Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 1

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ ٱتَّقُوا۟ رَبَّكُمُ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَٰحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَآءً ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِى تَسَآءَلُونَ بِهِۦ وَٱلْأَرْحَامَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allāh, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allāh is ever, over you, an Observer.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This address is made to mankind, in their basic human quality, so that they may all turn to their Lord who has created them “from a single soul”. He further created from this single soul its mate, “and from the two of them spread abroad so many men and women.” 
These simple and basic facts are very profound, having much weight in human considerations. Had people been truly mindful of these facts, it would have brought about great changes in their lives, helping them to move from their state of ignorance to a state of intelligence, whereby they would be able to receive proper guidance and accept the true faith. They would, thus, have been able to build a true civilisation worthy of man, the creature who acknowledges God as his Lord and Creator.

Man came into this world after a period of time when the world existed without him. Who, then, brought him into this world? He has not come into it by his own will. Prior to his arrival he had no definite existence, and no will with which to decide whether to enter this world or not. Man’s arrival in this world is, thus, the result of a will other than his own. It is this will which decided to create man, and which chose and defined his way for him. It has given him his existence with all its special characteristics, his talents and potentials. It has given him the ability to deal with the universe into which he has been brought without any prior preparation except that given him by this same will. Needless to say, that will is omnipotent in the sense that it is able to do whatever it may wish and determine. If people would only remember this fact they would be able to recognise the true path from the very outset.
This will, which has brought man into this world, outlined for him his way of life and gave him the ability to deal with the universe. It is the only will which can influence human life in any way it wishes, knows everything about man and can best manage his affairs. It is the only will which has the right to define for man his source of life, promulgate laws and regulations for human life, and lay down values and standards for man to observe. To this will alone people must refer whenever they differ over anything. When they do this, they refer to the one constitution which God wants mankind to implement.
Secondly, these facts suggest that all humanity, which has issued from a single will, share together in a single kinship and have the same origin and lineage: “Mankind, fear your Lord, who has created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the two of them spread abroad so many men and women.” 

Had people been mindful of this fact, they would have paid little or no attention to all the differences that came into their lives at a later time. Differences which led to discrimination between the descendants of a single soul and to the severance of ties of a single universal kinship. All these differences are purely circumstantial and should never have been allowed to take precedence over the tie of kinship and its claim to be fostered, the tie of belonging to one soul which deserves to be maintained, and the tie of belonging to the one Lord who must be feared.

  • Allah calls Himself Ar-Raqeeb — The Watchful, The All-Observing, The Witness — on three occasions in the Quran. Ar-Raqeeb is the One Who sees what is hidden in the hearts and He is the One Who charges your soul for what it has earned. He is the All-and-Ever-Watchful, observing everyone’s actions, thoughts, and feelings. Ar-Raqeeb is also The Controller; preserving and organizing the affairs of creation with the perfect planning!
  • A beautiful example of belief in Ar-Raqeeb. Narrated `Abdullah ibn Zayd ibn Aslam, from his father, from his grandfather, who said: When I was accompanying `Umar ibn al-Khattab on his patrol of Madinah at night, he felt tired, so he leant against a wall. It was the middle of the night, and (we heard) a woman say to her daughter, “O my daughter, get up and mix that milk with some water.” The girl said, “O Mother, did you not hear the decree of Amir al-Mu’minin (chief of the believers) today?” The mother said, “What was that?” The girl said, “He ordered someone to announce in a loud voice that milk should not be mixed with water.” The mother said, “Get up and mix the milk with water; you are in a place where `Umar cannot see you.” The girl told her mother, “I cannot obey Him (Allah) in public and disobey him in private.” [Sifat al-Safwah and Wafiyat al-A’yan and cited by Ibn al-Jawzi in Ahkam al-Nisa’]

  • How Can You Live By This Name?

    1. Know that you are never alone.
    A scholar in the past advised: “Repeat the following statement whenever you go to bed, wake up or go out, “Allah looks at me; Allah watches me; Allah witnesses me”. Knowing that Ar-Raqeeb is watching over you is called muraqabah; remind yourself Allah is watching your every move, feel His presence and converse with Him, making dua to Him to keep your intentions pure and your deeds upright. When someone you look up to is watching you, you always try harder, what about Allah? So next time give extra sadaqah, pray on time and read the Quran more and impress Ar-Raqeeb!

    2. Mind your words.
    Some of us might stay away from the major sins, such as adultery and interest, but we daily commit thousands of sins with the way we speak and what we speak about. Be inspired by Ar-Raqeeb to mind every word you speak and ask yourself: does this speech please Allah or make Him angry?  Allah says: Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record]. [Quran, 50:18]

    3. Remember Ar-Raqeeb when you are tempted.
    One day Umar ibn al-Khattab radiyallahu ‘anhu found a shepherd and asked if the boy would sell him a sheep. The boy replied that it was not his. `Umar ibn al-Khattab made him an offer to see how he would react, He said: “If your master asks you, tell him that the sheep was eaten by a wolf.”  He looked at him and said, “And what would I say to Him (i.e. Allah)?”  `Umar cried and said, “By Allah, you are right.  What would you say to Him?” 

  • Muraqabah - If you observe Him while you are eating, you will find that He is the One Who brought the food to you without any power and strength from you, and He is also the One Who moves your hand to pick up the food you are eating. He is the One Who gave you the ability to raise the food to your mouth and He is also the One Who moves your mouth and make your saliva flow. He is also the One Who created in you the power to enjoy (food); then He is the One Who leads the food to your stomach, and gives your body energy and order. He is the One Who disciplines you. So learn that there is no actual Doer save Him. If this meaning becomes strong within you, it will clarify your actions and unify the Essence (adh-Dhat), and when the mastery of watching (al-muraqaba) increases you will see that He is the Eternal for His slave without action!

2. Linguistic Analysis

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  • Raqeeb. Words stemming from R-Q-B appear more times in this Surah an-Nisa then any other Surah of the Qur'an. It appears 4 times.  

    Raqeeb comes from the root raa-qaaf-baa, which points to three main meanings. The first meaning is to look, watch, observe, and be vigilant. The second main meaning is to erect in order to care for something. Raqeeb is the one who takes charge, which includes protecting, maintaining, and preserving. The third is to regard, to hold in consideration and respect.

    This root appears 24 times in the Quran. Examples of these forms are raqabatin (“a slave”), raqeebun (“an observer”), fartaqib (“so watch”) and laa yarquboona (“they do not respect (the ties) ”). In the Arabic language raqeeb means is the one who watches over or supervises things. That includes raqeeb al-jaysh (sergeant) who guards and protects, and raqeeb al-qawm who guards the people. [See: Lisaan al-‘Arab under ‘raqiba’] A marqab is a high place on which someone is on guard to observe what is beneath and ar-raqaba is the neck, because it is erect.

Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *

3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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This Surah comprises several discourses which were revealed on different occasions during the period ranging probably between the end of year 3 A.H. and the end of 4 A.H. or the beginning of 5 A.H. Although it is difficult to determine the exact dates of their revelations it is possible to assign to them a fairly correct period with the help of the Commandments and the events mentioned therein. A few instances are given below by way of illustration:

1. We know that the inheritance law for those martyred and protection for the rights of the orphans was sent down after the Battle of Uhud (in which 70 Muslims were martyred). From this we conclude that v. 1 -28 were revealed on that occasion.

2. We learn from the traditions that the ruling regarding the prayer (Salah) during war time was given on the occasion of the Zat-ur-Riqa’aan expedition. This took place in 4 A.H. From this we conclude that the discourse containing v. 102 was revealed on that occasion.

3. The last warning to the Jews was given before the Banu-Nadheer were exiled from Madinah in Rabi’-ulAwwal 4 A.H. It may therefore be assumed that the discourse containing v. 47 was revealed before that date.

4. The permission about performing ablution with dust in the event of no water (tayammum) verse 43, was given during the Bani-al-Mustaliq expedition which took place in 5 A.H. [REF: Mawdudi]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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Let us now consider the social and historical considerations of the period in order to understand the Surah. All the discourses in this Surah deal with three main problems which confronted the Prophet at the time. First of all he was engaged in bringing about an all round development of the islamic Community that had been formed at the time of his migration to Madinah. For this purpose he was introducing new moral cultural social economic and political ways in place of the old ones of the pre-islamic period. The second thing that occupied his attention and efforts was the bitter struggle that was going on with the polytheist Arabs, the Jewish clans and the hypocrites who were opposing tooth and nail his mission of reform. Above all, he had to propagate Islam in the face of the bitter opposition of these powers of evil with a view to capturing more and more minds and hearts.

Accordingly detailed instructions have been given for the consolidation and strengthening of the islamic Community in continuation of those given in Surah 2: Al-Baqarah (The Cow). Principles for the smooth running of family life have been laid down and ways of settling family disputes have been taught. Rules have been prescribed for marriage and rights of wife and husband have been apportioned fairly and equitably. The status of women in the society has been determined and the declaration of the rights of orphans has been made. Laws and regulations have been laid down for the division of inheritance and instructions have been given to reform economic affairs. The foundation of the penal code has been laid down, drinking has been prohibited and instructions have been given for cleanliness and purity. The Muslims have been taught the kind of relations good men should have with their God and fellow men. Instructions have been given for the maintenance of discipline in the Muslim Community.

The moral and religious condition of The People of the Book (Jews and Christians) has been reviewed to teach lessons to the Muslims and to forewarn them to refrain from following in their footsteps. The conduct of the hypocrites has been criticized and the distinctive features of hypocrisy and true faith have been clearly marked off to enable the Muslims to distinguish between the two. In order to cope with the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud, Inspiring discourses were sent down to urge the Muslims to face the enemy bravely, for defeat in the Battle had so emboldened the polytheist Arab clans and the neighbouring Jews and the hypocrites at home, that they were threatening the Muslims on all sides. At this critical juncture God filled the Muslims with courage and gave them such instructions as were needed during that period of war clouds. In order to counteract the fearful rumours that were being spread by the hypocrites and the Muslims of weak faith they were asked to make a thorough enquiry into them and to inform the responsible people about them. Then they were experiencing some difficulties in offering their prayer during the expeditions to some places where no water was available for performing their ablutions etc. In such cases they were allowed to cleanse themselves with pure earth and to shorten the prayer or to offer the “Prayer of Fear” when they were faced with danger. Instructions were also given for the solution of the puzzling problem of those Muslims who were scattered among the unbelieving Arab clans and were often involved in war. They were asked to migrate to Madinah the abode of Islam.

This Surah also deals with the case of Banu nadir who were showing a hostile and menacing attitude in spite of the peace treaties they had made with the Muslims. They were openly siding with the enemies of Islam and hatching plots against the Prophet and the Muslim Community even at Madinah itself. They were taken to task for their inimical behaviour and given a final warning to change their attitude and were at last exiled from Madinah on account of their misconduct.

The problem of the hypocrites, who had become very troublesome at that time, was involving the Believers in difficulties. Therefore, they were divided into different categories to enable the Muslims to deal with them appropriately. Clear instructions were also given regarding the attitude they should adopt towards the non-belligerent clans. The most important thing needed at that time was to prepare the Muslims for the bitter struggle with the opponents of Islam. For this purpose greatest importance was attached to their character building, for it was obvious that the small Muslim Community could only come out successful, nay, survive, if the Muslims possessed high moral character. They were, therefore, enjoined to adopt the highest moral qualities and were severely criticized whenever any moral weakness was detected in them.

Though this Surah mainly deals with the moral and social reforms, yet due attention has been paid to propagation of Islam. On the one hand, the superiority of the islamic morality and culture has been established over that of the Jews, Christians and polytheists; on the other hand, their wrong religious conceptions, their wrong morality and their evil acts have been criticized to prepare the ground for inviting them to the way of the Truth. 

9. Relevant Hadith

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10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

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12. External Links

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