The Quran

Commentaries for 2.103

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.103 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And if they) i.e. the Jews (had believed) in Muhammad and the Qur'an (and kept from evil) repented from Judaism and sorcery, (a recompense from Allah) a reward from Allah (would be better) than Judaism and sorcery, (if they only knew) if they believed in Allah's reward, but they do not know nor do they believe; and it is said that they knew all this from their Book.
2.103 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
Yet if only they, the Jews, had believed, in the Prophet and the Qur’ān, and been fearful, of God’s chastisement, by abandoning acts of disobedience towards Him, such as sorcery (the response to the [conditional clause beginning with] law, ‘if’, has been omitted, [but it is intimated to be] ‘they would have been rewarded’, and this is indicated by [His following words]) verily, a reward from God would have been better, than that for which they sold themselves, if they had but known, that this is better they would not have preferred that over this (la-mathūbatun, ‘verily the reward’, is the subject; the lām is that of oaths; and min ‘indi’Llāhi khayrun, ‘from God, would have been better’, is the predicate).
2.103 Kashani - Kashani
Yet if only they had believed, in seeing the acts as issuing from God, and been fearful, of associating others with God by attributing effects to other than Him, verily, a reward, everlasting and being, from God, from the spiritual lights and the opening bestowals and the states of the heart and the divine cognitions, would have been better, if they had but known.
2.99-103 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Proofs of Muhammad's Prophethood
Imam Abu Ja`far bin Jarir said that Allah's statement,
وَلَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَآ إِلَيْكَ ءَايَـتٍ بَيِّنَـتٍ
(And indeed We have sent down to you manifest Ayat) means, "We have sent to you, O Muhammad, clear signs that testify to your prophethood.'' These Ayat are contained in the Book of Allah (Qur'an) which narrates the secrets of the knowledge that the Jews possess, which they hid, and the stories of their earlier generations. The Book of Allah also mentions the texts in the Books of the Jews that are known to only the rabbis and scholars, and the sections where they altered and distorted the rulings of the Tawrah. Since Allah mentioned all of this in His Book revealed to His Prophet Muhammad, then this fact alone should be enough evidence for those who are truthful with themselves and who wish to avoid bringing themselves to destruction due to envy and transgression. Further human instict testifies to the truth that Muhammad was sent with and the clear signs that he brought which he did not learn or acquire from mankind. Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
وَلَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَآ إِلَيْكَ ءَايَـتٍ بَيِّنَـتٍ
(And indeed We have sent down to you manifest Ayat) means, "You recite and convey this Book to them day and night, although you are an Ummi (unlettered) who never read a book. Yet, you inform them of what they have (in their own Books). Allah stated that this fact should serve as an example, a clear sign and a proof against them, if they but knew.''
The Jews break Their Covenants
When the Messenger of Allah was sent and Allah reminded the Jews of the covenant that they had with Him, especially concerning Muhammad, Malik bin As-Sayf said, "By Allah! Allah never made a covenant with us about Muhammad, nor did He take a pledge from us at all.'' Allah then revealed,
أَوَكُلَّمَا عَـهَدُواْ عَهْدًا نَّبَذَهُ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُم
(Is it not (the case) that every time they make a covenant, some party among them throw it aside) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that Allah's statement,
بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ
(Nay! (the truth is:) most of them believe not) means, "There is not a promise that they make, but they break it and abandon it. They make a promise today and break it tomorrow.''
The Jews abandoned the Book of Allah and practiced Magic
As-Suddi commented on,
وَلَمَّا جَآءَهُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ
(And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah (i.e. Muhammad ) confirming what was with them), "When Muhammad came to them, they wanted to contradict and dispute with him using the Tawrah. However, the Tawrah and the Qur'an affirmed each other. So the Jews gave up on using the Torah, and took to the Book of Asaf, and the magic of Harut and Marut, which indeed did not conform to the Qur'an. Hence Allah's statement,
كَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ
(As if they did not know!).''
Also, Qatadah said that Allah's statement,
كَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ
(As if they did not know!) means, "They knew the truth but abandoned it, hid it and denied the fact that they even had it.''
Magic existed before Sulayman (Solomon)
As-Suddi said that Allah's statement,
وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَـطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَـنَ
(They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulayman) means, "`During the time of Prophet Solomon.' Beforehand, the devils used to ascend to heaven and eavesdrop on the conversations of the angels about what will occur on the earth regarding death, other incidents or unseen matters. They would convey this news to the soothsayers, and the soothsayers would in turn convey the news to the people. The people would believe what the soothsayers told them as being true. When the soothsayers trusted the devils, the devils started to lie to them and added other words to the true news that they heard, to the extent of adding seventy false words to each true word. The people recorded these words in some books. Soon after, the Children of Israel said that the Jinns know matters of the Unseen. When Solomon was sent as a Prophet, he collected these books in a box and buried it under his throne; any devil that dared get near the box was burned. Solomon said, `I will not hear of anyone who says that the devils know the Unseen, but I will cut off his head.' When Solomon died and the scholars who knew the truth about Solomon perished, there came another generation. To them, the devil materialized in the shape of a human and said to some of the Children of Israel, `Should I lead you to a treasure that you will never be able to use up' They said. `Yes.' He said, `Dig under this throne,' and he went with them and showed them Solomon's throne. They said to him, `Come closer.' He said, `No. I will wait for you here, and if you do not find the treasure then kill me. ' They dug and found the buried books, and Satan said to them, `Solomon only controlled the humans, devils and birds with this magic.' Thereafter, the news that Solomon was a sorcerer spread among the people, and the Children of Israel adopted these books. When Muhammad came, they disputed with him relying on these books. Hence Allah's statement,
وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَـنُ وَلَـكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ
(Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved).
The Story of Harut and Marut, and the Explanation that They were Angels
Allah said,
وَمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَـرُوتَ وَمَـرُوتَ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ
(And such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, "We are for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).'' And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife).
There is a difference of opinion regarding this story. It was said that this Ayah denies that anything was sent down to the two angels, as Al-Qurtubi stated and then referred to the Ayah,
وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَـنُ
(Sulayman did not disbelieve) saying, "The negation applies in both cases. Allah then said,
وَلَـكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ
(But the Shayatin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels).
The Jews claimed that Gabriel and Michael brought magic down to the two angels, but Allah refuted this false claim.''
Also, Ibn Jarir reported, that Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas said about Allah's statement,
وَمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ
(And such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels)
"Allah did not send magic down.''
Also, Ibn Jarir narrated that Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said about,
وَمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ
(And such things that came down to the two angels), "Allah did not send magic down to the them.'' Ibn Jarir commented, "This is the correct explanation for this Ayah.
وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَـطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَـنَ
(They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely) in the lifetime of Sulayman.) meaning, magic. However, neither did Solomon disbelieve nor did Allah send magic with the two angels. The devils, on the other hand, disbelieved and taught magic to the people of the Babylon of Harut and Marut.''
Ibn Jarir continued; "If someone asks about explaining this Ayah in this manner, we say that,
وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَـطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَـنَ
(They followed what the Shayatin (devils) gave out (falsely) in the lifetime of Sulayman.) means, magic. Solomon neither disbelieved nor did Allah send magic with the two angels. However, the devils disbelieved and taught magic to the people in the Babylon of Harut and Marut, meaning Gabriel and Michael, for Jewish sorcerers claimed that Allah sent magic by the words of Gabriel and Michael to Solomon, son of David. Allah denied this false claim and stated to His Prophet Muhammad that Gabriel and Michael were not sent with magic. Allah also exonerated Solomon from practicing magic, which the devils taught to the people of Babylon by the hands of two men, Harut and Marut. Hence, Harut and Marut were two ordinary men (not angels or Gabriel or Michael).'' These were the words of At-Tabari, and this explanation is not plausible.
Many among the Salaf, said that Harut and Marut were angels who came down from heaven to earth and did what they did as the Ayah stated. To conform this opinion with the fact that the angels are immune from error, we say that Allah had eternal knowledge what these angels would do, just as He had eternal knowledge that Iblis would do as he did, while Allah refered to him being among the angels,
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَـئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لأَدَمَ فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ أَبَى
(And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam.'' And they prostrated except Iblis (Satan), he refused) (20:116) and so forth. However, what Harut and Marut did was less evil than what Iblis, may Allah curse him, did. Al-Qurtubi reported this opinion from `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Ibn `Umar, Ka`b Al-Ahbar, As-Suddi and Al-Kalbi.
Learning Magic is Kufr
Allah said,
وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ
(But neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, "We are for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).)
Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi said that Ar-Rabi' bin Anas said that Qays bin `Abbad said that Ibn `Abbas said, "When someone came to the angels to learn magic, they would discourage him and say to him, `We are only a test, so do not fall into disbelief.' They had knowledge of what is good and evil and what constitutes belief or disbelief, and they thus knew that magic is a form of disbelief. When the person who came to learn magic still insisted on learning it, they commanded him to go to such and such place, where if he went, Satan would meet him and teach him magic. When this man would learn magic, the light (of faith) would depart him, and he would see it shining (and flying away) in the sky. He would then proclaim, `O my sorrow! Woe unto me! What should I do.'' Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that this Ayah means, "The angels were sent with magic, so that the people whom Allah willed would be tried and tested. Allah made them promise that they would not teach anyone until first proclaiming, `We are a test for you, do not fall into disbelief.''' It was recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim. Also, Qatadah said, "Allah took their covenant to not teach anyone magic until they said, `We are a test. Therefore, do not fall in disbelief.'''
Also, As-Suddi said, "When a man would come to the two angels they would advise him, `Do not fall into disbelief. We are a test. ' When the man would ignore their advice, they would say, `Go to that pile of ashes and urinate on it.' When he would urinate on the ashes, a light, meaning the light of faith, would depart from him and would shine until it entered heaven. Then something black that appeared to be smoke would descend and enter his ears and the rest of his body, and this is Allah's anger. When he told the angels what happened, they would teach him magic. So Allah's statement,
وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ
(But neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, "We are for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).)
Sunayd said that Hajjaj said that Ibn Jurayj commented on this Ayah (2:102), "No one dares practice magic except a disbeliever. As for the Fitnah, it involves trials and freedom of choice.''The scholars who stated that learning magic is disbelief relied on this Ayah for evidence. They also mentioned the Hadith that Abu Bakr Al-Bazzar recorded from `Abdullah, which states,
«مَنْ أَتَى كَاهِنًا أَوْ سَاحِرًا فَصَدَّقَهُ بِمَا يَقُولُ فَقَدْ كَفَر بِمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلى مُحَمَّدٍصلى الله عليه وسلّم»
(Whoever came to a soothsayer or a sorcerer and believed in what he said, will have disbelieved in what Allah revealed to Muhammad.)
This Hadith has an authentic chain of narration and there are other Hadiths which support it.
Causing a Separation between the Spouses is One of the Effects of Magic
Allah said,
فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ
(And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife,) This means, "The people learned magic from Harut and Marut and indulged in evil acts that included separating spouses, even though spouses are close to, and intimately associate with each other. This is the devil's work.'' Muslim recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَيَضَعُ عَرْشَهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُ سَرَايَاهُ فِي النَّاسِ فَأَقْرَبُهُمْ عِنْدَهُ مَنْزِلَةً أَعْظَمُهُمْ عِنْدَهُ فِتْنَةً وَيَجِيءُ أَحَدُهُمْ فَيَقُولُ: مَا زِلْتُ بِفُلَانٍ حَتَّى تَرَكْتُهُ وَهُوَ يَقُولُ كَذَا وَكَذَا، فَيَقُولُ إِبْلِيسُ: لَا وَاللهِ مَا صَنَعْتَ شَيْئًا، وَيَجِيءُ أَحَدُهُمْ فَيَقُولُ: مَا تَرَكْتُهُ حَتّى فَرَّقْتُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ أَهْلِهِ، قَالَ: فَيُقرِّبُهُ وَيُدْنِيهِ وَيَلْتَزِمُهُ وَيَقُولُ: نِعْمَ أَنْت»
(Satan erects his throne on water and sends his emissaries among the people. The closest person to him is the person who causes the most Fitnah. One of them (a devil) would come to him and would say, `I kept inciting so-and-so, until he said such and such words.' Iblis says, `No, by Allah, you have not done much.' Another devil would come to him and would say, `I kept inciting so-and-so, until I separated between him and his wife.' Satan would draw him closer and embrace him, saying, `Yes, you did well.')
Separation between a man and his wife occurs here because each spouse imagines that the other spouse is ugly or ill-mannered, etc.
Allah's Appointed Term supercedes Everything
Allah said,
وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ
(But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's leave). Sufyan Ath-Thawri commented, "Except by Allah's appointed term.'' Further, Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that,
وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ
(But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah's leave) means, "Allah allows magicians to adversely affect whomever He wills and saves whomever He wills from them. Sorcerers never bring harm to anyone except by Allah's leave.'' Allah's statement,
وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنفَعُهُمْ
(And they learn that which harms them and profits them not.) means, it harms their religion and does not have a benefit compared to its harm.
وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُواْ لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِى الاٌّخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَـقٍ
(And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no (Khalaq) share in the Hereafter.) meaning, "The Jews who preferred magic over following the Messenger of Allah knew that those who commit the same error shall have no Khalaq in the Hereafter.'' Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and As-Suddi stated that `no Khalaq' means, `no share.'
Allah then said,
وَاتَّبَعُواْ مَا تَتْلُواْ الشَّيَـطِينُ عَلَى مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَـنَ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَـنُ وَلَـكِنَّ الشَّيْاطِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَـرُوتَ وَمَـرُوتَ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّى يَقُولاَ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلاَ تَكْفُرْ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ وَمَا هُم بِضَآرِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلاَ يَنفَعُهُمْ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُواْ لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِى الاٌّخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَـقٍ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْاْ بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُواْ يَعْلَمُونَ - وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ ءَامَنُواْ واتَّقَوْا لَمَثُوبَةٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لَّوْ كَانُواْ يَعْلَمُونَ
(And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves, if they but knew. And if they had believed and guarded themselves from evil and kept their duty to Allah, far better would have been the reward from their Lord, if they but knew!). Allah stated, o
وَلَبِئْسَ
(And how bad) meaning, what they preferred, magic, instead of faith and following the Messenger, if they but comprehend the advice.
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ ءَامَنُواْ واتَّقَوْا لَمَثُوبَةٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ
(And if they had believed and guarded themselves from evil and kept their duty to Allah, far better would have been the reward from their Lord,) meaning, "Had they believed in Allah and His Messenger and avoided the prohibitions, then Allah's reward for these good deeds would have been better for them than what they chose and preferred for themselves.'' Similarly, Allah said,
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْعِلْمَ وَيْلَكُمْ ثَوَابُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لِّمَنْ ءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَـلِحاً وَلاَ يُلَقَّاهَآ إِلاَّ الصَّـبِرُونَ
(But those who had been given (religious) knowledge said: "Woe to you! The reward of Allah (in the Hereafter) is better for those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and this none shall attain except As-Sabirun (the patient in following the truth).'') (28:80).
2.99-103 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Shayatin may refer both to the devils from among the jinn or to the devils from among human beings. Here it refers to both. When the Jews fell to the lowest depths of degeneration, morally and materially, and lost all the noble qualities because of their captivity, ignorance, poverty, homeless wanderings, etc. they turned to magic, sorcery, enchantment, witchcraft and other black arts and "occult sciences." They began to adopt methods through which they could attain all their ends without putting in any kind of labour and toil. Then the devils began to beguile them by ascribing the origin of the occult sciences to Solomon and proclaimed that Solomon owed his wonderful kingdom and his extraordinary powers to the occult sciences which they were teaching the people. Jews at once succumbed and welcomed these as a great boon: so much so that even their rabbis began to practise magical arts. Consequently they lost all their interest in the Scriptures and would not listen to those who invited them to Allah's Guidance. 104-a. Here the Quran refutes not only the false accusation of sorcery against Solomon, but also the other charges levelled against him in the Bible (I Kings, Chapter 11). According to it "Solomon was a lover of women and his wives seduced him to follow foreign gods, and he did what was evil in the eyes of the Eternal and put up shrines and idols of their gods." The Quran refutes these charges, so as to say, "Solomon was never involved in any practices of disbelief, and only that one who was a disbeliever could be guilty of `love of women', `worship of gods and idols' and what was evil in the eyes of the Eternal."
The incident referred to in this verse has been interpreted in different ways, but what I have been able to understand is this: It appears that when the Istraelites were captives in Babylon, Allah sent two angels in human guise to test them. Just as the angels were sent to the people of the Prophet Lot as handsome boys, so they were sent to the Israelites as saints and religious guides. For this purpose, they might have set up an institution to teach magic and might also be warning everyone who came to learn these things, saying: "We are holding out these temptations merely for your trial. You should not, therefore, ruin your Hereafter by seeking this "science". But in spite of this warning, the people came to them in large numbers for talismans, charms and amulets. There is nothing strange in the coming of angels in human guise. Being agents of Divine Kingdom they are endowed with extraordinary powers to perform their respective duties. As to the question why they taught magic to the people, we can understand this by an illustration. It is like the case of the police who sometimes arrange to hand over signed currency notes to corrupt officials as bribes in order to catch them red-handed. Just as there is nothing wrong in this, so there is nothing wrong in what the angels did for the trial of the degenerate Jews.
The greatest demand on this occult science was for an amulet or a device to help separate a wife from her husband in order to entice her. This shows how depraved they had become. Their greatest enjoyment was to make love with other people's wives and to separate them from their husbands. This was the worst form of depravity because it struck at the root of family life which is the very foundation of society. If the relations between husband and wife are sound. the whole society will be sound and solid. But if they are bad, the whole society will become rotten. Thus they were the worst offenders because they cut at the root of those relations on which depended their own solidarity and that of their society. A Tradition of the Holy Prophet says that Satan sends his agents to the tour corners of the world. When they come back to him to report, they relate the deeds they have performed. One says that he has created such and such dispute and the other that he has spread chaos and so on, but Satan goes on commenting, "You have done nothing." Then comes another one who says; "I have caused division between a man and his wife." Satan hugs him and says, "You have indeed done a great deed." In the light of this Tradition, it becomes clear why the two angels were sent to the Israelites with the charm that caused division between man and wife; that was, in fact, the very standard which could measure accurately their moral degradation.
2.103 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
Yet if only they had believed and been fearful verily a reward from God would have been better if they had but known. If they had only preferred drawing near iqbāl to God over being distracted ishtighāl from Him they would have obtained the treasure of the two abodes dhukhra al-dārayn and reached the glory of the two worlds ʿizza al-kawnayn. But the blows of subjugation pressed upon them kasabathum saṬawātu al-qahr and kept them in the lands of abandonment fa-athbatathum fī mawāṬini al-hajr.