Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 48

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِۦ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱفْتَرَىٰٓ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Indeed, Allāh does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allāh has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Next comes a comment delivering another warning in respect of the Hereafter. This new warning excludes any possibility of forgiveness to anyone who associates partners with God. At the same time, Divine mercy is shown to be greater than all other sins: “God will never forgive that partners are associated with Him. He forgives any lesser sin to whomever He wills. He who associates partners with God indeed contrived an awesome sin.” (Verse 48) This verse is stated in a context that implies an express accusation against the Jews for associating partners with God. Hence, they are called upon to return to the pure faith in His Oneness.

Nothing is mentioned here about what they said or did to brand them as polytheists. Details of that are given elsewhere. The Qur’ān reports that they claimed that “Ezra is the son of God”. (9: 30) Such a statement was made in the same vein as that of the Christians who claimed that “the Christ is the son of God”. (9: 30) Any statement of this type constitutes an act of associating partners with God. The Qur’ān also reports that both Christians and Jews “have taken their rabbis and priests as lords alongside God’. (9: 31) It has to be said that neither group used to worship rabbis or priests. They simply acknowledged their right to legislate for them, and to make certain things lawful and to forbid others. The authority to do that belongs exclusively to God. It is one of the most essential elements of Godhead. Hence, the Qur’ān classifies them among the polytheists. This is particularly significant in light of the Islamic concept as to who constitutes a Muslim and who a believer. This point will be elaborated upon further in the commentary on the rest of this sūrah.

At any rate, the Jews of Arabia at the time when Islam was revealed had had their faith adulterated with polytheistic elements. Hence, they are expressly warned here that God may forgive, as He pleases, anyone whatever sin he may have committed, other than associating partners with Him. No forgiveness is granted to any person who ends his life believing in other gods alongside God, without having repented for holding such an erroneous belief.

When a person associates partners with God, he actually severs all his relations with the Lord and Creator. Hence, there is no hope that he may be forgiven if this state of a total break of relations is maintained until his death. Anyone who maintains such an attitude until death, ignoring all the pointers to God’s oneness — in the form of clear proofs throughout the universe, and in the guidance given by prophets and messengers — is devoid of all goodness. Such a persistent denial of God’s oneness is proof of total, incurable corruption of human nature, sending it to a lowly depth from which it cannot rise. Such a person has already prepared himself for the life of Hell.

Apart from this extremely grave sin and this flagrant injustice, God forgives all sins, great or small. All these sins, including cardinal ones, may be forgiven, according to God’s will, whether one repents or not as some reports tell, as long as the person who commits them believes in God, hopes to be forgiven, believes that God is able to forgive him and that God’s forgiveness is greater than his sins. This shows that God’s mercy is without limit, inexhaustible, and may be granted to all and sundry. God’s forgiveness is open to all. We need only to seek it.

Ibn `Abbās quotes the Prophet as saying: “God says: He who knows that I am able to forgive sins shall he forgiven by Me and I do not care what offences he may have committed, as long as he has not associated any partners with Me.” (Related by al-Ţabarānī.)

This ĥadīth is particularly significant. What is important is to have a proper awareness of God’s true nature. Such an awareness gives rise to a genuine desire to do good as well as feelings of hope, fear and being ashamed of one’s faults. If an offence is committed, such feelings help one mend one’s ways and bring one nearer to forgiveness.

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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  • Abu Dharr  said that the Messenger of Allah (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: 'Allah, the Almighty, says: `Whosoever does a good deed, will have (reward) ten times like it and I add more; and whosoever does an evil, will have the punishment like it or I will forgive (him); and whosoever approaches Me by one span, I will approach him by one cubit; and whosoever approaches Me by one cubit, I approach him by one fathom, and whosoever comes to me walking, I go to him running; and whosoever meets Me with an earth-load of sins without associating anything with Me, I meet him with forgiveness like that.'' Sahih Muslim

10. Wiki Forum

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11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

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