Az-Zihar and the Atonement for It Imam

Ahmad recorded that Khuwaylah bint Tha`labah said, “By Allah! Allah sent down the beginning of Surat Al-Mujadilah in connection with me and `Aws bin As-Samit. He was my husband and had grown old and difficult. One day, he came to me and I argued with him about something and he said, out of anger, `You are like my mother’s back to me.’ He went out and sat with some of his people. Then he came back and wanted to have sexual intercourse with me. I said, `No, by the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Khuwaylah! You will not have your way with me after you said what you said, until Allah and His Messenger issue judgement about our case.’ He wanted to have his way regardless of my choice and I pushed him away from me; he was an old man.’ I next went to one of my neighbors and borrowed a garment from her and went to the Messenger of Allah . I told him what happened and kept complaining to him of the ill treatment I received from `Aws. He said,

ยซูŠูŽุงุฎููˆูŽูŠู’ู„ูŽุฉูุŒ ุงุจู’ู†ู ุนูŽู…ู‘ููƒู ุดูŽูŠู’ุฎูŒ ูƒูŽุจููŠุฑูŒุŒ ููŽุงุชู‘ูŽู‚ููŠ ุงู„ู„ู‡ูŽ ูููŠู‡ยป

(O Khuwaylah! Your cousin is an old man, so have Taqwa of Allah regarding him.) By Allah! Before I departed, parts of the Qur’an were revealed about me. Allah’s Messenger felt the hardship upon receiving the revelation as he usually did and then became relieved. He said to me,

ยซูŠูŽุง ุฎููˆูŽูŠู’ู„ูŽุฉูุŒ ู‚ูŽุฏู’ ุฃูŽู†ู’ุฒูŽู„ูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‡ู ูููŠูƒู ูˆูŽูููŠ ุตูŽุงุญูุจููƒู ู‚ูุฑู’ุขู†ู‹ุงยป

(O Khuwaylah! Allah has revealed something about you and your spouse.) He recited to me,

ู‚ูŽุฏู’ ุณูŽู…ูุนูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู„ูŽ ุงู„ู‘ูŽุชูู‰ ุชูุฌูŽุงุฏูู„ููƒูŽ ููู‰ ุฒูŽูˆู’ุฌูู‡ูŽุง ูˆูŽุชูŽุดู’ุชูŽูƒูู‰ ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ูŠูŽุณู’ู…ูŽุนู ุชูŽุญูŽุงูˆูุฑูŽูƒูู…ุข ุฅูู†ู‘ูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูŽ ุณูŽู…ููŠุนูŒ ุจูŽุตููŠุฑูŒ

(Indeed Allah has heard the statement of her that disputes with you concerning her husband, and complains to Allah. And Allah hears the argument between you both. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer.), until,

ูˆูŽู„ูู„ูƒูŽู€ููุฑููŠู†ูŽ ุนูŽุฐูŽุงุจูŒ ุฃูŽู„ููŠู…ูŒ

(And for disbelievers, there is a painful torment.) He then said to me,

ยซู…ูุฑููŠู‡ู ููŽู„ู’ูŠูุนู’ุชูู‚ู’ ุฑูŽู‚ูŽุจูŽุฉยป

(Command him to free a slave.) I said, `O Allah’s Messenger! He does not have any to free.’ He said,

ยซููŽู„ู’ูŠูŽุตูู…ู’ ุดูŽู‡ู’ุฑูŽูŠู’ู†ู ู…ูุชูŽุชูŽุงุจูุนูŽูŠู’ู†ยป

(Let him fast for two consecutive months.) I said, `By Allah! He is an old man and cannot fast.’ He said,

ยซููŽู„ู’ูŠูุทู’ุนูู…ู’ ุณูุชู‘ููŠู†ูŽ ู…ูุณู’ูƒููŠู†ู‹ุง ูˆูŽุณู’ู‚ู‹ุง ู…ูู†ู’ ุชูŽู…ู’ุฑยป

(Let him feed sixty poor people a Wasq of dates.) I said, `O Allah’s Messenger! By Allah, he does not have any of that.’ He said,

ยซููŽุฅูู†ู‘ูŽุง ุณูŽู†ูุนููŠู†ูู‡ู ุจูุนูŽุฑูŽู‚ู ู…ูู†ู’ ุชูŽู…ู’ุฑยป

(We will help him with a basket of dates.) I said, `And I, O Allah’s Messenger! I will help him with another.’ He said,

ยซู‚ูŽุฏู’ ุฃูŽุตูŽุจู’ุชู ูˆูŽุฃูŽุญู’ุณูŽู†ู’ุชู ููŽุงุฐู’ู‡ูŽุจููŠ ููŽุชูŽุตูŽุฏู‘ูŽู‚ููŠ ุจูู‡ู ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ูุŒ ุซูู…ู‘ูŽ ุงุณู’ุชูŽูˆู’ุตููŠ ุจูุงุจู’ู†ู ุนูŽู…ู‘ููƒู ุฎูŽูŠู’ุฑู‹ุงยป

(You have done a righteously good thing. So go and give away the dates on his behalf and take care of your cousin.) I did that.”‘ Abu Dawud also collected this Hadith in the Book of Divorce in his Sunan, according to which her name is Khawlah bint Tha`labah. She is also known as Khawlah bint Malik bin Tha`labah, and Khuwaylah. All these are close to each other, and Allah knows best. This is what is correct about the reason behind revealing this Surah. Therefore, Allah’s statement,

ุงู„ู‘ูŽุฐููŠู†ูŽ ูŠูุธูŽู€ู‡ูุฑููˆู†ูŽ ู…ูู†ูƒูู…ู’ ู…ู‘ูู† ู†ู‘ูุณูŽุขุฆูู‡ูู…ู’

(Those among you who make their wives unlawful to them by Zihar) refers to Zihar, which is derived from Az-Zahr, meaning, the back. During the time of Jahiliyyah, when one wanted to declare Zihar towards his wife, he would say, “To me, you are like the back of my mother.” That was one way they issued divorce during that time. Allah allowed this Ummah to pay expiation for this statement and did not render it as a divorce, contrary to the case during the time of Jahiliyyah. Allah said,

ู…ู‘ูŽุง ู‡ูู†ู‘ูŽ ุฃูู…ู‘ูŽู‡ูŽู€ุชูู‡ูู…ู’ ุฅูู†ู’ ุฃูู…ู‘ูŽู‡ูŽู€ุชูู‡ูู…ู’ ุฅูู„ุงู‘ูŽ ุงู„ู„ุงู‘ูŽุฆูู‰ ูˆูŽู„ูŽุฏู’ู†ูŽู‡ูู…ู’

(they cannot be their mothers. None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth.) meaning, when the husband says to his wife that she is like his mother, or the back of his mother etc., she does not become his mother. Rather his mother is she who gave birth to him. This is why Allah said,

ูˆูŽุฅูู†ู‘ูŽู‡ูู…ู’ ู„ูŽูŠูŽู‚ููˆู„ููˆู†ูŽ ู…ูู†ูƒูŽุฑุงู‹ ู…ู‘ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู’ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู„ู ูˆูŽุฒููˆุฑุงู‹

(And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie.) meaning, false and sinful speech,

ูˆูŽุฅูู†ู‘ูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูŽ ู„ูŽุนูŽูููˆู‘ูŒ ุบูŽูููˆุฑูŒ

(And verily, Allah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.) meaning, `what you used to do during the time of Jahiliyyah, and what accidentally slips out of your mouth, unintentionally.’ Allah’s statement,

ูˆูŽุงู„ู‘ูŽุฐููŠู†ูŽ ูŠูุธูŽู€ู‡ูุฑููˆู†ูŽ ู…ูู† ู†ู‘ูุณูŽุขุฆูู‡ูู…ู’ ุซูู…ู‘ูŽ ูŠูŽุนููˆุฏููˆู†ูŽ ู„ูู…ูŽุง ู‚ูŽุงู„ููˆุงู’

(And those who make unlawful to them (their wives) by Zihar and wish to free themselves from what they uttered,) Ash-Shafi`i said, “It means to keep her for a while after the Zihar, without divorcing her, even though his is able to do so.” Ahmad bin Hanbal said, “To return to having sexual relations with her or to merely intend to do so, but only after he pays the expiation mentioned in the Ayah for his statement.” It has been quoted from Malik that it is the intention to have sexual relations or to keep her or actually having sexual intercourse. Sa`id bin Jubayr said that this Ayah,

ุซูู…ู‘ูŽ ูŠูŽุนููˆุฏููˆู†ูŽ ู„ูู…ูŽุง ู‚ูŽุงู„ููˆุงู’

(and wish to free themselves from what they uttered,) meaning, if they want to return to having sexual intercourse which was forbidden between them. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that it is to utilize her sexual organ, and he did not see any harm in doing what is less than that before paying the expiation. `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas:

ู…ู‘ูู† ู‚ูŽุจู’ู„ู ุฃูŽู† ูŠูŽุชูŽู…ูŽุขุณู‘ูŽุง

(before they touch each other.) “The `touching’ refers here to sexual intercourse.” Similar was said by `Ata’, Az-Zuhri, Qatadah and Muqatil bin Hayyan. Az-Zuhri added, “He is not to kiss or touch her until he pays the expiation.” The Sunan compilers recorded from `Ikrimah, from Ibn `Abbas that a man said, “O Allah’s Messenger! I pronounced Zihar on my wife, but then had sexual intercourse with her before I paid the expiation.” The Messenger said,

ยซู…ูŽุง ุญูŽู…ูŽู„ูŽูƒูŽ ุนูŽู„ู‰ ุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ูŠูŽุฑู’ุญูŽู…ููƒูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‡ยป

(May Allah grant you His mercy, what made you do that) He said, “I saw the adornment she was wearing shining in the moon’s light.” The Prophet said,

ยซููŽู„ูŽุง ุชูŽู‚ู’ุฑูŽุจู’ู‡ูŽุง ุญูŽุชู’ู‰ ุชูŽูู’ุนูŽู„ูŽ ู…ูŽุง ุฃูŽู…ูŽุฑูŽูƒูŽ ุงู„ู„ู‡ู ุนูŽุฒู‘ูŽ ูˆูŽุฌูŽู„ยป

(Then do not touch her until you do what Allah the Exalted and Most Honored has ordered you to do.) At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Gharib Sahih.” Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i also recorded it. Allah said,

ููŽุชูŽุญู’ุฑููŠุฑู ุฑูŽู‚ูŽุจูŽุฉู

((the penalty) in that case is the freeing of a slave) indicating the necessity of freeing a slave before they touch each other. This Ayah mentions any slave, not only believing servants as in the case of the expiation for (unintentional) killing,

ุฐูŽู„ููƒูู…ู’ ุชููˆุนูŽุธููˆู†ูŽ ุจูู‡ู

(That is an admonition to you.) meaning, a warning to threaten you in this case.

ูˆูŽุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ุจูู…ูŽุง ุชูŽุนู’ู…ูŽู„ููˆู†ูŽ ุฎูŽุจููŠุฑูŒ

(And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.) meaning, He is All-Knower in what brings you benefit. Allah’s statement,

ููŽู…ูŽู† ู„ู‘ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽุฌูุฏู’ ููŽุตููŠูŽุงู…ู ุดูŽู‡ู’ุฑูŽูŠู’ู†ู ู…ูุชูŽุชูŽุงุจูุนูŽูŠู’ู†ู ู…ูู† ู‚ูŽุจู’ู„ู ุฃูŽู† ูŠูŽุชูŽู…ูŽุขุณู‘ูŽุง ููŽู…ูŽู† ู„ู‘ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽุณู’ุชูŽุทูุนู’ ููŽุฅูุทู’ุนูŽุงู…ู ุณูุชู‘ููŠู†ูŽ ู…ูุณู’ูƒููŠู†ุงู‹

(And he who finds not must fast two successive months before they both touch each other. And he who is unable to do so, should feed sixty of the poor.) is explained by the Hadiths that prescribe these punishments in this order, just as in the Hadith collected in the Two Sahihs about the man who had sexual intercourse with his wife during the day, in Ramadan. Allah said,

ุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ู„ูุชูุคู’ู…ูู†ููˆุงู’ ุจูุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู ูˆูŽุฑูŽุณููˆู„ูู‡ู

(That is in order that you may have perfect faith in Allah and His Messenger.) meaning, `We legislated this punishment so that you acquire this trait,’

ูˆูŽุชูู„ู’ูƒูŽ ุญูุฏููˆุฏู ุงู„ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ู

(These are the limits set by Allah.) meaning, the things that He has forbidden, so do not transgress them,

ูˆูŽู„ูู„ูƒูŽู€ููุฑููŠู†ูŽ ุนูŽุฐูŽุงุจูŒ ุฃูŽู„ููŠู…ูŒ

(And for disbelievers, there is a painful torment.) meaning, those who do not believe and do not abide by the rulings of Islamic legislation should never think they will be saved from the torment. Rather theirs will be a painful torment in this life and the Hereafter.

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