An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 128

The Ruling Concerning Desertion on the Part of the Husband

Ayaat 128 – 130 carry instructions about the painful and hard part of married life which is faced by every married couple during one or the other stage of their long association. This is mutual displeasure and tension, which, if allowed to prevail without being checked through proper control, does not only result in severe problems for the couple but also, at times, carries the evil effects to families and tribes involving them in all sorts of mutual confrontation and even fighting and killing.

Through Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has introduced a system of family life for man and woman both, keeping in view the whole range of their feelings. This system when followed will definitely make home a paradise. Love and harmony will replace whatever bitterness there may be in the family. Just in case, inevitable circumstances bring the couple to the limit of separation, it would still be desirable to see that the parting of ways is done smoothly and painlessly. After that, when the relationship breaks, it is also necessary to watch that it leaves no emotional fallouts in the form of enmity, hostility, harm or hurt.

Ayah 128 talks about circumstances under which relationship between a husband and wife becomes strained for reasons beyond their control. Both parties seem to be helpless in the matter. However, their mutual bitterness makes it likely that they will fail in fulfilling the rights they have on each other. For example, a husband does not have amorous feelings in his heart. She may be ugly or aged while the husband is handsome. Thus, it is obvious that the woman cannot be blamed in any way for what she is, nor can the man be censured for whatever he is.

The earlier ayaat dealing with polygamy spoke about limitation of maximum number of wives, the rights of dower and the conditions of justice and equitable treatment for marrying more than one wife. It appeared impossible to fulfill these conditions in certain cases. For example, if one’s wife is barren or invalid or had lost attraction for him or was not fit for conjugal relationship, some problems arose when one married the second wife, such as:

– Was it a compulsory condition that one should show equal inclination towards both the wives or love them equally or show equality in the conjugal relations with them?

– Or, if this was not possible, did justice require that one should divorce the first wife before marrying the second?

– Or, if the first wife did not wish to part with her husband, would it be against the requirement of justice if she gave up some of her own rights to prevent her husband from divorcing her?

This ayah answers such questions.

وَإِنِ امْرَأَةٌ خَـفَتْ مِن بَعْلِهَا نُشُوزاً أَوْ إِعْرَاضاً

“And if a woman fears cruelty or desertion from her husband….”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states, and thus legislates accordingly, that sometimes, the man inclines away from his wife, sometimes towards her and sometimes he parts with her. In the first case, when the wife fears that her husband is steering away from her or deserting her, she is allowed to forfeit all or part of her rights, such as provisions, clothing, dwellings and so forth and the husband is allowed to accept such concessions from her. Hence, there is no harm if she offers such concessions, and if her husband accepts them. This is why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

فَلاَ جُنَاْحَ عَلَيْهِمَآ أَن يُصْلِحَا بَيْنَهُمَا صُلْحاً

“…then there is no sin upon them that they make terms of peace between themselves…”

He then said,

وَالصُّلْحُ خَيْرٌ

“….and reconciliation is best…”

Meaning better than divorce. Allah’s statement,

وَأُحْضِرَتِ الأنفُسُ الشُّحَّ

“And the souls are swayed by greed.”

Meaning coming to peaceful terms, even when it involves forfeiting some rights, is better than parting.

Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu said, “Sawdah feared that the Messenger of Allah might divorce her and she said, `O Messenger of Allah! Do not divorce me; give my day to Aisha.’ And he did, and later on Allah sent down this ayah [4:128].  Ibn `Abbas said, “Whatever (legal agreement) the spouses mutually agree to is allowed.”.

In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that Aisha radhiAllahu anha said that when Sawdah bint Zam`ah became old, she forfeited her day to Aisha, and the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallamused to spend Sawdah’s night with Aisha. There is a similar narration also collected by Bukhari.

Bukhari also recorded that Aishah commented;

وَإِنِ امْرَأَةٌ خَـفَتْ مِن بَعْلِهَا نُشُوزاً أَوْ إِعْرَاضاً

“And if a woman fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part”

refers to a man who is married to an old woman, and he does not desire her and wants to divorce her. So she says, `I forfeit my right on you.’

Reconciliation is Best

Ali ibn Abi Talhah related that ibn Abbas said that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ‘s statement  said, وَالصُّلْحُ خَيْرٌ  refers to, when the husband gives his wife the choice between staying with him or leaving him, as this is better than the husband preferring other wives to her. However, the apparent wording of the Ayah refers to the settlement where the wife forfeits some of the rights she has over her husband, with the husband agreeing to this concession, and that this settlement is better than divorce. For instance, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam kept Sawdah bint Zam`ah as his wife after she offered to forfeit her day for Aisha. By keeping her among his wives, his Ummah may follow this kind of settlement. Since settlement and peace are better with Allah than parting. Divorce is not preferred with Allah.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends this ayah by reminding about the virtue of taqwa,

وَإِن تُحْسِنُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيراً

“But if you do good and fear Allah, then indeed, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.”

If you are patient with the wife you dislike and treat her as other wives are treated, then Allah knows what you do and will reward you for it perfectly.

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7 thoughts on “Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 128

  1. Seriously ? What if he can not do his job in bed anymore ? Can she exchange him for a younger better functioning ” male model ” also ?? LADIES get an education !! Pay your own bills !! Accept NOTHING from a man for NOTHING is for free in this life ….take care of yourselves and he has NO RIGHTS over YOU ! YOUR body is YOURS ! He too must EARN what he wants !!

  2. I don’t understand here about the divorce. Does this mean that it is better that the wife give up some rights than ask for a divorce? Or does it mean it is better the man take away some of her rights from her rather than he divorce her? Who is the one making the decision here?

    1. Asalaam o alaykum,

      The ayah says: “And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement is best. And present in [human] souls is stinginess. But if you do good and fear Allah – then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (4:128)

      From the ayah, it is clear that this is a mutual agreement between the husband and wife.The husband does not feel attraction toward her but the wife does not want to leave it. So, they agree that the wife will give up some of her rights just to stay in Nikkah with that man. Read the example of Sawda RA above. She was old but didn’t want the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to divorce her, so she gave up her turn to Aisha RA but chose to remain in Nikkah with him.

      We must understand every woman is different. Some would accept their husbands as they are because they are still in love with them. Others may take a different decision for themselves. We cannot judge anyone. Woman has a choice, she can stay with the man despite his aloof behavior or take Khul.

    1. Asalaam o alaykum,

      I didn’t get your question…are you asking if it is allowed for the wife to desert her husband if she feels no attraction towards him? For the wife, the option is to ask for Khul – if she feels she can no longer live with him. For detail explanation on Khul – you may refer to the ayaat of divorce in Surah Al-Baqarah (linked here). The above ayah states that if a wife feels that her husband no longer feels attracted towards her but wishes to remain in Nikkah with him – then the husband and wife can mutually agree to some conditions such as the wife gives up some of her rights just to stay in the marriage. The example of Sawda RA is given above.

      Please let us know if we have understood your question correctly.

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