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Al-Mizan Tafseer

In The Name of Allah, the Beneficent and the Most Merciful


Volume 7: Surah An-Nisaa, Verses 2-6

And give to the orphans their property, and do not substitute worthless 9things) for (their) good (ones), and do not devour their property (as an addition) to your own property; this is surely a great crime (2).  And if you fear that you can not act equitable towards orphans, then marry such (other) women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is nearer that you may not deviate from the right course (3). And give women their dowries as free gift but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment (and with) wholesome (result) (4). And do not give away your property which Allah has made for you a (means of) support to the weak of understanding, and maintain them out of it, and clothe them and speak to them with kind words (5). And test the orphans until they reach (age of) marriage, then if you find in them maturity of intellect, make over to them their property, and do not consume it extravagantly and hastily, lest they attain to full age; and whoever is rich, let him abstain altogether, and whoever is poor, let him eat reasonably; then when you make over to them their property, call witnesses in their presence; and Allah is enough as a Reckoned (6).


The verses are part of the prologue, which began with the first verse. The aim is to pave the way for the laws of inheritance and basic rules of marriage like the number of wives allowed and the women within prohibited degree. These two are among the greatest and most important laws governing human society; and they have profound effect on its formation and continuation. Matrimony controls affinity and genealogy of society members, and deeply affects other constituent factors. Inheritance regulates the distribution of wealth existing in the world - the factor on which a society depends for its life and continuity.

As a sine qua non the chapter prohibits fornication and illicit sexual relations, and forbids devouring others' property unlawfully - except that it is a trade deal with the parties' consent. In this way two fundamental principles have been established for regulating the two most important aspects of society, i.e., the subjects of affinity and property.

We may now understand why it was necessary to prepare the minds before promulgating the laws for these subjects which concerned the whole society and which were enmeshed with the roots of the social system. It is really not an easy thing to divert the people from the social norms which they are accustomed to and which have nurtured their ideas and ideals; to make them discard the systems which they grew up believing in, and which the generations of ancestors had sanctified by faithful adherence; to cast off the customs and traditions which had molded their character and outlook.

It was in this difficult situation that the laws revealed at the beginning of this chapter were promulgated. It may easily be appreciated if we look just briefly at the world's situation at that time, and particularly at the condition of Arabia - the place of the revelation of the Qur'an and rise of Islam. Also, it will make it clear why the Qur'an was sent down piecemeal, and why the Islamic laws were promulgated gradually.


QUR'AN: And give to the orphans their property . . . a great crime:

It is an order to return to the orphans their property, and it paves the way for the next two sentences (and do not substitute. . .. and do not devour. . .); or the latter two serve as explanation of the former. But as the reason given at the end (this is surely a great crime) refers to the latter two or the last one sentence, it supports the view that the first sentence is put here as a prologue to the next two.

The main prohibition that one should not use an orphan's property in a manner detrimental to his interest, in itself prepares the ground for the soon-coming laws of inheritance, and of the marriage described in the next verse.

The words, "and do not substitute worthless for good", mean: Do not substitute your worthless things for their good ones; if there is any good property belonging to them, you should not keep it for yourself returning to them some worthless property of yours in exchange. Some people have explained it as follows: Do not substitute unlawful things for lawful ones. But the former meaning is more obvious, because apparently the two sentences (do not substitute. . ., and do not devour. . .) describe a particular type of unlawful management, and the first sentence (And give the orphans. . .) paves the way for both. In the last clause, "this is surely a great crime ", al-hub (sin; crime) is infinitive verb and also verbal noun.

QUR'AN:  And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such (other) women as seem good to you:  

We have mentioned previously that there was always a great number of orphans among the Arabs of the era of ignorance— who were seldom free from war, fighting, murder and forays, and among whom death by killing was a very common occurrence. Usually, the leaders of tribes and people of power and influence took the orphan girls (with properties) as wives; they devoured their (i.e., the orphans') properties with their own and then behaved with them unjustly.  Often they turned them out after swallowing their property; the helpless girls became poverty stricken destitute; neither they had any money to live on, nor was there anyone willing to marry and maintain them.  The Qur'an has reproached them very severely for this evil habit and disgusting injustice, and prohibited very strongly doing any injustice to orphans or devouring their property. For example, Allah says:

(As for) those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow fire into their bellies and soon they shall enter burning fire (4:10).

And give to the orphans their property, and do not substitute worthless (things) for (their) good (ones), and do not devour their property (as an addition) to your own property; this is surely a great crime (4:2).

As a result, the Muslims reportedly became afraid for their own souls and were so panic-stricken that they turned out the orphans from their own homes in apprehension, lest they inadvertently do something wrong with those orphans' property or fail to give them their just dues. If someone kept an orphan with him, he set apart the orphan's share in food and drink; if the orphan could not finish it, nobody else would touch it — it remained as it was until it was spoiled. It caused difficulties for the people; and they complained to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) asking for his guidance.  Then Allah revealed: And they ask you concerning the orphans. Say: "To set right for them (their affairs) is good; and if you mingle with them, they are your brethren; and Allah knows the mischief-maker from the well doer; and if Allah had willed, He would certainly have made it harder for you; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise" (2:220). Thus, Allah allowed them to give shelter to orphans and to keep them with themselves for looking after their affairs, and to mingle with them because they were their brethren. In this way, their difficulties were removed and their worries dispelled.

When you ponder on this fact, and then look at the verse under discussion (And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such (other) women as seem good to you. . .) - and remember that it comes after the verse, "And give to the orphans their property. . . " - it will be clear to you that the verse raises the prohibition a degree higher. Its connotation will be as follows - and Allah knows better: Be careful regarding the orphans and do not substitute your bad or worthless property with their good ones; nor should you devour their property with your own; so much so that if you are afraid that you would not be able to treat the orphan girls equitably and therefore you do not like to take them as your wives, then better do not marry them; instead you should marry other such women as seem good to you - two, three or four.

The conditional sentence (And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such (other) women as seem good to you. . .), actually means:  If you do not like to marry the orphan girls because you fear that you cannot act equitably towards them, then do not marry them, and marry such women as seem good to you. Obviously the clause, "then marry . . . " is substitute of the real al-jaza' (second construct of the conditional sentence), (i.e., then do not marry the orphans); the clause, "such women as seem good to you ", makes further description (i.e., women other than the orphans) unnecessary.  The verse does not say, those women who seem good to you; instead it says: such women as seem good to you; it is because it points to the number mentioned later: two and three and four. The verse begins with the clause, "if you fear that you cannot act equitably ", while it actually means, if you do not like to marry the orphans because of fear; thus it has allegorically put the cause in place of the effect, pointing to the deleted effect later where it says: "as seem good to you".

Many other things have been written in explanation of this verse, as may be seen in bigger exegeses. They are in short as follows:

1.The Arabs used to marry four, five or more wives; their thinking was as follows: Why should I not marry as has Mr. X done? When his own property was finished, he spent the property of orphans under his care. Therefore, Allah forbade them to marry more than four wives, so that they should not be compelled by circumstances to unjustly use the orphans' property.

2.They were strictly honest in matters affecting the orphans, but did not observe the same standard in affairs of women; so they married numerous wives without maintaining equity and justice.  Therefore, Allah said: If you are afraid about orphans, you should likewise be careful about women; you should marry only one or up to four.

3.They were reluctant to accept guardianship of orphans or to eat their property. So Allah said: If you are reluctant of these things, you should also desist from fornication; instead you should marry such women as seem good to you.

4.If you fear that you cannot act equitably towards the orphans brought up under your care, then marry other lawful women from the orphans among your relatives, two and three and four.

5.If you are reluctant of eating together with orphans, then likewise avoid marrying more than one wife; if you are afraid of not acting equitably with them, do not marry except her whom you can treat with justice and equity.

These were the explanations given by them. But it is clear that none of them properly fits the wordings of the verse. Therefore the only interpretation is the one we have written.

QUR'AN: two and three and four:

the paradigms, maf'al and fu'al , when applied to numbers, signify repetition of the root word; thus the clause, mathna wa thulatha wa ruba'a, means, two two and three three and four four (or twos, threes and fours).  The verse is addressed to all individuals, and the numbers have been separated by "and " which implies choice; these factors together show that every believer has a right to marry two wives, or three, or four. When looked at together, they would be grouped as twos, threes and fours.

The above explanation, coupled with the next clause, but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them) then (marry) only one or what your right hands posses, together with the following verse, And all married women. . .(4:247), disproves the idea that the verse allows to marry two, three or four wives in one contract of marriage; or that it permits to marry two together, then two together and so on, and likewise three or four together, then other three or four together; or that it approves polyandry — marriage of several men with one woman. These are ideas, which the verse does not tolerate at all.

Apart from that, it is a self-evident truth that Islam does not allow a man to gather more than four wives at a time, or a woman to have more than one husband at a time.

Likewise, there is no room for the hypothesis that the word, "and", between the numbers, is for conjunction, and that the verse accordingly allows marrying nine (i.e., 2 + 3 + 4) wives at a time. Majma'u'l-bayan says as follows: Using the total in this manner is not a possibility at all. If someone says, "The people entered the town in twos, threes and fours", does not mean the total of these numbers — in other words, it does not imply that they entered in-groups of nine. Moreover, there is a proper word, "nine", to denote that number; so leaving the correct word and changing it to 'two and three and four', shows an incapability of proper expression — Too exalted and sanctified is His speech from such defects.

QUR'AN:  but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them) then (marry) only one:

That is, marry only one, not more. Allah has made this order conditional on fear, not on knowledge, because knowledge in such matters is usually difficult to achieve, especially when thought is clouded by temptation; the underlying benefit would be lost if the rule were made dependent on knowledge.

QUR'AN: or what your right hands possess:

That is, slave-girls. If a man is afraid that he will not do justice between many wives, then he should marry only one; and if he wants more, then he should take slave-girls, because they are not entitled to division of nights.

Obviously, the provision of the alternative — taking the slave girls — does not mean that one may misbehave with, or do injustice to them; Allah does not like the unjust, nor is He unjust to His servants. It only means that it is easier to maintain justice with them because they are not included in the rule of division of nights. This very reason shows that this clause refers to taking, and living with them by virtue of possession, not by marriage; the matter of marrying them has been described later in the verse: And whoever among you has not within his power ampleness of means to marry free believing women, then (he may marry) of those whom your right hands possess from among your believing maidens. . . (4:25).

QUR'AN: this is nearer, that you may not deviate from the right course:

"al-Awl" (to deviate from the right course). The law as ordained above brings you nearer to the point whence you shall not deviate from justice or transgress the women's rights.

Someone has written that al-'awl means burden; but it is a far-fetched interpretation, both in word and in meaning.

This sentence — which mentions the underlying reason of this legislation - proves that the foundation of the marriage laws is laid on justice and equity as well as on rejection of oppression and usurpation of rights.

QUR'AN: And give women their dowries as a free gift. . . with enjoyment (and with) wholesome (result):

as-Saduqah, as-sadaqah, as-sadaq and as-sidaq, all mean dowry; an-nihlah (gift, a thing given freely without bargaining).

The possessive construction, "their dowries", shows that the order to give dowry to woman is based on the usage prevalent among the people: it was customary in marriage to reserve for the wife some property or anything of value as her dowry. Seemingly it has the same position vis-à-vis the conjugal relationship as the price does vis-à-vis the commodity sold; and as we shall describe in the forthcoming Academic discourse, customarily it is the man who proposes and asks for marriage as a buyer brings the price to the seller and receives the purchased item. In any case, the verse endorses this prevalent custom.

It was possible to think that the husband was not allowed to use the dowry at all — even if the wife was pleased with it. Probably it was to remove that possible misunderstanding that the conditional clause was added: "but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment (and with) wholesome (result)." The imperative, "eat it", is qualified with the words, 'with enjoyment and with wholesome result.' It puts emphasis on the previous sentence containing basic rule and also shows that the order is elective, not compulsory.

al-Hana' (being easily digested, being agreeable); it is used for food. al-Mari, is derived from ar-riyy (quenching of thirst); it has some connotation regarding drinks as al-hand' does about food, but with one difference: al-Hana' may be used for food and drink both; but when the combined phrase, han`'an mari 'an is used, the former word refers exclusively to food and the latter to drink.

QUR'AN: And do not give away your property which Allah has made for you a (means of) support to the weak of understanding:

"as-Safah " (feeble-mindedness; weakness or slightness of understanding). Probably, its basic meaning was lightness of a thing which by nature should not be light; thus they say: az-Zamamu 's-saf'ih (a rein or halter that shakes too much); thawb safih (a badly-woven cloth); now it is mostly used for lightness of soul, and its implication varies with context; in worldly affairs, as-safih means feeble-minded, weak of understanding; in religious context, it means a dissolute person, one who does not follow religious commandments; and so on.

It is obvious from the verse that one should not spend too much of feeble-minded persons, should not give them more than is needed for their necessary expenses. But the context — the verse is among the ones dealing with orphans' property which is managed and looked after by guardians — provides a definite association that "the weak of understanding" refers to the orphans of immature mind; and that "your property " actually means the orphans' property, although it has been ascribed to the guardians because of a certain consideration; this explanation is further supported by the clause, "and maintain them out of it, and clothe them." If one insists on interpreting the word, "the weak of understanding", in general terms, then it should be generalized to include orphans and non-orphans both. Yet the former meaning carries more weight.

In any case, if the word refers to the orphans of feeble understanding, then "your property" means the orphans' property; it has been ascribed to the guardians — whom the verse addresses — keeping in view the fact that all the property and riches found in the world are for the whole mankind. Some individuals keep some portions of these riches, and others some other portions; it is done for general good, on which is based the principle of ownership and exclusive possessive relationship. Accordingly, it is necessary for people to grasp this reality and appreciate that they are all members of a single society, and the whole property belongs to the whole society. Consequently, it is each one's responsibility to protect and preserve it, one should not let it be wasted or squandered by people of weak understanding, nor should it be left under the management of such persons (like minor children or insane people) as are not capable of administering it properly. So this is the significance of the possessive case here; it is not unlike the verse: And whoever among you has not within his power ampleness of means to marry free believing women, then (he may marry) of those whom your right hands possess from among your believing maidens (4:25), as it is known that the phrase, "your believing maidens", does not refer to the slave-girls owned by the one who wants to marry them.

The verse contains a general rule ordained for the whole society. The society is a single entity — or let us say a (legal) personality — that owns all the riches which Allah has given it for its livelihood, and with which He has strengthened it. Accordingly, it is the society's responsibility to manage it and to keep it in good order; it should invest it in profitable ventures and use the profit for one's sustenance on a medium scale; it is also obliged to protect it from waste and loss. This basic principle gives rise to the rule that the guardians are obliged to look after, and manage, the affairs of the people of weak understanding; they should not hand over their wards' property to them, lest they waste it through mismanagement. The guardians must hold back the property, manage it profitably and let it grow through earning, trades and profit-sharing; they should maintain those feeble-minded wards with its profit and growth - not with its capital. This law has been laid down, so that the capital is not decreased little by little until a time comes when the ward is left in wretched poverty without any means of livelihood.

It appears from the above explanation that the clause, "and maintain them out of it and clothe them", implies that a feebleminded ward should be maintained from the growth and profit of the capital, not from the capital itself. He should not be allowed to start eating from the capital, keeping it idle without circulation, lest it is eaten up completely. As az-Zamakhshari has said, it was to show this fine point that Allah has said, "out of it", and not, 'from it'.

Also it is not unreasonable to infer from the verse the principle of general guardianship of the wards, that is, Allah is not pleased that the affairs of such wards be neglected; nay! the Islamic society is obliged to look after their affairs: If there is any guardian in the family, like the father and paternal grandfather, he will be his guardian and will manage his affairs; otherwise the responsibility falls on the Islamic government, and lastly on other believers, to look after his affairs - detailed rules of which are given in the books of jurisprudence.

QUR'AN: and maintain them out of it, and clothe them and speak to them with kind words:

We have fully explained the meaning of sustenance or maintenance under the verse: and Thou givest sustenance to whom Thou pleases", without measure (3:27).

The clause, "and maintain them out of it and clothe them", has the same significance here as does the one in 2:233: and their maintenance and their clothing must be borne by the father. The maintenance refers to the food that nourishes man; and clothing is the dress that protects him from heat and cold. But the phrase, "maintenance and clothing", as used in the Qur'anic language (as in our own) metaphorically points to all the things that together fulfill man's material needs in life; it thus covers all necessities of life including house and other such things. It is not unlike the word, eating, which has a particular meaning, yet metaphorically refers to the use (in general), as the Qur'an says: "but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment (and with) wholesome (result). "

QUR'AN: and speak to them with kind words:

It is an ethical guidance for improving the standard of guardianship. The wards may be weak of understanding who are prevented from managing their own properties, yet they are neither dumb animals nor grazing cattle; they are human beings, and they should be treated as such; they should be spoken to in good manner, not harshly or insultingly; and dealt with, dignity.

Apparently it is possible to take this clause as a metaphorical expression for good dealing and commendable social intercourse — not objectionable one, as was explained under the verse: . . . and speak to men good (words) . . . (2:83).

QUR'AN: And test the orphans until they reach (age of) marriage; then if you find in them maturity of intellect, make over to them their property: "al-Ibtila' " (to test); reaching age of marriage, thus it contains a rational allegory; al-'inas (to see, to find); the word has a connotation of "friendliness" and "geniality" because its root is al-uns (friendly atmosphere); ar-rushd (translated here as maturity of intellect) is opposite of al-ghayy and means to find way to the goals of life. Handing over to the orphans their property means to give it back to them, into their possession; (the verb used is ad-daf (to repulse, to push away); it is as though the guardian pushes the property away from himself; thus it is in spite of its triteness, a very fine metaphor.

The clause, "until they reach (age of) marriage", is related to the verb, "test"; it thus shows that the testing should be a continuous exercise. The guardian should start testing the orphan as soon as he shows some discretion and appears ready for such tests, it should continue until he reaches marriageable age and becomes a "man".  The order by nature demands this continual process, because one cannot find out whether the child has attained maturity of intellect just by testing him once or twice; the test must be repeated again and again until the guardian finds out the orphan's maturity of mind and it becomes a part of his nature until he reaches puberty and then the marriageable age.

The words, "then if you find in them maturity of intellect", branches from the imperative verb, "And test"; and the meaning is as follows: Test them, and if you find in them maturity of intellect, hand over their property to them. The wording shows that the orphan's reaching the age of marriage is the basis of returning his property to him and of bestowing on him the power to manage his estate independently. Maturity of intellect is the necessary condition for bestowal of authority of independent management.

Islam has laid down two different standards regarding al-bulugh (majority, adulthood) for two different sets of responsibilities: As for the acts of worship and matters like penal code the majority begins on reaching a prescribed age, but for financial affairs, acknowledgements and other such dealings (details of which are given in the books of jurisprudence) mere attainment of age is not enough, he must also achieve maturity of intellect. This differentiation throws light on the highest refinement and sophistication, which Islam has maintained in its legislative programs.  Had it disregarded the maturity of intellect in financial and similar dealings, the social life would have suffered disorder and chaos—as far as orphans and other wards were concerned. Had they been given power (just on reaching a certain age) to independently manage their finance or to make agreements or acknowledgments, etc.; it would have given a chance to mischief-makers to mislead and deceive them. Cunning hoaxes could have defrauded them of all their means l of livelihood, with their smooth talks, false promises and swindling deals. Therefore, it was essential to impose the condition of maturity of intellect in such matters. But obviously there was no need to put this condition in the things like acts of worship, etc.; also it was not necessary in such affairs as penal code. One does not need sharp mind or maturity of intellect to understand and perceive the evil of these crimes and sins or to realize that one should desist from them. Man understands such things long before attaining maturity of intellect, and one finds no difference, in these matters, between the perception gained before maturity of intellect and that achieved afterwards.

QUR'AN: and do not consume it extravagantly and hastily, lest they attain to full age . . . and Allah is enough as a Reckoned:

"al-Israf" (extravagance, immoderateness) is exceeding the medium course of action. al-Badar (hurry, haste).  The clause, "and hastily, lest they attain to full age ", means: and hastily fearing that they would grow up and then would not allow you to consume their property. (The phrase, "lest they attain", begins in Arabic with an (that) and has no particle of negation; thus it may also be translated, 'that they attain'). Omission of particle of negation before an or in (that) is consistent with norms of language, as grammarians have said: Allah says: Allah makes clear to you, lest you err (4:176), i.e., fearing that you would err.

The two phrases, "extravagantly" and "hastily; lest they attain. . .", have been put parallel to each other. This setting points to their difference.

Consuming the orphans' property extravagantly refers to the situation when the guardian eats it without needing or deserving it, unjustly and carelessly. Consuming it hastily, to the condition where the guardian takes from the estate only the normal and usual fee for his services, but with an eye on the possibility that the orphan might stop it when he grows up. All such consumption's are forbidden, except when the guardian is poor and in such a position that either he earns his livelihood somewhere else or looks after the orphan's affairs and meets his necessities of life from his ward's estate. It would be just like a worker in trade or construction, etc. taking his wages from his employer. It is this aspect which Allah mentions in the sentence: "and whoever is rich" (i.e., is not in need of taking from the orphan's property for his livelihood). "let him abstain altogether" (i.e., he should follow and adhere to the path of abstinence and continence, and should not take anything from the orphan), "and whoever is poor, let him eat reasonably".

An exegete has opined that it means that the poor guardian should eat as usual from his own property, not from that of the orphan. But if that was what Allah had intended to say, then why did He bring in the difference between rich and poor?

The words, "then when you make over to them their property, call witnesses in their presence; and Allah is enough as a Reckoned", ordain the law to call witnesses at the time of handing over the estate to the wards. It is done to affect the transition in proper way and to remove the danger of dispute and controversy (in future); lest the orphan — after attaining maturity and receiving the property — makes claims against the guardian. The verse ends on the words, "and Allah is enough as a Reckoned"; and it relates the order to its original and basic source —the fountainhead of every rule from Allah's names and attributes. Allah is the Reckoned; He would not leave His servants' affairs without meticulously accurate reckoning — and that is His clear legislation. Also the clause completes the Islamic training, because Islam aims at training the people on the basis of monotheism. Although calling the witnesses removes strife and difference in most of the cases, yet sometimes it fails to do so, either because the witnesses deviate from justice or because of other factors. Islam reminds the parties that the spiritual reason (of this law), which is also higher and stronger, is the fear of Allah Who is enough as a Reckoned. There would never be any discord and difference, if the guardian, the witnesses and the orphan (who is receiving the property) keep this reality before their eyes.

Look at these two verses and see how singularly and marvelously they explain the subject in such a lovely style:

First, they give basic rules of guardianship over orphans' and other wards' properties; then they explain other important factors: how the property should be taken in trust and protected, how it should be managed to let it grow and bring in profits, how it should be returned to the ward; when the orphans or other wards should be put under guardianship and when should they be given independent authority to manage their affairs.

All this has been reinforced by describing its underlying common benefit, i.e.; all property belongs to Allah Who has made it a means of support for mankind — as we have explained above.

Second, they point to the basic ethical value which man is expected to attain through these laws; it is given by Allah in these words: "and speak to them with kind words".

Third, they show that all these rules are based on the foundation of monotheism. This factor affects and governs all practical laws and ethical values; and its good influence remains effective always and everywhere — even when practical laws and ethical values are enfeebled and their hold on minds and hearts loosened. This reality is described in the last clause, "and Allah is enough as a Reckoned"


Ibn Abi Hatim has narrated from Sa'id ibn Jubayr (about the verse, And give to the orphans their. . .) that he said: "A man from (the tribe of) Ghatfan had with him a great wealth of an orphan nephew of his.  When the orphan attained majority, he demanded his property, but (the uncle) held it back from him. So he (the orphan) sued him before the Prophet; then the verse was revealed: And give to the orphans their property. . ." (ad-Durru 'I-manthur)

as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "It is not lawful for man's water to flow into more than four wombs of free women." (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi )

The same Imam said: "When a man has gathered four (wives) and divorces one of them, then he should not marry the fifth until the waiting period of the woman he has divorced comes to an end." (al-Kafi )

The author says: There are many traditions on this subject.

It is narrated from Muhammad ibn Sinan that ar-Rida (a.s.) wrote to him inter alia in reply to his questions: "The reason, why man has right to marry four women and why woman is forbidden to marry more than one, is that when a man marries four women, the child would be affiliated to him; but if a woman had two or more husbands, it would not be known to whom the child belonged, because all of them (i.e., the husbands) would be sharing her marriage, and this would lead to perversion in relationship, inheritance and identification." Muhammad ibn Sinan said: "One of the reasons of free women (sic) and permission of four women to one man is that they are more (in number) than men. So when (Allah) saw it — and Allah knows more — He said: 'then marry such (other) women as seem good to you, two and three and four.'  So this is the determination which Allah has done, to give amplitude to rich and poor, so that man may marry according to his ability. . . " ( 'ilalu 'sh-shara 'i')

as-Sadiq (a.s.) said inter alia in a hadith: "And jealousy is (a characteristic) of men; and for this reason a woman is forbidden (all men) except her husband, and man is allowed four (wives); because Allah is too gracious to afflict them with jealousy and then allow the man to have three (other wives) with her." (al-kafi)

The author says:  It may be explained as follows: Jealousy, in the meaning of sense of honor, is a commendable characteristic and noble instinct; it changes equilibrium of man's nature, and it is this emotional agitation that exhorts him to defend what he reveres or holds dear, be it religion, honor or dignity, and provokes him to take revenge on anybody who violates its sanctity. This trait is found — more or less — in every human being, because it is a part of human nature. Now, Islam is a natural religion. It looks at all the natural instincts and traits and moderates them, restricting them to what is good for human life, and omitting that which is not necessary, e.g., the defective and imperfect ways of obtaining or hoarding the wealth, or matters connected with food and drink, clothes and spouses, and so on.

Now suppose that Allah allowed man to marry three more wives in addition to the one he had before — and we know that this religion pays full attention to the dictates of nature. It follows that what is seen of a woman's reaction when her husband brings another wife, and the change that occurs in her attitude towards her husband, is in fact envy, not jealousy. Further explanation will be given in the forthcoming discourse on polygamy, to show that this reaction of theirs is not a part of their nature, it is an extraneous accident.

Zurarah narrates from as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said:  "The man shall not take back whatever he gives in gift to his wife, nor shall she do so regarding whatever she gifts to her husband—whether she was compensated for it or not. Does not Allah, the Blessed, the High, say: 'and it is not lawful for you to take any part of what you have given them' (2: 229)?  Again He says: 'but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment (and with) wholesome (result)'; and it is applicable to dowry and gift (both)." (al-Kafi)

'Abdullah ibn al-Qaddah narrates from Abu 'Abdillah (a.s.) who narrates from his Father (a.s.) that he said: "A man came to the Leader of the faithful (a.s.) and said: 'O Commander of the faithful! I have got stomach pain.' The Commander of the faithful (a.s.) asked him: 'Do you have a wife? He said: 'Yes.' He said: 'Ask her to give you in gift something from her property which she be pleased to give you; then buy with it some honey; then pour on it some rainwater and drink it. Because I have heard Allah saying in His Book: "And We send down from the cloud water abounding in good. . ." (50:9); and He has said: "There comes forth from within it (i.e., the bee) a beverage of many colors, in which there is healing for men" (16:69); and He says: "but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment (and with) wholesome (result)". You will be cured, God willing."' (The Imam, a.s.) said: "So he did it and was cured." (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi)

The author says: Also as-Suyuti has narrated it in ad-Durru 'I-manthur from 'Abd ibn Humayd, Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abi Hatim from the Imam (a.s.). It is a fine inference, and is based on extension of meaning. There are many traditions, based on the same principle, narrated from the Imams of Ahlu 'I-bayts (a.s.), some of which shall be quoted in appropriate places.

al-Baqir (a.s.) said: "When I tell you something, ask me (where it is) in the Book of Allah." Then he said in one of his talks: "Verily the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) has forbidden idle talk, spoiling of property and asking too many questions." He was asked: "Where is it in the Book of Allah? O Son of the Messenger of Allah!" He said: "Verily Allah, the Mighty, the Great, says: 'There is no good in most of their secret talks except (in his) who enjoins charity or goodness or reconciliation between people (14:114); and He has said: 'And do not give away your property which Allah has made for you a (means of) support to the weak of understanding'; and He has said: 'do not put questions about things which if declared to you, may trouble you' (5:101)." (al-Kafi)

Yunus ibn Ya'qub said that he asked Abu 'Abdillah (a.s.) about the words of Allah, And do not give away your property . . . to the weak of understanding'; he said: "Whom you do not trust." (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi)

Ibrahim ibn 'Abdu 'I-Hamid said that he asked the same Imam (a.s.) about the same verse, and he said: "Anyone who drinks intoxicant is weak of understanding." (ibid).

'Ali ibn Ab; Hamzah narrates from Abu 'Abdillah (a.s.). He says: "I asked him about the verse, And do not give your property... He replied: 'They are the orphans; do not give them their property until you recognize maturity of intellect in them.' So I said: 'Then how will their property become our property? ' He said: 'If you are their heirs.' " (ibid).

al-Baqlr (a.s.) said about this verse: "So the weak of understanding are the woman and child. When a man knows that his woman is foolish and spoils (the property), and his child is foolish and spoils (the property), he should not give any of them control of his property which Allah has made for him a support - i.e., a means of livelihood . . . " (at-Talsir, al-Qummi).

The author says: There are may traditions on this subject, and they support what we have described earlier that as-safah has a wide range of meaning, having different grades, like the weak of understanding who is prevented by law to administer his estate, a child before attaining maturity of intellect, a woman who is fond of amusement and fantasy, one who drinks intoxicants, and generally the one whom you do not trust. The implications of giving the property will change with change of context, and so will do the possessive case of "your property"; you should apply the meanings accordingly.

The Imam's words in the tradition of Ibn Abi Hamzah, "If you are their heirs ", point to the reality we had mentioned earlier that all the property primarily belongs to the whole society, and then it comes to individuals and particular interests secondarily; it is because the whole society primarily shares the property that it is transferred from one person to another.

as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "Orphan-hood of an orphan ends with nocturnal discharge and that is his maturity; and if he got nocturnal discharge, but no maturity of intellect was found in him — he was foolish or weak — then his guardian should hold back his property from him. "  (Man la yahduruh 'I -faqih )

The same book narrates from the same Imam (a.s.) about the verse, And test the orphans. . ., that he said: "To find the maturity of intellect is protection of property."

The author says: We have described earlier how the verse points to this meaning.

The same Imam (a.s.) said about the verse, and whoever is poor, let him eat reasonably: "He is the man who holds back himself from (earning his) livelihood; there is no harm (for him) in eating (from his ward's property) reasonably, if he makes (things) better for them (i.e., the wards); but if the property is small then he should not eat anything from it." (Tahdhibu 'l-ahkam )

Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Hatim and an-Nahhas (in his an-Nasikh) have narrated from Ibn 'Umar that he said: "A man asked the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and said: 'I do not have any property, and I have an orphan (under my guardianship).' (The Prophet) said: 'Eat from the property of your orphan, (but) not extravagantly nor wastefully; neither consolidating (your) property, nor protecting your property with his property.' " (ad-Durru 'I -manthur )

The author says: There are numerous traditions of this theme from the Ahlu 'I-bayts (a.s.) and others. There are relevant laws of jurisprudence, and also traditions related to them. Anyone, who wants them, should look in the collections of traditions and books of jurisprudence.

Rifa'ah narrates from the Imam (a.s.) about the verse, . .. Iet him eat reasonably, that he said: "My father used to say that it was abrogated." (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi)

Abu Dawud and an-Nahhas (both in an-Naisikh ) and Ibn al-Mundhir have narrated through the chain of 'Ata' from Ibn 'Abbas about the verse, and whoever is poor, let him eat reasonably, that he said: "It has been abrogated by (the verse), (As for) those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow fire into their bellies." (ad-Durru 'l-manthur)

The author says: The claim that this verse was abrogated does not agree with the criteria of abrogation. No verse in the Qur'an could stand vis-à-vis this verse in the way an abrogating verse does with the abrogated one. The verse, (As for) those who swallow the property of the orphans unjustly, surely they only swallow fire into their bellies, does not go against the theme of this verse, because the eating allowed in this verse is conditional to being "reasonable", while the eating forbidden in the other verse is conditional to being unjust; and there is no contradiction between permission to eat reasonably and prohibition to eat unjustly. Therefore, the truth is that the verse is not abrogated, and the two above-mentioned traditions are not in agreement with the Qur'an - it is apart from their weakness.

'Abdullah ibn al-Mughirah narrates from Ja'far ibn Muhammad (peace be on them both) about the words of Allah, then if you find in them maturity of intellect, make over to them their property, that he said: "If you see them loving the progeny of Muhammad, then raise them up in grade." (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi)

The author says: It is based on the flow of the Qur'an, of the esoteric meaning of the Book. The Imams of the religion are the fathers of the believers; and the believers, when they are unable to reach the Imams, are orphans of the knowledge. Therefore, if their affiliation to the Ahlu 'l- bayt is established by their love, they should be raised in status and degree by teaching them true knowledge - which is the inheritance of their fathers.

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