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Surah al-Baqarah (222-223)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


The previous verses mention the prohibition of marriage among the Idolaters.

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الْمَحِيضِ قُلْ هُوَ أَذًى فَاعْتَزِلُوا النِّسَاءَ فِي الْمَحِيضِ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوهُنَّ حَتَّى يَطْهُرْنَ فَإِذَا تَطَهَّرْنَ فَأْتُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ  نِسَاؤُكُمْ حَرْثٌ لَكُمْ فَأْتُوا حَرْثَكُمْ أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ وَقَدِّمُوا لِأَنفُسِكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ مُلَاقُوهُ وَبَشِّرْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ(٢٢٢-٣)

And [now that the issue of marriage has been raised], they ask you about menstruation1. Tell them: It is a kind of impurity. So keep away from women during their menstrual periods and do not approach them until they are in a state of purity; then when they are clean after having a bath, go to them2 from where God has enjoined you3. Indeed, God loves those who constantly repent and keep themselves clean4. These women of yours are your cultivated land5; go, then, into your lands in any manner you please6 [and through this] plan for the future7 [of both this and the next world] and remain fearful of God. Bear in mind that you shall meet Him [one day]8. And [O Prophet!] Give good tidings [of success and salvation] to the believers [on that Day]. (222-3)





1. Since the basic objective of religion is purification, all divine religions prohibit sexual relations with one’s wife during their menstrual and puerperal discharge periods. As adherents to the creed and practices of Abraham (sws), the Arabs also considered such relations as unlawful. Their poetical compositions mention this fact from various aspects. There was no difference of opinion regarding its prohibition. However, there existed certain extremes and undue restrictions regarding the limits of withdrawal from one’s wife during these periods. It is evident from the answer given by the Qur’ān that the actual question in fact pertained to these limits.

2. The implication being that during these days only intercourse is prohibited. A lady should not be thought of as untouchable during these days as was the view of the Jews, Hindus and some other nations. The Prophet (sws) through his own practice delineated that only intercourse is prohibited in these times and other forms of sexual relations can remain intact with one’s wife without any hesitation whatsoever. However, the question arises regarding the time of resumption of carnal relationship with her. The Qur’ān has used two words for this: ‘تَطَهُّر’ and ‘طُهْر’. The form and scope  of the directive which can be derived from their usage in the words of Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī is:

طُهْر’ (tuhr) means the end of the state of impurity and the termination of blood while ‘تَطَهُّر’ (tatahhur) means the state of purity a lady enters into after the ceremonial bath. The verse regards ‘طُهْر’ (tuhr) as a condition for intercourse with the wife and it also says that once a lady has entered the state of purity only then should the husband approach her for this purpose. It emanates from this that though the basic reason for this prohibition is blood and once the blood stops this prohibition is lifted, however the appropriate way in this regard is to have intercourse after she has had a bath. (Islāhī#, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 526)

3. After the ceremonial bath, the carnal relationship with the wife should be established through the way that is prescribed by the Almighty. This guidance is ingrained in human nature and from this aspect it, no doubt, is a directive of the Almighty. If a person violates this directive he in fact violates a very obvious directive of the Almighty, and, as a result, will have to face punishment from Him.

4. While explaining the importance of these directives in the eyes of the Almighty, Islāhī# writes:

If one deliberates on the essence of tawbah and tatahhur, one comes to the conclusion that while the former means to cleanse one’s inner self from sins, the latter means to cleanse one’s outer self from filth and dirt. Viewed thus, both are similar in their essence and the Almighty holds both these traits in great admiration. On the other hand, people who lack these traits are disliked by the Almighty. It is evident from the context of this verse that those who do not refrain from intercourse with their wives during their periods of impurity and violate the limits ingrained in human nature in satisfying their sexual urge are detestable in the eyes of the Almighty. (Islāhī#, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 526)

5. The metaphor of ‘cultivated land’ is employed by the Qur’ān to explain what is stated in the previous verses. Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī  comments on this in the following words:

One very apparent reason for using this metaphor is the fact that just as for a cultivated land it is essential on the part of the harvester that seeds be sown in the appropriate season at the right time and that they be sown within the fields and not scattered outside them, similarly it is a norm of human instinct that one should not approach a lady for sexual intercourse during the menstrual cycle or from the anal side because the period of menses is a time during which women are sexually cold and not inclined, while anal intercourse is a painful and wasteful activity. Therefore, people who have not perverted their nature cannot indulge in such an activity. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 527)

6. Writes Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī# regarding the objective of this guidance:

[This] alludes simultaneously to two things: On the one hand, it refers to the liberty, freedom and a free manner with which a farmer approaches his land, and on the other hand refers to the responsibility, caution and care which he must exercise in approaching his land. The word ‘حَرْثٌ’ refers to the former and the word ‘أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ’ to the latter. It is both this liberty an caution which ascertain the correct behaviour of a husband with his wife in this regard.

Every one knows that the real bliss of married life is the freedom a person has in intimate affairs barring a few broad restrictions. The feeling of this freedom has a great amount of euphoria around it. When a person is with his wife in intimate moments, Divine will seems to be that he be overcome with emotions but at the same time it is pointed out to him that he has come into a field and an orchard; it is no wasteland or a forest. He may come to it in whatever manner and in whatever way whenever he pleases, but he must not forget that he has landed in his orchard. The Qur’ān has no objection on the discretion, choice and majesty with which he approaches his field if he knows full well where he is going and in no way is oblivious of this reality. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 527)

7. The implication being that a person should try to produce children who become an asset for him both in this world and in the Hereafter. The reason for this directive is to create awareness among parents of the great responsibility of a new child that they may plan properly.

8. The implication being that in this world the Almighty has given people respite so that they can do whatever they want to whether openly or secretly. However, they should remember that one day they will have to stand before their Lord and will be held accountable for all their deeds. Whatever they do, they should do while keeping in mind the fact that no one would be able to save them from the Almighty on that Day.

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