Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)

Verses 15 & 16

(This session is also available in audio and video)

Session 35

Chapter 2, Verses 15 and 16

God is mocking them, and allowing them more slack to wander blindly in their insolence (Chapter 2: verse 15)

God Almighty is the Most Competent, the Most Powerful, so when he ridicules the hypocrites, the ridicule reaches its peak in severity.  A hypocrite chooses to act and speak the opposite of what his or her heart believes, thus God Almighty treats him or her with similar treatment.  In this world, Allah treats the hypocrite like a believer and allows him or her to enjoy the benefits and protection of living in a Muslim society.  On the Day of Judgment, however, God treats this person like a disbeliever and throws him or her into the lowest depths of the fire.  On that day, the hypocrites will again try to put on the act of faith and piety; but God will reveal their inward before all to see.  In fact their punishment will be worse than that of the disbeliever because the sin of the hypocrite is more outrageous.  God Almighty states:

Woe to every scandal-monger and slanderer (104:1)

The word ‘Slanderer’ in this verse refers to the person who mocks others directly or indirectly.  For example, when he sees a person with leg disability, he mocks him by mimicking his walk or by making fun of him.  Always remember that a disabled person has no input, power or ability in creating him or herself with such a defect.  Hence, if you make fun of another's deformity, you are in fact making fun of God's work.  So, before mocking any person, always consider your own defects and shortcomings, and think about all the positive attributes God has blessed the other person with.  Allah has granted every person qualities and talents that you may not have. He says:

O you who believe, let not a people ridicule other people, for they may be better than they. Nor shall any women ridicule other women, for they may be better than they. Nor shall you mock one another, or call each other names.  Evil indeed is the reversion to wickedness after attaining faith. And anyone who does not repent, then these are the transgressors. (49:11)

God is just; he created each one of us equal to the other.  Hence, if you find that you are better than another person in one area, take a moment to look for a defect in yourself in other areas.  

When the hypocrites said: 'we were only mocking', God responded by saying God is mocking them, and allowing them more slack to wander blindly in their insolence ' meaning that he increases their transgression and allows them to earn a more severe punishment in the hereafter.  God lets the hypocrites go deeper into the path they have chosen for themselves; it is after all ‘their’ choice.

Let’s turn our focus now to the words: 'wander blindly'.  The Arabic word for blindness is Amma (), however, God employed the word 'amah' ()in this verse.  The two words only differ in the last letter.  'Amaa' means blindness of the eyesight, while 'amah' means blindness of the insight.  Just as a person afflicted with blindness in his or her eyes wanders around fumbling and running into objects, the person who has blindness of the insight goes through life with no faith or values fumbling from one moral deficit to another.  God Almighty says:

Indeed it is not the eyes that turn blind, but the hearts turn blind —those that are in the chests! (22:46)

And in another verse describing the hereafter:

He will say, ‘My Lord! Why have You raised me blind, though I used to see?’ God will say: ‘So it is. Our signs came to you, but you forgot them, and thus you will be forgotten today.’ (20:125-126)

It is the blindness of insight that prevents a person from observing God's signs in the universe and prevents him or her from pursuing the truth and accepting faith.


Now, let’s move on to the next verse in ‘The Cow’.  God says:

Those are the ones who have purchased error in exchange for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided (Chapter 2, verse 16).

In this verse, God Almighty illustrates how the hypocrites have exchanged guidance for error.  The transaction of exchanging one item for another is what we know as buying and selling. 

Let’s examine the details of this transaction.  First, what did the hypocrites buy? They bought error and misguidance.  Second, what did they exchange it with? Or in other words what price did they pay for it? They purchased it in exchange for guidance, and since they paid guidance as a price for error, this means that they had guidance with them at the time.  It also means that they made the decision that guidance is of little value and does not bring them any worldly benefit.  They decided to dispense with it in order to purchase error and misguidance.  

Here you may ask, what guidance did they posses at the time? The guidance they possessed was the natural instinct and inquisitive nature every human has in believing in a higher power.  It is also God’s general guidance that came their way through Prophet Muhammad and the Quran.  Hence, it is as though that they had received God’s message and made the choice of rejecting it in exchange for error and corruption.  God Almighty guides all mankind, regardless of their faith and actions, towards Him. Allah says:       

As for the tribe of Thamud: We showed them guidance but they preferred blindness over guidance.  (41:17)

 And lastly, what was the end result of this buying and selling? God says: 'their transaction has brought no profit'.  In trade, there are three possible outcomes: profit, loss, or breaking even.  In the case of loss or breaking even, we say that the transaction brought no profit. 

When a person breaks even, he or she does not make any money, rather he or she merely preserves the original capital.  So when the verse said: 'Their transaction brought them no benefit', it could mean that they did not gain nor lose anything, but merely exchanged guidance for error.  However, Allah continues and says: 'their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided' which means that they also lost their original capital.  As a result, this transaction was a complete loss.

Form all these verse a picture of the hypocrite emerges: It is that of a person who possesses no dignity, no strength to stand for the truth, or to confront his or her enemies.  The actions of a hypocrite are always taking place in the shadows fearing exposure.  All the efforts he or she puts in result in loss and misery in this world and the hereafter.  For these reasons, the hypocrite has low self esteem and views him or herself inferior to others.  

A poet once said:

If I do not commit a despicable deed out of fear of people

Then I hold people more noble than I hold myself

It is sufficient shame for a man to see his own blemishes

even if they were hidden from all men and jinn

A man’s opinion about himself is the most important one, regardless of what show he put upfront for others.