Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 10

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَٰلَ ٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِى بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا ۖ وَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze [i.e., Hellfire].

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Before defining the respective shares of inheritance which are due, the sūrah gives another warning against absorbing orphans’ property. The way the warning is delivered cannot fail to have a strong effect on people’s hearts. It does this by stimulating feelings of love, of compassion for one’s own children, of parental fear for them when they are young and weak, and similarly of fear of God who watches over all our actions. It also arouses fear for one’s safety in the life to come. The fear of burning in the fire is portrayed here in a very vivid and powerful scene: “Let those who, if they themselves had to leave behind weak offspring, would feel fear on their account, be afraid (to wrong the orphans in their charge), let them fear God and speak in a just manner. Those who devour the property of orphans unjustly, only swallow fire into their bellies. They will be made to endure a blazing fire.” (Verses 9-10)

The first verse touches on parental heartstrings, describing typical parental fear for what may happen to their offspring. They are made to imagine their children, weak, defenceless, left alone with no one to protect or have mercy on them. If they think of their own children in this position, they are bound to sympathise with orphans in their own charge. They cannot know whether their own children would be placed in the care of others, in the same way as they are in charge of orphans. It is further impressed on them that they should fear God in their dealings with those in their charge. This so that God will provide their own children with people who fear Him in the way they deal with such orphans and that they be compassionate and take good care of them. They are also told to speak justly to orphans.

Verse 10 portrays a fearful scene with people swallowing fire into their bellies, and suffering the torment of Hell in the life to come. Property that belongs to orphans is fire, and guardians devour that fire in the same way as they eat their food. Their ultimate abode is also a blazing fire. It is a blazing fire both inside and out. The way the scene is portrayed shows the fire to be very real, as if its heat is being felt and as if it is seen to burn bellies and skins.

Such Qur’ānic statements are especially effective. They impart their powerful message to Muslims as also eradicate all traces of ignorance from their hearts. They replace such elements with a caution and fear of God. Thus, people are apprehensive lest they misplace any part of an orphan’s wealth. They look at this wealth as though it is the fire that God describes in such very powerful verses. Hence they do not want to touch an orphan’s property in any way. Such indeed was the attitude of the Prophet’s Companions when they heard these verses.

It is authentically reported, on the authority of Ibn `Abbās, that when the verse which begins with “those who devour the property of orphans unjustly, only swallow fire into their bellies” was revealed, each one of the Prophet’s Companions who had an orphan in his charge separated the property of that orphan from his own. They even separated their food and drink. If any part of an orphan’s food was left over, it was kept for him until he ate it or it became unsuitable to eat. This inevitably caused great difficulties. When these difficulties were pointed out to the Prophet, God revealed the verse that states: “They ask you about orphans. Say: to improve their conditions is best. If you mix their affairs with yours, remember they are your brothers [in Islam]. God knows him who spoils things and him who improves. Had God so willed, He would indeed have overburdened you. Indeed, God is indeed Almighty, Wise.” (2: 220)  After this verse was revealed, they mixed their food and drink together.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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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…

11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

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