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Quran Chapter 2 [part 13] - The Cow - Stories and Reflections

243 [Prophet], consider those people who abandoned their homeland in fear of death, [a] even though there were thousands of them. God said to them, ‘Die!’ and then brought them back to life again; God shows real favor to people, but most of them are ungrateful. 244 Fight [b] in God’s cause and remember that He is all hearing and all knowing. 245 Who will give God a good loan, which He will increase for him many times over? It is God who withholds and God who gives abundantly, and it is to Him that you will return.

246 [Prophet], consider the leaders of the Children of Israel who came after Moses, when they said to one of their prophets, ‘Set up a king for us and we shall fight in God’s cause.’ He said, ‘But could it be that you would not fight, if it were ordained for you?’ They said, ‘How could we not fight in God’s cause when we and our children have been driven out of our homeland?’ Yet when they were commanded to fight, all but a few of them turned away: God has full knowledge of those who do wrong. 247 Their prophet said to them, ‘God has now appointed Talut [c] to be your king,’ but they said, ‘How can he be king over us when we have a greater right to rule than he? He does not even have great wealth.’ He said, ‘God has chosen him over you, and has given him great knowledge and stature. God grants His authority to whoever He pleases: God is magnanimous, all knowing.’ 248 Their prophet said to them, ‘The sign of his authority will be that the Ark [of the Covenant] will come to you. In it there will be [the gift of] tranquility from your Lord and relics of the followers of Moses and Aaron, carried by the angels. There is a sign in this for you if you believe.’

249 When Talut set out with his forces, he said to them, ‘God will test you with a river. Anyone who drinks from it will not belong with me, but anyone who refrains from tasting it will belong with me; if he scoops up just one handful [he will be excused].’ But they all drank [deep] from it, except for a few. When he crossed it with those who had kept faith, they [d] said, ‘We have no strength today against Goliath and his warriors.’ But those who knew that they were going to meet their Lord said, ‘How often a small force has defeated a large army with God’s permission! God is with those who are steadfast.’ 250 And when they met Goliath and his warriors, they said, ‘Our Lord, pour patience on us, make us stand firm, and help us against the disbelievers,’ 251 and so with God’s permission they defeated them. David killed Goliath, and God gave him sovereignty and wisdom and taught him what He pleased. If God did not drive some back by means of others the earth would be completely corrupt, but God is bountiful to all.

252 These are the revelations of God which We recite to you [Muhammad] with the truth, and you truly are one of the messengers. 253 We favoured some of these messengers above others. God spoke to some; others He raised in rank; We gave Jesus, son of Mary, Our clear signs and strengthened him with the holy spirit. If God had so willed, their successors would not have fought each other after they had been brought clear signs. But they disagreed: some believed and some disbelieved. If God had so willed, they would not have fought each other, but God does what He will.

254 You who believe, give from what We have provided for you, before the Day comes when there is no bargaining, no friendship, and no intercession. It is the disbelievers who are wrong. 255 God: there is no god but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful. [e] Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; it does not weary Him to preserve them both. He is the Most High, the Tremendous.

256 There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. God is all hearing and all knowing. 257 God is the ally of those who believe: He brings them out of the depths of darkness and into the light. As for the disbelievers, their allies are false gods who take them from the light into the depths of darkness, they are the inhabitants of the Fire, and there they will remain.

258 [Prophet], have you not thought about the man who disputed with Abraham about his Lord, because God had given him power to rule? When Abraham said, ‘It is my Lord who gives life and death,’ he said, ‘I too give life and death.’ So Abraham said, ‘God brings the sun from the east; so bring it from the west.’ The disbeliever was dumbfounded: God does not guide those who do evil.

259 Or take the one who passed by a ruined town. He said, ‘How will God give this life when it has died?’ So God made him die for a hundred years, and then raised him up, saying, ‘How long did you stay like that?’ He answered, ‘A day, or part of a day.’ God said, ‘No, you stayed like that for a hundred years. Look at your food and drink: they have not gone bad. Look at your donkey– We will make you a sign for the people– look at the bones: see how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh!’ When all became clear to him, he said, ‘Now I know that God has power over everything.’

260 And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead,’ He said, ‘Do you not believe, then?’ ‘Yes,’ said Abraham, ‘but just to put my heart at rest.’ So God said, ‘Take four birds and train them to come back to you. Then place them on separate hilltops, [f] call them back, and they will come flying to you: know that God is all powerful and wise.’


a. See verse 246 below.

b. After dealing with marital issues, the Quran returns to the question of retaliation.

c. The Arabic name for Saul.

d. Those who had drunk the water or some of the few who went with Talut.

e. Cf. 13: 33.

f. Most of the classical commentators take the view that Abraham must have had to cut up the birds first if they were really to rise from the dead, rendering this phrase ‘then place them separately on hilltops’. However, Abu Muslim thought the important part of the image was that it is as easy for souls to come back to the body as for the birds to come back to Abraham (Razi). Cf. ‘To Him you shall return’, in many places, e.g. 2: 245 and 285.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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