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Summary of question
What is the commentary or exegesis of verses 97 to 99 of Surah al-Nisa?
question
What is the commentary or exegesis of verses 97 to 99 of Surah al-Nisa?
Concise answer
Commentators and exegetes of the Holy Quran have said about the occasion in which verse 97 of Surah al-Nisa was revealed[1] that a number of Muslims had apparently pronounced the Shahadatain (Two Testimonies) despite the fact that they had the ability to migrate from Makkah to Medina but they stuck around and did not migrate. When Quraish chieftains moved to Badr to wage a war against Muslims, they converged with the pagans in a bid to fight the Holy Prophet (pbuh) but they reached fatal end and were killed in the battle. This verse was revealed about them. Abu al-Jarud narrates from Imam Baqir (a.s.) that he said that they were five people including Hareth bin Zam’ah bin al-Aswad, Abu al-Aas bin Munabbah bin al-Hajjaj, Ali bin Umayyah bin Khalaf, Qais bin al-Wali bin al-Mughairah and Qais bin al-Fakeh bin al-Mughairah. All the five people were killed in the battle.[2]
In these verses (97-99), following verses regarding Jihad, the Quran seeks to make reference to the fate of those who ostentatiously spoke of Islam and pretended to be Muslims but they did not implement one of Islam’s important programs  i.e. migration. Resultantly, they were led to make a bad decision by joining the ranks of the pagans.
The Holy Quran says: “When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls, they say: "In what (plight) Were ye?" They reply: "Weak and oppressed Were we in the earth." They say: "Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?" Such men will find their abode in Hell,- What an evil refuge!”
The closing part of the verse refers to the fate of those who failed to forsake their homes: Such people shunned their duty of migrating and leaving their homes under personal and false excuses. They preferred to live in corrupt and suffocating environments. They will find their abode in Hell,- What an evil refuge!
Indeed, in the next verse of the Quran, the weak, oppressed and the empowered ones (not those who are false claimants) have been excluded. The Quran says: “Except those who are (really) weak and oppressed - men, women, and children - who have no means in their power, nor (a guide-post) to their way.” [3]
Ibn Abbas says: “At that time, I was a small kid and among the ‘weakened’. It has been narrated from him that he said: My father was an old man and my mother was an old woman and I was a small kid and all of us were among the weak.[4] In the last verse, the Quran says: “For these, there is hope that Allah will forgive: For Allah doth blot out (sins) and forgive again and again.”[5]
In any case, these verses refer to the duty of the weak who live in the pagans’ land and territories and whom are treated with injustice and tyranny. They have been denied freedom and do not have the power to defend their rights. They should migrate to another land where their freedom is guaranteed. Naturally, the Islamic lands are the bases for freedom and a secure place for migrants who seek freedom from tyranny and despotism.
Those who do not migrate in the way of God and do not go to a secure place cooking excuse for committing sins, spreading evil and acting tyrannically, their abode is hell because the oppressed and the oppressor are equal in connection with the sin since the oppressed could avert the sins and he did not do so.[6]
 

[1] “Surely (as for) those whom the angels cause to die while they are unjust to their souls, they shall say: In what state were you? They shall say: We were weak in the earth. They shall say: Was not Allah's earth spacious, so that you should have migrated therein? So these it is whose abode is hell, and it is an evil resort.”
«إِنَّ الَّذینَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلائِکَةُ ظالِمی‏ أَنْفُسِهِمْ قالُوا فیمَ کُنْتُمْ قالُوا کُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفینَ فِی الْأَرْضِ قالُوا أَ لَمْ تَکُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ واسِعَةً فَتُهاجِرُوا فیها فَأُولئِکَ مَأْواهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَ ساءَتْ مَصیراً».
[2] Abul Fotuh Raazi, Hussein bin Ali, Rawz al-Jenan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.6, p. 78, Islamic Research Foundation affiliated to Astaan Quds Razawi, Mashad, 1408 A.H.
[3] Al-Nisa, 98.
[4] Tabarsi, Fazel bin Hasan, Majma’ul Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.3, p. 150, Nasir Khosrou, Tehran, 1372 (1993).
[5] Vide: Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Nomouneh, vol.4, p. 84, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1374 (1995).
[6] Vide: Mudarresi, Sayyid Muhammmad Taqid, Tafsir Hidayat, group of translators, vol.2, p. 147, Islamic Research Foundation affiliated to Astaan Quds Razawi, Mashad, 1377 (1998).
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