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Researcher’s Companion to Ghamidi’s Surah al-Baqarah (222-232)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I Meaning & Morphology (الصرف و اللغة)

1. ‘قَرْءٌ

The word ‘قَرْءٌ’ is among those words of the Arabic language which are classed as ‘اَضْدَاد’ (antithetical words). They are words which have two meanings entirely opposite to one another. It is the context which determines the shade of meaning in which they are used. Example of such words are ‘بَيْع’ which means both ‘sale’ and ‘purchase’, and ‘اَسَرَّ’ which means both ‘to reveal’ and ‘to conceal’.

As pointed out by Ghamidi (note: 14), the context readily suggests that the word ‘قَرْءٌ’ here means ‘حَيْض’ (the period of menstruation) and not ‘طُهْر’ (the period of purity)1.

2. ‘ أَحَقُّ

The comparative degree in this word (‘greater rights’) does not imply that the wife also has the right to revoke divorce and that her husband’s right to divorce is only greater.  Instead, it actually suggests that, as pointed out by Zamakhshari2, if a wife does not accept reconciliation, then the will of the husband shall prevail. In other words, the comparison is between the right of the husband to revoke the divorce and the wife’s rejection of the husband’s decision.

3. ‘دَرَجَةٌ

This indefinite noun here connotes ‘وَحْدَانِيَّه’. The implied meaning is that the superiority of husbands is not absolute; it is only in one sphere: as head of the family, as the context suggests. The previous verses mention the rights of the husband as head of the family. Also, this relative ‘superiority’ is not being mentioned regarding women and men generally, but within the framework of the marital relationship and in reference to a specific aspect.

4. ‘ال’ in ‘الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ

Technically speaking the ‘ال’ on ‘الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ’ is for ‘عهد’ and not of ‘جنس’ as some exegetes contend. The implied meaning after taking into consideration this fact would be: ‘the divorce which has been mentioned above in which a husband can revoke his decision can be given twice only’.

5. يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ

The particle ‘ب’ is a preposition of the verb ‘يَعِظُ’ and is not of ‘سببيه’ (causative). When this verb relates to two objects, the second object takes the preposition ‘ب’. Thus translation ‘He instructs you through it’3 would not be correct.4 The meaning of the expression, consequently, would be ‘He instructs you of these things’ and not ‘He instructs you through these things’.

The following Qur’anic verse testifies to this usage:

 قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَعِظُكُمْ بِوَاحِدَةٍ (46:34)

Say: ‘‘I do admonish you on one point’’. (34:46)

 II Eloquence & Style (الاساليب و البلاغة)

1. Tadmin in ‘يُؤْلُونَ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ

The conventional preposition after ‘يُؤْلُونَ’ is ‘عَلى’. However, the preposition ‘مِِنْ’ after it shows the existence of tadmin. In other words, the verb encompasses the meaning of ‘drawing away’. While pointing it out Zamakhshari writes5:

 قد ضمن فى هذا القسم المخصوص معنى البعد فكانه قيل: يبعدون من نساءهم مؤلين  او مقسمين

Contained in this specific oath is the meaning of withdrawal as if the implied import is: they withdraw from their wives while swearing…

2. Khabr li al-Amr

In the expression ‘…وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ’, the predicate, which is in the form of a verb, connotes the imperative mood. Thus ‘Divorced women wait…’ is actually ‘Divorced women should wait...’ Such usage actually places emphasis on the imperative. It is as if the directive has already been obeyed. A similar expression is ‘…وَلْوَالِدَاتُ يُرضِِعْنَ اَوْلَادَهُنَّ’ (Mothers should suckle their offspring…(2:233)). Invocations like ‘رَ حِمَكَ اللَّه’ and ‘حَسْبِىَ اللَّه’ also reflect this usage.

3. Ellipses

i. As opined by Abu Hayyan6, the pithy expression ‘وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ’ that occurs at the end of verse 228 can be unfolded thus: ‘وَلَهُنَّ عَلَى اَزْوَاجِهِنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي لِاَزْوَاجِهِنَّ عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ’.

ii. One feature of Qur’anic Arabic is that it does not employ words which can be avoided to convey the required meaning. For example, though there is a word (اَيْضاً) in classical Arabic for ‘also’, the Qur’an has not used it at all. It uses the context to imply this word in a sentence. This elliptical style of course adds to the eloquence of the language. Here, the words ‘فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ’ (2:229) present a very good example of this. In the preceding verse the word ‘يَخَافَا’ refers to apprehension of the husband and wife and here as ‘خِفْتُمْ’ it refers to the apprehension of the elders of the society. Thus, the word ‘also’ must be considered present or else the words would lose their stress and actual import.

4. Usage of the verb ‘بَلَغَ

In classical Arabic, as in indeed in most languages, verbs in the past tense sometimes connote an action that is yet to take place. While pointing out this aspect, Zamakhshari writes:

فيقال: بلغ البلد إذا شارفه وداناه. ويقال: قد وصلت، ولم يصل وإنما شارف

… so it is said: ‘He has reached the city’ when a person is near it. Similarly it is said: ‘I have reached [my destination]’, whereas actually the destination has not been reached; one has only drawn near it.7

 The verb ‘بَلَغَ’ is used in this sense in ‘وَإِذَا طَلَّقْتُمْ النِّسَاءَ فَبَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ’ (2:231). In other words it implies the sense ‘about to reach’. In the very next verse: ‘وَإِذَا طَلَّقْتُمْ النِّسَاءَ فَبَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ’, (2:232) it is used in its conventional meaning.

 5. الى ما يئول اليه  تسمية الشئ

The word ‘أَزْوَاجَهُنَّ’ used in 2:232 is an example of a word being used for meaning that it will ultimately convey8: the future husbands are called husbands. This usage is very common in other languages also. For example, we call a medical student a doctor even though he is yet to become a doctor.

It would be incorrect to take this word in its actual sense, as some commentators have, thereby implying that a husband who divorces his wife should not impede her in any way to go back to her former husband. A woman if she wishes to re-marry, can remarry her former husband and she can re-marry someone else. 

6. Gradations in Verbs

In classical Arabic, a verb can be used in various stages (مدارج). Thus the same verb can be used to express intention, decision, and severity of the actual meaning it conveys. For example the verb ‘أمَنُوْا’ can mean ‘they intend to believe’, ‘they have decided to believe’ or ‘they fully believed’. It depends on the context and usage as to which meaning is implied. Here the verb ‘يَعْلَمُوْن’ in the expression ‘لِقْومٍ يَعْلَمُوْنَ’ expresses ‘intention of knowing’. An accurate rendering of this expression would be ‘Those who want to know’. In other words, ‘تِلْكَ حُدُوْدُ الله يَبَيَّنُهاَ لِِقَوْمٍ يَعْلِمُوْنَ’ actually implies that the Almighty is explaining his bounds to only those who want to gain knowledge.

7. Direction of Address

Most commentators mention the possibility that the verb in the expression ‘فَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ’. (And do not stop them) can be directed at the guardians of the wife who may stop her from marrying some other person once she has been divorced. However, there is intrinsic evidence found within the verse that conclusively proves that the verb is actually directed at the husband who has divorced his wife. While referring to this intrinsic evidence Imam Razi writes:

المسألة الثالثة: اختلف المفسرون في أن قوله: {فلا تعضلوهن} خطاب لمن؟ فقال الأكثرون إنه خطاب للأولياء، وقال بعضهم إنه خطاب للأزواج، وهذا هو المختار، الذي يدل عليه أن قوله تعالى: {وإذا طلقتم النساء فبلغن أجلهن فلا تعضلوهن} جملة واحدة مركبة من شرط وجزاء، فالشرط قوله: {وإذا طلقتم النساء فبلغن أجلهن} والجزاء قوله: {فلا تعضلوهن} ولا شك أن الشرط وهو قوله: {وإذا طلقتم النساء} خطاب مع الأزواج، فوجب أن يكون الجزاء وهو قوله: {فلا تعضلوهن} خطاباً معهم أيضاً، إذ لو لم يكن كذلك لصار تقدير الآية: إذا طلقتم النساء أيها الأزواج فلا تعضلوهن أيها الأولياء وحيئنذٍ لا يكون بين الشرط وبين الجزاء مناسبة أصلاً وذلك يوجب تفكك نظم الكلام وتنزيه كلام الله عن مثله واجب

The commentators disagree regarding the addressees of the words ‘فَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ’. Most of them are of the opinion that the expression addresses the guardians of the divorced women. Some commentators, however, do say that these words address the husbands. I also subscribe to this opinion. The reason is that the verse ‘وَإِذَا طَلَّقْتُمْ النِّسَاءَ فَبَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ’ is a single sentence composed of a prodosis (شرط) and an apodosis (جزا). The prodosis is ‘وَإِذَا طَلَّقْتُمْ النِّسَاءَ فَبَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ’ and the apodosis is ‘فَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ’. There can be no doubt in the fact that the prodosis is addressed to the husbands. Consequently, it is imperative that the apodosis also be  addressed to the husbands. If this were not so, the verse would imply ‘‘When you O husbands, divorce your wives, you O guardians should not stop them….’. This of course would create a disagreement between the prodosis and the apodosis and this would also dismember the coherence of the discourse, and it is essential to disregard such a thing from the message of God’’.9

 III Exegesis and Explanation (الشرح و التفسير)

1. ‘أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ’ (The directive of God)

The words ‘أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ’, as pointed out by Ghamidi (note: 3), imply the directive of God that is ingrained in human nature regarding sexual intercourse with one’s wife. It needs to be appreciated that man has received God’s directives and His guidance in two forms: a. Innate Guidance and b. Revealed Guidance. As such, the words ‘أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ’ hold good for both types of guidance.10

The implication in this verse (2:222) is that the details of sexual intercourse are intrinsically found in human nature. So just as a person intrinsically knows that food is to be put in the mouth, he knows through his ingrained guidance where to satisfy his sexual urge from.

2. Wife seeking Divorce

The part of verse 229 ‘…وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا’ till the end of the verse is often interpreted to mean the right of a wife to seek divorce from her husband (خُلع).11 Many commentators argue that these verses suggest that a woman must pay some money to her husband in order to liberate herself from him. However, if the context of the verse is taken into consideration, this cannot be the meaning of the verse, as pointed out by Ghamidi (note: 23). The husband is first told that if he finally decides to divorce his wife, then he must be decent enough not to take back any gifts he may have given his wife. Then, in the aforementioned verse, he is told that in one exceptional case it is lawful for him to take back some gifts: when both parties desire legal separation, but the husband desists from divorce because he believes his financial loss, through wealth, assets or property, would be too significant. In such a case, it would be acceptable for the wife to return the gifts to her husband and for the husband to accept them.

3. The implication of ‘تَنكِحَ

In the verse, ‘فَإِنْ طَلَّقَهَا فَلَا تَحِلُّ لَهُ مِنْ بَعْدُ حَتَّى تَنكِحَ زَوْجًا غَيْرَهُ’ the verb ‘تَنكِحَ’ is used. As pointed out by Ghamidi (note: 25). Nikah (marriage contract) is a well-known term of the Qur’an and refers to marriage, which is a contract made by a man and a woman who intend to live their lives together as husband and wife. If a divorce is planned at the beginning of a marriage merely to legalize the wife for the first husband then this is against the spirit of the marriage contract. The very words of the verse also go against such an arrangement. The particle of condition ‘إِنْ’ is used for exceptional and contingent situations. While pointing to this usage, Islahi writes:

In Arabic ‘إِنْ’ is not used for routine and usual matters. Usually, it is used for rare and contingent occurrences. For regular matters, ‘اِذَاِ’ is used.12

Moreover, there is no linguistic basis of construing that in this verse the verb ‘تَنكِحَ’ implies sexual intercourse.13

IV Scriptures and Testaments (العهود  و الصحف)

 1. Menstruation Directives

The Bible contains severer restriction on women during their menstrual periods:

 When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.

 Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed she was sitting on or anything else she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening.

 If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches her, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean. (Leviticus, 15:19-24)

 2. Wrongful Oaths

The Qur’anic words ‘and for your oaths do not make the name of Allah an obstacle’ (2:224) are comparable to the following verse of the Old Testament:

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your Lord, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus, 20:7)

 3. Divorce

The divorce verses of the Old Testament read as follows:

 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives to her and sends her from his house, and after she leaves his house, she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then the first husband who divorced her is not allowed to marry her again after she had been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy, 24:1-4)

 Some of the contrasting points regarding divorce between the OT and the Qur’an are:

i. According to the OT, a husband can seemingly divorce his wife only on the grounds of indecency.14 The Qur’an, on the contrary does not impose such a condition.

ii. The divorce sentence according to OT must be in written form (certificate of divorce), while the Qur’an does not impose this condition. Divorce sentences pronounced orally are also acceptable.

iii. Contrary to the Qur’an, the OT does not allow re-marriage between a former husband and wife, if after divorce, the wife is married to some other person and this second husband dies or divorces her.

iv. The OT also does not allow a husband to exercise his right of a revocable divorce twice in the course of a marriage, as the Qur’an does. He can only exercise it once.






1. In A‘sha’s following couplets, for example, the word is used in this latter meaning:

ا فى كل عام انت جاشم غزوة       تشد لاقصاها عزيم عزائك

مؤصلة مالا و فى الحي رفعة         لما ضاع فيها من قروء نسائكا

(Will you set out every year to bear the hardship of a war traveling to its peak areas with strong determination; such that you gain wealth and earn fame in return for the missed periods of purity of your wives.)

2. Zamakhshari, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1997), 300.

3. See Islahi, Amin Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 539.

4. Islahi has translated it thus: ‘which He revealed for your instruction’, (Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 525.

5. Zamakhshari, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1997), 296.

6. Abu Hayyan, al-Bahr al-Muhit, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Makkah: Dar al-Fikr, 1992), 460.

7. Zamakhshari, Kashshaff, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1997), 305.

8. For more examples of such usage in the Qur’an, see 12:36 and 71:27. In the former, the word ‘خَمْر’ and in latter ‘فَاجِر’ is used similarly.

9. Razi, Imam Fakhr al-Din, Tafsir Kabir, 2nd ed., vol. 6 (Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al- ‘Ilmiyyah, n.d.), 112.

10. For a use of the word in the first sense, see 80:23

11. This of course does not mean that she does not have the right to seek divorce. What is being implied is that these verses do not state this right.

12. Islahi, Amin Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 638.

13. Ibid., 537-539.

14. The New Testament limits this ‘indecency’ to ‘marital unfaithfulness’. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus (sws) says:

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew, 19:9)

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