Tafseer Surah An-Nisa Ayah 24
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
“And [also prohibited to you are all] married women…” Wal-muhsinaat means women having husbands – they have been made unlawful to get married.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes in his Tafseer, Ma’arif-ul-Qur’an, from here it becomes very clear that a woman cannot live with more than one husband simultaneously. There are some ignorant people who have started saying, “When men are allowed to take more than one wife, women too should have the permission to enjoy more than one husband.”
People who indulge in such flippant display of ignorance do not see that plurality of wives is a blessing. But, for a woman, having more than one husband at the same time is not only a headache for her but also disgraceful for the men who become her husbands. This arrangement is not only shameless, but also leaves no possibility of any offspring being born lineally sound.
When many men benefit from one woman, there will remain no method of attributing the fatherhood of the child so born to any one of the participating husbands. Such an obnoxious demand can only be made by those who are hostile to the graces of humanity. Those who have buried their sense of shame and those who are supporting the movement to deprive human beings of blessings that issue forth from the recognized channels of parents and children bound in a charter of mutual rights.
When lineage goes unproved, who is going to be charged with the responsibility of taking care of mutual rights and duties?
Ibn Katheer writes in his Tafseer that this ayah prohibits marrying women who are already married except those who have been acquired through war. They are allowed after making sure that they are from the People of the Book or had embraced Islam and are not pregnant. If it appeared that she was pregnant from her previous husband, it was necessary to wait until she delivers the child.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “We captured some women from the area of Awtas who were already married, and we disliked having sexual relations with them because they already had husbands. So, we asked the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam about this matter and this ayah was revealed, ‘And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess.’ Consequently, we had sexual relations with these women.” This is the wording collected by at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Jareer and Muslim in his Saheeh.
- If a disbelieving woman embraces Islam in Dar al-Harb while her husband is a disbeliever, she will be released from the bond of marriage with him after the expiry of three menstrual periods.
- If a disbelieving woman embraces Islam in Dar al-Islam and her husband is a disbeliever, then the local legal authority should induce the husband to think about accepting Islam. If he refuses to become a Muslim, the Muslim judge should bring about a separation between the two. This separation will be taken as the divorce after which, the woman completes her period of ‘iddah and becomes free to marry any Muslim of her choice.
Allah’s statement, “[This is] the decree of Allah upon you” means this prohibition was ordained for you by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Therefore, adhere to Allah’s Book, do not transgress His set limits and adhere to His legislation and decrees.
The Permission to Marry All Other Women
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these…” meaning you are allowed to marry women other than the prohibited types mentioned here.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani further explains this in his Tafseer that it is not permissible to have more than four wives simultaneously. The Qur’an does not allow unrestricted marriage with women.
“…[provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse,” means that you are allowed to use your money to marry up to four wives and for the purchase of as many female slaves as you like, all through legal means desiring chastity and not fornication.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani further explains, “…[provided] that you seek them [in marriage]…desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse…” He writes that it means one should seek lawful women with the help of one’s assets and it should be clearly understood that the seeking of women is to safeguard modesty and chastity, which is the crucial purpose of a marriage. It is through marriage alone that the desired objective can be achieved and certainly not through spending to find women for zina [fornication].
The addition of, “…not unlawful sexual intercourse…” serves two purposes. It forbids zina and points out that the purpose of zina is nothing but to run after lust and unlawful enjoyment. Muslims must stay chaste by getting married legally and by paying women their dower.
فَمَا اسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهِ مِنْهُنَّ فَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً ۚ
“So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation.”
It means to enjoy them sexually, surrender to them their rightful dowry as compensation. We have learned previously that dowry, once given cannot be taken back unless it is situation of khula that the wife initiates. And that the dowry must be given graciously. It also means that a marriage cannot materialize devoid of dower even if the parties to marriage decide between themselves that the marriage will take place without dower, still dower will be necessary.
Prohibiting the Mut’ah of Marriage
Mujahid stated that “So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation,” was revealed about the Mut’ah marriage.
A Mut’ah marriage is a marriage that ends upon a predetermined date. It was a contract between a man and a woman for having sexual relationship between them for a specified period in exchange of money or a specified kind offered by the man to the woman. This type of a contract, which was never meant to create permanent rights and obligations of marriage, was prohibited by the Qur’an and Sunnah.
In the Two Saheehs, it is recorded that ‘Ali bin Abi Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prohibited Mut’ah marriage and eating the meat of domesticated donkeys on the day of Khaybar (battle).”
In addition, in his Saheeh, Muslim recorded that Ar-Rabi’ bin Sabrah bin Ma’bad Al-Juhani said that his father said that he accompanied the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam during the conquest of Makkah, and that the Prophet said,
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي كُنْتُ أَذِنْتُ لَكُمْ فِي الاسْتِمْتَاعِ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ، وَإنَّ اللهَ قَدْ حَرَّمَ ذَلِكَ إِلى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ، فَمَنْ كَانَ عِنَدَهُ مِنْهُنَّ شَيْءٌ فَلْيُخَلِّ سَبِيلَهُ، وَلَا تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شيئًا
“O people! I allowed you the Mut’ah marriage with women before. Now, Allah has prohibited it until the Day of Resurrection. Therefore, anyone who has any women in Mut’ah, let him let them go, and do not take anything from what you have given them.”
وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا تَرَاضَيْتُم بِهِ مِن بَعْدِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ۚ
“And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation.”
The meaning of this ayah is that if you have stipulated a dowry for her and she later forfeits it, either totally or partially, then this bears no harm on you or her in this case.
Ibn Jareer said, “Al-Hadrami said that some men would designate a certain dowry, but then fall into financial difficulties. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said that there is no harm on you, O people, concerning your mutual agreement after the requirement (has been determined).” It means if she gives up part of the dowry, on her own and not by pressure, then men are allowed to accept it.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends the address by reminding us that He is All-Knowing, so no one can deceive or mistreat another. And whatever command He gives us there is a wisdom behind it because He is Al-Hakeem, the All-Wise.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Surah An-Nisa Ayah 24
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.”
[Al-Baqarah 2: 127]