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 4 (Verses 2:30–2:39): Greatness of Mankind and Need for Revelation

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Translation:

وَ اِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّکَ لِلۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ اِنِّیۡ جَاعِلٌ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ خَلِیۡفَۃً ؕ قَالُوۡۤا اَتَجۡعَلُ فِیۡہَا مَنۡ یُّفۡسِدُ فِیۡہَا وَ یَسۡفِکُ الدِّمَآءَ ۚ وَ نَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِکَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَکَ ؕ قَالَ اِنِّیۡۤ اَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۳۰﴾

2:30 And when your Lord said to the angels,1 I am going to place a ruler in the earth,2 they said: Will You place in it such as make mischief in it and shed blood? And we celebrate Your praise and extol Your holiness. He said: Surely I know what you do not know.3

وَ عَلَّمَ اٰدَمَ الۡاَسۡمَآءَ کُلَّہَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَہُمۡ عَلَی الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ ۙ فَقَالَ اَنۡۢبِـُٔوۡنِیۡ بِاَسۡمَآءِ ہٰۤؤُلَآءِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ صٰدِقِیۡنَ ﴿۳۱﴾

2:31 And He taught Adam4 all the names,5 then presented them to the angels; He said: Tell Me the names of those if you are right.

قَالُوۡا سُبۡحٰنَکَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَاۤ اِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَا ؕ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ الۡعَلِیۡمُ الۡحَکِیۡمُ ﴿۳۲﴾

2:32 They said: Glory be to You! we have no knowledge but what You have taught us. Surely You are the Knowing, the Wise.

قَالَ یٰۤاٰدَمُ اَنۡۢبِئۡہُمۡ بِاَسۡمَآئِہِمۡ ۚ فَلَمَّاۤ اَنۡۢبَاَہُمۡ بِاَسۡمَآئِہِمۡ ۙ قَالَ اَلَمۡ اَقُلۡ لَّکُمۡ اِنِّیۡۤ اَعۡلَمُ غَیۡبَ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ۙ وَ اَعۡلَمُ مَا تُبۡدُوۡنَ وَ مَا کُنۡتُمۡ تَکۡتُمُوۡنَ ﴿۳۳﴾

2:33 He said: O Adam, inform them of their names. So when he informed them of their names, He said: Did I not say to you that I know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth? And I know what you manifest and what you hide.6

وَ اِذۡ قُلۡنَا لِلۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ اسۡجُدُوۡا لِاٰدَمَ فَسَجَدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِبۡلِیۡسَ ؕ اَبٰی وَ اسۡتَکۡبَرَ ٭۫ وَ کَانَ مِنَ الۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ ﴿۳۴﴾

2:34 And when We said to the angels, Be submissive to Adam, they submitted,7 but not Iblīs. He refused and was proud, and he was one of the disbelievers.8

وَ قُلۡنَا یٰۤاٰدَمُ اسۡکُنۡ اَنۡتَ وَ زَوۡجُکَ الۡجَنَّۃَ وَ کُلَا مِنۡہَا رَغَدًا حَیۡثُ شِئۡتُمَا ۪ وَ لَا تَقۡرَبَا ہٰذِہِ الشَّجَرَۃَ فَتَکُوۡنَا مِنَ الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ ﴿۳۵﴾

2:35 And We said: O Adam, dwell you and your wife in the garden, and eat from it a plentiful (food) wherever you wish,9 and do not approach this tree or you would be from among the unjust.10

فَاَزَلَّہُمَا الشَّیۡطٰنُ عَنۡہَا فَاَخۡرَجَہُمَا مِمَّا کَانَا فِیۡہِ ۪ وَ قُلۡنَا اہۡبِطُوۡا بَعۡضُکُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ عَدُوٌّ ۚ وَ لَکُمۡ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ مُسۡتَقَرٌّ وَّ مَتَاعٌ اِلٰی حِیۡنٍ ﴿۳۶﴾

2:36 But the devil made them slip from it, and caused them to depart from the state in which they were.11 And We said: Go forth, some of you are enemies of others.12 And there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time.

فَتَلَقّٰۤی اٰدَمُ مِنۡ رَّبِّہٖ کَلِمٰتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡہِ ؕ اِنَّہٗ ہُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیۡمُ ﴿۳۷﴾

2:37 Then Adam received (revealed) words from his Lord, and He turned to him (mercifully). Surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.13

قُلۡنَا اہۡبِطُوۡا مِنۡہَا جَمِیۡعًا ۚ فَاِمَّا یَاۡتِیَنَّکُمۡ مِّنِّیۡ ہُدًی فَمَنۡ تَبِعَ ہُدَایَ فَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ ﴿۳۸﴾

2:38 We said: Go forth from this (state) all. Surely a guidance from Me will come to you, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.14

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا وَ کَذَّبُوۡا بِاٰیٰتِنَاۤ اُولٰٓئِکَ اَصۡحٰبُ النَّارِ ۚ ہُمۡ فِیۡہَا خٰلِدُوۡنَ ﴿٪۳۹﴾

2:39 And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject Our messages, they are the companions of the Fire; in it they will abide.15

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Commentary:

  1. Allah’s saying to the angels is really the expression of an intention which is to be brought into execution. It is not a conversation, or a consultation with the angels; it is an expression of the Divine will to those intermediary beings who are entrusted by the Divine Being with its execution. The existence of such intermediaries has been recognized by the righteous in all ages and all countries.
  2. This shows the high place that man was destined to hold in the whole of creation. What is stated here is an allegorical description of the pref­erence of man above the whole of the creation on this earth, and then of the elec­tion of those righteous servants of Allah from among men themselves who lead others into the right path. One view is that the word “ruler” (khalīfa) here refers to the whole of mankind, which is corroborated by the Quran itself in 6:165.
  3. Being entrusted with such great powers, man could use them rightly or wrongly. The whole history of mankind is briefly written in this one verse. Man is the greatest killer on this earth but he also turns the gifts of God to the best use. To God was known the brighter side of this picture; hence the words, I know what you do not know.
  4. Nowhere in the Holy Quran is it affirmed that Adam was the first man or that there was no creation before him. Great Muslim theologians have held that there were many Adams — thousands of Adams — before the great ancestor of mankind known by this name. Adam, therefore, though it may also be the name of a particular man, stands for mankind generally.
  5. Teaching Adam the names signifies the vast capability of man and the superiority of his knowledge to that of the angels. Or, the reference may be to the faculty of speech, which is the real source of the excellence of man above the whole of creation.
  6. “What you hide” refers to those great qualities in man which pre­ponderate the evil in him, and which remain hidden until they are made manifest through the Divine gift of knowledge. The immense capability of man for pro­gress remains hidden, while the evil of shedding blood is manifested in a very primary stage in his growth.
  7. Adam throughout this section stands for man generally; so sub­mission is to man generally. Man has a superiority over the angels on account of his great gift of knowledge of things, the angels being the controlling powers of the forces of nature. By his knowledge man could harness the forces of nature and exercise control over them; in other words, the angels submitted to him.
  8. Iblīs and Satan (Arabic: shaiṭān) refer to one and the same being. The word Iblīs is used when the evil one’s evil is limited to himself, and Satan, when his evil affects others besides himself. The angels’ submission meant that man could control the forces of nature by his knowledge of things. But he himself was a part of nature, and he could not conquer his own evil desires. The conquest of self needed yet another act of Divine mercy, the sending of Divine Revelation. Note that Iblīs was not one of the angels.
  9. The garden spoken of in this verse was on this earth, as it was on the earth that man was placed. It was certainly not the paradise to which people go after death, and from which they will never be expelled (15:48). The placing in the garden signifies leading a life of ease and comfort, as is shown by the words that follow: “Eat from it a plentiful food wherever you wish”. These may also be translated as: Eat from it wherever you wish, having abundance of all things.
  10. It was the tree of the spiritual death of man, the tree of evil. Compare 14:24–26, where a good word is likened to “a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are high, yielding its fruit in every season”, and an evil word is likened to “an evil tree pulled up from the earth’s surface; it has no sta­bi­lity”. The order to eat from the earth a plentiful food but not to approach evil is really a des­cription of what pure human nature is. Man is entitled to all the bene­fits of nature to maintain the body so long as he does not forget his soul.
  11. The words mean that the devil made them commit a fault uninten­tionally. The result was that they were made to depart from the happy condition in which they were. The Quran contradicts the Bible: it was not the serpent that misled Eve, nor did Eve mislead Adam. The devil cast an evil sugges­tion into the minds of both Adam and Eve, as he casts evil suggestions into the mind of every son and daughter of Adam and Eve.
  12. The new condition in which man finds himself by submitting to his low desires is the condition of the mutual enmity of one to the other, the tyranny of man to man being undoubtedly the greatest evil which man can commit. The use of the words “some of you are enemies of others” shows clearly that this add­ress is to all mankind.
  13. Man is found too weak to overcome the evil suggestions of the devil or the evil inclinations in him, however strong he may be to conquer the forces of nature. So God comes to his help and reveals Himself to him. He sends down revelation which, strengthening his faith in God, gives him the strength to over­come the devil and reject his suggestions.
  14. This is a statement of a general law that Divine Revelation will be granted to the whole of humanity and prophets will appear everywhere from time to time, and by following the guidance sent by God through His prophets people will attain to a state of perfection in which “no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve”. Those who truly follow the Divine Revelation shall have no fear of the devil misleading them, nor shall they grieve at wasting the opportunity given them in this life.
  15. The people spoken of in this verse are those who not only disbelieve but also exert their utmost to oppose revealed truth and uproot it. They keep company with evil in this life, so the fire becomes their companion in the next to purge them of the evil consequences of their evil deeds. Their hearts burn with evil passions in this life, and it is this very fire that assumes a palpable shape in the next. Note that the word khālidūn (“abide”) signifies simply abiding, which may be for a long time, and does not necessarily convey the idea of perpetuity.

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