(Translated from Tadabbur-i Qur'ān by Shehzad Saleem)
Central Theme and Relationship with the Previous Sūrah
The previous sūrah ended on the answer to the objection raised by the People of the Book against jihād. The reason for giving this answer was that the objections raised by the opponents of the Prophet (sws) would be picked up by the Hypocrites and secretly spread among the Muslims in order to weaken their faith and repress their zeal for jihād. It seems that these activities of the Hypocrites had gained great momentum at the time of revelation of this sūrah. The situation demanded that this clandestine propaganda be checked. Consequently, in this sūrah, the Hypocrites are severely reprimanded for indulging in such subversive activities, and in order to curb them, Muslims are also directed to adopt certain measures. Simultaneously, by presenting a very effective practical example, Muslims are taught how to deal with a difficulty they might face in following Islam: they should sincerely present the issue to the Prophet (sws). It is hoped that the Almighty will find out a way for them. The people who initiate a propaganda campaign against Islam by making an excuse of a hypothetical or real difficulty they might be facing are the ones who want to open a war-front with God and His Prophet (sws). Such people should remember that they will be humiliated. It is the incontestable decision of God that success and dominance is only reserved for God and His prophets.
Analysis of the Sūrah's Discourse
Verse (1-4): A reference is made to an incident in which a pious woman had to face a severe difficulty regarding a religious issue; instead of becoming frustrated and showing distrust in the Almighty, she presented her case before Him and His Prophet (sws) with all the confidence and purity of intention she could muster. The Almighty resolved her difficulty and set her forth as an example in the Qur'ān: the example of a person who adopted the correct attitude when troubles came her way. This was in sharp contrast with the attitude of the Hypocrites who would show hostility and indulge in a covert and hostile propaganda against the Almighty and His Prophet (sws) when a particular directive of the sharī'ah proved adverse to their desires and wishes.
Verses (5-8): Disgust is expressed at the attitude of the people who, instead of showing trust in the Almighty and His Prophet (sws), were busy whispering evil suggestions to others and maligning the cause of Islam. They were showing disrespect to the Prophet (sws) and were presenting the lenience the Almighty was showing them by not punishing them as a proof of their correct attitude. They are warned that they shall not only be humiliated in this world as history testifies, but will also face a grievous torment in the Hereafter.
Verses (9-10): Muslims have been forbidden from sin and excesses and directed that their secret conversations should not be against the Prophet (sws); their intimate exchanges should be clean and pious. They are told that they should ignore the whispering campaign which the Hypocrites have launched against them, for such whispering cannot harm anyone unless the Almighty permits it. It is befitting for them to trust their Lord and rest assured instead of worrying and being aggrieved by such insinuations. The Almighty shall protect them from the evil of the evil-doers.
Verses (11-12): The believers have been directed to follow certain manners when they are in the company of the Prophet (sws), and forbidden to carry out clandestine conversation when they are gathered around him. Certain emergency directives are given to curb the whispering campaign undertaken by the Hypocrites.
Verse (13): After the achievement of the desired results, the emergency directives have been repealed and the believers have been directed to establish those forms of worship which shall put an end to this malady of the whispering campaign and secret conversation; these forms have been spelled out for them.
Verses (14-22): An indication is made of the fact that the Hypocrites are actually the agents of the Jews who have incurred the wrath of the Almighty; their real allegiance rests with them. Their glibness and their trait of swearing during conversation effectively conceals their real character and they are able to outwardly show themselves as Muslims. Their allegiance is actually with the enemies of Islam; they have been overwhelmed by the love of wealth. Satan has made them unmindful of Allah and they have joined his party to impair and obstruct the Prophet's mission; ultimately their efforts shall fizzle out, for it is the absolute judgement of the Almighty that only He and His prophets shall always prevail. True believers are those who sever their ties of relationship from the enemies of Allah and the Prophet (sws) even if they are their fathers, sons, brothers and tribesmen. The Almighty shall only be happy with such people; they are the people of His party and only they shall achieve success.
Section I (Verses 1-4)
Text and Translation
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ قَوْلَ الَّتِي تُجَادِلُكَ فِي زَوْجِهَا وَتَشْتَكِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَسْمَعُ تَحَاوُرَكُمَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ (1) الَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِنكُم مِّن نِّسَائِهِم مَّا هُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ إِنْ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ إِلَّا اللَّائِي وَلَدْنَهُمْ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَقُولُونَ مُنكَرًا مِّنَ الْقَوْلِ وَزُورًا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ (2) وَالَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِن نِّسَائِهِمْ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُوا فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا ذَلِكُمْ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (3) فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا فَمَن لَّمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَإِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِينًا ذَلِكَ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (4)
God has heard the words of the lady who argued with you about her husband and was complaining to God and God was hearing your conversation. God hears all and observes all. (1)
Those of you who divorce their wives by declaring them to be their mothers should know that they do not become their mothers. Their mothers are those only who have given birth to them. In fact, such people utter words which are very despicable and false. And God pardons and forgives. And those who divorce their wives by declaring them to be their mothers, and afterwards return to what had been prohibited, shall free a slave before they touch each other again. This is what you are being counselled of. And God is aware of all that you do. Thus, he who has no slave available to him shall fast two successive months before they touch one another. And he who does not have the capacity to do this shall feed sixty of the destitute. This is enjoined on you so that you may have deep faith in God and His Messenger. These are the bounds set by God and for the disbelievers there is a grievous punishment. (2-4)
قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ قَوْلَ الَّتِي تُجَادِلُكَ فِي زَوْجِهَا وَتَشْتَكِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَسْمَعُ تَحَاوُرَكُمَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ (1)
The words قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ do not merely signify hearing as is evident from the occasion of the discourse; they also signify acceptance. It has been used in this meaning in the Qur'ān, and this meaning is common in the Arabic language as well. In our language too, hearing is used to refer to acceptance.
Before the word تُجَادِلُكَ, a suppression of an incomplete verb has occurred as per the general principles of Arabic language. It is evident from this that the lady whose incident is mentioned here came many a time to the Prophet (sws) to relate it.
The word مجادلةis used in the Qur'ān in both its positive and negative meanings. When used negatively, it refers to quibble and to quarrel. When used positively, it refers to convince someone through affection, pleading, insistence and fondness; here the element of quarrel is present too; however, this quarrel is with love and trust the way children try to convince their elders by quarrelling with them all the while trusting their affection. The best example of such an affectionate quarrel is that of Abraham (sws) which he had with His Lord regarding the people of Lot (sws). The Almighty praised it a lot. I have already referred to it in this tafsīr. The argument of the lady mentioned in this verse was of precisely this nature as well. I could not find an appropriate translation of this word in Urdu; so I have rendered it as jhagarnā (to quarrel). However, this quarrel has a special connotation, and in this connotation it is used in Urdu as well on the condition that a person realizes its occasion and background.
Narratives mention the name of the lady referred to in this verse as Khawlah bint Tha'labah. Her husband's name was Aws bin Sāmit al-Ansārī. Once when he was angry, he uttered he following words to his wife: أَنْتَ عَلَيَّ كَظَهْرِ أُمَِي (if I now become sexually intimate with you, it will be as if I came near my mother for this purpose). In the days of jāhiliyyah, such words would separate a wife permanently. For this reason, Khawlah (rta) became very anxious about her fate and that of her children if this separation took place. So, she presented her case before the Prophet (sws), and with insistence and assertion pleaded to him to solve her issue. Since the Prophet (sws) did not have before him a clear-cut guidance in this regard, it seems that he delayed responding to her. For this reason, she had to come to the Prophet (sws) time and again to resolve her issue.
It is also evident from the Qur'ān that in this matter Khawlah (rta) defended her husband to some extent. It is evident from some narratives that Aws (rta) had a harsh disposition as a result of which he uttered this inappropriate sentence. He had absolutely no intention of divorcing his wife; for this reason, both husband and wife became very worried. Khawlah (rta) must have also related this situation to the Prophet (sws) so that it could become fully clear that while uttering this sentence, her husband had no intention of divorcing her. He uttered it inadvertently out of anger.
Zihāris also mentioned in Sūrah Ahzāb; however, that mention is only as a passing reference by the words: وَمَا جَعَلَ أَزْوَاجَكُمُ اللَّائِي تُظَاهِرُونَ مِنْهُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ (4:33) (He does not regard the wives whom you divorce through ziihār as your mothers, (33:4). Nevertheless, in the first place, it is not necessary that Sūrah Ahzāb should have been revealed before Sūrah Mujādalah. In the second place, even if it was revealed before it, what is only evident from these words is that by pronouncing zihār, a person's wife does not become his mother; they do not say what responsibility such a declaration entails and what a person should do for its atonement. So even though this verse of Sūrah Ahzāb had been revealed to the Prdophet (sws), he could only have decisively resolved the issue of Khawlah (rta) after being divinely guided. So he waited until a revelation came to guide him. Finally, he was provided this divine guidance and because of her affectionate complaints not only was her problem resolved, this guidance also showed the way out to countless men and women from this absurd ritual. Consequently, by praising her in the Qur'ān, the Almighty eternally preserved her affectionate complaint, and guided people that when they face some hardship in a matter of religion they should present it before their Lord the way this believing lady had done; like the Hypocrites, one should not make it an excuse to raise objections, launch a whispering campaign and a matter of confrontation with God and His Prophet (sws).
وَاللَّهُ يَسْمَعُ تَحَاوُرَكُمَا: Since this complaint was specifically addressed to God, He kept on listening to it with great affection and attention. He finally resolved the issue of Khawlah (rta). It is evident from this that those who speak out their problems to God should rest assured that the Almighty listens to them very attentively. He sees and knows all. And when He listens and also has power over everything, why should a person lose hope and harbour evil thoughts in his mind?
Here it should be kept in mind that like the case of material and mundane hardships, the most successful way in combating spiritual and intellectual confusions is to present them to God. At times, a person is faced with an intellectual problem which seems irresolvable to him, and this raises a lot of doubts about religion. In such circumstances, if a person presents his problem to God and asks guidance from Him, God willing, he will be blessed with peace of mind on the condition that he patiently asks God's help. True seekers always adopt this behaviour; however, the mean and the hasty instead of adopting this behaviour either make doubts and superstitions into religion itself or by making religion an object of objection show confrontation to it. The result of this is what is stated later in this sūrah.
الَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِنكُم مِّن نِّسَائِهِم مَّا هُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ إِنْ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ إِلَّا اللَّائِي وَلَدْنَهُمْ وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَقُولُونَ مُنكَرًا مِّنَ الْقَوْلِ وَزُورًا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ (2)
In this regard, the first principle guidance is that by uttering such words, wives do not become mothers of such people. Their mothers are only those who have given them birth. These mothers are prohibited to them in marriage because of this relationship and this prohibition is a natural and an eternal one. Such a prohibition cannot be regarded to be present in some other woman merely because a person had likened her or a limb of her to his mother. Those who utter such words utter what is vicious and false on which they are indeed worthy of being punished; however, this utterance does not make his wife prohibited to him.
The implication of the words وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ is that if a person while being overcome with anger uttered such an evil and untruthful statement and later realized his folly, then God is Gracious and Forgiving. Consequently, in the case under discussion as well, since the perpetrator of this mistake realized the wrong he had done, the Almighty forgave him.
It needs to be kept in mind here that in the age of jāhiliyyah, just as the Arabs had given adopted children the same status as real children, similarly in case of zihār too, they were extremely strict. If a person uttered such words for his wife, then as per the general practice she would become prohibited to him like his own mother. Never could a person have sexual intimacy with his wife after this. If any person dared to do it, he was looked upon as a person who had married his mother. For this reason Islam, while reforming such unnatural customs, has at all places directed man's attention to put each thing at its place as prescribed by the laws of nature. He should not try to pervert this natural religion by making such changes. This issue has been discussed at length in the tafsīr of Sūah Ahzāb. Here too, while reforming this evil custom in order to silence the objectors it is said in the very beginning that such inappropriate utterances do not change the laws of nature. A wife does not become a person's mother merely by such a false utterance of his.
A question arises about a declension in the expression:
مَا هُنَّ أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ. Why is the word أُمَّهَاتِهِمْ declined in the accusative. In my opinion, the wordمَا here connotes لَيْسَ. Examples of this usage exist in the Qur'ān. Thus it is said in Sūrah Hāqqah:
فَمَا مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ عَنْهُ حَاجِزِينَ (69: 47) (then no one among you could have withheld Us from this,(69:47)
وَالَّذِينَ يُظَاهِرُونَ مِن نِّسَائِهِمْ ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُوا فَتَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا ذَلِكُمْ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (3)
Mentioned in this verse is the way out for a person who has done zihār with his wife, and wants to undo it: he must liberate one slave as atonement of this sin.
The implication of the verse is that though his wife will not become prohibited to him as his mother is yet, since marriage and divorce have lasting effects on social life, in their matter both solemnity and jest carry great significance. As a result, such a person should be admonished and punished in some way so that he remains careful in future, and others too learn a lesson from this. Thus it is essential for him to liberate a slave before he becomes intimate with his wife. The word used here is رَقَبَةٌ (neck). It is evident from this word that no distinction is to be made in this regard between a slave-man and a slave-lady. Some jurists do not even make a distinction between a Muslim and non-Muslim in this regard. Whoever is available can be used to atone for the sin. The only thing is that if a Muslim slave is available, he should be preferred.
Here it needs to be kept in consideration that the emancipation of a slave has been stated as the first option. If a slave is not available the two other alternatives mentioned later can be opted for. This reinforces my view stated in Sūrah Nūr that Islam opened the doors to slave emancipation in the widest sense. So much so, it regarded this emancipation to be an atonement of small or big sins so that the campaign of slave liberation is given impetus from every aspect.
There is a little ambiguity in the words: ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا قَالُوا. The reason for this ambiguity is that what they allude to is self-obviously evil. The Qur'ān has also regarded it to be مُنكَر and زُور. It was inappropriate to mention an evil in explicit terms. For this reason, the Qur'ān referred to it in vague terms. The meaning of the expression thus is that if they want to do the same thing which they had prohibited upon themselves like the prohibition of their mothers, then they must liberate a slave before being intimate with their wives.
This ambiguity, in the first place, also stands clarified by the words: مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا. Moreover, this very style is employed in verse eight of this sūrah: ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا نُهُوا عَنْهُ (then do what they have been forbidden). Similarly, here too, it will mean that they undertake what they had pledged to abstain from or which they had forbidden upon themselves. A very exquisite example of the ambiguity found in the use of قَالُوْا and قَالَ etc keeping in view brevity and eloquence can be seen in verse eight of Sūrah Maryam. For more details, its tafsīr can be looked up.
The stress in the words مِنْ قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا is that this atonement should be made before being intimate with the wife. In this next verse, this condition is repeated which shows its emphasis. For this reason, it is not allowed that a person while being overcome with desire should be intimate with his wife before he has atoned for it. If this is done, then it would be considered as exceeding the limits of God, as will be mentioned later.
The words ذَلِكُمْ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌsound a warning that the advice being handed out is from God. If a person secretly disobeys it, then he should remember that God is well aware of all his deeds. The implication is that if He is aware of these deeds, then the perpetrators of these deeds will not be able to save themselves from His grasp. The word ذَلِكُمْ refers to all what is said above. In other words, neither should a person insist on the custom of zihār belonging to the age of jāhiliyyah nor invent excuses and legal subterfuges to escape the directive of atonement; each directive must be obeyed in its true spirit. This will bring success both in this world and in the next.
فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا فَمَن لَّمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَإِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِينًا ذَلِكَ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (4)
If a slave is not available to a person, he should fast consecutively for two months, and if this is not possible for him, he should feed sixty indigent people. In these times, only these two options practically remain after the eradication of slavery which has been achieved exactly as per the intent of Islam.
It is evident from the word مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ (consecutive) that if before the termination of two months, a person becomes intimate with his wife, then he will have to begin the count again.
Here, though the condition of مِنْ قَبْلِ أَن يَتَمَاسَّا is not mentioned with فَإِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِينًا (feeding sixty indigent), yet it is understood to be implied. The reason for not mentioning it is that this option is not the primary one, it is only its corollary; when it was mentioned with the primary one, it was not needed to be mentioned with the corollary.
The words ذَلِكَ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ mention the benefit of these directives: they have been given so that one's faith is strengthened in God and in His Prophet (sws). Here the word لِتُؤْمِنُوا as per common linguistic principles of Arabic denotes completeness, examples of which can be seen in previous sūrahs. If a person bears some hardship to atone for his mistake or shortcoming, then he not only atones for the mistake, it also reinforces him with regard to the real objective.
The words وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ sound a warning the way the words ذَلِكُمْ تُوعَظُونَ بِهِ sounded a warning earlier: these are the limits set by God; a person should not dare cross them otherwise the consequence will be very grave.
The words وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ imply that those who cross the limits of God are disbelievers and a grievous punishment awaits them in the Hereafter. So unfortunate are people who in spite of claiming to be adherents to Islam join the disbelievers.
Some other questions do arise about zihār. However, they relate more to fiqh than to tafsīr. For this reason, I will not touch upon them. Those who want to look up the details should study books of fiqh to study these related issues.
Section II (Verses 5-11)
After the issue of mujādalah-i hasan (affectionate argument), the character of people who were inflicted with the ailment of muhāddah (enmity with Islam and the Prophet (sws)) is mentioned. Though these people were apparently included among the Muslims, they were nurtured and supported by the Jews, and were working among the Muslims as their agents. Their special modus operandi was that they would start a whispering campaign against Islam and the Prophet (sws) among the Muslims by making some excuse in order to shake their beliefs and to make them lose hope in the future of Islam. Here these connivances of theirs are unveiled, and they are warned that the Almighty is aware of each and every whisper of theirs and soon they will face its consequences. At the same time, Muslims are informed of various measures to protect themselves from their evil and to cleanse the gatherings of the Prophet (sws) from their whispering campaigns.
Readers may now proceed to recite these verses:
Text and Translation
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ كُبِتُوا كَمَا كُبِتَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَا آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ (5) يَوْمَ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّهُ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا عَمِلُوا أَحْصَاهُ اللَّهُ وَنَسُوهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ (6) أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مَا يَكُونُ مِن نَّجْوَى ثَلَاثَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ رَابِعُهُمْ وَلَا خَمْسَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ سَادِسُهُمْ وَلَا أَدْنَى مِن ذَلِكَ وَلَا أَكْثَرَ إِلَّا هُوَ مَعَهُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كَانُوا ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا عَمِلُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (7) أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ نُهُوا عَنِ النَّجْوَى ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا نُهُوا عَنْهُ وَيَتَنَاجَوْنَ بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَمَعْصِيَتِ الرَّسُولِ وَإِذَا جَاؤُوكَ حَيَّوْكَ بِمَا لَمْ يُحَيِّكَ بِهِ اللَّهُ وَيَقُولُونَ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ لَوْلَا يُعَذِّبُنَا اللَّهُ بِمَا نَقُولُ حَسْبُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ يَصْلَوْنَهَا فَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ (8) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَنَاجَيْتُمْ فَلَا تَتَنَاجَوْا بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَمَعْصِيَتِ الرَّسُولِ وَتَنَاجَوْا بِالْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ (9) إِنَّمَا النَّجْوَى مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ لِيَحْزُنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَيْسَ بِضَارِّهِمْ شَيْئًا إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ (10) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوا فِي الْمَجَالِسِ فَافْسَحُوا يَفْسَحِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَإِذَا قِيلَ انشُزُوا فَانشُزُوا يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ (11)
Those who are confronting God and His Messenger shall be humiliated the way those before them of their sort have been. And We have sent down clear warnings, and an utterly disgraceful torment awaits the disbelievers. They should remember the day when God raises them all to life and will inform them of all their deeds. God has counted these and they have forgotten them. And God is present near all things. (5-6)
Don't you understand that God knows everything which is in the heavens and the earth? Three men do not converse secretly except God is the fourth; neither between five except He is the sixth; whether fewer or more, wherever they be, He is with them. Then, on the Day of Judgement, He will inform them of all their doings. Indeed, God has knowledge of all things. (7)
Have you not seen those who though forbidden to converse secretly do what they have been forbidden, and these people converse secretly of sin, transgression and disobedience to the Messenger. And when they come to you, they pay salutations to you in words which God does not greet you with, and say in their hearts: "Why does God not punish us for what we say?" Hell alone is sufficient for them. They shall enter it; Thus, it is an evil abode! (8)
Believers! When you converse secretly, do not converse of sin, transgression and disobedience to the Messenger; converse what is virtuous and pious. And fear God before whom you all shall be brought together. (9)
These secret conversations are from Satan so that he inflicts sorrow on the faithful. Yet he cannot harm them in any way except by the will of God. And let the faithful put their trust in God. (10)
Believers! Make room in your gatherings when you are bidden do so; God will make room for you. And rise up when you are told to rise. God will elevate to high ranks those that have faith and knowledge among you. And God is fully cognizant of all that you do. (11)
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ كُبِتُوا كَمَا كُبِتَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَا آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ (5)
The word مُحَادَّةmeans "conflict and enmity". It is the opposite of مُوَادَّة. Both these words are used very aptly in one verse of the sūrah, and shed light on the meaning of one another:لَا تَجِدُ قَوْمًا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ يُوَادُّونَ مَنْ حَادَّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ (58: 22) (you shall not find people who believe in God and in the Last Day on friendly terms with those who oppose God and His Messenger, (58:22)).
In the previous paragraph, as is evident, the character of those people has been described who come only to God and His Prophet (sws) when they are faced with some hardship and affectionately plead before them. Now the character of people who though claimed to have faith yet opposed God and His Prophet (sws) is being portrayed. They would start a whispering campaign and clandestine propaganda against any directive of Islam which they felt was against their benefit and interest. Their objective would be to shake and unsettle the faith of sincere Muslims by these evil promptings. All their sympathies, as will become evident later, were with the enemies of Islam, in particular the Jews. They were the agents of the Jews among the Muslims, and under their guidance would continually be on the look out to find an opportunity to harm the Muslims. Details of the turmoil they caused in the matters of 'Ā'ishah (rta) and Zaynab (rta) have already been mentioned in Sūrah Nūr and Sūrah Ahzāb. The issue of zihār was also among the ones in which they could have made the concession given by the Qur'ān a target of objection in order to create misconceptions in the mind of simpletons. In the age of jāhiliyyah, as referred to before, zihār signified a permanent divorce between a husband and wife. These miscreants could have easily begun the whispering campaign that Islam had, God forbid, allowed its followers to contract marriage with their mothers. This situation required that these miscreants be totally unveiled so that any mischief they tried to spread could be curbed.
The word كَبَتَmeans "to destroy someone by humiliating him". The verse كُبِتُوا كَمَا كُبِتَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ says that these people will be doomed after being humiliated the way others, before them, of similar character were. The words وَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَا آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ (and We have sent down [in the Qur'ān] clear arguments to validate this claim) refer to the historical facts which have been mentioned in detail in the Qur'ān to show that those who oppose God's prophets are ultimately humbled.
The words وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ say that for these disbelievers too a disgraceful punishment lies in store ultimately. The reference is to those disbelievers who were proactive in opposing the Prophet (sws). The verse says that they too will be humiliated eventually the way others like them before were. If their character is the same, there is no reason that their fate be different. The law of God is the same for all.
This warning of the Qur'ān materialized when the power of the Quraysh was also humbled, and the Jews too met their fate. At that time, no refuge remained for the Hypocrites who would indulge in intrigues under the patronage of the Jews. They met the same fate as their guides: the Jews. The succeeding sūrahs mention the details of the exemplary fate they met.
The punishment they were given has been called humiliating because they had to encounter punishments of execution, exile and slavery, and no one showed any sympathy to them; everyone, on the other hand, cursed them.
يَوْمَ يَبْعَثُهُمُ اللَّهُ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا عَمِلُوا أَحْصَاهُ اللَّهُ وَنَسُوهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ (6)
The accusative form of يَوْمَ can be because the words عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ mentioned in the previous verse; however, in my opinion, it is because of a suppressed verb as per common linguistic principles of Arabic. The implication is that whatever punishment will befall them will only be a prelude; they should also remember the day when the Almighty will raise them to life again and bring up before them their actions. The word جَمِيعًا points to the fact that all the components and motives of the conspiracies and whispering campaigns which are taking place today shall be gathered, and the Almighty will unveil to each person his secrets and inform him of who suggested what and who complied in what manner.
By the word فَيُنَبِّئُهُم obviously is implied its consequences: The Almighty will inform them of all their deeds so that they face their consequences.
The words أَحْصَاهُ اللَّهُ وَنَسُوهُ are meant to dispel a great misconception: people should not think that if they have forgotten everything they had done, the Almighty too will forget it. Since they were not punished because of their mischief, they thought that the Almighty too had forgotten it; in fact the Almighty has noted each and every act of theirs, and has fixed a day for reward and punishment on which the good and evil deeds done by each person will come up before him.
The words وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ substantiate what is just said: The Almighty is not absent from anywhere; whatever happens in the heavens and the earth happens before Him and He is omnipresent.
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مَا يَكُونُ مِن نَّجْوَى ثَلَاثَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ رَابِعُهُمْ وَلَا خَمْسَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ سَادِسُهُمْ وَلَا أَدْنَى مِن ذَلِكَ وَلَا أَكْثَرَ إِلَّا هُوَ مَعَهُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كَانُوا ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا عَمِلُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (7)
This is a further explanation of the fact that each and everything in the heavens and the earth is in the knowledge of God. He will present to each person all his deeds. The address أَلَمْ تَرَ is general in nature, and on this occasion, this style refers to the fact that this is something which should be evident to everyone. When God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and when He alone is running all their affairs and each and every object moves because of His permission and because of His leave living beings continue to live, then how is it possible that He remain unaware of anything belonging to the heavens and the earth? In Sūrah Mulk, it is said: أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ (67: 14) (would He not know Who has created? (67:14))
The rest of the verse from مَا يَكُونُ مِن نَّجْوَى ثَلَاثَةٍ to the end implies that when the knowledge of God is all-embracing, then these people who connive and whisper against God and His Prophet (sws) should remember that when three of them are conversing in private, the fourth is God, and when five of them are conversing in private, the sixth is God. Thus, whether less from this number or more God is necessarily present alongside them. The words أَيْنَ مَا كَانُوا imply that these people should remember that wherever they converse in secret, God will be with them. They cannot find any place in the heavens and the earth in which they can hide from the omnipresent God.
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ نُهُوا عَنِ النَّجْوَى ثُمَّ يَعُودُونَ لِمَا نُهُوا عَنْهُ وَيَتَنَاجَوْنَ بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَمَعْصِيَتِ الرَّسُولِ وَإِذَا جَاؤُوكَ حَيَّوْكَ بِمَا لَمْ يُحَيِّكَ بِهِ اللَّهُ وَيَقُولُونَ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ لَوْلَا يُعَذِّبُنَا اللَّهُ بِمَا نَقُولُ حَسْبُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ يَصْلَوْنَهَا فَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ (8)
This verse expresses amazement at their state: they are repeatedly indulging in the very clandestine conversation from which they have been stopped. Moreover, they are audacious enough to indulge in secret conversation which is sinful and relates to transgression and disobedience to the Prophet (sws). They are neither ashamed on this nor have any fear of God.
It seems that when their whisperings began, the Almighty tried to stop them; however, they never desisted; in fact, their mischief only increased. Ultimately, these verses sounded a final warning to them.
The words وَيَتَنَاجَوْنَ بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَمَعْصِيَتِ الرَّسُولِ express the fact that there is nothing good in their private conversation, even though such conversation can relate to good things, as is mentioned in the succeeding verses. Their hearts are absolutely devoid of goodness. Thus their secret talks relate to sin, transgression and inciting people to rebellion against the Prophet (sws). The word إِثْم (ithm) refers to sins in which the element of usurping rights is dominant, and عُدْوَان ('udwān) refers to sins in which the element of transgression, rebellion and arrogance is dominant. When used together, these words embrace all types of sins.
The words وَمَعْصِيَتِ الرَّسُولِ express the real objective of these malicious campaigns of the miscreants: they want to incite Muslims to rebel against the Prophet (sws) in order to dismember their lot.
These Hypocrites, as has been indicated earlier, were nurtured and guided by the Jews. The purpose of all their activities was to create such mischief among the Companions (rta) that they were ruined before becoming an impregnable force. The details of this mischief are found in the previous sūrahs and will also be referred to in the coming ones. However, the Almighty humiliated them, and the faction of God which was organized by the training and education of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) humbled all the enemies of the truth.
The words وَإِذَا جَاؤُوكَ حَيَّوْكَ بِمَا لَمْ يُحَيِّكَ بِهِ اللَّهُ state an example of the malice these miscreants have for the Prophet (sws). When they come to the Prophet (sws), they pay salutations to him in exactly the opposite words prescribed by God. God and His angels send mercy and peace on him,and these wretched people twist their tongues and instead of saying السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ (peace be to you) to him, say السَّاَمُ عَلَيْكَ (death be to you).
The words بِمَا لَمْ يُحَيِّكَ بِهِ اللَّهُ are meant to express their callousness: what doubt remains of their wretchedness who pray for death of the holy person on whom the Almighty and the angels send peace and blessings? Also concealed in these words is assurance for the Prophet (sws): if they people desire death for him, then let them; for God desires mercy and His angels send blessings on him; so he should not care about what prayers these people make.
Examples of how the Jews and their agents would twist their tongues to distort words have been mentioned in Sūrah Baqarah. I have already described them in detail while explaining the words رَاعِنَا and سَمِعْنَا وَ أَطَعْنَا of verse 104.They would similarly twist their tongues to make السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ sound like السَّاَمُ عَلَيْكَ and the listener would think that they have said the former whereas the matter would be the reverse.
The words وَيَقُولُونَ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ لَوْلَا يُعَذِّبُنَا اللَّهُ بِمَا نَقُولُ refer to their delusion because of which they continued spreading mischief on not being chastened for it.
The Qur'ān says that since they are not immediately punished for their mischief, they think that they are correct in rejecting the Prophet (sws) and in making fun of him; they reckoned that had he been the messenger of God, then they would necessarily have been punished for this conduct; however, since no such thing is happening, it means that his claim is only a bluff.
The words حَسْبُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ يَصْلَوْنَهَا فَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ say that Hell is sufficient for such people in which they shall necessarily be cast, and what an evil abode it is. In its presence, if no punishment visits them in this world, then it does not matter. Hell suffices for every latitude given.
These miscreants are threatened of punishment not only in this world as is alluded to in verse five above and is also mentioned further ahead in the sūrah, but fact of the matter is that they have to face Hell, and there is no reason for them to rest assured if any of them is not seized in this world.
It should be kept in mind that the greatest thing which increases arrogance and rebelliousness in a person is the delusion mentioned above. When he observes that he is not being punished in this world for his mischief, he becomes assured that he will never be punished, and the warnings sounded by the preachers are mere blackmail; they have no reality. In fact, this is mere lack of vision. If the results of deeds become immediately evident to a person, who would dare to do evil? One would only adopt virtue; everyone would be pious and virtuous as a result. The real secret of this world is that it is not a place of reward and punishment; it is a place of trial and test. It is the Hereafter which is the place of reward and punishment, which is the most evident and indubitable fact of this universe. In its absence, the whole universe is rendered meaningless and purposeless and its creator a merry-maker. The fact of the matter is that he is not a merry-maker; He is an obviously powerful and wise being.