Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting to you Our verses and purifying you and teaching you the Book and wisdom and teaching you that which you did not know. (Chapter 2: Verse 151)
In the previous verse we learned that God wants to complete His favour upon the believers. Those who are mindful of God and follow His teachings -even under difficult circumstances- will be guided on the right path. In this verse, Allah mentions the greatest favour and best guidance He sent us: A messenger who recites the revelations. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the Messenger through whom God sent the best blessings: the Quran and the final religion.
Moreover, Muhammad was ‘a messenger from yourselves.’ He was not from a different creation, nor a foreign nation. Muhammad was well known long before he was granted prophethood. He was known for his noble character, kind words, trustworthiness and many other righteous traits that raise a person and make him respectable in the community. The early embracers of Islam were the ones closest to Muhammad and knew him best: His wife Khadijah, his cousin Ali, and his close friend Abu Bakr. They embraced Islam without the need to see any proof or a miracle. They accepted faith purely on what they knew of Muhammad. Before he was granted prophethood, they had never heard him lie nor seen him cheat anyone. They understood that a person who does not lie to people cannot lie about God. It is from God’s great mercy that He sent humanity a messenger who deeply cares about all those around him. God says:
A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering distresses him: he is deeply concerned for you and full of kindness and mercy towards the believers. (09:128)
And in another verse:
We did not send you but as a mercy to all the nations. (21:107)
The verse continues with: ‘Reciting to you our verses and purifying you.’ By ‘verses’ the Noble Quran is meant. The verb ‘purify’ indicates the existence of impurities and ailments that needed to be treated. It was the Quran, and the teachings of our beloved prophet that helped rid the society from the ailments of idol worship, burying infant daughters, alcoholism, gambling, slavery, predatory lending and usury. Purification also implies future protection from whatever harm may come. Islam has protected us from many maladies that befell other societies such as the spread of drugs and sexually transmitted diseases.
God continues ‘And teaching you the book and wisdom.’ As we learned before ‘the book’ is referring to the noble Quran; while ‘wisdom’ is referring to the prophets narrations –Hadith- as the following verse explains. God says addressing the prophet’s wives:
Remember what is recited in your houses of God’s revelations and wisdom, for God is all subtle, all aware (33:34)
Wisdom also means to place things where they belong and to do the actions that bring you good and spare you evil and corruption. The word wisdom is translated from the Arabic origin: ‘hikmah.’ The word ' ΝίγΙ' originated from the 'bridle' which is the piece of leather and iron that is placed in a horse’s mouth so the rider can take control and aim the animal towards the desired destination. Without it, the animal would wonder aimlessly and may stray away from the rider’s goal. Similarly, wisdom sets a proper goal for each action and produces progress in the right direction. Allah, the all Wise, is the one who identifies for each creation its bounds and mission. Who is better than your creator, the one who knows you best, in determining your goal in life and guiding you towards paradise? God says:
and He gives wisdom to whoever He will. Whoever is given wisdom has truly been given much good, but only those with insight bear this in mind. (2:269)
The verse ends with ‘and teaching you that which you did not know.’ Islam came to an illiterate nation, brought by an illiterate prophet. Prophet Muhammad did not acquire any formal education or schooling in Mecca. Neither was he educated at the hands of the people of the great powers of the east or west. While illiteracy may bring shame to a person, Illiteracy was an honour for the Prophet. Why, you may ask? Because it confirmed that whatever he brought us of religion was from God alone. Everything that he delivered to us is a miracle because it is great knowledge and wisdom that came from an unlearned man. If the Quran had descended upon a civilized nation of the time, such as the Persians or the Romans, or upon a highly educated scholar, it would have been said that the Quran is the outcome of that scholar’s brilliance, or that nation’s collective knowledge. However, it was God’s wisdom that made Islam and the guidance of the Quran the reasons that raised this nation up from ignorance to surpass all the world civilizations at the time. Whatever comes to you from the heavens is far above what comes to you from the best of civilizations. Omar ibn Al-Khattab understood this and said: What would be the value of Omar without Islam?