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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa’ - The Women) > Section 6 (Verses 34 to 42)


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Section/Ruku Ruku 6 [Verses 34 to 42]: Disagreement between husband and wife:
Chapter Chapter 4: (Al-Nisa’: The Women)
(Revealed at Madinah: 24 sections; 176 verses)

1. Translation:

34 Men are the maintainers
a o f women, with what Allah has made some of them to excel others and with what they spend out of their wealth. So the good women are obedient,b guarding the unseenc as Allah has guarded.d And (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the beds and chastise them. So if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Surely Allah is ever Exalted, Great.e

35 And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them. Surely Allah is ever Knowing, Aware .a

36 And serve Allah, and associate naught with Him, and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbour of (your) kin and the alien neighbour,a and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess.b Surely Allah loves not such as are proud, boastful,

37 Who are niggardly and bid people to be niggardly and hide that which Allah has given them out of His grace. And We have prepared for the disbelievers an abasing chastisement —

38 And those who spend their wealth to be seen of men and believe not in Allah nor in the Last Day. And as for him whose companion is the devil, an evil companion is he!

39 And what (harm) would it do them if they believe in Allah and the Last Day and spend of that which Allah has given them? And Allah is ever Knower of them.

40 Surely Allah wrongs not the weight of an atom; and if it is a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward.a

41 But how will it be when We bring from every people a witness and bring thee as a witness against these?a

42 On that day will those who disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger desire that the earth were levelled with them. And they can hide no fact from Allah.

2. Commentary:

34a. Qama-l-rajulu ‘ala-l-mar’ati means he maintained her and managed her affair, having charge of her affair; hence he is said to be her qawwam, i.e. maintainer (T). Similarly, qama bi-l-yatimi means he maintained the orphan (LL). Hence by the men being qawwamun is only meant that they are the maintainers of women with that which Allah has made some to excel others. [Back to verse 34]

34b. Obedience here signifies obedience to Allah. This significance of the word is made clear by a comparison with 33:31, 33:35, and 66:5. [Back to verse 34]

34c. Guarding the unseen is a euphemism for guarding the husband’s rights. The two qualifications of a good wife as given here are her piety or obedience to God and chastity. [Back to verse 34]

34d. The meaning is that their guarding the husband’s rights is really a favour from Allah as it is Allah that guards them. Or the meaning may be, Allah has guarded their rights. [Back to verse 34]

34e. The word nushuz, which I have translated as desertion, primarily means rising, and as spoken of a woman in connection with her husband it means her rising against her husband. This is explained in a number of ways; according to one of these explanations it means her leaving the husband’s place and taking up an abode which he does not like (AH). LL quotes various authorities showing that nushuz on the part of the woman means that the wife resisted her husband and hated him (S, Q) and deserted him (T ) .

The remedy pointed out in the case of the wife’s desertion is threefold. At first she is only to be admonished. If she desists, the evil is mended, but if she persists in the wrong course, her bed is to be separated. If she still persists, chastisement is permitted as a last resort (Rz). Regarding this last remedy two things must, however, be borne in mind. Firstly it is a mere permission, and sayings of the Prophet make it clear that, though allowed, it was discouraged in practice. Thus the Prophet is reported to have said, on the complaint of certain women as to the ill-treatment of their husbands: “You will not find these men as the best among you” (AD. 12:42). According to Shafi‘i, it is preferable not to resort to chastisement of the wife (Rz). In fact, as the injunctions of the Qur’an are wide in their scope, the example of the Holy Prophet and his constant exhortations for kind treatment towards women, so much so that he made a man’s good treatment of his wife the gauge of his goodness in general — the best of you is he who is best to his wife — show clearly that this permission is meant only for that type of men and women who belong to a low grade of society. Secondly, even this permission cannot be adopted indiscriminately, for sayings of the Holy Prophet make it quite evident that chastisement, when resorted to in extreme cases, must be very slight. I‘Ab says it may be with a toothbrush or something like it (AH). The Prophet is reported to have said: “You have a right in the matter of your wives that they do not allow anyone whom you do not like to come into your houses; if they do this, chastise them in such a manner that it should not leave an impression” (Tr. 10:11). Thus very slight chastisement was allowed only in extreme cases. [Back to verse 34]

35a. This verse lays down the procedure to be adopted when a case for divorce arises. It is not for the husband to put away his wife; it is the business of the judge to decide the case. Nor should divorce cases be made too public. The judge is required to appoint two arbiters, one belonging to the wife’s family and the other to the husband’s. These two arbiters will find out the facts, but their objective must be to effect a reconciliation between the parties. If all hopes of reconciliation fail, a divorce is allowed, but the final decision for divorce rests with the judge who is legally entitled to pronounce a divorce. Cases were decided in accordance with the directions contained in this verse in the early days of Islam. See an instance quoted by Rz regarding ‘Ali’s decision in a case of breach. The husband was told in plain words that he must abide by the judgment of the arbiters appointed under this verse. [Back to verse 35]

36a. The neighbour of kin may mean a neighbour who is a relative or a Muslim neighbour, and the alien neighbour is either a neighbour not related or a neighbour of an alien religion (AH). The latter phrase (the qualifying word being derived from janb, meaning a side) signifies, according to lexicologists, the person who is one’s neighbour but who belongs to another people (LL). Thus the charity of Islam is not limited to one’s own people or one’s own co-religionists, but is extended to aliens also. [Back to verse 36]

36b. By those whom your right hands possess are meant all those with whose care a man is entrusted, so that it includes even animals over which a man has control (AH, Rz). While dealing with the rights of women, the Qur’an generalizes the law of doing good to others, so much so that it requires goodness to be extended even to a fellow traveller or to a mere wayfarer. If even companions whose company is so short-lived are to be treated generously, how generous must a man be to her who is the companion of his whole life! [Back to verse 36]

40a. Such is the ever-recurring description of the preponderance of mercy in Divine nature: good is always multiplied and evil nullified. The constant multiplication of good shows no doubt that good must ultimately preponderate in the universe, and thus the Divine laws working in nature point to the fact that the universe is moving towards the goal of ultimate good. [Back to verse 40]

41a. The prophet sent to a people is frequently spoken of as being a witness (Ar. shahid) in respect of them, and by these are here meant the followers of the Holy Prophet, or the community of Muhammad. It is stated in the Hadith that this chapter was being recited before the Prophet and when the reciter came to this verse, tears .owed from the eyes of the Prophet and he said; “My Lord, I can bear witness about those among whom I am living, but what about those whom I have not seen” (Ibn Kathir ) . From this it appears that the people spoken of here are Muslims who disobey the Prophet, and hence the Prophet’s anxiety for the later generations of his followers. This is in fact made clear in the verse that follows in the words those who disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger. Disobedience amounts to disbelief in practice. [Back to verse 41]

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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa’ - The Women) > Section 6 (Verses 34 to 42)


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