Surah Baqarah >> Currently viewing Surah Baqarah Ayat 108 (2:108)

Surah Baqarah Ayah 108 in Arabic:

أَمْ تُرِيدُونَ أَنْ تَسْأَلُوا رَسُولَكُمْ كَمَا سُئِلَ مُوسَىٰ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۗ وَمَنْ يَتَبَدَّلِ الْكُفْرَ بِالْإِيمَانِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ

Transliteration: Am tureedoona an tas-aloo rasoolakum kamasu-ila moosa min qablu waman yatabaddali alkufra bil-eemanifaqad dalla sawaa assabeel

 

English Translation:

DR. GHALI Or ever would you (i.e., the believers) ask your Messenger as Musa (Moses) was asked earlier? And whoever exchanges belief for disbelief, has readily erred (away from) the level way.

MUHSIN KHAN Or do you want to ask your Messenger (Muhammad Peace be upon him) as Musa (Moses) was asked before (i.e. show us openly our Lord?) And he who changes Faith for disbelief, verily, he has gone astray from the right way.

PICKTHALL Or would ye question your messenger as Moses was questioned aforetime? He who chooseth disbelief instead of faith, verily he hath gone astray from a plain road.

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL Or do you intend to ask your Messenger as Moses was asked before? And whoever exchanges faith for disbelief has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way.

YUSUF ALI Would ye question your Messenger as Moses was questioned of old? but whoever changeth from Faith to Unbelief, Hath strayed without doubt from the even way.

MUFTI TAQI USMANI Or, do you rather want to question your Prophet as Mūsā was questioned earlier? And whoever takes infidelity in exchange for faith has certainly missed the straight path.

ABDUL HALEEM Do you wish to demand of your messenger something similar to what was demanded of Moses? Whoever exchanges faith for disbelief has strayed far from the right path.

ABUL ALA MAUDUDI (2:108) Or would you ask your Messenger in the manner Moses was asked before? And whoever exchanges faith for unbelief has surely strayed from the Right Way.

DR. MUSTAFA KHATTAB Or do you ˹believers˺ intend to ask of your Messenger as Moses was asked before? But whoever trades belief for disbelief has truly strayed from the Right Way.

Surah Baqarah Ayat 108 Tafseer

Here we provide tafseer on ayah 108 of Surah Baqarah from various tafseer and Qur’an commentators. Just click on whichever tab you’d like to read more about below.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir – Ayat 108

The Prohibition of Unnecessary Questions

In this Ayah, Allah forbade the believers from asking the Prophet numerous questions about matters that did not occur yet. Similarly, Allah said,

﴿يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ تَسْأَلُواْ عَنْ أَشْيَآءَ إِن تُبْدَ لَكُمْ تَسُؤْكُمْ وَإِن تَسْأَلُواْ عَنْهَا حِينَ يُنَزَّلُ الْقُرْءَانُ تُبْدَ لَكُمْ﴾

 

(O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if you ask about them while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you) (5:101).

This Ayah means, “If you ask about a matter after it is revealed, it shall be duly explained to you. Therefore, do not ask about matters that have not occurred yet, for they might become prohibited, due to your questions.” This is why the Sahih narrated,

«إِنَّ أَعْظَمَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ جُرْمًا مَنْ سَأَلَ عَنْ شَيْءٍ لَمْ يُحَرَّمْ، فَحُرِّمَ مِنْ أَجْلِ مَسْأَلَتِه»

 

(The greatest criminal among the Muslims is the one who asks if a thing is prohibited, which is not prohibited, and it becomes prohibited because of his asking about it.)

This is why when the Messenger of Allah was asked about a husband who finds another man with his wife; if he exposes the adultery, he will be exposing a major incident; if he is quiet about it, he will be quiet about a major matter. The Messenger of Allah did not like such questions. Later on, Allah revealed the ruling of Mula`anah ﴿Refer to Nur 24:6-9 in the Qur’an﴾. The Two Sahihs recorded that Al-Mughirah bin Shu`bah said that the Messenger of Allah “Forbade saying, `It was said’ and `He said,’ and wasting money and asking many questions.” Muslim recorded that the Prophet said,

«ذَرُونِي مَا تَرَكْتُكُمْ، فَإِنَّمَا هَلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ بِكَثْرَةِ سُؤَالِهِمْ وَاخْتِلَافِهِمْ عَلى أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ، فَإِذَا أَمَرْتُكُمْ بِأَمْرٍ فَأْتُوا مِنْهُ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ وَإِنْ نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ فَاجْتَنِبُوه»

 

(Leave me as I leave you; those before you were only destroyed because of their excessive questioning and disputing with their Prophets. Therefore, when I command you with a matter, adhere to it as much as you can, and when I forbid from something, avoid it.)

The Prophet only said this after he told the Companions that Allah has ordered them to perform Hajj. A man asked, “Every year, O Messenger of Allah” The Prophet did not answer him, but he repeated his question three times. Then the Prophet said,

«لَا، وَلَوْ قُلْتُ: نَعَمْ، لَوَجَبَتْ وَلَوْ وَجَبَتْ لَمَا اسْتَطَعْتُم»

 

(No. Had I said yes, it would have been ordained, and you would not have been able to implement it.)

This is why Anas bin Malik said, “We were forbidden from asking the Messenger of Allah about things. So we were delighted when a bedouin man would come and ask him while we listened.”

Muhammad bin Ishaq said that Muhammad bin Abi Muhammad told him that `Ikrimah or Sa`id said that Ibn `Abbas said that Rafi` bin Huraymilah or Wahb bin Zayd said, “O Muhammad! Bring us a Book sent down from heaven and which we could read, and make some rivers flow for us, then we will follow you and believe in you.” Allah sent down the answer to this challenge,

﴿أَمْ تُرِيدُونَ أَن تَسْـَلُواْ رَسُولَكُمْ كَمَا سُئِلَ مُوسَى مِن قَبْلُ وَمَن يَتَبَدَّلِ الْكُفْرَ بِالإِيمَـنِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَآءَ السَّبِيلِ ﴾

 

(Or do you want to ask your Messenger (Muhammad ) as Musa was asked before (i.e. show us openly our Lord) And he who changes faith for disbelief, verily, he has gone astray from the right way).

Allah criticized those who ask the Messenger of Allah about a certain matter just for the purpose of being difficult, just as the Children of Israel asked Musa out of stubbornness, rejection and rebellion. Allah said,

﴿وَمَن يَتَبَدَّلِ الْكُفْرَ بِالإِيمَـنِ﴾

 

(And he who changes faith for disbelief) meaning, whoever prefers disbelief to faith,

﴿فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَآءَ السَّبِيلِ﴾

 

(verily, he has gone astray from the right way) meaning, he has strayed from the straight path, to the path of ignorance and misguidance. This is the case of those who deviated from accepting the Prophets and obeying them and those who kept asking their Prophets unnecessary questions in defiance and disbelief, just as Allah said,

﴿أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ بَدَّلُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ كُفْرًا وَأَحَلُّواْ قَوْمَهُمْ دَارَ الْبَوَارِ – جَهَنَّمَ يَصْلَوْنَهَا وَبِئْسَ الْقَرَارُ ﴾

 

(Have you not seen those who have changed the blessings of Allah into disbelief (by denying Prophet Muhammad and his Message of Islam), and caused their people to dwell in the house of destruction Hell, in which they will burn and what an evil place to settle in!) (14:28-29).

Abu Al-`Aliyah commented, “They exchanged comfort for hardship.”

Tafseer Verse 104 to 110:

Begrudging God’s Grace

Believers, do not say [to the Prophet]: “Listen to us,’ but say: “Have patience with us,’ and hearken. Grievous suffering awaits the unbelievers. Neither the unbelievers among the people of earlier revelations nor the idolaters would like to see any blessing ever bestowed upon you by your Lord. But God favours with His mercy whom He wills; His grace is infinite. Any revelation We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or similar one. Do you not know that God has power over all things? Do you not know that God has sovereignty over the heavens and the earth, and that apart from God you have no one to protect you or give you help? Do you wish to ask of the Messenger who has been sent to you the same as was formerly asked of Moses? He who barters faith for unbelief has surely strayed away from the right path. Many among the people of earlier revelations would love to lead you back to unbelief now that you have embraced the faith. This they do out of deep-seated envy, after the truth has become manifest to them; so forgive and forbear until God makes known His decree. Indeed, God has power over all things. Attend regularly to your prayer and pay zakāt (financial duty); for, whatever good you do for your own sake you shall find it with God. God sees all that you do. Verses 104-110


The opening verse of this passage addresses the believers, asking them not to emulate the Jews in their play on certain Arabic words when speaking to the Prophet. One such word is rā`inā, which means “listen to us”, but the sound of which could be subtly varied to convey the offensive meaning of ‘an impulsive fool’. They would resort to this cowardly form of abuse because they would not dare insult the Prophet openly. The Muslims were advised to use synonymous words that could not be twisted to give an offensive meaning in their address to the Prophet.

This kind of behaviour not only shows the extent of Jewish resentment and envy towards the Muslims, it also shows the Jews as discourteous and underhand. The Qur’ān mentions these activities to indicate how caring and well-disposed God is towards the Prophet and the Muslims, and how much He is willing to defend and protect them against their detractors.

The surah goes on to expose further Jewish ill-will and animosity towards the Muslims, so that they may beware of their malign influence and hold fast to what God has entrusted them with: “Neither the unbelievers among the people of earlier revelations nor the idolaters would like to see any blessing ever bestowed upon you by your Lord. But God favours with His mercy whom He wills; His grace is infinite.” (Verse 105) The verse speaks of Jews, Christians and idolaters in the same vein, describing them as unbelievers because they have all denied God’s last and final message to man which was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him). They share the same grudges and hatred towards the Muslims for being chosen by God as recipients of His revelation and as trustees and custodians of His religion on earth.

Earlier, we saw other manifestations of this jealousy and the blind hatred underlying it, and how it was extended even to angels such as Gabriel who was no more than a carrier of God’s revelations to the Prophet Muhammad.

In stating that “God favours with His mercy whom He wills”, the surah emphasizes that God’s decisions in these matters are not arbitrary. If He chooses to bestow His mercy on Muhammad and his followers, it is because He knows that they both deserve and are worthy of it. The comment at the end of this verse is: “His grace is infinite” (Verse 105).

The greatest of God’s bounties is His message, and the advocacy of His faith. Thus, believers should realize in their hearts how favoured they have been. They would be able then to counter the hatred and doubt campaign led always by the Jews to weaken the faith in the hearts of Muslims, with awe and gratitude, coming as it does after they have been alerted to the unbelievers’ intrigues and ill-will. All these feelings may be seen as an essential mobilization to counter the Jews’ campaign against Islam.

The main reason for this impudent attack, as mentioned earlier, was the abrogation, replacement or amendment of certain Qur’ānic directives and rulings, especially the one regarding the qiblah. This last ruling instructed Muslims to face the Ka`bah in Makkah, rather than Jerusalem, in prayer.

Regardless of the immediate occasion, the surah at this point gives a definitive statement with regard to this important issue: “Any revelation We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or similar one. Do you not know that God has power over all things?” (Verse 106)

Partial amendments of rulings in response to changing circumstances during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad could only be in the interest of mankind as a whole. As the originator of revelations, God, the Creator, is the final and absolute authority to decide such amendments. To cancel or replace any directive or principle is His exclusive prerogative. This point is emphasized in the next verse: “Do you not know that God has sovereignty over the heavens and the earth, and that apart from God you have no one to protect you or give you help?” (Verse 107)

We can clearly detect a hint of warning, and a reminder to Muslims that other than God they can call on no one for support or protection. The likely reason for this is the effect the Jewish campaign had had on some Muslims, whose trust and confidence in the Prophet showed signs of flagging. That is borne out by the following verse: “Do you wish to ask of the Messenger who has been sent to you the same as was formerly asked of Moses? He who barters faith for unbelief has surely strayed away from the right path.” (Verse 108)

Again there is a clear denunciation of the Jewish habit of questioning their prophets, disobeying them and asking for the impossible, as has been described at length earlier in the surah.

The verse also warns Muslims not to lose sight of their commitments and obligations towards God, as the Jews had clone before them. Otherwise, they would lose faith in their own religion, as the Jews wish them to do: “Many among the people of earlier revelations would love to lead you back to unbelief now that you have embraced the faith. This they do out of deep-seated envy, after the truth has become manifest to them.” (Verse 109)

That enmity towards Islam which filled, and continues to fill, the hearts of the Jews, has always been the real force that motivates their plotting and scheming. The Qur’ān makes this very clear as it describes the relentless Jewish efforts to shake the foundations of Islam and destroy the Muslim community throughout the world. It therefore calls on Muslims to rise above their opponents’ level rather than meet evil with evil. It advises not mere restraint, but forgiveness and forbearance: “so forgive and forbear until God makes known His decree. Indeed, God has power over all things.” (Verse 109)

Muslims are urged to pursue the faith God has chosen for them and to invest their efforts and energies in the worship of God Almighty: “Attend regularly to your prayer and pay zakāt (financial duty); for, whatever good you do for your own sake you shall find it with God. God sees all that you do.” (Verse 110)

Thus we can see how the Qur’ān revitalizes the collective Muslim conscience, focuses on the real sources of danger to the community, and mobilizes Muslims’ energy and feelings for closer contact with God and more gracious submission to His will and command. Until that will is revealed and God’s word takes effect in life, Muslims are urged to exercise prudence and show tolerance and magnanimity towards detractors, envious people and ill-wishers.

Hostility to the Holy Prophet (saw) had become so habitual to the Jews that they were always making insolent demands. Once they asked him to bring before them whole of the Qur’an all at once just as the Torah had been revealed.

In reprimanding them for making such improper demands on the prophets of their time, the verse reminds them how their forefathers too had done the same – for example, they had asked Sayyidna Musa (Moses علیہ السلام) to help them to see Allah openly with their physical eyes. In such cases, the intention of the Jews had never been to seek guidance or to satisfy their doubts or to strengthen their faith, but only to cast aspersions on a prophet, or to question the wisdom of Allah.

The verse indicts this behavior as Kufr (infidelity). Such demands are improper, because there is a raison d’etre for everything Allah does, but divine wisdom alone knows what that is, and the creature has no right to determine the precise mode of his Creator’s acts — he should not even ask the why and wherefore of a divine action, but accept it and submit himself to the Divine Will.

If one takes this verse as having been addressed to the Muslims, it would mean that they are being warned against making improper demands on the Holy Prophet (saw).

(2:108) Or would you ask your Messenger in the manner Moses [110] was asked before? And whoever exchanges faith for unbelief has surely strayed from the Right Way.


[110] The Jews, who were addicted to hair-splitting arguments, instigated the Muslims to ask the Prophet a great many questions. God, therefore, cautioned the Muslims against following the example of the Jews in this matter, and admonished them against unnecessary inquisitiveness.

The Prophet himself often warned the Muslims that excessive inquisitiveness (which was devoid of religious earnestness and the sincere desire to do God’s will) had been the ruin of earlier religious communities. (Muslim, ‘Fadail’, 130; Bukhari, ‘1’tisim’, 2 – Ed.)

He stressed that people need not delve too deeply into questions left unelucidated by God or His Messenger. It was better to follow the injunctions which were clearly laid down, abstain from things prohibited, and avoid excessive inquiry about far-fetched, hypothetical issues, attending instead to questions of practical significance.

Ayat 107
Ayat 109