Rafed English

Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verses 246-252

246. " Have you not seen the chiefs of the Children of Israel, after Moses, when they said to a Prophet of theirs: 'Raise up for us a king, that we will fight in Allah's way'. He said: ' Might it be that, if fighting is written for you, then you will not fight? ' They said: ' Why should we not fight in the way of Allah, while we have been expelled from our dwellings and our children? ' But when fighting was written for them, they turned back save a few of them, and Allah is All-Knowing of the unjust. "

247. " And their Prophet said to them: ' Verily Allah has raised up Saul for you as a king.' They said: ' How can he hold kingship over us, while we are more rightful to kingship than he, and he has not been given abundance of wealth? ' He said: ' Verily Allah has chosen him over you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. Allah gives His kingdom unto whomso He wills; and Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing ',"

248. " And their Prophet said to them: ' Verily the sign of his kingship is that the Ark of the Covenant will come to you, wherein shall be a tranquility from your Lord, and the Relics of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron have left behind, the angels bearing it. Surely in that shall be a sign for you, if you are (truly) faithful."

249. " So when Saul marched out with the troops he said:' Verily Allah will try you by a river, whoever drinks from it he is not of me, and whoever tastes it not, he is surely of me, including the one who tastes but a single handful.' But they all drank of it, except a few of them. And when he (Saul) crossed it (the river) , those who believed with him said: ' We have no power today against Goliath and his troops.' Those who knew that they would meet Allah said: ' How often a small party has overcome a numerous host by Allah's leave! And Allah is with the (steadfast) patient ones '."

250. " So when they encountered Goliath and his troops, they said: ' Our Lord! pour down upon us patience, and make our steps firm, and help us against the disbelieving people '."

251. " Thus they routed them by Allah's leave, and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him the kingship and wisdom and taught him of what He willed. And were Allah not to repel some people by means of other people, the earth would certainly be full of mischief; but Allah is Gracious to all (His) creatures."

252. " These are the Signs of Allah; We recite them to you (Muhammad) in truth, and verily, you are (one) of the Messengers."

Explanation

An Introduction to the above Group of Verses

In these verses Providence, the Great, points to one of the wonderful adventures of a group of the Israelites that happened after the time of Moses (a.s.) . The statement of this happening, of course, is following the statement of Holy War and the defence from the limits of the religion of Allah, which is, in fact, the same as the limits of humanity. It is stated, indeed, for the Muslims to take lesson from that marvellous incident.

A Marvellous Incident!

The Israelites who had become weak and poor under the domination of Pharaoh, gained great power and splendour under the wise leadership of Moses (a.s.) .

Allah showered many blessings upon them with the sanctity of this Great Prophet, including the Ark of the Covenant. The Jews, by carrying the Ark before the troops, got a kind of confidence and spiritual capability. This power and glory continued a length of time after Moses (a.s.) . But the same victorious capacity and blessful bounties they had, gradually made them proud and, thereby, they became disobedient.

Finally, they were defeated with a great slaughter by Philistines when they lost their power and authority accompanied with loosing the Ark. After that, they became so weak and inflicted with dispersion that they were not able to defend themselves even against the smallest enemies. It was so that their enemies expelled a great many of them from their own land and captured their children, too.

That status continued for years. At last, their prayer was heard and Allah raised a prophet for them called Samuel, to save them and guide them. Those people, who had become tired and worn from the cruelty and transgressions of their enemies, were seeking for a shelter to take refuge in. Therefore, they gathered around him and asked him to appoint a king for them. They all had decided to follow the command and leadership of such a king to fight unitedly against their enemy with heart and soul in order to regain their last honour and glory.

Prophet Samuel, who was well acquainted with their spirituality and knew their disloyal characteristics from before, told them he was afraid that they might disobey their commander, as to face with their enemy, when the order of Holy War in the way of Allah would be prescribed for them. They objected that how they could disobey their commander and do not do their own duty in the case that the torturous enemy had expelled them from their home and had occupied their land and captured their children.

When Prophet Samuel found that those people had recognized their ailment and were seeking for the remedy, as if they had realized the secret of their state of being retarded, he prayed and asked the Lord what those people wanted. It was revealed to him to introduce Saul as their king. Samuel invoked Allah that he had not seen Saul yet and he did not know him. The revelation came down indicating that he would be sent to him. Samuel was commanded that when Saul came to him, he (Samuel) would give him (Saul) the commandership of the troops and Holy War.

246. " Have you not seen the chiefs of the Children of Israel, after Moses, when they said to a Prophet of theirs: 'Raise up for us a king, that we will fight in Allah's way'. He said: 'Might it be that, if fighting is written for you, then you will not fight? ' They said: ' Why should we not fight in the way of Allah, while we have been expelled from our dwellings and our children? ' But when fighting was written for them, they turned back save a few of them, and Allah is All-Knowing of the unjust. "

Commentary

After Prophet Moses (a.s.) , the Israelites lost their power as a result of their self-indulgence and being desirous in welfare and laziness. So they became involved again in the domination and oppression of the tyrants when they lost both their freedom and home. In order to be free from vagrancy and come out of the yoke of servitude of those tyrants, they decided to fight. Therefore, they went to their Prophet and asked him to appoint a king, a commander, for them so that they could struggle by Holy War against the tyrannical ruler of their time. " Have you not seen the chiefs of the Children of Israel, after Moses, when they said to a Prophet of theirs: 'Raise up for us a king, that we will fight in Allah's way. ..."

The Prophet (a.s.) , regarding their notorious background, questioning them said: was it not probable that, after prescribing the command of war to them, they would disobey and would not be ready to fight? "... He said: ' Might it be that, if fighting is written for you, then you will not fight? They did not agree with that idea and said that they would fight, for they had been expelled from their home and had been made vagrant for a long time, because their cities had been occupied by the enemy and their children were captured:

"... They said: ' Why should we not fight in the way of Allah, while we have been expelled from our dwellings and our children? '..." But, with all these claims, when the command was issued, all of them, except a few, did not attend the battle-field and disobeyed that command.

"... But when fighting was written for them, they turned back save a few of them, and Allah is All-Knowing of the unjust. "

Explanations 113

Vr. 246 (279) The event alluded to in this verse has a reference also in the Bible. (1 Samuel 8: 19, 20) .

19. " Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay! but we will have a king over us;

20. " That we also may be like all the nations, and that our kind may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles."

After 'Moses,' prophets after prophets were appointed to succeed him and to maintain the Law ('Torah') . 'Moses' was succeeded by 'Usha bin Noon,' 'Kalib.' 'Ezekiel' and 'Ilyas' and 'Elisha' and as time passed the people neglected and ultimately gave up the Law and became idolatrous. And in the time of the prophet 'Yasa' there appeared an enemy for the Israelites who were the people of the land of 'Shalisha,' from the tribe of Goliath ('Jaloot') who had captured all the land on the shores of the Mediterranean including Palestine and Egypt. They subdued the Israelites, killed 440 Israelite princes and noblemen and had taken the Israelites as their subjects and taken away their lands. (1 Sam. 17: 1) . Now the Israelites had no prophet to guide them out of the calamitous state. They prayed to God for a prophet. At last their prayer was heard and God sent a prophet to them in Samuel. When Samuel appeared and claimed apostleship of God, the Israelites asked him to appoint a king for them to lead them in the battle for freedom from the subjection and servitude they had been suffering under the enemy. In those days battles were fought only under kings and the Prophet was only the adviser or the administrative adviser or a director of the affairs. Prophet Samuel warned them before hand that they might disobey after it gets prescribed for them to fight in the way of God. Here was the question of fighting for the freedom of the people against the torturous subjection and it has been termed as the fight in the way of God. It is evident that the fight for right means the fight for God.

247. " And their Prophet said to them: ' Verily Allah has raised up Saul for you as a king.' They said: ' How can he hold kingship over us, while we are more rightful to kingship than he, and he has not been given abundance of wealth? ' He said: ' Verily Allah has chosen him over you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. Allah gives His kingdom unto whomso He wills; and Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing '."

Commentary

This group of oppressed Israelites, though they had asked their prophet to appoint a chief for them to guide them to be able to escape from the torturous subjection of the tyrant rulers, failed in the field of trial.

" And their Prophet said to them: ' Verily Allah has raised up Saul for you as a king.'..." It is appropriate to note that their Prophet was Samuel. Talut, who is the same as Saul, was called ' Talut ' (according to the Bible) on account of his height and the strength of his stature, for he was the tallest of his people (Sam. 10: 23) . The proper names used in Arabic are different from their Hebrew originals.

So, when their prophet, Samuel, appointed Saul (Talut) , who was an unknown poor shepherd, as their chief, they, being affected by their proud and vain consideration that they had from their own leader and leadership, despised Saul's kingship for the lack of wealth and reputation. Those people, who had wealth in abundance, said that they were worthier than him for the position because of the gross great wealth they had.

"... They said: ' How can he hold kingship over us, while we are more rightful to kingship than he, and he has not been given abundance of wealth? ' ..."

When the prophet heard their pretexts about the poverty and lack of wealth of Saul, he told them that undoubtedly Allah had appointed him as a king for them, and, instead of wealth, he had ability in knowledge and in body. Besides that, he had the necessary authority and ability of command of an army in fight.

"... He said: ' Verily Allah has chosen him over you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. So, Allah selects whosoever He wills for leadership due to his efficiency and his inner faculties.

"... Allah gives His kingdom unto whom so He wills; and Allah is All-Embracing, All-knowing '."

Conclusion

Whatever be the details of the Israelites' history referred to here, the instructions to be inferred from it regarding the religious authority who can wage war in the way of God is as follows:?

1. Besides the presence of a divine legislator and a religious judge sometimes an excutor is also needed. It should be borne in mind that all the three aspects of government (Aamiriyat) ... i.e. legislation, justice and execution are included in the sovereignty of God. He may delegate all the aspects to any one man as His Vicegerent and He may distribute the various functions to different persons. In any case the appointment rests with God and none else. Here the Prophet represents the Divine

Authority in law and justice. When the people asked him to appoint a king as an executor, he said that God has appointed 'Talut' as their king, indicating that he (the Prophet) had no right to do it. This refutes the tendency now developing among the people that in the establishment of the legislative and the judicial bodies the 'Kitab', i.e., the Book and the 'Sunnat', i.e., the Tradition to be the final authorities, and the people should have no voice in the matter. But in the establishment of the final executive authority people may have voice and call it the Theodemocratic form of government.

The sovereignty ('Aamiriyat') is exclusively God's. To allow the public to have any say in it, means return to the age of ignorance and not Islam.

2. 'Jehad', i.e. war in the way of God was prescribed and practiced by the previous prophets also, and the reaction favourable or unfavourable, to this precept had been the same as in Islam.

3. The unfavourable reaction of the people to the divine appointment as based on temporal consideration which are known to the limited and narrow views, as was the case with the angels regarding the vicegerency of Adam. The answer to this criticism is almost the same that it was God's selection and the selection is based on the extensity and the intensity of knowledge, strength and character and that the Kingdom is God's and He alone has the right to give to any one whom He likes, but His liking is not arbitrary or unreasonable. It is based on the superiority and the excellence of the person, known only to Him as He alone is the all-Pervading and the Omniscient. This discards the importance of the temporal consideration as wealth, seniority in age, racial or parochial. Therefore whenever the question of the authority succeeding the Holy Prophet in regard to legislation, justice and execution, is dealt with, the implication of this exemplary passage should be taken into consideration, as the method of the succession to the Holy Prophet has continued to be the same as before (See the Qur'an, 24: 55) .

248. " And their Prophet said to them: ' Verily the sign of his kingship is that the Ark of the Covenant will come to you, wherein shall be a tranquility from your Lord, and the Relics of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron have left behind, the angels bearing it. Surely in that shall be a sign for you, if you are (truly) faithful."

Commentary

To make that group of Israelites sure about the kingship of Saul, their prophet told them that the Ark of the Covenant, /tabut/, the sacred Chest of the Children of Israel, will be returned to them as a sign that Saul was appointed by Allah. " And their Prophet said to them: ' Verily the sign of his kingship is that the Ark of the Covenant will come to you, ..." The purpose of /tabut/ is the wooden Chest wherein Moses's mother put her baby and, by the commandment of Allah, set it afloat in the water, of the Nile. Then, the men of Pharoah took it and brought the baby unto Pharoah.

The Chest remained safe in the Court of Pharoah. When Moses (a.s.) was appointed to prophethood, he (a.s.) put the Tablets of the Torah in it and gave it to his vicegerent, Yusha'-ibn-Nun (Joshua) , and when he died, his armour and some of his belongings were put in it, too. That Chest, which had been known among the Children of Israel as 'the Ark of the Covenant ', remained in the hand of the very Children of Israel as a Sacred Chest, and they used to carry it before their forces in the battles.

But, little by little, its sacredness wretched and the Chest was taken away. But, according to the verse under discussion, their prophet, Samuel, promissed them that the Ark of the Covenant would be returned to them soon as a sign of truthfulness of his statement. That glad tidings naturally was considered very magnificent for the Children of Israel, because by seeing that Sacred Chest, which they knew as a token of their ancient independence and glory, they thought they could regain their lost tranquivility and splendour. There are some statements about this Chest mentioned in the Torah, a part of which will be cited at the end of this commentary under the title of explanation.

Finally, at the time of the kingship of Saul, Allah returned that Sacred Chest, which was taken away, unto them through angels. That Chest brought them tranquility and peace.

"... wherein shall be a tranquility from your Lord, and the Relics of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron have left behind, the angels bearing it. Surely in that shall be a sign for you, if you are (truly) faithful."

Explanation

The term ' Tabut ' in this verse stands for the Holy Ark of Chest 3 yards long and 2 yards broad with divine signs in it decipherable only by the Apostles of God. This Ark had divine blessings that whenever it was presented by the Israelites against their enemy in the midst of a battle, the enemy forces had no other choice but to take to their heels for their lives. The Israelites used to always keep the Chest in front of their forces whenever any occasion of their proceeding against any enemy had occurred and they used to come out victorious. This Ark passed from one apostle to another apostle of God. It is reported to contain the shoes, the rod and clothes of Moses, the turban of Aaron and some other sacred relics. This Ark had been certainly endowed with miraculous effects. It was this Ark that was brought out from Shiloh to help the Israelites in the war with Philistines. ...

" And when she (mother of Moses) could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink." (OT Ex. 2: 3)

The following verse of the Holy Qur'an clears the meaning of 'Tabut '. The address in the following verse is to Moses:

38. " And when We revealed unto thy mother what was revealed."

39. " That; Put him into a chest, then cast it down into the river." (20: 38,39)

Notes:

113. This detail is narrated exactly from the footnote of the translation of the Holy Quran, by S.V. Mir Ahmed Ali, P. 217

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"

Share this article

Comments 0

Your comment

Comment description

Most Reviews