Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 58

۞ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا۟ ٱلْأَمَٰنَٰتِ إِلَىٰٓ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُوا۟ بِٱلْعَدْلِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُم بِهِۦٓ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًۢا بَصِيرًا


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Indeed, Allāh commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allāh instructs you. Indeed, Allāh is ever Hearing and Seeing.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

These are the main obligations placed on the Muslim community and these sum up its moral code: namely, fulfilment of trust and maintaining justice. The basic and most important trust is that which God has implanted in human nature. This is the one which the heavens, the earth and the mountains refused to accept, but which man undertook. It is that of willingly and deliberately recognising Divine guidance and believing in God. This is the trust that God has given to human beings alone in their very nature. Other creatures have been given faith without the need for any effort on their part. Thus, they recognise their Lord and worship Him without having to make any choice or exerting any special effort. It is man alone who has been given this task to fulfil on the basis of his guiding nature, knowledge, reasoning, will and effort. He will always receive God’s help in that: “As for those who strive hard in Our cause, We shall most certainly guide them to paths that lead to Us; for, indeed, God is with those who do good.” (29: 69)

This is, then, the first trust man has to fulfil. It is that which gives rise to all other trusts which God commands people to fulfil. An important one among these being to give testimony in favour of Islam. This takes the form firstly of striving hard within oneself so that one’s life, feelings, actions and behaviour become a practical translation of faith. Thus, when people praise a believer’s behaviour, values and manners and moral standards, they realise that it is only because he believes in Islam that he is able to attain such high standards.

Another way of giving testimony in favour of Islam is the realisation of just how much more profound and superior Islam is to other human beliefs. With this knowledge, a believer begins to call on people to believe in Islam, explaining its values and principles. It is not sufficient then for a believer to keep his faith to himself. He must fulfil his task of making it known, calling upon others to accept it. That is part of his trust and as such he should discharge it.

Testimony is further given by taking steps to help implement Islam as a code of living for the Muslim community, and in human life in general. To do this, believers should make use of every means available to them both as individuals and as members of that community. Such a practical implementation is the most important trust, second only to accepting the faith itself. No individual and no group are exempt from this trust. The Prophet says: “Jihād” continues until the Day of Resurrection.” Jihād in this sense is a fulfilment of a specific trust.

Another trust which is implied in the above is that of dealing with people and delivering to them whatever they have entrusted to us. That includes honesty in daily transactions, giving honest counsel to rulers and ruled, taking good care of young children, protecting the interests of the community and defending it against hostile forces and observing all duties and obligations outlined by the Divine code. All these are trusts that must be fulfilled.

The order to maintain justice is stated in the most general terms so as to make it obligatory between all people. It does not mean that justice should be confined to Muslims only, or to dealings between them and the followers of earlier Divine religions alone. Justice is due to every individual human being. The requirement to maintain justice only takes into account the fact that people are human beings, and that that alone qualifies them for just treatment. Hence, justice should be extended to all: believers and non-believers, friends and enemies, white and coloured, Arabs and non-Arabs, etc. The Muslim community, whenever it exercises power, is responsible for maintaining justice between them all. In fact, humanity has never experienced such justice except under Islamic rule, when Muslims were the leaders of mankind. Once Muslims lost that leadership, humanity has been unable to experience any similar justice that applies to all people, simply because they are human beings. Such administration of pure and complete justice is the cornerstone of Islamic government, and delivering trusts to their rightful owners is the basic characteristic of life under Islam.

The verse makes it clear that orders both to be true to one’s trust and to maintain justice between people are part of God’s admonition. Good and greatly beneficial indeed is whatever God directs and admonishes us to do. Besides, this is not a mere admonition; it is an order. God only describes it as admonition because that makes it easier to fulfil. Hearts and consciences accept admonition more readily, because its implementation appears to be more of a voluntary nature.

The final comment in the verse attaches the whole matter to fear of God and hope for His reward: “God hears all and sees all.” There is perfect harmony between the duties God imposes on Muslims and the requirements to fulfil trust and maintain justice on the one hand and God’s seeing and hearing everything on the other. God is certain to hear and see all matters related to the fulfilment of trust. Justice, on the other hand, requires good attention, sharp vision and proper evaluation and judgement, as well as taking into account all the relevant factors and circumstances so as to evaluate them properly. Moreover, the order to do both comes from the One who hears and sees all things.

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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  • Al-Hasan narrated that Samurah said that the Messenger of Allah said,أَدِّ الْأَمَانَةَ إِلى مَنِ ائْتَمَنَكَ، وَلَا تَخُنْ مَنْ خَانَك "Return the trust to those who entrusted you, and do not betray those who betrayed you." Reported by Ibn Katheer

  • the Messenger of Allah said, لَتُؤَدَّنَّ الْحُقُوقُ إِلى أَهْلِهَا حَتَّى يُقْتَصَّ لِلشَّاةِ الْجَمَّاءِ مِنَ الْقَرْنَاء "The rights will be rendered back to those to whom they are due, and even the sheep that does not have horns will take revenge from the horned sheep." 
  • Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn Jurayj said about this Ayah, "It was revealed concerning `Uthman bin Talhah from whom the Messenger of Allah took the key of the Ka`bah and entered it on the Day of the victory of Makkah. When the Prophet went out, he was reciting this Ayah, إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤدُّواْ الاحَمَـنَـتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا @Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due). He then called `Uthman and gave the key back to him.''

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11. Tafsir Zone


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