Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 29

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَأْكُلُوٓا۟ أَمْوَٰلَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِٱلْبَٰطِلِ إِلَّآ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَٰرَةً عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنكُمْ ۚ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allāh is to you ever Merciful.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

This passage begins with a prohibition against illegally devouring other people’s money, explaining that it is only through trade that people may gain money from one another. Illegal gains are described as killing oneself and as utter loss. This is coupled with a warning against incurring punishment in the hereafter as well as a comforting touch in the form of a promise of forgiveness and assured help. The passage also emphasises that people must not covet what others may have. They should instead ask God to give them what they wish, for He is the One who gives in abundance. These directives come side by side with the establishment of the rights of earning and ownership to both man and woman. At this point, the Qur’ān stresses that God is aware of all things. Instructions given with regard to contracts of allegiance stressing the duty to fulfil these contracts and pledges are followed with a statement that God witnesses everything. Both statements of God’s knowledge leave very strong impressions on us. They come, after all, from God, who is well aware of man’s constitution and what influences his attitude.

The passage begins with an address to believers prohibiting all forms of illegal gain and profit. This suggests that what follows aims at the eradication of traces of past, ignorant life from Islamic society. When Muslims are addressed by God as believers, the address serves as a reminder of what faith entails. An exception is made of commercial transactions whereby the buyer and seller enter into these willingly: “Believers, do not devour each other’s wealth illegally, unless it be through trade which you conduct by mutual consent.” Linguistically speaking, this is a special way of making an exception. It means that if a commercial transaction is conducted by mutual consent, then it is not included in the prohibition. The way that this is expressed in the Qur’ān suggests that there is an element of confusion that combines it with other dealings, described as the illegal devouring of other people’s money. We can understand this better if we remind ourselves of the Qur’ānic verses which prohibit usury in Sūrah 2, The Cow. We commented on these verses at length in Volume I, pp. 355-71. These verses quote usurers objecting to the prohibition of all usury, claiming that “trade is just the same as usury”. (2: 275) God replies to them in the same verse, explaining: “but God has made trade lawful and usury forbidden”. In defence of their accursed system, usurers were guilty of deliberate misrepresentation by claiming that trade which results in a profit produces an increase of the trader’s money in the same way as usury, which also increases the usurer’s money. Hence their claim that it was wrong to outlaw usury while making trade lawful.

The verse ends with a startling comment: “Do not kill yourselves, for God is merciful to you.” This is how the Qur’ān comments on devouring one another’s money illegally. It suggests that such practices have a highly destructive effect on society. It is indeed a crime, which amounts to murder. God forbids the believers to practise it because He is so merciful to them.It is indeed the crime of suicide. Every time the practices of devouring other people’s money illegally, such as usury, cheating, gambling, monopoly, hoarding, embezzlement, bribery, theft, and the selling of un-sellable things such as honour, honesty, and moral and religious values, spread within a community, then that community is sentenced to inevitable self-destruction. Such practices have always been rampant in ignorant societies, old and modern alike. God wants to spare the believers this type of self-destruction and lighten their load. He aims to save them from their weaknesses, for these are bound to destroy them whenever they follow the dictates of lust in preference to His directives.

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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