Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:102-103, Part-2)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَاتَّبَعُوا مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ ۖ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ ۚ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ ۖ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ ۚ وَمَا هُم بِضَارِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ ۚ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُوا لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَاقٍ ۚ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْا بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٢﴾ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَمَثُوبَةٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ خَيْرٌ ۖ لَّوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٣﴾
2:104: And they followed what the devils taught during the reign of Salomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but it was the devils who disbelieved. They taught the people witchcraft and what was revealed in Babylon to the two angels Harut and Marut. They did not teach anybody until they had said, “We are a test, so do not lose faith.” But they learned from them the means to cause separation between man and his wife. But they cannot harm anyone except with God’s permission. And they learned what would harm them and not benefit them. Yet they knew that whoever deals in it will have no share in the Hereafter. Miserable is what they sold their souls for, if they only knew.
2:103 Had they believed and been righteous, the reward from God would have been better, if they only knew.
Commentary: When the practice of sorcery reached its peak in the land of Babylon, Allah (SWT) sent two angels named Harut and Marut. They revealed themselves to the people of Babylon as human beings, and their mission was to teach the Babylonian people how to break and negate spells of sorcery. However, they never taught the Babylonians without warning them first that they were entrusted with the knowledge that could be used to either fight against witchcraft or to cause further enmity and discord amongst their people.
…..وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ …… ﴿١٠٢﴾
2:102 ……Harut and Marut did not teach anyone without telling [him], ‘We are only a test, so do not be faithless.’ ….
Unfortunately, the Israelites chose the latter option. They learned from these two angels how to destroy bonds of love and affection between man and his wife, a knowledge that harmed them personally and brought no benefits. Of course, magicians could not harm anyone except with the permission of Allah (SWT) [بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ]. Further discussion on meaning of “God’s permission” [(بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ)] is provided in the appendix.
..فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ ۚ …..وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ ۚ …. ﴿١٠٢﴾
2:102 …But they would learn from those two that with which they would cause a split between man and his wife…They would learn that which would harm them and bring them no benefit;
…..وَمَا هُم بِضَارِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ….. ﴿١٠٢﴾
2:102 ….—though they could not harm anyone with it except with Allah’s leave. …
The Babylonians knew that those who cause discord between people have no shares of good in the Hereafter. The verse’s end scolds the magician by stating “what a demeaning price did they trade their soul!” had their knowledge made them realize their fault.
…..وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُوا لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَاقٍ ۚ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْا بِهِ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٢﴾
2:102 …though they certainly knew that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. Surely, evil is that for which they sold their souls, had they known!
If the magicians believed in Allah (SWT) and guarded themselves against the temptation of misusing the knowledge of sorcery, indeed they would have had better rewards next to Allah (SWT)
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا وَاتَّقَوْا لَمَثُوبَةٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ خَيْرٌ ۖ لَّوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٠٣﴾
2:103 Had they been faithful and Godwary, the reward from Allah would have been better, had they known!
Meaning of With the Consent and Permission of Allah: The phrase [بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ] “with the consent and permission of Allah (SWT)” underscores that the universe works within the framework designed by Allah and operates with His direct will and permission. For instance, fire is designed to burn, but if God sees it as appropriate, it can be a cold place, such as in the instance with Prophet Ibrahim (AS).
قُلْنَا يَا نَارُ كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ﴿٦٩﴾
We said, “O fire! Be cool and safe for Abraham!”
In general, the universe follows the law of causality. Allah (SWT) designed for every cause to produce a certain effect. For instance, a fire to burn, a sharp knife to cut, etc. However, if Allah (SWT) deems it appropriate, fire is prevented from burning and a sharp knife from cutting.
Allah (SWT) in the Quran states:
مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۗ …..﴿١١﴾
64:11 No affliction visits [anyone] except by Allah’s permission.
The verse asserts that natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, etc. occur according to the law dictated by Allah (SWT). Nevertheless, if Allah (SWT) deems it as appropriate, He can prevent these from either occurring or harming wellbeing of humanity.
One might appropriately ask, for instance, does an assailant commit murder with the permission of God? After all, we claim that everything happens with God’s consent. In answer, we say, Allah (SWT) permitted a man to act freely either to do good or evil. Nevertheless, if Allah (SWT) deems it appropriate, He could take a human’s freedom away at any moment.
Allah (SWT) can force everyone to act like angels. Nevertheless, this is against the spirit of human creation. Allah (SWT) created human beings free and expects them to reach God by their own free will.
It is worthy to mention that human beings should exert himself for the cultivation of their own wellbeing, and humans should take care to exercise their given freedom responsibly. Nevertheless, there are things in life that we have no control over. Certainly, if Allah (SWT) deemed it as beneficial, he could change circumstances and avert difficulties from facing us. Imam Sadiq (AS) said:
عَنْ أَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ (ع) قَالَ إِنَّ أَعْلَمَ النَّاسِ بِاللَّهِ أَرْضَاهُمْ بِقَضَاءِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَل
The closest people in knowledge to Allah (SWT) are those who are content with the divine decree of Allah (SWT)
View of Islamic Jurisprudence in Magic: Islamic jurisprudence has forbidden the learning and practice of witchcraft. Imam Ali (AS) had said:
مَنْ تَعَلَّمَ شَيْئاً مِنَ السِّحْرِ قَلِيلًا أَوْ كَثِيراً فَقَدْ كَفَرَ وَ كَانَ آخِرَ عَهْدِهِ بِرَبِّهِ وَ حَدُّهُ أَنْ يُقْتَلَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَتُوبَ.
Whoever learns magic, no matter how little or big, becomes unfaithful and severs his tie with his Lord.
However, learning sorcery in order to break and negate spells of sorcery is permissible, according to a narration from Imam Jaʿfar al-Sadiq (AS) [Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 1, P380]
2:102 [وَاتَّبَعُوا] and they follow [مَا] what [تَتْلُو] recited [الشَّيَاطِينُ] the Shaitans [عَلَىٰ] in [مُلْكِ] kingdom [سُلَيْمَانَ] of Sulaiman. [وَمَا] and not [كَفَرَ] disbelieved [سُلَيْمَانُ] Sulaiman [وَلَـٰكِنَّ] and but [الشَّيَاطِينَ] the Shaitans [كَفَرُوا] disbelieved [يُعَلِّمُونَ] teaching [النَّاسَ] men [السِّحْرَ] magic [وَمَا] and what [أُنزِلَ] came down [عَلَى] to [الْمَلَكَيْنِ] the two angels [بِبَابِلَ] at Babylon [هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ] Harut and Marut.
[وَمَا] and what [يُعَلِّمَانِ] came down [مِنْ أَحَدٍ] anyone [حَتَّىٰ] till [يَقُولَا] they had said [إِنَّمَا] only [نَحْنُ] we are [فِتْنَةٌ] for trial [فَلَا] so do not [تَكْفُرْ] disbelieve.
[فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ] but they did learn [مِنْهُمَا] from these two angels [مَا] what [يُفَرِّقُونَ] they might separate [بِهِ] with it [بَيْنَ] between [الْمَرْءِ] man [وَزَوْجِهِ] and his wife [وَمَا] but do not [هُم] they [بِضَارِّينَ] harm [بِهِ] with it [مِنْ أَحَدٍ] anyone [إِلَّا] except [بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ] by permission of Allah (SWT).
[وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ] And they learned [مَا] what [يَضُرُّهُمْ] harms them [وَلَا] and not [يَنفَعُهُمْ] profits them.
[وَلَقَدْ] and indeed [عَلِمُوا] they knew [لَمَنِ] that whosever [اشْتَرَاهُ] buys it [مَا] not [لَهُ] is for him [فِي] in [الْآخِرَةِ] the Hereafter [مِنْ] any [خَلَاقٍ] share [وَلَبِئْسَ] and how bad indeed was [مَا] what [شَرَوْا] they sold [بِهِ] for it [أَنفُسَهُمْ] themselves [لَوْ كَانُوا] would that [يَعْلَمُونَ] they knew.
2:103 [وَلَوْ] and if [أَنَّهُمْ] they [آمَنُوا] believed [وَاتَّقَوْا] and became pious [لَمَثُوبَةٌ] indeed for them was reward [مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ] from Allah (SWT) [خَيْرٌ] better [لَّوْ] if/would that [كَانُوا] the did [يَعْلَمُونَ] know.