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Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 216

216. " Fighting (in the cause of Allah) is prescribed for you, although you dislike it. Yet it may happen that you dislike a thing while it is good for you; and it may happen that you love a thing while it is evil for you; surely Allah knows, and you know not. "


The previous verse was about charity while this verse is about donating soul and blood, both of which run in the field of devotion, both together in one rank.

This verse states that, it is necessary for you to fight against the enemy. This command has surely been legislated and is incumbent upon Muslims, while human kind naturally is inconvenient with suffering toils and pains. " Fighting (in the cause of Allah) is prescribed for you, although you dislike it. ..." The next part of the verse points to the fact that fighting and struggling with the enemy is basically hard and disagreeable, because it causes the death of some people, together with pain and loss of limbs and properties in an environment of terror and insecurity for some others. Yet, there are always some devoted persons who never withhold of any self-sacrifice in the way of their own sacred aims. But, the majority of ordinary people are those who, as was reasoned in the above, tend not to take part in the holy struggle and self-sacrificing practically.

The Lord of the world, with a sharp tone, condemns this kind of thinking of theirs, but He opens a new doorway to them. The Qur'an, addressing Muslims, says that you are not aware of the expediencies of affairs. How do you know? There may be something good behind what you suppose is inconvenient, and there may be something evil at the back of what you like. It is only Allah Who knows the whole secret of affairs. Yet, it is certain that those who are studious and clever (not the inattentive people) can find a way to the solution of a part of the secrets of some qualifications.

" ... Yet it may happen that you dislike a thing while it is good for you; and it may happen that you love a thing while it is evil for you" This verse points to a fundamental principle in the Divine laws of creation and legislation. It develops the spirit of regulation and resignation in man unto these laws. It is so that human members, concerning the Divine laws, should not take their own distinction and concept as a criterion of judgement, because surely their knowledge is limited in all aspects and, comparing with their unknown quantities, it is naught, or as if it were a drop of water in the face of a sea.

" ... surely Allah knows, and you know not." Therefore, they must never frown at such laws which originate from the knowledge of Allah, the knowledge that is infinite from any points of view. But, they ought to know that all of these laws are totally alongside the benefit of the human race whether they are the laws of legislation such as: Holy War, alms tax, and the like of them, or the laws of creation and the incidents that occasionally occur in life and are never avoidable. They are like death and grievous inflictions unto our friends and relatives which come forth unexpectedly and unavoidably; or like the future secrets which are concealed from Man, and the similar subjects.

However, Holy War is one of the important applications of Islam. There are many verses of the Qur'an as well as Islamic traditions from Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.) found upon the importance and virtue of Holy War. It is narrated in a tradition from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) who said: Good deeds comparing with Holy War in the way of Allah are not but a corpse in an unfathomable sea." 99 It is also narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) who said: " Holy War (in Islam) is the best (of all) things next to the obligatory duties (such as: prayers, fasting, Hajj and alms tax) ." 100 Again, the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) is narrated who has said: " Heaven has a door which is called the Door of Strivers." 101 Holy War has not been allocated only to Islam. Other Divine religions before Islam had also had it, as the current Torah has narrated the injunctions of Moses (a.s) about fighting with several tribes other than the Israelites. Some definite references among them are: DEUTERONOMY, Chapters 7, 13, and Chapter 20; EXODUS, Chapter 32; and NUMBERS, Chapter 31.

The prophet Jesus (a.s.) also has been commissioned to Holy War as it is recognized from MATTHEW, Chapter 10, No. 34 and LUKE, Chapter 19, No.27 and Chapter 22, No.36.

Some stories of a few other former prophets who fought against disbelievers are referred to in the Qur'an, too. A few examples are: Sura 'Al-i-'Imran, No. 3, verse 47; Sura Al-Baqarah, No.2, verse 246; and Sura Al-Ma'idah, No.5, verse 27. 102 A. Referential texts from the Book of the Old Testament, referred to in the above, are as follows:

The fifth book of Moses called DEUTERONOMY; Chapter 7, p. 219 No.2 to 5 say: 2 And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destory them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:

3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

5 But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. And, Deuteronomy, Chapter 13, pp. 227 & 228, No.9 and 15 say:

9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be irst upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,

13 Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;

14 Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

15 Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. Again, Deuteronomy, Chapter20, p.234, No.1-4 say:

1 WHEN thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

2 And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,

3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;

4 For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

Also, in the second book of Moses, called: EXODUS; Chapter 32, pp. 106, 107, No. 27-29, it says:

27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

However, in the fourth book of Moses called: NUMBERS, Chapter 31, p.201, No. 1-12 says thus:

1 AND the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.

3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.

4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.

5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.

6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.

12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.

B. The referential texts from the Book of New Testament are as follows:

a. The Gospel according to St.Matthew, Chapter 10, P.902, No.34: such is recorded:

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

b. The Gospel according to St. Luke, Chapter 19, p.1076, No.27 reports:

27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

c. And, St. Luke, Chapter 22, p. 1080, No.36 explains thus:

36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.


99. Jami'-us-Sa'adat & Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 100, p.89

100. Al-Kafi, vol. 5,p. 3

101. Al-Tahthib, vol. 6, p. 123

102. Atyab-ul-Bayan, Commentary, vol. 2, p. 414

Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"

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