Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 121, 122 & 123
Verses 121, 122 & 123
Those to whom We have given the scripture follow it as it ought to be followed: they have faith in it. As for those who defy it —it is they who are the losers. (Chapter 2: Verse 121)
Allah wants you to know that there is a sect among the Jews and the Christians who did not involve themselves in the terrible act of altering the scriptures. This group, having studied the Bible and the Torah, know that Islam is the new heavenly message and have faith in the prophethood of Muhammad.
Allah acknowledges this group, and guards it against being included with those who altered the heavenly books and fought His messengers. Note that this verse is mentioned immediately after the previous one that talked about people who use religion to divide people into sects chasing after worldly gains. God did not generalize and paint all with one brush; there is a group -no matter how small- that deserves recognition for following God's teachings and embracing the new message of Islam. Take the example of a group of Jews -numbering around 40- who came from Sinai along with Ja’far ibn abi Talib to bear witness before Muhammad that they have studied the Torah, read his description, and believed in his message. God honours them and honours every person who embraces Islam from amongst the people of the scriptures. He says:
Those to whom We have given the scripture follow it as it ought to be followed: they have faith in it. As for those who defy it —it is they who are the losers. (02:121)
They took the time to research the facts and distinguish them from what human greed falsely added to religion. Without any distortion, the path to Allah becomes clear and easy to follow.
The verse continues: ‘they have faith in it. As for those who defy it —it is they who are the losers.' We often see this Quranic style where a comparison is made to honour the believers, accompanied by a warning for the deniers; so you can see the vast difference in the outcome between the two groups on the day of judgment. It is truly wonderful news for the children of Israel who were entrusted with the scriptures, did not alter it, and followed the Lords teachings as they are ought to be followed. Their place in paradise is awaiting them.
Let's move to the next verse in 'The Cow'. God says:
O Children of Israel, remember My favour which I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over the worlds. (Chapter 2:Verse 122)
When you listen to this verse, you may quickly recognize that a similar verse was mentioned earlier in the chapter. God says: O' Children of Israel, remember the favors I bestowed on you. Honor your pledge to Me and I will honor My pledge to you: I am the One you should fear. (2:40)
The children of Israel were blessed with the last two heavenly messages before Islam. With this great blessing, however, came great responsibility. In this verse and the next, Allah is concluding His address to the Children of Israel in the same way He started it: reminding them of His favors and of their responsibilities. He is reminding them that -with the heavenly messages of Judaism and Christianity and the information He gave them about Muhammad- they were elevated and favoured above all nations. At the same time, this reminder is a scolding for how they acted. They squandered the great blessings by altering the scriptures, and more importantly, by not believing in Muhammad although they recognized him beyond a shadow of a doubt. Allah had been telling the Israelites about prophet Muhammad since the time of Moses. Recall that, after escaping Pharaoh, the Israelites were struck by an earthquake, Moses turned to the Lord in prayer as mentioned in the following verses:
Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come. We turn to You.’ God said, ‘I bring My punishment on whoever I will, but My mercy encompasses all things. ‘I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious of God and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations; who follow the Messenger- the unlettered prophet they find described in the Torah that is with them, and in the Gospel- who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong, who makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful, and relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars that were on them. So it is those who believe him, honour and help him, and who follow the light which has been sent down with him, who will succeed.’ (07:156-157)
Sadly, rather than having deep gratitude for God's favour, they ignored His teachings and traded them in for temporary authority and material worldly gains; which brings us to the next verse. God says:
And fear a Day when no self will be able to compensate for another in any way, and no ransom will be accepted from it, and no intercession benefit it, and they will not be helped. (02:123)
Allah concludes His address to the children of Israel with advice and warning. You may recall that a very similar verse was mentioned at the beginning of the Address in verse 48 of 'The Cow.' God says: And Fear a Day when no self will be able to compensate for another in any way. No intercession will be accepted from it, no ransom taken from it, and they will not be helped.
At first glance, these two verses may look identical, but upon close examination, the difference becomes clear. The two verses help us paint a profound picture of the day of judgment. Let's take a closer look:
In verse 48 God says: ‘no self will be able to compensate for another in any way. No intercession will be accepted from it, no ransom taken from it’ and here in verse 123 He says: ‘no self will be able to compensate for another in any way, and no ransom will be accepted from it , and no intercession benefit it.’ Note that these two verses are talking about two persons: One is a sinner in trouble, and the other is a righteous person trying to help his or her friend. Verse 48 is talking about the righteous person offering help, while verse 123 is talking about the sinner looking for a way out. Let's examine them one by one:
Verse 48 talks about the righteous person who is trying to help and intercede with God on behalf of his or her friend. But when the intercession is rejected, the righteous person resorts to offering compensation or ransom in exchange for a pardon. God says: ‘no self will be able to compensate for another in any way. No intercession will be accepted from it, no ransom taken from it’ Allah warned us that every person is fully accountable for his or her deeds, with no one able to offer help even for their most loved ones. God says:
People, be mindful of your Lord and fear a day when no parent will take the place of their child, nor a child take the place of their parent, in any way. God’s promise is true, so do not let the present life delude you, nor let the Deceiver delude you about God. (31:33)
Verse 123 talks about the other person in this scene, the sinner in trouble trying to save him or herself. The sinner initially tries to buy his or her way out by offering compensation or ransom. God says:
If the evildoers possessed the earth’s assets twice over they would offer them to ransom themselves from the terrible suffering on the Day of Resurrection: God will show them something they had not reckoned with, the evil of their deeds will become plain to them, and they will be overwhelmed by that at which they used to mock. (39:47,48)
So, on the day of judgment, no amount of payment will ever be enough, thus, the sinner will resorts to finding a righteous friend or relative to intercede on his or her behalf. Allah forewarns us about the end result: He says in verse 123: 'no ransom will be accepted from it, and no intercession benefit it, and they will not be helped.'
and in another chapter:
the day when a man will flee from his brother, and from his mother and his father, and his wife and his children: each of them will be absorbed in concerns of their own on that Day (80:34-37)
We ask the Lord to protect us from being among the losers on that day.