Why the name Al-Baqarah?
AL-BAQARAH (the Cow) has been so named from the story of the cow occurring in this Surah (ayaat 67-73). It has not, however, been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Surah. It will, therefore, be as wrong to translate the name Al-Baqarah into “the Cow” or “the Heifer” as to translate any English name, say Baker, Rice, Wolf etc., into their equivalents in other languages or vice versa, because this would imply that the Surah dealt with the subject of “the cow”. Many more Surahs of the Qur’an have been named in the same way because no comprehensive words exist in Arabic (in spite of its richness) to denote the wide scope of the subject discussed in them. As a matter of fact all human languages suffer from the same limitation.
Sequence and Theme of Surah
Though it is a Madani Surah, it follows naturally a Makki Surah Al- Fatihah, which ended with the prayer: “Show us the straight way“. Surah al-Baqarah begins with the answer to that prayer, “That is the Book (that) . . . is guidance . . .” This Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents etc., revolve round this central theme. Not only addressing Jews, but people of all time, who adapt all those evils and become hypocrites or Mushrik [idolaters].
The greater part of Al-Baqarah was revealed during the first two years of the Prophet’s life at Madinah. The smaller part, which was revealed at a later period, has been included in this Surah because its contents are closely related to those dealt with in this Surah. For instance, the ayaat prohibiting interest were revealed during the last period of the Prophet’s life but have been inserted in this Surah. For the same reason, the last ayaat (284-286) of this Surah, which were revealed at Makkah before the migration of the Prophet to Madinah, have also been included in it.
In order to understand the meaning of this Surah, we should know its historical background:
At Makkah the Quran generally addressed the mushrik Quraish who were ignorant of Islam, but at Madinah it was also concerned with the Jews who were acquainted with the creed of the Unity of Allah, Prophethood, Revelation, the Hereafter and angels. They also professed to believe in the law which was revealed by Allah to their Prophet Moses (Allah’s peace be upon him), and in principle, their way was the same (Islam) that was being taught by Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him). But they had strayed away from it during the centuries of degeneration and had adopted many un- Islamic creeds, rites and customs of which there was no mention and for which there was no sanction in the Torah. They became bitter enemies of those who came to teach them the Right Way and did their worst to defeat every such effort. Though they were originally Muslims, they had swerved from the real Islam and made innovations and alterations in it and had fallen victims to hair splitting and sectarianism. They had forgotten and forsaken Allah; they had even given up their original name “Muslim” and adopted the name “Jew” instead, and made religion the sole monopoly of the children of Israel.
The Virtues of Surah Al-Baqarah
In Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i, it is recorded that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu `anhu said that the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam said,
لَا تَجْعَلُوا بُيُوتَكُمْ قُبُورًا فَإِنَّ الْبَيْتَ الَّذِي تُقْرَأُ فِيهِ سُورَةُ الْبَقَرَةِ لَا يَدْخُلُهُ الشَّيْطَان
“Do not turn your houses into graves. Verily, Shaytan does not enter the house where Surah Al-Baqarah is recited.”
At-Tirmidhi said, Hasan Sahih.
Further, Sahl bin Sa`d said that the Messenger of Allah said,
إِنَّ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ سَنَامًا، وَإِنَّ سَنَامَ الْقُرْآنِ الْبَقَرَةُ، وَإِنَّ مَنْ قَرَأَهَا فِي بَيْتِهِ لَيْلَةً لَمْ يَدْخُلْهُ الشَّيْطَانُ ثَلَاثَ لَيَالٍ، وَمَنْ قَرَأَهَا فِي بَيْتِهِ نَهَارًا لَمْ يَدْخُلْهُ الشَّيْطَانُ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّام
“Everything has a hump (or, high peek), and Al-Baqarah is the high peek of the Qur’an. Whoever recites Al-Baqarah at night in his house, then Shaytan will not enter that house for three nights. Whoever recites it during a day in his house, then Shaytan will not enter that house for three days.”
Abu Al-Qasim At-Tabarani, Abu Hatim Ibn Hibban in his Sahih and Ibn Marduwyah, collected this Hadith.
Also, Al-Bukhari recorded that Usayd bin Hudayr said that he was once reciting Surah Al-Baqarah while his horse was tied next to him. The horse started to make some noise. When Usayd stopped reciting, the horse stopped moving about. When he resumed reading, the horse started moving about again. When he stopped reciting, the horse stopped moving, and when he resumed reading, the horse started to move again. Meanwhile, his son Yahya was close to the horse, and he feared that the horse might step on him. When he moved his son back, he looked up to the sky and saw a cloud radiating with light that looked like lamps. In the morning, he went to the Prophet and told him what had happened and then said, “O Messenger of Allah! My son Yahya was close to the horse and I feared that she might step on him. When I attended to him and raised my head to the sky, I saw a cloud with lights like lamps. So I went, but I couldn’t see it.”‘ The Prophet said, “Do you know what that was?” He said, “No.” The Prophet said,
تِلْكَ الْمَلَائِكَةُ دَنَتْ لِصَوْتِكَ وَلَو قَرَأْتَ لَأَصْبَحْتَ يَنْظُرُ النَّاسُ إِلَيْهَا، لَا تَتَوارَى مِنْهُم
“They were the angels, they came close hearing your voice (reciting Surah Al-Baqarah), and if you had kept reading, the people would have been able to see the angels when the morning came, and the angels would not be hidden from their eyes.”
This is the narration reported by Imam Abu Ubayd Al-Qasim bin Salam in his book Fada’il Al-Qur’an.
Imam Ahmad said that Abu Nu`aym narrated to them that Bishr bin Muhajir said that `Abdullah bin Buraydah narrated to him from his father, “I was sitting with the Prophet and I heard him say,
تَعَلَّمُوا سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ فَإِنَّ أَخْذَهَا بَرَكَةٌ، وَتَرْكَهَا حَسْرَةٌ، وَلَا تَسْتَطِيعُهَا الْبَطَلَة
“Learn Surat Al-Baqarah, because in learning it there is blessing, in ignoring it there is sorrow, and the sorceresses cannot memorize it.”
He kept silent for a while and then said:
“Learn Surat Al-Baqarah and Al `Imran because they are two lights and they shade their people on the Day of Resurrection, just as two clouds, two spaces of shade or two lines of (flying) birds.”
The Qur’an will meet its companion in the shape of a pale-faced man on the Day of Resurrection when his grave is opened.
The Qur’an will ask him, “Do you know me?”
The man will say, “I do not know you.”
The Qur’an will say,
“I am your companion, the Qur’an, which has brought you thirst during the heat and made you stay up during the night. Every merchant has his certain trade. But, this Day, you are behind all types of trade.’”
Kingship will then be given to him in his right hand, eternal life in his left hand and the crown of grace will be placed on his head. His parents will also be granted two garments that the people of this life could never afford. They will say, “Why were we granted these garments?”
It will be said, “Because your son was carrying the Qur’an.” It will be said (to the reader of the Qur’an), “ Read and ascend through the levels of Paradise.” He will go on ascending as long as he recites, whether reciting slowly or quickly.
Ibn Majah also recorded part of this Hadith from Bishr bin Al-Muhajir, and this chain of narrators is Hasan, according to the criteria of Imam Muslim.
“Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.”
[Surah al-Baqarah 2: 128]
Ameen Ya Rabul Alameen!