Tafsir Surah al-Baqarah, verses 21-25: The Miracle of the Qur’an

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ * الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الأَرْضَ فِرَاشاً وَالسَّمَاء بِنَاء وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقاً لَّكُمْ فَلاَ تَجْعَلُواْ لِلّهِ أَندَاداً وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ * وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ * فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُواْ وَلَن تَفْعَلُواْ فَاتَّقُواْ النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ * وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِين آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ كُلَّمَا رُزِقُواْ مِنْهَا مِن ثَمَرَةٍ رِّزْقاً قَالُواْ هَذَا الَّذِي رُزِقْنَا مِن قَبْلُ وَأُتُواْ بِهِ مُتَشَابِهاً وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا أَزْوَاجٌ مُّطَهَّرَةٌ وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

“(21) Mankind! worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that hopefully you will have taqwa. (22) It is He who made the earth a couch for you, and the sky a dome. He sends down water from the sky and by it brings forth fruits for your provision. Do not, then, knowingly make others equal to Allah. (23) If you have doubts about what We have sent down to Our slave, produce another sura equal to it, and call your witnesses, besides Allah, if you are telling the truth. (24) If you do not do that – and you will not do it – then fear the Fire whose fuel is people and stones, made ready for the kafirun. (25) Give the good news to those who have iman and do right actions that they will have Gardens with rivers flowing under them. When they are given fruit there as provision, they will say, ‘This is what we were given before.’ But they were only given a simulation of it. They will have there spouses of perfect purity and will remain there timelessly, for ever.”

In these verses Allah orders – jalla thana’uhu – people to worship him alone, so that with this worship they become from the pious God fearing al-muttaqoon who Allah is pleased with. لَعَلَّ although it is for anticipation, but when it is from Allah سبحانه وتعالى it takes the meaning of a promise that will definitely happen, with His permission سبحانه وتعالى.

Then Allah سبحانه وتعالى explains to his worshippers that he is the creator of them and those before them. He سبحانه وتعالى created the earth and the sky, making the land a resting place to settle on, and making the sky as a canopy. Everything that is above another thing is a سماء for what is below, so it is said of the roof of a house, its سماء. Then Allah سبحانه وتعالى reminds His worshippers that his their sustainer. He is the one who sends down the rain from the sky, so producing with it the crops and plants from all of the fruits; so, how do they make others equal to the Sustainer, that they worship instead of Allah, yet they do not create anything and they are created? While, if they were to exercise their minds with that, they would come to know that Allah سبحانه وتعالى alone is worshipped, with no partner or rival.

The subject of the miracle of the Qur’an

Then Allah سبحانه وتعالى, to establish the proof against them, challenges them to bring a surah from the like of the suwar of this Qur’an. Then he informs them, increasing in the challenge, that will never bring the like of it, whatever they called as witnesses to help them, except Allah.

It is worth mentioning that Allah سبحانه وتعالى used to challenge them in Makkah to bring a surah, but they were unable, as is mentioned in surah Yunis

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“Do they say, ‘He has invented it’? Say: ‘Then produce a sura like it and call on anyone you can besides Allah if you are telling the truth” [Yunis:38]

Here in al-Baqarah after the hijrah Allah emphasises that challenge again. So, the verse in al-Baqarah came using من “from” before مثله “its like”, which means emphasis here, as (مِن) is extra meaning emphasis.

No repetition or extra words exist in the Qur’an without a meaning, so whatever comes in the Qur’an as if it is extra or repetition is in reality for an extra meaning, like (من) here, which gives an extra meaning which is emphasis, i.e. emphasising the previous challenge.

As the verse of al-Baqarah is a confirmation of the previous challenge in surah Yunis, so the next verse came definitively about their eternal inability to bring a surah like it

فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُواْ وَلَن تَفْعَلُواْ

“If you do not do that – and you will not do it”

to establish the decisive proof that this great Qur’an is kalam Allah سبحانه وتعالى, which falsehood cannot come at it from in front, nor from behind, a revelation from Aziz Hameed.

Then after that, Allah explains that he has prepared a great fire for the disbelievers and gardens for the believers, with rivers flowing beneath, containing provisions of all that they desire of fruits, similar in goodness. They will also have partners made pure from all sin and defect.

Then Allah سبحانه وتعالى mentions his favour to his true believing slaves, of their living eternally in the gardens.

* * *

Here it is necessary to pause at Allah’s sending messengers and their miracles. So, we say:

1. Allah سبحانه وتعالى created the creation for a hikmah which is to worship Him.

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“I did not create Man nor Jinn, except to worship Me” [adh-dhariyat:56]

2. Allah sent messengers to explain to people how to worship Him – Jalla Thana’uhu – and His mercy requires that He does not punish until a messenger has been sent informing about Allah سبحانه وتعالى

وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً

“We did not punish until we sent messengers” [al-Israa’:15]

وَرُسُلاً قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلاً لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ

“messengers whom we have told you their stories and messengers whom we haven’t told you their stories” [an-Nisaa’:164]

3. Allah سبحانه وتعالى sent His messengers to people with miracles challenging them to establish a definite proof for those sent a messenger that the one doing the sent miracle is a messenger from Allah.

Allah’s wisdom meant that the challenging miracles sent with the messengers to their people were in the greatest things to them, so increasing the challenge and emphasizing their inability.

4. Magic during the time of Musa (as) had a grand status with Fir’awn the tyrant and his family. Therefore, Musa’s miracle was similar to magic

فَأَلْقَى عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ ثُعْبَانٌ مُّبِينٌ * وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ بَيْضَاء لِلنَّاظِرِينَ

“So He threw down his staff and there it was, unmistakably a snake. * And he drew out his hand and there it was, pure white to those who looked.” [al-a’raaf:107-108]

So, Fir’awn thought that it was an easy matter, due to the high status of magic with him. He gathered the magicians to defeat the miracle of Musa (as)

قَالُواْ أَرْجِهْ وَأَخَاهُ وَأَرْسِلْ فِي الْمَدَآئِنِ حَاشِرِينَ * يَأْتُوكَ بِكُلِّ سَاحِرٍ عَلِيمٍ * وَجَاء السَّحَرَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ قَالْواْ إِنَّ لَنَا لأَجْرًا إِن كُنَّا نَحْنُ الْغَالِبِينَ * قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإَنَّكُمْ لَمِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ

“They said, ‘Detain him and his brother and send out marshals to the cities, * to bring you all the skilled magicians.’ * The magicians came to Fir’awn and they asked, ‘Will we receive a reward if we are the winners?’ * He said, ‘Yes, and you will be among those brought near.’” [al-a’raaf:111-114]

Musa met with the magicians on the day of Eid with a large audience, then Allah exposed the fallacy of the magic and made apparent the miracle of His prophet

قَالَ أَلْقُوْاْ فَلَمَّا أَلْقَوْاْ سَحَرُواْ أَعْيُنَ النَّاسِ وَاسْتَرْهَبُوهُمْ وَجَاءوا بِسِحْرٍ عَظِيمٍ * وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنْ أَلْقِ عَصَاكَ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَلْقَفُ مَا يَأْفِكُونَ

“He said, ‘You throw.’ And when they threw, they cast a beguiled the people’s eyes and caused them to feel great fear of them. They produced a great magic. * We revealed to Musa, ‘Throw down your staff.’ And it immediately swallowed up what they had forged.” [al-a’raaf:116-117]

At that, the magicians knew that Musa (as) was truly a prophet from Allah and that what he came with was not magic, so they believed in Allah the Lord of the worlds, and their iman was amazing. After they had in the beginning made a condition of Firawn to pay the a wage if they won, you see them now forgetting the dunya and challenging the tyrant Firawn while he was threatening them with murder and crucifixion, without their resolve weakening or تلين لهم قناة.

لأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُم مِّنْ خِلاَفٍ ثُمَّ لأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ * قَالُواْ إِنَّا إِلَى رَبِّنَا مُنقَلِبُونَ * وَمَا تَنقِمُ مِنَّا إِلاَّ أَنْ آمَنَّا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّنَا لَمَّا جَاءتْنَا رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِينَ

“I will cut off your alternate hands and feet and then I will crucify every one of you.’ (125) They said, ‘We are returning to our Lord. (126) You are only avenging yourself on us because we had iman in our Lord’s Signs when they came to us. Our Lord, pour down steadfastness upon us and take us back to You as Muslims.’” [al-a’raaf:124-126]

فَاقْضِ مَا أَنتَ قَاضٍ إِنَّمَا تَقْضِي هَذِهِ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا

“Decide on any judgment you like. Your jurisdiction only covers the life of the dunya.” [Taha:72]

5. In the time of Isa (as) medicine had a grand position, yet reviving the dead, curing the leper and the blind all defied the physicians. Isa’s (as) miracle came strongly, clearly challenging the highest knowledge that they had,

وَرَسُولاً إِلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنِّي قَدْ جِئْتُكُم بِآيَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ أَنِّي أَخْلُقُ لَكُم مِّنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ

“He will teach him the Book and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel, as a Messenger to the tribe of Israel, saying: ‘I have brought you a Sign from your Lord. I will create the shape of a bird out of clay for you and then breathe into it and it will be a bird by Allah’s permission.” [aal-Imran:49]

When they tried to kill him Allah did not allow them to kill or crucify him, but made for them a resemblance. Rather, Allah raised him up to Him and saved him from their evil.

وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُواْ فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا * بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللّهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا

“and their saying, ‘We killed the Messiah, ‘Isa son of Maryam, Messenger of Allah.’ They did not kill him and they did not crucify him but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. * Allah raised him up to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.” [an-Nissaa’:157-158]

The Iman of his companions was amazing too “Be like the companions of Isa where they were chopped with saws and crucified on wood; for by the One who has my soul in His hand, death in the cause of Allah is better than a life of disobedience.”

6. In the time of Rasool Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, the industry of the Arabs was oratory and rhetoric. They would hold fairs where they would compete for the sweetest and most superior words. So, the miracle of Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم that Allah sent down to him a Qur’an that is recited to them from their very nature of their own words. It challenged them to come with the like of it, but they were unable to find a way to do that. It first challenged them to come the like of the Qur’an

قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى أَن يَأْتُواْ بِمِثْلِ هَذَا الْقُرْآنِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا

“Say: ‘If both men and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could never produce anything like it, even if they backed each other up.’” [Israa:88]

Then with ten surahs from the like of it

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“Or do they say, ‘He has invented it?’ Say, ‘Then produce ten invented suras like this, and call on anyone you can besides Allah if you are telling the truth.’” [Hud:13]

Then with a surah from the like of it

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“Do they say, ‘He has invented it’? Say: ‘Then produce a sura like it and call on anyone you can besides Allah if you are telling the truth.’”[Yunus:38]

They did not come with its like, while they were in the most severe need to refute the da’awah of Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, if they were able. That challenge and miracle was completed at the time when the Arabs were the most pure, understanding the meaning of the challenge and the miracle. When they were unable they knew that it was from Allah, so they Iman was also amazing. They did not fear for Allah’s sake the blame of the blamers. They sought martyrdom while they were patient, as if they could actually see their palaces in paradise, with Iman in Allah and his messenger [who said] “Patience O family of Yasir, truly your destination is paradise.”

The one who did not have on his tongue except “Ahad Ahad” while he was severely tortured in the way of Allah. Another who had pieces of his flesh cut from him while he was alive and he remained fixed like the unshakable mountains. They were bargaining with him to leave him alone in exchange for just wishing that Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم was in his place being tortured while he was safe at home with his family. So, he said (ra) “By Allah I would not like for Muhammad to be in the place he is in right now and he is harmed by a thorn while I am sitting with my family.” Abu Sufyan said “I did not from the people anyone who loved another like the love of the companions of Muhammad have for Muhammad.” So, Allah honoured them with His deen, helping them with His help, so they succeed in the two abodes, and what a great reward for the workers.

7. Those miracles were for the messengers definite proofs of the truth of their prophet hood. Except that the miracles of the previous prophets were temporary, witnessed by those present in their time, so they do not continue after the ending of their message to their people. As for the miracle of Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, it remains perpetually challenging all people in every time and place. The great Qur’an remains perpetually challenging people, present not absent, forever not temporarily. The message of Islam is the seal of the messages and is for all people until the day of judgement. The messages of the prophets were specific to their people.

“The Prophet said, “I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me. Allah made me victorious by awe, for a distance of one month’s journey. The earth has been made for me a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due. The booty has been made lawful for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me. I have been given the right of intercession. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only, but I have been sent to all mankind.”

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

“We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds.” [al-Anbiyaa:107]

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

“We only sent you for the whole of mankind, bringing good news and giving warning.” [Saba’a:28]

So this great Qur’an is the miracle of Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم and is Allah’s words

هَذَا بَيَانٌ لِّلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى وَمَوْعِظَةٌ لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

“This is a clear explanation for all mankind, and guidance and admonition for those who have taqwa.” [aal-Imran:138]

إِنَّ هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ يِهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا كَبِيرًا

“This Qur’an guides to the most upright Way and gives good news to the muminun who do right actions that they will have a large reward.” [al-Israa:9]