The Semantic Design of the Longest Surah

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Very long as Surah 2, al-Baqarah or The Cow, is, it forms a complete whole consisting of an introduction,

four purposes and a conclusion, as follows:

The Introduction

defines the Qur’an, [which in this instance may be taken to mean the whole of the book or this particular surah]. It makes clear that the guidance it provides has been made so obvious that only a person who suffers from sickness in his heart, or who is without a heart, will hesitate to accept it.

The first purpose is a call addressed to all mankind to accept Islam and to believe in it.

The second purpose makes a special appeal to the people of earlier Divine religions to abandon the falsehood they introduced into their religions and to embrace the true faith.

The third purpose is an extensive and detailed presentation of the laws of this faith.

The fourth purpose mentions the religious nature that guides people to adhere to these laws and to refrain from violating them.

The conclusion defines those who have responded to this general call and outlines what reward they may expect in this life and in the life to come.

We will now begin our discussion of how the surah tackles each one of its purposes throughout its text running into 286 verses, some of which are very long.

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The Introduction: (Verses 1-20)

The surah begins with three separate letters, alif, lām, mīm (corresponding to ‘A, L, M’). The Arabs at the time never placed such letters..

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