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The Koran Interpreted Translation by A.J. Arberry

2 THE COW (257 – 277)

The Qurʾan Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

2. The Cow (256 – 281)

No compulsion is there in religion. Rectitude has become clear from error. So whosoever disbelieves in idols and believes in God, has laid hold of the most firm handle, unbreaking; God is All-hearing, All-knowing.

God is the Protector of the believers; He brings them forth from the shadows into the light. And the unbelievers—their protectors are idols, that bring them forth from the light into the shadows; those are the inhabitants of the Fire, therein dwelling forever.

260Hast thou not regarded him who disputed with Abraham, concerning his Lord, that God had given him the kingship? When Abraham said, ‘My Lord is He who gives life, and makes to die,’ he said, ‘I give life, and make to die.’ Said Abraham, ‘God brings the sun from the east; so bring thou it from the west.’ Then the unbeliever was confounded. God guides not the people of the evildoers. Or such as he who passed by a city that was fallen down upon its turrets; he said, ‘How shall God give life to this now it is dead?’ So God made him die a hundred years, then He raised him up, saying, ‘How long hast thou tarried?’ He said, ‘I have tarried a day, or part of a day.’ Said He, ‘Nay; thou hast tarried a hundred years. Look at thy food and drink—it has not spoiled; and look at thy ass. So We would make thee a sign for the people. And look at the bones, how We shall set them up, and then clothe them with flesh.’ So, when it was made clear to him, he said, ‘I know that God is powerful over everything.’ And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord, show me how Thou wilt give life to the dead,’ He said, ‘Why, dost thou not believe?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but that my heart may be at rest.’ Said He, ‘Take four birds, and twist them to thee, then set a part of them on every hill, then summon them, and they will come to thee running. And do thou know that God is All-mighty, All-wise.’

The likeness of those who expend their wealth in the way of God is as the likeness of a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. So God multiplies unto whom He will; God is All-embracing, All-knowing. Those who expend their wealth in the way of God then follow not up what they have expended with reproach and injury, their wage is with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. 265Honourable words, and forgiveness, are better than a freewill offering followed by injury; and God is All-sufficient, All-clement. O believers, void not your freewill offerings with reproach and injury, as one who expends of his substance to show off to men and believes not in God and the Last Day. The likeness of him is as the likeness of a smooth rock on which is soil, and a torrent smites it, and leaves it barren. They have no power over anything that they have earned. God guides not the people of the unbelievers. But the likeness of those who expend their wealth, seeking God's good pleasure, and to confirm themselves, is as the likeness of a garden upon a hill; a torrent smites it and it yields its produce twofold; if no torrent smites it, yet dew; and God sees the things you do. Would any of you wish to have a garden of palms and vines, with rivers flowing beneath it, and all manner of fruit there for him, then old age smites him, and he has seed, but weaklings, then a whirlwind with fire smites it, and it is consumed? So God makes clear the signs to you; haply you will reflect. O believers, expend of the good things you have earned, and of that We have produced for you from the earth, and intend not the corrupt of it for your expending; 270for you would never take it yourselves, except you closed an eye on it; and know that God is All-sufficient, All-laudable. Satan promises you poverty, and bids you unto indecency; but God promises you His pardon and His bounty; and God is All-embracing, All-knowing. He gives the Wisdom to whomsoever He will, and whoso is given the Wisdom, has been given much good; yet none remembers but men possessed of minds. And whatever expenditure you expend, and whatever vow you vow, surely God knows it. No helpers have the evildoers. If you publish your freewill offerings, it is excellent; but if you conceal them, and give them to the poor, that is better for you, and will acquit you of your evil deeds; God is aware of the things you do.

Thou art not responsible for guiding them; but God guides whomsoever He will.

And whatever good you expend is for yourselves, for then you are expending, being desirous only of God's Face; and whatever good you expend shall be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged, it being for the poor who are restrained in the way of God, and are unable to journey in the land; the ignorant man supposes them rich because of their abstinence, but thou shalt know them by their mark— they do not beg of men importunately. And whatever good you expend, surely God has knowledge of it. 275Those who expend their wealth night and day, secretly and in public, their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.

Those who devour usury shall not rise again except as he rises, whom Satan of the touch prostrates; that is because they say, ‘Trafficking is like usury.’ God has permitted trafficking, and forbidden usury. Whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and gives over, he shall have his past gains, and his affair is committed to God; but whosoever reverts— those are the inhabitants of the Fire, therein dwelling forever. God blots out usury, but freewill offerings He augments with interest. God loves not any guilty ingrate.

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.

Notes:

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.

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