Wednesday 9 January 2019

Surah Al Mumtaḥanah - Woman who Is to be Questioned: Summary of 60th Chapter of the Holy Quran

Sūrat al-Mumtaḥanah is the seventieth surah with 13 ayahs with two rukus, part of the 28th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an.

In verse 10 of this Surah it has been enjoined that the women who emigrated to Medina and claimed to be Muslims, should be questioned hence the title Al-Mumtahinah. The word is pronounced both as mumtahinah and as mumtahanah, the meaning according to the first pronunciation being "the Surah which examines", and according to the second, "the woman who is examined."

As for the place and time of revelation of this surah, the mention of these two aspects show that this Surah was revealed in Medina during the interval between the Truce of Hudaibiyah and the Conquest of Makkah. 
  • The first relates to Hadrat Hatib bin Abz Balta'a, who, a little before the conquest of Makkah, had sent a secret letter to the Quraish chiefs informing them of the Holy Prophet's intention to attack them. 
  • The second relates to the Muslim women, who had started emigrating from Makkah to Madinah, after the conclusion of the Truce of Hudaibiyah, and the problem arose whether they also were to be returned to the disbelievers, like the Muslim men, according to the conditions of the Truce. 
Besides, at the end of the surah it has also been mentioned as to what should the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) make the women to pledge when they come to take the oath of allegiance before him as believers. It is believed that this too was revealed some time before the conquest of Makkah, for after this conquest a large number of the Quraish women, like their men, entered Islam and had to be administered the oath of allegiance collectively.

Let us now read explanation of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

Before understanding the first verse of the surah, it will be appropriate to understand the reference to the context. This verse is about the incident related to one Hatib bin Abi Balta'a. Hatib who was among the early emigrants and participated in the battle of Badr. Hatib had children and wealth in Makkah. The incident happened at a time when the the Quraish broke the treaty of Hudaibiyah, and Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had decided to conquer Makkah, and ordered the Muslims to mobilize their forces. While doing so, the Prophet  (ﷺ) prayed to Allah: "O Allah! Keep our news concealed from them."
  • Hearing of the Prophet (ﷺ)'s intentions, Hatib became apprehensive of the safety of his family back in Makkah and feared that if the Muslims attacked Makkah, his family may be harmed since he was not from the dominating tribe of Quraish. Thus Hatib wrote a letter and sent it to the people of Makkah, through a woman from the tribe of Quraysh, informing them of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)'s intent to attack them. He wanted them to be indebted to him, so that they would grant safety to his family. 
  • When the woman had just left Madinah, Allah informed the Prophet (ﷺ) of it, for Allah had accepted the Prophet's invocation to Him to conceal the news of the attack. Prophet (ﷺ) immediately dispatched Ali and few others after her with the instructions to seize the letter by any means they liked. When these companions reached the place indicated by the Prophet (ﷺ), they found the woman and demanded of the letter. She denied having any letter, so they searched her but could find no letter. At last, they told her to deliver the letter, otherwise they would strip her and search her. When she saw that there was no way of escape, she took out the letter from her hair-plait and delivered it to them.
  • When the letter was brought it to the Prophet (ﷺ) and read, it surely contained the warning to the Quraish that the Prophet (ﷺ) was making preparations to attack them. The Prophet (ﷺ) asked Hatib to explain his position, to which Hatib replied: Do not make haste in this matter of mine. I have not done this because I have become a disbeliever or an apostate, and have started preferring disbelief to Islam. But the truth is that my near and dear ones are still in Makkah. I do not belong to the tribe of the Quraish, but had settled there under the guardianship of some of them. The families of the Emigrants, which are still in Makkah, will be defended and protected by their tribes and clans, but I have no tribe which could give protection to my family. Therefore, I sent this letter in order to keep the Quraish under obligation so that they did not harm my children. 
  • Hearing what Hatib had to say, the Prophet (ﷺ) said to the people: Hatib has told you the truth. That is, the real motive of his action was this and not any treachery against Islam or any intention to support disbelief. Umar rose and said: Permit me, O Messenger of Allah, that I should cut off this hypocrite’s head. He has been treacherous to Allah and His Messenger and the Muslims. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: This man has participated in the Battle of Badr. You may not know, O Umar, Allah may have looked favorably at the people of Badr and said: Do as you please, I have forgiven you. (The words in the last sentence are different in different traditions. In some these are to the effect). 
It is not known whether Hatib was pardoned or otherwise, but there is no hint either to show that he was awarded some punishment. Now in this backdrop, read the he first part consists of verses 1-9, and the concluding verse 13 also relates to it. In this strong exception has been taken to the act of Hatib bin Abi Balta'a:
1) O Ye who believe, if you have left (your homes and) have come forth to struggle in My Way and to seek My good pleasure, do not make friends with My enemies and your enemies. You befriend them whereas they have spurned the Truth that has come to you; and (such is their enmity that) they expel the Messenger and yourselves for no other reason than that you believe in Allah, your Lord. You send to them messages of friendship in secrecy, although I know well whatever you do, be it secretly or publicly. And whosoever of you does so has indeed strayed far away from the Straight Path.
2) If they were to get the better of you, they would behave to you as enemies, and stretch forth their hands and their tongues against you for evil: and they desire that ye should reject the Truth.
3) Of no profit to you will be your relatives and your children on the Day of Judgment: He will judge between you: for Allah sees well all that ye do.
4) There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: "We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah. we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone": But not when Abraham said to his father: "I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah." (They prayed): "Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal.
5) "Our Lord! Make us not a (test and) trial for the Unbelievers, but forgive us, our Lord! for Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise."
6) There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow,- for those whose hope is in Allah and in the Last Day. But if any turn away, truly Allah is Free of all Wants, Worthy of all Praise.
7) It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
8) Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.
9) Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.
In verses 10-11, a social problem has been settled, which was agitating the minds at that time. There were many Muslim women in Makkah, whose husbands were pagans, but they were emigrating and reaching Madinah somehow. Likewise, there were many Muslim men in Madinah, whose wives were pagans and had been left behind in Makkah. The question arose whether the marriage bond between them continued to be valid or not. Allah settled this problem for ever, saying that the pagan husband is not lawful for the Muslim women, nor the pagan wife lawful for the Muslim husband
10) O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers, then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers, nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower), and there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah. He judges (with justice) between you. And Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom.11) And if any of your wives deserts you to the Unbelievers, and ye have an accession (by the coming over of a woman from the other side), then pay to those whose wives have deserted the equivalent of what they had spent (on their dower). And fear Allah, in Whom ye believe.
In the verse 12, the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) has been instructed to ask the women who accept Islam to pledge that they would refrain from the major evils that were prevalent among the womenfolk of the pre-Islamic Arab society, and to promise that they would henceforth follow the ways of goodness which the Messenger of Allah may enjoin:
12) O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter,- then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
The verse 13 below is continuation of the subject matter that was being deliberated in the first nine verses of the surah:
13) O ye who believe! Turn not (for friendship) to people on whom is the Wrath of Allah, of the Hereafter they are already in despair, just as the Unbelievers are in despair about those (buried) in graves.
You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Mumtaḥanah with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Part backwards for chapters in 30th Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, those wanting detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to sites the references of which are given above.

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