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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 (178 – 202)

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.

Notes:

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.

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