Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 43
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
`Umar ibn al-Khaţţab begins his report of how he became a Muslim by saying: “I used to drink heavily in my pre-Islamic days. I once decided to go to a particular public house to drink... “`Umar continued to drink when he became a Muslim until the revelation of the Qur’ānic verse stating: “They ask you about drinking and gambling. Say: `In both there is great evil although they have some benefits for people, but their evil far exceeds their benefit.’’’ (2: 219) When `Umar heard this Qur’ānic verse he said: “My Lord, give us a clear, categorical statement on wines".
The Islamic approach is gentle, gradual. It benefits from God’s absolute knowledge of man, what is suitable for him and his social environment. The first statement in this approach was a verse revealed in Sūrah 2, entitled The Cow, or Al- Baqarah. This was given by way of an answer to questions which indicate that people with a fine Islamic conscience had begun to feel uneasy about drinking and gambling: “They ask you about drinking and gambling. Say: ‘In both there is great evil although they have some benefits for people, but their evil far exceeds their benefit.‘“ (2: 219) This was the first loud knock on the door that was bound to have its effect on an Islamic conscience. The criterion which makes something lawful, discouraged or forbidden is whether its harm or evil is greater than its benefit. In this verse we have a clear statement that the case is such with regard to intoxicants and gambling. Their evil is far greater than their benefit. The question, however, went deeper than that. We find `Umar, who was, perhaps, endowed with the finest Islamic sense, uttering this prayer: “My Lord, give us a clear, categorical statement on wines.” This shows how well entrenched the habit of drinking was in Arabian society.
Incidents like the ones quoted above took place. Hence, the verse we are now discussing was revealed to tell the believers: “Do not attempt to pray when you are drunk, [but wait] until you know what you are saying.” (Verse 43) Here we find the wise, gentle approach in action, the verse representing the middle stage between showing drink as repugnant because its harm is greater than its benefit and a state of total prohibition where drink is seen as an impurity of Satan’s work. The purpose of this middle stage being to break the habit of drinking by prohibiting it near prayer times, which span the whole day. Some prayers are too close to each other to allow anyone who is given to alcohol time to take one or two drinks and regain enough sobriety to be fully aware of what he is saying. Besides, there were special times for drinking, either early in the day or in the evening. Plus there were prayers that must be offered both in between these times and following them. Hence, a person with an Islamic sense was sure to weigh up the enjoyment he derives from drinking against neglecting his duty of prayer. At this stage, a good Muslim would not abandon his prayers for anything. Nevertheless, `Umar repeated his prayer: “My Lord, give us a clear, categorical statement on wines.”
More importantly, Islam gives man the sense of fulfilment generated by faith. To a Muslim, this life becomes pleasant, happy, forward looking, enlightened with a sense of intimacy with God. Intoxicants, which work on the imagination and generate false feelings of happiness and also cause a real headache, no longer present any temptation for a Muslim. Like gambling and other such fun, drinking is a craze, which is not really different from any other craze, such as sporting events, speed races, cinema, fashion and bull fighting. These are simply a manifestation of a spiritual emptiness reflected in the absence of faith and a lack of high concern consuming one’s energy. They are, in themselves, evidence of the bankruptcy of modern civilisation that finds itself unable to fulfil natural needs and to tap the natural resources of man in a clean, healthy way. It is such emptiness and bankruptcy that leads people to fill the vacuum they feel in their lives with wine and gambling. What is more, these social diseases are not only the cause of perversion but also of mental and nervous disorders.
But if you are ill, or travelling, or if one of you has come from the toilet, or if you have cohabited with a woman and can find no water, then have recourse to pure dust, passing therewith lightly over your faces and your hands. God is indeed Most Lenient, Much- Forgiving. (Verse 43)
Let us now look at this verse in detail: “Believers, do not attempt to pray when you are drunk, [but wait] until you know what you are saying; nor when you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, except if you are on your way, until you have bathed” (Verse 43) This stage of prohibiting intoxicants forbids the believers from even trying to pray when they are drunk, until they know fully what they are saying. Furthermore, this verse forbids believers from praying when they are in a state of ceremonial impurity, or janābah, before they have removed it by washing themselves, except in situations when they are “on their way”.
Different interpretations have been given to the expression translated here as, “on your way”. Similarly, different views are expressed with regard to the meaning of “attempting to pray” which may be rendered in a strictly literal translation as “do not come near to prayer”, which this verse forbids. Some scholars say that a person who is in a state of ceremonial impurity, i.e. after sexual intercourse or seminal discharge, must not enter a mosque or stay in it until he has taken a bath. An exception is made in the case of he who wants only to pass through the mosque without staying. A number of the Prophet’s Companions had their houses surrounding the Prophet’s mosque, with their doors opening onto it. They had to go through the mosque when they wanted to go out or when they came back home. A concession, then, is given to those people to pass through the mosque when they are in a state of ceremonial impurity, provided that they do not stay in the mosque or pray until they have had a bath.
Other scholars suggest that what is meant by the prohibition is the prayer itself. Muslims are not allowed to pray when they are in a state of ceremonial impurity without washing themselves first, unless they are travelling. In this case, a traveller is allowed to go to the mosque and pray, without having had a bath first, provided that he has had dry ablution, i.e. tayammum, which, in this case, replaces both lesser ablution, i.e. wudū’ and full ablution, i.e. ghusl.
The first view seems to be the weightier one, because travelling is mentioned later on in the same verse. To say that the expression “on your way” means “travelling” would make the same rule be unnecessarily repeated twice in the same verse: “But if you are ill, or travelling, or if one of you has come from the toilet, or if you have cohabited with a woman and can find no water, then have recourse to pure dust, passing therewith lightly over your faces and your hands. God is indeed Most Lenient, Much-Forgiving.” (Verse 43) This part of the Qur’ānic verse mentions a traveller who finds himself in a state of ceremonial impurity and who needs to take a bath, or who answers the call of nature and thus needs to perform simple ablution in order to pray. The traveller is given, in this case, the same concession as a person who is ill and who needs to perform either simple or full ablution. The same applies to one who has come from the toilet, which is an expression indicating what people do there.
Different views have also been expressed concerning the meaning of lāmastum-un- nisā’, which we have translated as meaning “cohabitation with a woman”, while some scholars interpret is as “touching a woman”. Some scholars believe that it refers to sexual intercourse, which makes it necessary for both partners to have a full bath. Another view explains touching women in any simple body contact. According to some schools of thought, such contact requires simple ablution, i.e. wuđū’. Other schools of thought do not make such a requirement. The case is discussed in great detail in books of Fiqh. We sum up these different views as follows: (1) touching a woman in any situation or any place requires ablution; (2) a touch requires ablution if the man who touches her is normally excited by such a touch and if she is one to excite a man when touched; (3) a touch requires ablution only if that particular touch stirs some feeling within the man, as he himself determines in every case; (4) a touch does not require ablution in every situation, not, for example, when it involves embracing or kissing one’s wife.
Each of these views is supported by evidence from actions or statements attributed to the Prophet. Such differences are common in matters of detail. We are more inclined to the view that states “if you have touched women” signifies an action requiring full ablution, i.e. a bath, which is cohabitation. In opting for this view, we bypass all differences of opinion with regard to simple ablution or wudu.
In all the cases mentioned in this verse, whether they require full ablution or a simple one before one prays, tayammum or dry ablution is considered adequate compensation when water is not available, or when it is available but harmful to use. This is what is meant by the statement “then have recourse to pure dust”. (Verse 43) We are thus instructed to find a place where we can have pure dust, whether it is soil, stone, a wall, or indeed dust which settles on the body of a horse or a donkey or on a bed or a piece of furniture. If we strike such a surface with our hands and dust appears, then it is a suitable place at which to have dry ablution. The way to do this is to strike that dusty surface once with both hands, and to shake the dust off before passing one’s hands over one’s face and over one’s hands up to the elbows. Some scholars require two strikes, then passing our hands over our faces after the first strike. We then follow the second strike by passing each of our palms over our opposite hand up to each elbow. There is no need to speak about such differences of opinion in detail here. What we know is that this religion of ours is made easy and the whole idea of dry ablution is symbolic of the ease with which God wants us to follow His instructions.
“God is indeed Most Lenient, Much-Forgiving.” (Verse 43) This comment at the end of the verse stresses how God makes things easier for us. He knows that we are weak and assures us that He sympathises with our weaknesses, that He treats us with leniency and forgives us our failings.
We should also reflect a little on the place of prayer in Islam. We realise that it is so important to attend to prayers, despite any reasons or circumstances which may prevent us from praying. Islam gives us every facility to offer our prayers on time, removing all obstacles that may lie in our way. This is particularly apparent in replacing dry ablution for either or both types of ablution when water is not available or when it is harmful to use, or when the quantity of water available is needed for drinking and other essentials, as well as when we are travelling. Later on in this sūrah, we will speak of how prayers are offered in the battlefield, when soldiers fear a treacherous attack by the enemy. All these aspects emphasise how Islam views prayer as a most essential duty, which should not be neglected for any reason. This is again reflected when one is ill and cannot stand up or sit down. Such a person can pray seated, reclining, or lying down. They can even pray by signalling the normal movements with their eyes only, if they cannot move any part of their body.
Prayer is a communion between the Lord and His servants, which He does not like them to sever, because He knows how important it is for them. God does not need the worship of any of His servants. Indeed, their worship benefits them. They feel that prayer helps them discharge their duties, gives them self satisfaction, reassurance and a feeling of happiness as they realise that they have a relationship with God which is suitable for them and which they can maintain. Needless to say, God knows human nature best and He knows what suits it.
Again, pure dust is described as “good” dust, suggesting that what is pure is good and what is impure is evil. Again, the expression is most effective, a fine touch. Praise be to the Lord, our Creator who knows our human nature best.
- The law of Tayammum (dry ablution) teaches us that the Shariah is designed to make things easy for the Believer in his worship.
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 ]
The Reason behind allowing Tayammum
Al-Bukhari recorded that `A'ishah said, "We set out with Allah's Messenger on one of his journeys until we reached Al-Bayda' or Dhat-ul-Jaysh, where a necklace of mine was broken (and lost). Allah's Messenger stayed there to search for it, and so did the people along with him. There was no water source or any water with them at that place, so the people went to Abu Bakr As-Siddiq and said, `Don't you see what `A'ishah has done! She has made Allah's Messenger and the people stay where there is no source of water and they have no water with them.' Abu Bakr came while Allah's Messenger was sleeping with his head on my thigh. He said to me, `You have detained Allah's Messenger and the people where there is no source of water and they have no water with them.' So he admonished me and said what Allah wished him to say and hit me on my flank with his hand. Nothing prevented me from moving (because of pain) but the position of Allah's Messenger on my thigh. Allah's Messenger got up when dawn broke and there was no water. So Allah revealed the verses of Tayammum, and they all performed Tayammum. Usayd bin Hudayr said, `O the family of Abu Bakr! This is not the first blessing of yours.' Then the camel on which I was riding was moved from its place and the necklace was found beneath it.'' Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded this Hadith.