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The Focus of Events in the Quranic Surahs (2) -Al-Baqara

I remember a long time ago, I was asked by my African-Catholic driver about the order of events in Qur’anic stories.

He asked:

I tried to read the Qur’an and found the events not sequential.

Why is it not arranged chronologically according to the time of events?

Why does every Surah contain topics that are not related to each other?

I remember that I did not know the answer to his question. I wondered, is my lack of knowledge a shortcoming or ignorance of this great book?

Until one day I coincidentally read an article that talked about the goals of one Qur’anic Surah. It was amazing

I found how with the different personalities mentioned in the Surah, each story of a different character carries the same goal and focus of the topic that the Surah is talking about.

So I studied the Qur’anic Surahs and found:

  • Each Surah has a special focus and main objective that it talks about.
  • God Almighty mentions the appropriate historical story for the objective that He chose for the Surah.
  • The stories mentioned come to serve this purpose.

For example, if we talk about Surat Al-Baqarah (the cow), we will find the following:

  • Its verses (286 verses).
  • The first Surah to be revealed in the city of Medina after the Prophet’s migration, and with the beginning of the Islamic state’s establishment.
  • The longest Surah in the Holy Qur’an.
  • The first Surah in order after Al-Fatihah (the opening).

The Topic of the Surah:

Succession on Earth:

God created the earth and those on it. He wanted life to go according to His Will, and He wanted to choose who is responsible for it.

The religion that was chosen to humanity by God Almighty is:

Believing in Him, that He has no partner or son. He does not incarnate in any of His creations or any idol. And humans have to have direct connection with Him, not through any priest or saint. Then human have to develop the Earth and deal with each other in good manners.

Developing the earth and good manners are not the goals of religion, but in reality, they are tools! The goal of religion is to let a person know his God, and his origin, his path and his destiny. The good ending and destiny only occur when you get the consent of the Lord of the universe through developing earth and good manners. The deeds of the human should seek the satisfaction of Almighty God.

God Almighty appointed many nations as successors. Some of them failed in the task of succession and some of them succeeded.

Describing the Types of People:

  • Righteous (verse 1-5)
  • Unbelievers (verse 6-7)
  • Hypocrites (verse 8-20)

Mentioning the hypocrites’ characteristics in many verses was to warn about their great danger, because they manifest faith and cover up disbelief. They are more dangerous than the unbelievers.

Themes of the First Section of the Surah:

Adam’s Succession on Earth (Introductory Experience):

And (remember) as your Lord said to the Angels, “Surely I am making in the earth a successor 30

Meaning and Tools of Succession:

Then God taught Adam the names of all things and presented them to the angels and said: “If you are right (that the appointment of a vicegerent will cause mischief) then tell Me the names of these things” 31

Succession’s mission success can be achieved by knowledge and worship. That is why God Almighty taught Adam all the names and taught him how to live, along with the tools of succession.

Who has made the earth a resting-place for you and the sky a canopy, and has sent down water from the sky and thereby brought forth fruits for your sustenance…. 22

The Demise of Grace Through Disobedience:

But Satan caused them both to stumble therein, and thus brought about the loss of their erstwhile state. And so We said: “Down with you, [and be henceforth] enemies unto one another; and on earth you shall have your abode and your livelihood for a while!”

A Failed Model of Succession:

The story of the Children of Israel who were appointed in the earth and became corrupt.

O Children of Israel! Remember My Blessing that I bestowed upon you and how I preferred you above all the worlds 47

Starting by the Remembrance of God’s Blessings:

The first word in the Children of Israel’s story was (I preferred you above all the worlds), meaning that they are responsible for the earth.

The first word in Adam’s story is, (I am going to place a successor on earth), meaning that he is responsible for the earth.

[Remember] when We delivered you from Pharaoh’s clan who inflicted a terrible torment on you, and slaughtered your sons and spared your women, and in that there was a great test from your Lord 49

And [recall] when We parted the sea for you and saved you and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were looking on 50

And (remember) as We appointed with Musa (Moses) forty nights; thereafter you took to yourselves the Calf even after him and you were unjust 51

Pardoned you after that so that you might give thanks 52

Presenting the Children of Israel’s mistakes (with the aim of reforming the Islamic nation by learning from these mistakes).

  • The children of Israel refused to implement God’s Almighty law, and they were materialistic, and disobedient to God’s messengers. They also tended to argue intensely, deceive God’s law, and distort the book, and had a lack of belief in the unseen.
  • In the story of the cow, a man from the Children of Israel was killed and his killer was not known. They asked Moses, and God Almighty revealed to him to order them to slaughter a cow that has certain characteristics, and to strike the dead with a part of the slaughtered cow, so that he will live by God’s permission and indicate his killer (verses 69-71).
  • The story is a material proof for the children of Israel, as they were very materialistic, and this miracle was evidence of God Almighty’s ability to revive creation after death.
  • Reciting the Surah with this name (Al-Baqarah) is a revival of this wonderful miracle.

A successful Model of Succession on Earth. (The Story of Prophet Ibrahim):

  • Adam at the beginning of creation (I am going to place a caliph on earth) (a preliminary experience).
  • The children of Israel (and I preferred you over the worlds) was a failed experiment.
  • Abraham then succeeded (and when his Lord tested Abraham with words and he completed them, he said, “I will make you a leader for people”).

The Succession in earth does not involve favoritism, as the one who follows God’s path and obeys Him is the one who assumes the responsibility for building the earth, and he who abandons this method does not attain God’s covenant.

And when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you an Imam (leader) of men. Ibrahim said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said He 124

The three stories also test different models of people in obedience to God Almighty.

  • Adam’s test, was in obedience to God (to eat from the tree or not).
  • Children of Israel’s test was in their obedience to the commands of God through His Messenger.
  • Abraham’s test by slaughtering his son was also a test of obedience to God Almighty.

The Second Part of the Surah:

Commands and Prohibitions – for the nation that’s responsible for the earth.

In this section, guidance is given to people who have seen previous approaches and the experiences of bygone nations to be able to form a successful model.

The Change of Prayer’s Direction:

And it is thus that We appointed you to be the community of the middle way so that you might be witnesses to all mankind and the Messenger might be a witness to you. We appointed the direction which you formerly observed so that We might distinguish those who follow the Messenger from those who turn on their heels. For it was indeed burdensome except for those whom God guided. And God will never leave your faith to waste. God is full of gentleness and mercy to mankind. We see you oft turning your face towards the sky; now We are turning you to the direction that will satisfy you. Turn your face towards the Holy Mosque, and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it in Prayer. Those who have been granted the Scripture certainly know that this (injunction to change the direction of Prayer) is right and is from their Lord. God is not heedless of what they do 143-144

It was necessary to distinguish the Muslim nation by its prayer’s direction, without blindly imitating previous nations.

Excellence Balance:

Surely, al-Safa and al-Marwah are the symbols of God. Hence, whoever performs Hajj (Full Pilgrimage) to the House (of Allah) or makes ‘Umrah (Minor Pilgrimage), will find that it is no sin for him to ambulate between the two. And whoever does a good work voluntarily should know that God is Appreciative, All-knowing 158

The reason for revealing this verse is because the Companions considered that ambulate between the two hills (Safa and Marwa) is one of the polytheist’ rituals, and that was when the verses that talk about changing the prayer’s direction were revealed to distinguish them from the infidels.

The verse came to say to them: You do not have to stop everything that the polytheists practice. There is no sin on you if you walk between the two hills (Al-Safa and Al-Marwah), because they are among God’s rituals.

Therefore, we must move away from blindly imitating those who preceded us, but while maintaining a balance.

Comprehensive repair process:

Righteousness does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or towards the west; true righteousness consists in believing in Gof and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets, and in giving away one’s property in love of Him to one’s kinsmen, the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer, and to those who ask for help, and in freeing the necks of slaves, and in establishing Prayer and dispensing the Zakah (Alms). True righteousness is attained by those who are faithful to their promise once they have made it and by those who remain steadfast in adversity and affliction and at the time of battle (between Truth and falsehood). Such are the truthful ones; such are the God-fearing.Turning one’s face towards the east or the west is mentioned here only by way of illustration. The actual purpose of the verse is to emphasize that the observance of certain outward religious rites, the performance of certain formal religious acts out of conformism, and the manifestation of certain familiar forms of piety do not constitute that essential righteousness which alone carries weight with God and earns His recognition and approval 177

After they obeyed and excelled while maintaining balance, a comprehensive reform approach was necessary for them.

Comprehensive commands and prohibitions on aspects of reform:

Criminal Legislation:

And there is life for you in (the law of) retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may guard yourselves 179

Legacies and Wills:

Prescribed for you when death approaches [any] one of you if he leaves wealth [is that he should make] a bequest for the parents and near relatives according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous 180

Devotional Legislation:

O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful ˹of God 183

Defensive Legislation:

There is no defense without spending money.

Spend in the way of Allah and do not put yourselves into destruction, and do good. Of course, Allah loves those who do good 195

It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteousness is the one who believes in God and the last day and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the way­farer and the beggars and for (the emancipation ofthe captives, and keeps up prayer and pays the zakat (alms)and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflict – these are they who are true and these are they who are the pious 177

The general framework for implementing the curriculum is: obedience – excellence – piety.

The Rest of the Parts of the Approach to Succession:

Jihad (To Confront the aggressor):

Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you but do not transgress, for God does not love transgressors.  Kill them whenever you confront them and drive them out from where they drove you out. (For though killing is sinful) wrongful persecution is even worse than killing. Do not fight against them near the Holy Mosque unless they fight against you; but if they fight against you kill them, for that is the reward of such unbelievers. Then if they desist, know well that God is Ever-Forgiving, Most Compassionate. Keep on fighting against them until mischief ends and the way prescribed by God prevails. But if they desist, then know that hostility is directed only against the wrong-doers 190-192

We have to understand:

  • The Muslim had to fight only those who fought him, but if the enemy abandons the fight, he neither fights nor is killed.
  • I fight means: the confrontation between two parties.
  • I fight means: responding to the attack and resisting the attacker, not starting the attack.

We also understand that:

A Muslim is commanded to repel any aggression that prevents him, prevents Muslims from practicing their rituals, and persecutes them.

Here, it becomes clear to us the importance of introducing people to the true religion, which was and is still eagerly awaited by many.

It aims to deliver the message of monotheism only, by giving an interpretation and meaning to the word Islam within the limits of no compulsion in religion, and without killing, blood, or terrorism.

Pilgrimage and its Rulings:

The verses of pilgrimage (196-200) are detailed in Surat Al-Baqarah in response to the supplication of Prophet Abraham.

Our Lord! Make us submissive to You and make out of our descendants a community that submits itself to You, and show us the ways of Your worship, and turn to us in mercy. You are Much-Relenting, Most Compassionate 128

Surat Al-Baqarah included the five pillars of Islam: Testimony of faith, prayer, giving alms, fasting and the pilgrimage.

These pillars were not detailed in the Qur’an as they were detailed in Surat Al-Baqarah.

Islam is An Integrated Approach:

O believers! Enter into Islam wholeheartedly and do not follow Satan’s footsteps. Surely he is your sworn enemy 208

The verse “Enter into Islam all” came after obedience, distinction, following orders and prohibitions, jihad and spending to preserve the curriculum, then adopting the entire religion, then piety.

Completion of Curriculum 219 – 242:

It includes the completion of the curriculum from the family rulings such as marriage, divorce, breastfeeding, engagement, divorce, waiting period, and others, and the context of all that piety.

The end of the verses comes with the word piety or its derivatives.

The provisions of fasting came before the provisions of the family, because the Muslim must train in piety by fasting before applying the provisions of the family, which are only applied by those who fear God.

The ethical and practical approach complement each other in Islam.

The Story of Talut and Goliath 246 – 252:

It is the story of people who failed to support the religion, and it was mentioned in its place because the curriculum must be preserved, and this cannot be done without the presence of people who preserve it.

An Important Verse:

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Sustaining.Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursī (Throne) extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great 255

If we want to implement the curriculum, we must feel the Power, Greatness and Majesty of God (God there is no god but He, the Living, the Eternal).

The curriculum requires a lot of effort, but it deserves to be applied because it is the curriculum of God Almighty (God there is no god but He).

The Right is Clear and the Wrong is Clear:

There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut paganism and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And God is Hearing and Knowing 256

The religion is clear: (Belief in the Creator and worship Him alone).

Whoever does not realize the meaning of (God, there is no god but He) and does not feel the greatness of this meaning, there is no way they can be forced into religion.

Obligation to Apply God’s Path After God has Shown His Power:

Three stories that show God’s Power:

  • Have you not regarded him who argued with Ibrahim (Abraham) about his Lord, that God had brought him the kingship? As’ Ibrahim said, “My Lord is He Who gives life and makes to die, ” he said, “I give life and make to die.” Ibrahim said, “Yet surely God comes up with (i.e., brings) the sun from the East, so come up with (i.e., bring) it from the West.” Then the one who disbelieved was confounded; and God does not guide the unjust people 258
  • Or consider him by way of example who passed by a town that was fallen down upon its turrets. He exclaimed: “How will God restore life to this town that is now dead?”God then caused him to remain dead for a hundred years and then raised him to life, and asked him: “How long did you remain in this state?” He replied: “I remained so for a day or a part of a day.” God rejoined: “No, you have rather stayed thus for a hundred years. But look at your food and your drink, there is no deterioration in them. And look at your ass (how its entire skeleton has rotted)! And We did all this so that We might make you a token of instruction for people. And see how We will put the bones (of the ass) together and will clothe them with flesh.” Thus when the reality became clear to him, he said: “I know that Allah has power over everything” 259
  • And [mention] when Abraham said, “My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.” [ Allah ] said, “Have you not believed?” He said, “Yes, but [I ask] only that my heart may be satisfied.” [ Allah ] said, “Take four birds and commit them to yourself. Then [after slaughtering them] put on each hill a portion of them; then call them – they will come [flying] to you in haste. And know that Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” 260

Warning Against Usury and Presenting the Lawful Approach to Spending 261 – 283

O Ye who believe: fear God and leave that which remainoth of usury if ye are believers 278

A supplication for Assistance in Applying the Curriculum:

The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord and (so do) the believers; they all believe in God and His angels and His Books and His Messengers; they say: “We make no distinction between any of His Messengers; and we hear and obey”! (We seek) Your Forgiveness, our Lord and to You is the journeying (our journey is towards you and we indeed reach you) 285

Summary:

The Muslim is responsible for the Earth, and the curriculum is ready.

All people have to embrace Islam (Islam).

Belief in the One and the Only God who has no partner or son, and worshiping Him alone without a mediator.

Curriculum:

Obedience to God

Excellence

Piety

Curriculum Elements:

Criminal Legislation

Inheritance

Expenditure

Jihad: within the limit of ( Fight those who fight you and do not transgress).

Pilgrimage

Fasting Provisions

Obligations and Teachings

It is imperative for a Muslim to seek God’s help in fulfilling this list in order to deserve succession on Earth without falling into the mistakes of previous nations.

We understand from all of the above that the Noble Qur’an is not a history book to list events in chronological order, but rather it is a method and a law.

Surat Al-Baqarah spoke miraculously and eloquently about one topic, which is the succession on earth. The Sura mentioned the historical stories that serve this topic and it mentioned as well the provisions and approach that must be applied to serve this purpose.

Then:

The misconception promoted by some non – Muslims stating that the topics of Surat Al-Baqarah are not related to each other is refuted.


Notes:

The reference of God to Himself as WE or US in many verses of the Qur’an denotes Grandeur and Power in Arabic. In the English language this is known as the royal WE, where a plural pronoun is used to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch. For the avoidance of doubt, the Qur’an has consistently reminded us of the SINGULAR pronoun in reference to God, when called upon by His servants.

The Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Middle East use the word “Allah” to refer to God, which refers to The Only True God ( the Creator). The word “Allah” was mentioned in the earlier version of the Old Testament 89 times. (Refer to Genesis 2:4, Book of Daniel 6:20 Hebrew and Arabic Bible)

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