4 - An Nisa (The women)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 4.59


O you who believe, obey God, and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you, that is, rulers, when they command you to obey God and His Messenger. If you should quarrel, disagree, about anything, refer it to God, that is, to His Book, and the Messenger, while he lives, and thereafter [refer] to his Sunna: in other words examine these [disputes] with reference to these two [sources], if you believe in God and the Last Day; that, reference to the two [sources], is better, for you than quarrelling or [adhering to] personal opinions, and more excellent in interpretation, in the end.


O you who believe, obey God, and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. If you should quarrel about anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the Last Day; that is better and more excellent in interpretation.

He compares obedience to Him with obedience to the Messenger (ṣ), an honoring of his affair and an elevation of his status. Those in authority (ūlū al-amr), in the language of scholarly knowledge, is the prevailing ruler (sulṭān). According to the explanation of deeper knowledge (maʿrifa), the one who has deeper knowledge (ʿārif) is the possessor of authority (dhū'l-amr) over the one who is just starting out, and the shaykh is the possessor of authority over the aspirant, and the imam of each group is the possessor of authority over them.

It is said the friend and governor (walī) of the aspirant is more worthy (awlā) than the aspirant than the aspirant is for the aspirant.

If you should quarrel about anything, refer it to God: In the language of scholarly knowledge, this means the Book and the Sunna. According to the explanation of declaring God's unity, it is to commit and entrust knowledge of it to God (s). When two thoughts are in disagreement in the heart of the believer, then if he has the effort of scholars, he contemplates what comes to his mind through that which this understanding points to. A master of a heart entrusts that to the Real (s) and observes what is addressed to him in its inner secrets and cast into his heart without any intermediary.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority") [4:59]. Abu "Abd al-Rahman ibn Abu Hamid al-"Adl informed us> Abu Bakr ibn Abi Zakariyya al-Hafiz> Abu Hamid ibn al-Sharqi> Muhammad ibn Yahya> Hajjaj ibn Muhammad> Ibn Jurayj> Ya"la ibn Muslim> Sa"id ibn Jubayr> Ibn "Abbas that he said regarding the saying of Allah, exalted is He, (O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority): "It was revealed about Hudhafah ibn Qays ibn "Adiyy who was sent by the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, in a military expedition". This was narrated by Bukhari from Sadaqah ibn al-Fadl and also by Muslim from Zuhayr ibn Harb and both transmitter related it from Hajjaj. Said Ibn "Abbas, according to the narration of Badhan: "The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent Khalid ibn al-Walid in a military expedition to one of the Arab clans. He was accompanied in this expedition by "Ammar ibn Yasir. When he drew closer to them at night, he stopped to camp in order to try to conquer them the following morning. Meanwhile this clan was warned about the approaching military expedition which made them flee the area, except for one man who was a Muslim. This man asked his family to get ready to move and then he went to the camp of Khalid and entered in on "Ammar. He said to him: "O Abu"l-Yaqzan! I am one of you. But my people ran away when they heard you were coming. I stayed because I am Muslim. Is this of any benefit to me, or shall I flee as my people did?" "Ammar said: "Stay, for it is beneficial to you". The man returned to his family and told them to stay. The following morning, Khalid invaded the clan but found no one except this man, and so he imprisoned him and seized his property. "Ammar went to him and said: "Let the man go, for he is a Muslim and I have already given him amnesty and told him to stay". Khalid said: "You give protection from me to others while I am the leader!" Ammar said: "Yes, I give protection from you to others while you are the leader". And they exchanged angry words. Then they both went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him about the man. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gave the man amnesty, sanctioned the amnesty that "Ammar had given to the man and then forbade him from giving amnesty to anyone in the future without the express permission of his leader. "Ammar and Khalid insulted each other in the presence of Allah"s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, and when "Ammar spoke very rudely to Khalid, the latter became very angry and said: "O Messenger of Allah, will you allow this slave to insult me? By Allah, if it were not for you, he would not insult me". "Ammar, by the way, was a client of Hashim ibn al-Mughirah. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: "O Khalid, leave "Ammar alone, for whoever insults "Ammar, Allah will insult him, and whoever hates "Ammar, Allah will hate him". Upon which "Ammar left. Khalid followed him, and held him by his cloak and asked him to forgive him, which he did. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse, enjoining obedience to those who are in authority".

Ibn Al Kathir

The Necessity of Obeying the Rulers in Obedience to Allah

Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah,

أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِى الاٌّمْرِ مِنْكُمْ

(Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those of you who are in authority.) "Was revealed about `Abdullah bin Hudhafah bin Qays bin `Adi, who the Messenger of Allah sent on a military expedition.'' This statement was collected by the Group, with the exception of Ibn Majah At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan, Gharib''. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Ali said, "The Messenger of Allah sent a troop under the command of a man from Al-Ansar. When they left, he became angry with them for some reason and said to them, `Has not the Messenger of Allah commanded you to obey me' They said, `Yes.' He said, `Collect some wood,' and then he started a fire with the wood, saying, `I command you to enter the fire.' The people almost entered the fire, but a young man among them said, `You only ran away from the Fire to Allah's Messenger. Therefore, do not rush until you go back to Allah's Messenger, and if he commands you to enter it, then enter it.' When they went back to Allah's Messenger, they told him what had happened, and the Messenger said,

«لَوْ دَخَلْتُمُوهَا مَا خَرَجْتُمْ مِنْهَا أَبَدًا، إِنَّمَا الطَّاعَةُ فِي الْمَعْرُوف»

(Had you entered it, you would never have departed from it. Obedience is only in righteousness.)'' This Hadith is recorded in the Two Sahihs. Abu Dawud recorded that `Abdullah bin `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«السَّمْعُ وَالطَّاعَةُ عَلَى الْمَرْءِ الْمُسْلِمِ فِيمَا أَحَبَّ وَكَرِهَ، مَا لَمْ يُؤْمَرْ بِمَعْصِيَةٍ، فَإِذَا أُمِرَ بِمَعْصِيَةٍ فَلَا سَمْعَ وَلَا طَاعَة»

(The Muslim is required to hear and obey in that which he likes and dislikes, unless he was commanded to sin. When he is commanded with sin, then there is no hearing or obeying.) This Hadith is recorded in the Two Sahihs. `Ubadah bin As-Samit said, "We gave our pledge to Allah's Messenger to hear and obey (our leaders), while active and otherwise, in times of ease and times of difficulty, even if we were deprived of our due shares, and to not dispute this matter (leadership) with its rightful people. The Prophet said,

«إِلَّا أَنْ تَرَوْا كُفْرًا بَوَاحًا، عِنْدَكُمْ فِيهِ مِنَ اللهِ بُرْهَان»

(Except when you witness clear Kufr about which you have clear proof from Allah.)'' This Hadith is recorded in the Two Sahihs. Another Hadith narrated by Anas states that the Messenger of Allah said,

«اسْمَعُوا وَأَطِيعُوا، وَإِنْ أُمِّرَ عَلَيْكُمْ عَبْدٌحَبَشِيٌّ كَأَنَّ رَأْسَهُ زَبِيبَة»

(Hear and obey (your leaders), even if an Ethiopian slave whose head is like a raisin, is made your chief.) Al-Bukhari recorded this Hadith. Umm Al-Husayn said that she heard the Messenger of Allah giving a speech during the Farewell Hajj, in which he said;

«وَلَوِ اسْتُعْمِلَ عَلَيْكُمْ عَبْدٌيَقُودُكُمْ بِكِتَابِ اللهِ، اسْمَعُوا لَهُ وَأَطِيعُوا»

(Even if a slave was appointed over you, and he rules you with Allah's Book, then listen to him and obey him.) Muslim recorded this Hadith. In another narration with Muslim, the Prophet said,

«عَبْدًا حَبَشِيًّا مَجْدُوعًا»

(Even if an Ethiopian slave, whose nose was mutilated...) In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«مَنْ أَطَاعَنِي فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللهَ، وَمَنْ عَصَانِي فَقَدْ عَصَى اللهَ، وَمَنْ أَطَاعَ أَمِيرِي فَقَدْ أَطَاعَنِي، وَمَنْ عَصَى أَمِيرِي فَقَدْ عَصَانِي»

(Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, and whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah. Whoever obeys my commander, obeys me, and whoever disobeys my commander, disobeys me.) This is why Allah said,

أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ

(Obey Allah), adhere to His Book,

وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ

(and obey the Messenger), adhere to his Sunnah,

وَأُوْلِى الاٌّمْرِ مِنْكُمْ

(And those of you who are in authority) in the obedience to Allah which they command you, not what constitutes disobedience of Allah, for there is no obedience to anyone in disobedience to Allah, as we mentioned in the authentic Hadith,

«إِنَّمَا الطَّاعَةُ فِي الْمَعْرُوف»

(Obedience is only in righteousness.)

The Necessity of Referring to the Qur'an and Sunnah for Judgment

Allah said,

فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِى شَىْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ

((And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger). Mujahid and several others among the Salaf said that the Ayah means, "(Refer) to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.'' This is a command from Allah that whatever areas the people dispute about, whether major or minor areas of the religion, they are required to refer to the Qur'an and Sunnah for judgment concerning these disputes. In another Ayah, Allah said,

وَمَا اخْتَلَفْتُمْ فِيهِ مِن شَىْءٍ فَحُكْمُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ

(And in whatsoever you differ, the decision thereof is with Allah). Therefore, whatever the Book and Sunnah decide and testify to the truth of, then it, is the plain truth. What is beyond truth, save falsehood This is why Allah said, u

إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ

(if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day.) meaning, refer the disputes and conflicts that arise between you to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger for judgment. Allah's statement,

إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ

(if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. ) indicates that those who do not refer to the Book and Sunnah for judgment in their disputes, are not believers in Allah or the Last Day. Allah said,

ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ

(That is better) meaning, referring to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger for judgment in various disputes is better,

وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلاً

(and more suitable for final determination.) meaning, "Has a better end and destination,'' as As-Suddi and several others have stated while Mujahid said, "Carries a better reward.''


O you who believe, by [your] affirmation of the unity of [His] attributes, obey God, by affirming the unity of the essence and by being annihilated in the union, and obey the Messenger, by observing what is due at the level of differentiation at the source of the union and taking note of the hierarchy of the attributes after being annihilated in the essence, and those in authority among you, of those who deserve spiritual guardianship (walāya) and leadership [over you], as has already been mentioned in the story of Saul.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

This verse is the basis of the whole religious, cultural and political system of Islam and is the first and foremost article of the constitution of an Islamic State. It lays down permanently the following fundamental principles:

(1) In the Islamic system, Allah is the real Authority who must be obeyed. A Muslim is first of all the servant of Allah; all his other capacities come after this. Therefore, a Muslim as an individual and the Muslims as a community owe their first loyalty to Allah and they must subordinate all other loyalties to this. Allegiance and obedience to anyone else shall be acknowledged only if these are not opposed to the allegiance and obedience to Allah but are subordinate to it. All other allegiances that are opposed to this basic allegiance shall be broken asunder. The Holy Prophet has explained the same thing in a Tradition: "There is no obedience to any of His creatures in what involves disobedience to the Creator."

(2) The second fundamental principle of the Islamic system is allegiance and obedience to the Holy Prophet. This obedience is not inherent in Prophethood but is only practical shape of obedience to Allah. A Messenger is to be obeyed because he is the authentic means through which we can receive Commandments and instructions from Allah. Hence, we can obey Allah only by obeying His Messenger, for no other way of obedience is genuine. As a corollary of this, the breach of allegiance to the Messenger shall be a rebellion against the Sovereign, Whom he represents. A Tradition explains the same thing thus: "Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah and whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah." The same thing has also been explicitly stated in v. 80 of this Surah.

(3) After the first and the second allegiance, and subordinate to these, the Muslims owe allegiance to those invested with authority from among themselves. The Arabic word ulil-amr is very comprehensive, which comprises all those persons who are in any way at the helm of the affairs of the Muslims-religious scholars, thinkers, political leaders, administrators, judges of law courts, tribal chiefs and the like. In short, all those, who are in any way invested with authority from among the Muslims, are to be obeyed, and it is not right to disturb the peace of the community life of the Muslims by entering into conflict with them, provided that (a) they are from among the Muslims, and (b) they are obedient to Allah and His Messenger. These two conditions are a pre-requisite for obedience to them, and these have been explicitly laid down in the verse and have also been fully explained by the Holy Prophet. In support of this some Traditions are cited below:

(a) "It is obligatory on a Muslim to listen to and obey orders of those invested with authority, whether he likes it or dislikes it, provided that it is not sinful. However, if he is ordered to do a sinful thing, he should neither listen to the rulers nor obey their orders." (Bukhari, Muslim).

(b) "Obedience to anyone in a sinful thing is forbidden. Obedience is obligatory only in what is right." (Bukhari, Muslim).

(c) The Holy Prophet said, "There will be rulers over you who will practice right things as well as wrong things: (In such a case) whoever protests against the wrong things, shall be absolved from the responsibility and whoever dislikes the wrong things, also shall escape (punishment). But whoever approves of and follows them, shall incur punishment." The Companions asked, "Should we not then fight against such rulers?" The Holy Prophet answered, "No, as long as they offer the Salat." (Muslim)

That is, if they discard the Salat, it will be a clear proof of their disobedience to Allah and His Messenger. Then it will be right to rise against them

(d) The Holy Prophet said, "Your worst rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you, whom you curse and who curse you." The Companions asked, "O Messenger of God, should we not rise against such rulers?" The Holy Prophet answered, "No, as long as they establish the Salat among you." (Muslim)

In this Tradition, the condition about the Salat laid down in the preceding one, has been made more explicit. One might have inferred from (c) that if they offered the Salat in their individual capacities, no rising should be organized against them. But Tradition (d) explicitly lays down that the condition for obedience to those in authority is the establishment of the system of Salat by them in the Muslim Community. The rulers should not only themselves offer the Salat regularly, but they should also establish the Salat in the system of government run by them. This is the minimum condition that ' makes a government Islamic in principle. If a government lacks this, it will mean that such a government has discarded Islam, and the Muslims will be justified in overthrowing it. This same thing has also been stated in another Tradition thus: "The Holy Prophet took a covenant from us regarding certain things. One of these was that we would not engage in a dispute with those invested with authority unless we saw in them clear signs of disbelief, which may provide us with a cogent reason to present before Allah." (Bukhari, Muslim)

(4) The fourth thing that has been laid down as an absolute and permanent principle is that the Commandments of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger are the fundamentals of law and final authority in the Islamic system. Hence, if a dispute arises about any matter between the Muslims or between the rulers and the ruled, they should turn to the Qur'an and the Sunnah for a decision and they should all submit to the decision. Thus, the essential element in the Islamic system that distinguishes it from un-Islamic systems is to acknowledge the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger as the final authority and to turn to these and to submit to their decisions in all problems of life. Any system void of this is most surely an un lslamic system.

Some people doubt the soundness of this principle. They say that it fails in practical life for the simple reason that there are many aspects of life (e.g., Local Self department. Railway department, Postal department, etc. etc.,) for which there are no rules and regulations at all in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger. How then can they find the solution of the problems they meet with in such aspects of life as concern such departments? This doubt arises because they do not, understand the fundamental principles of Islam. Islam allows freedom of action in all those things about which the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger are silent. What distinguishes a Muslim from a non-Muslim is that the latter claims absolute freedom but the former considers himself to be the servant of Allah and uses only that amount of freedom which Islam allows him. The non-Muslim judges all matters in accordance with the rules and regulations made by himself and does not believe that he stands in need of Divine Guidance. In contrast to him, the Muslim, first of all, turns to Allah and His Messenger for guidance about everything and abides by their decision. But if he does not find any commandment therein about a certain thing, only then he is free to act in a manner he considers to be right. The very fact that the Law is silent about a certain thing, is a proof that it allows freedom of action in that particular matter.

In the first part of this verse, the Qur'an enunciates the tour fundamental principles of the Islamic Constitution, and in the second part teaches the wisdom that underlies them. The Muslims have been enjoined to follow the four fundamental principles if they are true believers; otherwise their profession of Islam will become doubtful. Then they have been taught to build their system of life on these because therein also lies their well-being; for this alone can keep them on the right path in this world and lead them to a happy life in the Hereafter.

It should also be noted that this piece of advice follows the critical review of the moral and religious condition of the Jews and warns the Muslims in a subtle manner to learn a lesson from their deplorable condition. It says that whenever a community flings the Book of Allah and the guidance of His Messenger behind its back and follows such leaders as are disobedient to Allah and His Messenger, and blindly obeys its rulers and religious leaders without demanding from thetas the authority of the Book and the Sunnah, it can never escape those evils in which the children of Israel were involved.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

(O ye who believe!) 'Uthman Ibn Talhah and his fellow believers. (Obey Allah) in that which He has commanded you, (and obey the messenger) in that which he commands you (and those of you who are in authority) the leaders of military expeditions; it also said that this means: the men of sacred knowledge; (and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah) to the Book of Allah (and the messenger) and to the practice of the Messenger (if you are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day) resurrection after death. (That) referring the matter to the Book of Allah and the practice of His Messenger (is better and more seemly in the end).