English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 2: Al-Baqarah — The Cow (Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections, 286 verses)

Section 10 (Verses 2:83–2:86): Their Covenant and its Violation



وَ اِذۡ اَخَذۡنَا مِیۡثَاقَ بَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ لَا تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ اِلَّا اللّٰہَ ۟ وَ بِالۡوَالِدَیۡنِ اِحۡسَانًا وَّ ذِی ‌الۡقُرۡبٰی وَ الۡیَتٰمٰی وَ الۡمَسٰکِیۡنِ وَ قُوۡلُوۡا لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنًا وَّ اَقِیۡمُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ وَ اٰتُوا الزَّکٰوۃَ ؕ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّیۡتُمۡ اِلَّا قَلِیۡلًا مِّنۡکُمۡ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ مُّعۡرِضُوۡنَ ﴿۸۳﴾

2:83 And when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel:1 You shall serve none but Allah. And do good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to orphans and the needy, and speak good (words) to (all) people,2 and keep up prayer and give the due charity.3 Then you turned back except a few of you, and you are averse.

وَ اِذۡ اَخَذۡنَا مِیۡثَاقَکُمۡ لَا تَسۡفِکُوۡنَ دِمَآءَکُمۡ وَ لَا تُخۡرِجُوۡنَ اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ مِّنۡ دِیَارِکُمۡ ثُمَّ اَقۡرَرۡتُمۡ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ تَشۡہَدُوۡنَ ﴿۸۴﴾

2:84 And when We made a covenant with you: You shall not shed your blood, nor turn your people out of your cities; then you promised and you bear witness.4

ثُمَّ اَنۡتُمۡ ہٰۤـؤُلَآءِ تَقۡتُلُوۡنَ اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ وَ تُخۡرِجُوۡنَ فَرِیۡقًا مِّنۡکُمۡ مِّنۡ دِیَارِہِمۡ ۫ تَظٰہَرُوۡنَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ بِالۡاِثۡمِ وَ الۡعُدۡوَانِ ؕ وَ اِنۡ یَّاۡتُوۡکُمۡ اُسٰرٰی تُفٰدُوۡہُمۡ وَ ہُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَیۡکُمۡ اِخۡرَاجُہُمۡ ؕ اَفَتُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِبَعۡضِ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ تَکۡفُرُوۡنَ بِبَعۡضٍ ۚ فَمَا جَزَآءُ مَنۡ یَّفۡعَلُ ذٰلِکَ مِنۡکُمۡ اِلَّا خِزۡیٌ فِی الۡحَیٰوۃِ الدُّنۡیَا ۚ وَ یَوۡمَ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ یُرَدُّوۡنَ اِلٰۤی اَشَدِّ الۡعَذَابِ ؕ وَ مَا اللّٰہُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ ﴿۸۵﴾

2:85 Yet you it is who would kill your people and turn some of you out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits. And if they should come to you as captives you would ransom them, whereas their turning out itself was unlawful for you. Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other?5 What then is the reward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of Resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous punishment. And Allah is not heedless of what you do.

اُولٰٓئِکَ الَّذِیۡنَ اشۡتَرَوُا الۡحَیٰوۃَ الدُّنۡیَا بِالۡاٰخِرَۃِ ۫ فَلَا یُخَفَّفُ عَنۡہُمُ الۡعَذَابُ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یُنۡصَرُوۡنَ ﴿٪۸۶﴾

2:86 These are they who buy the life of this world for the Hereafter, so their punishment shall not be lightened, nor shall they be helped.



  1. Allah’s making a covenant with a people signifies His giving command­ments to them.
  2. The word qaul (speaking) is used to express all kinds of deeds, and hence the speaking of good words to all stands for kind dealing with all.
  3. Prayer and zakāt (“due charity”) as enjoined on the Israelites differed from the Islamic prayer and zakāt in details. The directions regarding tithe among the Israelites are contained in Deuteronomy 14:28–29.
  4. The previous verse speaks of a covenant with the Children of Israel while this one speaks of a covenant with you. The reference here is to the impor­tant treaty of mutual obligation in writing which the Holy Prophet entered into with the Jews when he settled at Madinah. By this treaty the Muslims and the Jews were bound not only not to turn their hands against each other but also to defend one another against a common enemy.
  5. The reference is to the terms of the original treaty under which the Jews were bound to ransom the Muslims if they were made captives by an enemy. They did not openly repudiate the treaty but intrigued with the enemy to turn the Muslims out of Madinah. The reference in believing in a part of the book and disbelieving in the other is to this conduct of the Jews. Most commentators, however, understand that the reference here is to the alliance which the two Jewish tribes, Quraizah and Nadir, living side by side at Madinah, had made with Aus and Khazraj, the two rival tribes of Madinah respectively. When the latter fought against each other, their allies took part in the fighting, and thus one Jewish tribe slaughtered and imprisoned the other and laid waste their habitations, but after­wards collected subscriptions for the release of the Jewish prisoners, on the ground that the law commanded them to redeem the prisoners and they fought against their co-religionists for the honour of their allies.