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Sura 4
Aya 1

Chapter 4

Womenal-Nisāʾ ( النساء )

176 verses • revealed at Medinan

»The surah that enshrines the spiritual-, property-, lineage-, and marriage-rights and obligations of Women. It makes frequent reference to matters concerning women (nisāʾ), hence its name. The surah gives a number of instructions, urging justice to children and orphans, and mentioning inheritance and marriage laws. In the first and last verses of the surah, it gives rulings on property and inheritance. The surah also talks of the tensions between the Muslim community in Medina and some of the People of the Book (verse 44 and verse 61), moving into a general discussion of war: it warns the Muslims to be cautious and to defend the weak and helpless (verse 71 ff.). Another similar theme is the intrigues of the hypocrites (verse 88 ff. and verse 138 ff.).«

The surah is also known as The Woman

بِسمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحمٰنِ الرَّحيمِ

Muhammad Asad: In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace:

يا أَيُّهَا النّاسُ اتَّقوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذي خَلَقَكُم مِن نَفسٍ واحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنها زَوجَها وَبَثَّ مِنهُما رِجالًا كَثيرًا وَنِساءً ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذي تَساءَلونَ بِهِ وَالأَرحامَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كانَ عَلَيكُم رَقيبًا

Muhammad Asad

THE TITLE An-Nisa' has been given to this surah because many of its passages deal with the rights of women and with questions relating to family life in general, including laws of inheritance, prohibition of marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity, marital relations, and so forth. The opening verse stresses the essential unity of the human race and the mutual obligations, arising from this kinship, of men and women towards one another. A large part of the surah is devoted to practical legislation bearing on problems of peace and war, as well as to relations of believers with unbelievers, especially with hypocrites. Verses 150-152 refute the possibility of believing in God without believing in His prophets: and this, in turn, leads to the subject of the Jews, who deny the prophethood not only of Muhammad but also of Jesus, as well as of the Christians, who deny Muhammad and deify Jesus although he "never felt too proud to be God's servant" (verse 172). And, finally, as if to stress the inseparability of man's beliefs from his social behaviour, the last verse refers, again, to laws of inheritance. There is no doubt that this surah belongs in its entirety to the Medina period. In the order of revelation it either follows immediately upon Al 'Imran or - according to some authorities - is separated from the latter, in point of time, by Al-Ahzab and Al-Mumtahanah. On the whole, however, it is most probable that it was revealed in the fourth year after the hijrah, although a few of its verses may belong to an earlier, and verse 58 to a later, period.
O MANKIND! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women.1 And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand [your rights] from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, God is ever watchful over you!
  • Out of the many meanings attributable to the term nafs - soul, spirit, mind, animate being, living entity, human being, person, self (in the sense of a personal identity), humankind, life-essence, vital principle, and so forth - most of the classical commentators choose "human being", and assume that it refers here to Adam. Muhammad 'Abduh, however, rejects this interpretation (Manar IV, 323 ff.) and gives, instead, his preference to "humankind" inasmuch as this term stresses the common origin and brotherhood of the human race (which, undoubtedly, is the purport of the above verse), without, at the same time, unwarrantably tying it to the Biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve. My rendering of nafs, in this context, as "living entity" follows the same reasoning - As regards the expression zawjaha ("its mate"), it is to be noted that, with reference to animate beings, the term zawj ("a pair", "one of a pair" or "a mate") applies to the male as well as to the female component of a pair or couple; hence, with reference to human beings, it signifies a woman's mate (husband) as well as a man's mate (wife). Abu Muslim - as quoted by Razi - interprets the phrase "He created out of it (minha) its mate" as meaning "He created its mate [i.e., its sexual counterpart] out of its own kind (min jinsiha)", thus supporting the view of Muhammad 'Abduh referred to above. The literal translation of minha as "out of it" clearly alludes, in conformity with the text, to the biological fact that both sexes have originated from "one living entity".