Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 24

۞ وَٱلْمُحْصَنَٰتُ مِنَ ٱلنِّسَآءِ إِلَّا مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُكُمْ ۖ كِتَٰبَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَأُحِلَّ لَكُم مَّا وَرَآءَ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَن تَبْتَغُوا۟ بِأَمْوَٰلِكُم مُّحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَٰفِحِينَ ۚ فَمَا ٱسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهِۦ مِنْهُنَّ فَـَٔاتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً ۚ وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا تَرَٰضَيْتُم بِهِۦ مِنۢ بَعْدِ ٱلْفَرِيضَةِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allāh upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allāh is ever Knowing and Wise.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The first sentence in this verse makes it clear that married women are, as a result of their marriage, not lawful for other women to marry. This means that polyandry is forbidden in Islam. This is in line with the basic rule in Islamic society that makes the family its constituent unit. It must be protected against any confusion in relationships that may result from “sexual communism” or promiscuity.

The family, which comes into existence through a marriage made in public to unite one woman with one man in order to ensure the preservation of chastity, is the perfect system which fits in with human nature and meets the real needs of man. It is a system that serves the objectives of human life, which transcend man’s sexual needs, and helps achieve the goals of human society. It also ensures peace of mind for the individual, the family and the community.Everyone knows that the human child needs a much longer period of upbringing than the progeny of any animal. Moreover, the education a child needs in order to comprehend the requirements of civilised human life takes a similarly long period.

In animals, the sexual desire has no further objectives than intercourse and procreation. In man, however, it has a much finer objective which establishes a permanent link between the male and the female in order to provide an environment suitable for bringing up children who are able to protect themselves and satisfy their needs. It also serves the more important purpose of educating the child and helping him to gain experience and acquire a good standard of knowledge. Thus, the child will be able to contribute to the life of his community and discharge his responsibility in advancing human civilisation.

We can also appreciate the great wisdom of `Umar ibn al-Khaţţāb when he said to a man who came to him expressing his desire to divorce his wife on the grounds that he no longer loved her: “Think properly, man! Are families built only on love? What room is then left for loyalty and mutual care?” `Umar based his argument on the Qur’ānic directive to God’s best servants: “Consort with them in a goodly manner. Even if you are averse to them, it may well be that you are averse to something in which God has placed much good.” (Verse 19) This directive helps a Muslim to place duty before personal desire. He, therefore, tries hard to solve his problems with his wife amicably. He does not sever the family relationship unless all attempts to achieve proper reconciliation have failed. This attitude gives priority to the care that needs to be taken of the young who should be spared the shocks of changing passions.

In making His legislation clear, God says: “Forbidden to you are all married women.” This is what God says which is clearly opposite to what those immoral writers say. It is “God who says the truth, and it is He who guides to the right path.” (33: 4)

“[Forbidden to you are] all married women, other than those whom your right hands possess.” This exception is made in the case of women who fell captive to Muslims in their jihād campaigns. These might, prior to their captivity, have had husbands in their countries which remained at war with the Muslim society. Thus, the physical distance separating them severed their relationships with their unbelieving husbands. As they had no husbands in the land of Islam, they were in the same position as unmarried women. It was sufficient to ascertain that they were not pregnant by observing a waiting period consisting of one menstruation cycle. Thereafter, it was legitimate for them to marry, if they became Muslims. Alternatively, it was legitimate for a person to whom such a captive woman belonged to have sex with her as “one whom his right hand possessed”. This applied whether the woman became a Muslim or not.

The verse goes on to explain which women are lawful to marry. Before it does so, however, it identifies the source of this legislation, namely God. Only God has the authority to forbid something and legitimise another and to issue legislation in all matters whatsoever: “This is God’s ordinance, binding upon you.” (Verse 24) It is, then, a directive from God, not a question of desire, tradition, or local institutions. People must observe what He legislates for them and abide by it. In turn, they are accountable for its implementation.

Similarly, when Islamic jurisprudence refers to “tradition” in certain matters, it imparts to tradition a new authority based on God’s permission. Hence, tradition acquires in these particular questions the validity of Islamic law. It is no longer a case of society giving a tradition its authority. That authority is now imparted by God, the only Legislator who has approved of it as a source of judgement in certain cases. Now that the sūrah has defined the women with whom a Muslim may not be married, linking such prohibition of marriages to God’s decrees and ordinances, it goes on to define the area within which people may satisfy their natural desire through marriage. It sets out the way God approves of for the companionship between the two sexes, which leads to the establishment of families. In this way, the meeting between the two sexes provides enjoyment with purity.

This Qur’ānic verse states that marriage with any woman other than those listed as forbidden is legitimate. Anyone who wishes to have such a marriage may spend of his money, by way of dowry, not to buy enjoyment outside the marriage bond. Hence, the verse states: “Provided that, offering them of your own possessions, you seek to take them in wedlock not in fornication.” This condition is stated perfectly clearly even before the sentence is finished. Moreover, the condition is stated first in a positive form, “you seek to take them in wedlock,” which is immediately followed by the negative form, “not in fornication.” Thus no ambiguity whatsoever overshadows this legislation. It describes without any equivocation the nature of the type of relationship Islam approves of, namely marriage, and the nature of the relationship it outlaws, that being promiscuity in any form. Promiscuous relationships, whether as fornication or prostitution, were practised and approved of in pre-Islamic Arabian society. This is clear in the following report given by `Ā’ishah, the Prophet’s wife.

The concluding comment in this verse relates these legal provisions to their source, who has true knowledge and perfect wisdom: “God is indeed All-Knowing, Wise.” It is on the basis of His knowledge and wisdom that He has decreed these legal provisions. When a Muslim realises from what source he has received laws which affect every aspect of his life, especially his private relationship with his wife, he is reassured that such laws can only be the right ones, since they derive from God’s wisdom and knowledge.

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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