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Surah al-Baqarah (224-29)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

وَلَا تَجْعَلُوا اللَّهَ عُرْضَةً لِأَيْمَانِكُمْ أَنْ تَبَرُّوا وَتَتَّقُوا وَتُصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ  لَا يُؤَاخِذُكُمْ اللَّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَكِنْ يُؤَاخِذُكُمْ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ  لِلَّذِينَ يُؤْلُونَ مِنْ نِسَائِهِمْ تَرَبُّصُ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ فَإِنْ فَاءُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ  وَإِنْ عَزَمُوا الطَّلَاقَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ(٢٢٤-٧)

وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَاثَةَ قُرُوءٍ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَنْ يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِي أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِنْ كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ  بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُوا إِصْلَاحًا وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ (٢٢٨)

الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ فَإمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَنْ يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا وَمَنْ يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الظَّالِمُونَ (٢٢٩)

 [There are certain other issues regarding women also that you must know] and for your oaths1 do not make the name of Allah an obstacle to deal kindly and to observe the limits of Allah and to make peace among men, and [you should know that] Allah knows all and hears all. He will not hold you liable for your oaths sworn inadvertently. But He will take you to task for oaths sworn with your heart’s intention and [in reality], Allah is forgiving and lenient2. So those who swear to abstain from their wives3 must wait four months. If they change their mind, Allah is forgiving and ever-merciful4; but if they decide to divorce them, [know that] He hears all and knows all5. (224-7)

 And [if the latter situation develops], the divorced women must keep themselves waiting for three menstrual6 courses7. And it is unlawful for them, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day, to hide8 what He has created in their wombs. And if their husbands wish to reform9 affairs, they [— the husbands— ] have greater right to take them back [in this waiting period] should they desire reconciliation. And [this is because there is no doubt that] just as according to [society’s] norms these women have obligations [towards their husbands], they also have rights10, although men [as husbands] have a status above11 women. [This is the directive of Allah] and Allah is mighty and wise12. (228)

This divorce may be pronounced twice [during the period of the marriage]13, and then a woman must be retained in honour or allowed to go with kindness. [If you decide to depart from her them, then on this occasion] it is unlawful for you to take back from them anything you have given them14 unless both the husband and wife fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by Allah. Then if you also feel that they will not be able to remain within the bounds set by Allah, then there shall be no offence for either of them [regarding the gifts given by the husband] if the wife seeks divorce [by returning them to him] in ransom15. These are the bounds set by Allah; do not transgress them. [And you should know that] those who transgress the bounds of Allah are wrongdoers16. (229)


1. This verse is a prelude to the directive of ‘اِيلَاء’ (ilā) the coming verses state. The implied meaning is that since swearing by the Almighty is tantamount to calling him to witness a person should in no way swear an oath that infringes upon the rights of the Almighty or those of His creation; however, if by chance a person happens to swear such an oath, he is directed to break it. A person should in no way embark upon usurping the rights of others or evading deeds of piety and virtue merely on the excuse that an oath has been sworn. The words ‘أَنْ تَبَرُّوا وَتَتَّقُوا وَتُصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ النَّاسِ’ which delineate this fact are explained by Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī in the following words:

The words ‘بِِرّ’ , ‘تَقْوى’ and ‘اِصْلَاح’ encompass all deeds of virtue. The word ‘بِِرّ’ embraces all virtues that relate to the parents, the relatives, the poor, the orphan and other members of the society. The word ‘تَقْوى’ covers all virtues that relate to the Almighty and ‘اِصْلَاح’ include all virtues that relate to the society [in general]. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 529)

2. The implied meaning is that one should indeed break all such oaths; however, this does not mean that a person will not be held accountable for such oaths. The Almighty will not punish him for an oath that is sworn without intention and purpose which a person just utters involuntarily. However, He shall punish a person for oaths which are sworn intentionally and voluntarily through which a pledge is made or which influence the rights and obligations of individuals or affect divine injunctions in any manner. As is the general rule for a sin, he will need to atone it through sincere repentance; however, as 5:89 specifies, he will also have to compensate for it in the prescribed manner.

3. The actual word used is ‘اِيلَاء’. This is a term of the Arab Jāhiliyyah society which means to swear an oath to sever sexual relations with one’s wife. Such an oath leaves the wife in an indefinite state and is as such against virtue and piety. Consequently, the Almighty has fixed a four month period after which a husband must decide to either resume the marital relationship or to divorce her.

It is evident from this directive that it is not allowed to sever sexual relations from one’s wife without a valid reason. So much so that if a person swears such an oath, he must break it. Such relations are the right of a wife and if a husband does not fulfill them, then he can be regarded a criminal both in the eyes of the law and before the Almighty in the Hereafter. In return, the wife also does not have the right to refuse compliance to these relations without a valid reason.

4. Although this oath was sworn to usurp rights and it is not lawful to swear such oaths, but if a person mends his ways the Almighty shall forgive him.

5. The implied meaning is that if a person decides to divorce his wife then he must abide by the rules and regulations that the Almighty has prescribed in this regard. Allah He hears and knows everything. Excesses committed against someone else will not remain concealed from Him.

6. The actual Arabic word used is ‘قُرُوْء’. It is a plural of ‘قَرْءٌ’. In Arabic, this word means both the ‘menstrual period’ and the ‘non-menstrual period’. While presenting his research on this word, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

After much deliberation on the root of the word and its derived forms, I have come to the conclusion that its real meaning is that of ‘menstruation’. However, since every menstrual period is followed by a period of purity (طُهْر), the word is also used in this meaning. This is similar to the usage of words ‘day’ for ‘night’ and vice versa. Every language has such words. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 532)

This word in the opinion of this writer means ‘menstruation’ because in these verses the real issue is to ascertain whether a lady is pregnant or not. It is the ‘period of menstruation’ which actually ascertains this and not the ‘period of purity’. Moreover, women are asked to wait in this period and this waiting period can only be ascertained through the menstrual cycle because its beginning can be known with certainty.

7. In Sūrah Talāq, a husband is directed to divorce his wife while keeping count of the Iddat (waiting period). Here, in these verses, the Qur’ān, has specified that this waiting period is equivalent to three menstrual cycles. This is the Iddat in normal circumstances. In certain specific ones, its time period changes as is mentioned in Sūrah Talāq (65:1-7) and Sūrah Ahzāb (33:49).

8. The directive to observe the waiting period has been given for the very reason of ascertaining whether a lady is pregnant or not. Consequently, if she conceals the situation of her womb, the very benefits that the Almighty has placed in this directive would be lost.

9. A restriction is imposed here on the right of a husband to annul the divorce sentence stated in this verse so that this annulment should not be to torment or torture the wife but to create harmony and affection in the resumed marital life.

10. The rights and obligations that this verse refers to are delineated in Sūrah Nisā (4:19 and 4:32).

11. The right to annul a divorce is given to the husband because he is considered the head of the family and as such is responsible for providing and protecting it. In order to maintain discipline in the family, it is imperative that, as the head of the family, he be given this right.

12. Since there is high probability that in such affairs one is bound to be governed by emotions and extreme reactions and as a result may commit one blunder after another, these two attributes – Mighty and Wise – mentioned at the end of the verse serve a special purpose. While referring to this purpose, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

The Almighty is ‘Azīz (Mighty); hence, it is only His right to give this directive and He is also Hakīm (Wise); hence, whatever directive He gives is based on wisdom. Men should always submit to His directives without any hesitation whatsoever. If they oppose His directives, this would amount to challenging His honor and only hasten to invite His wrath. Similarly, if they are naive enough to think that they are more wise and sagacious than the Almighty, they will be responsible for ruining the law and system of the society with their very own hands. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 533)

13. This refers to the divorce mentioned in the previous verses in which a husband can revoke his decision during the Iddat. In other words, if a husband has revoked his decision and the two have started living as husband and wife once again and still it seems that marriage cannot continue, then he can divorce the wife once again in a similar manner and will still have the right to revoke his decision this second time. However, if this happens for the third time, then the husband will no longer have this right.

14. This is an elaboration of the kindness with which a wife should be divorced: whatever wealth, property, clothes, jewelry and other items have been gifted to her by the husband should not be confiscated by him. Here it should be clear that the verse is not referring to the Nafqah (maintenance) and Mahr (dowry), which are the absolute rights of a wife and confiscating them is unthinkable. What is emphasized is that a husband should not take back any gifts he may have given her.

15. This verse mentions an exception to the directive instructing the husband not to take back any gifts from his wife at the time of divorce. If it is no longer possible to keep a marriage intact according to the Allah’s limits, and the family elders and society also supports the annulment, but a husband is unwilling to divorce his wife simply because he is concerned over losing wealth, property or other gifts he has given to his wife, then the issue can be resolved through the exception stated in this verse: the wife can give back part or all of the wealth gifted to her to relieve herself of her marital contract. In such cases, it would be lawful for the husband to accept these returned gifts.

16. This sentence relates to the whole group of directives given earlier on. While explaining it, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes: 

These are the bounds set by Allah regarding one’s marital life. Just as you set up boundary walls around your lands and pastures and want that no one should set foot into them and if someone does so you consider it a challenge to your ownership and honor, similarly, the Almighty has erected boundaries around areas prohibited by Him. You are free to wander within them but are not allowed to cross them. Those who try to exceed these bounds should remember that they will become transgressors.

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