Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 46

مِّنَ ٱلَّذِينَ هَادُوا۟ يُحَرِّفُونَ ٱلْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِۦ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَٱسْمَعْ غَيْرَ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَٰعِنَا لَيًّۢا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِى ٱلدِّينِ ۚ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا۟ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَٱسْمَعْ وَٱنظُرْنَا لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَٰكِن لَّعَنَهُمُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Among the Jews are those who distort words from their [proper] places [i.e., usages] and say, "We hear and disobey" and "Hear but be not heard" and "Rā’inā," twisting their tongues and defaming the religion. And if they had said [instead], "We hear and obey" and "Wait for us [to understand]," it would have been better for them and more suitable. But Allāh has cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

They have been so impudent and rude that they even distort revealed statements. Most probably, this is a reference to their different interpretation of statements given in the Torah from how they were actually intended. They did this in order to deny every reference to the final, Divine message and to remove every piece of legislation endorsed by the Qur’ān, God’s final revelation. Obviously, when the same legislation is given in both Scriptures, this is evidence of their common source, and, consequently, it is evidence emphasising the truthfulness of Muĥammad’s message. Distortion of religious statements so that they may be brought in line with people’s desires is a phenomenon common to any group of clergy who lose their way and who look at their religious knowledge as a profession in the service of the powerful, and who try at the same time to appease those elements of the masses wishing to release themselves from the discipline of religion. Perhaps the Jews excel all other people in this respect, although we have seen in our time some Muslims who take their religious knowledge as a profession. Indeed, some of these can compete favourably with the Jews.

Their rudeness towards the Prophet went so far that they said to him bluntly: “We hear what you say, Muĥammad! But we disobey it. We are not prepared to believe in you or follow you.” Again, this is an indication that these verses were revealed in the early period in Madinah. At that time, the Jews might have been so rude and offensive in their attitude to the Prophet. This is coupled with their bad manners and sly methods. They expressed themselves in a superficially polite way to the Prophet. Ostensibly, they said: “Hear, and no one may order you to hear, (this is a polite manner of speech), and be considerate to us,” taking account of our status. It is as though they wanted to say that since they had Divine revelations, they need not be called upon to embrace Islam in the same way as the idolaters were called on to believe in it. But they did not say these words in a straightforward manner. They twisted their words to distort their meaning, implying: “Hear; may you be bereft of hearing.” The other phrase mentioned in the Qur’ānic verse, “Have patience with us”, they distorted so as to describe the Prophet as rash. Thus they combined impudence with slyness and distortion of God’s revelations. This is typical of the Israelite nature.

The text then outlines that attitude which is worthy of people given Divine revelations. It assures them that they may still be rightly guided and generously rewarded if they would but only believe. But then their true nature is revealed: “Had they but said: ‘We have heard and we pay heed,’ and Hear us and have patience with us,’ it would have been for their own good and more proper. God has rejected them for their disbelief. It is only a few of them that believe.” (Verse 46)

God always says the truth. In the long history of Islam, only a very small number of Jews believed in it. These were people whom God rewarded their hard work in pursuit of what pleases Him by guiding them to the true faith. Otherwise, the overwhelming majority of Jews continued to be hostile to Islam and the Muslims for more than fourteen centuries. Their hostility started with Islam establishing its base so close to them in Madinah. Not once did they stop their multifarious scheming against Islam, and with a determination that never weakened. No one has ever worked against Islam during any period of its history, including the Crusades and all forms of colonialism, without having had some help and encouragement from the Jews.

  • من حَرَّفَ معاني القرآن الكريم فقد أشبه اليهود والنصارى، ﴿ مِّنَ ٱلَّذِينَ هَادُوا۟ يُحَرِّفُونَ ٱلْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ Whoever distorts the meaning of the Qur'an will of those who is just like the Jews and Christians, "Among the Jews are those who distort words from their [proper] usages and say...."
  • يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ  "there are some who displace words from (their) right places)"  Ibn Kathir writes, "meaning, they intentionally and falsely alter the meanings of the Words of Allah and explain them in a different manner than what Allah meant."

  • Four types of tahrif: 

    1.    To deliberately interpret something in a manner that is totally opposite to the intention of the author. To distort the pronunciation of a word to such an extent that the word changes completely.
    2.    To add to or delete a sentence or discourse in a manner that completely distorts the original meaning. For example, according to Islam, the Jews altered the incident of the migration of the Prophet Abraham in a manner that no one could prove that Abraham had any relationship with the Kaaba.
    3.    To translate a word that has two meanings in the meaning that is totally against the context. For example, the Aramaic word used for Jesus that is equivalent to the Arabic: ابن‎‎ ibn was translated as "son" whereas it also meant "servant" and "slave".
    4.    To raise questions about something that is absolutely clear in order to create uncertainty about it, or to change it completely.

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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