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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 (168 – 195)

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.

Notes:

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.

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