Verses from Surah Al-Noor [59 – 62]

[59] And when your children attain puberty, then let them (also) seek permission, as those sought permission who were before them.120 Thus does Allah make clear His verses, and Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

Commentary

120. In other words, children and household workers are required to seek the permission of the master and mistress of the house before entering their private quarters at three times: before dawn, afternoon (which is the siesta time) and after nightfall when everyone has retired to his chambers. However, when children grow to manhood, they too must seek permission of the masters and mistresses entering upon them at any time of the day. And, by extension, permission must be sought of all those who have reached puberty before one enters into their private chambers (Zamakhshari).

Sa`id b. Jubayr reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “There are three verses that people have given up practicing: (a) This present verse, (b) ‘If there appear at the time of division (distant) relatives, orphans or (other) poor persons, make provision for them thereof (4: 8),’ and (c) ‘Surely, the most noble in the sight of Allah are the most pious (49: 13).’” – Ibn Kathir and others.

We have quoted the above to give an inkling of the level of application of the Qur’anic injunctions at the time of the Followers (tabe`iyyuun) these were the only three directives that they seem to have neglected (Au.).

[60] And women of post-menstrual age121 who have no hope of marriage – there is no blame upon them that they should lay aside their (outer) garments, (but) not wantonly displaying adornment. Yet, that they should restrain themselves is better for them.122 And Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing.

Commentary

121. The textual word is “qawa`id” (sing. qa`id, just as hamil: Qurtubi), and not qa`idat (sing. qa`idah). The latter would have been used if the allusion was to those women who have taken to sitting, or the squatting women. But, qa`id is used for a woman who has reached her post-menstrual period and hence has lost interest in sex, and in whom others have lots interest; in consequence, whose company is not sought after by men – Zamakshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others.

Ibn Qutaybah however has said that the word is so rooted (in qa`ida) because past a certain age, women spend most of their time sitting (Sabuni).

122. That is, there is no sin upon such women as have passed the age of interest in sex, that they remove the outer garment with which they cover their heads or shoulders, within the confines of the house or the family quarters. However, if they wore them on, it would be better for them (Ibn Jarir).

[61] There is no restriction upon the blind, nor upon the lame any restriction, nor upon the sick any restriction, nor upon yourselves that you eat of your (own) houses,123 or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your paternal uncles, or the houses of your paternal aunts, or the houses of your maternal uncles, or the houses of your maternal aunts, or of those (places) whereof you possess the keys, or (the house) of a friend of yours.124 There is no blame upon you that you eat all together or separately.125 But when you enter houses, send greetings of peace upon one another – a greeting from Allah, blessed126 and goodly.127 Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses haply you will ponder.128

Commentary

123. “In the consensus of all the authorities, the expression ‘your houses’ implies in this context to ‘your children’s houses’, since all that belongs to a person may be said to belong, morally, to his parents as well.” (Asad)

The Prophet told a man who inquired about what his father could take from his wealth: “You and your wealth are your father’s” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir), although the hadith has been understood to mean differently too (Qurtubi).

124. One of the several opinions about this verse is that the people bore a kind of prejudice against the blind, the sick, the lame and other disabled persons, not too willing to share dinner tables with them. So Allah (swt) revealed this verse. There are a few other opinions, such as, many super-sensitive people thought that if they ate with the disabled, they, the disabled, might not get their full share because of their various disabilities, entailing the questioning of the table-companions, and so they avoided eating with them altogether. Another opinion has it that some people visited the houses of their kindred: brothers, sisters, etc., but refrained from eating there when offered on grounds that the master of the house was not present. So Allah removed this encumbrance by revealing this verse.

Yet another opinion is that sometimes a man had a lame or blind person as a visitor and wished to feed him, but could not do it himself. So he took him to the house of his father, son, etc., to be fed there. But both, the guest brought on (the handicapped) as well as the acting guest, (the man who took them), felt that perhaps it was not right to do such things and so Allah revealed this verse.

But the most likely opinion (according to Ibn Jarir) seems to be that which is reported by Zuhri. He said that the Companions of the Prophet handed over the keys to their houses when they left for campaigns, to the blind, the lame, etc., allowing them free entry into the houses and partaking of anything within them. But the trustees refrained from entering their houses in their absence and so Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari [in parts], Razi, Ibn Kathir).

In all cases, the condition attached is that the masters of the houses do not mind to what is eaten of their houses. This is evidenced by the Prophet’s words who said, “A Muslim’s property is not lawful (to another) except by his good will.” (Qurtubi)

The use of the word sadeeq in the text requires a line or two of explanation. Firstly, friend of English is indeed not equivalent of sadeeq of Arabic. Sadeeq has its root in sadaqa which means, to be true, sincere, honest, deal truthfully, etc. Sadeeq is therefore, someone with whom the relationship is that of truthfulness, sincerity and trust to the absolute degree. In contrast, a friend is a mere acquaintance of some time, a bit close, but not necessarily one to the other absolutely truthful, sincere or honest (Au.). Zamakhshari reports that according to Ibn `Abbas and Ja`far al-Sadiq, sadeeq seems to hold a special position in Islamic thought and culture.

(According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the word is used both as a singular as well as a plural noun [just as `aduww: Qurtubi] – although another word exists for the plural: asdiqa’: Au.).

Those in Hellfire will ignore many others, but will mention those they will miss most: asdiqa’. They will say (26: 100-101), “(Today) We do not have an intercessor (by our side), nor a warm sadeeq.” And, it is reported of Hasan (al-Busri) that once he entered his house to find his friends falling upon a basket of tasty victuals he had placed under his bed. They were cleaning it off. It is said that Hasan’s face brightened up. He smiled happily and said, “That is how we found them.” That is, explains Zamakhshari, that is how he found the Badri Companions he had met: one of whom would enter the house of his friend and ask the maid to bring out his personal purse. He would take from it what he wished. When the master returned and was informed of what his sadeeq had done, he would be so pleased that he’d free the slave-girl.

125. Once again there are a variety of opinions but the one most likely to be correct is that some of the Arabs, like Banu Kinanah, never ate their food unless they had someone to share with, while there were Arabs who never ate with others. Allah removed the inconvenience both ways: they were free to eat together in groups, or individually – no restriction need be there either way (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

The verse is of course speaking of the legality. Otherwise, it is preferable that food be eaten together. Ahmad has a report which says that once someone complained to the Prophet, “We but do not feel satiated.” He replied, “Perhaps you eat separately.” They said, “Yes.” He said, “Get together over your food, pronounce Allah’s name, you will be blessed therewith.”

According to another report in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah, the Prophet said, “Eat together. Do not separate out, for blessing is with the group” (Ibn Kathir).

126. Linguistically, “barakah” is for growth and increase (Sabuni).

127. A hadith can be quoted in support of the verse. Anas says, “I served the Prophet ten years. He never reproached me over a thing I did as to why I did, and never questioned me about a thing I didn’t do as to why I did not. Once I was by his side pouring water on his hand while he made ablution, he raised his head and said, ‘May I not teach you three things that might profit you?’ I said, ‘By my parents, yes, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘Whomsoever of my Ummah you come across, greet him in the Islamic manner, Allah will lengthen your life. When you enter into a house, greet them Islamically; the good of your house will be increased. And, do the Duha Prayer, for it is the Prayer of those who turn (to Allah) often’” (Razi).

Although its various parts are found in different collections as pieces, but this report is not found as one whole in any well-known collection.

128. Asad comments: “The whole of verse 61 is so highly elliptic a form that disagreements as to its purport have always been unavoidable. However, if all the explanations offered by the early commentators are taken into consideration, we find that their common denominator is the view that the innermost purport of this passage is a stress on the brotherhood of all believers, expressed in a call to mutual charity, compassion, and good-fellowship and hence, the avoidance of all unnecessary formalities in their mutual relationship.”

[62] Believers are only those who believed in Allah and His Messenger; and when they are with him over a collective affair,129 do not depart until they have sought his permission.130 Surely, those who seek your permission, they are the ones who believe in Allah and His Messenger. Therefore, if they seek your permission for an affair of theirs, then give permission to whosoever of them you will, and ask Allah’s forgiveness for them.131 Surely, Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.

Commentary

129. Lit., an affair that collects people together (Majid).

130. Thus, after having instructed the believers about how to enter upon a people, by seeking their leave, Allah now instructs them the etiquette of departing when they have to. He began by instructing how to behave when leaving the Prophet’s company. It is by seeking permission to leave. (And, of course, if it happens to be a person of authority, then he has the right to say no: Au.). The Prophet (saws) added clarification by saying, as in a hadith of Abu Da’ud, “When one of you enters upon a gathering, let him say Salam, and when he wishes to leave, let him say Salam: neither the first nor the second is more important than the other.” The report is also in Nasa’i and Tirmidhi who rated it Hasan (Ibn Kathir).

The verse, “Believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Messenger; and when they are with him over a collective affair, do not depart until they have sought his permission” might sound a bit intriguing, especially the adjective “only” at the beginning. Qurtubi gives us the clue. He writes: A man’s faith could not be said to be complete without he paying full attention to what the Prophet was saying, since what he was saying was meant to complete (or improve) an affair. His slipping away would mean he was trying to spoil what the Prophet was trying to improve.

The instruction however, notes Shafi`, was when the Prophet had collected them. If they had come on their own, they were free to leave whenever they wished, which they often did.

131. At this point “Ask Allah’s forgiveness for them” requires an explanation and Alusi provides us: Because, their seeking permission – however legitimate – could have had traces of the preference of this world over that of the affairs of the Hereafter, which needed to be sought forgiveness for.

(To be continued)