Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 168 & 169
Verses 168 & 169
O mankind, eat what is good and lawful from the earth, and do not follow Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy. (Chapter 2: Verse 168)
It is from God’s mercy that when it comes to His bounties and gifts to humanity, He does not limit His address to the believers; rather He reaches out to include the disbelievers too. Allah starts the verse with “O mankind” because He created many things in the world for all people to enjoy regardless of their faith or deeds. Allah brought us into existence, thus, He takes care of all of us. With the call to entire mankind, Allah reaches out to the believers and disbelievers. He says: “eat what is good and lawful from the earth.’ The message to the disbelievers is: even if you do not believe in God, take from the believers the lawful foods that God specified for them as these foods are better for your health and wellbeing. God is the creator and He is best aware of what is good for His creation. He has forbidden certain foods and drinks because they are harmful to the individual and to the society. Just like a car manufacture recommends a certain type and grade of fuel for the engine, because the engineers who designed the car are best aware of the best fuel for the long term health of the engine.
Here, you find many people -who have wronged themselves and were overindulgent- argue that this religious ruling is a lie. It gives them comfort to discredit faith because they are unwilling or incapable of fulfilling God’s commandments. The only way out for them is to claim that the religious rulings regarding the permissible and the forbidden are false. They often ask: if God had forbidden something, then why did He create it to begin with? We answer that not every creature on earth is created to be consumed. Each creature has its task, but that task is often not to serve as food for people. We hunt snakes to extract their venom for medicine. Surely, before science discovered the medicinal benefit of snake venom, people had often questioned the point of the creation of snakes. Now we understand some of the wisdom of God in creating such creatures.
Perhaps more importantly is not to question why God had created something and then made it prohibited for us. We hold our Lord’s commands as sacred and follow Him even in the few cases where we may not understand the wisdom behind such commands. Take the example of a mother prohibiting her child from playing with the dishwashing detergent bottle. The liquid may have an attractive colour and an inviting smell enticing the child to put it in his mouth. But it is the parent who is aware of the true purpose of the dishwashing liquid, while the child is too young to understand. Humanity has much to discover and we continue to find new secrets of God’s creation every day.
The cattle egret, for example, is a well-known bird also called the farmer’s friend. It eats insects and worms when the land is irrigated, and picks ticks from the backs of cattle. Since the disappearance of this bird due to overuse of pesticides, the risk of plant eating worms –especially cotton worms- has increased dramatically. Balance in nature is a divine equation of a complex form. You may have personally questioned the point of the existence of the annoying house fly? Flies serve a great role for humans. They eat filth and the diseases that exist within it. If people took care of cleanliness and proper trash disposal, then flies would do their job in nature and would rarely been seen around.
All creation is the work of the All-Knowing and All-Wise Creator. For this reason, God advises mankind –the believers and the disbelievers alike –to eat from the lawful and the good on earth.
History has proved that the disbelievers often adopt God’s prescribed ways to solve the problems of society. Take the examples of western and eastern secular laws restricting gambling and the consumption of Alcohol to certain places, times, and for people of certain age, due to the harmful effects on individuals and families.
The verse continues, “And do not follow Satan’s footsteps” is advising you not to take Satan as your leader. How can you trust someone who has disobeyed his Lord and insisted on defiance? Satan’s enmity with humans is as ancient as the time of Adam. God says: ‘he is your sworn enemy’ and then gives us more detail about Satan’s leadership in the next verse of ‘The Cow’. God says:
He only commands you to evil and indecency and that you should speak against God the things about which you have no knowledge. (Chapter 2: Verse 169)
Evil is every sin which has no specified punishment such as backbiting, gossiping and lying. While indecency includes those sins for which God has prescribed punishment –also known as Hadd- such as adultery and theft.