Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 34
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
We have already said that the family is the first institution in human life in the sense that its influence is felt at every stage of human life. Moreover, it derives its importance from the fact that it is within the family that man, the most noble of all creatures according to the Islamic concept of life, is brought up. The running and administration of much inferior institutions, such as those engaged in financial, industrial and commercial affairs is normally assigned to those who are most qualified for the job by their education, training and natural abilities. It is only logical that the same rule be applied to the family, the institution that looks after the upbringing of the noblest creature in the universe, namely, man.
The Divine code of living takes human nature into consideration, as well as the natural abilities given to both man and woman to enable them to discharge the duties assigned to each of them. It maintains justice in the distribution of duties, giving to each of them only the type of duties to which they are suited.
Needless to say, both man and woman are the creation of God, who does not wish to do injustice to anyone He has created. Indeed, He gives each of His creatures the abilities and talents that befit the duties assigned to them.
God has created human beings as males and females, following the “dual” rule which is central to the system of creation. He has given the woman the great tasks of childbearing, breast-feeding and looking after her children. These are not tasks which can be fulfilled without careful preparation, physically, psychologically, and mentally. It is only just, therefore, that the other part, i.e. the man, should be assigned the task of providing the essential needs and the protection required for the woman to fulfil her highly important duties. She could not be given all those tasks and still be required to work in order to earn her living. It is only fair as well that the man be given the physical, mental and psychological qualities which enable him to fulfil his duties in the same way as the woman is given the abilities to fulfil hers. All this is clearly seen in real human life, because God maintains absolute justice among all.
Among the qualities the woman has been given are tenderness, quick reaction, and an instinctive response to the needs of children, without the need for much deliberation and reflection. The essential human need of even a single individual are not left to be deliberated upon at leisure. Response to them is made instinctively, so that they may be met more or less involuntarily. There is no external compulsion in this. It is an impulsive reaction, which the woman mostly enjoys despite the fact that it requires sacrifice from her. This is part of God’s work, which is always perfect.
On the other hand, among the qualities a man is given are toughness, slow reaction and response, as well as proper thought and reflection before action. All his functions, from the early days of being a hunter- gatherer, to fighting for the protection of his wife and children, to earning his living in any way, require some deliberation and consideration before taking a decision and implementing it. These qualities are also deeply rooted in man’s constitution.
Man’s qualities make him more able and better equipped to take charge of the family. Similarly, his duty to support his family, as part of that general distribution of functions, makes him more suited to overall authority. That is because earning his family’s living is part of being in charge. Moreover, looking after the finances of the family is closer to his family duties.
The man has the proper natural abilities to take charge of the family affairs, a role essential for the proper progress of human life. It is a simple fact that one party is properly equipped for this role and assigned the duty to play it while the other is not. Hence, it is totally unfair that the latter party should be required, in any situation, to take up these responsibilities in addition to its own. If women are given the necessary practical and scientific training to fulfil these duties, then their ability to play the other role, i.e. that of motherhood, is undermined.
There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the rules of human nature force themselves on man, even when people deny them altogether. One aspect of this is the decline in the quality of human life and the serious danger to which it is exposed whenever this rule, which gives man the task and the authority to look after the family, has been violated. Such violation leads to confusion within the family, and is bound to have serious repercussions.
The verse moves on to explain the qualities of righteous women, their behaviour and duties within the family. “The righteous women are devout, guarding the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded” It is, then, in the nature of the righteous, believing woman and part of her essential characteristics to be devoted and obedient. Devotion means willing obedience, motivated by love, not the sort of obedience enforced against one’s will. Hence, the Qur’ān uses the term “devout”, or qānitāt to stress its pleasant psychological connotations, which fit perfectly with the sort of affectionate and compassionate relationship which exists between man and woman, the two parts of the single soul from which all mankind descend. Islam stresses that this relationship is essential in the family home where young ones are reared.
It is also part of the nature and essential characteristics of a devoted, believing woman to guard the sanctity of her relationship with her husband. This she maintains in his presence as well as in his absence. She does not reveal what belongs only to him, as one half of the single soul which combines both of them, even inasmuch as a passing look, let alone a full dishonourable relationship. What is forbidden to reveal is decided neither by him nor by her. It is determined by God. It is “the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded”. It is not a matter of pleasing a husband or allowing what he does not mind to be revealed or what society requires to be exposed, should the husband or society deviate from the Divine code of living. There is only one rule to determine the limits of what must be guarded. She has to guard that “which God has ordained to be guarded”.
We note that the Qur’ān does not put this in the imperative form. It places much stronger emphasis on it by saying that this guardianship is part of the nature of righteous women and one of their essential characteristics. This statement exposes the flimsiness of the excuses advanced by some mentally defeated Muslims advocating ways and methods that are certain to lead to the collapse of the family only because these are practised in other communities. What must be guarded, willingly and obediently, is that which God has ordered to be guarded.
The ones who are not righteous are described here as rebellious. Their rebellion is given a physical description derived from standing on a high position to declare their mutiny. Islam does not wait for such a rebellion to take place, nor for the roles to become so confused that the family institution splits into two camps. When the situation reaches that point, it is almost impossible to sort out. The treatment must be administered before the rebellion gathers momentum. Once rebellion establishes its roots, the family home is deprived of the peace and affection necessary for the upbringing of children. The whole setup collapses and the young become the victims divided between the two parents or brought up in an atmosphere which makes the family home a fertile place for psychological, mental and physical disorders to multiply and a suitable place for perversion to establish itself.
“As for those women from whom you have reason to fear rebellion, admonish them first.” Admonition, then, is the first stage. It is a responsibility of the one who is in charge of the family to admonish against untoward tendencies. Such admonition is required in a variety of situations: “Believers, ward off from yourselves and your families that fire [of the hereafter] whose fuel is human beings and stones.” (66: 6) In this particular instance, admonition has a definite aim, which is to treat the symptoms of rebellion before it develops and takes root.
In some cases, admonition may not bring about the desired results. This is possibly because of strongly held views, uncontrolled reactions, too much consciousness of one’s beauty, wealth, family position or the like. Any of these reasons may make a wife forget that she is a partner in an institution, not an adversary in a contest. At this stage the second measure is employed, which is in effect a gesture of dignity, stressing that everything in which a certain woman takes pride, such as beauty or wealth, to stress her superiority does not count for much with him: “Then leave them alone in bed.”
It is in bed that a woman’s temptation is most effective. A rebellious, self- conscious woman exercises her true power. When a man is able to overcome this temptation, he deprives the woman of her most effective weapon. In the majority of cases, a woman becomes more ready to give way when the man demonstrates a good measure of will-power in the most difficult of situations. There are, however, certain rules that apply as to how this measure is taken. It is confined to the room where the couple is alone. It should not be taken in front of the children, this so that they are not adversely affected by it. Nor can it be exercised in front of strangers, because it becomes very humiliating for the woman who may, consequently, be hardened in her rebellion. This is a measure which aims at dealing with rebellion, and does not aim to humiliate the wife or to bring about a bad influence on the children.
Nevertheless, this measure may not be effective in certain cases. Are we, then, to leave the family institution to collapse? There is another measure, admittedly more severe, but it may protect the family: “Then beat them.”
When we remember the aim behind all these measures, we realise that this beating is not a form of torture motivated by seeking revenge or humiliating an opponent. Nor is it aimed at forcing the wife to accept life under all unsatisfactory conditions. It is rather a disciplinary measure akin to the punishment a father or a teacher may impose on wayward children. Needless to say, there is no question of any of these measures being resorted to in the case of a healthy relationship between a man and his wife. They are preventive measures taken in an unhealthy situation in order to protect the family against collapse.
These disciplinary measures have been approved of in order to deal with early signs of rebellion and before attitudes are hardened. At the same time, they are accompanied by stern warnings against misuse. The practical example given by the Prophet in his treatment of his own family and his verbal teachings and directives serve as a restraint against going to excess in either direction. The Prophet answers Mu`āwiyah ibn Ĥaydah, who asked him what rights a wife may claim against her husband, by saying: “To provide her with food when you eat, and with clothes when you dress. You are not allowed to slap her on her face, insult her or banish her from your bed anywhere except at home.” (Related by al-Tirmidhī, Abū Dāwūd, al-Nasā’ī and Ibn Mājah.)
The Prophet is reported to have given this general directive: “Do not beat up the women servants of God.” `Umar later went to the Prophet and said that many women had become rebellious. The Prophet then allowed that they be beaten. Many women then came to the Prophet with complaints against their husbands. The Prophet addressed his Companions saying: “Many women have called at Muĥammad’s home complaining against their husbands. Certainly these men are not the best among you.” (Related by Abū Dāwūd, al- Nasā’ī and Ibn Mājah.)
The Prophet portrays this horrid picture of a man who beats up his wife: “Do not beat your wife like you beat your camel, for you will he flogging her early in the day and taking her to bed at night.” He also says: “The best among you are those who are best to their family, and I am the best of you to my family.” (Related by al-Tirmidhī and al- Ţabarānī.)
God has, however, defined a limit when such measures must stop. Once the objective is reached with any one of these measures, then recourse to them is over: “Then, if they pay you heed, do not seek any pretext to harm them. God is indeed Most High, Great.”
The aim is, thus, stated clearly: it is obedience based on positive response, not forced obedience. This latter type of obedience is not suited to the establishment of a healthy family. Moreover, the Qur’ānic verse states clearly that to continue to resort to any of these measures after the goal of obedience is achieved takes the husband beyond his allowed limits: “Do not seek any pretext to harm them.” This prohibition is followed by a reminder of the greatness of God so that people submit to His directives and repress any feeling of might or arrogance which they may entertain. This fits with the Qur’ānic method of combining temptation with warning: “God is indeed Most High, Great.”
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.
9. Relevant Hadith[ edit ]
Jabir said that during the Farewell Hajj, the Prophet said; وَاتَّقُوا اللهَ فِي النِّسَاءِ، فَإِنَّهُنَّ عِنْدَكُمْ عَوَانٍ، وَلَكُمْ عَلَيْهِنَّ أَنْ لَا يُوطِئْنَ فُرُشَكُمْ أَحَدًا تَكْرَهُونَهُ،فَإِنْ فَعَلْنَ ذَلِكَ فَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِحٍ، وَلَهُنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوف "Fear Allah regarding women, for they are your assistants. You have the right on them that they do not allow any person whom you dislike to step on your mat. However, if they do that, you are allowed to discipline them lightly. They have a right on you that you provide them with their provision and clothes, in a reasonable manner." (Sahih Muslim)