Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 86

وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوا۟ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَآ أَوْ رُدُّوهَآ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ حَسِيبًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed Allāh is ever, over all things, an Accountant.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The sūrah then gives instructions that a greeting should be answered with a similar or better one. Public courtesy, when practised with politeness and civility, is a means for a smooth and harmonious social life. This closely relates, in social behaviour, to the principle of intercession referred to earlier: “When a greeting is offered you, answer it with an even better greeting, or [at least] with its like. God keeps count of all things.” (Verse 86)
 
Islam introduced a special form of greeting which distinguishes Muslim societies and gives a distinct flavour to its daily routine behaviour. It makes Muslims stand out among all other human societies.
 
Islam has chosen the following forms of greeting: “assalāmu `alaikum” (peace be on you) or “assalāmu `alaikum wa rahmatullāh” (peace and God’s mercy be on you) or “assalāmu `alaikum wa rahmatullāh wa barakātuh” (peace and God’s mercy and blessings be on you). The more gracious reply would be to repeat the same phrase with the addition of the supplementary words to the first and second forms, the third one being a complete greeting, as follows: “wa `alaikum assalāmu wa rahmatullāh” (and peace and God’s mercy be on you too) or “wa `alaikum assalāmu wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh” (and peace and God’s mercy and blessings be on you too). According to the reported practice of the Prophet, the third form is answered by repeating the same phrase in full.
 
Let us look more closely at the subtle touches implicit in this verse. There is, firstly, the distinct identity which Islam emphatically seeks to confer on Muslim society to preserve its unique features and traditions, just as it has its own individual laws and systems. These aspects were discussed in detail when dealing with the change of the qiblah, or direction of prayer. (See Volume I, pp. 112 to 121)
 
And, secondly, there is the unremitting endeavour to strengthen the ties of amity and friendship among Muslims. The greeting of peace and the better response are one of the best means to achieve that close and solid relationship. God’s Messenger was once asked: “What is the best thing one can do?” His reply was: “Give out food, greet with peace those you know and those you do not know.” (Related by al- Bukhārī.) This manner of greeting is highly recommended in Muslim societies, and the present verse makes the reply, as outlined above, a religious obligation. The value of such social tradition becomes clear from its real effect in cleansing people’s hearts and bringing people closer together and reinforcing the ties among them. This is clear to all who study closely the effects of this tradition and its amazing consequences in society.
 
Thirdly, the verse introduces a touch of tranquillity and serenity to a discussion of fighting. It may be intended to point out Islam’s fundamental foundation: peace. Islam is the religion of peace. It recommends fighting only in order to establish peace on earth. It advocates peace in its widest and most comprehensive sense; peace emanating from the compliance of human nature with the Divine order of God Almighty.

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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