In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayaat 240 – 242
The text again returns to the subject of divorce mentioned in ayaat 234 – 237. The command to take due care of all prayers placed in between was to remind that the real thing in life is a constant orientation toward Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. As we stated earlier, he who honors the Rights of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will not oppress or deceive fellow human beings.
Ayaat 240 – 242 give guidance on the provision of residence and maintenance for widows.
“And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – for their wives is a bequest: maintenance for one year without turning (them) out. But if they leave (of their own accord), then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable way. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [al-Baqarah 2: 240]
In the Age of Ignorance [jahiliyyah], the period of waiting for a widow was one year. Islam changed it to four months and ten days rather than one full, as mentioned in ayah 234.
However, women were given a certain advantage in this respect. Those were the days when the command of inheritance was not revealed and a wife’s share in the inheritance was yet to be determined. The rights of all others revolved around the will of the deceased, as explained in the Tafseer of ayah 180. Therefore, it was made obligatory that a woman should be allowed to live in the premises of her late husband’s house for one full year if she so desires.
It was also mandatory under this arrangement that she be given her maintenance during this period out of what has been left behind by her husband. This rule is mentioned in this ayah (2: 240).
Husbands have been instructed to make wills to this effect. Since this was the right of the woman and she had the choice to receive or leave it, therefore, it was not permissible for the inheritors to evict her out of the house, but it was permissible for her not to live in that house at her discretion, and leave her due for the inheritors. The condition, however, was that ‘Iddah or the waiting period of four months and ten days be completed.
After the completion of this period she could leave the house of her husband and could enter into a new marriage with another person.
This is what is meant by, “But if they leave (of their own accord), then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable way.”
However, going out during the period of ‘Iddah and getting married was counted as sin – not only for the woman concerned but also for those who could stop her yet did not do so. When the ayah of inheritance was revealed, the woman received her ordained share in the house and in all other items of inheritance on the strength of which she had the choice to live in her section of the house and spend out of her share in the inheritance after the completion of four months and ten days, and this ayah (2: 240) was abrogated.
This Ayah is Abrogated
The majority of the scholars said that ayah 240 was abrogated by ayah 234. Some might ask then why is it in the Qur’an?
Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn Az-Zubayr radhiAllahu ‘anhu asked ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan radhiAllahu ‘anhu why he collected ayah 240 when it was abrogated by another ayah. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan replied, “O my nephew! I shall not change any part of the Qur’an from its place.”
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu commented on this ayah: The widow used to reside, and have her provisions provided for her for a year, in her deceased husband’s house. Later, the ayah that specified the inheritance (4:12) abrogated this ayah, and thus the widow inherits one-fourth or one-eighth of what her (deceased) husband leaves behind.
He also said that when a man died and left behind a widow, she used to remain in his house for a year for her ‘Iddah, all the while receiving her provisions during this time. Thereafter, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed ayah 234. So, this is the ’Iddah of the widow, unless she was pregnant, for her ‘Iddah then ends when she gives birth. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala also said, “And for the wives is one fourth if you leave no child. But if you leave a child, then for them is an eighth of what you leave, after any bequest you [may have] made or debt.” [an-Nisa 4: 12] So Allah specified the share of the widow in the inheritance and there was no need for the will or the nafaqah [maintenance] mentioned in ayah 240.
There are two situations, the woman can leave her husband’s house after completing her waiting period or she can keep living in the same house up to one year. The husband too can leave a will for his heirs in which he writes: My property should not be divided or my wife should not be thrown out of the house until my children grow up (at least wait for one year).
We also learn that no husband can make his wife promise him to not remarry after his death. It is the right of a woman that she can do whatever she desires in an acceptable way.
When one studies these ayaat, we see while men have been given the right to make or break nikkah [marriage contract], women’s rights have been protected. SubhanAllah! It is unfortunate that we do not study our religion and fall for propaganda or make wrong decisions in life.
Ayah 241 – the Necessity of the Gift at the Time of Divorce
“And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous. Thus does Allah make clear to you His ayaat that you might use reason.” [al-Baqarah 2: 241-242]
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous.”
Providing compensatory benefits for divorced women has also been dealt with in previous ayaat, but that was restricted to two types of divorced women who were divorced before privacy and consummation.
The first case of providing compensatory benefits was the giving of a set of clothes. The second case was of providing compensatory benefit in the form of half of the dower. Now remains the case of divorcees who were divorced after privacy and consummation.
Here, providing compensatory benefits to one whose dower has already been fixed lies in giving her the full amount of dower or mahr. For one whose dower has not already been fixed, a post consummation divorce will make it obligatory to give her mahr al-mithl or equivalent dower (as customarily given in the immediate family circle of the woman).
The scholars who ruled that the mata’ [reasonable gift] at the time of divorce is required for every divorced woman, whether she had a bridal-money appointed for her or not, and whether the marriage was consummated or not, relied on this ayah (2:241) when they issued their ruling.
The ayah ends with the statement, “a duty upon the righteous.” It means no law in the world can prevent one from committing injustice. The check has to come from one’s heart which is taqwa or Allah-consciousness. Whoever has the fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and of the accountability will refrain from cheating or oppressing others.
Through His ayaat Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes clear for us what is allowed and what is forbidden; what are His limits and what are His relaxations. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did not leave for us any matter unexplained. Qur’an’s revelation began with the command to read it is unfortunate that Muslims do not study the Qur’an and have immersed themselves in the trivial matters of this world. Because of our own ignorance of our responsibilities we oppress others and fall into sins.
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