Al-Baqarah is the largest sura in the Quran and many Muslims consider it to be the summary of the whole Quran with a conviction that God’s teachings on rules and regulations are further detailed out in the subsequent suras (Chapters) where necessary. However, it is a Medinan sura, which mostly covers laws and regulations for leading a righteous life for the believers including rules of fighting to prevent oppression as well as to worship God freely including our core belief and commandments of observing all religious rites. Let us have a look to the different aspects of Sura Al-Baqarah at a glance for appropriate interpretation of God’s commandments as well as better understanding of His laws and teachings in the sura to obey all His commands to avoid any chances of missing any of His commands, and perfect the practices of our religious rites that came down to us through the practicing of people generation after generation from the time of prophet Ibrahim:
Properties of Al-Baqarah
- Sura name: Al-Baqarah (The Heifer/Cow in English)
- No of verses: 286
- Revelation order: 87
- Placement in the physical arrangement: # 2
- Quranic initials prefixed to it: Alif (A).Laam (L).Meem (M)
- Placement in the physical arrangement among 6 ALM prefixed suras: # 1
- Placement: Just after Sura Al-Fatehah
- Place of revelation: Medina (Suras that usually contain God’s teachings on laws and regulations)
Count of Quranic Initials Alef.Laam.Meem (ALM ) prefixed to it including 5 other suras
The total occurrences of ALM as counted in the six suras is multiple of 19 which means that they occur at certain frequencies as maintained by the Author along with literary excellence in His book, and if any of these letters in these six suras is altered where they belong to, it would destroy this mathematical phenomenon. Thus, these letters are not only mathematical proofs of the Quran that the Quran is from God but are also protecting it from any distortion even at the letter level as invisible guards (15:9 & 41:42).
God has detailed out His commandments/laws/regulations for us in the following areas:
- Quran is from God to serve as a guidance for the believers to become righteous [2:1-2].
- Characteristics/behavior of believers/disbelievers/hypocrites [2:3-20] including those who are not able to find truth using their intelligence given by God (also see 17:36).
- Satan has been placed as a temporary god on earth, a testing place for humans and Jinns [2:30] to expose him to be an incompetent god as evidenced by the prevalence of misery, chaos, corruptions, disease, accidents, and war in his dominion (earth).
- When Adam and Eve violated God’s commandment in Paradise being duped by Satan, they were given specific words to practice on earth for their redemption [2:35-37] implies that we are given the similar words, i.e., sura Al-Fatehah consisting of 28 words for our redemption as children of Adam and Eve.
- Satan is disobedient and arrogant as he refused to prostrate before Adam as commanded [2:34].
- At the time of our descent from Paradise to earth, God promised that He would send guidance for us, and if we follow His guidance (it is mentioned in first person singular number “My guidance”), we will be able to get back to Paradise but if we disbelieve and reject His guidance, we will get back to Hell where we have to abide forever [2:38-39].
- The Jews and the Christians are supposed to believe in Quran and follow it [2:40]
- We must observe Salat and pay Zakat [2:43] while Zakat is due on the day of our any income (6:141) at the rate of 2.5%of our incomebeing known amount, i.e., from the past (70:24).
- Definition of Submitters as given makes it very simple for anyone who wants to bea Muslim (submitter in English) or to embrace Islam just believing in God and the Last Day followed by leading a righteous life [2:62] through studying and upholding the Quran. This verse confirms that following any other Fatwa from any corner is idolatry.
- Distorting and concealing in the previous scriptures for illicit gain [2:75-79] is not only criticism of Jews and Christians but implies that the people of this scripture would follow their footsteps as well.
- Eternity of Heaven and Hell [2:80-82]
- Witchcraft condemned [2:102]
- Jealousy condemned [2:105]
- Changing and restoring Qibla was a test for the contemporary believers (2:142-145)
- Core belief: no other god except He (God) [2:163]. God did not leave any room for us to add Muhammad’s name to our core belief to fall into idolatry to nullify all our praise and prayers (also see 47:19).
- Satan is our most ardent enemy. He commands us not to eat what God has made lawful for us as well as to commit evil and vice [2:168-169]
- Only four kinds of meats are prohibited for us [2:173] but we always hear that do not eat this or that as well as go to halal store to buy halal meat as if the store has received any mechanism from God to make meat halal on behalf of it while God has just told us to mention His name (Basmallah) when we eat (also see 6:121).
- Capital punishment discouraged [2:178-179]
- Writing will is decreed for the believers being equitable without prescribing any specific share for one’s heirs to conform to the specific circumstances of the testators [2:180-182].
- Fasting is decreed in the entire month of Ramadan in honor of the blessed night for the light He had sent us [183-187]
- Bribery & Corruption condemned [2:188]
- Righteousness defined (2:177 & 2:189)
- Purpose and rules of war outlined [2:190-194]
- Hajj is decreed for the rich in any of the four sacred months [158,196-200, 203]
- Oppression condemned [2:217]
- Gambling and Intoxicants prohibited [2:219]
- Marriage with Idol Worshipers prohibited [2:221]
- Recipients of Zakat & Charity are specified [2:215, 2:177, 2:273]
- Laws of divorce, breaking engagement and alimony for both widows and divorcees are clarified [2:226-233, 2:236-237 & 2:240-242]
- Usury prohibited [2:275]
- God’s words to implore Him for His guidance and forgiveness for our successful return to Hereafter [2:286].
There are many erroneous beliefs among us that have been clarified in the sura as well:
- Quranic initials (Alef, Laam, Meem) are mysterious or meaning is only known to God or the meaning is only known between prophet and God [2:1-2] but our common sense dictates that if the meaning would be unknown to the believers, these initials were not included in the final guidance for the people until the end of the world. In addition, the Quran has confirmed that there is no nonsense in the Quran. So, these are signs that this Quran is from God, which is given at the very beginning of the Quran for our reflection to widen our thought.
- There is no intercession on the Day of Judgment [2:48, 2:123 and 2:254] while it is a myth among Muslims and Christians that Muhammad and Jesus will intercede on behalf of their followers respectively. Muhammad himself did not know what would happen to him on the Day of Recompense (46:9). So how would he know what will happen to his so-called followers? In fact, intercession is one of Satan’s most effective tricks to dupe millions of people into idol worship.
- Maintaining Status Quo is a human tragedy [2:170] while we are supposed to listen to it carefully when a proof comes to us from our Lord, which is new (21:2, 26:5) instead of just following our parents blindly.
- There is no distinction among God’s Messengers [2:136 & 2:285] while there is a belief among the people of scripture that some messengers/prophets are given higher status at Godsuch as Moses among the Jews as he spoke to God directly (4:164), Jesus among the Christians being a son of God (9:30) and Muhammad among the Muslims is the greatest prophet being the last among the prophets (33:40).
- The definition of prophet and messenger given by old scholars or in the dictionary is contradictory as it is not based on Quran while the definition of prophet as given in [2:213] confirms the difference between prophet and messenger. But traditional Muslims are not able to grasp this difference. Moreover, they believe that messenger (rasool in Arabic) has a higher status at God than prophet (Nabi in Arabic). All prophets delivered scripture to their respective communities while all messengers did not deliver scripture except to deliver some other forms of divine messages (3:81). Thus all prophets are messengers but all messengers are not prophets. However, Quran has confirmed that God sent 20 prophets and unknown number of messengers over the different time period to guide the humanity.
- Idolatry is a human strategy as the idolizers cannot realize that they are idolizing their idols even its consequence is Hell. In addition, they are not aware of concrete definition of idolatry. Idols will disown their idolizers on the Day of Judgment [2:165-167] while Jesus, Mary, Muhammad, Ali are common idols for many people of the scripture including many others such as saints, religious leaders etc.
- Menstruation does not prevent women from performing Salat or any other religious duties being unclean [2:222-223] but tradition does not allow menstruating Muslim women to perform any religious activities putting them in jeopardy missing their chances to be redeemed.
The name given to the sura is “Al-Baqarah” which is translated to “The Heifer” or in some translations to “The Cow” in English does not make any sense to the critics of Quran, even it may seem unusual to many of us but the crucial importance in the name for us is to reflect on the teaching of our immediate and unwavering obedience to our Almighty God. The heifer (part of it) is also mentioned in relation to the exposure of the killer to resolve the dispute what was tried to conceal by bringing the victim back to life implies that there is no way for us to hide our crimes from Him. Thus, God not only has prescribed laws and rules in the sura but He has also made us aware that His commands must be carried out immediately if we truly believe in Him and expect His guidance and forgiveness [2:67-72].
Every element of the Quran including the order of revelation, placement of suras in the physical arrangement and the names of the suras is from God as it took place as per instructions left by Prophet Muhammad that he received from God via Gabriel. However, the historical record indicates that the sura # and verse # are given during the rewriting of the Quran in 1918 (published in 1924). As such, not only the text but also the other elements of Quran need our attention to use it as our guidance being the teachings, commandments and laws of God. Per chronological order of revelation sura Al-Baqarah is the 87th revelation with 3 Quranic initials at its first verse which are Alif, Laam and Meem. During the physical arrangement of suras, it was placed in # 2 position and hence it is sura # 2. Since the physical arrangement along with sura names was done during the first rewriting of the Quran after 19 years of the death of Prophet Muhammad as per instructions left by Prophet Muhammad as received from God via Gabriel, the physical arrangement also took place according to God’s will. So, both order of revelation and physical arrangement are divine (from God) and we may use His guidance in both ways to interpret many of His commands appropriately.
The above overview indicates that Sura Al-Baqarah has a crucial importance to us just not for clear laws and rules contained in the sura to eliminate any disputes and misconceptions from our hearts to lead a righteous life but also for: (1) its placement just after Sura Al-Fatehah, (2) prefixed with quranic initials, ALM and (3) its relationship with other ALM prefixed suras (as shown above table). The position #2 in the physical arrangement logically confirms that we are not supposed to recite any other sura or any part of Quran after finishing Sura Al-Fatehah given to us as specific words for redemption of our sins during our Salat as the similar specific words were given to Adam and Eve to practice for their redemption (2:37). The prefixed ALM to it is an unusual way to represent that this Quran is from God that we also see in the other verses of the Quran (97:3 & 31:10) to reflect our attention but only the ignorant is not able to grasp its significance considering them being mysterious letters. The earliest ALM prefixed revelation (see table above) among all ALM prefixed revelations explains that these letters are proofs (signs) of this book (31:1-2), and it is the wisdom of the Author and Teacher of the Quran to literally explain the meaning of the initial ALM first, then He has coded it in the subsequent revelations (see table above) to teach us.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.