Al-Maidah · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 31

A Crow comes to Teach Qabeel

In the previous ayaat we learned about the first qatal [murder] that took place on earth. Two brothers offered a sacrifice to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and one brother’s sacrifice was accepted and other’s was not. Many times when something wrong happens with us, instead of looking at ourselves we blame others. We become angry at them whereas the solution is in fixing ourselves and not in blaming others.

Allah said,

فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ غُرَاباً يَبْحَثُ فِى الاٌّرْضِ لِيُرِيَهُ كَيْفَ يُوَارِى سَوْءَةَ أَخِيهِ

“Then Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the dead body of his brother.”

When Qabeel murdered his brother he didn’t know what to do with the body – how to get rid of it. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent a bird who scratched the surface of earth.

As-Suddi said that the Companions said, “When his brother died, Qabeel left him on the bare ground and did not know how to bury him. Allah sent two crows, which fought with each other until one of them killed the other. So it dug a hole and threw sand over the dead corpse (which it placed in the hole).”

This is how the crow taught Qabeel how to hide the dead body of his brother. The word sa’ua سَوْءَةَ is used for being ashamed being disgraced. Here this word shows the evil of the person doing it i.e. look someone was so cruel that they killed me. It is also said that sa’ua is used for private parts that they must be covered. The entire dead body is called sa’ua because the entire body must be covered whether it’s a man or a woman’s. the entire body is like an aura or private part therefore it should be covered. The only exception is when someone dies in a state of ehraam.

When the Qabeel saw the crow he wondered if he is so miserable that a crow comes to teach him. He said,

قَالَ يَـوَيْلَتَا أَعَجَزْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِثْلَ هَـذَا الْغُرَابِ فَأُوَارِيَ سَوْءَةَ أَخِى فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ النَّـدِمِينَ

“He said, “Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother” Then he became one of those who regretted.”

He reproached himself that is he lesser or weaker than a crow that I couldn’t hide the corpse of my brother.  When he realized how lowly he had become in killing his brother, he became of those who have nidama [regret]. He harmed himself.


– No creation of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala should be considered lowly. Usually we say, “A crow has no purpose it should be killed.” It’s a wrong outlook. No creation of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala should be considered insignificant or useless. Where did the concept of flying come from? By watching birds. Even a crow can teach us something provided we have the sight to reflect and take lesson from it.

– Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Al-Hadi, He guides the people even when they have brought harm upon themselves or committed the most serious of crimes. He sent a crow to teach burial. This is the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

– The natural and the most respectful way of burying the dead bodies is under the soil. Donating any piece of a dead body; the eyes or a kidney is not allowed. It hurts the body.

– The entire body of the dead person is an aura and it must be covered at the time of burial. At the time of washing the dead person, the person washing it must not see any part that should be covered. Washing is done under a sheet. If the person notices something such as a discharge then he should conceal it and not share it with other people.

– When a person cuts off from his parents and relatives, he becomes regretful in dunya.  When a person blindly follows his desires he is regretful. We should be careful about what we say to other people and our attitude towards them. When we lose our calm we say or do things which we wouldn’t have said otherwise.

– We should stop ourselves from committing something wrong. The regret afterwards neither changes the situation nor does it help us.

A hadeeth states that the Prophet said,

مَا مِنْ ذَنْبٍ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ يُعَجِّلَ اللهُ عُقُوبَتَهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعَ مَا يَدَّخِرُ لِصَاحِبهِ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْبَغْيِ وَقَطِيعَةِ الرَّحِم

“There is no sin that is more worthy of Allah hastening its punishment in this life, in addition to what He has in store for its offender in the Hereafter, more than transgression and cutting the relations of the womb.”

The act of Qabeel included both of these. We are Allah’s and to Him is our return.


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