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Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
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The Koran Interpreted Translation by A.J. Arberry

2 THE COW (23 – 43)

The Qurʾan Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

2. The Cow (21 – 46)

Give thou good tidings to those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, that for them await gardens underneath which rivers flow; whensoever they are provided with fruits therefrom they shall say, ‘This is that wherewithal we were provided before’; that they shall be given in perfect semblance; and there for them shall be spouses purified; therein they shall dwell forever.

God is not ashamed to strike a similitude even of a gnat, or aught above it. As for the believers, they know it is the truth from their Lord; but as for unbelievers, they say, ‘What did God desire by this for a similitude?’ Thereby He leads many astray, and thereby He guides many; and thereby He leads none astray save the ungodly 25such as break the covenant of God after its solemn binding, and such as cut what God has commanded should be joined, and such as do corruption in the land— they shall be the losers.

How do you disbelieve in God, seeing you were dead and He gave you life, then He shall make you dead, then He shall give you life, then unto Him you shall be returned? It is He who created for you all that is in the earth, then He lifted Himself to heaven and levelled them seven heavens; and He has knowledge of everything.

And when thy Lord said to the angels, ‘I am setting in the earth a viceroy.’ 30They said, ‘What, wilt Thou set therein one who will do corruption there, and shed blood, while We proclaim Thy praise and call Thee Holy?’ He said, ‘Assuredly I know that you know not.’ And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then He presented them unto the angels and said, ‘Now tell Me the names of these, if you speak truly.’ They said, ‘Glory be to Thee! We know not save what Thou hast taught us. Surely Thou art the All-knowing, the All-wise.’ He said, ‘Adam, tell them their names.’ And when he had told them their names He said, ‘Did I not tell you I know the unseen things of the heavens and earth? And I know what things you reveal, and what you were hiding.’ And when We said to the angels, ‘Bow yourselves to Adam’; so they bowed themselves, save Iblis; he refused, and waxed proud, and so he became one of the unbelievers. And We said, ‘Adam, dwell thou, and thy wife, in the Garden, and eat thereof easefully where you desire; but draw not nigh this tree, lest you be evildoers.’ Then Satan caused them to slip therefrom and brought them out of that they were in; and We said, ‘Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each; and in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time.’ Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him; truly He turns, and is All-compassionate. We said, ‘Get you down out of it, all together; yet there shall come to you guidance from Me, and whosoever follows My guidance, no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. As for the unbelievers who cry lies to Our signs, those shall be the inhabitants of the Fire, therein dwelling forever.’

Children of Israel, remember My blessing wherewith I blessed you, and fulfil My covenant and I shall fulfil your covenant; and have awe of Me. And believe in that I have sent down, confirming that which is with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And sell not My signs for a little price; and fear you Me. And do not confound the truth with vanity, and do not conceal the truth wittingly. 40And perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and bow with those that bow. Will you bid others to piety, and forget yourselves while you recite the Book? Do you not understand? Seek you help in patience and prayer, for grievous it is, save to the humble who reckon that they shall meet their Lord and that unto Him they are returning.

21People, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may be mindful [of Him] 22who spread out the earth for you and built the sky; who sent water down from it and with that water produced things for your sustenance. Do not, knowing this, set up rivals to God. 23If you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single sura like it—enlist whatever supportersa Literally ‘whatever witnesses’. Razi interprets this as referring either to their idols or to their leaders. you have other than God—if you truly [think you can]. 24If you cannot do this—and you never will—then beware of the Fire prepared for the disbelievers, whose fuel is men and stones.

25[Prophet], give those who believe and do good the news that they will have Gardens graced with flowing streams. Whenever they are given sustenance from the fruits of these Gardens, they will say, ‘We have been given this before,’ because they were provided with something like it.b One interpretation is that they enjoy each meal so much that they are delighted to see favourite dishes again; another interpretation is that the food of Paradise resembles the delicacies of this world in appearance. They will have pure spouses and there they will stay.

26God does not shy from drawing comparisons even with something as small as a gnat, or larger:c Comparisons such as those given here were seen by some as inappropriate for God, and this is an answer to these critics. the believers know it is the truth from their Lord, but the disbelievers say, ‘What does God mean by such a comparison?’ Through it He makes many go astray and leads many to the right path. But it is only the rebels He makes go astray: 27those who break their covenant with God after it has been confirmed, who sever the bonds that God has commanded to be joined, who spread corruption on the earth—these are the losers. 28How can you ignore God when you were lifeless and He gave you life, when He will cause you to die, then resurrect you to be returned to Him? 29It was He who created all that is on the earth for you, then turned to the sky and made the seven heavens; it is He who has knowledge of all things.

30[Prophet], when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a successora The term khalifa is normally translated as ‘vicegerent’ or ‘deputy’. While this is one meaning of the term, its basic meaning is ‘successor’—the Qurʾan often talks about generations and individuals who are successors to each other, cf. 6: 165, 7: 129, etc.—or a ‘trustee’ to whom a responsibility is temporarily given, cf. Moses and Aaron, 7: 142. on earth,’ they said, ‘How canb This is istifham inkari in Arabic, i.e. not an interrogative but an exclamatory statement normally expressing disapproval, best rendered in English by ‘How can you’. There are numerous examples of this in the Qurʾan. You put someone there who will cause damage and bloodshed, when we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your holiness?’ but He said, ‘I know things you do not.’ 31He taught Adam all the names [of things], then He showed them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these if you truly [think you can].’ 32They said, ‘May You be glorified! We have knowledge only of what You have taught us. You are the All Knowing and All Wise.’ 33Then He said, ‘Adam, tell them the names of these.’ When he told them their names, God said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and that I know what you reveal and what you conceal?’

34When We told the angels, ‘Bow down before Adam,’ they all bowed. But not Iblis, who refused and was arrogant: he was one of the disobedient. 35We said, ‘Adam, live with your wife in this garden. Both of you eat freely there as you will, but do not go near this tree, or you will both become wrongdoers.’ 36But Satan made them slip, and removed them from the state they were in. We said, ‘Get out, all of you! You are each other's enemy.c Iblis is the enemy of mankind and vice versa. Iblis is also known as Shaytan/Satan. On earth you will have a place to stay and livelihood for a time.’ 37Then Adam received some wordsd Words teaching Adam how to repent, see 7: 23. from his Lord and He accepted his repentance: He is the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful. 38We said, ‘Get out, all of you! But when guidance comes from Me, as it certainly will, there will be no fear for those who follow My guidance nor will they grieve—39those who disbelieve and deny Our messages shall be the inhabitants of the Fire, and there they will remain.’

40Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you. Honour your pledge to Me and I will honour My pledge to you: I am the One you should fear. 41Believe in the message I have sent down confirming what you already possess. Do not be the first to disbelieve in it, and do not sell My messages for a small price: I am the One of whom you should be mindful. 42Do not mix truth with falsehood, or hide the truth when you know it. 43Keep up the prayer, pay the prescribed alms, and bow your heads [in worship] with those who bow theirs. 44How can you tell people to do what is right and forget to do it yourselves, even though you recite the Scripture? Have you no sense? 45Seek help with steadfastness and prayer—though this is hard indeed for anyone but the humble, 46who knowa One of the classical meanings of zanna is ‘to know’ rather than the predominant modern sense of ‘to think’. This term is used in the sense of knowledge several times in the Qurʾan. that they will meet their Lord and that it is to Him they will return.

Notes:

a Literally ‘whatever witnesses’. Razi interprets this as referring either to their idols or to their leaders.

b One interpretation is that they enjoy each meal so much that they are delighted to see favourite dishes again; another interpretation is that the food of Paradise resembles the delicacies of this world in appearance.

c Comparisons such as those given here were seen by some as inappropriate for God, and this is an answer to these critics.

a The term khalifa is normally translated as ‘vicegerent’ or ‘deputy’. While this is one meaning of the term, its basic meaning is ‘successor’—the Qurʾan often talks about generations and individuals who are successors to each other, cf. 6: 165, 7: 129, etc.—or a ‘trustee’ to whom a responsibility is temporarily given, cf. Moses and Aaron, 7: 142.

b This is istifham inkari in Arabic, i.e. not an interrogative but an exclamatory statement normally expressing disapproval, best rendered in English by ‘How can you’. There are numerous examples of this in the Qurʾan.

c Iblis is the enemy of mankind and vice versa. Iblis is also known as Shaytan/Satan.

d Words teaching Adam how to repent, see 7: 23.

a One of the classical meanings of zanna is ‘to know’ rather than the predominant modern sense of ‘to think’. This term is used in the sense of knowledge several times in the Qurʾan.

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