An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 43

The Prohibition of Approaching Prayer When Drunk

Allah subhaanhu wa ta’ala forbade His believing servants from praying while drunk, for one does not know the meaning of what he is saying in that state. Similarly, He forbade them from attending the Masjids while sexually impure, except when one is just passing through the Masjid from one door to another.

In this Ayah, He says,

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلَوةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَـرَى حَتَّى تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ

“O you who believe! Do not approach Salah while you are in a drunken state until you know what you are saying,”

This Ayah was revealed before alcohol consumption was completely prohibited. After the revelation of this ayah, the Arabs would not drink alcohol close to the time of prayer. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala completely forbid the act when He revealed Surah Maaida ayah 90,
يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالاٌّنصَابُ وَالاٌّزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَـنِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ 

“O you who believe! alcoholic drinks, gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam are an abomination of Shayatan’s handiwork. So avoid that in order that you may be successful.” 

In a narration collected by Abu Dawud, when this ayah 43 of Surah an-Nisa was revealed, at the time of prayer, the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam would have someone proclaim;
“Let not any drunk approach the prayer.” 
Allah’s statement,
حَتَّى تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ

“….until you know what you are saying”

is the best description for when one is intoxicated, that is when he does not know the meaning of what he is saying. When a person is drunk, he makes obvious mistakes in the recitation and will not be able to be humble during the prayer.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas radhiAllahu anhu said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:
“If one feels sleepy while he is praying, let him sleep for a while so that he knows the meaning of what he is saying.”
This was also recorded by Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa’i.

In some of the narrations of this hadith, the Messenger sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “….For he might want to ask for forgiveness, but instead curses himself!”

Passing Through the Masjid When Unclean

Further in this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

وَلاَ جُنُباً إِلاَّ عَابِرِى سَبِيلٍ حَتَّى تَغْتَسِلُواْ

“nor while Junub (sexually impure), except while passing through, until you bathe (your entire body)…” 

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn Abbas said that this statement means, “Do not enter the Masjid when you are Junub, unless you are just passing by, in which case, you pass through without sitting down.”
Ibn Jarir recorded that Yazid bin Abi Habib commented on this statement that when some men from the Ansar, whose doors literally opened into the Masjid, were sexually impure, and they did not have water, their only way to get water was to pass through the Masjid. So, Allah sent down, this ayah.

What supports this statement by Yazid bin Abi Habib radhiAllahu anhu is Bukhari’s report in his Saheeh, that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “Close all the small doors in this Masjid, except that of Abu Bakr.” 

This is what the Prophet commanded at the end of his life, knowing that Abu Bakr will be the Khalifah after him, and that he would need to enter the Masjid on numerous occasions to manage the important affairs of the Muslims.

In his Sahih, Muslim recorded that A’ishah radhiAllahu anha said, “The Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said to me, ‘Bring me the garment from the Masjid.’ I said, `I am having my period.’ He said, ‘Your period is not in your hand.’ Muslim also collected a similar narration from Abu Hurayrah. This Hadith indicates that the woman is allowed to pass through the Masjid during menses or post-natal bleeding, and Allah knows best.
Description of Tayammum

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

وَإِنْ كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَآءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنْكُمْ مِّن الْغَآئِطِ أَوْ لَـمَسْتُمُ النِّسَآءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ مَآءً فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيداً طَيِّباً

“And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving.” 

As for the type of illness which would allow Tayammum, it is an illness that one fears would be aggravated by using water, which could be detrimental to a part of the body, or when doing so would prolong an illness. Some scholars said that any type of illness warrants Tayammum, because of the general indications of the Ayah. As for travelling on a journey, it is known, regardless of its length.

Allah’s statement,

refers to sexual intercourse.

Allah said,

فَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ مَآءً فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيداً طَيِّباً

“but you do not find water,them perform Tayammum with clean earth,”

In the two Saheehs, it is recorded that Imran bin Husayn said, “Allah’s Messenger saw a person sitting away from the people and not praying with them. He asked him, `O so-and-so! What prevented you from offering the prayer with the people, are not you Muslim?’ He replied, `Yes, O Allah’s Messenger! I am Junub and there is no water.’ The Prophet said, `Perform Tayammum with clean earth and that will be sufficient for you.” Clean earth’ means dust.

In his Saheeh, Muslim recorded that Hudhayfah bin Al-Yaman said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:

“We were given preference over people in three things. Our lines (in prayer) were arranged in rows to resemble the rows of the angels, all of the earth was made a Masjid for us, and its dust was made clean for us when there is no water.”
The Messenger mentioned the favor of making dust a purifier for us, and if there were any other substance to replace it for Tayammum, he would have mentioned it.

Imam Ahmad and the collectors of Sunan, with the exception of Ibn Majah, recorded that Abu Dharr said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:

“Clean earth is pure for the Muslim, even if he does not find water for ten years. When he finds water, let him use it for his skin, for this is better.”
At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih”.

Allah’s statement,

فَامْسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ

“rubbing your faces and hands (Tayammum)”

indicates that Tayammum is a substitute for normal ablution, not that it involves cleaning the parts that normal ablution does. Therefore, it is sufficient in Tayammum to just wipe the face and hands, as the consensus concurs. The face and hands are wiped with one strike on the sand.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abdur-Rahman bin Abza said that a man came to Umar and asked him, “I am Junub, but there is no water.” Umar said, “Then, do not pray.” Ammar said, “Do you not remember, O Leader of the Faithful! You and I were on a military expedition when we became Junub and did not find water. You did not pray, but I rolled myself in the sand and then prayed. When we went back to the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam, we mentioned to him what had happened. He said to me, “This would have been sufficient for you.” and the Prophet stroked his hand on the earth once, blew into it and wiped his face and hands.” 

The Muslim Ummah, rather than all other nations, was favored with the allowance of Tayammum. In the two saheehs, it is recorded that Jabir bin Abdullah said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:

“I have been given five things which were not given to any (Prophet) before me: Allah made me victorious with fright that covers a month’s distance. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and an object to perform purification with. Therefore let my followers pray wherever the time of a prayer is due – and in another narration – he will have his means of purity and his Masjid. The spoils of war have been made lawful for me and it was not made so for anyone else before me. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection). Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation exclusively, but I have been sent to all mankind.” 
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then ends this Ayah by saying,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوّاً غَفُوراً

“Truly, Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.” 

meaning, a part of His pardoning and forgiving is that He allows you to use Tayammum and to pray after using it when there is no water, to make things easy for you. This Ayah sanctifies the position of the prayer, it being too sacred than to be performed in a deficient manner, like in a state of drunkenness, until one becomes aware of what he is saying, or sexually impure, until he bathes (Ghusl), or after answering the call of nature, until he performs ablution. There are exceptions when one is ill or when there is no water. In this case, Allah allows us to use Tayammum, out of His mercy and kindness for His servants, and to facilitate them, all praise is due to Allah.
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