Men not to go near women during the monthly course -Glad-tidings to the believers about their meeting Allah -period of waiting for divorced women -Reconciliation after the divorce and re-establishment of conjugal relations.
وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْمَحِيضِ قُلْ هُوَ أَذًى فَاعْتَزِلُواْ النِّسَاء فِي الْمَحِيضِ وَلاَ تَقْرَبُوهُنَّ حَتَّىَ يَطْهُرْنَ فَإِذَا تَطَهَّرْنَ فَأْتُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَكُمُ اللّهُ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ
222. "They ask you (O' Muhammad) concerning menstruation. Say: 'It is a hurt; so avoid (intercourse with) women during menstruation and do not approach them till they be cleaned. When they are thus purified, then you may go unto them as Allah has commanded you.' Verily, Allah loves those who repent constantly, and (He) loves those who purify themselves."
Women have a state of menstruation every month the course of which is at least three days and at most ten days. It is discharging of blood from the woman's womb, with some special qualities which the concerning jurisprudent books detail. The woman in this condition is called: /ha'id/ 'menstruous woman' and that blood is called 'menstrual blood'.
The existing religious regulations among the Jews and the Christians due to sexual intercourse of men with such women are opposite to each other, so different that it creates questions for a person not from amongst them.
Some of the Jews say that the association of men with such women is absolutely unlawful, even in the form of eating food with them at the same table, or living in one room. They say, for example, a man should not sit where a menstruous woman had sat before.
So, if the man sat thereon, he would have to wash his clothing, else it is unclean, /najis/. Or, if he sleeps in her bed, he must wash both his clothing and body. In short, according to the current Torah, a woman, during this period, is considered an unclean one necessary to avoid.1
Christians are just opposite with this group. They actually make no difference between the menstrual period of woman and other than that. There is no bar for them to have any association with their wives including sexual intercourse during that period, even.
Pagan Arabs, the ones who were living in Medina in particular, had become, more or less, sociable with the habits of the Jews, and treated menstruous women like the Jews did. They used to keep aloof from their wives when they were in their monthly courses.
That very notable difference in those religious notions and the existing custom among their adherents caused that some Muslims posed that question to the Prophet (S). In answer to their question, this verse was revealed.
The Arabic term /mahid/ is an infinitive form which, here, philologically means 'menstruation'. Thus, the meaning of the verse is: O' Muhammad they ask you about menstruation and its injunctions. In answer to that, say 'It is a hurt'.
In fact, this phrase states the philosophy of the ordinance of the prohibition of sexually approaching women during their monthly course. This matter is referred to in the subsequent sentence. Sexual intercourse with women in this state, besides being repugnant, brings forth much harm. This fact has been approved by modern medicine, too, which can be found in concerning medical books.
Some of these harms are as follows:
1- At first, preparing a good environment for the increase of venereal microbes (as a result of dropping particles from the mucus of endometrium in the womb during this period).
2- The probability of the increase of venereal diseases, or STD, both in man and woman.
3- Creating a kind of hatred in man.
And, however, for more data, the books concerning the hygiene of women should be referred to.
The beginning phrase of this verse, which enjoins avoidance and prohibits approaching and having intercourse with menstruous women, initially seems similar to the present regulations in the creed of the Jews.
But, regarding to the sentence: 'then you may go unto them as Allah has commanded you', which is upon the permission of sexual intercourse with women after being cleaned from the menstruation, it is recognized that the purpose of avoidance and barring the approaching is only abstention from sexual intercourse during that period.
Thus, Islam has paved a moderate path due to the monthly course of women. And, the method of Islam everywhere is always the middle way; so, it is always aloof from excess and defect. Here, it also condemns the excess of the Jews by saying that, any companionship and association with women in their course, except for sexual intercourse, does not matter.
It also rejects the method of the Christians who consider no limitation for the association with menstruous women. In this way, Islam, observing the honour and personality of woman and abandoning her humiliation, has prevented the deeds which cause hygienical harms and hurts for both man and woman.
This part of the verse is, in fact, an explanation of the permitted intercourse with women. It is understood from the terms ' when they are thus purified' that as soon as women are free from monthly course, sexual intercourse with them is allowed for their husbands; because this phrase has occurred after the qualification of the uncleanliness of menstruation.
That is, when women are cleaned from this uncleanliness, the prohibition will be removed. The interpretation of /tatahharna/ 'are thus purified' into ritual ablution /ghusl/ for women is not fitting with the apparency of the verse, because there has not been any statement of obligatory 'ritual ablution' /ghusl/ at the beginning of the verse.
In other words, the apparent meaning of the earlier phrase that says: 'till they be cleaned' is that the prohibition is during the time of uncleanliness of a woman; and the phrase: 'when they are thus purified', which has begun, in Arabic, with a sign of subdivision, refers to the meaning of the earlier phrase, i.e. when they become cleaned, this prohibition will be removed.
And, this is the same judgment that our great religious jurisprudents have also chosen in jurisprudence and have decreed that: sexual intercourse with women, after being cleansed from blood, and even before performing their ritual ablution /ghusl/, is permissible.
By the foregoing explanation, it became defined that the phrase 'are thus purified' , in spite of what some have supposed, does not have any indication to performing ritual ablution, and the obligation of it has been proved through another reason.
In the next sentence, it commands that you may approach your wives in the same way that Allah has ordered you:
This phrase can be an emphasis on the previous statement, i.e. you may have sexual intercourse only in the case of cleanliness of your wives, not in other than that.
It may also convey a wider and more general concept, viz. after being cleaned, the sexual approachment should also be performed in the limits of the commandments of Allah.
The commandment can evidently encompass both the genetic commandment of Allah and the divine legislation, because, for the purpose of the maintenance of the human kind, Allah has settled a kind of interest and attraction between the two sexes toward each other that, for the same reason, each party enjoys a special pleasure from the other one.
But it is certain that the aim of that status has been for the maintenance of the generations of human kind, and this struggle and pleasure is a preparation for that aim. Therefore, sexual pleasure should be settled alongside the path of the maintenance of the human race.
For this very reason, masturbation, sodomy and the like of them, which are a deviation from this genetic commandment, are totally forbidden. By no means can these disagreeable acts provide the main aim of sexual intercourse and are not even towards it (besides other grave harms that they have).
The term' repentance' means return from sin and regret from disobedience to the command of Allah.
The main pillars of repentance are three:
1- The acknowledgment that the one has ignorantly disobeyed the commandment of Allah formerly.
2- To feel sorry about that action.
3- A firm decision upon its abandonment in the future and making an effort to make up for the past.
When such a situation appears in a person, the one is called /ta'ib/ 'repentant', and that action is termed /taubah/ 'repentance'. (More explanation about repentance and its conditions have been detailed and will be cited upon the verses of consequence.)
The objective meaning of the Qur'anic term /tathir/ 'purification' in this verse is 'not to be polluted by sin' and 'refrain from disobeying Allah'.
The occurrence of this phrase at the end of the verse is for that, after the command of the Lord enjoining the avoidance of the believers from sexual intercourse during the monthly period of women, some might not restrain themselves from that because of the intense pressure of their natural instinct and inspite of the order of Allah would commit sin.
So, in order that this group of people be hopeful and could return to rightfulness, the Qur'an remarks that if (such) people repent, Allah loves them, while those who keep purified themselves from the beginning and do not pollute themselves with this sin, have a larger portion of the love and grace of Allah.
Old Testament, Leviticus, Chapter 15, p. 138, No.19 to 29, concerning women at the period of menstruation, says thus:
19. And if a woman has an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
20. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.
21. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
22. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
23. And if it be on her bed or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.
24. And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.
25. And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean.
26. Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation.
27. And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
28. But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.
29. And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
نِسَآؤُكُمْ حَرْثٌ لَّكُمْ فَأْتُواْ حَرْثَكُمْ أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ وَقَدِّمُواْ لأَنفُسِكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّكُم مُّلاَقُوهُ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
223. "Your women are a tilth for you, so come into your tilth as you will, and forward (good deeds) beforehand for yourselves, and be careful (of your duty) to Allah, and know that you shall meet Him. And give glad tidings to the believers (O' Muhammad)."
In this verse wives are likened to tillage. This metaphor about women may seem heavy in the eyes of some people because Islam has stated such a speech upon half of the population of the world. But there is a thin and delicate meaning in this comparison.
By this statement, in fact, the Qur'an intends to illustrate the necessity of the existence of women in the human crowd as an essential means of protection and maintenance of humankind, not as a means of quenching the lust and venereal desire-
Similar to the need of man for nourishment for the continuance of his life, that without farming and producing food stuff this aim cannot be obtained, the same is for the maintenance of human race wherefore, and as one of the reasons that, the existence of women is needed.
This meaning is counted as warning to those who consider women as a toy and a means of sensuality.
This phrase again is, indeed, a hint to this matter that the ideal of sexual intercourse is not a mere pleasure and seeking of enjoyment. Believing persons should utilize the gift of conjugal relations for producing and training good and eligible children which is itself a sacred service as a spiritual supply forwarded beforehand for their own coming life in the Hereafter.
Hence, the Qur'an attracts the attentions to this important fact that, in choosing a wife, observe some principles that lead to developing righteous offspring and supplying this great social and manly treasure.
It is narrated in a tradition from the Prophet (S) who has said: "When a person dies, (the continuity of his deeds ceases except for three (things): the current charity, the knowledge that be benefited from, and the righteous child who prays for him."
This means that after death there is no deed for a person, so the one can provide no more supply for himself except by means of three things that if the person possesses them, they be helpful for the mortal after death. These three things are:
The first is 'the current charity', that is the benevolent effects which are always used along the path of social benefits, such as: mosque, hospital, library and the like of them. The second is providing some scientific work, like: compiling a useful book, educating some righteous pupils, and so on.
And the third is training some righteous children who, by their tongues and good actions, seek forgiveness for their parents who have passed away.
Since the subject under discussion (sexual intercourse) is very important and connects with the most attractive instincts of mankind, that is the very sexual instinct, the Lord has invited them to being careful of the problem of venereal association and being attentive to His commandments; so, He says:
Then, it attracts their attention to the Resurrection that they will meet their Lord and they will see the fruit of their deeds:
Finally, it gives glad tidings to those believing ones who obey these orders, which are useful for both the material and spiritual lives; saying thus:
Another commentator has rendered the phrase: /qaddimu li anfusikum/ 'and forward (good deeds) beforehand for yourselves' into a rather different dimension of its meaning.
This commentary says the phrase mentioned here clearly indicates in every manner or behaviour man should be mindful to see that this move advances something good for him for his future (or the life after death) and that it does not displease God, and a mortal should always remember that his ultimate object is meeting Allah, and this idea contains a good tidings to the believers and a warning to the unbelievers.
وَلاَ تَجْعَلُواْ اللّهَ عُرْضَةً لِّأَيْمَانِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ وَتُصْلِحُواْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
224. "And do not make Allah, because of your swearing (by Him), an obstacle to your doing good and guarding (against evil) and making peace among people; and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing."
In many commentary books of the Qur'an including Majma'-ul- Bayan and Ruh-ul-Bayan, the occasion of revelation of this verse shortly is narrated thus:
There appeared a dispute between, the bridegroom and the daughter of one of the companions of the Prophet (S) by the name of Abdullah-ibn-Rawaheh. He had sworn not to interfere in their affairs and not to make peace between them. The revelation was sent down and prohibited such oaths.
The Arabic term / 'ayman / is the plural form of / yamin / in the sense of 'oath'; and the word:
/ 'urqah/ means: 'liable to, object, or impediment', according to different renderings.
The following messages and points can be taken from the above verse:
1- Do not appeal to swearing as a barrier for doing good:
2- Use no oath as a means for adjusting your escape from your own responsibility; and do not miss good and benevolent actions and, consequently, their rewards thereby.
3- Do not misuse Allah and His Holy Name in any occasion. This manner is a kind of boldness and impoliteness.
It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (as) who has said:
" Take no oath by Allah whether you are right or wrong..." 2
4- High values and benevolence should not be abandoned.
5- Beware that Allah hears all statements and He also knows even what have not been uttered, (but they have been thought of). Then take into account every word and thought of yours.
6. Distributing goodness and benevolence amongst people under the light of piety and virtue are valuable. Hence, these actions should not be abandoned with the pretext of swearing by His Holy Name. And, basically, being mindful of the value of these good things, such oaths ought not to be taken.
لاَّ يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِيَ أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا كَسَبَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ
225. "Allah will not hold you liable for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but He will hold you liable for what your hearts have incurred; and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing."
The oaths which have been taken thoughtlessly, carelessly, or at the time of anger and with no intention or will; or the oaths taken because of loquaciousness and in hurry-scurry speaking, are not legally valuable.
The liability to an oath is payable only when it is taken deliberately, in a normal situation, and by the Holy Name of Allah for a useful affair. This sort of oath is religiously obligatory to be executed. Therefore, breaking it is unlawful and the atonement of which is detailed in Surah Al-Ma'idah.
3So, the expiation of it is the feeding of ten indigents or suitable clothing given to them, or the freeing of a slave; but if the one finds the possibility of none of them then, he/she should observe the fast for three days.
The responsibility of man depends on his will and decisions for what he elects. Allah forgives the faults of His servants which have been issued from them in some abnormal conditions.
لِّلَّذِينَ يُؤْلُونَ مِن نِّسَآئِهِمْ تَرَبُّصُ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ فَإِنْ فَآؤُوا فَإِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
وَإِنْ عَزَمُواْ الطَّلاَقَ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
226. "For those who swear to abstain from their wives, there shall be a waiting of four months; so if then they revert, surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful,"
227. "And if they have resolved on divorce, then surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
One of the methods that was customary in the Age of Ignorance for the separation of a husband from his wife was /'ila'/ 'forswear'. This method was also followed by those Muslims who had newly embraced Islam. The word means: 'oath of sexual abstention'.
At the Age of Ignorance, when a man displeased his wife, he sometimes took oath to abstain from associating with her, and by this unmanly way, he created a straitened circumstance for her.
Neither he neither divorced her legally to make her free to marry with her desired husband and obtain her own wishes, nor he himself was ready to make peace with her and continue to live with her as a spouse.
So, the verse under discussion speaks about the design that Islam has planned for that problem to put an end to it. It says that husband has a respite of four months to make the woman free from this captivity and entanglement. He may either renounce his oath, and continue to live with his wife, or legally divorces her and lets her be free.
Choosing the first way, and not to disturb the assembly of the family, is undoubtedly reasonable and also pleases Allah.
Therefore, at the end of the verse, it says:
The concluding sentence: "…surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" denotes that renouncing this oath will not be counted a sin, (though it is understood from the statement that the essence of taking oath is not an agreeable action).
If the man decides to become separate from her and divorces her, forgiveness and mercy is not assured for his action, and Allah, Who is aware of all secrets, knows whether his sensuality has forced the husband to misuse the law of divorce, or his situation and conditions have really required that.
The Lord is All-Hearing unto the apparent execution of divorce and is All-Knowing about the motive of it, as well. So, the Qur'an says:
But it should be noted that, although Islam has not absolutely nullified the proposition of forswear, but it has, indeed, wiped out its effects, because, it does not allow any man to separate from his wife and abandon sexual intercourse by forswearing and taking oath.
If we see that the verse has given this kind of man a respite of four months time to decide, it is not for showing that it is really possible to reject any right of the matrimonial rights by forswearing, but it is for the sake that sexual intercourse, as a religious obligation, is necessary at least once every four months.
(It is, of course, so that the woman might not commit sin because of this length of time, otherwise, especially for the young ladies that may commit sin as a result of that long time, the length of time between the sexual intercourses should be shortened as much as that her sexual need be provided for.)
1- To wipe out the social customs and old traditions treated superstitiously and ignorantly has been a principle among the duties of prophets.
2- Being attentive to the rights and spiritual and instinctive needs of one's wife is a principle for the husband.
3- Sometimes, Man uses the most sacred appellations for the worst aims.
4- For the return of some individuals to the right path and that they make a wise decision, giving a respite is necessary.
5- Islam is the advocator of the oppressed. Women have always been oppressed and their rights have been transgressed all along the length of the history. Therefore, the Qur'an has frequently supported them.
6- People should be encouraged to lead safe and sound lives. The statement: "...so if then they revert, surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" has occurred in the verse to make man aware of the fact that reverting to the course of life is the secret of receiving the forgiveness and mercy of Allah.
7- Islam accepts divorce, with all its bitterness and ugliness, but it does not bear that a wife be suspended and her situation unclear.
8- Be careful of sensuality and be in awe of a decision that destroys the livelihood of a woman, because:
"Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing"
وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلاَثَةَ قُرُوَءٍ وَلاَ يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللّهُ فِي أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُواْ إِصْلاَحًا وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَاللّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكُيمٌ
228. "And the divorced women should wait (not wedding anyone else) concerning themselves for three (monthly) courses; and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and (in) the Last Day. And their husbands have a greater right (than others) to take them back in the meanwhile, if they wish for reconciliation (indeed). And they (women) have rights similar to those against them in a fair manner, but men have precedence above them; and Allah is the Mighty, the Wise."
In the previous verse the words were about divorce, and then, in this verse, a part of the ordinances of divorce and some of its concerning details are stated. There are five ordinances mentioned in it. At first, it speaks about' waiting period saying:
The Qur'anic term /quru'/, mentioned in the above verse, is applied in the sense of the period of cleanliness of a woman.
And, since the accomplishment of divorce should be performed at the time that the woman is clean and has not had sexual intercourse with her husband, this cleanliness is counted once, and when, afterward, she passes two menstruations and becomes clean, one after another, as soon as the third cleanliness finishes and at the moment that menstruation is seen, the waiting period has passed and, at that very status, her marriage is permissible.
The second ordinance is:
It is noteworthy that the problem of the beginning and ending of the waiting period, that usually a woman understands herself rather than anyone else has been trusted to the statement of the woman and it is accepted as a document.
The third ordinance understood from the verse is that the husband can revoke during the waiting period of a revocable divorce. It says:
In fact, when the woman is passing the waiting period of the revocable divorce, the husband can begin the conjugal relation again without any ceremonies. This meaning may happen with any word or action which is with the intention of revocation.
Then the verse pays to the fourth ordinance, stating:
Thus, as there are some rights for men upon the wives, there are also some rights for women upon husbands who are charged to observe them.
Regarding to the clear difference between the physical and spiritual powers of woman and man, the administration of the family is up to man and its assistance has been given to the woman. This difference cannot be an obstacle that some women, from the point of spiritual offices, knowledge, and piety be in a higher degree than many of men.
The Arabic term /ma'ruf/ which means a benevolent, logical and reasonable action, has been repeated 12 times in these verses to be counted as a warning against men and women in order that they do not abuse their rights, but, by respecting the mutual rights of each other, they should try to fix their conjugal relations and obtain the pleasure of Allah.
Finally, at the conclusion of the verse, it says:
This concluding phrase of the verse points to the fact that the Wisdom and Prudence of Allah requires that in the society every person undertakes the very duties that the law of creation has assigned for the one and they are adapted to the structure of his body and spirit.
The Wisdom of Allah also requires that similar to the duties that have been given over to women, there would be settled some certain rights for them, too, in order that there appears an equality and justice between duty and right.
The significance of this meaning, and the difference between the sexes and their responsibilities, will be explained later when the occasion applies.