"Surely, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are signs for the people of wisdom,  who remember Allah standing and sitting, and (lying) on their sides, and ponder on the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying:) "Our Lord, You have not created all this in vain. We proclaim Your purity. So, save us from the punishment of Fire.  Our Lord, whomsoever You admit into the Fire, You have disgraced him indeed. And for the unjust there are no supporters. Our Lord, We heard a herald calling towards Faith: 'Believe in your Lord.' And We believed.  Our Lord, forgive us, then, our sins, and write off our evil deeds, and take us unto You with the righteous.  And our Lord, give us what You have promised us through Your messengers, and do not put us to disgrace on the Day of Doom. Surely you do not got back an Your promise."(3:190-194)
Verse 189 appearing immediately earlier particularly and strongly stressed upon Tauhid, the Oneness of Allah. So, the verse (190) which follows here, presents the proof of Tauhid and, along with it, mentions the merit of those who act strictly in accordance with the dictates of Tauhid and, by implication, it also motivates others to do the same.
In addition, the earlier mention of pain caused by the disbelievers bears congruity to the verses appearing presently. This can be understood in the background in which the disbelievers, out of hostility, requested the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him that he should turn Mount Safa into solid gold. Thereupon, this verse was revealed indicating that there were so many proofs confirming the Truth all around them - why would they not deliberate in them?
As for the reality of their request to the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him, it was not motivated to find out the Truth. Instead, it was out of hostility - so, they would have still not believed, even if their request was granted.
The Background Of Revelation
Commenting on the background of revelation concerning these verses, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih and Ibn 'Asakir in his History have reported that the Companion 'Ata ibn Abi Rabah Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him went to Sayyidah 'A'ishah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her and said to her: 'Of the things about the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him, tell me what you saw as most unique out of the many states of his life.' Thereupon, Sayyidah 'A'ishah said: 'Which state are you talking about? In reality, everything about him was unique. Yet, I would tell you about one very unique event. It so happened that the noble Prophet, may Allah bless and protect him, came to me one night and entered into the comforter with me. Then, he said: 'Allow me to worship my Lord.' He rose from the bed, made Wudu and stood up for Salah. And in this standing position of Qiyam, he wept, so much so that his tears trickled down his blessed chest. Then, he bent down for Ruku' and there too he wept. Then he did his Sajdah and kept weeping in the Sajdah very much like before. Then, he raised his head and continued weeping until came the morning. Sayyidna Bilal radiallaahu anh came in and informed him about the time of the Fajr Salah.
Sayyidna Bilal radiallaahu anh says: I submitted: 'my master, why do you weep like that? Isn't it that Allah Almighty has forgiven you all your past and future sins?' He said: So then, should I not continue to be a grateful servant of Allah? And in offering this gratitude of mine, why should I not shed tears, specially tonight when Allah Almighty has revealed this blessed verse to me:
'Surely, in the creation of the heavens and the earth...' (190)
After that, he said: "Ruined is the person who recited these verses but failed to deliberate therein."
So, in order to deliberate into this verse, let us begin by answering some questions first.
What does 'the creation of the heavens and the earth' mean?
Since Khalq is a verbal noun which signifies creation or origination, it means that there are, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, great signs of Allah Almighty. Therefore, all those Divinely created beings and things in the heavens and the earth also get to be included therein. Then, among these created beings there are kingdoms after kingdoms - each having different types and states - yet each and every such created being is comprehensively pointing out to its Creator. Then, going a little deeper, one would discover that 'the heavens' is inclusive of all heights and 'the earth' covers all lows. Thus, high or low, all dimensions owe their existence to Allah Almighty.
The different forms of 'the alternation of the night and day'
Let us now determine the meaning of 'the alternation of the night and day'. The word 'Ikhtilaf translated here as 'alternation' is derived from the Arabic usage: (Such and such person arrived after such and such person). So, the Arabic expression translated as the alternation of the night and day' means that the night goes and the day comes and when the day goes, night comes.
The word Ikhtilaf translated here as 'alternation' could also be taken to mean increase or decrease. For example, during winter, the night is long and the day is short; while during the summer, the order is reversed. Similarly, the difference between the night and day is also caused by the difference in the geographical location of countries. For example, countries closer to the North Pole have longer days as compared to areas farther away from it. So, it should not be difficult to infer from each such phenomena the essential proof of the most perfect power of Allah Almighty.
What is the meaning of the word, Ayaat?
Ayaat is the plural of Ayah and is used to express more than one single meaning. Miracles are known as Ayat. It is also applied to the verses of the Holy Qur'an. It is also used in a third sense, that of proof and sign. Here, in the present context, this very third sense is what is intended - meaning that, in these manifestations, there are great signs of Allah, and the proofs of His power.[/color]
Wise are those who believe in Allah and always remember Him
To determine the meaning of the expression 'ulul albab , we look into the word 'albab' which is the plural of lubb. Lexically, it means the essence. Since the essence of everything is its sum-total and the key to its nature and uses, therefore, human wisdom has been called lubb, for wisdom is the essence of human nature. Thus, 'albab' means 'the people of wisdom'.
Now the problem before us is how to identify the people of wisdom because the whole world claims to be wise. Not even a moron would be ready to admit being devoid of wisdom, reason or sense. Therefore, the Holy Qur'an has told us about some signs which are, in fact, the most sound criterion of wisdom. The first such sign is Faith in Allah. Think of the knowledge which comes from the senses such as hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting and communication, something also found in non-rational animals. Now, it is the job of wisdom or reason, to arrive, through signs, circumstantial evidence and proofs, at a particular conclusion which is beyond sense-perception and through which it may become possible to grasp the final link of the chain of causes.
Keeping this rule in view, just think about this universe around us. It should not be too difficult to realize that this wonderfully organised system - comprising the heavens and the earth and containing the whole of creation in between them which is further streamlined by the most deft management of everything, big or small, existing therein - certainly points out to a special Being that has to be the highest and the foremost in terms of Knowledge, Wisdom, Power and Authority. A Being who originated and fashioned all these components with the wisest of consideration and under Whose intention and will this whole system keeps operating. That Being, as obvious, can only be that of the most-exalted Allah. How well some spiritual master has put it in a few words:
Every blade of grass sprouting from the earth
Says: He is One; there are no partners in Him.
That human intentions and plans keep failing everywhere all the time is a matter of common experience. These cannot be called the prime movers and operators of this universal system. Therefore, the outcome of the deliberation into the creation of the heavens and the earth and into what has been created in them is, as wisdom dictates, living to know, obey and remember Allah. Anyone unmindful of it does not deserve to be classed as wise. Therefore, the Holy Qur'an has given the following sign of the wise:
That is, the wise are those who remember Allah - standing and sitting and (lying) on their sides (191).
In other words it means that they are engaged in the remembrance of Allah under all conditions and at all times.
From here we find out that the thing which our modern world takes as the criterion of reason and good sense is simply a deception. Catering to greed, some people take accumulation of money as their ideal of intelligence. There are others who love to equate human intelligence with scientific inventions and electronic applications and for them, these are the power. But, real good sense lies in the message brought by the prophets and Messengers of Allah Almighty, for they, proceeding through knowledge and wisdom and advancing from the low to the high in the chain of causation, skipped the intermediary stages. Granted that human beings moved from raw materials to machines and science gave them access to power through utilization of energy generated in many ways. But, higher intelligence demands that human beings take that real giant step farther ahead so that they can discover that the main agent of human accomplishment is certainly not the water or clay or iron or copper or some other material, not even the machines that generate power. This function was accomplished by none else but the One who created the fire, the water and the air through which human beings were enabled to control technology and energy:
Spreading the scent of musk is the function of Your tresses
But, those who love You have, out of expediency, ascribed the credit to the Chinese deer!
Let us understand this through the commonplace example of an ignorant dweller of some distant jungle who reaches a railway station and notices that such a huge railway train stops at the flash of a red flag while it starts moving at the flutter of a green one. Then, should he say that these red and green flags must have super power as they can stop and move such a powerful engine of the big train. Obviously, all sensible people would dismiss the ignoramus telling him that no power is vested in these flags. Instead, power rests with the person who is sitting in the engine room and stops or moves the train by watching these signals. But, someone smarter might reject the assumption that the engine driver had any instrinsic power to move or stop the train. His strength had nothing to do with it. He will go a step farther and attribute this power to the mechanical parts of the engine. But, a scientist would bypass cold mechanics of the engine and ascribe the real power to the steam which has been generated in the engine through heat and water. But, that is as far as the so-called scientific thinking goes.
At this point, comes the thinking of the prophets, may peace be upon them, who would be telling these tyrants of their intellect: If the ignoramus who took the flags or the driver or the engine parts as the respository of power was in error, so are those who take sources of energy powerful by themselves - intellectually, they too are in error! The prophets would ask them to take yet another step forward so that they could lay their hands on the lost end of this tangled ball of string. May be, by doing so, they could have access to the final link of the great chain of caused things and there they could find the answer that the ultimate master of all power is none else but the One who created all forces which were harnessed to achieve human models of power.
It is not difficult to deduce from what has been said here that those who get to know Allah and remember Him at all times and under all conditions are the only people who deserve to be called 'the wise'. It is for this reason that the Holy Qur'an has defined the 'People of Wisdom' : "... those who remember Allah standing and sitting, and (lying) on their sides.'
It is on this basis that Muslim jurists have answered the case of a deceased person who, before his death, made a will that his property be given to the wise. As to who will be given this property, they have ruled that those who will deserve this are abstaining scholars who do not seek unnecessary material resources and are averse to the blind pursuit of the worldly, for they are the wise ones in the real sense, (al-Durr al-Mukhtar, Kitabul-Wasiyyah)
Also worth attention at this point is the fact that the Shari'ah of Islam has not enjoined abundance in any other mode of worship except Dhikr. But, about Dhikr, the command is: (Remember Allah remembering abundantly). The reason is that all modes of worship, other than Dhikr, have some conditions and rules without observing which those acts of worship are not considered to have been duly performed. This is contrary to Dhikr which can be performed at all times and under all conditions whether standing, sitting, lying, with or without wudu. Perhaps, this verse is indicative of this element of wisdom.
The second sign of the people of wisdom given in this verse is that they deliberate in the creation of the heavens and the earth:
And ponder on the creation of the heavens and the earth - 191.
Here we need to determine the meaning of this act of 'pondering' and the level at which it operates.
The Arabic words, Fikr and Tafakkur, literally mean to ponder, to deliberate and think about something which is an effort to arrive at its reality. From this verse we find out that this act of pondering is also an act of worship and very much like the Dhikr (Remembrance) of Allah. The difference is that the objective of Dhikr is the remembrance of the Being and Attributes of Almighty Allah while the objective of Fikr and Tafakkur or thinking and deliberation relates to His creations. This is because the perception of the reality of the Divine Being and the Attributes is beyond human reason. Deliberation of this aspect results in nothing but wonder. The great poet, Rumi said:
Expert watchers of the Court of the Being of the Covenant Found out nothing but that He is.
In fact, this is an area of inquiry where excessive deliberation in the Being and Attributes of Almighty Allah could, at times, cause one's imperfect reason to stray into error. Therefore, the greatest among spiritual masters have emphatically advised:
Deliberate in the signs of Allah, but do not deliberate in Allah.
It means that there are signs in what Allah has created. One should think about these signs. But, one should not deliberate into the very Being and Attributes of Almighty Allah for that is beyond one's reach. One can see everything in the light of the sun. But, should one wish to see the sun itself, his eyes would get dazzled. Who is Allah? What is He like? These are questions all wise thinkers and spiritual masters have answered by suggesting:
You do not have to mount an assault on every field of inquiry
For, there are places where you should simply surrender.
However, thinking about creation inevitably leads one to realize the presence of its Creator. Look at the enormous expanse of the sky above us with the sun, the moon and the many planets and stars bound with the solar and lunar system under firm and pre-determined laws working so well for thousands of years without being serviced or refurbished in some workshop. Then, there is this earth of ours, its rivers and mountains holding many marvels of creation, the trees, animals and hidden minerals, and the air that circulates in between the heavens and the earth and the rains that come and the electricity generated therein. This whole system so elaborately set up leads every sane person who is willing to think and understand that there is some special Being which is far ahead of everyone in power and control. This is what Ma'rifat is, the stage of knowing, realizing. So, this kind of deliberation which leads to the discovery of the Divine is an act of worship, a great one indeed. For this reason, Hadrat Hasan Basri rahimahullah said: (Ibn Kathir) which means: An hour spent in thinking about the signs of Allah is better and far more useful than a whole night standing in worship.
Hadrat 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-'Aziz has characterized this deliberation as a superior act of worship (Ibn Kathir).
Sayyidna Hasan ibn 'Amir Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him said that he had heard from many noble Companions that deliberation is the light of faith.
Hadrat Abu Sulayman al-Darani said: When I go out from my house, everything I cast my glance on makes me realize that it contains one or the other blessing of Allah for me and that in its presence I have a good source of learning my lesson (Ibn Kathir). So, the knowers of the secrets of the self have always maintained:
Every blade of grass sprouting from the earth
Says: He is One and in Him there is no partner.
Hadrat Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah has said: Reflection is a beam of light entering your heart.
Hadrat Wahb ibn Munabbih said: One who thinks a lot will understand reality, and who understands will arrive at sound knowledge, and who has sound knowledge is bound to act accordingly (Ibn Kathir).
Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him said: A pious man saw an ascetic sitting at a spot with a graveyard on one of his sides and a garbage dump on the other. The passing pious man remarked - You have two treasure troves before you, one of them is the human treasure known as graveyard and the other is the treasure of wealth and property turned into refuse and filth. These two treasures are enough to learn your lesson. (Ibn Kathir.)
Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him used to go out of the city into some wilderness with the express purpose of training and teaching his heart. When he reached there, he would ask the spot of land: Where are those who lived here? . After that, he would answer his own question by saying: Everything must perish save the presence of His being . (Ibn Kathir). This was how he summoned and preserved the remembrance of Afterlife in his heart.
Haclrat Bishr al-Hafi said: If people pondered over the greatness of Almighty Allah, it would have become impossible for them to remain sinful and disobedient.
Sayyidna Isa (A.S) said: O you who were created weak, fear God wherever you are. Live in the world like a guest. Make prayer places your home. Let your eyes weep fearing God. let your body remain patient and let your heart keep reflecting. Used to this, worry not about tomorrow's bread.
It is this kind of thoughtfulness and concern that these verses identify as the superior quality of wise people. Pondering over the creation of Almighty Allah, such people get to know their Creator and are personally convinced of the temporality of the physical world. This is a superb act of worship resplendent with the light of faith. Similarly, those who'see and experience the signs of Almighty Allah yet get entangled with the superficial glamour of what has been created - as a result of which they fail to know their real master - is rank heedlessness and very much juvenile. Sages have warned that whoever fails to learn a lesson from the universe before his eyes will find that the ability of his heart to realize the truth has corroded in proportion to his heedlessness. The eager protagonists of scientific progress all too engrossed in their breakthroughs fail to pay heed to their own ultimate fate. Consequently, the speed with which developments in scientific inquiry unfold the secrets of Allah's creation is also the speed at which they are receding farther away from reality and God. Commenting on the post-industrial revolution thinking, Akbar of Allahabad, poet, humourist, said:
Europe has forgotten the Father in the Heaven
For them, electricity and steam are as good as God.
It is about such visionless people with the dead weight of education and culture on their backs, the Holy Qur'an says:
And there are so many signs in the heavens and the earth which these people pass by with faces turned askance paying no heed to them - 12:109.
Now, as we move to the last part of this verse (191), (Our Lord, You have not created all this in vain), we can clearly see that this is the outcome of pondering over the signs of Allah's power. It means that there is nothing purposeless in Allah's creation. On the contrary, there are thousands of wise considerations behind it. Things have been harnessed to serve human beings with man being the user of resources in the whole universe. This should make human beings see that the universe has been created for their benefit and in their interest. Likewise, every human being has been created to obey and worship Allah. This is his or her purpose of life.
Further on, from verses 192 to 194, there appears a set of pleas and prayers from such people, people who realized that this universe is no exercise in futility and that is is brimming with open proofs of the great power and wisdom of its Creator. So, once they knew their Creator and Sustainer, they submitted before Him.
1. The first request they make is: : Save us from the Fire.
2. The second request is: Save us from the disgrace of the Hereafter for whoever is condemned to the Fire stands humiliated before the whole world. Some scholars have said that humiliation on the plains of Ressurection will be so disgraceful a punishment that one
would wish to be cast into the (fire of) Hell but that the multitudes present on that fateful day do not get to hear about his or her misdeeds.
3. The third request is: 'We have heard the message given by the herald sent by You, that is, the message of the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him, and we believed in him. So, forgive our major sins and expiate our shortcomings and misdeeds and give us death in the company of the righteous, that is, make us a part of their group.'
These three requests were aimed at safety against punishment and pain and loss. The fourth request is about promised blessings, the blessings of Paradise promised through the noble prophets. This prayer for blessings is being made with the added request that there be no disgrace on the Day of Judgment. In other words, the request is to be excused from the torturous procedure of accounting (for all of one's deeds), disgrace (as a result of misdeeds) and then forgiveness (on account of Allah's mercy). The prayer is for outright forgiveness for Allah does not go back on His word. What is the purpose of this submission and re-submission? The purpose is to say: O Allah, enable us to become deserving, and a beneficiary of this promise (made by You), and enable us to remain steadfast so that we breath our last in this world with faith in our heart (Iman) and busy doing what is good in Your sight.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"So, their Lord answered their prayer, 'I do not let go to waste the labour of a worker from you, male or female. You are from one another. So, those who emigrated, and were expelled from their homes, and were tortured in My way, and fought, and were killed, I shall certainly write off their evil deeds, and shall certainly admit them into gardens beneath which rivers flow, being a reward from Allah. And it is Allah with Whom is the beauty of reward.  The moving of the disbelievers about the earth should not deceive you.  It is just a little enjoyment. After that their resort is Hell, and it is an evil abode.  But those who fear their Lord, for them there are Gardens beneath which rivers flow, where they shall live forever - hospitality from Allah. And what is with Allah is best for the righteous.  And surely, among the people of the Book there are those who believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to you and what has been sent down to them humbling themselves before Allah. They do not barter away the verses of Allah for paltry (worldly) gains. They have their reward with their Lord. Surely, Allah is swift at reckoning."(3:195-199)
Mentioned in verses previous to this were some prayers made by good believers.
The first verse (195) appearing above reports that these prayers have been accepted and believers have been given the good news that great rewards have been marked for their good deeds. In the second and third verses (196-197), Muslims have been instructed not to be deceived by the apparent affluence and worldwide maneuvering of disbelievers for this is transitory and the punishment which follows in its wake is eternal.
The fourth verse (198) reasserts the promise of the lasting blessings of Paradise for Muslims who always keep fearing Allah.
The fifth verse (199) particularly mentions the great reward that awaits those Muslims who used to be from among the People of the Book but chose to embrace Islam as their faith.
While explaining the statement: shall certainly write off their evil deeds) in Verse 195, Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Tahaanwi rahmatullahi 'alaih has restricted it to the forgiveness of sins and shortcomings relating to the fulfillment of the rights of Allah. The reason is that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has said in Hadith that debts are not included under the purview of this verse. The rule is that the person concerned or his heirs should pay off the debt or have it forgiven. There is no other alternative in this case unless Allah Almighty is specially generous for someone and puts it in the heart of the wronged party that they should relent and forgive. This would, then, be a different matter. In fact, with some, this would also be the case.
So, let us keep in mind that all sins are forgiven following Hijrah (Emigration) and Shahadah (Surrendering life in the way of Allah, martyrdom) but the forgiveness of debts and other rights of people (Huququl-'Ibad) has not been promised.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"O those who believe, be patient, be more patient than others, and guard your frontiers, and fear Allah, so that you may be successful."
This is the last verse of Surah 'Al-'Imran. The advice given here is quintessential for all Muslims.
There are three things in the verse Muslims have been charged with. These are Sabr, Musabarah and Murabatah. The fourth element is Taqwa which is a necessary ingredient of all three. Their meanings are being given below.
Literally, the Arabic word 'Sabr' means 'to hold' or 'to tie'. In the terminology of the Qur'an and Sunnah, 'Sabr' is the effort made to control and defend one's slippery self against what is temperamentally unpleasing. This 'Sabr' (roughly translated as 'patience' for want of an exact equivalent) takes three forms:
1. Patience with Duties: It means that everything commanded by Almighty Allah and His Messenger must be obediently pursued, no matter how burdensome the adherence to them may appear to be. The aim is to keep one's self almost rivetted to carry out injunctions despite hinderances.
2. Patience against Sins: It means holding the desiring self back from whatever has been prohibited by Allah and His Messenger, no matter how desirable and appealing it may be.
3. Patience in Distress: It means enduring in hardship and forbearing in pain and avoiding excessive anxiety. Such patience requires that all pain and comfort be taken to have come from Allah and from this realization comes the strength to keep one's self under control.
The word, 'Musabarah' is a derivation from Sabr. It means staying firm and steadfast against the enemy.
The word, 'Murabatah' comes from 'Rabt'. Root-wise, it means 'to tie' and it is for this reason that 'Ribat' and 'Murabatah' are taken to mean 'to tie horses' and 'get ready for war'. The Holy Qur'an has used 'Ribat' in (of trained horses - 8:60) in that very sense. However, in the terminology of the Qur'an and Hadith, this word has been used in two senses:
1. To secure Islamic frontiers for which it is necessary to be armed with military hardware, conventional or modern, so that the enemy abstains from venturing against Islamic frontiers.
2. To be so observant of and bound by making Salah with Jama'ah that one starts looking forward to making the next Salah soon after having performed one.
Both these are highly acclaimed acts of worship in Islam. Out of their numerous merits, some are being given in the following pages.
Ribat: The Guarding of Islamic Frontiers
Staying along the Islamic frontiers to guard the area in battle-ready condition is known as 'Ribat' and 'Murabatah'. It takes two forms. Firstly, there may be no danger of war breaking out, the border is secure and the duty is limited to being vigilant enough to ward off any impending threat. Under such condition, it is quite permissible for those on duty to start living there with their families and earn their living through farming or some such occupation. Under this condition, if the real intention is to guard and defend Islamic borders and living and earning there remains subservient to this intention, this person will get the reward for 'staying in the way of Allah' , even if he never fights. But, anyone whose real intention is not to guard and defend Islamic frontiers but would simply be there to eke out a living -even if he gets the chance of guarding the borders casually - this person will not be considered as one who stays in the way of Allah'. The other eventuality may be that the border is threatened by possible enemy attack. Under such condition, keeping women and children close by is not correct; only those who can fight against the enemy should live there. (Qurtubi)
There are countless merits in both these cases. In the Sahih of al-Bukhari, it has been reported from Sayyidna Sahl ibn Sa'd Sa'adi that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: Ribat for a day in the way of Allah is better than whatever there is in the whole world. In the Sahih of Muslim, it has been reported from Sayyidna Salman that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "Ribat for a day and night is better than fasting for a whole month and standing in prayers for the entire night. Should one die in that state, the daily reward for his act of staying in the way of Allah will continue to reach him for ever. His sustenance will keep coming from Almighty Allah and he will stay protected against the Shaytan."
Abu Dawud reports from Fudalah ibn 'Ubayd that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "The roster of deeds credited to the person who dies ends with his death except in the case of a Murabit (one who stays in the way of Allah) whose roster of good deeds goes on multiplying right through to the Day of Judgment and he remains covered against (the fear of punishment) on account of the scrutiny of deeds in his grave."
These narrations indicate that the act of staying in the way of Allah (Ribat) is superior even to every charity the benefit of which keeps going on and on (Sadaqah Jariyah). This is because the reward for charity the benefits of which continue lasts only upto the time people keep benefiting from the endowment of house, land, book or library. Once this benefit stops reaching people, the incumbent reward also stops. But, the reward of the person who stays in the way of Allah is not going to stop until the Day of Judgment. The reason is that Muslims as a community can continue doing what is good only when they are well-protected against enemy attacks. Thus, the act of a person who stays on to defend Islamic frontiers becomes the cause of good deeds performed by all Muslim in a peaceful setting.
Therefore, the reward of such Ribat fi sabllillah (staying in the way of Allah) will continue until the Day of Judgment. In addition to that, the reward for whatever other good deeds he used to do during his life in the world will continue without his having to actually do them. This is as It appears in ibn Majah in an authentic narration from Sayyidna Abu Hurairah where he reports that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said:
One who dies in a state of Ribat in the way of Allah, the reward of whatever good he used to do in his mortal life will continue and so will his sustenance and he will stay protected against Satan and Allah will raise him on the Day of Qiyamah free from fear. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi)
The merits mentioned in this narration are subject to the condition that the person meets his death while staying on the border to guard Islamic frontiers. But, there are other reports which indicate that his post-death reward will still continue even if he were to return alive back to his family.
Sayyidna Ubayy ibn Ka'b narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: The reward for sincerely guarding the weak border area of Muslims for one day, other than those of Ramadan, is superior to the reward for continuous fasting and nightly worship for' one hundred years. Ribat for one day in Ramadan is superior to fasting and nightly worship for one thousand years (the narrator has expressed some doubt about the later). Then, he said: If Allah sends him back to his family in good health, no sin will be recorded in his name for a thousand years while good deeds will continue to be entered in his roster and the reward for his act of having stayed at the border to defend Islamic frontiers will keep coming to him until the Day of Judgment (Qurtubi).
Offering Salah with Jama'ah and waiting for the next is also 'staying in the way of Allah'
Sayyidna Abu Salaman ibn 'Abdur-Rahman narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: I tell you something because of which Almighty Allah would forgive your sins and raise your spiritual status. These are: Making Wudu precisely and perfectly despite chilly weather or pain or wound because of which the washing of body parts that must be washed while making wudu may appear to be hard to do; and going to the Masjid time and again more than often; and waiting to make the next Salah following the one already made. Then, he said: "For you, this is the Ribat (staying to guard Islamic frontiers in the way of Allah)."
After having reported this ahadith. Imam al-Qurtubi has said that in the light of this hadith it can be hoped that a person who adheres to the practice of waiting between two prayers with congregation will receive the reward which has been mentioned in ahadith for Ribatin the way of Allah.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
" With the name of Allah, The All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.
O men, fear your Lord who created you from a single soul, and from it created its match, and spread from the two, many men and women. And fear Allah in whose name you ask each other (for your rights), and surely, Allah is watchful over you.  And give the orphans their property, and do not substitute what is bad for what is good, and do not eat up their property alongwith your own. It is, surely, a great sin."(4:1-2)
The last verse of Surah 'Al-Imran was concluded with an exhortation to Taqwa, the fear of Allah. The present Surah begins with Taqwa in the mode of command. The previous Surah mentioned some battles, described the manner of treating antagonists, condemned misappropriation in battle spoils and took up several other matters. In the earlier part of the present Surah, there are injunctions about rights related to one's own people which must be fulfilled while living and interacting with them, such as, the rights of orphans, relatives and wives (known as Huququl-'Ibad: the rights of the servants of Allah).
But, there are some rights which are justiciable, that is, their fulfillment can be enforced through law, like common transactions of buying and selling. The rights involved in lease, tenancy and wages can be settled through mutual agreements and arbitration; should a party fall short in fulfilling settled rights, these can be legally retrieved and enforced. But, the fulfillment of the rights of those in one's own charge - children, parents, husband and wife, and orphans - and the rights of other relatives which fall on each other - all depend upon civilized behaviour, respect, loving and caring, and above all on that genuinely heart-felt desire to do what is good for them. These are behaviour patterns which cannot be weighed on a scale of things. That they be determined fully and perfectly through mutual agreements is also much too difficult. Therefore, there is just no other method of their fulfillment except having the fear of Allah and the fear of what would happen in the life to come. This is known as Taqwa and the truth of the matter is that this power of Taqwa is more effective than the combined powers of government and law. Hence, the Surah opens with the command of Taqwa when it says: (O men, fear your Lord).
The word, 'ittaqu translated here as 'fear' means 'fear acting against your Lord' which perhaps is the reason why the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him used to recite this verse as part of his address while solemnizing a marriage. Therefore, reciting it in the Khutbah of Nikah is a perenniel revival of the Sunnah. Here, the form of address in the verse is worth attention. It says: (O men) which includes all human beings, men or women, and whether they are present at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an or shall continue to be born right through to the Day of Doom. Then, alongwith the command of 'ittaqu' (fear) the word used is 'Rabb' (Lord) which has been selected out of the most fair names of Allah. This is to point out that the fear of Allah so enjoined has a justification and wisdom of its own. The Being totally responsible for man's nurture the manifestations of Whose Lord-worthiness he witnesses every moment of his life, certainly deserves all the awe one is capable of. The very thought that anyone could rise in antagonism and defiance against Allah is terribly dangerous.
Immediately after, the text brings into focus the most exalted majesty of the Lord by saying that He created human beings, all of them, in His wisdom and mercy. Here it was quite possible to create and cause to be present, whatever it was to be, in more than one way.
But, He chose to have one way and one form, a very particular one, when he created all human beings from the one and only human being, that is, Sayyidna Adam (A.S), and thus it was that He tied all of them in a strong bond of brotherhood. So, it is not only the fear of Allah and the fear of Akhirah (Hereafter) which demand man's allegiance to the Lord of all creation, but this bond of brotherhood between human beings also requires that rights of humanity - of mutual sympathy, well-being and collective good - be fully discharged. And between man and man, let there be no one high or low in race or caste, in colour or language, and that all such distinctions be never made the criterion of good or bad, nobility or meanness. Therefore, it was said: meaning 'who has created you from a single soul (that is, Sayyidna Adam (A.S) who is the father of all human beings), and from it created its match (that is, his wife, Hawwa' (Eve), and spread from the two, many men and women (in the world)'.
In short, this verse serves as an introduction to injunctions which are going to appear in this Surah. The purpose here is to dissuade human beings from becoming the usurpers of Divine rights, while at the same time, by telling them that they all are the children of the same father, the wonderful humane dimension of love, mutual sympathy and concern was given as the working hypothesis of common living, so that the mutual rights of relatives, orphans and married couples could be fulfilled right from the heart at the very grass-root level.
Towards the end of verse 1, the exhortation to fear Allah has been beamed at man from yet another angle. Is'nt it that man demands his rights from others in the name of Allah and exacts what he wants from them? It means that one who expects others to fear Allah should do that himself as well. The last word, wal-arham, is there to warn that any shortcoming in taking good care of near relations, whether from the side of one's father or mother, should be avoided.
The second verse emphasizes the rights of orphaned children and establishes rules to protect their property.
The commentary which follows takes up the last two aspects of near relations and orphans in some detail.
Treating Near Relations Well
The word, 'al-arham' in verse 1 is the plural of rahim. Rahim is womb. The womb of the mother is the home of.the child until born. Since this womb is the source of blood relationship, the act of maintaining relations in that line is called silatur-rahim in Arabic (literally, umbilical link or bond or relationship). The converse of it, that is, showing carelessness and indifference towards natural linkage based on blood relationship is identified as qat'-al-rahim (literally, umbilical delinkage, meaning cutting off relationship with one's kin).
The noble ahadith have laid great emphasis on bonds of kinship. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has said:
"Whoever likes to have his livelihood made plentiful and his age extended for him should maintain good relations with his near of kin." (Mishkat, p. 419)
This hadith tells us about two benefits that issue forth from treating near relations well. The merit of the Hereafter vouchsafed, this fair treatment of one's kin has its benefits in this life as well, that is, it removes straightenings from his livelihood and blesses his age with more good years.
Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn Salam Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him says: When the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him came to Madinah al-Tayyibah and I presented myself before him, the very first words from him which fell into my ears were:
"O men, make a practice of greeting each other with salam, and feed people (for the pleasure of Allah), and treat near relations well, and pray by night while people sleep - you will enter Paradise in peace." (Mishkat, p. 108)
In another hadith, it has been reported that Ummul-Mu'minin (the Mother of the Faithful) Sayyidah Maymuna Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her had freed her bond woman. When she told the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him about it, he said:
"Had you given her to your maternal uncle, your reward would have been greater." (Mishkat, p. 171)
Although, Islam motivates people to free slaves and rates it as one of the finest acts of merit, yet the status of treating relatives fairly has been given more importance. There is another narration on the same subject in which the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has been reported to have said:
"Charity to the needy is just charity, while to a near relative it becomes two fold: charity and kinship." (Mishkat, p. 171)
Hence, a simple change in the end-use of charity yields two types of merits.
As opposed to this there is the attitude of cold-shouldering or severing of blood relationships. How stern are the warnings given in hadith reports against this can be imagined from the following two ahadith:
The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said:
1. A breaker of (blood) relationships shall not enter Paradise. (Mishkat, p. 419)
2. Mercy shall not descend upon a people among whom there is a breaker of (blood) relationships. (Mishkat, p. 420)
The statement in the last sentence of this verse: (and surely, Allah is watchful over you) motivates human hearts to fulfil rights as and when they are due because Divine watchfulness implies awareness of whatever there is in human hearts - intentions, scruples, motives - everything. Doing things half-heartedly, formally, or for fear of possible embarrassment, without any genuine desire to serve, shall remain acts unacceptable to Allah. Incidentally, from here we find out why Allah should be feared - because He is watchful over everyone, always. As pointed out elsewhere too, this is typical of the usual style of the Holy Qur'an when it does not introduce laws in sheer cold print like the laws of the governments of this world, but puts them forth in the manner of education, training and affection by not restricting itself to the word of law alone, but by combining it with the grooming of minds and hearts as well.
The Rights of the Orphans and the Protection of Their Property
The first verse stressed upon the care and concern for kinship in an absolute sense. Then came the general emphasis on the fulfillment of rights that issue forth from it. Now, the second verse carries the command td protect the properties of the orphans, as well as the prohibition of any misappropriation therein because the guardian of an orphaned child is usually one of his relatives. Therefore, this too has a bearing on the fulfillment of the rights of kinship.
The word, 'al-yatama in the first sentence of verse 2: (And give the orphans their property), is the plural of al-yatim (the orphan). Literally, it means the lone or the unique. Therefore, a pearl that resides in its shell all alone is called Ad-Durr al-Yatim (literally, 'the orphan-pearl'). In the terminology of Islamic law, a yatim is a child whose father has died. Incidentally, among animals, a yatim is an offspring whose mother has died (Qlmus). When a child attains maturity, that is, becomes pubert, he is no more referred to as yatim in the terminology of Islamic law as it has been clarified in a hadith which says: that is, 'Orphanhood ends with puberty'. (Mishkat, p. 284)
If orphaned children have property, either gifted to them or received by them through someone's inheritance, then, the responsibility of protecting this property, as well as the orphan himself, falls on the shoulders of the person who is the guardian of the orphan. It does not matter whether the guardian of the orphan was appointed by the father of the orphan himself before his death, or by the government. It is part of the guardian's duty that he should certainly cover all costs incurred on the necessary maintenance of the orphan from what he owns, but he should not give what the orphan owns into his possession before he has reached the age of maturity because he, being an immature minor, may lose it somewhere. So, the statement: 'give the orphans their property', in this verse, has been clarified a little later in verse 5 where it has been said that the property of the orphans should be given to them after it is certain that they have become mature and do have the ablity to distinguish between what is good for them and what is not.
Therefore, the meaning of 'give the orphans their property' in this verse should be taken in the sense of protecting their property so that it could be given to them at its appropriate time. Furthermore, there is a clear hint in this sentence towards the extent to which the guardian of the orphan is responsible for his welfare. It is being said here that his responsibility is not limited to just that he himself refrains from eating up or squandering the property of the orphan, but it is also an integral part of his duties that he should do everything possible to protect, guard and conserve the property in the best of state, capable of being handed over to him when mature.
The second sentence: prohibits the substitution of bad things for the good ones. There were people who would let the number of things owned by the orphan stay unaltered, but would take something good from there and substitute it with something bad they themselves had. For example, swapping a lean goat for a healthy one, a bad coin for a good one, and things like that. Since, this too is a breach of trust in respect of the property of the orphan, and in the event that someone driven by his naughty self comes up with the excuse that he has not 'taken' what belonged to the orphan, he has rather 'exchanged' it. So, the Holy Qur'an has forbidden it explicitly. Now, this forbiddance not only covers the substitution of one's bad things for the orphan's good things, but it also covers any attempt by the guardian to enter into any deal with some other person which results in a loss for the orphaned child.
The third sentence: (and do not eat up their property alongwith your own) obviously aims to forbid the eating up of the orphan's property through impermissible methods whether it is consumed from the jointly-held property of the guardian and the orphan, or that it is held separately and consumed from there. But, the general practice is that the guardian would hold what belongs to the orphan with his own personal holdings, would himself consume out of there and let the orphan do the same. Since no separate accounting is involved here, even a religiously observing Muslim may fall into thinking that there was no sin in doing so. It was for this particular reason that the prohibition of consuming what belongs to the orphan by pooling it with one's own was mentioned here and warning was given to either keep the property of the orphan absolutely separate and spend from it separately so that there remains no danger of any excess; or should one elect to have a joint-expense system, then, the accounts maintained should be so clear that one can be sure of not having spent anything belonging to the orphan on his own person or in his interest. A detailed explanation of this has already appeared in (2:220) - Section 27 of Surah al-Baqarah, Volume 1 of this commentary.
The style of expression here gives a hint that those who misappropriate the property of orphans are generally the people who have properties of their own as well. So, it is by implication that such people have been reproached for stooping down to eat up the property of the orphans unlawfully while they have their own lawful belongings at hand - a shameful act indeed.
It will be noted that verse (2) mentions the prohibition of "eating" the property of the orphan because "eating" is one of the major end-uses of what one possesses. But, in common usage, every act of using up, consuming and exhausting is referred to as "eating up" - whether this be by 'using' or by 'eating'. The expression, "la ta'kulu" (do not eat up) in the Holy Qur'an carries this very sense of the usage, included in which are all sorts of impermissible uses. Therefore, spending anything from the property of the orphan unlawfully by any means whatsoever is absolutely haram (forbidden).
The verse ends with the admonition, (It is, surely, a great sin.) Here, the word 'hub', as said by Sayyidna ibn 'Abbas, comes from the Ethiopean language. It means: 'major sin'. It is used in Arabic for the same meaning. The sense is that any unlawful appropriation or use of the orphan's property, be it because of lack of supervision or substitution of something bad for something good or because of consuming the orphan's assets as mixed up with one's own, is a great sin after all.
The stern warning to those who eat up the property of an orphan appears later towards the end of this section (4:10).[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"And if your fear that you will not do justice to the orphan, then, marry the women you like, in twos, in threes and in fours. But, if you fear that you will not maintain equity, then (keep to) one woman, or a bondwoman you own. It will be closer to your not doing injustice."(4:3)
In the previous verse, guardians were warned against pilferage or misappropriation in the property of orphans. The present verse is an extension of the basic command from another angle. Here they are warned against any attempt to marry orphaned girls under their guardianship hoping to get away by fixing a dower of their choice and claiming their properties as additional benefit.
So, the Holy Qur'an has very clearly declared that every excuse, device or strategem set up to usurp the property of the orphan is impermissible. It is the duty of the guardians that they should protect the rights of the orphans honestly.
Orphaned girls: Violation of their rights and its prevention
During Jahiliyyah guardians holding orphaned girls under their charge used to pick up the ones who had good looks or owned properties of value and marry them or arranged to have them married to their sons. They would fix the dower of their choice, usually the lowest, and maintained them in whatever manner they elected for they were the very guardians and caretakers for them. Their fathers were not there to take care of their rights who would have certainly given them in marriage to a suitable person after full deliberation on all aspects a daughter faces in married life and would have made sure that they remain happy and well-covered.
There is a narration in Sahih al-Bukhari رحمه الله from Sayyidah 'A'ishah رضي الله عنهما which reports that an incident of this nature came to pass during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. There was someone who had an orphaned girl under his guardianship. He had a fruit-farm in which this girl held a share. This man married the orphaned girl and, rather than give her dower and things from his pocket, took her very share in the farm in his possession. Thereupon, the following verse was revealed:
"And if you fear that you will not do justice to the orphans, then marry the women you like..."
It means that if you apprehend that after marrying a girl under your guardianship, you cannot do justice to her, then, instead of marrying her, you should marry other women of your choice.
The Marriage of Minors
The word, 'yatama' in this verse means orphaned girls. In the terminology of the Shari'ah, a 'yatim' is a boy or girl who has not yet attained the age of puberty. So, this verse proves that the guardian of an orphaned girl does have the right to give her in marriage while she is a minor, and has not attained the age of puberty, but on condition that this decision is based on wisdom and the future welfare of the girl. This is to avoid unfair practices common in some communities where a grown up girl is married to a child without any regard for the difference in their ages or without any investigation into the living conditions or character of the boy.
The orphaned girls who have attained the age of puberty are, no doubt, entitled to choose their husbands freely on the basis of their majority. Nevertheless, girls (in traditionally Islamic societies) tend to be modest and shy and usually would not come out strong or freely express their opinions in matters relating to their marriage inspite of being major and having the right to choose. As a result, they are likely to accept what their guardians do for them in good faith. If so, it is the bounden duty of guardians that they too should stay clear from taking any step that may violate the rights of orphaned girls.
In short, this verse lays down the injunction that total vigilance should be observed to make sure that the marital rights of orphaned girls are not violated in any manner whatsoever. However, the responsibility of enforcing this injunction has not been directly placed on the shoulders of the government as is usual with laws promulgated by governments. Instead of that, people themselves have been commanded to fear Allah and do what is right. That is, should they apprehend injustice in marrying orphaned girls, they must cast off the idea and marry elsewhere from a wide range of choices available.
Added to this Divine motivation to abide by prescribed law is the responsibility placed on its enforcing agencies in the government. It is their duty to oversee that there occurs no such violation of rights in the society. If it does, they must use the force of law to ensure that these rights are fulfilled as due.
Polygamy and its Currency Before Islam
That one man could have more than one wife was something considered permissible in all religions of the world even before the advent of Islam. The custom prevailed in Arabia, India, Iran, Egypt, Babylon and among peoples elsewhere. Its natural validity cannot be denied even to this day. The Europeans of the present age tried to break away from the practice of their predecessors and made multiplicity of marriage impermissible. It resulted in the multiplicity of concubines and girl-friends retained out of wedlock. It was the validity of the natural that there has been a consistent opinion bank in the West (though not so effective) which recognizes the efficacy of plurality of marriage. Davenport, the well-known Christian writer has deduced from the Bible that plurality of wives is not only favourable but is a source of blessing from God. Others such as Father Nixon, John Milton and Isac Taylor have supported this view strongly. Similarly, Vedic teachings permit unlimited number of wives, even in tens and thirteens and twenty sevens, at one time. Shri Krishna, a highly respected deity among Hindus, had hundreds of wives.
The truth of the matter is that a religion or law which aims to establish an infra-structure of chastity and modesty and considers the eradication of adultery as necessary has no way out except that it permits plurality of wives. Apart from being a preventive measure against adultery, it serves as a remedial approach to the problem of comparatively larger female population in some areas as compared to that of men. If such permission was not granted, mistresses and prostitutes will proliferate. This is why nations which do not permit plurality of wives must live in rampant adultery (calling it 'free sex' hardly changes the reality). Even in our own time, if we look at the state of nations in Europe and America, we will see that they look down on what they call polygamy and put a ban on plurality of wives, but they permit a man to practice adultery with as many women as he can get under the cover of 'friendship', (and unlimited are the euphimisms invented to give it other names, such as, 'relationship', 'affair', 'consenting adults', 'union', 'partner' to get around the ban). Saying no to marriage and yes to adultery is certainly very strange!
To be short, we can say that the custom of taking a large number of wives was prevailing before Islam without any imposition of limits. The history of nations and beliefs shows that no religion or law had drawn a line in this matter, neither the Jews and Christians, nor the Hindus and Aryans or the Zoarastrians.
During the early period of Islam, this custom continued without being limited. As a result, people initially took too many wives to satisfy their greed. Later on they could not do justice to all of them and these wives of theirs lived like prisoners bound in the chains of marriage. Under such conditions, the idea of an equitable treatment of wives was practically non-existant. It was all a matter of personal choice or whim which could make the darling of the day a history of tomorrow. The concern for standing rights was a far cry.
It was the Holy Qur'an which stopped this great injustice prevailing in the human society at large. It restricted the plurality or multiplicity of wives by declaring that keeping more than four women under the bond of marriage was forbidden (haram). In addition to that, stern warning was given against any contravention of the Divine command which emphatically demanded that equality in fulfilling the rights of women taken into the bond of marriage at the same time must be maintained faithfully. The words of the verse are:
The expression: ma taba' in this verse, as explained by Hasan al-Basri, Ibn Jubair and Ibn Malik, may the mercy of Allah be upon them, means: 'mahalla', that is, women who are lawful for you.
There are others who, taking the literal meaning of 'mataba, have explained it to mean, 'whom you like'. But, there is no contradiction here. It could simply mean, 'women you like out of your natural inclination and that they be lawful for you in terms of the Shari'ah as well.'
On the one hand, permission has been given in this verse that more than one wife can be conjoined in marriage in twos, threes or fours; while, on the other, after having taken the number to four, restriction was placed that more than four women cannot be taken in marriage at one given time.
This particular restriction of the Holy Qur'an was made much more clear by a ruling given by the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. It has been reported that, soon after the revelation of this verse a person by the name of Ghailan ibn Aslamah al-Thaqafi رضي الله عنه embraced Islam. At that time, he had ten wives who had also embraced Islam. Pursuant to the Qur'anic injunction, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم asked him to select and retain four and release the rest by giving them divorce. Ghailan ibn Aslamah al-Thaqafi رضي الله عنه obeyed the command, retained four women and severed his marital link with the rest (Mishkat, p. 274, with reference to al-Tirmidhi and ibn Majah). Citing another incident appearing as a complement of this very narration in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad رحمه الله will not really be out of place as it also relates to the rights of women.
According to this report, Ghailan ibn Aslamah رضي الله عنه had retained four women in accordance with the rule of Shari'ah, but during the Caliphate of Sayyidna 'Umar رضي الله عنه, he divorced them as well and distributed all his assets among his sons. When Sayyidna 'Umar رضي الله عنه found this out, he summoned him and said: "You have done this to deprive these women from your inheritance which is a gross injustice. So, revoke the divorce you have given to them right now and take your assets back from your sons, and if you do not do this, then, beware of a severe punishment."
Qais ibn al-Harith al-Asadi رضي الله عنه says: 'When I embraced Islam, I had eight wives. I mentioned this to the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. He said: "Keep four of them and divorce the rest." (Abu Dawud, p. 304)
According to a report in Musnad al-Imam al-Shafi'i رحمه الله, when Sayyidna Nawfal ibn Mu'awiyah ad-Daylami رضي الله عنه embraced Islam, he had five women in his nikah. The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم asked him too to divorce one woman. This incident appears in Mishkat as well (p. 274) with reference to Sharh al-Sunnah. In short, the blessed practice of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his noble Companions (رضي الله عنهم أجمعين) very clearly illustrates the meaning of this verse, that is, conjoining more than four women in the bond of marriage is haram (forbidden).
The Noble Wives (May Allah Be Pleased With Them) of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)
The class of his person and the excellences of his virtues make the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم mercy and blessing personified. The main purpose of his life in this mortal world was to spread the call of Islam, purify people and teach the Qur'an. He, by his word and deed, made the teachings of Islam radiate all over the world. His unique style shows that he practiced what he taught. As such, there is no department of human life which can claim not to need the guidance of a prophet. So, right from the establishment of congregational prayer to maintaining good relations with wives, upbringing of children, even to the purificatory aspects of the human call of nature, there exists a roster of verbal and practical instructions left by him in the books of Hadith. They tell us in great details the things he did inside the walls of his home, how he related to his wives and how he answered questions posed by women who visited his home for this purpose. Such questions can be counted in hundreds, questions that highlight the intermediacy of his blessed wives through whom the Muslim ummah received necessary guidance. Any other setting for this purpose would have been hard to bring about. So, this crucial religious need, the need for education, teaching and propagation made it all the more imperative that the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم marry the wives he did.
Think of Sayyidah 'A'ishah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her. There are some two thousand and ten narrations reported from her. They cover a wide range of subjects which includes the explanation of the injunctions of the Holy Qur'an, religious questions and their answers, morals and manners and the Sirah of the Prophet of Islam. The narrations reported from Sayyidah Umm Salmah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her reach upto three hundred and seventy eight. All these are readily available in books of Hadith. In A'l-mul-Muwaqqi'in (v.l, p.9), Hafiz Ibn al-Qaiyyim has said: If the fatawa (religious rulings) of Sayyidah Umm Salmah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her which she gave after the demise of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him, were to be collected it could become a treatise on its own.
The high rank Sayyidah 'A'ishah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her has in the narration and knowledge of Hadith and in jurisprudence and rulings is far too well-known to repeat here. Her disciples alone come to around two hundred. She was the beacon light of religious knowledge for an uninterrupted period of forty eight long years after the demise of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and was highly effective in carrying his mission forward.
These brief remarks about two blessed wives of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him have been given here just to serve as an example, otherwise there are many more hadith narrations originating from others as well. Obviously, the benefits of such religious teaching and preaching came through the good offices of these sacred ladies.
That the Prophet of Islam صلى الله عليه وسلم had the most exalted of objectives in sight, that he came in the golden line of great prophets, and that, as such, he saw the whole world as a unit and thought about correcting all human relationships individually, collectively and in families and in nations are spiritual ideals the modern man, the desire-driven robot of today, is simply incapable of conceptualizing. The most a he or she can do is to think of everybody else on his or her own personal analogy. This chronic malady in the intellectual makeup of the atheists and orientalists of West has taken them to feeling comfortable in perversity, the end-product of which is their mal-assessment of the otherwise unchallengable character of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him. According to their limits of 'civilized' thinking, his many marriages were simply an expression of his sexual desires (God forbid). To say the least, it can be said that anyone sane and just can never interpret his marriages to have issued forth from that source only if he were to even glance at his life and character.
Right before the eyes of the Quraysh tribe of Makkah, he led a blame-free life in a way that he, when twenty five, married an aged widow with children (whose two earlier husbands had died) and went on living with her for the next twenty five years. It was also during this period that he used to leave home, sometimes for as long as a month, and stay in seclusion at the Cave of Hira devoting his time to the remembrance of his Lord. All his marriages came after his blessed age was beyond fifty. The first fifty years of his life, specially his younger years and,his youth, were all too visible to the people of Makkah. Nobody, not even an enemy, ever found an occasion to point an accusing finger at him about anything that could put his pristine piety and purity in doubt. His enemies tried whatever arrows they had in their quiver. They accused him of being a magician, a sorcerer, a poet, madman, liar, fabricator. But, they never dared say anything, not one word, about his innocent life, about whatever could refer to any crookedness of extra-marital sex or passion.
Under these conditions, would it not be worth exploring as to why someone who had spent fifty years of his life in such righteousness and piety and in such peaceful abstinence from the good things of life, would be compelled to marry more than once? What was the urge? Anyone with the least fund of justice in him would not see any other reason behind this plurality of such marriages as being stated here. Now, let us go a little farther. Let us look at the very reality of these marriages as to how they came to pass.
From age twenty five to the blessed age of fifty, Sayyidah Khadijah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her lived with him as the only wife. When she died, the marriage with Sayyidah Saudah and Sayyidah 'A'ishah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her was solemnized. But, it was Sayyidah Saudah who came to live with him while Sayyidah 'A'ishah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her continued to live with her father in view of her minority. It was after some years (in year 2 of the Hijrah) that Sayyidah 'A'ishah came to live with him at Madinah Munawwarah. This is the time when he was in his fifty fourth year. At this age he had two wives. What is known as plurality of marriages starts from this point.
After one year, his marriage with Sayyidah Hafsah took place. After some months, Sayyidah Zainab bint Khuzaymah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her came into his nikah but died only eighteen months later. According to one report she lived only three months as his wife. Then, he was married to Sayyidah Umm Salmah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her in 4 A.H. and to Sayyidah Zainab bint Jahsh Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her in 5 A.H. This is the time when he was fifty eight. At this fairly advanced age, he had four wives, although he could have had four wives immediately after the Qur'anic permission given to Muslims that they could, if need be, keep four wives. But, he never did this. Later, he married Sayyidah Juwayriyyah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her in 6 A.H., Sayyidah Umm Habibah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her in 7 A.H., Sayyidah Safiyyah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her in 7 A.H. and Sayyidah Maymunah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her later on in the same year.
To sum up, we see that he lived with only one wife upto the age of fifty four years. In other words, he lived for twenty five years with Sayyidah Khadijah and four to five years with Sayyidah Saudah. After that, when he was fifty eight, he had four wives, the rest of the blessed wives came to live with him within a period of 2-3 years.
It is worth mentioning here that, out of all the wives he had, there was only one who was married to him as a virgin, that is, the Mother of the Faithful, Sayyidah 'A'ishah al-Siddiqah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her. Other than her, all wives, may Allah sanctify their honour, were widows (with the exception of lady Zainab bint Jahsh) - some of them were the ones who were already married twice and their husbands had died. This plurality, incidentally, came to pass in his later years.
Let us not forget that his noble Companions, both men and women who had seen him in the state of Islam, loved him dearly. They would have laid down their lives at his command. If he was so inclined to do, he would have married none but virgin wives. In fact, there was nothing to stop him from keeping a wife for one or two months and then take new ones in their place. But, he never did this.
There is yet another fact which needs to be mentioned here. Our master, Sayyidna Muhammad al-Mustafa Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him was a true prophet of Allah and a prophet is no man of the mundane. He never follows his desires. What he does, he does with the leave and will of Allah. Once his prophethood is accepted, all objections stand eliminated.
But, should there be one who not only refuses to accept a prophet as a prophet but goes a step farther and accuses that he allowed himself to take many wives to seek sexual gratification, then, such a person will be told: If this was so, why would the noble prophet proclaim the restriction against himself in matters relating to plurality of marriages, something which finds mention in the verse (It is not lawful for you to take (more) wives after this - 33:52). That he proclaimed this restriction against his own self, openly and conclusively proved that whatever he did, he did with the leave and will of his Lord. As pointed out earlier, the educational benefits because of this plurality of marriages that reached the Muslim community, as well as the very injunctions of Islam, are really so many and so detailed that they can just not be taken up here even at their briefest. Those who study books of Ahadith would realize the truth of this statement. However, we do present here brief notes to serve as indicators.
The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had married Sayyidah Umm Salmah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her after her husband, Sayyidna Abu Salmah had died. When she came to live with him in his house alongwith her children from her previous husband, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him took care of her children and brought them up with love and concern. Thus he demonstrated through his conduct the way of loving and caring one must follow when bringing up step children. Of his blessed wives, she was the only one who came with her children.
If none of his wives was like her, this aspect of the upbringing of step children would have remained practically undemonstrated and the vast community of Muslims would have remained deprived of any guidance in this matter. Her son, 'Umar ibn Abi Salmah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her says: I was brought up in the lap of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم. Once, while eating with him, I was dunking my hand everywhere in the bowl. He said: (Say the name of Allah and eat with your right hand and eat from what is in front of you) - (Bukhlrl, Muslim, from Mishkat, p. 363).
Sayyidah Juwayriyyah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her came as a prisoner of Jihad. Like other prisoners, she too became one of the distributed and found herself in the share of Thabit ibn Qays or his cousin. But, she succeeded in making a deal with her master. The deal was that she would give him a certain amount of money against which he will release her. After making this arrangement, she came to the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and sought financial assistance from him. He said: 'Shall I not tell you something much better than this? That I pay on your behalf and marry you?' She agreed with pleasure. Thereupon, he paid the amount due on her behalf and married her. This resulted in something unusually benign. Hundreds of Sayyidah Juwayriyyah's people had by that time passed into the ownership of the noble Companions because all of them had come as prisoners. When the Companions found out that the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had married her, all of them released their respective slaves out of deference to the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.
Just imagine how elegant the propriety of their behaviour was, how genuine, how sublime. It Was in view of their emotional realization that all these people have now become connected with the family of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him in bonds of inlawship, that they simply could not have the audacity to keep them as slaves. So, they set all of them free. Sayyidah 'A'ishah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her says about this incident:
"Because of his marriage with Juwayriyah, one hundred families from Banu al-Mustaliq became free. I know no other woman who proved to be greater in blessing for her people."
Sayyidah Umm Habibah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her had become a Muslim in Makkah during the early days of Islam alongwith her husband. Later on, both husband and wife migrated to Ethiopia as members of a caravan of several men and women. After reaching there, her husband became a Christian and it so happened that a few days later, he died. The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم proposed to her through the good offices of Najashi (Negus, Emperor of Ethiopia) which she accepted and it was in Ethiopia that the same Najashi gave her in marriage to the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. It is interesting to note that Sayyidah Umm Habibah Radhi-Allahu Anha: Allah be pleased with her was the daughter of Sayyidna Abu Sufyan Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him. He was, at that time, the leader of the group which regarded hostility to Islam as its main objective in life. They were always on the look-out for excuses to hurt Muslims and torture the Prophet of God. If they ever got the chance they would have not hesitated for a moment to eliminate him once and for all. When he found out about this marriage, he uttered the following words involuntarily: literally: 'He is a man of valour. His nose cannot be cut off. The sense was that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him is a man of honour. It is not easy to disgrace him. Here we are doing our best to disgrace him and there we see, right under our noses, that our daughter has become his wife.'
In short, this marriage proved to be a weapon of psychological warfare. The ambitions of the leader of the kafirs against Muslims were watered down. That this marriage brought in its wake political gain for Islam and Muslims can hardly be denied in terms of the importance and need for it. This gain is certainly something God's far-sighted and wise Messenger had, in all likelihood, in sight.
Apart from the present summary view, those who have deeper access to the Sirah would find many more elements of wisdom in his plurality of marriages. The treatise entitled, Kathratul-Azwaj-li-Sahibil-Mi'raj by my venerated master, Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanavi rahimahullah, is useful.
The details we have provided here are there to remove the golden trap laid out by atheists and orientalists. Though unfortunate, yet the truth is that this trap sucks in a lot of educated but ignorant Muslims. They go into the spider's web and do not return because they do not know the sirah of the noble prophet and the history of Islam directly from their authentic sources. Their knowledge of everything Islamic comes from (anti-Islam) books written by the so-called orientalists.
Only one wife where injustice is likely
Let us now see what the Qur'an says after allowing upto four wives. It says:
"But, if you fear that you will not maintain equity, then, (keep to) one woman, or a bondwoman you own." (4:3)
From here -we find out that having more than one wife is permissible and appropriate only on condition that equality can be maintained among all wives as required under the Shari'ah of Islam, and that the rights of all can be duly fulfilled. If one does not have the capability to discharge his obligations in this manner, the rule is to keep to only one wife. As stated earlier, the injustice of multiple marriages during Jahiliyyah without any considerations of rights of wives had made a mockery of this field of human relationship. So, the Qur'anic command was: If you are unable to do perfect justice between wives, then restrict yourself to no more than one, or make do with a bondwoman you may own. At this point, please keep in mind that the Qur'anic expression which means 'a bondwoman one may have', has very special conditions under which such possession becomes possible, conditions which generally do not just exist these days. Therefore, the act of starting to live with someone out of wedlock, just by declaring that she was a 'bondwoman' owned by the person involved, as something allowed by the Shari'ah of Islam, is non sequitor and patently haram (unlawful). Any more details about it would simply be out of place here.
The outcome (to be seen as a whole) is that the Qur'an has permitted having four wives in marriage which means that marriages entered into within this limit will be correct and permissible. But, under such a contingency, that of having more than one wife, it will be obligatory (wajib) to maintain justice and equality between them. Doing otherwise is a grave sin. So, anyone who thinks of having more than one wife should first think about all those factors and conditions around him and, more importantly, look into himself, introspect, weigh, deliberate and figure out realistically whether or not he has the ability, or the capability or quality to treat all of them equally and justly without causing the least infringement of their rights. If strong likelihood exists that one will not be able to come up to the standard and most probably will fail to maintain such justice and equality, then, having the audacity to go ahead and step into the bonds of more than one marriage is really a thoughtless plunge into a grave sin. One must stay away from doing something like this and, human condition being what it is, living with only one wife should be considered quite sufficient.
Speaking legally, if a person marries more than four women in a single offer and acceptance, the marriage shall be void ab initio because nobody has the right to have more than four wives. As far as marriages within the limit of four are concerned, they shall be deemed as valid marriages all right, but any shortcoming in treating wives equally and justly will be an act of grave sin. In addition to that, any infringement of a wife's rights can be challenged in an Islamic Court and the aggrieved wife can receive redress from there.
The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has laid great emphasis on maintaining full equality and justice between all wives and he has given stern warnings against those who do otherwise. Above all, he has demonstrated the desirable ideal through his own conduct, reaching the outer limits of treating his wives equally even in matters in which equality is not mandatory.
In a hadith, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has said: 'Anyone who has two wives and he cannot fulfill their rights equally and justly, shall be raised on the Day of Doom in a condition that one of his shoulders will be drooping down.' (Mishklt, p. 278)
We should, however, keep in mind that this equality of treatment is necessary in things which are within the control of man. For example, the coverage of personal expenses and parity in overnight stays. As for things out of man's control, such as. the natural inclination of his heart which might tilt towards one of them, there is no accountability there for this is not a mattar of choice. However, the binding condition is that this tilt should not affect matters which are within man's control. Our noble prophet, may Allah bless him for ever and ever, treated his venerated wives with full equality in everything within his control, yet he pleaded with his Lord: "O Allah, this is my equalization' in what I control. So, do not hold me accountable in matters You control and I do not."
Obviously, something even an infallable Messenger of God is not able to do, how can someone else claim to have the ability to do it? Therefore, in another verse of the Holy Qur'an, this 'matter out of man's control' has been mentioned in the following words:
"And you shall be unable to maintain perfect equality between the women." (4:129)
Here, it has been made clear that love and the tilt of the heart are something out of man's control. It is beyond man's power to achieve perfect equality of treatment in what comes from the territory of the heart. But, even this involuntary conduct has not been left totally unchecked and unbalanced. In order to correct it, it was said: (So, do not tilt, the full tilt). It means: If you love one of your wives more than the other, there is nothing you can do about it. But, total indifference and heedlessness towards the other wife is not permissible even under this situation. The justice and equality mentioned in the sentence (If you fear that you will not maintain equity, then (keep to) one woman) refers to the same justice in matters of choice and volition, any discrepancy in which is a great sin. So much so, that a person who sees the danger of his getting involved with this sin has been instructed not to marry more than one woman.
A Doubt and its Answer
Because some people have lost sight of details given above, they have fallen into a strange error. When they compare the verse under discussion, 4:3, and the verse quoted just a little earlier, 4:129, they are confused. They think: Here is this verse from Surah al-Nisa' which carries the command: 'If you fear that you will not maintain equity, then (keep to) one woman. Then, there is this second verse which says categorically that justice and equality (among wives) is just not possible. As a result, they doubt, having more than one wife should not be permissible. But, such people should ask themselves: If, through these verses, Allah Almighty aimed at putting a cap over more than one marriage, what need was there to go into all these details? Why would the Qur'an say: that is, 'marry women you like, in twos and threes and fours?' And then, what would be the meaning of saying: that is, 'if you fear that you will not do justice' - for, in this situation, injustice is certain. How can we then explain the element of fear which would become meaningless?
In addition to this, the words and deeds of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the noble Companions (May Allah be well pleased with them all) and their consistent practice prove the fact that having more than one wife (upto four) was never prevented in Islam. The truth of the matter is what has been stated earlier, that is, the first verse of Surah al-Nisa' talks about justice and equality in what man can do by choice while the second verse points out to man's inability to control lack of equal treatment when it comes to love and emotional inclination. Therefore, these two verses have no contradiction, nor does it prove that plurality of marriages is absolutely forbidden.
Towards the end of the verse, it was said: (It will be closer to your not doing injustice). In this verse, the word ('adna') has been derived from (dunuwun) which means nearness and the other word (la ta'ulu) is from which means inclination or tilt. Here it has been used in the sense of impermissible inclination culminating in injustice and wrong-doing.
It means 'what you have been told in this verse (that is, in absence of being unable to do justice, having only one wife or making do with one's bondwoman) is something which, if you elect to follow it, will help you in staying safe from doing any injustice and the chances of any additional oppression and transgression will be eliminated.
There is a doubt here: When a man has one wife, there will be just no chance of injustice. Why then, it was said, by adding the word, 'adna' that 'it will be closer to your not doing injustice', instead, the statement should have been something to the effect that it will make you totally safe from this injustice.
The answer is: The addition of the word, 'adna (closer) in the text is there to point out to all those people who would not hesitate in inflicting all sorts of injustices on even one wife. So, to block this source of injustice, the absence of more than one wife is not enough. In this situation, however, the likelihood does exist that the danger of injustice will decrease and you will come closer to justice. But, the complete deliverance from injustice and oppression will only be possible when the rights of one wife are totally and fully given and she is treated fairly and generously, forgiving her shortcomings and being patient with her crooked ways.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"And give the women their dower in good cheer. Then, if they give up some of it out of their own sweet will, you may have it to your advantage and pleasure."(4:4)
In the previous verse, the objective was to remove the injustice done to women through the multiplicity of marriages. This verse takes up a particular right of women and aims to remove the injustice practiced in this matter. This is the right of mahr (dower).
In pre-Islam Arabia, injustices in the payment of dower took many forms:
1. To begin with, the dower which was the right of the girl being given in marriage, was not given to her. Instead, the dower was taken by the guardians of the girl directly from the husband - rank injustice indeed. To get rid of this practice, the Holy Qur'an said: (and give the women their dower). This command is addressed to the husbands so that they themselves give their wives their dowers and not give these to others. Also addressed here are the guardians of the girls with the instruction that they should, in case they happen to receive the dower meant for the girls, give it straight to the girls and make sure that they themselves do nothing to put the money in personal use without the permission of the girls.
2. Another injustice related to the attitude of the giver of the dower. If someone had to pay it and realised that there was no way out, he would be very sour and unhappy and do it unwillingly as if he was paying a penalty. This injustice was removed through the use of the word, : nihlah, since nihlah in Arabic usage means 'giving something cheerfully'.
So, the verse here teaches that the dower of women is their right which must be fulfilled as a matter of obligation. Since, as a rule, all obligatory rights must be discharged cheerfully, so it should be in the case of dower, that is, 'give in good cheer'.
3. Yet another injustice regarding the payment of dower was that many husbands, taking advantage of the powerlessness of the wife, would use pressure and make them forgo and forgive their dower. This act of theirs hardly brought forth real forgiving of the standing right, but they, on their part, went about free of the concern for dower which, according to their thinking, was 'forgiven'.
To eradicate this injustice, it was said in the verse: . It means: 'if these women give up some of it out of their own sweet will, you may have it to your advantage and pleasure.'
The point is that exacting forgiveness by pressure or compulsion from an unwilling wife is an exercise in futility. Nothing gets forgiven in this manner. But, should it be that they themselves elect, out of their free choice and will, in its most genuine sense, to forgo or forgive a part of the dower, or return it to you after they had already taken it, then, this is permissible for the husbands, and correct as well.
Surely, these injustices which the Holy Qur'an aims to remove in this verse prevailed at peak during Jahiliyyah. But, very regretably, some of these practices of pre-Islam days still survive among Muslims. There are tribes and geographical areas where one or the other such injustice is not difficult to find. All Muslims must stay away from being a party to such injustices.
The restriction of "out of their own sweet will" placed in this verse, has a secret of its own. The truth of the matter is that, according to the standard rule of Islamic Shari'ah, even the smallest portion of what belongs to someone is not lawful for someone else unless permitted gladly. The standard rule was set by the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him when he said:
"Beware, do no injustice. Remember, a person's property is not lawful (for the other) unless it be through his sweet will." (Mishkat, p. 255)
This is a great principle from which many details issue forth.
Even in our own times, there are women who very much doubt that they are going to get their dower. They think asking for it is not going to please anybody, nor the refusal to forgive will make anyone any happier. So, like it or not, they just forget and forgo. This kind of forgiveness is not trustworthy. My respected teacher, Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanavi rahimahullah used to say that the real touchstone of forgiving gladly is to first hand over the amount of the dower in the hands of the wife, as its owner, who may later give it to the husband out of her own sweet will without any pressure.
This attitude of giving gladly should also be practiced as the operating principle in the inheritance of sisters and wives. It is not too uncommon that, following the death of the mother .or father, sons take over the whole property and do not give the girls their share. If the usurpers were bothered by moral or religious considerations in some degree, the most they would do is to go and excuse themselves before their sisters. Since they know that they are not going to get their share under this situation anyway, they simply go along and forgive against their will. In addition to this, the share belonging to the surviving wife is not given to her after the death of the father.
Particularly, a step mother just does not get hers. All this amounts to open usurping of rights. The only exception is that, should anyone forgive gladly, that forgiveness is possible, and valid.
Hadrat Thanavi rahimahullah also pointed out that the text is talking about the willingness of the whole human self and not simply the happiness of the heart which alone is not enough to make someone's property lawful for the other. People who give money in bribes, or interest, do so after a good deal of calculations, and many apparent gains, but this is not giving gladly, and not trustworthy either. If such people were to probe their conscience and come out with the truth, the truth would be that their self would flatly refuse to agree to such giving. This is why good cheer and sweet will have been given the deciding role.
If donations are sought for mosques, religious schools or for any other need, there too it is necessary to see that the giver is doing it freely and gladly. If a donation is given under pressure from anyone having tribal, social or legal authority or influence, without the free choice and will and pleasure of the giver, then, it is not lawful to accept and use this donation. Instead, it would be returned to the giver.
As for the word : saduqat appearing in the verse, it is the plural form of saduqah. The words, saduqah and sudaq signify the dower of women. In Mirqat Sharh Mishkat, Mulla 'Ali Qari writes: . It means that dower is referred to as saduqah or sudaq because its root, sadaqa signifies truth. Since dower too shows the true attitude of the husband towards his wife, the congruity was good enough to let dower be called sudaq or saduqah.
The words: hani'an and mari'an appearing at the end of the verse are attributive modifiers. The word, hani'an (from han'a and hanu'a and hani'a) means something received without having to go through labour and pain. When this refers to food, it means good food which is eaten and digested easily and becomes a healthy part of the human body.
The word, mari'an (from mara'a: to be wholesome) is also used in the same sense and is very close to each other. For this reason, some translators have made one word, in the sense of 'wholesome', stand for both.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"And do not give the feeble-minded your property which Allah has made a means of support for you, and do feed them out of it, and clothe them, and speak to them in fair words as due. 
And test the orphans until they reach a marriageable age then, if you perceive in them proper understanding, hand over to them their property. And do not consume it extravagantly and hastily lest they should grow up. And whoever is rich he should abstain and whoever is poor he should consume in fairness. So, when you hand over to them their property, have witnesses upon them. And Allah is sufficient for reckoning."(4:4-6)
The injunction to give orphans their property, and the women, their dower, has appeared in previous verses. This may lead one to think that the property of the orphans and women should under all conditions, be given to them, even if they cannot handle relevant transactions and are incapable of protecting their property interests. To remove this misunderstanding, it has been said in these verses that properties should not be handed over to the feeble-minded. Instead, they should be watched and tested to determine the age and time when they exhibit the ability to protect their property and the discernment of spending out of it, it is then that their property should be handed over to them.
Do protect what you own
These verses affirm the role of property in man's economic effort which gives him the desire to protect it. Then, at the same time, the general weakness shown in the protection of properties has been corrected. There are people who, giving in to natural love, hand over oroperties to inexperienced minor children and ill-informed women which usually results in the wastage of the property and the quick poverty which follows in its wake.
Do not hand over properties to the feeble-minded
The most revered exegete of the Holy Qur'an, Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him says: 'The guidance the Holy Qur'an gives in this verse is: Do not, by handing over all your property to feeble-minded children and women, become dependent on them. Since Allah Almighty has made you the guardian and the manager, you should, rather, hold the property in your safe custody and keep spending from it as necessary in order to feed and clothe them. And should they, even then, demand to take possession of the property, explain to them honestly, fairly and reasonably in a way which neither breaks their heart nor causes the property to be wasted. For instance, say something like:' All this is there for you. Just grow up a little more and you will have it all.'
Based on this tafsir of Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him, the sense of the verse covers all women, children and others who are feeble-minded and inexperienced, to whom it is dangerous to hand over properties since it may result in their loss, irrespective of the fact that they may be one's own children, or orphans, or the fact be that the property may belong to such children and orphans themselves, or to the guardians. The same tafsir has been reported from Sayyidna Abu Musa al-Ash'ari Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him and the renowned mufassir, al-Tabari has also adopted the same view.
The context of the earlier and later verses may, though, lead one to particularize this injunction too with orphaned children, yet, the generality of words remains there as such and which includes all children, orphans and non-orphans. And perhaps, the form of address in 'amwalukum' (your properties) may have the special wisdom that it is inclusive of the properties of the guardians as well as that of the orphans. The suggestion is that the properties of the orphans, until such time that they become mature and discerning, remain under the guardian's safe custody and responsibility as if these properties, so to say, were like their own. It will be recalled that the fact of the matter - that the properties of the orphans have to be given only to them - has been made very clear in verse 2: (And give the orphans their property). After this, there remains no reason for any doubt.
Protecting property is necessary. Wasting it is a sin. A person killed while defending his property is a shahid (martyr). This is similar to being killed in defence of one's life which makes one deserving of the great reward of shahadah (martyrdom). The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has said:
"Whosoever is killed while protecting his property is a shahid (that is, he is counted among Muslim martyrs in terms of Divine reward)." (Bukhari, v.l, p. 337 - Muslim, v.l, p.81)
He has also said:
"For a good man, his good and clean property is the best asset of his life." (Mishkat, p. 326)
Yet another saying of his is:
"Being rich is not harmful for one who fears Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted." (Mishkat, p. 491)
The last two ahadith quoted above tell us that the wealth possessed by a righteous and God-fearing person is not harmful for him because such a person, by virtue of being God-fearing, will abstain from spending it in what is sinful. The anti-wealth teachings of many Muslim saints and mystics apply to none but those who spend their lustily-earned wealth for sinful purposes and thus go on to make it the cause of their punishment in the Hereafter. Also, since man is naturally inclined to abandon, once he is rich, all concerns of moderation in his spendings, as well as the very anxiety to see that he stays safe against other sins - that is why staying away from wealth has been considered desirable. God bless our earlier people; they would earn, more or less, as needed, were grateful to Allah and ended up being happy that they have succeeded in saving their skins from being ultimately 'audited' for the whats and hows and whereas of spending their wealth, if they had it.
But, in our time, people do not care much about matters of faith; they are more attracted to material things; they are all too ready to abandon their faith at the slightest provocation, not because there is some discomfort involved. Rather, they would do that lest they go against fragile fashion, or trend, or some borrowed norm of contemporary society. Therefore, it is important that people earn lawfully and conserve their earnings. For such people, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has said:
"Poverty can take one to the point of being a disbeliever." (Mishkat, p. 439)
Sayyidna Sufyan al-Thawri Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him elaborates this by saying: "Previously, owning and keeping wealth was not considered good, but today, this wealth is a shield of the true Muslim."
He has also said:
"Whoever has any of this (wealth) in his hands should make it serve him well for these are times when, in the event of some need, one is likely to first 'spend' his faith in order to take care of that need. (i.e. the desire to fulfill one's need has become more important than the obligation to follow one's faith)" (Mishkat, p.491)
The injunction to test the ability and understanding of minors
Once we know from verse 5 that minors should not be entrusted with properties until such time that their ability to discern and decide stands proved, the injunctions to educate and test such children to determine their ability follow in the next verse (6).
Verse 6: translated as 'and test the orphans until they reach marriageable age;' means that children, well before they become pubert and marriageable, should be tested through small assignments of buying and selling in order to determine their ability to conduct themselves in transactions on their own. This process of practical experimentation should continue right through upto the age of marriageability, that is, when they become pubert and mature. This is the time of special assessment. Now it should be determined if they have become smart and self-reliant in their affairs. Once this is sensed as 'dependable', it is time to hand over their property to them.
In short, given the nature of children and the factors involved in the growth of reason and intelligence among them, they have been divided in three stages. One: minority (before puberty). Two: After puberty. Three: After self-reliance, and discretion in conducting personal affairs (Rushd as opposed to Safahah). During the first stage, the guardians of children have been instructed to educate and train them by providing for them hands-on experience, that is, let them become smarter by conducting small dealings in buying and selling on their own. The expression: (and test the orphans) in this verse means exactly this. It is from here that Imam Abu Hanifah Rahmatullahi 'Alayh: Allah have mercy upon him has deduced the ruling that the transactions of buying and selling entered into by minor children with the permission of their guardian are sound, valid and operative.
In accordance with the other injunction, when children become mature, pubert and marriageable, the guardian should check up their state of growth at that stage in terms of experience, intelligence and dealings, and once it becomes clear that they understand their profit and loss and handle their affairs and dealings in a satisfactory manner, their property should be handed over to them.
The Age of Maturity
Along with the injunction of maturity (bulagh) in this verse, the Holy Qur'an has also answered the question as to the 'age' when a child would be taken as mature (baligh) by saying: translated as 'until they reach marriageability'. Here, it has been indicated that real maturity is not tied up with any particular count of years. Rather, it depends on particular indicators and signs experienced by adults entering the threshold of adulthood. When, in terms of these indicators and signs, they would be regarded fit to marry, they would be considered mature, even if their age does not exceed thirteen or fourteen years.
But, should it be that such signs of maturity just do not show up in some child, he shall be considered mature in terms of age, a position in which Muslim jurists vary. Some fix eighteen years for boys and seventeen for girls; some others have fixed fifteen years for both. With the Hanafiyyah, the fatwa is on the position that the boy and the girl shall both be considered mature under the Islamic law after they have completed their fifteenth year, irrespective of whether or not signs of maturity are found.
The Perception of Proper Understanding: How to find it? An Explanation
The injunction of the Qur'an is: 'then, if you perceive in them proper understanding, hand over to them their property.' Now, what is the time of this 'proper understanding' (rushd). The Holy Qur'an has not elaborated on this final limit of time. Therefore, some Muslim jurists leaned towards favouring the view that the properties of children should not be handed over to them until it has been determined that they do have full and proper understanding. Instead, these will stay under the safe custody of the guardian as usual, even if this state of affairs continues for the rest of life.
But, in accordance with the verification of the issue by Imam Abu Hanifah Rahmatullahi 'Alayh: Allah have mercy upon him, at this point the absence of 'proper understanding' refers to the state affected by childhood. Within ten years after maturity, the effect of childhood is gone. So, there are fifteen years as the age of maturity (bulugh) and ten years as the age of proper understanding (rushd). Once these 25 years are reached, such proper understanding is most likely to be achieved; something which was not possible due to the barriers of childhood, and later, younger years. Then, it should be noted that the Holy Qur'an uses the word, 'rushdan' in its indefinite form whereby it is suggesting that full understanding and perfect sense are not absolute conditions. A reasonable measure of understanding is also sufficient for this purpose on the basis of which their properties could be given to them.
Therefore, even if perfect understanding has not been achieved despite the long wait of twenty five years, even then, their properties will be handed over to them. As far as perfect understanding and wisdom is concerned, there are people who do not get to achieve these throughout their entire lives. They always remain simple, innocent and rather shy and slow in conducting their practical dealings. They will not be deprived of their properties because of this. However, should there be someone totally insane, he will be governed by a separate rule since such a person always remains in the category of immature children. His property will never be handed over to him until his insanity disappears, even if his entire life were to pass in insanity.
The Prohibition of Undue Spending from the Property of Orphans
As we know, the verse instructs that the property of the orphans should not be handed over to them until a certain degree of understanding and experience is perceived in them. Naturally, for this purpose, one will have to wait for some more time. In that case, it was probable that the guardian of the orphan could commit an excess against the interests of the orphan. So, the verse goes on to say: And do not consume it extravagantly and hastily lest they should grow up.
Here, the guardians of the orphans have been prevented from two things: Firstly, from spending out of their property extravagantly, that is, from spending over and above normal needs; and secondly, from starting to spend out from their property way before the need to do so, as if in a hurry, thinking of the near future when their wards would grow up and their property would have to be given to them and the guardian's control will be all over.
The orphan's guardian, if needy, can take out some of his expenses from the orphan's property
Does a person, who spends his time and labour in the upbringing of an orphan and is devoted to the protection of his property, have the right to take an honorarium for his services from the property of the orphan? The rule is given towards the later part of the verse when it is said: (And whoever is rich he should abstain). It means that a person who is need-free as he can take care of his needs through some other means, then, he should not take any payment for his services from the property of the orphan, because this service is an obligation on him. Receiving payment for it is not permissible. Then, it was (and whoever is poor he should consume in fairness). It means that the guardian of an orphan who is poor and needy and has no other source of earning his livelihood, he can consume a reasonable amount from the property of the orphans for his sustenance in a measure that is just about right to cover his basic needs.
Having witnesses while handing over property
The verse concludes with: 'when you hand over to them their property (after having gone through the period of test and trial), have (some reliable and pious people as) witnesses upon them (so that there is no dispute later). And (remember that) Allah is sufficient for reckoning (for He has a count of everything within His sight).
Payment for services rendered to country, community and Awqaf
The contextual extension of the verse yields an important juristic rule and principle. It concerns people who supervise Awqaf (religious endowments, trusts and estates) or manage mosques and religious schools or head institutions of Muslim states or hold charge of similar other services rendered for the country and community, services the rendering of which is known in Islamic terminology as fard 'alal 'kifayah (an obligation which, if discharged by some, will absolve others). For these gentlemen too, the superior and more meritorious conduct is - of course, if they have sufficient assets to take care of the necessary expenses needed to maintain their family - that they should not take anything from these institutions or from the public exchequer of the government. But, should it be that they do not have funds of their own to sustain themselves and they devote their earning time to such service-oriented activities, then, they have the right to take such funds from these institutions in proportion to their need. Please do notice the condition which is: 'in proportion to need'. A lot of people fix an insignificant monthly emolument shown on paper to satisfy legal requirements but they go on spending by various other means on their person and on their family recklessly, much much beyond it. There is just no remedy for this lack of caution except the fear of Allah.
The last words of the verse: and Allah is sufficient for reckoning) invite everyone, masses or classes, to realize that the man who stays untouched by unlawful acquisitions will be the man who fears the final accounting by Allah.
And the ability to do so comes from Allah.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"For men there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left. And for women there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left, be it small or large - a determined share. 
And if the kins and the orphans and the needy are present at the time of distribution, give them some of it and speak to them in fair words. 
And those people should be fearful who, if they leave behind some helpless children, would remain anxious for them. So, they should fear Allah and say what is right." 
Surely, those who eat up the property of the orphans unjustly, they only eat fire into their bellies, and soon they shall enter a blazing Hell."(4:7-10)
Right from the opening of Surah Al-Nisa', the theme of universal human rights, particularly those relating to family life, has been appearing regularly. Verses before those dealt with the rights of orphans. The four verses here also take up particular rights of women and orphans which relate to inheritance.
The first verse (7) refutes the custom of Jahiliyyah under which women were just not allowed to inherit. The verse declares their entitlement to their share as fixed by Islamic law and strictly forbids any attempt to decrease their due right. Since the subject concerned those who had a determined share in inheritance, and it is not uncommon that when such distribution is being made, some persons from among the poor and the orphans do make their appearance on the occasion, therefore the second verse (8) lays down the rule that they should be treated benignly. But, this command is not obligatory; it is, rather, commendatory.
The third and fourth verses (9,10) also emphasize the importance of injunctions relating to orphans.
The Right To Inherit From Parents And Other Nearest Of Kin
Before Islam, orphans and women, the weaker links in the human chain, had been victims of all sorts of injustice. To begin with, none of their rights were recognized as such. Even if one of these was conceded, who could wrest it from men and hope to hold it safe? Such power and authority did not exist.
The breakthrough came when Islam championed their cause, legalized their rights and instituted safeguards to see that these stay secure against infringements. All this happened in the background when nations around the world had allowed these two weaker units of human society to remain deprived of their natural and obligatory rights. Such was the state of the law of inheritance.
The pre-Islam Arabs seemed to have lived by the the very principle that the one deserving of inheritance is the one who rides a horse, fights against enemies and collects battle spoils. (Ruh al-Ma'ani), v. 4, p. 21). As quite obvious, women and children could not live by this principle. So, according to their principle of inheritance, only a young and adult boy could become the inheritor. A girl was absolutely out of consideration for this purpose, irrespective of whether she was major or minor. And a boy too, if minor and immature, would not be deserving of inheritance.
There was an incident during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him when a Companion, Sayyidna Aws ibn Thabit Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him died. He left behind two daughters, a minor boy and his wife as the inheritors. But, very much like the old Arab custom, two of his cousins from the father's side came and took the whole property in their possession and just gave nothing to anyone from among the children and wife of their deceased brother. This may have been so because, according to their customary practice, a woman was absolutely out of the pale of inheritors, major or minor. This conveniently ruled out the wife and the two daughters. As far as the boy was concerned, he was a minor and, therefore, he too was excluded from inheriting anything. As a result, the two paternal cousins became the inheritors of the whole property.
Inspiteof what happened, the widow of Sayyidna Aws ibn Thabit Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him still wanted that these cousins who had taken possession of the entire property left by her deceased husband might as well marry the two orphaned daughters so that she is relieved of the concern for their marriage. But, as they did not accept this proposal too, she went to the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him and narrated to him her sad story and explained the destitution of her children. Since, by that time, the 'verse of inheritance' was yet to be revealed in the Holy Qur'an, the noble Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him withheld his response. His heart was at peace; he was confident that this unjust practice will be removed through Divine revelation. Thereupon, the following verse was revealed:
"For men there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left. And for women there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left, be it small or large -a determined share."
After that came the second verse of inheritance which contains the details of shares. The second section of this Surah comprises these details. So, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him followed the injunctions of the Qur'an, gave the wife the one-eight of the total inheritance and distributed the rest of the property over the son and the daughters of the deceased in a way that the half of it went to the boy and the remaining half was shared equally by the two girls; and the cousins, since they were not the nearest of kin as compared to children, were excluded. (Ruh al-Ma'ani)
The Rule Of Inheritance
This verse lays down the rule relating to the law of inheritance as a corollary to some of its injunctions, which is: (... in what the and the nearest of kin have left.) The two words, 'al-walidan (the parents) and 'al-aqrabun' (the nearest of kin) spell out two basic principles of inheritance. The first one is the bond of birth which exists between children and their father and mother and which has been described through 'al-walidan.' The second one is the general kinship which is the sense of the word, 'al-aqrabun'. According to the correct interpretation, the word, 'al-aqrabun covers all kinds of family relationships. This may be the mutual bond of birth as in children and their parents; or, it may be of the other kind as in general family relationships; or, these may be relations established through marital connection.
The word, 'al-aqrabun' covers all, but parents were set apart specially because of their importance. Then, this word has also established another principle of inheritance, that is, the mere fact of kinship is not enough for a claim on inheritance. Rather, it is necessary that the heir is nearest in kinship, for - if the degree of nearness or closeness were not made the standard condition - the inheritance of every deceased person would have to be, of necessity, distributed over the entire human population of this wide world. The reason is simple to understand because everyone is the offspring of one father and mother, Adam and Eve, peace be on them. Be it close or not so close, there does exist some sort of mutual relationship in everyone. When it comes to distribution of inheritance, it is, to begin with, beyond the realm of possibility.
However, speaking academically, if such an arrangement was somehow made, the resulting distribution of property would be something like one insignificant particle for each which will be no good for anyone. So, it was necessary that, given the pivotal position of kinship in the matter of inheritance, the principle should be: If choice has to be made from a collection of different relatives, then, the nearest of kin should be preferred over the farther ones and, in the presence of the nearest, the farthest should not be given a share. However, if there are relatives who are all declared to be the nearest at the same time, even if the nature of nearness in them be different, then, all of them will deserve a share in the inheritance as the father and mother alongwith children, or wife etc., for they all are the nearest, though the nature of nearness differs.
In addition to that, this very word, 'al-aqrabun' establishes that the way men are sharers in inheritance, so are women and children, who too cannot be deprived of this right, for kinship of children, parents or any others, is the same in a boy and girl as far as the fact of being related is concerned. A boy is born to his parents and so is a girl, who is born to them. When the right to inherit depends on being related, there is no sense in depriving a small child or a girl.
Another point about the style of the Holy Qur'an is worth noticing here. Instead of mentioning the entitlement of women in a separate sentence, the Holy Qur'an could have easily merged it with the entitlement of men in a single sentence, by saying, "For men and women both there is a share...." But the Holy Qur'an has elected to mention the entitlement of both sexes in two separate independent sentences, even though it seems to be a repetition. This is to emphasize the fact that the right of women in inheritance is quite independent and is as important as the right of men.
Furthermore, this very word, 'al-aqrabun' also tells us that the distribution of property left behind is not based on the criterion of need; it is, rather, based on the criterion of nearness in kinship. Therefore, it is not necessary that the one more needy among the relatives should be the one more deserving of a share in inheritance. On the contrary, the one nearest in kinship to the deceased will be the one more deserving of a share in the inheritance as compared to the farther - even though, the farther may be poorer and more needy. If we set aside the principle of nearness in kinship and use the need or the beneficial effects for some relatives as the criterion, it can neither turn into a rule nor can it take the form of a settled and solid law, because any criterion, other than nearness in kinship, will inevitably be temporary as based on opinion because poverty and need or usefulness are not permanent. Conditions change. Levels change. Under such conditions, there will appear a host of claimants and those responsible for settlement would have a hard time in arriving at decision.
The problem of an orphaned grandson's inheritance
If this Qur'anic principle is understood clearly, the problem of an orphaned grandson's inheritance - which has been made to look like a disputed issue for no sound reason - resolves itself automatically on the basis of a categorical decision. In other words, if an orphaned grandson is more needy as compared to the son, but, in accordance with the law of 'al-aqrabun' (the nearest in kinship), he cannot claim a share in the inheritance because he is not 'the nearest' in the presence of the son, other arrangements have been made to take care of his needs. One such arrangement appears in the next verse.
This religious position has been opposed by none but some of the contemporary, westernized modernists. Other than these, the entire Muslim Ummah has been holding the belief, as clarified by the Qur'an and the Hadith, that the grandson will not inherit in the presence of a son of the deceased, irrespective of whether his father is dead or alive.
The right of inheritance is operative in everything owned by the deceased
The phrase (be it small or large) in this verse corrects another custom practiced by some ignorant people where some things or properties were assigned to special inheritors. For example, a horse or some weapon like a sword could only be inherited by young males as a matter of right. Others were deprived of these. The instruction given by the Holy Qur'an makes it very clear that in everything under the ownership of the deceased, be it big or small, there is a standing right of all inheritors. It is not permissible for any inheritor to keep anything special for himself before the total inheritance has been formally distributed according to rules.
Fixed shares in inheritance have been determined by Allah
The last phrase (a determined share) in verse 7 is to stress that different shares fixed for different inheritors in the Holy Qur'an have been determined as such by Allah Almighty. Nobody has any right to add or delete or change or transpose any of these by personal opinion or analogical deduction.
Inheritance is a compulsory transfer of ownership
This particular word, (mafrudan: determined) throws light on yet another principle, that is, the ownership which passes on to inheritors through the law of inheritance is automatic and compulsory. It does not require the acceptance or consent of the inheritor nor is it necessary that he be satisfied with it. The fact is that, even if he were to make a clear declaration that he will not take his share, still then, he is the owner of his share in the sight of the Shari'ah. But, if he does not want to keep his share, he may, after having become the owner, gift it to somebody or sell it or distribute it, in accordance with the rules of Shari'ah.
A sign of goodwill to other relatives
It is likely that there are some relatives of the deceased who cannot receive a share from his inheritance according to the rules of Shari'ah. At the same time, it is obvious that everyone does not know the details of the system of share distribution. Generally, every relative would like to have some share out of the inheritance. Therefore, relatives who have been excluded under the provisions of the Islamic law of inheritance may feel disappointed at the time of the distribution of inheritance, specially so when they are physically present at that time, and more so when there are some orphans and poor and needy among them. A scenario in which other relatives are walking away with their respective shares while they simply look on is terrible.
Now look at the beauty and delicacy of the Qur'anic arrangement of things. On the one hand, there is the just rule offered by the Qur'an itself - that the nearer in kinship shall exclude the farther. On the other hand, there is that wonderful concern for the disappointment of 'the excluded farther'. Therefore, a regular verse (8) has been devoted to carry the necessary instruction as to how this situation will be handled.
It means that distant relatives, orphans and the needy who are to be excluded from having a share in the inheritance and who, nevertheless, show up at the time of its distribution, then, it is the moral obligation of those who get a share in the inheritance that they voluntarily give them some of it, which would become an act of charity for them, and certainly, a modality of reward from Allah. At a time like this, when wealth and property are coming to them, without their having made any effort, simply through the mercy of Allah Almighty - then, their own hearts should beat with the urge to give whatever they can, in the way of Allah, an example of which appears in another verse (Al-An'am: 6:141) cited below:
"Eat the fruit of your farm when it bears fruit and on the day of its harvesting give away the due (of the poor and the needy) on it."
In short, the fact that distant kindred, orphans and the needy assemble at the time of the distribution of inheritance should be no cause of irritation. On the contrary one should be grateful to Allah that He has bestowed on him something he did not work for, therefore, it will be good to give away a part from it as a token of gratitude. In fact, one should take it as a God-sent opportunity to let these people have a little from what they have received which would certainly compensate the sense of deprivation faced by these people. Incidentally, this includes and covers the grandson of the deceased who was excluded from the inheritance.
His uncles and paternal aunts should actually be pleased to give him something each from their respective shares.
The statement at the end of the verse (8): (and speak to them in fair words) gives the guideline in case these people are not satisfied with the manner and quantum of what they get but start demanding a share equal to that of everybody else, then, this demand being unjust and contrary to Shari'ah, there is no way to satisfy it, however, instead of behaving to them in a crude manner which may hurt their feelings, the actual rules of Shari'ah should be explained to them in a polite manner. They can be told that they do not have a share in the inheritance as stipulated by the rule of Islamic law and that which has been given to them has been given to them as a gift. At this point, one should make sure that the gift or donation given to such people does not come out of the total property inherited.
Here it is important that the donation should be made by adult inheritors present, from their respective shares. Such gifts from the shares of the minor and the absent are not allowed in Shari'ah.
Fear Allah while distributing inheritance
The third verse (9) addresses Muslims in general exhorting them to make it certain that the inheritance of the deceased reaches his children fully and fairly. They must abstain from any mode of action which may affect the share of the children adversely. The general sense of the verse covers the eventuality when one sees a Muslim making a will or disposing property off in a manner which could cause damage or loss to his children and other inheritors. If so, one must stop him from such bequeathal or such disposal, very much like what the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him did when he stopped the blessed Companion, Sayyidna Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him from giving the whole, or half, of his property in charity (Sadaqah), allowing him to give only one-third of his property as such (Mishkat, Bib al-Wasaya, p. 265), because, 'If the whole, or half of the property was given in charity, the share of the inheritors would have either been all consumed, or curtailed.'
Also included in the general sense of the verse is that guardians of the orphaned children should protect their property and give it to them in full when they become mature. They should take pains to accomplish this mission of trust and never let the least negligence on their part affect their duty; if they wish that others treat their children well after them, without causing them any harm or injustice, then, they should treat the children of others - the orphans - in the same manner.
Misappropriation of the property of the orphans
The fourth verse (10) carries a severe warning for those who pilfer or dispose off the property of orphans unlawfully. It declares: 'Surely, those who eat up the property of the orphans unjustly, they only eat fire into their bellies, and soon they shall enter a blazing Hell.'
This verse equates the property of the orphan with the fire of Hell. Many commentators have interpreted this metaphorically, that is, eating the property of the orphans unjustly is like stuffing one's stomach with fire - because this is what is going to happen to him ultimately in the Hereafter. But, those with deeper insights and proofs do not support the presence of some figure of speech here. According to them, whatever is eaten up from the property of the orphan unlawfully is, in reality, nothing but fire - even though, it may not look like fire at that time. This is like somebody saying that the match-box in his hand was fire, or the piece of arsenic, a killer. Obviously, handling a matchbox does not burn the hand, nor does arsenic kill a man by simple handling, not even by putting it in the mouth. However, a slight friction reveals that somebody who called the match-box a fire was right; and similarly, once the arsenic goes down the throat, we know that the one who called arsenic a killer was true.
Common generalizations of the Holy Qur'an also support the view that whatever deeds, good or evil, man is doing, these very deeds are the trees, the flowers and the fruits of Paradise, or the embers of Hell - even though, their form here is different, but these will come forth on the Day of Doom transformed in their true forms. The Holy Qur'an says in (Kahf-18:49) that on the Day of Doom, they shall find what they did - present! In other words, the punishment and the reward they shall see will be, in reality, the result of their own deeds.
It appears in some narrations that those who devour the orphan's property unjustly will be raised on the Day of Doom in a state that flames of fire will be seen coming out from inside their bellies through their mouths, nostrils, ears and eyes.
And the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said that a set of people will be raised on the Day of Doom with their mouths erupting with fire. His noble Companions asked as to who these could be. He said: "Have you not read it in the Qur'an? (which says): (those who eat up the property of the orphans unjustly)." (ibn Kathir, v.1, P. 456)
The gist of the meaning of the verse is that the property of the orphan eaten up unjustly will be, in reality, the fire of Hell, though it may not be sensed as fire at that time. It is for this reason that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him has given very clear instructions to observe most stringent precaution in this matter. Sayyidna Abu Hurairah Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: (I warn you to abstain from the property of the two weak ones -the woman and the orphan.) (ibn Kathir, v.1, p.456)
A review at this point shows that the entire first section of Surah al-Nisa' contains injunctions relating to orphans. They bid protection of the property of the orphans, avoidance of encroaching on their property as one's own and the giving of their due share from the property they have received in inheritance; and they forbid the hasty consumption of the property of the orphans for fear of their growing mature and assuming its control, or the taking of orphaned girls in marriage and lowering their dower, or to usurp their property. In the end the text says that eating up the property of the orphan unjustly is filling of bellies with fire because, after their death, such people will be recompensed by fire filled in their bellies. Mark the use of the word, 'ya'kuluna' and the warning given to those who 'eat up' the property of the orphan. It means that using the property of the orphan in whatever manner it may be - eating, drinking, consuming, utilizing - is totally unlawful, and a sure cause of Divine wrath. The punishment of eating up what belongs to somebody else unjustly and without any right covers all sorts of uses.
When someone dies, the right of every inheritor attaches itself to everything he owns, to each and every part, to everything big or small. It is tragic that the minor children of the deceased become orphans. Mostly, such children face a certain degree of injustice and excess in every home and everyone who assumes control of the property after the death of the father of these children - whether an uncle or elder brother or mother or some guardian or trustee - falls into doing things forbidden in this section. To begin with, they just go on postponing the distribution of the property for years together, spending a little here and there to feed and clothe these children. After that, they open up and become all too liberal in spending this jointly-held property on religiously unacceptable practices, customs and wasteful heads of expenditure. They would even spend it on their own person and go on to the limit of manipulating legal documents entering the names of their own children in place of the orphans. These are things hardly a home remains unaffected from.
The donations made for orphans in religious schools and orphanages must be spent on them. Not spending these on the orphans is a form of 'eating up' the property of the orphan.
1. Inheritance includes everything owned by the deceased, even the clothes on the dead body. People tend to give these out in charity without realizing that they belong to what has been left by the deceased. There are places where copper utensils are given out to the poor well before the total property is formally distributed, although minors and absentees from among the inheritors have rights in all such things.
The proper method is to first distribute the property in accordance with whatever shares are to be received by children, wife, parents, sisters and anyone else as stipulated by the Islamic law of inheritance. Once the ownership passes to sharers, it is upto them who can, if they so desire willingly, give away part of it in charity on behalf of the deceased. If the receivers of such shares wish to do that jointly, let them make sure that they are all adults, for the permission of the minor is not valid. As far as inheritors who are absent are concerned, nothing can be taken from their shares without their permission.
2. The sheet spread over the Janazah while carrying the deceased to the graveyard is not part of the required shroud (Kafn). It is not permissible to buy it from the proceeds of the property left by the deceased, because that is something held jointly. However, if someone was to cover the cost on his own, that would be permissible. There are places where a prayer-mat is torn out of the cloth purchased for the shroud and is used by the Imam who leads the janazah prayers. The mat is later given to the Imam. This expense is extra to the needed shroud and it is not permissible to buy it from the proceeds of the hitherto combined inheritance.
3. In some areas, new utensils are procured for bathing the deceased and which are broken after use. First of all, there is no need to buy new ones for a bath can be given using utensils already in the house; and if, for any reason, they have to be purchased, then, breaking them is not permissible. It not only amounts to wasting of property but also means causing loss to orphans and absent inheritors whose due rights are attached to the total property.
4. Any expenses before the distribution of inheritance, such as entertainment of guests or charity and alms, are totally impermissible. Giving charity and alms in this manner brings no merit or reward for the deceased. In fact, such giving under the notion that it will bring good returns for the departed soul is a far greater sin. The reason is simple. After the death of a person, all his property belongs to the inheritors in proportion to their respective rights in it. Then, there are orphans among them. Giving away things in charity from the combined property which includes the share of the orphan is like stealing from somebody's property and giving it in charity on behalf of the deceased. This is not correct. First distribute the property, then, let the inheritors give in charity from their shares for the good of the deceased, if they so desire.
It is better not to go for charity and alms from the combined inheritance even before the actual distribution, even though it be with the permission of inheritors. This is because the permission of whoever is an orphan among the inheritors is not just valid right from the outset. As for the adult ones, it is not necessary that their 'permission' comes out of their willing heart. It is quite possible that they are left with no option but give their permission lest they are disgraced before others. In other words, they may say yes with a heavy heart just to ward off the sense of shame.
Let us look at an anecdote ascribed to a pious elder, which will further clarify the issue. This pious elder went to visit a sick Muslim. He had hardly sat with the patient for a little while when the latter died. The sage immediately put out the lamp burning there and gave someone the money to buy oil and re-light the lamp with it. When people around asked him for the reason of his doing so, he said that this lamp was under the ownership of this person until such time that he was alive and it was correct to use that light. Now that the deceased has left this mortal world, his inheritors have the necessary right over everything he owned. So, it is only through the permission of all inheritors that we can use this lamp and since all of them are not present here, this lamp was lighted at a personal cost.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"Allah directs you concerning your children: for a male there is a share equal to that of two females. But, if th be (only) women, more than two, then they get two-third of what one left behind. And if she be one, she gets one-half. And for his parents, for each of them, there is one-sixth of what he left ii^ case he has a child. But, if he has no child and his parents have inherited him, then, his mother gets one-third. And if he has some brothers (or sisters), his mother gets one-sixth, all after (settling) the will he might have made, or debt. Your fathers and your sons - you do not know who, out of them, is closer to you in being beneficial. All this is determined by Allah. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise."(4:11)
People entitled to inheritance were briefly mentioned in verse 7 of the previous section which also carries details about some kinds of those so entitled. Also given there are their shares under different circumstances. More details in this connection shall be appearing later towards the end of this Surah. Remaining shares have been identified in ahadith. Muslim jurists have collected and codified all details of the rules of inheritance from the Qur'an and Hadith, giving it the status of a permanent science which, in Islamic terminology, is known as 'Ilmul-Fara'id (the Science of the Laws of Inheritance).
The present verse (11) describes shares for children and parents along with some related aspects of inheritance.
Preliminary Rights on the Property of the Deceased
According to the principles of Islamic law, the expenses incurred on the shrouding and burial of a Muslim deceased should be the first thing to be paid out of the property left behind by him. This should be done in accordance with Shari'ah avoiding the extremes of extravagance or stinginess. After that, his debts should be paid. If the amount of his debts is just equal to the property left by him, or even more than that, then, there will be no distribution of inheritance and no application of any will. And in case there remains some property after paying debts, or if there are no debts, then, subject to any will made by him which should not be a will of sin, then, this will should be carried out to the extent of one-third of his remaining property. If someone makes a will for his entire property, it will not take effect. Such will shall be considered valid for only one-third of his property. The fact is that making a will for more than one-third of the property is not appropriate; and if it is done with the intention of excluding inheritors, it becomes a sin.
Once the debts are paid and the will has been applied within one-third, the rest of the property should be distributed among the legal heirs, details of which are available in books of Fara'id, the Muslim law of inheritance. Incidentally, if the deceased has made no will, then, following the payment of debts, the whole of the remaining property shall be distributed as inheritance.
The Share Of Children
As it has appeared in the previous section, the distribution of inheritance shall be on the principle of (the nearest, then, the nearest). Since the children of the deceased and his parents are the nearest, therefore, they inherit under all conditions. These relations are the nearest and most direct of all relationships that human beings have, Others being indirect. So, the Holy Qur'an takes up their shares first and beginning from the share of children, it says:
Allah directs you concerning your children: for a male there is a share equal to that of two females.
This is a universal rule which entitles boys and girls both as recipients of inheritance, determines the shares of each and, at the same time, unfolds the operative rule in the event the deceased leaves behind both male and female children when their shares in the property will be distributed in a way that each boy gets twice that of a girl. For instance, if someone leaves behind one boy and two girls, the property will be split in four portions or shares out of which 2/4 will be given to the boy and 1/4 to each girl.
The Importance of Giving Shares to Girls
The Holy Qur'an demonstrates, visible concern to ensure that girls are given their share when it mentions the share of girls as a basis for determining the share of boys. In other words, instead of saying - 'for two females there is a share equal to that of one male'- it has elected to say: (for a male there is a share equal to that of two females.) Those who do not give shares to sisters on the pretext that they have forgone their right are in error, because their sisters usually do not forgo their rights willingly. Done reluctantly, with the knowledge that they are not going to get anything anyway, they think, why create bad blood between brothers and sisters? Such an act of forgiving is not valid under Islamic law. Their claim remains due against brothers - and those who usurp inheritance are terrible sinners. In case minor girls hold shares in such inheritance, not giving them their shares is a sin committed twice by usurping the share of a legal heir and by devouring the property of an orphan.
As part of further explanation later, the share of girls has been described by saying that, if there is no male child and there are only girls and they are more than one, then, they shall get two-third of the inherited property in which all girls will be equal sharers. The remaining one-third will go to other rightful heirs of the inheritance, such as the parents of the deceased, wife or husband. Two girls and more than two will all share in the two-third.
The share of 'more than two' girls appears in the Qur'anic verse very clearly (more than two). However, if there are two girls only, they are governed by the same rule which governs more than two. The proof appears in Hadeeth:
Sayyidna Jabir ibn 'Abdullah has reported the following event: "Once we went out with the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him until we passed by an Ansari woman in the neighbourhood of Aswaf. The woman came along with her two girls and said: O Messenger of Allah, these two girls are daughters of Thabit ibn Qays (my husband) who fell a martyr at the battle of Uhud while with you. The uncle of these girls has taken possession of whatever they had of their entire inheritance and has left nothing for them. What do you say about it, O Messenger of Allah? By Allah, these girls can never hope to be taken in marriage by anyone unless they have some assets. Then, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: Allah will decide in this matter.
Sayyidna Jabir Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him says: When this verse of Suratun-Nisa' was revealed, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: Call that woman and the man she mentioned (the brother of her deceased husband who had taken possession of his entire property). He said to the uncle of the girls: Give the girls two-thirds of the entire property; their mother, one-eighth and what remains is for you. (Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Fara'id & Tirmidhi, Abwab al-Fara'id)
In the case mentioned in the hadith, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him gave out two-third to two girls as well, following the very rule of more than two which appears in the verse of the Holy Qur'an under reference.
After that, it was said: . It means: If the deceased left behind one girl only and no other children, then, she will get one-half of what her father or mother have left behind. The rest will go to other inheritors.
The Share Of Parents
The text, moving to the share of the parents of the deceased, mentions three states:
1. Firstly, the deceased may have left behind parents who are still alive, and children too, whether only one boy or girl, in which case, the father and mother will get 1/6 each. The legacy that remains will go to children, wife or husband. There are particular circumstances when some of the remainder returns back to the father which is in addition to the one-sixth fixed for him. In the terminology of 'Ilmu'l-Fara'id (The Science of the Laws of Inheritance), such entitlement is known as the entitlement of Ta'sib: (Agnatic kinship).
2. Secondly, under a situation when the deceased has no children, brothers or sisters, but does have parents still living, the mother will get 1/3 of the inherited property while the father will get the remaining two-third. This rule governs a situation when the husband or the wife of the deceased is not alive to share in his inheritance. If the husband or wife is present, their share will be taken out first and from what remains, 1/3 will go to the mother and 2/3 to the father.
3. Thirdly, under a situation when the deceased has no children but does have brothers and sisters whose number is two, whether two brothers or two sisters, or more than two, then, under that situation, the mother will get one-sixth and, if there are no other heirs, the remaining 5/6 will go to the father. As evident, the presence of brothers and sisters has reduced the share of the mother, but the brothers and sisters will get nothing because the father is nearer as compared to brothers and sisters. What remains will go to the father. In this situation, the share of the mother has come to 1/6 instead of 1/3. In the terminology of 'Fara'id', this is known as "Hajb al-Nuqsan". The presence of these brothers and sisters causing reduction in the share of parents, irrespective of whether they are real or whether they are from the same father but different mother or whether from the same mother but different father, under all such conditions, their presence will reduce the share of the mother - subject to their being more than one.
The text, after describing the fixed share, says: 'These shares for children and parents have been determined by Allah Almighty Himself in His infinite wisdom because He is Wise and He knows everything. The shares fixed have great considerations behind them. If the distribution of inheritance was left to your opinion, you would have made beneficialness the criterion of such distribution. But, who will be the best to receive or deliver real benefit is something which would have been difficult for you to ascertain with any measure of certainty. Therefore, 'nearness in kinship' was preferred to 'being beneficial' as the criterion of the injunction.
This verse of the Holy Qur'an clearly declares that the shares of inheritance determined by Allah'Almighty are settled injunctions from Him. Nobody has any right to enforce opinion or to increase or decrease its stipulations. These should be accepted whole-heartedly This command from everyone's Creator and Master is based on what is wise and beneficial for human beings. There is no aspect of benefit outside the expanse of His knowledge and there is no command He gives bereft of some or the other element of wisdom. Man cannot, all by himself, recognize his gain and loss in the real sense. If this question of the distribution of inheritance was left to man's personal opinion, it was certain that man would not have decided correctly because of his limitations in understanding and, as a result of which, lack of moderation and justice would have affected the distribution of inheritance. So, Allah Almighty, in His most exalted majesty, took this responsibility in His hands so that justice and equity reign supreme in the distribution of property and the capital left by the deceased circulates in the hands of competent inheritors in a manner which is just and equitable.(Ma'ariful Qur'an)
"And for you there is one-half of what your wives left behind, in case they have no child. But, if they have a child, you get one-fourth of what they left, after (settling) the will they might have made, or debt. And for them (the wives) there is one-fourth of what you left, in case you have no child. But, if you have a child, they get one-eight of what you left, after (settling) the will you might have made, or debt."[12...](4:12...)
Upto this point, the text has described the shares of those competent to inherit, those who had the affinity of lineage and birth with the deceased. The present verse talks about some others who do have the competence but are not related by lineage. Instead, they are related by marriage. Details appear in the Commentary.
The share of the husband and the wife
In this part of verse 12, the shares of the husband and the wife have been determined. The share of the husband has been mentioned first, perhaps to show its importance because after the death of the wife, the husband becomes part of some other family. If the wife dies at the home of her parents with her assets too being there, her people may avoid giving the share due to the husband. By describing the right of the husband first, the Holy Qur'an has possibly condemned this practice. To explain in details, it means that in case the deceased wife has left no child behind, the husband will get, after the payment of debt and execution of will, one-half of the total property left by the deceased. Out of the remaining half, other heirs, such as the parents of the deceased, her brothers and sisters, will get their shares according to rules set for them.
If the deceased wife has left children - one or two or more, whether male or female, either from the same husband, or from some previous husband, then, the present husband will get, after the payment of debt and execution of will, one-fourth of the total property left by the deceased woman. Shares from the remaining three-fourth will go to other heirs.
If it is the husband who dies leaving his wife behind and leaves no children, the wife will get, after the payment of debt and the execution of will, one-fourth of the total property left by the deceased. And if he has left a child - either from the present wife or from some other wife -she will get, after the settlement of debt and will, a one-eight share. And if the deceased husband had more than one wife, all alive at the time of his death, the attending details shall remain the same, however, the share prescribed for the 'wife' (i.e. 1/4 or 1/8) shall be divided equally between all the wives. In other words, every woman will not get a share of one-fourth and one-eighth. Instead, all wives will share the one-fourth or one-eight equally. Then, under both these conditions, the inheritance which remains after settling the share of the husband/ wife will be distributed among other heirs left by them.
It must be ascertained before the' distribution of inheritance that the mahr (dower) of the wife has been paid. If the deceased has not paid the mahr of his wife, this will be taken as debt, and will have to be paid first from the total property, like all other debts. The inheritance will be distributed only after that. It should be noted that the woman, after having received her mahr, shall go on to receive her fixed share in the inheritance as a competent inheritor. And in case, the property left by the deceased is not more than the value of dower, and nothing remains after it is paid, the ejitire property will be given to the woman against her debt of mahr very much like other debts and, as a result, no heir will receive any share from the inheritance thus used up.(Ma'ariful Qur'an)
..."And if the man being inherited, or the woman, is Kalalah (having no father or son to inherit) and he has a brother or a sister, then, for each of them there is one-sixth. And if they are more than that, they shall be sharers in one-third, after (settling) the will that might have been made, or debt, causing no damage. All this is prescribed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, Forbearing."[...12](4:12)
After having made a brief mention of rights of relations emerging from lineage and marriage, the text now introduces the injunction which covers the inheritance of a particular deceased who has left no children or parents, details of which appear below.
The Inheritance of Kalalah
This later part of verse 12 describes the injunction relating to the inheritance of Kalalah. There have been many definitions of Kalalah. Al-Qurtubi reports these in his Tafsir. According to the most well-known definition, 'A person who dies leaving no ascendants and descendants is Kalalah.'
'Allamah al-Alusi rahimahullah, the author of Ruh al-Ma'ani says that Kalalah is really a verbal noun used in the sense of Kalal meaning 'to become exhausted' which denotes 'weakness'. The name Kalalah has been applied to every relationship other than that of father and son because that relationship is weak as compared to the relationship of father and son.
Moreover, the word, Kalalah has also been applied to the deceased who left no son or father to inherit, as well as to the inheritor who is neither the son nor the father of the deceased. The lexical derivation requires that the word, : dhu, should be deemed as understood though not expressed explicitly. Thus Kalalah will be taken in the sense of Dhu Kalalah, meaning 'one having weak relation'. Later on, the word also came to be applied to the property left as inheritance by a deceased having no son and father.
In gist, if a person, man or woman, dies and leaves behind neither father nor grandfather nor children, but does leave a brother or sister from the same mother and different father, the brother will get 1/6 and, if there is none, the sister will get 1/6. However, if they are more than one (for example, there may be one brother and one sister, or two brothers and two sisters) then, they all will share one-third of the entire property of the deceased. Here, the male will not get twice that of the female.'
The share of the brother and sister
Let it be clear that this verse refers to the share of Akhyafi brothers and sisters (i.e. from the same mother and different fathers; also referred to as half-brothers and half-sisters). Though, this restriction has not been mentioned in the present verse, but consensus holds it as creditable. The Qira'ahor rendition of Sayyidna Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him in this verse is: (and he has a brother or sister from his mother) as has been reported by al-Qurtubi, al-Alusi, al-Jassas and others rahmatullahi alaihim. Although this rendition has not come to us through tawatur (a consistent narration of a very large number of persons in all ages) but because of the consensus of the entire Muslim ummah, it is worth practicing. Another clear proof is that Allah Almighty mentions the inheritance of Kalalah at the end of Surah Al-Nisa' as well. If, it has been said there, there is one sister, she will get half. And if there is one brother, he will inherit the entire property of his sister. And if there are two,sisters, they will get 2/3. And if there are several brothers and sisters, the male will be given twice that of the female.
This injunction appearing at the end of the Surah refers to 'Aini (real and full) brothers and sisters, and to Allati (from the same father and different mothers) brothers and sisters. If 'Allati and Aini brothers and sisters were to be included here, it will cause a contradiction in injunctions.
The issues regarding will (Wasiyyah)
The shares of inheritance have been described thrice in this section and it has been said that this distribution of shares comes after the execution of will and the payment of debt. As it has been stated earlier, one-third of what remains of the property, after taking care of the cost of the funeral for the deceased, and payment of debts, shall be applied to the execution of the will. If the will exceeds the extent of one-third, it is not legally enforceable. According to the rule of Shari'ah, the payment of debt comes before the execution of will. If the entire property is used up in paying debts, there will be no will to execute and no property to distribute. At all the three places where 'will' has been mentioned, 'it' appears before 'debt'. As obvious, this gives the impression that the right of 'will' precedes 'debt'. Removing this misunderstanding, Sayyidna 'Ali Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him said: (You recite the verse: that is, 'after settling the will they might have made, or debt' [where 'will' comes first] but [practically] the Holy Prophet, may peace be upon him, has settled, 'debt' before 'will').
Still, we have to know the point as to why will follows debt 'practically' while, in words, it has been mentioned earlier. In this connection, the author of Ruh al-Ma'ani has this to say: It means that the mention of will before debt in this verse is to emphasize upon the enforcement of the wills. Since the beneficiary of a will deserves it without any price paid by him, and often without having a kinship with the testator, it was likely that the inheritors ignore to enforce it or, at least, may cause unnecessary delay in its execution, because they may have not liked to see the property that was to be inherited by them, going to somebody else. So, it was to keep up the importance of will that it was mentioned before debt.
Then, it is also not necessary that every person incurs a debt, and if a person incurs it during his life-time, it is not necessary, that the said debt remains unpaid upto the time of his death. And even if the debt was due to be paid at the time of death, even then, since the claim of debt comes from the debtors to which the inheritors cannot say no, the likelihood of any shortcoming in this respect is slim. This is contrary to the case of will in which the deceased, when he bequeaths part of his property, earnestly desires that he should invest it in something good which serves as ongoing charity on his behalf. Since, there is no chance of a claim on this bequeathed property from any side, there was a possibility that the inheritors themselves might fall into some sort of shortcoming, so, it was to offset this likelihood that the 'will' has been mentioned first everywhere as a special measure.
1. If there is no debt and no will, the entire property, after taking care of the funeral expenses, will be distributed over the inheritors.
2. Making a will in favour of a heir is not lawful. If someone makes a will in favour of his son, daughter, husband or wife, or for someone else who is going to get a share in his inheritance, then, this will is not enforceable. The inheritors will get what is coming to them as their share in the inheritance. They are not entitled to more than that. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said in his famous address on the occasion of his last Hajj:
(Surely, Allah has given every person his (or her) right. So, there is no will for an inheritor.) (Mishkat with reference to Abu Dawud, p. 265)
However, should other inheritors permit, the will made in favour of a particular inheritor, may be executed first and, then, the rest of the property may be distributed in accordance with the method laid down by the Shari'ah, in which the particular inheritor will also get his fixed share from the inheritance. Some hadith narrations do carry the exception of (unless inheritors wish), (as in al-Hidayah).
The words (causing no damage) appearing after the rules of inheritence of Kalalah have a special significance. They are to warn that even though the execution of the will and paying off the debts have precedence over the shares of the heirs, yet this rule should not be misused to cause harm to the genuine inheritors.
If anyone makes a will or makes a false admission of indebtedness so as to deprive inheritors, then, he is doing something strictly forbidden and is committing a major sin.
There are many ways damage can be done through debt and will. For example, one may deliberately lie that he is in debt, just to let that be given to a friend or somebody else. Or, he may show something special which he owns personally as something he holds in trust for somebody so that it can stay out of the total inheritable property. Or, one may make a will for property beyond the extent of one-third. Or, he lies about an unpaid loan he gave to somebody and says that the debt was paid off so that it does not pass on to the inheritors. Or, one may, during his illness culminating in death , make a gift of more than one-third in the name of somebody.
These are forms of causing damage. Every legator who is going to bid farewell to this mortal world should do his best to stay away from causing such damages during the last moments of his life.
It should be noticed that although the words 'causing no damage' have appeared only with the rules relating to Kalalah, however, the rule laid down by them is general and is also understood at two previous places where the precedence of will and debt has been mentioned in these verses. Therefore, it is not the Kalalah only who should refrain from causing harm to his inheritors, but the same rule applies to all persons who wish to make a will.
The emphasis on distribution according to fixed shares
Towards the end of the verse, after the shares of inheritance have been described, Allah Almighty has said: (All this is prescribed by Allah). It means that it is imperative to act upon whatever has been prescribed in relation to shares as fixed and the payment of debt and the execution of will as emphasized. Being a mandate and injunction of supreme significance, one should do nothing to contravene it. Then, as additional warning it was said: (And Allah is All-Knowing, Forbearing). It means that Allah knows everything and He has apportioned these shares knowing everybody's true state of being as in His knowledge. Whoever obeys and acts in accordance with these injunctions, this good deed of his shall not remain outside the reach of His knowledge. And whoever contravenes these injunctions, this evil conduct of his shall certainly appear as it is in the knowledge of Allah for which he shall be held accountable.
In addition to that, if a deceased person has caused damage to his heirs through debt or will, Allah knows that as well. So, one should never be fearless from Allah's punishment. However, it is quite possible that Allah Almighty may not punish a person right here in this mortal world, because He is Forbearing. But, the one who disobeys and acts in contravention should better not deceive himself by thinking that he really got away.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"These are the limits set by Allah. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will admit him to gardens beneath which rivers flow, remaining there for ever. And that is a great success.  And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and crosses the limits set by Him, He shall admit him to the Fire, remaining there for ever. And for him there is a humiliating punishment."(4:13-14)
It is the consistent style of the Holy Qur'an that whenever it has described the beliefs and injunctions prescribed by Allah, it is followed by promises of reward or warnings of punishment.
This is what has been done here in these two verses after mentioning the rules of inheritance. The purpose is to stress upon Muslims to obey these injunctions.
Some Additional Rules Of Inheritance
A Muslim Cannot Inherit from a Kafir
Although, the distribution of inheritance is based on nearness of kinship, but there are certain exceptions to this rule. First of all, the deceased and his inheritor should not be from two different religions. Therefore, a Muslim will not inherit from any kafir and no kafir from a Muslim, no matter what lineal relationship they may have between them. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said:
(The Muslim does not inherit the kafir, nor does the kafir (inherit) the Muslim.) (Mishkat, p. 263)
This rule relates to a situation when a person is a Muslim or a kafir by birth. But, if a person who was first a Muslim, turned away from Islam and became an apostate and died or was killed in that state of apostasy, all his earnings while being a Muslim shall go to his Muslim inheritors, and whatever he may have earned after his apostasy shall be deposited in the Bayt al-Mal (Public Exchequer).
But, if a woman becomes an apostate, all her property, whether acquired during her days of Islam or during apostasy, shall go to her Muslim inheritors. However, an apostate as such, man or woman, shall not inherit from any Muslim nor from any other apostate.
The Inheritance of the Killer
If someone kills a person from whose property he was entitled to receive a share, he shall no longer remain his inheritor and shall be excluded from the inheritance of the person whom he has killed.
The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: (The killer shall not inherit.) (Mishkat, p. 263) However, some forms of qatal al-khata' (accidental or unintended homicide) are excepted from this rule, details of which appear in books of Fiqh.
The Inheritance of the Unborn Child
If a person leaves some children and his wife is pregnant, then this unborn child will also be counted among inheritors. But, since it is either difficult or uncertain to determine the sex or the number of children in the mother's womb, it would be appropriate to postpone the distribution of inheritance until the birth of the child. If, the distribution of property has to be made necessarily, then, as an expedient measure, one must suppose two situations in terms of a boy or a girl and distribute to the inheritors the lesser portion coming out of the two situations. The remaining should be held for the child-to-be-born.
The Inheritance of a Woman in the Period of Iddah
In case a person divorces his wife and the divorce is revocable, and this person dies before the revocation of the divorce and the expiry of his wife's waiting period, then this woman will get a share in the inheritance, for the marriage is in force.
If a person divorces his wife during his sickness culminating in his death, even though the divorce is irrevocable or pronounced thrice, and he died before the expiry of the waiting period, even then, this woman will get a share in the inheritance. And in order to make her inherit, the longer of the two waiting periods shall be taken as operative in the following manner
The waiting period following a divorce is three menstrual periods and the waiting period following the death of the husband is four (lunar) months and ten days. The waiting period out of the two which lasts longer shall be prescribed as the waiting period for the aforesaid woman so that the woman may get a share in the inheritance as far as possible.
And if a person divorces his wife, irrevocably or by pronouncing it thrice, prior to any sickness culminating in his death and, a few days later he passes away during the period of his wife's waiting period, then, she will not get a share in the inheritance under this situation. However, if the divorce given was revocable, she will inherit.
If a' wife secures a separation from the husband at her own instance (khul') within the period of his sickness which culminates in his death, then, she will not be an inheritor, even though her husband may die during her waiting period.
The Inheritance of 'Asbat'
There are twelve heirs for whom specified shares have been settled and fixed by the Shari'ah known as Fara'id. These heirs are called "ashaabul-furood", that is, 'the possessors of obligatory shares in inheritance as determined in the Holy Qur'an.' These have been explained earlier. If there is no heir from the category of ashabul-furud or there remains some property after shares have been given to ashabul-furud, this remainder or residue is given to 'asbah (agnatic heir, or residuary). There are times when one person alone inherits in both capacities. There are other situations when the children of the deceased and his father too become 'asbah and so do the offspring of the father, that is, the brother.
There are several kinds of 'asbat or agnates, details of which appear in the books of Fara'id. To illustrate, here is an example: Zayd died leaving behind four heirs - wife, daughter, mother and uncle. Zayd's property will be divided into a total of twenty four shares. Half of these, that is, twelve shares will go to the daughter, three shares to the wife against her 1/8, four shares to the mother against her 1/6, and the residue of five shares will go the uncle in the capacity of his being 'asbah, the nearest male agnate.
1. If there are no 'asbat' (agnatic Heirs) the residue of the property following the distribution of shares to ashabul-furud, is also given to them. In the terminology of 'Ilmul-fara'id, this is known as the principle of Radd or Return since the residue 'returns' to them in proportion to their shares. However, the husband or the wife is not entitled to this 'return' and they are not given any more than their specified shares.
2. If there is no one from ashabul-furud and no one from 'asbat either, the inheritance goes to Dhawil-Arham (maternal kinsmen). There is a large list of Dhawil-Arham which includes maternal grandsons and grand daughters, offspring of sisters, paternal aunts, maternal uncles, and aunts. Since the subject has lot more details which cannot be taken up in the present context, it is hoped that comments already offered will be sufficient.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"And those of your women who commit the shameful act, then have four witnesses from among you. So, if they do testify, then confine those women to their homes until death overcomes them or Allah prescribes a way for them.  And those two of you who commit it, torture them both. But if they repent and amend, turn away from them. Surely, Allah is Most-Relenting, Very-Merciful."
In previous verses, the objective was to correct the malpractices of the days of ignorance committed about orphans and inheritances. The people of jahiliyyah also used to subject women to cruel treatment. They had certain other evil customs also, such as marrying prohibited women.
The present verses are meant to correct such customs, however, it has been permitted that if a woman commits a proven guilt, she can be punished. This subject of correcting the evil customs will continue through the next two or three sections.
These verses prescribe punishments for men and women who commit zina, (adultery or fornication). If this comes from women, the first verse requires the presence of four male witnesses to prove it. It means that the executive authority before which the case goes should call for four qualified witnesses to prove zina. Then, it is necessary that all the witnesses are male. The testimony of women in this connection is not valid.
Since the guilt of zina is of extremely grave nature which not only violates honour and modesty, but also brings bad name to the family, Islam has taken very strict attitude while setting the standard of evidence to prove this guilt. Firstly, there came the condition that witnesses have to be men; the evidence of women was not considered valid. Secondly, the number of the required witnesses is raised to four. As obvious, this condition is very hard to meet. It is something which can very seldom take place. This strict approach was taken so that the husband of the woman, his mother or (another) wife or sister do not level undue accusations against her out of personal spite. It was also to check that other ill-wishing people do not get any chance to release their personal hostility by accusing her falsely.
Testimony to zina by less than four individuals renders their evidence invalid in which case the complainant and the witnesses may all be charged as liars and the Hadd of Qadhf (punishment for false accusation) becomes operative against them for having falsely accused a Muslim. It has been very clearly said in Surah An-Nur that those who cannot produce four witnesses are liars.
Some revered elders, describing the wisdom behind the need to have four witnesses, have said that since this case involves two individuals, man and woman, this one single case comes, so to speak, under the purview of one rule for two cases. Since each case requires two witnesses, so four witnesses will be necessary in this case.
Towards the end of the verse, it is said that should they both repent and correct themselves, then, leave them. It means that, in case they have repented after punishment, they should not be disgraced and punished any more. It does not mean that the act of repentance has absolved them of the punishment because this repentance has been mentioned after punishment as obvious from the ramification of the letter fa (literally, "then, turn away", which has been left as understood in the present translation). However, in case repentance has not been made, reproach is in order even after punishment.
No definite Hadd (punishment) has been described in these two verses of the Holy Qur'an. What has been said here is limited to "torture them" and "confine the fornicating women to their homes". No particular method of such "torture" has,been described either, and this has been left to the discretion of the authorities. Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him says that torture here means that they should be verbally reproached and put to shame, as well as, given physical punishment such as hitting with hands and shoes ... This statement reported from Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him appears to be illustrative. The fact of the matter is that this whole thing has been left to the discretion of the authorities.
In the order of revelation, the injunction 'to torture' the adulterers came first, and it was later that the women guilty of adultery were ordered to be 'confined to their homes'. While giving this command, the Holy Qur'an has mentioned two limits for the period of their confinement. The words used are: "Confine those women to their homes until death overcomes them or Allah prescribes a way for them". It means that such women shall be confined to their homes till their death, however, if Allah prescribes some, other punishment for them while they are still alive, then that punishment will replace the punishment of confinement. That new (expected) punishment has been referred to in this verse as 'a way' prescribed by Allah.
Later this 'way' as promised in this verse was prescribed and was revealed. Interpreting the word 'way' used in this verse, Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him says, (that is, stoning to death, for the married and lashing for the unmarried.) (al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, v.2, p. 657)
This "way" stands proved through clear statements of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him himself where the relevant injunctions for the married and the unmarried have been described separately. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him had pronounced the Hadd punishment of zina in the case of Sayyidna Ma'iz ibn Malik Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him and a woman from the tribe of Azd. Since both of them were married, they were stoned to death. In addition to that, a couple from among the Jews of Madinah was also stoned to death because of zina and this judgment against them was pronounced on the authority of an injunction of Torah.
The injunction relating to the unmarried offender is mentioned in Surah al-Nur of the Holy Qur'an itself:
(The fornicator, woman or man, administer each one of them - a hundred lashes.) - (24:2)
A verse of the Holy Qur'an was also revealed earlier to cover the injunction of rajm (stoning to death), but its recitation was later on abrogated. However, the injunction itself was retained as operative.
Sayyidna 'Umar Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him has said: (Surely, Allah sent Muhammad Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him with the truth and sent down to him the Book. Then, in what was revealed by Allah Almighty there was the verse of Rajm. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him stoned and we stoned after him and the revealed injunction of Rajm stands proved against every one who commits zina despite being married, whether man or woman.) (al-Bukhari, Muslim, as in Mishkat, p. 309)
To sum up, the injunction of 'torturing' and 'confining to homes' which appears in these verses was abrogated after the subsequent revelation of the legal Hadd punishment of zina, that is, one hundred lashes or Rajm will be mandatory. More details in this connection will, God willing, appear in the commentary on Surah al-Nur.
The above discussion was based on the assumptions that both verses 15 and 16 relate to the fornication or adultery committed between men and women. However, some commentators of the Holy Qur'an, including Qadi Thanaullah Panipati, are of the view that verse 16 refers to homosexual act committed between two males. Verse 16 is translated as follows:
"And those two of you who commit it (the shameful act), torture them both."
Here the Arabic word used for 'those two of you is a musculine pronoun which presumes males on both sides. On this basis, these commentators have opined that this verse relates to two males committing unnatural shameful act, i.e. homosexuality. The commentators, who take both verses as referring to fornication or adultery, refute this argument on the principle that in general usage musculine expressions include feminine also. Be that as it may, the possibility of a reference to homosexuality in this verse cannot be ruled out. Therefore, it is pertinent here to give some details about the severe prohibition of homosexuality. Here are some Traditions of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him and his noble Companions on this subject:
As narrated by Sayyidna Abu Hurairah Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "Allah has cursed seven types of his creatures from above the seven heavens. He has cursed one of them thrice, while has cursed the others one time which is enough for them. (About the one whom He has cursed thrice) He has said, "Cursed is he who did what the people of Lot did. Cursed is he who did what the people of Lot did. Cursed is he who did what the people of Lot did." (At-Targhib wat-Tarhib)
Sayyidna Abu Hurairah Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him, reports that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "Four types of people are, when they begin their day, under the wrath of Allah and when they reach their evenings they are under the rage of Allah." I asked: "Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?" He said: "Men who imitate women and women who imitate men and he who goes unto animals and he who goes unto men", (op. cit.)
As narrated by Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "If you find someone doing what the people of Loot (A.S.) did, kill both the doer and the one with whom it is done." (op. cit.)
In At-Targhib wat-Tarhib cited above, Hafiz Zaki al-Din has said that four caliphs, Sayyidna Abu Bakr, Sayyidna 'Ali, Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn Zubayr and Hisham ibn 'Abdul-Malik (R.A) had condemned those guilty of sodomy to the fire.
In this connection, he has also related, on the authority of Muhammad ibn Al-Munkadir, an event to the effect that Sayyidna Khalid ibn Walid Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him wrote a letter to Sayyidna Abu Bakr Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him reporting that there was a man in a certain Arabian locality with whom they did what is done with women. Sayyidna Abu Bakr Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him called a meeting of the noble Companions, - Sayyidna 'Ali Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him being one of them. He said that a sin like that was not committed by any human group except one, and they all knew how Allah Almighty dealt with those people. He proposed that the man be condemned to fire. Other Companions concurred and Sayyidna Abu Bakr Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him decreed accordingly.
In the Hadith narrations quoted above, the act of the people of Lut has been repeatedly mentioned. The reference is to the people to whom Sayyidna Lut (A.S) (Lot) was sent as their prophet. Apart from their disbelief in the Divine Message and the Messenger, and their ascribing all sorts of partners to Allah, they were also addicted to this abominably unnatural practice. When the preachings and teachings of Sayyidna Lut (A.S) had no effect on them, the angels acted as commanded by Allah Almighty. They physically lifted the habitations of these people off the ground, then a flip upside down, and down they threw the whole thing back on the ground. Details will, Inshallah, appear in the Commentary on Surah al-A'raf.
The hadith narrations given above related to homosexual act. There are other narrations which carry the severest of warnings against indulging in the unnatural act (anal intercourse) with women:
Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "Allah Almighty does not look (mercifully) at the man who commits anal intercourse with a man or woman."
Sayyidna Khuzaimah ibn Thabit Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him says that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "Allah does not get embarrassed by stating the truth." He said this thrice. Then, he said:"Do not go unto women anally."
Sayyidna Abu Hurairah Radhi-Allahu Anh: Allah be pleased with him narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "Cursed is he who goes unto women anally." (At-Targhib wat-Tarhib)
He also narrates that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him said: "One who goes unto a woman in menstruation, or in her anus or goes to a soothsayer (kahin) and accepts his statement relating to the unknown, then, such people have rejected what was revealed to Muhammad Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam: Peace be upon him."
As for a fixed punishment for this evil act, there is a difference of opinion among Muslim jurists, details of which are available in books of Fiqh. Nevertheless, the nature of such punishments reported by them is as severe as it can be, such as, burning into fire, bashing under a wall felled over, throwing down from a height, stoning and beheading with a sword.[Ma'ariful Qur'an]
"The relenting taken by Allah upon Himself if for those who do evil in ignorance then repent shortly there after. So, Allah relents towards them. And Allah is All- Knowing, All-Wise.  And the relenting is not for those who do the evil deeds until when the time of death approaches one of them, he says, "Now I repent", nor for those who die while they are still disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment."(4:17-18)
Repentance was mentioned in the previous verse. Now, given in the present two verses are conditions under which repentance is or is not accepted.
Repentance From A Deliberate Sin
At this point, it should be noted that the Holy Qur'an has used the words "in ignorance" which apparently gives an impression that the repentance may be accepted when a sin is committed unintentionally and unknowingly. But if it is committed deliberately, it will not be acceptable. However, according to the explanation of this verse given by the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, the word, "jahalah" (ignorance) here does not mean that a sinning person is, not aware of a sin as sin, or has no intention or volition to commit a sin. Instead, it means that it was the insensitivity and heedlessness of a person towards the evil end of sin and its ultimate punishment which became the cause of his audacity to venture into sin, even though he knew a sin as sin, and had approached it with intention and volition as well.
In other words, the word, "jahalah" or ignorance used here is in the sense of carelessness or stupidity. This is supported by an evidence in Surah Yusuf. Sayyidna Yusuf (Joseph, peace be upon him) had said to his brothers. The brothers have been called, "jahiloon", the ignorant ones, although what they did was not the outcome of any error or forgetfulness but they had done that knowingly and with full deliberation. Yet, it is because of their heedlessness towards the evil end of their act that they have been called "jahil" (ignorant).
Abu al-'Aliyah and Qatadah (may Allaah have mercy on them) report that the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, agreed that 'any sin committed by a servant of Allah is, anyway, an act of ignorance, be it deliberate or otherwise.'
The master of exegesis, Mujahid (May Allaah have mercy on him) said: "Every one who is doing anything in disobedience to Allah is, for that matter, ignorant while doing it," even though, on the outside, he may appear to be a person of great learning. (ibn Kathlr)
In his Tafsir, al-Bahr al-Muhit, Abu Hayyan (may Allaah have mercy on him) has said: "This is just like what has been reported in a hadith - 'a person who commits zina (adultery) will not be doing so while in a state of being a true Muslim.' It means that the time when he succumbed to the temptation of this evil act, that was the time when he was flung far off from the demand of his faith. For this reason, Sayyidna 'Ikrimah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: 'Everything one does in this mortal world - outside the framework of obedience to Allah - is ignorance.'
The logic is very obvious since the person disobeying Allah is preferring short-lived pleasures over those ever-lasting; and anyone who takes the punishment which will last for ever and ever in exchange for this short-lived series of pleasures cannot be called rational, sensible or smart. Such a person would be universally termed as ignorant, even if he knows the evil of his act and has all the intention and resolve to go ahead with it.
The gist of the discussion so far is that the sin that a man commits, deliberately or mistakenly, gets committed due to nothing but jihalat' or ignorance. Therefore, there is a consensus of the entire Muslim ummah on the principle that the repentance of a person who commits some sin deliberately can also be accepted. (al-Bahr al-Muhit)
Incidentally, there is another point worth attention in the present verse which prescribes a condition for the acceptance of repentance - that one should repent soon without delaying it. The Qur'anic words are: "Shortly thereafter." What does "shortly" signify and how muchtime will come within the limit of "shortly"? The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has himself explained this in a hadeeth that Allah Almighty accepts the repentance of His servant until the time he passes into the throes of death and his soul struggles to get out of his rattling throat.
Muhaddith Ibn Marduwayh (may Allaah have mercy on him) has narrated from Sayyidna 'Abdullah Ibn 'Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) that he heard the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying: 'A believing servant of Allah who repents from his sin a month before his death, or repents a day or a moment earlier, Allah Almighty shall accept his repentance, the condition being that the repentance should be genuine and sincere.' (Ibn Kathir)
In short, the explanation of "min qarib" (shortly thereafter) given by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) himself tells us that virtually man's whole life-time comes under "qarib" and, as such, any repentance which is offered well before death shall be acceptable. However, the repentance made by man while in throes of death is not acceptable. Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanavi (may Allah have mercy on him) in his Tafsir Bayan al-Qur'an, has elaborated the subject by saying that man faces two conditions when close to death.
Firstly, there is the condition of utter hopelessness when all medicines and efforts fail and man comes to realize that death is round the corner. This is known as the state of conscious suffering.
The second condition relates to what comes after, that is, when the pangs of the departure of human soul begin and the fated time of ghargharah (the onomatopoetic rattling sound emerging from the throat, a herald of approaching death) comes close. This is known as the state of total despair. The first condition, that is, the condition of conscious suffering comes within the sense of "min qarib" and the repentance made at that time is accepted; but, the repentance in the second condition, that is, the condition of total despair, is not acceptable, for this is a condition when the angels and things belonging to the Hereafter may start appearing before the dying person, and they are not included in the sense of "min qarib". This explanation given by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has been pointed out by the Holy Qur'an itself in the following verse (i.e. verse 18) where it is expressly mentioned that repenting,
So, in the light of this explanation the addition of "min qarib" (shortly thereafter) in this verse serves to indicate that the very lifespan of man is limited in time, and death, which he may think is far away, may actually be quite near.
"Relenting taken by Allah upon Himself is a form of promise the fulfillment of which is certain. Otherwise the truth is that Allah Almighty does not necessarily owe anything to anyone.
The second verse (18) describes those whose repentance is not acceptable with Allah, those who fearlessly go on committing sins throughout their entire lives yet, when death stands on their head and the withdrawal of their soul is set in motion and the angels of death start becoming visible, they start offering repentance. How could their repentance become acceptable when they kept running wild with their lives and wasted all opportunities of repenting while there was still time to repent. This is very much like Pharaoh and his people who called out while drowning that they were ready to believe in the Lord of Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) (peace be upon them both). Naturally, they were told that their declaration of faith at that time was of no consequence, because the time set for it was all over.
The same thing has been pointed out in the last sentence of the verse which says that Allah also does not accept the repentance of those who die while they are still disbelievers. What is the worth of a declaration of faith right in the middle of one's match with death facing the pangs of the withdrawal of the soul from the body? This confession or this declaration of faith is out of tune with the time and quite worthless now as their punishment stands prepared for them.
What Is Repentance?
After the literal explanation of these two verses, it seems necessary to define Taubah or repentance and determine its real nature and status. In his Thya' al-'Ulum, Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah have mercy on him) has identified three different situations with regard to committing sins:
The first state is that of total sinlessness, that is, no sin has ever been committed. This is either the hallmark of angels or that of the prophets, may peace be on them.
The second stage of getting involved in sin comes when one takes the initiative and ventures into sin and then repeats and persists with it, never feeling ashamed or regretfuland never thinking of stopping and abandoning it. This is the degree of the satans and the devils.
The third station belongs to human beings, the children of Adam who, immediately after having committed a sin, regret it and resolve firmly not to go near it in future. This tells us that failing to repent after committing a sin is the style of devils exclusively. Therefore, it is the consensus of the entire Muslim ummah that Taubah is obligatory. The Holy Qur'an says: (O those who believe, repent before Allah, a sincere repentance; may be your Lord removes from you your sins and admits you to gardens beneath which rivers flow.) (66:8)
How generous is the mercy of our Lord! A man spends a whole lifetime in disobeying Him. Nevertheless, when he repents sincerely before his death, not only his sins are forgiven, but he receives much more when he is admitted into the circle of favoured servants of Allah and made an inheritor of Paradise.
In a hadeeth, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has been reported to have said: 'One who repents from sin is loved by Allah and one who has repented from sin is like one who had never committed a sin.' (Ibn Majah)
According to some narrations, if a servant of Allah repents from a sin and his repentance finds acceptance with Him, he is not only absolved from having to account for it, but the very record in writing posted by the angels is erased out from his book of deeds so that he may not be disgraced either.
However, what is necessary is that the repentance is genuine and is offered in sincerity. This repentance stands on three pillars.
Firstly, one should regret over and feel ashamed about what he or she has done. According to hadeeth, 'Taubah is (another name of) remorse'.
Secondly, one should immediately leave off the sin he has committed and he should, for the future too, firmly resolve to stay away from it.
Thirdly, one should think of making amends for what has gone by, that is, he should try to take measures to rectify what has happened in sin to the best of his ability. For example, if he has missed a prayer or a fast, he should make up for it by doing what is known as qada (compensatory worship). If one does not remember the correct number of such missed prayers and fasts, he should think, calculate and come to an estimated number and then go on to offer qada for these in all seriousness. If one finds it impossible to do so all at one time, he could offer, with each salah due at its time, one qada of each salah he missed throughout his life, which is commonly known as 'umriqada. In the same way, one should do his best to make up, as and when convenient, for obligatory fasts he missed by offering qada fasts. May be one has not paid the obligatory zakah due on him; he should, then pay the zakah due on him for previous years as well, paying it all or paying it gradually. God forbid, if one has usurped someone's right, he should return it back to him and if he has hurt someone, he should seek his forgiveness. But, should it be that one does not regret what he has done, or, despite being regretful, he does not leave off that sin for future, then, this repentance is no repentance even though it may be said a thousand times, as so delightfully put in verse by a Persian poet:
Repentance on the lips, rosary in hand
and a heart full of the taste of sin
Sin laughs at my style of seeking forgiveness!
The point being made here is that man, once he repents as stated earlier, and despite having been in all sorts of sins, becomes a servant dear to Allah. And should it ever be that, out of human weakness, one does fall into sin yet another time, he should immediately renew his repentance in the fond hope that this time, like every other time, Allah Almighty shall, being Most-Forgiving, relent towards him. Let me conclude with yet another Persian couplet which says:
This is the Court of My Presence,
not the Court of Despair.
Even if you have broken (the promise in) your repentance
a hundred times, come again!
"O those who believe, it is not lawful for you that you should forcibly take women as inheritance. And do not hold on to them so that you may get away with some of what you have given them, unless they commit a clearly shameful act. And live with them in the recognized manner. And if you dislike them, then it is quite likely that you dislike something and Allah has placed in it a lot of good. 
If you want to take a wife in place of the one (you have), and you have given her a lot, then do not take back anything from it through imputation and open sin? 
And how can you take it when you have had access to each other and they have taken a firm covenant from you."(4:19-21)
Sequence of verses
Repentance was mentioned in the previous verses in proportion to the related requirement of the text. Before this, there was a series of injunctions pertaining to women. The present verses too carry some more imperatives against the excesses suffered by women at the hands of their husbands, even heirs. Details appear in the Commentary. The aim is to correct such social disorders. It may be noted that husbands have been particularly addressed in Sfejiie (live with them). Verses 20 and 21 conclude the subject.
Women before Islam: Eradication of Injustices
Given in these three verses are steps taken to eliminate injustices to which women were commonly subjected:
1. The most glaring of these was that men used to act as owners of the life and property of women, so much so, that a woman taken in marriage was passed on as a piece of property after her husband's death, on to his heirs. They were considered as the new owners and inheritors of the property, plus the wife. They could, if they wished to, marry her or give her in marriage to somebody else against payment.
The son of the husband from another wife could himself marry her after the death of his father. When a living human being has been taken as an article of ownership, what would have happened to the normal property is all too obvious. This one basic social ill became the cause of hundreds of other unjust practices against women, some of which are pointed out below:
(a) If a woman received some property in inheritance or some gift from her parents, the poor thing stayed deprived of it. Everything received in her name was devoured by men at her husband's home.
(b) If, somehow the woman did come in possession of her share of the property, men would prevent her from remarrying so that she could not take her share out of the house - they wanted her to die right there where she was, leaving her property which they could possess after her.
(c) In some places there was the practice that if the husband did not like his wife because of whimsical factors and not because of any shortcoming of the wife, then, while he skipped relating to her as his wife, did not get rid of her by giving her a divorce. This was to harass her to the limit that she was forced to give him back the jewellery and dower money he had given her; or, if he had not yet given these as due, he expected that she would forgo her claim before she could hope to be released. There were situations when the husband, despite having divorced her would not let the divorced wife remarry so that she breaks up and returns to him the amount of dower he had given her, or forgoes the dower still unpaid.
(d) On occasions, following the death of her husband, his heirs would not let the widow remarry. They would do so either to satisfy their false sense of prestige, or to let her go only after they get something for themselves in the deal.
As said earlier, all these injustices were perpetrated on the basis of the central assumption that man owned not only the property but also the very life of the woman. The Holy Qur'an struck at the very root of this evil which produced other injustices and openly declared: O those who believe, it is not lawful for you that you should forcibly take women as inheritance.
The word "forcibly" does not appear here as a condition which would have given the impression that their becoming owners of women with the later's approval was all right, but this restriction has been introduced here as a statement of fact.
It means that taking over the charge of the life and property of women as self-appointed owners without any legal or rational basis whatsoever could, obviously, be only "forcibly". How could a woman, in her normal senses, ever agree to such a proposition? (al-Bahr al-Muhit)
This is why the Shari'ah of Islam does not accept her approval in this matter as effective. If any woman, so out of her mind, approves of being owned by somebody, the Islamic law is not willing to concede this position.
The common method of preventing injustice and disorder would be to use a prohibitive order, but the Holy Qur'an has avoided this common method at this place and has expressed the element of prohibition by negating the lawfulness of this act by saying: 'it is not lawful for you'. Here, in addition to stressing upon the severe sinfulness of this matter, the purpose may also be to indicate that, should it be that someone does go on to marry an adult woman without her consent and permission, the marriage thus entered into shall not be lawful and, in fact, it is null and void. Being totally nonsequitilr, no husband-wife relationship between the mail and woman gets established from such a marriage, nor do the injunctions of inheritance or lineage follow from it.
Similarly, if someone forces a woman and takes back the dower he had given her, or compels her to forgo the outstanding dower, this forced return or forgiveness is not valid in the sight of the Shari'ah. Money or property taken in this manner do not make them lawful for the man, nor does it cause any due right to be forgiven. This subject has been further clarified in: 'Do not prevent women from marrying at their choice with the intention of taking back what you, or a relative, have already given to them as dower or gift.'
So, the giving and the taking back of dower is inclusive of the incidence of making the woman forgive the dower the payment of which is due, fixed and agreed upon. Whether one forces the woman to return the dower amount already paid or forces her to forgo the dower still outstanding, both are impermissible and patently haram (forbidden). Similarly, whatever has been given to the wife as gift, "or something of which she has become the 'owner', cannot be taken back by the husband, or the heirs, for it is not lawful for them to do so. However, this rule applies only to a situation where anything has been assigned to her as an owner. If something was given to her for a temporary use, like jewellery or any other article, not making her the owner of it, then, that simply does not enter into the 'ownership' of the wife and, therefore, asking for their return is not forbidden.
The text, after that, exempts some such situations under which it becomes permissible for the husband to take back what he has given, including the dower. It means that should the woman commit an act which is clearly shameful and which naturally compels the man to divorce her, then, this will be a situation in which it does not matter if the husband holds back the word of divorce until such time that the woman returns the dower he had given her or forgoes the outstanding dower, if that is the case.
According to Sayyidna Ibn 'Abbas (رضي الله عنهما), Sayyidah 'A'ishah (رضي الله عنها), and Hadrat Dahhak (رحمه الله), and others, the word, "fahisha" (translated as 'a shameful act') here means disobedience to the husband and indecent abuses against him; while, Abu Qilabah (رحمه الله) and Hasan al-Basri (رحمه الله), take it to mean immodesty and adultery in this particular place. Thus, the sense would come to be: If these women happen to commit some shameful act or they behave disobediently and vituperatively which forces the husband to think of a divorce, then, this being a fault of the woman, the husband has the right to hold her in the bond of marriage, until he receives back what he had given her, or has the outstanding dower forgiven by her.
The next two verses (20, 21) also enlarge upon this subject. Here it has been said that, should it be that the woman has just not shown any contumacy or immodesty, but the husband, following his own physical desire and pleasure, intends to marry another woman in her place, then again it will not be permissible for him to claim anything from her in exchange of divorce, even though he had given her a lot of wealth. Similarly, it will not be allowed for him to force her to forgo the dower due against him. This is because there is no fault of the woman and the cause which makes the dower due and payable has been vacated, that is, they -have been married and have had their privacy with each other. Now, the husband has no right to take back what he has given her or make her forgo the dower. That the taking back of this amount is an injustice and sin has been later on described in three stages. First, it was said: 'do you want to take it through imputation and an open sin?"
This sentence refers back to the previous verse (19) where it was laid down that the husband has no right to take back the dower from his wife except when she has committed axshameful act. On the basis of this principle the present verse (20) says that if you take back the dower from your wife, it will mean that you are imputing her for a shameful act, because it is the only situation where your claim may be rightful. Since your wife has not committed a shameful act, your claim to the dower is a false imputation which is an open sin.
Secondly, in the following sentence in verse 21, it was said: How can you now take back what you had given her when not only the marriage has been solemnized, but you have also had access to each other in privacy? For, in this situation, whatever has been given, if against dower, the woman certainly deserved it. She now owns it because she surrendered herself to her husband. The idea that it could be returned is senseless. Even if this money or property given by the husband was presented or gifted, even then, it is not possible that it could be returned because what a husband and wife give to each other as gift cannot be taken back. Such claim of its return is neither permissible in Shari'ah, nor is it legally enforced. So, marital bond prevents the taking back of what has been given as gift.
The same subject has been stated in the last sentence of verse 21: (and they have taken a firm covenant from you). This 'covenant' is the bond of marriage which is solemnly attested to with the name of Allah before a gathering of people following a khutbah. To sum up, once this marital covenant has been made and mutual privacy has brought the couple close together, to force the woman to return what was given to her is open injustice and tyranny. All Muslims must abstain from it.(Ma'ariful Qur'an)
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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