Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 25
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
When a Muslim finds himself in circumstances that make it practically impossible to marry a free woman who is likely to be more mindful of her chastity, he may use the concession to marry a slave woman so as to resist the temptation of sin.
The religion of Islam deals with man within the limitations of his nature, abilities and practical life. It takes him by the hand, elevating him from the depths of ignorance to the sublime horizon of Islamic life. At the same time, it provides him with all that he needs. What takes place in an ignorant society is not inevitable. Ignorant standards are low and Islam wants to elevate humanity to a higher standard. Islam is aware that, by his nature, man is capable of reaching a high standard. It is true that man may sink in the mud of ignorance, but it is equally true that man is able to reach to the sublime. It is God alone who knows human nature fully, because He has created mankind and is aware of what thoughts work themselves into the human mind: “How could it be that He who has created all should not know all? He is indeed unfathomable in His wisdom, All-Aware.” (67: 14)
This verse regulates the methods and circumstances which permitted their marriage: “Any of you who, owing to circumstances, is not in a position to marry a free believing woman may marry a believing maiden from among those whom your right hands possess”. Islam prefers for its followers to marry free women if they are able to do so. Freedom imparts dignity to a woman, which enables her to protect her chastity and safeguard her husband’s honour.
A free woman has a family and a reputation to protect. She is too proud to allow herself to sink into the depths of promiscuity. A slave woman does not have the same considerations. Even when she is married, traces from her bondage days remain with her. Hence, she does not have the same attitude towards chastity and personal dignity as a free woman. She does not have a family reputation to worry about. Moreover, her children were treated as a class lower than the children of free women.
This is followed by an explanation of the only acceptable method for the relationship between free men and non-free women. It is the same form of marriage as with free women. The first condition is that the women in question must be believers: “Any of you who, owing to circumstances, is not in a position to marry a free believing woman may marry a believing maiden from among those whom your right hands possess.” The second condition is that they must be given their dowries, which is a right owing to them, and not to their masters. No one else has a claim to any part of that dowry: “Marry them, then, with their people’s consent and give them their dowers in an equitable manner.” Before we turn to the next statement in this Qur’ānic verse, we need to reflect a little on the way the Qur’ān expresses the relationship which exists between free people and slaves in Islamic society and how Islam views this situation when it occurs in real life. The Qur’ānic verse does not use a term like slave or bondswoman. Rather, it refers to them all as “maidens”. The expression runs as follows: “Any of you... may marry a believing maiden from among those whom your right hands possess.”
Moreover, no racial discrimination is entertained between free and unfree people, as was practised in all societies at that time, and which divided mankind into different classes. On the contrary, the Qur’ān reminds us all that we have the same origin and establishes our relationship on the ties of humanity and faith which we all share: “God knows all about your faith: you belong to one another.” It does not describe the people who “own” a slave woman as her “masters”, but instead refers to them as her “people” or family: “Marry them, then, with their people’s consent.” The dowry such a slave woman receives is not given to her master; she has full claim to it. This means that the dowry is not included in the rule that all earnings by a slave belong to the master. The dowry is not classified as “earning”; it is a right that accrues to the woman as a result of her becoming lawful to a certain man: “And give them their dowers in an equitable manner.” Furthermore, they are not looked down upon as women who sell themselves. Indeed, the reverse is true: they are “chaste women who give themselves in honest wedlock, not in fornication, nor as women who have secret love companions."
Islam provides for a reduced punishment for slave women who commit adultery after marriage. In this way, it takes into account the situation in which such a woman finds herself, understanding that this makes her more liable to sin and less able than a free woman to resist temptation. By its very nature, slavery reduces a woman’s dignity or family reputation. These are the two elements that make a free woman more able to protect her chastity. It also takes into consideration the social and economic differences between a free woman and a slave girl. All these considerations make a slave woman more complacent with regard to her honour and make it easier for her to yield to the temptation of money or position by her seducer. It is for this reason that the penalty for a slave woman who commits adultery after marriage is only half that of a free woman: “If after their marriage, they are guilty of gross immoral conduct, they shall be liable to half the penalty to which free women are liable.” (Verse 25) The verse concludes with a statement which indicates clearly that to marry a slave woman is a concession given to a person who fears that he may yield to temptation and who finds it too hard to resist. A person who can remain patient, without afflicting himself, is better advised to do so, in view of what we have already outlined in connection with marriage with a slave girl: “This provision applies to those of you who fear to stumble into sin. Yet it is better for you to be patient.”
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
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[ edit ]
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.