Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 78

أَيْنَمَا تَكُونُوا۟ يُدْرِككُّمُ ٱلْمَوْتُ وَلَوْ كُنتُمْ فِى بُرُوجٍ مُّشَيَّدَةٍ ۗ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ حَسَنَةٌ يَقُولُوا۟ هَٰذِهِۦ مِنْ عِندِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَقُولُوا۟ هَٰذِهِۦ مِنْ عِندِكَ ۚ قُلْ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَمَالِ هَٰٓؤُلَآءِ ٱلْقَوْمِ لَا يَكَادُونَ يَفْقَهُونَ حَدِيثًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you should be within towers of lofty construction. But if good comes to them, they say, "This is from Allāh"; and if evil befalls them, they say, "This is from you." Say, "All [things] are from Allāh." So what is [the matter] with those people that they can hardly understand any statement?

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Yet, when a good thing happens to them, some [people] say, “This is from God,” whereas when evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you!” Say, All is from God. “What is amiss with these people that they are in no wise near to grasping the truth of what they are told? Whatever good happens to you is from God; and whatever evil befalls you is from yourself. We have sent you as a Messenger to all mankind. Enough is God for a witness. He who obeys the Messenger obeys God thereby. As for those who turn away — We have not sent you to be their keeper. (Verses 78-80)
 
The attitude of these people can be understood in a number of different ways:
 
1. They considered the Prophet himself an evil portent who brought them hardship and misfortune. Whenever they suffered a drought or a bad harvest or were defeated in battle, they would attribute the causes to the Prophet. But they attributed good fortunes to God.
 
2. They deliberately set out to vilify the Prophet in order to criticise his leadership and undermine, in particular, his instructions to the Muslims to go and fight. Instead of admitting to their weakness and lack of courage, they took a perverse approach by pretending to credit God with their fortunes and blaming their difficulties and setbacks on the Prophet and his instructions. Needless to say, all the fortune and the hardship they mean are of the immediate, short-term type.
 
3. They entertained a real misconception of what happens to them and to other people in this life, and how this relates to the will of God. This makes for a further lack of understanding of the nature and status of the Prophet’s commands and the nature of his relationship with God.
 
The third explanation, if correct, may apply to that group of Makkan immigrants whose misunderstanding of the reality of death and fate had led them to fear other people as much as they feared God, or even more. It prompted them to cry out: “Our Lord! Why have You ordered us to fight? If only You had granted us a delay for a little while!” (Verse 77) Nevertheless, it may be more accurate to say that the reference here is to another group which satisfies all three criteria.
 
The issue being discussed here represents part of a larger one, referred to in the history of polemics and philosophy worldwide under the heading: “Fate and Predestination” or “Predetermination and Free Will”. It is mentioned in the context of correcting certain misconceptions, in a straightforward, unambiguous and clear way. Let us look at it as presented in the Qur’ān.
 
Yet, when a good thing happens to them, some [people] say, “This is from God,”
whereas when evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you!” Say, “All is from God.”
 
What is amiss with these people that they are in no wise near to grasping the truth of what they are told? (Verse 78)
 
God Almighty is the original and sole cause of world events affecting the universe and humankind, and He is the cause of people’s actions. People have the power to intend and try but actions only take place with the will of God Almighty. Hence, to ascribe the instigation of fortune or misfortune, or their occurrence, to the Prophet, who is human after all, is erroneous and a sign of complete ignorance.
 
Humans may wish and seek, by all the means God has put at their disposal, to bring about goodness and good fortune, but the achievement of such wishes only takes place by God’s will. In reality, there is no other will capable of making things and events happen or bringing things about in the world. Thus, goodness and good fortune are acts of Divine will, brought about through human means and inclinations.
 
The same applies to evil or misfortune. It is God’s will and power that make them happen. The Qur’ānic statement affirms that God is the ultimate origin of all that happens.

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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