Al-Baqarah · Juz 1 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayaat 120 – 121


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

1 – 25  | 26 – 44 | 45 – 60 | 61 – 77 | 78 – 103

The Guidance of Allah is the Only Guidance

The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was sent as the mercy for all mankind. Out of his genuine concern for others, he wished to save as many people from misguidance and damnation as he could. He took pains to convince the deniers, and was specially lenient and gentle with the People of the Book. In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala informs him that their denial is not due to lack of convincing arguments and proofs, but is motivated by pride and self-satisfaction. Each of the two groups – the Jews and the Christians – believed that only they were rightly guided.


The religions of the Jews and the Christians, no doubt, were once genuine and had been instituted by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. But each had since distorted its religion out of shape; moreover, in sending down Islam as the final Shari’ah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala abrogated all the earlier ones.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala informs the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that there is no likelihood of pleasing either of them until and unless he accepts their religion. Therefore, do not seek what pleases or appeases them, and stick to what pleases Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by calling them to the truth that He sent you with.

“Verily, the guidance of Allah (i.e. Islamic Monotheism) that is the (only) guidance,” meaning Islam is straight, perfect and comprehensive religion – the earlier religions have been distorted. We read in the stories of the prophets that each of them called its people to worshiping only One God and to not associate any partners with Him. In each era, the message was of Tawheed [Oneness]. Later, people disputed among themselves, followed their desires and created their own forms of religion. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did not instruct anyone to become a Jew or a Christian, rather when He addresses Prophet Ibraheem [Abraham] ‘alayhi salaam He commands him to become Muslim (as we will read in upcoming ayaat). So, if Prophet Ibraheem was instructed to become Muslim [the submissive], then from where did Judaism and Christianity emerge?

Since the deniers are not willing to extricate themselves from their desires and fancies, it is not possible to please them without accepting their opinions – a thing which a Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam can never do. Should they affect a more friendly stance towards the Prophet, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala asks him to say to them in plain and simple words that the only guidance worth the name is that which comes from Allah. He has made it clear that Islam is now the only form of guidance acceptable to Him.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And if you were to follow their desires after what you have received of Knowledge, then you would have against Allah neither any Wali [protector or guardian] nor any helper.” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is warning His beloved salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that if he kept Islam aside and followed the people (in order to please them), then he will have no protector or helper.

Now, supposing just for the sake of supposing that he should accept their fancies in spite of having received the Truth from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, then in such a case he would find no helper to save him from divine wrath. We know this will not happen because the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam will never displease Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The Qur’an confirms that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is pleased and will always remain pleased with the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The ayah implies that they will never be pleased with him unless he followed their desires. Therefore, he should not worry too much about them.


Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala created us Muslim without any labels. We should get rid of the labels that we have adopted by following a particular school, a particular group or a scholar. Do not be divided into sects.

Personal desires, individual opinions or baseless conjectures have no place in religion. Religion is not ours to modify. We are to accept what we have been given and look at the lives of the prophets ‘alayhi salaam how they submitted to the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

This ayah carries a stern warning for the Muslim Ummah against imitating the ways and methods of the people of other religions. We should study our religion and learn the Qur’an and Sunnah. We cannot follow any group because our heart desires so.

The Meaning of Correct Tilawah

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Those to whom We have given the Book recite it with its true recital.”

What is true recital? It encompasses proper recitation taking care of all the rules.

Ibn Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “The true recital is allowing what it makes lawful; prohibiting what it makes unlawful; reciting it as it was revealed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala; not changing the words from their places; and not interpreting it with other than its actual interpretation.”

Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu was of the opinion that it means making lawful what the Qur’an allows and prohibiting what the Qur’an makes unlawful, and not altering its meanings.

‘Umar bin Al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu commented, “They are those who when they recite an ayah that mentions mercy, they ask Allah for it, and when they recite an ayah that mentions torment, they seek refuge with Allah from it.” This meaning was attributed to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for when he used to recite an ayah of mercy, he invoked Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for mercy. And when he recited an ayah of torment, he sought refuge from it with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

[How to Improve Your Relationship with the Qur’an]

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala attributes true recital to one’s belief, “They [are the ones who] believe in it.” It means the ones make lawful what the Book commands them to be lawful, and make unlawful what the Book commands them to be unlawful, and who understand the Book as it was intended without making alterations are the believers.

[Adaab required of a Qur’an Student]

In Tafseer Ibn Katheer it appears that this ayah was about the People of the Book. If they recited their Book as they were intended then they have no qualms in accepting Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as the Messenger of Allah. The people that perfectly adhered to the Books that were revealed to the previous prophets will believe in the Qur’an as well.

[Conditions One must meet to benefit from the Qur’an]

At another place, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ أَقَامُواْ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالإِنجِيلَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيهِمْ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ  لاّكَلُواْ مِن فَوْقِهِمْ وَمِن تَحْتِ أَرْجُلِهِم

“And if only they had acted according to the Torah, the Injeel, and what has (now) been sent down to them from their Lord (the Qur’an), they would surely, have gotten provision from above them and from underneath their feet.”  [Al-Ma’idah 5:66].


الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِىَّ الأُمِّىَّ الَّذِى يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِى التَّوْرَاةِ وَالإِنجِيلِ

“Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write (i.e. Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) whom they find written with them in the Torah and the Injeel.” [Al-A’raf 7:157]

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends the ayah by saying whoever disbelieves in the Qur’an is a loser. As recorded in the Saheeh, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَا يَسْمَعُ بِي أَحَدٌ مِنْ هذِهِ الْأُمَّةِ يَهُودِيٌّ وَلَا نَصْرَانِيٌّ ثُمَّ لَا يُؤْمِنُ بِي إِلَّا دَخَلَ النَّار

“By He in Whose Hand is my soul! There is no member of this Ummah (mankind and Jinns), Jew or a Christian, who hears of me, yet does not believe in me, but will enter the Fire.”


If we do not have a relationship with the Qur’an, can we call ourselves believers?

How is our recitation of the Qur’an? How much effort do we make in correcting our pronunciation?

If we do not know the meaning of the Qur’an, and the background of the ayaat’s revelations, can we call ourselves Muslims? What are we following?

He who does not take out time for understanding the Qur’an is a loser. Therefore, those who are studying it should not have an attitude of doing favor on someone. This is Allah’s favor on you – value it.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Al-Baqarah Ayaat 120 – 121

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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