Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 33
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And for all
We (have) made
(by) the parents
and the relatives
And those whom
your right hands
then give them
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
Having stated that both men and women have the benefit of what they earn, and having already outlined the shares of inheritance of both males and females, the sūrah now mentions that God has appointed to everyone heirs from among his kinsfolk who will inherit what has come into his possession of the property of his parents and relatives. Through the inheritance system, then, money circulates from one generation to another. Heirs inherit their shares and add to them what they earn before they themselves leave that to their own close relatives. Thus, wealth is not monopolised by a single generation, family or individual. It is continuously circulated and inherited by one generation after another with different shares being given to different heirs, according to the situation.
This is followed by a reference to covenants which Islam initially approved of. These covenants or pledges of loyalty sometimes allowed wealth to be inherited by non-relatives. There were several types of such covenants in the early period of Islam. There was firstly the covenant of loyalty that came with freeing a slave. When a slave is freed, he becomes a member of his master’s household, as it were. If he commits a crime which requires the payment of blood money, his former master pays this on his behalf, in the same way as he does when such a crime is committed by one of his close relatives. He also inherits him when he dies, leaving no immediate relatives behind.
The second type of covenant was one of pure loyalty. This allowed a non-Arab who had no heirs of his own to make a covenant with an Arab. It accorded him the status of a member of the Arab’s household, whereby the latter would be willing to pay penalties on his behalf such as blood money, and who would inherit him upon his death.
The third type was that which the Prophet established between the Muhājirīn (his Companions who emigrated with him to Madinah) and the Anşār (his Companions from among the inhabitants of Madinah). This allowed an Anşārī to be inherited by one of the Muhājirīn alongside the Anşārī’s own relatives, as if he was one of them, or to their exclusion, if they were unbelievers.
The fourth type of covenant was a straightforward pledge of loyalty stipulating that each of the two parties could inherit the other.
Islam abolished all these covenants, especially the third and fourth types. It stipulated that inheritance is the right of relatives only. It did not, however, abolish those covenants that were already in force. It continued to observe them but it made it clear that no new ones might be made. God states: “As for those with whom you have made covenants give them their share.” (Verse 33) He emphasises this by reminding us that He Himself is a witness to the covenant and to how it is observed: “God is indeed witness to all things.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “No alliance may be made in Islam. Any covenant of alliance made prior to Islam has only been given added force under Islam.” (Related by Aĥmad and Muslim.)
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
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.