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Commentary on Surat Al-Baqarah

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Chapter 2: Surat Al-Baqarah
The Cow
(Selected Verses)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

  1. The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is as the parable of a grain growing seven ears, a hundred grains in every ear. And Allah multiplies for whomever He pleases. Allah is Vast, Knowing.

The Qur`an reinforces the virtue of generosity, which is an indication of trust, service and submission. Among the metaphors of Arabic speech, the number seven often implies its multiples, or great numbers. The verse relates that any good deed is amplified and expanded out of proportion as though echoing the greatest of all deeds, that of creation, which is expanding towards its final destiny.

  1. Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or inquiry, shall have their reward from their Lord. They shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.

True giving has no expectations or strings attached, for it is done in the way of Allah (fī sabīl Allah). If one parts with something to which one is not attached, there can be no regrets later.

The act of giving should not be based on emotional impulse; giving should be according to reason and one's heart. The natural spring gushing from its source fills the nearest holes before moving on thus one's generosity should first touch those who are closest.

  1. Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is Self-sufficiently Rich, Forbearing.

The word for charity in Arabic is sadaqah which derives from the verbal root sadaqa meaning to be sincere, true, to fulfill one's promise. Its purpose is purification. If charity causes harm, it will only be contrary to its purpose. Charity and generosity bring one close to Allah's Attributes of Mercy, Generosity and Self-Sufficiency.

  1. O you who believe! Do not nullify your charity by reproach and injury, like one who spends his wealth to be seen by men and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. The parable of this one is as the parable of a smooth rock with earth upon it when a heavy rain falls upon it, leaving it bare. They will not be able to gain anything of what they have earned, and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.

Humankind's lower nature is physical, gross and lacking in insight. To begin with, we are in fact like a barren land. To become fertile and benefit ourselves and others, we must cover ourselves with the moist earth of correct action (ihsān). If we cause harm or injury, it is as if our top-soil were washed away, leaving us once again barren 'hard land', unable to support life.

  1. And the parable of those who spend their wealth seeking the pleasure of Allah, and for certainty in themselves, is as the parable of a garden on elevated ground upon which heavy rain falls. It brings forth its fruit twofold. If heavy rain does not fall upon it, then light rain [suffices]. And Allah sees what you do.

That which pleases Allah, and that which strengthens the higher self, are the same, because the essence of the self the spirit is from Allah. Spending and giving what one wants to keep ennobles man twice over, speeding up the process of inner purification. To be purified and ennobled in this life we must give in charity, for this imitates Allah's mercy and generosity to His creation.

  1. Would one of you like to have a garden of palm trees and vines, with streams flowing beneath it, possessing all kinds of fruits, and old age overtakes him, and he has weak offspring, then a whirlwind containing fire smites it so that it is consumed. Thus does Allah make the signs clear to you so you may reflect.

If one does not guard one's good actions, they will be wiped out by wrong action. One's good actions are like one's offspring: if they are strong and plentiful, their progenitor will be protected and preserved. Men or communities who do not build up spiritual strength will eventually be effaced.

  1. O you who believe! Spend of the good things that you have acquired and from what We have brought forth for you out of the earth, and do not intend to spend what is bad while you would not take it yourselves, unless you overlook the affair. Know that Allah is Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.

This is a summary of the preceding verses. The priority in life is to spend and give in the way of truth; and to spend, one must earn. One is only authorized to earn if one's intention is to spend in order to propagate and enforce Allah's will.

  1. Shaytān threatens you with poverty and urges you to excess and detestable actions, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance. Allah is Vast, Knowing.

Shaytān brings about anxiety, insecurity and fear for sustenance: this arises at a time when one is weak or unfocused upon higher things. Fearing loss of provision is denial of the Merciful Lord Who has promised sustenance, goodness and generosity for all creation, as long as they also fulfill their contract of trust and submission to the natural divine decrees.

Allah promises that all his creatures are provided for, as long as they follow the path of submission (islām) and correct action (ihsān). The negative tendencies in man the shaytānic elements of greed and love of power rise up to bring about doubt, mistrust, covetousness and exploitation. These are the destructive tendencies with which man burdens himself as he struggles in confusion without divine light.

  1. He grants wisdom to whomever He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom, indeed, has been given much good. None but those of the innermost core bear this in mind.

Allah opens the great ocean of wisdom to whoever truly desires it. The essence of self-knowledge is already within the innermost core of all beings, but it is only the discriminating seekers who dive into the depths of the ocean for the precious pearls of knowledge and wisdom.

  1. And whatever alms you spend or vow, surely Allah knows it. The wrongdoers shall have no helpers.

A vow (nadhr) is a self-imposed promise and reminder of specific action, so that one may keep moving in the right direction. Making a vow and keeping it brings about inner discipline and a correct balance. If one acts justly within oneself, then the likelihood of a correct outcome is increased. The process allows advancement along the path of knowledge and ascension on the spiritual ladder.


End of the Surah

Back Up Next

The Opening - A Commentary on Chapter 1: Surat Al-Fatiha ] The Cow - A Commentary on Chapter 2: Surat Al-Baqarah ] The Family of 'Imrān - A Commentary on Chapter 3: Surat Al-'Imrān ] The Spider - A Commentary on Chapter 29: Surat Al-'Ankabt ] The Heart of the Qur`an - A Commentary on Chapter 36: Surat Ya Sin ] The Beneficent - A Commentary on Chapter 55: Surat Al-Rahmn ] The Event - A Commentary on Chapter 56: Surat Al-Wqi'ah ] The Kingdom - A Commentary on Chapter 67: Surat Al-Mulk ] The Jinn - A Commentary on Chapter 72: Surat Al-Jinn ] The Unwrapped - A Commentary on Chapter 73: Surat Al-Muzzammil ] A Commentary on the Last Section of the Qur`an ]