Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 36

۞ وَٱعْبُدُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا۟ بِهِۦ شَيْـًٔا ۖ وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَٰنًا وَبِذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَٰكِينِ وَٱلْجَارِ ذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْجَارِ ٱلْجُنُبِ وَٱلصَّاحِبِ بِٱلْجَنۢبِ وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Worship Allāh and associate nothing with Him, and to parents the best [treatment], and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away, the companion at your side, the traveller, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allāh does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful,

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The passage starts with a clear commandment to worship God alone and a clear prohibition against associating partners with Him. We note that this verse begins with a conjunction which links it with the preceding orders that relate to the family and its affairs. This serves to stress the total unity that pervades all aspects of Islamic faith. Islam is not merely a number of beliefs that our minds accept, nor is it a host of rituals and acts of worship, nor a worldly system divorced from faith and worship. It is a way of life that combines all these aspects and unites them together on the basis of believing in the Oneness of God and deriving all systems and legislation from Him alone. There can be no split between accepting God’s unity and implementing His legislation.

This is followed by an order to extend kind treatment to certain groups of one’s immediate family and of the human family at large. Miserliness, conceit, boastfulness and suppression of God’s favours, of whichever type, are denounced. This is coupled with a warning against following Satan, together with raising the prospect of punishment in the hereafter and all that attends on it of public humiliation. Again, all this is linked to the belief in God’s oneness and to acknowledging that He is the only source of legislation.

“Worship God alone and do not associate with Him any partners.” The first commandment is to worship God, which is followed by a prohibition of worshipping anyone other than Him. This is a total and absolute prohibition of all sorts of worship which man has practised in all ages and communities. False gods, be they animate or inanimate objects, angels or devils, have been ascribed as partners to God in one way or another. No claim of this sort is ever allowed in Islam. It is absolutely forbidden for all time.

This is followed by a commandment to extend kindness to parents in particular and relatives in general. Most Divine orders in this particular area tend to emphasise the need to be kind to one’s parents, although they do not overlook the other area of requiring parents to be kind to children. God is more merciful and compassionate to children than their own parents. But it is children who need to be directed more strongly to look after the older generation who stand in need of kindness. In most cases, the younger generation direct their feelings, sympathies and concerns to the generation which will follow them, not the preceding one, simply because in life people tend to look forward without turning back. Hence, these directives from the All-Merciful, the Compassionate, who does not neglect a parent or a child. It is He who has taught His servants how to be kind and compassionate to one another.

We also note in this verse, as in many others, that Divine directives begin by emphasising the need to be kind to one’s relatives before widening their concern to include all those who need to be looked after in society or in humanity at large. This fits in perfectly with human nature. Compassion towards others begins at home, in one’s own immediate family. A person who has not himself been a recipient of compassion in his childhood, within his family, hardly ever feels compassionate towards others. Moreover, man tends to look more favourably towards his relations, extending his kindness to them. There is no harm in this, as long as such compassion is continually enhanced and extended to a wider area so as to benefit more people.

In this particular verse, the directive begins by emphasising the need to be kind to parents, before widening the area to include kinsfolk, and then at a later stage, extending this to orphans and the needy. These are given precedence over one’s neighbours because their need may be more pressing and they must be looked after more immediately. Kindness is then urged towards a neighbour who may be a relation, and so to any other neighbour. Both take precedence over friends, because a neighbour always remains next to us. We meet our friends intermittently. Commentators on the Qur’ān have defined this type of friend as the one with whom we meet socially and whom we may choose as a travelling companion. The next type of person who deserves our kindness is a stranded wayfarer. This is followed by slaves who suffer the hardships of bondage, but with whom we have human ties common to all mankind.

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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Abdullah bin `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said, مَازَالَ جِبْرِيلُ يُوصِينِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُه "Jibril kept reminding of the neighbour's right, until I thought that he was going to give him a share of the inheritance." (Musnad Ahmad)

Imam Ahmad recorded that `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As said that the Prophet said, خَيْرُ الْأَصْحَابِ عِنْدَ اللهِ خَيْرُهُمْ لِصَاحِبِهِ، وَخَيْرُ الْجِيرَانِ عِنْدَ اللهِ خَيْرُهُمْ لِجَارِه "The best companions according to Allah are those who are the best with their friends, and the best neighbors according to Allah are the best with their neighbours."

The Messenger of Allah said, لَأَنْ يَزْنِيَ الرَّجُلُ بِعَشْرِ نِسْوَةٍ، أَيْسَرُ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَنْ يَزْنِيَ بِامْرَأَةِ جَارِه "For a man to commit adultery with his neighbor's wife is worse than if he commits adultery with ten women."

Imam Ahmad recorded that Al-Miqdam bin Ma`dykarib said that the Messenger of Allah said, مَا أَطْعَمْتَ نَفْسَكَ فَهُوَ لَكَ صَدَقَةٌ، وَمَا أَطْعَمْتَ وَلَدَكَ فَهُوَ لَكَ صَدَقَةٌ، وَمَا أَطْعَمْتَ زَوْجَتَكَ فَهُوَ لَكَ صَدَقَةٌ، وَمَا أَطْعَمْتَ خَادِمَكَ فَهُوَ لَكَ صَدَقَة  "What you feed yourself is a Sadaqah (charity) for you, what you feed your children is Sadaqah for you, what you feed your wife is Sadaqah for you and what you feed your servant is Sadaqah for you."

Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said,  إِذَا أَتَى أَحَدَكُمْ خَادِمُهُ بِطَعَامِه، فَإِنْ لَمْ يُجْلِسْهُ مَعَهُ فَلْيُنَاوِلْهُ لُقْمَةً أَوْ لُقْمَتَيْنِ أَوْ أُكْلَةً أَوْ أُكْلتَيْنِ فَإِنَّهُ وَلِيَ حَرَّهُ وَعِلَاجَه  "When your servant brings meals to one of you, if he does not let him sit and share the meal, then he should at least give him a mouthful or two mouthfuls of that meal or a meal or two, for he has prepared it."  This is the wording collected by Al-Bukhari.

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