The Quran and
2:196 - a lesson in critical thinking
In this short article, various components of this verse will be
discussed, which should allow you, the reader, to determine a
more accurate meaning for yourself. A 'checklist' if you will,
which you can use to run your own understanding or a translation
through, to see if it works.
I have also provided a basic rendering to allow analysis and
reflection. Please familiarise yourself with the Quran study
method used. To identify and study some of the words in
more detail, you may click on the ones underlined:
2:196 And complete the HaJJ
and the 3uMRa
So if you (plural) are
prevented/restrained then what is
easy of the HaDY
and do not HLiQ
your RAS until the HaDY
reaches its permitted/lawful
place (al bayt al atiq, see
so whoever from among you
was sick (singular)
or with/by/in him hurt/harm/annoyance from/of his RAS
ransom from abstinence/fast or charity or observance.
So when (time adverb)
you (plural) are
safe/secure (i.e. in the
designated vicinty) then whoever benefited/enjoyed
in/by/with the 3uMRa
to the HaJJ
then what is
easy of the HaDY, so whoever
couldn't find (singular) then an abstinence/fast three days during the HaJJ
and seven when you (plural)
returned, this is a complete ten.
That is for one whose people are not at-hand/present al
HaRaM and be conscious of God and know that God
is severe in punishment.
complete the hajj
and the 3umra
for God" - whatever hajj and 3umra are, they should be completed.
Later the verse states "...then a sawm/abstinence/fast
three days during the hajj..."
- clearly implying the hajj is a delimited/finite timed
undertaking/event. Also see 22:28 "appointed days" and 9:3
"day of the greatest/peak hajj".
if you are prevented/restrained/held-back..." is
passive perfect implying the object, i.e. people, received
the action expressed in the verb.
"then what is easy of the HaDY and do not HLQ your RAS until the HaDY reaches its mahilla" - "al hady" has an
attribute making it potentially difiicult or easy to
Critical Question 1: if you (plural) are prevented
from completing hajj/3umra, then how can you
ensure the hady reaches
This simple question is commonly neglected by translators.
There is variance amongst traditional commentators/jurists
as to how to go about this, some say wherever you are
sacrifice an animal and that is fine (which goes against the
Arabic!) or some say send it but fail to explain how or with
whom. If one translates it in such a way, however it gets
there this should be explained by Quran itself, if so, the
only words that could possibly explain this are: "do not HLQ your RAS". This in
itself is strong evidence against the traditional
translation of "do not shave your heads". Please note there
is also variance when it comes to when to "shave your head"
as the Arabic implies one can only do so when the HDY
reaches its permitted place, but imagining a practical
situation is difficult, i.e. the person sends HDY then waits
then when someone (we dont know who) returns and tells them
yes your HDY did reach where it was sent you may now shave
your head they then do so on their say so.
Even if we were to accept
these variant baseless explanations, translating it in the
traditional way does not make any sense because having a adhan/hurt of head
preventing head-shaving (e.g. cut, infection, surgery,
sunburn, toupe, bald) does not actually prevent one giving a
HDY/offering! It would be like Quran mentioning something
irrelevant such as having a sore pinky finger thus instead of
giving HDY do
something else instead, when having a sore pinky finger is
completely irrelevant to what is being discussed.
addition, the traditional understanding also differentiates
between those with and without hurt of the head for no
obvious/practical reason, which is illogical. No commentary
that I read explains this away. See here for brief explanation of this
point. Critical Question 2.
one might ask - by saying "if
prevented" after saying "complete hajj/umrah" does it
mean one is there and cannot complete, or one is prevented from
it (e.g. en route), well it answers this later by saying: "so WHEN you are safe/secure"
(implying previously one was not safe/secure), "seven when you RETURNED"
and "THAT is for him whose
people who are not present" - all of which imply one is
not there at this point.
3) The part in red switches to the
singular addressee and does NOT give the option of HDY reaching its mahilla (lawful/permitted
place). This is pivotal, because however one understands this
verse they must explain why it does not allow such an option
Also note the differentiation between "mareedan/sick" and "adhan/hurt/harm/annoyance from/of
implying they are sufficiently different to be able to
distinguish between them.
part also implies if one is sick thus cannot do hajj/3umra but the rest of
their ahl/people can,
then the one that does not should expiate as mentioned. As an
aside, it begins
with "so/fa" which is a
resumption particle, and if it was a continuation of what was
said immediately before then and/wa is more apt. It likely does this because
the previous part was for groups, and this part is for
individuals. Interestingly, the grammar lends weight to
this interpretation by its use of the inidividual addressee.
4) If you are prevented
from completing the hajj/3umrah give HDY, and if you
benefitted/enjoyed in/by/with the 3umra to the hajj give HDY,
i.e. give HDY in both
situations. Note how this implies if one did go but not
benefit/enjoy in/with the 3umra
to the hajj,
then one does not necessarily have to give HDY. This point likely
links to 2:158 "no blame on
him that he goes about them and whoever volunteered
good/better then God is All-Apreciative, All-Knowing". If one
cannot find a suitable HDY, one is asked to undertake an
abstinence/fast during the HaJJ, likely in order to manage
5) It says "3umra to/ila the hajj"
- this part is often misrepresented in translations. The likely
reason being saying "visit to the pilgrimage" doesn't make much
sense as the meaning of pilgrimage entails travel/journey by
itself, making this phrase redundant and awkward. Critical Question 4.
render "ila" as "until"
but that is more correctly "hatta"
in Arabic, which is used in 2:196.
6) "when (time
adverb) safe/secure (i.e. in the designated vicinity) then" -
note this section implies people are there, hence no mention of
offering having to reach its lawful/permitted place, i.e. mahilla is the same
location/space as the hajj.
7) If it's possible for a
person not to find a suitable HDY,
that means it's unlikely to mean "guidance" as some claim. How
could a person not find a suitable guidance? It makes more sense
for it to mean offering/gift, and this fits better with its
usage elsewhere in Quran. If "HDY/guidance" was chosen then this
would also imply people are expected to utilise divine
revelation, e.g. Quran, when not all of those
undertaking/attending would believe in such, if one regards al hajj as open to all [see
8) "when you returned" implies travelling
to a location other than your own, in this case. This also fits
in with the rest of the verse, e.g. "offering reaches its permitted/lawful place",
"so when you are
safe/secure", "3umra to the hajj", "that is for one whose people
are not present" etc. Any alternative understanding
would have to explain this.
9) The traditional
translation is usually "whose
people are not present/in/near the Sacred Mosque" (i.e.
a building) - if it is "present at / in" then this is odd and
impractical and if it is "near" then how near is "near"? There
is variance amongst commentators, as per usual, e.g. tafsir al-jalalayn says within 50 miles
according to al-Shafi, tafsir ibn Abbas say this is for one
whose family AND home are not in the sacred precinct, ibn Kathir
says it means non-resident of Makkah.
It is recommended to read these commentaries to get an idea of
the problems, variance and arbitrary nature of the proposed
solutions (e.g. qtafsir.com, altafsir.com, Asad quranix.net,
10) All key words (HLQ, RAS, al HDY, al hajj,
al 3umra, amintum, maHLL, al masjid al haram etc) should also fit once
cross-referenced with their other occurrences UNLESS there is a
solid/logical reason not to. Also use corpus.quran.com to verify
the grammar of the words used in a translation, to ensure a
translator is not taking liberties with words, e.g. changing
nouns into verbs. This normally goes without saying, but some
alternative translations do not bear this in mind it seems.
Simply apply your understanding
or check any translation using the above list. When I
did this, I found that all translations had problems. Of course,
some attempted to explain away such issues using external
sources, but even if we were to accept this methodology and
ignore the variant views and choose the opinions that made most
sense to us, it would leave us with, at the very least, a
convoluted understanding. Certainly not an eloquent one.
For those following a Quran based islam a self-contained logical
explanation should be the ideal. Interestingly, when I studied
this verse and applied various interpretations, there was only
one that actually worked. This may or may not be correct, but IF
that is the case then 2:196 serves as an excellent lesson in
critical thinking, hence the title of this article.
More articles: http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/