Surah Baqarah >> Currently viewing Surah Baqarah Ayat 11 (2:11)

Surah Baqarah 11th Ayah in Arabic:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ


Wa izaa qeela lahum laa tufsidoo fil ardi qaalo innamaa nahnu muslihoon

English Translation:

DR. GHALI And when it is said to them, “Do not corrupt in the earth, ” they say, “Surely we are only doers of righteousness.” (i.e. reformers, peacemakers)

MUHSIN KHAN And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”

PICKTHALL And when it is said unto them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers only.

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.”

YUSUF ALI When it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “Why, we only Want to make peace!”

MUFTI TAQI USMANI When it is said to them, “Do not spread disorder on the earth”, they say, “We are but reformers.”

ABDUL HALEEM When it is said to them, ‘Do not cause corruption in the land,’ they say, ‘We are only putting things right,’

ABUL ALA MAUDUDI Whenever they are told: “Do not spread mischief on earth,” they say: “Why! We indeed are the ones who set things right.”

Surah Baqarah Ayat 11 Tafseer

Here we’ve provided different sources of commentary to help with learning and understanding the eleventh ayat of Surah Baqarah.

Tafsir by Ibn Kathir [2:11-12]

Meaning of Mischief


In his Tafsir, As-Suddi said that Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Mas`ud commented,

﴿وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِى الأَرْضِ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ ﴾


(And when it is said to them: “Do not make mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”) “They are the hypocrites. As for,

﴿لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِى الأَرْضِ﴾


(“Do not make mischief on the earth”), that is disbelief and acts of disobedience.” Abu Ja`far said that Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that Abu Al-`Aliyah said that Allah’s statement,

﴿وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِى الأَرْضِ﴾


(And when it is said to them: “Do not make mischief on the earth,”), means, “Do not commit acts of disobedience on the earth. Their mischief is disobeying Allah, because whoever disobeys Allah on the earth, or commands that Allah be disobeyed, he has committed mischief on the earth. Peace on both the earth and in the heavens is ensured (and earned) through obedience (to Allah).” Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and Qatadah said similarly.


Types of Mischief that the Hypocrites commit


Ibn Jarir said, “The hypocrites commit mischief on earth by disobeying their Lord on it and continuing in the prohibited acts. They also abandon what Allah made obligatory and doubt His religion, even though He does not accept a deed from anyone except with faith in His religion and certainty of its truth. The hypocrites also lie to the believers by saying contrary to the doubt and hesitation their hearts harbor. They give as much aid as they can, against Allah’s loyal friends, and support those who deny Allah, His Books and His Messengers. This is how the hypocrites commit mischief on earth, while thinking that they are doing righteous work on earth.”

The statement by Ibn Jarir is true, taking the disbelievers as friends is one of the categories of mischief on the earth. Allah said,

﴿وَالَّذينَ كَفَرُواْ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَآءُ بَعْضٍ إِلاَّ تَفْعَلُوهُ تَكُنْ فِتْنَةٌ فِى الاٌّرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ كَبِيرٌ ﴾


(And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, if you do not do this (help each other), there will be turmoil and oppression on the earth, and great mischief.) (8:73), In this way Allah severed the loyalty between the believers and the disbelievers. Similarly, Allah said,

﴿يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ تَتَّخِذُواْ الْكَـفِرِينَ أَوْلِيَآءَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَتُرِيدُونَ أَن تَجْعَلُواْ للَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ سُلْطَاناً مُّبِيناً ﴾


(O you who believe! Do not take disbelievers as Awliya’ (protectors or helpers or friends) instead of believers. Do you wish to offer Allah a manifest proof against yourselves) (4: 144).

Allah then said,

﴿إِنَّ الْمُنَـفِقِينَ فِى الدَّرْكِ الاٌّسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيراً ﴾


(Verily, the hyprocrites will be in the lowest depth of the Fire; no helper will you find for them) (4:145).

Since the outward appearance of the hypocrite displays belief, he confuses the true believers. Hence, the deceitful behavior of the hypocrites is an act of mischief, because they deceive the believers by claiming what they do not believe in, and because they give support and loyalty to the disbelievers against the believers.

If the hypocrite remains a disbeliever (rather than pretending to be Muslim), the evil that results from him would be less. Even better, if the hypocrite becomes sincere with Allah and makes the statements that he utters conform to his deeds, he will gain success. Allah said,

﴿وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِى الأَرْضِ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ ﴾


(And when it is said to them: “Do not make mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”) meaning, “We seek to be friends with both parties, the believers and the disbelievers, and to have peace with both parties.” Similarly, Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said,

﴿وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِى الأَرْضِ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ ﴾


(And when it is said to them: “Do not make mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”) means, “We seek to make amends between the believers and the People of the Book. ” Allah said,

﴿أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَـكِن لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ ﴾


(Verily, they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.). This Ayah means that the hypocrites’ behavior, and their claim that it is for peace, is itself mischief, although in their ignorance, they do not see it to be mischief.

Other characteristics of the hypocrites, which were certainly evident in the case of those notorious ones encountered by the early Muslims at Madinah, such as Abdullāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, is obstinacy and justification of their corrupting behaviour, together with an arrogant belief that they will escape punishment. “When it is said to them: Do not spread corruption in the land’, they say: “We are but doers of good.’ But, they indeed are the ones who do spread corruption, though they do not realize it…” (Verses 11-12) It is not sufficient for them simply to tell lies and resort to deception. They have to make false claims, adding insult to injury.

People of this type can be found in every generation. They perpetuate evil and corruption but claim to be proponents of reform and proper behaviour. Their standards of responsibility towards society and dedication to the common interest are distorted, and so is their evaluation of good and evil. Lack of faith and sincerity towards God blurs their vision of right and wrong, allowing their actions to be influenced by personal whims and desires. Their criteria of good and evil, right and wrong, are not dictated by the standards laid down by God. Therefore they are strongly and severely reprimanded: “They indeed are the ones who do spread corruption, though they do not realize it.” (Verse 12)

And when it is said to them, ‘Do not spread disorder on the earth”, they say, ‘We are nothing but reformers.”

The fourth and the fifth verses expose the sophistry of the hypocrites -their activities threatened to produce a general chaos and disorder, and yet, in their mealy-mouthed way, they pretended to be men of good will and to be serving the cause of peace and order. The Holy Qur’an makes it clear that oral claims alone do not decide the question whether one is working for order or disorder, for what thief would call himself a thief? It depends on what one does, not on what one says. If a man’s activities do result in mischief, he will be called a mischief-maker, even if he had no such intention.

Who are reformers and mischief-makers
(7) As these verses report, when the hypocrites were asked not to spread disorder in the land through their prevarication and double dealing, they used to reply emphatically إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ :”We are nothing but reformers.” The word Innama إِنَّمَا (nothing but), used in, the Arabic text, indicates not merely emphasis but exclusivity. So, their reply would mean that they were nothing but reformers, the servants of order, and that their activities could have nothing to do with disorder. Commenting on their reply, the Holy Qur’an says:

أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا يَشْعُرُ‌ونَ
“Beware, it is, in fact, they who spread disorder, but they are not aware.”

Now, we learn two things from this comment. Firstly, the activities of the hypocrites did actually produce disorder in the land. Secondly, they did not indulge in these activities with the express intention or design of creating disorder they were not even aware of the possibility that their actions could be the cause of disorder. For, among the things which spread disorder in the world, there are some which are commonly recognized to be mischievous and disorderly activities, and hence every sensible and conscientious man refrains from them e.g., theft, robbery, murder, rape etc.; on the other hand, there are some which in their external aspect do not appear to be mischief or disorder, but, working unseen, they have the necessary consequence of destroying the morals of men which, in its turn, opens the door to all kinds of disorder.

This is exactly what the hypocrites were doing. No doubt, they refrained from theft, robbery etc.; it was on this count that they denied their being mischievous, and emphatically asserted that they were serving the cause of order. But all this while they had been freely giving vent to their malice and envy by conspiring with the enemies of the Muslims. These are things which finally bring man down to the level of beasts. Once he has lost his awareness of ethical values and human decency, even an average man becomes an agent of social disorder of a disorder much greater than that released by thieves or robbers, or even beasts are capable of producing. For, the mischief of robbers and beasts can be controlled by the physical power of law and government. But laws are made and enforced by men. What happens to laws, when man has ceased to be man, can easily be witnessed all around us in the world of today. Everyone takes it for granted that humanity is on the march and the modern man is so far. the ultimate in civilization; the network of educational institutions covers every hamlet on the face of the earth; legislative bodies keep buzzing night and day; organizations for the promulgation of laws spend billions, and circumlocution offices proliferate. And yet crime and disorder keep in step with the march of civilization. The reason is simple.

Law is not an automatic machine; it requires men to make it work. If man ceases to be man, neither laws nor can bureaucratic agencies provide a remedy for the all-pervading disorder. It is for this that the greatest benefactor of mankind, the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، concentrated all his attention on making men real men – in all the plenitude of the term. Once this has been achieved, crime or disorder comes to an end of itself without the help of enormous police forces and extensive system of law-courts. As long as people acted upon his teachings in certain parts of the world, man saw a kind of peace and order prevail the like of which had never been witnessed before nor is likely to be witnessed when these teachings are abandoned or disregarded.

In so far as actual practice is concerned, the essence of the teachings of the Holy Prophet is fear of Allah and solicitude for the assessment of one’s deeds on the Day of Judgment. If these are absent, no constitution or legal code, nor administrative body or university can force or induce man to keep away from crime. Those who run the world in our day invent ever-new administrative measures to prevent crime, but they not only neglect the very soul of administration, the fear of Allah, but even deploy the means of destroying it – all of which has the necessary consequence that the remedy only helps to feed the malady.

To another aspect of the question, it is easy enough to find a cure for thieves and robbers and for all those who create disorder openly. But the miscreants who have been described in these verses always appear in the garb of reformers, brandishing colourful schemes of social amelioration which are only a mask for personal interests, and for raising the slogan, إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ :”We are nothing but reformers.” Hence it is that Allah, while asking men not to spread disorder on the earth, has also said in another place:
وَاللَّـهُ يَعْلَمُ الْمُفْسِدَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِ
“And Allah knows the one who makes mischief distinct from him who promotes good.” (2:220)

This is an indication that Allah alone10 knows the states of men’s hearts and their intentions, and He alone knows the nature and consequences of each human deed as to whether it would help the cause of order or of disorder. So, to serve the cause of order, it is not sufficient merely to possess such an intention; much more essential than that is to orient oneself in thought and deed in harmony with the Shari’ah, for an action may, in spite of the best intentions, sometimes result in mischief and disorder, if it is not guided by the Shari`ah.

(2:11) Whenever they are told: “Do not spread mischief on earth,” they say: “Why! We indeed are the ones who set things right.”

No commentary available.