A Central Theme of Surah al-Baqarah: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah

In the midst of discussing the differences between the contents of a surah and the theme of a surah, Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah, a professor of the Qur’an and its sciences at Qassim University, mentioned the following points:

قال شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية رحمه الله: ” وقد ذكرت في مواضع ما اشتملت عليه سورة البقرة من تقرير ألصول العلم وقواعد الدين . ” ـ

Sheikh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah said:

I have mentioned in more than one place how surah al-Baqarah is comprised of establishing the foundations of religious knowledge and the cornerstones of the religion.

وبالتأمل الثاقب للسورة كلها ومقاطعها نجدها تعرضت لغير الأحكام التشريعية ومن ذلك القسم الأول من السورة حيث عرض فيه قصة آدم وقصة بني إسرائيل وقصة إبراهيم وبناء البيت، وقصة تحويل القبلة، وقصة طالوت، وآية الكرسي وما تبعها من قصص، وهذا يمثل أكثر من نصف السورة. وبالتأمل فإنه يمكن أن نربط بين هذه الموضعات من الأحكام والقصص بالغرض الذي يجمعها كلها وهو ما يمكن أن نعبر عنه بأنه (( إعداد الأمة لتلقي الشريعة وامتثالها وتبليغها)). فالسورة تركز على تربية الأمة وإعدادها لتلقي شريعة الله تعالى وامتثالها، ولذلك جاءت قصة بني إسرائيل وفيها قصة البقرة تحذير للمؤمنين من مشابهتهم، وإشعار بنقل الخلافة من بني إسرائيل إلى هذه الأمة وإليها إشارت قصة إبراهيم وقصة تحويل القبلة. ـ

By some perceptive contemplation of this surah as a whole and its different sections, we find that it presents more than just legal rulings. For instance, there is its first section where it presents the story of Adam and that of Banu Israa’eel and that of Ibrahim constructing the Ka’bah, as well as the changing of the qiblah, story of Talut, ayah al-Kursi and the stories that come shortly after it. All of this comprises more than half of the surah.

With some thought, it becomes possible to link the different portions of the legal rulings and the stories with one overarching purpose which all of them share, which is something that we could describe as: Preparing this ummah for receive, comply with, and convey Allah’s divine legislation. For this surah revolves around training and preparing this ummah to receive and comply with Allah’s divine legislation. That is why it mentions the story of Banu Israa’eel and in particular the story of the cow as a warning for the believers to not be like them. It also serves to indicate a transference of authority over the earth from Banu Israa’eel to this ummah, as is also indicated by the stories of Ibrahim and the changing of the qiblah.

فتأمل كيف كان المقصد جامعاً للموضوعات. ـ

So consider how this theme links together all of the surah‘s different topics.

[‘Ilm Maqasid al-Suwar pg 9]

And later while discussing the connection of a surah‘s name to its theme, sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah further added:

أنه يمكن بالتأمل الثاقب أن نجد مناسبة ظاهرة بين لااسم والغرض.ـ

With some perceptive contemplation, it is possible to find a clear link between the name and theme of a surah.

فالبقرة وإن كانت القصة لم تذكر في غير هذه السورة، إلا إننا نجد سبباً أعظم دلالة من هذا السبب، ألا وهو كون القصة دالة على حال بني إسرائيل مع أوامر الله تعالى وتعنتهم وتشددهم وتمنعهم من تلقي أمر الله تعالى، وهذا في غاية المناسبة لسورة البقرة التي تضمنت تربية المؤمنين على تلقي شريعة الله تعالى ولذلك تضمنت السورة كليات الشريعة وأصولها، فكأن لااسم شعار للمؤمنين ليحذروا من التشبه بأصحاب البقرة، ولهذا ختمت السورة بقوله تعالى ( آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ ۚ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۖ غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ ) ]البقرة: 285 [. ـ

Let’s take surah al-Baqarah. Yes, it is true that the story of the cow is not mentioned in any other surah; however, we can find an even more important reason for this name being chosen than that, which is that this story indicates to us just how Banu Israa’eel responded to Allah’s commands – how stubborn, obstinate and resistant they were to accepting Allah’s instructions. There is an incredible connection here to surah al-Baqarah as a whole, since the surah is centered on training the believers to accept Allah’s divine legislation. That is why this surah includes all of the principles and foundations of the divine legislation. So it is as if this name is a signal for the believers to be on guard against being like those people in the story of the cow. And that is why the surah concludes by saying:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ ۚ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۖ غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ

The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the believers. They all believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers – we do not make distinctions between any of the messengers. We say, “We hear and we obey.” Forgive us, O Lord, and to You is our return. [2:285]

[‘Ilm Maqasid al-Suwar pg 17]

See also: Central Themes of Surah al-Baqarah: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Links Between Surah Yunus and Surah Hud: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah

See also: Thematic Tafsir Article Index

See also: Thematic Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: The Arrangement of the First Five Surahs of the Qur’an: al-Suyooti

See also: Principles and Examples of Analyzing the Themes of a Surah: al-Shatibi

6 thoughts on “A Central Theme of Surah al-Baqarah: Sheikh Muhammad al-Rabee’ah

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