Al-Baqarah · Juz 1 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 61


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

1 – 25  | 26 – 43 | 45 – 60

Ayah 61 – Choosing the Inferior over what is Better

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds the Children of Israel of His favors upon them. He sent down the manna and quails which was a good, pure, beneficial easily acquired food and yet, they were ungrateful. They demanded that the fresh food being sent from the heavens be replaced with that which the earth grew. Living on same kind of food every day was not possible for them. They missed their old lifestyle and demanded variety.


The Children of Israel provided a long list of items that they desired. A person who has no purpose in life searches for variety. He is someone who easily gets bored with what he has and desires change. Not only is this being ungrateful for what one has but such desires keep one restless and unfulfilled.

[My Nafs is a Spoiled Toddler]

Prophet Musa’s reply is interesting. He asks, “Would you exchange what is better for what is less?” Clearly, the food being sent from the heavens was much better than what the earth grows. They did not have to work to earn a living and buy food. They did have to fetch or cook food. They did not have to plan what to cook today. Ask the ladies, who spend considerable amount of time fidgeting over this thought. Despite being blessed, the Children of Israel were ungrateful. And so are we! When we forget what we have or become discontent with it we are being ungrateful of the many favors of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala upon us. By consistently being in search for change or variety, we waste many precious hours and hard-earned money going after that which pleases our heart. We forget whatever this world has to offer is temporary pleasure and what is in the Hereafter is better and lasting.

Alteration was in the blood of the Children of Israel. They changed the Words of Allah, His commands, His religion and now blessings too.

A person who is always seeking change is inconsistent, lacks steadfastness and is unpredictable. This person has no purpose in life. The main thing that the Prophet ﷺ taught the Companions radhiAllahi ‘anhum was steadfastness and to be men of principles. They were not slaves to their moods or desires. They remained consistent in the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and in striving in His cause. They did not come with excuses such as, “Today, I am not feeling well. Let me skip my prayer, my class or going out in the Cause of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.” On the other hand, when we look at ourselves, we cannot quote many instances when we have been consistent. We lack consistency in worship and striving in the Cause of Allah. We lack commitment to religion, yet, we are so dearly committed to the charms of this world.

We give ourselves many excuses for not doing much in the Cause of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala but have we also ever provided ourselves excuses for not doing well in the dunya? We want the exceptional for our dunya and will exert ourselves in achieving that. Yet, we callously throw our Hereafter behind our backs because we lack time or required skill. It is not that we lack ‘time’ rather it is the ‘commitment’ and steadfastness that we lack. Let us ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to make us strong, productive and committed Muslims. Let us not throw our Hereafter out of our sights. It IS what we have to strive for.


Prophet Musa ‘alayhi salaam helps us find the root cause of our slacking in the Deen. We exchange what is better with that which is inferior. Clearly, the Hereafter is better than this inferior world. But because the world means so much to us that we compromise on our worship and learning Deen. Let us commit to change ourselves and gradually distance ourselves from the delusional life of this world. Let us take out the laghw (the unnecessary and non-beneficial) from our lives to give more time to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His Deen.

Look at your timewasters. Would you spend your time on social media, missed episodes, recreation and sleeping, if you have bills to pay and a living to earn? No! To survive and enjoy this life, we have to work. You have to disconnect yourself from play and amusement to actually work. How do we expect to enjoy in the Hereafter without disconnecting from the unnecessary and paying more attention to that which actually matters?

Another example of preferring the inferior over better is sleeping late, watching television, spending time on social media, or attending a late night wedding and then missing Fajr at its appointed time. Don’t miss out on the lasting rewards of the Hereafter over temporary delights of this world. Put the Hereafter before this world.

After such a demand, the Children of Israel were instructed to go down to any city and they will find in abundance what they had been asking for. Prophet Musa refused to supplicate to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for them because it was an inferior choice that they made. Ibn Katheer writes since their request was the result of boredom and arrogance and since fulfilling it was unnecessary, their request was denied.


We should reflect over our du’as. What do we ask for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala? When Zakariya ‘alayhi salaam made du’a for a heir, he did not do so because he wanted a child. Rather, he wanted someone who will carry forward the legacy of Zakariya and his forefathers ‘alayhi salaam. And what was the legacy of Zakariya ‘alayhi salaam? Riches of this world, or a business? No! It was calling people to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. and this is what Prophet Zakariya worried about. What would become of this mission after he passed away? Let us ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for the blessings of both the worlds and not limit our vision to this life’s pleasures only.   

Because of their going after the inferior they were covered with humiliation and misery.  “And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allah [upon them]…” meaning they deserved Allah’s anger as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states next. “That was because they [repeatedly] disbelieved in the signs of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing,” their continuous disobedience and taking of Allah’s ayaat in jest lead them to such an end.

Explaining disobedience and transgression Ibn Katheer writes that disobedience is to do what is prohibited while transgression entails overstepping the set limits of what is allowed and what is prohibited.

Imam Ahmad recorded, ‘Abdullah bin Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu saying that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

أَشَدُّ النَّاسِ عَذَابًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ رَجُلٌ قَتَلَهُ نَبِيٌّ أَوْ قَتَلَ نَبِيًّا: وَإِمَامُ ضَلَالَةٍ وَمُمَثِّلٌ مِنَ الْمُمَثِّلِين

“The people who will receive the most torment on the Day of Resurrection are: a man who was killed by a Prophet or who killed a Prophet, an unjust ruler and one who mutilates (the dead).”


Let us not play with the ayaat of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Let us not ignore the commands out of arrogance. If there is anything that you have a difficulty in accepting ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to open up your heart and make it easier for you to obey Him. If it’s a haram job or a relationship that you cannot leave, ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to rid you off of it. Ask Him for His permissible and good provision. Ask Him to make you submissive to His commands and well-pleased. Let us not invoke Allah’s wrath.

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing,” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]

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