24. An-Nur (The Light)

Sūrat An-Nur (The Light) was revealed in the sixth year of the Hijrah after the campaign against the tribe of Banū al-Mustaliq. It is composed of 64 verses. In the context of declaring the chastity and innocence of ‘Â’ishah, the Prophet’s wife, in the face of an ugly campaign of slander against her, it lays down the punishments for illicit sexual intercourse and slander. The sūrah also contains rules concerning relations between the sexes, and members of a family and society, as well as discussing the relationships between the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and his wives and other believers. It makes clear certain ethical values that are to be observed in social life, as well as indicating rules concerned with the apparel of women.

In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

1. (This is) a sūrah which We have sent down and made obligatory (the observance of the rules therein); and in it, We have sent down clear explanations (of the truth about belief and unbelief) and instructions (concerning human life), so that you may reflect and be mindful.

2. The fornicatress and the fornicator1 – flog each of them with a hundred stripes;2/3 and do not let pity for them hold you back from carrying out God’s law, if you truly believe in God and the Last Day;4 and let a group of believers witness their punishment.5

3. A fornicator (one notorious for indulgence in illicit sexual relations) is not to marry other than a fornicatress (a woman notorious for indulgence in illicit sexual relations) or an idolatress; and a fornicatress – only a fornicator or an idolater is to take her in wedlock. Acting the other way is forbidden to the believers.6

4. Those who accuse chaste, honorable women (of illicit sexual relations) but do not produce four male witnesses (who will witness that they personally saw the act being committed): flog them with eighty stripes, and do not accept from them any testimony ever after. They are indeed transgressors,

5. Except those of them who repent thereafter and mend their ways. For surely God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.7

6. As for those who accuse their own wives of adultery but have no witnesses except themselves, such a person must testify four times swearing by God in each oath that he is indeed speaking the truth.

7. And the fifth time, that God’s curse be upon him if he is lying.

8. But the punishment will be averted from the wife if she testifies four times by swearing by God in each oath that the man is surely telling a lie,

9. And the fifth time, that the wrath of God be upon her if the man is speaking the truth.8

10. Were it not for God’s grace and favor upon you, and His mercy, and that God is One Who opens  a way to repentance and returns it with liberal forgiveness and additional reward, and All-Wise, (you could not resolve your problems justly and wisely).9

11. Surely those who invented and spread the slander (against ‘Ā’ishah, the Messenger’s wife) are a band from among you. However, do not deem this incident an evil for you; rather, it is good for you.10 (As for the slanderers,) every one of them has accumulated sin in proportion to his share in this guilt, and he who has the greater part of it11 will suffer a tremendous punishment.

12. When you heard of it, why did the believing men and women not think well of one another12 and declare: “This is obviously a slander!”?

13. Why did they not produce four witnesses (in support of the accusation)? Now that they have not produced witnesses, it is indeed they who are the liars in God’s sight.

14. Were it not for God’s grace and favor upon you, and His mercy in the world and the Hereafter, a mighty punishment would certainly have afflicted you (who got involved in circulating rumors), on account of what you indulged in.

15. Just think how you welcomed it with your tongues from one another, and uttered with your mouths something about which you had no knowledge. You deemed it a trifle, whereas in God’s sight it was most grave.

16. Why did you not say, when you heard of it, “It is not for us to speak of this. All-Glorified are You (O God)! This is an awesome slander.”

17. God admonishes you lest you ever repeat anything like this, if you are (truly)] believers.

18. He clearly expounds to you His instructions and the signposts of His way. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

19. Those who love that indecency should spread among those who believe, surely for them is a painful punishment in the world and the Hereafter. God knows (the exact truth and nature of all matters), but you do not know.

20. Were it not for God’s grace and favor upon you, and His mercy, and that God is All-Pitying, All-Compassionate (especially towards His believing servants, what terrible consequences would such evils have caused in your community)!

21. O you who believe! Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. Whoever follows in the footsteps of Satan, (let him know well that) Satan insistently calls to all that is indecent and shameful, and all that is evil. Were it not for God’s grace and favor upon you, and His mercy, not one of you would have ever attained purity; but God purifies whomever He wills. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.13

22. Let not those among you who are favored with resources swear that they will no longer give to the kindred, the needy, and those who have emigrated in God’s cause (even though those wealthy ones suffer harm at the hands of the latter). Rather, let them pardon and forbear. Do you not wish that God should forgive you? God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.

23. Those who falsely accuse chaste women, who are unaware of devious ways of corruption and are believers, are cursed in the world and the Hereafter, and for them is a mighty punishment.

24. On the Day when their own tongues and hands and feet will all bear witness against them in regard to what they were doing.

25. On that Day, God will pay them in full their just due, and they will come to know that God is the Ultimate Truth and Ever-Constant (from Whom nothing is hidden, and Who makes all truth manifest).

26. (In principle,) corrupt women are for corrupt men, and corrupt men for corrupt women; just as good, pure women are for good, pure men, and good, pure men for good, pure women. (On account of their purity and chastity coming from faith,) the latter are innocent of all that evil tongues may impute to them. For them there is forgiveness and an honorable, generous provision.

27. O you who believe! Do not enter dwellings other than your own until you have ascertained the permission of their residents and have greeted them with peace. Your doing so is what is good and appropriate for you, so that you may be mindful (of good manners and proper courtesy).

28. Then, if you find no one in them, do not enter them until you have permission to enter. If you are asked to go back, then go back (without feeling offended). It is a purer way for you. God has full knowledge of all that you do.14

29. There is no blame on you if you enter dwellings that are uninhabited which are of use to you. (But always bear in mind that) God knows whatever you reveal (of acts or intentions) and whatever you keep concealed.

30. Tell the believing men that they should restrain their gaze (from looking at the women whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts and chastity.15 This is what is purer for them. God is fully aware of all that they do.

31. And tell the believing women that they (also) should restrain their gaze (from looking at the men whom it is lawful for them to marry, and from others’ private parts), and guard their private parts,16 and that they should not display their charms except that which is revealed of itself;17 and let them draw their veils over their bosoms,18 and (tell them) not to display their charms to any save their husbands, or their fathers (and grandfathers, and both paternal and maternal uncles), or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands (both their own and step-sons and grandsons), or their brothers (and foster- and step-brothers), or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or the Muslim women and the women of good conduct with whom they associate, or those (slave-girls) their right hands possess, or the male attendants in their service free of sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of femininity. Nor should they stamp their feet (i.e. act in such a manner as to) draw attention to their charms (and arouse the passion of men). And, O believers, turn to God all together in repentance that you may attain true prosperity.

32. Marry those among you who are single (whether men or women) and those of your male and female slaves that are righteous (and fit for marriage). If they are poor, God will grant them sufficiency out of His bounty. God is All-Embracing in His mercy, All-Knowing.19

33. Let those who cannot afford to marry keep themselves chaste until God grants them sufficiency out of His bounty.20 And if any of those whom your right hands possess desire to enter into a contract with you to purchase their freedom, make this contract with them if you know that they are honest (and able to earn without begging and be good, free citizens).21 Help them out of God’s wealth which He has granted you. And do not compel your slave-girls to prostitution in order to seek the (fleeting) benefits of the life of this world while they desire to remain chaste. If anyone compels them to prostitution, then God will be All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate to them after they are subjected to such compulsion.

34. Indeed, We have sent down to you Revelations which show the truth clearly and illuminate your way, and examples (from the histories) of those who have passed away before you, and an instruction for the God-revering, pious.

35. God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His Light is like a niche wherein is a lamp; the lamp is in a crystal, and the crystal, shining as if a pearl-like radiant star, lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west. The oil would almost give light of itself though no fire touches it. Light upon light! God guides to His Light whom He wills. God strikes parables for people. God has full knowledge of all things.22

36. (This light can best be obtained, and those guided to it are found) in some houses (that are usually concealed from people’s eyes and) for which God has provided a way for them to be built and appreciated, and for His Name to be mentioned and invoked therein; in them, glorify Him in the morning and evening.

37. (Those guided are) men (of great distinction) whom neither commerce nor exchange (nor any other worldly preoccupations) can divert from the remembrance of God, and establishing the Prayer in conformity with all its conditions, and paying the Prescribed Purifying Alms; they are in fear of a Day on which all hearts and eyes will be overturned.23

38. God will reward them in accordance with the best of what they have ever done, and give them yet more out of His bounty (i.e., more than they deserve). God provides beyond all measure for whom He wills.24

39. As for the unbelievers, all their deeds are like a mirage in the desert, which the thirsty one supposes to be water until he comes up to it, only to find that it was nothing; instead, he finds God near it, and He settles his account in full. God is swift at settling the account.

40. Or their deeds are like veils of darkness covering up an abysmal sea down into its depths, covered up by a billow, above which is a billow, above which is a cloud: veils of darkness piled one upon another, so that when he stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it. For whomever God has appointed no light, no light has he.25

41. Do you not see that all that is in the heavens and the earth, and the birds flying in patterned ranks with wings spread out glorify God. Each knows the way of its prayer and glorification. God has full knowledge of all that they do.

42. To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and to God is the homecoming.

43. Do you not see that God gently drives the clouds, then joins them together, (completing the formation of a circuit between them,)26 and then turns them into a thick mass, and consequently you see rain-drops issue out of their midst. He sends down hail out of snow-laden mountains (of clouds) from the sky, and smites with it whom He wills, and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of the lightning almost takes away the sight.27

44. God turns about the night and the day. Surely in that is a lesson for those who have the power of seeing.

45. God has created every living creature from water.28 Among them are such as move on their bellies, and such as move on two legs, and such as move on four. God creates whatever He wills. Surely God has full power over everything.

46. Assuredly, We have sent down Revelations which show the truth clearly and illuminate your way. God guides whom He wills to a straight path.

47. They say, “We have believed in God and in the Messenger, and We have promised obedience (to both),” but then, after that a party among them turn away (contradicting their declaration by their attitudes and actions). Such are not believers.

48. When they are called to God and His Messenger so that the Messenger may judge between them, see how a party among them turn away in aversion.

49. If the right be on their side, they come willingly in acceptance of it.

50. Is there a disease in their hearts (that corrupts their will and character)? Or have they fallen prey to doubts? Or do they fear that God and His Messenger will deal unjustly with them? No, the truth is that they themselves are wrongdoers.

51. The only utterance of the (true) believers, when they are called to God and His Messenger so that the Messenger may judge between them, is: “We have heard and we obey.” Such are those who are the prosperous.29

52. Whoever obeys God and His Messenger, and is overwhelmed by awe of God and keeps from disobedience to Him in reverence for Him and piety, such indeed are those who are the triumphant.

53. They (the hypocritical ones) swear by God most solemnly that if you should ever order them, they would most certainly go forth (to fight in God’s cause). Tell them: “Do not swear. What is expected of you is obedience of the proper kind, well-known. (So you should do what other believers do and, therefore, will go forth when commanded to do so without gestures indicating exaggeration and affectation).” God is fully aware of all that you do.

54. Say: “Obey God and obey the Messenger.”30 But (,O people), if you turn away from the Messenger, (then be aware that) what rests with him is only what he has been charged with, and what rests with you is only what you have been charged with. However, if you obey, you will be guided (to the truth). What rests with the Messenger is but to convey the Message fully and clearly.

55. God has promised those of you who believe and do good, righteous deeds that He will most certainly empower them as vicegerents on the earth (in the place of those who are in power at present), even as He empowered those (of the same qualities) that preceded them, and that, assuredly, He will firmly establish for them their Religion, which He has (chosen and) approved of for them, and He will replace their present state of fear with security (so that they can practice their Religion freely and fully, and in peace). They worship Me alone, associating none with Me as partners (in belief, worship, and the authority to order their life). Whoever turns ungrateful after that, such indeed are the transgressors.

56. Establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and obey the Messenger so that you may be shown mercy (to be granted a good, virtuous life in the world, and eternal happiness in the Hereafter.)31

57. Do not suppose that those who disbelieve can frustrate (Our will) on the earth. Their final refuge is the Fire: how evil a destination to arrive at!

58. O you who believe! Let (even) those whom your right hands possess (as slaves), as well as those of you (your children) who have not yet reached puberty, ask for your permission (before they come into your private room) at three times (of the day) – before the Morning Prayer, and when you lay aside your garments in the middle of the day for rest, and after the Night Prayer. These are your three times of privacy. Beyond these occasions, there is no blame on you nor on them if they come in without permission – they are bound to move about you, some of you attending on others. Thus, God makes clear for you (the instructions in) the Revelations. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

59. And when your children reach puberty, let them ask you for permission (whenever they want to enter your private room), even as those (who have already reached the same age) before them ask for it. Thus, God makes clear for you (the instructions in) His Revelations. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

60. The women advanced in years, having passed the age of child-bearing and no longer feeling any sexual desire, incur no sin if they cast off their outer garments without making a display of their charms. But even so, it is better for them to abstain from this. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

61. There is no blame on the blind, nor any blame on the lame, nor any blame on the sick (for eating only to satisfy their need without causing any harm and waste, in the house of any healthy, well-off person), and neither on yourselves, that (in case of need and without prior invitation) you eat in your spouse’s and children’s houses, or your fathers’ houses, or your mothers’ houses, or your brothers’ houses, or your sisters’ houses, or your paternal uncles’ houses, or your paternal aunts’ houses, or your maternal uncles’ houses, or your maternal aunts’ houses, or in the houses for which you are responsible, or in the houses of any of your close friends (who should be happy to see you feeling free to eat at their home). There is no blame on you if you eat together or separately. But when you enter any of these houses, greet one another with a blessed, pure and good salutation appointed by God. Thus, God makes clear for you (the instructions in) His Revelations, that you may reason and understand.32

62. Only those are true believers who believe in God and His Messenger, and who, when they are with him for a collective cause, do not leave unless they have obtained his permission. Surely those who ask for your permission, it is they who truly believe in God and His Messenger. So, if they ask you for permission for some affair of their own, give permission to whomever of them you will, and ask God for forgiveness on their behalf. Surely, God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.33

63. Do not treat the Messenger’s summoning and praying for you as your summoning and praying for one another. Indeed, God knows well those of you who surreptitiously sneak away, taking cover behind one another. So, let those who go against the Messenger’s order beware, lest a bitter trial34 befall them or a painful punishment afflict them.

64. Beware: to God belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. He knows well where you stand (and what you are about). And (to Him belongs) the Day when you are brought back to Him, then He will make them understand all that they did (in the world). God has full knowledge of everything.

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. The Qur’ān uses the same term, zinā, for both fornication and adultery. Whether the partners are married or unmarried, the Qur’ān considers every kind of illicit sexual intercourse as being zinā. However, it distinguishes between the punishments to be inflicted.

Adultery and fornication are considered sins in all religions. The Bible orders the death sentence for both the adulterer and the adulteress (Leviticus, 20: 10; Deuteronomy, 22: 22). However, the Qur’ānic definition of adultery is very different from the Biblical definition. Zinā, according to the Qur’ān, is the involvement of a man and a woman, whether married or not, in an extramarital affair. The Bible only considers the extramarital affair of a married woman to be adultery (zinā) (Leviticus, 20: 10; Deuteronomy, 22: 22; Proverbs, 6: 20–35; 7: 1–27).

According to the Biblical definition, if a married man sleeps with an unmarried woman, this is simply a case of fornication. A man’s sleeping with an unmarried woman is not considered a crime at all, irrespective of whether the man has a wife or not. The Talmud’s command related to this case is as follows:

If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married to another and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins (Exodus 22: 16-17), which is fifty shekels of silver to be paid to the virgin’s father (Deuteronomy. 22: 28-29). However, if the virgin is a daughter of a priest (rabbi), the man is to be hanged until dead, whereas the girl is to be burned alive. (Everyman’s Talmud, 319–320)

The Judaic commandment is almost identical with the Hindu code. But, in Hinduism, if the girl belongs to a higher caste and the man is of a lower one, the girl should be driven away from her home and the limbs of the man, amputated (Dharma Shastra, ch. 8, 365–366). If the girl is a Brahmin, the punishment is to burn the man alive (Ibid, 377).

According to the Bible (Judaic Law), the crime of adultery is committed only when a man sleeps with a married woman. In this case, the man is considered an adulterer, whether he is married or not, and the woman is considered an adulteress. In short, adultery is any illicit sexual intercourse involving a married woman. The extramarital affair of a married man is not itself a crime in the Bible. The reason why this is so, according to Encyclopedia Judaica, is that the wife was considered to be the husband’s possession and adultery constituted a violation of his exclusive right to her; the wife, as the husband’s possession, had no such rights on him (Jeffrey H. Togay, “Adultery,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2, col. 313. Also, see Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, 170–177.)

That is, if a man has sexual intercourse with a married woman, he is violating the property of another man and, thus, he should be punished.

To the present day, in Israel, if a married man indulges in an extramarital affair with an unmarried woman, his children by that woman are considered to be legitimate. But if a married woman has an affair with another man, whether married or not, her children by that man are illegitimate and are forbidden to marry any other Jews, except converts and other such illegitimate children. This ban is handed down to the children’s descendants for ten generations, until the taint of adultery has presumably weakened (Lesley Hazleton, Israeli Women, The Reality Behind the Myths, 41–42). Other Biblical legal provisions pertaining to unlawful sexual relations are as follows:

If a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another man, but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet, they are not to be put to death, because she has not been freed. (Leviticus, 19: 20)

If a man happens to meet, in a town, a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death – the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. (Deuteronomy, 22: 23–26)

In contemporary Christianity, however, although the Old Testament is accepted along with the New Testament as being canonical Scripture, if sexual relations take place between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman, it is certainly a sin, but it is not considered a cognizable offence. However, if either or both of the partners are married, their sexual relations are considered as being a cognizable offence. Nonetheless, what makes the act a sin is the violation of the marriage contract, rather than the mere fact of unlawful sex. The only legal consequence of such an act is that the wife of the guilty man might secure a separation from him by charging her husband with infidelity. The same is also true of a man whose wife has engaged in sexual relations outside of her marriage covenant. In addition, the husband also has the right to claim damages from the man who subjected his wife to adultery.

Modern Western legal enactments in regard to this question are based on Christian concepts. According to these laws, fornication is regarded at most as a blemish, but not a cognizable offence, unless one party has resorted to the use of force. As for having sexual intercourse with someone else’s married partner, the aggrieved party can simply file for a divorce from the offending party.

On the other hand, Islam regards the act of any unlawful sexual intercourse as a crime in itself. If such an act is committed by a married person, the offence becomes more severe. The severity is due to the fact that a married person still resorts to unlawful means to satisfy his or her sexual urges while he or she can satisfy it by lawful means, i.e. within the marriage.

Unlawful sex is viewed by Islam as a crime which, if no measures are taken to curb it, strikes at the very root of human personality, family and society. Both the survival of the human race and the continuity of human collective existence make it imperative that the sexual relations between men and women are confined to their lawful forms alone. Just as eating and drinking are not indulged in for their own sake by a healthy individual, but rather for the continuation of life, so, too, the sexual urge has been granted to humankind to continue our existence on earth. Therefore, the pleasure in its satisfaction is a sort of advance payment, not the goal in itself. In order to protect humankind from the harmful effects of unlawful sex, Islam does not confine itself to legal sanctions alone. It also seeks, through the spiritual, moral, and social values it promotes and the principles it has laid down, to almost completely close the door to adultery and fornication, while leaving some room for human free will. Human beings are tried in this world so as to develop their inborn capacities; to improve the world according to the standards God has established; and thereby earn a degree of perfection worthy of the eternal life of bliss (Mostly from al-Mawdūdī, 6: 149–159).

In addition to inculcating in our hearts the love and fear of God at one and the same time, giving us an awareness of the eternal life, which will be lived in either Paradise or Hell, and perfecting its followers both spiritually and morally, Islam takes every step to make marriage easy and convenient so that lineages will not be confounded through unlawful sex. Also, if either party to the marriage finds the other incompatible, that party may resort to divorce.

Islam also seeks to remove factors which prompt or provoke people into illegitimate sexual relations, or which provide opportunities for engaging in it. It forbids all kinds of obscenity, as well as free mixing of the sexes, ordering women to cover themselves and forbidding them to parade their charms in public. It also orders both sexes to lower their gaze when they encounter one another.

Islam aims to purify individual persons and society. The person and society it seeks to encourage and enable is like a healthy body; one who engages in crimes like unlawful sex, murder, theft and robbery— just like a gangrenous organ or a cancer in the body— is a harm and danger to individual persons and to society. Just as one seeks first prevention and then treatment for every ailment of the body, so, too, Islam seeks to prevent crime, and for what has not been prevented, it prescribes and applies a particular method of responding. (For a detailed discussion of Islamic penal law, see sūrah 2, note 131; sūrah 4, note 6.)

2. The punishment legislated for a man or woman who fornicates is a hundred stripes. The original word used for stripe is jaldah, derived from jild, which means skin. So all linguists and commentators on the Qur’ān consider it to mean that the effect of flogging must be confined to the skin and, therefore, not cut the flesh. The whip to be used should be an average one, neither too thick nor too thin, and the act of flogging should be of average intensity. Caliph ‘Umar, may God be pleased with him, used to direct the flogger: “Strike in such manner that your armpit is not revealed” (al-Jassās, 3: 45).

Other conditions for flogging can be found in books of Islamic law.

3. As pointed out above, the punishment of a hundred lashes is given to unmarried persons who are guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse. This is evident from the relevant Qur’ānic verses, including the one discussed here. The first verses concerning unlawful sex are those found in Sūrat an-Nisā’: Such of your women as have committed indecency (adultery), there must be four male witnesses of you who (having seen them in the act) will testify against them (during one succeeding month in towns, and six months in the rural areas). If they do bear witness, then confine those women to their houses until death takes them away or God opens some way for them. When two of you have committed it, then punish them both by scolding and beating; but if they are remorseful and repent, and make amends, then withdraw from them. Assuredly, God is He Who accepts repentance and returns it with liberal forgiveness, All-Compassionate (4: 15–16).

When these two verses were revealed, as a step toward the decisive banning and prevention of any kind of unlawful sex, Islam prescribed that the partners guilty of such acts should be scolded and beaten, and that women should be kept in their houses to prevent prostitution. The statement, or God opens some way for them, implied that new legislation would come on this subject. This new legislation was the command to lash the unmarried partners with a whip 100 times, whereas the punishment for the married partners was established by the Sunnah.

Islam has laid down certain conditions for establishing the fact of the crime of zinā (adultery and fornication), which is then liable to punishment. These conditions can also be found in relevant books. For example, see al-Mawdūdī, 6: 166–173.

4. God warns believers against any misplaced compassion that would prevent them from enforcing the punishments He has legislated. No one can ever be more compassionate toward any creature than its Creator.

It is true that everything in the universe speaks of compassion and promises compassion, and because of this, the universe can be considered to be a symphony of compassion. Human beings have a responsibility to show compassion to all beings; this is a requirement of being human. The more a person displays compassion, the more exalted he or she becomes; while the more they resort to wrongdoing, oppression, and cruelty, the more he or she is disgraced and humiliated, and accrues shame.

We heard from the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, how compassion enabled a prostitute to enter the way to Paradise because, out of compassion, she gave water to a poor dog dying of thirst; whilst another woman was condemned to enter the way leading to the torments of Hell because she tormented a cat, neither feeding it nor letting it feed itself, until it died of hunger (al-Bukhārī, “al-Anbiyā,” 54).

However, compassion, like everything else, must be balanced. We can see an example of how such a balance works in the water we drink. Oxygen and hydrogen, when mixed in the proper ratio, form one of the substances most vital to life. However, when this ratio changes, each element resumes its original, combustible identity. Likewise, it is of great importance to apportion the amount of compassion and to know who deserves it. Compassion for a wolf sharpens its appetite, and not being content with what it has received, it demands even more. Compassion for a rebel makes him or her more aggressive, encouraging the rebel to offend against others. And itt would not be appropriate to have compassion for one who takes sadistic pleasure in poisoning others. So we must place compassion in the right place, and never claim to be more compassionate than the All-Compassionate One.

If someone alters God’s laws in consideration of the culprit’s social position, this is surely the very worst kind of offence. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “O people! One of the reasons why some communities before you perished is that when a respectable person of the community committed theft, people spared him and punished others because of their weaknesses” (al-Bukhārī, “Hudūd,” 11; Muslim, “Hudūd,” 8).

5. The punishment for zinā should be carried out publicly before at least four persons. The main advantage to doing so is that it prevents those in authority from acting with undue harshness or leniency. Such a stipulation secures the enforcement of the punishment as required by the Law. It also arouses in the culprit a feeling of shame, and helps to deter him or her from repeating the same crime, as well as serving as a lesson for others.

6. A believing man or woman cannot marry a woman or man who is known for indulging in zinā – i.e., one who has been punished for this crime and, thereafter, has neither repented nor mended his or her ways, who is morally dissolute and ignores the evil involved in this crime. Acting the other way cannot be compatible with faith. So it is obvious that this injunction applies to those who persist in their evil ways, but not to those who repent and mend their ways after some lapse. Hence, if someone who committed unlawful sexual intercourse in the past later on marries, this does not mean that the relationship between the spouses is unlawful. It is dependent on whether or not the offender has truly repented and refrains from committing the same crime again.

This verse in no way suggests that a sexually deviant Muslim can marry a polytheist, or that such a marriage is legitimate. Rather, the purpose of the verse is to stress that unlawful sex is an extremely evil act and that a Muslim guilty of it is no longer worthy of having matrimonial relations with people of good character in Muslim society.

7. This commandment applies also to cases where a woman accuses a man of unlawful sex. The severity of the punishment, as well as the requirement of four witnesses, whereas two witnesses are considered sufficient in all other criminal and civil suits, shows the importance of the matter and aim at preventing idle talk and gossip about people’s honor and chastity. Islam severely condemns both unlawful sex and the ungrounded accusation of others. Even if one observes someone actually indulging in unlawful sex, one should not publicize it. This prevents corruption from spreading. If four persons observe the act, or if one (a husband or wife) can get four witnesses (to observe the act), they may report the matter to the authorities concerned, but still should not publicize it. Islam aims at ensuring both pure persons and a pure society.

It should also be noted here that from a legal point of view, everyone is innocent until conclusive proof to the contrary has been produced; so, too, must every woman be considered chaste and honorable.

If one repents and mends one’s ways after having accused a chaste woman of unlawful sex without producing four witnesses to the unlawful act, then one is no longer regarded as a transgressor. However, this does not void the prescribed punishment of 80 stripes, and any testimony will not be accepted from such a person ever again.

8. This procedure is called li‘ān (oath of condemnation and mutual cursing.) When a man accuses his wife of adultery, he must testify four times and swear by God. The fifth time he must invoke God’s curse upon himself if he is lying.

If a man accuses his wife or disowns the paternity of a child, the wife has the right to seek the intervention of the court and have her husband make such an oath. In this respect, her rights are the same as her husband’s.

A few cases of li‘ān took place during the time of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He first mentioned the command God had given to the husband and added: “Are you aware that God’s punishment in the Hereafter is much more grievous than the one in this life?” The husband answered in the affirmative, yet the wife totally denied the charge, so the Messenger invited both to make an oath. First the husband rose and four times swore that his accusation was true. While he was doing this, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, repeatedly warned him: “God knows that one of you is certainly a liar. Will neither of you repent?” Before the husband went on to state that if he was lying God’s wrath should fall upon him, those present told him: “Fear God. Punishment in this life is lighter than that in the next. This fifth oath will incur God’s punishment on you.” The husband took the fifth oath without hesitation.

The wife underwent the same procedure. Before the fifth oath, she hesitated a little, but concluded: “I will not bring lasting dishonor to my tribe.” So saying, she took the final oath.

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, effected a separation between them and resolved that the child whom she had recently conceived would be known as her child, not as the child of her husband (al-Bukhārī, “Kitāb at-Tafsīr, Sūrat an-Nūr,” 3). The husband and the child could not inherit from each other. The child and its mother would inherit from each other. Yet no one would be able to accuse her of being unchaste or her child of being illegitimate.

If the husband who accused his wife of adultery refrains from taking the oaths, he will be imprisoned until he confesses that he has leveled a false charge; and when he does, he will be punished with the punishment of false accusation (qadhf), which is mentioned in verse 4 above. If the wife declines to take the oaths, she is imprisoned until she takes the oaths or confesses that she has committed adultery. If she confesses, she undergoes the punishment for adultery.

9. This verse reminds us that the Religion (and law) God has chosen for us and conveyed to us through His Messenger has been based on God’s liberal Forgiveness, Bountifulness, Compassion, and Wisdom.

10. By the 5th year of the Hijrah, the Islamic movement led by the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had reached a point where all its opponents realized that they would no longer be able to uproot it by sheer force. The hostile tribes had formed a united front under the leadership of the Quraysh and had besieged Madīnah with a massive army at the Battle of the Trench, which took place in the fifth year of the Hijrah. When they had to retreat after a four-week siege, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “From this moment on, we will march upon them; they will no longer be able to attack us” (al-Bukhārī, “Maghazī,” 29).

The Islamic movement derived its main force from its spiritual and moral values and the unblemished character of its followers. So, led in particular by the hypocrites in Madīnah, the enemy began to resort to vicious and unfair campaigns against the Muslims. Such conspiracies first manifested themselves on the occasion of the Messenger’s marriage to Zaynab bint al-Jahsh, the divorced wife of Zayd ibn Hārithah, who was the Messenger’s emancipated slave; this event is mentioned in Sūrat al-Ahzāb (33: 36–38) and will be dealt with when that sūrah is examined. The concerted efforts to blemish the absolutely pure character of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, proved of no avail; so this time, they slandered ‘Ā’ishah, the pure and beloved wife of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.

On the return from an expedition to the Banū Mustaliq in the sixth year of the Hijrah, ‘Ā’ishah, who had accompanied the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, during that expedition, was inadvertently left behind when the Muslim army moved from the place where it had camped. After having spent several hours alone, she was found by Safwān ibn al-Mu‘attal, one of the Emigrants who had participated in the Battle of Badr, whose duty it was to make sure that nothing and no one got left behind. ‘Ā’ishah got on his camel, and they rejoined the army at the next bivouac. This gave occasion to the enemies to raise a malicious scandal, which was led by ‘Abdullāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, the chief of the hypocrites in Madīnah.

As long as the Muslims preserve their moral and spiritual strength and solidarity, whatever the enemy does to defeat them will only end in bringing good to the Muslims. So incidents that seem to be evil in the beginning prove to be good for them. The incident of slander against ‘Ā’ishah, the Mother of Believers, proved to be an occasion on which the Muslims were once more able to realize the source of their real power, to increase their solidarity, to gain further experience and knowledge in order to lead the movement onwards, as well as coming to know what they should think of their brothers and sisters in the Religion, and how they should behave toward each other. This incident also served for many new laws to be revealed concerning the mutual relations of Muslims.

11. This refers to ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, the chief of the hypocrites.

12. This expression may also be translated as “When you heard of it, why did the believing men and women not think well of their own folk?” A believer is a mirror for another believer. Since belief is a light that illuminates a believer’s mind and heart, and which shows him or her how to react in the face of events, it also prevents a believer from performing evil and obscene acts; thus, every believer should think well of another believer. Believers cannot think of other believers in a way that is different from how they think of themselves. All believers form a single body; every believer is an embodiment of the values represented by other believers.

13. No one, even God’s Messengers, can attain purity – purity in thought, belief, intention, and action – merely on the basis of individual abilities and efforts. At best, what a person can do is to sincerely desire purity and work to this end. God is aware of anyone who has sincere intentions and who is trying to attain purity, and it is He Who enables people to attain purity and remain pure. Humanity is prone to evil, indecency, and error, and their carnal souls can easily be defeated by Satan. Therefore, all of us are indebted to God alone for any of our good thoughts and deeds. It is for this reason that for the fourth time in the sūrah, God reminds us of the fact that, were it not for His grace and favor, and His mercy on us, we would have been doomed. Once the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “No one can enter Paradise by virtue of his own deeds.” When asked if this was true for him as well, he replied that had it not been for God’s Mercy Which embraced him, he could not enter either (al-Bukhārī, “Riqāq,” 18).

14. In the pre-Islamic age of Jāhiliyyah, people would barge into each other’s houses without asking for permission or greeting the residents with peace, only saying: “Good morning” or “Good evening!” Islam ruled that everyone has a right to privacy in their own houses, and that no one could enter another’s house without ascertaining the prior consent of the residents. Islam also ruled that the proper way to greet one another is to say, “Peace be upon you.” One is required to ask for permission to enter even the houses of one’s relatives. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, stated that a person should ask for permission no more than three times. If there is no response, the would-be visitor should leave.

Islam also forbade peeping into the houses of others, looking into them from the outside, and reading other people’s letters without permission. It is also unlawful to listen to conversations which take place in another’s house.

15. This means not only that one should be mindful of one’s chastity, but also of exposing one’s private parts. The parts of the body that are forbidden for men to expose are between the navel and the knee. A man should not expose this part of his body before anyone except his wife. He should also avoid being naked, even when he is alone, out of respect for the angels (at-Tirmidhī, “Adab,” 42).

16. A woman should not expose any part of her body other than her hands, feet, and faces before men whom she can marry. According to some scholars, she must cover her face also, except for her eyes. She is not obliged to cover her face while performing the rites of the Hajj, or in places like court or during a marriage contract. Nor can a woman wear such thin, tight or transparent clothes that her body is exposed, revealing its shape. As for the parts of the body which she is obliged to keep covered before other women of faith, good character and chastity, these consist of the lower body, between the navel and the knee. She should also cover herself in the presence of women of loose morals, just as she must cover before men whom she can marry.

17. What is meant by the charms that must not be displayed are the parts of the woman’s body on which she wears ornaments, such as ears, wrists, and ankles. As these should not be displayed in the presence of others than those mentioned in the verse, especially when adorned, women should also not show any adornments which they use to make them look attractive, such as eye-catching dresses, jewelry, and cosmetics.

Scholars interpret the statement, that which is revealed of itself, to mean that women should not intentionally display their beauty and charms. But sometimes it may happen that the outer garment, for example, is blown up by the wind, causing something to be exposed. However, a believing woman must take precautions against such occasions. Some scholars hold that what is meant by this statement – that which is revealed of itself – is garments like a veil, gloves, and head-cover; and the parts of the body which a woman is allowed to keep uncovered, namely, her hands, feet and eyes, and her face, in cases of necessity, and the adornment which she wears on them.

18. In the pre-Islamic age of Jāhiliyyah, women wore head-bands to keep their tied hair up in a bun at the rear of their head, thus revealing their neck and the upper part of their bosoms. With this verse, the Qur’ān ordered them to wear their hair-covering in such a way that it covered their head and bosoms. When this order was communicated to the believing women in the Messenger’s time, they immediately cast away their transparent clothes and veils and made veils of thick material, wearing them in a way that fully covered their head and bosoms (Abū Dāwūd, “Kitāb al-Libās,” 32).

19. This is not a compulsory order, as marriage depends on the choice of an individual. However, if a person wants to marry but cannot afford it, those responsible for them among their relatives or, in case of their being without relatives, the state should arrange their marriage.

20. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “O young people! Those among you who can afford to marry should do so, for it will help you to keep your gaze averted and enable you to preserve your chastity. Whoever cannot afford to marry, let him fast; for fasting blunts sexual passion” (al-Bukhārī, “Kitāb an-Nikāh.” 2) He also said: “There are three types of Muslims whom God binds Himself to help: he who marries to preserve his chastity; he who enters into contract to purchase his freedom and sincerely intends to pay the amount; and he who goes out on God’s way for jihād” (at-Tirmidhī, “Fadāil al-Jihād,” 20).

21. Such type of agreements also pertain to prisoners of war.

Here I deem it useful to quote from Fethullah Gülen concerning the outlining aspects of an Islamic social system:

What is of great significance in such commandments is that the duties entrusted to modern states are those that Islam refers to society and classifies, in order of importance, as “absolutely necessary, relatively necessary, and commendable to carry out.” The Qur’ān includes the following passages: O you who believe! Come in full submission to God, all of you (2: 208); O you who believe! Spend (in God’s cause) out of the pure, wholesome things you have earned, and of what We have produced for you from the earth (2: 267); Such of your women as have committed indecency (adultery), you must have four male witnesses of you who (having seen them in the act) will testify against them (4: 15); God commands you to deliver trusts (including public and professional duties of service) to those entitled to them; and when you judge between people, to judge with justice (4: 58); O you who believe! Be upholders and standard-bearers of justice, bearing witness to the truth for God’s sake, even though it be against your own selves, or parents or kindred (4: 135); And if they (the enemies) incline to peace, incline to it also, and place your trust in God (8: 61); O you who believe! If some transgressor brings you news (that requires taking action), verify it carefully (before you believe and act upon it), lest you harm a people in ignorance and then become regretful for what you have done (49: 6); If two parties of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them (and act promptly) (49: 9). In short, the Qur’ān addresses the entire community and assigns it almost all the duties that are entrusted to modern states.

People cooperate with one another by sharing these duties and establishing the essential institutions that are necessary to perform them. The government is composed of these institutions. Thus, Islam recommends a government that is based on a social contract. People elect the administrators and establish a council to debate common issues. Also, the society as a whole participates in auditing the administration. Particularly during the rule of the first four Caliphs (632–661), the fundamental principles of government mentioned above were fully observed. The political system was transformed into a sultanate after the death of ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph, due to internal conflicts and the global conditions of the time. Unlike during the caliphate, power in the sultanate was passed on through the sultan’s family. However, even though elections were no longer held, societies maintained the other principles.

Islam is an inclusive religion. It is based on the belief in one God as the Creator, Lord, Sustainer, and Administrator of the universe. Islam is the religion of the whole universe. That is, the entire universe obeys the laws laid down by God, so everything in the universe is “Muslim” and obeys God by submitting to His laws. Even a person who refuses to believe in God or follows another religion has perforce to be a Muslim as far as their physical existence is concerned. Throughout their entire life, from the embryonic stage to the body’s dissolution into dust after death, every tissue of their muscles, and every limb of their body, follows the course prescribed for each by God’s law. Thus, in Islam, God, nature, and humanity are neither remote from each other nor are they alien to each other. It is God Who makes Himself known to humanity through nature and humanity itself, and nature and humanity are the two books of creation through which each word of God is known. This leads humankind to look upon everything as belonging to the same Lord, to whom it itself belongs, so that it regards nothing in the universe as alien. (A Muslim’s) sympathy, love, and service do not remain confined to the people of any particular race, color, or ethnicity. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, summed this up with the command, “O servants of God, be brothers (and sisters)!”

A separate, but equally important point is that Islam recognizes the Divinely-inspired religions that predated it. It accepts all the Prophets and Books sent to different peoples in different epochs of history. Not only does it accept them, but it also regards belief in them as being an essential principle of being a Muslim. In this way, Islam acknowledges the basic unity of all religions. A Muslim is at the same time a true follower of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and of all the other Hebrew Prophets, upon them all be peace. This belief explains why both Christians and Jews enjoyed their religious rights under the rule of Islamic governments throughout history.

The Islamic social system seeks to form a virtuous society and thereby gain God’s approval. It recognizes right, not force, as the foundation of social life. Hostility is unacceptable. Relationships must be based on belief, love, mutual respect, assistance, and understanding instead of conflict and the pursuit of personal interests. Social education encourages people to pursue lofty ideals and to strive for perfection, not just to run after their own desires. The pursuit of what is right demands unity, virtues bring mutual support and solidarity, and belief secures brother- and sisterhood. Encouraging the soul to attain perfection brings happiness in both worlds. (A Comparative Approach, SAIS Review, vol. XXI, no. 2, 136–137)

22. This verse is one of the ambiguous, allegorical verses of the Qur’ān. It has deep meanings about which many interpretations have been made.

First, it should be remembered that the Essence of God or the Divine Being Himself cannot be known, as there is nothing comparable to Him, and He is infinitely beyond whatever we conceive of Him. Because of this, the Qur’ān presents us His acts, and creates allegories to give some “knowledge (ma‘rifah)” of Him with His Attributes, and Names. The Acts lead to the Names, and the Names lead to the Attributes.

As we know, light appears of itself and causes other objects to become apparent. It also signifies existence, illumination, and knowledge, in contrast to non-existence, darkness, and ignorance. So, the verse suggests that God is the only One Who exists of and by Himself, absolutely independent of all others. Whatever exists other than He depends on Him to come into existence and subsist.

Secondly, (the) Light is one of the Names of God. All the lights in the universe are manifestations of this Name. So, the verse means that it is God Who has created light and illuminates everything in the universe.

Thirdly, as is implied at the conclusion of the verse, knowledge is light and is the source of intellectual enlightenment. All knowledge has its source in God’s Knowledge. With respect to God, His Existence and Knowledge are, in one respect, identical. Even if there were none to be aware of Him, He knows Himself. Some Muslim scholars, like Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, are of the opinion that existence ends in, or issues from, His Knowledge. So, as pointed out above, knowledge is light. It is also through knowledge that one can attain true faith which illuminates hearts. So true knowledge provides guidance for people, and its main source is Revelation. True enlightenment is possible through Revelation, and any information that goes against the Revelation is darkness and causes darkness.

As mentioned above, the Essence of God cannot be known, as He is incomparable to anything in the universe, and He is infinite or unlimited. We can only obtain some knowledge of Him through His works or acts, which are manifested from behind the veil of causality, or the “laws of nature,” which are, in fact, the titles of His ways of acting or executing the events of the universe, and the universe itself. So, the metaphor of the glass, lamp, and crystal stands for this veil.

The metaphor indicates modern electricity and electrical lamps; some modern interpreters of the Qur’ān, in particular, think that this verse suggests electricity. Actually, as we know, energy is comprehended through its effects, and electrical energy is used for illumination through a bulb. The glass, lamp, crystal, or pearl-like radiant star, when taken together, bring to mind the image of an electric lamp. As electric energy is seen and illuminates by means of light bulbs, the Divine Light manifest Itself through Its effects and by means of the veil mentioned above in the same way. Thus, energy can serve as an example of having some knowledge of the Divine Light.

In the past, light was mostly obtained from lamps lit by olive oil, and the brightest lamp was that which was lit from the oil of an olive tree that grew in an open and elevated place, receiving the rays of the sun not only in the morning, but in the afternoon and throughout the day. So, the statement, neither of the east nor of the west, implies the intensity of the light obtained from a lamp lit from the oil of such olive trees, as it is not restricted in any direction. It also suggests that God’s Light does not emit from matter or belong to the universe. It is meta-universal or meta-physical and, therefore, glows forth of itself without needing fire to kindle it. Likewise, the Revelation as the source of knowledge and Islam, which it has formed, belong to none other than God. These are a pure light from God which illuminates the minds and hearts of humankind.

23. Although many commentators of the Qur’ān have interpreted the word houses in verse 36 to mean mosques, understanding it to mean the houses which believers construct where they mention God, study His religion, and serve His cause is more appropriate. The term houses is used in the indefinite form. Mosques are not indefinite, so they are not concealed from people’s eyes. Furthermore, God’s providing for them a way to be built and appreciated, and for His Name to be mentioned and invoked therein suggests that they are or will be built at a time when the believers are closely watched and face great pressure to enjoy their Religion and serve God’s cause. In addition, believers assemble in mosques five times a day to glorify God, not only in the morning and evening. In the houses mentioned in this verse, distinguished believers dedicated to God’s cause, who are not diverted by their worldly occupations nor buying and selling from God’s remembrance, come together to glorify God and uplift His Name.

When these verses are considered in the light of what God said to Moses and Aaron, upon them be peace, in 10: 87, then their true meaning will be clearer:

We revealed to Moses and his brother: “Appoint houses for your people in Egypt (as places of refuge and coming together in God’s cause), and (as a whole community) make your homes places to turn to God, and establish the Prescribed Prayer in conformity with all its conditions. And (O Moses,) give glad tidings to the believers!”

24. Since God is the All-Independent, the One Who does whatever He wills, He is never obliged to do anything according to people’s deeds and wishes, including rewarding good or punishing evil. However, because of His absolute Justice, He rewards people who believe and do good deeds that are acceptable by Him, and punishes the others who disbelieve and do evil deeds. In other words, He treats people as they deserve. But He is also the All-Compassionate, All-Forgiving, and All-Providing. So, He overlooks and forgives His servants many of their sins, and rewards the believers with more than they deserve. This does not mean that He treats all the believers in the same way. Believers vary in degrees, according to the depth of their faith, the multiplicity of their deeds, their sincerity in faith and their performance of good deeds, their purity of intention, their depth of devotion, and their contribution to God’s cause. As all such factors cause variations in God’s rewards to them, God is also free to reward whom He wills as He wills, once He has given to each their due.   

25. The parables or comparisons presented here illustrate the state of unbelievers. Their deeds, although seeming to bring them some benefit in the world for some time, will increase them in nothing but loss and suffering both in the world and in the Hereafter. In addition, so long as there are believers whose minds and hearts have been enlightened by God’s Light and who strive for His cause sincerely, whatever the unbelievers do to try to stop them or prevent the spread of this Light, the believers will ultimately be victorious. What the unbelievers call enlightenment is only darkness upon darkness, so they are wrapped up by veils of darkness, and cannot find their way to true salvation and success.

26. For an explanation of this statement, see 15: 22, note 6.

27. This verse explains the curious Divine disposals in sending rain and hail from accumulated clouds, which are among the Divine Lordship’s miracles and the most curious manifestations of His Mercy. While the cloud’s atoms are scattered in the atmosphere, they come together to form a cloud at the command of God, just like a dispersed army assembles at the sound of the trumpet. Then, like small troops coming from different directions to form an army, God joins the clouds together to enable the completion of an electric circuit between them. He causes those piled-up clouds, charged with rain or snow or hail, to pour down the water of life to all living beings on earth.

Rain does not fall by itself. Rather, it is sent down because it comes for certain purposes and according to need. When the atmosphere is clear and no clouds can be seen, the mountain-like forms of clouds, gathered like a great cloud, assemble because the One Who knows all living beings and their needs gathers them together to send down the rain. These events suggest several Divine Names: the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Disposer of Things, All-Arranger, All-Upbringing, All-Helper, and Reviver.

28. One meaning of this verse is that the primary material in creation is something fluid – ether, hydrogen, or a large cloud, a huge nebula, or a mass of hot gas, or something else. According to this, God made ether a source of atoms from which He created all things, and He has placed everything in the “ocean” of ether. Another meaning is that water itself was caused by two gases. Its vapors rise from the ground, condense, and then return as rain to form or prepare a suitable environment for life.

For further explanations, see 2: 74, note 78; 21: 30, note 3; 23: 18, note 5.

29. For similar injunctions about believing in, and obeying, God and the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and wholeheartedly submitting to his judgments, see: 4: 60–65. Verse 65, in particular, is significant in this respect: But no! By your Lord, they will not (truly) believe until they make you the judge regarding any dispute between them, and then find not the least vexation within themselves over what you have decided, and surrender in full submission.

30. This statement, like similar ones (e.g., verse 47 above), establishes that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, commands and forbids on matters other than those included in the Qur’ān, and, therefore, refers to the Sunnah as a separate source of Islamic commandments. Otherwise, it would have said: “Obey God and the Messenger,” without repeating the order, obey, before the Messenger. (For a detailed explanation, see 4: 59, note 13.)

31. Establishing the Prayer, paying the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and obeying the Messenger absolutely in all the aspects of his mission (adherence to the Sunnah) are the most important conditions to fulfill in order to deserve God’s promise mentioned in the preceding verse and to deserve the promised state.

32. When thinking about this instruction, we may consider the importance Islam attaches to mutual helping, solidarity, and brother/sisterhood, which it seeks to establish among Muslims.

33. Whenever Muslims or those among them who are concerned are summoned to a collective cause, they should never fail to respond to the call nor depart without the permission of the ruler/leader or administrator. Should any of them have a reason for departing, the reason must be a genuine, valid one, and again, they should not depart without permission. The administrator or leader is fully entitled to grant or deny the permission that has been asked for, at his discretion.

34. The trial to befall those who oppose the orders of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and, after him, of his successors, has many forms or aspects, such as the yoke of unjust and oppressive rulers, dissension or disorder and civil war, moral degeneration, and the loss of power.