This page contains all verses of surah Al-Mujaadila in addition to Interpretation of all verses by Maarif-ul-Quran (Mufti Muhammad Shafi). In the first part you can read surah المجادلة ordered in pages exactly as it is present in the Quran. To read an interpretation of a verse click on its number.
(1) Zihar is a term denoting a custom of the Arabs in the days of Ignorance. In case of disagreement with their wives they used to say to them, "You are for me like the back of my mother." After saying this, they used to take their wives as their real mothers in being prohibited for them, and the ties of marriage were held to have been broken for good, with no possibility of their restoration. These verses have been revealed in a similar case where a husband (Aus ibn. Samit) had declared ?ihar against his wife (Khawlah) who approached the Holy Prophet and complained about her husband. The custom of the days of Ignorance was condemned, and the rules of Shari'ah about zihar were laid down by these verses. (Muhammad Taqi Usmani)
Cause of Revelation
The initial verses of this Surah refer to a particular incident: Sayyidna Aus Ibn Samit ؓ said to his wife Sayyidah Khaulah bint Tha'labah ؓ which, literally, means 'You are to me like the back of my mother.' Its underlying meaning is 'You are unlawful to me for cohabitation just like my mother.' Such an utterance, in the days of ignorance, amounted to divorce - even worse because it was taken to imply that the husband is rescinding all marital ties with his wife and, in addition, he is classifying her within the prohibited degree or permanently forbidden women like his mother. According to pre-Islamic custom, reunion with the wife was possible after divorce, but not after zihar, as she became permanently and absolutely forbidden. When this incident took place, the aggrieved lady went to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ complaining about her husband and seeking redress for her problem according to Shari'ah. Up to that point in time the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had not received any revelation concerning that legal issue. Therefore, he pleaded his inability to do anything to help her in the absence of a revealed ordinance and said to her: مَٓا اُمِرتُ فِی شَانکِ بِشَیءِ حَتّی الاٰنِ "I have not yet received any ordinance regarding your matter." However he expressed his opinion according to common custom and said: مَا اَرَاکِ اِلَّا قَد حُرمتِ عَلَیہِ "In my opinion, you have become forbidden to him." Having heard this ruling, she pleaded: "0 Allah's Messenger! He spent my wealth, exhausted my youth and my womb bore abundantly for him. When I became old, unable to bear children, he pronounced the zihar formula on me. Where shall I go and how will my children do their living?" According to another version, she said: مَا ذَکَرَ طَلَاقاً "My husband did not mention the word 'divorce', so how can this be counted as 'divorce'?" According to another version, she pleaded to Allah: اَللَّھُمَّ اِنِّی اَشکُوا الیکَ "0 Allah! I direct my complaint to You . This was the cause of the revelation of verses [ 1-6] (Al-Durarul Manthur and Ibn Kathir) which clearly state that Allah heard Sayyidah Khaulah's ؓ complaint and revealed the rule of Shari'ah to redress her grievances. Allah not only made matters easy for her, but the rule has been eternally enshrined in the Holy Qur'an for all sensible people to follow.
The noble Companions ؓ greatly respected Sayyidah Khaulah ؓ because her case has been the cause of the revelation of the current set of verses, which abolished once and for all the long-standing social evil that was practiced in Arabia. Once Sayyidna ` Umar Faruq ؓ ، the Great, was on his way with some of the blessed Companions when he came across a woman who stopped him. He instantly stopped and listened attentively to her with his head bent down. He did not move till she completed what she wanted to say. Some of the noble Companions ؓ said: "0 Commander of the Faithful! You have held back such a large group of people for such a long time on account of this old lady!" Sayyidna ` Umar ؓ said: "Do you know who this lady is? She is Sayyidah Khaulah ؓ the lady whose complaint was heard in the seventh heaven. So, how can ` Umar not listen to her? She should be heard for a longer period of time and with greater attention. By Allah! If she did not take leave of her own accord, I would have stood with her here till the nightfall." [ Ibn Kathir ]
قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّـهُ (Allah has heard....1) The reference in the verse is to Sayyidah Khaulah ؓ the wife of Sayyidna Aus Ibn Samit ؓ ، as mentioned above. Thus this verse and the rest of the verses lay down not only the rule of Shari` ah pertaining to zihar and redress the grievances of women placed in such awkward situation, but the first verse also is in honour of the pleading lady which consoles her, in that it says that Allah was listening to her words when she was pleading her case. The word mujadalah means 'to plead, argue or dispute consistently and convincingly about one's problem or case'. According to some narratives, when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ pleaded his inability to do anything for her, as noted above, the aggrieved lady uttered spontaneously that 'you receive ordinances in all matters, then how is it that no ordinance was revealed to you in my case?' Thus the verse was revealed: وَتَشْتَكِي إِلَى اللَّـهِ "...and was complaining to Allah...[ 1] ". [ Qurtubi ]
Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ is reported to have said: " Pure is He, Whose hearing encompasses all things. I heard what Khaulah bint Tha'labah ؓ said about her husband while some of it I could not hear despite being so close to her in the same room, but Allah heard all her conversation and said : قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّـهُ 'Allah has heard...'." [ Bukhari, Ibn Kathir ]
الَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِنكُم
مِّن نِّسَائِهِم (Those of you who declare zihar against their wives...58:2) The aorist yuzahiruna is derived from zihar. There was a cruel custom in pre-Islamic Arabia; as pointed out earlier, where the husband would utter the zihar formula اَنتِ عَلَیِّ کَظَھرِ اُمِّی 'You are to me as my mother's back', and thus she would become permanently and absolutely unlawful to him for cohabitation like the mother. Here the word zahr (back) metonymically refers to bath 'stomach or womb'. [ Qurtubi ]
Definition of zihar and its effect in Shari’ ah
In order to understand the definition of zihar in terms of Shari’ ah, it should be noted first that there are some women who are permanently forbidden for a man, such as mother, sister, daughter and others in the prohibited degree. Although looking at such women is permissible in general, yet looking at some parts of their body is not permissible, (like abdomen, back etc.) Now the definition of zihar is 'to compare one's wife with any of such parts of the body of such prohibited women'. According to the old Arab custom all conjugal relations ceased permanently between a man and his wife when he would use these words; rather it was worse than divorce. In the case of divorce, it was possible to retract and take back the wife. But in the case of zihar, according to the old Arab custom, it was not at all possible to restore the conjugal rights.
The current set of verses brought about reform in the custom in two ways: [ 1] zihar has been declared a sinful act. If a person is placed in a situation where he needs to separate from his wife, he must choose the method of 'divorce'. Zihar should not be resorted to for this purpose, because the utterance of zihar formula is absurd, nonsense and false. Obviously, their wives are not their mothers, the Qur’ an reads thus: مَّا هُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ إِنْ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ إِلَّا اللَّائِي وَلَدْنَهُمْ "...Their mothers are but only those who have given birth to them …58:2] ". The وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَقُولُونَ مُنكَرًا مِّنَ الْقَوْلِ وَزُورًا further says: "...and undoubtedly they utter an evil word and a lie...[ 58:2] " In other words, their utterance is false, meaning 'calling one's wife mother' is contrary to truth and fact, and also a heinous sin.
[ 2] The second reform the Qur'an brought about is as follows: If an ignorant person or a person unacquainted with the legal formalities of Islam were to utter the zihar formula, his wife does not become permanently unlawful to him, nor does he have an open licence to do as he wishes - like enjoying intimacy with her. The guilty person will have to pay a penalty for uttering such evil, false and obnoxious words. He cannot take back his wife without first paying the prescribed expiation. The following verse prescribes this expiation.
The Expiation for Zihar
وَالَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِن نِّسَائِهِمْ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُوا (And those who declare zihar against their wives, then retract what they said, ...58:3). The preposition lam in the phrase يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُوا "...retract what they said..." is used in the sense of ` an [ from ]. Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ interprets 'retract' in the sense of 'regret': 'they regret what they said and wish to be intimate or cohabit with their wives'. [ Mazhari ]
The verse shows that the penalty has been imposed on the husband for the purpose of making the wife lawful - without it she cannot become lawful to him. zihar per se is not the cause of the expiation. In fact, zihar is a heinous sin for which repentance and seeking pardon and forgiveness is absolutely necessary. The concluding part of verse [ 2] وَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ "...Allah is surely Most-forgiving, Very-Merciful." points to this fact. In other words, Allah in His great mercy has made allowance for man's weaknesses and He is always ready to forgive his lapses, provided he comes to Allah with a penitent heart and makes amends. However, if a person did commit zihar and does not wish to take back his wife and enjoy intimacy with her, expiation is not obligatory on him. However, destroying a wife's conjugal rights is unlawful. If she demands, it is obligatory for him to pay the expiation and take her back, should he wish to do so; or if she demands, he must divorce her and set her free from the bond of marriage. If he does not divorce her and set her free, then she has the right to apply to a Qadi or an Islamic court to compel him to either pay the expiation and take her back or to divorce her and set her free so that she could contract a second marriage. Islamic works on jurisprudence set down details of the laws pertaining to zihar.
The penalty for zihar is obligatory, which is given in this and the next verse. There are three options: [ 1] فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ (...obligated on them is to free the neck [ of a slave ]...) [ 2] If a person cannot afford to do that, he must keep fast for two consecutive months; and [ 3] if he is so weak or ill that he cannot fast, then he must feed sixty poor people. The expiation will be fulfilled if one poor person is given two meals for sixty days. Alternatively, it is possible to give two meals to sixty poor persons on a single day. In each case, the poor should be fed to their fill. Another possible alternative is to give to a poor person about 1.6 kg wheat or 2.12 kg dates or barley for sixty days or the equivalent price of these food items may be given. The details of the law appertaining to zihar and its expiation are available in the texts of Islamic jurisprudence.
It is recorded in Traditions that when Sayyidah Khaulah ؓ complained to Allah's Messenger ﷺ about her husband and pleaded her case to Allah, verses relating to zihar and its expiation were revealed. So, Allah's Messenger ﷺ called for the husband. When he came, the Holy Prophet ﷺ noticed that he was a weak-sighted old man. He recited to him the verses resolving his case, and commanded him to emancipate a slave, he said that he does not have the means to do that. The Holy Prophet ﷺ then asked him to fast two successive months, to which he replied: "By Him Who has sent you as the true Messenger, if I do not have two or three meals a day, I lose my sight completely." The Holy Prophet ﷺ said 'Then feed sixty poor people'. He said 'I do not have the ability for that either, unless you help me'. The Holy Prophet ﷺ gave him some food grain, and also other people gathered more food grain for him, which amounted to the measure of sadaqatul-fitr for sixty poor men, and in this way the expiation was made. [ Ibn Kathir ]
ذَٰلِكَ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (...This is [ laid down ] so that you believe in Allah and His Messenger. And these are the limits set by Allah. And for the disbelievers there is a painful chastisement. 58:4) This part of the verse contains the phrase 'so that you believe'. Belief here implies 'to act upon the sacred laws, ordinances and injunctions or obey the commandments of Allah and His Messenger'. Then the verse says that the laws of expiation are limits set by Allah. It is prohibited to exceed them. It indicates that in matters of marriage, divorce, incestuous comparison and so on, Islam has abolished all traces of pre-Islamic pagan elements of customs and practices, and set down the just and approved code of conduct. Man is required to stick strictly to the parameters of Islam. Those who oppose and deny the Divine limits will be tormented most severely.
The Fate of those who Challenge Allah and His Apostle
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ كُبِتُوا كَمَا كُبِتَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ (Surely those who oppose Allah and His Messenger shall be disgraced, just as those before them were disgraced....58:5). In the preceding verse, stress was laid on keeping to Divine limits and to the sacred laws of Islam. The current verse warns those who oppose or reject them. Their profane designs shall be foiled and they shall be humiliated in this world and a condign torment shall be inflicted on them in the Hereafter.
أَحْصَاهُ اللَّـهُ وَنَسُوهُ (...Allah has its full account, while they have forgotten transgressions, but because he treats them as trivial and insignificant, he is unable to remember and recall them. However, they are all recorded and kept safely with Allah, even though the humans have done the actions and forgotten them. Allah will call them to give an account of them on the Day of Resurrection and chastise them.