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Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
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The Qurʾan What is This? A current English-language version of the Qur'an, published in 2004
Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

2. The Cow (1 – 286)

This is a Medinan sura and the longest in the Qurʾan, containing material revealed over several years, and named after the story of the cow which the Israelites were ordered to slaughter (verses 67ff.). The sura opens with a response to the plea for guidance in Sura i, ‘The Opening’, dividing mankind into three groups in their response to this guidance—the believers, the disbelievers, and the hypocrites—and closes confirming the tenets of faith given in the opening verses (3–5). The addressee shifts as the sura progresses: at various times the text addresses mankind in general (verses 21ff.), where they are urged to serve God who has been so gracious to them (they are reminded that God created Adam and favoured him over the angels), the Children of Israel (verses 40ff.), who are reminded of God's special favours to them and urged to believe in scriptures that do indeed confirm their own, and the believers (verses 136ff.), who are given instruction in many areas—prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, defence, marital law, and financial matters.

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

1Alif Lam Mima These are the names of the three Arabic letters a, l, and m. Twenty-nine suras of the Qurʾan begin with separate alphabetical letters like these, from one individual letter up to five. Various interpretations have been offered. It is sufficient to mention two here: (1) these letters indicated to the Arabs who first heard the Qurʾan that the Qurʾan consists of letters and words of their own language, although it was superior to any speech of their own, being of divine origin; (2) they are an exclamatory device intended to arrest the listeners’ attention, similar to the custom of starting poems with an emphatic ‘No!’ or ‘Indeed!’ Exegetes normally added, after expounding their theories, ‘God knows best.’

2This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt,b The Arabic construction la rayba fihi carries more than one meaning, including ‘there is nothing dubious about/in it’ and ‘it is not to be doubted’ as regards its origin or contents. containing guidance for those who are mindfulc The root w-q-y in this morphological form has the meaning of being mindful or being wary of something. The opposite of being mindful of God is to ignore Him or have no reference to Him in your thought, feeling, or action. This is a fundamental concept about God and the believers’ relation to Him. Many translators render the term as ‘those who fear God’, but this is an over-expression of the term and does not correctly convey the meaning of the concept, which is a very common one in the Qurʾan. of God, 3who believe in the unseen,d What is beyond their perception, literally ‘absent’—this applies to the nature of God, the Hereafter, historical information not witnessed, etc. keep up the prayer,a This means regular and proper performance of the formal prayer (salah), as taught by the Prophet Muhammad. and giveb Yunfiquna in the Arabic of the Qurʾan literally means ‘spend’, on others, in good causes, in the way of God. out of what We have provided for them; 4those who believe in the revelation sent down to you [Muhammad], and in what was sent before you, those who have firm faith in the Hereafter. 5Such people are following their Lord's guidance and it is they who will prosper. 6As for those who disbelieve, it makes no difference whether you warn them or not: they will not believe. 7God has sealed their hearts and their ears, and their eyes are covered. They will have great torment.c The basic meaning of ‘adhab is ‘to restrain (from doing wrong)’, extended to mean anything difficult or painful, punishment, famine (see 23: 78). See Majaz al-Qurʾan, by ‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abdul-Salam (London: Al-Furqan Foundation, 1999), 194, and E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1968).

8Some people say, ‘We believe in God and the Last Day,’ when really they do not believe. 9They seek to deceive God and the believers but they only deceive themselves, though they do not realize it. 10There is a disease in their hearts, to which God has added more: agonizing torment awaits them for their persistent lying. 11When it is said to them, ‘Do not cause corruption in the land,’ they say, ‘We are only putting things right,’ 12but really they are causing corruption, though they do not realize it. 13When it is said to them, ‘Believe, as the others believe,’ they say, ‘Should we believe as the fools do?’ but they are the fools, though they do not know it. 14When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We believe,’ but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, ‘We’re really with you; we were only mocking.’ 15God is mocking them, and allowing them more slack to wander blindly in their insolence. 16They have bought error in exchange for guidance, so their trade reaps no profit, and they are not rightly guided. 17They are like people who [labour to] kindle a fire: when it lights up everything around them, God takes away all their light, leaving them in utter darkness, unable to see—18deaf, dumb, and blind: they will never return. 19Or [like people who, under] a cloudburst from the sky, with its darkness, thunder, and lightning, put their fingers into their ears to keep out the thunderclaps for fear of death—God surrounds the disbelievers. 20The lightning almost snatches away their sight: whenever it flashes on them they walk on and when darkness falls around them they stand still. If God so willed, He could take away their hearing and sight: God has power over everything.

21People, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may be mindful [of Him] 22who spread out the earth for you and built the sky; who sent water down from it and with that water produced things for your sustenance. Do not, knowing this, set up rivals to God. 23If you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single sura like it—enlist whatever supportersa Literally ‘whatever witnesses’. Razi interprets this as referring either to their idols or to their leaders. you have other than God—if you truly [think you can]. 24If you cannot do this—and you never will—then beware of the Fire prepared for the disbelievers, whose fuel is men and stones.

25[Prophet], give those who believe and do good the news that they will have Gardens graced with flowing streams. Whenever they are given sustenance from the fruits of these Gardens, they will say, ‘We have been given this before,’ because they were provided with something like it.b One interpretation is that they enjoy each meal so much that they are delighted to see favourite dishes again; another interpretation is that the food of Paradise resembles the delicacies of this world in appearance. They will have pure spouses and there they will stay.

26God does not shy from drawing comparisons even with something as small as a gnat, or larger:c Comparisons such as those given here were seen by some as inappropriate for God, and this is an answer to these critics. the believers know it is the truth from their Lord, but the disbelievers say, ‘What does God mean by such a comparison?’ Through it He makes many go astray and leads many to the right path. But it is only the rebels He makes go astray: 27those who break their covenant with God after it has been confirmed, who sever the bonds that God has commanded to be joined, who spread corruption on the earth—these are the losers. 28How can you ignore God when you were lifeless and He gave you life, when He will cause you to die, then resurrect you to be returned to Him? 29It was He who created all that is on the earth for you, then turned to the sky and made the seven heavens; it is He who has knowledge of all things.

30[Prophet], when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a successora The term khalifa is normally translated as ‘vicegerent’ or ‘deputy’. While this is one meaning of the term, its basic meaning is ‘successor’—the Qurʾan often talks about generations and individuals who are successors to each other, cf. 6: 165, 7: 129, etc.—or a ‘trustee’ to whom a responsibility is temporarily given, cf. Moses and Aaron, 7: 142. on earth,’ they said, ‘How canb This is istifham inkari in Arabic, i.e. not an interrogative but an exclamatory statement normally expressing disapproval, best rendered in English by ‘How can you’. There are numerous examples of this in the Qurʾan. You put someone there who will cause damage and bloodshed, when we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your holiness?’ but He said, ‘I know things you do not.’ 31He taught Adam all the names [of things], then He showed them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these if you truly [think you can].’ 32They said, ‘May You be glorified! We have knowledge only of what You have taught us. You are the All Knowing and All Wise.’ 33Then He said, ‘Adam, tell them the names of these.’ When he told them their names, God said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and that I know what you reveal and what you conceal?’

34When We told the angels, ‘Bow down before Adam,’ they all bowed. But not Iblis, who refused and was arrogant: he was one of the disobedient. 35We said, ‘Adam, live with your wife in this garden. Both of you eat freely there as you will, but do not go near this tree, or you will both become wrongdoers.’ 36But Satan made them slip, and removed them from the state they were in. We said, ‘Get out, all of you! You are each other's enemy.c Iblis is the enemy of mankind and vice versa. Iblis is also known as Shaytan/Satan. On earth you will have a place to stay and livelihood for a time.’ 37Then Adam received some wordsd Words teaching Adam how to repent, see 7: 23. from his Lord and He accepted his repentance: He is the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful. 38We said, ‘Get out, all of you! But when guidance comes from Me, as it certainly will, there will be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor will they grieve—39those who disbelieve and deny Our messages shall be the inhabitants of the Fire, and there they will remain.’

40Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you. Honour your pledge to Me and I will honour My pledge to you: I am the One you should fear. 41Believe in the message I have sent down confirming what you already possess. Do not be the first to disbelieve in it, and do not sell My messages for a small price: I am the One of whom you should be mindful. 42Do not mix truth with falsehood, or hide the truth when you know it. 43Keep up the prayer, pay the prescribed alms, and bow your heads [in worship] with those who bow theirs. 44How can you tell people to do what is right and forget to do it yourselves, even though you recite the Scripture? Have you no sense? 45Seek help with steadfastness and prayer—though this is hard indeed for anyone but the humble, 46who knowa One of the classical meanings of zanna is ‘to know’ rather than the predominant modern sense of ‘to think’. This term is used in the sense of knowledge several times in the Qurʾan. that they will meet their Lord and that it is to Him they will return.

47Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you and favoured you over other people. 48Guard yourselves against a Day when no soul will stand in place of another, no intercession will be accepted for it, nor any ransom; nor will they be helped. 49Remember when We saved you from Pharaoh's people, who subjected you to terrible torment, slaughtering your sons and sparing only your women— this was a great trial from your Lord—50and when We parted the sea for you, so saving you and drowning Pharaoh's people right before your eyes. 51We appointed forty nights for Moses [on Mount Sinai] and then, while he was away, you took to worshipping the calf—a terrible wrong. 52Even then We forgave you, so that you might be thankful.

53Remember when We gave Moses the Scripture, and the means to distinguish [right and wrong], so that you might be guided. 54Moses said to his people, ‘My people, you have wronged yourselves by worshipping the calf, so repent to your Maker and kill [the guilty among] you. That is the best you can do in the eyes of your Maker.’ He accepted your repentance: He is the Ever Relenting and the Most Merciful. 55Remember when you said, ‘Moses, we will not believe you until we see God face to face.’ At that, thunderbolts struck you as you looked on. 56Then We revived you after your death, so that you might be thankful. 57We made the clouds cover you with shade, and sent manna and quails down to you, saying, ‘Eat the good things We have provided for you.’ It was not Us they wronged; they wronged themselves.

58Remember when We said, ‘Enter this town and eat freely there as you will, but enter its gate humbly and say, “Relieve us!” Then We shall forgive you your sins and increase the rewards of those who do good.’ 59But the wrongdoers substituted a different word from the one they had been given. So, because they persistently disobeyed, We sent a plague down from the heavens upon the wrongdoers.

60Remember when Moses prayed for water for his people and We said to him, ‘Strike the rock with your staff.’ Twelve springs gushed out, and each group knew its drinking place. ‘Eat and drink the sustenance God has provided and do not cause corruption in the land.’ 61Remember when you said, ‘Moses, we cannot bear to eat only one kind of food, so pray to your Lord to bring out for us some of the earth's produce, its herbs and cucumbers, its garlic, lentils, and onions.’ He said, ‘Would you exchange better for worse? Go to Egypt and there you will find what you have asked for.’ They were struck with humiliation and wretchedness, and they incurred the wrath of God because they persistently rejected His messages and killed prophets contrary to all that is right. All this was because they disobeyed and were lawbreakers.

62The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabiansa The Sabians were a monotheistic religious community. See M. Asad, The Message of the Qurʾan (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1997), 40 n. 49.—all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good—will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve. 63Remember when We took your pledge, and made the mountain tower high above you, and said, ‘Hold fast to what We have given you and bear its contents in mind, so that you may be conscious of God.’ 64Even after that you turned away. Had it not been for God's favour and mercy on you, you would certainly have been lost. 65You know about those of you who broke the Sabbath, and so We said to them, ‘Be like apes!b This is understood by some as ‘physically turn into apes’ but in fact it is a figure of speech—the structure ‘be apes’ is like ‘be stones/iron’ in 17: 50. Just as the Qurʾan describes the disbelievers as blind, deaf, and dumb, here the transgressors are apes. Be outcasts!’ 66We made this an example to those people who were there at the time and to those who came after them, and a lesson to all who are mindful of God.

67Remember when Moses said to his people, ‘God commands you to sacrifice a cow.’ They said, ‘Are you making fun of us?’ He answered, ‘God forbid that I should be so ignorant.’ 68They said, ‘Call on your Lord for us, to show us what sort of cow it should be.’ He answered, ‘God says it should be neither too old nor too young, but in between, so do as you are commanded.’ 69They said, ‘Call on your Lord for us, to show us what colour it should be.’ He answered, ‘God says it should be a bright yellow cow, pleasing to the eye.’ 70They said, ‘Call on your Lord for us, to show us [exactly] what it is: all cows are more or less alike to us. With God's will, we shall be guided.’ 71He replied, ‘It is a perfect and unblemished cow, not trained to till the earth or water the fields.’ They said, ‘Now you have brought the truth,’ and so they slaughtered it, though they almost failed to do so. 72Then, when you [Israelites] killed someone and started to blame one another—although God was to bring what you had concealed to light—73We said, ‘Strike the [body] with a part of [the cow]’: thus God brings the dead to life and shows His signs so that you may understand. 74Even after that, your hearts became as hard as rocks, or even harder, for there are rocks from which streams spring out, and some from which water comes when they split open, and others which fall down in awe of God: He is not unaware of what you do.

75So can you [believers] hope that such people will believe you, when some of them used to hear the words of God and then deliberately twist them, even when they understood them? 76When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We too believe.’ But when they are alone with each other they say, ‘How could you tell them about God's revelation [to us]? They will be able to use it to argue against you before your Lord! Have you no sense?’ 77Do they not know that God is well aware of what they conceal and what they reveal? 78Some of them are uneducated, and know the Scripture only through wishful thinking. They rely on guesswork. 79So woe to those who write something down with their own hands and then claim, ‘This is from God,’ in order to make some small gain. Woe to them for what their hands have written! Woe to them for all that they have earned! 80They say, ‘The Fire will only touch us for a few days.’ Say to them, ‘Have you received a promise from God—for God never breaks His promise—or are you saying things about Him of which you have no real knowledge?’ 81Truly those who do evil and are surrounded by their sins will be the inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain,82while those who believe and do good deeds will be the inhabitants of the Garden, there to remain.

83Remember when We took a pledge from the Children of Israel: ‘Worship none but God; be good to your parents and kinsfolk, to orphans and the poor; speak good words to all people; keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms.’ Then all but a few of you turned away and paid no heed. 84We took a pledge from you, ‘Do not shed one another's blood or drive one another from your homelands.’ You acknowledged it at the time, and you can testify to this. 85Yet here you are, killing one another and driving some of your own people from their homes, helping one another in sin and aggression against them. If they come to you as captives, you still pay to set them free, although you had no right to drive them out.a Razi: although the Jews fought each other in alliance with different Arab tribes, when their side captured a Jew from another side, they would pay to have them released, as they said this was required by the Torah. So do you believe in some parts of the Scripture and not in others? The punishment for those of you who do this will be nothing but disgrace in this life, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be condemned to the harshest torment: God is not unaware of what you do. 86These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter: their torment will not be lightened, nor will they be helped.

87We gave Moses the Scripture and We sent messengers after him in succession. We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. So how is it that, whenever a messenger brings you something you do not like, you become arrogant, calling some impostors and killing others? 88They say, ‘Our hearts are impenetrably wrapped [against whatever you say],’ but God has rejectedb La'ana in Arabic dictionaries gives the meaning of tarada ‘to reject’, ‘to drive away’ rather than ‘to curse’. them for their disbelief: they have little faith. 89When a Scripture came to them from God confirming what they already had, and when they had been praying for victory against the disbelievers, even when there came to them something they knew [to be true], they disbelieved in it: God rejects those who disbelieve. 90Low indeed is the price for which they have sold their souls by denying the God-sent truth, out of envy that God should send His bounty to any of His servants He pleases. The disbelievers have ended up with wrath upon wrath, and a humiliating torment awaits them. 91When it is said to them, ‘Believe in God's revelations,’ they reply, ‘We believe in what was revealed to us,’ but they do not believe in what came afterwards, though it is the truth confirming what they already have. Say [Muhammad], ‘Why did you kill God's prophets in the past if you were true believers? 92Moses brought you clear signs, but then, while he was away, you chose to worship the calf— you did wrong.’

93Remember when We took your pledge, making the mountain tower above you, and said, ‘Hold on firmly to what We have given you, and listen to [what We say].’ They said, ‘We hear and we disobey,’ and through their disbelief they were made to drink [the love of] the calf deep into their hearts. 94Say, ‘How evil are the things your belief commands you to do, if you really are believers!’ Say, ‘If the last home with God is to be for you alone and no one else, then you should long for death, if your claim is true.’ 95But they will never long for death, because of what they have stored up with their own hands: God is fully aware of the evildoers. 96[Prophet], you are sure to find them clinging to life more eagerly than any other people, even the polytheists. Any of them would wish to be given a life of a thousand years, though even such a long life would not save them from the torment: God sees everything they do.

97Say [Prophet], ‘If anyone is an enemy of Gabriel—who by God's leave brought down the Qurʾan to your heart confirming previous scriptures as a guide and good news for the faithful—98if anyone is an enemy of God, His angels and His messengers, of Gabriel and Michael, then God is certainly the enemy of such disbelievers.’ 99For We have sent down clear messages to you and only those who defy [God] would refuse to believe them. 100How is it that whenever they make a covenant or a pledge, some of them throw it away? In fact, most of them do not believe.

101When God sent them a messenger confirming the Scriptures they already had, some of those who had received the Scripture before threw the Book of God over their shoulders as if they had no knowledge, 102and followed what the evil ones had fabricated about the Kingdom of Solomon instead. Not that Solomon himself was a disbeliever; it was the evil ones who were disbelievers. They taught people witchcraft and what was revealed in Babylon to the two angels Harut and Marut. Yet these two never taught anyone without first warning him, ‘We are sent only to tempt—do not disbelieve.’ From these two, they learned what can cause discord between man and wife, although they harm no one with it except by God's leave. They learned what harmed them, not what benefited them, knowing full well that whoever gained [this knowledge] would lose any share in the Hereafter. Evil indeed is the [price] for which they sold their souls, if only they knew. 103If they had believed and been mindful of God, their reward from Him would have been far better, if only they knew.

104Believers, do not say [to the Prophet], ‘Ra‘ina,’ but say, ‘Unzurna,’a The word ra‘ina can be used politely as an expression for ‘look at us’. However, a group of Jews in Medina hostile to Muhammad subtly changed its pronunciation to imply ‘you are foolish’ or ‘you herd our sheep’ in order to abuse the Prophet. So the believers are advised to avoid the word and use unzurna, also meaning ‘look at us’, instead. See 4: 46. and listen [to him]: an agonizing torment awaits those who ignore [God's words]. 105Neither those People of the Book who disbelieve nor the idolaters would like anything good to be sent down to you from your Lord, but God chooses for His grace whoever He will: His bounty has no limits. 106Any revelation We cause to be superseded or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar. Do you [Prophet] not know that God has power over everything? 107Do you not know that control of the heavens and the earth belongs to Him? You [believers] have no protector or helper but God. 108Do you wish to demand of your messenger something similar to what was demanded of Moses?b See 2: 55 and 4: 153. Whoever exchanges faith for disbelief has strayed far from the right path. 109Even after the truth has become clear to them, many of the People of the Book wish they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of their selfish envy. Forgive and forbear until God gives his command: He has power over all things. 110Keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms. Whatever good you store up for yourselves, you will find it with God: He sees everything you do.

111They also say, ‘No one will enter Paradise unless he is a Jew or a Christian.’ This is their own wishful thinking. [Prophet], say, ‘Produce your evidence, if you are telling the truth.’ 112In fact, any who direct themselvesc Literally ‘their faces’. One meaning of wajh (face) is ‘direction’ and the basic meaning of aslama is ‘devote’. See note to 2: 128. wholly to God and do good will have their reward with their Lord: no fear for them, nor will they grieve. 113The Jews say, ‘The Christians have no ground whatsoever to stand on,’ and the Christians say, ‘The Jews have no ground whatsoever to stand on,’ though they both read the Scripture, and those who have no knowledge say the same; God will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning their differences.

114Who could be more wicked than those who prohibit the mention of God's name in His places of worshipa Razi suggests that this probably alludes to the Jews’ objections to the change of qibla (direction of prayer) from Jerusalem to Mecca and their efforts to stop people praying towards Mecca in the Prophet's mosque in Medina (see 2: 115 and 142). and strive to have them deserted? Such people should not enter them without fear: there is disgrace for them in this world and painful punishment in the Hereafter. 115The East and the West belong to God: wherever you turn, there is His Face.b Or ‘His direction’. God is all pervading and all knowing.

116Theyc Razi suggests that this refers to the pagan Arabs (see 16: 57) and (some of) the Christians and Jews (see 9: 30). have asserted, ‘God has a child.’ May He be exalted! No! Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him, everything devoutly obeys His will. 117He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth, and when He decrees something, He says only, ‘Be,’ and it is. 118Those who have no knowledge also say, ‘If only God would speak to us!’ or ‘If only a miraculous sign would come to us!’ People before them said the same things: their hearts are all alike. We have made Our signs clear enough to those who have solid faith. 119We have sent you [Prophet] with the truth, bearing good news and warning. You will not be responsible for the inhabitants of the Blaze. 120The Jews and the Christians will never be pleased with you unless you follow their ways. Say, ‘God's guidance is the only true guidance.’ If you were to follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you would find no one to protect you from God or help you. 121Those to whom We have given the Scripture, who follow it as it deserves,d This can also mean ‘who read it as it ought to be read’. are the ones who truly believe in it. Those who deny its truth will be the losers.

122Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you and favoured you over other people, 123and beware of a Day when no soul can stand in for another. No compensation will be accepted from it, nor intercession be of use to it, nor will anyone be helped. 124When Abraham's Lord tested him with certain commandments, which he fulfilled, He said, ‘I will make you a leader of people.’ Abraham asked, ‘And will You make leaders from my descendants too?’ God answered, ‘My pledge does not hold for those who do evil.’

125We made the House a The Ka‘ba at Mecca. a resort and a sanctuary for people, saying, ‘Take the spot where Abraham stood as your place of prayer.’ We commanded Abraham and Ishmael: ‘Purify My House for those who walk round it, those who stay there, and those who bow and prostrate themselves in worship.’ 126Abraham said, ‘My Lord, make this land secure and provide with produce those of its people who believe in God and the Last Day.’ God said, ‘As for those who disbelieve, I will grant them enjoyment for a short while and then subject them to the torment of the Fire—an evil destination.’

127As Abraham and Ishmael built up the foundations of the House [they prayed], ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing. 128Our Lord, make us devotedb Aslama here means to devote oneself to the one God alone, so that Abraham will come to his Lord with his heart totally devoted to Him: 3: 64; 26: 89; 37: 84. to You; make our descendants into a community devoted to You. Show us how to worship and accept our repentance, for You are the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful. 129Our Lord, make a messenger of their own rise up from among them, to recite Your revelations to them, teach them the Scripture and wisdom, and purify them: You are the Mighty, the Wise.’

130Who but a fool would forsake the religion of Abraham? We have chosen him in this world and he will rank among the righteous in the Hereafter. 131His Lord said to him, ‘Devote yourself to Me.’ Abraham replied, ‘I devote myself to the Lord of the Universe,’ 132and commanded his sons to do the same, as did Jacob: ‘My sons, God has chosen [your] religion for you, so make sure you devote yourselves to Him, to your dying moment.’

133Were you [Jews] there to see when death came upon Jacob? When he said to his sons, ‘What will you worship after I am gone?’ they replied, ‘We shall worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, one single God: we devote ourselves to Him.’c ‘One single God’ reinforces the interpretation of islam as ‘devotion’, one meaning of aslama (al-Mu‘jam al-Wasit). 134That community passed away. What they earned belongs to them, and what you earn belongs to you: you will not be answerable for their deeds.

135They say, ‘Become Jews or Christians, and you will be rightly guided.’ Say [Prophet], ‘No, [ours is] the religion of Abraham, the upright, who did not worship any god besides God.’ 136So [you believers], say, ‘We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him.’ 137So if they believe like you do, they will be rightly guided. But if they turn their backs, then they will be entrenched in opposition. God will protect you from them: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing. And say [believers], 138‘[Our life] takes its colour from God, and who gives a better colour than God? It is Him we worship.’

139Say [Prophet] [to the Jews and Christians], ‘How can you argue with us about God when He is our Lord and your Lord? Our deeds belong to us, and yours to you. We devote ourselves entirely to Him. 140Or are you saying that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes were Jews or Christians?’ [Prophet], ask them, ‘Who knows better: you or God? Who could be more wicked than those who hide a testimony [they received] from God? God is not unmindful of what you do.’ 141That community passed away: what they earned belongs to them, and what you earn belongs to you. You will not be answerable for their deeds.

142The foolish people will say, ‘What has turned them away from the prayer direction they used to face?’a This refers to the change in the Muslims’ prayer direction from Jerusalem to Mecca in the second year of the Hijra. Say, ‘East and West belong to God. He guides whoever He will to the right way.’ 143We have made you [believers] into a just community,b Literally ‘a middle nation’. so that you may bear witness [to the truth] before others and so that the Messenger may bear witness [to it] before you. We only made the direction the one you used to face [Prophet] in order to distinguish those who follow the Messenger from those who turn on their heels: that test was hard, except for those God has guided. God would never let your faith go to waste [believers],c This reassured those who asked whether the prayers said towards Jerusalem had been wasted. for God is most compassionate and most merciful towards people. 144Many a time We have seen you [Prophet] turn your face towards Heaven, so We are turning you towards a prayer direction that pleases you.a The Prophet secretly hoped to be allowed to face the Mosque in Mecca in prayer, as it was so dear to him, being built by Abraham and Ishmael, as seen from verse 127 onwards. Turn your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque: wherever you [believers] may be, turn your faces to it. Those who were given the Scripture know with certainty that this is the Truth from their Lord: God is not unaware of what they do. 145Yet even if you brought every proof to those who were given the Scripture, they would not follow your prayer direction, nor will you follow theirs, nor indeed will any of them follow one another's direction. If you [Prophet] were to follow their desires, after the knowledge brought to you, you would be doing wrong. 146Those We gave Scripture know it as well as they know their own sons, but some of them hide the truth that they know. 147The truth is from your Lord, so do not be one of those who doubt. 148Each community has its own direction to which it turns: race to do good deeds and wherever you are, God will bring you together.b On the Day of Judgement, cf. 5: 48. God has power to do everything.

149[Prophet], wherever you may have started out, turn your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque—this is the truth from your Lord: He is not unaware of what you do—150wherever you may have started out, turn your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; wherever any of you may be, turn your faces towards it, so that people may have no argument against youc Both Jews and polytheists questioned the choice of qibla (prayer direction) for their own reasons.—except for the wrongdoers among them: do not fear them; fear Me—and so that I may perfect My favour on you and you may be guided, 151just as Wed Note the shift in pronoun from singular to plural of majesty (see Introduction, p. xx). have sent among you a Messenger of your own to recite Our revelations to you, purify you and teach you the Scripture, wisdom, and [other] things you did not know. 152So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me, and never ungrateful.

153You who believe, seek help through steadfastness and prayer, for God is with the steadfast. 154Do not say that those who are killed in God's cause are dead; they are alive, though you do not realize it. 155We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But [Prophet], give good news to those who are steadfast, 156those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ 157These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.

158Safa and Marwaa Two hills adjacent to the Ka‘ba between which a pilgrim and visitor should walk up and down in commemoration of what Hagar did in search of water for her baby, Ishmael. are among the rites of God, so for those who make major or minorb The minor pilgrimage (‘umra) can be done during the pilgrimage season or at any other time during the year. pilgrimage to the Housec The Ka‘ba, which is central both to the direction of prayer and to the rites of pilgrimage as established by Abraham at God's command. it is no offence to circulate between the two.d The Muslims were reluctant to perform this rite, as the polytheists had installed two idols on these hills. Here it is reclaimed for God. Anyone who does good of his own accord will be rewarded, for God rewards good deeds, and knows everything. 159As for those who hide the proofs and guidance We send down, after We have made them clear to people in the Scripture, God rejects them, and so do others, 160unless they repent, make amends, and declare the truth. I will certainly accept their repentance: I am the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful. 161As for those who disbelieve and die as disbelievers, God rejects them, as do the angels and all people. 162They will remain in this state of rejection: their punishment will not be lightened, nor will they be reprieved.

163Your God is the one God: there is no god except Him, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. 164In the creation of the heavens and earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the seas with goods for people; in the water which God sends down from the sky to give life to the earth when it has been barren, scattering all kinds of creatures over it; in the changing of the winds and clouds that run their appointed courses between the sky and earth: there are signs in all these for those who use their minds. 165Even so, there are some who choose to worship others besides God as rivals to Him, loving them with the love due to God, but the believers have greater love for God. If only the idolaters could see—as they will see when they face the torment—that all power belongs to God, and that God punishes severely. 166When those who have been followed disown their followers, when they all see the suffering, when all bonds between them are severed,167the followers will say, ‘If only we had one last chance, we would disown them as they now disown us.’ In this way, God will make them see their deeds as a source of bitter regret: they shall not leave the Fire.

168People, eat what is good and lawful from the earth, and do not follow Satan's footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy. 169He always commands you to do what is evil and indecent, and to say things about God that you do not really know.a See 6: 138, 145. 170But when it is said to them, ‘Follow the message that God has sent down,’ they answer, ‘We follow the ways of our fathers.’ What! Even though their fathers understood nothing and were not guided? 171Calling to disbelieversb It is also possible to interpret this as referring to the disbelievers calling on their idols, who cannot respond. is like a herdsman calling to things that hear nothing but a shout and a cry: they are deaf, dumb, and blind, and they understand nothing. 172You who believe, eat the good things We have provided for you and be grateful to God, if it is Him that you worship. 173He has only forbidden you carrion, blood, pig's meat, and animals over which any name other than God's has been invoked. But if anyone is forced to eat such things by hunger, rather than desire or excess, he commits no sin: God is most merciful and forgiving.

174As for those who conceal the Scripture that God sent down and sell it for a small price, they only fill their bellies with Fire. God will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them: an agonizing torment awaits them. 175These are the ones who exchange guidance for error, and forgiveness for torment. What can make them patient in the face of the Fire? 176This is because God has sent the Scripture with the Truth; those who pursue differences in the Scripture are deeply entrenched in opposition.

177Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travellers and beggars, and to liberate those in bondage; those who keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity, and times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God.

178You who believe, fair retributiona qisas etymologically means ‘to track down’. is prescribed for you in cases of murder: the free man for the free man, the slave for the slave, the female for the female.b Before Islam, the Arabs did not observe equality in retribution, but a stronger tribe would demand more, e.g. a man for a woman, a free man for a slave, or several men for one man, likewise for financial compensation. The intention of this verse is to insist on equality. But if the culprit is pardoned by his aggrieved brother, this shall be adhered to fairly, and the culprit shall pay what is due in a good way. This is an alleviation from your Lord and an act of mercy. If anyone then exceeds these limits, grievous suffering awaits him. 179Fair retribution saves life for you, people of understanding, so that you may guard yourselves against what is wrong.

When death approaches one of you who leaves wealth, 180it is prescribed that he should make a proper bequest to parents and close relatives—a duty incumbent on those who are mindful of God. 181If anyone alters the bequest after hearing it, the guilt of the alteration will fall on them: God is all hearing and all knowing. 182But if anyone knows c One meaning of khafa is ‘to know’ (al-Mu‘jam al-Wasit). that the testator has made a mistake, or done wrong, and so puts things right between the parties, he will incur no sin: God is most forgiving and merciful.

183You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God. 184Fast for a specific number of days, but if one of you is ill, or on a journey, on other days later. For those who can fast only with extreme difficulty, there is a way to compensate—feed a needy person. But if anyone does good of his own accord, it is better for him, and fasting is better for you, if only you knew. 185It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qurʾan was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So any one of you who is present that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful. 186[Prophet], if My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I respond to those who call Me, so let them respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be guided.

187You [believers] are permitted to lie with your wives during the night of the fast: they are [close] as garments to you, as you are to them. God was aware that you were betraying yourselves,a Some Muslims admitted to the Prophet that they had spoiled their fast by having sexual relations during the nights of Ramadan. so He turned to you in mercy and pardoned you: now you can lie with them—seek what God has ordained for you—eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct from the black. Then fast until nightfall. Do not lie with them during the nights of your devotional retreat in the mosques: these are the bounds set by God, so do not go near them. In this way God makes His messages clear to people, that they may guard themselves against doing wrong. 188Do not consume your property wrongfully, nor use it to bribe judges, intending sinfully and knowingly to consume parts of other people's property.

189They ask you [Prophet] about crescent moons. Say, ‘They show the times appointed for people, and for the pilgrimage.’ Goodness does not consist of entering houses by the back [door];b It was the custom of some Arabs on returning from the pilgrimage to enter their houses by the back door, considering this to be an act of piety. the truly good person is the one who is mindful of God. So enter your houses by their [main] doors and be mindful of God so that you may prosper. 190Fight in God's cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits:c The Arabic command la ta‘tadu is so general that commentators have agreed that it includes prohibition of starting hostilities, fighting non-combatants, disproportionate response to aggression, etc. God does not love those who overstep the limits. 191Kill them wherever you encounter them,d The Muslims were concerned as to whether it was permitted to retaliate when attacked within the sacred precincts in Mecca when on pilgrimage (see 2: 196 and Razi's Tafsir). They are here given permission to fight back wherever they encounter their attackers, in the precinct or outside it. and drive them out from where they drove you out, for persecution is more serious than killing.e ‘Persecuting you unlawfully is worse than you killing them in the precincts in self-defence.’ The article al- in Arabic sometimes takes the place of a pronoun, as here ‘their persecution’ and ‘your killing them’ (Tammam Hassan, al-Bayan, Cairo, 1993, 118–45); it is not the generic al-, cf. 2: 217. See also 2: 217. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque unless they fight you there. If they do fight you, kill them—this is what such disbelievers deserve—192but if they stop, then God is most forgiving and merciful. 193Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worshipa Worship at the sacred mosque. b Cf. 8: 39 and note e to 2: 191 above. is devoted to God. If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further] hostility, except towards aggressors. 194A sacred month for a sacred month: violation of sanctity [calls for] fair retribution. So if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him as he attacked you, but be mindful of God, and know that He is with those who are mindful of Him. 195Spend in God's cause: do not contribute to your destruction with your own hands,c If they are not prepared to pay for what it takes to defend themselves, then they will bring ruin on themselves. The verse is also understood generally to outlaw suicide and other forms of self-harm. but do good, for God loves those who do good.

196Complete the pilgrimages, major and minor, for the sake of God. If you are prevented [from doing so], then [send] whatever offering for sacrifice you can afford, and do not shave your headsd Shaving the head or cutting the hair is one of the rites performed by male pilgrims after most of the other rites have been completed. until the offering has reached the place of sacrifice. If any of you is ill, or has an ailment of the scalp, he should compensate by fasting, or feeding the poor, or offering sacrifice. When you are in safety, anyone wishing to take a breake This means breaking the restrictions of ihram (consecration) termed tamattu‘. between the minor pilgrimage and the major one must make whatever offering he can afford. If he lacks the means, he should fast for three days during the pilgrimage, and seven days on his return, making ten days in all. This applies to those whose household is not near the Sacred Mosque. Always be mindful of God, and be aware that He is stern in His retribution.

197The pilgrimage takes place during the prescribed months. There should be no indecent speech, misbehaviour, or quarrelling for anyone undertaking the pilgrimage—whatever good you do, God is well aware of it. Provide well for yourselves: the best provision is to be mindful of God—always be mindful of Me, you who have understanding—198but it is no offence to seek some bounty from your Lord.f It is lawful to trade while on pilgrimage. When you surge down from Arafat remember God at the sacred place.g This is one of the sites of the pilgrimage between Arafat and Mina—a plain called Muzdalifa. Remember Him: He has guided you. Before that you were astray. 199Surge down where the rest of the people do,a Some arrogant tribes used to take a different route from the masses. and ask forgiveness of God: He is most forgiving and merciful. 200When you have completed your rites, remember God as much as you remember your own fathers, or even more. There are some who pray, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world,’ and they will have no share in the Hereafter; 201others pray, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’ 202They will have the share they have worked for: God is swift in reckoning.

203Remember God on the appointed days.b These come after the day of sacrifice, when two or three days are spent in Mina to perform the rite of stoning the Devil. If anyone is in a hurry to leave after two days, there is no blame on him, nor is there any blame on anyone who stays on, so long as they are mindful of God. Be mindful of God, and remember that you will be gathered to Him. 204There is [a kind of] man whose views on the life of this world may please you [Prophet], he even calls on God to witness what is in his heart, yet he is the bitterest of opponents. 205When he leaves, he sets out to spread corruption in the land, destroying crops and livestock—God does not like corruption. 206When he is told, ‘Beware of God,’ his arrogance leads him to sin. Hell is enough for him: a dreadful resting place. 207But there is also a kind of man who gives his life away to please God, and God is most compassionate to His servants. 208You who believe, enter wholeheartedly into submission to Godc Silm, which also means ‘peace’. and do not follow in Satan's footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy. 209If you slip back after clear proof has come to you, then be aware that God is almighty and wise.

210Are these people waiting for God to come to them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels? But the matter would already have been decided by then:d It will be too late for them to repent. all matters are brought back to God. 211[Prophet], ask the Children of Israel how many clear signs We brought them. If anyone alters God's blessings after he has received them, God is stern in punishment. 212The life of this world is made to seem glamorous to the disbelievers, and they laugh at those who believe. But those who are mindful of God will be above them on the Day of Resurrection: God provides immeasurably for whoever He pleases. 213Mankind was a single community, then God sent prophets to bring good news and warning, and with them He sent the Scripture with the Truth, to judge between people in their disagreements. It was only those to whom it was given who disagreed about it after clear signs had come to them, because of rivalry between them. So by His leave God guided the believers to the truth they had differed about: God guides whoever He will to a straight path.

214Do you suppose that you will enter the Garden without first having suffered like those before you? They were afflicted by misfortune and hardship, and they were so shaken that even [their] messenger and the believers with him cried, ‘When will God's help arrive?’ Truly, God's help is near. 215They ask you [Prophet] what they should give. Say, ‘Whatever you give should be for parents, close relatives, orphans, the needy, and travellers. God is well aware of whatever good you do.

216Fighting is ordained for you, though you dislike it. You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something although it is bad for you: God knows and you do not.’ 217They ask you [Prophet] about fighting in the prohibited month. Say, ‘Fighting in that month is a great offence, but to bar others from God's path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and expel its people, are still greater offences in God's eyes: persecution is worse than killing.’a To persecute people for believing in God is a worse offence than for the aggrieved party to fight back in the prohibited month. This further explains verse 191. They will not stop fighting you [believers] until they make you revoke your faith, if they can. If any of you revoke your faith and die as disbelievers, your deeds will come to nothing in this world and the Hereafter, and you will be inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain. 218But those who have believed, migrated, and striven for God's cause, it is they who can look forward to God's mercy: God is most forgiving and merciful.

219They ask you [Prophet] about intoxicants and gambling: say, ‘There is great sin in both, and some benefit for people: the sin is greater than the benefit.’ They ask you what they should give: say, ‘Give what you can spare.’ In this way, God makes His messages clear to you, so that you may reflect 220on this world and the next. They ask you about [the property of] orphans: say, ‘It is good to set things right for them. If you combine their affairs with yours, remember they are your brothers and sisters: God knows those who spoil things and those who improve them. Had He so willed, He could have made you vulnerable too: He is almighty and wise.’

221Do not marry idolatresses until they believe: a believing slave woman is certainly better than an idolatress, even though she may please you. And do not give your women in marriage to idolaters until they believe: a believing slave is certainly better than an idolater, even though he may please you. Such people call [you] to the Fire, while God calls [you] to the Garden and forgiveness by His leave. He makes His messages clear to people, so that they may bear them in mind.

222They ask you [Prophet] about menstruation. Say, ‘Menstruation is a painful condition, so keep away from women during it. Do not approach them until they are cleansed; when they are cleansed, you may approach them as God has ordained.a The Arabic expressions used here are clear euphemisms for ‘do not have sexual intercourse with them’. God loves those who turn to Him, and He loves those who keep themselves clean. 223Your wives are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like,b When the Muslims emigrated to Medina, they heard from the Jews that a child born from a woman approached from behind would have a squint. and send [something good] ahead for yourselves. Be mindful of God: remember that you will meet Him.’ [Prophet], give good news to the believers.

224[Believers], do not allow your oaths in God's name to hinder you from doing good, being mindful of God and making peace between people. God hears and knows everything: 225He will not call you to account for oaths you have uttered unintentionally, but He will call you to account for what you mean in your hearts. God is most forgiving and forbearing. 226For those who swear that they will not approach their wives, there shall be a waiting period of four months:c Before Islam, husbands could make such an oath and suspend the wife indefinitely. In Islam, if they do not go back after four months, divorce becomes effective. if they go back, remember God will be most forgiving and merciful, 227but if they are determined to divorce, remember that God hears and knows all. 228Divorced women must wait for three monthly periods before remarrying, and, if they really believe in God and the Last Day, it is not lawful for them to conceal what God has created in their wombs: their husbands would do better to take them back during this period, provided they wish to put things right. Wives have [rights] similar to their [obligations], according to what is recognized to be fair, and husbands have a degree [of right] over them: [both should remember that] God is almighty and wise.

229Divorce can happen twice, and [each time] wives either be kept on in an acceptable manner or released in a good way. It is not lawful for you to take back anything that you have given [your wives], except where both fear that they cannot maintain [the marriage] within the bounds set by God: if you [arbiters] suspect that the couple may not be able to do this, then there will be no blame on either of them if the woman opts to give something for her release.a By paying back all or part of the dowry in return for divorce. These are the bounds set by God: do not overstep them. It is those who overstep God's bounds who are doing wrong. 230If a husband re-divorces his wife after the second divorce, she will not be lawful for him until she has taken another husband; if that one divorces her, there will be no blame if she and the first husband return to one another, provided they feel that they can keep within the bounds set by God. These are God's bounds, which He makes clear for those who know.

231When you divorce women and they have reached their set time, then either keep or release them in a fair manner. Do not hold on to them with intent to harm them and commit aggression: anyone who does this wrongs himself. Do not make a mockery of God's revelations; remember the favour He blessed you with, and the Scripture and wisdom He sent to teach you. Be mindful of God and know that He has full knowledge of everything. 232When you divorce women and they have reached their set time, do not prevent them from remarrying their husbands if they both agree to do so in a fair manner.b Sometimes a woman's father or brother would interfere to stop her reconciling with her husband. Here the Qurʾan condemns such interference. Let those of you who believe in God and the Last Day take this to heart: that is more wholesome and purer for you. God knows and you do not.

233Mothers suckle their children for two whole years, if they wish to complete the term, and clothing and maintenance must be borne by the father in a fair manner. No one should be burdened with more than they can bear: no mother shall be made to suffer harm on account of her child, nor any father on account of his. The same duty is incumbent on the father's heir.a If he dies. If, by mutual consent and consultation, the couple wish to wean [the child], they will not be blamed, nor will there be any blame if you wish to engage a wet nurse, provided you pay as agreed in a fair manner. Be mindful of God, knowing that He sees everything you do.

234If any of you die and leave widows, the widows should wait for four months and ten nights before remarrying. When they have completed this set time, you will not be blamed for anything they may reasonably choose to do with themselves. God is fully aware of what you do. 235You will not be blamed whether you give a hint that you wish to marry these women, or keep it to yourselves—God knows that you intend to proposeb Dhakara in classical Arabic meant ‘to propose’. to them. Do not make a secret arrangement with them; speak to them honourably and do not confirm the marriage tie until the prescribed period reaches its end. Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him. Remember that God is most forgiving and forbearing.

236You will not be blamed if you divorce women when you have not yet consummated the marriage or fixed a bride-gift for them, but make fair provision for them, the rich according to his means and the poor according to his—this is a duty for those who do good. 237If you divorce wives before consummating the marriage but after fixing a bride-gift for them, then give them half of what you had previously fixed, unless they waive [their right], or unless the one who holds the marriage tie waives [his right]. Waiving [your right] is nearer to godliness, so do not forget to be generous towards one another: God sees what you do. 238Take care to do your prayers,c To secure that the parties in such a bitter situation will abide by the Qurʾan's teaching they are instructed to pray and stand before God. praying in the best way,d Another interpretation is ‘including the middle prayer’, with various opinions as to which prayer is meant. and stand before God in devotion. 239If you are in danger, pray when you are out walking or riding; when you are safe again, remember God, for He has taught you what you did not know.

240If any of you die and leave widows, make a bequest for them: a year's maintenance and no expulsion from their homes [for that time]. But if they leave of their own accord, you will not be blamed for what they may reasonably choose to do with themselves: God is almighty and wise. 241Divorced women shall also have such maintenance as is considered fair: this is a duty for those who are mindful of God. 242In this way God makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may grow in understanding.

243[Prophet], consider those people who abandoned their homeland in fear of death,a See verse 246 below. even though there were thousands of them. God said to them, ‘Die!’ and then brought them back to life again; God shows real favour to people, but most of them are ungrateful. 244Fightb After dealing with marital issues, the Qurʾan returns to the question of retaliation. in God's cause and remember that He is all hearing and all knowing. 245Who will give God a good loan, which He will increase for him many times over? It is God who withholds and God who gives abundantly, and it is to Him that you will return.

246[Prophet], consider the leaders of the Children of Israel who came after Moses, when they said to one of their prophets, ‘Set up a king for us and we shall fight in God's cause.’ He said, ‘But could it be that you would not fight, if it were ordained for you?’ They said, ‘How could we not fight in God's cause when we and our children have been driven out of our homeland?’ Yet when they were commanded to fight, all but a few of them turned away: God has full knowledge of those who do wrong. 247Their prophet said to them, ‘God has now appointed Talut c The Arabic name for Saul. to be your king,’ but they said, ‘How can he be king over us when we have a greater right to rule than he? He does not even have great wealth.’ He said, ‘God has chosen him over you, and has given him great knowledge and stature. God grants His authority to whoever He pleases: God is magnanimous, all knowing.’ 248Their prophet said to them, ‘The sign of his authority will be that the Ark [of the Covenant] will come to you. In it there will be [the gift of] tranquillity from your Lord and relics of the followers of Moses and Aaron, carried by the angels. There is a sign in this for you if you believe.’

249When Talut set out with his forces, he said to them, ‘God will test you with a river. Anyone who drinks from it will not belong with me, but anyone who refrains from tasting it will belong with me; if he scoops up just one handful [he will be excused].’ But they all drank [deep] from it, except for a few. When he crossed it with those who had kept faith, theya Those who had drunk the water or some of the few who went with Talut. said, ‘We have no strength today against Goliath and his warriors.’ But those who knew that they were going to meet their Lord said, ‘How often a small force has defeated a large army with God's permission! God is with those who are steadfast.’ 250And when they met Goliath and his warriors, they said, ‘Our Lord, pour patience on us, make us stand firm, and help us against the disbelievers,’ 251and so with God's permission they defeated them. David killed Goliath, and God gave him sovereignty and wisdom and taught him what He pleased. If God did not drive some back by means of others the earth would be completely corrupt, but God is bountiful to all.

252These are the revelations of God which We recite to you [Muhammad] with the truth, and you truly are one of the messengers. 253We favoured some of these messengers above others. God spoke to some; others He raised in rank; We gave Jesus, son of Mary, Our clear signs and strengthened him with the holy spirit. If God had so willed, their successors would not have fought each other after they had been brought clear signs. But they disagreed: some believed and some disbelieved. If God had so willed, they would not have fought each other, but God does what He will.

254You who believe, give from what We have provided for you, before the Day comes when there is no bargaining, no friendship, and no intercession. It is the disbelievers who are wrong. 255God: there is no god but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful.b Cf. 13: 33. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; it does not weary Him to preserve them both. He is the Most High, the Tremendous.

256There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. God is all hearing and all knowing. 257God is the ally of those who believe: He brings them out of the depths of darkness and into the light. As for the disbelievers, their allies are false gods who take them from the light into the depths of darkness, they are the inhabitants of the Fire, and there they will remain.

258[Prophet], have you not thought about the man who disputed with Abraham about his Lord, because God had given him power to rule? When Abraham said, ‘It is my Lord who gives life and death,’ he said, ‘I too give life and death.’ So Abraham said, ‘God brings the sun from the east; so bring it from the west.’ The disbeliever was dumbfounded: God does not guide those who do evil.

259Or take the one who passed by a ruined town. He said, ‘How will God give this life when it has died?’ So God made him die for a hundred years, and then raised him up, saying, ‘How long did you stay like that?’ He answered, ‘A day, or part of a day.’ God said, ‘No, you stayed like that for a hundred years. Look at your food and drink: they have not gone bad. Look at your donkey—We will make you a sign for the people—look at the bones: see how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh!’ When all became clear to him, he said, ‘Now I know that God has power over everything.’

260And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead,’ He said, ‘Do you not believe, then?’ ‘Yes,’ said Abraham, ‘but just to put my heart at rest.’ So God said, ‘Take four birds and train them to come back to you. Then place them on separate hilltops,a Most of the classical commentators take the view that Abraham must have had to cut up the birds first if they were really to rise from the dead, rendering this phrase ‘then place them separately on hilltops’. However, Abu Muslim thought the important part of the image was that it is as easy for souls to come back to the body as for the birds to come back to Abraham (Razi). Cf. ‘To Him you shall return’, in many places, e.g. 2: 245 and 285. call them back, and they will come flying to you: know that God is all powerful and wise.’

261Those who spend their wealth in God's cause are like grains of corn that produce seven ears, each bearing a hundred grains. God gives multiple increase to whoever He wishes: He is limitless and all knowing. 262Those who spend their wealth in God's cause, and do not follow their spending with reminders of their benevolence or hurtful words, will have their rewards with their Lord: no fear for them, nor will they grieve. 263A kind word and forgiveness is better than a charitable deed followed by hurtful [words]: God is self-sufficient, forbearing. 264You who believe, do not cancel out your charitable deeds with reminders and hurtful words, like someone who spends his wealth only to be seen by people, not believing in God and the Last Day. Such a person is like a rock with earth on it: heavy rain falls and leaves it completely bare. Such people get no rewards for their works: God does not guide the disbelievers. 265But those who spend their wealth in order to gain God's approval, and as an affirmation of their own faith, are like a garden on a hill: heavy rain falls and it produces double its normal yield; even if no heavy rain falls, it will still be watered by the dew. God sees all that you do. 266Would any of you like to have a garden of palm trees and vines, graced with flowing streams and all kinds of produce, which, when you are afflicted with old age and feeble offspring, is struck by a fiery whirlwind and burnt down? In this way God makes His messages clear to you, so that you may reflect on them.

267You who believe, give charitably from the good things you have acquired and that We have produced for you from the earth. Do not give away the bad things that you yourself would only accept with your eyes closed: remember that God is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise. 268Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and commands you to do foul deeds; God promises you His forgiveness and His abundance: God is limitless and all knowing, 269and He gives wisdom to whoever He will. Whoever is given wisdom has truly been given much good, but only those with insight bear this in mind. 270Whatever you may give, or vow to give, God knows it well, and those who do wrong will have no one to help them. 271If you give charity openly, it is good, but if you keep it secret and give to the needy in private, that is better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds: God is well aware of all that you do. 272It is not for you [Prophet] to guide them; it is God who guides whoever He will. Whatever charity you give benefits your own soul, provided you do it for the sake of God: whatever you give will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged. 273[Give] to those needy who are wholly occupied in God's way and cannot travel in the land [for trade]. The unknowing might think them rich because of their self-restraint, but you will recognize them by their characteristic of not begging persistently. God is well aware of any good you give.

274Those who give, out of their own possessions, by night and by day, in private and in public, will have their reward with their Lord: no fear for them, nor will they grieve. 275But those who take usury will rise up on the Day of Resurrection like someone tormented by Satan's touch. That is because they say, ‘Trade and usury are the same,’ 276but God has allowed trade and forbidden usury. Whoever, on receiving God's warning, stops taking usury may keep his past gains—God will be his judge—but whoever goes back to usury will be an inhabitant of the Fire, there to remain. God blights usury, but blesses charitable deeds with multiple increase: He does not love the ungrateful sinner. 277Those who believe, do good deeds, keep up the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms will have their reward with their Lord: no fear for them, nor will they grieve. 278You who believe, beware of God: give up any outstanding dues from usury, if you are true believers. 279If you do not, then be warned of war from God and His Messenger. You shall have your capital if you repent, and without suffering loss or causing others to suffer loss. 280If the debtor is in difficulty, then delay things until matters become easier for him; still, if you were to write it off as an act of charity, that would be better for you, if only you knew. 281Beware of a Day when you will be returned to God: every soul will be paid in full for what it has earned, and no one will be wronged.

282You who believe, when you contract a debt for a stated term, put it down in writing: have a scribe write it down justly between you. No scribe should refuse to write: let him write as God has taught him, let the debtor dictate, and let him fear God, his Lord, and not diminish [the debt] at all. If the debtor is feeble-minded, weak, or unable to dictate, then let his guardian dictate justly. Call in two men as witnesses. If two men are not there, then call one man and two women out of those you approve as witnesses, so that if one of the two women should forgeta A classical meaning of dalla. the other can remind her. Let the witnesses not refuse when they are summoned. Do not disdain to write the debt down, be it small or large, along with the time it falls due: this way is more equitable in God's eyes, more reliable as testimony, and more likely to prevent doubts arising between you. But if the merchandise is there and you hand it over, there is no blame on you if you do not write it down. Have witnesses present whenever you trade with one another, and let no harm be done to either scribe or witness, for if you did cause them harm, it would be a crime on your part. Be mindful of God, and He will teach you: He has full knowledge of everything. 283If you are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, something should be handed over as security, but if you decide to trust one another, then let the one who is trusted fulfil his trust; let him be mindful of God, his Lord. Do not conceal evidence: anyone who does so has a sinful heart, and God is fully aware of everything you do. 284Whatever is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to God and, whether you reveal or conceal your thoughts, God will call you to account for them. He will forgive whoever He will and punish whoever He will: He has power over all things.

285The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, as do the faithful. They all believe in God, His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers,’ they say, ‘We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord. To You we all return!’—286God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear: each gains whatever good it has done, and suffers its bad—’Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make mistakes. Lord, do not burden us as You burdened those before us. Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear. Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Protector, so help us against the disbelievers.’

Notes:

a These are the names of the three Arabic letters a, l, and m. Twenty-nine suras of the Qurʾan begin with separate alphabetical letters like these, from one individual letter up to five. Various interpretations have been offered. It is sufficient to mention two here: (1) these letters indicated to the Arabs who first heard the Qurʾan that the Qurʾan consists of letters and words of their own language, although it was superior to any speech of their own, being of divine origin; (2) they are an exclamatory device intended to arrest the listeners’ attention, similar to the custom of starting poems with an emphatic ‘No!’ or ‘Indeed!’ Exegetes normally added, after expounding their theories, ‘God knows best.’

b The Arabic construction la rayba fihi carries more than one meaning, including ‘there is nothing dubious about/in it’ and ‘it is not to be doubted’ as regards its origin or contents.

c The root w-q-y in this morphological form has the meaning of being mindful or being wary of something. The opposite of being mindful of God is to ignore Him or have no reference to Him in your thought, feeling, or action. This is a fundamental concept about God and the believers’ relation to Him. Many translators render the term as ‘those who fear God’, but this is an over-expression of the term and does not correctly convey the meaning of the concept, which is a very common one in the Qurʾan.

d What is beyond their perception, literally ‘absent’—this applies to the nature of God, the Hereafter, historical information not witnessed, etc.

a This means regular and proper performance of the formal prayer (salah), as taught by the Prophet Muhammad.

b Yunfiquna in the Arabic of the Qurʾan literally means ‘spend’, on others, in good causes, in the way of God.

c The basic meaning of ‘adhab is ‘to restrain (from doing wrong)’, extended to mean anything difficult or painful, punishment, famine (see 23: 78). See Majaz al-Qurʾan, by ‘Izz al-Din Ibn ‘Abdul-Salam (London: Al-Furqan Foundation, 1999), 194, and E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1968).

a Literally ‘whatever witnesses’. Razi interprets this as referring either to their idols or to their leaders.

b One interpretation is that they enjoy each meal so much that they are delighted to see favourite dishes again; another interpretation is that the food of Paradise resembles the delicacies of this world in appearance.

c Comparisons such as those given here were seen by some as inappropriate for God, and this is an answer to these critics.

a The term khalifa is normally translated as ‘vicegerent’ or ‘deputy’. While this is one meaning of the term, its basic meaning is ‘successor’—the Qurʾan often talks about generations and individuals who are successors to each other, cf. 6: 165, 7: 129, etc.—or a ‘trustee’ to whom a responsibility is temporarily given, cf. Moses and Aaron, 7: 142.

b This is istifham inkari in Arabic, i.e. not an interrogative but an exclamatory statement normally expressing disapproval, best rendered in English by ‘How can you’. There are numerous examples of this in the Qurʾan.

c Iblis is the enemy of mankind and vice versa. Iblis is also known as Shaytan/Satan.

d Words teaching Adam how to repent, see 7: 23.

a One of the classical meanings of zanna is ‘to know’ rather than the predominant modern sense of ‘to think’. This term is used in the sense of knowledge several times in the Qurʾan.

a The Sabians were a monotheistic religious community. See M. Asad, The Message of the Qurʾan (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1997), 40 n. 49.

b This is understood by some as ‘physically turn into apes’ but in fact it is a figure of speech—the structure ‘be apes’ is like ‘be stones/iron’ in 17: 50. Just as the Qurʾan describes the disbelievers as blind, deaf, and dumb, here the transgressors are apes.

a Razi: although the Jews fought each other in alliance with different Arab tribes, when their side captured a Jew from another side, they would pay to have them released, as they said this was required by the Torah.

b La'ana in Arabic dictionaries gives the meaning of tarada ‘to reject’, ‘to drive away’ rather than ‘to curse’.

a The word ra‘ina can be used politely as an expression for ‘look at us’. However, a group of Jews in Medina hostile to Muhammad subtly changed its pronunciation to imply ‘you are foolish’ or ‘you herd our sheep’ in order to abuse the Prophet. So the believers are advised to avoid the word and use unzurna, also meaning ‘look at us’, instead. See 4: 46.

b See 2: 55 and 4: 153.

c Literally ‘their faces’. One meaning of wajh (face) is ‘direction’ and the basic meaning of aslama is ‘devote’. See note to 2: 128.

a Razi suggests that this probably alludes to the Jews’ objections to the change of qibla (direction of prayer) from Jerusalem to Mecca and their efforts to stop people praying towards Mecca in the Prophet's mosque in Medina (see 2: 115 and 142).

b Or ‘His direction’.

c Razi suggests that this refers to the pagan Arabs (see 16: 57) and (some of) the Christians and Jews (see 9: 30).

d This can also mean ‘who read it as it ought to be read’.

a The Ka‘ba at Mecca.

b Aslama here means to devote oneself to the one God alone, so that Abraham will come to his Lord with his heart totally devoted to Him: 3: 64; 26: 89; 37: 84.

c ‘One single God’ reinforces the interpretation of islam as ‘devotion’, one meaning of aslama (al-Mu‘jam al-Wasit).

a This refers to the change in the Muslims’ prayer direction from Jerusalem to Mecca in the second year of the Hijra.

b Literally ‘a middle nation’.

c This reassured those who asked whether the prayers said towards Jerusalem had been wasted.

a The Prophet secretly hoped to be allowed to face the Mosque in Mecca in prayer, as it was so dear to him, being built by Abraham and Ishmael, as seen from verse 127 onwards.

b On the Day of Judgement, cf. 5: 48.

c Both Jews and polytheists questioned the choice of qibla (prayer direction) for their own reasons.

d Note the shift in pronoun from singular to plural of majesty (see Introduction, p. xx).

a Two hills adjacent to the Ka‘ba between which a pilgrim and visitor should walk up and down in commemoration of what Hagar did in search of water for her baby, Ishmael.

b The minor pilgrimage (‘umra) can be done during the pilgrimage season or at any other time during the year.

c The Ka‘ba, which is central both to the direction of prayer and to the rites of pilgrimage as established by Abraham at God's command.

d The Muslims were reluctant to perform this rite, as the polytheists had installed two idols on these hills. Here it is reclaimed for God.

a See 6: 138, 145.

b It is also possible to interpret this as referring to the disbelievers calling on their idols, who cannot respond.

a qisas etymologically means ‘to track down’.

b Before Islam, the Arabs did not observe equality in retribution, but a stronger tribe would demand more, e.g. a man for a woman, a free man for a slave, or several men for one man, likewise for financial compensation. The intention of this verse is to insist on equality.

c One meaning of khafa is ‘to know’ (al-Mu‘jam al-Wasit).

a Some Muslims admitted to the Prophet that they had spoiled their fast by having sexual relations during the nights of Ramadan.

b It was the custom of some Arabs on returning from the pilgrimage to enter their houses by the back door, considering this to be an act of piety.

c The Arabic command la ta‘tadu is so general that commentators have agreed that it includes prohibition of starting hostilities, fighting non-combatants, disproportionate response to aggression, etc.

d The Muslims were concerned as to whether it was permitted to retaliate when attacked within the sacred precincts in Mecca when on pilgrimage (see 2: 196 and Razi's Tafsir). They are here given permission to fight back wherever they encounter their attackers, in the precinct or outside it.

e ‘Persecuting you unlawfully is worse than you killing them in the precincts in self-defence.’ The article al- in Arabic sometimes takes the place of a pronoun, as here ‘their persecution’ and ‘your killing them’ (Tammam Hassan, al-Bayan, Cairo, 1993, 118–45); it is not the generic al-, cf. 2: 217. See also 2: 217.

a Worship at the sacred mosque.

b Cf. 8: 39 and note e to 2: 191 above.

c If they are not prepared to pay for what it takes to defend themselves, then they will bring ruin on themselves. The verse is also understood generally to outlaw suicide and other forms of self-harm.

d Shaving the head or cutting the hair is one of the rites performed by male pilgrims after most of the other rites have been completed.

e This means breaking the restrictions of ihram (consecration) termed tamattu‘.

f It is lawful to trade while on pilgrimage.

g This is one of the sites of the pilgrimage between Arafat and Mina—a plain called Muzdalifa.

a Some arrogant tribes used to take a different route from the masses.

b These come after the day of sacrifice, when two or three days are spent in Mina to perform the rite of stoning the Devil.

c Silm, which also means ‘peace’.

d It will be too late for them to repent.

a To persecute people for believing in God is a worse offence than for the aggrieved party to fight back in the prohibited month. This further explains verse 191.

a The Arabic expressions used here are clear euphemisms for ‘do not have sexual intercourse with them’.

b When the Muslims emigrated to Medina, they heard from the Jews that a child born from a woman approached from behind would have a squint.

c Before Islam, husbands could make such an oath and suspend the wife indefinitely. In Islam, if they do not go back after four months, divorce becomes effective.

a By paying back all or part of the dowry in return for divorce.

b Sometimes a woman's father or brother would interfere to stop her reconciling with her husband. Here the Qurʾan condemns such interference.

a If he dies.

b Dhakara in classical Arabic meant ‘to propose’.

c To secure that the parties in such a bitter situation will abide by the Qurʾan's teaching they are instructed to pray and stand before God.

d Another interpretation is ‘including the middle prayer’, with various opinions as to which prayer is meant.

a See verse 246 below.

b After dealing with marital issues, the Qurʾan returns to the question of retaliation.

c The Arabic name for Saul.

a Those who had drunk the water or some of the few who went with Talut.

b Cf. 13: 33.

a Most of the classical commentators take the view that Abraham must have had to cut up the birds first if they were really to rise from the dead, rendering this phrase ‘then place them separately on hilltops’. However, Abu Muslim thought the important part of the image was that it is as easy for souls to come back to the body as for the birds to come back to Abraham (Razi). Cf. ‘To Him you shall return’, in many places, e.g. 2: 245 and 285.

a A classical meaning of dalla.

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