Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 47
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(have) been given
We (have) revealed
and turn them
We curse them
(of) the Sabbath
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
They are addressed by the quality which should have made them the first to respond favourably to Islam: “O you who have been given revelations! Believe in what We have bestowed from on high confirming that which you already have.” (Verse 47) Since they had received revelations, it was no strange thing to them that Divine guidance should be given. The One who has given them those Scriptures is now calling upon them to believe in a message which confirms their own. If this were sufficient to provide a clear proof or strong argument to accept the faith, the Jews should have been the first to embrace it. But they had their own interests, ambitions, grudges and hatreds. Moreover, they themselves were deviant. They are described in the Torah as a “stiff-necked people”. Hence, they rejected the faith and they deserved the stern warning: “Believe... lest We obliterate faces and turn them backwards, or We reject them as We rejected the Sabbath-breakers: for God’s will is always done.” (Verse 47)
The obliteration of faces means the effacing of their distinctive human features. Turning them backward means causing them to walk backwards. This threat could be intended literally, which means that they could lose their human appearance and proper judgement. It could mean something similar to the curse put on the Sabbath breakers, who devised a subtle method to catch fish on the day of the Sabbath, despite its strict prohibition. They were actually transformed into monkeys and pigs. On the other hand, the warning could mean to obliterate the distinctive elements of proper insight and true guidance in their minds causing them to sink back into disbelief, i.e. to the state they were in before the Scriptures were given to them. To disbelieve after having been given guidance is, indeed, to have faces obliterated and to retreat backwards. Whichever meaning is intended, this response to the Jews’ obstinate and wicked nature is very stern. One of the few who heeded this warning was a man who had previously earned the title “Ka`b al-Ahbār”. He embraced Islam. According to a report related by Abū Ĥātim on the authority of Abū Idrīs (Aidhullāh al-Khaulānī, Ka`b’s teacher, Abū Muslim al-Khalīlī used to take Ka`b to task for his slow response to God’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He once sent him to the Prophet to make sure that he was the Prophet to which reference is made in the Jewish sacred books. Ka`b says: “I rode to Madinah where I heard someone reciting from the Qur’ān the verse which says: “O you who have been given revelations! Believe in what We have bestowed from on high confirming that which you already have, lest We obliterate faces and turn them backwards.” I went straight and had a bath, feeling my face with my hands, fearing that it would be obliterated. I then embraced Islam.” The warning is followed by a comment stressing its seriousness. This is done in such a way as to take the Jewish nature into account: “God’s will is always done.”
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.