An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 114

Moving from the episode of theft and conspiracies made to cover up the crime by false accusations against others, the text now highlights positive things that can be done through mutual consultation and which could help one to remain obedient to the Messenger’s teachings and the command of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala without ever trying to go against the ideal path taken by those who believe in Allah and His Messenger.

In the first part, it has been declared that most talks people hold and plans they make to ensure transitory worldly gains, while unmindful of the concerns of their life-to-come are devoid of good.

لاَّ خَيْرَ فِى كَثِيرٍ مِّن نَّجْوَاهُمْ

“There is no good in most of their secret talk….”

Why is Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala saying that there is no good in their private whisperings? It’s because secret talks or private conversations are similar to backbiting, therefore there is no khair in it.

The word Najwa is from the root letters noon, jeem, waw, and it is derived from the word najwatun and najwa is a high place. A place that is distinct from its surrounding areas. Similarly, when you choose someone for your private conversation this means you are selecting them above others. For example, you are sitting in a group of friends and you pick one friend to whisper something in his ear. What are you doing? You are preferring him above others.

By talking secretly, you may think it’s just between you and your friend, no one else is aware of your conversations but we forget that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Omnipresent. He is everywhere. He can see us in every corner and hear our every thought.

So a person may think he is deceiving others, but he is not deceiving others. Their secret talks lack any khair because mostly in such conversations people talk something bad about others. They may be fabricating things, creating false stories.

The second part means that real good can come forth from mutual consultations only when people persuade each other to take part in charitable activities or ask people to do what is good and right or tell them to make peace between one another. It is said in a hadeeth that anything one says is harmful for him in one way or the other unless, of course, the subject of his utterance is the remembrance of Allah or that he bidding the fair and forbidding the unfair.

إِلاَّ مَنْ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ أَوْ مَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ إِصْلَـحٍ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ

“….except he who orders charity or kindness or conciliation between people.”

Why would someone advice his friend to give sadaqah in private and not openly? He does so because it protects the honor of the person to whom sadaqah is being given. If someone announces this publicly, he will be embarrassing the recipient of sadaqah. The poverty of the person will be revealed, he will humiliated among people.

Maroof is everything that is approved by Shari’ah. For example, asking someone to pray, correcting some mistake. It includes advising what is right and forbidding what’s wrong. Why must this be done in private? Again, you can’t humiliate someone in public. If you are their well-wisher, you will respect their dignity and advice in private.

Bidding the Fair stands for amr-bil-Maroof which refers to every action considered good in the Shari’ah and is patently recognized as such by those who know it. In contrast, there is the forbidding of the unfair which stands for nahy-an’il-Munkar which refers to every action considered undesirable in the Shari’ah and is squarely unrecognized and unfamiliar to those who know it.

Bidding the fair includes all imperatives and motivations through which people are led to do what is good and right. Things like helping the oppressed, assisting the needy with loans, guiding the lost, all fall under this broad category. Though, charity and reconciliation between people are also part of this definition, but they have been taken up separately because their benefit reaches from one to another and improves the collective life of a community.

In addition to that, these two fields of activity cover what is most essential about public service. They seek to bring benefit to Allah’s creation and they protect people against pain and loss. Charity spreads out benefits to people and reconciliation between them stops mutual pain and loss. Therefore, according to a consensus of the scholars of tafseer, the word sadaqah used here carries a general sense which includes the obligatory zakah, voluntary charities and everything done to bring benefit to someone.

The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam has spoken highly about the merit of removing mutual bickering among people and of bringing them to understand, accommodate and cooperate with each other. He said,

“Shall I not tell you about an act which is far superior in rank to fasting, prayers and charity?” The Companions submitted, “Please do.” He then said, “That act is the removal of discord. That is, to remove bickering between two persons, make peace between them and thus eliminate discord.”

He has also said, “Mutual discord among people is what really shaves.” Then, he explained it by saying, “This discord does not shave the head, but it shaves off one’s faith.”

In the concluding part of ayah 114, there appears a significant reminder that these good deeds to bid charity and fair action or a reconciliation among people can only be worthwhile and acceptable when they are undertaken sincerely, and exclusively for the pleasure of Allah, without any traces of personal or material interest.

Allah  subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذلِكَ ابْتَغَآءَ مَرْضَـتِ اللَّهِ

“…and he who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah…”

Does what? Advising someone in private for amr-bil-maroof or gives sadaqah in private with sincerity and awaiting the reward with Allah, the Exalted and Most Honored,

فَسَوْفَ نُؤْتِيهِ أَجْراً عَظِيماً

“We shall give him a great reward.” 

Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is going to reward him accordingly.

LESSONS:

We learn that

– most of the private conversations that we have with our friends or family are void of any good. Many times it’s backbiting. And what is backbiting? To mention something about your brother in his absence which if he hears is not going to like it. For example, women may complain to their husband or mother about a gift their mother-in-law brought. If the MIL hears it, will she like it? No. Would you say it on her face? No. So what is it? A gheeba! Similarly, when we are texting or chatting online, there is no khair. Not that it’s sinful but it’s void of any benefit. No benefit of dunya or akhirah. It’s useless and we are just wasting our time.

If we analyze our conversations, what do we talk about most? How the food was, what he said, what she said…we spend two hours talking about useless things. There is no benefit in them. So we learn that whisperings are something disliked in our deen. A person should be open and clear. If something must be hidden from someone then it’s not worth talking about. If you don’t like the present your MIL gave you, it’s not worth mentioning. Take it and keep aside.

When people see two people talking privately, people take it negatively. They assume that those two people must be talking about them. They must be saying some awful things about them. This is why najwa is disliked in our deen because it leads to fasad, quarrels.

– the only time we should talk in private is when telling someone to offer prayer, to give sadaqah, to correct their mistake, etc. Private conversations are incited by Shaytan, so that people may fight among one another. The only time when one should whisper is to protect another from humiliation.

For example, you go to a public place with your family. Your child is misbehaving, running here and there and screaming. If you yell at your child or start beating him in public, would the child be pleased with you? He’ll feel humiliated and perhaps this incident will instill hatred for you, in his heart. Therefore, while correcting someone take care of how you approach them. Watch your tone and surroundings.

– it is advisable to correct someone in private because if you do it in open it might spark an argument. For example, two people are not talking and you call both of them at one time. Make them sit together and ask what they said. This would turn into a heated argument. So it’s better to speak to each of them privately first, hear them out and then try to make reconciliation between them.

– we also learn the importance of ihklas. i.e. if we do anything solely for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, then He is going to reward us for it. If on the other hand, we do something to appear good in the eyes of people then our actions lacks sincerity. And Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is all aware of it.

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