. [Back to verse 109]

111a. The address hitherto has been particularly to the Jews, but the “people of the Book” include both Jews and Christians, and along with the idolaters they were both opposed to Islam; and hence the Christians are now expressly spoken of. That the Jews denounced the Christians and the Christians denounced the Jews is expressly stated in v. 113, and hence what is said here may be expanded thus: The Jews say that none shall enter the Garden except a Jew and the Christians say that none shall enter the Garden except the Christians. Both degraded religion to a belief in a set of doctrines, and leading a life of righteousness was not considered as of the essence of religion. [Back to verse 111]

112a. The Jews and the Christians are told that their assertions that only the Jews and the Christians will be saved are groundless. It is entire submission to Allah and the doing of good to His creatures that is the true source of salvation, and that is what Islam means according to the Holy Quran. Here the word wajh does not stand for the face, but is used “for the whole, because wajh is the most noble part” (LL). Similarly wajhi in 3:20 signifies my person or myself (T). Wajh also means course, way, purpose or object as in v. 115.

From aslama, meaning he submitted himself or entered into peace, is derived the name of the religion which the Holy Quran preaches, i.e., Islam, for which see 3:19a. [Back to verse 112]

 

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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 13 (Verses 104 to 112)


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