Thursday 1 August 2019

Surah An Nur - The Light: Exegesis of 24th Chapter of Holy Quran - Part V

Sūrah An-Nūr "الْنُّور" is the twenty fourth surah with 64 ayahs with nine rukus, part of the 18th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The title of the surah is taken from verses 35 in which is often referred to as " Ayat an-Nur or the Light Verse", or "the Parable of Light":
"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is as if there were a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His light: Allah doth set forth parables for men: and God doth know all things."
As already mentioned in the Overview, Surah An Nūr is one of the most important surahs of the Holy Qur'an for it concentrates on establishing the good manners and morals that will ultimately benefit the new Muslim society.  It establishes regulations for marriage, modesty, appropriate household behaviour, and the manners and necessity of obedience to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  While the central theme of this chapter is educating the Muslim community, it flows effortlessly from prescribing mandatory punishments to gently inviting us to reflect on the signs God has placed for us throughout the universe.

In view of the sensitivity of subjects discussed in the surah, it is of utmost importance to understand the historical background of the revelation of the surah and the theme before reading its translation  and exegesis / tafseer. The passages shared herein under are  'unedited'  and direct from the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, so as to present detailed explanation of laws concerning issues discussed in the surah, presenting view point of different scholars for better understanding.

Since these explanations are quite lengthy due to sensitivity of the subjects so discussed so as to leave no ambiguity in understanding, the exegesis has been divided into many parts to keep the interest of readers alive:
  • Part I   : Rukhu 1 [verses 1-10] - fornication / extra matrimonial relations and punishments. 
  • Part II  : Rukhu 2-3 [verses 11-26] - Slander against Aisha, wife of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and her exoneration by Allah of the slander charges
  • Part III     : Rukhu 4 [verses 27-34] - Special instructions / manners
  • Part IV   : Rukhu 5-7 [verses 35-57] Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth, misdeeds of disbelievers and qualities of true believers
  • Part V    : Rukhu 8-9 [verses 58-64] - Etiquette of seeking permission to enter the room of married couple, Etiquette of eating at houses other than your own, Requirement of attending meetings which require collective action
We have already presented the first four parts of the exegesis of this Surah. Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the last part, which covers  Rukhu 8-9 [verses 58-64]. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles:

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

Rukhu 8 [verses 58-61]
From verse 58 onward, From here again, the commandments for social life are being resumed, after the same were discussed in Rukhu 4 [verses 27-34]. It is just possible that this portion of Surah An-Noor was revealed at a later date.

The first two verses 58-59 explain the etiquette of seeking permission to enter the room of married couple:
( 58 )   O you who have believed, let those whom your right hands possess and those who have not [yet] reached puberty among you ask permission of you [before entering] at three times: before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer. [These are] three times of privacy for you. There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you - some of you, among others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.
According to the majority of commentators and jurists, this refers to both male and female slaves. Ibn Umar and Mujahid, however, have expressed the opinion that it refers to the male slaves only. But in view of the commandment that follows there appears to be no reason for making this distinction. Violation of one’s privacy by his children is as undesirable as by his female slaves. All jurists agree that the commandment given in this verse is applicable both to the minor and to the grown up slaves.

Another translation can be: Who have not yet reached the age of seeing wet dreams. From this the jurists have deduced the principle that in case of boys puberty starts when they begin having nocturnal emissions. But the translation that we have adopted is preferable because the injunction is meant both for boys and for girls. If nocturnal emission is taken as the sign of attaining puberty, the injunction would be confined to boys only, because in the case of girls it is the menstrual discharge, and not nocturnal emission, which marks the beginning of puberty. In our opinion the intention is that the children of the house should follow this procedure till the time that they become sex conscious. After they have become sex conscious they have to follow the injunction that follows.

Here in this verse, word "Aurat" has been used, which literally is a place of danger and trouble; it also means a private part of the body which one would not like to expose before others, and something which is not fully secured. All these meanings are close to each other and all are implied in the meaning of this verse. The verse means to say that these are your times of privacy when you are either alone or with your wives in a state when it is not proper for your children and servants to come in to see you unannounced. Therefore, they should be instructed that they must take your permission before coming in to see you in your places of privacy at these three times.

However, at other times than these, there is no restriction on the entry of minor children and slaves in your private rooms without permission. If on such an occasion you are not properly dressed and they enter without permission, you will have no right to take them to task. For in that case, it will be your own folly to have kept yourself in an improper state at a time when you should have been properly dressed for the day’s business. However, if they enter without permission during the times of privacy, the blame will lie with them provided they have been taught the necessary etiquette.

This is the reason for the general permission for children and slaves to come without permission at other times than those mentioned above. This throws light on a fundamental fiqh principle that every religious injunction is based on some wisdom or good reason, whether it has been explained or not.
( 59 )   And when the children among you reach puberty, let them ask permission [at all times] as those before them have done. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.
Continuing with the same theme above, this verse is specifically for the children when they have reached the age of puberty. As has been explained in above, the signs of puberty in the case of boys and girls are nocturnal emission and menstrual discharge respectively. There is, however, a difference of opinion among the jurists regarding the beginning of puberty in those boys and girls who for some reason do not show these physical signs for an unduly long time.
  • According to Imam Shafai, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad and Imam Ahmad, a boy or a girl of 15 years will be considered to have attained puberty, and a saying of Imam Abu Hanifah also supports this view. 
  • But the well known view of Imam Abu Hanifah is that in such cases the age of puberty will be 17 years for girls and 18 years for boys. 
Both these opinions are the result of juristic reasoning and neither is based on any injunction of the Quran or Sunnah. It is therefore not necessary that the age limits of 15 or 18 years be accepted as marking the beginning of puberty everywhere in the world in abnormal cases. In different countries and ages there are different conditions of physical development and growth. The age of puberty in a certain country can be determined by means of the law of averages in normal cases. As for abnormal cases, the mean difference of ages may be added to the upper age limit to determine the age of puberty. For instance, if in a country, the minimum and maximum ages for nocturnal discharge are normally 12 and 15 years respectively, the mean difference of one and a half years may be added to the maximum limit of 15 years to determine the beginning of puberty for abnormal cases. The same principle can be used by the legal experts of various countries to fix the age of puberty keeping in view their peculiar local conditions.
There is a tradition quoted from Ibn Umar in support of the age of 15 years for puberty. He says: I was 14, when I presented myself before the Prophet (peace be upon him) to ask his permission to join the battle of Uhud, but he declined permission. Then on the occasion of the battle of the Trench, when I was 15, I was again presented and he permitted me to join. (Sihah Sitta, Musnad Ahmad). This tradition, however, does not stand scrutiny for the following two reasons:
  • (a) The battle of Uhud took place in Shawwal, 3 A.H., and the battle of the Trench in Shawwal, 5 A.H. according to Ibn Ishaq, and in Zil-Qad, 5 A.H. according to Ibn Saad. There is an interval of two years or more between the two events. Now if Ibn Umar was 14 at the time of the battle of Uhud, he could not be 15 at the time of the battle of the Trench. It may be that he mentioned 14 years for 13 years and 11 months and 15 years for 15 years and 11 months.
  • (b) It is a different thing to be regarded as an adult for the purposes of war and quite different to be legally adult for social affairs. They are not necessarily interconnected. Therefor the correct view is that the age of 15 for an abnormal boy has been fixed on the basis of analogous and juristic reasoning and not on the basis of anything in the Quran or Sunnah. 
Verse 60 relates to elderly women in the home and the rules of dress and decorum are not so exacting as for younger women, but they are also enjoined to study modesty, both because it is good in itself, and as an example to the younger people.:
( 60 )   And women of post-menstrual age who have no desire for marriage - there is no blame upon them for putting aside their outer garments [but] not displaying adornment. But to modestly refrain [from that] is better for them. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
Literally, this means those women who are no longer capable of bearing children, who no longer cherish sexual desires, and who cannot excite the passions of men. Obviously it cannot mean that they should strip themselves naked. That is why all the jurists and commentators agree that it implies the outer garments which are used to hide the adornments as enjoined in (Surah Al-Ahzab, Ayat 59).

The word "Tabarruj" used in this verse is related to display and exhibitionism. When used with regard to a woman, it would imply the one who displays her charms and adornments before other men. The permission to lay aside the outer garments is being given to those old women who are no longer interested in personal embellishments and whose sex desires are gone. But if they still have a hidden desire smoldering in their hearts and an urge to display, they cannot avail of this permission.

Verses, 60 spells out the etiquette of eating at houses other than your own: 
( 61 )   There is not upon the blind [any] constraint nor upon the lame constraint nor upon the ill constraint nor upon yourselves when you eat from your [own] houses or the houses of your fathers or the houses of your mothers or the houses of your brothers or the houses of your sisters or the houses of your father's brothers or the houses of your father's sisters or the houses of your mother's brothers or the houses of your mother's sisters or [from houses] whose keys you possess or [from the house] of your friend. There is no blame upon you whether you eat together or separately. But when you enter houses, give greetings of peace upon each other - a greeting from Allah, blessed and good. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses [of ordinance] that you may understand.
In ancient Arabia, some tribes had the tradition that each member sat and ate separately. Eating together in one place was considered bad as some Hindus do even today. On the contrary, some other tribes considered it bad to eat alone individually; so much so that they would even go without food if they did not have company at meals. This verse means to abolish such customs and restrictions.

Three things are necessary to understand this verse:
  • (a) The verse consists of two parts: the first part relates to the sick, the lame, the blind and other handicapped people, and the second part to the other People.
  • (b) The moral teachings of the Quran had so thoroughly changed the Arab mind that they had become highly sensitive with regard to the distinction between the lawful and the unlawful. According to Ibn Abbas, when Allah commanded them “not to devour one another's property by unlawful ways” (Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 29), the people became unduly cautious and would not eat freely at each other’s house; so much so that unless a formal invitation was extended, they considered it unlawful even to dine in the house of a relative or a friend.
  • (c) The mention of taking meals at your own houses only means to impress that taking meals at the house of a relative or a friend is just like taking meals at one’s own house, where no permission is required.
With these three things in mind, one can easily understand the meaning of the verse. It says that the handicapped person can have his meal anywhere and at any house in order to satisfy his hunger, because the society as a whole owes to him this privilege on account of his handicap. As for the other people, for them their own houses and the houses of the relatives mentioned in the verse are equally good for the purpose. No formal invitation or permission is needed to have the meals of their houses. In the absence of the master, if his wife or children offer something, it can be taken without hesitation. In this connection, it should be noted that the houses of one’s children are just like one’s own house, and the friends imply close friends.

Rukhu 9 [verses 62-64]
The last three verses of the Surah educate the believers regarding the requirement of attending meetings which require collective action. And in fact are the final instructions being given to tighten the discipline of the Muslim community and make it more organized than before:
( 62 )   The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Messenger and, when they are [meeting] with him for a matter of common interest, do not depart until they have asked his permission. Indeed, those who ask your permission, [O Muhammad] - those are the ones who believe in Allah and His Messenger. So when they ask your permission for something of their affairs, then give permission to whom you will among them and ask forgiveness for them of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
This commandment is also applicable in respect of the successors of the Prophet (peace be upon him) after him and other leaders of the Muslims. When the Muslims are called upon to get together for a common cause, whether relating to war or peace, it is not permissible for them to retreat or disperse without due permission of the leader.

This contains a warning that it is absolutely unlawful to ask permission without any genuine need. That is, it depends upon the Prophet or his successor after him to grant or not to grant permission even in case of a genuine need. If he deems the collective cause to be more important than the individual need of the person, he may refuse permission, and a believer will not mind it.

This again contains a warning: If in asking permission there is even a tinge of excuse making, or of placing individual interests above collective interests, it would be a sin. Therefore the Prophet or his successor should also pray for the forgiveness of the one whom he gives permission.
( 63 )   Do not make [your] calling of the Messenger among yourselves as the call of one of you to another. Already Allah knows those of you who slip away, concealed by others. So let those beware who dissent from the Prophet's order, lest fitnah strike them or a painful punishment.
The verse can thus have three meanings which would all be equally correct;
  • (a) The Prophet’s summons should not be treated as a common man’s summons, for the Prophet’s summon is of extraordinary importance, which you cannot ignore, because if you fail to respond to it, or feel hesitant about it, you will be doing so at the very risk of your faith. 
  • (b) Do not consider the Prophet’s prayer as a common man’s prayer. If he is pleased with you and prays for you, there can be no greater good fortune for you. But if he is displeased with you and curses you, there can be no greater misfortune for you. 
  • (c) Calling the Prophet should not be like calling among yourselves of each other. That is, you should not call or address the Prophet just as you call and address other people aloud by their names. You should have full respect for him, because the slightest disrespect in this regard will call for Allah’s reckoning in the Hereafter. 
Though all the three meanings quite fit in with the context, the first meaning is more in keeping with the theme which follows.
( 64 )   Unquestionably, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. Already He knows that upon which you [stand] and [knows] the Day when they will be returned to Him and He will inform them of what they have done. And Allah is Knowing of all things.
The condition or position you are in, the motives which actuate you, and the ends you have in view. Things misunderstood or maligned, falsely praised or held in honour, or fraudulently shown to be good when they are evil-everything will be revealed in its true light on the Day of final Judgment.

Here we come to the end of Part V and the end of Sūrah An-Nūr. The Sūrah has many lessons and commandments for the believers to understand and practically exhibit these in their daily lives. It is only by understanding the Qur'an with reference to the context that we can really understand its meaning and its correct applicability to our daily lives so as to live the live as enunciated by Allah. May Allah help and guide us to understand His divine words to live a life of truth and happiness. Aameen.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrah An-Nūr with English subtitles:

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

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1] 
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2] and partly [1]
  • In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites. 
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