Verses from Surah Al-Noor [23 – 29]

[23] Surely those who slander chaste,38 unwary,39 believing women are cursed in this world and the Next and for them (awaits) a great punishment.40

[24] The Day when their tongues, their hands and their feet will testify against them as to what they were doing.

Commentary

  1. The translation of “muhsanat” as chaste has Ibn Jarir’s authority behind it.
  1. Morally bankrupt people’s languages (in whose culture father mates with daughter, brother marries sister, priest with priest), cannot have words in current usage for expressing such qualities as they deem out of date: chastity, bashfulness, personal purity, etc. Zamakhshari’s definition for the textual “ghafilat” therefore, could perhaps give some sense to those who do not have a single equivalent for “ghafilat.” He defines the term as: “Ghafilat are those women whose breasts are preserved in primordial purity, and hearts clean. Those, who are free of guile and cunning, for they have not yet experienced (some) things, and have not yet tasted (some) affairs; so that, they are not yet conscious of matters that the experienced and the seasoned ones are conscious of.”
  1. The verse could be applicable to `Abdullah ibn Ubayy and his compatriots who never repented (Alusi and others).

The Prophet added his own emphasis counting slander of chaste women as one of the great seven destroyers. The others being, as in a report of the Sahihayn: Ascribing partners unto Allah, magic, killing an innocent soul, devouring usury, devouring orphans’ property, running away from the battle-field, and slandering chaste believing women (Ibn Kathir).

[25] That day will Allah pay them in full their just due41 and they will know that Allah, He is the Manifest Truth.42

Commentary

  1. The rendering of “din” as “just due” tries to be close to the understanding of Ibn `Abbas as in Tabari. He said “dinahum” means “hisabahum.”
  1. This is the meaning of “Al-Mubin” that Ibn Jarir prefers as correct. However, “One Who Manifests” is another possible meaning. Zamakhshari is also of the same opinion.

It might also be made note of, adds Zamakhshari, how Allah (swt) dealt with the slander of `A’isha in His revelation. He stated it briefly and then expanded on it, He emphasized on it and then repeated it, and, came with words of threat that He used for the Associaters alone in other parts of the Qur’an. Anyone wishing to know the position of honor that the Prophet (saws) occupied with Allah, might read the passage dealing with `A’isha’s slander. If Allah dealt with it so seriously, it was because `A’isha was his wife.

[26] Evil (words) are for evil men, and evil men are for evil (words); and good (words) are for pure men and pure men are for good (words).43 They are innocent of what they (the evil ones) say.44 Theirs shall be forgiveness and a provision honorable.45

Commentary

  1. A literal translation should be: Evil (women) are for evil (men) …” but this is not how the great majority of the earliest scholars have understood it.

But rather, the translation as it is now, is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Nujayh, Dahhak, Qatadah, Sa`id b. Jubayr and many others of the early scholars have understood. That is, evil words are for evil men; to them they suit most. Whereas, good men are innocent of them. On the contrary, good words are for good men. To them they suit most.

Ibn Jarir also understands this Ayah in this manner, yet reports that Zayd b. Aslam thought they meant that good women are for good men ..to the end.

Nuhhas has said that this is the best that has been said about the verse, although he is not against Zayd’s interpretation altogether (Qurtubi).

  1. That is, the good ones are quit of what the words the evil ones use (Ibn Jarir).
  1. Most commentators agree that the first application of the verse was to `A’isha, a lady of great virtues. The Prophet (saws) said about her: “`A’isha’s superiority over other women is like that of mutton-pudding over other dishes” (Alusi). She said about herself, “I have been given preference over others in several things: (a) An angel brought down my photo to the Prophet (before marriage, to say that ‘this is chosen to be your wife’), (b) I was the only virgin the Prophet married, (c) I held the unique position that revelations came to the Prophet while I was with him under the same blanket, (d) my exoneration was sent down from the heavens, (e) the Prophet died in my house, (f) he was buried in my house, (g) I was created pure in the house of the pure, (h) I was promised forgiveness and an honorable provision.” (Zamakhshari, Alusi, Shafi` and others)

It might be noticed in the above that the woman inside `A’isha makes an important point of being a virgin when the Prophet married her. The Prophet himself however, hardly ever expressed any such sentiment (Au.).

[27] Believers! Do not enter houses other than your own houses until you have ascertained welcome46 and have saluted their occupants. That is better for you, haply you will heed.

Commentary

  1. Ibn `Abbas was quite sure that the original revelation was “ista’dhinu” (seek permission) which the scribe wrote as “ista’nisu” (seek familiarity or friendliness). Some reports say that that is how it was written in Ibn Mas`ud’s copy of the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir). Nonetheless, the usage of the word “ista’nasa” is not any new in Arabic language. We might recall that when ‘Umar entered upon the Prophet in his upper chamber when he had sworn that he would not see his wives for a month, he used the same word “asta’nis” (lit., “should I attempt pleasantry?: Au.) –Qurtubi.

The word has also been used in the Qur’an in Surah al-Ahzab, verse 53, which says, “When you have finished eating, disperse, without seeking conversation.” (Razi)

The attribution therefore, of the opinion above to Ibn `Abbas and others is incorrect (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). In fact, writes Shanqiti, all the Uthmani copies of the Qur’an have it written as “ista’nisu.” Alusi, however, does not believe the attribution is incorrect and sets about explaining what Ibn `Abbas could have meant.

However, Mujahid and Ibn Zayd thought it was “ista’nisu” alone, meaning, “make yourselves familiar.” That is, clear your throat, and make some sort of noise to let the occupants know that someone is at the door.

In any case, whether this or that, it is desirable that one seeks the permission of the occupants before entering, even if it happens to be one’s mother inside. The following is in Muwatta’: Someone asked the Prophet (saws) whether he should seek permission even if it is his mother? He answered, “Yes.” He said, “She is living with me in the house.” He told him, “Seek her permission.” The man said, “I am her attendant.” The Prophet answered, “Seek her permission. Do you wish to see her naked?” The man said, “No.” He said, “Then better seek her leave.”

And once someone said at the Prophet’s door, “Shall I come in?” He said to his attendant, “Go out to this man and teach him the manner of entering (a home). Tell him to say, ‘Al-salamualaykum’ and then ask, ‘Shall I enter?’” The man at the door heard and said, ‘Al-salamualaykum, shall I enter?’ The Prophet allowed him and then the man entered.”(The report is in Abu Da’ud, Ahmad and other books and is of considerable strength: S. Ibrahim).

Accordingly, it is reported of Ibn Mas`ud that he would clear his throat or make some noise at the door of his own house for the occupants to know he was coming in (Ibn Jarir, Zamakshari, Qurtubi, IbnKathir).

Visiting Manners

Permission to enter might be sought three times. A report is preserved in the Sahihayn which says that Abu Musa sought entry into `Umar’s gathering three times and turned back finding no response. In the meantime, `Umar became conscious of the voice and sent someone after him, but he was gone. When he showed up again `Umar asked him why had he returned earlier? Abu Musa told him that he had followed the Prophet’s instruction: thrice you seek to be admitted, but if there is no response you may return. `Umar threatened him with stripes if he did not produce witnesses. So Abu Musa went to a group of Ansar and asked them if anyone had also heard it from the Prophet. They said, “The youngest of us will help you out,” and sent Abu Sa`id al-Khudri with him. He testified before `Umar that the Prophet (saws), indeed, had said such a thing. `Umar remarked, “Nothing but trading led me to miss this one” (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

A report of Abu Da’ud, quite credible, says that once the Prophet visited Sa`d b. `Ubadah. He said “Al-salamualaykum” at the door, three times. Every time he said that, Sa`d replied in a low-pitched voice which the Prophet did not hear and so he returned. Sa`d ran after him and explained that he wished to hear his Salam several times and hence replied in low tones. Sa`d offered him a bath and the Prophet bathed himself. Then he offered him some food that had food coloring in it. Finished, the Prophet supplicated in words, “O Allah, send Your peace and mercy on the household of Sa`d b. `Ubadah.” When he wished to depart, Sa`d offered him his donkey and asked Qays to accompany him. The Prophet told Qays to also mount. But he refused. So he told him, “Either mount, or go back.” Qays preferred to go back. (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir)

According to another report in Abu Da’ud, though of unknown reliability, “When the Prophet visited someone, he did not stand right in front of the door, but rather, either on the right side or lefts side of it and say, ‘Al-salamualaykum, al-salamualaykum.’” (Ibn Kathir)

Visiting manners also demand that one might not peep into the house one is visiting. The Prophet (saws) said in a Hadith of the Sahihayn: “Permission has been legislated for the sake of the sight.”  According to a report in the Sahihayn, the Prophet said that, “If you struck a visitor peeping into your house with a stone and it blinded him, no indemnity will be required of you.” (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir)

Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and Ahmad have a report from Jabir who said, “I went to the Prophet (for an errand).” I knocked at the door. He asked, ‘Who is it?’ I answered, ‘It’s me.’ He asked, ‘Me, me? Who is me?’ – as if he did not like the visitor’s words (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

One might also knock at the door; but not too noisily. Anas b. Malik reports that they used to knock at the Prophet’s doors with their nails. (Qurtubi)

[28] But if you find not anyone therein, then do not enter into them until you are permitted.47 And if you are told, ‘return,’ then return.48 That is purer for you; and Allah is Knowing of what you do.

Commentary

47. This refers to houses without their occupants within. One’s entry into them would be illegal. It might also be extended to houses where the master of the house is absent. One might not enter into them if invited in by a child or a house servant unless they have specific instruction from the master of the house. The words, “if you do not find anyone” could be saying, “if you do not find anyone (of authority) to allow you in” (Alusi).

 48.Somehow, throughout the ages, Muslims have not been able to say “go back” to anyone at the door. Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir report from one of the emigrants (Muhajireen), “All my life I never had the opportunity to hear from anyone, ‘return,’ so that I could return, a bit downcast.”

 

Their attitude to welcome a guest, at whatever time he may come, has got better of their awareness to conserve time. Indian scholars say that a scholar should welcome a man looking for consultancy at any odd hour, even if it is wee hours of the night (Au.).

[29] There is no blame upon you that you should enter uninhabited houses,49 in which are your goods. And Allah knows what you reveal and what you conceal.

Commentary

49. Such as store houses, and, by implication, cafeterias and other public places of unobstructed visit.

Ibn Abi Hatim reports that it was first Abu Bakr who asked the Prophet about such places as store-rooms, stock-yards, inns, and other public places where there is no one to seek permission from. In response Allah revealed this verse (Alusi and others).

(To be continued)