Surah An-Nisaa (4): Read Online and Download - English Translation

This page contains all verses of surah An-Nisaa in addition to Interpretation of all verses by Maarif-ul-Quran (Mufti Muhammad Shafi). In the first part you can read surah النساء ordered in pages exactly as it is present in the Quran. To read an interpretation of a verse click on its number.

Information About Surah An-Nisaa

Surah An-Nisaa
سُورَةُ النِّسَاءِ
Page 77 (Verses from 1 to 6)

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ ٱتَّقُوا۟ رَبَّكُمُ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَٰحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَآءً ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِى تَسَآءَلُونَ بِهِۦ وَٱلْأَرْحَامَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا وَءَاتُوا۟ ٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰٓ أَمْوَٰلَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا تَتَبَدَّلُوا۟ ٱلْخَبِيثَ بِٱلطَّيِّبِ ۖ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوٓا۟ أَمْوَٰلَهُمْ إِلَىٰٓ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ حُوبًا كَبِيرًا وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا۟ فِى ٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ فَٱنكِحُوا۟ مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ ٱلنِّسَآءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَٰثَ وَرُبَٰعَ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا۟ فَوَٰحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰٓ أَلَّا تَعُولُوا۟ وَءَاتُوا۟ ٱلنِّسَآءَ صَدُقَٰتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً ۚ فَإِن طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَن شَىْءٍ مِّنْهُ نَفْسًا فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيٓـًٔا مَّرِيٓـًٔا وَلَا تُؤْتُوا۟ ٱلسُّفَهَآءَ أَمْوَٰلَكُمُ ٱلَّتِى جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ قِيَٰمًا وَٱرْزُقُوهُمْ فِيهَا وَٱكْسُوهُمْ وَقُولُوا۟ لَهُمْ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا وَٱبْتَلُوا۟ ٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغُوا۟ ٱلنِّكَاحَ فَإِنْ ءَانَسْتُم مِّنْهُمْ رُشْدًا فَٱدْفَعُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَٰلَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا تَأْكُلُوهَآ إِسْرَافًا وَبِدَارًا أَن يَكْبَرُوا۟ ۚ وَمَن كَانَ غَنِيًّا فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ فَقِيرًا فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَٰلَهُمْ فَأَشْهِدُوا۟ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِ حَسِيبًا

Listen to Surah An-Nisaa (Arabic and English translation)

Tafsir of Surah An-Nisaa (Maarif-ul-Quran: Mufti Muhammad Shafi)

English Translation

O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.

English Transliteration

Ya ayyuha alnnasu ittaqoo rabbakumu allathee khalaqakum min nafsin wahidatin wakhalaqa minha zawjaha wabaththa minhuma rijalan katheeran wanisaan waittaqoo Allaha allathee tasaaloona bihi waalarhama inna Allaha kana AAalaykum raqeeban

Sequence _ _

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 inter-acting with them, such as, the rights of orphans, relatives and wives (known as حقُوقُ العباد 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 heartfelt 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: يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَ‌بَّكُمُ ( O men, fear your Lord).

The word, اتَّقُوا 'ittaqu' translated here as 'fear' means 'fear acting against your Lord' which perhaps is the reason why the Holy Prophet ﷺ used to recite this verse as part of his address while solemnizing a marriage. Therefore, reciting it in the Khutbah of Nikah is a perennial revival of the Sunnah. Here, the form of address in the verse is worth attention. It says: يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ( 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 (علیہ السلام) ، 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 alle-giance to the Lord of all creation, but this bond of brotherhood between human beings also requires that rights of humanity - of mutual sympathy, wellbeing 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: الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِ‌جَالًا كَثِيرً‌ا وَنِسَاءً meaning 'who has created you from a single soul (that is, Sayyidna Adam (علیہ السلام) 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. Isn’ t 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, وَالْأَرْ‌حَامَ 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, الْأَرْ‌حَامَ 'al-arham' in verse 1 is the plural of رحم rahm. Rahm رحم 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 ilatur-rahm 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 قتل الرحم qat`-al-rahm (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 ﷺ has said:

من احَبَّ ان یبسط لہ فی رزقہ و ینسا لہ فی اثرہ فلیصل رحمۃ

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 straightening from his livelihood and blesses his age with more good years.

Sayyidna ` Abdullah ibn Salam ؓ says: When the Holy Prophet ﷺ came to Madinah al-Tayyibah and I presented myself before him, the very first words from him which fell into my ears were:

یا ایھا الناس افشوا السلام ط واطعموا الطعام و صلوا الارحام، وصلوا باللیل والناس ینام ، تدخلوا الجنۃ بالسلام

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 اَمُّ المؤمنین Ummul-Mu'minin (the Mother of the Faithful) Sayyidah Maymuna ؓ had freed her bond woman. When she told the Holy Prophet ﷺ about it, he said:

لو اعطیتھا اخوالک کان اعظم لاجرک

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 ﷺ has been reported to have said:

الصدقۃ علی المسکین صدقۃ وھی علی ذی الرحم ثنتان ط صدقۃ وصلۃ

Charity to the needy is just charity, while to a near relative it becomes twofold: 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 ﷺ said:

1۔ لا یدخل الجنۃ قاطع

1. A breaker of (blood) relationships shall not enter Paradise. (Mishkat, p 419)

2- لا تنزل الرحمۃ علی قوم فیہ قاطع رحم

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: إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَ‌قِيبًا (and surely, Allah is watchful over you) motivates human hearts to fulfill 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 halfheartedly, 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 Qura'n 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.

English Translation

And give to the orphans their properties and do not substitute the defective [of your own] for the good [of theirs]. And do not consume their properties into your own. Indeed, that is ever a great sin.

English Transliteration

Waatoo alyatama amwalahum wala tatabaddaloo alkhabeetha bialttayyibi wala takuloo amwalahum ila amwalikum innahu kana hooban kabeeran

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 to 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, الْيَتَامَىٰ 'al-yatama' in the first sentence of verse 2: وَآتُوا الْيَتَامَىٰ أَمْوَالَهُمْ (And give the orphans their property), is the plural of الیتیم al-yatim (the orphan). Literally, it means the lone or the unique. Therefore, a pearl that resides in its shell all alone is called اَلدُّرّ الیتیم Ad-Durr al-Yatim (literally, 'the orphan-pearl' ). In the terminology of Islamic law, a یتیم yatim is a child whose father has died. Incidentally, among animals, a yatim is an offspring whose mother has died (Qmiis). 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: لا یتم بعد الاحتلام 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 ability 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: وَلَا تَتَبَدَّلُوا الْخَبِيثَ بِالطَّيِّبِ 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: وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَهُمْ إِلَىٰ أَمْوَالِكُمْ (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 وَاللَّـهُ يَعْلَمُ الْمُفْسِدَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِ (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, وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا "la ta'kul u' (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, إِنَّهُ كَانَ حُوبًا كَبِيرً‌ا (It is, surely, a great sin.) Here, the word حُب 'hub', as said by Sayyidna ibn ` Abbas ؓ ، comes from the Ethiopian 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).

English Translation

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].

English Transliteration

Wain khiftum alla tuqsitoo fee alyatama fainkihoo ma taba lakum mina alnnisai mathna wathulatha warubaAAa fain khiftum alla taAAdiloo fawahidatan aw ma malakat aymanukum thalika adna alla taAAooloo


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 stratagem 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 from Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ which reports that an incident of this nature came to pass during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet ﷺ 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:

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ

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, يَتَامَىٰ '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 have 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, and 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 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 euphemisms 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 Zoroastrians.

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-existent. 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:

فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُ‌بَاعَ

The expression مَا طَابَ 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 ما حَلَّ 'ma halla', that is, women who are lawful for you.

There are others who, taking the literal meaning of مَا طَابَ 'ma taba', 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 ﷺ . It has been reported that, soon after the revelation of this verse a person by the name of Ghailan ibn Aslamah al-Thaqafi ؓ embraced Islam. At that time, he had ten wives who had also embraced Islam. Pursuant to the Qur'anic injunction, the Holy Prophet ﷺ asked him to select and retain four and release the rest by giving them divorce. Ghailan ibn Aslamah al-Thaqafi obeyed the command, retained four women and severed his marital link with the rest )Mishkat, p. 274, with reference to al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Nlajah). Citing another incident appearing as a complement of this very narration in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad (رح) will not really be out of place as it also relates to the rights of women.

According to this report, Ghailan ibn Aslamah had retained four women in accordance with the rule of Shari'ah, but during the Caliphate of Sayyidna ` Umar ؓ he divorced them as well and distributed all his assets among his sons. When Sayyidna ` Umar ؓ 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 ؓ says: 'When I embraced Islam, I had eight wives. I mentioned this to the Holy Prophet ﷺ . He said: "Keep four of them and divorce the rest." (Abu Daud, p. 304)

According to a report in Musnad al-Imam al-Shafi, when Sayyidna Nawfal ibn Mu` awiyah ad-Daylami ؓ embraced Islam, he had five women in his nikah. The Holy Prophet ﷺ 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 ﷺ and his noble Companions 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 of the Holy Prophet ﷺ

The class of his person and the excellences of his virtues make the Holy Prophet ﷺ 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 ﷺ marry the wives he did. Think of Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ . 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 سیرت Sirah of the Prophet of Islam. The narrations reported from Sayyidah Umm Salmah ؓ 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 ؓ عنہما which she gave after the demise of the Holy Prophet ﷺ were to be collected it could become a treatise on its own.

The high rank Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ 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 ﷺ and was highly effective in carrying his mission forward.

These brief remarks about two blessed wives of the Holy Prophet ﷺ have been given here just to serve as an example, otherwise there are many more lhadith 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 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 unchallengeable character of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . 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, especially 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 ؓ lived with him as the only wife. When she died, the marriage with Sayyidah Saudah and Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ was solemnized. But, it was Sayyidah Saudah ؓ who came to live with him while Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ 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 ؓ 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 ؓ in 4 A.H. and to Sayyidah Zainab hint Jahsh ؓ 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 ؓ in 6 A.H., Sayyidah Umm Habibah ؓ ، in 7 A.H., Sayyidah Safiyyah ؓ in 7 A.H. and Sayyidah Maymunah ؓ 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-Siddiqqah ؓ . 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 ﷺ 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 لَّا يَحِلُّ لَكَ النِّسَاءُ مِن بَعْدُ. (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 Alhadith would realize the truth of this statement. However, we do present here brief notes to serve as indicators.

The Holy Prophet ﷺ had married Sayyidah Umm Salmah ؓ 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 ؓ 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 ؓ says: I brought up in the lap of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ . Once, while eating with him, I was dunking my hand everywhere in the bowl. He said: سم اللہ و کل بیمینک و کل مما یلیک (Say the name of Allah and eat with your right hand and eat from what is in front of you) - (Bukbari, Muslim, from Mishkat, p. 363).

Sayyidah Juwayriyyah ؓ 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ had married her, all of them released their respective slaves out of deference to the Holy Prophet ﷺ . 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 ﷺ 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 ؓ says about this incident:

فلقد اعتق بتزویجہ ایّاھا مأیۃ اھل بیت من بنی المصطلق فما اعلم امرأۃ اعظم برکۃ علی قومھا منھا

Because of his marriage with Juwayriyah, one hundred fami-lies from Banu al-Mustaliq became free. I know no other woman who proved to be greater in blessing for her people.

Sayyidah Umm Habibah ؓ 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ . It is interesting to note that Sayyidah Umm Habibah ؓ was the daughter of Sayyidna Abu Sufyan ؓ .

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 lookout 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: ھوالفحل لا یجدع انفہ literally: 'He is a man of valour. His nose cannot be cut off. The sense was that the Holy Prophet ﷺ 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 کُفَّار 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 farsighted and wise Messenger had, in all likelihood, in sight.

Apart from the present summary view, those who have deeper access to the سیرت Sirah would find many more elements of wisdom in his plurality of marriages. The treatise entitled, Kathratul-Azwaj-li-Salhibil-Mi` raj کثرت الازواج لصاحب المعراج by my venerated master, Maulana Ashraf Thanavi (رح) ، 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 ﷺ 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: وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَىٰ فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ 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 مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ 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 sequitur 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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.' (Mishkat, 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 matter 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 forever and ever, treated his venerated wives with full equality in everything within his control, yet he pleaded with his Lord:

اللھم ھاذا قسمی فیما اَملِکُ فلا تلمنی فیما تملِکَ ولا اَملِکُ

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 infallible 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:

وَلَن تَسْتَطِيعُوا أَن تَعْدِلُوا بَيْنَ النِّسَاءِ

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: 3. I; فَلَا تَمِيلُوا كُلَّ الْمَيْلِ (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 فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً (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-Nis-a' 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: فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَىٰ وَثُلَاثَ وَرُ‌بَاعَ that is, 'marry women you like, in twos and threes and fours?' And then, what would be the meaning of saying: فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا 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 ﷺ and the noble Companions ؓ 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: ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَلَّا تَعُولُوا (It will be closer to your not doing injustice). In this verse, the word ادنیٰ ('adna' ) has been derived from ذُنُّون (dunuwun) which means nearness and the other word لَّا تَعُولُوا (la ta` ulu) is from عالَ یعولُ ، مالَ یمیلُ 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, اَدنیٰ '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.

English Translation

And give the women [upon marriage] their [bridal] gifts graciously. But if they give up willingly to you anything of it, then take it in satisfaction and ease.

English Transliteration

Waatoo alnnisaa saduqatihinna nihlatan fain tibna lakum AAan shayin minhu nafsan fakuloohu haneean mareean

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 مہر 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: وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ (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, نِحْلَةً 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: فَإِن طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَن شَيْءٍ مِّنْهُ نَفْسًا فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيئًا مَّرِ‌يئًا . 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 regrettably, 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 ﷺ when he said:

اَلَا لَا تظلِموا، اَلَا لَا یَحِلُّ مالُ امرء اِلَّا بِطِیبِ نفس منہُ (مشکوٰۃ شریف ص۔255)

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 the مہر 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 Thanavi (رح) 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 (رح) 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: صَدُقَاتِ saduqat appearing in the verse, it is the plural form of صَدُقَہ saduqah. The words, saduqah and sudaq signify the dower of women. In Mirqat Sharh Mishkat, Mulla ` Ali Qari writes: و سُمِّیَ بہِ لاَنَّہُ یطھر بہ صدق میل الرجل الی المرأۃ . It means that dower is referred to as saduqah or sudaq because its root, sadaqa (صدق) 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, هَنِيئًا : hani'an and مَّرِ‌يئًا 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.

English Translation

And do not give the weak-minded your property, which Allah has made a means of sustenance for you, but provide for them with it and clothe them and speak to them words of appropriate kindness.

English Transliteration

Wala tutoo alssufahaa amwalakumu allatee jaAAala Allahu lakum qiyaman waorzuqoohum feeha waoksoohum waqooloo lahum qawlan maAAroofan


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 properties 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 ؓ : '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 ؓ ، 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 ؓ 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 اموالکم '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: وَآتُوا الْيَتَامَىٰ أَمْوَالَهُمْ (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 شھادہ shahadah (martyrdom). The Holy Prophet ﷺ has said:

من قُتِلَ دُونَ مالِہِ فھوَ شھید

Whosoever is killed while protecting his property is a shah id (that is, he is counted among Muslim martyrs in terms of Divine reward). (Bukhri, v.1, p. 337 - Muslim, v.1, p.81)

He has also said:

نعما بالمال الصالح للرجل الصالح

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:

لا باسَ بِالغنیٰ لمنِ اتَّقیِ اللہ عَزَّوجَلَّ

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 spending, 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 ﷺ has said:

کَادَ الفَقرُ اَن یَّکُونَ کُفُراً

Poverty can take one to the point of being a disbeliever. (Mishkat, p. 439)

Sayyidna Sufyan al-Thawri ؓ elaborates this by saying:

کان المال فیما مضی یکرہ، فاما الیوم فھو ترس المؤمن

Previously, owning and keeping wealth was not considered good, but today, this wealth is a shield of the true Muslim.

He has also said:

من کان فی یَدِہِ مِن ھٰذہِ شیاً فَلیُصلِحۃ ، فانُّہ زَمَانُ اِنِ احتاجَ کَانَ اوَّل من یبذل دینہ

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)

English Translation

And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgement, release their property to them. And do not consume it excessively and quickly, [anticipating] that they will grow up. And whoever, [when acting as guardian], is self-sufficient should refrain [from taking a fee]; and whoever is poor - let him take according to what is acceptable. Then when you release their property to them, bring witnesses upon them. And sufficient is Allah as Accountant.

English Transliteration

Waibtaloo alyatama hatta itha balaghoo alnnikaha fain anastum minhum rushdan faidfaAAoo ilayhim amwalahum wala takulooha israfan wabidaran an yakbaroo waman kana ghaniyyan falyastaAAfif waman kana faqeeran falyakul bialmaAAroofi faitha dafaAAtum ilayhim amwalahum faashhidoo AAalayhim wakafa biAllahi haseeban

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: وَابْتَلُوا الْيَتَامَىٰ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ 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 marriage-ability, 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: وَابْتَلُوا الْيَتَامَىٰ (and test the orphans) in this verse means exactly this. It is from here that Imam Abu Hanifah (رح) 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 (بلوغ bulugh) in this verse, the Holy Qur'an has also answered the question as to the 'age' when a child would be taken as mature ( بالغ baligh) by saying: إِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ translated as 'until they reach marriage-ability'. 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 of آنَسْتُم مِّنْهُمْ رُ‌شْدًا

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 (رح) 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 (بلوغ 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 under-standing 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:

وَلَا تَأْكُلُوهَا إِسْرَ‌افًا وَبِدَارً‌ا أَن يَكْبَرُ‌وا

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: وَمَن كَانَ غَنِيًّا فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ (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 said: وَمَن كَانَ فَقِيرً‌ا فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُ‌وفِ (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 فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فَأَشْهِدُوا عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ حَسِيبًا : It means: '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 فرض علی الکفایہ 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: وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ حَسِيبًا 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. وباللہ التوفیق :And the ability to do so comes from Allah.