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 8 (Verses 2:62–2:71): Israelites’ Degeneration



اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ الَّذِیۡنَ ہَادُوۡا وَ النَّصٰرٰی وَ الصّٰبِئِیۡنَ مَنۡ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ وَ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَہُمۡ اَجۡرُہُمۡ عِنۡدَ رَبِّہِمۡ ۪ۚ وَ لَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ ﴿۶۲﴾

2:62 Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians,1 whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.2

وَ اِذۡ اَخَذۡنَا مِیۡثَاقَکُمۡ وَ رَفَعۡنَا فَوۡقَکُمُ الطُّوۡرَ ؕ خُذُوۡا مَاۤ اٰتَیۡنٰکُمۡ بِقُوَّۃٍ وَّ اذۡکُرُوۡا مَا فِیۡہِ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿۶۳﴾

2:63 And when We made a covenant with you and raised the mountain above you:3 Hold on firmly what We have given you, and bear in mind what is in it, so that you may guard against evil.

ثُمَّ تَوَلَّیۡتُمۡ مِّنۡۢ بَعۡدِ ذٰلِکَ ۚ فَلَوۡ لَا فَضۡلُ اللّٰہِ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ رَحۡمَتُہٗ لَکُنۡتُمۡ مِّنَ الۡخٰسِرِیۡنَ ﴿۶۴﴾

2:64 Then after that you turned back; and if it had not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy on you, you would certainly have been among the losers.

وَ لَقَدۡ عَلِمۡتُمُ الَّذِیۡنَ اعۡتَدَوۡا مِنۡکُمۡ فِی السَّبۡتِ فَقُلۡنَا لَہُمۡ کُوۡنُوۡا قِرَدَۃً خٰسِئِیۡنَ ﴿ۚ۶۵﴾

2:65 And indeed you know those among you who violated the Sabbath,4 so We said to them: Be (as) apes, despised and hated.5

فَجَعَلۡنٰہَا نَکَالًا لِّمَا بَیۡنَ یَدَیۡہَا وَ مَا خَلۡفَہَا وَ مَوۡعِظَۃً لِّلۡمُتَّقِیۡنَ ﴿۶۶﴾

2:66 So We made them an example to those who witnessed it and those who came after it and an admonition to those who guard against evil.

وَ اِذۡ قَالَ مُوۡسٰی لِقَوۡمِہٖۤ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یَاۡمُرُکُمۡ اَنۡ تَذۡبَحُوۡا بَقَرَۃً ؕ قَالُوۡۤا اَتَتَّخِذُنَا ہُزُوًا ؕ قَالَ اَعُوۡذُ بِاللّٰہِ اَنۡ اَکُوۡنَ مِنَ الۡجٰہِلِیۡنَ ﴿۶۷﴾

2:67 And when Moses said to his people: Allah commands you to sacrifice a cow.6 They said: Do you ridicule us? He said: I seek refuge with Allah from being one of the ignorant.

قَالُوا ادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُبَیِّنۡ لَّنَا مَا ہِیَ ؕ قَالَ اِنَّہٗ یَقُوۡلُ اِنَّہَا بَقَرَۃٌ لَّا فَارِضٌ وَّ لَا بِکۡرٌ ؕ عَوَانٌۢ بَیۡنَ ذٰلِکَ ؕ فَافۡعَلُوۡا مَا تُؤۡمَرُوۡنَ ﴿۶۸﴾

2:68 They said: Call on your Lord for our sake to make it plain to us what she is. (Moses) said: He says, Surely she is a cow neither advanced in age nor too young, of middle age between these (two); so do what you are commanded.

قَالُوا ادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُبَیِّنۡ لَّنَا مَا لَوۡنُہَا ؕ قَالَ اِنَّہٗ یَقُوۡلُ اِنَّہَا بَقَرَۃٌ صَفۡرَآءُ ۙ فَاقِعٌ لَّوۡنُہَا تَسُرُّ النّٰظِرِیۡنَ ﴿۶۹﴾

2:69 They said: Call on your Lord for our sake to make it clear to us what her colour is. (Moses) said: He says, She is a yellow cow; her colour is intensely yellow delighting the onlookers.

قَالُوا ادۡعُ لَنَا رَبَّکَ یُبَیِّنۡ لَّنَا مَا ہِیَ ۙ اِنَّ الۡبَقَرَ تَشٰبَہَ عَلَیۡنَا ؕ وَ اِنَّاۤ اِنۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ لَمُہۡتَدُوۡنَ ﴿۷۰﴾

2:70 They said: Call on your Lord for our sake to make it clear to us what she is, for surely to us cows are all alike, and if Allah please we shall surely be guided aright.

قَالَ اِنَّہٗ یَقُوۡلُ اِنَّہَا بَقَرَۃٌ لَّا ذَلُوۡلٌ تُثِیۡرُ الۡاَرۡضَ وَ لَا تَسۡقِی الۡحَرۡثَ ۚ مُسَلَّمَۃٌ لَّا شِیَۃَ فِیۡہَا ؕ قَالُوا الۡـٰٔنَ جِئۡتَ بِالۡحَقِّ ؕ فَذَبَحُوۡہَا وَ مَا کَادُوۡا یَفۡعَلُوۡنَ ﴿٪۷۱﴾

2:71 (Moses) said: He says: She is a cow not made submissive to plough the land, nor does she water the crops, sound, without a blemish in her. They said: Now you have brought the truth. So they slaughtered her, though they were not inclined to do (it).



  1. The commentators hold different opinions regarding Sabians, most of them agreeing that they are representatives of a religion between Judaism and Christianity, based on the doctrine of unity, but also maintaining worship of angels.
  2. This verse strikes at the root of the idea of a favoured nation whose members alone may be entitled to salvation. The subject is introduced here to show that even the Jews, despite their transgressions which had made them deser­ving of Divine wrath, were entitled to a goodly reward if they believed and did good deeds. The statement made here is that salvation cannot be attained by mere lip-profession by any people, not even by the Muslims, unless they adhere to a true belief and do good deeds. The existence of good people in other religions is not denied by the Holy Quran, but perfect peace, or the state of absolute con­tent­ment which is indicated by freedom from fear and grief, is obtainable only in Islam, because it alone is the religion of absolute submission to the Divine Being.
  3. There is nothing in the words of the Quran to support the baseless story that the mountain was suspended in the air over the heads of the Israelites to frighten them into submission. The use of the word raf‘ (“raised”) is in accord­ance with the Arabic idiom, for it signifies the making high or lofty of a building.
  4. There is no Sabbath among the Muslims because in Islam no particular day is set apart for Divine worship. On the other hand, the Muslim is required to pray in the very midst of his everyday work, and even the Jumu‘ah (Friday) prayers are no exception, for the Quran expressly allows the doing of work both before and after the Jumu‘ah prayers.
  5. An early commentator, Mujahid, gives the following explanation: “They were not transformed or metamorphosed; it is only a parable which Allah has set forth for them, the like of what He has set forth in likening them to asses (62:5), i.e., their hearts were transformed, not that they were metamorphosed into apes.”
  6. As the Israelites held the cow in great honour, and even worshipped it, as is clear from their worship of the golden calf, they were ordered to slaughter such cows as were usually let loose to wander and worshipped as sacred objects, the aim being to root out cow-worship from among them.