Juz 5 Of 30 - Journeying Our Eyes Through The Qur'an

Exploring 30 juz in 30 days by Sister Fatemah Meghji Juz 5 contains the majority of Surat an-Nisa and features discussions of some of the ahkam (laws) related to women. Surat an-Nisa begins with a pivotal verse noting that all humans are of the same essence and therefore equal in the eyes of God. As noted by Allamah Tabatabai, this is the key way in which Allah swt sets up the backdrop to understand the Islamic laws set out in this chapter. Mentioned laws include marital rights, shares in inheritance, and the abolishment of certain pre-Islamic practices. All of these laws are accompanied with the ethical injunctions to maintain piety and to treat one another in the best of ways.

Innaa Hadha Al Qur'ana Yahdee li-latee hiya aqwamu wo yo-bashir Al mu'mineen Al-lathi ya'malun al-salihat Anna lahum Ajran Kabira (17:9) [Indeed, this Qur'an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward (17:9)].

Juz 5. 'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. I begin in the name of Allah, Compassionate to all, Merciful to each. As-salamu alaykum, and welcome to the fifth episode in this podcast series titled, "Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an: Exploring 30 Juz in 30 days". Today, InshAllah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an, as we take a brief look into the fifth Juz of the Qur'an, which contains the majority of Surat an-Nisa, from verses 24 to 147.

"Nisa" means "Women", and the chapter was dubbed as such since women, and laws to do with women, play a major role in its themes. The chapter begins in Juz 4, which we explored yesterday, and here it contains a few key verses about ahkam, or laws to do with women, which were significant steps away from some of the practices of pre-Islamic Arabian society. Unsurprisingly, the chapter is Medinan, and it focuses a lot on topics of Islamic law. To start today's episode, there are two key verses for this Surah [which] were in Juz 4 that we did not explore yesterday, and that we will now read.

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Yaaa aiyuha an-naas ut-taqu Rabbakum ulladhee khalaqakum min nafsin wa ahidatin wa khalaqa minhaa zawjahaa wa ba'ssa minhumaa rijaalan katheeran wa nisaa’a; wa at-taqu Allaah alladhee tasa‘aloona bihee wa al-arhaam; inna Allaha kaana ‘alaikum raqeeba (4:1).

"O mankind! Be wary of your Lord who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it, and from the two of them scattered numerous men and women. Be wary of Allah, in whose name you adjure one another and of severing ties with blood relations. Indeed Allah is watchful over you" (4:1).

The first verse in Surat an-Nisa is one of the most substantial verses that establishes a few starting points about the relationships between men and women in the eyes of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala - a major subject of this chapter, and within Juz 5, which we will be exploring in more detail today. The first point that is mentioned in this verse is that we should have Taqwa of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala - "Yaaa aiyuha an-naas ut-taqu Rabbakum" (4:1). Indeed, this is how the chapter begins. We must be aware of God, our responsibilities to Him, and to keep Him in mind at all times. He is our Loving, Cherishing Lord, who has created us. The second point that we arrive at from this verse is that we are all from one origin. We have the same essence, and the same soul.

In his seminal Tafsir al-Mizan, Allamah Tabatabai notes, "The verse calls them to fear their Lord, to piety, to concerning themselves as they are all human beings, identical in their humanity. There is no difference among them in this reality. Men and women, big and small, old and young, weak and strong, all are the same in their humanity. Therefore, men should not oppress women, nor should a big and strong person trample on his smaller or weaker fellow, neither in their society to which Allah has guided them (for completion of their happiness), nor in the laws or rules adopted by them, which Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, has inspired them to. They have been given the laws in order that they may live an easy life, their existence may be protected, and they may continue in this world as individuals and as members of society."

After establishing our shared humanity and relationships with one another, the verse mentions Taqwa once again, and says to have piety and to fear Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala's, justice and wrath, to whom we seek our rights with regards to our relationships with one another. This verse is an incredibly important verse as it opens the chapter that discusses various laws, including the importance of fairness and justice in marriages, the established right and share for women in inheritance, the bridal gift (Mahr), rights of orphans, prohibition of zina and adultery, and a rejection of the unfair treatment of women, as seen in verse 19:

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Yaaa aiyuha alladheena aamanoo laa yahillu lakum an tarithun nisaaa’a karha, wa laa ta’duloohunna litadhaboo biba’di maaa aataitumoohunna illaaa ai yaateena bi faahishatim mubaiyinah; wa ‘aashiroo hunna bilma’roof; fa in karihtumoohunna fa’asaaa an takrahoo shai’an wa yaj’alal Allaahu feehi khairan katheeraa (4:19).

"O you who have faith! It is not lawful for you to inherit women forcibly, and do not press them to take away part of what you have given them, unless they commit a gross indecency. Consort with them in an honorable manner; and should you dislike them, maybe you dislike something while Allah invests it with an abundant good" (4:19).

In this verse, a pre-Islamic practice of inheriting women as property is mentioned along with injunctions on how to treat women. In Juz 2, we mentioned the Qur'anic technique of not only mentioning ahkam and fiqh in Islamic laws in a dry manner, but accompanying them with ethical injunctions and reminders, and this is no exception to this verse. Here, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says, treat women and live with them in a good way. And the next part of the verse is incredibly interesting; He says, if you hate them - meaning women, as the female tense is used here - if you hate them, or consider them to be inferior, then perhaps you hate something in which Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, has placed abundant goodness in.

Allamah Tabatabai notes here that it is not the marriage - since the verse is talking about marital strife - but it is not marriage, which is the subject of dislike that is mentioned here, but rather it is the women themselves, pointing to the fact that there was a component of society that disliked women themselves for their womanhood, or for their femininity. It also points to the Islamic notion that while the two genders are indeed different, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has created us in pairs, each of us playing an important and beautiful role. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has created us complementary to one another. In verse 26, after discussing the advantages and rules of marriage and the prohibition of fornication and adultery, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala notes the following:

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Yureedu Allahu liyubaiyina lakum wa yahdiyakum sunan alladheena min qablikum wa yatooba ‘alaikum; wa Allah ul-‘Aleem ul-Hakeem (4:26). Wa Allahu yureedu ai yatooba ‘alaikum wa yureed ulladheena yattabi‘oona ash-shahawaati an tameeloo mailan ‘adheemaa (4:27). Yureedu Allahu ai yukhaffifa ‘ankum; wa khuliqa al-insaanu da’eefaa (4:28).

"Allah desires to explain the laws to you, and to guide you to the customs of those who were before you, and to turn toward you clemently, and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise (4:26). Allah desires to turn toward you clemently, but those who pursue their base appetites desire that you fall into gross waywardness (4:27). Allah desires to lighten your burden, for man was created weak" (4:28).

The last part of this verse is interesting, and mentions that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala wants to turn to us, and also that our desires and our shehwah are an impediment to this. Moreover, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says that mankind has been created weak - "khuliqa al-insaanu da’eefaa" (4:28) - and this weakness is why Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has made some laws easier to follow, and widened the parameters of what is legal.

The verses continue after this, discussing some of the rules and parameters of marriage, some of which do get controversial. While there are many elaborations of these controversies available and this is not the main subject of our discussion today, it is important to keep in mind a few principles when discussing any differences in law between men and women, or man and wife. The first [principle] is [to keep] the first verse of Surat an-Nisa as a backgrounder, to remember this verse before entering any of these discussions in the same way that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has done so in the Holy Qur'an.

The second is that the ahkam and fiqh Islamic laws, wherever they are outlined in the Qur'an, are mainly setting parameters and red lines. There is a wide range of flexibility within these parameters. Some of the red lines are meant to take place in the worst-case scenario, to determine what a couple must do, or what it can do, when they have reached odds with one another. But instead of focusing on the controversial verses of this chapter, I would like us to focus on some of the verses surrounding it, which can help provide a crucial context and holistic view of the messages of the chapter. In verse 32, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says, "Do not covet the advantage which Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has given some of you over others" (4:32).

Over here it is clear that it is talking about those that may have a certain level of power or a certain level of socio-economic status, a certain level of money or a certain level of control or responsibility in whatever position they may hold. Here Allah is reminding us, in a very strong way that do not covet this. Do not treat others as inferior to you, even if you may have some type of a material advantage over them. In verse 36, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says:

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Wa a’budu Allaha wa laa tushrikoo bihee shai’an wa bi il-waalidaini ihsaanan wa bi dhil-qurbaa wa al-yataama wa al-masaakeeni wa al-jaari dhil-qurbaa wa al-jaari il-junubi wa as-saahibi bil-jambi wa abni as-sabeeli wa maa malakat aimaanukum; inna Allaha laa yuhibbu man kaana mukhtaalan fakhooraa (4:36).

"Worship Allah and do not ascribe any partners to Him, and be good to parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the near neighbor and the distant neighbor, the companion at your side, the traveler, and your slaves. Indeed Allah does not like anyone who is a swaggering braggart" (4:36).

Since verse 34 comes up so often, and can be a very triggering topic for many individuals, I would like to emphatically state here that there is no marja or mujtahid who permits domestic abuse in which someone violently assaults and injures their partner. But when we look at these verses and the verses surrounding them, the injunction to treat each other with care, to live with one another honorably, and to not be, in Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala's words, a "swaggering braggart" (4:36)- "man kaana mukhtaalan fakhooraa" (4:36) - to not be like this is something that is mentioned with a high level of emphasis in the Qur'an.

Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has asked us to maintain God-centeredness in all of our interactions, and this point should really be obvious. Domestic abuse, and situations in which people take advantage of the vulnerable in a power-hungry manner, are global issues and diseases of the soul, which have no religion. And here again, we just read the verse where Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says, don't covet your power, don't treat anybody who has less power than you in a different way, or in a way in which it advantages you (4:32).

Nobody who has Taqwa, who takes an honest look at the way in which the Qur'an describes these relationships, would come or could come away with the conclusion that domestic abuse is somehow legitimized. It is for that reason that we see the walking and talking Qur'ans, particularly Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, as notable for his kindness to women, who were a vulnerable part of his society.

On the other hand, what we can establish from these verses is that there is an incredible emphasis on beautiful relationships within the family and within marriage, where they are dominated with modesty, piety, justice, and Taqwa. There are differences in the roles that men and women have in society, and even within a marriage, and this cannot be denied when we look at the verses of the Qur'an. But this is not to denote an inferiority, or to subject one another in terms of a power war.

The family is the building block of society. In fact, the ways in which we build our families, and the habits that we inculcate together, are strongly emphasized in this chapter, ensuring that we have red lines, and that we give importance to the rights of one another, all while keeping Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala as the center of it all.

Wa Al-Hamdulillah Rabbi Al-Alameen wa salla Allahu alaa nabiyyina Muhammadin wa alihi, al-tayibeen al-tahireen. Wa assalamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa baraktu. Rabbana La tuzigh Qulubana (3:8) ["Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate" (3:8)].
 

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