Surah Baqarah (1-5)
Shehzad Saleem


(v)       (iv)        (iii)       (ii)        (i)



    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.
    This is [Surah] Alif Lam Mim1. This is the Book of God2. There is no doubt in this fact3. [O Prophet] this is [proving to be] guidance for those [Jews4 from among your addressees] who fear God5; those who are professing faith [in certain realities] without observing [them]6, and establishing the prayer7 and spending [in Our way] from what We have given them8. Those who are believing in what has been revealed to you and in what was revealed before you, and, in reality, are certain of the Hereafter9. It is these who were the rightly guided [before] and it is they who shall [now] be among the successful [also]. (1-5)

Reader’s Companion
1. The Huruf-i-Muqatta‘at (the abbreviated letters), found at the beginning of some surahs, are actually the names of the respective surahs. The way they are placed in the beginning of some twenty nine surahs of the Qur’an and the way they are referred to by the demonstrative pronouns ‘’ (dhalika) and ‘’ : (tilka) show that they are the names of the respective surahs of which they are a part. Consequently, many of these surahs are called so, for example Taha, Yasin, Su’ad, Qaf and Nun. However, there remains the question of why the surahs are called by these abbreviated letter. Many scholars have attempted to answer the question but what they have come up with is not very satisfactory. Farahi (d: 1930 AD), a scholar of the sub-continent, has presented an explanation which might hold the key to the problem. (For details see Appendix A)
2. Sometimes, a word becomes specific for an exalted entity of its genre as has happened here in the case of the word ‘book’: It denotes the Book of God. Also this usage is not new. The words ‘Bible’ and ‘Scripture’ both are use for Books of God. In Greek, ‘Bible’ means ‘book’. and in Latin, ‘Scripture’ also means ‘book’.
3. That is there is no doubt in the fact that this is the book of God. The implication being that what the Jews of Arabia (see note 4) have before them is the promised Book. Hence they better profess faith in it, lest they would face the wrath of the Almighty.
4. The basic addressees of this surah are the Jews of the Prophet’s times. These initial verses contain subtle reference to this fact which becomes gradually very evident as later in verse forty of this surah their name is disclosed.
5. From here begins a mention of certain attributes of the righteous among the Jews who had accepted faith in the Prophet Muhammad (sws). These attributes are directly opposite to the ones that were found in the Jews as a nation in those times. At various places, the Qur’an has alluded to these attributes. They contended that they would believe in God only if they were able to see Him (2:55). They abandoned the prayer (19:59) and instead of spending in the way of Allah went as far in its negation as urging people to miserliness (4:37). They openly acclaimed disbelief in other Books of God and maintained that they would only profess faith in what was revealed to them (2:91). Their belief in the Hereafter was nothing more than a dogma and in fact possessed a great greed to live forever (2:92-4).
6. The implication being that they accept certain realities without observing them because their existence can be intellectually deduced. For example, they may not be able to see God; the Day of Judgement too may be concealed from their eyes, nor have they witnessed Gabriel revealing the Divine Message to the Prophet (sws). Yet, they believe in all these because present in the Qur’an, in their nature and intuition and in the various phenomena of nature are signs which testify to these realities. They may be beyond the perception of senses but they are certainly not beyond the perception of reason.
7. It is not said that they ‘offer the prayer’. On the contrary, the expression ‘establish the prayer’ is used. The expression means that they safeguard the prayer and are steadfast in it.
8. The prayer and spending in the way of Allah are the two foremost virtues in the eyes of the Qur’an. While the former links a person to His Creator, the latter links him to his fellow human beings. The Prophet Jesus (sws) is reported to have said something which is very similar in its essence:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’. (Matt. 37-40)

9. The implication being that contrary to the Jewish people as a whole, these people are certain of the Hereafter.

Student’s Companion
i.’ is the ‘’ (enunciative) of a suppressed ‘’ (inchoative). Consequently, the first verse can be parsed as ‘’.
ii. The demonstrative pronoun ‘’ refers to the name of the surah mentioned in the earlier verse.
iii. The following verses, for example, can be cited for the use of the word ‘’ as ‘the Book of God’:

And those who hold fast to the Book and establish the prayer. (7:170)

So if you [O Muhammad] are in doubt concerning that which We have revealed unto you, then ask those who are reading the Book  before you. (10:94)

Those to whom We have the Book recognize him [--Muhammad—] as they recognize their sons. (2:146)

iv. The word ‘’ is in the state of ‘’ (accusative of state) from the demonstrative pronoun ‘’. Example of similar use can be seen in the following verses:

We have bestowed on them a Book which we imbued with knowledge, a guide and blessing to true believers. (7:52)

This is Surah [Alif Lam Mim]. These are the verses of the Wise Book, a guide and blessing to the righteous. (31:1-3)

v. This verse is generally taken to mean that there is no doubt in this book: whatever it says and claims are the absolute truth. If parallels of this verse are taken into consideration, one comes to the conclusion that this meaning is not implied here. On the contrary, what is implied is that the divinity of the Book is beyond doubt; is revealed by none other than the Almighty and it is the very Book that the Jews had been promised. Some of the parallel verses are:

This is Alif Lam Mim The revelation of the Book is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds. (32:1-2)

This is [Surah] Hammim. The revelation of this Book is from Allah, the All-Mighty, the Knowing. (40:1-2)

    For more references see 45: 1-2, 46:1-2. In other words, the antecedent of the genitive pronoun in ‘’ is the previous sentence and the understood meaning is: ‘’.
    The fact that the Jews had been promised a book is evident from the following verses:

And when there came to them [the Jews], a Book [this Qur’an] from Allah in accordance with the predictions that were with them regarding this book and they were invoking Allah  in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved, then when there came to them that which they had recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the curse of Allah be on the disbelievers. (2:89)

    The Old Testament says:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy, 18:18)

vi. The particle ‘’ in the expression ‘’ denotes a ‘’ (nomen locus). Examples of this usage can be seen in the following verses:

Those who fear their Lord though they cannot see Him and dread the Day Judgement. (21:49)

You can warn only those who fear God, though they cannot see Him. (35:18)

vii. This is a noun sentence, which does not have a time frame. Its time frame is determined by the context. Consequently, here it has been translated keeping in view the fact that it is righteous among the Jews of the Prophet’s times who are addressed in this initial portion of the surah. Before the revelation of the Qur’an, they were on the right path because they whole heartedly followed their scriptures and after the revelation of the Qur’an they accepted it since their own scriptures testified to the coming of such a book; hence now also they shall be among the successful.

Appendix A
    The Huruf-i-Muqatta‘at: Those who are aware of the history of the Arabic alphabet know that it is derived from the Hebrew alphabet, which itself has its roots in the alphabet used in ancient Arabia. Farahi (d: 1930), a Qur’anic scholar from the subcontinent, is of the view that the letters of this parent alphabet as used in English and Hindi do not represent phonetic sounds only, but, as the Chinese alphabet, symbolize certain meanings and objects and usually assume the shape of the objects and meanings they convey. He goes on to assert that it was these letters which the early Egyptians adopted and after adapting them according to their own concepts founded the Hieroglyphic script from them. The remnants of this script can be seen in the tables of the Egyptian Pyramids.
    There are some letters whose meanings have persisted to this day, and the way they are written also somewhat resembles their ancient forms. For example, it is known about the Arabic letter ‘’ (Alif) that it means a cow and was represented by a cow’s head. The letter ‘’ (Bay) in Hebrew is called Bayt and means Bayt (house) as well. The Hebrew pronunciation of ‘’ (Jim) is Jaymal which means Jamal (camel). ‘’ (Tuay) stands for a serpent and is written in a serpent’s shape also. ‘’ (Mim) represents a water wave and also has a similar configuration.
    Farahi presents Surah Nun in support of his theory. The letter Nun, even in today’s alphabet denotes its ancient meaning of fish. In this Surah, the Prophet Jonah (sws) has been addressed as Sahibu’l-Hut (Companion of the Fish) that is he who is swallowed by a whale. Farahi opines that it is because of this reference that the surah is called Nun. He goes on to say that if one keeps in consideration the example given above, it is quite likely that the abbreviated letters by which other surahs commence are placed at the beginning of the surahs to symbolize a relation between the topics of a particular surah and their own ancient connotations.
Some other names of the Qur’anic surahs reinforce Farahi’s theory. Surah Taha, for example, begins with the letter ‘  ’ (Tuay) which represents a serpent, as is indicated before. After a brief introduction the tale of Moses (sws) and his rod which is transformed into a snake is depicted in it. Other Surahs as Tasin and Tasin Mim, which begin with the letter Tuay, also portray this miraculous episode.
    Surah Baqarah, which begins with the letter ‘’ (Alif), is another example which further strengthens Farahi’s claims. It is indicated before that the letter ‘’ (Alif) had the meaning of a cow associated with it and is represented by a cow’s head. Surah Baqarah, as we all know, contains the anecdote of a cow and its sacrifice.
    Another aspect of the Surahs which begin with the same letter is a similarity in their topics and even in their style and construction. For example, all Surahs which begin with ‘’ (Alif) basically deal with Tawhid (monotheism). It would be appropriate here to point out that the letter ‘’ (Alif) also stood for Allah, the One and Alone.