Qur'an Tafseer

Lessons From Surah an-Nisa Ayah 1

Treating Near Relations Well

The word, “al-arham” in Ayah 1 is the plural of rahim. Rahim is womb. The womb of the mother is the home of the child until born. Since this womb is the source of blood relationship, the act of maintaining relations in that line is called silat-ur-rahimin Arabic (literally, umbilical link or bond or relationship). The opposite of it, showing carelessness and indifference towards natural linkage based on blood relationship is identified as qat-al-rahim(literally, umbilical delinkage, meaning cutting off relationship with one’s kin).

Ahadith have laid great emphasis on bonds of kinship. The Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam has said, “Whoever likes to have his livelihood made plentiful and his age extended for him should maintain good relations with his near of kin.”[Mishkat, p.410]

This hadith tell us about two benefits of treating near relations well; plentiful livelihood and an extended age to do more good deeds.

Abdullah ibn Salam radhiAllahu anha says, “When the Prophet came to Madinah al-Tayyibah and I presented myself before him, the very first words from him which fell into my ears were: ‘O men, make a practice of greeting each other with salaam, and feed people (for the pleasure of Allah), and treat near relations well, and pray by night while people sleep – you will enter Paradise in peace.” [Mishkat, p.108]

In another hadith, it has been reported that Ummul-Mu’mineen Maymuna radhiAllahu anha had freed her bond woman, when she told the Prophet about it, he said, “Had you given her to your maternal uncle, your reward would have been greater.” [Mishkat, p.171]

Although, Islam motivates people to free slaves and rates it as one of the finest acts of merit, yet the status of treating relatives fairly has been given more importance.

There is another narration on the same subject in which the Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam has been reported to have said, “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 Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam said,

  1. A breaker of (blood) relationships shall not enter Paradise. [Mishkat, p. 419]
  2. Mercy shall not descend upon a people among whom there is a breaker of (blood) relationships. [Mishkat, p. 420]


The statement in the last sentence of Ayah 1,  إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيباً “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 half-heartedly, formally, or for fear of possible embarrassment, without any genuine desire to serve, shall remain acts unacceptable to Allah.

Incidentally, from here we find out why Allah should be feared – because He is watchful over everyone, always. As pointed out elsewhere too, this is typical of the usual style of the Qur’an when it does not introduce laws in sheer cold print like the laws of the governments of this world, but puts them forth in the manner of education, training and affection by not restricting itself to the word of law alone, but by combining it with the grooming of minds and hearts as well.


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