4 - An Nisa (The women)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 4.1

Al-Jalalayn

O people, of Mecca, fear your Lord, that is, His punishment by being obedient to Him, Who created you of a single soul, Adam, and from it created its mate, Eve (Hawwā’), from one of his left ribs, and from the pair of them, Adam and Eve, scattered, separated and spread, many men and, many, women; and fear God by whom you claim [your rights] from one another (tassā’alūna: the original tā’ [of tatasā’alūna] has been assimilated with the sīn; a variant reading has tasā’alūna), so that one of you says to the other, ‘I ask you, by God…’, or ‘For God’s sake…’; and, fear, kinship ties, lest you sever them (a variant reading [of wa’l-arhāma, ‘and kinship ties’] is wa’l-arhāmi, as a supplement to the pronoun contained in bihi [sc. God]). They used to implore one another by ties of kinship. Surely God has been watchful over you, heedful of your deeds, for which He will requite you, that is to say, He is ever possessed of such an attribute.

Al-Qushairi

O people fear your Lord who created you of a single soul and from it created its mate and from the pair of them scattered many men and women; and fear God by whom you claim [your rights] from one another and kinship ties. Surely God has been watchful over you. “People” al-nās is a generic noun whose etymology is uncertain. It is said that man al-ins is called ins because of his becoming visible ẓuhūr. Following this [etymology] the allusion ishāra is: “O you whom I have made appear from the concealment of nonexistence by the decree of My prescriptive command taklīfī I have chosen whom I will from among you for My honoring tashrīfī and deprived whom I will from among you of My guidance and giving of knowledge taʿrīfī. I have brought you to whatever I will and have joined you to it by the decree of My free agency taṣrīfī.” It is said: “I did not cause anything else like you to appear from nonexistence and [I] did not make appear to anyone else what I have made appear to you in your states.” [Following another etymology of the word “people” al-nās] it is said: “I named you “humankind” insān because of your forgetfulness nisyān. If you forget Me there is nothing of lesser value than you. But if you forget all that is other than me there is none who sees more clearly than you.” It is said that for the one who forgets the Real there is no limit to his tribulation man nasiya al-ḥaqqa fa-lā ghāyata li-miḥnatihi while for the one who forgets creation there is no end to the sublimity of his state waman nasiya al-khalqa fa-lā nihāyata li-ʿulūwi ḥālatihi. It is said: He says to the sinners “O you who have forgotten My covenant ʿahdī who have rejected My love waddī and ignored My limit ḥaddī now it is time for you to return to My door bābī so that you may lay claim to My kindness and approval ījābī.” He said to those with deeper knowledge “O you who in Us have forgotten your worldly portion ḥaẓẓaka and have kept your glance and expression laḥẓaka wa lafẓaka from any other-your rightful due ḥaqquka is magnified through Us. Helping you is made worthy with Us wajaba ladaynā naṣruka and your measure is exalted before Us wa-jalla ʿindanā qadruka.

” It is said “O you who have been gladdened anista by the breeze of My nearness who have found rest in the witnessing of My face and who have been overcome by the majesty of My measure-you are to Me the most sublime of My servants.” Fear your Lord: Fear of God taqwā is the sum of all the acts of obedience. The first part of it is to abandon [the act of] associating others with God shirk and the last part of it is to be wary ittiqāÌ of everything other [than Him]. The foremost of those things which are other [than Him] for you is your lower self nafs. Those who are wary of themselves stand with God without any station maqām and without looking to any state ḥāl. [They stand] for the sake of God not for any self-interest in this life or the final outcome. Who created you of a single soul nafs who is Adam عليه السلام. Since we were created from him and he was created by the hand [of God] we are also thus. Because the merit of Adam عليه السلام became manifest through him to all created beings and things so are we to be described. God most high said they are the best of creatures [98:7]. The term “soul” nafs is [a term] of generality ʿumūm which necessarily entails comprehensiveness. And from it created its mate: The Real سبحانه decreed the cohabiting of humans one with another in order to perpetuate offspring and to return like to like. He connected the form of the one to the other. And from the pair of them scattered many men and women: By illuminating demonstrative proofs of divine lordship and evidentiary proofs of wisdom He informed rational beings of the perfection of the divine deliberative power inasmuch as the creation of all humankind is from the progeny of a single person-this in spite of all the differences in their outward appearances the variety of their forms and the disparity in their characters. Surely no two [humans] are alike. Each [human] has a particular face in form and character and in aspiration and state. Glory be to the One who is unlimited in what He decrees and infinite in what He makes known. And fear God ittaqū: the repetition of the command to fear God taqwā indicates the confirmation of and emphasis on His wise determination ḥukm.

You claim [your rights] from one another and kinship ties: that is “be wary ittaqū of cutting off kinship ties” for whoever cuts off kin is himself cut off and whoever connects with them is connected. Surely God has been watchful over you observing witnessing. He follows your breaths and sees what you perceive. He attends to your steps and brings forth your states of movement and rest. It is fitting then that those who know that [God] is a watcher over them should be shy before Him.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Command to have Taqwa, a Reminder about Creation, and Being Kind to Relatives

Allah commands His creatures to have Taqwa of Him by worshipping Him Alone without partners. He also reminds to them of His ability, in that He created them all from a single person, Adam, peace be unto him.

وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا

(And from him He created his wife) Hawwa' (Eve), who was created from Adam's left rib, from his back while he was sleeping. When Adam woke up and saw Hawwa', he liked her and had affection for her, and she felt the same toward him. An authentic Hadith states,

«إِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ خُلِقَتْ مِنْ ضِلَعٍ، وَإِنَّ أَعْوَجَ شَيْءٍ فِي الضِّلَعِ أَعْلَاهُ، فَإِنْ ذَهَبْتَ تُقِيمُهُ كَسَرْتَهُ، وَإِنِ اسْتَمْتَعْتَ بِهَا اسْتَمْتَعْتَ بِهَا وَفِيهَا عِوَج»

(Woman was created from a rib. Verily, the most curved portion of the rib is its upper part, so, if you should try to straighten it, you will break it, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked.) Allah's statement,

وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالاً كَثِيراً وَنِسَآءً

(And from them both He created many men and women;) means, Allah created from Adam and Hawwa' many men and women and distributed them throughout the world in various shapes, characteristics, colors and languages. In the end, their gathering and return will be to Allah. Allah then said,

وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ الَّذِى تَسَآءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالاٌّرْحَامَ

(And have Taqwa of Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and revere the wombs), protect yourself from Allah by your acts of obedience to Him. Allah's statement,

الَّذِى تَسَآءَلُونَ بِهِ

(through Whom you demand your mutual (rights)), is in reference to when some people say, "I ask you by Allah, and then by the relation of the Rahim (the womb, i.e. my relationship to you)'', according to Ibrahim, Mujahid and Al-Hasan. Ad-Dahhak said; "Fear Allah Whom you invoke when you conduct transactions and contracts.'' "And revere the womb by not cutting the relations of the womb, but keep and honor them, as Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Ad-Dahhak, Ar-Rabi`, and others have stated. Allah's statement,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيباً

(Surely, Allah is always watching over you.) means, He watches all your deeds and sees your every circumstance. In another Ayah, Allah said;

وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

(And Allah is Witness over all things.) 58:6. An authentic Hadith states,

«اعْبُدِاللهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ، فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ،فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاك»

(Worship Allah as if you see Him, for even though you cannot see Him, He sees you.) This part of the Ayah encourages having a sense of certainty that Allah is always watching, in a complete and perfect manner. Allah mentioned that He has created mankind from a single father and a single mother, so that they feel compassion for each other and are kind to the weaker among them. In his Sahih, Muslim recorded that Jarir bin `Abdullah Al-Bajali said that a delegation from Mudar came to the Messenger of Allah, and he saw their state, wearing striped woolen clothes due to poverty. After the Zuhr prayer, the Messenger of Allah stood up and gave a speech in which he recited,

يَٰـأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِى خَلَقَكُمْ مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَٰحِدَ ةٍ

(O mankind! Have Taqwa of your Lord, Who created you from a single person,) until the end of the Ayah. He also recited,

يٰأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ

(O you who believe! Have Taqwa of Allah. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the tomorrow) 59:18. He also encouraged them to give charity, saying,

«تَصَدَّقَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ دِينَارِهِ، مِنْ دِرْهَمِهِ، مِنْ صَاعِ بُرِّهِ، مِنْ صَاعِ تَمْرِه»

(A man gave Sadaqah from his Dinar, from his Dirham, from his Sa` of wheat, from his Sa` of dates) until the end of the Hadith. This narration was also collected by Ahmad and the Sunan compilers from Ibn Mas`ud.

Kashani

O people, fear your Lord: be wary of claiming for yourselves His attribute when good things issue from you. Rather, adopt that attribute as a shield for you when good issues from you and say that it has issued from the Absolute Powerful, Who created you of a single soul, which is the universal rational-speech faculty that is the heart of the world, being the real Adam, and from it created its mate, that is, the animal soul that issues from it. They say that she was created from his left breast-bone from the aspect that is turned towards the world of engenderment, which is weaker than the aspect oriented towards the Truth. Were it not for its [the single soul's] mate, he [Adam] would not have been made to descend to this world, as is commonly known. Iblis seduced her first and by leading her astray he found the means to lead Adam astray. There is no doubt that corporeal attachment does not materialise except through the medium of this [animal soul]; and He scattered from the pair of them many men, that is, possessors of hearts who yearn for their father [Adam], and women, possessors of souls and natures yearning for their mother [his mate], and fear God, in His essence against affirming your existence and make it a shield for you when your remnants become manifest upon the annihilation in the Oneness lest you become veiled by inspecting the annihilation [as from you], by Whom, [since it is by Him] and not by yourselves that, you claim [your rights] from one another and kinship ties: in other words, be wary of severing the true kinship ties, that is, the near of kin who are the sublime points of origin, the disengaged realities (mufāraqāt) and the spirits of prophets and saints by not loving them, and make this love a protection for you so that you are able to actualise your felicities and perfections. For the severing of kinship ties by the absence of love is to be oriented away from conjunction and unity towards separation and multiplicity and constitutes the true loathing and the total distance from the Side of the Truth, exalted be He. That is why the Prophet said: 'The maintenance of kinship ties increases one's lifespan'; in other words, it necessarily results in abiding subsistence. Know also that kinship ties outwardly represent the form of true conjunction inwardly. The outward works like the inward in terms of the affirmation of Oneness and thus the one who is unable to look after the outward is more likely not to be able to look after the inward. Surely God has been watchful over you, watching over you lest you should be veiled from Him by the manifesting of one of your attributes or some of your remnants and then suffer chastisement.

Kashf Al-Asrar

O people, be wary of your Lord, who created you from one soul, created from it its mate, and scattered forth from the two many men and women. And be wary of God, whom you ask against one another, and of the wombs. Surely God is watcher over you.

“O center point of human nature, O attribute of mortal nature, make godwariness your shelter and cling to it, for the life of the servants is through it and the deliverance of the travelers in it.”

Godwariness is for the servant to make the commands of the Shariah into his shield so that the arrows of prohibition may not reach him. It has three levels: First, he takes refuge in the sentence of tawḤīd and avoids every associationism. Second he takes refuge in obedience and steps away from the path of disobedience. Third he takes refuge in caution and flees from ambiguity. Anyone who climbs these way stations of godwariness with truthfulness will inescapably reach deliverance, for the Qur'an gives this report: “God will deliver those who were godwary in their place of security; ugliness will not touch them, neither shall they sorrow” [39:61]. In another place He says, “Whosoever is wary of God, He will appoint a way out for him and He will provide for him from whence he never reckoned [65:2-3]. Whenever someone takes hold of godwariness, We will ease for him the road of deliverance from every suffering and We will send him provision from whence he has no hope.”

It has been said that the sister of Bishr Ḥāfī went to see AḤmad Ḥanbal. She said, “O Imam of the Muslims! I work a spindle on the roof of my house. When the torch of the Tahirids passes by, it may happen that I join threads with the rays of that torch. Is this permissible or not?”

AḤmad said, “First tell me who you are. Are you in a walkway of being able to tolerate such godwariness?”

She said, “I am the sister of Bishr Ḥāfī.”

AḤmad wept and said, “Godwariness like this is permissible only in the household of Bishr Ḥāfī! It is not worthy of you, so be careful not to do it, and Bishr Ḥāfī will be happy with you. Emulate your brother so that perhaps you may be like him.

Then, if you want to work your spindle in the glow of the Tahirids' torch, your hand will not obey, for your brother had a degree such that whenever he reached for food that was in any way suspicious, his hand would not obey him.”

“When the servant desires to be negligent of Me, I come between him and his negligence of Me.” This is found in the report in which MuṣṬafā said, narrating from his Lord, “When I know that what dominates over My servant's heart is being occupied with Me, I put my servant's appetite into supplicating Me and conversing with Me. When My servant is like that, My servant has passion for Me, and I have passion for him. When My servant is like that and he desires to be negligent of Me, I come between him and his negligence of Me. Those are my friends in truth. Those are the champions. They are the ones for whose sake I remove from the earth those whom they desire to be punished.”

He is saying: “When My servant wants only Me, knows only Me, and belongs only to Me, I also turn the face of My heart toward him. For him I shut the door of all desires, all appetites, and all wants and I remove all others from his heart. I give passion for speaking to Me and listening to Me dominance over his spirit and heart and I give him ease on the carpet of passion. I hold the sword of beginningless jealousy over his head so that, should he want to look at another, or crave for another, or do business with another, I do not allow it.”

I will make night into day and day into night in your work.

I will ruin your business with the world's creatures.

“Yes, when I want him, I know how he must be plundered. Today I will entrust him to the policeman of godwariness so that I may keep him under the protection of My Shariah, and it will give his movements and stillnesses the condition of courtesy. Tomorrow I will settle him down in the seat of truthfulness [54:55] in the Presence of At-ness.” Have you not heard that tomorrow at the resurrection it will be said to godwariness, “Come, for today is the day of your bazaar! If anyone has a portion of you, settle him down in a domicile in the measure of his portion.

Settle down those familiar with you in the Presence of At-ness, for in the beginningless We decreed, Surely the godwary will be in the midst of gardens and a river, in a seat of truthfulness, at an Omnipotent King [54:54-55].”

Who created you from one soul, created from it its mate. The Lord who created everything that He created as a pair made a spouse appear for everyone. He joined each with a likeness and attached each to a similar, for unity and solitariness are an attribute specific to Him. It is His rightful due and worthy of Him. In has been narrated in one of the books, “I have given the things mates so that My unity will be inferred.”

And scattered forth from the two many men and women. He showed the perfect power and majesty of His lordhood to the creatures: “From the offspring of one upright individual I brought forth many thousands of creatures with diverse natures and colors, with different forms and conducts. Each has another color, another nature, another character, another state, another aspiration. You will never see two people alike in nature and visage, or in form and manner. So glory be to Him whose predetermined things have no end and whose objects of knowledge have no limit!”

Then, at the end of the verse, He says, “Surely God is watcher over you.” The watcher is He who gives ear to hearts without investigating, who is aware of deeds without asking, and who in striving has no need to rest. This is an admonishment of the servant and eloquent advice for the traveler. It means, “Since you know that I give ear to hearts and keep My eyes on deeds and words, put watchfulness to work and carry out My rightful due.” Watchfulness is that the servant constantly looks at the Real with the heart and keeps the gaze of the Real before his eyes. Since he knows that He is not heedless of him, He is always on guard. Hence MuṣṬafā said, “When you do not like people seeing something from you, do not do it while you are alone.” In this meaning they have sung,

When you are alone with yourself one day, do not say, “I'm alone.” Say, “Over me is a Watcher.”

*

I'm not heedless of your state for one moment, O friend.

I have possessors of awareness where you are.

Ibn ʿUmar passed by a slave-boy, a shepherd who had sheep in a pasture. He said, “Boy, sell me one of these sheep.”

The boy said, “These are not mine.”

Ibn ʿUmar said, “If they ask, say it was eaten by a wolf.” The boy said, “So where is God?”

Ibn ʿUmar was happy with his words and bought the slave-boy and all the sheep. He freed the slave and gave him the sheep. For a long time Ibn ʿUmar would say, “That slave said, 'So where is God?'”

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

This introduction beautifully suits the subsequent laws and regulations about human rights, specially about the smooth running of the family life. On the one hand, the people have been urged to fear Allah so as to escape His displeasure; on the other, they have been reminded that all human beings have sprung from one and the same parents and are thus closely related to one another. "....He created you of a single soul".At first one human being was created and then from him the ttumatt race spread over the earth. Therefore they should strictly observe the ties and obligations of kin-ship. We learn from another part of the Qur'an that Adam was that "single soul." He was the first Man from whom the whole of mankind sprang up and spread over the earth. "....and of the same created his mate:" We have no definite detailed knowledge of how his mate was created of him. The commentators generally say that Eve was created from the rib of Adam and the Bible also contains the same story. The Talmud adds to it that she was created from the thirteenth rib of Adam. But the Qur'an is silent about it, and the Tradition of the Holy Prophet that is cited in support of this has a different meaning from what has been understood. The best thing, therefore, is to leave it undefined as it has been left in the Qur'an, and not to waste time in determining its details.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

And on his authority from Ibn 'Abbas on Allah's saying: (O mankind!) [he said:] 'This is an expression of general applicability, but it could also be of particular applicability. (Be careful of your duty to your Lord) obey your Lord (Who created you) by means of copulation (from a single soul) from the soul of Adam alone, for the soul of Eve was included in his (and from it) from the soul of Adam (created its mate) Eve (and from them twain has spread abroad) He created through the copulation of Adam and Eve (a multitude of men and women) scores of human beings: male and female. (Be careful of your duty towards Allah) obey Allah (in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another) your stuff and rights by Allah's right, (and towards the wombs (that bare you)) and also by the right of kinship and filiation; or it could also mean: keep the ties of kinship and do not sever them. (Lo! Allah hath been a Watcher over you) He has been a Protector: He shall ask you about that which He has commanded you of acts of obedience and keeping ties of kinship.