Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 59

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَطِيعُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا۟ ٱلرَّسُولَ وَأُو۟لِى ٱلْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ ۖ فَإِن تَنَٰزَعْتُمْ فِى شَىْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَٱلرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
O you who have believed, obey Allāh and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allāh and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allāh and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

It is imperative that a proper standard should be available for all these minds to refer to in order to establish right and wrong in their evaluation and judgement of different issues. The human mind is the one tool available to man in order to determine the accuracy and fairness of his judgements, for this standard does not bend in order to please or appease anyone. The standards people produce for themselves cannot be placed on the same level, because these may be faulty or defective, leading to an imbalance that affects all values. The only way to avoid such imbalance is to refer to the ever-accurate standard God has established for human life in order to maintain honesty and justice, and to establish all proper values and rulings in all spheres of human activity: “Believers, obey God and obey the Messenger and those from among you who have been entrusted with authority. If you are in dispute over anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you truly believe in God and the Last Day. This is the best [for you], and most suitable for final determination.” (Verse 59)

In this short statement, God explains the conditions for being a believer and the boundaries of Islam. At the same time, He outlines the underlying rule of the constitution of the Muslim community, the basis of all judgement and the source of all authority. All these begin and end with receiving guidance from God alone, and, where there is no clear statement, to refer to Him in any detail that may arise in human life over which people may differ.

Sovereignty belongs to God alone in all human life and all its affairs, large and small. God has enacted a constitution and a law which He has embodied in His revealed Book, the Qur’ān, and sent His Messenger to explain it to people. God’s Messenger “does not speak out of his own desire: that [which he conveys to you] is but a [Divine] inspiration which he receives.” (53: 3-4) Hence, the Prophet’s sunnah is part of God’s law.

To obey God is obligatory. One of the essential elements of Godhead is that God enacts the law; implementation of this is, thus, obligatory. Believers are required to obey God, to start with, and to obey His Messenger, since it is God that has sent him with His message. Thus, obedience to the Prophet is part of obeying God Himself. Moreover, the Prophet’s sunnah and his judgement are part of the Divine law that must be implemented. Whether a person is a believer or not is conditional on such obedience and implementation. As the Qur’ān specifies: “If you are in dispute over anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you truly believe in God and the Last Day.” (Verse 59)

Such obedience to people entrusted with authority applies when we have definitive statements in the Qur’ān or the ĥadīth. Where no such definitive statement exists, and when we have something new arising as a result of new circumstances, and over which people may have differences of understanding and viewpoints — such matters have not been left hanging in the air, without the possibility of deducing rulings and judgements. In a short statement, the whole basis and operation of arriving at such rulings through scholarly discretion is laid down: “If you are in dispute over anything, refer it-to God and the Messenger.” (Verse 59)

What this means is that in such matters where a ruling is needed, these should be referred to whatever implicitly applies to them of Qur’ānic and ĥadīth statements. If no such text is applicable, then they should be referred to the general principles of God’s law and constitution. These are by no means fluid, confusing or ambiguous, as some people may suggest. Indeed, this religion of ours lays down clear, basic principles covering all aspects of human life, together providing a clear boundary which cannot be breached without any living Islamic conscience recognising the breach.

“If you truly believe in God and the Last Day.” (Verse 59) Thus, obeying God and His Messenger, as well as those believers entrusted with authority and trying hard to ensure the implementation of God’s law, and referring what is in dispute to God and the Messenger, are all a condition and result of believing in God and the Day of Judgement. Faith does not come into existence unless this condition is fulfilled and its result comes into effect.

Following the previous admonition to fulfil trust and maintain justice, the verse, having explained the issue in such a conditional way, now reiterates it in the form of an admonition that makes it genuinely desired: “This is the best [for you], and most suitable for final determination.” (Verse 59) It is, indeed, best for you in this life and in the life to come, and it works to your own good in the final resolve in both lives. Great as it is that following this method ensures God’s pleasure and earns His reward in the life to come, it is not the only result. Additionally, it ensures the best results for both the individual and the community in this present life.

By following this constitution man reaps the whole benefit of a code of living devised by the Almighty, the Wise whose knowledge is perfect and absolute; a code free of human ignorance, desire and weakness. It is a code of living that favours no individual, class, nation, race or generation over another, because God is the Lord of all mankind who does not entertain any prejudice or favouritism for anyone.

This code of living has numerous advantages, among which is the fact that its author is the Maker of man who knows his nature and its real needs, his inner feelings and preferences, and how he responds and reforms. God does not need to go through trials and errors in order to learn what suits mankind. Far be it from Him to have any such need. When we follow this code of living, we spare ourselves the heavy price of following alternative methods that are bound to be defective, invented as they are by people who lack solid evidence. It is sufficient for human beings to exert their inventive talents in the material world, for this offers them very wide scope. On the other hand, human intellect will have much to do in trying to implement God’s constitution, recognising the areas that allow for analogy and discretion.

Another advantage is that its author is the Creator of the universe in which man lives. Thus, He produces for man a system that remains in perfect harmony with the laws that operate in the universe. This gives man an awareness that he is not in conflict with these laws. He only needs to understand and benefit by them. The Divine constitution will guide his footsteps and provide him with protection as he does so.

A further advantage is that this Divine constitution treats man with respect and honour, allowing him scope for discretion on the basis of scholarship that understands the texts and refers what is new to such texts and the principles they lay down. Hence, following Divine guidance will always be “the best [for you], and most suitable for final determination.” (Verse 59)

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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  • The Messenger of Allah [saw] sent Mu’adh to Yemen, so He [saw]  said:
    أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بَعَثَ مُعَاذًا إِلَى الْيَمَنِ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ كَيْفَ تَقْضِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ أَقْضِي بِمَا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبِسُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِي سُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَجْتَهِدُ رَأْيِي ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي وَفَّقَ رَسُولَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم
    “How will you judge?” He said: “I will judge according to what is in Allah’s Book.” He said, “If it is not in Allah’s Book?” He said: “Then with the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah“ He said: “If it is not in the Sunnah of Messenger of Allah?” He said: “I will endeveour to make Ijtihad [exert effort to make the correct judgement].” He said: “All praise is due to Allah, the One Who made the messenger of the Messenger of Allah suitable.” [Tirmidhee no. 1327]

  • The companion, Anas ibn Malik states that the Messenger of Allah said, اسْمَعُوا وَأَطِيعُوا، وَإِنْ أُمِّرَ عَلَيْكُمْ عَبْدٌحَبَشِيٌّ كَأَنَّ رَأْسَهُ زَبِيبَة  "Hear and obey (your leaders), even if an Ethiopian slave whose head is like a raisin, is made your chief." (Bukhari)

  • `Ubadah bin As-Samit said, "We gave our pledge to Allah's Messenger to hear and obey (our leaders), while active and otherwise, in times of ease and times of difficulty, even if we were deprived of our due shares, and to not dispute this matter (leadership) with its rightful people.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  • Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,  مَنْ أَطَاعَنِي فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللهَ، وَمَنْ عَصَانِي فَقَدْ عَصَى اللهَ، وَمَنْ أَطَاعَ أَمِيرِي فَقَدْ أَطَاعَنِي، وَمَنْ عَصَى أَمِيرِي فَقَدْ عَصَانِي  "Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, and whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah. Whoever obeys my commander, obeys me, and whoever disobeys my commander, disobeys me." (Bukhari and Muslim)

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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