Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 211-216 Speaks of Familiar Things and a Single Community

When verse 213 says that “men belonged to a single community,” is it saying that at one point we were all the same and only later separated or is it just referring to a single community? I’m not clear because of what follows it: God sent them messengers and the Book. If Book is a reference to originally sending the Bible, then it wasn’t to everyone, it was to the Israelites. Similarly, if Book refers to the Quran then there wasn’t one community at the time. So what is this reference to a single community? Is it a state of nature kind of thing?

I also find verse 216 particularly interesting. Bad things (e.g. fighting) is good for us and things that please us aren’t good for us. Only God knows. I find this particularly interesting because people often insist that certain things are or aren’t good for us – marijuana, sex, skiing, television, fat, etc. – and though we seek to find out and solve these riddles, many of our actual conclusions come down to moral or cultural judgments. E.g. Fat is ugly and bad (it’s not); marijuana is bad for you and should be illegal (worse things are legal); sex is wrong before marriage (for much of human history the convention didn’t exist – was the procreation wrong?), etc. Only God knows what’s really good and bad for us, so why do we keep trying to push our views on others?

Thanks for being a part of Quran Read-A-Long and leaving your thoughts with us, answering some of my questions and elaborating on other parts of these verses that I missed.

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The Cow 211-216

211. Ask the children of Israel how many a clear sign We had given them. But if one changes the favor of God after having received it, then remember, God is severe in revenge. 212. Enamored are the unbelievers in the life of this world, and scoff at the faithful. But those who keep from evil and follow the straight path will have a higher place than they on the Day of Reckoning; for God gives in measure without number whomsoever He will. 213. Men belonged to a single community, and God sent them messengers to give them happy tidings and warnings, and sent the Book with them containing the truth to judge between them in matters of dispute; but only those who received it differed after receiving clear proofs, on account of waywardness (and jealousies) among them. Then God by His dispensation showed those who believed the way to the truth about which they were differing; for God shows whom He please the path that is straight. 214. Do you think you will find your way to Paradise even though you have not known what the others before you have gone through? They had suffered affliction and loss, and were shaken and tossed about so that even the Apostle had to cry out with his followers: “When will the help of God arrive?” Remember, the help of God is ever at hand. 215. They ask you of what they should give in charity. Tell them: “What you can spare of your wealth as should benefit the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarers, for God is not unaware of the good deeds that you do.” 216. Enjoined on you is fighting, and this you abhor. You may dislike a thing yet it may be good for you; or a thing may haply please you but may be bad for you. Only God has knowledge, and you do not know.