Baha'i Quranic Study #2 Al-Baqara

Jun 2014
Continuing from here:, continuing work to examine the verses of the Quran from a Baha'i lens.

This will cover the entire second Surah, Al-Baqara. And looks like I'll have to chop it into parts because of its length. Here's to hoping this prompts discussion!! :cool:

Surah 2: Al-Baqara (The Calf)

The second Surah, on the other hand, is one of the longest, so we must take it in parts.

2:1 said:
Alif, Lam, Meem.
This Surah, like many, begins with abbreviated letters, in this case (roughly) "A-L-M". There's actually quite a lot of debate over what these mean. Two explanations I have seen that both make sense to me are that they are either abbreviations of names of God, or meant to illustrate the Quran's mastery over the Arabic language, as the Quran's command of language is one of its proofs.

2:2-5 said:
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of God - who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, and who believe in what has been revealed to you, (Muhammad), and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain. Those are upon guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.
This next paragraph is meant to elaborate on what the Quran is, guidance for those who believe in God, Divine Revelation through Muhammad, and the continuation of the revelations of the Prophets of old. From the Baha'i perspective, we get themes of Progressive Revelation in these verses with "what was revealed before you".

2:6 said:
Indeed, those who disbelieve - it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them - they will not believe
The next verse states that those who hear the message and disbelieve will disbelieve regardless of how hard you may try to convince them otherwise. This may be a good explanation for why the Baha'i Faith forbids proselytization.

2:7 said:
God has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.
This is probably the first "hard verse", as in, a verse that might be hard for us to understand from a Baha'i perspective. This verse seems to state that God has made it so that certain people cannot know him.

To get a clearer picture of this, we need to jump ahead briefly, to Quran 61:5: "And when they deviated, God caused their hearts to deviate. And God does not guide the defiantly disobedient people."

With 61:5 we get the cause-effect of the situation described in 2:7: It's not that God causes people to deviate and then punishes them for that, but rather saying that one first turns from God, and then in turn God does not guide them. God, in a way, allows deviation and does not force someone who does not want to follow Him to do so. His guidance is something we come to freely, without force, and something we can leave if we so choose at any time.

The second part of this verse, "And for them is a great punishment.", we know from the Baha'i writings that this refers to separation from God, which is a punishment in-and-of-itself, and thus is a self-inflicted punishment.

2:8-20 said:
And of the people are some who say, "We believe in God and the Last Day," but they are not believers. They (think to) deceive God and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive not. In their hearts is disease, so God has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they lie. And when it is said to them, "Do not cause corruption on the earth," they say, "We are but reformers." Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they perceive not. And when it is said to them, "Believe as the people have believed," they say, "Should we believe as the foolish have believed?" Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know not. And when they meet those who believe, they say, "We believe"; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, "Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers." God mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression (while) they wander blindly. Those are the ones who have purchased error for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided. Their example is that of one who kindled a fire, but when it illuminated what was around him, God took away their light and left them in darkness (so) they could not see. Deaf, dumb and blind - so they will not return. Or like a rainstorm from the sky within which is darkness, thunder and lightning. They put their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps in dread of death. But God is encompassing of the disbelievers. The lightning almost snatches away their sight. Every time it lights for them, they walk therein; but when darkness comes over them, they stand (still). And if God had willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Indeed, God is over all things competent.
This next part deals with hypocrisy, specifically those who are hypocrites while they claim to stand for and represent God. These sorts of people are portrayed as worse than someone who merely chooses not to believe, and so there are much more verses talking about them than about the non-believers.

It's also really relevant in this day and age. Consider the verse "And when it is said to them, 'Do not cause corruption on the earth,' they say, 'We are but reformers.'" in relation to modern day Islamic terrorism. Most of the extreme elements come out of the Wahhabi movement (although those within the movement itself reject that title, professing to be true Islam), and are founded on the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who lived in the eighteenth century and is partially responsible for the power structure in modern Saudi Arabia (the Saudi dynasty promoted his teachings in exchange for his promoting their dynasty). The important part here, is that the people who follow the teachings of al-Wahhab view themselves as reformers. They think Islam has become corrupt, and thus necessitates a 'reform' of it to return it to some past glory. As the verse states, we have a group that causes corruption under the guise of "reformation". That alone makes this one of the more salient verses for today's age.

Additionally, we see they are not wholly without guidance. Their guidance comes in brief "flashes", like lightning during a storm, but most of the time they must stumble in darkness due to their deception and self-deception.

2:21-23 said:
O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous - who made for you the earth a bed and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to God equals while you know. And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant, then produce a Surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than God, if you should be truthful.
Here we get a call to believe in God as well as the common proof of the Quran: that no mortal can produce verses like it. Also from a Baha'i perspective it sets a standard for using our own Scriptures and finding the proof of them within their own passages.

2:24 said:
But if you do not - and you will never be able to - then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.
From 'Abdu'l-Baha, we know that this Fire is the separation from God, "But for the people of God separation from God is the greatest torment of all." Baha'u'llah calls it in the Fire Tablet the "fire of separation". Again the punishment is the sin itself.

2:25 said:
And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens beneath which rivers flow. Whenever they are provided with a provision of fruit therefrom, they will say, "This is what we were provided with before." And it is given to them in likeness. And they will have therein purified spouses, and they will abide therein eternally.
"[Gardens] beneath which rivers flow" is an allusion to Heaven, which is described as such in Islam.

2:26 said:
Indeed, God is not timid to present an example - that of a gnat or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, "What did God intend by this as an example?" He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,
I'm... sure Gnat has something to say about this verse. ;) Hey Gnat you're proof of God!!

This verse is points to the Gnat as a proof of God, for to create even the smallest of creatures takes a tremendous amount of complexity in creation. We also get here a claim that this proof is only misleading to the "defiantly disobedient", that is, those looking to be misled.

2:27 said:
Who break the covenant of God after contracting it and sever that which God has ordered to be joined and cause corruption on earth. It is those who are the losers.
Here we get a verse touching on the importance of Unity, and that those who would disjoint something in a state of Unity will achieve only loss.

2:28-29 said:
How can you disbelieve in God when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you to life, and then to Him you will be returned. It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.
Fitting the theme of the gnat-verse above, this is more in the theme of "Creation itself is proof of God".

2:30-34 said:
And when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority." They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?" God said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." And He taught Adam the names - all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, "Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful." They said, "Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise." He said, "O Adam, inform them of their names." And when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the unseen of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed." And when We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam"; so they prostrated, except for Iblis. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.
Here we get a story of Creation. Whether you want to take it literally, figuratively, or both (I don't see why something can't be both literal and figurative), is up to you.

Basically God announces He will give the World a Prophet. Then the angels, believing themselves perfect, question God about His intent. Will He really give such authority to a human, a less perfect being then they, being angels, are??

God affirms that he knows more than the angels ever can, and thus His decision is greater than their opinions on the subject. He appoints Adam, and all angels submit to the Prophet, except for Iblis who, again believing himself more perfect than a human, refuses to submit.

This theme is mirrored in, well, the entirety of the Kitab-i-Iqan, with a major theme of that book being "God chooses whoever He Will to be His Messenger." The Kitab-i-Iqan does this wonderfully, and points out the imperfections of the choices God made for his Prophets. (Yes, Prophets are Infallible (or Guarded from Error in the original language), but they are not necessarily so before their appointment. The Iqan makes a big deal about Moses being guilty for the sin of murder, yet still being chosen by God for Prophethood.)

2:35-37 said:
And We said, "O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers." But Satan caused them to slip out of it and removed them from that (condition) in which they had been. And We said, "Go down, as enemies to one another, and you will have upon the earth a place of settlement and provision for a time." Then Adam received from his Lord words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Man, I could probably write like an entire book on the subject of the symbolism within specifically this part of the Creation narrative!!

But to keep it short we can glean from this that disobedience to God (and possibly the acceptance of "Knowledge" of Good and Evil (though this specific point is not in the Quranic account)) was the original cause of strife and enmity in mankind.

Interestingly, unlike the account of Genesis, the Quran also tells us of Adam repenting and God accepting and forgiving him of his transgression. An interesting addition to the story.

2:38-46 said:
We said, "Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance - there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. And those who disbelieve and deny Our signs - those will be companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally." O Children of Israel, remember My favor which I have bestowed upon you and fulfill My covenant (upon you) that I will fulfill your covenant (from Me), and be afraid of (only) Me. And believe in what I have sent down confirming that which is (already) with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And do not exchange My signs for a small price, and fear (only) Me. And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know. And establish prayer and give charity and bow with those who bow. Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason? And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive. Who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him.
First we have advice to follow the Prophets and Revelations of God, we have again reference to the Fire which has already been explained. A call to the people of God to remember their blessings and the Revelations of old. Furthermore is a call to be truthful, to "fear" (in older terminology this means "respect") only God, to give charity, observe prayer, and be patient.

There's also a call to not order others to be righteous without focusing on one's own righteousness, from a Baha'i lens, a call against backbiting.

There's also a statement that patience and prayer is "difficult" except for the submissive. This is more my fascination with Taoist writings that strictly Baha'i ones talking, but I take this to mean if one is "submissive", IE, accepting of the world the way it is and accepting whatever God will give, then things will generally come easier for the person because of that submissive nature. If one doesn't fault-find the world, then one can more easily accept what others would view as burden or hardship.

2:47-50 said:
O Children of Israel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over the worlds. And fear a Day when no soul will suffice for another soul at all, nor will intercession be accepted from it, nor will compensation be taken from it, nor will they be aided. And when We saved your forefathers from the people of Pharaoh, who afflicted you with the worst torment, slaughtering your sons and keeping your females alive. And in that was a great trial from your Lord. And when We parted the sea for you and saved you and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were looking on.
A call to remember a time when there were many hardships placed upon the people of God. ("[Great] trial from your Lord" here likely doesn't mean that in a literal sense (as in, God literally causing the Hebrew boys to be killed), but "great trial" as in the general Problem of Evil and how people must find ways to deal with it)

But it also calls on people to remember the many blessings God has given, and the fact that God delivered the people from their hardships.

2:51-61 said:
And when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights. Then you took (for worship) the calf after him, while you were wrongdoers. Then We forgave you after that so perhaps you would be grateful. And when We gave Moses the Scripture and criterion that perhaps you would be guided. And when Moses said to his people, "O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by your taking of the calf. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves. That is best for you in the sight of your Creator." Then He accepted your repentance; indeed, He is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful. And when you said, "O Moses, we will never believe you until we see God outright"; so the thunderbolt took you while you were looking on. Then We revived you after your death that perhaps you would be grateful. And We shaded you with clouds and sent down to you manna and quails, "Eat from the good things with which We have provided you." And they wronged Us not - but they were wronging themselves. And when We said, "Enter this city and eat from it wherever you will in abundance, and enter the gate bowing humbly and say, 'Relieve us of our burdens.' We will forgive your sins for you, and We will increase the doers of good (in goodness and reward)." But those who wronged changed (those words) to a statement other than that which had been said to them, so We sent down upon those who wronged a punishment from the sky because they were defiantly disobeying. And when Moses prayed for water for his people, so We said, "Strike with your staff the stone." And there gushed forth from it twelve springs, and every people knew its watering place. "Eat and drink from the provision of God, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption." And when you said, "O Moses, we can never endure one kind of food. So call upon your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions." Moses said, "Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into (any) settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked." And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from God. That was because they disbelieved in the signs of God and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were transgressing.
Here we pretty much get an abridged version of the story of Moses in the wilderness from the Old Testament. It pretty much covers two themes: reminding people of all the times God has forgiven transgression, and reminding people of all the times God has given blessings.

One line that sticks out to me is "And they wronged Us not - but they were wronging themselves." This seems to fit with what the Baha'i Faith says about the Fire. That separation from God is the punishment for separation from God. This seems to reinforce an idea that most sins are self-punishing. A sin does not hurt God, it hurts the sinner. Guidance isn't necessarily given because God wants to restrict certain behaviors, but rather is a message that sins will cause you harm. Sort of like a theological "Don't Walk On Thin Ice" sign.

2:62 said:
Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans - those who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness - will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.
This is a wonderful verse that tells that the believers of past Revelations are already saved!!

I also saw a translation out there that entered the phrase "(before Muhammad)" after the word "Sabeans", as if to imply that only Jews, Christians, and Sabeans prior to Muhammad's Revelation would be saved. :( It's sad how some people try to twist the Words.

2:64-66 said:
And when We took your covenant, and We raised over you the mount, (saying), "Take what We have given you with determination and remember what is in it that perhaps you may become righteous." Then you turned away after that. And if not for the favor of God upon you and His mercy, you would have been among the losers. And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, "Be apes, despised." And We made it a deterrent punishment for those who were present and those who succeeded (them) and a lesson for those who fear God.
“We took your covenant” is in reference to God’s covenant with the Hebrew peoples through the Prophet Moses, and the verse says that those who held firm in the covenant were raised up and became righteous. On the other hand, those who did not hold firm with what God had given them are "apes, despised.”

Now, considering this from a Baha'i point of view, what we have here is a re-affirmation about what is said by the likes of 'Abdu'l-Baha about man's lesser nature. God gives us guides through his Scriptures on how to overcome our more animal nature and achieve new states of enlightenment. This is why those who take to heart what He gives us are "enlightened" and those who make no effort to overcome their animal nature are "apes". The goal of religion is to become more than animal.

We also get word here that observing those who do not strive to overcome mankind's natural but less-desirable qualities can serve as an example to us on why it is so important that mankind must overcome such inborn natures as tribalism, anger, greed, etc.

2:67-71 said:
And when Moses said to his people, "Indeed, God commands you to slaughter a cow." They said, "Do you take us in ridicule?" He said, "I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant." They said, "Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is." (Moses) said, "He says, 'It is a cow which is neither old nor virgin, but median between that,' so do what you are commanded." They said, "Call upon your Lord to show us what is her color." He said, "He says, 'It is a yellow cow, bright in color - pleasing to the observers.'" They said, "Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is. Indeed, cows look alike to us. And indeed we, if God wills, will be guided." He said, "He says, 'It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.' " They said, "Now you have come with the truth." So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it.
This verse recalls the story of Moses telling his people to sacrifice a cow. His people question him on the specifics of the cow, and have a hard time sacrificing it. Which brings up the topic of animal sacrifice.

This is more a Baha'i of Judaism than Islam, as animal sacrifice has been replaced in Islam. The act is a means to train one's detachment, as back in the age where God mandated animal sacrifice, personal wealth was dictated in terms of how many animals one owned. The act is, thus, a show of giving up wealth, and rejecting attachment to it.

We can see that the meaning of sacrifice is surrendering wealth in the above verses. When asked about the qualities of the required sacrifice, Moses commands that it neither by young nor old, possess no faults, and not be worn with work and labor. In other words, the sacrifice can't be subjected to loopholes, by getting rid of an animal that had little value in the first place, but must actually be an animal of worth.

Islam replaces this idea with Zakah, or charity, which is then updated to Huququ'llah in this modern dispensation, as animals are no longer the primary form of wealth in this world.

We also see that Moses' people struggle with attachment, as they "could hardly do it."

2:72-74 said:
And when you slew a man and disputed over it, but God was to bring out that which you were concealing. So, We said, "Strike the slain man with part of it." Thus does God bring the dead to life, and He shows you His signs that you might reason. Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of God. And God is not unaware of what you do.
Here the Quran recounts an incident where a man is murdered, and Moses brings him back long enough to identify his murderer, and yet even after that miracle, people refuse to believe.

2:75-77 said:
Do you covet, that they would believe for you while a party of them used to hear the words of God and then distort the Torah after they had understood it while they were knowing? And when they meet those who believe, they say, "We have believed"; but when they are alone with one another, they say, "Do you talk to them about what God has revealed to you so they can argue with you about it before your Lord?" Then will you not reason? But do they not know that God knows what they conceal and what they declare?
This refers to two classes of people: those who profess to believe, but don't, and those who profess to believe, but distort the Word of God to their own ends. It assures us that God knows what is in people's hearts.

2:78-79 said:
And among them are unlettered ones who do not know the Scripture except in wishful thinking, but they are only assuming. So woe to those who write the "scripture" with their own hands, then say, "This is from God," in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.
This is about illiterate people who don't know the Scripture, but assume they do or believe it says what they want it to and spread their assumptions telling people it is truth.

Now, you'd think this wouldn't be of much use as a verse in the modern day, because literacy is up worldwide.

However, there still are a disheartening amount of people in the world who don't actually know what their Scriptures teach, and who spread merely what they think it teaches to others.

I recall a billboard I saw in my youth that quoted a bible verse to make a political point, but when I got home and opened up my bible I discovered, to my shock, that the chapter and verse cited by the billboard did not even exist.

Then there's the story that was in the news about two men who went off to join ISIS and who, shortly before leaving to devote their lives to ISIS, ordered the books "Islam for Dummies" and "The Quran for Dummies" off of the internet.

I saw an article a few weeks ago trying to tie President Donald Trump to "Quranic Prophecy", which cited a verse that isn't even prophetic, and spoke about people in the Prophet Muhammad's time, rather than being any predictor of the future.

So unfortunately, even in today's age we must be vigilant, that when talking about our Scriptures we speak only of what is in the writings, not what we assume or speculate might be in the writings.

At the time I saw the billboard I talked about above, I could not even concede of why someone would take it upon themselves to spread misinformation like this. Interestingly enough, the Quran actually gives me the answer to the question I had in the below verse:

2:80-81 said:
And they say, "Never will the Fire touch us, except for a few days." Say, "Have you taken a covenant with God? For God will never break His covenant. Or do you say about God that which you do not know?" Yes, whoever earns evil and his sin has encompassed him - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.
In the mind of people who twist the words of Scripture, what they are doing is right. They are doing it for a righteous cause, or so they assume. Even if they aren't being honest about the contents of Scripture, the ultimate effects of their distortion will be good for all humanity. So they imagine that this type of distortion isn't too bad, and any punishment they might suffer for doing this won't be that bad.

The Quran refutes this assumption asking if the distorter has God's own promise that their punishment will not be severe?? Or are they merely assuming and imagining that God does not disapprove too strongly of their actions??

Now to touch on the subject of punishment and the Fire. We are told that the Fire is separation from God in our Scriptures, and that it is self-inflicted. So how does this make sense in the above verses?? Distorting the Scriptures is, I think we can all agree, not a good thing, but how would it lead directly to separation from God??

I would propose that the separation from God that the distorter causes is due to their attachment. They are attaching themselves to a false image of God they are concocting in their mind. They assume God would approve of their distortion and thus separate themselves from the real God by attaching themselves to their false image.

2:82 said:
But they who believe and do righteous deeds - those are the companions of Paradise; they will abide therein eternally.
On the flip side, however, those who are honest in their approach to God and not misled by their own imaginations of His nature gain true detachment and are with God.

2:83 said:
And when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, "Do not worship except God; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good (words) and establish prayer and give Zakah." Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing.
Zakah, as mentioned above, is charitable givings, the successor of animal sacrifice and precursor to Huququ'llah.

This is pretty much saying similar things to many Baha'i themes. Many who accept the old revelation nevertheless now refuse the New.

2:84-86 said:
And when We took your covenant, "Do not shed each other's blood or evict one another from your homes." Then you acknowledged (this) while you were witnessing. Then, you are those (same ones who are) killing one another and evicting a party of your people from their homes, cooperating against them in sin and aggression. And if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, although their eviction was forbidden to you. So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And God is not unaware of what you do. Those are the ones who have bought the life of this world for the Hereafter, so the punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be aided.
This is an interesting verse, telling that those who are complacent in allowing murder and eviction are just as culpable in the act as those who undertook the murder and eviction.

2:87-90 said:
And We did certainly give Moses the Torah and followed up after him with messengers. And We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear proofs and supported him with the Pure Spirit. But is it (not) that every time a messenger came to you, with what your souls did not desire, you were arrogant? And a party (of messengers) you denied and another party you killed. And they said, "Our hearts are wrapped." But, God has cursed them for their disbelief, so little is it that they believe. And when there came to them a Book from God confirming that which was with them - although before they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved - but when there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it; so the curse of God will be upon the disbelievers. How wretched is that for which they sold themselves - that they would disbelieve in what God has revealed through (their) outrage that God would send down His favor upon whom He wills from among His servants. So they returned having wrath upon wrath. And for the disbelievers is a humiliating punishment.
A reiteration of a theme common in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha'i Faith: The Rejection of the Prophets.

It points out a type of oddity that people are so willing to reject the New message, even if it confirms everything they already believe, merely because of the one God chose to give the next message. Again, we get echoes of the Baha'i verse on God's selections for Prophethood: "He doeth whatsoever he willeth."

We also get mention of curse and punishment, again this being separation from God. Again this separation from God arises from clinging and attachment to a person's own ideas of what God "should" be.

2:91 said:
And when it is said to them, "Believe in what God has revealed," they say, "We believe (only) in what was revealed to us." And they disbelieve in what came after it, while it is the truth confirming that which is with them. Say, "Then why did you kill the Prophets of God before, if you are [indeed] believers?"
This is an rebuttal to those who wish to only believe in the revelations of the past, pointing out that the rejection of Prophets is nothing new, a theme present in the Torah and Gospels alike.

And we know that Baha'u'llah uses and reiterates the same arguments for those who would reject the Bayan of the Bab. These verses of the Quran becoming a template for arguing the Baha'i cause.

2:92-93 said:
And Moses had certainly brought you clear proofs. Then you took the calf after that, while you were wrongdoers. And when We took your covenant and raised over you the mount, (saying), "Take what We have given you with determination and listen." They said, "We hear and disobey." And their hearts absorbed the calf because of their disbelief. Say, "How wretched is that which your faith enjoins upon you, if you should be believers."
The example of the Golden Calf given to elaborate on 2:91.

2:94-95 said:
Say, "If the home of the Hereafter with God is for you alone and not the (other) people, then wish for death, if you should be truthful. But they will never wish for it, ever, because of what their hands have put forth. And God is Knowing of the wrongdoers.
This talks about the foolishness in assuming only one's own religion may gain access to Heaven.

This is a sentiment I think the whole world needs to meditate on.

2:96 said:
And you will surely find them the most greedy of people for life - more than those who associate others with God. One of them wishes that he could be granted life a thousand years, but it would not remove him in the least from the punishment that he should be granted life. And God is Seeing of what they do.
A warning not to exchange detachment for earthly and temporary pleasures.

2:97-98 said:
Say, "Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel - it is he who has brought the Qur'an down upon your heart, by permission of God, confirming that which was before it and as guidance and good tidings for the believers. Whoever is an enemy to God and His angels and His messengers and Gabriel and Michael - then indeed, God is an enemy to the disbelievers."
Gabriel is the angel who brought Muhammad's "Awakening". This is possibly a topic for another time, but each Messenger seems to have some sort of spirit entity grant them an Awakening into Prophethood. Zoroaster awakened by Vohu Manah, Moses awakened by the Burning Bush, Buddha awakened by the Bodhi Tree, Jesus awakened by the Dove, Muhammad awakened by Gabriel, the Bab awakened by the Head of Husayn ibn Ali, and Baha'u'llah awakened by the Maid. I'm not fully sure what this all means, that each Prophet has a sort of spiritual guide, but it is nonetheless very interesting to think about.

Back on topic, this verse states that anyone who has made themselves an enemy to God's messengers or angels makes themselves an enemy to God. There are Baha'i Scriptures that say much of the same.

Looking a bit deeper, we can elaborate that since the Prophets are the ones that bring God's message to the people and the Angels are the ones that bring God's message to the Prophet, the meaning of this verse could be that one who rejects a Revelation thus rejects God. Which would make sense, since God's commandments exist to foster detachment and nearness to God, one who rejects that guide to connection to God is essentially personally rejecting the opportunity to grow closer to God.
Jun 2014
2:99-101 said:
And We have certainly revealed to you verses (which are) clear proofs, and no one would deny them except the defiantly disobedient. Is it not (true) that every time they took a covenant a party of them threw it away? But, most of them do not believe. And when a messenger from God came to them confirming that which was with them, a party of those who had been given the Scripture threw the Scripture of God behind their backs as if they did not know (what it contained).
More on the theme of the Rejection of the Prophets.

2:102-103 said:
And they followed what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut. But the two angels do not teach anyone unless they say, "We are a trial, so do not disbelieve." And they learn from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by permission of God. And the people learn what harms them and does not benefit them. But the Children of Israel certainly knew that whoever purchased the magic would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew. And if they had believed and feared God, then the reward from God would have been better, if they only knew.
There's a lot to unpack here.

First it is important to know that the word used here is "devil" rather than "djinn". This is important for analyzing this as the terms "devil" and "djinn" can have different meanings according to 'Abdu'l-Baha in interpreting Scripture. "Devil" can mean a person's baser animal instincts or one who is more given to their baser animal instincts.

Then we have an instance of two angels, Harut and Marut, coming to Babylon and serving as a "trial" teaching people magic in the process. Devils here are also said to teach people magic. This knowledge of magic causes problems and strife amongst the people of Babylon and causes them harm and problems with God.

So: The topic of magic.

As far as I know (if I am wrong, someone please correct me, as it would be interesting to read for certain!!) there is no instructions given to us by any of the Baha'i Prophets or holy figures about how we are to interpret the term "magic" in older scriptures. Thus, this is wholly my own thoughts and speculations on this subject.

We know that "magic" is at least a real thing, as the Bab writes in the Bayan-i-Farsi that Moses was given command over the same knowledge and talents that the court magicians at Pharaoh's court were given, just to a greater and more impressive degree.

We don't have any instruction on how to interpret the term "magic" from a Baha'i perspective, so instead I'd propose we look to the real world to learn what magic is. Or, rather, to learn what people call magic.

I posit that "magic" is the term that is given to unknown knowledge known only by a few scholarly elites in any given age.

This is why, for example, when we look at the culture and stories of "magic" in the dark ages, we see at a time when only scholars were literate, magic is portrayed as being a supernatural force harnessed by secret magical tomes that reveal magic words and incantations. The secret knowledge of that age was literacy, which due to not many people being literate created a mystical awe around the idea of reading and writing. If you go back to viking myth you can see the same thing in "magic runes". The literal alphabet was believed to have secret powers.

Take the Renaissance of Europe or Chinese traditions of magic, "alchemy", and what you really have is a primitive understanding of Chemistry. Those societies came to label chemistry as "magic".

If you examine the magical traditions of pre-writing cultures magic is typically in the form of a magical item or fetish made by a secret means that has magical powers. In this case craftsmanship and toolmaking has been elevated to the status of "magic" in the collective imagination of people.

And this even sort of continues to the modern age (though we stopped calling it "magic"). Modern books and films that portray any sort of computer-programming or "hacking" related things greatly exaggerate the ability of computer technology. Some of the most famous hacking related movies in modern culture are quite laughably in the realm of fantasy.

So every age people tend to exaggerate and overestimate the abilities of the cutting-age technology of that era, and these things tend to be classified as "magic" in the consciousness of that society.

So I'd guess that the "magic" in Scripture is no different. The magicians at Pharaoh's court merely being privy to technological and sleight-of-hand abilities that were beyond that of the common man and thus were labeled "magic".

If we can conclude that "magic" is the term for cutting-edge science that is outside the knowledge scope of the majority of people, then the story of Harut and Marut above begins to look different. It is the story of God sending knowledge and wisdom down to the people of Babylon, but those people turning from God and using this gifted knowledge and technological prowess to their ultimate detriment. In other words, "And the people learn what harms them and does not benefit them."

If this interpretation is correct, then it hearkens to the Baha'i saying that religion and science are two wings of the same bird. Harut and Marut (perhaps Prophets, as an angel in the Baha'i understanding can be any Holy Soul, or perhaps like Gabriel the awakeners of another Babylonian prophet) presumably brought the Babylonians both religion and science, but the Babylonians in turn focused on only one blessing, or "wing", hobbling their ability to fly and ultimately causing the "bird" of their society to crash.

2:104 said:
O you who have believed, say not, "Ra'ina" but say, "Unthurna" and listen. And for the disbelievers is a painful punishment
Alright. This one's a kind of really specific and now completely anachronistic commandment. Basically "Ra'ina" and "Unthurna" were both valid words to make an inquiry to the Prophet Muhammad, the first meaning "give us your attention" and the second meaning "look upon us". Why was "Ra'ina" banned?? Well, certain disbelievers had taken to mocking Muhammad by twisting the word "Ra'ina" to make it sound like the word "Ra'inu" meaning "vicious", so to cut the mockery Muhammad asked that his followers stop using the word that could be linguistically twisted by disbelievers and instead use a term that could not be so twisted.

2:105 said:
Neither those who disbelieve from the People of the Scripture nor the polytheists wish that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord. But God selects for His mercy whom He wills, and God is the possessor of great bounty.
This is saying that disbelievers will resent it when those who follow God are blessed, but "He doeth whatsoever he willeth."

2:106=107 said:
We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that God is over all things competent? Do you not know that to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and (that) you have not besides God any protector or any helper?
Basically it is saying: If God is omnipotent, we can trust that the New Laws are at least as good as, if not better, his Old Laws.

2:108 said:
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.
This is saying the denials heaped upon Muhammad are the same as those that were heaped on Moses before. Denial of the Prophets is nothing new.

2:109-110 said:
Many of the People of the Scripture wish they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of envy from themselves (even) after the truth has become clear to them. So pardon and overlook until God delivers His command. Indeed, God is over all things competent. And establish prayer and give Zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with God. Indeed, God, of what you do, is Seeing.
People will wish you to deny your new beliefs, but pardon them, live a good life, and leave judgement to God.

2:111 said:
And they say, "None will enter Paradise except one who is a Jew or a Christian." That is their wishful thinking, Say, "Produce your proof, if you should be truthful."
Again, a rebuttal to the assertion that only one faith gains access to heaven. Also, interestingly, a call for skepticism and to call for proof.

2:112 said:
Yes, whoever submits his whole self to God while being a doer of good will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.
This verse I see twisted a lot, though I cannot say if it is intentional or not. It is saying whoever submits wholly to God and does goodwill will enter Heaven. I see a lot of people twist "submission" to "Islam" (which means, "submission" of course, so it is still accurate, technically), but doing so makes the English reading almost seem to be less about any good person being able to meet God, and instead being about only those who practice Islam being able to meet God.

2:113 said:
The Jews say "The Christians have nothing to stand on," and the Christians say, "The Jews have nothing to stand on," although they (both) recite the Scripture. Thus the polytheists speak the same as their words. But God will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ.
This is about the dissent and heated disagreements between those who submit to God, yet imagine others do not due to the labels used.

2:114 said:
And who are more unjust than those who prevent the name of God from being mentioned in His mosques and strive toward their destruction. It is not for them to enter them except in fear. For them in this world is disgrace, and they will have in the Hereafter a great punishment.
This was revealed at the time where Muhammad and his followers were repressed, and such acts are denounced.

2:115-117 said:
And to God belongs the east and the west. So wherever you turn, there is the Face of God. Indeed, God is all-Encompassing and Knowing. They say, "God has taken a son." Exalted is He! Rather, to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him, Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, "Be," and it is.
This is a statement of God's omnipotence and status as the Creator and Lord of everything. It asks "how can such a being have a 'son'?", in response to the rise amongst Christians of a very literal interpretation of the title "Son of God".

The Christian Gospel reads "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.", which rather clearly indicates that "Son of God" was meant as a general title for all Peacemakers. However it came to be understood (and still is understood) by Christians that Jesus was the "only" Son of God, and the "Son of God" took on a more literal meaning, due to the immaculate conception.

It's important to note that Christianity didn't always view things this way, and the Council of Nicea was what solidified the ideas of Jesus as literal son, only son, and literal God in the official doctrine of Christendom. Even then, other Christians challenged the ruling at Nicene, but eventually the Church of Rome put an end to the "heretics" who broke with Nicene, with the last challengers falling shortly before the arrival of Muhammad.

This verse instead counters the literal son and only son theorems, stating that God is the creator and Lord of everything. And if He created and commands everything then how could it be that Jesus was the "only" Son of God??

2:118-119 said:
Those who do not know say, "Why does God not speak to us or there come to us a sign?" Thus spoke those before them like their words. Their hearts resemble each other. We have shown clearly the signs to a people who are certain. Indeed, We have sent you, (O Muhammad), with the truth as a bringer of good tidings and a warner, and you will not be asked about the companions of Hellfire.
This is pretty much stating that though the truth is evident, people will still demand more proof.

2:120 said:
And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, "Indeed, the guidance of God is the (only) guidance." If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against God no protector or helper.
This is very interesting to me, as this is one of many points where the Quran outright states the inherent dangers of religious group identities. Other times in this Surah we see it is said that even if you agree and confirm all that is believed by those of other religions, they still will not approve until you make their religious identity your own.

Time and time again we get indications in the Quran that the word by which you identify yourself is more important to some religious people than what you actually believe. In all cases, we are instructed by the Quran to never take on a religious group identity, responding to those who demand we be a part of this-or-that group by simply stating "I just follow God."

We even see this in the terms "Islam" and "Muslim". The literal meaning of "Islam" is "submission to God". The literal meaning of "Muslim" is "one who submits to God." These were clearly not intended as group identifiers, but merely were a way of saying "I follow God" in response to people asking what religious group one was affiliated with.

I've stated before, I think the word "Baha'i" is intended to be used in a similar manner, as 'Abdu'l-Baha has outright stated that you don't even need to have heard of Baha'u'llah to be a "Baha'i".

Over time, of course, the meaning has morphed, and regardless of the literal meaning the terms "Islam" and "Muslim" are now seen as the identifier of a religious group and a religious group identifier, as we can see by the fact that these terms are always preserved in Arabic even when speaking in another language. Which is sad, since the terms were intended to be used to say "I don't follow any group, I follow God".

2:121-123 said:
Those to whom We have given the Book recite it with its true recital. They believe in it. And whoever disbelieves in it - it is they who are the losers. O Children of Israel, remember My favor which I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over the worlds. And fear a Day when no soul will suffice for another soul at all, and no compensation will be accepted from it, nor will any intercession benefit it, nor will they be aided.
Another in the theme of "remember your blessings, and do not turn from God".

2:125-126 said:
And when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. (God) said, "Indeed, I will make you a leader for the people." (Abraham]) said, "And of my descendants?" (God) said, "My covenant does not include the wrongdoers." And when We made the House a place of return and security for the people. And take from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, "Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying for worship and those who bow and prostrate (in prayer)." And when Abraham said, "My Lord, make this a secure city and provide its people with fruits - whoever of them believes in Allah and the Last Day." (God) said. "And whoever disbelieves - I will grant him enjoyment for a little; then I will force him to the punishment of the Fire, and wretched is the destination."

This tells of Abraham and God. Notably, God says his covenant is only for those who follow him. Interestingly, since we know that the Fire is separation from God, the sin being the punishment, the "I will grant him enjoyment for a little" line seems to imply that God will bless even those who separate themselves from Him, though not as much as those who detach from all save Him.

2:127-128 said:
And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House (saying), "Our Lord, accept (this) from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing. Our Lord, and make us submitters of You, and from our descendants a nation (in submission) to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Here's another one I see twisted via translation quite a bit. It's often left as "make us Muslims" and "our descendants a Muslim nation", as if implying religious group identity rather than merely being an request to submission to God. From here on out, it is safe to assume that every instance of the word "submit" or "submission" will be subject to frequent translation corruption. :(

2:129 said:
Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise."
They request their descendents be guided by Prophets. A request that has been granted. Many times. :D

2:130-134 said:
And who would be averse to the religion of Abraham except one who makes a fool of himself. And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he, in the Hereafter, will be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, "Submit", he said "I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds." And Abraham instructed his Sons and Jacob, "O my sons, indeed God has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you submit to God." Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, "What will you worship after me?" They said, "We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac - one God. And we are submit to Him." That was a nation which has passed on. It will have what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do.
Finishing off the story of Abraham and the faith of his Sons and Grandsons.

2:135-136 said:
They say, "Become Jews or Christians (so) you will be guided." Say, "Rather, (we follow) the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth, and he was not of the polytheists." Say, "We have believed in God and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we submit to Him."
2:136 was once my favorite verse, until another won my heart. Back when I was rather desperate to figure out a label of some kind for what I believed the verse instead encouraged me to not worry about that. To not worry about a label for my belief, but rather just accept it was enough to believe in God and the Prophets. If you have that much, why do you need to name it??

2:137-138 said:
So if they believe in the same as you believe in, then they have been guided; but if they turn away, they are only in dissension, and God will be sufficient for you against them. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (And say, "(Ours is) the religion of God. And who is better than God in religion? And we are worshippers of Him."
Again is the wonderful theme of "don't worry about what to call it, just follow God."

2:139-141 said:
Say, (O Muhammad), "Do you argue with us about God while He is our Lord and your Lord? For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. And we are sincere to Him." Or do you say that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants were Jews or Christians? Say, "Are you more knowing or is God?" And who is more unjust than one who conceals a testimony he has from God? And God is not unaware of what you do. That is a nation which has passed on. It will have what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do.
The first part is basically "We all worship the same God, why do you want to argue with us so badly??" in response to Christians and Jews, and also rebutting by asking "Was Abraham, a man who lived before either term came about, a Christian or Jew??" Because how can there be a Christian before the founding of Nazareth ("Nazarene" was the term that Arab Christians of Muhammad's time used to label their faith), or a Jew before the nation of Judah was established?? But Abraham was surely a man who "submitted to God", so how can one object to terming oneself a "submitter to God" rather than calling oneself a "Christian" or "Jew"?? It also rejects the term "Jew" as it refers to a citizen of the Nation of Judah, which was a nation long gone at the time, and "Christian" or "Nazarene" as being the word for a citizen of a far-off city.

2:142-150 said:
The foolish among the people will say, "What has turned them away from their qiblah, which they used to face?" Say, "To God belongs the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight path." And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom God has guided. And never would God have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed God is, to the people, Kind and Merciful. We have certainly seen the turning of your face, (O Muhammad), toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you are, turn your faces toward it. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And God is not unaware of what they do. And if you brought to those who were given the Scripture every sign, they would not follow your qiblah. Nor will you be a follower of their qiblah. Nor would they be followers of one another's qiblah. So if you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, indeed, you would then be among the wrongdoers. Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know (it). The truth is from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. For each has a direction toward which it faces. So race to (all that is) good. Wherever you may be, Allah will bring you forth all together. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent. So from wherever you go out (for prayer) turn your face toward al- Masjid al-Haram, and indeed, it is the truth from your Lord. And God is not unaware of what you do. And from wherever you go out (for prayer), turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you may be, turn your faces toward it in order that the people will not have any argument against you, except for those of them who commit wrong; so fear them not but fear Me. And so I may complete My favor upon you and that you may be guided.
This refers to when Muhammad changed the direction in which people prayed. People were outraged by the change, but since God is everywhere and it was a symbol of faith in the new dispensation the change made sense. This verse is also the justification for Baha'u'llah to change the direction of prayer in this modern age.

Scholars have also frequently said that the change in direction was essentially a test of faith. Those who were too attached to ritual and tradition, rather than detached save all but God, were those who were outraged by the change, despite God's omnipresence. People attached to the appearance of religion rather than the one God who is behind it.

2:151-153 said:
Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting to you Our verses and purifying you and teaching you the Book and wisdom and teaching you that which you did not know. So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, God is with the patient.
Trust in God, and be patient.

2:154 said:
And do not say about those who are killed in the way of God, "They are dead." Rather, they are alive, but you perceive not.
This verse states that martyrs are not truly dead.

This verse will also become important when discussing the Quranic account of the crucifixion, and common misconceptions and interpretations around that particular verse.

2:155-157 said:
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, "Indeed we belong to God, and indeed to Him we will return." Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the guided.
This verse urges trust in God and patience in the face of the Problem of Evil.

2:158 said:
Indeed, as-Safa and al-Marwah are among the symbols of Allah . So whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs 'umrah - there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good - then indeed, God is appreciative and Knowing.
As-Safa and al-Marwah are two points of the Hajj pilgrimage, to which this verse is referring.

2:159-160 said:
Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture - those are cursed by God and cursed by those who curse, Except for those who repent and correct themselves and make evident (what they concealed). Those - I will accept their repentance, and I am the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Here again we get a repetition that those who distort the Word of God are committing a grievous sin, but then we are told that not even that sin makes someone beyond redemption.

2:161-162 said:
Indeed, those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers - upon them will be the curse of God and of the angels and the people, all together, Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved.
This is another one that is challenging from a Baha'i viewpoint.

Of note based on the context above, this is not in reference to ALL "disbelief", but contextually this is strictly the type of "disbelief" ("denial" is perhaps a better translation here) that comes from concealing or twisting Scriptures.

We know that the punishment is simply separation from God.

According to this verse of the Quran, then, the unrepentant distorter who dies has an eternal separation from God.

Why would this happening cause such a permanent separation??

With the verse before, we know that part of atoning for the sin of twisting scripture involves revealing your deceit. IE, righting the wrongs and misconceptions you caused to arise. If you die without revealing how you distorted Scripture, then your secret potentially dies with you. You are bereft of an opportunity to reveal your deceit and heal the damage you did to the world from your lies.

Thus, while one can imagine repentance happening after death, and one could imagine the post-mortem repenter could draw closer to God, they will always have the damage they dealt to the Faith with them, with no way of repairing it. The distortion becomes cemented.

Thankfully, with increases in literacy, the proliferation of Scripture, and the internet, it is now incredibly hard to commit the sin of Scriptural distortion. You'd need to essentially lie about the contents of a holy book to some sort of society that has no access to that book, nor the internet.

2:163-167 said:
And your god is one God. There is no deity except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what God has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every moving creature, and directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason. And among the people are those who take other than God as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love God. But those who believe are stronger in love for God. And if only they who have wronged would consider (that) when they see the punishment, (they will be certain) that all power belongs to God and that God is severe in punishment. (And they should consider that) when those who have been followed disassociate themselves from those who followed (them), and they see the punishment, and cut off from them are the ties, Those who followed will say, "If only we had another turn (at worldly life) so we could disassociate ourselves from them as they have disassociated themselves from us." Thus will God show them their deeds as regrets upon them. And they are never to emerge from the Fire.
A statement of Monotheism and Proof-in-Creation, followed up by talking about people who love other things as equals to God.

The flaw of those people who love other things equal to god is that they fail to "dissociate", or in more familiar Baha'i terminology, detach. They remain attached to things, so they endure the Fire, as the Fire, being separation from God, is the direct result of attachment to other than God.

It is also talking about, narrowly, Christians, or more broadly, those who focus more on their religious Prophets or teachers than they focus on God. They will see that their leaders are detatched, and see the flaw in their attachment to their leader via example, and desire another turn at life to detach while living.

It talks of people whose attachments are so strong, they cannot find it in them to ever detach.

2:168-173 said:
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth (that is) lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. He only orders you to evil and immorality and to say about God what you do not know. And when it is said to them, "Follow what God has revealed," they say, "Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing." Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided? The example of those who disbelieve is like that of one who shouts at what hears nothing but calls and cries cattle or sheep - deaf, dumb and blind, so they do not understand. O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to God if it is Him that you worship. He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than God. But whoever is forced (by necessity), neither desiring nor transgressing, there is no sin upon him. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.
This is the establishment of Islamic dietary law.

Dietary law is a subset of hygiene law. Hygiene laws are set down by God to aid the health and well-being of mankind before scientific advancements were available to show us how to be healthy ourselves. Dietary law specifically existed at a time where the consumption of certain things was not safe. Dietary laws have loosened under Baha'u'llah as we now have ways to safely eat what was unsafe before.

Islamic dietary law also expands and clarifies on Jewish dietary law, stating that if necessary, forbidden things may be eaten. This shows us that the dietary laws are intended for our benefit, as they allow unhealthy foods to be consumed if the alternative is starvation, which obviously is of worse effect to human health.

2:174-176 said:
Indeed, they who conceal what God has sent down of the Book and exchange it for a small price - those consume not into their bellies except the Fire. And God will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. And they will have a painful punishment. Those are the ones who have exchanged guidance for error and forgiveness for punishment. How patient they are in pursuit of the Fire! That is because God has sent down the Book in truth. And indeed, those who differ over the Book are in extreme dissension.
Those who distort Scripture suffer separation.

This chapter really emphasizes how serious the sin of distortion is, as we can see by the repetition of this theme. And, looking at the sad way in which some people have distorted the Quran itself, I think there's a very good reason that this theme is so strongly emphasized.

2:177 said:
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but righteousness is one who believes in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask (for help), and for freeing slaves; establishes prayer and gives zakah; fulfill their promise when they promise; and are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.
Speaking of "turning your faces toward the east or the west" refers to different religious groups, as different groups faced different directions for prayer. This is thus saying that what a person's religious affiliation is is not what is important, what is important is:

Belief in God,

Belief in the Last Day, which in Baha'i understanding is the Next Revelation,

Belief in the angels, which in Baha'i understanding is any holy figure and/or God's manifestation to the Prophets,

Belief in the Book, the Words revealed by God,

Belief in the Prophets,

Giving wealth/detaching from wealth,

Caring for relatives,

Caring for orphans,

Caring for the needy,

Caring for travellers,

Caring for anyone who asks,

Freeing slaves,

Establishing prayer,

Giving charity,

Fulfilling promises,

And showing patience in all hardships.

2:178-179 said:
O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered - the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment. And there is for you in legal retribution life, O you of understanding, that you may become righteous.
On the face of this, this verse may look appalling. When I first read it, and when many first read it, it can seem as though it is saying if a slave is murdered than a slave should be killed in retribution.

Fortunately that is not what was meant.

Rather, this verse was specifically given at a time when two tribes both converted to become Muhammad's followers, each being bitter rivals that had endured a bloody struggle with one another in which many men, women, and slaves were killed. The stronger tribe came to Muhammad demanding that he intervene and force the weaker tribe to face "justice", the stronger tribe defining justice as having a free-born man from the weaker tribe put to death for every single person who had died on the stronger tribe's side, regardless whether that person was the one to have committed the murder or not.

Muhammad instead issued this verse, which is actually means that the sentence for murder is death, regardless of the status of the murderer. If a slave commits murder, that slave is to be put to death. If a free man commits murder, that free man is to be put to death. If a woman commits murder, that woman is to be put to death. That was what is meant by "free for the free" and "slave to the slave". It is to say that no one may be punished on the murderer's behalf. That one cannot be punished for the crimes of their spouse or slaves.

Also this law clearly allows for slavery, while the verse before it is says it is preferable to free slaves. From this, we can infer that this is meant to be a transitory law to do away with slavery gradually, similar to how Baha'u'llah allows bigamy, but stated monogamy was preferable. In the current Baha'i revelation, slavery is wholly abolished, but we see Muhammad setting the stage for Baha'u'llah's emancipation here, in setting a standard that slavery is permitted, but freeing slaves a blessed act.

Back on the topic of the death sentence for murder, we also have here that if the family of the murdered agree to mercy, then the murderer only must pay a fine in penance. In the Baha'i era we have two different options for approaching murder. The murderer should either be imprisoned for life, or put to death. In the year 600 A.D., however, the economy of pretty much all nations did not allow for long-term incarceration for all criminals. Supporting and imprisoning a person for life was just not something that was a feasible option (and in a few places today, it still is not a feasible option, which is why I believe the Baha'i Faith still permits for the death penalty), so either a death sentence or a blood debt is allowed.

However this verse also makes it so someone cannot abuse the blood debt. A person who is shown mercy, pays the blood debt, and then murders again is, as a danger to society, not permitted to be shown mercy again, but must be given the death penalty. Again, for the reality of the medieval era, this is the most just thing that can be done in that given situation.

2:180-182 said:
Prescribed for you when death approaches (any) one of you if he leaves wealth (is that he should make) a bequest for the parents and near relatives according to what is acceptable - a duty upon the righteous. Then whoever alters the bequest after he has heard it - the sin is only upon those who have altered it. Indeed, God is Hearing and Knowing. But if one fears from the bequeather error or sin and corrects that which is between them, there is no sin upon him. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.
This gives the duty of those who know they will die soon to write a will, and instructs that changing someone's will is sinful.

2:183-187 said:
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous - a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey (during the fast) - then an equal number of days (are to be made up). And upon those who are able (to fast, but with hardship) - a ransom (as substitute) of feeding a poor person (each day). And whoever volunteers excess - it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. The month of Ramadhan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (wants) for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be guided. It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. God knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which God has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread (of night). Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits (set by) God, so do not approach them. Thus does God make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.
This verse sets down the rules of the fast, and specifies that intercourse during the nights in Ramadhan is permitted.

It's of note that there are many contingencies pretty much stating that fasting is only for those who are able to fast, and makes allowances for those who cannot, for various reasons. Once again this reinforces the idea that such laws are for our benefit, as they do not apply when they would be detrimental.

2:188 said:
And do not consume one another's wealth unjustly or send it (in bribery) to the rulers in order that (they might aid) you (to) consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know (it is unlawful).
Do not waste other people's wealth, or bribe the government for favors.

2:189 said:
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, "They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj." And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is one who fears God. And enter houses from their doors. And fear God that you may succeed.
Sets down the calendar and lunar months, and I think then commands you not to break into people's houses.

Before we go on to the next verses, let's skip ahead just a bit to a specific verse because people love to take it out of context.

2:191 said:
And kill them wherever you find them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and strife is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
This one is commonly cited as being evidence of the Quran's violence. Now let's look at the whole picture:

2:190-194 said:
Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. God does not like transgressors. And kill them wherever you find them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and strife is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. And if they cease, then indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful. Fight them until there is no strife and worship is for God. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors. (Fighting in) the sacred month is for (aggression committed in) the sacred month, and for violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear God and know that God is with those who fear Him.
So with the full context we get the following commandment: To fight those who attack you, to take back all land that is stolen from you in war, but to never start a fight. If the attacker stops, forgive them and stop fighting yourself.

This requires analysis for in the current age we are instructed not to war. Muhammad, however, makes war mandatory against aggressors and tyrants. This hearkens back to 2:84, which states that complacency in allowing murder and eviction is just as bad as those sins are.

And, indeed, with the strict "defense only" rules outlined above, it's hard to argue that Muhammad's rules on war aren't good rules. If you can stop a person from oppressing another, don't you have at least a duty to try??

But why are wars now forbidden today, even in defensive capabilities?? This is likely because the very nature of war has radically changed with the invention of new weapons. Civilian casualties were once something that didn't happen all that often. Wars were fought conservatively, because soldiers were expensive and if you were trying to conquer land you didn't want to kill the civilians, as that typically rendered the land worthless.

But now wars and the governments that fight them are more ideologically motivated than motivated for land and wealth in conquest. And weapons are ridiculously destructive. Those two things have come together to make it so that civilian casualties are now the norm in warfare. The state of war has changed, and it is perhaps for this reason it is now forbidden.

Some may point out that not all war is forbidden under the Baha'i Faith. It is permitted when the future World Order comes about. In other words, permitted only at a time when, presumably, the nature of warfare itself will hopefully change for the better.

2:195 said:
And spend in the way of God and do not throw (yourselves) with your (own) hands into destruction (by refraining). And do good; indeed, God loves the doers of good.
Give charity and do good.
Jun 2014
2:195-203 said:
And complete the Hajj and 'umrah for God. But if you are prevented, then (offer) what can be obtained with ease of sacrificial animals. And do not shave your heads until the sacrificial animal has reached its place of slaughter. And whoever among you is ill or has an ailment of the head (making shaving necessary must offer) a ransom of fasting (three days) or charity or sacrifice. And when you are secure, then whoever performs 'umrah followed by Hajj (offers) what can be obtained with ease of sacrificial animals. And whoever cannot find (or afford such an animal) - then a fast of three days during Hajj and of seven when you have returned. Those are ten complete (days). This is for those whose family is not in the area of al-Masjid al-Haram. And fear God and know that God is severe in penalty. Hajj is (during) well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein, there is no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do - God knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of God. And fear Me, O you of understanding. There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord (during Hajj). But when you depart from 'Arafat, remember God at al- Mash'ar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray. Then depart from the place from where the people depart and ask forgiveness of God. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful. And when you have completed your rites, remember God like your remembrance of your fathers or with greater remembrance. And among the people is he who says, "Our Lord, give us in this world," and he will have in the Hereafter no share. But among them is he who says, "Our Lord, give us in this world (that which is) good and in the Hereafter (that which is) good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire." Those will have a share of what they have earned, and God is swift in account. And remember God during (specific) numbered days. Then whoever hastens (his departure) in two days - there is no sin upon him; and whoever delays (until the third) - there is no sin upon him - for him who fears God. And fear God and know that unto Him you will be gathered.
This establishes the Hajj pilgrimage.

Like the rules on fasting, it has many contingencies for those who are unable to make a pilgrimage, and thus again, the rules here are shown to be for mankind's benefit.

2:204-206 said:
And of the people is he whose speech pleases you in worldly life, and he calls God to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the fiercest of opponents. And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption therein and destroy crops and animals. And God does not like corruption. And when it is said to him, "Fear God," pride in the sin takes hold of him. Sufficient for him is Hellfire, and how wretched is the resting place.
This speaks and warns of people who outwardly are charismatic and seem Godly but spread corruption. Again, looking at some of the things going on in the world, it's not hard to imagine why this warning is here.

2:207-208 said:
And of the people is he who sells himself, seeking means to the approval of God. And God is kind to servants. O you who have believed, enter into submission to God completely and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.
"[Sells] himself" essentially means becoming a slave or servant of God. Of note that is the meaning of "'Abdu'l-Baha". This speaks of entering wholly into submission and service to God, and with the Baha'i explanation of Satan, or even with a literal Satan, also speaks of not following one's animalistic desires and attachments.

2:209-211 said:
But if you deviate after clear proofs have come to you, then know that God is Exalted in Might and Wise. Do they await but that God should come to them in covers of clouds and the angels (as well) and the matter is (then) decided? And to God (all) matters are returned. Ask the Children of Israel how many a sign of evidence We have given them. And whoever exchanges the favor of God (for disbelief) after it has come to him - then indeed, God is severe in penalty.
This talks of people who want more proofs than those that have already be offered. People who will not be satisfied until the clouds part and angels descend from upon high.

2:212 said:
Beautified for those who disbelieve is the life of this world, and they ridicule those who believe. But those who fear God are above them on the Day of Resurrection. And God gives provision to whom He wills without account.
This speaks of the hardships endured by believers.

2:213 said:
Mankind was one religion; then God sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it - after the clear proofs came to them - out of jealous animosity among themselves. And God guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And God guides whom He wills to a straight path.
This speaks of the unity of religion and the fact that "different" religions have only emerged via people accepting or rejecting God's various messengers.

2:214 said:
Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such (trial) has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until (even their) messenger and those who believed with him said,"When is the help of God?" Unquestionably, the help of God is near.
This speaks that the help of God is always near in times of trial.

2:215 said:
They ask you, (O Muhammad), what they should spend. Say, "Whatever you spend of good is for parents and relatives and orphans and the needy and the traveler. And whatever you do of good - indeed, God is Knowing of it."
Those states one should give freely to relatives, orphans, the needy, and travelers.

2:216-218 said:
Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not. They ask you about the sacred month - about fighting therein. Say, "Fighting therein is great (sin), but averting (people) from the way of God and disbelief in Him and (preventing access to) al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater (evil) in the sight of God. And strife is greater than killing." And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion (to disbelief) and dies while he is a disbeliever - for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally. Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of God - those expect the mercy of God. And God is Forgiving and Merciful.
This states a number of things. Fighting is a necessary evil, and a duty is prescribed to fight when a greater evil, such as restricting access to holy sites or expelling people from their homes, is around to be fought.

It also says that those who turn from God because following God gives them hardships are in the Fire, and are separated from God. Which is evident for they have chosen attachments to material comforts.

Those who fight and kill for good causes (as strictly defined above, limited to defensive wars, and now also wars to protect pilgrims) are forgiven for their killing.

2:219 said:
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, "In them is great sin and benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit." And they ask you what they should spend. Say, "The excess (beyond needs)." Thus God makes clear to you the verses that you might give thought.
This states that wine and gambling both have good points and bad points, but states that the bad outweighs the good.

2:220 said:
To this world and the Hereafter. And they ask you about orphans. Say, "Improvement for them is best. And if you mix your affairs with theirs - they are your brothers. And God knows the corrupter from the amender. And if God had willed, He could have put you in difficulty. Indeed, God is Exalted in Might and Wise.
Orphans should be helped.

2:221 said:
And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite (you) to the Fire, but God invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember.
This one is commonly interpreted as meaning that Muslims can only marry other Muslims, but if we only look at the wording it only technically forbids marriage with Arabic pagans. Idol-based religions are largely gone in today's modern age, which is likely why we don't have any sort of similar verses.

2:222-223 said:
And they ask you about menstruation. Say, "It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves." Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth (righteousness) for yourselves. And fear God and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.
This could seem somewhat sexist in the modern age, but remembering the state of sanitation in the year 600, we can understand this is a hygiene law.

2:224-225 said:
And do not make (your oath by) God an excuse against being righteous and fearing God and making peace among people. And God is Hearing and Knowing. God does not impose blame upon you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He imposes blame upon you for what your hearts have earned. And God is Forgiving and Forbearing.
This one's interesting, pretty much saying if you swear an oath to God that would cause you to sin, you can break that oath without consequence.

2:226-242 said:
For those who swear not to have sexual relations with their wives is a waiting time of four months, but if they return (to normal relations) - then indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful. And if they decide on divorce - then indeed, God is Hearing and Knowing. Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what God has created in their wombs if they believe in God and the Last Day. And their husbands have more right to take them back in this (period) if they want reconciliation. And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them. And God is Exalted in Might and Wise. Divorce is twice. Then, either keep (her) in an acceptable manner or release (her) with good treatment. And it is not lawful for you to take anything of what you have given them unless both fear that they will not be able to keep the limits of God. But if you fear that they will not keep the limits of God, then there is no blame upon either of them concerning that by which she ransoms herself. These are the limits of God, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of God - it is those who are the wrongdoers. And if he has divorced her (for the third time), then she is not lawful to him afterward until she marries a husband other than him. And if the latter husband divorces her (or dies), there is no blame upon the woman and her former husband for returning to each other if they think that they can keep the limits of God. These are the limits of God, which He makes clear to a people who know. And when you divorce women and they have (nearly) fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress (against them). And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. And do not take the verses of God in jest. And remember the favor of God upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you. And fear God and know that God is Knowing of all things. And when you divorce women and they have fulfilled their term, do not prevent them from remarrying their husbands if they agree among themselves on an acceptable basis. That is instructed to whoever of you believes in God and the Last Day. That is better for you and purer, and God knows and you know not. Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing (period). Upon the father is the mothers' provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the (father's) heir is (a duty) like that (of the father). And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear God and know that God is Seeing of what you do. And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind - they, (the wives, shall) wait four months and ten (days). And when they have fulfilled their term, then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable manner. And God is acquainted with what you do. There is no blame upon you for that to which you allude concerning a proposal to women or for what you conceal within yourselves. God knows that you will have them in mind. But do not promise them secretly except for saying a proper saying. And do not determine to undertake a marriage contract until the decreed period reaches its end. And know that God knows what is within yourselves, so beware of Him. And know that God is Forgiving and Forbearing. There is no blame upon you if you divorce women you have not touched nor specified for them an obligation. But give them compensation - the wealthy according to his capability and the poor according to his capability - a provision according to what is acceptable, a duty upon the doers of good. And if you divorce them before you have touched them and you have already specified for them an obligation, then (give) half of what you specified - unless they forego the right or the one in whose hand is the marriage contract foregoes it. And to forego it is nearer to righteousness. And do not forget graciousness between you. Indeed God, of whatever you do, is Seeing. Maintain with care the (obligatory) prayers and (in particular) the middle prayer and stand before God, devoutly obedient. And if you fear (an enemy, then pray) on foot or riding. But when you are secure, then remember God, as He has taught you that which you did not know. And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind - for their wives is a bequest: maintenance for one year without turning (them) out. But if they leave (of their own accord), then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable way. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable - a duty upon the righteous. Thus does God make clear to you His verses that you might use reason.

Here we get a huge wall of text on divorce, death in marriage, and remarriage.

So we probably also need to touch on gender roles as well. Gender roles can and frequently are misused by cultures, but their initial importance to society was based on human reproduction, and making sure humanity does not go extinct.

This is because a society's rate of reproduction is dependent on its female population, not on its male population, because the female component in reproduction is the more time intensive process. A society of three men and one woman can reproduce at an obviously slower rate than a society of three women and one man can. Thus, while it's somewhat cold and impersonal to say it, men are the more "expendable" gender. Gender roles originally developed because of these facts, and were structured to make it so that the more dangerous and casualty-prone jobs were limited exclusively to men.

Of course, gender roles also later expanded in different, and not always as justifiable ways, but the preservation of women's lives and thus the preservation of humanity as a species was the initial point from which gender roles developed.

This also explains the permissibility of polygamy in past eras, which I will go into full detail later when the Quran talks about polygamy, but the short version is that when you limit the dangerous jobs to just men, there is an imbalance between the number of living men who compared to the number of living women.

Now, in the modern era, gender roles don't make as much sense, because safety in general has increased, work-related casualties are massively down, and the population numbers are stable enough that women workplace fatalities aren't enough to bring down a society. And so the Baha'i Faith has mostly eliminated gender roles, though a few things remain.

So gender roles in Muhammad's age did have a purpose. Because the survival of the species as a whole is tied to the survival of women, we can see above that the various laws on marriage and divorce are made with that end in mind. We see this in that men are told to not mistreat their wives, they aren't allowed to take back any property they give to their wives, and they are expected to give their wives a payment in the case that they divorce their wives. The heir of a man is expected to take care of his mother should his father die. A man is expected to leave a portion of his wealth for his wife should he die. A woman can remarry after a waiting period should her husband die. Much of the above can be understood from a lens of ensuring the wellbeing of women and the survival of the species.

Now-a-days in the Baha'i Faith we still have some of this, but to a lesser extent, as gender roles are less and less necessary for humanity's survival as technology advances more and more. There is still an expectation within the Baha'i Faith that wives should be provided for, despite the equality of the sexes within the Faith. We see this in the dowry, which is a symbolic gesture but a gesture that shows the husband is capable of supporting the wife, and we see this in Baha'i Will-less inheritance, where male heirs are given more shares of the deceased parent's wealth than female heirs, as (presumably) it is assumed the female heirs have the support of husbands to rely on.

Presumably as society and technology progresses onward we'll see even less and less in terms of gender roles and marriage specifications like these within both society in general and in religious revelation.

There's also, curiously, in the middle of all that instruction about marriage and divorce, a verse on obligatory prayer, and instruction that if in danger you may pray while on the run.

2:243 said:
Have you not considered those who left their homes in many thousands, fearing death? God said to them, "Die"; then He restored them to life. And God is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people do not show gratitude.
God can grant both death and life, but is rarely thanked for giving life.

2:244-252 said:
And fight in the cause of God and know that God is Hearing and Knowing. Who is it that would loan God a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is God who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned. Have you not considered the assembly of the Children of Israel after Moses when they said to a prophet of theirs, "Send to us a king, and we will fight in the way of God"? He said, "Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?" They said, "And why should we not fight in the cause of God when we have been driven out from our homes and from our children?" But when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. And God is Knowing of the wrongdoers. And their prophet said to them, "Indeed, God has sent to you Saul as a king." They said, "How can he have kingship over us while we are more worthy of kingship than him and he has not been given any measure of wealth?" He said, "Indeed, God has chosen him over you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. And Allah gives His sovereignty to whom He wills. And God is all-Encompassing and Knowing." And their prophet said to them, "Indeed, a sign of his kingship is that the chest will come to you in which is assurance from your Lord and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron had left, carried by the angels. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers." And when Saul went forth with the soldiers, he said, "Indeed, God will be testing you with a river. So whoever drinks from it is not of me, and whoever does not taste it is indeed of me, excepting one who takes (from it) in the hollow of his hand." But they drank from it, except a few of them. Then when he had crossed it along with those who believed with him, they said, "There is no power for us today against Goliath and his soldiers." But those who were certain that they would meet God said, "How many a small company has overcome a large company by permission of God. And God is with the patient." And when they went forth to (face) Goliath and his soldiers, they said, "Our Lord, pour upon us patience and plant firmly our feet and give us victory over the disbelieving people." So they defeated them by permission of God, and David killed Goliath, and God gave him the kingship and prophethood and taught him from that which He willed. And if it were not for God checking (some) people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, but God is full of bounty to the worlds. These are the verses of God which We recite to you, (O Muhammad), in truth. And indeed, you are from among the messengers.
Here we get the story of David and Goliath, used as an example for when fighting is necessary. The last verse also gives us the idea that the world would have been overrun by tyrants if not for the opposition of the righteous, explaining why war is necessary at that time.

We also get an interesting parallel to Iblis/Adam with Israel/Saul, with Saul, like Adam, appointed leader by God only for some in Israel, like Iblis, rejecting that appointment believing themselves more fit for leadership.

2:253 said:
Those messengers - some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom God spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If God had willed, those (generations) succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them disbelieved. And if God had willed, they would not have fought each other, but God does what He intends.
Here we are told that Prophets have different degrees of power, and that God could force everyone to be obedient if he wanted to, but he does not. Which I take as a sign God is not a tyrant.

2:254 said:
O you who have believed, spend from that which We have provided for you before there comes a Day in which there is no exchange and no friendship and no intercession. And the disbelievers - they are the wrongdoers.
I think this one means you should good while it is in your power to do so.

2:255 said:
God - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is (presently) before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.
A very poetic way of describing omnipotence and omniscience.

2:256 said:
There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in rebellion and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And God is Hearing and Knowing.
Here God mandates Freedom of Religion.

Hadiths have clearly been invented since Muhammad's time to try to get around this mandate, and thus we have supposedly "Sharia" following societies these days that execute apostates and supposedly "Sharia" following societies throughout history that converted by the sword.

But the Quran is rather clear on how things are supposed to be.

I also like the reasoning presented here, that people should be given freedom of religion because the truth is so evident that, if not compelled, people will naturally gravitate towards and seek the truth.

2:257 said:
God is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve - their allies are rebellion. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.
God guides those who follow him, and those who chose separation move from light to darkness of their own accord.

2:258 said:
Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord because God had given him kingship? When Abraham said, "My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death," he said, "I give life and cause death." Abraham said, "Indeed, God brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west." So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [(by astonishment), and God does not guide the wrongdoing people.
Here we have the story of a king arguing with Abraham. When Abraham says that God gives life and death, the king claims he can do the same. So Abraham counters that God can move the sun, and challenges the king to do so.

2:259 said:
Or (consider such an example) as the one who passed by a township which had fallen into ruin. He said, "How will God bring this to life after its death?" So God caused him to die for a hundred years; then He revived him. He said, "How long have you remained?" The man said, "I have remained a day or part of a day." He said, "Rather, you have remained one hundred years. Look at your food and your drink; it has not changed with time. And look at your donkey; and We will make you a sign for the people. And look at the bones (of this donkey) - how We raise them and then We cover them with flesh." And when it became clear to him, he said, "I know that God is over all things competent."
Here we have an allegory of a man coming across a ruined town and wondering how God could bring it back to life. So God causes him to die and brings him back to show him just how easy it is for Him to do so.

2:260 said:
And when Abraham said, "My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead." God said, "Have you not believed?" He said, "Yes, but (I ask) only that my heart may be satisfied." God said, "Take four birds and commit them to yourself. Then (after slaughtering them) put on each hill a portion of them; then call them - they will come to you in haste. And know that God is Exalted in Might and Wise."
Another story, again of Abraham, about God's mastery over life and death.

2:261-274 said:
The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of God is like a seed (of grain) which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And God multiplies (His reward) for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reminders (of it) or (other) injury will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is Free of need and Forbearing. O you who have believed, do not invalidate your charities with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth (only) to be seen by the people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. His example is like that of a smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable (to keep) anything of what they have earned. And God does not guide the disbelieving people. And the example of those who spend their wealth seeking means to the approval of God and assuring (reward for) themselves is like a garden on high ground which is hit by a downpour - so it yields its fruits in double. And if it is not hit by a downpour, then a drizzle (is sufficient). And God, of what you do, is Seeing. Would one of you like to have a garden of palm trees and grapevines underneath which rivers flow in which he has from every fruit? But he is afflicted with old age and has weak offspring, and it is hit by a whirlwind containing fire and is burned. Thus does God make clear to you verses that you might give thought. O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned and from that which We have produced for you from the earth. And do not aim toward the defective therefrom, spending (from that) while you would not take it (yourself) except with closed eyes. And know that God is Free of need and Praiseworthy. Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while God promises you forgiveness from Him and bounty. And God is all-Encompassing and Knowing. He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding. And whatever you spend of expenditures or make of vows - indeed, God knows of it. And for the wrongdoers there are no helpers. If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds. And God, with what you do, is Acquainted. Not upon you, (O Muhammad), is their guidance, but God guides whom He wills. And whatever good you (believers) spend is for yourselves, and you do not spend except seeking the countenance of God. And whatever you spend of good - it will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged. (Charity is) for the poor who have been restricted for the cause of God, unable to move about in the land. An ignorant (person) would think them self-sufficient because of their restraint, but you will know them by their (characteristic) sign. They do not ask people persistently. And whatever you spend of good - indeed, God is Knowing of it. Those who spend their wealth (in God's way) by night and by day, secretly and publicly - they will have their reward with their Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.
Here's a long segment detailing charity. It mentions there is no reward in giving charity and then using that to lord over other people and cause harm, and no value in giving away something you did not want yourself. It also says giving publically is allowed, but giving privately is better. It mentions that all charity will be repaid by God, gives a guide for identifying those in need, and mentions that God will even forgive or overlook sins if one gives in secret.

2:275-281 said:
Those who consume interest cannot stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, "Trade is like interest." But God has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with God. But whoever returns to (dealing in interest or usury) - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein. God destroys interest and gives increase for charities. And God does not like every sinning disbeliever. Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. O you who have believed, fear God and give up what remains (due to you) of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war from God and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal - you do no wrong, nor are you wronged. And if someone is in hardship, then (let there be) postponement until (a time of) ease. But if you give (from your right as) charity, then it is better for you, if you only knew. And fear a Day when you will be returned to God. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.
This verse forbids charging interest, but forgives all who did so before the revelation of this verse.

To my knowledge, the Baha'i Faith permits charging interest. A possible explanation for this difference may be that back in the medieval era, when many did not know complex math or were literate and able to read contracts, it was easier to fool or scam someone with interest than it is now.

It also permits loaning and collecting principle, just not collecting interest, and mandates that postponing collection is due when there is a time of hardship.

2:282 said:
O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write (it) between you in justice. Let no scribe refuse to write as God has taught him. So let him write and let the one who has the obligation dictate. And let him fear God, his Lord, and not leave anything out of it. But if the one who has the obligation is of limited understanding or weak or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate in justice. And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses - so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her. And let not the witnesses refuse when they are called upon. And do not be (too) weary to write it, whether it is small or large, for its (specified) term. That is more just in the sight of God and stronger as evidence and more likely to prevent doubt between you, except when it is an immediate transaction which you conduct among yourselves. For (then) there is no blame upon you if you do not write it. And take witnesses when you conclude a contract. Let no scribe be harmed or any witness. For if you do so, indeed, it is (grave) disobedience in you. And fear God. And God teaches you. And God is Knowing of all things.
And here we have the longest single verse in the entire Quran. But before delving into the contents, let's continue because the next verse is related:

2:283 said:
And if you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe, then a security deposit (should be) taken. And if one of you entrusts another, then let him who is entrusted discharge his trust (faithfully) and let him fear God, his Lord. And do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it - his heart is indeed sinful, and God is Knowing of what you do.
So this is instructions on how to properly write contracts. It relies on a third-party scribe and mandates that scribes transcribe words faithfully because this was a time when it couldn't be certain that both parties were literate.

It also mandates witnesses to the signing in the most controversial part of these verses, either two men or one man and two women.

This is usually used to argue that Islam teaches that the testimony of one man is worth that of two women. This is not totally the case, as this is the only part of the Quran where the genders of witnesses are ever important.

Which raises the question, why are they important here??

This law was revealed at a time when men were responsible for household finances. Women could manage their own finances too, but society was structured in such a way where they did not have to be knowledgeable in financial matters.

Thus, since women at the time did not need to be familiar with finances, whereas finances was a skill a man would by necessity need to learn, it is not surprising that a male witness would be considered more reliable to witness a financial contract between people.

Women began having stronger control over household finances in the late 1700's and early 1800's, so the necessity of the law eventually died out... right around the same time as the next revelation. :p

2:284-285 said:
To God belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Whether you show what is within yourselves or conceal it, God will bring you to account for it. Then He will forgive whom He wills and punish whom He wills, and God is over all things competent. The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and (so have) the believers. All of them have believed in God and His angels and His books and His messengers, (saying), "We make no distinction between any of His messengers." And they say, "We hear and we obey. (We seek) Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the destination."
Statements on God's dominion and the Faith of the people, the equality of the message of the Prophets, and the destination that is God.

2:286 said:
God does not charge a soul except (with that within) its capacity. It will have (the consequence of) what (good) it has gained, and it will bear (the consequence of) what (evil) it has earned. "Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people."
And here we have it, the end of the second Surah. The longest Surah of the Quran!! It's all easy sailing from here!!

And our final verse tells us that no one is judged except within their capacity. Those who forgot a Law revealed by God, or who never heard that Law, are not expected to hold to it as are those who are aware of that Law. Someone who is developmentally disabled has less religious responsibility than others. Presumably those who have witnessed miracles are held to an even higher standard than regular people, each people are held to a standard based on what they have experienced in life.