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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 7 (Verses 43 to 50)



Section/Ruku Ruku 7 [Verses 43 to 50]: Purification of the soul:
Chapter Chapter 4: (Al-Nisa’: The Women)
(Revealed at Madinah: 24 sections; 176 verses)

1. Translation:

43 O you who believe, go not near prayer when you are intoxicated till you know what you say,
a nor after sexual intercourseb — except you are merely passing byc — until you have bathed. And if you are sick, or on a journey, or one of you come from the privy, or you have touched the women,d and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth,e then wipe your faces and your hands. Surely Allah is ever Pardoning, Forgiving.

44 Seest thou not those to whom a portion of the Book was given? They buy error and desire to make you err from the (right) way.

45 And Allah best knows your enemies. And Allah is sufficient as a Friend and Allah is sufficient as a Helper.

46 Some of those who are Jews alter words from their placesa and say, We have heard and we disobey; and (say), Hear without being made to hear, and (say), Ra‘i-na, distorting with their tongues and slandering religion. And if they had said, We hear and we obey, and hearken, and unzur-na,b it would have been better for them and more upright; but Allah has cursed them on account of their disbelief, so they believe not but a little.

47 O you who have been given the Book, believe in what We have revealed, verifying that which you have, before We destroy the leaders and turn them on their backs, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers.a And the command of Allah is ever executed.

48 Surely Allah forgives not that a partner should be set up with Him, and forgives all besides that to whom He pleases. And whoever sets up a partner with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.a

49 Hast thou not seen those who attribute purity to themselves? Nay, Allah purifies whom He pleases, and they will not be wronged a whit.a

50 See how they forge lies against Allah! And sufficient is this as a manifest sin.a

2. Commentary:

43a. There is some difference of opinion as to what is meant by sukara here. Literally, the singular sakaran signifies one intoxicated, but while some consider the meaning here to be intoxicated with drink, others think it to be intoxicated with sleep, (T, LL). And sakr, no doubt, may be applied in the latter sense, for its literal significance is stopping up (LL). The word is also applied to confusion of judgment (LL). The Holy Qur’an speaks of sakrat al-maut (50:19) or the condition when one loses his senses at the approach of death. Sakrat al-hamma means the condition in which a person loses his senses on account of extreme grief. Sakrat al-naum is the condition when on account of the oppressive sensation of sleep one is not in full possession of one’s senses. The word as used here may carry any of these senses.

The prohibition against praying when intoxicated was a step towards the total prohibition of drink, for the necessity of going to prayer five times a day would afford little opportunity for indulgence in drink. The verse makes it further clear that one must know the significance of what one says when praying to God. [Back to verse 43]

43b. The word junub (from janb, meaning a side) should not be translated as impure or polluted; it is a purely technical term, and means one who is under an obligation to perform a total ablution or bathing (LL). The connection with the root-meaning is that the person under such obligation is on a side or remote from prayer (R). When one such person, a junub, described himself as najs (polluted or deled) in the presence of the Prophet, the latter corrected him, saying: “Glory to Allah! A believer is not najs (or deled)” (B. 5:23). The necessity to perform a total ablution arises in case of emission of seminal fluid due to sexual intercourse or pollutio nocturna. [Back to verse 43]

43c. Going near prayer may signify going into mosques (I‘Ab-Rz), and the meaning in that case would be unless you pass (through the mosques) as by a way. [Back to verse 43]

43d. The touching of women is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Many of the fine phrases used in the Holy Qur’an to express this delicate relation were unknown to the Arabs; words and forms were adopted which would not shock the most delicate ears. [Back to verse 43]

43e. Sa‘id means high or elevated ground, hence generally land or ground or surface of the earth, whether it be dust or earth or otherwise (LL). Tayammum (from amma, meaning he repaired) means striking both hands on pure earth, or anything containing pure dust, and then passing the hands over the face and the backs of the hands. When water is not found, or is likely to do harm, tayammum suffices instead of ablution before prayer. [Back to verse 43]

46a. The corruption of the previous books is constantly referred to in the Holy Qur’an, and, as the words clearly show, it implies a corruption of the text as well as a false rendering of it. The subject of the perversion of “holy writ” is specially dealt with in 2:75–79, 5:13, 41, and here; see 2:79a. The verification referred to in v. 47 and elsewhere implies only a verification of the general principles and particularly of the prophecies contained in those books. [Back to verse 46]

46b. See 2:104a. [Back to verse 46]

47a. The word wujuh (sing., wajh) may mean either faces or chiefs and leaders (R, under tams) while tams means obliteration or destruction (R). The obliteration of faces is evidently a metaphorical expression meaning depriving them of greatness and prosperity and bringing on them disgrace and adversity (Bd). The same idea is intensified in turning them on their backs. The reference here is supposed to be to their ultimate banishment from Arabia. The second form of punishment is their being overtaken by the curse which overtook the Sabbath-breakers, for which see 2:65b. [Back to verse 47]

48a. Shirk or setting up partners with Allah is spoken of as the gravest sin. A man’s wrong belief does not in any way detract from the glory of God, but a belief in false deities lowers the dignity of man. Man is made to rule nature itself and all creatures, but when he lowers himself before creatures lower than himself whom he was really made to rule, he sets at naught the very purpose of his creation. It should be noted that shirk or setting up gods with God does not only mean idol-worship or worship of the forces of nature or a belief in the Divinity of mortals, but also includes the blind obedience which is rendered to great men; see 9:3 1a and also the next footnote. It should be further remembered that the forgiveness spoken of here relates to those who die while guilty of shirk, but even they will be received into the mercy of God after suffering the consequences of their deeds. If a man is guilty of s hi r k and repents of it before his death all his sins including shirk are washed off and forgiven because he gives a new turn to his life. [Back to verse 48]

49a. Fatil means originally pellicle of a date stone or dirt of the skin rolled between the fingers; hence a very small thing (LL). The reference in those who attribute purity to themselves is to such doctors of law and monks (9:31) (as also to ‘ulama’ or pirs to be met with among Muslims) who consider themselves to be above their votaries from whom they demand blind obedience to themselves. Hence such people are spoken of in connection with the mention of setting up partners with God in the previous verse. [Back to verse 49]

50a. Laying claim to purity for themselves is here called a manifest sin. [Back to verse 50]


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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 7 (Verses 43 to 50)

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