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 15 (Verses 2:122–2:129): Covenant with Abraham



یٰبَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ اذۡکُرُوۡا نِعۡمَتِیَ الَّتِیۡۤ اَنۡعَمۡتُ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ اَنِّیۡ فَضَّلۡتُکُمۡ عَلَی الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۲۲﴾

2:122 O Children of Israel, call to mind My favour which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations.1

وَ اتَّقُوۡا یَوۡمًا لَّا تَجۡزِیۡ نَفۡسٌ عَنۡ نَّفۡسٍ شَیۡئًا وَّ لَا یُقۡبَلُ مِنۡہَا عَدۡلٌ وَّ لَا تَنۡفَعُہَا شَفَاعَۃٌ وَّ لَا ہُمۡ یُنۡصَرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲۳﴾

2:123 And be on your guard against a day when no soul will avail another in the least, neither will any compensation be accepted from it, nor will intercession benefit it, nor will they be helped.

وَ اِذِ ابۡتَلٰۤی اِبۡرٰہٖمَ رَبُّہٗ بِکَلِمٰتٍ فَاَتَمَّہُنَّ ؕ قَالَ اِنِّیۡ جَاعِلُکَ لِلنَّاسِ اِمَامًا ؕ قَالَ وَ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِیۡ ؕ قَالَ لَا یَنَالُ عَہۡدِی الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۲۴﴾

2:124 And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you a leader of people. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the wrongdoers, said He.2

وَ اِذۡ جَعَلۡنَا الۡبَیۡتَ مَثَابَۃً لِّلنَّاسِ وَ اَمۡنًا ؕ وَ اتَّخِذُوۡا مِنۡ مَّقَامِ اِبۡرٰہٖمَ مُصَلًّی ؕ وَ عَہِدۡنَاۤ اِلٰۤی اِبۡرٰہٖمَ وَ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلَ اَنۡ طَہِّرَا بَیۡتِیَ لِلطَّآئِفِیۡنَ وَ الۡعٰکِفِیۡنَ وَ الرُّکَّعِ السُّجُوۡدِ ﴿۱۲۵﴾

2:125 And when We made the House a resort for people and a (place of) security,3 and (saying): Take the Place of Abraham for a place of prayer.4 And We commanded Abraham and Ishmael,5 saying: Purify My House for those who visit (it) and those who abide (in it) for devotion and those who bow down (and) those who prostrate themselves.

وَ اِذۡ قَالَ اِبۡرٰہٖمُ رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡ ہٰذَا بَلَدًا اٰمِنًا وَّ ارۡزُقۡ اَہۡلَہٗ مِنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ مَنۡ اٰمَنَ مِنۡہُمۡ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ ؕ قَالَ وَ مَنۡ کَفَرَ فَاُمَتِّعُہٗ قَلِیۡلًا ثُمَّ اَضۡطَرُّہٗۤ اِلٰی عَذَابِ النَّارِ ؕ وَ بِئۡسَ الۡمَصِیۡرُ ﴿۱۲۶﴾

2:126 And when Abraham said: My Lord, make this a secure town and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day. He said: And whoever disbelieves, I shall grant him enjoyment for a short while, then I shall drive him to the punishment of the Fire. And it is an evil destination.6

وَ اِذۡ یَرۡفَعُ اِبۡرٰہٖمُ الۡقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الۡبَیۡتِ وَ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلُ ؕ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلۡ مِنَّا ؕ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ السَّمِیۡعُ الۡعَلِیۡمُ ﴿۱۲۷﴾

2:127 And when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House:7 Our Lord, accept from us; surely You are the Hearing, the Knowing.

رَبَّنَا وَ اجۡعَلۡنَا مُسۡلِمَیۡنِ لَکَ وَ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِنَاۤ اُمَّۃً مُّسۡلِمَۃً لَّکَ ۪ وَ اَرِنَا مَنَاسِکَنَا وَ تُبۡ عَلَیۡنَا ۚ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیۡمُ ﴿۱۲۸﴾

2:128 Our Lord, and make us both submissive to You, and (raise) from our offspring, a nation submissive to You,8 and show us our ways of devotion and turn to us (mercifully); surely You are the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.

رَبَّنَا وَ ابۡعَثۡ فِیۡہِمۡ رَسُوۡلًا مِّنۡہُمۡ یَتۡلُوۡا عَلَیۡہِمۡ اٰیٰتِکَ وَ یُعَلِّمُہُمُ الۡکِتٰبَ وَ الۡحِکۡمَۃَ وَ یُزَکِّیۡہِمۡ ؕ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ الۡعَزِیۡزُ الۡحَکِیۡمُ ﴿۱۲۹﴾٪

2:129 Our Lord, and raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Your messages and teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and purify them. Surely You are the Mighty, the Wise.9



  1. The Israelites are three times told in the Holy Quran (see earlier 2:40 and 2:47) that God had made them a great nation but that it was by their own evil deeds and forsaking the ways of righteousness that they were proving themselves unworthy of that greatness. Here they are being addressed the third time and reminded of the covenant which was made with Abraham, the great patriarch in whom the Israelites and the Ishmaelites met.
  2. Abraham was made spiritual leader of people because he was found perfect in fulfilling the Divine commandments. As a spiritual leader of three great nations of the world, that patriarch occupies a unique position. Having discussed at length that a prophet from the Ishmaelites had come in accordance with the prophecies of the Israelite prophets, the Holy Quran now proceeds to show that even the covenant with their great ancestor Abraham necessitated the appearance of a prophet in Arabia. The second part of the verse states that the spiritual leadership of the world was still with Abraham’s descendants. The covenant was made, not with Israel but with Abraham, and that therefore the seed of Ishmael and Isaac were equally to be blessed. In fact, as stated further on in 2:125, the covenant was made with both Abraham and Ishmael. The Jewish and Christian contention that the covenant made with Ishmael was simply of a temporal nature is groundless.
  3. Al-Bait or The House is the famous house known by this name to this day, the Ka‘bah. It is also known as Bait Allah or the House of Allah, and is the same as the Bethel of the Bible. History bears out these three distinguishing characteristics of the Ka‘bah. It exists from the remotest antiquity, it was visited annually by people from the most distant corners of Arabia, and its sacredness was respected by the whole of Arabia.
  4. The Ka‘bah, the spiritual centre of Islam, was connected with the name of Abraham, and pointed reference to this is made in the mention of Maqām Ibrāhīm or the Place of Abraham. It is true that a particular place, a small building supported by six pillars about eight feet high, situated in the Ka‘bah, is known by this name, and is incontrovertible evidence of Abraham’s connection with Arabia and its spiritual centre. But here really Maqām Ibrāhīm stands for the House itself. The injunction to take the Place of Abraham for a place of prayer means that the Ka‘bah shall be the Central Mosque of the Muslims. It is called the Place of Abraham because it was Abraham who purified it of the idols and it was Abraham who rebuilt The House as stated further on.
  5. Ishmael’s connection with Arabia is established by the Bible itself, for Kedar (son of Ishmael, Genesis 25:13) stands throughout the writings of the Old Testament for Arabia (Psalms 120:5, Isaiah 42:11 and 60:7). The Arab tradi­tion representing Abraham as coming with Hagar and Ishmael to the place where now Makkah is, is quite independent of the Bible statement, and the facts recor­ded in the Quran are borne out fully by Arab tradition and the Bible.
  6. Abraham, when settling Hagar and Ishmael near the Sacred House, which was already there, laid the foundations of the city of Makkah there. While Abraham prayed for provisions of life for the righteous only, God’s acceptance of the prayer included the wicked of that city as well (see 28:57).
  7. Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt the Ka‘bah, which was already there; see 14:37.
  8. The word translated as submissive is Muslim in the original. A Muslim is so called because he surrenders himself to the will of God or because he is secure from the slavery of the devil or because he enters into peace. Though all prophets were Muslims but only the followers of the Prophet Muhammad are known as a Muslim nation. At the time when these verses were revealed, there existed only a few Muslims in Madinah, and reference to a Muslim nation was still prophetical.
  9. The Messenger had appeared but the great task of teaching the Book and the Wisdom to the progeny of Ishmael, the Arabs, and the still greater task of purifying them of evil, had yet to be performed, and its mention at this time was therefore prophetical. The more one ponders on the unique transformation brought about by the Holy Prophet in Arabia, and through Arabia in the world, the more one’s head bows before the grandeur of this prophecy.