Surah an-Nur (The Light) 24 : 30
|Click word/image to view Qur'an Dictionary|
to the believing men
they should lower
and they should guard
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
The sūrah moves on to prevent desire from running loose. It simply prevents looking at what is bound to excite desire, and it prohibits action that encourages sin. Tell believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity. This is most conducive to their purity. God is certainly aware of all that they do. And tell believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms except what may ordinarily appear thereof. Islam wants to establish a clean society where desire is not aroused at every moment, and erotic scenes are not displayed everywhere. Continual excitement of the sexual urge leads to an insatiable desire that may become unstoppable. A stealthy look, a seductive move, flagrant make-up and thinly-dressed bodies are meant only to add to such insatiable and uncontrolled excitement. Thus, prudence and self control are heavily taxed. Hence, there remains one of two alternatives: either total permissiveness that disregards all checks and values, or psychological problems and disorders that result from having to suppress a desire that has been strongly aroused. This borders on unmitigated torture.
One way Islam uses for achieving its goal of establishing a clean human society is to prevent such uncontrollable excitement of the sexual urge. It wants the natural sexual urge, of both men and women, to remain healthy, maintaining its natural strength and to satisfy it in the proper, clean manner.
The two verses we are now discussing give us some examples of how Islam helps to reduce the chances of excitement and sin: “Tell believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity. This is most conducive to their purity. God is certainly aware of all that they do.”
Lowering their gaze is an act of refining men’s manners. It represents an attempt to rise above the desire to look at women’s physical charms. As such, it is a practical step to ensure that the first window of temptation is shut. Minding their chastity is the natural result of lowering their gaze. It is indeed the second step that comes after strengthening one’s will and rising above the natural urge right at the beginning. Hence, the two are stated in the same verse as a cause and effect, or as two consecutive steps both in personal conscience and in reality.
“This is most conducive to their purity.” It ensures that their feelings remain pure, unaffected by licentious desire and promiscuous action. Thus, feelings retain their noble human standards, and do not sink to animal levels. This protects honour, integrity and sanctities within the community. Besides, it is God who lays down such preventive measures, fully aware as He certainly is of people’s psychology, natural instincts thoughts and motives: “God is certainly aware of all that they do.”
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
The consensus of opinion is that this Surah was sent down after the campaign against Bani Al-Mustaliq and this is confirmed by v. 11-20 that deal with the incident of the ‘slander’ which occurred during that Campaign. But there is a difference of opinion as to whether this Campaign took place in 5 A.H. before the Battle of the Trench or in 6 A.H. after it.
8. Reasons for Revelation[ edit ]
After the victory at Badr the Islamic movement began to gain strength day by day; so much so that by the time of the Battle of the Trench it had become so strong that the united forces of the enemy numbering about ten thousand, failed to crush it and had to cease the siege of Madinah after one month. Both parties understood that it meant that the war of aggression, which the disbelievers had been waging for several years, had come to an end. The Prophet himself declared: “After this year the Quraysh will not be able to attack you; now you will take the offensive.”
When the disbelievers realised that they could not defeat Islam on the battlefield they chose a new path of attack, to assault the moral fabric of the Muslim community. It cannot be said with certainty whether this change of tactics was the outcome of deliberate consultations or due to the humiliating retreat in the Battle of the Trench, for which all the forces of the enemy had been concentrated.
The disbelievers knew that the rise of Islam was not due to the number of Muslims, nor to their superior arms and ammunition and neither to their greater material resources. In fact, the Muslims were fighting against fearful odds on all these fronts. They considered that they owed their success to their moral superiority. The pure and noble qualities of the Prophet and his followers were capturing the hearts of the people and binding them into a highly disciplined community. As a result, they were defeating the Polytheists and Jews because of their lack of discipline and character.
The wickedness of the disbelievers led them to start a campaign of vilification against the Prophet and the Muslims in order to destroy their high moral standard. The strategy was to attain the assistance of the hypocrites to spread slanders against the Prophet and his followers so that the Polytheists and the Jews could exploit these to sow the seeds of discord among the Muslims.
The first opportunity for the use of the new strategy was afforded in Dhul-Qa’dah 5 A.H. when the Prophet married Zainab (the daughter of Jahsh) who was the divorced wife of his adopted son Zayd bin Harithah. The Prophet had arranged this marriage in order to put an end to the ignorant custom where an adopted son was considered like a biological son to the adopted parents, whereas in Islam this is a right that is solely retained by the true parents. The hypocrites however considered it a golden opportunity to maliciously slander the Prophet from inside the community, whilst the Jews and the Polytheists focused on exploiting it from outside the community, in a bid to ruin his high reputation.
For this purpose fantastic stories were concocted and spread to this effect: “One day Muhammad happened to see the wife of his adopted son and fell in love with her; he manoeuvred her divorce and married her.” Though this was absurd it was spread with such skill, cunning and artfulness that it succeeded in its purpose; so much so that some Muslim traditionalists and commentators also have cited some parts in their writings, leaving the orientalises to exploit it further. As a matter of fact, Zainab was not a stranger to the Prophet, which undermines the absurd slander that he saw her by chance and fell in love with her at first sight. Actually, she was his first cousin being the daughter of his paternal aunt Umaimah, daughter of Abdul Muttalib. He had known her from her childhood to her youth. Only a year before this incident, he himself had persuaded her against her will to marry Zayd bin Haritha, a former slave, in order to practically demonstrate that slaves were equals. However because of their differences, the marriage inevitably ended in divorce. The above mentioned facts were well known to all, yet the slanderers succeeded in their false propaganda with the result that even today there are people who continue to exploit these false stories to defame Islam
The second slander was made on the honour of A’isha, a wife of the Prophet, in connection with an incident which occurred while he was returning from the Campaign against Bani al-Mustaliq. As this attack was even severer than the first one and was the main background of this Surah, we shall deal with it in greater detail.
Let us start with a few words about Abdullah bin Ubayy, who was the villain of the attack. He belonged to the clan of Khazraj and was one of the most important chiefs of Madinah. Directly before the coming of the Prophet, the people had originally intended to make him their king, but his succession was superseded by the arrival of the Prophet. Though he had embraced Islam, in his heart he remained a staunch hypocrite and his hypocrisy was so apparent that he was called the “Chief of the Hypocrites.” He never lost any opportunity to slander Islam in order to take his revenge.
Now for the main theme. In Sha’aban 6 A.H. the Prophet learned that the people of Bani al-Mustaliq were making preparations for a war against the Muslims and were also trying to muster other clans for this purpose. The Prophet pre-empted their attack and took the enemy by surprise, capturing the people of the clan and their belongings. The Prophet made a halt near Muraisi, a spring in their territory. One day a dispute concerning taking water from the spring started between a servant of Umar ibn Al Khattab (a famous companion) and an ally of the clan of Khazraj, and developed into a quarrel between the immigrants (Muhajirs) and the Muslims of Madina (Ansar). Nevertheless the dispute was soon settled but this did not suit the strategy of Abdullah bin Ubayy, who had also joined the expedition with a large number of hypocrites. So he began to incite the Ansar, saying, “You yourselves brought these people of the Quraysh from Makkah and made them partners in your wealth and property. And now they have become your rivals and want domination over you. If even now you withdraw your support from them, they shall be forced to leave your city.” Then he swore and declared, “As soon as we reach back to Madinah, the respectable people (Ansar) will turn out the degraded people from the city (Muhajirs).”
When the Prophet came to know of this, he ordered the people to immediately set off on a march back to Madinah. The forced march continued up to noon the next day without a halt on the way, leaving the people exhausted with no time for idle talk.
Though this wise judgment and quick action by the Prophet averted the mischief, Abdullah bin Ubayy got another opportunity for something far more serious, engineering a ‘slander’ against the Prophet’s wife (A’isha). This mischief might well have involved the young Muslim community in a civil war, if the Prophet and his sincere and devoted followers had not shown wisdom, forbearance and marvellous discipline in dealing with it. In order to understand the events that led to the incident of the ‘Slander,’ we cite the story in A’isha’s own words. She says “Whenever the Holy Prophet went out on a journey, he decided by lots as to which of his wives should accompany him. Accordingly, it was decided that I should accompany him during the expedition to Bani al-Mustaliq. On the return journey, the Holy Prophet halted for the night at a place which was the last stage on the way back to Madinah. It was still night, when they began to make preparations for the march. So I went outside the camp to ease myself. When I returned and came near my halting place, I noticed that my necklace had fallen down somewhere. I went back in search for it but in the meantime the caravan moved off and I was left behind all alone. The four carriers of my carriage had placed it on my camel without noticing that it was empty. This happened because of my light weight due to the lack of food in those days. I wrapped myself in my sheet and lay down in the hope that when it would be discovered that I had been left behind, a search party would come back to pick me up. In the meantime I fell asleep. In the morning, when Safwan bin Mu’attal Sulami passed that way, he saw me and recognised me for he had seen me several times before the commandment about covering (Hijab) had been sent down. No sooner did he see me than he stopped his camel and cried out spontaneously : “How sad! The wife of the Holy Prophet has been left here!” At this I woke up all of a sudden and covered my face with my sheet. Without uttering another word, he made his camel kneel by me and stood aside, while I climbed on to the camel back. He led the camel by the nose-string and we overtook the caravan at about noon, when it had just halted and nobody had yet noticed that I had been left behind. I learnt afterwards that this incident had been used to slander me and Abdullah bin Ubayy was foremost among the slanderers.” (According to other traditions, when A’isha reached the camp on the camel, led by Safwan, and it was known that she had been left behind, Abdullah bin Ubayy cried out, ‘By God, she could not have remained chaste. Look, there comes the wife of your Prophet openly on the camel led by the person with whom she passed the night.’)
“When I reached Madinah, I fell ill and stayed in bed for more than a month. Though I was quite unaware of it, the news of the ‘slander’ was spreading like a scandal in the city, and had also reached the Holy Prophet. Anyhow, I noticed that he did not seem as concerned about my illness as he used to be. He would come but without addressing me directly, would inquire from others how I was and leave the house. Therefore it troubled my mind that something had gone wrong somewhere. So I took leave of him and went to my mother’s house for better nursing. While I was there, one night I went out of the city to ease myself in the company of Mistah’s mother, who was a first cousin of my mother. As she was walking along she stumbled over something and cried out spontaneously, ‘May Mistah perish!’ To this I retorted, ‘What mother are you that you curse your own son, the son who took part in the Battle of Badr.’ She replied, ‘My dear daughter, are you not aware of his scandal mongering?’ Then she told me everything about the campaign of the ‘slander’. Hearing this horrible story, my blood curdled, and I immediately returned home, and passed the rest of the night crying over it.
“During my absence the Holy Prophet took counsel with Ali and Usamah bin Zayd about this matter. Usamah said good words about me to this effect: ‘O Messenger of God, we have found nothing but good in your wife. All that is being spread about her is a lie and calumny.’ As regards Ali, he said, ‘O Messenger of God, there is no dearth of women; you may, if you like, marry another wife. If, however, you would like to investigate into the matter, you may send for her maidservant and inquire into it through her.’ Accordingly, the maidservant was sent for and questioned. She replied, ‘I declare on an oath by God, Who has sent you with the Truth, that I have never seen any evil thing in her, except that she falls asleep when I tell her to look after the kneaded dough in my absence and a goat comes and eats it.’ On that same day the Holy Prophet addressed the people from the pulpit, saying: ‘O Muslims, who from among you will defend my honour against the attacker of the person who has transgressed all bounds in doing harm to me by slandering my wife. By God, I have made a thorough inquiry and found nothing wrong with her nor with the man, whose name has been linked with the ‘slander’.’ At this Usaid bin Hudair (or Sa’d bin Mauz according to other traditions) stood up and said, ‘O Messenger of God, if that person belongs to our clan, we will kill him by ourselves, but if he belongs to the Khazraj clan, we will kill him if you order us to do so.’ Hearing this Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah, chief of the Khazraj clan, stood up and said, ‘You lie you can never kill him. You are saying this just because the person belongs to our clan of Khazraj. Had he belonged to your clan, you would never have said so.’ Usaid retorted, ‘You are a hypocrite: that is why you are defending a hypocrite.’ At this, there was a general turmoil in the mosque, which would have developed into a riot, even though the Holy Prophet was present there the whole time. But he cooled down their anger and came down from the pulpit.”
Let us point out the enormity of the mischief that was engineered by Abdullah bin Ubayy:
1. It implied an attack on the honour of the Prophet and Abu Bakr Siddiq (the father of A’isha and the close companion of the Prophet).
2. He meant to undermine the high moral superiority of the Muslims.
3. He intended to ignite civil war between the Muhajirs and the Ansar, and between Aus and Khazraj (the two clans of the Ansar).