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Sura 2
Aya 1

Chapter 2

The Cowal-Baqarah ( البقرة )

286 verses • revealed at Medinan

»The surah that mentions the story of The Cow designated by God for sacrificial offering, whereby He tested the sincerity of faith of the Children of Israel after their deliverance from Pharaoh. Its name is taken from the story of the cow (baqarah) mentioned in verse 67 ff. The surah comprises five principal sections, where the addressee shifts as the surah progresses. The first section (verse 1 ff.) mentions the revelation; the dynamics of belief and unbelief; and the story of Adam. The next section (verse 40 ff.) is an address to the Children of Israel, which highlights there shortcomings in the time of Moses and in Muḥammad’s own day. They are urged to serve God who has been so gracious to them (they are reminded that God created Adam and favoured him over the angels), the Children of Israel. This is followed (verse 122 ff.) by a final appeal to the Children of Israel to agree with the Muslims on the basis of the religion of Abraham, which predate the covenant with Moses. Verse 135 ff. marks the beginning of the fourth section, which consists mainly of legal provisions for the newly-established community. The fifth and final section (verse 243 ff.) also contains some legislation, but the primary emphasis is on striving for God with your life and property. The last tree ayahs (verse 284 ff.), draw together a number of themes encountered earlier in the surah.«

The surah is also known as The Heifer

بِسمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحمٰنِ الرَّحيمِ

Yusuf Ali: In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.


Yusuf Ali

  • These are abbreviated letters, the Muqatta'at, on which a general discussion will be found in Appendix 1 (at the end of this Sūra).
    The particular letters, Alif, Lam, Mim, are found prefixed to this Sūra, and Sūras 3, 29, 30, 31 and 32 (six in all). In 2 and 3 the argument is about the rise and fall of nations, their past, and their future in history, with ordinances for the new universal people of Islam. In 29 a similar argument about nations leads off to the mystery of Life and Death, Failure and Triumph, Past and Future, in the history of individual souls. The burden of 30 is that God is the source of all things and all things return to Him. In 31 and 32 the same lesson is enforced: God is the Creator and He will be the Judge on the Last Day. There is therefore a common thread, the mystery of Life and Death, Beginning and End.
    Much has been written about the meaning of these letters, but most of it is pure conjecture. Some commentators are content to recognize them as some mystic symbols of which it is unprofitable to discuss the meaning by more verbal logic. In mysticism we accept symbols as such for the time being: their esoteric meaning comes from the inner light when we are ready for it.
    Among the conjectures there are two plausible theories. One is that each initial represents an attribute of God.
    Among the attributes it is not difficult to select three which will fit in with these letters. Another theory, favored by Baidhawi, is that these letters are the initial, the final and the middle (or again the initial) letter of three names: God, Gabriel and Muḥammad – the source of revelation, the heavenly Messenger who brought it, and the human Messenger through whom it was promulgated in human speech. This might be appropriate to the first Sūra (which Baqara really is if we treat Fatiha as a preface): but if it was prefixed to others, why these six only?
    If we look to the nature of the sounds which the letters represent, A is a breathing and comes from the throat, L is a lingual-palatal-dental sound from the middle of the mouth, and M is a labial op lip-sound. Can we not take them as symbolical of the Beginning, Middle and End? If so, are they not appropriate to the Sūras which treat specifically Life, Growth, and Death – the Beginning and the End? In the New Testament Greek scripture, the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and Omega are symbolical of the Beginning and the End, and give one of the titles of God: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” (Rev 1:8) The symbolism of the three things is better with three letters.