Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 88
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the hypocrites (that)
(you have become) two parties
cast them back
Do you wish
is let astray
is let astray
will you find
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
The next verse criticises the Muslim community’s hesitation to adopt a firm attitude towards the hypocrites. The Muslim community was apparently in two minds, leading to some controversy with regard to its relationship with a group of hypocrites from outside Madinah. The criticism makes it clear that Islam only accepts a firm attitude in such matters. It allows for no hesitation in the Muslim community’s approach to such a problem. Such hesitation means accepting the pretence they offer. This can only be done if it is based on a clearly defined plan of action.
How could you be divided into two groups concerning the hypocrites, when God Himself has cast them off because of their guilt? Do you seek to guide those whom God has let go astray? For him whom God lets go astray you can never find any way. (Verse 88)
This strong denunciation of the believers’ hesitant attitude towards those people is expressed in a rhetorical question: “How could you be divided into two groups concerning the hypocrites, when God Himself has cast them off because of their guilt? Do you seek to guide those whom God has let go astray?” (Verse 88) This question emphasises that it is dangerous for the Muslim community to hesitate when faced with hypocrisy, because it points to a lack of clarity with respect to the true nature of this religion. One group of believers could not imagine how the hypocrites could be killed when they had made verbal statements claiming to be Muslims. Yet those very people were aware that they did not belong to the Muslim community. This is clear in their statement: “We need fear nothing from Muĥammad’s companions.” This is also made clear by the other group of believers who stated that those hypocrites “support your enemies”. The fact is that regardless of any verbal claim to belong to Islam, their practical support of the Muslims’ enemies proves their hypocrisy beyond any doubt. Hence, there is no room for tolerance or overlooking such an attitude. Tolerance here is a weakness threatening the Muslim community. Hence, it is strongly denounced in the Qur’ān.
The same is not the case with the hypocrites of Madinah. The believers there were clear about their hypocrisy. There was, however, a well-known plan to tolerate them and accept their claims for the time being. The difference in the two cases is that in the one referred to in this verse, some Muslims advocated tolerance towards people living away from Madinah simply because they claimed verbally to be Muslims while at the same time practically supported the enemies of Islam. Hence, God’s view of those people is stated clearly: “When God Himself has cast them off because of their guilt.” (Verse 88) When God adopts a certain attitude there is no way a Muslim can adopt a different one. God has cast them off because of their wickedness and bad intentions.
This is followed by another reproach: “Do you seek to guide those whom God has let go astray?” (Verse 88) This probably suggests that the group of Muslims who advocated tolerance might have suggested that if the Muslims were to give those people a chance they might eventually overcome their reluctance in accepting Islam. God tells the believers that since these people merited His punishment, theirs was a hopeless case.
God allows to go astray only those who choose to do so. This means that when people actually do go astray, God allows them to go further away from the right path. He lets them continue their erring ways, moving further and further away from Divine guidance. It is they who have chosen error in preference to Divine guidance and they have done this consciously after being fully aware of the course of action acceptable to God.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
The triliteral root rā kāf sīn (ر ك س) - fall back [into error and disbelief] only appears in this Ayat, twice and does not appear anywhere else in the Qur'an.
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
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[ edit ]
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.