In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayaat 231 – 232
“And when you divorce women and they have (nearly) fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress (against them). And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. And do not take the ayaat of Allah in jest. And remember the favor of Allah upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Knowing of all things.” [al-Baqarah 2: 231]
This is a command from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to men that when one of them divorces his wife with a reversible divorce, he should treat her kindly. So when her waiting period nears its end, he either takes her back in a way that is better, including having witnesses that he has taken her back, and he lives with her with kindness. Or, he should release her after her waiting period finishes and then kindly asks her to depart from his house, without disputing, fighting with her or using foul words. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress (against them).”
In the past a man used to divorce his wife, and when her ‘Iddah came near its end, he would take her back to harm her and to stop her from marrying someone else. He then divorced her and she would begin her ‘Iddah and when her waiting period neared its end, he would take her back again, so that the term of ‘Iddah would be prolonged for her. After that, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prohibited this practice. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala threatens those who indulge in such practices, “And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself.” Therefore, it was said: Do not take the ayaat of Allah in jest.
Ibn Jarir said that Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari narrated that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam once became angry at the Ash’ari tribe. Abu Musa went to him and said, “O Messenger of Allah! Are you angry with the Ash’ariyyeen?” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
يَقُولُ أَحَدُكُمْ: قَدْ طَلَّقْتُ، قَدْ رَاجَعْتُ، لَيْسَ هَذَا طَلَاقُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ، طَلِّقُوا الْمَرْأَةَ فِي قُبُلِ عِدَّتِهَا
“One of you says, ‘I divorced her’ – then says – ‘I took her back!’ This is not the appropriate way Muslims conduct divorce. Divorce the woman when she has fulfilled the term of the prescribed period”
Masruq said that the ayah refers to the man who harms his wife by divorcing her and then taking her back, so that the waiting period is prolonged for her. Al-Hasan, Qatadah, ‘Ata’ Al-Khurasani, Ar-Rabi’ and Muqatil bin Hayyan said, “He is the man who divorces his wife and says, ‘I was joking.’ Or he frees a servant or gets married and says, ‘I was only joking.’ Allah revealed: Do not take the ayaat of Allah in jest.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then said, “And remember the favor of Allah upon you and what has been revealed to you of the Book and wisdom by which He instructs you.”
Ibn Katheer writes that the favor of Allah means His sending the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with the right guidance and clear signs for us. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent down the Qur’an and Hikmah which is interpreted as the Sunnah of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Through these two sources He instructs His servants to do that which He has commanded us to do and to stay away from the prohibitions.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala closes the address by a reminder to fear Him, “And fear Allah and know that Allah is Knowing of all things.” Fearing Allah means fearing Him in what we do and what we stay away from. We should remember that none of our secret or public affairs ever escapes His knowledge, and He will treat us accordingly.
Ayah 232 – the Guardian of the Divorced Woman should not prevent Her from returning to Her Husband
“And when you divorce women and they have fulfilled their term, do not prevent them from remarrying their (former) husbands if they agree among themselves on an acceptable basis. That is instructed to whoever of you believes in Allah and the Last Day. That is better for you and purer, and Allah knows and you know not.” [al-Baqarah 2: 232]
‘Ali ibn Abu Talhah reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This ayah was revealed about the man who divorces his wife once or twice and her ‘Iddah finishes. He later thinks about taking her back in marriage and the woman also wishes that, yet, her family prevents her from remarrying him. Hence, Allah prohibited her family from preventing her.”
There is No Marriage without the Wali [Guardian] for the Woman
The ayah also indicates that the woman is not permitted to give herself in marriage. Rather, she requires a Wali [guardian such as her father, brother, adult son, and so forth] to give her away in marriage. A hadeeth states:
لَا تُزَوِّجُ الْمَرْأةُ الْمَرْأَةَ، ولَا تُزَوِّج الْمَرأةُ نَفْسَهَا، فَإِنَّ الزَّانِيَةَ هِيَ الَّتِي تُزَوِّجُ نَفْسَهَا
“The woman does not give another woman away for marriage and the woman does not give herself away in marriage, for only the adulteress gives herself away for marriage.”
Another hadeeth states:
لَا نِكَاحَ إلَّا بِوَلِيَ مُرْشِدٍ وَشَاهِدَيْ عَدْل
“No marriage is valid except with the participation of a mature Wali and two trustworthy witnesses.”
The Reason behind the Revelation of this Ayah
It was reported that this ayah was revealed about Ma’qil ibn Yasar Al-Muzani and his sister. Al-Bukhari reported in his Saheeh, when he mentioned the Tafseer of this ayah (2:232), that the husband of the sister of Ma’qil ibn Yasar divorced her. He waited until her ‘Iddah finished and then asked to remarry her, but Ma’qil refused. Then, this ayah was sent down: ‘…do not prevent them from remarrying their (former) husbands.’” Abu Daw’oud, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Abu Hatim, Ibn Jarir and Ibn Marduwyah and Al-Bayhaqi reported this hadeeth from Al-Hasan from Ma’qil ibn Yasar.
At-Tirmidhi rendered this Hadith authentic and in his narration, Ma’qil ibn Yasar gave his sister in marriage for a Muslim man during the time of Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. She remained with him for a while and he divorced her once and did not take her back until her ‘Iddah finished. They then wanted to get back with each other and he came to ask her for marriage. Ma’qil said to him, “O ungrateful one! I honored you and married her to you but you divorced her. By Allah! She will never be returned to you.” But Allah knew his need for his wife and her need for her husband and He revealed: And when you divorce women and they have fulfilled their term, do not prevent them from remarrying their (former) husbands if they agree among themselves on an acceptable basis. That is instructed to whoever of you believes in Allah and the Last Day. That is better for you and purer, and Allah knows and you know not.
When Ma’qil heard the ayah, he said, “I hear and obey my Lord.” He then summoned the man and said, “I will honor you and let you remarry (my sister).” Ibn Marduwyah added (that Ma’qil said), “And will pay (the expiation) for breaking my vow.”
An Instruction for those who Believe in Allah and the Last Day
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, “That is instructed to whoever of you believes in Allah and the Last Day. That is better for you and purer, and Allah knows and you know not.” It means that it is prohibited to prevent the women under your care (whether your sister or daughter) from marrying their ex-husbands, if couple agree to it. This instruction is for everyone who believes in Allah’s commandments and fears His warnings and the torment in the Hereafter.
“That is better for you and purer,” meaning, obeying Allah’s Law by returning the women to their ex-husbands, and abandoning one’s displeasure or ego, is purer and cleaner for one’s hearts. Allah knows the benefits that one gains from honoring His commands and staying away from His prohibitions whereas we do not know the benefits of what we do and what we refrain from.
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