2-The Cow / Baqarah -Part 6:

(2:243) Don’t you know the story of a people who left their homes by the thousands out of fear of death? I told them to die, and then I gave some of them life in this world and the next. I am very generous with people, but most are ungrateful to Me.

(2:244) Instead of dying as cowards, I told them to, “fight and die for Me bravely. Know that I hear you complaining of your difficulties, and I know everything you do for Me.

(2:245) I consider anything good given for my sake to be like a loan to Me. I will pay it back with many multiples of interest, and remember that it is my blessing that reduces or increases your wealth and money. So give from what I have given you in preparation for the day when you will stand in front of Me.”

(2:246) Don’t you know the story? The leaders amongst the Children of Israel after Moses said to a messenger I gave them, “Select for us a king to unite us to fight for the sake of God’s religion.” He said, “I doubt you will fight if you are given a king.” They said, “Why would we not fight when some of our people have lost their homes and had their sons taken from them.” Then when they were given a king and they had to fight, most turned away, and I know what to do with them. 

(2:247) To the leader’s request, my messenger responded saying, “God has chosen Saul for you as king. They said, “How can he be king when we have more of a right, and he is not a rich person.” He said, “God has chosen him over you, given him extensive knowledge, and blessed him with physical strength too. God gives power in this world to whomever He wants to. God’s power is never ending, and He knows everything about you.”

(2:248) And he said to them, “The sign that he has been chosen is that the Arc of the Covenant will return. It will give you comfort in your battles as it contains some relicts from the time of Moses and Aaron. It will be returned not by your hands, but rather, it will come carried by angels. Then accept him as your king to lead you in battle, if you believe and are faithful.”

(2:249) When Saul moved out with his troops they became thirsty and dehydrated. Then to them he said, “God is testing your strength and trust with a river. Those who will fight with me are those who don’t drink, or drink only a handful of water.” Most of the army drank and said, “Today we are not strong enough to defeat Goliath and his men.” They said this after Saul crossed it and gathered the believers who passed the test around him. Then those who were prepared to die and whose faith was strong in the Day of Judgment responded, “God is with those who are patient and determined. How often has a smaller group defeated a larger group with God’s support and permission?”

(2:250) And when they stood on the open battlefield against Goliath and his army: “Oh Lord, fill our hearts with patience and determination, make us strong in our position, and give us victory against those who reject your religion.”

(2:251) Then they defeated them with my permission; David killed Goliath, and in time, I made David king, gave him wisdom, and taught him what I chose to teach him. I bless all of mankind by pushing people against each other. Otherwise, the earth would be overcome with corruption.

(2:252) Oh Muhammad, this is my guidance that is being revealed to you with the truth, and you are a messenger, so share this revelation.

(2:253) I gave some of my messengers blessings that I didn’t give to others. I spoke directly to some, and raised some up in levels. I gave Jesus son of Mary clear evidence, and supported him with the Holy Spirit of Angel Gabriel. Then I could have prevented the people who received my clear evidence from fighting, but they disputed. Some believed and some knowingly rejected my religion. Then I could have prevented them from fighting, but allowing them to fight was my decision.  

 

(2:254) Oh believers, give from what I have blessed you to support my religion. Keep giving before the day comes when nothing can be traded to save you, there are no ties of true love to help you, and no one can intercede for you without my permission. Those who intentionally reject my commands are the unjust who will be waiting for their punishment on the Day of Resurrection.

(2:255) I am your true God the one and only. I live eternally. I oversee and take care of everything. I never tire, and I am never sleeping. Who can intercede in front of Me without my authorization? I know the future and the past, and you don’t acquire any of my knowledge without my permission. My knowledge encompasses the earth and the heavens. It is not difficult for Me to take care of everything in both of them. I am high in power and greatness over everyone and everything.

(2:256) Yet, despite my power, I do not force people’s hearts to accept my religion. The truth is clear compared to all else, so they can make their own decision. Then whoever rejects all false gods and believes in Me, has grasped the strongest rope of safety. The rope will never break so don’t let go. I hear all your prayers, and I know all that you are going through.

(2:257) I protect those who believe and guide them out of layers of darkness into the light where they can see clearly. Those who reject Me are protected by devils who take them away from the light and into dark evil layers of shadowy obscurity. They are the ones who will go to Hell for eternity.

(2:258) For example, don’t you know the story of the one who argued arrogantly? Because I gave him power, he argued with Abraham about Me. Abraham said, “My Lord is the one who controls life and death completely.” The king responded, “Over who lives or dies, I have the authority.” Abraham said, “God raises the sun from the East, so make it rise from the West with your supremacy.” The king was silenced, and I do not guide those who are unjust and knowingly reject Me.

(2:259) I guide believers to the truth like the one who was passing a dead city. He said out of curiosity, “How can God bring life back to this city after its ruin?” So I had him die, and a hundred years went by, and then I gave him life again. Then I said to him, “How long has it been?” He said, “I have been out for a day or less, maybe.” I said, “You have been dead for a century. But your food and drink has not spoiled, just look and see. Then look at the condition of your donkey. I am going to make you a witness and a sign for the people of the rebuilt city. So look at the bones carefully. Now see how I put them together and then cover them with muscle. When everything became clear, he said, “Now I understand better that God can do anything, and He is all powerful.”

(2:260) And remember when Abraham said, “Oh Lord show me how you bring life to the dead?”  “Don’t you believe?” I said. “Yes, but I want to strengthen my heart” he said. So I told him, “Gather four birds to you. Then put a piece of each on every hill and mountain near you. Then call them and they will come flying to you. Then you will see that I have the power to enforce my will, and I know everything about you.”

 

Chapter Notes:

Verse 243: The classical interpretation of verse 243 is that it stands alone and the next two verses are addressed to Muslims generally. The reason for this is that the classical approach assumes the truth of one of several contradictory stories that were being passed around without any authentication. The stories say that a group of the children of Israel were running away from disease or from an enemy, and then God miraculously had them all die and then miraculously brought them back to life. While it is not beyond God’s power to arbitrarily make people die and then bring them back to life, because the stories lack authentication and they are contradictory, the interpretation presented represents the best understanding of the verses when they are read together and in the context of verses 246-252 which follow it.

Verse 249: There are two narratives for understanding this verse. The first was presented above. It being that Saul used the water test to create an elite force from the regular army around him. The elite force was prepared to die that day fighting so they were ok with just drinking a handful of water. The majority of the army was afraid to fight. So they gave the excuse that they were too weak to fight on that day and they had to drink the water. Saul then uses the elite force around him to encourage and lead the rest of the army into victory. The alternative understanding of this verse is that Saul used the water test to turn away those who disobey God’s command by drinking from the water. He is then left with a much smaller force. The majority of the smaller force then thinks they are too weak to face the enemy. A group of them who are firm in their belief encourage the others by reminding them that God can give victory to a small group over a large group.

 

To see a detailed analysis of why the first understanding is better see Tafseer Al-Tabari on this verse. In addition, it appears that the commentators who followed the second approach might have been influenced by a misunderstanding of the bible. In the bible, a water test is used to separate out a small fighting force to make a surprise attack at night on the enemy. See Judges 7:5. However, the leader in that story is Gideon and the story is not mentioned at all when the bible talks about Saul, David, and Goliath later. See 1 Samuel 8-17. While there is more that can be said on this topic, we will stop here and God knows the truth. If you prefer the other understanding, here is the substitute language:

(249)    When Saul moved out with his troops he said, “God is testing you with a river. Those who will fight with me are those who don’t drink, or drink only a handful of water.” Most of the army drank and were turned away. Then when Saul passed the river with the believers they said, “We are not strong enough to defeat Goliath and his men today.” But those who were certain of meeting their lord on the Day of Resurrection responded, “God is with those who are patient and determined. How often has a smaller group defeated a larger group with God’s support and permission?”

Verse 253: See the note for verse 87 above.

Verse 255: In classical Arabic, the word “Kursi” means “knowledge” and it can be used to mean “chair” or “footstool”. So the companion and scholar of Quran Ibn Abbas explained the use of the word in this verse to mean “knowledge.” There are also narrations from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, which describe God as having a throne, and that everything in the heavens and the earth fit easily under the footstool (“kursi”) to the throne. These narrations, like all of God’s attributes, must be accepted with the knowledge that they are just meant to bring a little closer to our understanding something which is fundamentally beyond our understanding. So for example, we should accept that God has a throne because we are told God has a throne, even though we know it is nothing like any throne we can imagine. In any case, the narrations of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, do not necessarily apply to the interpretation of this particular verse. If they do, it does not necessarily mean they force an exclusive interpretation of the verse. So Ibn Abbas’s explanation was used in this text as it is the simplest concept to convey, and it appears to flow better with the ideas of the verse. Furthermore, the Quran was revealed in the language of the Arabs, and they would have understood the word to mean “knowledge” in the way it is used here. So it is a valid way of understanding this verse without implying that other ways aren’t also correct.  

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Disclaimer: The focus of this site is to provide a comprehensive and deep understanding of the Quran's message, and do so in a manner that is engaging and accessible to the average reader.  Every translation involves compromises, and the content on this site is no different. However, every effort was made to capture as much of the spirit and message of the Quran as possible, relying on the most respected and accepted classical scholarly texts in the field. God willing, the material on this site can be relied upon as a solid beginning on the journey towards understanding the Quran as it was revealed in its classical Arabic. If you have a question as to why a certain verse was translated a certain way, the answer can usually be found in: Fath Al-Qadeer by Imam Al-Shawkani, or feel free to E-mail us your questions.
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1- The Opening / Al-Fatihah

2-The Cow - Part 1
2-The Cow - Part 2
2-The Cow - Part 3
2-The Cow - Part 4
2-The Cow - Part 5
2-The Cow - Part 6
2-The Cow - Part 7
12-Yusuf
18-The Cave / Al-Kahf
19-Mary Mother of Jesus / Maryam
24-The Light 35-40
29-The Spider
67-God's Kingdom / Al-Mulk
68-The Pen / Al-Qalam

69-Day of Accountability / Al-Haqqah
70-The Levels / Al-Ma'arij:
71- Noah / Nuh
72- The Jinn / Al-Jinn
73-Wrapped with Responsibility / Al-Muzzammil

74-Get out of Bed / Al-Muddaththir

75-Day of Resurrection / Al-Qiyamah

76-Humanity / Al-Insan

77-What I send / Mursalat

78-The News / An-Naba

79-The Angels Who Pull Out Your Souls / An-Naziat

80-He Frowned / Abasa

81-When the Sun Collapses and Dies / At-Takwir

82-The Tearing / Al-Infitar

83-The Cheaters / Al-Mutaffifin

84-Ripped Open / Al-Inshiqaq
85-The Constellations / Al-Buruj

86-The Brilliant Stars / At-Tariq
87-The Most High / Al-A'la
88-The Overhelming Day / Al-Ghashiyah
89-The Dawn / Al-Fajr
90-The Sacred Land of Makkah / Al-Balad
91-The Sun / Ash-Shams
92-The Night / Al-Lail
93-Morning / Ad-Duha
94-Insight and Understanding / Ash-Sharh
95-The Fig / At-Teen
96-The Clot / Al-Alaq
97-The Night of Destiny / Al-Qadr
98-Clear Evidence / Al-Bayyinah

99-The Earthquake / Al-Zalzalah
100-Running Horses /Al-Adiyat
101-Terrifying / Al-Qariah
102-Collecting Things / Al-Takathur
103-Time / Asr
104-Backbiting / Al-Humazah
105-The Elephant / Al-Feel
106-The Tribe of Quraish / Quraish
107-Small Assistance / Al-Ma'un
108-A River in Paradise Called Kauthar / Al-Kauthar
109-Those Who Reject the Truth
110-My Support / Al-Nasr
111-Twisted Braided Rope / Al-Masad
112-Pure Intention / Al-Ikhlas
113-Daybreak / Al-Falaq
114-People / Al-Nas