They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon: the blasphemers Were, not Solomon, but the evil ones, teaching men Magic, and such things as came down at babylon to the angels Harut and Marut. But neither of these taught anyone (Such things) without saying: “We are only for trial; so do not blaspheme.” They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife. But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s permission. And they learned what harmed them, not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of (magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew! (Yusuf Ali Translation)
The following excerpt is taken from “The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary” by Abdullah Yusuf Ali pg. 45 note 104:
“This verse has been interpreted variously. Who were Harut and Marut? What did they teach? Why did they teach it? The view that commends itself to me is that of the Tafsir Haqqani, following Baidhawi and the Tafsir Kabir. The word “angels” as applied to Harut and Marut is figurative. It means “good men, of knowledge, wisdom and power.” In modern languages, the word “angel” is applied to a good and beautiful woman. The earlier tradition made angels masculine, and applied to them the attributes that I have mentioned, along with the attribute of beauty, which was implied in goodness, knowledge, wisdom, and power.
Harut and Marut lived in Babylon, a very ancient
seat of science, especially the science of astronomy. The
period may be supposed to anywhere about the time
when the ancient Eastern Monarchies were strong and
enlightened: probably even earlier, as Ma-ru-tu or
Mandruk was a deified hero afterwards worshipped as a
god of magic in Babylon.
Being good men, Harut and Marut of course dabbled in
nothing evil, and their evil hands were certainly clean of
fraud. But knowledge and the arts, if learned by evil
men, can be applied to evil uses. The evil ones, besides
their fraudulent magic, also learnt a little of this true
science and applied it to evil uses.
Harut and Marut did not withhold knowledge, yet never
taught anyone without plainly warning them of the trial
and temptation of knowledge in the hands of evil men.
Being men of insight, they also saw the blasphemy that
might rise to the lips of the evil ones puffed up with
science and warned them against it.
Knowledge is indeed a trial or temptation: if we are
warned, we know its dangers: if Allah has endowed us
with free will, we must be free to choose between the
benefit and the danger.
Among the Jewish traditions in the Midrash (Jewish
Tafsir) was a story of two angels who asked Allah’s
permission to come down to earth but succumbed to
temptation, and were hung up by their feet at Babylon
Such stories about sinning angels who were cast down to
punishment were believed in by the early Christians also.
(See the Second Epistle of Peter, 2:4, and the Epistle of
Jude, verse 6). (R). There may be an allusion to such legends here, but much spiritualized and we are expressly warned against dabbling in magic or believing that anything can hurt us except by God’s will, and God is just and righteous.
Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Translation and Commentary of the Quran. (pg. 45, note 104). Microsoft Word – 002 Baqarah.doc (quran4u.com)