An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

The Background of Revelation of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 77

Ayah 77 was revealed in a particular background.

Before their migration from Makkah, Muslims were regularly persecuted by disbelievers. Harassed Muslims used to visit the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam complaining to him about the high-handed treatment meted out to them and asking for his permission to fight back in self-defense and put an end to the Kafir reign of terror.

He advised patience holding them back from direct confrontation on the plea that he has not been commanded to fight in fact he told them he has been commanded to stay patient, forgo and forgive. He also told them to continue observing the instructions of salah and zakah, already given to them, consistently and devotedly. He impressed upon them the virtues of the present pattern of their behavior, even though the odds were against them, for the simple reason that, unless man is conditioned to fight against his own evil desires in obedience to the command of Allah and is also used to bearing physical pain and financial sacrifice, he finds joining jihad and sacrificing his life very difficult a proposition.

This was an advice Muslims had accepted. But when they migrated from Makkah to Madina, and Jihad was enjoined upon them, they should have been pleased with it, as it was something that had answered their own prayers. But, there were some infirm Muslims around who started fearing the prospects of a fight against the disbelievers as one would fear the punishment of Allah, rather more than this. Caught in that peevish state of mind, they started pining for a little more respite, a possible postponement of the command to fight to some later day which may have given them more time to live and to enjoy. Thereupon, these ayat were revealed. [Rul al-Maani]

Why Did the Muslims Wish For the Postponement of Jihad?

The wish for respite expressed by Muslims following the command to fight was not an objection to the command of jihad. It was, rather, a benign and subtle complaint.

The reason may lie in the usual pattern of human psyche in such situations. When hurt and harassed to the extreme, one is very likely to flare up and go for revenge. But, once man is used to a life of physical comfort and peace, he does not feel like going out to fight. This is no more than a simple human reaction.

So, these Muslims, while they were in Makkah, all fed up with pains inflicted on them by the disbelievers at that time, were naturally looking forward most eagerly for the command of jihad to come. But, when they reached Madina, they found peace and comfort which they had missed for long. Now the command to fight, when it came in that state of theirs, found them no more moved by their old fire, therefore, they simply wished that it would have been better if the call for jihad  was just not there at that point of time. Now, to take this ‘wish’ as an ‘objection’ and to attribute an act of sin to those Muslims is not correct. However, this explanation is limited to the assumption that they had pronounced this complaint verbally. But, if they said nothing verbally, and it was simply a thought which crossed their mind, then, thoughts in the mind and doubts in the heart are happening which the Shariah of Islam does not count as sins. Here, both probabilities exist.

Self-Correction Should Precede Collective Reform

In وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلَوةَ وَءَاتُواْ الزَّكَوةَ  Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has first mentioned the command to establish the prescribed prayers and pay the fixed zakah which are the medium of self-correction. The command of jihad comes after that, which is the medium of political and collective correction, that is, through it the forces of coercion and injustice are eliminated as a result of which peace prevails in the country. From here we learn that, well before worrying about correcting others, one should start correcting himself. So, seen from the angle of a relative degree of importance, the first command is an absolute individual obligation (fard al-ayn) while the second is an obligation which, if performed by some, will absolve others (fard al-kifayah). This highlights the importance of self-corrections and makes its precedence obvious enough [Mazhari].

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

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