An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Brief Explanation of Surah an-Nisa Ayaat 32 – 33

In the commands of inheritance appearing previously, it was mentioned that, given the conditions, for a male there is a share equal to that of two females. There are other proved aspects of male precedence as well. So, Umm Salmah radhiAllahu anha once said to the Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam, “Our share in the inheritance is half. Then, there are such and such elements of difference between us and men…”

Her purpose was not to raise an objection. Rather, she wished to be a man and to deserve the merits restricted for men. There were other women who wished, “Had we been men, we would have taken part in Jihad and the merit of Jihad would have been ours.”

A woman asked the Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam, “A man gets a double share in the inheritance and the witness of a woman is half as compared with a man – does that mean that we shall be getting a half reward for all of our acts of worship?”

Thereupon, the present ayah was revealed in which an answer to both these statements has been given. The answer to Umm Salmah was given by,

‘and do not covet….’

And the answer to the last-mentioned woman was given by,

‘for men there is a share…’


Coveting the Unacquirable

In this ayah 32, coveting things, traits and merits given to others has been prohibited, for they are not acquirable by effort. The reason is that when a man finds himself lacking in wealth, comfort, beauty, merit, knowledge and similar other states of being, he naturally experiences a surge of envy which urges him to come, at least, at par with that person, or, if possible, be ahead. But, he does not always have the capability or power to make his wish come true because there are merits and excellences which have nothing to do with man’s own efforts and acquisitions.

They are simply the blessings of nature, for example, being a man or being the scion of a prophet’s family or having been born in the family of a ruler or having been born beautiful. So, one who does not have access to these blessings can never obtain them by effort even if he were to spend a whole life time devoted to that pursuit. A woman cannot become a man, nor can one choose to be born in the family of a prophet, or change his physique – become tall and handsome, acquire all beautiful features of his choice – because, this is not within his power. He simply cannot acquire these in the real sense, no matter how much he struggles with his medicines, treatments and devices.

Consequently, when he finds himself incapable of matching the other person, his inner self starts playing with the idea that it would be wonderful if such blessings were snatched away from him (the other person) as well, so that, he too becomes either equal or lower than him. This is envy, a terribly, shameful and damaging trait of human morals, which is the cause of so many disputes, disturbances, killings and ravages in this world.

This ayah of the Qur’an closes the doors of disorders by saying,

وَلاَ تَتَمَنَّوْاْ مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ

It means that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, in His infinite wisdom, has blessed people with all sorts of merits and excellences. He gave someone a particular quality, then gave someone else yet another quality; less to some, more to some others. In this matter, everyone should rest pleased with his or her destiny and stay clear from the envious desire to become the possessor of the other person’s merits and excellences, for the end-result of this game of desires is nothing but a biting sense of personal loss, and of course, that awful sin of envy.

It may sound a little simple, but the truth of the matter is that anyone Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala elects to be a man should be grateful for it, and anyone He elects to be a woman should be pleased with being just that, realizing that, had she been a man, may be, she could have failed to fulfill the responsibilities placed on a man, and would have thus ended up being a sinner.

Then, anyone created beautiful by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala should be all the more grateful for having being so blessed; and, anyone lesser in looks should also not grieve thinking of the good that may lie hidden behind this destiny, for being blessed with beauty does not necessarily guarantee good. It might have the recipient land into some unwelcome state of trial or corruption.

Again, anyone who is a true lineal descendant of the Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam should thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for the great blessing of this lineal connection; and, anyone who does not have this connection should neither worry about it, nor should he go about longing for it, because this is something which cannot be acquired by effort, and if one still insists on coveting it, what he would get involved with will be nothing but sin and the gain he would make would be nothing but a broken heart and an aching soul.

So, rather than crying for a lineage one does not have, the best policy is to think about one’s own doings. Let these be good and righteous. Once a person enhances himself with such spiritual strengths, he can be ahead of those with higher or better lineage.

[Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]


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