Meal Seç / Sure Seç




In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

THE KEY-WORD by which this surah has been known from earliest times is based on the injunction "examine them" in verse 10. Revealed some months after the conclusion of the Truce of Hudaybiyyah (see introductory note to surah 48) - that is, not earlier than the year 7 H. and probably as late as the beginning of 8 H. - Al-Mumtahanah is in its entirety devoted to the problem of the believers' relations with unbelievers. Although, as was quite natural, most of the Prophet's Companions visualized these problems under the aspect of the historical events of which they were witnesses, the import of the injunctions laid down in this surah cannot be restricted to that particular historical situation but has, as always in the Qur'an, a definite bearing on how believers of all times should behave.
1. O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not take My enemies - who are your enemies as well (1) - for your friends, showing them affectionn even though they are bent on denying whatever truth has come unto you, [and even though] they have driven the Apostle and yourselves away, [only] because you believe in God, your Sustainer! (2) If [it be true that] you have gone forth [from your homes] to strive in My cause, and out of a longing for My goodly acceptance, [do not take them for your friends,] inclining towards them in secret affection: for I am fully aware of all that you may conceal as well as of all that you do openly. And any of you who does this has already strayed from the right path. (3)

1 - Lit., "and your enemies" - implying that people who deliberately reject God's messages are ipso facto inimical to those who believe in them.

2 - Historically, this is a reference to the forced emigration of the Prophet and his followers from Mecca to Medina. In a more general sense, however, it is an allusion to the potential persecution of believers of all times by "those who are bent on denying the truth", i.e., those who are averse to religious beliefs as such.

3 - As is shown in verses 7-9, this prohibition of taking unbelievers for friends relates only to such of them as are actively hostile towards the believers (cf. 58:22 and the corresponding note).

2. If they could but overcome you, they would [still] remain your foes, and would stretch forth their hands and tongues against you with evil intent: for they desire that you [too] should deny the truth.
3. But [bear in mind that] neither your kinsfolk nor [even] your own children will be of any benefit to you on Resurrection Day, [for then] He will decide between you [on your merit alone]: and God sees all that you do.
4. Indeed, 'you have had a good example in Abraham and those who followed him, when they said unto their [idolatrous] people: "Verily, we are quit of you and of all that you worship instead of God: we deny the truth of whatever you believe; and between us and you there has arisen enmity and hatred, to last until such a time (4) as you come to believe in the One God!" The only exception was (5) Abraham's saying to his father "I shall indeed pray for [God's] forgiveness for thee, (6) although I have it not in my power to obtain anything from God in thy behalf." [And Abraham and his followers prayed:] "O our Sustainer! In Thee have we placed our trust, and unto Thee do we turn: for unto Thee is all journeys' end.

4 - Since the adverb abadan is immediately followed by the particle hatta ("until such a time as. . ."), it is obviously erroneous to give it the meaning of "forever", as has been hitherto done in all translations of the Qur'an into Western languages. In view of the original connotation of the noun abad as "time" or "long time", i.e., of indefinite duration (Jawhari, Zamakhshari's Asas, Mughni, etc.), abadan is best rendered in the present context as "to last [until] . . .", etc.

5 - Lit., "Except for": i.e., an exception from Abraham's statement, "between us and you there has arisen enmity and hatred, to last. . .", etc. In other words, his filial love prevented Abraham from including his father in his declaration of "enmity and hatred": although later - after his father had died as an idolater - Abraham could not but disavow him (cf. 9:114).

6 - Cf. 19:47-48.

5. O our Sustainer! Make us not a plaything (7) for those who are bent on denying the truth! And forgive us our sins, O our sustainer: for Thou alone art, almighty, truly wise!"

7 - Lit., "temptation to evil" (fitnah): cf. 10:85, where the term fitnah has the same meaning as in the present instance.

6. In them, indeed, you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe (8)] to God and the Last Day. And if any turns away, [let him know that] God is truly self-sufficient, the One to whom all praise is due."

8 - As in the similar phrase in 33:21, this double connotation is implied in the verb rajawa and all the noun-forms derived from it.

7. [But] it may well be that God will bring about [mutual] affection between you [0 believers] and some of those whom you [now] face as enemies: for, God is all-powerful - and God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.
8. As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: (9) for, verily, God loves those who act equitably.

9 - The expression "God does not forbid you'" implies in this context a positive exhortation (Zamakhshari). See also note 29 on 58:22.

9. God only forbids you to turn in friendship towards such as fight against you because of [your] faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or aid [others] in driving you forth: and as for those [from among you] who turn towards them in friendship; it is they, they who are truly wrongdoers!
10. O YOU who have attained to faith! Whenever believing women come unto you, forsaking the domain of evil, (10) examine them, [although only] God is fully aware of their faith; (11) and if you have thus ascertained that they are believers, do not send them back to the deniers of the truth, [since] they are [no longer] lawful to their erstwhile husbands, (12) and these are [no longer] lawful to them. None the less, you shall return to them whatever they have spent [on their wives by way of dower]; (13)and [then, O believers,] you will be committing no sin if you marry them after giving them their dowers. On the other hand, hold not to the marriage-tie with women who [continue to] deny the truth, (14) and ask but for [the return of] whatever you have spent [by way of dower] -just as they [whose wives have gone over to you] have the right to demand (15) [the return of] whatever they have spent. Such is God's judgment: He judges between you [in equity] - for God is all-knowing, wise.

10 - Lit., ''as emigrants" (muhajirat). For an explanation of my rendering this term as above, see surah 2, note 203.

11 - 11 Under the terms of the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, concluded in the year 6 H. between the Prophet and the pagan Quraysh of Mecca, any Meccan minor or other person under guardianship who went over to the Muslims without the permission of his or her guardian was to be returned to the Quraysh (see introductory note to surah 48). The Quraysh took this stipulation to include also married women, whom they considered to be under the "guardianship" of their husbands. Accordingly, when several Meccan women embraced Islam against the will of their husbands and fled to Medina, the Quraysh demanded their forcible return to Mecca. This the Prophet refused on the grounds that married women did not fall within the category of "persons under guardianship". However, since there was always the possibility that some of these women had gone over to the Muslims not for reasons of faith but out of purely worldly considerations, the believers were enjoined to make sure of their sincerity; and so, the Prophet asked each of them: "Swear before God that thou didst not leave because of hatred of thy husband, or out of desire to go to another country, or in the hope of attaining to worldly advantages: swear before God that thou didst not leave for any reason save the love of God and His Apostle" (Tabari). Since God alone knows what is in the heart of a human being, a positive response of the woman concerned was to be regarded as the only humanly attainable - and, therefore, legally sufficient - proof of her sincerity. The fact that God alone is really aware of what is in a human being's heart is incorporated in the shari principle that any adult person's declaration of faith, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, makes it mandatory upon the community to accept that person - whether man or woman - as a Muslim on the basis of this declaration alone.

12 - Lit., "to them". Thus, if a wife embraces Islam while her husband remains outside its pale, the marriage is considered, from the Islamic point of view, to have been automatically annulled.

13 - Such an annulment is to be subject to the same conditions as a khul (dissolution of marriage, at the wife's instance, from her Muslim husband - see note 218 on the second paragraph of 2:229): that is to say, since the non-Muslim former husband is presumed to have been innocent of any breach of his marital obligations as such, the wife is to be considered the contract-breaking party and has, therefore, to refund the dower (mahr) which she received from him at the time of concluding the marriage. In case of her inability to do so, the Muslim community is obliged to indemnify the erstwhile husband: hence the plural form in the imperative "'you shall return" (lit., "give").

14 - I.e., such of the pagan wives of Muslim converts as refuse to abandon their beliefs and their non-Muslim environment, in which case the Muslim husband is to regard the marriage as null and void. As for Muslim wives who, abandoning their husbands, go over to the unbelievers and renounce their faith, see verse 11.

15 - Lit., "and let them demand. . .", etc.

11. And if any of your wives should go over to the deniers of the truth, and you are thus afflicted in turn, (16) then give unto those whose wives have gone away the equivalent of what they had spent [on their wives by way of dower], (17) and remain conscious of God, in whom you believe!

16 - Lit., "and you are thus taking your turn", i.e., like the unbelievers whose wives have gone over to the Muslims and renounced their erstwhile faith.

17 - Since, as a rule, the unbelievers cannot really be expected to indemnify a husband thus deserted, the Muslim community as a whole is bound to undertake this obligation. As a matter of fact, there were only six such cases of apostasy in the lifetime of the Prophet (all of them before the conquest of Mecca in 8 H.); and in each case the Muslim husband was awarded by the communal treasury, on orders of the Prophet, the equivalent of the dower originally paid by him - (Baghawi and Zamakhshari).

12. O Prophet! Whenever believing women come unto thee to pledge their allegiance to thee, (18) [pledging] that [henceforth] they would not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught but God, and would not steal, (19) and would not commit adultery, and would not kill their clildren, (20) and would not indulge in slander, falsely devising it out of nothingness: (21) and would not disobey thee in anything [that thou declarest to be] right - then accept their pledge of allegiance, and pray to God to forgive them their [past] sins: for, behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

18 - This connects with verse 10 above, and particularly with the words, "examine them. . . and if you have thus ascertained that they are believers.. .", etc. (see note 11). Thus, after having "ascertained" their belief as far as is humanly possible, the Prophet - or, in later times, the head of the Islamic state or community - is empowered to accept their pledge of allegiance (bayah)" which concludes, as it were, the "examination". It should be noted that this pledge does not differ essentially from that of a male convert.

19 - In this context, according to Razi, the term "stealing" comprises also all acquisition of gains through cheating or other unlawful means.

20 - Sc., ''as the pagan Arabs often did, burying their unwanted female offspring alive" (see also note 147 on 6:151).

21 - Lit., "between their hands and their feet": i.e., by their own effort, the "hands" and "feet" symbolizing all human activity.

13. O YOU who have attained to faith! Be not friends with people whom God has condemned! (22) They [who would befriend them] are indeed bereft of all hope of a life to come (23) - just as those deniers of the truth are bbereft of all hope of [ever again seeing] those who are [now] in their graves. (24)

22 - Cf. 58:14 and the corresponding note 25, which explains the reference to those "who would be friends with people whom God has condemned".

23 - I.e., only people without any real belief in a life to come can remain "neutral" between right and wrong.

24 - I.e., because they utterly reject the idea of resurrection.

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